Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Christian Believer: Week Thirteen {Savior}

Hallelujah! what a Savior!
Hallelujah! what a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.
["Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners", J. Wilbur Chapman]

The topic of week thirteen was "Jesus Christ: Savior" (The One Who Came to Save).  To be honest, I didn't have a lot of new notes from this lesson.  I think partly it kind of restated some things we had already studied in a different way.  It was a good lesson, but I definitely have less to share.

That particular week I got more than usual out of the video.  First of all, it explained that before Jesus, in Jewish though, a savior was someone who delivered the people from oppression and conquered their enemies.  Jesus not only conquered the worst of all evils, but he created a new community.  Just as sin is not purely individual, salvation has a communal aspect.  The video then discussed how for most Christians our behavior doesn't seem that different from the secular public and we rationalize the commandment to be perfect "as your Heavenly Father is perfect".  It then stated how most the the influential intellectual movements of the past century (Marxism, Freudianism,  Nietzscheism, ect.) are all radically atheistic and interpret absolute claims, truth, beauty and God as "smokescreens behind which privilege and power hide their greedy intent".  The video stated that such criticisms have some truth and that's why we have a need for a Savior. [I'm not sure I agree there.  More thinking required.]  It did say that our sin only has the power God grants it and God's last word on sin is the Savior, Christ.

Finally, the video stated that we should have a "heightened sense of Earthly evils" if we are "truly ruled by the compassion of our crucified Savior".  It went on "Does our confidence that God can redeem the tragedy of human existence lead us to self serving resignation (nothing of final significance can be accomplished, God must do it all) or does it lead to an intense passion for the triumph of God's kingdom, passion so focused on the resurrection that it sees the eternal significance of everything that takes place upon Earth.  Does the salvation in Christ drive Christians to a ceaseless resolve by prayer and service and self sacrifice to manifest that salvation to the world?"  I feel like I've been asking myself that type of question a lot lately.

The workbook talked about how the phrase "Jesus Saves" seems so simplistic for such a broad, important principle. However, "saving is the reason for his birth; the ultimate subject of his teaching, the cause of this death; and his resurrection, finally considered, is the purpose of authenticating his right to be the Savior.  If 'Jesus Saves' seems so terse as to have no dignity, remember that when one needs to be saved, dignity is hardly the issue.  Urgency may well be the primary issue". It then goes on to talk about Mathew 1:20-21, which is where an angel tells Joseph Jesus' name, which is given to him because he "will save his people from their sins".  In Jewish culture, names were very significant and believed both the sound and meaning should reflect the child.

We then read about what seems to be a "disproportionate structure" of the Gospels.  Nearly a third of their content focuses on the death of Christ.  However, the gospel writers understood that Jesus came to die and told his story accordingly.  The book stated that any reading of the Biblical record that ignores this focus is "intellectually irresponsible".

It goes further and says that a martyr's death is a powerful thing and may even bring new levels of commitment from others, but it cannot effect the balance of the spiritual world or the universe.  However, if the one who died is "the firstborn of all creation" (Colosians 1:15) and the one in whom "all things hold together", then the death is cosmic and the "structures of the universe" are shaken.  This is the "power inherent in naming him Savior".

The word "Savior" has no meaning unless we need to be saved and we don't really want to be saved until we come to understand our inability to save ourselves. So a savior is offensive to the "human sense of adequacy". The fact that he saves us by way of dying compounds the offensiveness of the story.  If Jesus had saved by "writing exquisite literature, by mounting a political structure, or by the sheer nobility of his life" the saving would have been more palatable and attractive.

During our group, we mainly focused on discussing the Scripture and we also talked about why it was that the Jews didn't recognize Jesus as the Messiah. 

Lastly, my favorite excerpts from Scripture and the text book readings:

"I know my Redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand upon the Earth." -Job 19:25

"...by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities." -Isaiah 53:11

"...I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." -John 1:10

" I am the good shepherd,  The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep." -John 1:11

"...that being reduced to the measure of our weakness, he might raise us to the measure of his power." -Clement of Alexandria

We have our next meeting tomorrow and I still have one more "catch up" post to do.  I'm going to try to do both of those in the next week.

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