True love involves anger

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One wants to have love alone, not seeing that by denying God’s holiness and wrath, God’s love is deprived of its true depth and meaning. Is it not so even in human experience?

The man who cannot become angry,
cannot truly love.

The man who passes over treachery, infidelity, breach of confidence as if it were nothing, cannot be a true friend and cannot be faithful himself. It is here that a decision of the first order takes place: he who refuses to hear of God’s wrath, judgment and condemnation, will never understand Jesus Christ. The living God is the God whose love is united with holiness.

This paradox of holiness and mercy is . . .
the essence of the biblical doctrine of God.

–Emil Brunner
The Scandal of Christianity

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Love does not mean approval

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We often confuse unconditional love
with unconditional approval.
God loves us without conditions but does not
approve of every human behavior.

God doesn’t approve of betrayal, violence, hatred, suspicion, and all other expressions of evil, because they all contradict the love God wants to instill in the human heart. Evil is the absence of God’s love. Evil does not belong to God.

God’s unconditional love means that
God continues to love us even when
we say or think evil things.

God continues to wait for us as a loving parent waits for the return of a lost child. It is important for us to hold on to the truth that God never gives up loving us even when God is saddened by what we do. That truth will help us to return to God’s ever-present love.

–Henri Nouwen
(emphasis added)

A love that makes us better

The only people who get any better
are those who know,
that if they don’t get any better,
God will love them anyway.

–Steve Brown

Terrifying and Tender

Our world is . . . longing
to see people whose
God is big and holy and frightening and gentle and tender . . . as ours;
a God whose love frightens us into His strong and powerful arms where He longs to whisper those terrifying words, “I love you.”

–Mike Yaconelli

Becoming fully human

The Kingdom of God has to do not only with the God of creation, but also with the creation of God . . .

Making a difference in our world – Kingdom living – implies that there is a duality to be acknowledged. Jesus said: “whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). There is light and darkness, right and wrong, good and evil. But what has happened is that all that is light, right and good has been identified with one side of ‘reality’ (= the church) and all that is dark, wrong and evil with the other side of ‘reality’ (= the ‘world’). The result is that many Christians have adopted a ‘siege mentality’, hauling up the drawbridge so that there is little real intercourse between the church and the world.

Instead of celebrating all that is good in the world,
some Christians view the secular world
as unspiritual, even to be avoided.

Early on in the life of the church all sorts of wrong ideas about the world in which we live began to take root. It’s called dualism, and it has a lot to do with Plato, whose ideas have infiltrated the church over the centuries.

Dualism has robbed many people – and
many Christians – of the joy of life
in God’s good creation.

Simply put, dualism says that life is divided into two compartments, the holy and the unholy, or the sacred and the profane: for one compartment – obviously ‘holy’! – read ‘church’, and for the other (‘unholy’) read the ‘world’…

We so easily divide life up into two realms, with a whole lot of false opposites. We pit sacred against secular, faith against works, church against world, soul against body, heaven against earth, prayer against politics, creeds against deeds, and so we could go on.

Some sections of the church need to repent of the narrow dualism that avoids any form of genuine contact with the world, a suffocating dualism that can treat God’s creation as intrinsically contaminating rather than intrinsically wholesome and good . . .

Hans Kung, the well-known Catholic theologian,
was once asked why we should
embrace Christianity. His reply was:
“So that we can be fully human.”

Spirituality and humanity go together – they are not to be pulled apart – in fact, I would go so far as to say that our Christian maturity could be measured not by how ‘spiritual’ we are, but how fully human we allow ourselves to be! What is our ultimate destination, as Christians? …

Our ultimate destination is not heaven –
it is the new earth that will represent the final act
in God’s great redemptive purposes.

–Graham Buxton
(adapted)

The fundamental truth about God

The early Church saw that what was fundamental about God was the Trinity. But in the development of Western theology, the holiness of God was substituted for the Trinity as the fundamental truth about God. In truth, it was a false view of the holiness of God that was substituted. For the holiness of God, properly understood, is simply beautiful. If we took the joy and the fullness and the love of the Father, Son and Spirit, their mutual delight and passion, the sheer togetherness of their relationship, its intimacy, harmony and wholeness, and rolled them all into one word, it would be “holiness.”

The holiness of God is one of the special words we have to describe the wonder and the beauty, the uniqueness and health and rightness of the Trinitarian life.

But in the Western tradition, the holiness of God was detached from the Trinity and reconceived within the world of law and order, crime and punishment, blind and cold justice. Reconceived within this stainless steel world of pure law, “holiness” came to mean “legal perfection” or “moral rectitude.” The notion of holiness was then taken back into the doctrine of God and substituted for the Trinity as the deepest truth about God—the driving force of divine existence.

