Monday, December 13, 2010

Questions and Quest

Do theologians know all the answers? Whatever they seem to know and talk about is based on the scriptures, which is available to me also. How much of what they say is just interpretation and commentary? Why should I accept all these thoughts and teachings of the theologians as right and believe  what they say as its true meaning. They speak as if their interpretation reveals the exact mind of God for me.
So let me have my thoughts as I think about the word and what make sense to me. I can be wrong in my interpretations. But then who can claim to have got it right in every way? We all see dimly and our knowledge is partial. We are in the dark most of the time hoping for a greater clarity. It doesn’t change some of the facts; especially who Jesus is, what He has done and my faith in Him. I am totally mixed up. I do not have noble thoughts and desires all the time. It is not in me to be good all the time. Striving to be perfect only leaves me exhausted and depressed. I need some one higher, superior and perfect to sort me out and show me the way. I will never make it to the kingdom of God on my own. I do not buy the idea of karma. It does not work for me. I continue to be a casualty in this chaotic cosmos. In this battlefield, we are all targets. No one is safe and nothing can be predicted. The only thing that does not change is God’s word and His principles.
The battle
If you are on God’s side, the spiritual battle is greater. God’s children are not exempt from attacks or dangers. There is no special protection guaranteed. We are all in this war. We need to know whose side we are on and whom we are fighting. The enemy does not follow any rules. He does not follow terms and conditions of war or UN resolutions. He attacks the mind, emotions and the body. He creates confusion, disunity and doubts. He knows the weak areas in each person and exploits that especially at the moral level. Our addictive behaviour pattern becomes the handle for him to control us. He disguises as a friend and an angel of light. He promises instant relief and good feelings. His main strategy is to take away our love for God and love for each other and get us pre-occupied with ourselves. Once we move toward seeking our own satisfaction, he makes us his puppets.
Wealth and beauty
He charms us with glittering toys and candies and traps us to worship his counterpart – Lakshmi-the god of materialism. Once we are attracted towards her, it’s almost impossible to get out of her clutches. We begin to rationalize all that we do to avoid the inner pain and drivenness. Many give up and give in to the enemy. The temptation to be an ally to the enemy for short-term benefit and comfort is powerful. We can take advantage of grace, but somehow God prefers to give us this freedom of choice than control us to do His will. I am just glad that the eternal God found me hurt and broken in the battlefield. He took steps to rescue me and rehabilitate me. I am still recovering. It’s all His doing and I am glad for this extravagant grace. I am still shocked by this love. How long it will take to recover, I do not know. But His promises and His presence are there as a healing balm. So let me go on with my thoughts. Fellow failures and victims are welcome to share in this journey of my soul.
Scripture - years and years of revelation/history/man’s struggle with sin and with life, all looking for some relief, trying to make some sense, their longings and doubts expressed, hopes and fears faced, evil exposed, big chunks of events missed, then finally a story about one man for me to look at and put my faith in. All previous revelations and future interpretations are to be judged and seen by what this one man re-reveals.
GOD - this person, the Spirit - One or Many?
Was there a time in the timeless eternity - before the beginning of the beginnings that God existed as one unity of persons called HE? Everything was in Him. There was a Today when the Father “brought forth”, “begot” the first-born, someone from within Himself. He spoke out the Word from within Himself  “one shall be two” and a separate Being took a special form. Like a cell splitting to form another equal; the same thoughts and feelings, same character, yet different. This begotten identity is called the Son of God and was always hidden in God. As John says ”The one who was in the bosom of the father” the Father decided to let the Son  exist as a separate person, a bit similar to Eve who was always in Adam. She was taken out of Adam. Even though the Son of God was equal with God the Father, He was not supreme. Jesus said that The Father is greater than him. Jesus was given a status higher than all creation and all angels. He shared everything except the ultimate authority, which the Father alone held. The Holy Spirit, the person that gives life to all, the very essence of God who makes us divine, the life giver and the revealer of truth who communicates also proceeded from the Father.
