"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Christ's Very Nature

I can remember lazy summer afternoons lying on a blanket in the grass, gazing at clouds. Faces, animal shapes, castles and feathers emerged, morphed and vanished. In the 70's there was a popular song about the illusions of clouds. The theme of the song was the illusions of love and life. Things are rarely what they seem, from clouds to life to love. We only think we know them, but in fact we are acquainted with how they seem. The problem is, the illusions are ever-changing and we may not grow to understand them at all from personal experience, unless we look deeper into their nature.

Having just challenged the Philippians to cultivate the same attitude as Christ Jesus (literally, to be like-minded with him), Paul goes on to remind them of his nature:

Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped... (Philippians 2:6)

Like the clouds over the Sea of Galilee, Jesus appeared to be many things to those who saw him. But to those who truly came to know him, he was something else entirely "in his very nature." This is where the biblical version of Jesus differs from the perspectives of many in the world today. The Bible never describes Jesus as (merely) a good man, as a great moral teacher (only), or as a pallid monk. Bold in his words and actions, Jesus asserted about himself that he exists eternally, that he is the only way to the Father, that he and the Father are one and the same. New Testament writers say that he existed before creation as one and the same as God, that all things were created by him, that all things continue to be held together by him, and that he is coming back to judge the world. See  John 1:1-4; 14 and Colossians 2:9.. An ordinary man who made such claims would be a liar, a lunatic, or a devil from hell "(C.S Lewis).

Such a One, eternally existing, all knowing, all powerful, looked upon the world and the human race. He saw both as broken, lost and, unless he intervened, without hope. As Paul wrote elsewhere, this is how we know the love of God, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. His position on the throne as God (and as a mystery of the triune God, next to God the Father) was less important to him than redeeming everything, including you and me.

This realization carries powerful implications for us, in light of the command to have the same attitude. We like our rights and we love our positions. We want to hold onto what we have. If another gets credit for what we have done, we are offended. We see certain jobs or people as being beneath us. It might even be called the American Dream, to compete and win, to come out on top, and to get what is due us. Paul would say, "Wake up!" Jesus, who was really God, did not hold onto what was rightly his. He did whatever was needed to submit to God and to redeem people.

What if we really were like-minded with Jesus? How would this change the way we walk through our days? In what areas/relationships would we be willing to loosen our grip  for the sake of the gospel? Let's ask the Holy Spirit to show us and to empower us to act, as Jesus did, for the good pleasure of the Father.


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