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Apostleship is priceless.

However, it cannot be bought.

Unfortunately, one minister, C Peter Wagner (please read the posts at the link) makes apostleship sound like a club membership: pay and you’re in.

John MacArthur’s Grace to You (GTY) ministry unpacked this in 2013. Please do not follow anyone who says that you can buy apostleship. If you do have such a membership, please do not renew it.

Excerpts follow from Cameron Buettel and Jeremiah Johnson’s GTY article, ‘The Apostles Who Don’t Do Anything: the New Apostolic Reformation’ (emphases mine):

The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) is a movement pioneered by C. Peter Wagner. This is what charismatic and continuationist doctrine looks like when taken to its logical conclusion. The NAR claims that not only the gifts, but also the office of apostleship still continues today. And as apostles, they pretend to speak for God and wield His divine authority—but it is all merely a pretense

Wagner even goes so far as to describe this era as “The Second Apostolic Age.” His “studies indicate that it began around the year 2001,” although he doesn’t bother to  explain or define what those studies were. [5]

In this new age of apostles, several apostolic networks have been established. Wagner’s is called the International Coalition of Apostles (ICA). Its website contains a global map to help locate the apostles in your part of the world. According to the network, there are more than 150 apostles in the U.S. alone …

According to the ICA website, the aspiring apostle must be nominated by two existing apostles who can show that he meets the ICA’s criteria. There are some fees, too.

The pricing table for apostleship is curious. The ICA charges an annual $450 fee to be an apostle. However, Native Americans receive a $100 discount. There’s also a couple’s rate of $650, just in case your wife also happens to be an apostle. And you want to stay on top of your dues, because failure to renew your membership on time results in a “deactivated” apostleship—it’s not clear if that includes the deactivation of any spiritual gifts as well. All is not lost, however—a deactivated apostle can be reactivated for an extra $50.

Put simply, becoming an apostle with the ICA is only slightly more difficult (and expensive) than purchasing a season pass to Disneyland.

It is worth noting:

People believe in Wagner’s apostleship simply because he had the temerity to claim it. But you won’t find delusions of grandeur and audacious whimsy in the list of biblical requirements for apostles

Just a simple reading of the book of Acts is enough to illustrate how impotent and unfit these modern apostles are, and how their fanciful assertions have perverted and distorted the office of apostle beyond recognition.

Please do not follow people like this. Think about the logic about buying apostleship. It cannot be done. It was never done in the New Testament. It’s merely a moneymaking scheme. Disregard it.

Last week, Le Monde‘s weekend magazine featured an article on ‘What would Jesus do?’ wristband bracelets with WWJD on them.

Apparently, they are all the rage among young French Evangelicals aged between 20 and 25. Evangelicals comprise nearly half — 300,000 — of the nation’s Protestants.

In addition to WWJD, one can also purchase wristbands with FROG (Fully rely on God) and PUSH (Pray until something happens) on them.

The article explains that WWJD came from an American novel from 1896, In His Steps. A pastor, Charles M Sheldon wrote it by assembling material from a series of tracts he had previously published and adding a good dose of Christian Socialism involving a homeless man who wonders why Christians are so tight with their money when it comes to charity.

In the book, the homeless man is the guest preacher one Sunday. He collapses of a heart attack afterward and dies. The fictional pastor is so moved by the event that he tells his congregation that they must ask themselves ‘What would Jesus do?’ before doing anything for the next 12 months.

Wikipedia has an entry on WWJD, which explains more about the Congregationalist pastor’s novel (emphases mine):

Charles Sheldon‘s 1896 book, In His Steps was subtitled “What Would Jesus Do?”[3] Sheldon’s novel grew out of a series of sermons he delivered in his Congregationalist church in Topeka, Kansas. Unlike the previous nuances mentioned above, Sheldon’s theology was shaped by a commitment to Christian Socialism. The ethos of Sheldon’s approach to the Christian life was expressed in this phrase “What Would Jesus Do”, with Jesus being a moral example as well as a Saviour figure.[4] Sheldon’s ideas coalesced with those that formed into the Social Gospel espoused by Walter Rauschenbusch. Indeed Rauschenbusch acknowledged that his Social Gospel owed its inspiration directly to Sheldon’s novel,[citation needed] and Sheldon himself identified his own theology with the Social Gospel.[citation needed]

My longstanding readers might recall the post on the history of the social gospel, a revealing and somewhat surprising one. An excerpt follows:

Walter Rauschenbusch (1861 – 1918), Professor of Church History at Rochester Theological Seminaryis known as the ‘Father of the Social Gospel’.  You might be interested to know that John D Rockefeller funded this seminary, along with many others in the United States.

