Flawless character

Well, here we are – at the end of another year – and, one year closer to when our amazing Jesus – our living and flawless God will return in all His glory. I’m impatient for His return – to again, feel His majesty, to witness His awesome power, and to enter His eternal rest – the promised land!

Selwyn’s study for the last day of this year is good for reflection and meditation; as we prepare for the New Year; evaluate the events of the past year; and, chart (God willing) our path and resolutions for 2008.

There are a couple of interesting observations presented by Selwyn in today’s study: ” … I have met some wonderful Christians, but the more I got to know and relate to them, the clearer their imperfections become. … Christians are flawed characters; some are more flawed than others. We have grace and we have ungrace; we have truth and we have untruth – albeit (in some cases) unconsciously.

Jesus however, was not nearly perfect; He was absolutely perfect. … He is not only the best humanity has ever seen, but the best it will ever see. He is full of grace and truth (John 1:14).”

And so, I pray that you follow Jesus, our God, with a renewed and increased determination so that you will be a light, reflecting His love, to everyone around you. He loves you, and wants you to be with Him, in perfect peace to enjoy His Kingdom – forever.  

Truth is second

We spend one day with Selwyn, looking at the verse John 1:14 (NIV): “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Where Selwyn says: ” Grace … works within the framework of integrity and truth.” I prefer to change the order, to say, “Truth and integrity work within the framework of grace.” If God did not exercise His ‘grace’, we would have no idea as to what was, or was not, truth. Once saved through God’s grace, then and only then, with the intervention of the Holy Spirit can we have any confidence in being able to discern what is ‘truth’. After all, we know from Scripture that the Holy Spirit is the ‘Spirit of Truth’. 

Another point I would like to mention is that many ‘young’ Christians don’t live their lives in the knowledge of the point which Selwyn highlights (which I’ve slightly re-worded) in today’s study: “Christianity is the only faith where you can’t wangle God to get benefits out of Him. That is you cannot cajole, bribe, manipulate or wangle Jesus in the hope that He will do you favours.

The number of chain-emails that I receive which often contain inspirational stories but end with something like: ‘Pass this message onto a friend and you will be blessed’, appears to be increasing. Such messages about doing something, a number of times, or the passing on of ‘nice’ chain messages about someone’s acts of faith are relatively harmless except when they say or imply , that ‘by doing so, you will be blessed by God.‘  In the case where a blessing is promised it demonstrates a works-based attitude towards God and the authors, of this type of message, lack a proper understanding of God’s grace – at the best, it demonstrates very, poor teaching. Do you agree?

Selwyn summarises this point well: “If we come to Christ honestly, obeying His commands, we obtain everything we need. When we come with crooked motives and crooked methods then we end up receiving nothing. … While we should always be eager to please Our Lord, we are not to please Him in order that He might bestow His favours on us.”

God knows what we need and He will ensure that we receive everything required for us to faithfully serve Him – we know this is true because of His love for us!

Love is first

I think that the Bible readings used for reading and meditation over the last few days have been very good.

Today’s verses are no exception, Paul’s letter to the Philippians 2:1-11 (NIV) contains some great verses:

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God,  did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! 

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

In today’s study Selwyn looks at the order of words in the verse John 1:14, ‘ … full of grace and truth.‘  One area I like, is this bit: “If Scripture had (just) said ‘God is truth’ then people would regard Christianity as a philosophy. But the Christian faith is not first and foremost a thought, a philosophy, but an act – an act of love invading history to redeem lost men and women. It is grace in action.” An important point is that our view of Jesus is not based on just one verse in the Bible. There are many other verses besides John 1:14, which indicate that without God’s grace we would never be able to determine or understand any spiritual truth.

Any philosophical idea or ‘school of ideas’ can never provide an answer to the most basic of questions, ‘what is the meaning of life?’ Unless it is God centred – unless it is grace centred -  human philosophy provides little in the way of guidelines to base your life upon. 

