Gospel invitation

As I travel the USA in service to WCG [now GCI] Next (through Generations Ministries and the CAD ministry development team), many express enthusiasm about the WCG's emerging Trinitarian theology. With these expressions often comes requests for a summary of this theology--a summary of the sort that could be used in a brief presentation to others--particularly to non-believers.

In GenMin, we're working on a 'tract' that can be given to interested people. The idea is to have an 'invitation' that briefly, but accurately and meaningfully summarizes the basics. Following is a brief sketch--in this I'm indebted to the writings of Baxter Kruger and other contemporary authors who are informed by Scripture and by the writings of early church theologians who wrestled with these issues and were major contributors to the church's early understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity, which is the very heart of this theology.

I encourage your feedback, additions, corrections to the following sketch:

1. Who is Jesus? This is life's great question for it addresses one that we all ask: Who am I? Jesus is the Son of the Father, the one filled with the Spirit beyond measure, fully God and fully (now glorified) human. Through him we all have been given "participation in the life of God" (2Pet 1.3). You may not know it, but it is true. Just think of all the ways that God's life has been expressed in your life already.

2. This life of God is love...joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, and self-control. It is a shared life of intimacy, freedom, delight, adventure and unbounded creativity.

3. God created you for ONE purpose: To ADOPT you (Eph. 1:4-5), and thus to include you in Jesus' relationship with the heavenly Father. Everything God does within the cosmos, including within your life, serves this purpose. Why? Because he loves you.

4. Jesus' GOOD NEWS: "The kingdom of God has arrived among you" (Mat. 12:28). "The kingdom of God is in your midst" (Luke 17:21). Jesus proclaimed that the eternal life of the Triune God has entered into human existence, transforming it forever. "Adam's one sin brought condemnation upon everyone, but Christ's one act of righteousness makes all people right in God's sight and give them life" (Romans 5:18). God's "eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord [is this]: In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence (Eph. 3:11-12). God's purpose is our adoption. And this purpose has been accomplished! Through his incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension, Jesus has drawn humanity into the inner circle of God's triune fellowship.

That's where you are. And here is what this means for you:

a. You are a FORGIVEN sinner, eternally loved and embraced by the father.
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them (2Cor 5:19).

b. Believe this good news (repent [change your thinking] and have faith)
"By believing you may have life in his name" (John 20:31). "God is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe" (1Tim. 4:10). "'What must we do to do the work God requires'? Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent'" (John 6:28-29). "The message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith" (Heb. 4:2).

c. Through repentance and faith you will begin to participate in the life that has been yours all along in Christ
"This is eternal life; that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (John 17:3).

Eternal life is knowing the Triune God by faith, participating in the life he has given to all humanity by adoption, and in doing so experiencing the love, joy and peace of the Triune Life forever. To not participate is to miss out on the fulness of life that God has for you.

May God help you now to open your eyes--to see yourself as he sees you, to believe the wonderful good news of how he has adopted you and to trust that and begin to experience fully what has been yours all along.

Comments

  1. Greetings!

    And thank you for this inspiring “sketch invitation.”

    But as I read and listen to our discussions about the Triune God, I often feel that we are leaving an unfilled void, which will end up misleading those who respond to the invitation.

    You see, modern Christianity is blatantly and addictively possessed by the law. And my experience has shown me that, while many people are moved by the invitation thrown out there by modern Christianity, these same people soon after get discouraged by and destroyed by that law.

    My point is that if we are to have an invitation, it must have a clear statement as to what is continually expected of Christians. My studies of the New Covenant have shown me that this expectation is really simple, and it is a no law expectation. It is as John says:

    I Jn 3:21-24--Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. (NIV)

    Nothing else, as fantastic as it may seem to us, is required, and the result is overwhelming—meaning Christ in us the hope of glory. In other words, belief in the name of Jesus and love for the brethren get the job done with God--past, present, and future.

    Aloha!

    J. Richard Parker

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  2. Thanks Richard. I agree that an invitation to believe the good news of our adoption in Christ should include the invitation to then take up our cross and follow Jesus who is our life. And his way of living is that of self-giving love.

