Monthly Archives: March 2011

What is Your Functional Savior?

Sadly we’re all prone to embrace functional saviors…. We must identify and reject them.  But it’s not always easy.  Our deceitful hearts clutch, cloak, and protect them.  And functional saviors take many forms.  For some, it takes the form of a self-destructive addiction.  For others it could be something that otherwise would be good or harmless if they weren’t dependent on it – activities or things.  It could be television, family, friends, sleep, caffeine, partying, not partying, eating, not eating.  It could be career, fashion, investment accounts, approval of others, material possessions, peer status, good looks, recreation, spectator sports, having a clean house, or working out at the gym.  It could be just about anything, including moderate living, asceticism, philanthropic giving, or even ministry.

If you haven’t already figured out what your functional saviors are, try filling in these blanks:

I am preoccupied with ____________.

If only __________, then I would be happy.

I get my sense of significance from _________.

I would protect and preserve _________ at any cost.

I fear losing __________.

The thing that gives me the greatest pleasure is ___________.

When I lose ________ I get angry, resentful, frustrated, anxious, or depressed.

For me, life depends on _________.

The thing that makes me want to get out of bed in the morning is _________.

Through the prophet Jeremiah, God issued a strong warning against functional saviors, calling them broken cisterns:

Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. (2:11-13)

God’s warning is abundantly clear.  Functional saviors cannot be depended on.  They leak.  They leave us empty and thirsty.  To depend on them requires us to forsake God.  He declares this to be unprofitable, appalling, shocking, and evil.  The flip-side of this is that when we identify and remove our functional saviors, our dependence is free to shift to the true and living God, the fountain of living waters.”

Jerry Bridges, The Bookends of the Christian Life, 72-74.  Read the whole book here.

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Filed under Applied Theology, Christian Thinking, False Profession, Theology, Worship

The Message of the Virgin Birth

First, it is highlighting the essentially supernatural character of Jesus and the gospel.  Alluding to Barth again, the virgin birth is posted on guard at the door of the mystery of Christmas; and none of us must think of hurrying past it.  It stands on the threshold of the New Testament, blatantly supernatural, defying our rationalism, informing us that all that follows belongs to the same order as itself and that if we find it offensive there is no point in proceeding further.  If our faith staggers at the virgin birth what is it going to make of the feeding of the five thousand, the stilling of the tempest, the raising of Lazarus, the transfiguration, the resurrection and, above all, the astonishing self-consciousness of Jesus?  The virgin birth is God’s gracious declaration, at the very outset of the gospel, that the act of faith is a legitimate sacrificium intellectus. ‘It eliminates’, writes Barth, ‘ the last surviving possibility of understanding the vere deus vere homo intellectually.  It leaves only the spiritual understanding, that is the understanding in which God’s own work is seen in God’s own light.’

Secondly, the virgin birth is a sign of God’s judgment on human nature.  The race needs a redeemer, but cannot itself produce one: not by its own decision or desire, not by the processes of education and civilization, not as a precipitate of its own evolution.  The redeemer must come from outside.  Here, as elsewhere, ‘all things are of God’.  He provides the lamb (Gn. 22:8).  Barth is exactly right: ‘Human nature possesses no capacity for becoming the human nature of Jesus Christ.’

Thirdly, the virgin birth is a sign that Jesus Christ is a new beginning.  He is not a development from anything that has gone before.  He is a divine intrusion: the last, great, culminating eruption of the power of God in the plight of man: ‘Man is involved only in the form of non-willing, non-achieving, non-creative, non-sovereign man, only in the form of man who can merely receive, merely be ready, merely let something be done to and with himself.’

Donald Macleod, The Person of Christ, 37.

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Filed under Christology, God, Incarnation, Orthodoxy, Theology, Uncategorized, Virgin Birth