Tag Archives: sacrifice

Christ In YOUR Image

Christ In Your Image BaptismForLife.wordpress.comLast week, we began a series of posts, based on a book by Dr. Paul Brand, and Philip Yancey entitled “In His Image”. In that post, we talked about our ability to properly ‘discern’ the Body of Christ. When you and I think of the concept of what we are, and being transformed into that type of magnificent being “from glory to glory,” there is a disconnect for many of us because we feel so ‘ordinary.’ In the society around us — so driven by media hype, and adoration of those few “beautiful people” at the top — most of us feel very ‘inferior’ to those chosen few, selected from the gene pool of humanity for fame, beauty, and fortune.

Yet the entire plan of God for mankind does not focus on that top rung of human society. Rather, the “One Sent” as the representative of the Godhead to mankind purposely aimed His entire ministry at the oppressed “inferiors” of the human realm, and NOT at the rich, or famous, or powerful, or beautiful.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. (Isa. 61:1-3)

We might think that that, in itself, is a magnanimous thing for so great a being to do … to invest His time and effort in a ministry aimed at comforting the poor, oppressed and depressed dregs of humanity down here, but what speaks to us even more loudly than His preaching is that to better serve us, He became one of us.

But made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Phil. 2:7-8)

So He purposefully divested Himself of the very things human beings so earnestly covet; fame, fortune, power, glory, honor, pride, and beauty, to become … an ordinary man.

Since you and I ARE human, and we think of Him as a “perfect” being, we can still fall into the trap of thinking that He gave Himself some physical advantage, as well as the perfection of the Spirit we know He had, but there is no indication of that in the descriptions we’re given.

For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. (Isa. 53:2)

The Hebrew word for “form”  is to-ar (H8389), a masculine noun meaning form, appearance, beauty. It refers to the contours, and outward form of something. The word “comeliness” is hadar (H1926 hadar), and it means glory, splendor, majesty. Elsewhere, it is used to describe the impressive character of God, and His magnificent beauty. Christ’s human physical body did NOT have any of that to attract people to Him.  In fact, because He was “nothing special” physically, it was easy for human beings to “despise and reject Him”, and He was more fully able to identify with the human condition because of this.   He knew the sorrow and grief of being ostracized, ignored, and mocked, as “unimportant” and even “ugly” people often are.   “He bore OUR griefs, and carried OUR sorrows” vs. 4.

If you or I could choose any ‘form’ we wanted to as a human man or woman, what would it be? Well, this great Being — the greatest spiritual man to ever live in a physical body — chose to live that life in an ordinary, unimpressive body specifically so that He could truly identify with the ‘least’ of us.

Seeing then that 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 cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:14-16)

This being came to earth in a lowly form … in OUR IMAGE … so that He could identify with the real human condition of you and I.  The magnificent Word, the Son of God, the One Sent, the King of Kings,  literally chose to “walk a mile in YOUR shoes”, so the He could more intimately know YOU, and serve your needs!

Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (Heb. 5:7-9)

In every case, Christ identified with the lowly in life — healing the paralytic, the blind, the demon-possessed, and the infirm masses. In parables, He held up Lazerus against the rich man and the grief-stricken, repentant tax collector against the self-glorified Publican. Always, “the least of these” are the ones He identifies with as “My brethren.”

However “unworthy” we might consider ourselves — and we ARE all unworthy of Him — He has made every effort to fully identify with us in the human condition, taking physical form in our unimpressive likeness, so that we could identify more fully with Him and come to believe in the “impossible” prospect that we “ordinary people” could really be created IN HIS IMAGE.

 

Children of Our Father

Remember the young guy in Matthew 19 that asked Christ what he could do to inherit eternal life? Christ told him to keep the commandments, and this young man was elated because he was already doing the lightweight stuff … the letter of the law things that human beings think make them “good people.” But then Christ gave him a heavy weight, and everything changed. “He went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matt. 19:22). Isn’t that the way most of us are???

To Be Like Him

Christ used the example of the rich young man to teach His disciples that it is hard for a rich man to enter His kingdom, saying “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.” This caused the disciples to ask a question that has often come to my own mind, “Who then can be saved?”