Dr Rauschenbusch grew up in a German Lutheran family but became a Baptist pastor prior to his professorship.  His status as a professor gave him the platform to become an influential theologian.  He wrote two books, Christianising the Social Order and A Theology for the Social Gospel.  He considered himself steeped in ‘higher criticism’ and well-versed in socialism.  He proposed a more relevant and compassionate Gospel designed to change the emphasis and direction of American Protestantism.  He also introduced the idea of an earthly Kingdom achieved through socialism. He posited that Jesus didn’t come to save sinners but had a ‘social passion’ for society. Does that sound familiar?  It’s surprising what our forebears thought of such a long time ago, isn’t it?

In 1907, he met with the Fabians (socialists) in England.  Remember, Margaret Sanger also met with Fabians and had one heck of a time.  As with Mrs Sanger, the Fabians advised a gentle, peaceful, sensible approach to this transformation.  Also, as with Mrs Sanger, they proposed propaganda and infiltration to achieve their goals.  In Rauschenbusch’s case the targets were to be universities, seminaries and churches.

A year later John D Rockefeller helped Rauschenbusch and the Fabian Revd Harry Wardremember this nameto fund the establishment of the Federal Council of Churches. This would eventually become the National Council of Churches. We now have the World Council of Churches, which is very much aligned with the United Nations and global agendas.  Jesus Christ doesn’t get a look in. 

My post has much more. Briefly, Ward was the main player in furthering Communist penetration of churches in the United States. His involvement came to light during the McCarthy hearings in July 1953. A former Communist, Manning Johnson, testified:

Dr Harry F Ward, for many years, has been the chief architect for Communist infiltration and subversion in the religious field.

So, the WWJD slogan isn’t as innocent as it seems. Although there might not necessarily be a socio-political agenda attached to it today, there certainly was one in the beginning.

It is interesting to note that, by 1935, Sheldon’s In His Steps had been translated into 21 languages. I wonder who financed that.

The novel was updated in 1993 by his great-grandson Garrett W Sheldon.

John F MacArthurYesterday’s post looked at Matthew 8:18-22, wherein Jesus told a scribe who wanted to follow Him that (verse 20):

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

In his sermon on that passage, John MacArthur explained the meaning of the ‘Son of Man’ as follows (emphases mine):

I love the statement:  “The Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.”  The Son of Man first appears in Daniel 7:13.  Daniel prophesied that the Messiah would be Son of Man, and Jesus came and said, “I’m Son of Man.”  Do you know how many times that’s used in the gospels?  Eighty times!  Jesus affirmed He was the Son of man.  What is it?  It’s a term of humiliation.  Son of God speaks of deity; Son of Man of His humiliation.  He’s saying, “In my humiliation I don’t even have what foxes have, and the foxes were very common in those parts of the world in those times, and they would burrow little holes in the ground.  And birds were everywhere and they had their nests, and He said, “I don’t even have that.”  In my humiliation I don’t have the basic comforts of life and if you’re going to follow me you’re going to have to be willing to give that up.

Again, as MacArthur says, which I covered in my post, the Lord might not ask us to give up material and familial comforts at all, however, if circumstances beyond our control demand that we do so in order to follow Him, then we must. However:

He may not want to take away your personal possessions.  He may not want to take away your personal relationships.  But you have to be willing to let him if He wanted to, you see?  That’s the affirmation of His Lordship in your life.  If you come, saying, “I’ll come, but I’m hanging on to this, I’m hanging on to this, I’m hanging on to this,” and you give Him half a heart, you get nothing.  If you offer Him everything, He may allow you to keep the portion.  He may give you more than you have.  It’s the willingness that is the issue.

