Posts Tagged ‘Reflection’
Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book. (Rev. 22:7)
Look I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. (Rev. 22:12)
Yes, I am coming soon! (Rev 22:20)
Three times… three times he tells us he is coming soon. In the midst of these proclamations… warnings… promises… I hear and receive some valuable insight and instruction worthy of consideration. (Pay attention to how you listen and how you hear—Luke 8:18).
#1— “I am coming soon!” Rev. 22:7
This is the voice and words of Jesus speaking to us announcing his imminent return. Personally, I consider several interpretations of this statement when I “hear” the words: “I am coming soon…” Some translations of this text read with the following words: “I am coming quickly.” This conjures a slightly different emotion in me from the other translation (I am coming soon). I am reminded of Jesus’ words from the gospel accounts when he tells his disciples about the “speed” and “stealth” of his return. The impressions I am left with from these texts leave me with a sense that Jesus’ return will be sudden, quiet (in some sense), and unexpected to a certain degree. See the Gospel account of Matthew (chapters Matt. 24-25 – see also Revelation 16:15). Is this what it means to understand “I am coming soon…”?
There is also the consideration that “soon” is relative to the concept of our Eternal-Immortal God whose word reveals a “day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day…” (Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8). In the same measure of thinking, I have to consider the physical length and number of my remaining days. My time on this side of eternity is very finite. I do not know the number of my days, but I surmise that I have far less remaining than those that I have lived. No matter which version of “soon” or “quick” I latch hold of, I believe my face-to-face meeting with Jesus is coming soon and the point of my focus should be directed toward being prepared for and alert to this pending encounter.
The words of Jesus continue with another proclamation; this one involves blessing. He says; “Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book.” Does this mean those who do not obey are not blessed? And, what does not blessed entail? Obey, or obedience, in this case is related to “the words of prophecy written in this book.” The definition of prophecy here is the mind and counsel which comes from God. The examination falls upon my personal will and intent to honor and obey the teaching of Jesus… so, how am I doing? Am I obedient to the mind and counsel of God? How does the course and character of my life align with the teachings of Jesus? Is my life a picture of the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain? Is the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, the Guide for my life? Am I someone who others will say, “loves the LORD his God with all his heart, all his soul, all his mind, and all his strength”? Am I someone who loves his neighbor as himself? Jesus says; “Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book.” Do I warrant the blessing?
In verse (Rev. 22:9) the angel, speaking to John, admonishes to “Worship only God.” Immediately I question if my loyalties are divided; “Do I live my life as an act of worship to God”? My life is an act of worshiping only God when I pursue His Kingdom and allow His Kingdom to be manifest in me (Romans 12:1-2). Jesus advised his disciples they would obey his command if they loved him (John 14:15). He told them it was impossible to serve two masters… Worship only God. Honesty begs the question; How well am I doing?
The angel puts out some pretty hard words of instruction to John (and us) following his direction to “Worship God alone!” The angel’s words follow:
“Let the one who is doing harm continue to do harm; let the one who is vile continue to be vile; let the one who is righteous continue to live righteously; let the one who is holy continue to be holy.” (Rev. 22:10-11)
I like to think that I am not doing harm; of course, my definition of harm is pretty extreme. I’m not Dr. Evil and I’m not plotting the genocide of a race or anything, so I must be ok. The truth of the matter might be a little less forgiving than I am to myself though. Am I doing what I can to lower my propensity to consume so much? Am I really trying to make the world a better place… one starfish at a time? Do I purchase goods from countries that openly promote and utilize child labor? How much harm… how vile are my actions in the larger scheme of things. I believe the only way I can pursue righteousness is by considering my actions and following their “ripples” to their logical conclusion. My actions and lifestyle must change to reflect pursuit of God’s Kingdom; this is obedience to His commands.
#2— “I am coming soon, and bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds.” Rev. 22:12
There seems to be little room for any other interpretation than “what goes around comes around…” If I live my life as a selfish and self-centered person, I will be repaid and rewarded according to my selfish, self-centered nature. A person might argue that my selfish actions might not entirely exclude me from God’s Kingdom, but Jesus’ words and tone from the gospel accounts (Luke 14:25-35) seem pretty clear… without forsaking my “self,” I don’t even qualify as a disciple of Christ. Jesus makes it clear the first step to following Him is to deny and forsake my… “self.” This negates the allowance to live for “self” in the Kingdom of God (in order to find your self you must first be willing to lose your self – Matthew 10:39). Looking inward, I ask my self; “have I taken up my cross to follow him or do I make excuses in order to keep my ‘self’ alive and serve two masters? (Luke 16:13) I cannot “Worship God Alone!” when I continue to worship my self too.