    To follow Jesus is to believe in him, and in believing to actively participate (share) in his life and love, including his love for the Father, in the Spirit and his love for humankind.

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  3. Ted, may God bless your work on this project. This promises to be a powerful means with which to combat the centuries of twisted teaching that has so permiated today's churches with the outcome that most cannot even see God as He truly is, as He desires to be seen. I have to admit, I am still looking through a glass darkly, but in His love and mercy (and through the dedicated individuals who have shared their journey within this blog, God is revealing Himself to me and helping me to see clearly.

    In this synical world, it is so hard to believe such an incredible truth, and yet this is all we are asked to do. I like the way you have formatted the tract into three steps: Hear/Understand the truth, Accept/Believe the truth, Live/Participate in the truth. Perhaps I would add one final statement in regard to this final point - that of becoming "involved" in a community of believers. Although some would argue the importance of this, it is what God desires for us to do. After all, life in Christ IS life in community!

    It's a small point, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    -Pastor Thom

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  4. Greetings!

    I do appreciate Pastor Thom's observation about being involved in a community of believers. The reason is that the New Covenant writers do champion the idea that Jesus' command to love one another is very important.

    So how do we do this loving? Well, it strikes me that it must be done within the context of a community of believers.

    But there is a risk in being involved in that community. This is because other agendas can be at play in a Christian community besides belief and love.

    So what are we to do? Well, I submit that what is going on in this blog site is an example of what we should be about. You see, we share ourselves warts and all. But if we love each other as Jesus commanded, then the warts and all just are not that important because Jesus is there in the midst of our warts and all.

    In other words, Jesus is the fix if we just believe in His name and love those in whom He lives.

    Aloha!

    J. Richard Parker

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  5. I think you're correct Thom. An invitation to believe and to receive what we have from God in Christ, is also, appropriately, an invitation to participate actively. And to participate in Christ is to participate in his community, the church.

    Scripture knows nothing of "lone ranger" Christ followers.

    We share communion with others because together we are included in the triune, relational "circle" of God's love and life. The Spirit works in and through us to knit us into a loving communion with complementary gifts. Together, but never alone, we are truly the body of Christ on earth.

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  6. Hello Again!

    I feel the need to note an area in this discussion we will need to be cautious about, and it is in our use of the word "participation."

    To believe that we are in union with God due to the fact that we are created and sustained by the Son of God, and now the Son of God as Man, MEANS we and creation have always been participating in the life of God in some way!! Notice this coming out in the Psalmist (ex. Psalm 65 - I especially love verse 11 in the NLT which says "You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.")

    Participation includes participating with knowledge AND ignorance! Even we as Christians are not always sure of how we are participating in the life of God EXCEPT that we know it is fully in Jesus! I do admit it is better to participate with knowledge than with ignorance so that we don't run full off into pride and lies IN OUR PARTICIPATION!!

    There is a trap of separation and legalism waiting to be sprung if we are not careful in how we speak of participation in the life of God! Also, if I am not mistaken, I believe that in the WCG we uphold the view, in the Light of Jesus, that others are in a relationship with God in very meaningful ways that do not include a knowledge of Jesus as we Christians proclaim Him. They may know of God by another name in some other way, and we must leave room for God to operate outside our proverbial boxes, AFTER ALL, we are articulating and seeing expressed in Jesus a union with all things!!

    It doesn't seem that it is God's goal that everyone become Christians, does it? It is His desire that He be known for Who He is, and as we are known, and although Who He is will never be out of step with Who Jesus ultimately is, God may be known in distinct and creative ways that would blow our limited minds!!

    I believe it important to hold fast to our Union and Distinction in Christ without making too much of the distinction as is our habit. Ultimately, we approach a "unbeliever" not with "You need to begin participating..." but with "Look at how you are participating in the Life of God, already, by the grace of the Jesus you do not even believe in!!"

    In fairness to Ted, he actually makes this point in point number 1 of his post, the last sentence!!! Great Job!

