Have you heard something like this…
Look at the price God paid for you; His own son! God wouldn’t sacrifice his son for something worthless would he?! Therefore we must be immensely valuable to God!
The crux of the idea of this; God’s primary motivation in sending Jesus to die is because you are personally worth that sacrifice, you are worth that price. The trouble is… you’re not. No one is worth the death of God the Son, the Eternal One. Especially not one of God’s enemies!
So if God didn’t sacrifice Jesus because we’re worth it, why did he do it? Well, first, because of his gracious love.
But you will say, “Aha! We must be worth something to God for him to love us!” But no! It’s not gracious love if we’re worthy of being loved. If we’re lovely in any way then God’s love ceases to be gracious.
But doesn’t God care about us, and doesn’t he know the number of hairs on our heads? Yes… but does he care because out hair is worthy to be counted? No! He cares because he is a caring God. He’s a God who cares for things that are not worthy of his care.
That’s what God wants us to know above everything else; he is the God who loves the unlovely, who saves the not-worthy-of-saving, who adopts the useless, who justifies the wicked.
And that’s why the death of Christ is “worth it” to God… that “price” was what it cost to show that he is gloriously gracious.
So, he didn’t send his Son to die because we’re worth it, he sent his Son to die because being known as amazingly gracious is worth it.
Exegesis (using sound biblical context of God’s unfolding plan) gives us certain theological ideas; Sin, Death, Love, Atonement, Creation, Humanity, Suffering, Eternity, Jesus, Life, Responsibility, Sovereignty, Power, Spirit, Law, Satan, Time, Guilt, Sex… these are all just topics that you can gather data on – from the bible – and summarise into an intelligent sentence. But that’s not ‘doing theology’ – yet. It’s just good, biblical (systematic) exegesis.
But take one of those ideas; any of them. imagine it as a locomotive steaming down the tracks… then take another one of those ideas; and imagine it on the track, steaming head-on towards the first…
Collide them… imagine the engines disintegrating into each other…
What form do they take? What becomes of them? What necessary truths must we hold as a result of believing A and B together?
That’s doing theology. And that’s where most of our early church fathers, and our reformed forebears did such great work. They showed what the bible said, and they argued the corollary was necessary.
So, go and do some theology.
We came across this idea a few years ago… that most churches (ours included) were generally pretty good at communicating two sorts of things… Abstract Theology, and Concrete Details about Church. (Abstract means concepts and ideas, whereas Concrete means times, dates, locations, what to bring, etc.)
So we were good at explaining ideas like Justification, and at the same time, telling people when the next event would be on and where it would be.
But that left two areas of communication largely vacant; Concrete Theology (Behaviours, Habits, Actions) and Abstract Details about Church (Why church exists, what type of church we want to be, How we think about our programs and why we do some things and not others).
How do you see your ministry going at communicating in all 4 of these areas?
An insurance policy and justification both have a pretty similar outcome. Both start with me being in the wrong and both end with me in a returned-state; perfected. The debt is paid off, the car/holiness is restored as though it never happened, you know… justified… just-as-if-it-hadn’t happened.
But God’s justification (and the faith that is associated with justification) is not like an insurance policy. Imagine I crashed my car into my Insurer’s CEO’s car… I can do one of two things… I can a) grab my insurance policy and say, “Look, I’ve taken out a policy that says you will make everything ok and pay off my debt!”, or b) I can ask the CEO to forgive me based on his personal mercy.
Being a Christian is latter, not the former… we just happen to know the CEO is a very very gracious guy!
We must be careful not to let our acceptance of God’s promises become the basis of our assurance. God’s promises are the expression of his character – God himself (made known in Christ) is the basis of our assurance; not “our acceptance” or “our faith” in His promises.
Or, to put it another way; don’t think of your faith as eternal-insurance, rather think of God’s grace as eternal-assurance.
Some people have complete ideas in their heads, some people have fuzzy ideas in their heads, and some people have “empty buckets” when it comes to certain ideas.
All of these people have things they need to change… “Complete theological concepts” will always have things that need to be uncovered, undermined and re-understood. “Fuzzy theological concepts” need to be sharpened, and strengthened, and built.
But what do you do with “empty bucket theological concepts”?
The first thing is to pick it when you see it. The type of conversation you have with an empty-bucket is very different to a fuzzy or complete.
But when you do see it, it’s gives you an opportunity for great joy in simply filling a bucket with God’s thoughts. There’s nothing to take out, change, alter; just fill.
The best possible outcome is watching them fill their own empty bucket as they read God’s word. So help them do that.
Desert-island theology is when you try to reduce a theological question down to its basic elements. This can be a really helpful activity for thinking clearly, however it need to be taken back into context. Some examples:
What is marriage? Well, if a single guy and single girl found themselves stranded on a desert island, couldn’t they make promises to Other and get married and have sex and it not be sin? Sure. At its most basic level marriage is two people in a covenanted relationship. But that doesn’t mean you and your girlfriend are married when you promise to live each other and decide to have sex. You’re not on a desert island!! The basic principles are not the only ones.
What about church? If two people find themselves on a desert island, and they read the bible and pray – yeah, it’s their church! But when you refuse to be part of a local group that has authorities and support, you’re ignoring Jesus’ people.
Desert island theology is a helpful tool for identifying important elements of ideas, but those ideas should never be left on the island.
In the new age of digital media, where a movie can be copied/transmitted/watched for next to no cost, we begin to see what was always the underlying commodity: Attention. Peoples’ attention.
Apparently I have your attention now, though I might lose it by the end of this sentence… No? Soon then.
Although, what is attention?
It’s more than what your eyes land upon, because it has to do with what your mind does with that image or sound or experience. Attention is a state of mind.
We see this in the words we use to describe attention: we pay attention, give it, we command it, we grab people’s attention and hold it, and we loose it. We often speak of kids wanting it or trying to get it.
Is there a theological grid behind how we think about attention. Are you being Christian with the attention your giving things?