“What is the hardest to give up, when you become/declare yourself to be a Christian? Popularity, possessions, positions, pride or pleasure?”
We had begun TnT this Wednesday evening looking at these questions. My lectures had started (and ended) on a Monday in the first week, which had left me with ample time to attend TnT. Continuing on in Luke’s Gospel, we looked at Luke 3: 21 through to 4: 30. It had been a very, thorough and fruitful evening.
In preparation for the study, I had noted the title of the study – ‘Jesus’ ministry in outline‘ and had thought that I would have liked to come along with the intention of learning about how Jesus attended to His ministry, the task God had given Him to show His Glory to the world. I did have a good many questions on Christian service of late, and had been thinking: Surely, there must be no greater Person to imitate than Jesus. God has been very gracious to provide godly men and women in my midst as great examples of leading and serving, and it is to them whom I do look up to, ultimately however, it is Christ whom I should be learning from. That had been my mindset, and I must say, God, through His Word and Spirit, had really convicted me of my latter thoughts, as I share here.
“How is Jesus introduced in these passages in Luke?”
We see that Chapter 3 ends with the genealogy of Jesus Christ, albeit in reverse order, that is, beginning with “the son of Joseph” and ending with, in verse 38, who was “the son of Adam, the son of God”. Luke’s Gospel, it was shared, is distinct in that whilst in other Gospels this genealogy is not elaborated upon/mentioned in detail at all, here in Luke its distinctiveness (the genealogy) reminds humbly of really, Jesus’ relationship to humankind. Adam was made in the image of God, and whilst Adam was the son in the Beginning, now, a New Son has come to rule, signifying new beginnings, ultimately, a New Creation.
Visual representations are profoundly useful 🙂
I could draw this in paint, but I am one who prefers words. It is a circumstantial thing, chuckle.
So imagine a piece of white paper, and draw a line at the top left hand corner, marking it with Adam and Creation. This signifies the beginning ,as in Genesis. Then comes the Fall, so draw a line perpendicular to that, to the bottom base line of the paper, which reflects in some sense our physical and spiritual distance from God. Draw a dotted line which continues at that level (base) which travels for a bit (signalling the time of Israel through the Old Testament), and then draw a vertical line perpendicular to this horizontal line, heading upwards to the top of the paper. Really, as it was joked at the table, the vertical line, marked “Redemption”, should stretch upwards way beyond the top of the paper. For illustration’s sake however, pause at the top of the paper, and draw a horizontal line which continues on, marking it with JESUS, the New Creation, and Eternity.
How amazing is that. A restored relationship, with full confidence that this horizontal line shall never ever spiral downwards, ever again, because of what Christ has come to fulfill for us. Amen? Amen!
We were asked to compare the similarities and differences between Jesus in Chapter 4 in verse 1-15, and Adam in the new creation. Both had been tempted! Whilst Adam had succumbed to the temptation for knowledge (the fruit – I am careful to not say apple – being a metaphor); he had wanted to be all-seeing and all-knowing like God (we could throw in power in the equation, I believe), Jesus, whilst tempted both spiritually and physically (for he had been hungry in his 40-day fast), called upon the commandments of God and did not succumb, not one bit.
Why is this comparison made, and why does it matter that Jesus was victorious in not falling to the devil’s temptations? He had said “NO” – and successfully! – to Satan!
This is where, I was reminded and realized that my former conceptions about what Jesus wanted to teach me through this passage, was heading in the wrong direction.
I had offered answers such as “Jesus called upon God and His word”, “Jesus trusted in God’s goodness and promises”, “Jesus took God’s commandments seriously”.. but Peter, the Bible study leader, was quick to point out this:
That it is easy to look at and focus on these actions of Jesus with the mindset and intention to imitate Jesus in His obedience, that when faced with temptation, we should also, call upon God and His Word, trust in His goodness and promises, etc. Not that we shouldn’t, of course! However the danger here lies in then going away thinking that, I must be as good as Jesus – Jesus did it, so can I – to win God’s stamp of approval.
Incredibly humbling, this was.
I realized that unconsciously, I had been thirsty to look at how I could imitate Jesus, in all my intentions, I was actually depending upon myself, my discipline and my own strength/capability. I was keeping Jesus in mind, yes, but my intentions to follow Him, were off-tangent.
