Friday, 23 December 2011

TKJG Chapter 7: Jesus and the Gospel

Did Jesus preach the gospel? Did Jesus preach himself as the completion of Israel’s story? Jesus declares himself to be at the centre of the kingdom of God, Luke 7:22-23. Jesus was totally into preaching himself as the centre of God’s plan for Israel. Jesus unequivocally and without embarrassment nominated himself as Israel’s president.  Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount understood his teachings to be the consummation and completion and resolution and telos point of the Old Testament Law and the Prophets. Jesus selects 12 disciples and sees the 12 as embodying the fullness of the people of God but himself over the 12. Jesus explained his fate – his death and resurrection – in light of scripture, Daniel 7. Jesus explains himself his story, on the road to Emmaus by beginning with Moses and all the Prophets and explaining all the things the scriptures have said concerning himself, Luke 24:27. Jesus preached himself as the gospel, he was the good news and had good news as the fulfilment of Israel’s story and the inauguration of a whole new chapter of possibility and potential.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

TKJG Chapter 6: The Gospel in the Gospels

The early Christians called Matthew, Mark, Luke and John the ‘gospel’ because they are the gospel! The story of Jesus. To call these books the gospel is precisely to express that Jesus himself, the entirety of his acting, teaching, living, rising, and remaining with us is the ‘gospel.’ The four gospels and the gospel are one. The story told in Mark calls hearers to belief in the person who is described in it, Jesus, the Messiah and Son of God, and thus to eternal life; in other words it seeks to be wholly and completely a message of salvation. Luke’s purpose is not merely to narrate the deeds and words of Jesus but to show how these did in fact lead to the experience of salvation and to the formation of the community of the saved. John shows how the principle institutions and feasts of Israel, those annual celebrations that told Israel’s Story and that shaped both memory and identity for every observant Jew, fin their own completion in Jesus. These Gospels do not arrange the story into our way of framing the plan of salvation, and neither do they format the story into our favourite method of persuasion. Instead they declare the Story of Jesus, and that story is the saving, redeeming, liberating story.

TKJG Chapter 5: How Did Salvation Take Over the Gospel?

The creeds articulate what is both implicit and explicit in Paul’s grand statement of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15. Thus, the gospel is the Story of Jesus as the completion of the Story of Israel as found in the Scriptures, and that gospel story formed and framed the earliest Christians. During the much needed and God ordained Reformation, salvation was clarified in regards to its personal application and necessity. What then happened overtime is that the apostolic gospel was reframed in such as way and so successfully (largely as a result of the powerful evangelistic culture of evangelicalism in American revivalism and then later in America’s culture war between fundamentalists and modernists), that today we are losing contact with the gospel culture.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Advent 4

Advent is a four week season that provides is with the opportunity to celebrate the excitement, anticipation and sense of expectation that comes with Christmas.

Not excitement and anticipation because of all the trappings of Christmas that most of us are largely familiar with – Santa sacks, presents, sweet treats, family fun, festivities, fine food, indulgence, holidays, summer, BBQ’s and all those things we associate with a Kiwi Christmas. As good as what they all might be (and obviously this things can all be distorted to actually take away from Christmas rather than add to it), this isn’t what we get excited about during Advent and at Christmas.

The excitement, celebration and anticipations centres on the coming of Jesus...

· Jesus’ coming 2000 years ago
· Jesus’ desire to come and work in our lives today
· Jesus’ coming to restore and to put all things right
Often in our 21st Century context we wait until the New Year to turn over a new leaf, to enter a new chapter in life. Today isn’t they day for that, no way. LOL. But somehow the transition from the 31/12 to 01/01 is the time! Now we’ll lose weight, get fit, take up a hobby, give up a vice, read the bible every day, make church attendance a weekly habit, quit smoking or whatever it might be. Now is the moment to summon our will power, our mental reserves, to get committed, to find an accountability partner, to psyche oneself up, to turn a new page, starts a new chapter and begin a new life!
It’s a bit crazy that we wait to the 31st December to do this, but it kind of makes sense.

The Christian New Year isn’t January 1 though. The Christian New Year, the Christian Liturgical Calendar, kick starts the New Year at the end of November, the fourth Sunday before Christmas. That’s when we say happy New Year.

Here though we don’t hope that the New Year will bring a new chapter and a different story into reality in our life; we celebrate with excitement and anticipation that a new chapter has begun and will continue to be!

