Imagine a God….
Imagine a god….
A god much like our God.
A god who created the universe, is almighty, all knowing, controls all things. He can shoot lightning from the sky, raise mountains, and raise the dead if he so chooses. He is everything that our God is, except for one thing. The person of Jesus, his life on earth, and his work on the cross.
I was working to articulate some of the changes that have happened in my heart and in our lives over the last few years when this thought first arose in me. I was trying to put words to what it was that was acting as the driving force behind the passion that newly exists in my inner core… to love the marginalized, helpless, and the least of these in our world.
It struck me that this god….this all encompassing mighty (but imagined) god, would be worthy of praise.
If that was the god that we were given, I am pretty sure I would fear him. Not just in the bad sense, but I would fear him in much the same way that I fear our God, Yahweh. A righteous fear.
I would also likely seek to obey him. It seems that this god, much like our God, would be worthy of obedience. If not worthy, it would at least be prudent to obey for fear of his judgement. This would be a god I would fear, and a god I would obey.
But furthermore…I believe that this would be a god that I would worship. A god that big…that mighty…who could create the heavens and the earth simply by speaking them into being. I could stand in fear, obedience and awe of that god and worship him for his majesty and might and glory.
A new-found Love
For many years…I believe that this was the god that I worshiped.
I say this not because I did not believe in Christ, and his crucifiction, death and resurrection. On the contrary, I held and proclaimed these truths with fervor.
But in the last few years, God has done an interesting work in my heart. The person of Christ, and his life, have sprung from the pages of scripture with new meaning. And they have revealed attributes of the true God that make the imaginary god pale in comparison. And it is in the person of Jesus, and only in the person of Jesus, that this new found Love for my God can be realized.
Let me explain….
Although the god I had described before would be an awesome being to behold…I do not believe that the true beauty and overwhelming glory of the One True God can be understood apart from what has been revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ.
But in summary….
We don’t get to take a glimpse of God. At least not directly. We get to see his bigness in the heavens, his handiwork in the creation. We get to see his power in his miraculous works, and we get to hear the marvels of how he interacted with his Israel in the scriptures. But the Person of God is largely outside of our grasp. We cannot relate to God. We cannot empathize with him. There is no similarity in our lives and his. We cant see God…or who he is. But he gave us an opportunity to see and know him…through the Son…
John 1:18 puts it this way
“No one has ever seen God, but the One and Only Son, who is himself God, and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made Him known”
No one can or has seen God. But in the Son…the God-man…..we are able to see the heart of the Father. In the Son we are able to see the character and personality of the one true God lived out in our midst. We get to see God live as a man.
Hebrews 1:3 tell us
“The Son is the radiance of Gods glory, and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by his powerful word”
The exact representation. So an exact mirror reflection of who God (the Father) IS was portrayed to us in the life and works of the person Jesus. Again, we can know the father by gazing at the Son. Apart from the Son we cannot know the father.
John 14:9 “Anyone who has seen me, has seen the Father”
So in gazing at the Son of God we can most closely encounter the heart of who our God truly is. You see, it is the person, the life, and actions, and the attributes of Jesus that most boldly and powerfully demonstrate the true beauty and attractiveness of our God by revealing his true character.
So what was His life about then?
Consider this King… this Jesus….who comes down from his throne…laying down his glory and majesty for the sake of a rebellious people who have made themselves his enemy. He sets aside his divine right to be served, and instead makes himself the lowest of men, debasing himself to carry the sins of the world…to be the lowest of the low…scorned, abandoned, and separated from his Father. Why?
Imagine this King in a different light.
Lets just imagine him as merely an earthly king. Think – King Arthur.
Imagine this king, engaging his people in the market place. Unlike their previous kings, this king walks among the people. He speaks with the lowest of the low- the untouchables. He sits down with the thieves, and eats lunch with the prostitutes. He plays with the children in the street (against his advisers council). He hugs them. When he comes across the hurting or broken, he not only weeps for them, but stops his plans to help them. He doesn’t wear fine purple royal clothes like other kings. His tailors gave up on that because he keeps giving his robes to those on the street who have little.
