More / Book of the Month / Just as He is: Perfect / John 12; Philippians 2; Deuteronomy 32 / Pr. Lucas Andre Albrecht / Sunday, April 10th / Palm Sunday

Just as He is: Perfect / John 12; Philippians 2; Deuteronomy 32 / Pr. Lucas Andre Albrecht / Sunday, April 10th / Palm Sunday




Just as He is: Perfect / John 12; Philippians 2; Deuteronomy 32 / Pr. Lucas Andre Albrecht / Sunday, April 10th / Palm Sunday

Text: Philippians 2:5-11
Theme: “Just as He is: Perfect”
___________________________

Intr - “Just as I am”, a traditional Christian hymn which states the wonderful truth: Jesus takes us just as we are - sinners in need of Grace and forgiveness. We love this concept and we swiftly take it to heart. Isn’t it awesome to be accepted just as we are, not only on the human level but especially before God? Isn’t it awesome to live in the certainty that we don’t make any changes in order to be accepted by God, but because we are accepted by Him, now our life is changed?

But then comes the other – and hard - side of the coin: do we take Him just as He is? Or do we change Him first and accept him later, not as He is but as we are?

1 – JUST AS HE IS

        We have a hard time avoiding being people who shape God in our likeness whenever we don’t like the shape of God’s Word for our life. Here’s an example demonstrating ways in which our world would rather to take God as they are, and not as He is.

         A famous song writer while sharing perceptions about the meaning behind one of her songs made this comment about faith and Church: "Organized religion makes not only women, but people generally feel guilty about things they're reveling in. You're supposed to make mistakes in order to figure things out. The whole concept of sin and good and heaven and hell is so strangely black and white it's hard for anyone to be human within it." What it appears to be saying is this: “The Church veers too much away from my opinions, so I’ll dismiss it with my own version of its message”.

        This might fit rather well in the box of our time as it appeals to notions of good and bad, mistake and redemption, guilt and relief which are common sense to the world.[1] It is hard for humans to take God as He is.[2]

        That happens not only out there “in the World” though; History has proven that this is hard even in the Church life, and that’s why we had so many heresies, councils, divisions, etc… Taking God, taking Jesus just as He is, as we learn it from His Word becomes challenging at every turn, for generations come and go, they change values all the time, and the Word of the Lord endures forever. Something that never changes poses a serious problem to an ever changing world.

         Palm Sunday brings us again God as He is, especially revealed face -  Jesus. The readings for today bring some aspects of His being and His work:
Deuteronomy 32:    
For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants,” God has chosen to redeem us from our sin. In one hand humanity has a hard time admitting its sin. On the other hand we may find ourselves doubting that everything is for free. “There must be something we should do. There must be something that would make us feel better before God.”
Where are their gods”… I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” God is just and He will punish sin. There’s no excusing our way out of it. There’s no finger pointing our way out of sin. There’s no self justification out of it.

Philippians 2
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.” God is love in Christ, God-human. He doesn’t come as an earthly king on a Horse, but as the King of kings on a donkey.  Jesus is God, but became a servant being born in the likeness of man.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus”. Paul invites us to have the mind of Christ. He had everything, but emptied himself. Our human minds have nothing but sometimes we have them full with all sorts of the wrong ideas about God and faith. As our minds are emptied of ourselves they can filled out with Christ’s Mind.

John 12
Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life”; and “many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” A life with God is of either/or when it comes to faithfulness. We cannot love God’s glory and the World’s glory at the same time. If we try that path we are again trying to shape Him at our own image, and not taking Him as He is.
Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him,” The Word of God is before the eyes of all as His sign of salvation. Still many refuse to believe in it.
             Ironically, Jesus says on Palm Sunday that if those people would silence the very stones would cry out, in what would have been a rather impressive sing of His power – perhaps another one to be held in disbelief by the same people.

         These and many other examples from the Scriptures tell us who the Real God is.  In Him there is no shadow of change.[3] What the Bible says about Him remains today and every day as it is, despite of any changes in mood, time, behaviour and values. It is well summed up in our Confession of faith, where we say crazy things to the human mind, but blessed things to the human heart.[4] This is how God is – He is Godlike, not manlike as every other human idol. This is why it’s hard to take Him just as He is, for there are so many conflicting points with reason, with human desires and wishes, with the values of the world around us.

        Nonetheless, He has received us just as we were and has transformed us through faith, to be part of his family. If we would change anything about him as He is we are trying to frame him up according to our smart, not His intelligence, which ends up being not a very wise thing to do. In faith we are called to always and daily take Him just as He is, not as we would like Him to be, for this is our guarantee that we have forgiveness for our sins, life for our days and purpose for our life.

