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Executive Minister’s Advent Article

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Executive Minister’s Advent Article

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As we move through this Advent season reflecting on various Christmas themes one that stands out to me is the relationship between Christ’s birth and the need for humanity’s spiritual birth. The carol Hark the Herald Angels Sings articulates this connection for us in verse three:

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

Jesus is born so that we may be raised out of our spiritually dead condition and be “born from above”, or “born again”. Through Christ we are raised to new life. Otherwise, we continue to be dead in our sins, without hope in this life or the life to come. (Eph 2:1)

We used to talk more about “regeneration” in the Church, that is, the need to be born again. Perhaps the concept of being born again garnered too many negative connotations due to the disappointing lifestyles of so many who claimed to be born again.

Regardless, it is important that we teach what Jesus taught, “you must be born again.” That is, we should avoid leading people into believing that Christianity is primarily a reformation project.

Reformation projects teach, “Just do a little better, improve yourself, God will be pleased and the world will become a better place.” This project is predicated solely on self-improvement. Humanity’s fallen condition, apart from rebirth, precludes this possibility. Reformation projects are hopeless in that they are akin to dead people trying to raise themselves from the graveyard.

Rather the Christian faith is a regeneration project. It is initiated by God in Christ and completed through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is predicated solely on Christ's work on our behalf. God acting in Christ regenerates us.

God’s regeneration project teaches, “You are a dead person walking. Only Jesus Christ can resurrect your life.” Humanity cannot birth itself out of spiritual death into spiritual life. Rather, this is work that must be accomplished from One who comes from outside our fallen world; who pre-existed in a realm of eternal light, holiness and divine power. This One, Jesus the Messiah, is born into our world in order to regenerate us, that is, give us second birth.

Therefore, the first priority in Christ’s mission on earth is to proclaim the Good News of regeneration that comes through a power alien to our own. This is our message. This is our hope. When people respond by receiving the Savior, submitting to His rule as King, they are born from above and become God’s children (John 1:12-13).

All of this reflects what Jesus taught in his explanation about rebirth that puzzled Nicodemus:

“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3)

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:5-7)

We rejoice in Jesus in this Advent season as we reclaim the Good News that Jesus was “born that man no more may die; born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth."

~ Charles Revis, Executive Minister

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P.T. Forsyth On the Cross of Christ

I'm a big fan of P.T. Forsyth (1848-1921), a Scottish theologian writing at the turn of the 20th century. Although trained in liberal theology in Gottingen, he came to the conclusion that liberalism failed to adequately deal with the fallen state of human beings. This led to his own deep reflection and subsequent transformation. He renewed his belief in the atoning work of Christ and he developed a great interest in holiness and the atonement. His study resulted in several outstanding works on the Cross and the Atonement of our Savior. In particular are The Cruciality of the Cross and the classic, The Church and the Sacraments. If you can find a copy, these, along with his masterful Preaching and Modern Mind and The Person and Place of Jesus Christ, are well worth studious reading and reflection. Here are a few quotes for this Holy Week.

In writing about the early believers' worship of Jesus, Forsyth explains:

"What produced this [worship], so amazing, so blasphemous to the Jews? It was the cross, when it came home by the resurrection...It was then that Jesus became the matter and not merely the master of gospel preaching. It was then that He became Christ indeed, then when He became perfected! Perfected! He became the finished Savior only in the finished salvation. And, for those who worshiped Him first, all He was to them centered in the cross and radiated from there. It was the Christ who was made sin for them in the cross that became for them God reconciling the world to Himself. He was all to them in the cross, where He died for their sin, and took away the guilt of the world, according to their Scriptures...That was the starting point of the Gospel, that made it missionary, made the Church. It is the content of the Gospel. And it is always to there that the Church must come back, to take its bearings, and be given its course." ~ The Cruciality of the Cross, pg. 15

And, in writing about the church as a supernatural body of the risen Christ he posits: "Where does the super-natural and Church-building element in Christ lie? It lies not in His character and teaching but in His office and work--in His atoning Cross and Resurrection...there He is the Son of God with power. His spirituality is evangelical. It is moral power so radical and revolutionary that it is regenerative and nothing less. He is the Christ of the Holy Father, not as the Ideal of the pure, but as the Savior of the lost. What makes Christ Christ is what He did as His life's crowning work; not how He was born or grew up, not even what He said and did from day to day--except as such words and deeds take their consummation, and have their last meaning, in His condensed word and summary work of the Cross." ~ The Church and the Sacraments, pg. 33

2009 © Dr. Charles Revis, ABC Northwest
[This article is from Dr. Revis’ blog, www.missionnorthwest.blogspot.com]