Both the Son and the Holy Spirit, find their origin if it can be said that way, from the Father. God the Father is referred to as the Eternal Spirit, the immaterial pure light, the One whom no one can see. Out of Him He gives a portion of His Spirit, His life to us. Both the Son and the Holy Spirit, in a way are subordinate to the Father. They share the same glory, the same purpose; their unity is unimaginable, yet total freedom to be different. Love and Light enveloped the three persons - the triune God. So, to all human understanding, they are one.
The Son is also called the wisdom of God and the Word. The Holy Spirit is called the power of God and the counselor. The Father is the initiator of all activity. The triune council shares the dreams and is ever willing to act on behalf of each other. The Son talks of the father and the Spirit reveals the Son and the father affirms the Son. There is no rivalry or domination but a willing, loving submission and even acknowledgment of the Father as the final One on the throne. The Son has the special gift to take up human form to become flesh and blood, to enter the world. There was no need for the Son to be begotten if there was no need for redemption. This capacity was not a built-in, out of control destiny but a choice, a decision for love’s sake. To give up even for a moment such privilege to be in the eternal Godhead council is something unthinkable for the Son. Yet the Son was willing. He was humility personified. The Holy Spirit too decided to move in and live in humanity. The Spirit can indwell humans. One day the Father Himself will make His dwelling among us - the triune God with men and women.
Equality with God
When Paul wrote to the Philippians about the Son of God, Jesus Christ, he talked about the possibility of equality with God as something that could be grasped. Was there a possibility within the Godhead for either the Son or the Spirit to become the supreme? Maybe Paul was thinking about the archangel Lucifer who desired to be God, to take that supreme position. Maybe there was a time when all angels were asked to worship the Son. There was something special about the Son; superior to angels, greater than Moses, the great High priest for a special purpose. This was conceived in the Father’s mind in eternity. The Father also gave the name ‘Lord’ to the human Jesus. It’s the Father who raised Jesus from the dead and brought him back from hell, from the clutches of the evil one and made Him sit at the right hand of His throne and gave Him all authority. Yet the Son submits Himself to the Father. There are things only the Father knows. The Son limits Himself to what the Father permits. There is no grasping or seeking what is not given. This dynamic submission is the epitome of love and this we will never be able to fully understand.
This perfect union and sharing yet submission and obedience to the Father by the Son is difficult to comprehend. So when the Son took up humanity and was given the name Jesus He emptied Himself of His rights and His privileges, His omnipotence, His unapproachable perfection and His omniscience. He allowed himself to be shrunk to be a zygote and confined to Mary’s borrowed womb. It was the Holy Spirit that put the genetic material together and implanted it in the womb. God made Adam’s genetic material from the earth and fashioned him and breathed His life into the clay, the Holy Spirit fashioned the second Adam out of nothing material. This heavenly Man limited Himself and took upon humanity; a new beginning, born of the spirit yet human, with all the limitations of an earthly being. He was a complete man with the possibility of falling, just like Adam, through choices. Heaven paused and the Father watched the Son of God living like a Son of man.
The devil became curious and decided to try to make Him fall many times. Whatever the first Adam was capable of as a perfect man, Jesus became that. If this was not so, it would not be fair to expect us to imitate Him or be like Jesus as the scripture challenges. He even expressed himself as our brother. The second Adam had to learn by obedience, what was required and how to live. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and empowered by the same spirit. He learned of His identity and His mission from scripture. He did not automatically know it. He grappled with the word, found His picture, understood His story and became the Word. He walked with God just like the sinless Adam before the fall. After thirty years of ordinary living, the Father declared for the first time, “You are my beloved son - I am well pleased with you”. What a statement from the Father who looked all over His creation for centuries to find one person who whole-heartedly loved and obeyed Him. God was satisfied and ready for the rescue operation of all His other children.
His Story
It looks like the Old Testament was written and preserved for the Son of God to know His mission. The history of humanity became His story. As Jesus read the scriptures and meditated on them, he experienced the struggles, the dreams, and the longings of man. He discovered His manifesto. He received knowledge and wisdom from the scripture. He understood the suffering required, the rejection, the pain to fulfill his mission. What the Old Testament prophets experienced partially, He endured fully. In fact most of His teachings were already there in the OT. He reinterpreted it and made them real and life giving. He went beyond the letter and showed the spirit behind the words.
