Jesus is the New Us: Being In Christ

My title probably makes no sense, so I shall move straightaway to explaining it. We are humanity. We are humans. So is Jesus. Jesus is the God-man, both entirely divine and entirely human. He is indeed entirely human.

So what is my point? Jesus is not just any human, but the human. First time around, Adam was the human. He represented all of us, and was deeply connected with each one of us by being the original man from who we all descend. And thus because of his sin, in Adam we all die. Adam’s death is our death, and our death is Adam’s death. In Adam we, humanity, were given dominion over creation, dignity as God’s chief creation, and divine communion with God Himself. Yet Adam forfeit these gifts, and in him we did as well.

Fortunately, God always had a plan. Regardless of Adam’s sin, humanity was truly made for being united with God, and as long as God and man are completely different beings there is no hope of such communion. Therefore we have Jesus. He is God, and He is human. Not only is He human, but He is the human, moreso than even Adam. In fact, Jesus is the most human person that ever lived, because He alone fulfilled God’s will for human existence perfectly. Only Jesus, as a human being, trusted God perfectly, loved His neighbor perfectly, and walked every step perfectly in line with the Father through the Spirit.

Because He was (and is!) the perfect human being, He is able and qualified to head up humanity again in replacement of Adam. He stands before God on behalf of each and every one of us. And thankfully, He stands in a very good standing, in perfect relationship with the Father. The Father loves Him utterly, and He has even as a human loved the Father utterly. There is perfect communion between God and man going on in that relationship, and by grace through faith we ourselves are part of it. We are in Christ, as He personally stands for each and every one of us before the Father. This is no mere legal arrangement, either. We are united with Him on a deep and spiritual level, reaching the core of us, made possible by the indwelling Holy Spirit. So in this context, we all being made new in Christ, we commune with the Father. Moreover, since Jesus has a perfect relationship with the Father, we share in that perfect relationship. It is already accomplished. No chance of it faltering or ending. Any troubles we have connecting with God on earth are just because the reality Christ made for us is still working its way into this fallen world. But we are secure in Christ. For He is the new us, and He is perfect.

I’ll end with John 17 for your contemplation:

Jesus spoke these things, looked up to heaven, and said:

the hour has come.
Glorify Your Son
so that the Son may glorify You,
for You gave Him authority
over all flesh;
so He may give eternal life
to all You have given Him.
This is eternal life:
that they may know You, the only true God,
and the One You have sent—Jesus Christ.
I have glorified You on the earth
by completing the work You gave Me to do.
Now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence
with that glory I had with You
before the world existed.

I have revealed Your name
to the men You gave Me from the world.
They were Yours, You gave them to Me,
and they have kept Your word.
Now they know that all things
You have given to Me are from You,
because the words that You gave Me,
I have given them.
They have received them
and have known for certain
that I came from You.
They have believed that You sent Me.
I pray for them.
I am not praying for the world
but for those You have given Me,
because they are Yours.
Everything I have is Yours,
and everything You have is Mine,
and I have been glorified in them.
I am no longer in the world,
but they are in the world,
and I am coming to You.
Holy Father,
protect them by Your name
that You have given Me,
so that they may be one as We are one.
While I was with them,
I was protecting them by Your name
that You have given Me.
I guarded them and not one of them is lost,
except the son of destruction,
so that the Scripture may be fulfilled.
Now I am coming to You,
and I speak these things in the world
so that they may have My joy completed in them.
I have given them Your word.
The world hated them
because they are not of the world,
as I am not of the world.
I am not praying
that You take them out of the world
but that You protect them from the evil one.
They are not of the world,
as I am not of the world.
Sanctify them by the truth;
Your word is truth.
As You sent Me into the world,
I also have sent them into the world.
I sanctify Myself for them,
so they also may be sanctified by the truth.

I pray not only for these,
but also for those who believe in Me
through their message.
May they all be one,
as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You.
May they also be one in Us,
so the world may believe You sent Me.
I have given them the glory You have given Me.
May they be one as We are one.
I am in them and You are in Me.
May they be made completely one,
so the world may know You have sent Me
and have loved them as You have loved Me.
I desire those You have given Me
to be with Me where I am.
Then they will see My glory,
which You have given Me
because You loved Me before the world’s foundation.
Righteous Father!
The world has not known You.
However, I have known You,
and these have known that You sent Me.
I made Your name known to them
and will make it known,
so the love You have loved Me with
may be in them and I may be in them.

