Keeping it simple! – Stuart Johnson

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Though many of us think about the finer details of the gospel, the message itself is far more simple than what is contained in all the theological books.  There is the risk of over complicating what is purely an encounter of persons ie the Person of God who fellowships with ordinary human beings.  When we become aware of the reality of the One behind all things, Jesus Christ. who has actually set up His home in us, this simple but beautiful revelation can easily become overshadowed by the overwhelming amount of resources telling us what we should and should not know.  You see, theology can be as complex as we want it to be.  It is for the small group of people who have the time and patience as well as the training who can walk through complex theological issues.  How important is it for people to know the epistemological relevance of the homoousion?  Most people do not have the time and neither do they think it important to know such things.  Thus our conversations might be better served if we are able to communicate with the majority in much more simple terms.

Have you ever been in a situation when someone is talking about you to others right in front of you?  They may say things to someone else, right in front of you, that might be misguided conclusions of who you are, what you do and the reasons why you do them.  I have been caught in these awkward situations where I want to spare them the embarrassment and just let them go on talking.  I know who I am and if people misunderstand me, it is sometimes best just to let it go for the sake of relationship.  I am sure this is how Jesus feels when we try to explain to others who He is and what He has done.  We create situations where we prefer to talk about Him rather than to Him.  We have the tendency to want people to talk to us, where we can only talk about Jesus Christ, rather than have them talk to Jesus Christ who is in them.  The foundation of our Christian walk begins with the eternal truth of Christ in me.  Theology should be simple enough to help us to have the Son revealed in me so that we can learn to learn from Him and know Him for ourselves.  This is what happened to Paul:

Galatians 1:15-17

But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.

To know Him and to know that He knows us is the greatest privilege the Father has bestowed upon us in Jesus Christ.  Theology is helpful to reaffirm and to reassure us of who we are in Jesus Christ and how we share in His union to the Father.  However, if all we know is we are in Jesus Christ in the bosom of the Father, knowing just this means the Father is absolutely delighted with us.  Deep within our soul underneath all our darkness and brokenness is the voice of the Father speaking to us, “You are my beloved child in whom my soul delights.  I am well pleased with you.”  All that is required of us is to respond, “Abba Father!”  We engage with Him then we know we are in the Father, Son and Spirit and we are one as they are one.  This voice of affirmation and assurance is calling out within every human being on this planet.  Therefore we, like John the Baptist, point to Christ in them in the hope they will hear what we hear and believe the Father has sent Him.

John 17:20-21;

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

I have had many influences over the years since I first believed.  The first ones to play an influential part of my journey into Trinitarian theology was Bruce Wauchope and Baxter Kruger.  If you have yet to hear them teach, seek them out on Youtube and hear the wonderful simplicity they have in their message.  Here is the thing.  If I said that I follow Baxter Kruger, Baxter Kruger would be very disappointed.  Bruce Wauchope has had an enormous influence on my journey.  He introduced me to Baxter Kruger on his first visit to Australia in late 1998. But if I was to say I follow Bruce Wauchope, he would be very disappointed.  If Tom Torrance was alive and I said I follow Tom Torrance, he would be very disappointed as would Karl Barth if I was to say I follow him.  John the Baptist was considered the greatest of all prophets. None of us are greater than him.  I believe the reason Jesus Christ singled him out as the greatest is because John the Baptist singled Jesus out as the promised Messiah.  If we are in the business of preaching and teaching we do so like John the Baptist and point people to Jesus Christ.  Kruger, Wauchope, Torrance and Barth all point to Jesus Christ.  More importantly we point people to, Christ in us!  The reason I admire such people as I have mentioned amongst the many more out there too numerous to mention is they have pointed to Christ in me.  As I grappled with this reality, I started to see it for myself that what they were saying so succinctly is also so very true.

Our journey begins with Christ in me.  Our struggle is to try and have a relationship with the One who is so deep within our soul and abide in Him.  There are many pressures out there to conform to a certain standard of abiding.  Some might say, “If you abide in Christ then this is what you will do, this is what it will look like.”  If we are saying, “love one another just as I have loved you” (John 15:12) then this is in accordance with Christ’s command.  Jesus is primarily saying, “Let me love you!” then “love one another.”  No matter what anyone says, whether it is constructive or critical, we know deep within us there is the nevertheless, I am loved.  If anyone tries to have us doubt this about ourselves, then they are the anti-christ. Christ is in us because we are loved.  Christ’s love is in all because God so loves the world.  This makes the greatest challenge to us once we understand the magnitude of the love of God poured into the very midst of our being is to realise that all those around us have the same Spirit of Christ’s love deep within their being.   This may mean once people discover Christ in them that their lives may continue to be messy and even ugly until the love begins to play out in all aspects of one’s life.

Our unity does not begin with our theology.  It begins with Jesus Christ in us and His union with the Father.  Once we understand we are in an unbreakable hold in the Person of Jesus Christ never to be forsaken, then we start to see unity with our peers.  The raw ugliness of our day to day lives are no longer a lonesome burden of our individual walk with God.  We suddenly find we can bear one another’s burdens as we open our lives to those who are close to us on our journey.  We can feel broken and still know we are loved.  Then we find our life of suffering is not a unique set of circumstances but rather the hallmark of what it really is to be human.  In the midst of our lives we are held and embraced, treasured by the Triune God as much as the Triune God treasure themselves.

I believe theology should point to Jesus Christ.  More importantly, it should provide the space to get to know the Creator who has made His home in us.  To rest and abide in the One who loves us to the uttermost is to let Him love us His way.  This love is mysterious, unfathomable but steadfast and secure.  If the theology we engage in make us second guess ourselves about who we are because questions are raised about our circumstances, then we need to abandon it.  If the theology we engage in makes us feel condemned about our questionable behaviour then it should be abandoned.  What we strive for is to know we are in Jesus Christ and He is in the Father and Christ is in us.  As we abide, then we begin to understand the way God sees everyone and we embark on His desire to participate in the Spirit’s endeavour that they may all be one, even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.