Saturday, November 12, 2016

Restoring Us to His Image, Part One by Teresa Beem

Showing Us Authentic Love

Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect. Matt. 5: 48
We are in the image of God. 

Ponder that for a moment: We are in the image of God. 

That is an unthinkable thought. Incomprehensible. So we let it pass by as if it were a chalkboard of numbers and symbols Einstein had written. We might assent to the geniusness of it, but we have no idea why or how. 

However, if we prayerfully consider that we are in the image of God often enough for it to sink down into our souls, we would start discovering many humbling realities.  For the more we think about how we are made in His Image, we do not become proud. When we pray for God to reveal what that means, we actually become humbled by the fact.

If we look around, no one seems to be acting like they are in the image of God. Life is busy and noisy and confusing and we have so much to get accomplished. People seem careless, selfish and vulgar, rude and unloving.

How do we get back to the Image of God? For we must. Jesus commanded us to.
And we cannot say to ourselves, well, He covers us in His perfection—so Jesus means we are just supposed to take on His Holy Righteousness and not worry about any real change in our behavior. Except that is not what Christ said to those who chose to follow Him. He said to His disciples:

Be ye perfect... even as your Father in Heaven is... perfect.
This isn't a symbolic righteousness. That would mean the Father's righteousness is symbolic. No, Christ said that we are to be really, truly perfect just as the Father in Heaven is perfect. And Christ would not have commanded us to be something we cannot be... now--in this world. He would never have given us a task which we could not achieve with His Grace. 
There is a perfection.

Jesus didn't lie. 

What Is the Father's Perfection? 

Perfection does not come with simply keeping rules. Jesus told us that. And when you think about it---the Father's perfection cannot be about keeping rules. He's the one who makes the rules. He doesn't have to abide by them. So the essence of perfection is more than keeping laws. 

Unfolding through the ages, from Genesis to Revelation, we are given glimpses of the essence of the Father's perfection. But the very soul of His perfection was found in His Son. 

So we are to watch Jesus.

His Son was perfectly obedient through love. Through Christ we were able to see the Father's perfection.

Jesus life was total self-giving. He went about healing our sins and restoring us to health, both in our body, mind and spirit. 

And the greatest moment of Christ's perfect obedience and love was seen on the Cross.

That is a strange vision of perfect love—the persecution, suffering and death of a God/Man. This perfection is not pretty. It doesn't call us with beauty and inspiration. One wishes to look away from that perfect obedience and love. And yet, there it is always before the Christian quietly witnessing perfection.

How is this gruesome display showing us love?

Let us back up a bit to explain.

The Cross of Perfect Love

God, the Creator of time and space, the one who breathes and stars are formed, speaks and the oceans appear filled with teeming sea creatures, was under no obligation to anyone or anything when He predestined and willed the future of the cosmos. He could have chosen ten million ways of saving mankind.

He could have simply forgiven Adam and Eve when they sinned. He could have begun an evolutionary process in which those who would sin would be the weaker who would Darwinistically be eradicated by the stronger people who fought temptation--eventually bringing perfection. He could have killed Adam and Eve and started over. 

But He chose a perfect, the best way of redeeming man. For it was the way of the Alpha and Omega, He who knew the beginning and end; the one who is perfection chose from the foundation of creation to rid the world of sin by sending His Son to die for us.

But not exactly after Adam sinned. No. It took time for this mystery to unfold. It began with an animal sacrifice in the Garden of Eden. 

And it was strange to our eyes.

Why did God set up a system of bloody sacrifice and the death of innocent animals? Why need millennia of foreshadowings of such things throughout the history of man before the Jews and the time of fulfillment of the Old Covenant in the first century?

If a sacrifice of death was deemed by God as necessary to rebalance goodness, why didn't Jesus die of old age? Or perhaps of a heart attack? Why send Jesus to die on earth? Couldn't He have died in heaven surrounded by billions of angels who loved Him? Why so cruel a death on earth in front of just a handful of people? Why? It is strange…. mysterious… and worthy of our contemplation.

For aeons of eternity, as our wisdom grows, we will be rediscovering the luminous mysteries of the Cross. For there is no way to explain it fully now. And what I am about to write, in no way contradicts any orthodox understanding the Church has had through the centuries. No, it is a small little light in the firmament that adds to what is already known.

The Cross is a View of the Father's Perfection

The Cross was our glimpse into the ultimate display of love. This was not just a man showing perfect obedience to His Father through dying, this was God showing perfect obedience to God. This was the unfathomable showing us the unfathomable and through His Holy Spirit and our faith, we will be drawn to this miracle.

This is love: Jesus with His arms outstretched encompassing and destroying all our sins in His battle with life and death.

This is Perfect Love which is Perfection:

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all....Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin. Hebrews 53: 3-10 

Perfect Love: Cross of Persecution, Torture and Death

How can this be? How can Jesus being scourged by the Romans soldiers and spat upon, mocked and crucified show us love? Our culture would be revolted by this humiliation and persecution and self-giving. Many would reject this love according to our opinions and views.

The perfect love of the Father that Christ reflected at the Cross was the joy of self-sacrifice.

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 1, 2
To be perfect, we must find joy in self-sacrifice in obedience to God and serving others.

(Please read part two.)

No comments: