God fully revealed – the Man, Jesus Incarnate
God fully revealed – the Man, Jesus Incarnate
you can see Him, feel Him, and touch Him
The second foundation of God’s revelation is the love of God. After the Law was given to Moses, God took another 1400 years to build the foundations of the Law and the fear of God into the minds of people before introducing the second. The second foundation of God’s revelation is His sacrificial love and grace. Although God’s love for Israel was displayed through the giving of the Law as well as His faithful provisions and protection, God’s presence was nonetheless distant and impersonal.
The Law that functions as a protection as well as a road map to peace and prosperity did not benefit them, for their hearts were rebellious. Despite the demonstration of God’s power against the Egyptians, their rebellious nature and unbelief prevented them from possessing the Promised Land. 400 years of slavery reduced the blessed descendants of Abraham into a generation of orphans. This generation of slaves knows nothing about their divine heritage; they were habituated with fear and punishment. Unless God come into their midst to live among them and to restore their shackled and broken hearts, they will continue to live like slaves and orphans. Only the sons of God can enter into the Promised Land to possess it.
At the right time, Jesus came in the flesh to reveal God’s sacrificial love for sinful man. He put on human frailty and suffered a violent death on their behalf. Through Jesus, God heals the emotional wounds of man and restores him to the position of a son. The sacrificial love of God is the second foundation that restores humanity to bring yet another step closer towards abundant life.
Why is it necessary for God’s relationship with man to progress beyond the knowledge of the Law?
There are two reasons; the first concerns the bondage of sin. Although the knowledge of the Law or the wisdom of God formed the first foundation, the knowledge of the Law alone could not enable man to walk with God. The Law may provide direction and wisdom, but man’s heart remains under the bondage of sin. Hence, he could not live it out and experience abundant life. For Humanity is plagued by three hidden issues of the heart which prevent him from living victoriously. These issues are played out in the three temptations of Jesus:
a. An orphan mentality
b. Fear and insecurity
c. Lust of the flesh and pride of life
An orphan mentality clings to one who does not recognize God as the Heavenly Father. He cannot see himself as being a member of God’s family. Hence, he is constantly insecure and low in self-esteem. An orphan’s identity is defined by a social mirror. He adopts the image that others project on him. Hence, he is constantly confused about identity and looks for external affirmation of worth. His service towards God and everything he does is motivated by need for recognition. At the same time, he is not willing to submit himself to an earthly authority or an organizational structure and prefers to play it solo. A person with an orphan mentality is perpetually trying to derive self-worth from his own achievements and not from the love of the Father. He is divided in wanting the Father’s approval and yet, he does not want to submit to Him. Hence, he resorts to testing God’s patience: to what extent can the Father bear with my waywardness? Because the Father is all-loving, He will continue to bless me despite my disobedience!
In Christ’s second temptation when He fasted for 40 days in the wilderness, the devil tested Jesus’s identity as the Son of God. The devil said,
“If you are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You ’; and ‘On their hands they will bear You up, so that You will not strike Your foot against A stone.’” Matthew 4:5-6
The devil tried to manipulate Jesus by appealing to the orphan within the fallen human nature. By throwing Himself down, He had not only gotten the attention of the Father, but also drew the eyes of the world towards Himself as God’s Son. But Jesus replied,
“On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Matthew 4:7
The orphan needs to re-learn truth and not to test the patience of God. In the process of being discipled by a mentor, he will begin to understand that true love leads to obedience. And he will also learn that the right to being a son of God cannot be earned, but freely given by God through grace (Romans 8:15). God has called all man to be adopted as His children. It is in the nature of a son to obey the Father’s will. Romans 8:14 says that the sons of God are being led by the Spirit of God,
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. … you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, Abba! Father! (Romans 8:14-15)
He has to learn to call God his Father and focus on living the lifestyle of a son through obedience. He has to forsake his old identity as an orphan and take on the new identity as a son of God. Forsaking the old identity includes changing the way he obtains approval, his motivations towards work and the way he interacts with people. Work is an expression of love towards God and man rather than a means to gain approval.
Jesus came and called the orphans as His beloved and gave them the right to become the children of God (John 1:12). The right to sonship is not earned; it is received as a gift from God. The orphan needs to know that despite his imperfections, God will never leave him. Jesus said,
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18).
