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You want a very quick way of distinguishing Islam from Christianity?  Think of the cross.  The Muslim account of the cross exactly reverses the gracious work of Christ.

In Islam, the sinful man (Judas) is substituted for the righteous one (Jesus).  The Quran says it only appeared to be Jesus on the cross, another was substituted in His place.  The Hadith (Muslim writings that interpret the Quran) claim that the one substituted was Judas.  All this happened because justice demands the death of the bad man, not the good one.  It was necessary for the unjust to be punished and the just to escape.  This is the judgement of human religion.

Yet the truth is the exact opposite of this very human sentiment.  Instead, the righteous One (JESUS) was substituted for sinful man.  He swapped in for the guilty and died in their place.  He determined to be the Just One punished so that the unjust may escape.

He who knew no sin became sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21)

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From Genesis 1, the way of the LORD has always been forming, then filling.

The filled-out reality is there by anticipation even in the forming. The intention for filling is included in the forming. But still the order is ‘form, then fill.':

  • In Gen 1:2 - a formless and empty creation is then formed (days 1-3) and filled (days 4-6) as the Word of God is revealed (Gen 1:3ff).
  • (This is similar to both the tabernacle and the temple where first it is formed, then filled by the Glory of the LORD).
  • Adam is formed (from dust) and then filled (by the breath of the LORD God).
  • Humanity as male and female is first formed in Adam and then filled out in Eve's creation and their consummation.
  • The first Adam is filled by the Last.
  • The people of Israel as the seed of Abraham are filled by Christ, the Seed of Abraham.
  • The law is the form of the covenant and is filled by the gospel events.

In all this we remember that the intention for filling is already anticipated in the forming. The very forming reveals a long-intended desire to fill. The forming sets everything on a trajectory towards something beyond itself.

Is it too much to suggest on this basis alone the supralapsarian tendencies of the Living God? I'll do it anyway!

Eden is not the point. Adam is not the point. Adamic humanity is not the point. Israel and its worship is not the point. All these things are forms, intended to be filled-out by realities to which the forms themselves point but which they do not themselves contain. The intention is always to move through Eden and beyond to the New Jerusalem; through Adam and beyond to the Heavenly Man; through Israel (and its worship) and beyond to the Church of Jesus Christ.

Tellingly, this movement goes through death and out the other side to resurrection.  Thus...

  • The day is not always bright (as it will be in the new creation). Instead it goes from darkness into light.
  • The tree is not first, first comes the seed (John 12:24; 1 Cor 15:37)
  • There are not blessings and curses for Israel as alternative present tense realities but rather the blessings come after the curse. (see Deut 4:23-31; Deut 28-29 culminating in 30:1ff).
  • The cross comes first and then resurrection.
  • The LORD makes the old covenant and then the covenant renewed. (though the new covenant reality is grasped by faith long before both old and new covenants purchased).
  • The LORD makes the old earth and then the earth renewed.
  • First comes my body of flesh and then my spiritual body. (1 Cor 15:44)

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The Christian therefore knows two incontrovertible facts:

1. All things are forward-looking. The best is yet to come (let's never yearn for Adam, for Eden, for Israel, for old covenant).

2. The path to better things is through suffering: the road to resurrection blessing always goes through the cross.

Psalm 30:5 For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favour lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

Psalm 126:6 He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.

1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

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I've just preached on Hebrews 2 this Sunday.  "He shared in their humanity so that by His death..."  Or again, "He had to be made like His brothers... in order that He might make atonement." (v14,17)

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Or to quote Kim Fabricius' provocative post: "The crib and the cross are cut from the same wood."

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See the crib and you've seen the cross ahead of time.  You've seen a Man falling, there's only one outcome possible.

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Anyway, it got me waxing lyrical.  Not finished, but here's a sketch of a poem:

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God in a manger
Defenceless, enfleshed
Immanuel crying
And fighting for breath

God in a manger
Wriggling and raw
Laid out on the wood
Enthroned on the straw

God at Golgotha
Pierced in His flesh
Immanuel crying
And fighting for breath

God at Golgotha
Forsaken and lost
Stretched out on the wood
Enthroned on the cross

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You can read/hear the sermon here.

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Anyway, probably won't get a chance to blog for the next week, so let me wish you all a blessed Christmas

May we in darkness rejoice in our Glorious Light.

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On the Cruciform God thing - here's a brilliant sermon by Darrell Johnson on these same issues.  His text is Phil 2:5-11 and his title: "So that's what it means to be God!"

The real realization is not "Oh, Jesus is the god I'd always believed in!" - how's that for fitting the Saviour onto a Procrustean bed! No, the real realization is "Oh, God is nothing like I'd thought - He's who I see in Jesus!"

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[I've edited this post from it's original form which was a little specialized and 'try-hard'!] 

For a long time I've held a certain verse from John at arm's length:

"The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life." (John 10:17)

I've always held it at arm's length because... well what would it mean to take it with full seriousness??  The Father-Son love in the bond of the Spirit is the divine life.   This love is who God is.  And the Son says it's founded on the cross!

As 1 John 4 says, "this is love" - the love that God is - "the sending of the Son as an atoning sacrifice".  (1 John 4:7-10)   Isn't the logic here inescapable?  Cruciformity (cross-shaped-ness) is the essence of the divine life.  God's very life is laid bare (upheld??) at the cross.  It is God glorified in shame and lifted up in ignominy.  

Now we can try to be poetic about this, but are we forced to speak simply in terms of contradiction?  Is there any way of relating the cry of dereliction (Ps 22:1; Mark 15:34) to the love song of Father-Son communion?  Is it right to say "the cry of dereliction is of the essence of the Father-Son communion"?  Is it possible to say "the cry of dereliction is of the essence of the Father-Son communion" without simply re-stating it in equally paradoxical terms?  Would such a re-statement be, at bottom, a betrayal of the cross?

Probably not your average first post, but there you are.  I'll jump right in.  Who'll join me? 

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