• The Light of All Mankind


    A Meditation on John 1:3b

    In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:3HCSB)

    We’ve previously meditated with wonder on the Apostle John’s simple and profound statement,

    In him was life,… Him of course is the Logos.  John leads us into his Gospel’s ‘grand foyer’ through a doorway which is the riveting declaration, In the beginning was the Logos (Word/Information Expressed), who not only was with God in the beginning but indeed was God.  John has just explained that the Logos was responsible for the beginning, for ‘the initial singularity’.  Through him everything came to be.  Without him nothing came to be that has come to be – including every being that lives.

    So the Information Expressed was a living being in the beginning.  While now in agreement with Scriptures on the reality of a beginning, an initial singularity, most scientists believe that living things originated from inanimate matter.  John’s Gospel asserts that a living being is the source of all that lives as well as everything which does not live!  We’ve wondered upon the reality that every living thing - in every mode of its living and being, in the engineering marvel of its functions, in its growth, in its reproduction, in the beauty of its form, movement and sound - reveals the life that was in the Logos, the Information Revealed!  How wonderful is this the Information Revealed.

    Now John declares, that life was the light of all mankind.

    The Logos/Information Revealed is evidently the life source of every living being including human beings.  But the life he conferred upon mankind is evidently of greater scope than the life experience by other living things .  The life that was in the Information Revealed, became the source of human life in a manner that was their light;  the light of all mankind!  It seems reasonable to assume, given the form of the statement, that this light is a feature of living human beings from the beginning.

    So a light of some kind shines upon humankind?  Or everyone in the human race emit light of some kind?  No, evidently not literally at least, in either case.  We may reasonably conclude theregfore that the light of all mankind is an abstract concept, a metaphor.  This does not make it any less real or fair dinkum!

    John does not directly explain his metaphor.  But what he says next offers a clue to understanding it:  

    The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4HCSB)

    Don Carson describes this verse as a masterpiece of planned ambiguity consistent with John’s writing style in his Gospel! (Carson, 1991)  In our StraighTalking covering this text, we noted the Holman Christian Standard Bible offers a footnote to explain the Greek verb translated overcome may also be translated grasp, comprehend, overtake as alternate translations.  The NET Bible translators (Bible.org) confirm that the Greek verb katelaben is not easy to translate offering as alternate translations, masteredcomprehended and overcome.  Vines Expository Dictionary of Greek Words (Vines) advises it properly signifies "to lay hold of;" then, "to lay hold of so as to possess as one's own, to appropriate." Hence it has the same twofold meaning as the Eng. "to apprehend;"

    This scholarsly re-assures us in concluding that the light of all mankind refers at least to human capacity to know, to have knowledge.  Our meditation today focusses on this.  Next Sunday (if God wills) we will meditate on resistance or opposition to this light.

    What is it that distinguishes mankind above all other categories of living beings that came to be through the Logos/Information Expressed?  It is our capacity to intelligently comprehend ourselves, one another, other living things, our world, indeed the entire universe.  We apply the duality of darkness and light in contemporary reference to ignorance and knowing respectively.  When not comprehending or understanding we say we ‘cannot see’ or we are ‘in the dark’.  When comprehending or understanding we say we ‘can see’ or someone 'switched on the light'.

    The life conferred upon mankind by the Information Expressed granted beyond capacity to know, capacity also for wisdom, sapience or sagacity, i.e., the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and wisdom (Wikipedia) – hence homo sapiens!  What an extraordinary and wonderful light!  But given the source of being of humankind is the Information Expressed and given God chose to make this category of living things in Our Image, according to Our likeness (Genesis 1:26) is it surprising that he confers upon them, the capacity to know the information upon which he evidently created the whole universe including themselves.  And critically, the life he confers upon them includes intellectual capacity to encode information in various forms to permit its communication i.e., the capacity for language.  In fact this capacity underpins human ability to know, to comprehend.

    Throughout its history, mankind has appropriated this light, this knowledge and applied it with ever increasing prowess.  Application of knowledge has permitted accelerating capacity to acquire knowledge – through writing to printing, to computing.  Now, Google has announced an early test of the capacity of quantum computer which performed a test task one billion times faster than a classical computer.  How extraordinary is this light?!  We might even say it is a crowning glory of humankind – cause for very great praise, honor, or distinction bestowed by common consent, renown (Dictionary.com) to attend to mankind!

