Is God Holy? Not the Beginning of the Gospel

A few weeks ago in a blog comment a certain DJ wrote:

How is the point of the bible not Gods holiness??

In a follow-up comment, responding to me, he or she wrote:

I’m sorry but if you think Gods attribute for love is greater than his attribute for holiness open up your bible read it and repent because THAT is nothing but heresy.

Could DJ be right? Well, possibly if his or her Bible consists only of the Old Testament. But if he or she is a New Testament believer, then the facts are clearly against DJ, as shown by a quick look through a New Testament concordance. The main word group meaning “holy”, hagios and its cognates, is used about 188 times, excluding the phrase “Holy Spirit”; of those only about 11 refer to God the Father (including three in Revelation 4:8) and about 14 to Jesus Christ. Another word group hosios is used about 13 times, but only twice of God the Father and four times of Jesus Christ. The vast majority of the uses of both word groups refers to holy people, as individuals or as a group.

Perhaps most tellingly, the only place in the teaching of Jesus where either “holy” word group is used of the Father is in the Lord’s Prayer, where the verb is usually rendered “hallowed” (Matthew 6:9 || Luke 11:2). The only other apostolic teaching focusing on the holiness of God is in 1 Peter 1:15-16, where the apostle expounds the Old Testament passage “Be holy, because I am holy”.

So it was interesting to see Scot McKnight tackling this same issue in his post today Gospel and Rhetoric. Scot asks (his emphasis):

How do we “present” or “explain” or “preach” the gospel? Where do we begin? Do we begin with God as utterly holy and perfect and demanding total perfection to enter into his presence? [By the way, a Reformed theologian told me the other day he doesn’t believe this is taught in the Bible.] Or do we begin with God’s love? Or where do we begin?

The Torn VeilWell, the Reformed theologian is right, at least concerning the New Testament. There is no sign there of “God as utterly holy and perfect and demanding total perfection to enter into his presence”. I can see where the idea might be found in the Old Testament, e.g. Psalm 24:3-4 and Isaiah 6:5. But the picture we see in the New Testament is quite different: the way into God’s presence has been opened up, the veil of the temple has been torn from top to bottom, and holiness is no longer a condition for drawing near to him.

By contrast, the New Testament refers, using the agape and philia word groups, to the love of God the Father for humanity more than 30 times, and to the love of Jesus for humanity about 40 times. The picture is clear: at least under the new covenant, God’s love is a far more prominent characteristic than his holiness.

Yes, God is holy. The Bible clearly teaches us that. But it is only a minor theme, at least in the New Testament. Far more central to its teaching is that God is love, and that out of that love he gave us his Son so that his demand for holiness need no longer be a barrier to people coming into his presence and enjoying the fullness of life which he offers.

So why do so many preachers continue to present the holiness of God as the starting point of the gospel? Is it because their theology is that distorted and their concept of the gospel is that narrow? Perhaps this is true of some, like DJ. Or is it, as McKnight suggests, that they can turn this message into a powerful rhetorical device? Maybe, but I think that device is losing its effectiveness. Frightening people into committing their lives to Christ still works with some of them. But probably more widely effective these days is the kind of positive feel-good message and rhetoric associated with Joel Osteen and with prosperity gospel preachers. However, what McKnight says about the former applies equally to the latter:

this rhetorical bundling into what some call the gospel is designed to be a species of what I am calling persuasive rhetoric, at times (but not always) even emotionally manipulative rhetoric. Sometimes, sadly, it seems aimed at precipitating an intense experience. … One reason so many make decisions and don’t follow through is because the rhetoric was aimed at an insufficient response and appealed to a decision on the basis of an emotional story.

In either case some of those who make decisions for Christ continue into discipleship classes where they receive further and hopefully better balanced teaching, and go on to a mature Christian faith. But sadly very many of those who respond, if they don’t fall away, continue to let their ears be tickled by the same kind of basic preaching which first grabbed their attention but fail to move beyond it.