It was all about Love - love for God and love for people; nothing more, nothing less. Yet people had missed it and converted real love into rituals and traditions. Jesus talked to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus –“the whole scripture testified of Him”. He fulfilled the aspirations of people in the process of living out the word; He accomplished what the first Adam could not - absolute trust in the goodness of the Father. Jesus had no other desire, no other plan except what was given to Him. 1,500 years of random revelations, the cries of God’s people, He put together and found His role as the Son of Man, Saviour of the world, The Ransom.
There was something about Him in each of the Books and many of the prophetic utterances. He also knew the mind and working of the enemy. He allowed that rat to be part of His group. Jesus had nothing to hide, unlike the first Adam who looked for fig leaves to cover him. He could invite His betrayer to watch and see. Again it was there in the scripture, His birth, His place of growing up, His work, His suffering, His death, His sinlessness, His resurrection, His second coming, all hidden away in the scriptures. He searched the scriptures and found Himself. He had to defeat the enemy and free us. He had to take our sin and save us. He had to live a model life and show us the way. He had to defeat death and take away our fear. He had to shatter our ideas of God and reveal a Father to us.
Jesus accepted worship from people when He was on earth, but He always talked about the Father as the giver of all good things. He taught us to pray to the Father. There is no direct teaching, neither by Jesus nor the apostles to pray to Jesus. Prayer is always directed to the Father in the Son’s name, through the Holy Spirit. Even though Jesus accepts our worship and thanksgiving, the instruction is to pray to the Father. Worship and adoration and thanksgiving, the triune God receives and accepts.
The Father
Somehow the Son desires that we learn to address the Father with our requests, our needs. He wants us to get to know the father and develop an intimacy just like He has. We are asked to seek the Father’s will and His Kingdom. There seems to be a distinction at this level. Jesus talked about Himself, His role, and His union with the Father as something unique. He said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father”. He talked about oneness in purpose and in character. If there is only oneness without the otherness why mention it. Why would we need all the separate persons in the Trinity?
When Jesus came and dwelt among men, heaven was not empty of God. The Father still occupied heaven. So the Father is a separate being. The Father does not obey the Son, but the Son listens to the Father. It is the Father’s will that needs to be accomplished, so the oneness that Jesus talked about is at the level of desire, purpose and character, not at the level of personality and personhood. God made the proclamation that man and woman are one. We know they are different, but there is a oneness that surpasses physical differences. It is separate in identity, but there is no contradiction or competition in purpose and in living out all the thoughts and plans. The unifying factor is LOVE; giving of oneself to the other, a willing surrender, openness, and transparency, giving and receiving, a dynamic ever flowing dance. This love fills and unites the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, keeping the relationship alive, creative and full of joy. That’s why it says God is love - this feeling for the welfare of the other, this commitment to work towards the best and make the other beautiful in every way. There is adoration and longing to be in each other’s presence. This absolute relational unity, we can never know this side of eternity, but we are called to participate in a limited way. One day we too can enter this triangle of love - where we are known as we are, enveloped by love, totally immersed in the love of God, the grace of the Son and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. This is the blessing that awaits us.
Search the scriptures
As Jesus discovered His blueprint for life, we too can find what is required of us from the scripture. We too can get the wisdom to live, how to live, what to say, where we should put our trust, what pleases God, what will destroy us, how the devil works, his ways of damaging us, what is worth living for, all revealed in scripture. It talks about human nature through examples of people who lived years ago. It shows us what we are all capable of, both good and bad; and how in the midst of all that happens to us we can either come closer to God or move away and seek our own relief. Jesus found His vocation, God’s promises, developed trust in God’s word. What was revealed became His delight. Hidden away in scripture were the loneliness and the helplessness that He had to accept and experience. He saw his role as the Lamb, the Shepherd, the Bridegroom, the Servant, the High priest, above all as the One who crushed the head of the serpent. He also saw the destructive power of death and the hope in the resurrection.