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  7. As an aside in this thread, some of you reading this blog might be interested in downloading a summary of Baxter Kruger's book "The Great Dance" - it's now posted at www.christianbooksummaries.com/
    library/v3/cbs0340.pdf

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  8. Tim,

    I appreciate and resonate with your concern not to minimize the truth that all humanity through their inclusion in Christ now participates in his life and love - even when that participation is in ignorance.

    However, I tend to use the word participate in the way several Trinitarian theologians do (including Baxter Kruger) to speak of a new (and growing) participation that accompanies the radical change in thinking Scripture calls repentance and the active trust that it calls faith. These accompany a conscious decision to take up one's cross and follow Jesus. In this way the person enters through the enablement of the Spirit an active and knowledgeable participation in the life they have had (but have not known directly) all along.

    This active participation is the life of discipleship that involves actively and skillfully *sharing* (another word often used to make the same point) in Jesus' rhythms of ministry. And this sharing, to pick up on Thom's question about church participation, leads us to active participation and ministry within the body of Christ, the church.

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  9. It seems to me that part of our conversation is motivated by our fear that if we tell people the truth of their living in and participating in the life of the Triune God that they won't be as enthusiastic about our programs anymore. How can we motivate people to come to church and work hard for the institution unless we tell them that doing so is the sign of their participation in the Son?

    Yet, calling or inviting people to participate raises a dilemma. In essence it causes our gospel message to become "You are participating in the life of Christ! Now get busy participating." People are naturally confused - which is it? Is my life a participation or do I have to go to a certain place and be part of a certain program and do certain works to be a participant?

    I think we need to trust Jesus in people and the work of his Spirit. When we tell them the awesome good news of who they are in Christ and who he is in them there is no need to follow that up with an invitation to action or a call to work. The end of our ignorance about our participation in the Triune Life brings about a greater sharing of that life through family, community, work, friendship, and (yes) church without the need for external motivators like preachers telling us how to respond.

    When my wife throws her arms around me and kisses me I don't need a marriage counselor to tell me how to respond. I know what I want to do and I do it!

    When we share the gospel we are helping people see that Jesus has thrown his arms around them - when they see it and believe it they will know what to do!

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  10. Jonathan writes that "the end of our ignorance about our participation in the Triune Life brings about a greater sharing of that life...without the need for external motivators like preachers telling us how to respond."

    I like his way of speaking of the "greater sharing of that life" that comes to people as they awake to the life they have had all along in union with Jesus.

    I'm wrestling with his main point, which seems to be that "external motivation" must not be a substitute for a real and internal sharing of Jesus' love and life through the Spirit of adoption. Perhaps this point was on the Apostle John's mind when he wrote:

    "I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit - just as it has taught you, remain in him" (1 John 2:26-28).

    I think the point is that there is no substitute for the anointing of the Spirit. But do note that in making this point, the Apostle is providing his own "external" teaching to Christians, urging them on in the faith.

    My point here is that our active sharing with Jesus in his love and life through the Spirit's internal anointing includes the active role of the church in discipling people in the way of Jesus. That discipling (as exampled in the New Testament by the Apostles) includes announcing to non-believers the good news of their adoption in Christ (this is evangelism), and co-ministering with the Spirit in equipping believers for active sharing (participation) in Jesus' life and ministry.

    Paul refers to this equipping role in the ministry of church leaders in Ephesians 4:11-12 where he exhorts them to "equip the saints for their work of ministry." Though this equipping comes from a source outside of the believer, it is in step with the Spirit who indwells both the equipper and the one being equipped. Thus discipleship is not an "external" force of coersion or legalism, but the work of the Spirit who himself gifts the church with the grace of Jesus' love and life in increasing measure.

    We all need help and training from others in how to be effective stewards of this grace. As the Apostle Peter notes, "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms"(1Pet 4:10).

    It's a beautiful thing when we walk together in the flow of the Spirit - sharing more and more together in Jesus' life - helping one another to both identify and grow in the receiving and giving of that life. This is the "body of Christ" at its best.

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  11. Thanks, Ted, for referring us to the summary of Kruger's book "The Great Dance." Here is a great quote from that book:

    "Mistakenly “just human” is our condition today. We are in an identity crisis. We are looking for spiritual substance that the Church is not able to provide~its Jesus is too small. We are like the child at the fair who has lost his parents. All around him is everything a child could dream of~cotton candy, footlong
    hot dogs, games, prizes, and
    rides. Yet, inside he is so scared
    and desperate that he has no freedom to enjoy it."