Imagine watching this king. Gaze at him from a distance. Would you be intrigued? Would you want to know him more? Would you want to be close to him, to learn from him…to receive the warmth of his touch and love?
Then watch, as this young king, forsakes his throne and royalty, and in an act contrary to the actions of any king or anyone’s imaginations, offers his life up as a ransom for the lowest of his people. He is voluntarily killed to save those among his people who have rebelled against him.
Would you be amazed by this king? Would you want to learn more about him? Would he be innately and unavoidably lovable, worthy of affection, attractive?
But the beauty of this thought is in this…
…Jesus’ personality traits, his innate attribute of other serving love…was not a new trait that manifested itself in the person of Jesus around 30 AD. You see, although we don’t see this part of God fully until the culmination of history that day on Calvary…this divine attribute of God…the notion of a king loving his people so much that he would serve them….even to death….was not a new concept. The cross was not an afterthought.
All of history, the entirety of the biblical narrative, the before, the after and everything in between was centered on this moment in time. And this divine attribute of other-centric love, was divinely present in the God-Head before there was a cross, before there was an incarnation, before there was an earth. The Messiahs other-centric love had its roots in the Father, long before the Word became flesh.
John says this best….
John 5:19 “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He can do only what he sees His Father doing. Because whatever the Father does the Son also does”
Jesus was a lover of the “least of these”
He cared deeply for the broken, the children, and the marginalized in the world.
He wept for those who hurt, and gave his life for others….because that’s who he was
And God (the Father) is that God -He always has been
God is the God that loves. We see it in Jesus, but it always was in God
He is the God that would lay down his life for his people. This has always been true of Him.
Its not new. Its not unique just to Jesus. Jesus is only what the Father is…he is the Word of God made flesh among man…to live out in practice and in history the reality of WHO GOD IS…in eternity.
And that’s a God worth loving.
Not because he can strike you down. And not because he can offer you heaven.
Take Heaven and Hell out of the equation…and I still love this God. For who he is!
The very attributes that make Jesus so amazingly and profoundly attractive…are innate in the Father. His compassion. His love for others. His willingness to die so that others might live.
He got them from the Father. He and the Father are one.
In other words…God the Father is not merely all powerful. He is not only mighty, the creator…the massive and impossible to comprehend ever present outside-of-time super being that we should rightly fear and obey and worship.
This is an attribute so incredible….so profoundly attractive….that the only possible response to understanding this is immediate and pervasive all consuming passionate Love for him. He is truly lovable. If you see Him for who He is…you cannot do anything but fall hopelessly in Love with Him.
And as I have stood gazing upon this Jesus from a distance, watching his life through the scriptures…I have fallen hopelessly in love with him. I am in Love. With the Person of Jesus. And with his Father, who is also a Servant King.
But so what?
Has the world seen Him?
Here is the heart of this message.
It is in the divine attribute of “Agape” or other-centric love that the true beauty of the triune God is fully revealed. It is in the understanding of this trait that God becomes the object of our deepest Love and affection. It is Gods Love that makes God so Lovable.
1 John 4:19 – We love because he first loved us.
It was gazing upon the person and actions and attributes of Jesus that allowed me to fall fully in love with the person of God. Because in Jesus is the fullness of God. And Only through Jesus can we see God.
Don’t Miss This!
It is for this reason that I believe that the world…looking in on the Church, is not falling in love with our King.
It is through us (His body) and our actions that the world will know our King. And it is in the very act of other centric love that we fall short of revealing our King to this world.
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:20
You see….we are not loving others in the same way that our King did.
We are not dying to our own needs and desires and savings accounts for the sake of those who cannot help themselves. We are not giving up our “thrones” to serve those among us that the world has forgotten because they are insignificant. We are not eating with prostitutes, chatting with criminals, or giving our finest clothes to the poor. We are not laying down our lives…our comforts….our pleasures…so that others may have life.
On the contrary…we are going to church, attending our bible studies, homeschooling our kids, and tithing faithfully – like good Christians do.