Brad hails from Canada and teaches Gospel Studies on the faculty of Westminster Theological Centre (which I am delighted to be a trustee of and teach on). My notes from his talk last week. He talks fast so I got as much as I could!!
The beautiful gospel is of a God of unfailing love.
It’s not a sales pitch I have to convince people of.
A presentation that prisoners and the poor say ‘YES!’ to because it’s good news to them.
The gospel in itself does not need upgrading. It’s a faith once delivered to the apostles from the Lord Jesus.
But we need to be careful how we tweak our presentation of it, for every generation – so they hear it. We can have approaches, but it’s not steps.
He then showed us the gospel in chairs: with two chairs (one black and one white chair).
How I heard the gospel first off: the version I came to Christ through – was the legal gospel. Composed by Calvin. Courtroom image. Sin is lawbreaking that must be punished. God can either punish the lawbreaker, or Jesus. He saves us from that. (Retributive)
So – Adam and Eve sin and go far from God. People remain estranged, despite religion or promises not to turn away. They turn away from him, so he turns away from him. Jesus is the only good one. On the cross he becomes sin, takes our curse. God turns his back on Him. Pours wrath and punishment on Him. But because he was without sin he ascends to heaven. So now, if you believe Jesus died for you, you are ‘snow covered dung’ (Luther). We have Jesus to hide behind now so God’s enmity to us is hidden and in Christ he becomes your friend. If you say no to this, you’ll have that wrath poured out in you forever.
This is the gospel that he came to faith through.
He doesn’t want to reject it, but it needs tweaking…
It pits God against you. Actually His primary disposition is LOVE.
And – if God can’t look on sin ; wasn’t Jesus fully God? How could He eat with sinners then? Is God more like a Pharisee – who would turn he back on a sinner!
And it pits the Father against the Son. Where was the Father on Good Friday? At what point did Jesus stop being God? Never. The idea that God turns away from His Son comes from his cry, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ But he’s actually quoting Psalm 22. And thinking of the whole thing not just the first verse. It carries on! A Messianic Psalm of death, passion and resurrection. Because ‘He has not despised the suffering of his servant or hidden his face from me…’
There’s another version. We can tell it better! Sin is a fatal disease, that brings death – and needs a great healer. (Restorative)
It starts out the same way, Adam and Eve, image bearers. They come under the curse of sin, what is God doing? He’s always entering co-suffering love with them. Over and over the OT is full of people receiving love and promises and fulfillment and blessings and they keep blowing it and what does God do? He keeps showing up with more love.
He says I’m going to send you prophets with such good news, some of you will get it and turn back to me!
Then comes Jesus. God in the flesh.
God meets a woman who has been through 5 marriages and now she’s off again on a new guy. God comes and sits down beside her, and says. ‘It’s because you’re thirsty you’re living like that. Come to me for water and you won’t be thirsty.’
God comes to a little guy who’s embezzling funds and hated by the community he rips off he is loved back to life.
God comes to a woman caught in adultery. She’s a trap set up to get Jesus. Stone her? What does God do? Kneels down next to her and scribbles in the dirt. What was he writing? Their sins? In Jeremiah it says, ‘Because you have rejected me and my living water, I will write you in the dust.’
What does God say to the woman? ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.’ (Not ‘or else’ but ‘because you’re free!’)
God comes to a man so possessed by evil, demons are bouncing off him. He’s scary! God gets in a boat and steps up to him in the cemetery and sets him free and gives him his mind, clothes, and community.
God comes to a man who’s consigned to a mat, disabled. The culture says it’s because of sin. What does God do? When some guys open the roof and lower the man down toward him. He says – 1) Your sins are forgiven. (He’s not even repented). 2) Gives him a new life and job.
Our God comes – and co-suffers with us. His holiness manifests in compassion and love. He comes to people, who with hatred and shame who turn their back on Him. They put him on a cross – and he forgives from it.
Now when we go to the grave – he is there. He was dead
But now he holds the keys of death and hell – so there is nowhere God’s love is not. It fills all things. Those who receive that love experience it as eternal life.
They who reject that love… continue to receive it – as a consuming love.
What happens to them? His mercy endures forever.
His love never fails. That’s news a broken world needs to hear. That God never gives up on me. He’s always there and always has been. He never changes. His love is steady as an anchor. Jesus is NEVER against you. Your rejection of him might feel like hell but it’s his version of love.
And on Good Friday, God the Father, Son and Spirit are on the cross.
2 Cor – God was in Christ, reconciling us to himself…
He’s not saving us from God, he’s not appeasing and angry Father but revealing a loving Father’s perfect love (1 John).
If you want to look at God, look at Jesus.
Jesus is the exact representation of His likeness.
God showed him that in a body.
God is now the most accessible person in the universe (1 John 4:15-19).
If He’s so accessible, we should take advantage of that!