Items filtered by date: April 2014 - Harris Creek Baptist Church
One of the most underestimated elements in effectively communicating the Gospel is our responsibility, as Christ followers, to understand the culture and context in which God has planted us. While there is a premium placed on studying Scripture, we don't always take seriously the job of studying our culture so that we can connect people to Christ. One of the best and most famous examples in Scripture of someone doing this very thing—taking time to study their context before sharing the Good News—is a story about the Apostle Paul found in Acts 17. When he arrives in Athens, Paul takes time to walk around and understand the context in which he finds himself. He then goes on to use a false idol and quote Greek poets as a way to share the Gospel with the people of Athens. This is because Paul understood, like Madeleine L'Engle says, "There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation." This is why, in a similar way, we must learn how to connect parts of our culture to the message of Scripture, like Paul in Acts 17. In the recently released Disney movie "Frozen," we see themes of sacrificial love that are closely related to the way Scripture defines love. This story of a girl sacrificing her life for her sister can point us back to the sacrificial love we are called to embody as Christians.
When describing Easter, Henri Nouwen once wrote, "Easter season is a time of hope. There still is fear, there still is a painful awareness of sinfulness, but there also is light breaking through." Nouwen's description of Easter does a great job of explaining the range of emotions associated with Easter morning. It is certainly a time defined by hope and faith; it's also a season marked by emotions that are not always discussed by the modern-day Church like doubt and fear. However, it is only when we allow the reality of our pain to be met by the reality of the resurrection that true healing and freedom happen in our lives. The Apostle Paul recognizes this fact, which is why the conclusion to Romans 8 has an "Easter tone" to it. Romans 8:31-39 is certainly a passage of celebration, triumph, and hope. However, it is not a passage about triumphalism or blind faith. Paul rattles off a long list of things that can cause us fear in this life, but he does this to remind the reader of the hope we can have when facing these trials. The conclusion is a great reminder that God is for us, not against us, so there is nothing to fear.
In Romans 8, the Apostle Paul is describing the new exodus Jesus inaugurated with his life, death, and resurrection. As we get to verses 18 and following, Paul makes it abundantly clear that this new exodus is not just for Israel. It's not even just for humanity. The new exodus Jesus launched is for all creation. Paul says creation, which was subjected to slavery due to human sin, waits and groans along with humanity for the day of redemption. In other words, the new exodus Jesus is bringing about has huge implications for the entire cosmos. This is important because we can begin to lose hope in God's ability to bring this freedom to our lives if we forget there is a larger story being written. As A.J. Conyers says, "The power of hope is something we do not often understand. It comes essentially from the human tendency to transcend circumstances by virtue of imagination. Hope, however, depends upon the fact that any set of circumstances has a larger context. Hope must be projected outside the circumstances." That's why in Romans 8:18-27, Paul defines hope in terms of being something we do not fully have, or possess, ourselves. Our hope is in the story God is writing that is bigger than our current circumstances and individual lives.
Throughout Romans 5-8, Paul uses the Exodus story to explain the human situation and how Jesus brings freedom to all of creation. He has a strong diagnosis when addressing the human condition by dealing fully with the "weight of sin." At the same time, Paul is also giving his readers a heavy dosage of the "weight of glory" in this section of Romans. The reason why he deals heavily with both subjects—bondage to sin and freedom in Christ—is because you can't talk about one without the other. Karl Barth puts it this way: "Resurrection proclaims true freedom to us and lets us painfully discover our prison chains." While the message of freedom should be exhilarating, often times we don't fully celebrate it because we have yet to experience this liberation personally. Paul, knowing our doubts and frustrations, reminds us of two important themes from the story of the Exodus. First, he reminds us that those who are in Christ are "led by the Spirit of God." This reference to the Exodus is meant to remind us that God doesn't just send His people on a journey; He actually accompanied Israel on the journey. The other Exodus theme Paul reminds us of is that those who are in Christ are "children of God." This term appears for the first time in Scripture in Exodus 4. As children of God, Paul says we are due to share in the same inheritance that God reserved for His son, Jesus.