So McKnight argues that we need to preach “the original apostolic “rhetoric” [which] was declarative in shape instead of this kind of persuasive rhetoric. … It called people to respond, but it was not shaped to create that response. It was shaped to tell us something compelling about Jesus and they trusted the power of God’s Spirit to awaken people”. He concludes:

Many evangelists don’t trust the message so they resort to rhetorical bundles aimed at precipitating responses, which they can do but which will not very often stick. The music played during an invitation is a tip-off, don’t you think? We need to learn to trust the sheer power and glory of the good news that Jesus himself is, and we need to learn to step back and wait on God to attend and to act and get our own persuasive rhetoric out of the equation.

We are on the threshold of a new kind of evangelism, a kind that is consistent with how Jesus, Peter and Paul “gospeled.”

Don't tell some people first that they are sinners

Krish KandiahKrish Kandiah, England Director for the UK Evangelical Alliance, writes:

If you tell the excluded and the marginalized that they are sinners in need of judgement as the entry point then you can push them further away from the kingdom.

This is part of a presentation Tell Young People About Judgement Before You Tell Them About Love?, which Krish recently made to youth workers in Manchester. It was picked up and quoted by Scot McKnight, whom I thank for the link.

So what is Krish saying here? Is he, as an evangelical, rejecting the time-honoured evangelical way of presenting the gospel? Well, not entirely. He balances this provocative statement as he continues:

If you tell religiously self confident and judgemental people a gospel only of grace and acceptance you risk confirming them in their delusion that they are part of the kingdom.

The key is that context determines content. Just as Jesus doesn’t preach a fake scripted gospel message to everyone but rather finds takes time to understand the person standing in front of him and then explain to them the aspect of the gospel that connects with them. We need to triangulate between a sensitivity to the Spirit, a deep knowledge of the Bible and a listening and compassionate spirit to the people we are seeking to communicate with.

Indeed. We all need to remember what Krish writes, and what Scot McKnight explains further in his book The King Jesus Gospel (I haven’t read it, but I like the reviews I have seen), that the gospel cannot be reduced to a simple set of three or four points which must be presented in the same way to everyone. And we need to resist the “Reformed” tendency to canonise certain traditional ways of presenting the gospel as the only valid ones, and to demonise those who dare to depart from them.

Yes, at some point we do need to teach every new Christian about sin and judgment, and also about grace and acceptance. But neither of these has to be the starting point in every gospel presentation.

What good does it do when Christians are offended?

US Pledge of AllegianceDale Best has written a guest post, at Kurt Willems’ Pangea Blog, What Good Does It Do When Christians Are Offended?, copied from Dale’s own blog. The specific focus of the post is something I am not so interested in, the wording of the US Pledge of Allegiance. But the real point is much more important: that Christians should not be so quick to take offence.

Dale writes (in part):

I’m one of those Jesus followers who happened to not be offended. Because I don’t think it does any good. …

But how much good does it do? If we call ourselves Christians and we identify ourselves with the One who came and forsook his own rights and his own life and gave himself for others, should instances like removing “Under God” from a pledge really matter?

Jesus spent his time and influence and energy building a Kingdom that transcended anything this world had to offer. The world, essentially, has it’s own way of doing things and it never surprised him that things weren’t right. He came to reconcile those things that weren’t right … through serving and giving his life and ultimately defeating death.

Jesus didn’t come to tell everyone what he was against. He had one mission and that was to usher in His Kingdom to a world that was broken. He showed us love in a way that seemed so counter-cultural. He didn’t waste his time worrying about whether or not his Abba’s rules were posted in the town square. He taught that to be first, you have to be last. And to not expect the world to make it easy for you along the way.

Indeed. This ties up well with what I wrote about Calvin, Preacher of Legalism and about Why Christians should accept gay marriage. As Christians we shouldn’t expect the world to live by our standards, and we certainly shouldn’t take offence when they don’t.