When that happened, the whole logic of the universe changed, and with it the logic of creation, the logic of incarnation and the death of Christ, the logic of human existence and that of the Holy Spirit. It all got twisted, skewed, terribly confused.

–C. Baxter Kruger

God: Holy or Loving?

What word best describes your view of God: “holy” or “love”? Which is the primary quality of God?

In his book, God in the Wasteland, theologian David Wells expresses his concerns that the contemporary church is sliding into apostasy because of its failure to maintain the supremacy of God’s holiness. He refers to a 1993 survey of students from seven conservative seminaries. The students were asked which statement best described their primary view of God: (1) God is love, or (2) God is holy. The results troubled Wells. 80% answered that “God is love” best described their view of God. Only 18% said the same concerning the statement, “God is holy.” In light of these responses, Wells argues that evangelicalism is degenerating into a form that no longer resembles biblical Christianity. For Wells, to emphasize God’s love over God’s holiness denies the message of Scripture and results in a weakened and compromised gospel.

Is Wells right? What do you think? Is God’s holiness the quality that should take precedence in our view of God? Or, is love the central quality of God?

A close look at Isaiah 6 – Isaiah’s well-known vision of God – answers the question, but not in the way one might expect. Only when Isaiah 6 is placed in the full context of the complete revelation of God in sacred scripture does it shed the fullest light on the nature of God.

Read the rest of the article…

http://www.theocentric.com/theology/godhead/god_holy_or_loving.html

Trinity, holiness and mothballs

Without the Trinity, holiness has the smell of mothballs about it, the look of a Victorian matron administering castor oil. And much of what purports to be holiness has just that aura about it: all prickliness and prudery. People even say things like ‘Yes, God is loving, but he is also holy’ – as if holiness is an unloving thing, the cold side of God that stops God from being too loving.

Balderdash! Or at least, it is if you are talking about the holiness of the Father, Son and Spirit. No, said Jonathan Edwards,

“Holiness is a most beautiful, lovely thing. Men are apt to drink in strange notions of holiness from their childhood, as if it were a melancholy, morose, sour, and unpleasant thing; but there is nothing in it but what is sweet and ravishingly lovely.”

Holiness and beauty

What is holiness, then? The words used for holiness in the Bible have the basic meaning of being ‘set apart’. . . For the reality about me is that I am cold, selfish, vicious, full of darkness and dirtiness. And God is holy – ‘set apart’ from me – precisely in that he is not like that; there are no such ugly traits in him. ‘God is God,’ wrote Edwards, ‘and distinguished from [that is, set apart from] all other beings, and exalted above them, chiefly by his divine beauty’ (for the connection between holiness and beauty, see Psalm 96:9).

Holiness is about love

Now the holiness of a single-person, non trinitarian God would be something quite different. His holiness would be about being set apart away from others. In other words, his holiness would be all about aloof distance. But the holiness of the Father, Son and Spirit is all about love. Given who this God is, it must be. Edwards again:

“Both the holiness and happiness of the Godhead consists in this love. As we have already proved, all creature holiness consists essentially and summarily in love to God and love to other creatures; so does the holiness of God consist in his love, especially in the perfect and intimate union and love there is between the Father and the Son.”

The holiness of the triune God is the perfection, beauty and absolute purity of the love there is between the Father and the Son.

There is nothing grubby or abusive about the love of this God – and thus he is holy. My love is naturally all perverse and misdirected; but his love is set apart from mine in perfection. And so, the holiness of the triune God does not moderate or cool his love; his holiness is the lucidity and spotlessness of his overflowing love.

For the believer to be holy, to be godly – means to be like God. If God is a being curved in on himself, then to be like him I should be like that. If Aristotle’s eternally introspective God is God, then plenty of navel-gazing seems to be just what’s called for. If love and relationship were not central to God’s being, then they wouldn’t feature for me either. Forget others. If God is all single and solitary, be a hermit. If God is cruel and haughty, be cruel and haughty. If God is the sort of oversexed, beer-sloshing war-god of the Vikings, be like that. (Though please don’t.)

But with this God, the two greatest commands are ‘Love the Lord your God’ and ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. For that is being like this God – sharing the love the Father and the Son have for each other, and then, like them, overflowing with that love to the world. In Leviticus 19, the Lord famously says ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy’ (v. 2). What does holiness look like there? It means not turning to idols but coming to the Lord with proper fellowship offerings (vv. 4-8). That is, it means fellowship with the Lord. And it means not being mean to the poor, not lying, not stealing etc. (vv. 10-16) – that is, it means ‘Do not hate your brother in your heart … but love your neighbour as yourself’ (vv. 17-18).

