by Ken Elsner
As followers of Jesus Christ, we have, for centuries struggled living between two lives, or, more specifically, to “Testaments.” Having been given the incredible gift of the Bible, (God’s love letter to His people) we live in a tension of not wanting to ignore the Old Testament while living in the heart of the New. Our lives often reflect the Greek masks of the Divine comedy and tragedy. We want to live lives full of joy and fulfillment , but often find ourselves instead, living under the weight and guilt of the Law.
Andrew Farley’s book, The Naked Gospel, has been a challenge to read, because it pushes against the traditions and status quo of a couple thousand years of church history, tradition and dogma. That being said, I love the fact that Andrew is pointing us to Jesus…only Jesus. His death on the cross is enough!
“Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” 1 Peter 3:18
Christ’s death AND resurrection “wholly and unquestionably dealt with our sins forever.” Andrew hits the nail on the head time and time again by continually pointing us back to this fact. Jesus is not continually dying on the cross. He did it one time! And yet we still continue to go to him and confess and repent like we have to. We don’t!
“Since Jesus doesn’t die daily, our forgiveness is not issued daily.”
— Farley, pg. 146
Now, I do believe that part of the journey of walking with Jesus is to be in conversation with Him just like we have conversations with our close friends. But, when we hurt our friends and then ask for forgiveness, we don’t keep going back to them over and over again asking for forgiveness…do we?
“If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
Andrew’s addressing of 1 John 1:9 was well done. Too often we read scripture and automatically assume a truth based upon our own “lens.” We need to be careful though, that we don’t presume something just because we like it or feel good about it. John was dealing with Gnostic heresies at the time of writing the letter. So as we begin to understand what he was addressing we can apply the principles accordingly to our lives here and now.
Understanding context and being contextual are two incredibly important and fundamental principles when approaching Scripture. Jesus was the master of both. Andrew continually challenged me to revisit passages of Scripture in order to better understand what Jesus was doing and saying. With regards to the Lord’s Prayer and seeking forgiveness, Andrew pushes us to rethink who is being addressed and why AND, that in light of the cross, much of what we have thought about “popular” passages is either misguided or misinterpreted.
Again, Jesus’ death and resurrection changed everything. The last few pages of “Cheating on Jesus” challenged more of our “traditional” view of judgment and treasures. Andrew takes a bold stand on confronting these often misinterpreted ideas. In the last days, the judgment found in Revelation 20-21 is for those whose names were not written in the Book of Life, those in death and Hades…NOT the church. So often we have heard that we will “all” be judged. That is simply not true. What a relief!
“Despite the clarity of God’s Word, I’ve heard some use the final judgment to instill what they term “godly fear” in believers. I’ve even heard some say that they determine the quality of a sermon by how guilty they feel afterward! Taken out of context, the great white throne judgment can seriously damage our sense of assurance.
—Farley, pg. 166
In the end, I want praise Andrew with his challenging and encouraging perspective. Much of what he has experienced in life and now, has written reflects a heart that deeply desires to point people to Jesus and what He did for us all on the cross. My struggle is still, and I think always has been, the tension of relating the Old Testament/Covenant to the New. We can’t discard the one without affecting the other. And, why would our Sovereign God have allowed the Canon of Scripture to be shaped into what we have now if the Old was no longer important? I’m not suggesting that Andrew is telling us to forget the Old, but as Christians we do have the “whole” of Scripture to contend with!
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About the author:
Ken Elsner, a Christ-follower for over 22 years is husband to Kristen and father to Alexa, Ethan , Avery and Erik. A transplanted Westcoast Canadian, Ken has been in ministry both full and “part-time” for over 20 years. A graduate of North American Baptist Seminary, Ken has planted a postmodern/gen X church in South Dakota and has been pioneering worship experiences for thousands both in the US, Canada, Mexico and Ethiopia, Africa for 15 years. Now residing just south of Denver, Colorado, Ken continues to write songs for the church and lead worship at Pathways Church and is in the beginning stages of planting a church where he and his family lives. While not taking care of his family and leading worship, you can find Ken delighting in the beauty of God’s Rocky Mountains by climbing as many Colorado fourteeners as he can.
God is our first and last whom we should put our trust
Amen! Well said!