To defeat the enemy He had to enter his territory and become vulnerable. All He had was the word. He had to experience the abandonment of God, being forsaken by God, for our sake He became the price, the ransom. The incarnation was needed to represent humanity. The One, who was higher than the angels, became a little lower than the angels, to redeem humanity. The One, who was from the bosom of the Father, became a babe in Mary’s arms to taste what it means to be a man living in a sinful world, to listen to the cry of the people, to experience the effect of darkness all around, the bondage of sin and the devil. This second Adam had the power like the first Adam to dominate the world around, to stand against the evil one. Every act of Jesus was in a way “undoing the works of evil”. He rebuked sickness, he freed demon-possessed people, He raised the dead, and He gave dignity to disfigured humanity. What the devil distorted, He restored, including nature. He rebuked the wind, calmed the sea and pronounced peace.
Exalted Son
When it came for personal reckoning, He submitted to the schemes of the devil, which the devil unleashed through people who were under his control. Jesus faced the enemy, the pain, and the rejection as part of the plan that was in scripture. He drank the cup to enter the eternal darkness on our behalf and pay the wages for humanity’s sin. In that moment, He became the exchange. The wages of sin, the eternal separation from the Father needed to be experienced. He embraced even that for our sake. Doing God’s will and God’s love for man kept this experience the supreme priority. He tasted both physical and spiritual death on our behalf.
The second person of the Trinity died. Being forsaken by the Father was unthinkable. He became sin. He entered the gates of death alone, yet taking all of us with Him. We were with Him in that act. This is all God’s work. We can only believe and accept this - one single, perfect life as the ransom for all humanity.
In Psalm 18 David describes the agony of hell that awaited Jesus. The Father could not abandon His beloved Son to the grave or see decay. Even in that utter desolation, amidst the sneering of the enemy, being bound by cords of death and destruction, Jesus continued to trust the Father and cried out to Him. God the Father acts. In the stillness of night, He broke open the gates of hell, shattered the chains and made a mockery of the devil and brought back His Son and exalted Him above every name. One day every knee including the knee of Lucifer will bow to this eternal man. Jesus is the everlasting MAN in heaven. He is not there as the second person of trinity, but as our representative. On earth he represented The Father. In heaven he represents us. His giving up of his status was forever. His incarnation was for all eternity. He is what the father gives… a name above all other name, all authority, the Lordship over all creation, holding the keys of heaven and hell. Even in this exalted position, he submits himself to his father.
For us to make scripture real and find our blueprint we need to start with believing what Jesus has done. It is at this point of trust that the spirit of God begins to indwell our hearts and make the word real to us. As we look into the word He will open our eyes to reveal His purposes for us. There is general grace available to all especially in a book like Proverbs. For anyone who is interested to live a decent life, wisdom is given but this is different from being saved. God’s grace is given to all, even to those who reject Him and to those who don’t feel their need of Him. Father let the sun shine on all irrespective of their belief. He has also given general grace to make it through life even under the slavery of the devil with the hope that some will seek Him. But those who are tired and are disappointed with life, He extends His invitation to come and find rest in what He has done. This greater grace is also available to all. It is up to us whether we want to be satisfied with general grace or to drink from the spring of living water that He so lovingly offers. The triune God is waiting for us to say, “Yes” to this invitation.
Jesus came from the father. He shared life with the father. This knowledge of the Father’s Heart and His character gave Jesus the passion to do His will. He could subordinate all other desires and passions because He saw and experienced the Father’s heart and was one with His purposes.
Poor in spirit
How can we identify with this aspect of Jesus? How can we have such passion for the Father that all other desires and passions are next to nothing and take less priority and energy? It is not possible to see the father. But then Jesus came to reveal this unseen Father to us. He said that he represented the Father. He is the image of the Father, the exact replica. Yes, God looks like Jesus!
