Rejoicing in Christ

reevesAs a selection in my list of books of the year in 2014, I chose Michael Reeves’s excellent book, Christ Our Life (Paternoster, UK). That same book was released today in the States under the title Rejoicing in Christ (IVP, US).

I read everything by Reeves, and this book proves again why. It’s loaded with Tweetable statements, pithy, wise, and mature thoughts that will offer you a lifetime of meditation.

Here’s my favorite excerpt:

Anyone can use the word, of course, but without Christ *holiness tends to have all the charm of an ingrown toenail. For, very simply, if holiness is not first and foremost about knowing Christ, it will be about self-produced morality and religiosity. But such incurved self-dependence is quite the opposite of what pleases God, or what is actually beautiful.

God is not interested in our manufactured virtue; he does not want any external obedience or morality if it does not flow from true love for him. He wants us to share his pleasure in his Son. What is the greatest commandment, after all? “Love the Lord your God” (Mt 22:36–37). That is the root of true God-likeness. Nothing is more holy than a heartfelt delight in Christ. Nothing is so powerful to transform lives. (86–87)

Regeneration to Resurrection and Holiness in the Middle

I find it tragically easy to dislocate my pursuit of daily holiness (spiritual disciplines and progressive sanctification) from the broader picture of God’s redemptive plan over my life in Christ. Our hope of future resurrection must not negate the value of our daily progress, just as our daily progress must not diminish our hope for the incredible transformation that must happen to us in resurrection. Murray J. Harris explains this well in his textual notes on 2 Corinthians 4:16 in his excellent commentary (page 360):

For Paul, the spiritual body was not simply the state of the renewed “inner self” at the time of the believer’s death, but it seems a priori likely that he saw a relationship between the two, that he regarded resurrection not as a creatio ex nihilo, a sudden divine operation unrelated to the past, but as the fulfillment of a spiritual process begun at regeneration.

The daily renewal of the “inward person” (4:16) contributed toward the progressive transformation of the believer into the image of Christ (3:18) in a process that would be accelerated and completed by resurrection. Paul does not explicitly say that his ἔσω ἄνθρωπος [inner being] is the embryo of the spiritual body or bears its undeveloped image, but the natural transition of his thought from 4:16 to 5:1–4 shows that this sentiment would have been congenial to him.

As a result of the final convulsion of resurrection, the butterfly of the spiritual body will emerge from the chrysalis of the renewed “inner person.”

Connecting Christ’s Victory and My Obedience

Herman Ridderbos, Studies in Scripture and Its Authority (1978), 83–4:

The meaning of Christ’s self-sacrifice provides the New Testament message of reconciliation with a depth-dimension of which the church may never lose sight. To slight this dimension is to lose touch with the very mystery of the gospel.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that many who live out of this mystery of salvation and who find there the only consolation for life and death view with suspicion any new ideas putting all the emphasis on what our lives ought to reveal, instead of emphasizing what Christ has done, once and for all, in our place. Is this not a radical shift in focus? And ought we not rather to count as nothing all human effort so that we focus our attention and faith exclusively on what Christ, by his death and resurrection, has fully done, once and for all, in our place?

To think that way is to run the risk of making a serious mistake.

For although we are completely correct to stress the expiatory and atoning effect of Christ’s sacrifice as the focal point of the biblical account of reconciliation, we may not restrict the power of that sacrifice to what Christ once suffered and performed in our place. We refer again to the victorious power of Christ’s death and resurrection in his battle against the powers and demons which, as God’s adversaries, chained persons to their service. But this victory not only affects Satan and his subjects; the suffering and death of Christ also exert a liberating and renewing power in the lives of all who believe in him. The effect of this sacrifice is not only that it frees us from the guilt and punishment of sin, but also that it subjects us to Christ’s regime. Reconciliation means that the world — all things, man included — is again put right with God.