It is right for us to be sad when we see such things, and for them to drive us to prayer. And sometimes it is right to speak out for truth and righteousness. But when instead we take offence and start complaining in a judgmental way, in fact we harm the cause of Christ, in the same way that Calvin did when he presided over a legalistic state in Geneva. This is true whether our offence is over the Pledge of Allegiance, over bad things we see in society, or over what some blogger has written.

How is this harmful? We give outsiders the false idea that Christianity is all about keeping rules and saying the right words. We make them feel condemned rather than loved by God. Instead of attracting them with the true gospel message, we repel them and cause them to reject any Christian faith that they might have. In short, we do great damage to the Kingdom of God.

Free and Unrestricted Discipleship Resources

This is a great video from Door43 about how the church worldwide needs discipleship resources free from copyright restrictions. Copyright owners here in the West are seeking to enrich themselves while Third World churches are struggling for lack of the material they need. This is a scandal, but one which Door43 is working to overcome.

I note that among their projects is an Open Bible Translation, in English and to be released under an open licence.

The future of the global church is Open from Distant Shores Media on Vimeo.

Taking over mountains from the grass roots

The Guardian, the UK’s top left-leaning newspaper, has an excellent article today Could this be the church to calm our secularist outrage?, written by the sceptical agnostic (his words) John Harris, and an accompanying video. The article and the video feature Frontline Church in Liverpool, 15 miles from my home, and its project among prostitutes in the area: not open evangelism but “a weekly operation in which a handful of volunteers take food, tea and condoms to the city’s sex workers.” The agnostic reporter is clearly impressed, and muses on the response to this, or lack of it, from militant secularists.

Nic HardingWhat the church is doing is impressive. But I want to look more at what the church is saying – at least at the words of its pastor Nic Harding, who is seen preaching in the video. In fact he writes about his struggle preparing this sermon in a post on his own blog. Following this in the video, John Harris interviews him.

Here is the video, followed by a partial transcript:

(04:09) Harding (preaching): Our calling is out there … Social justice, education, health care, politics, government: these are all areas that God says “Who is willing to claim that mountain?” … How can we make a difference? How can we challenge the prevailing attitudes of money being the bottom line for everything? How can we add value to what we do? How can we touch the lives of people, even though we are dealing with products or commodities or services? …

(04:56) Harris: If the people here took over all those mountains and ran the show, what would society look like? …

(08:39) Harris: You see I think about these things politically, about the ideal way the society should go. I think in terms of it being more equal, less individualistic. You know, the structures of society should change. Are we talking about the same thing?

Harding: I think we probably are. But we probably are approaching it from a different starting point. Because politics tends to look at things from a top down model. It tends to see … You start to change society by changing how you run society from the top, from political systems, whether it be capitalism or socialism, whatever it might be. Whereas Christianity starts at grass roots. It starts with individuals’ lives changing. It starts with families, broken families coming together and reconciling. It starts with children being raised by parents who care about what happens to them. It starts with parent governors in schools making a difference in their local school. It starts with people who go into work with a different attitude and mindset. It’s a bottom up thing.

Harris: But you know where you’re going? Because if you ask me I will tell you. I would like a society where the rich are less rich and the poor are less poor. How would you feel about that?

Harding: I think a society where people are generous with what they have got would be fantastic, where people are willing to share their goods, their possessions, their time, their energy – not in an enforced way, because I think once you enforce it you take the whole spirit out of it, but on a completely free will basis, because people’s hearts have been changed.

In the sermon extract, Harding seems to be alluding to the Seven Mountains Mandate popularised by Lance Wallnau among others, which encourages Christians to seek

to gain influence over the “mountains” of government, church, education, family, media, arts, and business.

Now according to Joel Watts these seven mountains are the same as the ones in Revelation 17:9, over which the Beast reigns. I’m sure this point has not escaped Wallnau and friends. Joel writes:

Stay with me for a minute –

  • Wallnau identified seven mountains and one to rule over them.
  • John writes of seven mountains/hills with one to rule over them.

Anyone? Anyone at all see anything wrong with this whatsoever?