#3— “Yes, I am coming soon!” Rev. 22:20
The point of this meditation is to prepare for the season of His arrival. The Light has come. The Light has dwelt amongst men (John 1:1-5, 14)…and the Light is coming again. Our time is short until He arrives again, regardless whether the clouds part and Jesus physically returns or my days run out and I am suddenly with Him in His Presence. The question to my heart is this: “Am I ready?” (Luke 12:35-52). Among the last words recorded in the Holy Scriptures is the affirmation of Messiah Jesus; “Yes, I am coming soon!” Can I (can you) say with full heart; “AMEN! Come Lord Jesus!”? The season of Advent begins this year November 27, 2011—I encourage you to reflect and prepare… anticipate and be alert, as we celebrate the season of His coming and look forward to the Day of His imminent Return. Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus.
Epiphany Meditation: The Word Became Flesh – Pt. 5 [16JAN2011]
Practical Witness – Practical Insight
As I’ve been considering the Word became Flesh for the past several weeks, there have been a number of passages of Scripture “speaking” to me and fueling my meditations. I decided to post a few of these and share some of my “soul food.”
Submit to God’s royal Son…What joy for all who take refuge in Him (Psalm 2:12)
He will be victorious (Psalm 110:7)
Study this book of instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. (Joshua 1:8)
There is no place where God is not. Where I go, there God is. Now and always He upholds me with His power and keeps me safe in His love. –Anonymous
One morning my selected reading was Psalm 18. It was pretty early and I transposed the numbers in my mind and turned to Psalm 81 instead… Regardless of my state of mind and how “accidental” it seemed, I’m believing it was providence and the Spirit of God who guided me. Here follows the passages that grabbed my attention:
5 I heard an unknown voice say:
6 “I removed the burden from their shoulders;
their hands were set free from the basket.
7 In your distress you called and I rescued you,
I answered you out of a thundercloud;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah.
What I considered about these words was this; this is our God. He hears our cry as he heard the Israelites in Egypt. He relieves our distress and rescues us from the burden of our sin; he sets our feet on the path to deliverance and the Promised Land… and along the way… He tests us. He purifies us of anything that would betray our faith. He proves our love and allegiance to Him as genuine, or not. The reality is this: if we will be rescued, we will be tested (1 Peter 1:6-7). Will we pass? (2 Corinthians 13:5)
8 Hear me, my people, and I will warn you—
if you would only listen to me, Israel!
9 You shall have no foreign god among you;
you shall not worship any god other than me.
10 I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of Egypt.
There is nothing new under the sun, says the Teacher in Ecclesiastes. And, the stubbornness and rebelliousness of people is unchanging as well. As “bullheaded” as the people of ancient Israel were, so are we today. God has given to us a clearly defined way of living, going as far as showing us himself (Jesus) how to live and abide in relationship with the Triune God. We continue to make idols for ourselves in the trappings of our lives or we cut right to the chase and crown ourselves as our own lord our god. This will not do. God Almighty speaks to us now as He did then; “I am the LORD your God, I am your Deliverer.” We would do well to heed His Voice.
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it with good things.
How vulnerable we would be going through life with our “mouth” wide open… or looking ridiculous if not vulnerable. God calls us to trust Him and Him alone. He will guide us and He will provide for us. He tells us in another place that a good Father does not give His son a stone in the place of bread… In this word He simply tells us to “open wide” and He will fill us with good things (Matthew 7:9-11 and Luke 11:11-13).
11 “But my people would not listen to me;
Israel would not submit to me.
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts
to follow their own devices.
13 “If my people would only listen to me,
if Israel would only follow my ways
The great burden of my own heart is that our stubbornness will be our undoing as it was the undoing of Israel. We will continue to refuse our will to God and He will allow us the right of refusal. He will let us choose our own way…a way that ultimately lives in bondage to our sin and ends in death, physical and eternal. Our devices are instruments of destruction… God’s way is the only Way, Truth, and Life (“If my people would only listen to me, only follow my ways…”).
