[Read part four of this series here]
I never will forget my first communion in Oxford. Prior to that service, I had always felt like one of many during the Lord’s Supper as I served myself from the trays passed down the rows of fellow churchgoers. But the Anglicans, who serve each person separately, singled me out. When the person serving the bread looked me in the eye and said, “This is the body of Christ which was broken for you,” the intimacy of those familiar words bowled me over. Two facts were inescapable— the enormity of my need and the immensity of his love for me. It was staggering and humbling to realise that Jesus suffered and died on the cross because there was no other way to deal with my sin; that what he suffered, I deserved. Suddenly the Lord’s Supper was a personal matter.
The power of our theology comes alive when we take the truth personally. Holding God at arm’s length—no matter how much theology we think we know—will never make us great theologians. We have to learn to write our own names into the plot. God will always be the subject of our theological sentences, but our sentences are incomplete until we make ourselves the direct objects of his attributes.
King David knew how to get personal with the truth about God. He loved nothing better than to put theology to music. He could have composed grandiose compositions to flaunt his mastery of deep truth. But theology was an intimate matter for David—the language of his own relationship with God. When he wanted to sing of God’s omniscience, he wrote, “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. . . . You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD” (Ps. 139:1, 3–4, emphasis added).4 God’s omnipresence comforted him, and so he sang, “If I go up to the heavens . . . make my bed in the depths . . . settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Ps. 139:8–10, emphasis added). 5
I do not simply fix my eyes on Jesus who died and rose again for sinners in general but on Jesus who died and rose again for me. God’s goodness isn’t some abstract principle; rather, God is good to me. Martin Luther was right to caution us that theology is never an end in itself, that we cannot truly understand it until we take it pro me. We need to take our theology to heart, and when we do, we often find that our hearts, like David’s, spontaneously overflowing worship and adoration.
4. Omniscience means God is all-knowing. He knows everything
5. Omnipresence means God is fully present everywhere at all times.
Taken from When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James. Copyright (c) 2001 by Carolyn C. James. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com
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Carolyn Custis James (BA, Sociology; MA, Biblical Studies) thinks deeply about what it means to be a female follower of Jesus in a postmodern world. As a cancer survivor, she is grateful to be alive and determined to address the issues that matter most. She travels extensively both in the US and abroad as a speaker for churches, conferences, colleges, theological seminaries, and other Christian organisations. She is an adjunct professor at Biblical Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, blogs on www.whitbyforum.com and Huffington Post / Religion, and is a contributing editor for Leadership Journal.