External to our efforts, to our striving, to our will power, to our best intentions, and New Year’s resolutions we celebrate that a new chapter has begin in Jesus Christ. All we have to do is get lost and found in the story of Jesus.

ADVENT – A new chapter is coming, let’s get ready, let’s celebrate.
CHRISTMAS – A new chapter has begun.

That’s the excitement and anticipation of Advent and of Christmas, there is a new chapter in the story, a new chapter in the story of humanity and there can be a new chapter in the story of my life as well. And that new chapter is here today!
Lost – found
Brokenness and strife – something beautiful
Despair, anxiety, hopelessness – peace, confidence and hope
Pain and heartache – healing and restoration
We sing about this in some of our Christmas carols...
O Holy Night
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
In all our trials born to be our friends
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger.
Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease

Joy to the World

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

ADVENT – A new chapter is coming, let’s get ready, let’s celebrate.
CHRISTMAS – A new chapter has begun.
BAPTISM – we’ve entered into a new story.
We’ve put our faith and trust in Jesus, we’ve turned from living life our own way and we’ve chosen to live in the light of God’s big story, to get lost and found in God’s big story. We die with Christ and we are raised to new life with Christ!

That’s what a Christian is, that’s what a Christ follower is
someone who’s whole life is caught up and shaped by God’s big story and the life changing work of Jesus Christ in coming and making a new chapter possible for all humanity.

Look forward to the possibility of a new chapter in your life this Advent.
Celebrate the dawning of a new day, of a new chapter, because of Jesus this Christmas.
Put your faith and trust in Jesus, turn to follow him as King, enter a new chapter in Baptism.

TKJG Chapter 4: The Apostolic Gospel of Paul

1 Corinthians 15 is the best place to begin mapping an understanding of the gospel. Here Paul comes pretty close to defining the word gospel. The gospel is to announce good news about the key events in the life of Jesus and to shout aloud the Story of Jesus Christ as the saving news of God. The gospel though is intimately tied to Israel’s Story as found in the scriptures of the Old Testament. Salvation – the robust salvation of God – is the intended result of the gospel story about Jesus Christ that completes the story of Israel in the Old Testament.

1 Corinthians 15 (TNIV)

1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. (15:1-2)


3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4 that he was buried,
that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.(15:3-5)

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a human being. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But in this order: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. (15:20-28)

Monday, 19 December 2011

TKJG - Chapter 3: From Story to Salvation

The gospel only makes sense in the context of the full narrative of Christian scripture; if we ignore this larger story the gospel gets distorted. But that full narrative is not the gospel. The gospel is the story of Jesus as the resolution of Israel’s (humanities) story. This story includes how someone is ‘saved’ but any personal plan for or of salvation in itself is not the gospel and becomes a distortion of the gospel.  God’s righteousness and holiness, our sin, Christ’s atoning death, and our response of repentance and faith in Jesus is not the gospel. A salvation plan leads to justification. The gospel though includes salvation but leads to discipleship, justice, goodness and loving kindness.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

TKJG – Chapter 2: Gospel Culture or Salvation Culture

Personal faith is both necessary and nonnegotiable; the gospel doesn’t work for spectators you have to participate. Evangelicals though are not really ‘evangelical’ in the sense of the apostolic gospel but instead are soterians. The word gospel is mistakenly equated with the word salvation, but these two words don’t mean the same thing. In thinking salvation as identical to gospel we betray a profound lack of awareness as to what the gospel means and what the gospel might mean for our world today.

Friday, 16 December 2011

TKJG - Chapter 1: The Big Question

In the following series of posts I'll attempt in 100 words or less to summarize each chapter of The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight.

Here we go...

The big question in Christian circles that needs addressing is ‘what is the gospel?’ We need to go back to the bible and ask ourselves this question all over again, as if we were in Galilee listening to Jesus ourselves or as if we were the first listeners of the apostles preaching in some small house church in the middle of the Roman Empire. The word ‘gospel’ has been hijacked by what we believe about ‘personal salvation.’ The result being that the word gospel no longer means in our world what it originally meant to Jesus or the apostles.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

The King Jesus Gospel

I've just started reading The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight. The forewords are from N.T. Wright and Dallas Willard.

Here are snippets of what they have to say...

N.T. Wright

God wants every single Christian to grow up in understanding as well as trust, the Christian faith has never been something that one generation can sort out in such as way as to leave their successors with no work to do.

