Archive for the ‘Irenaeus’ Tag

Jesus and the Naked Grape

Well a couple of months ago my wife Davina asked me to stop in at the market to pick up a few items for a spaghetti squash dish that she makes. (It’s quite good) On the list of  items for the recipe was a bottle of dry white wine. So as I left my last visit for the day I stopped by one of the many grocers  near our home. Working my way down the list I got the crushed red tomatoes, spaghetti squash, and the dry white wine. Well truth is I did not care if it was a dry wine or not because I found a brand of white wine called The Naked Grape. “Awesome!” I thought, “This is a two-for, I get the wine and I get to come in the house and see my wife and daughters’ reaction to the label on this bottle.” I just knew it would be fun and went on my merry way to the checkout. Well I thought my way would be merry but I had forgotten that I was wearing a T-shirt designed by my friend Lance McKinnon that says JESUS. I really had not even thought about the T-shirt until I got in the speedy check-out lane. While in the line I was just in front of a Caucasian woman in her 50’s and just behind her was an elderly African-American woman in one of those slick little shopping go-karts. As I placed the wine on the conveyor the lady just behind me stated quite loudly, “Oh, I see, a Jesus T-shirt AND a bottle of wine.” I did not know what to do except smile sheepishly when all of the sudden a graveled voice from the scooter-cart said, “Well the Bible doesn’t say drinking is a sin but judging people is!” You could have heard a pin drop. I laughed nervously, took my receipt and goods, and left as fast as I could. On the drive home a slew of questions came to mind. If Jesus had invited me to the wedding at Cana would I have been too embarrassed to go knowing that he might associate himself with wine? Why was I so embarrassed by that situation? What was the big deal about having my Jesus T-shirt on and buying a bottle of wine -and a bottle of Naked Grape to boot? Why has the Christian church that I love and have pledged my life to serve shamed us into thinking we can’t be free? Have we been duped by religiosity so much that we cannot enjoy the world and all the good things the Blessed Trinity has given us? We were not created for religion. You see, the Father, Son, and Spirit created us to share in Their life of love and fellowship. The Good Shepherd said in John 10:10 that he came so we might have life and have it fully! When Jesus said ‘life’ he could have chosen a few different words in the language of the day. He could have said the word that means biological life, he could have used the word for soul, but instead he chose the word that means ‘spiritual’ life. Jesus was referring to the life he has shared with His Father in the communion of the Holy Spirit from all eternity. It is into the very Triune life of God that we have been included. This is huge! Jesus has set us free for freedom’s sake! (Gal. 5:1) And Jesus has given us spaghetti squash, wives, husbands, children, homes, football, tennis, swimming, summer camp, music and dancing, and a whole host of blessings we could never list in one blog and yes Jesus has even given us wine! The religion under which we suffer from time to time only hurts because it runs against the grain of our inclusion in the Triune life of love, freedom, sharing, giving, laughter, joy, other-centeredness, dancing, and every other good thing we can imagine and a million more we can’t even dream. It was Irenaeus who said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” I believe he was right! It’s past 8 PM now and I must go -there is a dram of Single Malt calling my name! Cheers!

~ Bill Winn

How We Bring Real Glory to God

The glory of God is man fully alive ~ St. Irenaeus

                The 1981 movie Chariots of Fire tells the true story of two British track athletes, one Jewish and one Christian, competing in the 1924 Olympics.  One of my favorite lines from this movie comes from the Christian athlete, Eric Liddell, when he is trying to explain to his sister why he has to run:  “I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure”  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGc9pWan-FY&feature=related).

His sister was concerned that Eric was forsaking his true purpose, that of being a missionary, for running.  Her perception seemed to be that to please God, a person must be serving God as a pastor or as a missionary.  This limited view of what pleases God is more commonplace than we might think.  What if God was truly pleased just by you being you, and more importantly, by you enjoying what you love to do?

If the Father, Son, and Spirit created us for relationship, because they wanted to share their joys and their love with us, why would they restrict what pleases them to two occupations or to work done at a church?  That seems to leave a lot of us excluded.

Since Jesus Christ came to include us by taking on our humanity, it makes sense that the attributes and skills which make us happy also make the Triune God happy.  Someone might not consider running a spiritual calling, but Eric Liddell saw it as such.  Anything that you love to do, whatever you lose yourself in, that makes you happy, also brings glory to the Triune God who created you.  Whether it is music, art, farming, gardening, or cooking, whenever you feel intense joy during an activity, it is simply the pleasure of the Father, Son, and Spirit as they enjoy it with you.  As Eric Liddell said, “…when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

For me personally, I feel God’s pleasure when I teach.  The joy I feel when a student does well (whether it’s my own child or a college student) is the joy of the Father, Son, and Spirit as they take pleasure in me being the person they created me to be.  I recognize the Triune God’s presence with me as I am utilizing the skills and attributes that are a part of me.

As St. Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is man fully alive,” and it’s when we’re being our most authentic selves that we experience the fullness of living out our humanity as it was meant to be expressed.  We don’t have to be a pastor or do work at a church to bring glory to God.  Like Eric Liddell, whenever you are doing something where you feel His pleasure, you are living your humanity to its fullest and bringing glory to the Triune God.

