Biggest Big Ideas – 6. Redemption

I’ve been blogging through ten of the biggest big ideas in the Bible.  Somehow every passage seems to touch on at least a few of these.  So far we’ve pondered God, creation, sin, grace and faith.  Today’s idea brings so much together, but may we never take it for granted:

6. In God’s great plan of redemption He brings home straying adulterous hearts into the fullness of His forever family.

The story of the Bible is the story of the redemption of humanity, but this doesn’t make it a story about us.  Primarily it is the story of God.

It is His promised grace that overcomes fatal sin.  It is His faithfulness to His word.  It is His self-revelation, His becoming flesh and His sacrifice that does what we could never do.  In the end it will be His bride presented to Him by His Father, and His kingdom presented to His Father.  The redemption story is God’s story, and it reflects God’s character throughout.

The salvation offered to humanity is a gift beyond compare.  Doctrines weave together into the richest tapestry, like the glorious righteousness in which we are clothed, and ultimately transformed.  What are the beautiful threads?

Justification speaks of the transformative conquering of sin and guilt in the gracious and righteous declaration of a hideous price fully paid.  Reconciliation speaks of the broken relationship restored to more than it ever could have been without the redemption story.  Adoption speaks of the gracious inclusion into the inheritance and provision of the divine family.  New birth speaks of the spiritual life transforming the dead heart into a living, beating reflection of the heart of our Abba.  Cleansing speaks of the inside-out purging of impurity.  Sanctification speaks of a precious and careful ownership.  Glorification speaks of magnificence yet unseen in the loving embrace of a giving God.

As you would expect of a triune God, the imagery of redemption’s story is saturated in relational colours.  Like a lost son we are arrested by a stunning display of our loving Father’s self-humiliating grace.  Like a straying harlot wife we are melted and won by our groom’s persistent love.  Like an enemy wishing Him dead, we are made His friends by His laying down of His life.

The problem of sin is so profound, and the solution so beyond the creature, that the whole of creation groans in anticipation of the redemption of the pinnacle of creation.  Yet how creation will sing when made new in the final answer to the question of rebellion.  Is there better life to be found apart from God?  Is there life at all?  No.  He is the life giver, and what lengths He has gone to in order to give us life!

Eternal life in the joy filled family of the truly life-giving God.

So when we preach a passage in the Bible, we preach a snapshot from the family album that tells the tremendous tale of God’s great love story.  Hallelujah, what a Saviour!

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10 Biggest Big Ideas – 3. Sin

The 10 biggest ideas in the Bible?  We’ve considered God and His creation.  Now we need to probe the problem.

3. Our profound capacity for love has been perverted into a self-love that drives a charade of independent divine status, in mockery of and in sickening rebellion against the loving leadership of our good God.

Within three biblical chapters God’s perfect creation is corrupted to the core.  It is corrupted from the core.  And the story of God’s resolution to our relational rebellion takes the whole canon to fully resolve, leaving only two chapters for the briefest glimpse of a post-fall new creation.  This is the great tension in the grandest of meta-narratives.

Lovingly created for relational interdependence and trusting dependence, the human race is marred by love perverted and trust destroyed.  The manifestation of the fall, the fruit, if you will, was in the eating of the forbidden fruit.  Yet the core of the event was at the level of the heart, not merely a matter of rule-breaking.  The corruption was caused by a love turned inwards, by a rebellious spurning of God’s right to rule in love, and by a fatal distrust of His good Word.

A God-given capacity to love another, delight in another, live for another, trust in another and give to another was twisted, perverted and corrupted.  It became the horrific reorientation of the power of divine love into a love of divine power – shamefully manifesting in a love for self, delight in self, living for self, trusting in self and giving to self.

Now the god of a human heart is the perceived good of that same human heart.  Instead of lovingly trusting a loving and trustworthy self-giving God, the default wiring of humanity is to hate and despise Him, performing the charade of god-hood as if that is really about self-concern, independence and power.  Even the pathetic performance shows a profound corruption of God’s true nature.

Believing the lie, we present a lie.  Every person a theologian by birth, and every person profoundly wrong.  God is not self-concerned and power-obsessed – it’s not just the “who is God?” question we answer so badly, but also the “what is God like?” question.

Sin re-orients the heart, taints the mind and manifests in broken behavior.  Some shake their fist at heaven in acts of overt rebellion, demonstrating the horrific and grotesque nature of sin by the evil that they do.  Others shake their fist at heaven in an act of apparent goodness, diligently demonstrating their ability to do good in a self-loving independence from the God who alone is good.   Even righteous deeds are as filthy rags.  Whatever is of independent un-faith is sin.

Sin is the tension in every biblical narrative, and every personal narrative.  It isn’t a question about whether we can do good, or whether we can be empowered to do good.  It is a question about what or who can ever recapture our hearts and draw our incurved souls from addiction to self, to gaze on the truly lovely, the genuinely loving and the profoundly trustworthy God who made us for participation in His love.

So as we preach the Bible we must never miss the fallen condition focus of every passage, the context of sin in which every text swims.  Neither must we offer any sense of instruction for independent goodness, for that was the root of the issue.  Sin is pervasive and profound, and God’s solution is glorious beyond words.  Yet we preach.  We preach . . . you finish the sentence: “we preach . . . and Him . . . .”

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Preaching Controversial Theological Issues – Part 1

In different church settings there are different theological issues.  The kind of issues that may polarize a group of believers, or at least some within the group.  It may be the Calvinism/Arminian debate.  It may be some aspect of eternal security.  Or perhaps differing positions on the millennium.  Maybe there are both dispensational and covenantal proponents present.  Or conservatives and charismatics.  There are many such issues that see Christians diverge from each other.  What do you do when you are preaching a passage that could spark division among those listening?

Know your listeners. As best you can, know the people to whom you are preaching.  If you are a visiting speaker and consequently don’t know them so well, let that be a red flag before you wade into some theological controversy.

Evaluate the choice of passage. It is not automatically wrong to preach a potentially controversial passage, but it is worth thinking it through.  If you are preaching a stand-alone message, perhaps it would be better to preach another passage.  But if it is part of a series, do not avoid the tough passages.  People need to ear the whole counsel, including the parts that may make them uncomfortable . . . but it is fair to say that it is worth evaluating whether you, the passage and this particular occasion are a good combination for this to occur.  If it seems appropriate to preach the passage, then:

Preach the passage. If we preach the passage before us, we remain on relatively safe ground.  It is once we start adding theological labels and make a presentation of a position that we veer off into a mine field.  If you preach the passage and say what it says, then people can see it for themselves and are less likely to become contentious.

Preach wisely. Even sticking in the passage does not guarantee unity.  Be wise in your choice of words.  There may be a whole string of possible words to state a point in your particular passage, but some will definitely ignite a reaction, others might be just too much, others are safe.  Again, sticking with the terms of the text is usually better than importing terms from theological tomes (for various reasons).  We are not afraid of theology, but sometimes it is wiser to do theology without people realizing it.

Tomorrow I will complete this post with three more suggestions.  Feel free to comment now or after the next post.