Going political?

A long time since any posts.  I have felt inexorably drawn into a real interest in the political scene here in the UK and Europe.  In the Christian fellowships I belong to, political involvement is normally frowned upon, and even voting is seen as a “bad thing”.  However, that has never stopped me from being fascinated by politics, especially on election nights when the results come in from around the country with the shifts in voting patterns gradually unfolding the shape of the next government as winning and losing parties and their candidates look on.

There have been two elections recently of a nature that usually attract little attention other than being scanned by political “anoraks” as a snapshot of overall trends between the general elections.  These were the local and European elections both held last Thursday in Britain (the traditional polling day is still in place despite most of the countries in Europe voting the following Sunday, hence having to wait days for the results here).   Even though the turnout may only have increased marginally, the attention on these has sky-rocketed.  These elections mark a significant advance in a new force in UK politics – UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party).  It is the first time since 1906 or 1910 that neither the governing party nor the official opposition has won a national poll.  This development interests me greatly.

My Bible study reveals a clear principle concerning the status of the nation state versus any attempt to develop larger political entities or empires.  For all their failings and reflection of the human condition, the concept of the nation seems to be given a valid status throughout the Scriptures.  All empires and entities that try and subsume nation states, whatever the political expediency may seem to be, are always shown in the Bible narrative to end in even greater disaster than the troubles that confront a world of nation states.  They become a super-highway for channelling the imposition of remote, despotic and corrupt regimes on national groups who are forced to lose their sense of identity, as exemplified from Babel and onwards through Babylon to Rome.

Everyone appreciates that the EEC, later to become the EU, was born out of decades dominated by the terrors of the two world wars.  However, to see it as the continuing guardian and guarantor of what is good for the people of Europe is very short sighted indeed.  From the start, the designers of the project, whilst projecting it as purely an economic zone of free nations, really had the vision of political “ever closer union” into a single state of Europe.  It is clear that the EEC (as it was then) together with the UK political establishment under Heath and Wilson (implicating both the Labour and Conservative parties) basically deceived the people of Britain into accepting and continuing the membership of what they declared categorically to be purely a trading zone.  We are now seeing the real direction of the EU towards a single state, which was already the established aim even back in the 1960′s and 1970′s.

The EU and the Labour and Conservative “modernisers” (as exemplified by Blair with “New Labour” and Cameron who has been trumpeted as the “heir to Blair”) have come together to implement the social and economic values of the EU, and the British people are waking up to the fact that almost all our own traditional values are being overturned and despised.

My analysis is that as a result, both the Labour and Conservative parties are being fractured.  The modernisers in both have been in the ascendancy, and claim the middle ground or the centre.  At best this is a deceitful claim – it is a radical model of social and economic policies of a big government type that is alien to the traditional British ways of life.  Both traditional Labour and Conservatives voters are being alienated from their parties.   They are beginning to see that the modernisers in both are based on the direction of the EU which is the object of much caution and scepticism among many British people.

The modernisers are labelling everyone outside their “big tent” as extremists – even those opposed to such a radical change as the appalling redefinition of marriage, itself obviously widely instigated around Europe at the behest of the EU – whilst ignoring the fact that their allegiance to the EU political project is itself an extreme move to take as far as the general population of Britain is concerned.  The abuse hurled at all who have even hinted that they might vote for UKIP is evidence enough.

But – and here it gets really interesting – what is the reality about the people who are feeling disenfranchised by this EU fawning era dominating both Labour and Conservative direction of travel?  Tribally speaking, they may well come from both the old left and the old right, but these are beginning to be exposed as possibly being moribund distinctions anyway.  The impression (as a political outsider) that I am getting is that these disaffected people with largely traditional cultural and moral values of family and society, may be finding that they have far more in common than anyone realised.  There is a sense of unity and purpose about UKIP that is fascinating as people who thought they should not political friends are coming together with a growing sense of unity.

