( N.B. Re-post of an earlier blog: it seems sometimes some don’t receive posts first time round when they are sent – sorry if it is duplication for you!)
The Revd. Eric J. Alexander, in my opinion and in the opinion of many one of the very finest of Scottish expository preachers, used to address us all in my home congregation of St. George’s Tron in Glasgow as “Beloved.” That is one of the very best words he could have used to address believers in Christ. One of Paul’s favourite ways of describing a Christian is that they are people who are “in Christ.” If I am “in Christ,” then what is true of Christ is true of me and true of you if you are in Christ too. So, if He is declared the Beloved, well, in Christ I am the Beloved too, by God’s sheer grace that draws us into Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is nothing to do with my deserving to be called that! The foundation stone of Christianity is Christ and what has been done for us through Him, more than it is about us and what we do.
We seem to be a society which loves to get things the wrong way round: e.g live together and then get married, rather than get married and then live together. Well, in the church I attended before I was converted and decided to go to St. George’s Tron with my school friend Graham Black and my newly converted sister, Sandra, I think they got things in the wrong order too! The preaching seemed to suggest to me as a listener, that Christianity was all about what we were to do. It sounded as though Christ was somewhere vaguely in the background, taking second place in terms of emphasis to teaching about how we should be living in our community, among our neighbours and in the wider world, with all its issues. What the Living Christ is doing now seemed to get scant mention. It didn’t sound as though He existed apart from in His people’s activity on earth in any meaningful or useful sense. Nor did I pick up anything about what He would do in the future, any hint of what is promised in the Bible that on a day the date of which we don’t know, He is going to do something that will make even those considered great in the world ask for the rocks to cover them and hide them from Christ’s presence and activity. As well as not being told what Christ is doing or would do in the future, I certainly was never told of what Jesus had already done, the salvation Jesus had accomplished for me through being wounded for my transgressions. I am not sure why I was never told that; it dumbfounds me and deeply saddens me to this day when I think of it. Perhaps the idea that we are all sinners who need saved, not good people whose goodness gets us into heaven was not thought to be intellectually credible or socially polite. I guess it is pretty offensive to human pride that our sin is so serious in God’s eyes that it required to be paid for by a sacrifice and that we cannot pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps into divine approval and favour; pride of course is the very thing above all things that God says He resists and stands against.
Anyway, in that particular church the emphasis was on us being good people and doing good things. The sad thing was I was not reading the bible in these pre-conversion days. I didn’t even know I was meant to, so I did not know I was listening to very sincere, well prepared but non-biblical baloney from an extremely nice person about whom there was much to admire and respect. I assumed ministers spoke truth from the bible from pulpits and that you never needed to check it out! It was a powerless gospel I heard in these days that had no impact at all upon me, for it was cross-less and therefore Christless in the deepest sense, devoid of the power of God unto salvation. It told me what I was meant to do in terms of living, but never had the courage to tell me I could not do that without a Saviour, without Christ in my life, because only He could rescue me from my sinful nature. It put the cart before the horse. The order of things matters. It is when I know that in Christ I am the Beloved that I will begin to learn to live as such in the world more and more.
I hope you know that God’s Beloved Son has always been God’s Beloved Son. He did not become such when He was born into this world; He did not becomes such at His baptism in the Jordan as some ancient and early heresies taught. God’s Son has always been for all eternity the One who said “Yes” to the Father’s will. As God the Son, He has always brought God the Father great joy. When He came to earth, as George MacDonald put it, He came to do in His outlying provinces through humiliation and suffering what He had always done at home in His heavenly realm, namely to say “Thy will Father, not mine, be done…” Well, according to the Bible, just as Jesus was always the Beloved Son, so in Him all who would believe in Him throughout time, were chosen in Him in eternity before anything was made to be holy, blameless, beloved, before we were ever here or had done (or not done) anything at all. The story of “Kenneth Samuel Borthwick” did not begin 9 months before 27th. September 1958 (well 6 weeks less than that as I was six weeks premature). My story begins in the eternal belovedness of Christ.
I mentioned finding coming across a notebook a couple of days ago, and it has been really interesting to read what I wrote two or three years ago. Let me quote some more sentences from that notebook:
“Jesus seemed to treasure human beings as though they were His lost treasure He came looking for, or a priceless pearl He knew could be sought and found, even if the cost to Him was unfathomable. I guess I want these notes to be about Jesus uncovering the treasure of a human being and showing that to me. Perhaps if I can align myself with His desire to show to me the treasure He finds in this human being, Kenny, I can better help others to allow Jesus to uncover the treasure of their Christ made and Christ redeemed humanity as well. Belovedness is how the score for the dance of creation and time and space began. My belovedness and my being chosen by my Heavenly Father were there before sinfulness. Of course they were, for the One in whom I am chosen and accepted, Christ, was eternally the Chosen and the Beloved of God, the ‘Darling of Heaven.’ Belovedness has always been, for belovedness is an eternal person, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. From this belovedness came everything, for without Christ, the Beloved, was not anything made that has been made.”
“BELOVED!” Have you discovered that word is more than a preacher’s term for addressing his or her flock in sermons? My brothers and sisters in Christ, it is the first word in the story of “you.” Is it the foremost word that you use to describe yourself yet? Paul taught that the promises of blessing God spoke into the world to Abraham came centuries before the laws given through Moses, that of course we all break. However Paul says the promises were there first, not the law and our breaking it! What we need to do therefore, is go back in time beyond all our breaking of the law, of which we are all guilty, to the first word in the story, the word of our belovedness. Have you claimed that “First Love” with which God has loved you? That word before the start of anything cannot be altered. It still holds! I have just read this evening in Psalm 33 verse 4 that “the word of the Lord holds true!” and in verse 10 that “The Lord’s plans stand firm forever; His intentions can never be shaken.” Before the words were uttered into space time “let there be light” there was another eternal word: “Beloved!” It was said of Christ and of you and I in Christ. It holds true! Is it time to stop allowing yourself to be mesmerised and held in chains of condemnation by your own sin and failure or for that matter by the sins and failures of others in relation to you? Why not ask your Heavenly Father to help you to be set free to live as His beloved son or daughter?
All this may sound a bit too theological for some… and no doubt not theological enough, or theologically accurate enough for others! (Just make sure you check it against the bible and not against your theology!) If I have lost you, don’t worry – I have almost lost myself, it is such a long blog! It all leads me to this point and you can hopefully pick things up again here: if you were to write the story of You, would reference to yourself as the Beloved of God occur before any other description of yourself? Paul did not think his testimony concerning Christ began on the road to Damascus. He knew that encounter would never have happened had God not set him apart before his mother knew him, before the world was made. That is where the story of Paul the Apostle began and in Ephesians Chapter 1 he reminds all Christians that is where our story begins too. Why not read that chapter sometime soon?
So, once again, does your understanding of your story begin with your belovedness? Maybe “belovedness” is just as meaningless a word as “love” to some who read this blog. Sadly such is the case for a surprisng number of people from all types of background. If that is true of you, well, it is immensely sad… but it’s ok, you don’t need to despair of ever understanding such concepts and truths by personal experience. Christ knows what love is and He knows what belovedness is. You don’t need to be your own saviour and rescuer. Ask Him to uncover the meaning of these words for and indeed in “you” who, remember, are the treasure and the pearl of great price Jesus looked for and found. If it seems right for you, why not call on His Name and speak with Him about thoughts, emotions, disturbances, thankfulness, joy, doubts, despair or longing that may have arisen as you have read this blog?
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