Look and live

Marcus Nelson preaching on John 3:16 ‘Christianity has not worked for me.’

He tackles the thorny issue of what faith is and breaks it down into simplistic terms.

‘Faith is not an action I must will…How could we not look to Jesus….He draws us with his love…to not look at him is such a terrible and unreasonable thing to do.’

Marcus makes the point that if he tells us there is something strange and wonderful on the wall behind us, we would not have to make a decision to look, we would be drawn to look. In fact we would have to try hard if we wanted to not look! Is this not the point of Numbers 21 with the snake lifted up?

This illustrates the attractional power of Jesus and takes the onus from us.

He then makes a great point about eternal life.

‘Jesus has come that we may have eternal life. Eternal life is defined for us. Eternal life is to know him and his Father.’

This reminds us that eternal life has truly started for us now who believe.

While this does not tackle some of the issues head on about Christianity ‘not working’, it actually does the thing needed. It causes us to put down our baggage and look.




Abram: smoke and mirrors faith?

Its been interesting to be involved in a series on Genesis recently. One of the big questions for me has become, what is it that we learn exactly about Christ from the Old Testament and in particular the Father’s of faith? What does it mean that Abram ‘believed the LORD and it was credited to him as righteousness?’ Genesis 15:6. On what basis was he righteous? Was it a smoke and mirrors faith, as I’ve come to term it, where he trusted in some sort of general sign or God and through that was indirectly saved by trusting in Christ- even though he didn’t know it. I’m convinced not. I’m convinced in fact that he trusted directly in Christ, who as John Owen and others have so wonderfully commentated has always mediated between God and the church.

For as the Bible puts it: ‘Salvation is found in noone else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.’ Acts 4:12.

‘For I do not want you to be ignorant brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptised into Moses, in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink: for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.’ 1 Corinthians 10:1-4

Take Genesis 15. Who was it that Abram trusted when the Lord made his covenant with him? Did he have some sort of pre-Christian pseudo faith that we have to learn from by basically discarding for the real deal? No, Genesis 15 presents Abram as trusting in the one who is known as the ‘word of the Lord.’

‘After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid Abram, I am your shield, your very great reward.” Genesis 15:1

John in his gospel prologue is very clear that we should understand Christ as being the Word of the Lord, who is, in the context of the passage, the eternal Word who predated John the Baptist and has always been at the Father’s side. This word is also visible, verse 1 of Genesis 15, as he came in a ‘vision’. So this is not just a spoken word. Additionally the Bible assures us that it cannot be God the Father, because ‘no-one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side has made him known.’ John 1:18.

So this word is a person, which is confirmed further, when in verse 5 we read that: ‘He (that’s the word of the Lord) took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars…’

In verse 6 and this is the crux really, we are then told that ‘Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.’

So where is Abram’s faith and what is the basis for his righteousness that is always praised in the Bible? Well, he believed the word of the Lord. The word of the Lord, Christ the second person of the Trinity who has always mediated the affairs of the church. Which means that Abrams faith is not ‘trust here and believe some vague thing and indirectly you will be saved by faith in Christ.’ No his faith is in Christ directly.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus!

Recently I have been struck by how often my problems are solved by ‘looking’ to Jesus and focussing my heart and mind upon him. Over the past few years a concern of mine has been to strive to be more Christ- centred. That sounds strange from a Christian I guess, but it seems to me there has been a subtle shift towards being God-centred in modern day conservative evangelicalism that is for want of a better way of putting it…leaving behind Christ.

So we will talk about God until the cows come home, but we are less happy to talk about Jesus. We will preach the Old Testament and we will make only concluding remarks about how all this refers to Jesus if the congregation are fortunate enough. We will talk about our walk with God and how our relationship with God is doing and all the time Christ is getting very little mention. And we forget how the pulpits of our land have for centuries had incribed upon them the words of sober reminder to the preacher of his task ‘Sir, we would see Jesus.’

Which is odd, considering that faith in Christ is necessary to be saved and have eternal life. ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me…’ Matthew 14:6. It is also odd because Christ says ‘If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink’ John 7:37, ‘Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ Odd given the fact we are spiritually grafted into Christ as believers, ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.’ John 15:5. And odd given that Christ says that ‘all things have been committed to me by my Father’ Matthew 11:27.

Then there is the matter of the scriptures. Who are they actually about? Christ seems pretty insistent that the scriptures testify specifically to him: ‘And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning himself.’ Luke 24:27 In other words his Old Testament exposition was rather, well, him focussed! (Then there is the matter of the object of true saving faith in the Old Testament which we will come back to another day. We learn it has always been Christ. Who else and how else? 1 Corinthians 10:1-4.)

Now there are of course grounds for talking about the Trinity as ‘god’ in general terms. The Apostle Paul does so after all. As ever there are dangers of throwing the baby out with the bath water. But let us be clear we are talking about an entirely different ‘god’ to the philosophers of this age and be concerned as to how far we have strayed! Let us remember that God is unknown and invisible apart from in Christ Jesus. He is ‘the image of the invisible God’ Colossians 1:15. We don’t stand together with other monotheistic religions because Christ is the only revelation of God.

So this is a plea to be Christ-centred and not just God- centred. He is the one who Colossians tells us everything was created by and for, which is a serious claim. Seriously amazing! So lets be more for Jesus. As we talk Jesus in evangelism people will see how it is they are to be saved, as we meditate more on Christ we will become less introvert and more amazed by the gospel as we see the one who has justified us at the cross and is our righteousness. As we meditate more on Christ, we will come to know more about the Biblical God who reveals himself in the face of Christ.

As one hymn writer put it:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.