Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Father (page 2 of 2)

A Few Thoughts on Christian Freedom

I must confess: when Paul first asked me if I’d be willing to preach on one of GFC’s core values, I got excited. But when I found out the value he had in mind was freedom, my excitement was dampened. The notion of freedom isn’t something that has historically ‘fired me up.’ 

When I thought of freedom, the first thought in my mind is Christians taking liberty in moral issues and then when confonted, just chalking it up to ‘freedom.’ Knowing that it could be abused in this way, I wasn’t all that happy about preaching it as something we should pursue.

But that was before I studied it… and my mind was changed completely. By the time Sunday rolled around, I was super-excited to preach it!

I began the message by attempting to begin to answer the question, ‘What is Christian Freedom?’ Answering that question alone could be at least 3 sermons. Knowing that my answer would have to be somewhat incomplete because of time constraints, I gave this opening definition of Christian freedom:

Christian freedom is the ability to participate in the life of God so that our desires are conformed to his, our will becomes his, enabling us to always do what we want without necessity or coercion.

In other words, it is the ability to always act for our joy and for his glory—and have those two as one.

By ‘participate in the life of God,’ I meant

  1. Freedom of Access to God as Father
  2. Freedom from the Law in God the Son
  3. Freedom to Live in God the Spirit

Where once we had no freedom to approach God in prayer, now our prayers are acceptable and pleasing to him. Where once we had no freedom from the Law, but were at once both commanded to work and condemned to die, now we have freedom from works and freedom to rest in justification. Where once we had no freedom to please God or to do as we desired, now the Spirit of God indwells us, conforming our desires to his.

The more we participate in the life of Holy Trinity, the more we’re conformed to him from the inside-out. Because of the work of the Holy Spirit, we gain true freedom of will so that we may choose and desire whatever we want, and since what we want is in line with the character of God, what brings us joy will be the same things that bring him glory. And he gives us the power to do it.

That’s a great thing to think about!

The Primacy of Praise to the Father

Sunday’s post reminded me of something that Dr Ware taught us in a contemporary theology course not too long ago. He challenged us to develop our Trinitarian categories, and to work hard for clarity in the distinctions between the persons of the Godhead.

One challenging example he gave was that of Ephesians 1. How many times have we read Ephesians 1 and gloried in the amazing grace of God which called us, sought us, won us, and keeps us? Too many to count! And yet, how many times have we thought seriously about the pronoun ‘he’ / ‘him’ / ‘his’ in that passage? To whom does that refer in which instance?

It is important to understand whose grace we are revelling in, and whose praise all of this is for. After all, getting the praise of ‘his’ glorious grace right is the very point of the passage!

Admittedly, the pronouns in the passage can seem a tad difficult to identify. Here is Dr Ware’s interpretation (based on the ESV translation):

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places [i.e. Praise the Father who gives blessings through the work of Christ, mediated to us by the Holy Spirit], even as [the Father] chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be blameless before [the Father]. In love [the Father] predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ [to the Father] according to the purpose of [the Father’s] will, to the praise of [the Father’s] glorious grace, with which [the Father] has blessed us in [his beloved Son]. In [the Son] we have redemption through [the Son’s] blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of [the Father’s] grace, which [the Father] lavished upon us in all wisdom and insight, making known to us the mystery of [the Father’s] will, according to [the Father’s] purpose, which [the Father] set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth.

In [Christ] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of [the Father] who works all things after the counsel of [the Father’s] will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of [the Father’s] glory. In [Christ] you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in [Christ], were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of [the Father’s] glory.

If we were to praise God for his work in salvation, based on this text, the praise would necessarily be Trinitarian. All the members of the Godhead have their roles, and the glory of all three is extolled. But whose glorious grace should be the centre of our attention and praise, based on these verses?

Is this reflected in your prayer life? How about your private worship? Why are we so quick to abandon the primacy of praise to the Father for his work in salvation?

Beware the Pendulum

It seems that in theology, as in the rest of life, we’re constantly riding a pendulum. The more we run from doctrinal error that we see in others, the more likely we are to fall into the opposite error ourselves.

If we reject an over-emphasis on God’s love as the basis of his character, we run the the risk of focusing too much on his justice or transcendence. If we seek to reject the feminist tide of our culture and hold to biblical distinctions between male and female, we run the risk of keeping women back from the legitimate ways that they are to serve and minister in the body of Christ. The examples are endless, and for every false doctrine there is an equally-wrong opposite reaction offered in an attempt to correct it.

Tim Challies made a comment once, when reviewing a Brian McLaren book, that McLaren appears to love Jesus, but to hate God (i.e. the Father). Bruce Ware made a nearly identical statement in a theology course I took with him recently. They both made the statement because… well… it’s true. But here’s what concerns me–I wonder how far we are from being the same.

I would never suggest that anyone at GFC or in our circles hates the Father. But I do wonder how our love for him compares to our love for Christ.

For whatever reason, the tide of our Christian culture seems to be waxing strong in our love for and devotion to Christ. Perhaps because of the resurgent emphasis on biblical as opposed to systematic theology. Maybe it is the fact that we tend to focus more on the fulfilment of our salvation, rather than the promise and story leading up to it. Maybe it is our culture’s disdain of authority (and especially authority held by a male, patriarchal figure). Maybe it is just the fact of Christ’s ‘like-us-ness’ that makes it easier for us to imagine him. Regardless of the reason, it is far more common to hear a Christian these days talking about their love for Christ than it is to hear a Christian talk about their love for the Father.

Growing in our love for Christ is always a good thing. But growing in our love for Christ at the expense of our love for the Father is not a good thing. But is this a genuine problem?

Think through the songs you sing in church. Think through the Bible reading you like to do most. Think through your conversations you’ve had recently with fellow believers. How central to your conversation, your reading, or your worship is Father himself, distinct from the other members of the Trinity? Are the affections of your heart warmed the same way when you think of God the Father as when you think of Jesus?

It was the Father’s will to create. It was the Father who chose us to be in Christ before the foundations of the world. It was the Father who planned in eternity past to send Christ, the Father who promised Christ, and the Father who carried out that plan. It was the Father’s will to crush Jesus to save you. It was the Father who had to withhold his wrath for thousands of years and then bear it all on his only true Son, thus breaking an eternity of perfect union and unbroken fellowship. It was the Father who looked away from Christ in anger in order to look to you with grace.

It was the Father’s plan to send his true Son to make you an adopted Son. It is the Father who gives you his Spirit. It is the Father who holds the king’s heart in his hand, who governs all this according to the counsel of his will, and who will bring about the end of all things in the fulness of time. It is the Father’s throne on which Christ sits, and to whom Christ will return the kingdom at the end of time. 

How is your love for the Father?

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