This may be the true genius of UKIP, and the reason why it will not just be a flash in the pan, and I believe is more likely than not to become a true political force.  For too long, the British political system has led the people to rely on the old mantra that “it’s the economy, stupid” – when politicics is also about all areas of society, family and way of life as well.  This “people’s army” seems to me to be largely made up of decent, honourable people with sound principles and traditional values, and could well become a strong and positive force for good in Britain.  This may be a naive and optimistic (from the point of view of someone with traditional views) but is hereby shared as the explanation of my genuine interest in the British political scene at this time.

I am looking forward to attending my first ever political event on this coming Saturday.  The nearby constituency of Newark has a by-election for the House of Commons in Westminster, and I intend to get a sense of what UKIP really feels like from a first hand perspective.  All I do know from following discussions is that there are many other Christians who are also being encouraged and activated by these developments.

I have certainly been more impressed by the style and content of what I have read of UKIP MEP candidates (many now elected) as opposed to politicians from the establishment apart from a highly respected and esteemed minority left in each party.  For me, it will be a big step to attend a political event, and doing say could no doubt be a great disappointment.  On the other hand, I am wondering whether it may lead to the larger steps of party membership and even political activism.  On my analysis of the rights and wrongs of many important issues, UKIP appears to have a lot going for it.

Watch this space…….

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Testimony of a gospel preacher, 1801

At Cane Ridge, Kentucky, in the last decade of the eighteenth century, the early Presbyterian settlers put up a log building as their Meeting House. In 1801 their minister was Barton Warren Stone (1772-1844).

Relating his own experience he wrote, “About this time my mind was continually tossed on the waves of speculative divinity, the all-engrossing theme of the religious community at that period … I at that time believed, and taught, that mankind were so totally depraved that they could do nothing acceptable to God, till his Spirit, by some physical, almighty and mysterious power, had quickened, enlightened and regenerated the heart, and thus prepared the sinner to believe in Jesus for salvation. I began plainly to see that if God did not perform this regenerating work in all, it must be because he chose to do it for some and not for others, and that thus depended on his own sovereign will and pleasure … this doctrine is inseparably linked with unconditional election and reprobation…. They are virtually one; and this was the reason why I admitted the decrees of election and reprobation, having admitted the doctrine of total depravity. They are inseparable…. Often when I was … persuading the helpless to repent and believe the gospel, my zeal in a moment would be chilled at the contradiction. How can they believe? How can they repent? How can they do impossibilities? How can they be guilty in not doing them? … On a certain evening, when engaged in secret prayer and reading my Bible my mind came unusually filled with comfort and peace. I never recollect of having before experienced such an ardent love and tenderness for all mankind, and such a longing desire for their salvation … for some days and nights I was almost continually praying for the ruined world … I expressed my feelings to a pious person, and rashly remarked, ‘So great is my love for sinners that, had I power, I would save them all.’ The person appeared to be horror-stricken, and remarked, ‘Do you love them more than God does? Why, then, does he not save them? Surely he has almighty power.’ I blushed, was confounded and silent, and quickly retired to the silent woods for meditation and prayer. I asked myself, Does God love the world—the whole world? And has he not almighty power to save? If so, all must be saved, for who can resist his power? … I was firmly convinced that according to Scripture all were not saved; the conclusion, then, was irresistible that God did not love all, and therefore it followed, of course, that the spirit in me, which loved all the world so vehemently, could not be the Spirit of God, but the spirit of delusion…. I prostrated myself before God in prayer, but it was immediately suggested, you are praying in unbelief, and ‘whatsoever is not of faith is sin.’ You must believe or expect no good from the hand of God. But I can not believe; as soon could I make a world. Then you must be damned, for ‘he that believeth not shall be damned.’ But will the Lord condemn me to eternal punishment for not doing an impossibility? So I thought … blasphemy rose in my heart against such a God, and my tongue was tempted to utter it. Sweat profusely poured from the pores of my body, and the fires of hell gat hold on me … in this uncommon state I remained for two or three days. From this state of perplexity I was relieved by the precious word of God. From reading and meditating upon it, I became convinced that God did love the whole world, and that the reason why he did not save all was because of their unbelief; and that the reason why they believed not was not because God did not exert his physical, almighty power in them to make them believe but because they neglected and received not his testimony given in the Word concerning his Son. ‘These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name.’ I saw that the requirement to believe in the Son of God was reasonable, because the testimony given was sufficient to produce faith in the sinner, and the invitations and encouragement of the gospel were sufficient, if believed, to lead him to the Saviour, for the promised Spirit, salvation and eternal life. This glimpse of faith, of truth, was the first divine ray of light that ever led my distressed, perplexed mind from the labyrinth of Calvinism and error, in which I had so long been bewildered. It was that which led me into rich pastures of gospel liberty”.