Something to consider. How willing are we to truly follow Christ?

John F MacArthurIn his sermon on Matthew 8:1-4, which I referred to in yesterday’s post, John MacArthur helpfully explains the structure of St Matthew’s Gospel, designed to show us the deity of Christ Jesus.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

First chapter: genealogy.  That attested to the legal qualifications of the Messiah.  Second chapter: birth, and all of the fulfillment of prophecy attested to the prophetic qualifications of the Messiah.  And then you come to His baptism: attested to the divine approval of His messiahshipThen you come to the temptation: attested to His spiritual qualifications to be the Messiah.  Then you come to the sermon [on the Mount]: His theological qualifications. And now you come to the miracles, the most essential qualification of all, the proof that He is God.  He’s God.

By the way, chapter 8 begins where chapter 4 left off; the sermon is stuck in the middle. But when we closed chapter 4, do you remember what He was doing? Verse 23?  “And Jesus went all about Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.  And His fame went throughout all Syria.  And they brought unto Him all the sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those who were possessed with demons, those who were epileptic, those who had paralysis, and He healed them.  And there followed Him great multitudes of people from Galilee and Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and beyond the Jordan.”  You see, this is right where He left off, isn’t it?  He went up in a mountain, preached a sermon, came down, and started it all over again.  Thousands, uncounted numbers of healings, and He healed all who came to Him.

The first miracle recorded in Matthew’s Gospel is the healing of the leper. MacArthur describes the pattern of miracles in Matthew 8 and 9 and the narrative through Matthew 13:

The 8th chapter through the 12th chapter is really, in many ways, critical to the understanding of the life of Christ and the message of Matthew.  For in this section, Matthew records a series of miracles performed by Jesus Christ.  There are countless thousands of miracles that are done, nine of which he singles out as examples of the power of Jesus Christ. They are really His credentials as the Messiah.  They are those signs which point convincingly to His deity, for only God can do the things that He does.  The sad part is that, after the miracles in chapters 8 and 9, after the preaching that occurs following that, the Jews conclude in chapter 12 that Jesus is of the devil. That was their conclusion.  So in many ways this becomes the heart of Matthew’s message.  Christ does everything possible to manifest His deity, and they conclude exactly the opposite. And then in chapter 13, He turns from the Jews toward the establishment of a Gentile church.  This is a monumental section of Scripture.  Now you’ll notice that it begins with three miracles:  miracle of healing the leper in the first four verses; healing the man with paralysis, verses 5 to 13; and the woman with fever in verses 14 and 15.  This is the opening triad of miracles.  There are nine miracles in these two chapters.  They come in three sections of three:  three miracles, then a response; three miracles, then a response; three miracles, then a response; all designed to manifest the deity of Jesus Christ.

Miracles, you see, were God’s way of attesting to the deity of His Son.  They are creative miracles.  They manifest power that is only defined by the essence of God.  They are things that man could never do.  They are supernatural. 

I will continue to write about the miracles in Matthew 8 as they have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary, widely in use for public worship.

However, understanding more about how Matthew structured his Gospel will help those of us new to the Bible to better understand and appreciate it.

jesus-christ-the-king-blogsigncomMy past few posts have explored what the Revd James A Fowler of Christ In You Ministries calls Resurrection theology. I first borrowed his sermons in 2012. Past posts in the 2015 series — summaries — can be found here, here, here, here and here.

Fowler’s essay, ‘The Extension of the Resurrection’, neatly ties together God’s purpose for creation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the Ascension, Pentecost, the growth of the Church and the Christian life — with a word or two on the afterlife. It is well worth reading in full.

Emphases mine in the excerpts below. Note Fowler’s distinction between ‘remedial’ and ‘restorative’, as they relate to the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, respectively.