 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:18-22)

Do I want to lift that weight? To really be like Him? Verse 21 tells us the the reason we were called is to follow Christ’s example … not just to see it from afar and marvel at it!

who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:23-25)

Verse 23 has always been a killer for me, brethren, because I was raised to hate injustice. It’s almost automatic when somebody hits you, you want to hit back … only harder! When they yell at you … to yell louder … to hurl a more cutting insult … a more penetrating jab. But to follow Christ’s example, we have to give up the smart comebacks, the “reviling in return,” and the threatening. There’s only one reason I’d want to do that … to follow His example, and in so doing, to return to the Shepherd, Overseer and Guardian of my soul.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matt. 5:43-44)

This seemed so easy when it was just those faceless people out there in the mainstream persecuting us for keeping the Sabbath. It was more impersonal back then. During the last 20 years though, things have radically changed in the churches of God. We are a divided house, and the situation being what it is opens the door for some things to be said and done that we should never participate in.

Bless means to speak well of … to wish good things for. Curse means to give one over to ruin … to wish evil upon them … A natural, human, and easy thing to do when someone is cursing you!

A Prayer Request

BaptismForLife.wordpress.comWe all hear many urgent prayer requests, brethren. There is much illness and suffering in the churches of God today, and many prayer requests each week, but I would submit to you that Christ Himself is giving us an urgent ‘prayer request’ here in the last sentence in vs. 44.

What Christ is doing here with this ‘prayer request’ is presenting us with a great opportunity to prove something to His father … that we want to be His sons and daughters enough to do whatever He asks us to do. Let’s look at verse 44 again, with the rest of the sentence going on into verse 45.

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.(Matt. 5:44-45)

I’d like to examine this phrase a little more closely. “That you may be children of your Father” — The words, “you may be” G1096, ginomai mean: to come into existence, be made, to be ordained to be, turned into.   We are to be “formed in the image” of His firstborn son, who reviled not nor threatened, but committed His cause to the Father.

For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. (1 Cor. 11:18)

You see, there have been divisions and abuses and heresies in the churches of God from the start,  but it has always been allowed to happen for a purpose. It’s so that those who want to be children of their Father can rise above it and be made in the image of Christ.

And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”And they divided His garments and cast lots. (Luke 23:33-34)

The first words He spoke after the scourging, and after the excruciating pain of being actually nailed to the stake were, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Brethren, in the midst of the turmoil and conflict that exists in the end-time churches of God, God is offering us an opportunity to distinguish ourselves as his children by answering a simple ‘prayer request’ from Jesus Christ: “Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” The reward for doing so is very great indeed … that we may be the children of our Father in heaven.

The Things That Be Of God

Self reflection is such a big part of the Christian life, it can come to actually dominate our lives at times. Especially during the Passover season, we all are admonished every year to examine ourselves with the intent of taking the symbols of the Passover in a “worthy manner”. Then during the days that follow the Passover, I always wonder if I took the Passover seriously enough. Because I always could have taken even more time to study and pray … even to fast.

This year seemed to be an even more intense time of reflection because this winter and spring marks the 20 year anniversary of the events that took place in 1995, when those of us in the Worldwide Church of God were faced with some really serious life-altering spiritual choices, and not just passive choices you can make between yourself and God in your prayer closet, but open public choices that effected friendships and family.

And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

So the people answered and said: “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods” (Joshua 24:15-16)

Joshua himself is quoted as making this very public choice in the hearing of the children of Israel. The people agreed to follow his lead in this and they did … until Joshua died. Then they forsook the Lord and began to serve false Gods.

Two Choices

In Matthew 16, Jesus, the Christ of God, drew a very sharp contrast between two mindsets, and two very divergent ways of life for the disciple Peter. Let’s begin with a question Christ put to His disciples.

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”

So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:13-19)

Peter must have been on top of the world at this moment. He may have briefly been the first believer in the “Primacy of Peter” doctrine, because he had been praised and exalted by the Master Himself here. But that’s not the end of the narrative here. We’re in the middle of the story.

Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ. From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.

Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”

But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matt. 16:20-23)

Peter, fresh off the experience of identifying the Christ of God, under the verified inspiration of God Himself … was pretty self-confident. The word “rebuke” here is a pretty strong word, epitemao in the Greek. It means to censure, admonish, forbid, to straightly charge. Not something you’d expect a student to do with his Master. Then in verse 23, Christ lowers the boom. So much for the “primacy of Peter” doctrine.