John 17

Jesus is the New Us: Being In Christ

Can Animals Go to Heaven? Fido’s Destiny

Off the top of my head I know my family has killed at least half a dozen dogs. Well, I say “killed,” but it’s really just that our land is cursed with the ability to drastically shorten any animal’s lifespan. Time would be too short to tell of the demise of Jax, Johnny Reb, Sadie, Rascal, and the others, not to mention our cats and their babies. This carries with it a small burden of sadness.

Given that pets are so beloved, and that as Christians we strongly believe that we will be reunited with our loved ones in eternity, it is only natural that people ask if our pets will accompany us. After all, who doesn’t want to console their child (or himself) with the thought that they will see Sparky again? So sometimes people ask, “Can animals go to heaven?”

Now, to our credit not many believers fool around with the idea that our animals will be in heaven like we will. But usually the argument goes something along the lines of “animals don’t have souls.” Even if true (that depends a lot on how you view soul, spirit, and consciousness), this probably isn’t the most relevant line of reasoning. There are two major factors being ignored here which I would like to highlight.

First, we should clarify what we mean by “heaven.” Remember, all, that we often conflate two different concepts when we use that word. Sometimes we mean the intermediate state, our being with God in Christ after our death but before the final resurrection. In this case, we can see clearly that, if an animal doesn’t have a soul, it could not be in “heaven,” because this heaven is (presumably) simply spiritual and the animal is strictly physical. But since that concept of animals is questionable anyway, I want to move on from that point.

We also use “heaven” to refer to the new creation after the Second Coming, when the heavens and the earth are restored, renewed, and perfected. This will be a truly physical place with some continuity between it and our present world. Naturally, there are almost certainly going to be animals there. Indeed, the Biblical descriptions of the Messiah’s kingdom (of which the new earth will be the final fulfillment) often include animals. But will these animals be resurrections of our own? Probably not, though it cannot be ruled out altogether. God is always a gracious and surprising God.

Secondly, we should remember why humans go to heaven and what distinguishes us from animals. The answer to this, most certainly, is Jesus Christ. In Jesus humanity is connected to God. Since He is both God and man, we humans have communion with God through Him. This is the basis for our salvation and for heaven. If we are to be part of heaven, it is because we have been united with the man Jesus, who is essentially united to God, and through whom we can be united to God.

For this reason, animals cannot play the same part in redemption. While it may or may not be that God will physically resurrect our pets as a gift to us in the new earth (this matter is nothing but speculation), we can be sure that animals have no essential communion with God. God did not become an animal. He did not incarnate as a dog, or a cat, or a platypus, or a yeti. There is nothing for the animals like the union between God and humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. Therefore they have no inherent share in eternal life, heaven, or necessarily in the new creation. So when people ask, “Can animals go to heaven?” the answer is, for all intents and purposes, “no.” But that provides quite the in for explaining why and how we can through Jesus Christ.

Let us, therefore, be all the more joyful that out of all creatures, God has made us the objects of His love and brought us into fellowship with Him through His beloved Son. Amen.

Can Animals Go to Heaven? Fido’s Destiny

Zelda and the Outdoors

I stepped outside the other day to go to my car and stopped as I saw the brightness of the world. It occurred to me that “to go” was really the only reason I head outside, at least most of the time. This seemed, and seems today, a bit of a shame. This is what a lot of us do. We use outside as nothing more than a way to get from Building A to Building B, with most of even that trip actually spent inside a car. 

The situation here is quite a shame. Outside is filled with wonders and beauty. Flora and fauna grace hills, fields, mountains, lakes, valleys, and forests. There is fresh air and bright sunlight, all sorts of magnificent things. Outside we can those magical little creeks and pleasant wooded hideouts. Truly, the outdoors make a gift of God to humanity.