And finally, I haven’t been able to shake this passage from my memory… it has been lingering in my heart and on my tongue for almost a week now.
“When the priests came out of the Holy Place, a thick cloud filled the temple of the LORD. The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the LORD filled the temple.” (1 Kings 8:10-11)
I wonder… what would happen if we had an experience like this one mentioned in 1 Kings 8:10-11… God’s Presence, the Glory of the LORD GOD Almighty, filled our sanctuaries across the land? Would we even allow something like this? Would God’s Presence in this capacity be welcome? This would wreck the order of our service programs and Sunday morning Christian entertainment. I wonder…
Here this passage tells us the priests could not even continue their service because of the cloud of God’s glorious presence… I wonder… Oh. My. Glorious. Wonderful. Awesome. Heavenly. Incredible. Marvelous. GOD. Jesus. Creator. Sustainer. He is what everything is about (Colossians 1:15-20). How easy we forget this; assuming we ever knew it in the first place… I mean know it in our hearts and not merely confess it with memorized words from our lips.
Our God is what we are about. God is not about us. When (and if) we ever get this right, there will be revival amongst humanity that will make the angels in heaven jealous.
Epiphany Meditation: The Word Became Flesh – Pt. 4 [14JAN2011]
Christ revealed, but largely unseen…
“Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving. Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” –Isaiah 6:9-10
While my meditation into the Word became Flesh has been enlightening and edifying, it has also had an effect on me that has brought on burdensome lamentation. Much of the past week I have experienced deep sadness over the state of “Christ revealed, but largely unseen.” Spending much time in thought over the prophetic promises of the Savior Christ coming to dwell with men is encouraging and hopeful, but to realize it in the full with the Nativity stories narrated to us by the Gospel authors is even more so still. Continuing the journey through the gospels, walking alongside Jesus as we read, we sense the close embrace of our God with us today… the warming of our souls heated with the very Breath of God in the embodiment of the indwelling Holy Spirit within us. God is with us. The promises, all true, are our hope for abundant life today and eternal life tomorrow. The kingdom people of God, those who live today, stand on the shoulders of the saints who have walked before us carrying on the missio dei of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration in the now.
Or do we?
And, this is my lament… Why, if Christ has been revealed, do we see so little of him amongst those who profess him so loudly?
My question, and my continuing commentary, is directed toward the majority of professing Christians located primarily in the Western world… I realize there is a small minority of Christians who are revealing Jesus to the world through the lives they live and the lives they aspire to live. On the whole, though, we are failing the mission and commandments of the Lord we claim to be following and representing.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Jesus—(John 13:34-35)
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Jesus—(Matthew 7:15-23)
The statements above come from Jesus describing his true followers and those “not so true…” When I think about what the Bible teaches us, in particular the gospels, about the ways of Jesus and the kingdom among (in) you life, I am hard-pressed to reconcile the way we live with what He teaches. This problem grows exponentially with our acknowledgment of it followed by the calm dismissal of our responsibility to change from the way we do things and move to a more Jesus-designed way living and responding to humanity and creation.
I consider the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5-7) as the template and outline for kingdom-living followers of Jesus; a high bar to say the least, but the Christ standard nonetheless. I also consider the prayer of Jesus (John 17) indicative of his deepest desire and expectation from and for his followers. Filling in the details of this “template” from Jesus are the teachings, epistles, and letters that complete the Canon of the New Testament. The Church, as I have been exposed to it, fails to live up to the teaching of this book. Why?
1. We treat it as an ideal. My experience has conditioned me to believe that most Christians (those I have met) understand the Bible as a “best case scenario” way of living. They do not really believe anyone can truly live out the teachings of Jesus; consequently, no one makes the effort to do so.
2. We misinterpret and inaccurately redefine God’s grace. Although Scripture argues against sin increasing so that grace may abound, our general propensity is to live contrary to that argument. We go to great lengths with very impassioned pleas that the “Law” was destroyed with the new covenant of grace… things like spiritual disciplines, sacrificial acts of love toward others, and moral, ethical, and social rules are all “works based” acts of that “ugly” word “religion.” We redefine grace to mean we are free to live as we wish under the banner and blessing of Christ’s shed blood; which covers the multitude of our sins, both of omission and commission. In this, we trample the cross of Christ under foot.
