I hope to do that at some point. But, this week, I've felt led to study JESUS. One thing Children of the Day highlighted for me is that NEW TESTAMENT LIVING isn't easy. It just isn't! Living life as a Christ follower in this world means that I'm constantly faced with difficult problems that don't have easy solutions. What makes these situations even harder is that I'm also surrounded by religion wanting to cover every difficulty with easy answers. For the life of me, I can't figure out WHY! I don't think I'll quickly answer that question. So, before I look at Paul's letters to New Testament believers, I decided I should head back to the Gospels and study this Jesus I want to follow. JOHN -- that's where I'm starting.
In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. (1:4)
OK... So, there's nothing crazy and new about that verse. I've read it a million times. There isn't a thing that sounds earth shattering about any one of the individual words. They're all simple words, really. I decided to look them up anyway. The word light (phos) comes from the Greek root meaning to shine or to make manifest/known. In this verse, "light" speaks to the purpose of life that was found in Him (Jesus). Strong's says, "By metonymy, light is spoken of Jesus as the great Teacher and Saviour of the world who brought life and immortality to light in His gospel."
Maybe I'm reading too much into it. But, it struck me that this seemingly small definition DOES bring something crazy and new... something earth shattering... to my understanding of who Jesus is and what His coming accomplished. The Gospel does not begin with Christ's incarnation. It BEGINS in Genesis, chapter 1. I love reading the Old Testament, and the Gospel is VERY PRESENT in its story line. God chose us. From the very beginning, His relationship with mankind was HIS idea. The Old Testament is FULL of testimony demonstrating God's faithfulness to the covenant He made with His people. Humanity consistently chose to separate themselves from the One, TRUE God, but HE continuously pursued. In the Old Testament, though, Gospel relationship required DEATH. Every visit to the Tabernacle to meet with God required the death of an animal. Blood repeatedly poured out so that Gospel relationship between God and man could take place.
Jesus stepped into the New Testament bringing life and immortality (eternal life) to light in the Gospel. Sin is still a big deal. Death IS required for relationship restoration. But, in Him, THE death occurred, THE blood spilled, and THE life won. This life IS the light of men. This life is what John says will shine, enlighten, and make the Gospel known. Can you even imagine how hard it must have been to break away from the mindset of DEATH to LIFE in Gospel relationship for those whose lives were driven by sacrifice?
John 1:4 expresses Jesus' call to LIVE. He overcame death SO we get to live! I do not think that means life in Him will be easy. I don't think answers are laid out perfectly for every situation. But, I DO believe LIFE should be what we're pursuing since LIFE is what Christ brought to light in His Gospel. But, we seem way too eager to kill....
That marriage that isn't exactly what we thought it would be? Kill it! I'm sure there's a legitimate reason why it's in your best interest to quit.
The job that's requiring too much time and energy investment EVEN THOUGH God opened the door and has shown His purposes in it? Move on... There are other jobs!
The plans to teach children in the mindset of Deuteronomy 6 that continue to fail because of a busy schedule? Those plans can die, because no one is helping to accomplish them anyway.
The controversy in the church over (insert hot topic of choice) that has the entire congregation divided? Death to the group! Two churches are better than one, right?
Maybe I'm being dramatic. But, this seems to be the world we live in. It's so easy to believe THE LIFE Christ gave should be simple or at least have some simple answers. It's tempting to assume any continued difficulty means a wrong choice has been made; therefore, the only solution is change the situation...KILL the problem, so life can be easier. We may work at fixing the complication, but investing in the LIFE of that situation has a time limit. If it's taking too long or the answers don't become clear; then, it's DEATH! The ONLY answer is to kill it, remove it, and move on to what God's really calling us to. Surely, HIS WILL won't require so much energy!
This morning, though, I've been confronted with Jesus who came into the darkness, the death, the difficult and was LIFE... IN the darkness, IN the death, and IN the difficult. I'm enlightened that John chose to introduce Christ as the One who brought LIFE... not only death and sacrifice.... to His gospel. And, I'm challenged that John went on to say, And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overpower it. The darkness HAD to cause difficulty, but it lacked the power to kill the LIGHT.
So, maybe we're killing the wrong things. Maybe our war is against the wrong enemy; therefore, we speak death over relationships, situations, and opportunities that, through Christ and in His power, were intended to bring HIS LIFE to light.
What if someone in that difficult marriage chose to kill the pride and misconceived expectation and let the relationship LIVE?
Is it possible to stick with the calling IN the difficult work environment to bring death to the part of the flesh always needing something from others that only God can give SO THAT the positive influence in the negative atmosphere LIVES?
I'd love to see more dreams about the way parenting is SUPPOSED TO BE die while the determination to teach and instill true value LIVES on for generations to come.
And, Lord Jesus, can we GET A GRIP in our churches in such a way that love and unity LIVE while personal preference and division DIE?
We are fast approaching the time of year to celebrate the Word becoming flesh to dwell among us. The incarnation of Jesus Christ is life changing and life giving. He brought LIFE to light in the Gospel, so let's seek THAT life. In the difficult drama (and we ALL have it), seek to KILL what needs to die and LIVE (in and through Him) where He's called for LIFE.
THAT'S the transforming living of the Gospel. And, I know a world that would LOVE to see a little of THAT LIFE!