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Joy in Lowliness

Jesus is God coming among us in lowliness. As God he moves towards us even though we are far from him. He gives himself freely to us even though who do not want him. Jesus even makes our sin and shame his own. He exists within the holy and joyful communion with his Father in the Spirit; but he wants to co-exist with others who are not God and far from God. And it doesn’t seem to make him miserable to lower himself in this way. No! The Lord finds great pleasure and joy in coming to us in lowliness. How could it not bring him joy? He is becoming the one he always wanted to be.

So the one who finds great pleasure within the triune communion finds pleasure in coming among us in lowliness. And as he stoops lower and lower towards the lowest place of all his pleasure does not dim. Rather, it was for the joy set before him that he endured the cross. He was glad that we would share in the pleasure of the his fellowship with the Father in the Spirit.

There are so many beautiful things in God’s world that are given for our pleasure. But we were created to enjoy the beauty of triune communion as our highest pleasure. That’s why the Father’s Son gives himself to us and for us. He wants us to enjoy the beauty of Triune life with him as we share his fellowship with the Father. And when his Spirit enables us to see how he has freely given himself to us in love we are drawn into his pleasure.

True to himself

When the exalted Lord became lowly for us he was doing what he promised all along.  He always said he would be with us.  And in Jesus, he is with us in a way we never dreamed possible.  He is actually joins himself to us as one of us.  This makes him faithful to us.

But when the exalted Lord stoops so low he isn’t only faithful to us. He is also faithful to himself. He becomes the one he always wanted to be.  Before God created anything or anyone the Son was appointed to be one of us.  In this way God would be with us in him and we would be with God in him.  God freely decided to bind himself to us.  And he freely decided to bind us to himself.  He determined himself to be ours and for us to be his.  This is what he resolved to be in Jesus before he even created us.

God’s eternal purpose became actual in time when the Holy Spirit brought into existence the unique person who is both God and man in union.  Now, in Jesus, God is the one he always wanted to be.  We actually see in the Jesus’ story God being true to himself, true to who he always wanted to be – one with us as one of us. For God’s eternal decision is that God and humanity should be together in union and for communion.

 

Lowly Majesty

Isaiah spoke about the future day when a voice would cry out in the wilderness, “prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God… And the glory of the Lord will be revealed”.

Eventually, the Lord himself came.  He was right there in our world.  And his glory was revealed as the lowly Jesus.   He was so lowly he did not stand out at all. 

People did not say, WOW!  Look at his splendour and majesty!  No, he was ordinary. 

This is the high and holy one who not only turns towards us but in doing so stoops down to us.  And stoops so very low.  Yes, the Lord of glory is exalted higher than we can ever imagine.  Nevertheless, when he became one of us he stooped lower than we can ever express. 

This lowly man is the revelation of the Lord’s majesty and glory.  But we so easily miss the majesty of God in his lowliness.  We see the majesty as one thing and the lowliness as another.  So when considering his majesty we are looking for something resplendent, awesome, and stunning.  Well, this lowliness is stunning!  We see that our God is so great that he is capable of becoming lowly.  And he does not humble himself in spite of the fact that he is God, but because he is God.  For our God always wanted to be God with us as one of us stooping to the lowest place in order to lift us to the highest place.

God makes himself known

As people move into the new year some resolve to do better in the new than they did in the old.  For us, that may mean resolving to know God better for true life is found in ever deeper fellowship with Father and Son in the Spirit.  And so we resolve to seek God.  We must always be aware, however,  that it is God who moves towards us making himself known. We may say that we want fellowship with God, but he wants fellowship with us more than we want fellowship with him.  And so he makes himself known to us and in us through Jesus and his Spirit. “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Cor.4:6). At the very centre of our being, the Spirit lights up the face of Jesus in living encounter.  And in that beautiful face we see the radiance of God.

God moves out of his own fullness making himself known more and more as the living Jesus encounters us again and again in the Spirit.  That means we do not create our own knowledge of God.  And we certainly cannot make knowledge of him our own possession.  He wants to be known.  He makes himself known encountering us as the living God who always surpasses our knowing.  Let us then fix on God’s resolve to enjoy fellowship with us and always be attentive and responsive to his revealing love.

Light into our darkness

Jesus did not simply act for God in the world he acted as God.  He is the very action of God himself in our world.  So, to know what God is like we fix our eyes on Jesus as God’s action in the world.

 But is this where we usually begin when considering who God is.  I think too many of us begin with abstract ideas about the divine being.  God is infinite, eternal, unchanging and so on.  He is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient.  We think this is the real “stuff” of divinity.

But is this the way God has made himself known?  John tells us, “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (John. 1.18). Who is the one true God?  What is the “divine nature”?  We do not discover the answer to these questions from our own notions of supreme, absolute, non-worldly, perfect being. We only know what God is like through Jesus’ human actions as God. From what he has done and suffered as human. For Jesus is God as human, among humans and for humans.

The same Jesus who came into the world comes to us by the Spirit.  He encounters us personally as the Living Lord who always surpasses our knowing.  And so we don’t decide what God is like out of our own darkness.  Rather, “God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4.6).

 

 

Fellowship Seeking God

Before the world was made Father and Son were with one another face to face.  In the bond of the Spirit, the Son delights in the Father and the Father delights in the Son.  Father and Son enjoying the closest fellowship in the Spirit.  And this relational God seeks fellowship with us.  He does so out of the overflow of fellowship within himself.  He does not need fellowship with us.  He already possesses the fullness of joyful communion within himself. But the love of Father and Son in the Spirit overflows towards us seeking fellowship with us as sheer gift.