Extract from “The Pilgrim Church” by E H Broadbent, mainly about individuals and groups often misunderstood or misrepresented by history, from early times of the church to those within the later recognised “reformation” settings and beyond.  An interesting read – available in full for free via the Gutenberg Project.

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Calvinism discussed

Here are two posts contributed to a facebook discussion group I joined some time ago – the “Free Grace – Dispensational Truth” board.  There are some lively and thought provoking contributions.  Mine were posts #273 and #278 in a thread entitled “Is being anti-Calvin (etc) the way to go?”

https://www.facebook.com/groups/12295580323/

#273

Below is a quote from a missionary brother. It’s from the “doctrinal emphases” upheld by the work in which he is engaged, with which I concur. I quote them (with general permission to share them) because they are so succinct and appropriate for this thread.

Salvation is a work wrought entirely by Christ alone through His death and resurrection. It leaves no room for any work of man. Man has been tested in the area of works and is totally unable to contribute any work whatsoever towards salvation, either to obtain or to maintain it. 

Reception of the gift of salvation is by faith. In the clearest of scriptural terms, faith (in the sense of believing the gospel) is not a work, so it is not ability or inability that is in question. The conviction and drawing of the Holy Spirit is vital, but I fail to comprehend any definition or experience of faith that does not involve some real element of the will of the person exercising faith. Saving faith is by no means meritorious, all the merit resides in the Saviour in whom we believe.

Here are the quotes. 

“We hold that God is the supreme authority, in full control of the universe, and that God either decrees or permits all things which happen. We teach that God, in His sovereignty has given man freedom of choice within certain parameters, and that by His foreknowledge, God knows every event that will happen, and every choice that men will 
make, and in His wisdom He uses these as a means to the ultimate fulfilment of His purposes in this universe.”

“We teach that man is born with a sinful disposition, is lost and unable to save himself, but man is both required and able to respond in faith to the gospel to be saved. We affirm that the death of Christ was for the world, and that the offer of salvation is a genuine offer, made to all, and to which all may freely respond. We teach the doctrine of 
eternal security, and that believers can have assurance of salvation by faith.”

If these are consistent with Calvinism, fine (although they seem unlikely to fit with strict Calvinistic understanding) – if not, readers will need to decide which is/are at variance with scripture. If Calvinism is honestly believed not to be fully consistent with scripture, then there are grounds for discussion and debate, which should be carried out in love and respect as befits brothers and sisters in Christ.

#278

In my own understanding, the outline given in my previous post above is something along the lines of what I would expect or hope for from a “free grace” approach (unless I have got the whole concept and intention of the term wrong, which is certainly possible, since I am coming from a background where labels are not held to too tightly). It seems at variance with Calvinist doctrine in several important respects, which reflect upon each and every element of the “tulip” formula. 

There is a distinct understanding of the sovereignty of God, which is exercised only with full regard to all other attributes of God, especially making sovereignty subject to knowledge / foreknowledge and not the other way round. Sovereignty is a derived power requiring a sphere of rule, which does not exist within the Godhead where all the attributes of God coexist in complete integrity and harmony. 

There is a distinct understanding of the reality and place of the will of man in the scheme of things, which seems to better reflect the natural flow of scripture in its discussion of issues concerning the life experience of man in his relationship with God. 