We shouldn't be alarmed if someone sketches a third, fourth, or even fifth dimension that we had overlooked. (This is in regards to our understanding of Christianity and Christian faith).

The movement that has long called itself "evangelical" is in fact better labelled "soterian."

"The gospel" is the story of Jesus of Nazareth told as the climax of the long story of Israel, which in turn is the story of how the one true God is rescuing the world.

For many people, "the gospel" has shrunk right down to a statement about Jesus' death and its meaning, and a prayer with which people accept it. That matters, the way the rotor blades of a helicopter matter. You won't get of the ground without them. But rotor blades alone make a helicopter.

This book could be one of God's ways of reminding the new generation of Christians that it has to grow up to take responsibility for thinking things through afresh, to look back to the large world of the full first-century gospel in order then to look out on the equally large world of twenty-first-century gospel opportunity.

Dallas Willard

Scot McKnight here presents, with great force and clarity, the one gospel of the bible and of Jesus the King and Savior. He works from the basis of profound biblical understanding and of insight into history and into the contemporary misunderstandings that produce gospels that do not normally produce disciples, but only consumers of religious goods and services. In the course of this he deals with the primary barrier to the power of Jesus' gospel today - that is, a view of salvation and of grace that has no connection with discipleship and spiritual transformation. It is a view of grace and salvation that, supposedly, gets one ready to die, but leaves them unprepared to live now in the grace and power of resurrection life.

It would probably be worth your while getting a copy of the book and having a read don't you think?

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Advent 3

Thanks Giving

Fourth Thursday in November, a holiday celebrated in the states. First celebrated by in 1621 by the first pilgrims arriving in New England (America) from England. It was a meal to thank God for their save arrival. Traditionally meals like that held to thank God for harvests or deliverance etc. Became a national annual practice in 1863, instituted by Abraham Lincoln after the Civil War. Beautiful. Wonderful. Let’s have a meal and thank God for his blessings, favour and protection, for family and loved ones and freedom and hope.

Black Friday

Black Friday is the Friday that follows on from the Thursday of Thanks Giving. Traditionally it is the beginning of the Christmas shopping season and there are normally massive sales to get people into the shopping ‘spirit.’ Not a traditional holiday but many no-retail employees give their staff the day off. Black Friday because shops are in the ‘black,’ in the profit zone.

Shops used to open early, 6:00am on Black Friday. This has been evolving over the last few years though with many starting to open first at 5:00am but now at 4:00am. In 2011 though stores such as Target, Massey’s and Best Buy decided to open at midnight. Walmart though opened on Thanks Giving at 10:00pm and Toys’R’Us at 9:00pm.

Reports regarding Black Friday shopping include...

·        Police taser a shopper in an Alabama Wal-Mart amidst a scramble for bargains
·        Bomb scare, police evacuate an Arizona Wal-Mart after finding an explosive.
·        55 year old woman shot by robbers outside Wal-Mart in North Carolina.
·        Girls got into a punching fight at a Pennsylvania Victoria’s Secret
·        Grandfather knocked unconscious in another mal
·        Man charged with disorderly conduct after brawl in electronics section of another store which left two woman injured
·       In 2008 a security guard was crushed to death as 200 shoppers stormed a store for bargins
Surely not the way things are meant to be at Christmas time.

How do we flick from Thanks Giving to Black Friday just like that?

As we approach the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, a Sunday of rejoicing, we engage in re-telling the Christmas story. To ourselves and each other.

Christmas isn’t about over indulgence. Christmas isn’t about pressure to give and buy things you can’t afford. Christmas isn’t about the cultural expectations of the Western world’s obsession with consumerism and materialism. Christmas isn’t about credit card debt that lasts for months the other side of Christmas.

Christmas is a celebration of the coming of the one who sets us free from debt, the one who brings grace, forgiveness, freedom and peace on earth!
As Christ followers we are challenged to re-tell the story.

Jesus says...

Matthew 6:31
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Yet at Christmas we so often find ourselves asking ‘what shall we eat and drink and wear and get and have?’

This year remember to seek first the kingdom of God.

The manger was a surprising place to find a king. Always at Christmas I am surprised that God shows up in unexpected places, like the doco we watched at church on Sunday “What Would Jesus Buy?

Look for Jesus to speak and to challenge and to encourage and love in unexpected ways this Christmas season as you focus an align yourself with the ‘reason for the season.”