3. We make ourselves the center of the salvation message. I do not think all the streams of Christianity are guilty of this one, but my limited experience within the ranks of Protestant Evangelicals leads me to include this reason. Whether it is intentional or subconsciously inadvertent, we have made the majority of the teaching about the user experience. The worship among many (if not most) Protestant Evangelicals is consumer driven. As a result, the “Christian shopper” matches their personal preferences to their “wants” with regard to their perceived spiritual needs. The church perpetuates this errant and heretical teaching by catering to it and designing “worship experiences” for the sake of the “seeker.” We dumb down the teaching of God, we streamline and glitter the “performances” and we outsource our discipleship. Jesus teaches self-denial while his church teaches self-survival.
4. Everyone thinks their way is right and everyone else is not: aka pride. How else can we explain the disparity in our doctrines, the division within our ranks, the refusal to work through disagreements? I refer back to Jesus’ John 17 prayer and his comment, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Why, in the name of Jesus, can’t Christians get along?
5. We are idolaters. We chase after and profess faith in our ideals and the god we have imagined Jesus to be. When and where the “Bible Jesus” or God of the Bible does not conform to our imagined god, we dismiss that idea as something false or unattainable. Consider the WWJD questions we ask… why do we need to ask “what would Jesus do?” If we are following the examples of His life and living with His Spirit guiding our own… well. I think the greatest reason we fashion our own god (and call it Jesus), is the fear that comes with following the true Jesus. The fear that we have is the fear of losing ourselves… what it will cost me, what will “that” Jesus ask of me? The answer? He will ask you for anything and everything that will be a stumbling block between you and Him. Somewhere in our core, we know this and avoid having to answer the question by creating our own jesus who never asks us anything that overly complicates our life.
So, you tell me… do you see Jesus being manifest in the full in this world? If yes, please give me the example. If no, why do you think that is?
Epiphany Meditation: The Word Became Flesh – Pt. 3 [07JAN2011]
Yesterday many members of the Church celebrated Epiphany, the day celebrated and recognized as the appearance or manifestation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus. This is an incredible thing, this revelation…epiphany, and God’s manifest grace permitting mankind to recognize the person of the Word who became flesh. This seems the perfect place to pick back up our meditation on the Word Became Flesh. I wish to focus in this installment on what it means for the Word to dwell among us and in us…
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14-18)
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him (Matthew 9:9). Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him (Matthew 4:22). My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me (John 10:27).
What does it mean to be “called” by God? I think the question is relevant because ultimately each of us is called by God. We are called to be, first, reconciled to Him. Secondly, we are called to be people of blessing, people that bring holistic (“whole-istic”) healing, and we are called to be administers of grace. All of this is for the sake of God’s image which we are created in. Now, some of this or even most of this would be agreed upon by many people professing Christian beliefs. In fact, if you are a fly on a wall in the church social areas on any given Sunday, you’ll hear this type of inspiration and encouragement shared in conversation between “believers” egging one another on in the perseverance of their faith. This is good; except… in the Christian communities that I have traveled and belonged to, this is predominantly where this encouragement begins and ends… with talk. These are the “right” words to share with our Christian brothers and sisters, but we don’t really mean them.
“The Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through his transcendent love, become what we are, that he might bring us to be even what he is himself” (Ireneaus)
“For He was made man that we might be made God” (Athanasius)
Why do we do this? Why do we speak words we really don’t mean? I think I have a pretty good theory on the answer to that question. My theory is that we want to believe them; that’s why we say them. The tragedy is that as a general group of people we don’t believe they are possible. We stumble through our lives of faith hoping for something we don’t believe is attainable. A very large percentage of people instead believe the lie that we cannot be like Jesus. The reality is that the thing we so desperately hope for, being like Jesus, is attainable and in this physical life. This is what the Word became Flesh is ultimately all about, the man and woman created in the image of God becoming again whole and healed, reconciled and restored to the glorious image of God who is visible in the person and image of Christ.
What is our stumbling block?
