Paint Christ Not Dead...

 

'Paint Christ not dead but risen!' cried Tomaso Campanella to the Italian painters of his day. 'Paint Christ, with his foot set in scorn on the split rock with which they sought to hold him down! Paint him the conqueror of death! Paint him the Lord of Life! Paint him as what he is, the irresistible Victor who, tested to the uttermost, has proved himself in very deed mighty to save.'

From The Message of the Ressurection, Paul Beasley-Murray, p256.

 

David Wells on Christian Hope

Some good words for today from David Wells about the essence of true Christian hope:

Christian hope is not about wishing things will get better.  It is not about hoping that emptiness will go away, meaning return, and life will be stripped of its uncertainties, aches, and anxieties.  Nor does it have anything to do with techniques for improving fallen human life, be those therapeutic, spiritual, or even religious.  Hope has to do with the knowledge of the "age to come."  This redemption is already penetrating "this age."  The sin, death, and meaninglessness of one age are being transformed by the righteousness, life, and meaning of the other.  What has emptied out life, what has scarred and blackened it, is being displaced by what is rejuvenating and transforming it.  More than that, hope is hope because it knows it has become part of a realm, a kingdom, that endures.  It knows that evil is doomed, that it will be banished.

Eternal Praise to an Infinitely Good God

I've been contemplating Psalm 145 this morning.  We've been singing portions of this Psalm during our worship over the last few weeks.  It is a Psalm full of declarations of God's goodness, righteousness, grace and mercy.  Particularly striking, however, are the first three verses.

I will extol you, my God and King,and bless your name forever and ever.  Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.  Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.

According to David there will be no end to the praises given to God.  Because his greatness is unsearchable, because it is beyond man's capacity to fully understand it, the saints in heaven will never exhaust their praises given to God.

Earthly praise for earthly things will always end, because there are limits to earthly goodness.  But God's goodness, the riches of his grace, the wonders of his mercy, the scope of his glory - all of these are infinite and unsearchable by our human minds, and therefore our praises to God simply cannot end.

A Gospel that "creates, deepens, and inflames the faith"

As of late I've been reading Michael Horton's Christless Christianity, honestly one of the more significant and challenging books I've read in some time. Horton's overarching purpose is to expose the "Christless" Christianity that is so ubiquitous today, and offer instead a profoundly Christ-centered understanding of the faith.  This means we never simply "assume" the gospel and move on to bigger and better things, but we always place the gospel, the biblical message of God's redemptive work through Christ, at the forefront of who we are and what we proclaim.

I'm not done reading yet, so I'll reserve most of my comments until later, but today I was particularly struck by his description of what church life would look like if the church faithfully answered her calling to proclaim Christ and the glorious redeeming work of God seriously.  Under this model, believers go to church primarily, not to give, do, or act, but to receive - to be fed by the news (good news!) of God's action on our behalf.  Horton asks us to imagine a scenario in church life in which...

God gathers his people together in a covenantal event to judge and to justify, to kill and to make alive.  The emphasis is on God's work for us - the Father's gracious plan, the Son's saving life, death, and resurrection, and the Spirit's work of bringing life to the valley of dry bones through the proclamation of Christ.  The preaching focuses on God's work in the history of redemption from Genesis through Revelation, and sinners are swept into this unfolding drama.  Trained and ordained to mine the riches of Scripture for the benefit of God's people, ministers try to push their own agendas, opinions, and personalities to the background so that God's Word will be clearly proclaimed.  In this preaching, the people once again are simply receivers - recipients of grace.  Similarly, in baptism, they do not baptize themselves; they are baptized.  In the Lord's Supper, they do not prepare and cook the meal; they do not contribute to the fare; but they are guests who simply enjoy the bread of heaven.  As this gospel creates, deepens, and inflames faith, a profound sense of praise and thanksgiving fills hearts, leading to good works among the saints and in the world throughout the week.  Having been served by God in the public assembly, the people are then servants of each other and their neighbors in the world.  Pursuing their callings in the world with vigor and dedication, they win the respect of outsiders.  Because they have been served well themselves - especially by pastors, teachers, elders, and deacons - they are able to share the Good News of Christ in well-informed and natural ways.  And because they have been relieved of numerous burdens to spend all of their energy on church-related ministries throughout the week, they have more time to serve their families, neighbors, and coworkers in the world (pp. 189-190).

As I read Horton's words I am already growing anxious for Sunday, for that gathering of God's elect in which we hear of Christ's redeeming work and how we've been swept into that story through the actions of God himself.  Already I grow anxious to feed once again on Christ at the Lord's Table  where God reminds us of the true union we have with him.

A Communion Poem

While reading Philip Ryken's book, City on a Hill, I came across the following poem by Mark Noll.  The poem tangibly captures our desperate need for God's grace, and it reminds us how that grace is manifest to us at the Lord's Table.  As always, I'm anxious for the feast that will be set for Sunday morning. Note - Scots' form is a method of communion in which people come forward to tables in the front of the sanctuary to receive the sacrament.

Scot's form in the suburbs

by Mark A. Noll

The sedenatary Presbyterians

awoke, arose, and filed to tables spread

with white, to humble bits that showed how God

almighty had decided to embrace

humanity, and why these clean, well-fed,

well-dressed suburbanites might need his grace.

The pious cruel, the petty gossipers

and callous climbers on the make, the wives

with icy tongues and husbands with their hearts

of stone, the ones who battle drink and do

not always win, the power lawyers mute

before this awful bar of mercy, boys

uncertain of themselves and girls not sure

of where they fit, the poor and rich hemmed in

alike by cash, physicians waiting to

be healed, two women side by side - the one

with unrequited longing for a child,

the other terrified by signs within

of life, the saintly weary weary in

pursuit of good, the academics (soft

and cossetted) who posture over words,

the travelers coming home from chasing wealth

or power or wantonness, the mothers

choked by dual duties, parents nearly crushed

by children died or children lost, and some

with cancer-ridden bodies, some with spikes

of pain in chest or back or knee or mind

or heart.  They come, O Christ, they come

to you.

They came, they sat, they listened to the words,

"for you my body broken."  Then they ate

and turned away - the spent unspent, the dead

recalled, a hint of color on the psychic

cheek - from tables groaning under weight

of tiny cups and little crumbs of bread.

"What god is Great Like Our God?" - Trembling in Fear and in Joy Before the Lord

One of the Scripture passages I've been working on memorizing recently is Psalm 77:13-14 in which the question is asked, "What god is great like our God?"  This question is answered by the Psalmist as he goes on to describe the greatness of the Lord.  One reason given why God is great - because even the waters are afraid of him and the deep trembles upon sight of him (Ps. 77:16). I have to admit, whenever I have an opportunity to stand at the ocean's edge I'm always struck by it's raw power.  Even the smallest of the ocean's waves is strong enough to carry me helplessly along, and the largest of its waves can bring absolute devastation.  The ocean is mighty and is rightly to be feared, but even "the deep" is not so mighty that it does not tremble before God.

If nothing else, the knowledge that even the ocean trembles before God causes me to tremble all the more before him, both in fear because his way is holy (Ps. 77:13) and in joy because in his might he has redeemed his people (Ps. 77:15).  What God is great like our God?