Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What Has Already Been Done

Cathy Barson at All Souls Church post:  Reading scripture through the lens of the gospel

The gospel speaks of God’s redemptive work toward mankind throughout history, from the beginning of creation, through the fall, finding its pinnacle in the work of the cross and culminating at Christ’s return. Through the cross, God has reconciled us to himself, not only forgiving us and cleansing us of our sins but also adding to us righteousness and all the benefits of being his sons. All this is only through Christ and in Christ. Not a single thing has been or can be achieved through our own righteousness or effort.

I (Cathy) have personally undergone a “gospel revolution” over the past 4 years. The above truths have completely changed me, awakened me and rewired how I see God, myself, and life itself. As my eyes have been opened to the wonder of the enormity and generosity of God’s grace in the gospel, it has also transformed the way I read scripture. I have realized that many of my ‘favorite’ verses (aren’t they all favorites!) have been read through the lens of self-effort or on the condition of my faith, “if I only believe enough, this could be a promise for me”. As I re-read the bible through the lens of the gospel it is opening up a whole world of delightful discovery.

For example, what depths of discovery in reading the Old Testament, not as examples to follow or principles to be applied in the accounts of the biblical heroes, but to see Christ and the gospel revealed in its pages. The Old Testament is both Christotelic, in that it points toward the coming of Christ, as well as Christocentric in that it reveals Christ and the story of the gospel within the narrative itself.

Two other linguistic terms that have rocked my world are “indicative” and “imperative”. For much of my Christian walk I have read the bible predominantly through an imperative lens i.e. what is expected of me, what must I do? As I read now I realize that all the imperatives are based first and foremost on the indicatives of what has already been done for me in the work of the gospel and the very nature and character of God.

In closing, I share three of my long-standing “favorites” with a few comments on a fresh understanding though the lens of the gospel.

Philippians 4:5b-7
The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

For years I have used this as a formula, memorized it as a formula and taught it to others as a formula! If you’re anxious, choose to stop, pray about it, get perspective by thanking God and then wait in faith for his peace to come and picture it garrisoning your mind like an army.  Just the other day, I noticed (for what felt like the first time) verse 5b, which is the beginning of the sentence and the indicative on which the rest of the passage rests: “The Lord is at hand”! The Lord is at hand – what an amazing, glorious truth, that the God of all power, love, wisdom, might etc is at hand! When I actually ‘get’ that truth, of course I can not be anxious!

Psalm 103: 1-5

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
   and all that is within me,
   bless his holy name!
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
   and forget not all his benefits,
3who forgives all your iniquity,
   who heals all your diseases,
4who redeems your life from the pit,
   who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5who satisfies you with good
   so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

I have always read and held onto this Psalm as a promise for healing. It has been very much conditional on my faith. I hold onto it wistfully and pray it fervently. When I read about ‘all his benefits” I would think “Yes, I must be thankful for what he has already done in my life”, in a “count your blessings every day” kind of sentiment. But on closer study what this Psalm is talking about is all the benefits of the gospel that are mine in Christ. I have not been treated as my sins deserve!

Psalm 24:3-5

Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?
   And who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
   who does not lift up his soul to what is false
   and does not swear deceitfully.
5He will receive blessing from the LORD
   and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

This one to me was imperative all the way! It was my war cry as a revolutionary, a pep talk to uphold purity, because look at the rewards! I could be one of the few who could really know God intimately, walk closely to him and be used powerfully by him. I re-read this a few weeks ago and was blown away by the gospel. It both humbled me and caused joy to explode in my heart. “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?” Answer: NO-ONE, not even one, no-one is righteous enough. And yet, ALL who are in Christ can go right up that hill, only in him and through him.

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