This reminds me very much of certain games in The Legend of Zelda franchise, such as The Wind Waker and Skyward Sword in particular. These games have massive overworlds, huge spaces that are used for little but connected the more important areas of the plot. They are also beautifully designed, yet so neglected. It is all to easy to play though these games spending much time passing through the main overworld only to miss all of its riches by treating it like a train. Despite this, there are endless wonders to be found in a Zelda overworld. Hidden places with treasures and quests abound. You never know what you’ll find if you take your time to explore the overworld instead of passing it right on by. Lots of money, health, potions, and other goodies are just waiting for you to stumble upon them and be benefited. So the wise player spends some quality time in the main overworld.

Likewise, the wise man spends some quality time outdoors. He explores the beauties, and he learns that there is always something new to find and be delighted by.

Zelda and the Outdoors

I Don’t Just “Believe the Bible,” And Neither Do You

It is normal and usually well-regarded in evangelical circles for people to say that they simply “believe the Bible.” They’re not this or that, and they don’t follow such or the other philosophy. They just believe God’s Word, and all the people said Amen! Hallelujah! 

Well, as nice as this might sound, it’s not real. No one really just believes the Bible, nor would it be possible to do so. When we come to Scripture, we all bring preexisting logical structures, presuppositions, and other ideas to the text which are not necessarily present within it. This doesn’t necessarily rule out the correctness of our doctrines or interpretations, but it does mean that I am not a neutral, object party taking Scripture for what it says. Instead, my own mental life shapes Scripture.

Need you specific example? Take Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Already, we are affected by our existing ideas. Who is this “God” character? Most of us have a concept of God before we approach Scripture, though we usually allow Scripture to modify this.

But more than that, I want to point out that none of us are really just starting with the Bible on its own because of traditions. I don’t mean this as a necessarily bad thing, but we all understand the Bible through tradition.

“No, Caleb!” you may object. “I do not hold to any traditions, only God’s Word!”

But I do not think that is true. The truth is that, whether you know it or not, you agree with and learn from a particular stream of Christian tradition. Yours might be evangelical Baptist or Pentecostal. Yours might be Lutheran or Catholic. Or perhaps you’re non-denominational. But even in that case you almost certainly follow evangelical tradition and Protestantism. We all inherit our ideas about the Bible from somewhere. No man simply approaches the Bible and figures it all out from there.

The question is not who repudiates the most tradition in favor of Scripture, but which tradition is most faithful to Scripture. To address that issue at all, we must recognize the traditions which have shaped us and in which we get our ideas of Christianity. I know I’m an evangelical, Reformed-ish Protestant. What about you?

P.S. I should specify that I do believe it to be imperative that we make the Bible our ultimate norm and authority as believers. But we don’t approach it just one-on-one, me-to-text. Instead, we come to it as a community of faith with a history of shared spiritual wisdom. That way we find its truth.

I Don’t Just “Believe the Bible,” And Neither Do You

It All Goes Back to Jesus Christ

We are Christians. “Christ” is part of our very name. We are different from Jews because we believe Jesus is the Christ; we are different from Muslims because we believe Christ is God’s Son. So everything must go back to Jesus Christ.

This sounds obvious, but is it? Does all of our theology, all of our practices, all of our lives, find their root explicitly in the divine Son of God?

Think of your answers to the questions of life. Shouldn’t they be like this? “Who is God?” “Jesus.” “What is the meaning of life?” “Jesus.” “How does predestination work?” “Jesus.” While this may be a bit oversimplified, it is meant to make a point.

Jesus is, according to Hebrews 1:2, the final and fullest revelation of God. Any questions we have about God and the world must go through what we know of Jesus Christ. So whatever questions we do ask, they must come back to what God has revealed through His Son, for He is the image of the invisible God, the exact expression of His nature. Beware of interpretations of Biblical texts, explanations of doctrines, and answers to questions that do not trace back to Jesus.

Believe it or not, we do this more often than you would expect. Questions on the problem of evil, free will, eternal security, suffering, and many other subjects are quite often answered with at most passing reference to Jesus, and sometimes without considering Him at all. If you’re skeptical, listen up and read up on some of this. Just keep an ear out, and keep Jesus in mind. Then turn the tables and ask how Jesus is made first in whatever topic.

It All Goes Back to Jesus Christ