Tuesday, December 1, 2020

What Is The Tragedy Of God?

Last week the calendar popped up my favorite Oswald Chambers entry. It's titled, The Focal Point of Spiritual Power. Here's how it opens.

If you want to know the power of God (that is, the resurrection life of Jesus) in your human flesh, you must dwell on the tragedy of God. Break away from your personal concern over your own spiritual condition, and with a completely open spirit consider the tragedy of God.
These two sentences go against the bulk of contemporary Christian teaching in two fundamental ways.

Tragedy Over Triumph

Firstly, when was the last time someone told you to focus on the tragedy of God? We hear much more about the victory of Christ. To be sure, we need the good news that Jesus overcame the world and defeated the power of death. Let's not, however, neglect that Jesus defeated death by his own death, and that death was a tragedy because the One without sin was made to be sin.

When we neglect the tragedy of God to focus only on the victory, we also focus on claiming that victory as our own. I'm not arguing against that. I'm only saying we must remember its starting point. Failing to do so leads us to seeking our own overcoming of the world, and that brings us to the second distinction.

His Wholeness Over My Holiness

"Break away from your personal concern over your own spiritual condition . . ." What?! This instruction alone cuts through so much of the self-help rhetoric that masquerades as Christian teaching. It's not all about me and my goals and my self-esteem and my serving? Here's how Chambers answers that question.

The effect of the Cross is salvation, sanctification, healing, etc., but we are not to preach any of these. We are to preach “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). The proclaiming of Jesus will do its own work.

Do we believe the proclaiming of Jesus will do its own work? Is that biblical? Consider Isaiah 55:10–11.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

When we give people tips for better living, they have to go out and do the work of making those ideas real in their lives. When we proclaim Jesus Christ and him crucified, the Word of the Lord will do its own work.

Proclamation Over Proficiency

Let's take the Lord at his word that his Word—namely, the proclamation of his tragedy in the death of Jesus—will accomplish his purpose. Let's be careful that the teachers we allow to speak into our lives are preaching Christ crucifiednot primarily to help us be better spouses, fathers, mothers, children, employees, employers, or even better Christians, but to the glory of the One who made Jesus to be sin for our sake, and then raised him from the dead.


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