No, Joel, nothing wrong. Wallnau and John agree that the enemy temporarily rules over the seven mountains. Wallnau teaches that Christians should bring them under the rule of Jesus, the kingdom of God. John also teaches, in verse 14 of the same chapter, how Jesus and his armies will defeat the enemy and conquer the mountains. Where is the difference?

Joel also considers that the Seven Mountain Strategy is all about “Dominionism”. Well, as Wikipedia says,

The use and application of this terminology is a matter of controversy.

Nic Harding certainly isn’t talking about Dominion Theology as described in this Wikipedia article, and I’m pretty sure Lance Wallnau isn’t either. Neither of them envisage setting up a kind of Christian Sharia Law to replace secular law. There also seem to be quite a few differences from Wikipedia’s “Dominionism as a broader movement”. There may indeed be influences from Kuyper and Schaeffer, but not from Rushdoony. Harding is explicit that what Christians should do must be “on a completely free will basis, because people’s hearts have been changed”. Society is to be transformed according to Christian principles not by imposition from the top but by Christians working up from the grass roots.

Is this something from the right or from the left? If this is “Dominionism” from the Christian right, why is it so appealing to the Marx-quoting agnostic from the left-wing Guardian? Militant secularists may rage, but the label doesn’t matter. What does matter is that people that the world, and the secular government, ignore or reject are being accepted and provided for by Christians. This is the love which can turn the world upside down.

Thanks to Phil Ritchie and the Evangelical Alliance for their links to this article.

Is the Bible the best way to promote Christianity? 2

This post (sorry it took so long) continues from part 1, in which I discussed the Church Mouse’s suggestion that evangelistic strategies should be based more on the Bible text.

As I concluded in part 1, I stand with the doctrine of the perspicuity, or clarity, of Scripture, in other words, that ordinary people can and should be able to understand the basic meaning of the biblical text without having to depend on outside authorities, and without requiring special education. Obscure parts can be understood by comparison with simpler parts. This is not to say that every nuance of doctrine can be understood in this way, or that untaught readers can claim to understand the Bible better than scholars. The point is that people can understand the core meaning of every part of it, which includes understanding enough to be saved.

This argument that ordinary people can understand the Bible is not intended to undermine the church as a community. For fuller comprehension readers should compare their impressions with those of others. However, it may undermine the church as a hierarchical institution, as the Reformation did, by denying its monopoly on interpreting the Bible.

Of course this does depend on a good Bible translation being available in the language of those ordinary people, and this is the theme that has been promoted at Better Bibles Blog by many of us on that blog’s team. But this begs a number of questions that I will attempt to answer.

In my published paper Holy Communicative? (published in Translation and Religion: Holy Untranslatable? (Topics in Translation), Lynne Long (ed.), Multilingual Matters, 2005, pp. 89-101; a draft is downloadable as a zipped Word document) I discussed three barriers to understanding the text of the Bible. For an accompanying PowerPoint presentation I showed these barriers as piles of rubble, not separate walls, as the factors are not completely separable, and the barriers are not insurmountable:

Piles of rubble obstructing our understandingIn fact I would suggest that there are not three but six barriers to complete understanding of the Bible text.

Only the first three were relevant to the purposes of my 2005 paper: the linguistic, contextual and cultural barriers. A good Bible translation should overcome the linguistic barrier. Contextual issues, where readers lack important background knowledge, can also be overcome in a translation by making some implicit information explicit, and footnotes may also be helpful here. There is more controversy over whether the cultural barrier, caused by the historical and cultural remoteness of the text, should be overcome within the text: not many people accept the kind of updating of the historical setting found for example in the Cotton Patch New Testament. But for educated westerners this is probably the least serious of the barriers.

Another barrier that must be considered is the availability of the text in a form which the ordinary person can use. For people who read well, that implies clear print in the orthography they are used to. For those who cannot read or do not find it easy, it is necessary to present the text with suitable audio or video media. This is a large topic which I don’t want to go into further now.

The fifth potential barrier to understanding is the conceptual one. There are of course conceptual difficulties in understanding some of the deeper theological implications of some parts of the Bible. But I would hold that the basic concepts in the Bible can be understood by untrained people of ordinary intelligence, if presented to them in clear language – and as long as there is no spiritual barrier to understanding.

