Let My People Think

Posts tagged ‘new covenant’

The image of God in us

Image of GodWe are all created in the image of God. Inside of every single one of us, there’s a better human struggling to get out. If that’s focused upon, recognized, and encouraged, that will happen.

From a social standpoint, I really don’t so much care what religion people formally confess as I care that by their actions and attitudes they see the other human being as being infinitely worthy of love and care. In daily life, it’s more productive to deal with good Samaritans (atheists / Muslims / Buddhists / whoever else) that care for the person on the side of the road, rather than be in the company of those who use the name of God as an excuse to ignore or even provoke needless sufferings of a fellow human being. For the latter group, it’s immaterial whether they refer to themselves as Christian or Muslim or Nazi or Communist. Those designations are a mere veneer over the real mechanism of destroying the image of God in a fellow human being.

The problem that happened as the result of the Fall was not that humans became wretches / irreparably depraved / etc. The problem was that death entered the world, and corrupted the image of God in people and in the world. What was needed was an infusion of life, of divine nature, and the presence of Someone who would believe in people’s infinite worth. That was the mission and the role of Jesus. He didn’t die for us because we were wretches. He died for us because we were mortal and frail, and also because we believed in the lies that told us that we were not worthy of God. We believed the voices of others, and had lost our way. He showed us exactly what we were worth, and he showed us that the way to God is simply by allowing our human nature to be infused with the nature divine (theosis), and letting that combination take over our lives.

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Whose image are you bearing? A question with far-reaching implications.

Image of GodHumans are the God-breathed image bearers of God. God created us in the same general class of beings as himself, which is why we can relate to him on many levels.

You may have heard religious ideas about how every person born after the fall of humanity was devoid of the image of God in them, was born “utterly depraved”, “born of the devil”, personally repulsive and deeply abominable to God, etc. That’s not only Scripturally inaccurate (if you go beyond superficial prooftexting), but it’s also very conducive to awakening the worst of our instincts relative to other human beings. Such teachings simply attempt to dehumanize fellow humans, to strip the image of God off of them, since that’s the only rhetorical way of gaining imaginary authority to destroy them through slander and violence.

What happened after “the fall” is that humanity acquired a progressively thicker layer of self-reliance followed by blindness followed by sin followed by death – in that order. They departed from the divinely established order by relying on various systems of right and wrong (self-reliance), their worldviews and perspectives got retrained to perceive the world in the terms of “right vs. wrong” and “with us vs. against us” dichotomies (blindness), their skewed perspectives (think spiritual eyesight) caused them to constantly miss the mark in their interactions with other people and with God (sin in “hamartia” in Greek – literally, “missing the mark”), and in continually operating in sin they progressed in death (or entropy – increasing degrees of disorder, culminating in state of disorder – literal and irreversible death).
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Atonement – the deeper meaning behind the Christian Easter holiday

Atonement Salvador DaliGenerally speaking, there are about 8 or so atonement theories out there, with variants. To me, it’s easier to divide them into two groups.

One group of atonement theories postulate that the problems primarily stem from personal dimension of people (who are fundamentally perverse), and of God (who is fundamentally angry about people.) What Jesus did was more or less redirect the focal point of God’s anger to himself, thus getting us off the hook. The main idea is that of legal transaction.

The other group of atonement theories postulates that the problems to be solved are of systemic nature. They lie with both with human psyche individually (egotism) and socially (systemic oppression and scapegoating). There is also a cosmic dimension to the problem statement (decay and death). What Jesus did is he absorbed the individual, the social, and the cosmic sin (and therefore death), triumphed over them, and created a mechanism of being able to tap into the power to overcome all those.

I would submit to you that the second group of atonement theories has much more coherence and explanatory power. Also, the 2nd group is the one that leads you to living like a responsible, fully empowered representative of God in every area of life. It’s the only one that can underwrite consistently replicable results, and not just occasional haphazard “victories”.
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Is the Gospel easy to believe? And is it easy to live out?

The good news of Jesus Christ

Making the good news of Jesus Christ part of your life story is very simple. Here’s how I see it:

I was born with sin (original, hereditary condition) into a broken world. Jesus came to set me free from both of these. I agree to lay down my life at the feet of Jesus, ask him for his perfect and sinless life.