    But however wonderful mankind’s capacity might be to know and to apply knowledge of itself, of every other living being and of the whole universe, however brilliant this light, this glory, it fades to insignificance in the light (pardon the pun) of mankind’s ultimate capacity to know, to see.

    I’m speaking of the capacity conferred by the Information Expressed upon mankind to comprehend him, to converse with him, to be in communion/community with him.  This is the ultimate act of creation.  In this manner, that light was the light of all mankind.

    There is no higher calling, no higher duty of a man or woman than to know God, to comprehend the Information Expressed.  Though human capacity for wisdom, for power and for wealth are all great and apparently reasonable grounds for boasting, God declares by the prophet Jeremiah (9:24) that no one should boast about these,

    But the one who boasts should boast in this,
    that he understands and knows Me—
    that I am Yahweh, showing faithful love,
    justice, and righteousness on the earth,
    for I delight in these things.

    John’s immediate reference to darkness & its failure to overcome or comprehend the light of all mankind, signals the creative purpose of the Information Expressed in giving life that was the light of all mankind is not realised.  We’ll meditate upon that reality next Sunday.  Suffice to say today that John’s Good News describes how this purpose is accomplished through the Logos/Information Expressed himself.

    The verses which follow in John’s prologue (the next parts of his greater foyer) describe in wonderfully expressive, compact language how God does this.  Firstly, (v14)…

    The Word became flesh
    and took up residence among us.
    We observed His glory,
    the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father,
    full of grace and truth.

    …then revealing (v17) that the Logos/Word/Information Expressed is Jesus, God’s anointed king and concluding (v18) by unveiling the original creative purpose accomplished:

    No one has ever seen God. 
    The One and Only Son—
    the One who is at the Father’s side—
    He has revealed Him. 

    The Apostle Paul’s summarises this extraordinary accomplishment in 2 Corinthians 4:4 in intriguing terms: 

    For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ [God’s anointed king].

    So, the light of all mankind is:

    • our unique capacity to ‘see’ the information contained within the fabric of the universe that came to be by the Information Expressed
      • our unique capacity to ‘see’ the information contained within and expressed by every living being to which the Information Expressed gave the life that was in himself
        • our unique capacity to ‘see’ and know ourselves and one another to whom the Information Expressed gave the life that was in himself, to relate and to communicate together
          • our capacity to ‘see’ and know God, the Information Expressed, to relate to him, to converse together with him
            • the Logos/Word/Information Expressed himself, radiant in the unrestrained, exact expression of God’s being, revealing God the Father (Hebrews 1:1-3)

    Three concluding considerations for our meditation:

    1. How worthy is the Information Expressed of our wonder, our praise and our worship?
    2. He is the light of all mankind.  He is the light of me.  Is he?  Do I see him?  Do I see him in every information that is true about our universe, about one another, about me?
    3. With what passion and commitment do I choose to know him - in the deepest, most intimate way?  Does my passion match the Apostle Paul's (Thessalonians 3:8):

    I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

  • Building with Skill

    9 For we are God’s coworkers.[e] You are God’s field, God’s building. 10 According to God’s grace that was given to me, I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder, and another builds on it. But each one must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on that foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 each one’s work will become obvious, for the day[f] will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. 14 If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, it will be lost, but he will be saved; yet it will be like an escape through fire.[g]

    [e] Or are coworkers belonging to God

    [f]  The day of Christ’s judgment of believers

    [g] Lit yet so as through fire

    (1 Corinthians 3 Holman Christian Standard Bible)

    In last Sunday’s Straightalking, we concluded our consideration of the Apostle Paul’s church building instructions in our text.

    We first reviewed what it was that the fire of the Anointed King’s future judgement will disclose – the building materials used by the builder (considered the previous Sunday) AND the quality of each one’s work.  The latter was the focus of our discussion.

