August 16, 2010

To Live is Christ — knowing Who He is

Last year I found a book in the library in which the author personified character traits. For instance, envy, or slander, or grace, or integrity were described as persons. A few of these descriptions were so powerful that I felt like the personified trait was alive with two legs, standing in the room and looking at me.

I get a similar feeling when I read these verses from the New Testament, only they are not about an abstract emotion or quality, but a concrete person, one who is alive and actually is in this room beside me. These words describe how God personified Himself — in a man, in Jesus Christ. 

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell. (Colossians 1:15–19)
This passage says far more about Jesus, but the first and the last lines declare that this man is like no other man. He is God’s fullness in human form, fully man and fully God.

Our pastor talked about eternal life Sunday morning. He quoted a few prominent spiritual leaders whose ideas about eternity are far different from what the Bible describes. He also talked about God being invisible, eternal, immortal, far beyond the comprehension of human beings. Our finite minds cannot grasp the reality of God. He is so much more than we are or can imagine.

Although Jesus came to save us from our sin, He also came to reveal this high and holy God to us. God could have chosen visions, dreams, maybe even a You-tube video, but He had a better idea. He pulled on human flesh like we might pull on a pair of trousers, became a man, and walked among us so we could see and touch Him.

But we didn’t get it, at least not at first. John 1:11 says, “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” Those who saw Him thought He was a mad man, even a blasphemer because of His claims.

The miracles were not enough. Not many were convinced when He rose from the dead. They thought it was not true because, in their minds, God was not powerful enough to do that, nor would He humble Himself to become a man.  They claimed to be religious yet they rejected this One who came in all the fullness of God and revealed His perfections. Why were they so blind?

Jesus knew their hearts. Spiritual blindness was part of their problem but the root of their inability to see God standing before them in the person of Christ was more about their sin than any other reason. Jesus said, 

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. (John 3:18–20)
In other words, sin was more important than even acknowledging that God was in their midst, never mind putting their lives in His hands by faith. For that reason, Jesus said to them, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24)

Today is no different. People will believe that Jesus was a good man, or a prophet, or a great teacher. However, the line is drawn at the Bible’s declaration that He is the image of the invisible God and that in Him dwells all the fullness of God. They might say that is too great a stretch for them to believe, but as Jesus said, this is not the real issue. Apart from grace, we human beings simply love our darkness and do not want Jesus to expose (or forgive) our sins.

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