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All The Advent Preparation In The World Would Not Be Enough Unless God Were Favourably Disposed To Us In The First Place (via Fleming Rutledge)

I’ll be working through Fleming Rutledge’s just released collection of materials gathered together in book form and titled Advent.
From her introductory essay:

Because the church in modern times has turned away from the proclamation of the second coming, which Jesus repeatedly says will come by God’s decision at an hour we do not expect, is the Advent emphasis on the agency of God as contrasted with the “works” of human beings. An exclusive emphasis on Advent as a season of preparation risks putting human endeavor in the spotlight for all four weeks of the season. All the Advent preparation in the world would not be enough unless God were favourably disposed to us in the first place.

Fleming Rutledge, Advent – The Once & Future Coming Of Jesus Christ, Eerdmans, 2018, pg 5.


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Neither Spirituality Or Religion Is Ever Enough (via Fleming Rutledge)

Fleming Rutledge skewers the central conceit behind the supposed superiority of being ‘spiritual’ rather than ‘religious’: they’re both manifestations of the same condition.
Humans need neither.
What they need is justification through Christ.
From Rutledge:

Spirituality, too, like religion, is essentially a human activity or trait that stands in stark contrast to faith. To put it in the simplest terms possible, spirituality is all too easily understood as human religious attainment, whereas faith itself is pure gift, without conditions, and nothing can be done from our side to increase it or improve upon it. On the contrary, we throw ourselves upon the mercy of God, saying, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
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…Human potential—which often takes the guise of “spirituality”—has itself become the object of worship.
So what is the antidote to the situation we find ourselves in, where in some places, attendance at “Celtic” services on Sunday evenings—with candles and chants and eclectic liturgies—far outnumbers church attendance on Sunday morning? Where so often, sermons are little more than assorted reflections having little to do with the biblical text? Where the high Christology of the creeds and councils has become mere “Jesus-ology”?
In today’s context, it is more crucial than ever to make a sufficiently sharp distinction between self-justification and self-sanctification on the one hand, and on the other, the utterly gratuitous, prevenient action of God in justifying humanity through his Son. The answer to our problem, then, is both simple and difficult: We need substantive, biblical preaching that drives home our need for justification through Christ.

Read the whole article at Christianity Today.


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The Character Of Jesus Revealed On The Cross (via Fleming Rutledge)

Fleming Rutledge on Jesus’ remaining completely in character while on the cross.
And what a character it is.

Jesus waging a battle on the cross. The whole business of the two thrives dramatises the intensity of his struggle to absorb into himself the malice of those who were reviling him, while at the same time turning his attention toward the one who was looking for a work of redemption. Jesus, in his death as in his life, was entirely directed to the ultimate welfare of others. His entire ministry was directed outward from himself. The kinds of things that preoccupy you and me apparently did not enter his mind. Things like, how am I doing, did I get enough praise today, does that person appreciate me, is that other person over there getting ahead of me, am I slipping behind, am I letting people walk over me – these kinds of things had no hold on him. He was so utterly secure in himself that he was free for others in a way we can scarcely imagine. Therefore, it is exactly in character for him even in the midst of his agony to be mindful of the criminal hanging nearby. Such a thing appears to have been in his nature.

Fleming Rutledge, The Seven Last Words From The Cross, Eerdmans, 2005, p. 75.


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The Most Compelling Argument For The Truth Of Christianity Is The Cross At Its Center (via Fleming Rutledge)

From Fleming Rutledge:

“Religious figures are not usually associated with disgrace and rejection. We want our objects of worship to be radiant, dazzling avatars offering the potential of transcendent happiness. The most compelling argument for the truth of Christianity is the Cross at its center. Humankind’s religious imagination could never have produced such an image. Wishful thinking never projected a despised and rejected Messiah. There is a contradiction at the very heart of our faith that demands our attention. We need to put a sign on it, though, like the signs on trucks carrying chemicals: Hazardous material, highly inflammatory cargo. Handle at your own risk.”

Fleming Rutledge, The Undoing of Death, Eerdmans, 2005.


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Remembering As Present Action (via Fleming Rutledge)

The Lord’s Supper is not solely a reference to a past event. It is an experience of the present work of God. It is an anticipation of the completed work of God.
From Fleming Rutledge.

Remembering in Scripture refers to present action. If a woman prays to God to remember her mother, that does not mean “please think about her from time to time.” It means, “Take action on behalf of my mother.” Similarly, if we say that the Lord’s Supper is a “memorial,” we do not mean that we are simply thinking about Jesus’ last supper. When we repeat Jesus’ words, “do this in remembrance of me,” in the communion Service, we do not simply call Jesus to mind. Jesus is actively present with power in the communion of the people. Disputes about the Lord’s Supper have divided the Christian church, but understanding the biblical concept of remembrance can help us. We are not just thinking about Jesus’ actions in the upper room; we acknowledge that he is present and acting with the community gathered at the table in the present time. The doctrine of the real presence of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper can be understood in this way by everyone, from the most sophisticated person to the simplest.

Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion – Understanding The Death Of Jesus Christ Eerdmans, Grand Rapids MI, 2015, pg 218-219.


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The Burden On The Privileged Reader Trying To Understand The Crucifixion Of Jesus (via Fleming Rutledge)

The fact that Jesus died by crucifixion is an integral aspect of God’s redemptive work. Appreciating the fullness of what Jesus endured for our sake is difficult for those whose social position shields them from personal experience or exposure to the fullness of the injustice of it all.
Difficult, but not impossible. But we do have to accept that we have a blind spot and effort to empathise is required.
From Fleming Rutledge.

The all-important connection between the method used to execute Jesus and the meaning of his death cannot be grasped unless we plumb the depths of what is meant by injustice. There is much irony here, for injustice is a threatening subject for the ruling classes who have the time and inclination for reading books like this one. Those who suffer most from injustice are the poorly educated, the impoverished, the invisible. Justice is involved with law and judges; the people most likely to suffer injustice cannot afford good lawyers, do not even know any lawyers, whereas lawyers and judges are the ones who have the money to buy books. In other words, those most likely to be affected by the issues raised in this chapter are least likely to be reading about them. This puts an extra burden on the privileged reader, but such challenges are not unrelated to Jesus’ teaching that the one who does not take up his cross and follow him is not worthy of him (Matt. 10:38). Trying to understand to understand someone else’s predicament lies at the very heart of what it means to be a Christian.

Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion – Understanding The Death Of Jesus Christ Eerdmans, Grand Rapids MI, 2015, pp 106-107.


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The Crucifixion Is God Setting A Ruined Creation Aright (via Fleming Rutledge)

The Crucifixion is not simply about forgiveness, but about a creation that is profoundly ruined being remade by the power and action of God.

“The Messiah came, not to a purified and enlightened world spiritually prepared for his arrival, but rather to a humanity no nearer to its original goodness than on the day Cain murdered his borther Abel. Indeed, the barbarity of the crucifixion reveals precisely that diagnosis. From beginning to end, the Holy Scriptures testify that the predicament of fallen humanity is so serious, so grave, so irremediable from within, that nothing short of divine intervention can rectify it.”
Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion – Understanding The Death Of Jesus Christ Eerdmans, Grand Rapids MI, 2015, pg 127.