How, then, is God’s ultimate objective for mankind achieved and accomplished in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? The death consequences of man’s sin were dealt with in the crucifixion when Jesus vicariously and substitutionally took mankind’s sin upon Himself on our behalf. In the redemptive act of His death Jesus accomplished the remedial work necessary to remedy the consequences of man’s sin before God. In that it was “impossible for Him to be held in death’s power” (Acts 2:24) for He was personally “without sin” (Heb. 4:15), He was raised from the dead in resurrection. In the resurrection expression of life out of death Jesus accomplished the restorative work of God, allowing the life of God to be restored to man. He took our death in crucifixion that we might have His life by resurrection …

Jesus repetitively promised His disciples in the upper room that He would send “another Helper, the Holy Spirit, who would be in them” (cf. Jn. 14:16,17,26,28; 15:26; 16:7,13-17). The word He used for “another” was not heteros, meaning “another of a different kind”, but He used the word allos, meaning “another of the same kind”, because He was promising a Helper who would be just like Him since the Helper would be Him in Spirit-form. Crucified, buried and raised from the dead, Jesus then ascended to the Father (Acts 1:8-11) saying, “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;…” Soon thereafter, on Pentecost (Acts 2:14), the Holy Spirit was poured out upon mankind allowing the Spirit of Christ to invest mankind with His life (cf. Acts 2:31-33) … Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn. 11:25) and told His disciples, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Jn. 14:6). The divine life of God is available to man in Jesus Christ. “He that has the Son has life; he that does not have the Son of God does not have life” (I Jn. 5:11,12) …

We must see beyond the historicity of the empty tomb on that first Easter day, and understand the extension of the resurrection-life and resurrection-power of Jesus Christ in every Christian. Christianity is not just the remembrance of an historical resurrection, but is comprised of the vital dynamic of the risen Lord Jesus functioning in the activity of the Holy Spirit of God by enlivening Christians with the “saving life of Christ” (Rom. 5:10). Christianity is Christ ­ the resurrected Lord Jesus living out His life in Christians every day, to the glory of God.

I hope that you have found this brief series as enlightening and profitable as I have. I also hope that it informs the remainder of our Eastertide 2015 and beyond.

JesusChristMy past few posts have explored what the Revd James A Fowler of Christ In You Ministries calls Resurrection theology. I first borrowed his sermons in 2012. Past posts in the 2015 series — summaries — can be found here, here, here and here.

Fowler’s essay excerpted below is entitled ‘Resurrection: the Key to Understanding the Gospel’. I highly recommend reading it in full. It addresses how people, Christians included, perceive the Bible, God and the life of Christ.

Because we fail to properly understand and appreciate the Resurrection, our evangelisation is weak. Fowler tells us how to overcome these weaknesses and become fuller Christians. We must come to realise that the Risen Christ is working through us.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

It is time that we find the Resurrection stone, and discover the “key” to unlock these religious mysteries, to interpret the gospel as it was intended. The resurrection is a far more important discovery for mankind than the Rosetta Stone was to Egyptologists. The resurrection is the “key” to understanding the gospel and its import for all peoples …

The concept of resurrection must first be decoded. The resurrection is not just an historical event, not just a theological truth. The resurrection is a living, personal reality in the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I AM the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25)

Jesus was indeed raised from the dead historically on that “first day of the week.” The theological significance of “life out of death” and eventual bodily resurrection is truly important. The present significance of the resurrection is recognized when Christians understand that the risen Lord Jesus ascended to heaven and the very resurrection-life of Jesus was poured out on Pentecost to dwell in the spirits of Christian people. That spiritual reality, the indwelling of the living Lord Jesus, the dynamic function of His resurrection-life in and through our lives, is the essence of the gospel. Jesus, the “resurrection and the life,” is living out His resurrection-life in us, the Christ-life expressed in the Christian.

Many of the “things of God” remain hieroglyphics to many Christian people because the reality of the resurrection-life of Jesus is not applied to Biblical truth.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ defines the “church of God” as those who are “called out” to be all God intends them to be by His activity of resurrection-life in and through them. Jesus Christ is the “head of the Body, the church” (Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18,24). The church is the “Body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12), the collective expression of the life of the risen Lord Jesus, the resurrection community, the “church of the living God” (I Tim. 3:15). The world is supposed to see the out-working of the life of Jesus Christ on earth today as the resurrection-life of Jesus functions in the interpersonal relationships of Christian peoples.