           ~by Nan Kuhlman

Happy St. Irenaeus’ Day!

Today is the feast day of St. Irenaeus of Lyons. His careful and passionate explanation of the gospel is enormously helpful in understanding what the Bible means when it says that Christ has made all people right with God (Rom. 5:18.)

As you may know, the life of a saint is celebrated on the day of his or her death, not the day of their birth, because the day he died is the day he was born into eternal life. So, today is the traditional date given for Irenaeus’ death by the Catholic and Anglican churches. The Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate him on August 23.

Irenaeus was bishop of Lyons, France, around 180-200 A.D. He wrote several books, only two of which have survived to this day intact: Against Heresies and The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching.

Against Heresies is the longer, more famous and more entertaining of the two. In it he defends and explains the gospel by contrasting the teaching that the Church had received from the apostles with the heretical ideas running rampant in some Christian circles at the time. In one of my favorite parts of the book Irenaeus addresses the question of whether Adam is saved. He says:

. . . inasmuch as humanity is saved, it is fitting that he who was created the original human should be saved. For it is too absurd to maintain that he who was so deeply injured by the enemy, and was the first to suffer captivity, was not rescued by Him who conquered the enemy, but that his children were — those whom he had begotten in the same captivity. Neither would the enemy appear to be as yet conquered, if the old spoils remained with him. ~ Against All Heresies, Book 3, Chap. 23, Para. 2 .

There are two aspects of this statement that hit me like a ton of bricks when I first read it:

The Resurrected Christ lifts Adam and Eve, and thus humanity, from the grave.

1. He believes that the teaching of the apostles is the salvation of humanity in Christ. The gospel is not a message about how some lucky few have been elected for salvation or how some lucky few can save themselves by their faith. It is a declaration of the deliverance of humanity from captivity in Jesus the Redeemer (cf. Rom. 5:18, Col. 1:19-20.)

2. His primary image of Christ’s work does not involve God beating Jesus to death instead of beating us to death. His primary image is of Jesus defeating Satan our enemy and rescuing us from captivity (cf. Col. 2:15, Heb. 2:14-15.)

These two realities hit me like a ton of bricks because I realized that no one in modern, American Evangelicalism talks this way about Christ and the gospel. How many sermons have you ever heard that explain Christ’s saving work as a victorious triumph over Satan, sin and death? Or how many sermons have you heard about how Adam and all his descendants have been saved in Jesus? I had never heard or preached such a sermon until about six years ago. Now, if you come to one of the churches I pastor, that is all you will hear!

And, by the way, Irenaeus was not a universalist. He understands that all humanity has been adopted into the life of the Trinity and saved from the devil, but that doesn’t mean that all humanity believes this truth about themselves. In our distinction we can still choose to believe the enemy’s lie that we are his captives, even when the truth is that Jesus has rescued us all.

Here is my prayer of thanksgiving for Irenaeus:

Loving Father, thank you for rescuing Adam and all his children from death and captivity through your Son Jesus Christ, the last and greatest Adam. Jesus, we thank you for the lives of all those faithful ministers of the gospel who have gone before us and handed on to us the teaching of the apostles and the words of the Bible. We especially thank you for pouring out the Holy Spirit on Irenaeus so that he could work with you to preserve the light of the truth in the midst of dark times. May we also walk in step with you, Holy Spirit, and be able to stand firmly for the good news of humanity’s redemption as Irenaeus did. In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

~ Jonathan Stepp

The Salvation of Adam

This is one of my favorite quotes from the writings of the Church Fathers.

It comes from Irenaeus of Lyon’s discussion of the question of whether Adam is saved:

. . . inasmuch as humanity is saved, it is fitting that he who was created the original human should be saved. For it is too absurd to maintain that he who was so deeply injured by the enemy, and was the first to suffer captivity, was not rescued by Him who conquered the enemy, but that his children were — those whom he had begotten in the same captivity. Neither would the enemy appear to be as yet conquered, if the old spoils remained with him. ~ Against All Heresies, Book 3, Chap. 23, Para. 2 .

This is one of my favorite quotes because it is radically different from what you usually hear modern, American, evangelical preachers of the gospel say.

I think most of us, if asked, wouldn’t know how to answer the question “is Adam saved?” But to Irenaeus it is a no-brainer. He says “it’s absurd to think that Jesus would save the human race and not save the father of the human race!”

How many contemporary preachers do you know who begin their gospel thinking on the premise that the human race has been saved in Jesus? No too many, I think.

Is Irenaeus, then, a universalist? No – he understands that all humanity has been adopted into the life of the Trinity and saved from the devil, but that doesn’t mean that all humanity believes this truth about themselves. In our distinction we can still choose to believe the enemy’s lie that we are his captives, even when the truth is that Jesus has rescued us all.

But the starting point of the gospel – in the Bible and in this quote from Irenaeus – is not what we believe about ourselves but rather what is actually true about us. And what is actually true is this: we have all been adopted and rescued in the humanity of Jesus.

Thank you Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit!

~ Jonathan Stepp

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