    We noted that the Apostle had set the standard for building skill:

    I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder

    So what skill is required in church building that Paul exhibited as a master builder?  What Paul was actually doing gives us the clue.  He was preaching the Good News of the Anointed King and teaching and training those who believed in the way and teaching of the King.  How did he do it?  He did it by the power and leadership of the Holy Spirit.  (Acts 9:17; 13:4,9; 16:6,7; 19:6; 20:22,23) He declared this directly in the previous chapter of 1 Corinthians:

    When I came to you, brothers, announcing the testimony of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. 2 For I didn’t think it was a good idea to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 My speech and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a powerful demonstration by the Spirit, 5 so that your faith might not be based on men’s wisdom but on God’s power. 

    We then briefly reviewed the inseparable roles of the Word of God and the Spirit of God throughout God’s communication to the human race.  The last words of Israel’s King David (2 Samuel 3:1-4) were:

    The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me,
    His word was on my tongue.

    We traced this theme through Isaiah 59:20-21, Zechariah 4:12, Acts 4:23-31, to conclude with a second Apostolic statement of this essential reality in 1 Thessalonians 1:5:

    For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with much assurance.

    We concluded that the skill required by church builders is to ensure the Word of King Jesus is taught (spoken, written and lived) by the power of the Spirit of Jesus.  ‘How may this be done?’ we asked.  And concluded by being filled with the Holy Spirit as Acts 4:31 describes:

    When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak God’s message with boldness.

    Of course, this is not surprising.  Jesus said (John 6:63):

    The Spirit is the One who gives life. The flesh doesn’t help at all.  The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

    Jesus says repeatedly, “He is the Spirit of truth”.  (John 14: 17; 15:26; 16:13)

    So, if we are to speak his message to minister life, we will also speak then through the Spirit.

    It then remained for us to understand how we may be filled by the Holy Spirit.  We recalled that we received the Holy Spirit on believing in the Lord Jesus.  If so, what could “being filled” with Spirit mean?  Of course, the Spirit could not be in residence with us partially.  He is there (and we are redeemed) or he is not (and we remain lost).  To understand what the New Testament writers meant by “being filled” with the Holy Spirit we examined Paul’s teaching on the subject:

    16 I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

    19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

    22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. 26 We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. 

    Galatians 5 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

    15 Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise— 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit: 
    19 speaking to one another
    in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,
    singing and making music
    from your heart to the Lord,
    20 giving thanks always for everything
    to God the Father
    in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
    21 submitting to one another
    in the fear of Christ. 

    Ephesians 5 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

    In Galatians 5 we examined:

    • How “walk by the Spirit” in Gal. 5:16,17 is contrasted to living for ourselves and the entrenched warfare between these two ways of living our lives
    • How “led by the Spirit” in Gal. 5:18 is contrasted to being subject to legal duty
    • The contrasting “fruit” of these differing lifestyles in Gal. 19:19-22
    • How habitual self-focus is overcome by ‘crucifying’ it (Gal. 5:24) prompting us to remember Jesus invitation to say ‘No’ to self, ‘die’ to its habitual self-focus and ‘come’ after him in Luke 9:23
    • The clear instruction, “Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit” (Gal 5:25) intimates being filled by Spirit is equivalent to following him and echoes Jesus statement in the previous point.
    • How “be being filled by the Spirit” makes sense in this context and the consequence of it as explained in Ephesians 5:15-21

    This understanding permitted us to complete our overview of the Apostle’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 3 as follows:

    Are we… i.e., How Action
    1.    Building… Serving the King & one another Seeking first the kingdom of God & his righteousness! (Matt 6:33) Reorder our priorities to service & fellowship!
    2.    To God’s building code? Exclusively based upon King Jesus himself (1 Cor 3:11) Accounting every life goal offensive waste vs, the incomparable worth of knowing Jesus Messiah; power of his resurrection, fellowship of his sufferings, conforming to his death (Phil 3:8-10) Reorder our life’s values to know Jesus Messiah as our consuming passion!
    3.    With the best materials? Exclusively those proved by the King’s judgement ‘fire’ (1 Cor 3:12,13) The Word of the King - spoken, written & lived (by teachers, by believers & in community, i.e. church CULTURE    Know, teach & live the King’s Good News well - personally & collectively!
    4.    With skill? Exclusively by the Spirit of the King (1 Thess. 1:5)  Being filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:31) Be in step with…, be led by…, follow…, live by…, the Spirit!

    So how are we doing on the action?