    Baxter makes the great point here that humanity, even though humanity is now included in the Triune life of God, through Jesus Christ, much of humanity is caught up in a darkness of mind that prevents full participation in that life - basically hiding in the bushes like Adam and Eve ("so scared and desperate that he has no freedom to enjoy it."). He points out the tradgedy that the Church holds out a Jesus that is "too small." I think that is a key point. Jesus is the focus of the Trinty's Great Plan for humanity, before creation, and we must elevate and magnify Him! His is the ONLY name by which we can be saved. We may participate in a limited way in the life of God as a Buddhist or Muslim, but the only full participation in the life God has given us is found in the life lived in the Light of the World, Jesus Christ.

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  12. Good point, Jerome, about limited Vs. full participation. This is a point many miss and some refuse to consider. Reaching out to a higher power is a great first step, but there are many vying for this position in our lives. It is when we help others focus on the one true High Power that the reality we live in (and sometimes try to ignore) begins to make sense.

    Getting back to Pastor Jonathan’s comment about knowing how to respond to a wife’s kiss without a marriage counselor – this is quite true in a balanced relationship. But a lot of damage has been done to “relationship” over the centuries, and nothing will improve unless we encourage people to involve themselves more fully in the relationship we have in Christ. If there is one thing Christ is NOT looking for, it is a lack of active participation. Consider how much of Christ’s admonitions are calls to action!

    If what we are called to is to recognize and accept our place as part of His body, it means that we need to be in close proximity to other parts of the same body. As far as I can tell, this can only happen in community. Pointing individuals toward this reality should magnify, not diminish, Christ. But that means Christ MUST BE THE FOCUS within that community. In such a place, healthy relationships are nurtured and allowed to blossom and, over time, produce fruit.

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  13. Can we REALLY be so confident in our ability to judge whether or not one is participating in Christ in a "limited" way versus a "full" way??? No, we CAN'T have confidence in whether we're participating in a full or limited way, we can only have confidence that Christ is participating fully in the Triune Life of God for us, in our stead, and on our behalf!

    In the Light of Christ we step back from all such abstract judgments and no longer look at anything from a human point of view (2 Cor 5:16), judging all things ONLY in the Light of Jesus and Who we are in Him! I Cor 4:1-5!!!!!!!

    If we believe that all are in Christ then my fellow Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist is included in the Life of God (because he/she is absolutely included in Jesus!). That means that I am in the community of God with them as sure as the God Who is present in all of us, whether I am visiting with these people of other faiths or meeting with the "Christian" Church at a building, work or in play!

    Christ does NOT have to be the focus of a community in order for the members of that community to be relating to God and for God to be present. They are relating to God and he is present because Christ has related them to himself and made God present to them, apart from their work or concious knowledge (there is no more Jew, Greek, Christian :-)! Jesus is not an egomaniac demanding our full attentive thoughts on Himself at all times in community. As He shares His love in and through any one of us, we are only sharing in His unending centeredness on the Father and the community he shares with the Father and the Spirit. This is the truth of all truths whether we think of such a thing or not!!

    Jesus' name is not only the name by which we can be saved, but by which we all have been saved! If there is a Christian distinction we are intent on making, then let it be that we are the people Who faithfully speak the truth of the inclusion and participation of all humanity in the Life of God, in Jesus, come hell or high water, and we aren't the ones so quick to make divisions that are disguised in the Trinitarian language of "distinction".

    I am NOT saying it is not right or proper to have a Christian community and Jesus focus but I am saying it is not fundamentally wrong to not have such a focus in order to relate in His community as His community because HE IS PRESENT in all of us!!

    Again, he is NOT Jesus Light of the Christians only, but Jesus, Light of the World!!!

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  14. Pastor Tim, I think we have to be careful with this statement of yours: "Christ does NOT have to be the focus of a community in order for the members of that community to be relating to God and for God to be present."

