Paul's Ponderings

Thoughts about following Jesus

Tag: N.T. Wright (page 1 of 4)

The Message of Easter

Hope Lives 0107“What we say about death and resurrection gives shape and color to everything else. If we are not careful, we will offer merely a ‘hope’ that is no longer a surprise, no longer able to transform lives and communities in the present, no longer generated by the resurrection of Jesus himself and looking forward to the promised new heavens and new earth.”

N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, p. 25

One of the common methods Christians will use in evangelism is to ask the question: “Where will you go when you die?” This is supposed to get people to consider their eternal destiny and put fear into their hearts, and thus provide them motivation to “give their lives” to Jesus.

The problem I have with this method is that it focuses on the wrong thing. Rather than focusing on God, His love, and what He is doing in the world, the focus is on us and our desire to live forever. It might have the power to get a person to say a prayer or to make an emotional commitment, but I believe that it lacks the ability to truly give people the hope they need in life.

We have made the Christian hope all about going to heaven when we die. This Easter Sunday the message many preachers will give is: Jesus rose from the dead so now you can go to heaven when you die.

That common Easter message is what many people believe the Christian hope is all about. Yet, it is just a variant of the hope every religion gives. We can talk about how the Christian hope is about what Jesus has done rather than what we have to do, but that misses the point. The majority of religions make the promise of an afterlife, and therefore if the message of Easter is just about the promise of having life after death, then it is not distinct from the other religions of the world. I believe the Christian hope needs to be something far superior.

The Christian hope is described as a “living hope.”

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,  who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5; ESV)

This is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. Peter declares that we have a living hope. This living hope comes from the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. That means our hope is founded on the reality of an historical event, and it grows out of the implications of that event.

You see, the resurrection of Jesus is not evidence that we can have life after death. The resurrection of Jesus is the beginning of God’s new creation.

 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17; ESV)

Notice that Paul did not write: The old will pass away and the new will come. What he wrote was the old has passed away and the new has come. When we are part of Christ’s body we are brought into God’s new creation. A creation where sin, evil, and death are being defeated and love, goodness, and life are replacing them.

This is the hope we are to declare on Easter and this is a hope that is alive. It is alive because as we experience transformation, as we serve and love people, and as we work for justice we begin to experience God’s Kingdom breaking into this world. Through that experience our faith is strengthened and our hope grows.

The message of Easter is: Because of the resurrection of Jesus God’s Kingdom is advancing throughout this world. We can either join the advance of the Kingdom or we can remain on the sidelines, but only one choice will give us a living hope. Only a living hope has the power to sustain us through the trials, tribulations, and tragedies of life.

“Our task in the present…is to live as resurrection people between Easter and the final day, with our Christian life, corporate and individual, in both worship and mission, as a sign of the first and a foretaste of the second.”

N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, p. 30

Choosing Again and Again

{Romans 13:12; NLT}
The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living.

“But these character strengths don’t happen all in a rush. You have to work at them. Character is a slowly forming thing. You can no more force character on someone than you can force a tree to produce fruit when it isn’t ready to do so. The person has to choose, again and again, to develop the moral muscles and skills which will shape and form the fully flourishing character. And so, just as a long, steady program of physical training will enable you to do all kinds of things—run in a marathon, walk thirty miles in a day, lift heavy objects—which you would previously never have thought possible, so the long, steady program of working on the character strengths, the virtues, will enable you to live in a way you would never have thought possible, avoiding moral traps and pitfall and exhibiting a genuine, flourishing human life.”

N. T. Wright, After You Believe, p. 35

Questions to consider:

  • What does Paul say we are to do in Romans?
  • How do we do this?
  • Why are our choices essential to the development of our character?

God’s Rescue Mission

Rescue MissionWe live in a world gone wrong.

Not only does the News confirm this reality, but we also feel it intensely in our guts. We know, without being told, that things are not what they should be.

One of the reasons that I am convinced that Christianity is true is because it doesn’t candy coat the reality that the world is full of evil. Scripture provides the reason why the world has gone wrong. The good world that God created has been corrupted, and Satan has been at the helm. Our world, the universe that we live in, is the stage of Satan’s rebellion against God.

You and I are trapped in a great cosmic war. This is the reality of our days, and if we stop to think about it for a moment, we will realize that it explains a great many things. The reason all those bad things happen is because Satan is actively at war against God, trying his best to corrupt every inch of God’s wonderful work.

With that in mind consider what N. T. Wright wrote;

Jesus exploded into the life of ancient Israel–the life of the whole world in fact–not as a teacher of timeless truths, nor as a great moral example, but as the one through whose life, death, and resurrection God’s rescue operation was put into effect, and the cosmos turned its its great corner at last. All worldviews are challenged to the core by this claim (Simply Christian, p. 140).

I think we miss the very essence of the Gospel. We tend to talk about the Gospel in terms that we have forgiveness from sin. While this is a part of the Gospel message, it is not the main message. The core of the Gospel is found in Jesus’ message; From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” (Matthew 4:17; NLT)

The message of Jesus is to defect from the kingdom of darkness, and pledge allegiance to God, because His Kingdom is breaking into this world. The message of Gospel is that God has come to rescue His creation from the corruption of sin and the decay of death.

The rescue plan of God centers around Jesus. The apostle Paul wrote; For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins (Colossians 1:13-14; NLT). This is a message that is worth sharing, and it goes far beyond escaping hell. It is the promise that God will restore Creation and make everything right.

I know that it doesn’t feel like we have been rescued at times, because there is still tremendous evil in the world and we still wrestle with personal sins. Yet, the more we surrender to God’s will and the more we seek to love people, the more darkness will be pushed aside, and the light of God’s love will come shining through.

The Turning Point for the World

What was the turning point for the world?

 

I think N. T. Wright's idea that the Enlightment is a parody of Christianity is interesting. Jesus is the light of the world, yet the Enlightment claims to bring the light of truth to the world. What most people forget is that the Enlightment happened in a world where the true Enlightenment had taken place 1800 years earlier.

 

Saturday Video: The Rapture

 

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