  • Building on THAT FOUNDATION with?

    12 If anyone builds on that foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 each one’s work will become obvious, for the day[f] will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. 14 If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, it will be lost, but he will be saved; yet it will be like an escape through fire.[g]

    [f] The day of Christ’s judgment of believers

    [g]Lit yet so as through fire

    1 Corinthians 3 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

    So, Jesus builds the gathering of his people (church).  He builds it upon a rock – which we’ve concluded from the context is most likely his unshakeable identity as “the Anointed One,” Israel’s prince by whom God would re-establish his rule on earth as in heaven and restore all things. The self-evident challenge of this work is that it must occur behind enemy lines under the nose of the enemy, the ruler of this world.  On another occasion, (Matthew 12:22-32) Jesus declares that he has bound this strong man so he may plunder at will. (Matthew 16:13-20) Now he declares the defensive gates of this kingdom will be ineffective in preventing his penetration to plunder to build his church.

    Upon his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus commissions special messengers (Apostles) to progress this building project.  Preceding our text above, the Apostle Paul declares his role as a master builder to lay the exclusive foundation which is Jesus the Anointed One.  He then challenges others to take care how they build upon this foundation – our text.

    Our focus in last Sunday’s StraighTalking was the first part of Paul’s challenge: the building materials.

    We noted the first care that Paul charges to church builders is to value and preserve the exclusivity of the foundation already laid.

    For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down.  That foundation is Jesus Christ.

    (Of course, we also care to remember that the English word “Christ” is not his surname.  It’s his title, “the Anointed One”.  It is essential to the exclusivity of his role as the living foundation of his church that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. (Matthew 16:13-20))

    Then we examined what Paul means by…

    If anyone builds on that foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, …

    Paul evidently refers to these physical substances as metaphors of the building materials for a gathering of the Anointed One’s people (a church) are built.  What are they really? We searched for clues in the context.  We found:

    Clue 1.
    Paul’s reference to laying the foundation as a skilled master builder. (v10)  To what is he alluding?  In the context of his description of the respective rolls of himself and Apollos in the Corinthian church, the source of divisions in the church, it’s evident that he alludes to preaching the Good News of Jesus, the Anointed One, establishing believers in living the Good News through teaching and exemplifying it.

    Clue 2.
    They are a focus of the Anointed One’s judgement of his people at the consummation of his kingdom, for which he uses "fire" as a metaphor.

    Clue 3.
    Desirable building materials will “survive” the scrutiny of this judgement as gold, silver and costly stones survive fire.   However, this judgement will obliterate undesirable building materials so they will be “lost” as fire consumes wood, hay and straw.

    And we identified a 4th clue from the Apostle Peter’s writing (1 Peter 1:4,5) 

    Coming to Him, a living stone—rejected by men but chosen and valuable to God— you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

    … i.e., the reference to the development of believers as “living stones” into this building, a “spiritual house;” all becoming “a holy priesthood” whose priestly service represents “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ [the Anointed One].”

    We took reference from the translators’ note of the NETBible

    The various materials described here, both valuable (gold, silver, precious stones) and worthless (wood, hay, or straw) refer to the quality of work built on the foundation, or possibly to the motivation of those doing the building. The materials themselves have been understood (1) as deeds or (2) as people (since ultimately the passage is addressing those who minister to others).

    … and from John Piper

    So, you can see that the context is building on the foundation of Christ with kinds of teaching, which of course is interwoven with kinds of living, because what you teach is aimed at producing a new way of life.

    In subsequent discussion we persuaded ourselves that church building material is what we TEACH, expressed:

    • In WORD (oral or written) and
    • In the LIVED LIVES of:
      • The teachers themselves
      • The believers they teach
    • The COMMUNITY of a church

    So then, we concluded Paul’s “gold, silver and costly stones” are metaphors for accurate teaching (in verbal.written communications, in lived lives and church community) of the Word of God; the commands of Jesus (Matthew 26:18-20), the apostles teaching (didache) (Acts 2:42)

     And we perceived Paul’s “wood, hay and straw” are metaphors for either or both:

    • The wisdom/philosophy of this world
    • False teaching of the Word of God - that does not center on Jesus, God’s Anointed One.

