Apply the Word: Reflecting the Visible Glory
September 6, 2016 0 comments
This past Sunday, Benny introduced us to the Gospel of John and the many themes we will encounter as we go through this series (listen to the sermon here). The main theme we will address is Visible Glory. John tells us "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth...for from his fullness we have all received, grace up on grace" (John 1:14, 16). In Jesus Christ, we behold the glory of God as it is expressed in his grace towards us and his faithfulness to himself.
A big question we face as we look at the Gospel of John is how we are to make application from such a deeply theological book. Benny showed us in Philippians 2:3-11 exactly how we can do that with the opening chapter of John. Philippians tells us Jesus – the Word who was God and was with God and through whom all things were made – considered others more important than himself, set aside his advantages and took on our flesh, became like us. And then we are told to imitate Christ in that very incarnation. Philippians 2, and indeed the rest of Scripture, tells us the numerous ways in which we can do this. But I want to focus in on one particular aspect of our imitation of Christ.
John tells us that Jesus entered our world (which was his world), that "He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him." What was Jesus' disposition towards those who "did not receive him," who, to put it frankly, rejected him, assaulted him, and killed him? Love. Jesus' disposition towards us was one of love, of "grace and truth." What do we do when we approach a spouse, a child, a friend with loving intentions – or hardly any intentions at all – and we are met with rejection, verbal assault, misunderstanding, accusation? I know my tendency is to respond with defensiveness, self-protection, and counter-attacks. It hurts to be verbally stiff-armed, and I want it to stop.
Jesus takes a different approach. Yes, he confronts the religious elite who abused their power. Yes, he confronts the Pharisees in their hypocrisy. But the defining characteristic of Jesus' life and ministry was that of pursuit. Time and again, Jesus is met with misunderstanding, accusation, rebuff. And time and again, Jesus continues to seek that which was lost so that he might save it. Rather than being merely personally offended by the Jewish rejection, he is grieved – “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing” Matt 23:37. Jesus offered this lament shortly before his death, shortly before his own people repeated the actions he described and killed, not just another prophet, but the Prophet.
How did he do this? What made him so persistent, so committed to this pursuit? Jesus' primary ambition, his greatest desire, his top priority, was to make God's glory visible. And he did this through relentless pursuit of those who relentlessly ran from him. Our primary ambition, our top priority, our chief desire, in any situation, is to be the same. When you want to make God's glory visible to your spouse more than you want your spouse to treat you a certain way or think or behave in a certain way, you change the dynamics of your relationship. When you want that person to feel like God is in the room, like God is behind your approach to the conversation at hand, you think differently about rejection and rebuff. You respond differently to prickly teenagers and tired, irritated spouses. You come armed with compassion instead of comebacks, understanding instead of ugly words, a relentless pursuit instead of a readiness to leave.
I encourage you – stop to consider how Christ has loved you, how he continues to love you. Let it sink in that even now you push him away, and even now he brings you close. You are his wayward sheep, and he brings you back, time after time, to paths of righteousness. Let it break and mend your heart, all at once. And then let it flow out in love and compassion for whomever in your life is currently making it difficult to love them. Let it change the way you respond to their potentially less than desirable demeanor. Let it show you how to show them visible glory.
Alex earned his degree in Practical Theology from Southeastern University, and now works as a Project Coordiantor over at Adventist Health System. He also preaches occasionally, and blogs over at Redemption Applied, which you can (and should!) check out here.
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