There is a distinct understanding of the scope of the work of Christ on the cross and the reality of the offer of salvation to all, and the love of God towards the world. 

There is a clear teaching that the gift of eternal life is something that can never be lost, thus leading to belief in “eternal security” or “preservation of the saints” rather than “perseverance of the saints”. 

There are various important and meaningful ramifications. Calvinism appears to place an over-dominance on sovereignty in terms of its determinative aspect, rather than allowing God to intervene in the real time experience of man’s affairs as I believe the Bible suggests. One result is that the attributes of God can be distorted, an example being that it tends to make (or at least appears to make, even with the best of good will in trying to understand the Calvinistic viewpoint) God more and more directly responsible for sin and evil. It also creates an imbalance between the righteousness and love of God at the expense of love. Although I can respect the Calvinistic view of sovereignty as a sincere attempt to uphold the truth and magnify the glory of God, it actually distorts and reduces the reality. David Dunlap calls his book discussing these issues “Limiting Omnipotence – the consequences of Calvinism”. 

Calvinism appears to have an unbalanced and inconsistent view on the nature and scope of the will of man. Making the “bondage of the will” so severe that man is unable to exercise faith to believe the gospel is a stumbling block to many, as evidenced by lengthy discussions on the issue. 

The Calvinistic approach leads to a specific understanding of election and predestination which may seem Biblical and God honouring, but in fact goes beyond scripture. They are truths for believers, not explanations of who is saved from among the lost or how the process of salvation from among the lost works. I will later post a link which I have also posted on the “spin off” thread on what I believe to be a phoney debate on so called unelect and elect distinction amongst the lost. 

The early reformers did wonderful things towards returning to Biblical truths. To expect and believe that they fully achieved everything in every area of doctrine and Christian life and experience in one fell swoop is taking things too far. Dispensationalism was a further step in the right direction, but the general overlap or overlay of some of the Calvinistic constraints into the scheme was a defect and not a strength in the view of many. 

Sorry for the length of the post, but the scope of the debate seems to require it. I have no formal training, so please forgive any non-theological language, rather read it as a genuine attempt to put into words the outcome of much thought and prayer.

To conclude the blog post, here is the link to the article on a perspective on the doctrine of election:

http://www.tillhecomes.org/Text%20Sermons/Ephesians/Eph%201%203-4.htm

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Black and white

I bought a second hand book on the spur of the moment the other day, mainly for the atmospheric black and white photography.  Many of the pictures were obviously taken in cloudy conditions, sometimes with mist closing in on the scene.  Colour photography often does not seem to work too well, and it is prompting me to experiment more with black and white images myself, especially as the transformation is so easy to do these days from colour originals.

So here is one from a recent day out, which I much prefer in this crop, and in monochrome.  On Totley Moor above the fringes of Sheffield, with the Peak District hills stretching away to the west in the picture.

Totley Moor, summit scene in black and white

The book also featured historic architecture such as ruins and standing stones – places with an air of mystery – also suited to the style of the photography.  On a day of bright sunshine I visited Southwell Minster and Rufford Abbey, both places featuring stonework in the form of grotesques.  These too work better in black and white.  Just a gentle reminder that neither of these are self-portraits……

Grotesque, Rufford Abbey  (1)

Grotesque, Rufford Abbey (1)

Grotesque, Rufford Abbey (2)

Grotesque, Rufford Abbey (2)

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Stanage Edge

I have not been out and about so much recently, and when I have gone out the camera has not been a top priority.  I have realised that there are pluses and minuses (as with most things) about having the camera as a major factor when out walking.

It has been good to have a few shorter walks completely without the camera, and the experience is different.  It brought back memories of having some of my best thoughts when the mind had more chance to wander.  With the camera (especially for Geograph, when I am trying to get geographically representative shots of each km grid square) quite a lot of attention needs to be paid on all the viewpoints with reference to the map.  It is nice to just wander along and simply experience the landscape.  However, for myself I have realised that the camera really helps to look and appreciate more carefully, and does have the reward of lasting impressions of a day out captured in the form of pictures which I do enjoy looking at.  After the passing of many intervening outings, old pictures still bring back so much detail of those past trips which would long since have got lost in a blur of memory otherwise.