As I said, I think the primary stumbling block to our flesh becoming the Word is our belief that such a transformation is unattainable in our physical lives. I think this belief is faulty and stems from two wellsprings; one is ego, selfishness, and the desire to become the designer of our own destiny. Second, is our faulty (even heretical) theology; we attribute an errant sense of divinity to the flesh and blood Jesus and elevate his life to something unattainable by mere mortals (us). This perspective of Jesus is a form of Gnosticism and Docetism… (note: not exactly like either, but a form of both). Update: (Jan. 08, 2011 — While reading some of my favorite blogs this morning, I stumbled on a pretty good explanation of Gnosticism and Docetism from the Resurgence site. You might also find some of the other false beliefs informative from their series here.)
The incarnation is one of the great mysteries of God, seemingly full of paradox with the idea of Jesus as fully man and fully God. The concept certainly does not seem congruous, but that is one of the great doctrines of the church. It is difficult for us to comprehend a God with our frailties and afflictions; I’ve heard people preach that Jesus never was sick a day in his life. I don’t think Scripture speaks to this aspect of Jesus’ health one way or the other, but we know he hungered, got tired, was angered, exasperated, grieved, saddened, bruised, bled, and died. I can’t imagine that he suffered these other physical attributes yet he was never sick, but I digress. It is also difficult for us to imagine a human being, born of a woman, who is also the Uncreated and Immortal God. Yet, Scripture and Jesus testify to this being true in the person of Christ. Consequently, as “believers,” we struggle with these dynamics in the outliving of our own faith.
So, what’s the problem again?
The problem with this confusion about Jesus is the way that it impacts how we live our physical lives. Most people who are “believers” will concede that Jesus lived a “perfect” and “sinless” life. Although the majority of those people do not believe they have the ability or empowerment to “follow” after Jesus in this same capacity, but Scripture teaches otherwise.
“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” (John 14:12)
“Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:6)
I could continue to cite supporting passages from the Epistles of St. Paul, but I’ll leave those to your own reading. The point here is that we are intended to live a life as Jesus lived while he walked the earth. His nature as God and Man are real, but he “emptied himself” (Philippians 2:5-7) and became as us, so he could be the perfect sacrifice for our sin. In emptying himself, he showed us the way to walk, led by the Spirit of God, in unbroken fellowship with the Godhead (God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit), so that we too can walk as glorious reflections of God. The prayer of Jesus in John chapter seventeen speaks to this very idea. The following passage speaks to this unbroken unity:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” –Jesus (John 17:20-26)
What do you believe about this Epiphany? How does the Word became Flesh impact your flesh becoming his Word? Stay tuned; more to come…
Christmastide Meditation: The Word Became Flesh – Pt. 2 [01JAN2011]
I ended the first post about the Word became flesh sharing the idea that I believe we obsess over the event of salvation and with rare exception fail to live as Kingdom ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:16-6:2) on this side of eternity.
“The glory of God is a human fully alive,” Irenaeus
I wonder… How many Christian people, Protestant Christians in particular, are still considering the incarnate birth of Jesus Christ? I realize that the day we celebrate his birth (Dec. 25th) is simply a calendar mark chosen by men, but nonetheless, it is the day we have chosen to begin celebration and meditation upon the Word becoming flesh. In Church history, the people of God have traditionally focused upon the revelation of the birth of Christ through Epiphany or Theophany a date that celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ. Following Epiphany, some traditions in the Church continue to celebrate the Word became flesh through the first Sunday in February. So, I wonder; “How many Christians are continuing to ponder the great mystery of the Word became flesh?”
The Immortal became mortal…
The Unseen became seen…
The Uncreated One became as us…
Pure Spirit was revealed in flesh and blood…
The greatest Mystery in the history of Creation deserves more than one day to reflect on. Even more tragic is the reality that most Christians may have only given a fleeting thought or moment to this great mystery. I’m sure some celebrated the obligatory “Christmas Eve Service” or Christmas Mass, but if we are honest… how much more of our precious time did we give to pondering this great gift of God to mankind? This very weekend most of the world has celebrated the beginning of a new year and by the start of the next work week, the majority of people will have moved well beyond the thoughts of Christmas and the Word became flesh.
