Living This Life With The Assurance That "We Belong To Jesus"

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Below is an excerpt of a letter from a good friend named, Andrew Olsen.  I especially appreciate his use of an illustration from Toy Story to communicate how we belong to Jesus.  Enjoy his thoughts and his testimony to the Gospel of Grace while you remember that you too are stamped with the name of Jesus.

Excerpt from: Andrew Olsen

‘While one's experience is not a trustworthy guide, it can at times be a factor worth reflecting on, so here's my experience.  The more I trust this Lutherish doctrine of ‘sanctification by grace alone’ I find that my joy in the gospel is greater, my interest in sin is less and my interest in the kingdom is more.  I also am feeling happier about my future death and am pleased with the fact that I don't have to fix and can’t fix the universe or, for that matter, myself.  It seems that my sanctification is not achieved by my fleshly pursuit of it but by the recognition of the Gospel.  This marvelous mystery of God and the Gospel is a mysterious both-and-ness that transforms me not by anything of myself but as I gaze on the beautiful one (See 2 Corinthians 3:18).  This Gospel seems to save me over and over again from my ever-rising Old Adam/ Semi-Pelagianism passions, thoughts and schemes.  Lately, I just exhale my despair with a wry smile and grin as I trust in Jesus and the Father.  Luther's notion that I am always in Adam and in Christ, 100%/100% all the time, rings so true for me.  The Old Adam always nags and exhorts me to be more sanctified, to examine myself, to scale my progress, to be convicted of sin more properly... yawn again.  Now, the Holy Spirit convicts me of sin, examines me, draws, drags and whispers to me, but there is none of the self-consciousness of the Adam version with Him.  It is not very interesting to consider whether I am getting better or not.  So when I read the imperatives in the New Testament, I now note how extremely and deliberately tied they are, even by a simple allusion in the side of the text, to justification and identity theology.  Therefore I want to start and end with justification, noticing the imperative somewhere in the middle, not at the start or climax.  Every sanctification problem is solved by justification and identity theology, not by adjusting our sanctification efforts and methods.  Furthermore, I find I’m more inclined to just trust these imperatives without reflecting on them.  If they say, "we must do X" then I figure that I ought just do it, as a trust in Dad, and not think about it (i.e., not listen to Adam nattering about my motives or scaling my performance, or what it really means, or whether I already do it, or whether others in the church do it, etc…).'

‘I love watching Woody in each of the Toy Story movies.  He and the other toys are all into what they should and shouldn't do, what works and doesn't, what promises the most satisfactory outcome.  Then they always get into a master disaster created by bigger stories than their own, and find them bigger than they can master, and all is lost.  In desolate dungeon gloom, Woody rediscovers the name ‘ANDY’ scrawled sole of his shoe, remembers who he belongs to, and needs no sanctification sermon whatsoever!  He knows perfectly well what to do!  So he goes off and lives or dies for the love of his friends and his owner and works glorious exploits... unconsciously, or better, unselfconsciously.'

‘If I am always in the Old Adam and in Christ, 100%/100% all the time, then whenever the scripture or the preacher uses imperatives I am going to both (a) become interested in their beauty and rightness and obedience, and (b) start analyzing them, chafing at them, planning my 'how to' do them, measuring whether I am doing them, scaling me to you, etc..  Christ and the Old Adam will appropriate every imperative to their own ends in utter opposition.  The same word is heard very differently in each of my ears!  So it now seems nowadays that I want to expose the Old Adam's constant chronic misuse of every imperative in the Scripture.  If a New Testament passage says "Do X, not Y" I want to preach how the Old Adam will inevitably be hearing this and abusing it, so that I can then, all the more, highlight that X is not a chore or a mere law but is freedom… a ‘get to do’ and ‘can now do’ rather than a mere ‘should/ought/we need to.’  Christ’s use of the law shows delight, a revelation of his beauty, a joy to walk and suffer in.  So in every Christian present under the word there are two audiences - the old man and the new, and I want to preach to both, with sharp and clear distinction.  I want to preach this view of sanctification as food to Christ in us and as a bait-trap-death to Adam in us. 

‘Another aspect of all this, or another way of saying all this, is that every imperative text must be interpreted through a hermeneutic of largesse – a lens that assumes generosity, delight, and beauty - not of the order of morality, the second Eden tree.  The Old Adam in me cannot do this, and unless made explicit, I reckon the Old Adam in us will have a field day with the word and the preacher every time.  By making a sharp distinction I hope to save the hearers from the confusing mingling of holiness (yay) with moralism (boo), improvement (boo) with the Spirit blowing (yay).'

‘As Woody looked to the bottom of his shoe for his identity, we too look to the cross to realize and continually remember our identity.  We live this life with the complete assurance that we belong to Jesus.  ‘Andy’ is enough.  The blood is enough.’


Anonymous said…
“Man, my friends, is frail and foolish. We have all of us been told that grace is to be found in the universe. But in our human foolishness and short-sightedness we imagine divine grace to be finite. For this reason we tremble...We tremble before making our choice in life, and after having made it again tremble in fear of having chosen wrong. But the moment comes when our eyes are opened, and we see and realize that grace is infinite. See! That which we have chosen is given us, and that which we have refused is, also and at the same time, granted us. Ay, that which we have rejected is poured upon us abundantly.”
--IsakDinesen, “Babette’s Feast”

Posted by Gordon Smith - Australia
Steve Martin said…

Great stuff!