So, on balance, for me, I think it is back to the camera – most of the time at least.  There will always be occasions when a walk needs to be done purely for its own sake, to clear the mind and let go a bit.  But there is a more lasting value in the pictures, which remain meaningful with the passage of time.

The main thing is that, having been out again of a couple of times in quick succession, is how much I have missed the walks and how good it is to be back out in the open.  I think it was done semi-deliberately, just to see how I got on without the more regular country walks.  It may partly be that I do not find the heat of summer (even the low level heat of an English summer) so conducive for walking, but now it is a bit fresher I have a deep-seated urge to be out of doors.  I have realised that I would rather take the trouble to get out in the warmer weather too, if the alternative was to have to give up on opportunities at other times of the year.

This is a roundabout way of saying that I feel the need for the outdoors to have a definite role in my life and work, and need to find a way of achieving this.

My two recent outings have both been to Stanage Edge.  Many trips have been to new territory as I was discovering a  new area of the country.  Now, unless I make a definite plan to go to a new destination, many outings from now on will involve revisiting areas, even though there will always be endless options for the exact choice of routes.

These trips combined elements of mere wandering with a little bit of camera work at times.  The area has been done to my satisfaction for “Geograph” so just a few extra shots of these areas will be added from time to time.  The camera came out as and when inspiration led, which on these days was just for parts of the walks.  It does lead to more patchy results, and I will probably rethink and try to keep the camera reasonably at the ready.

Stanage Edge is a long line of gritstone crags facing out to the west with superb views towards Kinder Scout and the highest parts of the Peak District.  It is well trodden, but on mixed weather weekdays in September proved not to be too busy, either with walkers or climbers.  There are two trig points, one at the southern end at 457m with views over the lanes above Hathersage.  Further north the country becomes more remote, but although it seems quite a bit higher, High Neb is only in fact 458m, but it is the high point for quite a wide area of moorland.  The line of crags, which is generally south-east to north-west, turns almost due north and even a little north-east beyond High Neb.  The prow at Crow Chin is a great spot, with a slightly remote feeling even though within easy reach of civilisation north and south.  The open expanse of moorland to the east is quiet with just a couple of tracks, and I have still to explore some of that landscape.  For now, the edge itself remains a lure to the area, with such a long and easy walk along the breezy rim.  The crags are not high, but there are plenty of short routes for rock climbers, some of which are probably quite challenging.

The first day was windy with sunshine and showers.  The edge is a great place to catch the wind and blow away the cobwebs, and there were a few people around throughout the day. There was a faint rainbow visible for a long time, which was not easy to capture on camera.  Later on the showers became more frequent and heavier, and the light was not quite as interesting as I was hoping for photography.  Most of the shots are from early on in the walk.

View from Stanage Edge on a windy and showery day

Peak District shower

The next two shots show more of the changeable conditions of the day.

Walker by Stanage Edge

Moorland by Stanage Edge, with rainbow

Sadly, the rainbow was never bright enough to capture well on camera, but the low arch over the expanse of moorland with the glimpse of the edge continuing away to north was quite a memorable sight.  The final two pictures of the day capture a bit of the sunshine between the showers.

Sunshine with shower cloud to the south of Stanage Edge

Looking south along the edge with the Long Causeway track

The following day was less windy, though still with a breeze, and more uniformly cloudy.  The rain threatened on and off throughout but never amounted to much.  The temperature gradually rose and the wind eased as a warm front moved over.  Later on a mist thickened with some drizzle – it was lovely and peaceful in the calmer, misty conditions.  Again most of the pictures are from earlier in the day, with most of the camera action in fact around the Burbage brook valley before heading for the edge itself.  It was a great day to watch the slowly changing and developing weather patterns.  There were fewer people around.