“Not only has the usefulness of foregoing examples served for calling us to eternity, but the Truth Himself has even “appeared” in a visible body.” –Leo the Great
The “tip of the iceberg”
I mentioned in the last post that I believe most people who profess knowledge of God through the Salvation Experience live the majority of their “earthly salvation lives” on a very small portion of real estate that exists in the kingdom of God. It seems that many Christians tote their life in Christ around with them as if it were a “safety base” or “yoga mat.” They will live in the world completely oblivious to the leading of God, and largely unresponsive to Him, until a crisis or otherwise selfishly motivated reason arises which prompts the “safety base” or “glory mat” to be unfurled. Then, the crisis-motivated “believer” will draw on the depths of their knowledge to proclaim the protection, leading, blessing, etc. of God for their need. Once the crisis is removed, the “base” or “mat” is picked up and “life” can resume for the “believer.” The salvation experience for this type of “christian” is event based; it was a one-time initiation into the “club” that will ultimately culminate in a heavenly experience after this earthly life is over. Not at all what God intends for His children…
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” –Jesus (John 10:10)
I think that many of our “family of believers” suffer from heretical beliefs. This occurs in large part because of our unwillingness to truly grow in deep relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We rely on our event-based salvation and continue the pursuit of knowledge instead of focusing on the Wellspring of all Known Things. This is a form of Gnosticism. We think we become more saved as we gain more knowledge, but that is simply not true. There are not degrees of salvation. There is one salvation through the grace of Jesus Christ. We receive that full salvation when we choose to become fully and sacrificially obedient to Him and His Way. Only first through the “death of self” can we begin the journey of becoming a Christian-fully-alive in the person of Jesus Christ. This is the Mystery revealed. This is where God’s grace is explained in the Word becoming flesh in us, HIS FOLLOWERS.
When we fail to fully engage the roles God has destined for His people, we are not His people at all. If we do not become the Ambassadors of Salvation ourselves, if we do not leave the old self, if we do not embrace the changed heart and life that is the New Creation… we attempt to accept God’s grace in vain. Effectively, we trample the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ underfoot. Knowledge does not save. Salvation is not an event. Grace saves and is evidenced by the salvation experience completely and utterly consuming the old life of a person and presenting it with something new that is manifest as the Word becomes flesh in you… and in me.
More thoughts on the Word became flesh in the coming days; stay tuned for part three…
Christmastide Meditation: The Word Became Flesh – Pt. 1 [30DEC2010]
I have been pondering the “Word became flesh” for several days now. It seems the more I ponder this thought, the bigger it becomes. Although I have considered the question, “What does it mean; the Word became flesh?” a number of times, I don’t think I’ve spent this lengthy a period of unbroken time pondering it. My thoughts have gone in a number of different but related directions and I’m not sure any of them are completely developed, but I felt compelled to put “pen to paper” nonetheless. Before going further, there are a couple of assumptions I am making; (1) the Word refers to Jesus as written about in John 1:1-5. (2) the Word and Jesus refer to the incarnation of God in the person and flesh of Jesus Christ also written about in John 1:14-18, Philippians 2:5-11, and 1 John 1:1-4.
So, on to question one…
What does the Word became flesh mean? I think at the most basic level, the Word became flesh means what it says…
God became human. The history of the church dating back to the earliest Scriptures indicate this foundational understanding was agreed upon by the first followers of Jesus and continues (in large part) as an understood belief in his followers even today.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14-18)
“The Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through his transcendent love, become what we are, that he might bring us to be even what he is himself” (Ireneaus)
“For He was made man that we might be made God” (Athanasius)
How this marvelous mystery of the incarnation progresses and ultimately plays out in the lives of Jesus’ followers is one of the directions my “pondering” has taken me. I guess that makes the question take a different direction as well, presenting another layer of examination…
“What does the Word became flesh mean in the lives of Jesus’ followers?” I think this is a pretty big question too and we can get into many branches of theology and doctrine thereof, but theory and theology is not my aim as the object of this question. There is indeed a time and place for the study of theology and discussions relative to all the great doctrines of the Bible, but conversely, those things might also be a contributor to some of our problems as “believers.” So, for now…the lives we live as Christians and the daily practice of “living out” our faith are the objects of the question.