Don’t make your entry point to Christmas the craziness of shopping malls and bargain hunting and unfettered consuming.

Make your entry point the one who came to ‘make his blessings flow, far as the curse was found, as far as the curse was found’!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Advent - Part 2

During Advent we reflect with anticipation, excitement and hope on the coming of the Messiah. We contemplate the birth narratives of the gospels and the expectation of the Jewish people longing for Messiah. What must life have been like for them? What did the coming of Messiah mean for them? What does the coming of Jesus mean for me and for my family and community (local and global)? We look at areas in our own lives where we are in need of Jesus to presence himself and bring light and hope. We look at the world we live in and its brokenness and need of the Divine Saviour. We smile confidently rather than despair. There is hope. There is a new chapter that had begun, is beginning and will take place.

However we wait.

We wait.

Still waiting.

Yep even now, still waiting.

Waiting isn’t something we are always good at. Advent is about pregnant expectancy. As glamorous as that might sound and as exciting as it might be to have a new baby on the way (we’re counting down to the arrival of our third), pregnancy is full on. Ask any mum!

Morning sickness, aches and pains, hard to breath, hard to get around, hard to carry on with life, tired, exhausted, emotional and so on. Yet a mum pushes on with a smile on her face.

Often that’s what our waiting in life is like, we’re confident, we’re smiling, we have hope, but... When’s this going to end? How much longer do I have to wait? I feel terrible, Jesus where are you? I need you now! This world needs you now!

Advent though encourages us not to shy away from this waiting but rather to be still, to be at peace, to trust God in the midst of our waiting. We don’t wait hopelessly though. We wait knowing that Christmas is coming.

-          Waiting slows us down

-          Waiting gives us time and space to gain perspective

-          Waiting helps us to discriminate between the good, the better and the best

-          Too easy to go through live without pausing. To caught up in life that without realising it we’re all of a sudden following the wrong star.

-          Christmas becomes about consumables, candy canes, stocking fillers, over indulgence, a fat man in a red suit – all those things we love and we lose sight of ‘Christ with us.’

-          Same can happen in life, we go so fast, move so quickly from one thing to the next that we forget that this life is about so much more than this life.

-          If we do not learn to wait, we can allow ourselves to assume that one thing really is as good as another. Just not the case.

Advent, when we engage in the season, relieves us of our commitment to the frenetic fast-paced norms of our world.
It slows us down. It makes us think. It makes us look beyond today to the great ‘tomorrow’ of life, where Jesus restores all things and there are no more tears, pain, or heartache.
And while we wait we remember we are invited to work towards that end!
We’re not to get caught up in the pursuit of chocolate Santa’s, socks, undies, candy canes and i-presents, but rather the pursuit of justice and peace.
We’re to get caught up in the story of Jesus and the mission of Jesus in the world. Allowing that story to reframe the story of our lives.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Advent - Part 1

The Liturgical Year

The Liturgical Year or the Christian Calendar is a way of ordering one’s year that has evolved within Christian tradition over the centuries. Different Christian traditions follow slightly different forms of the calendar with different readings from the bible on different days etc, but in general they all follow the same rhythm.

The way the Liturgical Year works is that it is ordered around the story of Jesus, his life and ministry and longed for return. Its beauty is that it takes us places in prayer, contemplation, study, and celebration that often we might more naturally shy away from. Christmas is a wonderful celebration. Resurrection Sunday is a day of new life and possibility. Pentecost reminds us of the life giving empowerment of the Holy Spirit. They are pretty easy to celebrate.

Lent though reminds us of the trials and struggles of life; the difficulties and the heartaches. Easter Friday takes us to place of what seems to be abandonment and hopelessness. Ordinary time confronts us with the mundane reality of life but that Christ is present.

The real power of the liturgical year is not the feasts, celebrations, seasons and rituals, the real power is its capacity to touch and plumb the depths of the human experience, to stir the human heart. By walking the way of the life of Jesus, by moving into the experience of Jesus, we discover the meaning of our own experiences, the undercurrent of our own emotions, the struggle and the joy, the victories and the heartache of the Christian life. By taking us into the depths of what it means to be a human on the way to God – to suffer and to wonder, to know abandonment and false support, to believe and to doubt – the liturgical year breaks us open to the divine.


Advent isn’t Christmas. Advent is the four week period leading into Christmas which begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Advent looks forward to the arrival of Christ, the arrival of Emmanuel, God with Us, the hope of the world.