Fear and insecurity are the results of broken relationships and failed endeavors. A fearful and insecure person will not want to take risks and venture out of his comfort zone. Particularly in the area of relationships, he cannot progress in a relationship towards intimacy for fear of being rejected. He is pessimistic in his outlook and prefers to be where he is, even if it means regression. A fearful and broken person is terrified of the future and will look for immediate recourse and emotional security. He is constantly plagued with insomnia or stomach problems and walks around with a dark cloud over his head.
In Jesus’s first temptation, the devil said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread” (Matthew 4:3). The devil appealed to the fear and insecurity within the human nature. In turning stones into bread, Jesus could immediately benefit from His divine powers and would never again find Himself in lack. Jesus, born in the flesh, had to live like the rest of humanity subjected to a world accursed with poverty. At all times, He had to live life emptied of His immortality and yet remained faithful to His commission. Jesus replied to the devil that man is to walk in obedience to God’s Word and trust Him to provide. Many churchgoers are taught to pray and command that these stones become bread in Jesus’s name without the conviction to live life in obedience and trust; they are taught that power is on their tongue to command the miraculous.
The way to help a person beset with fear and insecurity is to help him recognize God’s presence and purpose during times of pain and failure. It is important to have someone close by to support them in times of fear and confusion. As they take gradual steps towards overcoming their fears (real or imagined), they will come to recognize the gifts and potential they possess. As they learn to persevere in their endeavors, they will gain confidence and experience breakthrough.
The lust of the flesh and the pride of life often entrap those whose hearts are prone to deception. Such are accustomed to living in two separate worlds with ease professing one set of principles in public, yet becoming another person in private. Such a person is motivated by personal fame, fortune and pleasure, and is on a direct path towards personal destruction. The lust of the flesh and pride of life entice him from the path of the Kingdom and rob him of his abundant life and glory.
In Jesus’s third temptation, “the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8-9). The devil sought to appeal to lust and pride within his human nature. Earthly pleasures of lust and the pride of man belong to the kingdom of darkness. Jesus rejected the deceptive pleasures of darkness and said, “Go, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only” (Matthew 4:10).
Jesus emptied Himself of His immortality (Philippians 2:7) and became exposed to every temptation of the world. He was able to understand and empathize with the weaknesses and deceptions of the human heart. In the presence of the Spirit, we find empathy with the One who was tempted in every way as we are. In the process, we receive mercy and grace for help in times of need (Hebrews 4:15-16).
Although necessary in providing a direction, the law could not provide the much needed empathy and mercy that is found in Jesus. Now laws are effective in setting boundary lines between right and wrong, good and evil, but only Jesus who was tempted and yet without sin can help man overcome the hidden issues of his heart. Mere knowledge of laws residing in the mind cannot deal with the darkness of the heart. In order for man to be made whole, God’s revelation of Himself has to transcend logical understanding of precepts and principles to touch the heart.
The sacrificial love and empathy of Jesus heals our hearts and releases us into a life of abundance and victory. Through Jesus, God’s relationship with man progresses from friendship to courtship and from mutual respect to sacrificial love.
The second reason concerns the faculty of the heart in advancing the relationship beyond the logical level. Using the mind alone in understanding the Law is insufficient for the relationship to progress to a deeper level. In the beginning, man’s relationship with God was intimate at the logical and emotional/volitional level. God came looking for Adam, and upon hearing God’s footsteps, Adam distanced himself from God. The fellowship that was intimate became estranged because man’s love for God and his life direction were no longer in tune. Jesus came to restore loving and intimate relationship between God and man.
The Gospels: The revelation of God as a human being
God in the Old Testament seemed distant, but through Jesus, God was brought near. Figure 4.1 contrasts God’s proximity to man in the Old Testament and in the Gospels.
Jesus came in the flesh as a person so that humanity could connect with God at an emotional and somatic or bodily level. Through Jesus, man could feel the love of God as coming from a physical person. During the days of the Gospels, man could finally see God with their eyes, and interact with Him as a person. God does not reside solely in the mind through principles and laws; for He is now a person. God was aloof and distant, but is now brought near through Jesus Christ. The result is a new awareness of ourselves as being God’s beloved family and no longer orphans.