BaptismForLife.wordpress.comThere are two distinct directional attitudes, or mind sets evident here that are as different as the east is from the west. And we’ve all heard messages based on the Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken”. “Two paths diverged in a yellow wood … I took the one less traveled by … and that made all the difference!

I like the wording of verse 23 in the King James version: “you SAVOR not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.” The word “savor” is phroneo in the Greek, and means, to exercise the mind, to intensely interest oneself in with concern for obedience. In this case, “the “things that be of GOD” were coming to Peter directly from the mouth of Messiah God, but he had his own thoughts on the matter.

Brethren, I don’t know if there has ever been a time in church history when it’s been more difficult to be sure what we savor. It just seems like there are distractions everywhere. The pace of life is becoming more and more frantic. There’s economic pressure, social pressure, societal dysfunction, increasing violence, and persecution as we’ve never seen before. I read an article last week on the most persecuted religion on earth today, and this author concluded it was Christianity! Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t have thought it likely that there would be this level of active persecution in this country.

What Do You Savor?

So how can you and I be sure we are “savoring” the things that be of God? Peter was after all saying something here that we would all have agreed with. It was not his will that his Messiah would die — “I don’t want that to happen to you, Lord!” The innocent Messiah of God having to die for the guilty? That didn’t make sense to Peter, and it probably wouldn’t have to us if we were in his shoes. But really, what Peter wanted was for his own human will to be done.

Sentiments like that , even if they make perfect sense to us, are “the things that be of men” if they aren’t in line with the will and plan of God. The only way I know of to be “savoring” the things that be of God in times of increasing persecution is to have our noses in His Holy Book every day with an attitude of submission to GODS will.

Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. (Rev. 3:10

These words in Christ’s letter to the Philadelphians are easy to savor, aren’t they?  It is very easy to submit to God’s words when they align with our own will. As Peter found out though, it isn’t always that easy.

So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”

And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

If anyone has an ear, let him hear. He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. (Rev. 13:4-10)

These too are the words, the things, that be of God. Do we savor them? Do we savor all the words of God, even the ones that are hard to hear? If we keep reading in Matthew 16, we see that Christ knew savoring God’s way of life isn’t always easy, but He assures us it is well worth it. We will receive a positive reward.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. (Matt. 16:24-27)

Forsaken

This time of year always brings to mind the real humanity of Jesus Christ as He approached and then endured His last Passover as a human being. It’s hard for me at times to fathom a great God who so loved His human creation that He wanted to experience every aspect of human life … especially as I myself experience some of the real frailties of the flesh, and see so many of my closest friends and relatives going through severe trials.

To think that a Being who was actually God would leave the throne of the universe, even for a brief 30+ years, to live in human flesh with all of its pain, temptation and frustration so that He could be of greater service to us is a bit beyond my grasp

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell (Col. 1:15-19)

bg image credit: Sean MacEntee
bg image credit: Sean MacEntee

These verses provide us with one of my personal favorite assessments of the real greatness of this Being  …of how highly esteemed He was by His Father in heaven, and how much He was actually giving up to live a mortal life. Yet even He was required to come to a point where He was totally deserted by His closest friends, and left in the hands of the executioners to be tortured, shamed, and humiliated, and to suffer one of the most heinous forms of execution ever devised, and then … to feel the emotional emptiness of Matt 27:46, and separation from His father.

I’ve heard and read for years that the reason for Christ being forsaken was that the Father is so Holy that He can’t abide being in the presence of sin, so when the sins of the whole world were shouldered by His totally innocent Son, He had to temporarily turn His back on Him. I DO understand the reasoning behind that, but I’d like to bring up a scripture that points to a reason for this separation that is even more personal for each man and woman who has ever lived.

 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:15-16)

This great Being, who sacrificed everything for human beings, also came to experience and identify with every major emotion and weakness that we have in the flesh. There isn’t a one of us who has not, or will not  have this feeling of being forsaken as we reach our lowest points in life … even by God Himself.

