From its very inception the church has grappled with clearly understanding the mission Jesus assigned. It is not that the words Jesus spoke to the disciples are hard to find or understand. The words are simple and direct. They essentially defy any human misunderstanding; nevertheless, the church has debated the concept of mission for centuries. The words of the mission are located in five different places in the New Testament: Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-49; John 20:21-22 and Acts 1:8.
In his book “Practicing Resurrection,” author Eugene Peterson makes the terse statement, “Church is difficult.” I say more, it is audacious. Only the with-God-nothing-is-impossible-
God could attempt it or would attempt it. We look and often our eyes see more defeat than victory. We assess and see more strife than unity. And it weighs us down and weakens faith.
But it need not. Facing conditions as they are we can return to the Word of Christ and the Father, praying to see once again what they saw and yet see in this initiative called the Church.
What does Jesus tell us about growing in him?
If “repentance” is the crucial element in God’s plan of salvation, then what comes next? How does the believer grow “in Christ” ? For Paul, the idea of being “in Christ” was crucial. Note 2 Cor. 5:17 (NRSV): “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
The question of how do I be saved has always puzzled humanity. The roadmap to salvation is twisted and filled with obstacles when we keep focusing on how we get saved as opposed to who saves.
Our self-help shelves at the bookstore are booming with solutions on how to become a better parent, how to be successful in business, how to save your marriage, how to get fit, how to lose weight: the list of How To programs is extensive.
Leading Question: What do Jesus and Gospels tell us about salvation before Jesus died on the cross?
Given the strong emphasis on substitutionary theology in evangelical circles, a position which sees the death of Christ as essential in the salvation process, it is instructive to note the teachings of Jesus on the theme of “salvation,” teachings which would have been given before he died to pay the price for our sin.
At least since the mid-1970’s, nearly all Adventists in the developed world have enjoyed a relatively sound understanding of Justification by Faith; at the same time, most of us have not been quite as well-informed with respect to Sanctification—a doctrine which treads close to the old canard that anyone who cares about personal holiness or who possesses close lifestyle scruples must, by definition, be considered a legalist.
The first sentence of this quarter’s Sabbath School lesson also captures the most important point about Jesus’ teaching about God the Father: “Jesus delighted to speak of God as the Father.” We as Christians today can’t really recapture how shocking this must have been to His audiences. All our knowledge of Jesus and of Christianity is grounded in our confidence in His claim to have been the Son of God, so much so that we cannot, no matter how hard we try, recapture the original mindset of the Judeans of Jesus’ time.