The Father’s Son came among us making God known as the fellowship seeking God.  So we cannot describe the Being of God in any other way than simply the one who loves freely out of fellowship and for fellowship.  When I say that God loves freely I simply mean that His love moves entirely from himself as love.  He is the living God who is what He is in dynamic action.  He is the loving God who is what he is in the free expression of his love moving from himself alone. God “is” the one who loves freely.  That’s what we see in Jesus, the one who makes God known.

Now the Spirit joins us to Christ so that we share his fellowship with the Father. And within this fellowship of love and joy we see that it is all free gift.  The Father seeking fellowship and creating fellowship in his Son and Spirit.

 

God is Christlike

Michael Ramsey once said: “God is Christlike, and in Him there is no unchristlikeness at all.” It is essential that our minds remain fixed on God as Chistlike because we so easily slip into thinking about God apart from Christ leaving us with an abstract and remote God. We think of God as Almighty. Jesus is God among us in the form of one who is weak.  We assert that God is Eternal. Jesus is God among us in time tasting death. We exalt God as the Most High. Jesus is God among us in deepest humility. Jesus is The Holy One standing in the place of a sinner with other sinners. He is the one in whom we behold the Glory of God and yet he is covered with shame. This is the Lord, the true lord, who has taken the form of a servant in order to serve his Father and us. As such, he turns upside down all our thinking about “The Divine Being”.

God took this lowly form in Jesus because of his eternal decision. Before the creation of the world the Father elected his unique Son to take the form of a lowly servant with us and for us.  And so Jesus, the Lord as lowly servant, fulfils God’s eternal decision to be with us and for us as one of us. He is God’s eternal decision made actual forever.

Now, with Luther, “we must look at no other God than this incarnate and human God.”  And we look at him this way knowing that this is the way that God wants to be known in hearts full of wonder, love and praise.

 

Liberating Lord

The salvation of the Lord comes into the world rescuing us from all the false lords that enslave us. No one is ever without a lord.  Each one of us is what we are because of the lord’s we serve and the power of these lords over us.  And so, The Lord comes in person to bring about a liberating change of  lordship from the lordship of the world’s dark powers to that of the true Lord. The rescue comes in Jesus who is himself the liberating Lord. In weakness and humility he wins the battle against sin, death and Satan and we are set free.

As the New Testament writers describe Jesus this way they trust that he will continually bear witness to Himself as Liberating Lord. They don’t want others to accept who Jesus is because of the way they describe him, but only because Jesus declares himself as liberating Lord in unity with his Father. By the Spirit, Jesus has encountered them as the Liberating Lord whom the Father has now exalted and they simply point to who he is.  And so, as they proclaim Jesus to others they count on him encountering their hearers in the Spirit as Liberating Lord.

We too have come to know Jesus as our Liberating Lord who sets us free from all the powers that once enslaved us  Now we are free to serve him as Lord in newness of life.  That is true freedom!

The Lord Who is Near

The Jesus story portrays the life of a human among humans.  He lives and moves with other humans doing all the natural things humans do. Nevertheless, the story shows that he is different from all other humans. He isn’t simply portrayed as a better human. For there were moments in the story when other humans respond to him as to Yahweh, Israel’s God. Furthermore, his resurrection declares that this man who is the servant of humanity is also their Lord. As the Lord of all other humans he has full authority to condemn them or to pardon. He has full power to call them and bind them to Himself. He has full sovereignty over each person’s existence and all human history

By the Spirit, the Father draws us to his Son so that we now confess, “Jesus is Lord”. We have come to know that Jesus is head over all things and the one who rules over the totality of our existence.  Nevertheless, by the Spirit, we know that he is not Lord in the way we might naturally expect.  What distinguishes the man Jesus as Lord is that he draws near  as the one who serves. We naturally think of a Lord as one who is distant standing over others and requiring them to serve him. But this man who is our Lord and God encounters us by his Spirit as the one wants to be servant of all.  He is not distant, but nearer than we can ever say.

The Lord Who Serves

Though the Father’s Son was in the form of God he willingly took the form of a servant. He came freely to serve his Father in the power of the Spirit. Always listening for what his Father wanted him to do.  Always seeking his Father’s will rather than his own.  His food was to do the work his Father gave him to do.  His joy was to make his Father glad.   

In serving his Father Jesus also served us.  Jesus’ Father loves us and so he wanted him to serve us by giving himself freely to and for us. And so, out of love for his Father and us Jesus gave himself to serve by going to the very lowest place even death on the cross.  In that way, Jesus shows that he is the true God. For it is this humility that marks out the true God from all false gods. The false gods are a reflection of the human pride which will not stoop to that which is beneath it. In contrast, we see that the true God is not proud. He is the humble God who wants to stoop low in order to serve.

Having stooped to the lowest place, Jesus’ Father exalted him to the very highest place giving him the name above all names. But even though Jesus is now exalted to be confessed as Lord by all he still wants to serve his Father by serving us.  He does so as he works within us by his Spirit so that we freely serve him as our Lord.  He does not want to coerce us into serving; he wants to inwardly enable us so that we serve him freely and gladly as he serves his Father.