Through Jesus, humanity connected with God face-to-face, up-close and personally. This demands of man a new paradigm, to connect with God as a person, interacting with Him heart to heart. It is interesting to note that the disciples were laggard in accepting God in the form of a person. The disciples, Thomas and Philip asked Jesus repeatedly to show them the Father (John 14:5-7) when in fact their minds, hearts and bodies were already actively engaged in connecting with God. The key here is in feeling His love (figure 4.2),
enjoying God’s intimate presence and conversing with Him. Man’s relationship with God has to progress beyond the dimension of logic and laws. If Jesus is with you in person today, would you whip out the Bible and discuss Law and theologies with Him? Some actually did that! In John 1:35, when John the Baptist introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God, some of John’s disciples immediately followed Jesus and asked Him, “Rabbi, where are You staying?” Jesus said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day (John 1:38-39). The way to know God is to live with God and interact with Him face-to-face on a daily basis. Today, through the Spirit, we interact with Jesus in the same way He did with His disciples 2000 years ago.
1,400 years after the Law was given to Moses, it was time for God to reveal Himself in a more profound and personal level. God sent Jesus in the flesh so that man could interact with God not just through the written word, but also in person. The question remains: is it possible that Jesus who is fully God, is also fully human and ordinary? How did Jesus connect with the people then? Knowing how the people connected with Jesus at the time of the gospels will show us how in the same manner we can connect with the Spirit today.
In this chapter you will understand the following:
1. In the beginning, God walked with man and interacted with him face to face. However, the intimate relationship between God and man did not endure because man rejected the ways of God.
2. In spite of man’s apostasy, God continued to reveal His love to man through His provisions and protection in the world. However, God’s provisions and protection alone are insufficient for us to have full restoration and to experience abundant life.
3. Jesus came in the flesh and emptied Himself of His divine powers, putting on a mortal human body, mind and emotions. The rigors of growing up and the 33 years of struggle on earth provided Him with the means to identify with our trials and temptations. Jesus understands us perfectly, so we can have complete fellowship and communion with Him. The result is complete restoration and sanctification of heart to live righteously and abundantly.
Now, let us start this chapter with a very basic question:
How real is God to you?
I was born in a family that attended church regularly and believed in God. I was taught the Bible and have learned to accept that God transcends this physical world, and that God does not need to prove His existence for He is a priori and self-evident. However, I cannot deny the fact that despite many years of Christian influence, I still doubted the existence of God for the reason that I could not see Him or sense Him in a somatic or tangible way. Why is it so difficult for man to sense God’s presence? To understand that, we have to look at the time when man was first created.
When God created Adam, he interacted with God face-to-face in close proximity. They were companions and there was no distance between them. God gave man physical senses (sight, touch, smell, taste, and hearing) so that he could interact with God and also with one another. In fact, Adam could actually hear the sound of God’s foot steps in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:18). God also created man with a mind (IQ) and emotions (EQ) for communication and fellowship with Him. Man’s physical senses, mind and emotions are God-given faculties through which man can commune with God and with one another. Even among friends, in order for a relationship to progress, it is necessary that there be an exchange of ideas empathy of emotions. Handshakes communicate mutual acceptance and a start of a relationship through physical contact. Figure 4.3 illustrates how man communes with one another; through our thoughts, emotions, intuition and physical senses. Gradually, as the relationship grows, each party begins to reveal more of their thoughts and feelings towards a more profound relationship.
While Jesus was in the flesh, the disciples commune with Him through their thoughts, emotions and physical senses. But when Jesus ascended into heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit through which He continues to fellowship with believers through their thinking, feeling and sensing faculties. Believers may still be using their thoughts, emotions and physical senses to commune with Christ except the communion has become more penetrating and profound.
Today, many Christians cannot sense God’s presence much less commune with Him. They suppose that He has chosen to hide Himself. The reason being that the higher levels of their thinking are not open to God; they are still trying to commune with him using their earthly intellect, passion and senses. However, God is actively seeking to restore communion with man through his intellect, emotions and physical senses. This the Spirit does by regenerating their hearts and by opening up the higher levels of their thought faculty.
I could testify that God has been real to me, connecting with me through my thoughts and emotions. I feel His tangible presence every moment of the day! It is especially reassuring while in the mission field when I can sense God’s tangible presence with me. During those times when I’ve sinned against Him, His tangible presence made it so much easier to experience His forgiveness and acceptance. Why is that so? The reason is that man is not all mind (intellect), but heart (emotions) and body (physical senses) as well. The question remains: why does God keep His distance from humanity? The next section detailed humanity’s rejection of God’s fellowship and purpose in his life.