2 - PERFECT

        This addresses the idea previously mentioned about the whole concept of sin and salvation is something that is disconnected from our human reality, therefore something to be dismissed by human reason. There are some good reflections to be proposed:

Makes people feel guilty about things they’re reveling in[5] – Taken by face value this statement could lead us to think that every time people are reveling in things they like it means they are right. Then the Church, or nobody else, should weigh in and make them feel guilty about that.
       Now, I’m rather sure though that the writer would not be supporting people who revel in cheating, stealing, abusing, practicing violence, being disrespectful, denying free speech, shutting down opposing voices, etc. Neither would none of us. But then who makes the rules? Who is that person in a position to establish what is good and what is bad, what people can revel in without guilt, or what people should be held accountable and guilty for in a society with no absolute truth and moral standards?       
        Speaking about the Church, when you look to Christianity there you find the clear and open message which she believes, teaches and confesses: God’s Word is the perfect one who can provide us with the pillar we need to define good and bad, right and wrong, sin and forgiveness. And they all end up being for our good, they all make us revel in what is true and fruitful for our lives. Christ’s work of salvation is the most amazing, complex, well connected, tailor made work of love that humanity could ever have. God’s Grace is complex, and it is simple at the same time.
        The statement that “the whole concept of sin and good and heaven and hell is so strangely black and white it's hard for anyone to be human within it" then loses its ground. God has dealt with us humans in the entire complexity of what being a human and a sinner means. Sin and Grace can be clear and straightforward teachings, for sure, but if one has barely scratched the surface of them, or human standards have been the only reference at hand, then it’s understandable to which type of conclusion one may arrive. On the other hand, when you dive deep into God’s word and learn what perfection means and how God deals with our shortcomings and mistakes, then a clearer picture of who He is and who we are emerges - a strong counterpoint to shallow statements appearing to dismiss His truth.
        In the pages of the Bible we see the rich, wonderful complexity of Christ’s work in our place to bring us the Gospel and the forgiveness for sin in all its simplicity. It enlightens our understanding about God’s request “you shall be perfect, for your Father is perfect”.[6] We realize that imperfect human beings are drawn near just as they are, simple and complex, to a perfect God. In Him, through Him, we can try to be a good boy, a good girl; we can try a little harder; but because our attempts of being perfect would simply never be good enough to make the Father proud, He made His Son perfect in our place. And Jesus entered Jerusalem, emptied Himself, became a Servant who was obedient to the point of death on the Cross.
        This faith is black and white; and green, and blue, and magenta, and every other colour under God’s Eternal Light. It is wonderful, amazing, because it is attached to Jesus Christ, just as He is: Perfect,  Saviour, Love, Friend, Eternal. Believe me, this is the best way to live our faith and life.
       Actually, believe me not. Believe in Him.

 Cc - Song: Above every name

Though he was in the form of God,
He did not count equality with God
a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself, becoming a servant,
being born in the likeness of men.
being found in human form,
he humbled himself
n’ was obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.

Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
to the glory of the Father, Jesus is Lord!

Therefore God has highly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
that is above every name,
so that at His name every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that:

 

(Lyrics: Philippians 2:6-11 ESV/ Music: Lucas Andre Albrecht, 2019)


 ___________________________

[1] Also, it could be said that this person is not shaming God, but organized religion only. But then we would have to ignore the facts:
1)Organized religion, by the preservation of the Word of God, was the agent that allowed us to know who God is through his word;
2) Organized religion is made of people who fall short from God’s will. God’s Word is made of God’s perfect Words.

[2] We may find ourselves in that hard spot even with your family where you have to stand for biblical truths in face of modern values, the “be more open minded” sort of argument. The topics may vary, from authority of the scripture to past mistakes, from the biblical constitution of sexuality and gender to the wars, from the concept of faith and love to what happens after life to those who are not in Christ… but the challenge remains the same: we are tempted to take God, Jesus, just as we need Him to be to match the spirit of the time, not necessarily as He is across the time, timeless.
[3] James 1
[4] Such as: The World was created by God; Jesus is the son of God, true God and true man; he was miraculously conceived. He died on a Cross, he came back to life on the third day. Jesus is the only Way, the only Truth, the only true life. We have forgiveness for our sins every day any time. We don’t get cancelled for our sins, our sins get cancelled by Him. There is a better place, a life that never ends, which is inclusive and exclusive. It is inclusive for it is offered to all; it is exclusive for it is attained only through Him.
[5] First of all, for what refers to Christianity is worth noting that we were one of the first, if not the first ever to elevate the social conditions of women, pointing to the fact that all are one in Jesus. One can point to mistakes and sins that Christians have committed across History for sure, but one cannot downplay the role of Christian Faith in shaping of the culture in the Western World.
[6] Matthew 5


Comments