At church this morning, we celebrated Jesus' ascension to heaven after his resurrection. The pastor said that Jesus' ascension teaches us three points: that Christ's work on earth is finished, that Christ is in heaven interceding for believers before God the Father, and that Christ will return to earth. In this post, I want to comment on the first two points.
Christ's work is
finished. The pastor was saying that we don't need to read the Bible
cover-to-cover to earn peace with God or inner peace. Rather, we should
relax and rejoice, for Christ has done it all: Christ paid for our sins
and reconciled us with God.
interesting that the pastor said that, for earlier this morning I was
thinking of a paper that I presented to my church several years ago.
This was actually a different church than the one that I am currently
attending, for I was living at another place at the time. Essentially, I
had to teach Sabbath school, and so what I did was write a paper and
present it to the class. The paper was about my struggles with grace,
faith, and works. I don't think that what I wrote was particularly
profound. If I were to post it on my blog, many would probably respond,
"Who cares?" But the paper was important to me because it allowed me
to work through on paper an issue that was perplexing to me: How can I
know that I am saved? Can I simply relax in God's free grace? Do I
need to see the fruit of good works in my life before I can find
assurance? If so, how good do I have to be before I can finally feel
peace? The task also reinforced in my mind how diverse Christianity
really is. Some Christians emphasize grace in almost an antinomian
sense, while others have a backdoor sort of legalism that says that true
Christians do good works----that those who do not live a certain kind
of life are not genuinely saved.
Where I eventually landed was
that I desired the peace of trusting in God's free grace, and yet my
reading of the New Testament seemed to suggest that a Christian is not
saved if he or she is doing particular sins, or is not performing good
works. So what did I do? I decided to believe in a God who did not
reject me. You may say that I was wrong to go against the Bible. The
problem is, legalism can be pretty back-breaking, after a while. I
could only take so much of beating up on myself for falling short.
still for doing good works. This morning at church, a woman was
speaking to us on behalf of an organization, which reaches out to people
who lack a social network. She was telling us about a blind man whom
she takes to the grocery store. There are people who need help out
there. I hope that, not a desire to appease a God who can't be
satisfied, will motivate me to do good works.
for us before God the Father. The pastor was presenting us with a
picture that I heard growing up: that Christ is showing God the Father
his wounds to persuade God the Father to have mercy on us. A while
back, when I was telling an atheist friend of mind about this picture,
in an attempt to witness to him, he replied that it made God look like
God had a split personality: God wants to punish us, but God is telling
God not to punish us. I have to admit: this picture of God does not
make much sense to me. Why does God have to be persuaded to have mercy
on us? Doesn't God the Father already desire to show us mercy, since he
was the one who sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins? I don't deny
that there is a teaching in the New Testament about Christ's
intercession for people----I think of Hebrews 7:25. The doctrine just
doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.