Man distanced himself from God because of disobedience and shame
The intimate relationship between God and Adam did not endure because man disobeyed and rejected God’s authority over his life. God gave Adam a commandment the he should not eat fruit from a particular tree (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil). He said to him, “In the day that you eat from it, you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:17). Death is estrangement from God’s Kingdom and is the consequence of disobedience; death is also the ultimate state of torment and suffering. As Adam disobeyed God and ate from the forbidden tree, he crossed from God’s Kingdom into the kingdom of darkness. Man’s mind and desires became hostile towards God. Hence, God could no longer live with man similar to a husband and wife whose times together are littered with irreconcilable differences. Proverbs 15:29 says, “The Lord keeps His distance from the wicked.” God is holy, but man is evil at heart. Amos 3:3 says, “How can two walk together unless they agree?” Man could not agree with the righteous ways of God, for his heart is continually evil and deceptive. Man’s relationship with God did not endure because it is not built on the foundation of the fear of God and respect for His laws. Without the fear of God, man can never come to experience the loving presence of God.
Another important observation is this: it is man who first avoided the presence of God and it was God who came looking for man calling, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). Genesis 3:8 says, “… the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of God.” Adam was ashamed (he saw himself as naked) and felt estranged from God’s presence. Shame comes from the refusal to face up to one’s own sins in order to reconcile with God. Hence, he distanced and hid himself from God. The truth is that humanity does not desire reconciliation but remains adamant in stubborn ways.
Do we desire His presence and walk with Him today? Do we come to Him in order to “maintain” our affiliation to His Kingdom and to gather more blessings? Do our prayers consist mostly of personal concerns and petitions? Perhaps, we should just put aside our personal needs and take joy in a heart-to-heart communion with God. Despite humanity’s rebellion, God’s provision and His love are still clearly evident in the world (Romans 1:20).
God may seem far away, but He remains faithful in protecting and providing for humanity
Even though God no longer walks with man in close proximity, the existence of God and His loving nature can still be seen in creation (Romans 1:20). God’s love, wisdom, and power are clearly evident in nature and the ecosystems of the earth. Matthew 6 describes God’s faithfulness in taking care of the birds of the air, and the lilies of the field. If God would care for the birds and the lilies of the fields, He would care also for humanity who is much more valuable. Creation speaks of God as the Provider who sustains all the living things in the sky, on the earth and under the sea. For those who are seeking to encounter God, they need to trust Him in the areas of protection and provision. Lift your eyes towards God and entrust to Him your work and the safety of your family, and you shall surely experience His faithfulness.
Now, God’s love goes beyond provisions and protection; He desires to dwell in the midst of man and to restore the communion that was lost because of disobedience. However, in order for man to encounter God in an intimate way, he must have the right understanding of Jesus’s ministry on earth. The gospels tell us that Jesus came in the “flesh” and became one of us. He related to man as a fellow human being and lived among the ordinary. He identified Himself with the lowly, and was labeled together with the sinners (Luke 7:34). In so doing, God became accessible, up-close and personal even to the lowest rung of society, so that all of humanity may once again know God and commune with Him.
Why is there the need for God to come in person?
Listen, God’s provisions and protection alone cannot fully reveal His love to man and make his life abundant. Provisions and protection may fulfill man’s physical needs, but they can never fill man’s emptiness. Emptiness is an emotion that arises from the spirit of an orphan. An orphan is one who is abandoned and has no status, purpose or inheritance. Brokenness comes from a broken spirit that is riddled with fear, disappointments and failures. Jesus was born an ordinary child in an ordinary family, to experience the emptiness and brokenness of human life. In His earthly journey of 33 years, Jesus experienced the full spectrum of human suffering. He understood us perfectly and is able to fill our emptiness by dwelling in us. Jesus said in John 14:23 that He will make His home in us forever and from now on, we are never alone. Our brokenness is healed when we admit our hurts and allow Jesus to feel our sorrows with us. We receive closure to our past failings when we understand where we have gone wrong. His truth will then restore us to the right path.
Jesus descended from heaven onto the earth as a mortal, being made tangible and perceivable to human senses. God’s creation speaks of Him as being transcendent and all-powerful; He seems distant and emotionally unaffected by the affairs of the world. Many who knew God that way were unable to interact with Him in person though in their minds they were familiar with the concept of Emmanuel; God with us. They are habituated to using only a single dimension: the mind through which to perceive God and connect with Him. The revelation of God derived from His work in creation is inadequate in revealing the full knowledge of God’s nature and His love. It is like one trying to acquire the intimate knowledge of Beethoven the Composer of the 18th century by solely studying his musical compositions. The acts of God as written in the Bible concerning the history of Israel cannot reveal to us the full nature of God until we encounter Jesus in person!
John 1:18 says that no one truly knew what God was like.