I sometimes wonder if our postmodern interpretation of Christianity — from both sides of the socio-political spectrum — characterised by niceness, the social gospel, good works, legalism, liberation theology and theonomy, is marring that one-on-one relationship we have with Christ.

If we focussed more on the Resurrection, as Fowler says, we would move away from the ‘me, me’ aspects of Christianity and really devote our lives to the living, risen Christ.

Tomorrow: From remediation to restoration

Jesus Light of the World 616Without Christ’s resurrection, our religion is but a commemoration of history.

To many people, Christ died and that’s the end of the story. However, at Easter we remember His fulfilment of Scripture by rising from the dead, defeating the tomb and, by extension, bringing us the promise of life eternal in Him.

I have been writing about what the Revd James A Fowler of Christ In You Ministries calls Resurrection theology. I first borrowed his sermons in 2012. Past posts in the 2015 series — summaries — can be found here, here and here.

Fowler warns us that we risk making our faith a historical one, especially if we neglect the Resurrection. His article, ‘A Call for Resurrection Theology’, explains much more and I would recommend reading it in full.

For now, here are the principal excerpts, emphases mine:

The church throughout the centuries has often failed to recognize the significance of the resurrection of Jesus. Despite the fact that the Easter celebration has been regarded as the culmination of the Christian year of worship, the full meaning of the resurrection has often been undeveloped or diluted in Christian teaching and preaching. Christian theology has emphasized numerous legitimate Biblical themes, but has seldom made the resurrection the focal point or fulcrum on which all other Christian subjects depend

Because of this neglect and the common misemphases of Christian theology, I am compelled to write this article and to make “a call for resurrection theology” …

If the incarnation and crucifixion were the only historical acts of God on man’s behalf, then the gospel would cease to be “good news”. If the gospel narrative was only that “Jesus was born. Jesus died. God said to man: ‘There is the remedy! I came. I fixed the problem. Now you are fixed. The slate is wiped clean. Now, go and do a better job next time.’” That is not good news! That is damnable doctrine. That is tragic teaching!

The incarnation and crucifixion alone serve only to condemn man all the more. The story would go like this: “A man came who was God-man. He did not share the spiritual depravity of the rest of mankind. He did not develop the “flesh” patterning of selfish desires like other men. He lived life as God intended, allowing God in him to manifest His desire and character at every moment in time for thirty-three years. He was the perfect man! He did not deserve to die, but He was put to death unjustly. In dying undeservedly, He died in our place, as our substitute, and paid the price of death to satisfy God’s justice, and forgive mankind of their sins.” Is that the whole of the story? If so, He lived and died perfectly which we cannot do. If the incarnation and crucifixion were the whole of the story, then we would have been better off without Him! Why? Because He could live and die as He did; we cannot. And the fact that He did only condemns us all the more by His matchless example, for we do not have what it takes to live like that.

Only in the resurrection do we have the message that God has given us the provision of His life in order that we might be man as God intended man to be; in order that the resurrection life of the risen Lord Jesus might become the essence of spiritual life in the Christian; in order that we might live by His life and the expression of His character. The resurrection is the positive provision of life in Christ Jesus, around which all other theological topics must be oriented

If Christian theology does not get beyond the cradle and the cross, the birth and the death of Jesus, then all we have to offer is a static history lesson with no contemporary consequence. If Christian theology does not get beyond apologetic defense for what “was”, and longing expectation for what “will be,” then it becomes an irrelevancy of temporalized “bookends” that fails to address what “is” and “should be” presently …

What a tragedy that the Christian religion has itself blockaded people from life in Christ by projecting the implications of the resurrection to an historical event of the past or to an anticipated expectation of the future.

If we do not properly understand or appreciate the relevance of the Resurrection, can we be proper Christians? Fowler does not believe so.

May we contemplate Resurrection theology in the approach to Ascension Day and Pentecost Sunday.

Tomorrow: Understanding the Resurrection is understanding the Gospels

jesus-christ-the-king-blogsigncomTwo posts from last week — here and here — appeal for what the Revd James A Fowler of Christ In You Ministries calls Resurrection theology.

For many of us, Easter is but one day, when, in fact, it is the most important part of Christianity.