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” –Jesus (John 10:10)
Much of our understanding of the Word becoming flesh or God coming to walk among men involves a domineering focus on the act of humanity’s salvation… that is, God’s reconciliatory act of atonement through the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Important as this aspect of the Word becoming flesh is, it is the proverbial “tip of the iceberg.” Jesus came to give us life; abundant, full, today, and eternal. Jesus lived among men to not only provide us a way back to God and show us the way to God, but to show us how to live our lives in the now for God as kingdom people of the eternal tomorrow. We scrutinize and obsess over the tip and miss the mass of the iceberg of our faith and all it has to offer us on this side of eternity. It is this side of eternity that God is so very involved in…it might be one of the details of our relationship He is most concerned with…and we might be missing it. I’ll talk more about these thoughts in the coming days. I hope you’ll weigh in.
Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:1-6:1
vss 1-5 “It ain’t easy…”
“Suffering is not a punishment,” Robert Ingersoll wrote, “it is a result.” Suffering, we learn as we go, is the price we pay to bring life to fullness, both for others and for ourselves. It is not to be desired in a neurotic kind of way, but it is definitely not to be denied. For when we refuse to suffer, we refuse to grow. Suffering requires us to stretch our souls to the boundaries of personal growth. It brings to the surface in us both strengths and weaknesses we could never, in any other way, know we have. It is not about surrendering ourselves to pain left devoid of meaning. It is about finding meaning in the center of the self whatever the stresses around us.
Who does not know that growth is a painful thing? It overspreads and sucks out the heart of us. It twists us from one amorphous spiritual mass to another. It shapes and reshapes us until, at last, we come to full stature, to total development. It tugs us from small to larger, from broad to deep. Most of all, perhaps, growth wizens us. What we grow through, we come out of with a different, a better, a clearer perspective. We come to understand that every phase of life is to be won by dint of hard labor and great risk. Suffering is not nothing in the living of life. It takes us to the rink of the self and makes us walk back, wiser and more certain of both our priorities and our principles. ~~Joan Chittister
vss 7 “For we live by believing not seeing…”
vss 9-10 “So whether we are here in this body or away from this body our goal is to please him. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.”
“…the point of the Spirit is to enable those who follow Jesus to take into all the world the news that he is Lord, that he has won the victory over the forces of evil, that a new world has opened up, and that we are to help make it happen.” ~~N.T. Wright
vss 14-15 “Since we believe Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ…”
“The deepest desire of our hearts is for union with God. From the first moment of our existence our most powerful yearning is to fulfill the original purpose of our lives—‘to see Him more clearly, love Him more dearly, follow Him more nearly.’ We are made for God, and nothing else will satisfy.” ~~Brennan Manning
vss 21 “God made Christ, who never sinned to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”
“Therefore, that joining together of Head and members, that indwelling of Christ in our hearts—in short, that mystical union—are accorded by us the highest degree of importance, so that Christ, having been made ours, makes us sharers with him in the gifts with which he has been endowed. We do not, therefore, contemplate him outside ourselves from afar in order that his righteousness may be imputed to us but because we put on Christ and are engrafted into his body—in short, because he deigns to make us one with him.” ~~John Calvin
vs 6:1 “As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it…”
I have many thoughts about this passage of Scripture; my heart and my mind continue to be gripped by it. In my mind, it seems to sum up the essence of the gospel…
Humans are broken in their rebellion and far from God. God makes a way for their healing and redemption. Through the redemptive work of Christ, humans have a means to become reconciled and restored to right standing relationship with their Creator God. Humans become one with God and enter the continuing mission of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration with Him.
It boggles my mind that we are capable of living the life we see Jesus live in the Gospels. It boggles my mind that so many of us choose not to live it. “God saved us and called us to live a holy life.” (2 Timothy 1:9) “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you…” ~Jesus (John 20:21) And then, there are these words from Paul to Timothy (2 Timothy 2:2-14):
2 Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.
3 Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. 5 And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. 6 And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. 7 Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things.
8 Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach. 9 And because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained. 10 So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.
11 This is a trustworthy saying:
If we die with him,
we will also live with him.
12 If we endure hardship,
we will reign with him.
If we deny him,
he will deny us.
13 If we are unfaithful,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot deny who he is.
14 Remind everyone about these things, and command them in God’s presence to stop fighting over words. Such arguments are useless, and they can ruin those who hear them
Consider the words of Paul as he describes the life of the follower of Christ; he equates the journey to that of a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer as examples. Make this day an exercise in meditation upon these examples… What do you know about the life and training of a soldier; an athlete; what about the trials and dedication of the farmer?