    Returning to John Piper we found accord …

    Following the flow of the thought, I take gold and silver and precious stones to be faithful, biblical, apostolic, edifying truth that you’re building on gospel foundations with, while wood, hay, and straw refer to teachings that are either false or distorted or out of proportion or self-serving or contrary to the gospel in some way or contaminated with sinful thoughts or ways.

    And from 19th century, Charles Spurgeon affirms …

    Our faith is a person; the gospel that we have to preach is a person; and go wherever we may, we have something solid and tangible to preach, for our gospel is a person.  If you had asked the twelve Apostles in their day, ‘What do you believe in?’ they would not have stopped to go round about with a long sermon, but they would have pointed to their Master and they would have said, ‘We believe him.’  ‘But what are your doctrines?’  ‘There they stand incarnate.’  ‘But what is your practice?’  ‘There stands our practice.  He is our example.’  ‘What then do you believe?’  Hear the glorious answer of the Apostle Paul, ‘We preach Christ crucified.’  Our creed, our body of divinity, our whole theology is summed up in the person of Christ Jesus.

    And a riveting blog from Ray Ortland places the Apostle Paul's challenge to builders in contemporary terms …

    Gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture. The doctrine of grace creates a culture of grace, as Jesus himself touches us through his truths. Without the doctrines, the culture alone is fragile. Without the culture, the doctrines alone appear pointless. But the New Testament binds doctrine and culture together.

    For example:

    The doctrine of regeneration creates a culture of humility (Eph. 2:1-9).
    The doctrine of justification creates a culture of inclusion (Gal. 2:11-16).
    The doctrine of reconciliation creates a culture of peace (Eph. 2:14-16).
    The doctrine of sanctification creates a culture of life (Rom. 6:20-23).
    The doctrine of glorification creates a culture of hope (Rom. 5:2).
    The doctrine of God creates a culture of honesty (1 John 1:5-10). And what is more basic than that?

    If we want this culture to thrive, we can’t take doctrinal short cuts. If we want this doctrine to be credible, we can’t downplay the culture. But churches where the doctrine and the culture converge as one bear living witness to the power of Jesus.

    Churches that do not exude humility, inclusion, peace, life, hope, and honesty—even if they have gospel doctrine on paper, they undercut their own doctrine at a functional level, where it should count in the lives of actual people. Churches that are haughty, exclusivistic, contentious, exhausted, past-oriented, and in denial are revealing not just a lack of niceness; they are revealing a gospel deficit, a doctrinal betrayal.

    The current rediscovery of the gospel as doctrine is good, very good. But a further discovery of the gospel as culture—the gospel embodied in community—will be immeasurably better, filled with a divine power such as we have not yet seen.

    It’s what revival will look like next.

    And all God’s people said, “AMEN!”

    Your reflections?

  • One Only Foundation

    9 For we are God’s coworkers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 10 According to God’s grace that was given to me, I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder, and another builds on it. But each one must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ.

    1 Corinthians 3 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

    So, in last Sunday’s StraighTalking we concluded (for now) our consideration of what it means to be careful to build the gathering of Messiah’s people (church) to God’s building code1 i.e., For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ.

    We’ve understood this code specifies that Jesus the Christ (the God-promised and anointed one who is re-establishing God’s rule on earth as in heaven) is himself the exclusive basis for gatherings of his people, their community life and service.

    We’ve agreed the Apostle Paul leads us by example in his passionate pursuit of knowing Christ Jesus, the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death. We noted well that he valued every other goal in life as offensive waste compared knowing his Lord Jesus. (Phil 3:8-10) We learned that taking care to build on this foundation requires that we also reorder our life’s values, so our absolutely consuming passion is to know the Lord!

    Over the last three Sunday’s we’ve settled deeply into comprehending this pursuit, understanding what it means to identity exclusively in Jesus (see previous blog post).  We came to see that the Apostle’s (and our) passionate pursuit of knowing Jesus, is to receive our identity from him & from no other source.  We challenged ourselves to thoroughly embrace Jesus’ invitation to deny our identity to pursue his.

