Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:1-5)
It started with a simple tweet on Twitter, which reminded me of one of those old gospel songs we sang and loved. The message mentioned the theological inaccuracy of the song in this way:
“When He was on the cross, I was on His mind,” so the song says. Not primarily you weren’t. Jesus redeemed us “to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Eph. 1:6). This is repeated in 1:12 and 1:14. When He was on the cross, the glory of God was on His mind.
So much of evangelicalism omits this most important aspect — salvation is not about us, but, through God’s gracious, sheer, unmerited favor, it includes us. The Five Solas of the Protestant Reformation are expressed this way:
- Sola Scriptura: The Bible is the sole written divine revelation and alone can bind the conscience of believers absolutely (Matt. 4:4; 2 Tim. 3:16).
- Sola Fide : Justification is by faith alone. The merit of Christ imputed to us by faith is the sole ground of our acceptance by God, by which our sins are remitted (Rom. 5:1; Gal 2:16).
- Solus Christus: Christ is the only mediator through Whose work we are redeemed (John 14:6; John 3:16).
- Sola Gratia: Our salvation rests solely on the work of God’s grace for us (Rom. 2:4; Eph. 2:8-10).
- Soli Deo Gloria: To God alone belongs the glory (Isa. 42:8; Col. 3:17).
The central event of history is the advent of eternal life in Jesus Christ. John is one of the chosen witnesses who saw, heard, and touched the Son of God, who had existed from the beginning and whose eternal fellowship with the Father is now extended to those who trust in the Son alone for salvation. In his first epistle, John seeks to reassure his readers that they are in Christ, and he provides them with a number of ways in which they can know that they are believers. The third chapter contrasts those who walk in darkness with those who walk in light. It begins with the love of God in adopting us into His family.
In light of this postmodern area, the proclamation of objective truth is frequently met with opposition and even hostility. Even though relativism fails any standard of logical reasoning, its adherents embrace it with tenacity and zeal. As radically corrupt human beings, we tend to grope in the darkness throughout life, never finding real and objective meaning to existence whatsoever. The Apostle Paul, in the book of Romans, states it quite clearly:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse (Romans 1:18-20).
Note: These are notes I took during a study of Romans 12 from our home group.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
In the epistle of Romans, Paul has spent eleven chapters of doctrinal discourse concerning the righteousness of God, the depravity of man, and faith alone in Christ alone as the only way of salvation. Now, in Chapter 12, he turns to our response to the grace of God. In other words, Chapters 1-11 at focused on God’s mercoiful actions towards those who are in Christ, what is theologically termed as indicatives. An indicative is a statement of fact, something God has already accomplished in us through the atonement of Jesus Christ. Chapters 12-16 now focus on our response to God’s mercies, or the imperatives of our faith. Imperatives are authoritative commands, not in a legalistic sense, but as a natural response to the mercies that God has already shown. As an example, God supernaturally rescued the Israelite slaves from Egypt (indicative) before He gave them the Law at Sinai (imperatives). In other words, God promised, “I will be your God, and you will be my people” before giving them the means of living in that promise. Another way of saying it is: “You are no longer who you used to be, so you may no longer live as you once lived.” God calls us to live covenantly faithful to His word of promise.
In the epistle of 1 John, the Apostle John writes these words:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (1 John 1:1-4 ESV)
John is affirming the deity of Jesus Christ – the fact that Christ is God Incarnate, in the flesh. The term deity indicates the Creator and Supreme Being. What John is proclaiming here is one of the very pillars and confessions of our faith. What separates those who follow Jesus in the traditional and historical sense from the rest of the world is their view and understanding of who Jesus is. Jesus asked His disciples to identify Him (Matthew 16:13-20). His primary question both then and now is “Who do you say that I am?” Various cults and religions have answered that question in many fallacious ways:
- Judaism states that he was a good teacher, and possibly a prophet, but was condemned for blasphemy in HIs claim to be God.
- Islam regards Him as a significant person and teacher, but certainly not God.
- Hinduism considers Him a significant person, holy man and guru.
- Mormonism sees Him as only a “spirit child” of God, the Father, and just another created being.
- Jehovah’s Witnesses view Him as a created being, denying His eternality, thus a rehashing of a form of Arianism.
A New Year has begun and is quite on its way. I thought back on those “resolutions” made over the years － those that were kept (at least for a few weeks), and those that were broken quickly. We tend to make promises to ourselves and to others that are quite impossible to keep. Lil and I were joking about those that make a resolution to read through the entire Bible for the year. It’s easy to enjoy the historical narrative found in Genesis and Exodus, but by the time one gets to Leviticus, the promise is broken.
I was also thinking on the fact that our thoughts often direct our lives, our words and deeds that flow from a heart that is longing for Christ, and one that is in need of healing. I have always loved Philippians 4:8-9:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
These beautiful words help to direct our lives, for as we think, so shall we be. If we entertain the ugly thoughts and temptations that enter our head, and mull them over, they can turn into words and actions so easily. The way of life is to consider those thoughts to be just thoughts that need not be entertained. I love the verse from Corinthians:
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6)
We are never bound to our thoughts. We are never obligated to obey them. Nor are we ever locked into saying everything that comes into our minds. With that, my resolution is what every believer and those united in Christ should make for a lifetime – to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ more and more each day, each week, each month, and each year.