Monday, April 18, 2016

Unity or Sinless Perfection?

image used under Creative Commons license, photo by mrehan, from Flickr
I have a date in mind for getting onto the mission field.  And I'm probably being overly optimistic. Mostly because of finances.  As a result, I've been thinking a lot about the prayer we know as the "Our Father".  Partly as an upcoming book project.  One of the things that caught my attention was the very first line of the prayer.  It speaks volumes.

Matthew 6:9  After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

We've talked a lot about relationship.  As believers, we have a relationship with God, with each other, and with those presently of the world.  There were a number of things running through my mind about how this verse fits those relationships  Think about a few verses with me.

Matthew 4:17  From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Matthew 21:43  Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.

We get an interesting picture from Jesus' own words.  We see that heaven and God are not necessarily in some far off location.  Indeed, if we study out the phrases "kingdom of God" and "kingdom of heaven", the two most often are interchangeable to speak of the presence of God. Which means any place God is will be heaven.  In the future, those of us who have a relationship with God will be in a place where only those and God will be present.  But, for now, we can still experience the kingdom of God in the midst of worldly chaos.  Take a look at something else Jesus says.

John 10:30  I and my Father are one.

Jesus is one with the Father in unity and spirit, but also in mind, character, and nature.  When we see one, we see the other.  Which makes Matthew 4:17 a statement that being with Christ is being in the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus was saying "This is it!  Here I am!".  And, when we talk about Jesus in us, that gives us a really special spiritual truth.  When we focus on the God in us, we can blank out the experience of the world and replace it with the experience of the kingdom of God. Which takes us into some interesting territory.

Remember that John 10:30 says "I and my Father".  But Jesus tells the disciples, in Matthew 6:9, to say Our Father!  It's not just My Father any longer.  He's now your Father and my Father, too., We already talked about glory in our next verse.

John 17:22  And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

Note the second half of that.  The reason we were given honor was to unify us, not just with God, but with each other.  Somehow, that brings to mind those shouting preachers or some devotional writers whose written words do the shouting.  And the anger always seems to be aimed at the sinner instead of the sin and Satan.  And I'm astonished!  That attitude and behavior brings up so many questions.

  1. How can we have unity if we're busy berating our brethren, yes, exactly like the Pharisees did?  Those are the same Pharisees who sought not unity, but a level of superiority.
  2. If we're seeking to have our fellow disciples do something to fix themselves, how can we honestly sing the old song that indicates we're saved and made whole by "nothing but the blood of Jesus"?  By our anger at the sinner, aren't we saying they need something more than what Jesus did on the Cross?  Because our attitude is saying we as sinners need to add something to Christ's sacrifice.  And it's Pharisaical because that attitude says "I'm superior because I don't need to do what you need to do.".
  3. If we look at the latter part of Matthew 6:9, it says "Hallowed be thy name".  May it be sanctified or holy.  We know God is holy and sanctified, so that has to refer to men's attitude about it.  We must consider it holy.  Remember that the historical use of a name wasn't just a label.  It described something about the essence of the person.  That's still true in many parts of the world.  How holy do we consider His name, if we suggest the Cross is not sufficient, we must add something?
  4. If we believe the Bible, how can we deny that the flesh is incapable of fixing itself?  The Father sees only Jesus in us, not our flesh or our sin.  But, through the eyes of our flesh, that isn't our experience.  So, all that shouting and berating is nothing more than someone's flesh looking at another person's flesh, evaluating it through the limitations of the flesh, then trying to repair it using the flesh.  Which leaves God out of our calculations.
  5. Verbally, we admit we're not God.  And that only God is truly perfect.  So, how can we expect sinless perfection?  In reality, we don't have a term for a state so close to perfection that human perception can't tell the difference.  But we're not God, so total perfection is impossible.  And only God can get us that close.
Let's look at John 17, again.

John 17:21-23  That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.  And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

That was part of Jesus' final prayer in the garden at Gethsemane.  And He says, "...that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me."  Because the goal is to have as many as possible avoid the pain of Hell by having a relationship with God.  With Jesus physically gone from this world, we're supposed to be the example that draws people to God. Notice I said drawn to Him, not pushed at Him.

The reality is that God makes coming to Him easy.  So, easy that we often doubt that there isn't more required.  And God does the drawing.  We're invited into the relationship, we don't have to force our way in.  Hell was not created to punish sinners, but as a place of separation from God. God doesn't send anyone there.  Their own choices do.  Two almost final verses.

Proverbs 23:7a  For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:

Ephesians 1:4  According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

God's love had a plan in place before there was a need.  Man's part was simple and easy.  And the goal was for all men to be with Him.  But not as mindless automatons.  So, we have free will to choose -- rightly or wrongly.  But he has a message throughout the ages, specifically for his people.

Jeremiah 29:11  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Are you ready to immerse yourself in that kind of love?

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