Love for the Lord, love for neighbor –
that is the heart of holiness and
how the triune God’s people
get to be like him.


The beautiful, loving holiness of this God makes true godliness a warm, attractive, delightful thing. Holiness for God, said Edwards, ‘is the beauty and sweetness of the divine nature’, and so ‘Christians that shine by reflecting the light of the Sun of Righteousness, do shine with the same sort of brightness, the same mild, sweet and pleasant beams.’ To know and enjoy the God who is love essentially means learning to love as He does.

–Adapted from Mike Reeves

What is holiness?

In the course of a Bible study for college students in Delhi, a Hindu girl asked me what I consider to be a brilliant question: “How can you Christians say God is good? Good is the opposite of evil; evil is not eternal; therefore, good cannot be eternal as well.” . . . The Christian insists that God exists without reference to evil and rejects the dualism of positing good and evil as equal and opposite. But how can the Christian sustain this position philosophically and existentially?

If I were awakened suddenly in the middle of the night and asked this question, “What is holiness?” my instinctive answer would be “Absence of sin!” Although that may be enough of an answer for our understanding of holiness because of our fallenness and familiarity with sin, it would be inadequate as a definition of the holiness of God. He is holy without any reference to sin. How do we define that kind of holiness? We cannot define good with reference to evil because good is the original of which evil is the counterfeit—a problem parallel to defining the infinite in terms of the finite. Evil is an aberration. We need to look for a positive definition of good without reference to evil.

Love is the highest expression of holiness

Very significantly, the answer lies in the trinitarian being of God. Love is the epitome of all virtue and the highest expression of holiness. And God should not have to depend upon his creation to actualize his capacity to love, for that would make creation as important as the Creator because the Creator would be incomplete without his creation. But the Bible introduces love as an interpersonal quality requiring a subject-object relationship that is available in the Trinity because of the Father-Son relationship through the Holy Spirit. The trinitarian God is complete in his love relationship without reference to his creation. The Father loves the Son before the creation of the world (John 17:24). The infinite personal medium through whom this love is communicated is the Holy Spirit, and he is the one who pours the love of God in our hearts as well (Romans 5:5). The final answer that I could give to this college girl was to appeal to the Trinity, where good always existed without any reference to, outside of, and before evil…

Holiness is relational

The Ten Commandments that God gave to his people (Exodus 20:1–17) sum up God’s requirement in terms of relationships—with him and with one another. The Old Testament also sums up the commandments as love relationships with God (Deuteronomy 6:4–5) and among his people (Leviticus 19:18). In other words, holiness by God’s own definition (Leviticus 19:2) is seen in the relational commandments that comprise the rest of that chapter. Holiness is therefore not the stand-alone ascetic quality that is the hallmark of some Eastern religions but a community of people in right relationship to one another…

We are born to our parents and we grow in our understanding of ourselves as we learn to relate to parents, siblings, and friends. Simply put, I can’t be me without someone else; you can’t be you without reference to someone else. What makes a person a person is her (or his) capability of interpersonal relationship. In fact, we derive our most fundamental sense of identity by relating to God and other human beings. Moreover, the identity that we seek from impersonal entities such as achievement, fame, pleasure, and possessions—the hallmarks of today’s consumerist, shopping-mall existence—can be extremely inadequate and frustrating. To add to the confusion, we are deep into the use of gadgets and cyber-technology that is accelerating this tendency to depersonalization…

The lack of Trinitarian thinking and preaching has exacerbated the prevailing individualism of our culture and has brought it right into our Christian life and practice. If we do not think of God as a relational being in himself, we cannot appreciate the point that we are made to reflect his image in our relationships with one another…

Our response to the holiness of God is to reflect his character in our lives—in one phrase, the pursuit of holiness. In our endeavor in this direction, however, we need to be careful to note that what we have come to call personal holiness—what is inward—is only a potential that has to be constantly actualized in inter-personal relationships…

Trinitarian holiness

Holiness, in the final analysis, is therefore otherward and thus unselfconscious. I have been fascinated by the trinitarian example from John 5:19-27; 16:13, 14. The Father entrusts all things to the Son: his authority, his power over life and judgment. But the Son will not do anything by himself; he will only do what he sees the Father doing. The Spirit will not speak of himself nor seek his own glory. He will bring glory to Jesus by taking what belongs to Jesus and showing them to us.

Three self-giving, self-effacing persons constitute the amazing God whom we worship! It is this aspect of God’s character that we seek to reflect in our life and walk as the church of Jesus Christ.

–adapted from L.T. Jeyachandran

The Stunning News

The one thing the early church knew for sure, that they were prepared to die for (and did) was, whatever else we say, the man Jesus Christ is God. They knew He was the Lord.