I could never, never reach God’s standard, nor be obedient to perfection as Jesus was here in Luke.
I should not be looking to make imitating Jesus, copying Jesus, my goal.
It was not so much that Jesus being perfectly obedient, so that we have to be like that, but that in Him and what He has done, His righteousness has been clothed freely unto us who believe – In Jesus, we are made right before God. There is nothing else to add on to that – yes, we seek, with God’s help, to grow in Christlikeness as we train ourselves for godliness in being more like Him, but in this world, before the New Creation, the humbling truth and indeed fact is that we would always fail again, clinging and really cleaving to His promises, that His mercies are new each morning and that we are leaning in the embrace of Jesus and all He has done, when He said “it is finished”, at the Cross.
Thank God for these revelations. How easy it is, and how unconscious if I am not careful! That as a Christian desiring to lead a life after God’s own heart, to take the yoke upon myself and miss the point of God sending His Son, Jesus, at all.
All that is left to do, is to be growing in love for Jesus! That He would go through all of that temptation, all of that pain, even to death on a Cross, all because He loved me so much.
Is Jesus Christ my “All in All”?
Often we think we need Jesus-AND-: Jesus-and-a good life, Jesus-and-good health, Jesus-and-wealth, Jesus-and-a life partner, Jesus-and-a loving family, Jesus-and-a good job… the list rumbles on. Is Jesus not enough? Can He not be my All-in-All? Well, the answer is this! Jesus is..
My LORD, My Master (John 13: 13)
My Portion, My Maker, My Husband (Isaiah 54: 5)
My Well-Beloved (Song of Solomon 1: 13)
My Saviour (2 Peter 3: 18)
My Hope (1 Timothy 1: 1)
My Brother (Mark 3: 35)
My Helper (Hebrews 13: 6)
My Physician (Jeremiah 8: 22)
My Healer (Luke 9: 11)
My Refiner (Malachi 3:3)
My Purifier (Malachi 3:3)
My Servant (Luke 12: 37)
My Example (John 13: 15)
My Teacher (John 3:2)
My Shepherd (Psalm 23:1)
My Keeper (John 17: 12)
My Feeder (Ezekiel 34:23)
My Leader (Isaiah 40:11)
My Restorer (Psalm 23: 3)
My Resting Place (Jeremiah 50: 6)
My Fountain of Living Water (John 7: 39)
My Passover (1 Corinthians 5: 7)
My Peace (Ephesians 2: 14)
My Wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30)
My Righteousness (1 Corinthians 1: 30)
My Sanctification (1 Corinthians 1: 30)
My Redemption (1 Corinthians 1: 30)
My All in All (Colossians 3: 11)
Jesus Christ is the Perfect fulfillment of our hearts; the Sweetest satisfaction for the human soul. If you dwell upon who Jesus is & can be to you, you’ll be left in great, great awe. Walk with Him, walk close to Him. And each new turn, or u-turn in life, you discover one thing: that there is always something you haven’t discovered, haven’t realized or understood deeply, about who Jesus is and can be. God is Gracious, His promise is this:
“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” – James 4: 8
Seek Him prayerfully, take time away from the world, and be quiet before Him.
All that is left to do, is to rejoice in thankfulness to God, for what He has done for me in His Love in Christ. My sin is no more held against me, because of what Christ has done, and I have the solid hope, eternal and sure, that I await a Glorious Day where I shall be with my God forever.
This did truly humble and convict me, it did.
It well, and truly did. Reminders like these, I need all the time.
It was fitting that the talk given by Rob Brown (in TnT, we have a Bible study, followed by a break and then a short talk on an area of the Christian life/faith), was on setting our eyes on the New Creation.
Is the Christian life worth living? We were asked. In being Christian, Paul claims that “to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Philippians 1: 21), can we and do we really believe that it is worth it? To die to self, to die to our earthly desires, to let go of our hunger for popularity, fame, wealth, relationships, health even.. Facing a constant battle with sin, facing opposition, receiving weird looks and experiencing social stigma, all sorts of exclusion we expect and which we face, all because we have chosen to lead a life of faith in Christ.
