Reflections on how Christians help each other to grow and mature in loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love their neighbor as themselves.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

This Great Gift of God

This Great Gift of God
by Steven W. Manskar

This great gift of God, the salvation of our souls, is nothing more or less than the image of God stamped afresh upon our hearts. It is a renewal of believers. The spirit of their mind is conformed to the mind of Christ. … Their hope is that they will see God as God is. It is in this hope that they purify themselves as God is pure. They strive to be holy, as God is holy. They live this out in the way they conduct themselves in the world. It is through the living out of this life, to which God has called them, that they grow and mature in faith and love. In this way they will someday become the people God created them to be. (from A Perfect Love: Understanding John Wesley’s ‘A Plain Account of Christian Perfection’, § 13, page 23)

I think the reason Covenant Discipleship has become so important to my life and ministry is captured in the phrase from John Wesley: “Their hope is that they will see God as God is.” The General Rule of Discipleship and the accountability and support given and received in my Covenant Discipleship group helps me to be mindful of “God as God is.” In other words, the process of mutual accountability and support for witnessing to Jesus Christ in the world and following his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit helps me to walk with the whole Christ and not the Christ that is comfortable. My Covenant Discipleship group helps me to make sure I’m paying attention to all of the teachings of Jesus and not only those that suit my temperament. The group and our covenant keep me mindful of Christ in all of his offices: Prophet, Priest, and King.
One of the common pitfalls of Christian discipleship today is that of claiming and enjoying the promises and benefits of Christ while neglecting his commands. We enjoy the manifold blessings of God’s unconditional acceptance given freely in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Sins are forgiven. Relationship with God is restored. Healing of body, mind, soul, and relationships is experienced. For all these blessings we give thanks and praise for God’s amazing goodness. God is good; all the time!
These blessings are all the work of Christ in his priestly office. Through his work on the cross our sins are forgiven and relationship with God is restored. His love working in, with, and for us heals bodies, minds, spirits, and relationships. By his suffering, death, and resurrection we are given access to health and wholeness. Christ the priest accepts, comforts, and heals us in our brokenness. This is pure gift, offered without price by one who loves unconditionally and completely.
Christ the prophet, on the other hand, speaks the truth in love. In his prophetic office Christ shines the light of God on the reality of the human condition. He awakens us to the broken, sinful nature of the world and ourselves. Christ the prophet shines light on the darkness of the human heart in order to open eyes and hearts not only to individual brokenness but also to the suffering of God’s “little ones”: the poor, the captives, the oppressed, and the prisoners of the world. Because he speaks the truth in love, he does not leave us hopeless. Christ the prophet gives the light of hope with the promise of forgiveness and healing and the invitation to join him in his work of bringing God’s good news of liberation from the powers of sin and death to the world. This is why he tells his disciples, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). If we accept the blessings of God we must also claim the responsibilities of life in God’s household. Christ the prophet lets us know that there is work to do. He invites us to walk and work with him in the world.
Christ is also King: “… and as remaining a King for ever; as giving laws to all whom he has bought with his blood; as restoring those to the image of God whom he had first reinstated in his favour; as reigning in all believing hearts until he has 'subdued all things to himself' (Phil. 3:21); until he hath utterly cast out all sin, and 'brought in everlasting righteousness.' (Sermon 36: The Law Established Through Faith II, §I.6) Christ as ruler leads us into the way of life in the household of God. This is the way of righteousness and justice that is good news for the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind and liberty for the oppressed (Luke 4:18). Christ the king leads us into his way of life; his way of being and acting in the world, which is the way of self-giving, unconditional love. As we follow and obey his commandments (Matthew 22:37-39) our character is conformed to his. And as Christ forms our character through loving obedience to his way in the world, he also heals our brokenness and makes us into whole human beings.
Christ the Prophet gives us the truth and points the way to God, new life, and healing (Luke 1:76-79; 4:18-19). Christ the Priest forgives, comforts, and prays for and with us (Romans 5:8-11; Hebrews 6:20). Christ the King leads us into life and restores us into the fully the human beings God created us to be (Matthew 25:31-46; Philippians 2:5-13; 1 Peter 2:9-13; 1 John 3:2-3).
The General Rule of Discipleship and the discipline of mutual accountability and support in the community of the Covenant Discipleship group work together to help Christians to know and proclaim Christ as he is. In this process of Christian formation the promises and blessings of Christ are experienced deeply. They are received and celebrated with open hands through obedience and service in Christ’s name as disciples witness to Jesus Christ in the world and follow all his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.


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