If we can see Jesus from the scriptures and enter the experience of him just like the disciples, then faith can be translated into reality. This is what John said about the whole purpose of writing the stories and events of what happened. It is possible to have fellowship with the father and the son. The Holy Spirit is given to take us into this real fellowship with the Godhead. The hope of the gospel is this possibility of ongoing transforming relationship where we are known and we too know who God is. We need to behold The Man Jesus and fall in love with him. He is alive and this makes all the difference. We are not called just to intellectualise what he said or taught. It’s not about a new philosophy. We are called to be passionately in love with him.  The Holy Spirit pours God’s love into our hearts and love is generated in our hearts for Him and all that he stands for. We will face more and more trials and tests and temptations and through it all we will discover the meaning of grace and God’s forgiveness and all-embracing love.
Instead of being guilt-driven and seeking self-perfection, we will be at rest in his love that knows all and accepts all. This becomes the cleansing that frees and liberates us from ‘karma’. He has gone before us and intercedes for us. It is love that changes us, not rule-keeping and fear. Anyone who tried it honestly can confess that it’s impossible to keep the law or be good. We can go through life out of fear, fear of punishment. This may serve for a while in getting the satisfaction of having some credit. But the soul will be restless and condemning us. We will always be short of perfection and purity. Ultimately we need grace and this is what the gospel is all about. Without this grace, we have only karma and the wheel of life and reincarnation - the hopeless, never-ending cycle of life and death with no guarantee of escape. In a Fatherless world of religion, this is the best option and somehow the human spirit cannot fully accept this option. Our stubbornness may not allow us to be humble enough to accept our inability to be good. Pride will block our need for God and move us towards self-improvement. Once we get tired of self-efforts there is a possibility of coming to Jesus. He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall inherit the kingdom of God.” It’s a definite promise; a message with hope. There is a way out of the wheel and Nirvana.
If anyone is thirsty
This glorious message, the message of freedom has been edited, controlled and manipulated by the church over the centuries. Religious leaders of Christendom distorted this grace and made it into another power tool to dominate people and have wealth in their hands. The followers of Jesus became more lawgivers, watchdogs and less gracious than their master. Instead of welcoming broken people, the church sat in judgment, eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The church built barriers and blocked the door to freedom, spending all its energy talking about darkness instead of shining as lights.
It’s time to behold The Man and find once again the nail-pierced outstretched arms that long to embrace. The devil is so unhappy with anyone who dares to abandon himself or herself to this embrace. He will try to stop and distort the message and put doubt in the mercy of God. Many are victims of his deception. The church listens to the devil more than it heeds the saviour. We have a choice to make. Jesus cries out “If anyone is thirsty, let him come”. What an invitation compared to the calculated, organized, materialistic approach of both the devil and the church, as we know it. It’s time to repent of our hardness as church-lovers. We need to become God lovers and that’s why Jesus came - to take us back to Him.
Learners All
As children of God, we enter the school of learning. Together with others, we learn the language of love. We unlearn past ways of relating to God, people and the world around us. We have too much garbage with us from the past, and it’s a long process of unlearning. Our system rebels against this radical change and its new way of thinking and evaluating. Our mind needs to be renewed and our emotions to be refined. We need to take on attitudes that are Christ-like. So our coming together as a group week after week or day after day is to allow change to take place. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to be judgmental of others’ behaviour and habits. This ungracious attitude becomes the stumbling block for genuine love and acceptance. Unless we see our own failures and how gracious God has been, we will never extend compassion to others who are struggling and continue to be victims of warfare. Church is not for academic knowledge of God or to analyze the sins of others. It’s a home where the life of the Trinity is experienced. It’s where the world needs to see Jesus as a living reality. It’s not a place for show-business and mammon worship. It is the place where truth is proclaimed in love. It’s where sinners are embraced and given a taste of heaven. It’s not a place to control, manipulate and condemn strugglers. We need to get out of the judgment seat and allow God to be God. He knows whom He has chosen and He will complete what He has started in each person. We do not have to be so possessive of people. Our calling is to reflect Jesus and bring people to the throne of Grace in prayer. We will fight the enemy but not people. Church should be a place of healing and not a place that causes deep wounds. How much we need to see Jesus. Let us behold this MAN.

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