Monday, December 17, 2012

In Search Of Truth, The HOLIday Season, Part 2- Christmas

In the last few months we've been looking at some Old Testament passages that lay the groundwork for an examination of the sacrificial system, which God put in place in order to maintain a relationship with humans that was also just. (In some ways similar to how we visit convicted criminals in prison that we care about, but still do not allow them to live free of consequences for their actions.)

God loves each person far more than any other love we will ever know. But at the same time his perfect sense of justice will not allow evil to run unchecked in the universe or in his presence.

Thankfully, God is willing to delay justice, instead of carrying it out immediately. (If he didn't do this, there wouldn't be a single living person left on the planet!) Although he has every right to eliminate evil instantaneously, he delays carrying out justice to give everyone a chance to turn to him for forgiveness. It is this very character trait that made what we call "The Incarnation" possible.

Fair warning, we're about to get into some theological brain-bending, where metaphors are required but are also limited in their descriptive power. I'll do my best to walk us through the topic at hand, but if you think of better descriptive language, or something occurs to you that I may have not considered, always feel free to bring it up.

The Incarnation is God taking on all human attributes except those involving sin, adding them to himself in some way. God didn't change from God into man, because God does not change. (James 1:17) He didn't subtract any of himself, grow or evolve.

God has always been three persons, identifying those persons to us as "Father, Son and Holy Spirit". The Incarnation didn't create this status. However The Incarnation does directly involve one of these three, The Son.

The Son took humanity onto himself. I'm trying to avoid saying that he "became" human, because to "become" implies change. And The Son didn't change when he took on the name and essence of Jesus. But something monumental and permanent happened here that we don't often think about.

Usually, when we take a moment to soberly reflect on the significance of Christmas, our minds fast-forward from the manger to the cross. This adorable, precious baby we sing about would grow up and suffer unimaginably for his love for us.

But consider that what Jesus did, this change he experienced (not to his being, but to his status quo), was eternal. When Jesus rose from the dead, he did so physically. In his resurrection appearances he had a body that others could see and touch. He walked on the ground and ate real food. (Luke 24:38-43) His body was "glorified", in its ultimate state, but still physical.

This is huge because God is spirit. (John 4:24) A non-physical being. (Luke 24:39) A non-linear being unlimited by time or any other dimensions. So unfathomably different and "other" that we have to just give up trying to describe him and use the word "Holy" to imply all those things about him we're unable to put into words with our limited minds.

We tend, in an effort to relate to God better, to make him too much like us in our minds. But despite his intimate love for us, he is unimaginably different from us.

Isaiah 55:8-9 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. "

Stretching back into eternity he had always been this way. But in The Incarnation, God entered into creation on a deeper level than ever before, and linked himself with it...forever. The body of Jesus will never perish or be destroyed. Think about that.

We're all familiar with John 3:16. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life." But how often do we reflect on the fact that God didn't just give his son up for humanity for 30+ years. He invested his son in humanity...for eternity.

Humans are not a little project that God, in some distant age, will grow tired of before he moves on to something else. God is all in. He is invested in us, connected to us, forever.

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