You're Included video series, produced by GCI (2008-2009)
The below descriptions of each of the six You're Included videos are courtesy of Kerry Magruder on his blog Kerry's Loft:
Another way I’ve benefited from McSwain’s ministry is through his appearances on You’re Included, a “unique interview series devoted to practical implications of Trinitarian theology” hosted by Michael Feazell. In each conversation, about a half hour long, McSwain discusses critical issues in Christ-centered theology with insight and eloquence. Because of their conversational nature, these podcast episodes offer a welcome complement to the tighter analysis of the printed page. If you’re reading Movements of Grace, or planning to, watching these episodes (especially the first two) will make the book easier to digest.
1. Helping Youth Experience Christ
In this conversation, McSwain discusses the approach of Reality Ministries to youth ministry. For example, he describes the reality they want youth to see with these words:
“What I want them to know is that the way we are treating them, the way we are accepting them, the way we are loving them unconditionally, the way we are embracing them at their worst and being faithful to them even when they’re faithless to us – and you know how fluctuating the life of a teen-ager can be – one minute they’re warm and leaning in and accepting of you and the love you’re giving to them. Another minute, the next minute, they’re calloused, and the quills come out. And they’re like, ‘get away from me.’ But to continue to be faithful to them regardless of their response – that’s what we do with teenagers and yet what we really want them to know in Reality Ministries is the reason that we do that is because that’s what God is like.”
2. Does Jesus Appease God’s Anger?
In this conversation, McSwain corrects the mistaken perception that Christ and the Father were at odds on the cross, as if Christ had to placate an angry God like a pagan sacrificing to his deity. Rather, as Paul tells us, “God [the Father] was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5.19).
“I began to realize, well, you know, I’m thinking about this in the wrong way. Yes, I love my kids more than I love other people’s kids because they belong to me and that’s natural. But that’s a wrong way of thinking about God as if somehow we belong to God by our decision and then he loves us more than he loves the other people – but instead God has embraced all of us in a filial way and said, ‘No, Jeff, I love every human being as much as you love your own children and more – and that’s where your love for your own children comes from.’ And so again, thinking about that circle of analogy and making sure and going in the right direction. Not that God loves those – that small sub-group of those who belong to him more that others – but that he loves all people in the same way and even more than a loving father on earth loves his own children.”
3. Calvinism, Arminianism, and Karl Barth
In this conversation, McSwain discusses the strengths and weaknesses of Arminianism and 5-point Calvinism. He shows how a Christ-centered, Trinitarian theology charts a new way while affirming the best of both: that (like the Arminian) Christ died for all, and that (like the Calvinist) our relationship with Christ is established by grace.
“God’s election is not one of excluding others. It is actually meant to always include others. In Romans 9, God says, I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy. And Paul says, in the next paragraph, ‘God will have mercy upon whom he will have mercy.’ And it talks about ‘what if some people are made unto destruction and others for life?’ And so all these words are used…. And then two chapters later, we get the crescendo to it all in Romans 11:32 where he says, ‘God has given all men over to disobedience that he may have mercy upon all.’ So it’s beautiful: I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy, so I will have mercy upon all.”
“This keeps the do inside the done. And it essentially says even Christ is the one who believes that you are reconciled to God. So instead of standing out here, aloof and actually looking at this whole situation of reconciliation as if it’s in your laboratory, and you as the almighty human being get to make a decision about this, we have to say, ‘Part of reconciliation is that Jesus Christ does everything from the human side. There is not one modicum of our independent humanity that can make a decision outside of God. We all live and move and have our being in him.'”
4. Are We Sinners, or Saints?
In this conversation, McSwain talks about sanctification, how Christ transforms us, considering the question of how, if we are a new creation, why do we still struggle with old habits?
I think one of the biggest struggles that we have is, well, if I’m already a new creation, then why do I sin the way I do? — maybe even worse than I did before I became a Christian? The other side of that coin is: What about people who aren’t Christians, but who seem to live lives that are more Christian, than Christians do? What about people who seem to exhibit more fruit of the Holy Spirit who aren’t Christians — where does that come from? So it’s both, it’s two sides of the same coin.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever heard people say this before, but they’ll say, sanctification is kind of like John the Baptist, his saying of, ‘I must decrease and he must increase.’ If we think of that in a linear way, it’s kind of like a football field and the teams marching down the football field, and they get to mid-field, and they get to the 40-yard line, 30-yard line, 20-yard line, and we’re trying to get to be more Christ-like, which would be to cover all the whole distance. But then we fall back, and we slide back, and we get pushed back into our own end of the field. And we’re constantly going back and forth, and it’s a zero sum game. We’ll be 60 percent like Christ and 40 percent not. Maybe we fall back to 30 percent, maybe we fall back to 20 percent and 80 percent needs to be improved on, and it’s this sliding scale of sanctification. And we think that we’re trying to get to a place that we’re not already. The beautiful thing about the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and as is patterned in the Chalcedonian formula, is that we’re already there. We are 100 percent pure and holy, without blemish, free from accusation, seated with Christ in the heavenly realms as sons and daughters of God. That has already taken place — not because of anything we’ve done, but because of what Christ has done.”
“Karl Barth says, ‘I was and still am the old man. I am and will bethe new man.’ He gets those asymmetrical. Those solidarities are there, but he always wants us to know they’re asymmetrical. One has a future, one doesn’t.”
5. Reading the Bible With Jesus as the Guide
In this conversation, McSwain discusses how to read the Bible in a Christ-centered way, through an “incarnational lens.” Christians rely not only upon ordinary grammar and syntax, literary sense (not “literalistic” sense), historical context, and parallel passages to interpret the meaning of scripture, but we also read the Bible theologically in light of the fullness of divine revelation in the Son, the Word of God made flesh:
“It would behoove us to make sure that everything we read in Scripture is fit into the interpretive key of grace, the interpretive key of Jesus Christ. That means reading the Bible from right to left instead of from left to right, I guess you could say.”
6. Everyone Belongs, Whether They Know It or Not
Jeff explains that Jesus Christ is already the center of our lives and of the cosmos and of everything. All reality belongs to him. As the second Adam, he has joined the human race (and the universe) to himself. Therefore, we are defined by Christ more than by Adam. In his death and resurrection, Christ has lifted us up into the reality of recreation in new life. In contrast to approaches to evangelism that begin with our sin and death, Jeff shows how to begin with Christ – to give priority to Christ, the ultimate reality. Nothing less than starting with Christ as the definer of reality can offer the hope in God we need:
In this generation, this broken and blended generation more than ever, we’ve got to start with belonging. We’ve got to start with every young person knowing that he or she belongs to God. To me, it all comes down to “are we going to define reality by Jesus Christ?” If we are, then there’s at least four points…
1. Do we belong to God because of what Jesus has done, or because of what we’ve done?
2. Secondly, are we reconciled to God because of the work of Christ, or because we made a decision?
3. Thirdly, are we forgiven before we ask, or are we only forgiven when we ask?
4. And fourthly, are we a child of God when we decide we want to be, do we adopt ourselves into God’s family, or are we adopted into God’s family and made sons and daughters of God by the grace of God and what he’s done in revealing his heart through Jesus Christ and in the person and work of Jesus Christ?