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Archive for April, 2018

God in Christ

April 21st, 2018

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son … For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. Col. 1:13-19

The kingdom of God is always revealed through personality. The heavens declare the glory of God, but His rule is declared through Christ. The idea of a kingdom is not possible unless there is a king. For the last several centuries there have been brave democratic experiences of many nations, yet all have felt a need to have some human person to be “on top of the heap” or to embody the values and identity of the nation. We may validly ask on earth whether or not the people of any nation can identify with each other strictly through mere impersonal means.

True values must have a face. There is an ache within the human heart for intimacy, and though some of us are more drawn to ideas than others, no human can say that he is fulfilled in life without intimacy and relationships with others. God has placed this need in our natures and it is an indispensable element of who we are. And it is the unchanging reality of who God is as well. He reveals Himself to us best as Father, Redeemer, Shepherd, Comforter, Teacher, and Friend – all of which are roles that demand personality and relationships.

The Bible is abundantly clear that God is a Person and He has revealed Himself through Jesus of Nazareth. The Bible testifies that all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell Him. And it was not some impersonal principle who served as the Creator, but it was God as a Person who created personality. Along with that creation is individuality and the ability to express oneself and to think for oneself.

Christ was not some mere afterglow of the eternal. He was and is God who was God from before the beginning. Some I know have struggled with the concept of the Trinity, but without this concept we have no explanation for community or the capacity for people – God’s creation – to exist in relationship with one another. However far back we may go in time, we will eventually come to a point where only God exists. And if that God were a single solitary entity, with no capacity for fellowship or intimacy with another, what type of world would such a God create?

Christ spoke plainly of the glory and love he and the Father shared from eternity (John 17:24), and there is the element of God’s eternal nature that speaks of unity, wholeness, and intimacy. So the kingdom of God that He invites us to is one of love and intimacy, where community and unity will be experienced in and through Christ. Yet where individuality will still be maintained, and where sin will be purged out of our spirits.

We people are not more profound simply because we have been trained to think in metaphysical terms, in objective notions of truth and reality that are divorced from personality. If anything, we demean ourselves when we think of God or His eternal reality as such. For His personality begat our personalities. And we are going not merely toward an idyllic setting but to the Lord Jesus Himself.

The kingdom of God is never about impersonal rules. It is eternally centered in the reality of the divine Personality of Jesus Christ, the Son He loves. So we are most at home when we think of our life in these terms. I am sixty-seven years old today and as we age it is not, as we might think, that our wisdom only increases in terms of logic. In fact, our capacity to think clearly seems to diminish somewhat with age. But our capacity for intimacy should increase, our willingness for honesty and unaffected intimacy, and ever deepening relationships grows. There in eternity we shall know fully, even as we are fully known (1 Cor. 13:12).

Let Christ draw you to Himself, and be comforted with the assurance that this knowledge shall never fade with age, or shall it dim or become dull throughout eternity.

Daily Devotions, The Last Surprises of Life

Living Because of God

April 19th, 2018

For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. (Romans 14:7-8 ESV)

There are three different perspectives of our relationship with God found in the Bible.

Perspective 1: It is my life but I wish God to bless it

The first view begins with the individual and then goes to God. This view is limited, but not always completely evil. It is commonly seen among people. And, to be honest, it is seen in Scripture in both a positive light and a negative light.

For example, the psalmist wrote, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (Psa. 91:11). The verse was seen as a prophetic promise to the Messiah (Matt. 4:5-11), but it also reflected the idea of general faith in God, that my path in life is chosen by me, but I may still ask God to bless my path. In its best light it causes the individual to think what it would take for God to bless his life and his choices. But Satan used it also in a negative way to tempt Jesus to suggest that He could go His own way and make God follow Him.  

In its worst light this idea of God blessing my way resembles what is commonly seen in pagan religions that make several unchristian assumptions about God: (a) that God is distant and aloof, (b) that God does truly care about us and we must bribe him in some way to gain his attention and concern, (c) that God also does not truly know what is best for us, so we must advise him about what we want in life.  

Jesus alluded to this when he spoke of the Pharisees who prayed as though God was deaf and uncaring: “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt. 6:7-8). 

But this view is not altogether wrong all the time, for there are many instances in life where God allows us freedom to choose our ways. “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” (Prov. 16:3). There are many decisions we make in life where God is silent, and we must make the best decision we can under the circumstances and commit it to the Lord. But to commit something to the Lord means more than to go our own selfish way and wish him to bless it irregardless. This leads us to other perspectives.

Perspective 2: My life is given me by God and should be lived to please Him

This is a second perspective, and it is much more than asking God to bless my choices.  It begins with the assumption that God is not just the Creator of life in general but He is my personal Creator. He has a plan for me. I should look first for His choices, His will, and His path for me.

For the Christian, we are comforted with the knowledge that God is a God of love, of mercy, and of compassion, and He wishes to bless me. He also wishes to bless others through me, so with God there is always someone to be redeemed and benefited through our obedience – sometimes it is us who benefit, or so it seems, and sometimes it seems that others benefit from our obedience. But the perspective of a biblical faith is that our obedience to God’s will and choices for us is always a blessing to all.

For example, He teaches us to love others for their benefit, but along the way we discover that loving others is also a benefit to us. And this is true with other seemingly unselfish acts.  “Give and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:38), and “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Act 20:35).

The one thing that every meaningful life must have is a purpose. The selfish individual is the most miserable. The one who truly has a God, ordained purpose to his life is the most fulfilled. Paul wrote, “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it” (Eph. 4:7). The idea behind this is that God has given each redeemed life a certain amount of grace to fulfil His plan for that life.

In Romans he wrote similarly of faith: “I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Rom. 12:3). Here Paul spoke of faith, and it seems that he was describing the same principle. God has a purpose for your life and for my life and the most fulfilled person finds that purpose and lives according to the grace and faith that God has allotted him to life with.

Perspective 3: We are alive because of God

There is another perspective that brings these together and even helps them go much further. My life is not just mine to live as I wish, nor is it just mine to live as God wishes me to. My life is an extension of Christ’s work in the world and I live because of Him.

Again we are helped by Paul who wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not i but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). Jesus said, “I  am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). John wrote, “Whoever has the Son has life” (1 John 5:12).

He lives in me and through me is the Christian principle. I do not merely go my way and ask for His blessing. And I do not merely go His way and ask for His guiding presence. He now lives and goes in me and through me and He guides me and enables me in all that I do. Jesus taught:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)

In some way we operate daily on all three levels.

  • We are independent agents and make our own decisions. Many things we are left to decide on our own, but we should ask God to bless our way in life.
  • We are to be obedient agents as well, and our path is not just ours. We do not live to ourselves or die to ourselves alone, but to God. We should find His purpose and fulfil His purpose with the strength and grace and faith He provides.
  • We are not mere actors on this stage, however. We are empowered and indwelled beings. God is in us through His Spirit. We live because of God.

Daily Devotions, discipleship