“Now remember, you will never know the fullness of Christ, until you know the emptiness of everything – but Christ” – C. Spurgeon
Christian, are you still clinging, unconsciously or not, to the things of this world? Its comforts, its desires, all which is but vanity of vanities, and which shall one day disappear? (Reminders from the book of Ecclesiastes!)
The Bible reminds us that what keeps us going in all of these, is really, understanding the Hope that we have, one we await so dearly, the New Creation, the Second and Final coming of Jesus Christ.
Rob sums up the New Creation as this:
“God’s promise of a glorified people in a glorious place, worshiping Him forever.”
Yes we have fallen bodies now, we feel the effects of growing old, physical pain and illnesses, so also emotional pain and hurt! Happy one moment, falling into a downward spiral of wayward thoughts and emotions in the next! Yet! Yet! Philippians 3: 20-21 reminds us:
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the LORD Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body“, and too in 1 Corinthians 15, we are told of the Resurrection we await in Christ, v43 our bodies were “sown in dishonour”, yet they shall be “raised in Glory“. So also in 1 John 3: 2 “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is”.
Won’t you just imagine, Christian! A life without sin! And a reunion with God for eternity!!!!
We will be in a glorified place, feasting in the Heavens (Isaiah 25: 6), enjoying Him in His Presence, a glorified place because of the very key fact that GOD Himself is dwelling in this place! “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.” (Revelation 21: 2). Where there, in Revelations 21 onwards, there shall be no more tears or pain, no more suffering – in Romans 8: 18, “for I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the Glory that is to be revealed to us” and so, Creation waits with eager longing (v19).
What shall we be doing in Heaven, then?
Following Isaiah 25 in verse 9:
“It will be said on that Day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, that He might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for Him;
Let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation.“
There, in God’s dwelling place, we shall worship Him, Him who is full deserving of our all, forever and ever.
What a privilege, to be with God in Eternity!!! Just think of it!! Impossible to behold!!!
How Good is the New Creation I await as a Christian, you might ask?
Better than ANYTHING you may ever imagine. Better than anything, I’ll ever imagine.
It ain’t about golden harps and angel loops and fluffy clouds, it is about being with the Greatest Lover of our souls, God Himself, For Eternity.
“God’s promise of a glorified people in a glorious place, worshiping Him forever.”
That is the Hope that keeps me going – that, as reminded in 1 Peter 1, God has for me this, an “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (v4),
Kept in heaven for me, and for you who believe too, and the amazing thing?
And that WE ARE BEING KEPT FOR IT, by the marvelous Grace of God.
1 Peter 1: 3-9
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
Indeed it is by grace through faith that we have been saved. God’s grace, is the Source of our Faith. How Gracious, Gracious is He!
Surely, surely then, dear Christian, we may say this with Paul,
“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain”
– Philippians 1: 21
Should we not be encouraging each other in this through the week, fellow Christians! We have a spiritual birthright and duty, and indeed privilege, to remind ourselves and fellow brethren of these great truths to which God has graciously revealed. Often, as Alice, the lady Bible study leader duly pointed out, we tend to assume that other Christians sitting round the table, being convicted of these truths, then go home and lead really godly lives we talk about at the table, that we naturally and easily, constantly hold these truths wherever we go. Yet the humbling truth is that if we do not catch ourselves, hey, even the night following itself, when we return to our abodes, or the next morning when we arise, such Promises are forgotten, and we lapse back into our earthly moans, comparisons, at everything else we face at work, at school, as we go out into an unbelieving society.
Let us therefore, be encouraging one another, and building one another up, reminding one another of this Hope we await, as we constantly remind ourselves of these truths through the week.
I write it here, and I write as a reminder to myself now, to behold these truths as I go about the rest of the week. May the grace of God sustain us.
This is why, I know what I believe to be true, to be right.
All that is left is to go forth in confidence He gives, to defend the Gospel.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Gospel of Grace.
The Gospel of Greatest Love this world could ever know.
Christian, let us be seeking to grow in our Love for Jesus Christ. Let us be seeking, to worship Him with our whole lives in praise, in love for God and His people, in our daily words and actions, and thanksgiving – for there is nothing else that we may offer, but these indeed. (Time to open a Bible to the Psalms! Any Psalm!)
Our lives, are now lovingly His. His to hold and behold.
Thank God for these humbling reminders, for these Truths to carry through this momentary life on earth.