Upper Burbage Bridge

Above Burbage Brook

This outing reminded me of the value of taking close up shots of things like vegetation and rocks, something I don’t always think of doing.  For this, the even light of a cloudy day often works much better than bright and sunny conditions.

Rushes near Burbage Brook

A sprig of heather growing in a rock

I then wandered along by the lane – moorland lanes often add interest to a picture.  Further round views open out to the west, where the weather looked more threatening than it turned out to be.

Old post by the moorland lane

Lane by Overstones Farm

There were some lovely moody views of the moorland and the rocks.

Sheep on the grass and view, below the southern end of Stanage Edge

Near the southern trig point, Stanage Edge, with Win Hill in the mist

Next are a couple of picture giving some impression of the edge itself.  It is a long, almost continuous outcrop of millstone grit, up to about 50 or 60 feet high in places.

Looking north by Stanage Edge

A short section of the crags at Stanage Edge

I continued well to the north, beyond the next trig point at High Neb.  It is just the highest point of a large area of moorland, but in fact only 1 metre higher than the southern trig point, at 458m.  Beyond the landscape feels more remote, which I enjoy, my favourite part being around the prow at Crow Chin.  Even so, it is still really an easy walk to roads and civilisation either to the north or the south, though I have yet to approach from the north.  Still the line of crags continues, with another of several opportunities to walk down an easy gap to see them from below.

Gritstone crag at Crow Chin

Detail of rocks near Crow Chin

There is so much detail worth capturing on the camera, as each section of crag is subtly different in character.  The final pictures show one of a perched boulder forming a little window framing a view of the moorland and fields below.

Rocks by Stanage Edge

Peep through a rock framed window, Stanage Edge

It made a change to revisit the same spot on two consecutive days.  They were quite different in character and it confirmed the value of getting to know places properly rather than relying on a single visit.  However, over the last couple of years it has also been great to see so many new places through building up careful coverage of the map (thanks to my interest in Geograph).   Stanage Edge is certainly worthy of its popularity.

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Friday fractals (14)

Here are a couple of images after a long gap with lots of text only posts.

Friday fractal 14.1

Friday fractal 14.2

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Mark’s Gospel – Christ as Servant

This is an outline for one of the keys that helps to understand the fourfold portrait of Christ in the New Testament.  I am attempting to write in more detail, which may eventually be produced as a book and/or an e-book. 

It is of great interest that there should be four short gospel records of the life of the Lord Jesus rather than one long one in our Bibles.  One of the main factors is the authenticity of multiple voices based on eyewitness accounts.  Two or three witnesses are sufficient by scriptural standards, but God is always generous and makes sure there are four Gospel records in testimony to the person and work of Christ.  The Gospels harmonise wonderfully, and yet retain distinct characters of their own based on the author’s purpose in writing.  Being the Bible, the authors were uniquely inspired by the Holy Spirit of God to truly represent in the original languages exactly what God desired to have revealed of His truth.

The New Testament is firmly based on the Old, and this can be seen clearly in the Gospels.  There are many specific Messianic promises that were precisely fulfilled in the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  Matthew especially quotes the scriptures and says exactly how they were fulfilled.  In the Old Testament there are four great statements, each one of which links perfectly to one of the Gospels.  The first we shall look at is the Gospel of Mark, and the statements in Isaiah 42:1 and 52:13 which both read “Behold My Servant”.  There can be no doubt that Mark is the Gospel that portrays Christ as the Servant.

Mark’s Gospel has no genealogy, which is appropriate when the subject is being considered as a servant.  The life of Jesus is seen as a busy life helping people with various needs.  Words like immediately are key – 8 times in chapter one alone (NKJV).  Mark is much the shortest of the gospels, passing quickly from one event to the next in an almost breathless style.  Mark actually records more miracles of healing than any of the other Gospel writers.  Miracles were signs, especially for the Jews, the Jesus had the authority to claim He was the Messiah.  But they were also powerful evidence of His servant character.