    How will Liberty folk’s act upon these challenges?  We’ve concluded that we will (at least) give priority to know the Lord Jesus:

    • From the Bible - reading, studying, conversing, meditating (Luke 24:27)
    • By His Spirit (John 14:25,26)
    • In the community of his people (Colossians 1:27)
    • All the above being mutually inclusive


    Our actions under consideration include:

    • Private reading/study
      • maximizing use of Emmaus Correspondence School’s (ECS) Equip Program
    • Group study/teaching including
      •     Know Your Bible (KYB)
      •     Sunday’s School for children
      •     Sunday StraighTalking
    • New Groups – a proposed new senior ladies group utilizing ECS Equip Program


    Your comment and contribution welcome…

    Bob Deffinbaugh, A Different Look at Leadership (1 Cor. 3:5-17), Available from: https://bible.org/seriespage/5-different-look-leadership-1-cor-35-17, Accessed 26 January 2019


  • Christ and Identity

    So while some of our number remained on holidays, for three Sunday's Straightalks we've 'parked' ourselves on the theme of God's building code for the church that Jesus is assertively building (Matthew 16:13-20) from the text: "For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 3: 11).  Last Sunday (13 January) we dug deeper into what it means that Jesus - the One anointed by God to re-establish his rule on earth for cosmic renewal - is the sole foundation of a gathering of his followers.  We viewed together Christ and Identity, the second of two talks by Tim Keller (Redeemer Presbyterian, New York) given at the Indentity in Christ Conference hosted in London in June 2018 by the Living Out Team.

    Here's a summary of Tim's talk follows for our reflection and comment:

    CHRIST AND IDENTITY (What's unique about it)

    Opening thoughts:

    • No one lives completely out of a Christian Identity (Ephesians 4:22,23 ; Romans 12:1)
      • It is natural for us to fall back into old forms of identity - therefore "be putting off the old self and putting on the new"
      • It's a process of "growing in Christ",  of "sanctification"
      • Real are really rooted in the identity imposed upon us by our culture (traditional or modern)
    • Modern identity is individualistic - makes an idol, an ultimate, out of individual rights and preference
      • nothing wrong with being individualistic

    What the Christian (Good News) Is - what's unique about it and why it's so great!

    • It is NOT a return to traditional identity, assumed by many with modern identity (secular, sceptical westerner) in hearing the Good News
    • Jesus shows in the parable of the Prodigal Son neither son (adopting differing culturally imposed identities) acted in love of their father 
    • Both traditional and modern identities forms of self-salvation
    • Good News does NOT call us into traditional identity!  Therefore take care in conversing the Good News in our secular society of modern identity formation

    Two statements of the Christian Identity (highest good and ultimate validator):

    1. The Only Identity which is RECEIVED, not ACHIEVED!
      • Basis of the Christian (Good News) identity is Christ's performance, not our performance
      • Christian identity based upon standing in Christ
      • Reference: 2 Corinthians 5:21
        • God treated Jesus as if he had sinned - he is our substitute, standing in our place, taking our penalty/debt
        • When we believe in Jesus God treats us as if we were Jesus - he gives us standing in him
        • Salvation is earned indeed - by Jesus not by us
        • Greeks and Romans believed you needed to know/align yourself to the cosmic order of moral absolutes (the logos) to be a good person, a person of virtue
          • An exclusive, privileged, restricted access to salvation (by performance of virtuous deeds) 
        • John confirms (John 1:1) there is indeed a logos, a cosmic, transcendent moral order behind the universe, but not an abstract set of ideas, but a person, a divine person - "with God and was God"
          • A 'democratic', inclusive way of salvation
        • The heart of the Good News: God loves the one who believes in the Son even as he loves the Son (John 17:23)
          • God treated him as we deserved so that God now treats us as he deserves (John 17:24 and Ephesians
          • This completely changes identity formation
    2. The Ultimate Validator of Christian Identity is GOD not Us!
      • "the praise of the praiseworthy is above all rewards"
      • The more we esteem a person, the more that person's esteem builds us up
      • The only eyes in the universe whose opinion counts sees us in Jesus Christ as more precious than all the jewels that lie beneath the earth
      • Does that matter?
      • Human validator (in traditional  and modern forms of identity - often parents or romatic partner respectively ) can get it wrong and hurt us, smother, control, exploit us AND they can die
      • No such thing as an identity monologically developed - needs a significant other
      • Father looks at us and sees a beauty:
        • Jesus had the most wonderful identity and gave up its glory (beauty to some degree) of it so that we could have it also (Philippians 2) see also John 17