Furthermore, they realized that Jesus prayed to the one He called Father and they realized He was anointed in the Holy Spirit – that there is a relationship going on between the Father, Son and Spirit. They were not trying to develop a doctrine of the Trinity, and they took an enormous amount of flak from the Greeks and the Jews, being accused of polytheism and tri-theism. But the early church developed its understanding of the deity and humanity of Christ, of his relation with the Father and the Spirit – and they worked out the doctrine of the Trinity.

The early church came to realize that the deepest truth about God is the relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And it’s not sad, it’s not boring, it’s not religious, it’s not dead – it’s alive, it’s creative, it’s other-centered. It’s about acceptance, and light, and life and love—and it’s beautiful! And that is what is fundamental about the being of God. If you peel back the onion of divine being, so to speak, and you come to the core of God-ness – you find the relationship of the Father, Son, and Spirit.

Augustine knew that, and he wrote his beautiful treatise on the Trinity, but he was also steeped in Neo-Platonism. The premise of Neo-Platonism is: whatever else you say of God – or The One – it’s indivisible. And if it is indivisible, it can’t be relational. Augustine tried to develop a Christian vision, and at the same time maintain his Neo-Platonism – and what he offered to the Western Tradition is really two Gods. You have the Father, Son, and Spirit, and then you have “the deeper truth” about the being of God. And what is the essence, the deepest truth about God? For Augustine, it became, not relationship, but absolute, total sovereignty. And for the rest of the Western tradition, steeped as it was in Roman law and jurisprudence, it became a legal view of holiness.

I believe holiness is the deepest truth about God – but “holiness” within a Trinitarian vision. Holiness is the utter uniqueness and beauty and goodness and rightness of the divine relationship – that is the essence – the wholeness of the relationship, their love, mutual passion and delight.

You could call it the “great dance.” This is an ancient phrase that you find in the church. C.S. Lewis uses it a couple of times in some of his books. It describes, in a snapshot, the life of God. It’s a great dance. It’s not boring and sad – it’s not self-centered, it’s not narcissistic . . . it’s about fellowship, and communion, and love.

The apostle Paul said we are predestined to adoption – as sons and daughters. It makes perfect sense. If God is like this, then adoption is the main point. Paul said that the Father’s eternal purpose is to include us in this relationship. But we don’t have 1500 years of discussion about this. Why not? Because we have held to this other idea that the deepest truth of God is holiness – not Trinitarian holiness, not relational holiness—but holiness conceived in terms of moral law and jurisprudence.

Our “family conversation” for about 1500 years has been about the Holy God (which is true, God is holy) but not “holy” in a relational way. When Jesus says, “Be ye holy as God is holy,” he’s not talking about a stainless steel, antiseptic, squeaky clean, boring kind of holy. He is saying, be whole, be relationally together, be in fellowship and communion, be unique in this.

But the church embraced this other view holiness of God: stainless steel, moral rectitude, perfection – this God who calls the shots for the entire discussion. And we’ve found Bible verses to support it. And that’s why it’s so hard for us to understand the stunning news.

How stunning is it, that the only reason the human race exists is to be included in the Trinitarian life of God!

I would like to see a conversation about that. Give me 1500 years to talk about “adoption.” About the vision of God who is Father, Son, and Spirit, as opposed to the stainless steel, holy God who’s not interested in relationship at all.

–adapted from Baxter Kruger

Relentless love

God’s love is not
wearied by our sins
and is relentless in
its determination that
we be cured at whatever
cost to us or Him.

–C. S. Lewis

Crucial choices

People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, ‘If you keep a lot of rules, I’ll reward you, and if you don’t I’ll do the other thing.’ I do not think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a Heaven creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is Heaven: that is, it is joy, and peace, and knowledge, and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other. 

–C. S. Lewis

Published in: on 02/15/2012 at 6:41  Leave a Comment  
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A dangerous element

There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace. If my preaching and presentation of the gospel of salvation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel . . . There is this kind of dangerous element about the true presentation of the doctrine of salvation.

–D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Published in: on 02/04/2012 at 11:16  Leave a Comment  
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The intoxicating discovery

Nothing so liberates
a person from the grip of sin
as the intoxicating discovery
that he is freely accepted
and forgiven.

–John White

Published in: on 12/08/2011 at 7:06  Leave a Comment  
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Love and holiness

We must love God
before we can be holy at all;
this being the root of all holiness.
Now, we cannot love God,
until we know He loves us.

–John Wesley (1703 – 1791)

A tricky balance

The New Testament presents a tricky balance. On one hand it blasts legalism and its childish insistence on a set of rules. On the other hand it condemns immorality and calls us to holiness.

–Philip Yancey

Published in: on 11/01/2011 at 8:28  Leave a Comment  
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