Yes, the final barrier to ordinary people understanding the Bible is a spiritual one. As the Apostle Paul wrote,

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

2 Corinthians 4:4 (NIV 2011)

A few verses earlier Paul described this barrier as a veil, but he also wrote that

whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

2 Corinthians 3:16 (NIV 2011)

So this should not be a factor for true Christian believers. But it is of course important when the Bible is being used to promote the Christian faith to outsiders. How can this barrier be overcome? Only through prayer, I would suggest.

There are many stories going around, including some from personal friends of mine, of people in Muslim majority countries who have become Christians because they saw Jesus in a dream and then started to read the Bible. In some such countries Bibles are quite widely distributed, through unofficial channels, where expatriate Christians are not welcome. But Christians have been praying for those countries for a very long time, and these prayers are being answered as some people’s blind eyes are being opened to the light of the gospel.

But this discussion as started by the Church Mouse was about evangelism in Britain. In countries like this, with a fairly large Christian population and few restrictions on sharing one’s faith, there is no need for God to rely on miraculous intervention such as in dreams. The cultural barriers to the gospel can be broken down if we Christians are prepared to befriend our unbelieving neighbours, colleagues etc. The spiritual barriers will start to come down as we pray for these people. Then as we share the gospel message with them, from the Bible and in an appropriate way, there should be no remaining barriers to them accepting it.

Some may say this doesn’t work. Of course it is not an infallible formula. And I can’t say that I have proved that this works, largely because I have not really tried it and persisted with it.  But how many of those naysayers have tried it more than me?

So let’s use the Bible to promote Christianity, but not as a weapon to bash people with, rather as something we use within relationships of genuine Christian love.

Is the Bible the best way to promote Christianity? 1

The Church MouseA few days ago now the Church Mouse, an anonymous Church of England blogger, asked, Is the Bible the best way to promote Christianity in Britain? He suggested this on the basis of a survey which found that

8% considered [the Bible] very important and read the Bible regularly, 46% considered it important but don’t read it regularly, 42% considered it unimportant and 4% considered it dangerous.

These figures seem to refer to Britain, although the exact survey area is unclear. I have no idea how figures in other countries might compare. But the general principles of the Mouse’s post would presumably apply elsewhere, at least in the western world.

The Mouse argued from these figures that

46% of the population see value in engaging with the Bible more than they currently do.

Most evangelistic strategies don’t kick off with the Bible.  It is often seen as a bit difficult, and something you get to later when you’ve got some way down the road.

Perhaps this is wrong.

Eddie Arthur, Executive Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators UK, was quick to comment that many evangelistic strategies do use texts from the Bible. But in his own comment in response the Mouse clarifies his issues with these strategies, that

The way [they] work is to say “Here is Christianity – why not have a look at that, and perhaps even see what the Bible says about it”. The question I’m asking is whether that focus should be switched round completely, and say “Here is the Bible – I wonder what that is about”.

Now of course there are people who present non-Christians with the Bible as an evangelistic strategy. The Gideons are perhaps the best known such group. I remember several mission initiatives in the UK which have included as a major strategy distributing Bible portions, such as John’s Gospel from the Good News Bible. The Bible Society generally prefers to sell their Bibles, at subsidised prices, but the general principle is the same. These groups seem to believe that unbelievers who read the Bible text are likely to become Christians, or at least that reading the Bible can be a significant step on this path. They generally offer little if anything in terms of explanatory notes or reading guides, and make no explicit appeals for Christian commitment.

There are others who argue that this is not a good evangelistic strategy. These people would generally argue that unbelievers cannot and should not try to understand the Bible on their own, but need guidance from others, such as pastors or professors. Although many who argue like this are Protestants who value the inheritance of the Reformation, their arguments often sound remarkably like those of the opponents of the Reformation, and of many Roman Catholics until recently, that the Bible should be handled only by a special class of priests and officially authorised teachers.