    True, every good and perfect gift is from above, so anything good and right and beautiful (parental love of children, enjoying weenie roasts,etc.) in any community is there because of God's presence.
    In addition, we can recognize that this is not God's world yet. It is still under the sway and influence of the evil one. The fruits of his darkness are still present, in many, many tragic ways. And our focus must be on Christ. We are told to fix our eyes on the author and finisher of our faith. The entire Bible references and focuses on Jesus. It is not because Jesus is an egomaniac, it is because Jesus is the connection between humanity and the Triune life of God. We NEED Him, and He knows it. He is the One shepherd of the flock. He is the only true Light in the world. Any other focus, Buddha, Allah, Baal, is a focus on thieves and robbers - agents of the darkness of the evil one. Again, every good and perfect gift is from above, so as people are experiencing and sharing in the truly good things and experiences that only the One true God can give, they are involved in a relationship with that God. Jesus is still returning, visibly. We still await the day when every tear is wiped away and the final enemy, death, is vanquished. We are blessed, as the Body of Christ, to be able to proclaim Him, the one true Light, and what He has done to, and for humanity. If what other communities have already in their relationship with God is sufficient, why have the Church, and why preach the gospel?

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  15. Hey Jerome!

    Somehow you seemed to miss my point brother!

    In agreement with you, and to support your point, I made a statement that said "I am NOT saying it is not right or proper to have a Christian community and Jesus focus but I am saying it is not fundamentally wrong to not have such a focus in order to relate in His community as His community because HE IS PRESENT in all of us!!"

    This world is His community period! We are all adopted in Jesus period! The only chance a person could have of hearing our message about Jesus and receiving that message as truth is because the Jesus that already indwells them is making this union made more known in their already included lives!! (Isn't this awesome??)

    We are NOT telling unbelievers about a Person they do not know! Because they have the Spirit (and they do!), we are making known and bearing witness with their spirit what they already know through the Spirit's sharing of Himself with them! That witness is "You are included and absolutely my brother/sister in Jesus!"

    I think you quoted Dr. Baxter Kruger in supporting some of your thoughts. I personally have talked with Baxter on this issue and have heard him also say that there is not a person who dies that will appear before Jesus and say "Who are you?!", because Jesus is the One they have always known in the Spirit and have been searching for.

    I have also heard him speak about how God can make Himself known outside of Jesus and in ways that we might find puzzling and mysterious! Indeed, this must be true as the Word, Jesus, is the relevant and only True Word being spoken in men's hearts!

    I am not quite sure what you are alluding to when you say that "Any other focus, Buddha, Allah, Baal, is a focus on thieves and robbers - agents of the darkness of the evil one." I made no mention in my comments of gathering around a focus on those idols which really do not exist (I Cor 8:1-6) My point of emphasis was EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE! I was elaborating on the fundamental oneness we have with all people and faiths because of the Jesus that indwells us all!

    I also did NOT say that what other faith communities have in their religion is sufficient (just as I do not believe that any religion is sufficient, including what we call the Christian "religion"). I reasoned from the Christ within all of us being sufficient for us to relate as adopted brothers and sisters despite our religions.

    Interestingly enough, when we come to know Jesus more for Who He really is, it takes us to Him AND everything and everyone else at the same time, because there is no Jesus Who is not in union with all things, and there is no one or thing that is not absolutely included in God in Him.

    So, it is never just "all about Jesus!" It is about all of us in Jesus, and when we see Him properly, we see that!!! God has chosen not to be God without us, and roughly 2000 years ago, He made that a doubly reinforcing Reality!!

    When our eyes are truly focused on Jesus, they are at once on everything else at the same time!!!

    This is why Jesus preaches and proclaims the Good News within the Christian community!! We are a special community within His larger community! He is bearing witness with in the Spirit, to creation and our human spirit, that we are the Sons of God and adopted in God's very own Relationship!!

    God continue to help us see and believe that this is NOT the world of the Evil one, but God's!!! All evil and sin have been absolutely and finally overcome in the Person of Jesus, Who has visibly returned already and has been victorious!!!! Our problems lie in not believing the witness of that fact and reality!!!

    Hallelujah!!!

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