Saturday, February 16, 2013

a shift in focus

Last year, we bought a nice camera.  We had used the point-and-shoot type of digital cameras for the past ten years or so and they had worked fine, but the price had come down so much lately on the nicer ones that we enlisted my sister-in-law, Erin Elizabeth, in helping us find a new camera.  Wow - what a difference!  Admittedly, I don't do a great job remembering to take pictures - I'm the guy who pulled out our video camera a few years back and one daughter said, "Nice camera, daddy, did you borrow it from Jeremy?"  Oops.   So, I am certainly still a novice, but it has been fun to play around with the lens, experimenting by focusing on different aspects of a particular shot.   

I've been thinking about the importance of focus a lot more lately, especially in regards to the atonement.   Often when we talk about the atonement - what Jesus accomplished on the cross - we can tend to focus on the way he took care of our sins.  This is certainly a key part of Jesus' work, but it is not the complete picture.

Let's use a specific passage as an example.  Often when people try to summarize what Jesus did at the cross they reference 1 John 3:5 NIV "But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins."  If we just focus solely on this verse then it seems like Jesus' reason for coming to earth was to merely deal with our 'sin problem.'  But if we shift our focus just a little bit, moving it down a couple verses we read..."the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work" (3:8 NIV).  Shifting our focus down even further we see that Christ's love and example has facilitated our passing "from death to life" (3:14-16).

So, by shifting our focus just a little, we can see with more clarity different parts of the scene.  We may shift the focus from a flower in the foreground to a flower in the background.  And taking the pictures together, a much broader image comes into view.

In this more expansive scene, or mosaic, we see Jesus dealing not only with sin, but also defeating Satan and death itself.  So, at the cross, Jesus overcomes our three main adversaries: Sin, Death and Satan.

Our team meets weekly to worship in English and one song we've sung more often lately is the song "He Paid a Debt."  It's a good song, but unfortunately it only focuses on one part of the atonement - how Jesus deals with sin.  So, I tried to come up with some additional verses to shift the focus to the other two enemies that Christ defeated: Satan and death.  Sometimes we need to focus on the individual pieces one at a time in order to bring the whole picture into clearer focus.

He Paid a Debt
(American folk hymn and melody; verses 2 and 3 by Alan Howell)

He paid a debt he did not owe, I owed a debt I could not pay.

I needed someone to wash my sins away.

And now I sing a brand new song, amazing grace all day long.

My Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.

And on that day at Calvary, he defeated Satan and set me free.

I needed someone to beat the enemy.

And now I tell of what he's done, amazing freedom is what he's won.

My Jesus conquered evil and won the victory.

Death did not have the final word, not for this resurrected Lord.

I needed someone to rise up from the grave.

And now I tell a brand new story, amazing life in all its glory.

My Jesus conquered death and lives eternally.

My hope is that we can do a better job as a church of incorporating all of the various pictures of the atonement (how Christ defeats sin, death and Satan) into a mosaic that fully displays the beauty and power of Christ's death and resurrection.

Grace and Peace,


Our experiences in Mozambique have certainly shaped our thinking about the atonement.  If you are interested in reading more about how we're trying to talk about the atonement among the Makua-Metto people, you can read more here. 

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