I agree to receive all the benefits of his finished work on the cross. I pledge to consider all the claims of divine justice against me satisfied through Jesus, from my birth until forever.

I am now born from above. This means that the old me is now dead and doesn’t exist. It’s gone forever. I now consider Christ as being alive in me and living through me.

My first and foremost goal in life is to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ in my thoughts and deeds. I can not do it on my own.

So I ask God for the gift of the Holy Spirit. I believe I receive it for the asking. I now pledge to trust and rely on the Holy Spirit of God who now lives in me to empower me for character transformation, and for the works of service to humankind.

My main motive is now to be love. My mission in life is to love others as God has loved me. I choose to see God’s precious creation in every person, no matter how crooked or vile. My goal is to help them see it too.

I now have to power to lay hands on the sick and see them recover. My thoughts and words now have power. I choose to think, speak, and act as a son of the benevolent King of the universe.

I am God’s ambassador to humankind. Through my ambassadorship, I am part of the system of divine governance, whose goal is to see God’s kingdom realized on earth.

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7 ways in which the church is different from Israel

Moses Behind PulpitIt’s popular to draw parallels between ancient Israel and modern Western religious organizations. In many sermons that seem to capture popular thinking of the Sunday-morning masses, Israel is likened to church, priests to pastors, Levites to worship teams, pulpits to altars, Sabbaths to Sundays, and tithes to money collections. Certainly, we can draw some parallels, but as with any comparisons, we need to see where the comparison holds, and where it does not.

Here’s how Israel is (superficially) similar to Western religious organizations:

  • Both Israel and church worship the same God
  • Both priests and modern religious leaders, such as pastors, have leadership roles
  • Levites and worship teams sing religious-themed songs
  • Both Israel and church had buildings used for various religious purposes
  • Pulpits and altars are central points of religious gatherings
  • Both Sabbaths and Sundays can be thought of as days of rest
  • Both tithes and money collections are used to sponsored various activities

Well, at this point I should say that I would like to switch our focus from Western religious organizations to the one invisible universal New Covenant church that Jesus Christ has created and that he personally heads. The church of Jesus Christ can be locally expressed through a religious organization, but the two aren’t really the same thing.

And so, the church of Jesus Christ is quite different from Israel, even if you take into account modern Western religious particulars.

Here’s how Israel is fundamentally different from the church:
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Is Divine Courtroom All There Is?

Gavel

My impression is that in current Western Protestantism, and even more so in Catholicism, there’s an over-emphasis on the judicial side of what God has accomplished through Christ, and a severe under-emphasis on the existential side, so the present day restorative work of God through what’s been done through Christ and is currently available through the Holy Spirit is still largely ignored. Healing is one example of what’s been missing from the large picture until the last 100 or so years.

The symptoms of that skewed emphasis are evident in that the most prominent debates in Christian circles mostly center on justification. As a result, heaven becomes a future reward as opposed to a present position that we should operate out of, people talk about future hell (from the context, meaning gehenna, as opposed to hades, meaning a place of judicial punishment) a lot more than the present reality of death in its manifestations such as sickness and poverty, intellectual OSAS (once saved always saved) doctrines as opposed to present vital union with Christ and the reality of new creation as the source of security for believers, sickness as sometimes good if it may somehow aid in the process of securing a position “in heaven”, the next coming of Christ to help people with issues that have already resolved through Christ’s initial coming, and so forth.
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I am IN the spirit – part 3

I am spirit

(continued from part 2)

Here are two more ideas concerning the subject.

Here’s the first idea.

I looked over all the references in the Hebrew scriptures of the word “spirit”, and the spirit, as described there, could be:

troubled, revived, anguished, willing, hardened, sorrowful, inoperative (“there was no spirit in them”), becoming operative again (“his spirit returned, and he revived”) (the latter two examples are talking about living people, so it can’t be that their spirit was literally departed from them, or else they would be dead), sullen, stirred up, moved, broken, contrite, having deceit, steadfast, overwhelmed, searching, faithful, failing, departing (resulting in the “person returning to earth” – which confirms the point I made above), faithful, haughty, humble, ruled (by a person), calm, patient, proud, angry, fainted, anxious, excellent. That’s from Genesis to Malachi, inclusively.

As you look over this list, notice 2 things.
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