Gateways to the Atonement

This sermon clip sums up the idea behind my @ONE series at church this Lent season.

gates2

We have been talking about the Atonement.  I compared the atonement to the city of Jerusalem. In the center of the city is the place where people could meet God.  But one had to get there and to get into the city you had to enter one of the gates.

In the same way, the Atonement is the work of God that allows us to know God’s forgiveness and presence.  It is what restores what was broken and reconciles those who are far apart.

The Atonement is the truth that Christ died for us.  By the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus we have the gift of Salvation.

            We who have come to Jesus and by Jesus have come to know the grace of God, have each come in a different way.  These are like the gates of the city.  Our goal is to get to the place of God’s presence, but we are drawn in by one or another gateway into the city.

What are these gateways?

  • Ransom – sin has humanity in its power. It is like a slave master and God purchases our freedom in Jesus. Some know the atonement first through the payment that brought us freedom.
  • Reconciliation – sin has broken the relationship God gave us at the start – we are not friends but enemies of God. By his death for us, Jesus bridged the gap between God and sinners and make reconciliation possible.
  • Substitution – Jesus is the Lamb of God that takes away our sins –we may have become aware of our sinfulness first and rejoiced in the substation of Jesus.
  • Satisfaction – If we have any idea of God’s holiness – which is hard for us to understand because we live in a culture that celebrates and makes money off of unholiness of every kind. God’s holiness is a treat to us because of our unholiness. Those who know the fear of God’s wrath are drawn to the idea that Jesus bore the full measure of our punishment.
  • Rebirth – those who are spiritually dead may not even be aware that they are. Nicodemus did not know he needed to be reborn.   Many have come through the offer if New Birth – the John 3:16 gate.
  • Shed Blood – we saw how the people of Israel offered sacrifices every day, week and year for hundreds of years. This shed blood made atonement, but which had to be repeated over and over. Jesus death and his shed blood is the once and final payment for sin.  No longer do we need to go to the temple to offer scrrivice, but we need only believe in Jesus to be saved.

These are all parts of one reality that we can call the Atonement.  Just as one Jerusalem had many gates, and just as one diamond has many facets, so the Atonement has different parts, but when we receive it we receive all of it.  Let’s say you drive into Madison and you came by way of East Washington.  Can you say you know Madison if that is all you see. To be a real citizen of the city you need to know all the important places in the city.  If you know Madison, you totally get this map:

madison

So with Salvation, to know what Christ has done, you need to know all the important parts of the work of Atonement.

Small is Biblical #2 – Abraham

Building-blocks

The Lord had said to Abram, (Genesis 12)

“Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”

In Genesis 11, the people decided to make a city and to build a tower that would reach to the heavens. With this tower they would make a name for themselves.  Clearly this was a big project that united the community.  They had to organize to make bricks and to haul them to the location and to assemble them.  They had missed the plan of God, which was to spread across the earth, not to gather and to spread the peace of Eden not the fame of their city.

In Genesis 12 we see the plan of the almighty.  It is big in it’s ultimate purpose.  The purpose of Abraham’s call, and thus for the establishment of the nation of Israel and finally for the growth of the Church was to extend the blessing of God to all nations.

The previous chapters had listed many nations which “spread abroad on the earth after the flood.” (Genesis 10:32)  And so from Abraham would come a blessing that would chase these and other later nations across the face of the earth.

What Abraham begins with is what he has to leave.  God’s call is to leave his country, his own people and his own family.  He travels with his wife and nephew, but eventually leaving aside his nephew.

His wealth grows through his travels, adventures and misadventures, yet when he nears 100, there is not nation, there is no son even.  He owns no land, though he had received it in promise from God.

Abraham dies with one heir that will be the one to receive his promise and one plot of land from all that god promised – the burial plot for Sarah.

What grows during this time of obedience is the faith of Abraham.  Read the chapters and see where he moves from being self-serving – putting Sarah in danger in Egypt, to being a peace maker with Lot (Genesis 12)  and to being an intercessor for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18).

The plan was to go large, but what Abraham experienced in his following God was small – in things that can be counted.  It was large in spiritual riches.

Christmas and the messy Family Tree

advent.wreathThis Advent I am preaching twice on the genealogy of Jesus found in Matthew 1:1-17.  It turns out to be pretty interesting.

In verse 1 and 17 Jesus is linked to Abraham, David and the Babylonian captivity.  This is how the family tree breaks out in the verses between.

  • Abraham to David is where the history of Israel goes from start to golden age.  We could call this section of history “creation” in the sense that God created and shaped a nation to be a blessing to the world.
  • David to Babylon is where the history of Israel falls on hard times.  David is both the high point and the dividing line, because of his adultery and murder, the House of David starts a sharp descent.  The kings that follow are mostly bad, even the good kings such as Solomon, Hezekiah and Josiah are flawed. This section of the history could be called the “fall”.
  • Babylon to Christ is the story of Restoration – slowly with many starts and stops – the nation is restored under Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah. But it ends in the birth of the Messiah.

So the family tree shows a parallel to the history of salvation;  Creation, fall and restoration.

There are three important titles:  son of Abraham, son of David and Christ.   Jesus was born to fulfill the calling to Abraham to be a blessing to the nations, he is to be a good ruler from the line of David who brings peace to the nations, and he is the Anointed one – the Messiah who was promised from the prophets on.

Then there are these odd additions to the family tree.

  • Tamar who was tricked by her father in law out of her rights who then turned a trick on him.  This Gentile adulteress-trickster is int he line of Christ.
  • Rahab was a prostitute who put her trust in the God of Israel
  • Ruth was a gentile who took the faith of her husbands people as her own.
  • “the wife of Uriah” is Bathsheba, who was the “other woman” in David’s life, yet she is also the mother of Solomon and in the line of Christ.
  • Mary, an unmarried young woman who carried a child under very unusual circumstances.

So the Gospel comes as a fulfillment of the historic promises of God to Abraham and David.  It is also a promise that the Messiah comes as part of the history of sinners.  He did not come to a world that looked like most Christmas cards, but to one that looks like the real messy world we actually live in.

The mission of Jesus is for messy people.  Good thing that.

Advice from Abraham

DivesLazarusIn the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, in Luke 16, the formerly rich man, now in the torment of Hades, asked Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers of what would happen to them.

Does this remind you of Dickens, “A Christmas Carol,” where Scrooge’s old partner comes and warns him of his fate?  It seems Dickens and Abraham do not agree on this point.

‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’

Abraham says that they have Moses and the Prophets (i.e. the Old Testament).  If that is not enough, sending Lazarus will not help.

In the light of the fascination with media in churches, and with celebrity pastors and celebrity football players, or actors, or any other sort of famous person who is a Christian, whether we should heed the advice of Abraham, which is really the advice of Jesus, who is telling the story.

The scriptures, with we presume, the help of the Holy Spirit, carry the power of salvation.  Special effects, specters from the dead, and the like may create excitement, but will they really accomplish anything?

 

Genesis 22 – approaching a text

So Genesis 22, where Abraham is asked to offer Isaac as a sacrifice is an amazing passage. For example:

  • How could God ask this?
  • Does this condone human sacrifice?
  • Would Abraham be in Jail if he tried this today?
  • Is this a description of how God did offer his own Son on a hill?
  • Does this compare to the passage later where Moses offered to remove himself from “the book” if God would forgive the people?
  • What does the text intend for us to understand?

Just starting, I’ll let you know later what I come up with.