Saturday, July 29, 2017

Reading “A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel”, by Bradley Jersak

JersakFor the rest of July and August I will be reading through, for my New Testament devotions, A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel, by Bradley Jersak. His main point in the book is, "God is like Jesus. Exactly like Jesus" and we must interpret the revelation of God throughout the entire Bible through the lens of the ultimate revelation of God in Jesus Christ. I am posting from my reading in New Testament theologies and devotionals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

In chapter 1 Jersak answers the question, What is God Really Like? with "He is exactly like Jesus." This has to be the ultimate answer to the question because Jesus is the final and full revelation of who God is. All of us have filtered our understanding of who God is with preconceived ideas and we often read these ideas into the Biblical revelation. A serious reading of scripture should be a long constant process of tearing down these false images of God and a rebuilding, guided by the Spirit, of a view of God based on the revelation through Jesus. A serious reading of scripture means letting the whole Bible speak to us with its seeming contradictions (A God who is both near and far from us would be one example), multi-faceted descriptions of God (a warrior and yet a gentle mother), weird and hard to explain passages ("texts of terror," supernatural warfare, slavery etc.), but making the revelation of Jesus the driving interpretive key to our understanding of God in all these passages. After all, that is how Jesus instructs us to interpret all scripture (Luke 24.44-45). 

My point here is that those of us who claim to believe in ‘the God of the Bible’ must become more aware of how we read the text through thick lenses of our own unconscious biases. From these distorting filters we are prone to construct idols of God in our own image. 4-5

I’ve come to believe that Jesus alone is perfect theology. When I say that God is exactly like Jesus, I don’t mean we can reduce all that God is to a first century Jewish male. Nor would we claim anyone who encountered Jesus Christ could know all there is to know about God in his transcendent essence. But as we’ll see, Jesus Christ is the perfected and perfect revelation of the nature of God because he is God. There is no revelation apart from him. 9-10

Jesus showed us this supernaturally safe, welcoming Father-love, extended to very messy people before they repented and before they had faith. Or better, he was actually redefining repentance and faith as simply coming to him, baggage and all, to taste his goodness and mercy. 22 

In chapter 2, "Un-Christlike Images of God, Jersak looks at some unbiblical images of God that we humans create. We have a need to worship hard-wired into us in creation. The problem is that we have a tendency to create a god in our own image that corresponds to how we see ourselves in our own culture or family. We create a god that is a "doting grandpa," "a punitive judge," "a deadbeat dad," or a "Santa Claus blend." The antidote is to take a long look at the Jesus of the gospels who loves, seeks and saves sinners. We must view God and the revelation of God in scripture through this hermeneutical lens. 

We can start with a sober awareness of how we obscure God with our own ideas and ideologies. We can recognize our vulnerability to worn out superstitions and hidden agendas. But instead of purging ourselves with the saltwater of scorn, we could cleanse our palates with the living water of Truth. 31

I’ve seen God faithfully answer this prayer, whether in an instant or through a process, for all who are willing to open themselves to God’s love. They come to know God as a continually present, intimately close Parent—neither silent nor distant, regardless of their performance. 40 

Jesus does not come to announce condemnation from the Father, nor even to save us from the condemnation of the Father, but rather to reveal the love of the Father for those already perishing and suffering condemnation. Instead of a punishing Judge, the Father of Jesus waits on, watches for and then runs to those who’ve come to the end of themselves. 45

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