Sunday, March 19, 2017

Fire of Fire

Occasionally, we have a random maid come by to clean the house. Just like when the Jehovah’s Witnesses ring our doorbell, I try to make the most of these opportunities.

After she finished up, I asked her if she liked to read. When she said she did, I offered her a copy of my book New: Wineskins and the Simple Words of Christ. I explained how I believe that everyone who comes into a relationship with Jesus carries baggage that influences him or her to not take God at His word.

Societal and familial traditions, religious and denominational leanings, philosophical pontifications of teachers and university professors, traumatic experiences, affluence, poverty and the values of our closest friends are all potential pieces of luggage we bring into the journey of following Jesus. And most of the time, we have no concept of the tremendous weight they carry in shaping our worldviews.

Also, it is very natural to see God through the lens of how we feel about our fathers. If our fathers were dependable, we often find it easier to trust God, who is referred to as our heavenly Father. However, if we had rocky or nonexistent relationship relationships with our dads, taking God at His word often proves to be a difficult endeavor. The cleaning lady told me she hadn’t seen her father in roughly twenty years, and had only just begun going back to church after about that same amount of time.

It’s interesting how the Scriptures inform us that instead of passing God through the filter of our earthly fathers, we should let the life and ministry of Jesus be the living, visible definition of our unseen heavenly Father.

For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. – John 1:17-18

“Only begotten” is a weird phrase we do not often hear in our culture, which literally translates as “one of a kind”. To help understand what it means that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God, let me explain by using an analogy from the early Church (remembering, of course, that all analogies will fall short at some point).

It is just as we see also happening in the case of a fire, which is not lessened when it has kindled another fire. Rather, it remains the same. And that which has been kindled by it likewise appears to exist by itself, not diminishing the fire from which it was kindled. The Word of Wisdom … is Himself this God, begotten of the Father. … “The Lord made me the beginning of His ways for His works. From everlasting He established me in the beginning, before He had made the earth.” – Justin Martyr 160CE, Volume 1, p. 365 [CD-ROM]

Fire of Fire. Light of Light. God of God.

Jesus, the Word who was God and was with God from the beginning, was never created, for by Him all things were created. Jesus was begotten. He is very God of the eternal one true God. All these truths reveal why Jesus could say to Philip, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Those words can be life-changing for people like me who have grown up with trust issues.

Maybe you’ve been wounded by a parent, so it’s hard for you to trust in a God who calls Himself a heavenly Father. Maybe you’ve been hurt by Christians who call God their heavenly Father, so it’s difficult for you to become part of what you consider a dysfunctional family. Maybe you’ve read sections of the Old Testament where you see God making laws or doing things that appear to be contradictory to One who calls Himself slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Whatever the case, whatever baggage you carry, let me ask you: How do you feel about Jesus? Is He someone you feel you can trust? Personally, I can’t think of anyone more trustworthy, and He is the exact representation of the Father’s nature.

The apostle Paul wrote, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). This passage does not imply that God forced Christ to die for us, but that Jesus willingly engaged in this selfless act.

In fact, Hebrews 12:2 tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus, “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.” His joy was not found in experiencing the agony, but in what would be accomplished through His humiliation—our reconciliation. Our deliverance from the domain of darkness brought Jesus Christ joy as He contemplated and endured the physical and spiritual torture of the cross. We fix our eyes on Jesus because He shows us God the Father.

For nearly two decades, I believed I had a terrible earthly father, and thus a sketchy heavenly one. But how many people can say they had fathers who constantly told them they loved them? Or had fathers who always pro- vided new clothes for school? Or had fathers who came to virtually all their sporting and musical events? Or had fathers who played sports with them, even if they did not particularly enjoy those sports? Or had fathers who were separated from their mothers but still managed to keep doing these things?

I could go on, but you get the idea. Perception is not always reality. The truth is I am blessed to have the father I do, and I had a much better upbringing than millions of other people. Likewise, though for a while I thought my heavenly Father was untrustworthy, nothing could be further from the truth.

Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God, has demonstrated to us the character of God the Father, and He is good. He is worthy of us laying down our lives for Him, because Jesus has already laid down His life for us.

It was amazing seeing the fire come into that woman’s eyes as we talked and she began to view her heavenly Father in a new and true light. May the fire of the Holy Spirit ignite a new love for your heavenly Father that manifests in a passionate commitment to following the simple words of Jesus Christ. 

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