Now it is certainly a good thing when a priest, pastor or professor faithfully expounds the Bible. I rejoice that this happens regularly in many (but not all) churches, and in some academic environments. But in other cases these people who are supposed by some to be the gatekeepers for the Bible in fact keep the gate closed for those who hear it, by distorting the teaching of the Bible or by ignoring it.

So I stand with William Tyndale, who famously said to one of those bad gatekeepers

if God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost!

That is, I stand with the doctrine of the perspicuity, or clarity, of Scripture, in other words, that ordinary people can and should be able to understand the basic meaning of the biblical text without having to depend on separate authorities, and without requiring special education. But this post is already rather long, so I will leave a fuller discussion of this doctrine and its implications to part 2.

Enjoying Christian music is not worship

Sam NortonChurch of England rector Sam Norton writes:

it is possible to appreciate religious music (or art or whatever) in such a way as to gain some benefit from it, even spiritual benefit – but this is not the same as worship. I think I would want to describe the difference as being between a consumer of religiously flavoured produce and being engaged in a conversation with something other than our own desires and perspectives. It is the latter that counts as worship, not the former.

Indeed. Perhaps this is the real story behind the controversy last year when Sam “sacked” his choirmaster, which reached the Daily Mail.

It is easy for someone like me to say Amen! to sentiments like this when directed at traditional church music, which is probably what was called “a substitute” for religion by the non-Christian professor Sam quoted. This is surely the kind of music which Sam’s old choir loved to sing, so different from Sam’s preferred Leonard Cohen.

But the same point also needs to be made about modern Christian music. It is easy to attract young people with no church background to Christian concerts and even “worship” services if the style of music and the atmosphere are right – and if enough money has been spent on high-tech audio-visual equipment to give an apparently authentic rock concert or disco experience. But listening to or singing along with such music is in itself no more worship than is listening to or singing along with classical oratorios.

So what should the church do?

First, I would say, it needs to provide an appropriate style of music for its congregation, or for the one it wants to attract. That, I suspect, was the problem Sam had: the music that his 100-strong congregation liked was not appreciated by the rest of his parish’s population of 7000. I’m not sure if they preferred Leonard Cohen! My own current church, Oasis Warrington, is seeking to reach unchurched young people, and so it offers a service with a rock concert atmosphere, and music from Hillsong and Abundant Life. That works in getting a good number of the 200,000 people of Warrington through its doors, but would probably not go down well in Sam’s village.

However, the important part starts once the people are inside the building, and have stayed through the opening musical selection. This is when the message needs to be put across that religion or being a Christian is not just about enjoying the music. That can be done in many ways – even by firing a director of music who has lost the right perspective. But it is probably communicated most clearly in the preaching of the gospel message, without compromise on its content although its form needs to be adapted to the congregation.

Anyone who visits Oasis Warrington to enjoy the music, and perhaps hoping to be moved in a vaguely religious way, will before the end of the meeting be challenged to something quite different, to giving their whole life to Jesus Christ in true sacrificial worship. The same should be true, whatever the style of music, at every church.

First know the Lord, then obey

Thanks to Henry Neufeld for this lovely little quotation from the 4th century Christian leader Athanasius:

[Paul] deemed it necessary to teach first about Christ and the mystery of the incarnation.  Only then did he point to things in their lives that needed to be corrected.  He wanted them first to know the Lord and then to want to do what he told them.  For if you don’t know the one who leads the people in observing God’s commands, you are not very likely to obey them.

Indeed. So how sad that so many Christians seem to focus on telling people they should obey God’s law, especially on issues of sexual morality including abortion, without even telling them how through Jesus Christ they can know him, have a personal relationship with him.

Raised with Christ: Review part 7

This is now part 7 of my review of Adrian Warnock’s book Raised with Christ, which I started herepart 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6.

Chapters 15 and 16, which have been written as one long chapter, are central to the book in that they take it beyond theoretical teaching to show the effect that the resurrection should have on the lives of Christians. Here Adrian teaches that we, his readers, should have a relationship with the risen Jesus, including assurance that God loves us and an experience of the Holy Spirit.