In 2012, I excerpted several of Mr Fowler’s sermons on the Risen Christ, including ‘Christianity is Resurrection’. It is well worth reading in full, because not only does Fowler address what we remember on Easter Sunday but ties it into the events of the Bible and Christian theology.

For now, a brief excerpt outlining what we should understand and appreciate about Easter. Emphases mine:

The gospel is the message of the resurrection. The Gospel IS resurrection. Christianity is the expression of the resurrection. Christianity IS resurrection. Someone might say: “But Christianity is Christ!” That is true, but Jesus Christ said, “I AM the Resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). Jesus Christ is the content, the essence of resurrection-life. Jesus never said, “I AM the Cross”, but He did say, “I AM the resurrection”. The resurrection is the expression of the dynamic of all that Jesus IS. In fact, the resurrection is the reality of all that Christianity IS. The vital understanding of everything that is Christian is in the resurrection. Resurrection-life is the focal point of all Christian teaching ­ the starting point from which everything must be appraised, evaluated and interpreted, ­ EVERYTHING! Everything prior in time, time itself, and everything that follows chronologically, logically and theologically can only correctly be understood in light of the resurrection; all human history, all human thought …

All of history, and especially Biblical history, must be interpreted by the resurrection. Those who preceded the resurrection were who they were, and did what they did, because of what was, Who was, to happen in the resurrection

Christianity IS resurrection. At Easter time we do not just celebrate another event in history ­ even if it be regarded as the greatest event in history. Resurrection is not just an historical event; it is an on-going dynamic of the life of God in Jesus Christ. We do not just assent to the historicity or theological accuracy of the resurrection of Jesus Christ; we encounter resurrection. We encounter and have personal relationship with the One who is “the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25). One cannot count themselves a “Christian” unless they have encountered, received, and are participating in the resurrection life of Jesus Christ.

The season is not over yet, by the way. Eastertide runs until Pentecost Sunday, still a few weeks away.

May we use this time to make the Risen Christ a very real part of our lives.

Tomorrow: Without the Resurrection, Christianity is only history

JesusChrist Yesterday’s post pressed for a greater appreciation of our Lord’s resurrection and Eastertide.

The Revd James A Fowler of Christ In You Ministries inspired that plea. He calls for a ‘Resurrection theology’ in our churches.

His Easter sermons are some of the best I have ever read. We would be better Christians if we took on board what he has to say.

In 2012, I excerpted his sermon ‘It is the Resurrection that is being by-passed’, which I highly recommend reading in full.

Fowler says that we are all at fault for not emphasising the Resurrection more in our churches and evangelisation.

He includes Christian humanists, theonomists, Church growth advocates and churchgoers of misrepresenting the Resurrection.

He says that we bypass it when we:

– Make Christianity a ‘book-religion’ and neglect to accept

the Resurrected Lord as having “all authority in heaven and earth” (Matt. 28:18), and the One in whom life is found (John 5:39,40).

– View reconciliation as a communitarian concept instead of

a relational reconciliation wherein the “I AM” of the resurrected Jesus (John 11:25) enters into spiritual union with the Christian (I Cor. 6:17), and reconciles all things to Himself (Col. 1:20).

– Misrepresent faith as a purely intellectual or historical assent instead of

allowing for the out-working of His life (James 2:19,26).

– Live according to legalistic good works and mandated morality instead of

as the imitation of Jesus’ example, rather than Jesus Christ, the Risen One, living out His life in the Christian (II Cor. 13:5; Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:27).

– Present heaven as a human utopia instead of

the presence of a perfect God who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places (Eph. 1:3) that we might participate in the “kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 4:17) by the indwelling of the Perfect Risen Jesus Christ.

In short:

It is the resurrection that is being by-passed whenever we fail to recognize the full import of how God has restored humanity by the raising of His Son, Jesus Christ, whereby His “finished work” continues to bring to pass all that God intends to accomplish by His grace.

Let us pray for a greater appreciation of the Resurrection, particularly in the weeks approaching the Ascension and Pentecost.

Coming soon: The Resurrection as the focal point of faith

Jesus Light of the World 616Many Christians spend weeks preparing for Christmas but think less of Easter.