It is the greatest comfort to realize that our High Priest and Savior has an intimate knowledge of ALL that we are experiencing in this fleshly form. Knowing that He, with His experiential knowledge of what we feel, can so readily sympathize with us, we CAN come boldly to the throne of grace, and obtain His mercy and help having His enduring promise that He will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5).

Humanity is Vanity

It never ceases to amaze me how much of our family dysfunction has its roots with the first family in the garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were the first human parents ever, and some of the choices made by that first family have left a lasting imprint on all of our lives since they made them. I’d like to illustrate in today’s post one of the aspects of “human nature” that seems to trace its roots to the first two sons of Adam and Eve by going to a Psalm written by King David

Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah. (Ps. 39:5, KJV)

The meaning of the word selah is a bit of a mystery. Some think it’s just inserted over 70 times in the Psalms to give musical instructions, or to indicate a pause in the music. Others think it has a deeper meaning related to the root word that it comes from, and that it means to pause to evaluate something and figure its real worth.

So if we pause to more fully evaluate this phrase, “Every man, at his best state is altogether vanity,” what can we draw from it’s deeper meaning?

“Adam” is “Abel”

The word “man” is translated from the Hebrew word adam (Strong’s #120), and is a generic term for humanity that is very closely related to the proper name of the first man “Adam” (Strong’s #121). So every member of mankind or humanity (ladies are included) at his or her “best state” — when we are at the very peak of our physical, political, social, and intellectual power and ability on this earth — is wholly and completely vanity!

The Hebrew word for “vanity” is what really peaked my interest in this verse, because the Hebrew word is hebel (Strong’s #1892). It is pronounced “abel,” and if you look up the proper name Abel (Strong’s #1893) found in Gen 4:2 in Strong’s Dictionary, it simply says, “the same as H1892: hebel, Abel, the son of Adam.

Thus, we have our title for today — Adam/Humanity is Abel/Vanity.

A “Lesser” Son

In Genesis 4:1, it tells us “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, ‘I have acquired a man from the Lord.'” I’ve heard several ministers over the years speak about what Eve meant by this, but Matt Henry sums it up this way …

“Many suppose that Eve had a conceit that this son was the promised seed (of Gen. 3:15), and that therefore she thus triumphed in him, as her words may be read, I have gotten a man, the Lord, God-man. If so, she was wretchedly mistaken, as Samuel, when he said, Surely the Lord’s anointed is before me, 1Sam. 16:6. When children are born, who can foresee what they will prove? He that was thought to be a man, the Lord, or at least a man from the Lord, and for his service as priest of the family, became an enemy to the Lord

In the next verse in Genesis, Eve “bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” Matthew Henry has this to say about Abel’s name.

“Abel signifies vanity. When she thought she had obtained the promised seed in Cain, she was so taken up with that possession that another son was as vanity to her.”

So, the first family was as dysfunctional as any since, with a highly favored son … and another who bore the name “vanity.” That never turns out well. We all know the story of Cain and Abel, and can perhaps identify with some of the human emotion, and the rivalry between them as they presented their offerings to God, who looked with favor upon the offering of the “lesser” son.

Excellent Offerings

So all of the sons and daughters of Adam — humanity — carry about this stigma of Abel — vanity — in our physical nature, and we often see evidence of it in scripture in the lives of Biblical characters. Solomon wrote a whole book on the vanity of life, and came to the conclusion that there could be only one resolution to the human problem.

 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecc. 12:13-14)

Even though his family didn’t seem to think much of him, Abel knew this truth which Solomon speaks of. Abel had caught a vision of life that the rest of his family to that point was unable to see.

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. (Heb. 11:4)

I don’t get the impression here that Abel thought Cain was the promised seed. His focus was on God and his example, which pleased God, does still speak, especially to us today who have knowledge of the true promised Seed (Gal. 3:16), and to all who wish to offer to God a “more excellent sacrifice.” It comes down to a simple choice for all of us. Will I live the way of Cain, or will I live the way of Abel?

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom. 12:)

No matter how vain life might seem at times, we can all follow the example of Abel, and offer a better sacrifice as we follow the true Seed toward the Kingdom of God. If we follow God, our lives need not be wholly lived in vain no matter how little other people may value us. We have a high value in God’s eyes, and He notices the good that we are doing for Him.