Sunday, April 16, 2017

One Lovely Life

Philippians 2:5-8 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

One of the joys of Christian faith is the understanding that Christ has walked in your shoes. No, literally; He has walked in your shoes. For 33 years He was impacted by the same emotions, urges, desires that originate of the same various biological functions, physical circumstances, and human interactions.

So on the one hand, we can’t say to God “You’ve never experienced this, you don’t understand”, because He has experienced, in very real terms, the full range of a human existence through His unique Trinitarian bond with the Son.

But on the other hand, we are able to draw near to Him, and He to us, because of our shared life experience. To the young person battling with raging hormone levels, He says “been there”. To the older person pressing through physical pain to accomplish something, He says “done that”. To the person of any age striving to express true “agape” love to cold, heartless, definitively un-loving people, He says “I lived that ideal out continuously for all 33 years!

Therefore, Christ is our example of this truest sort of love - agape. It is a love that is heartfelt and emotional to the fullest; but it is equally intellectual and determinative.

Consider this anecdote from the well known preacher Ravi Zacharias:

When he was in his mid-twenties, my brother came to my father and said, “You know, Dad, I’ve always maintained even when we were in India that I’m only going to marry the girl you choose for me. I guess I am ready now. Would you please begin a search for a girl for me to marry?” I really didn’t believe he’d go through with it. We were living in Toronto, thousands of miles and a cultural planet away from the land of our birth…
He narrowed the “applicants” to a short list and, finally focusing on one person, began to correspond with her. Then they advanced to telephone conversations, but not many because that was “too expensive.” One could tell that reality was closing in. Finally, believe it or not, they both felt this was it. The dates for the engagement and the marriage were set with these two never having met. My brother and my father flew from Toronto to Bombay. More than one thousand wedding invitations were sent before my brother and his bride-to-be had ever seen each other.

I thought to myself, Oh my! You know, this is faith. Maybe it is even less than that. This is credulity! I began to get really concerned, so before my brother left for Bombay, I mustered up the courage to caution him. I said, “I don’t want to challenge anything you’re doing, but I do have a brief question. What are you going to do when you arrive in Bombay, come down the Jetway and see a young woman standing there with a garland in her hand, and say to yourself, Good grief! I hope that’s not her. I hope that’s somebody else!

My brother just stared at me. He said, “Are you through?” I told him that for the moment I was just awaiting his answer. Then he said something that was absolutely defining for him: “Write this down, and don’t ever forget it:
Love is as much a question of the will as it is of the emotion. And if you will to love somebody, you can.”
This is always a component of truest love. It is “agape” love. When Christ asked Peter if he “agape” loved Him and Peter responded that he “phileo” loved Him, Peter was saying his love was very real, very deep, but still not yet fully formed (John 21:15ff). As we see throughout the gospels, Peter was a man who passionately loved his Savior, but at times in merely impetuous ways (i.e. Matt.16:22, John 13:6ff). His heart and mind were not always operating at the same level. The right brain often ran ahead while the left brain lagged behind.

In Christ though, we see agape love, a love rooted in not only a passion for the beloved, but also a willful determination to forge a way for the beloved to dwell with Him, and He with them.

Which brings us back to the glorious gift of the Father giving us Himself, in a sense, in human form. Many preachers make the mistake of over-anthropomorphizing the God who far transcends all creation. There is much of God that has no human or earthly counterpart; i.e.- the full glory of the Trinity. But He did give us His Son, and He dwelt fully as a man for those 33 years. He has “been there, done that, and lived that” when it comes to the whole left brain, right brain kind of love. He literally knows what it is like to battle through the same biological, physical, and people issues, that we also battle with.

And praise God, He is there, in the moment, to likewise help us.

Hebrews 4:14-16 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

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