Advent looks forward to the arrival of the Christ child whose birth brings joy to the world. With Mary we magnify God’s name at the announcement that the long promised one is coming soon. Our waiting is full of pregnant expectancy, waiting in anticipation for the full coming of God’s reign of peace. The liturgical colour is blue, signifying hope and the dawning of a new day.

Advent is also an opportunity to re-tell the Christmas story, away from of consumerism and materialism, and back towards anticipation, expectation and the wonder of the incarnation, of God with us, of the long waited arrival of the Messiah in very unspectacular circumstances. Advent is the celebration that there is going to be a new chapter in the story; hope, life, promise, redemption, grace, forgiveness.

Advent from Latin essentially means ‘coming’ but Advent is not about one coming but rather three.

-          Coming of Jesus, 2000 years ago, the Messiah, Emmanuel, the Saviour.

-          Coming of Jesus, as present in our everyday lives today, working in all sorts of beautiful and wonderful ways.

-          Coming of Jesus again to put all things right, to restore all things and to bring justice and shalom.

Jesus – past, present, future!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Spiritual Disciplines or Not Spiritual Disciplines

Don Carson at the Gospel Coalition offers a pretty narrow view of what constitute as and what don't constitute as spiritual disciplines. Essentially he narrows them to bible reading and prayer. I'm more broad in my appreciation of what could be considered a 'spiritual discipline.' 

You can read his thoughts and rationale here = D.A Carson 'Spiritual Disciplines' 

The point of this post is not to get into a debate or argument with Carson on the issue but rather to offer a different opinion and give you something to think on in regards to what may or may not work as a spiritual discipline in your life i.e. a practice that leads to spiritual growth and development as a Christ follower in areas of right believing, right affections and right living.

My comments on Carson's article...

I think Carson presents a very narrow few of how God can and does work in the lives of His people and of the practices which His people can engage in that as spiritual disciplines, lead to spiritual growth.

Yes spirit, spiritual, spirituality are notoriously fuzzy words. There has been massive debate about Christian Spirituality and how that can possible be defined for many years.
I don’t think 1 Cor 2:14 or 1 Cor 3:1 are references to intrinsic reality of humanities make up as created in the image of God, but rather to the regenerate state of certain individuals/communities. There is a big difference.
I love the gospel and I’m not nervous about the language of ‘spiritual disciplines’ extending itself into all sorts of arenas, such as Bible reading, meditation, worship, giving away money, fasting, solitude, fellowship, deeds of service, evangelism, almsgiving, creation care, journaling, missionary work, and more. Popular use may divorce them from specific doctrine Christian or otherwise, but Christian use should always anchor them in the grand narrative of scripture. Indeed I concur with Carson that in general they will only increase one’s ‘spirituality’ with the presence of the Holy Spirit, all being that they are likely still good practices in character development even apart from a recognised knowledge of God.
I think plenty can be listed as a spiritual discipline without being particularly mentioned in Scripture, i.e. despite the bible saying precious little (debatable!) about creation care and chanting mantras.
Yes of course the disciplines can be done for disciplines sake and do not necessarily make one holier than another. When done with an openness to the Spirit they certainly create space to hear from God though, to re-orientate one’s life around the Way of Jesus and to help one grow healthy.
One of my main points of contention is that I would disagree with Carson and 100% assert that Christian responsibilities can and should be labelled as spiritual disciplines. The very running of one's Christian race 1 Cor 9:24-27 (towards orthodoxy, orthopathy and orthopraxy) is exercise in itself. Any movement towards right(eous) living, towards clothing oneself or taking off the old self and putting on the new self Eph 4:22-24, is exercise, discipline, a pressing on, which leads to what can only be described as ‘spiritual growth.’ This does not mean there is nothing special about prayer and the reading of God’s Word, indeed not all disciplines are equal, though all can be healthy. In some seasons people need to lean more into some disciplines than others. Likewise, this does not mean that one is sucked into thinking that growth in spirituality is but conformity to rules. The very acts of creation care, giving away money and fellowship (when truly engaged in, in a disciplined and committed manner) demand growth in love, trust, understanding of the ways of God and the work of the Spirit in filling and empowering us. All practices which can help us in our journey of sanctification, conformity to Jesus Christ and spiritual maturation.
What would you class or not class as a spiritual discipline? What disciplines do you practice that have lead to life in the Spirit and growth in the things of God?
Further reading try...
Grace and peace

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