A good servant is valued and will earn a high degree of respect and trust from his master.  The best servants will be entrusted with the sort of tasks that mean the master has to take them into his confidence and trust them to carry out important instructions.  When the master is God, and the tasks He has are of the utmost importance, it really elevates the place of a servant to its true level.  The prophecy in Isaiah shows how God had been looking for Israel as a nation to be His servant in the world, being an example to the other nations about how to life godly lives, and being a light to the whole world.  However, they were never able to live up to God’s standard, and the picture gradually shifts to an individual who would fully perform the tasks relevant to being the true Servant of God.

The vital pint is that, first and foremost, Jesus was serving God.  The wonderful thing for us, though, is that people were the objects of that service that God had in mind.  The ministry of teaching and healing show that Jesus was able to meet many needs that people had, but were often able to sort out for themselves or one another.  Just a word or a touch had the power to heal from illness and disease that had gripped the sufferer for long and weary years.  The Lord showed grace and compassion, while never compromising on the truth of God’s holiness.

All this is confirmed in a verse which is widely quoted as a key verse of Mark’s Gospel – 10:45.  It opens with “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve….” before leading on to a whole new dimension in the work that He had come to do.  The teaching and healing were perfect in themselves, fully up to the requirements that God had for His unique servant, but there was a yet greater task in view.  “….and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

The great work that Jesus always had before Him was the greatest task ever given for an individual being to accomplish in the history of the universe.  To put things into context we have already seen how a word or a touch could heal the sick.  Three words found in John’s Gospel were sufficient to raise Lazarus from the dead – “Lazarus, come forth”.  It has been said that if the personal name had been omitted, two words would have been sufficient to raise all the dead since the creation of Adam and Eve.  Speaking of creation (apart from that of Adam and Eve) and all of that was accomplished by the power of the spoken word.  God said, “Let there be light” and there was light – even more concise in the original Hebrew.

This puts the work of Christ in salvation from sin into its proper context.  No mere word could deal with the question of sin as far as the thrice holy God was concerned.  Jesus came firstly to expose the depth and reality of sin in mankind’s experience.   That rightly makes us uncomfortable, especially when viewed against His own perfections and grace, and partly explains the hatred and rejection that came His way.  But the way the God asked His servant to go in order to achieve this work of redemption reveals a much more positive side as well.  It is the complete demonstration of divine love in the giving of itself on behalf of those who had rebelled and were lost.

The cross of Calvary was the place where that great work was accomplished.  The Son of God “bore our sins is His own body on the tree”.  He “who knew no sin was made sin for us”.  Who can tell what it meant for the sinless Son of God to go through such agonies, not only from the hands of men and of Satan, but in the midst of it all to have to cry out “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  It should bow our hearts in appreciation and worship when we consider all that the servant of God was sent to achieve for our benefit and blessing, we being so undeserving of any mercy or grace from God.

The resurrection was the seal from God of a great work completed entirely to His satisfaction.  Salvation can freely be offered to every individual in the world who will come in faith to Christ.  Every aspect of who Christ is and what He does seems to be tied up in the restoring and building of a proper and beautiful relationship between God and mankind, one that mankind had been entirely guilty of breaking in the first place.  We read the Gospel of Mark and see God’s servant at work, setting in place His “qualifications” as Messiah through His perfect life and teaching, and his love towards mankind even when in darkness and need.  We then see how He was willing to become the Sinbearer at a cost we will never know, and an extremity of a task in its scope and depths which makes it far the most significant work of service to God and mankind in the history of the world.

All beautifully laid out in the brief Gospel of Mark in our New Testament scriptures – the Gospel of Christ as Servant.  Read it, look carefully at this portrait of Christ, and trust the message and Christ personally, because you personally were in the mind of God as a potential beneficiary of the work of His servant.  All God requires on our part is a response of repentance and faith, recognising our need of salvation, and that Jesus is the only One who can truly save us, and has done all the work to open up the way for salvation on the cross.

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