Adrian illustrates this in terms which his intended readership can appreciate, with examples and quotations from older Puritans and from recent Reformed writers. He shows how these people rejected dead orthodoxy and experienced a real relationship with Jesus. He rejoices that

In recent years in many churches there has been a coming together of a love of the Bible and a desire to know God personally. (p.205)

In all this Adrian navigates skilfully through the various controversies connected with the charismatic movement. He avoids one issue:

Unfortunately, over the last few decades the controversy about whether or not the gifts of the Spirit are for today has largely obscured the more fundamental question – are Christians today able to experience a truly personal relationship with Jesus? (p.196, emphasis in the original)

But later on Adrian tackles head on the issue over terms like “baptism with the Holy Spirit”, “sealing with the Spirit” and “receiving the Spirit”, arguing against many conservative evangelicals that all of these refer to an experience which may follow conversion. With the help of quotations from John Piper and Martyn Lloyd-Jones, he thoroughly demolishes the arguments that Christians fully receive the Holy Spirit at conversion and that his primary role is to bring people to faith. Rather, he argues, receiving the Holy Spirit is a conscious experience, and may come after someone starts to believe. He writes that

Jesus died in order that we might taste heaven even here on earth. That is the role of the Spirit when we are aware of him at work in our lives. He is a gift, or foretaste, given to believers until the day comes when we are finally reunited fully with Christ. (p.219)

(Oddly, no mention here that Jesus rose again.) Christians who have received the Spirit

have been given a tangible awareness of God’s love and empowering presence as a reality in their lives. (p.221)

This seems to be what Adrian means by having a relationship with the risen Jesus. He is not denying that

Becoming a Christian is actually a secret act of the Spirit in regenerating us and joining us to Christ and imparting faith to us. … However, … it would be wrong for us to insist that we have experienced the Spirit in all his fullness automatically. (p.223)

He then points out the danger for all believers of thinking that they “got it all” in the past, whether at conversion or at some subsequent experience, with the result that

we miss out on the repeated times of blessing and refreshing that God wants to pour out on us. (pp.223-224)

So, he says, we should ask the Holy Spirit to come on us and fill us.

In the course of his argument Adrian manages to make the same mistake that I pointed out here in a preacher at my own church. He writes:

… faith in God (which from Ephesians 2 we know is itself a work of the Spirit) … (p.215)

No, Adrian, Ephesians 2 does not teach this. That is clear from the Greek, but even your favourite ESV doesn’t actually say quite this. Read what I wrote. Now you may be able to get this teaching from elsewhere in the Bible, perhaps even from Galatians 5:6 which I have been discussing (see the long comment thread), but not from Ephesians 2. This of course illustrates the danger of offering authoritative written teaching without a proper theological education.

In chapter 17 Adrian points out that

We did not accept Jesus to selfishly enjoy all the benefits of salvation. We have a job to do. (p.227)

That job is “Our Mission from the Risen Jesus”. Part of this is described as “to be full of God”:

Many of us seem to show by our conversations that we are more excited about the latest iPhone than we are about Jesus. … As we become excited about Jesus and begin sharing him with others, we will receive still more joy and satisfaction from him. (pp.227-228)

While much of what Adrian writes about mission is standard evangelical material, he does bring in the resurrection:

When called to do so, we can undertake brave projects that are so large, we will need miraculous assistance to complete them. What shall we do that would be impossible if Jesus was not alive? … Because the tomb is empty and Jesus is on the throne, we will also be victorious irrespective of what is happening in today’s world. (p.229)

Adrian then starts to “explore the changes that Jesus’ resurrection can make to our local churches” (p.233): joy in our meetings; love seen by outsiders; works of mercy; and we will no longer be ashamed of the gospel. He closes the chapter with a reminder that it is the risen Jesus who sent us out, who “provides the power we need to equip us for service” (p.235), and has promised to be with us for ever.

Concluded in Part 8.