Saturday, December 13, 2008

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old

The link between the Old Testament and New is problematic for many Christians, and has been since the first century. A typical evangelical view might be summarized as the moral law remains but the ceremonial law has passed away. To which I say, "rubbish!"

The law as a means or a measure of relationship with God, moral, ceremonial or otherwise, is caput, beyond doubt. It never did work as means of achieving rightness with God, and it never could have-- it wasn't meant to. It was no more than a means of restraining the Jews until Christ came, and uncovering for any exposed to it the fundamental sinful nature of mankind. It actually fertilizes our inate sinfulness, and offers no remedy nor instruction as how to overcome it. Those who choose to live by a legal principle, inspired though it may be in the Old Testament, are fallen from grace and apart from the benefits of Christ, even if they call themselves Christian.

Is there some benefit to the Old that is still viable in the realm of the New? Yes, for there is a revelation of God there and the intimation of Christ. People have claimed that the Old Testament God is different than the New, but that is an utter impossibility. There is but one God and he is immutable. What God revealed himself to be in the Old Testament, he still is today and always will be. Any conception from the New Testament cannot be taken to adapt, assuage, adjust, or evolve what God was in the Old.

For some this may present a difficulty. Aligning Old Testament martial characteristics with what appear to be touchy-feely New Testament graces can prove to be a climb up Everest. God, however, does not change and we need to let his self-disclosure speak for itself. With a cat in one arm and a dog in the other, we must wrap our arms around the totality of all he reveals himself to be and embrace God for who he is, majestic and enigmatic. God, as we're introduced to him through our friends Moses and the Prophets, may be a bit scary, but in order to truly know the inviting God of our friends the Apostles, it is incumbent upon us to make new friends but keep the old.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Why Is Grace So Amazing?

We need to be near God. Just to be in his presence is to know life, and there, fullness of joy fills the air. Yes, he has charisma, but it's more-- he has substance and energy, he is zoe. If we are separated from God, death ensues. If we are not in the light of his presence, there is nothing but darkness of soul, emptiness of heart, despair of tomorrow, and vanity.

God knows we need him, and yet our sin separates us from him. The discerning among us know we need him too, and that our sin separates us. Many who have such insight, in response, ache to be holy, righteous, in order to correspond to the God who is life, so they can be near and breathe in what he is. Toil and struggle to align themselves with the holy God becomes the religious quest of such folk, but there are dangers lurking for such valiant efforts.

Glad of God, but disappointed with self, melancholy shadows their days. Grace, to them, is that God doesn't give them what they deserve: they do get to hang out with God, but with their heads hanging down, their own feet filling the view. What about grace should be about us? Grace is not obsessed with our unworthiness nor our inabilities. Grace is about God, about his kindness, his love, his desire to share himself with all he has made.

Grace is entire in its grant of acceptance. There are no ifs, ands, or buts. Grace starts out with everything being right, and then works backwards. It leaves the subject peaceful, not striving, and never uncertain. Grace moves us to a place with God; unfortunately, our thinking often has to run after to catch up. Thankfully, grace has strong hands.

Grace is amazing because it elevates us to mountaintops we could never climb ourselves. Grace is not crampons, or oxygen tanks, nor downy jackets that aid us in achieving what we could never achieve naturally. Grace is a helicopter ride to the top. It brings us near God without self-consciousness. We're not the issue, nor is our incapability of the climb-- the issue is God and how spectacular the view is standing up there beside him.