At Christmas, we have presents to buy and wrap, cards to send, a tree to decorate, a menu to plan and so on. All to remember the cute baby in the manger!

Easter is a different story. We hear about the empty tomb, the road to Emmaus and whilst we’re happy Christ rose from the dead, it’s less of a big deal.

Is it because there is no infant to contemplate? No presents to receive? No decorations in and around the home?

I know of churchgoers who actually dislike Easter because a beloved relative died around that time. Wow.

For many years I had problems with Christmas for that very reason but could not talk about it: ‘Don’t mention death at such a happy time. Everybody loves Christmas.’

Yes, Christmas is all about us: ‘my family around me’, ‘going away on holiday’, ‘great presents’ and so on. The list is endless.

Christmas does play into our carnality in the worst possible ways, most of which revolve around unmet expectations which are the highest at that time of year. Think of the disappointment manifesting itself in arguments, divorces, domestic abuse, suicides and so on.

That is our fault, nothing to do with the feast of the Nativity in and of itself. If we truly honoured the Christ Child, we wouldn’t place such an emphasis on our own needs.

One cannot help but wonder if churchgoers and clergy help to encourage this. How many Christian pages on the Internet concern Christmas and Easter? The number of entries for Christmas no doubt outnumber the latter. (I’m guilty of this.) In the offline world, how many Easter cards do we send and receive? Very few.

Yet, Easter is our greatest Christian feast. Without it, we would not be able to share in eternal life. Anyone whose relative has died around this time might take time to contemplate that their loved one would not be able to enter the Kingdom of God were it not for our Lord’s resurrection. As such, it should be a time of reassurance and comfort.

Eastertide lasts 50 days — until Pentecost, which is the Church’s birthday. Perhaps now that the 40 days Lent are over we can spend the coming weeks contemplating the significance and the joy of the Resurrection.

This can — and should be — a tremendous time of happiness for Christians, not one to be forgotten quickly. We would do well to make it part of our lives.

In 2012, I read — and excerpted — several sermons from the Revd James A Fowler’s Christ In You Ministries site. He is a pastor of the Neighborhood Church in Fallbrook, California, and, prior to that, had a teaching ministry in several countries around the world.

Fowler would like to see more of a ‘Resurrection theology’ in our churches. Yes, please!

What follows are highlights from his 2003 Easter sermon, ‘Living Reality of the Resurrection’ — well worth reading in full. Emphases mine below:

If the cross is an end in itself, i.e. “God’s final answer,” then all the gruesome execution of Jesus can do is create a martyr figure that allows people to focus on the death of this individual in order to perpetuate a particular ideology. Granted, that is how much of the Christian religion operates in our day, but is that what Christianity was intended to be?            

What happened on the cross, the death of Jesus, represents a remedial action

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead was God’s “Yes” to the restoration of His divine life in humanity. If our theology does not go beyond redemption in the death of Jesus on the cross, to the restoration of God’s life in humanity by the resurrection, then it ceases to be Christian theology. God’s “final answer” was not the cross. God’s final answer was (and is) the resurrection! In the resurrection of Jesus divine life overcame death, God overcame Satan (I Jn. 3:8; Heb. 2:14). That was historically enacted on that third day when Jesus arose from the dead and exited the tomb, but it was for the purpose of resurrection being personally and spiritually enacted in those receptive to Christ by faith.

It is a sad indictment of contemporary Christian religion to observe how the resurrection is regarded and taught in the churches today. It has become but a token recollection in the annual church calendar …

The need of fallen mankind is the restoration of the presence of God’s life in their spirit to energize their behavior in soul and body. The Spirit of Christ is that life. Life is a Person. “I AM the life” (Jn. 14:6), Jesus said. Divine life, spiritual life, eternal life, resurrection life are all the life of the risen and living Lord Jesus. The Apostle John explained, “He that has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (I Jn. 5:12).

This is not to diminish our Lord’s tremendous sacrifice in His crucifixion. Not at all.

However, the story did not end there.

Fallen humanity’s salvation requires both the cross and the resurrection.

Tomorrow: Bypassing the resurrection

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First case: June 2-3, 2011 -- resolved

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