    Biblical Themes that relate to the understanding of Christian (Good News) Identity:

    • describe from differing perspectives why it's unique with respect to traditional and modern forms of identity - legalism and antinomianism
    1. The Image of God
      • We are created in God's image (Genesis 2:
      • Therefore can't kill and shouldn't even curse others made in the image of God (Genesis 9; James 1)
      • Richard Lints in Indentity and Idolitory: The Image of God and its Inversion says, there is no image without the original - to be in the image of God means we cannot be generate own identity - our own significance and security - we have to reflect God's and if not God's we have to make something else a substitute for God's image - an idol!
      • Explains why we form identity the way we do - we have to attach ourselves to something else to give us our identity - whatever else it is we will worship
    2. Adoption
      • Very important theme regarding identity
      • References:
        • JI Packer's, Knowing God - chapter Sons of God
        • Sinclair Ferguson's Children of the Living God
      • adoption provides legal status, intimate relationship with the father and a name - the family name
    3. Calling and Gifts
      • Not everyone has the same gifts (1 Corinthians 12)
      • Edmund Clowney suggests when I becom a Christian, I get my last name, but my first name depends upon what God has gifted me to do in this world - takes all my life to find it out.  He says...
        • The deepest secret of your identity is in that name (referring to Revelation 2:17 and Isaiah 62:2).  Only God knows your real name, i.e., the name by which he calls you.  True identity can never come ultimately from relationships with human beings for every relation is a role to be played.  To multiply the roles is to fracture the facets of emptiness.  There is but one relation that can give you identity and this is relationship with your Creator.  So, who are you?  What are you to do?  Both questions are answered in one another.  By what name does God call you?  That question will take a lifetime to answer.
    4. Being known by God
    5. The Language of Discipleship
      • Look at all Jesus says about becoming a disciple e.g., Luke 9:23:
        • “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it."
      • Language of discipleship almost the reverse of modern identity
      • The more we try to find ourselves the more we loose ourselves
      • If you will follow me, loose yourself and you will gain yourself

    Why the Christian (Good News) Identity is so Absolutely Great!

    1. There is a unique combination of humity and boldness (Philippians 3; Romans 3 and 4; 1 Corinthians 1 and 2; Galations 6)
      • We boast in order to get confidence
      • Paul says in spite of the fact of our wretchedness, this is the way to incredible confidence (in the Lord Jesus) and humility at the same time
      • The Good News both humbles us and gives us confidence in our King
      • Every achieved identity (modern of traditional) if living up to standards causes boldness and looking down on others; if not living up to standards feel humble and sympathetic but not confident
      • Neitche says high moral ideals of moral liberal secular people cause them to feel either horribly unworthy or smug
      • The Gospel derived mixture of boldness and humbility is unique
      • More liberal churches with modern idenities and more conserative churches with traditional identities produce arrogance or self hatred
    2. There is a unique openness to emotion and desire but these don't rule
      • emotion a bad thing in traditional culture
        • St Augustine's Confession unique in the world at that time - showed
      • in modern cultures, emotions rule
      • In the end communion with God is required for Christian identity formation
      • St Augustine says, can't love others too much, but can love God too little in relation to these - need to love God more
      • If we love others more than God, these become our identity
    3. There is a unique cultural flexibility
      • e.g., distribution of Christians across cultures in contrast to Islam, Buddism, Hinduism etc
      • We've saved by grace, not by rules which flatten culture
      • On becoming a Christian we "get one foot out of our culture"
      • All of us tend to bolster our self image (tradition and modern) by looking down on others
      • In Good News identity we are both lowered and raised up at the same time e.g., James 1:9,10 - never feel superior and never feel inferior!


    So, we've considered that our collective encouragement of the personal discipline of putting off the old identity (traditional or modern) and putting on our new identity in Jesus Messiah is a fundamental element in building upon him as the foundation of our fellowship.

    What are you thinking?  

  • Living Out

    This is a test to hear what are people's thoughts on the Living Out sermons by Tim Kellor...

    Resource: http://www.livingout.org.