A More Christlike God

jersakI’m kicking of this series of posts with a review of A More Christlike God by Brad Jersak. If I were to recommend just one of these books, this would be it. I was immersed in a legal model of salvation from an early age but have done some serious questioning about this in recent years. Jersak articulates much of what I have come to believe.

What if we conceived of God as completely Christlike: the perfect Incarnation of self-giving, radically forgiving, co-suffering love? What if God has always been and forever will be ‘cruciform’ (cross-shaped) in his character and actions?

‘God is like Jesus’ is the simple thesis of this book. Jersak contends that the statement ‘The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being’ (Hebrews 1:3) is actually true. Few Christians would disagree. But many beliefs and whole systems of theology held by Christians are actually the antithesis of this statement, and lead to many harmful beliefs and practices.

Jersak begins by discussing ‘What is God really like?’ and examines several un-Christlike images of God, for example, the doting grandfather, the ‘deadbeat’ dad, the punitive judge, and Santa Claus. He examines the fundamental nature of God and concludes he is a God of Love not a God of Will, that is, the will of God does not make a thing loving, rather the love of God finds expression in his will.

Jersak goes on to explore the Word made Flesh, God as revealed in Jesus. He argues that the cross is the ultimate revelation of the love of God. This was not a legal transaction but the self-emptying love of God, absorbing all the sin, hurt and brokenness of humanity. The cross did not pit the Father against the Son, but ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself’ (2 Cor 5:19).

This leads to a conclusion which may be disturbing for some, that where God is portrayed as acting in a way (or sanctioning actions) which Jesus clearly taught or showed were unloving, then this portrayal of God cannot be true. It is God incarnated in the person of Jesus that is the true revelation, not the scriptures whose whole purpose is to point us to Christ.

This ‘unwrathing’ of the cross leads into an unwrathing of God. Jersak dismantles models of atonement and salvation which are characterised by an angry or wrathful God intent on punishing sin, arguing instead that God’s heart from the beginning of the human story has always been to save, to heal and to restore. This all leads to a more ‘Beautiful Gospel’; one that is truly good news for all of humanity, not merely for an elect few. God has not turned his face from sinners, but has come to us in human form and taken on all our sin, suffering and even death itself, in order to restore humanity to loving fellowship with him.

Jersak has succeeded in producing a very readable book which is both thought-provoking and inspiring. I highly recommend it. It might just change the way you think about God,

Brad Jersak is an author and teacher based in Abbotsford, BC, where he attends Fresh Wind Christian Fellowship and serves as Reader at All Saints of North America (Orthodox) Monastery. You can read more about him at his website www.bradjersak.comA More Christlike God is independently published on CreateSpace and is available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.

Compassionate God

Compassionate God,
as you know each star you have created,
so you know the secrets of every heart;
in your loving mercy bring to your table all who are fearful and broken,
all who are needy wounded and needy,
that our hungers may be satisfied in the city of your peace;
through Christ who is our peace.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forever.

Amen

From: Common Worship: Daily Prayer (2005), Church of England

Dreams

Trust in dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity. Khalil Gibran

How often do you hear the phrase ‘living the dream’? While often used of those enjoying a lavish lifestyle, the idea that it is only a lucky few who can live their dream is the obvious implication. How many of us had dreams as children only to put them aside as adulthood approached? Or perhaps for some of us the need to be sensible and responsible was acquired at an early age. Life is a serious business, and accidents are lurking at every corner; we must be cautious, be sensible, plan ahead, sacrifice, save, otherwise who knows what disaster will befall?

Dreaming is dangerous, dreaming is reckless, dreaming is irresponsible. Dreaming will fritter away your future and your life. Action is the thing; sensible considered action. Stop dreaming and do! We have become so cautious we are afraid of our own dreams!

Nevertheless, dreams are dangerous. Dreams will disrupt your comfort, challenge the status quo, insist there is something better. Dreams of wealth and comfort are not dreams but escapism. True dreams disturb and disrupt. Dreams will challenge those around you. Dreams will make you restless, a traveler and a pilgrim. So dreaming is a risk, we must dare to dream.

But what is life without a dream? Where would we be without the dreamers, the poets, the artists? Surely everyone has a dream, perhaps forgotten or buried but a dream nevertheless! What if your dream was not foolishness but a signpost to your future? Some sacrifice their dreams to a higher cause, to serve the purposes of their God instead. But what if your ability to dream is from God? What if your dream is part of a bigger dream, of The Dream from which the whole universe flows?

Yet dreams are fragile things. Dreams must be nurtured and fed. Dreams can be injured and even killed. Dreams can be crushed or starved into a mere shadow. But dreams can also be revived. Even dead dreams can live. So feed your dreams, nurture them, feed them, water them; think them, speak them, pray them.

And practically, find someone who shares your dream, talk and walk your dreams with them. Together you can live your dreams.

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

William Butler Yeats 1899
(He wishes for the clothes of heaven)

Breaking of Bread

He walked all afternoon out the dry hot rod toward Cuatro Cienagas. No one he met passed without speaking. He walked along past fields where men and women were hoeing the earth and those at work by the roadside would stop and nod to him and say how good the day was and he would agree with all they said. In the evening he took his supper with workers in their camp, five or six families seated together at a table made of cut poles bound with hemp twine. The table was pitched under a canvas fly and the evening sun resolved within the place beneath a deep orange light where the seams and stitching passed in shadow over their faces and their clothes as they moved. The girls set out the dishes on little pallets made from the ends of crates that nothing overbalance on the uneven surface of the table and an old man at the farthest end of the table prayed for them all. He asked that God remember those that had died and he asked that the living gathered together here remember that the corn grows only by the will of God and beyond that will there is neither corn nor growing nor light nor air nor rain nor anything at all save only darkness.  Then they ate. 

From ‘The Crossing’ by Cormack McCarthy

Psalm 104 says that God has given us

…wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart. 

We have come together, to share a meal together. Just as Jesus shared his last meal before his death with his disciples so we as his disciples share a meal together. And because of his death and resurrection he is here too. 

Like the old man in the story we recognise that God is in everything that we can see or feel, and without his will and presence there is only darkness. God is present in the air we breathe, in the sunshine, in the rain we feel on our faces, in the stranger we sit next to on the bus, in our colleagues at work or college, and in one another. 

And because God is present everywhere he is also present here and present in this bread and in this wine. 

Martin Luther said that although God is present everywhere, he is not visible everywhere.  

In some places God appears hidden, or we do not perceive him. 

But in this meal we see God revealed. 

We see the love of Jesus, self-sacrificing and overcoming. 

We see his victory over sin, disease and death. 

We see his glorious resurrection. 

We see his redeeming work, that has rescued us from death and brought us into life. 

And we see ourselves, once separated from God and from each other, but now bound up together in life-giving and life-sustaining fellowship with him. 

The bread and wine we share represent a meal. This is ordinary bread and ordinary wine. Yet if we can see it, there is more going on, a deeper reality. 

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10.16:

Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf

We have all eaten the bread of life, that is, Jesus who declared:

I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 

We have feasted on Jesus and he has become part of us, we are in him and he is in us. 

And today as we share this meal, we recognise the presence of Jesus in one another and we feed once again on Jesus. 

I invite you all to come. The only qualification is that you know you need Jesus and that without his presence all is darkness. 

Come and and freely enjoy his gift of grace. Enjoy his forgiveness and grace. Let go of your burdens and feast on him. 

The wine of God will make your heart glad, the bread of life will strengthen your heart, and the anointing of his Spirit will fill you with his radiance and glory.