God’s grace enables us to follow Jesus – enables us to be with Him on the last day – when everyone will bend their knee to the one, true God.

A sinner’s favourite word

The area I like from today’s study is: “Grace is love favouring us when we are not favourable, loving us when we are not lovable, accepting us when we are not acceptable, redeeming us when, in human terms, and by all the rules of the book, we are not redeemable.”

The hardest fact for anyone to take on board is that God’s grace is an ‘unmerited favour’. Nothing we do, provides us with any credit points – as Selwyn says: ‘Grace always bends to pick us up. Grace is love applied, the word of love become flesh.’ 

The verses for reading and meditation are well worth the effort to consider during your day (Titus 2:1-15, NIV). I’ve highlighted the bits I like:

“You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men and women. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.”

One point that comes from the last few verses is that our shepherds (ministers, pastors, priests) ‘should encourage and rebuke with all authority’. However, the idea that we should rebuke, because we are called to do so, is not well received in today’s ‘modern’ church – that’s another reason why today’s ‘modern’ church has no relationship with God’s people. Do you agree?

See His glory

Selwyn continues his discussion on the verse John 1:14.

As he says in today’s study: “Jesus’ glory stemmed from His uniqueness as ‘the One and Only’. It was intrinsic – something that emanated from Him and permeated everything He did … (His) real glory lay in who He was – the glory of His being. Knowledge, wisdom, power and all other qualities flowed from His being. … ”

This is an important point – some of what Jesus taught can be found in other religions. There are many different forms of ‘golden’ rules which, if followed, may lead to harmonious relationships - concerning ourselves, family, communities and nations. Yet, history is full of examples which prove that we often find it impossible to follow such human inspired guidelines. The difference is that Jesus is our Creator – who designed us to live our lives in a relationship with God – He alone, knows the ‘blueprint’ upon which we were created. Everyone else, is just guessing – when they offer advice on how we should live our lives – and; they certainly don’t have the power to consistently follow their own advice.

Jesus is God – and that’s the difference. He became a baby and followed the will of His Father; He completed all the work His Father had given Him to do: thereby, demonstrating to us, that by His efforts – we too could enter into a relationship with God, and with His Holy Spirit – be able to complete all the good things He has prepared for us, to do.  How great is that?

No fleeting vision

I think that Selwyn picked an excellent verse to be the centrepiece of his Christmas meditation.

John 1:14: “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

As, he says, the original Greek for these words of this verse, gives us the imagery of ‘of God pitching His tent in our midst’.

Those of us who like camping – know of the community spirit which quickly develops among a group of people who pitch their tents at a camping ground. Around a campfire, the group seek and share their common experiences – there is an emphasis on community and a putting aside the pressures of everyday living. Imagine such a camping ground, where God Himself pitches His tent and comes over to the fire and sits down with us – to share our experiences, and our hopes and dreams. Well, Jesus did exactly that – He, who was everything – left all what He had, behind – to be born a baby – with nothing to share with us, but love!

As Selwyn says: “The revelation of God  in Christ was not a momentary rift in the clouds, a fleeting vision of what God is like. Jesus didn’t sit on a cloud and pass on commands … No. He ‘made His dwelling among us’ – amid our poverty, amid our temptations, amid our problems and choices, amid our hopes and disappointments.”

The time will come when we will stand before God and give an account of our lives – we will never be able to say: ‘You, don’t know what it was like, how hard it was – the disappointments and heartaches.’ Because, He can say – ‘I pitched my tent in your midst and allowed Myself to suffer, as you have suffered – I know what it is – to be truly human.’

The face

I’m not able to add anything more to Selwyn’s introductory sentence – because in its simplicity there can be found all the verses of Scripture.

” ‘Jesus Christ,’ said a little boy, ‘puts a face on God.’ “

We can have a loving relationship with God through Jesus and on one else can provide such a life-giving access to God.

What do you think?