No one has seen (“o-ra-o”) God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:18)
Moses only had so much as a glimpse of God’s “back”, though His compassionate and holy nature was revealed through His providence in the history of Israel. During the times of the Old Testament, no one had an up-close and personal encounter with God. The author used the Greek word “o-ra-o”, which means to perceive with the eye. No one had actually seen God although much has been written about Him. Humanity could never truly know God unless we see Him, hear Him and encounter Him for ourselves. Jesus came to make God the Father fully known; “…He (Jesus) has explained Him (the Father).” The word “explained” originates from the Greek word “exegeomai” means to reveal in full detail.
Many today claimed that they knew God, and they could explain the Bible and quote it extensively. They knew God as being the loving Provider who could do all things and no doubt they had many personal testimonies about His goodness. But, they never had a personal and direct encounter with Him. Putting succinctly, many saw the “back” of God, but not His face.
I knew a man, a cab driver in his 50’s who told me that he has only one holiday a year. He said to my amazement that he could not remember when he last spoke to his children. He goes to work when it’s still dark, and returns home to sleep past midnight. He is a responsible father who provides for his children’s every need. He has never failed to put food on the table and the school fees are paid on time. However, there is one problem; he is never at home. He gives his family money to celebrate their birthdays with their friends but he is never with them. The children could see the evidences of their father’s love and provision, but they could not sense his presence or see him face-to-face. A child hungers for the presence and the intimacy of the father which no provision or material things could satisfy.
Likewise, many believers today see God as a mere provider and have grown to accept God’s aloofness as an ordained “boundary” between God and man. Asking God to reveal Himself before their eyes would be absurd and far-fetched. They believe that true faith should stand solely on the intellectual acceptance of God’s omnipresence apart from experience. They insist that spiritual experiences and tangible encounters with God have little relevance to faith and are rare to impossible.
On the contrary, those who are truly spiritual desire to see God and encounter Him. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8). Moses asked God to reveal Himself (Exodus 33:18). A man called Simeon who was devout and righteous, was looking for the Messiah (Luke 2:25). Upon holding Jesus in his arms, he said, “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond servant to depart in peace according to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation,” (Luke 2:29-30).
Unless God comes in the flesh and dwells in our midst, we cannot experience God’s sacrificial love and be healed of our emptiness and brokenness. Jesus’s coming in the flesh has made God real and perceivable to humanity. However real and perceivable He may be, He is also to be personable and willing to share in our sufferings. For that, Jesus came as a mortal and was exposed to the common temptations of human life.
The next sections explores Jesus’s mortal attributes and his living environment. For God to commune with mortal man, it is necessary that Jesus fulfills two conditions:
1. He must share the same corruptible body and a fallible nature that is susceptible to worldly temptations.
2. He must share the same environment and life experiences with humanity.
Knowing Jesus as fully mortal and being exposed to the full spectrum of human life is the revelation that will enable us to commune with the Holy Spirit.
God demonstrated His love by emptying His immortality and putting on our mortal nature
John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh,…” Jesus, being in the flesh is like us in every way, fully mortal with human limitations. Some would disagree for the fact that His spirit was birthed from God being born of the Virgin Mary. And that gave Him supernatural capabilities making it impossible for Him to sin. I would argue that believers today also too born of the Spirit and of the water (John 3:5), but that has not immunized us from committing sin. The Bible is explicitly clear that Jesus became an ordinary man, putting Him on level ground with us. He too was exposed to the temptations of life and had to make tough choices just like us. Philippians 2:7 said that Jesus emptied Himself of His immortality and put on a human body, mind and emotions. His mortality was demonstrated by His propensity to physical tiredness and emotional struggles. He was susceptible to temptations at every turn (Hebrews 4:15). He struggled to obey the Father’s will to suffer on behalf of humanity. His struggles were so intense that His perspiration appeared like drops of blood (Luke 22:44).
In becoming “one of us”, He was stripped of His immortal covering, being made fragile and exposed to the elements of the world. John 4:6 describes Jesus as being physically wearied from a long journey. In John 19:28, we see that He experienced excruciating thirst and dehydration while on the cross. In Matthew 4:2, we see that after the 40-day fast, He became hungry. His mortality is undeniable for He died under the extreme conditions of torture at the cross.
Jesus’s emotional responses were human in every way. A few hours before He went to the cross, He was sorrowful unto death (Matthew 26:38) and He was in extreme dilemma caught between the Father’s will and His own (Matthew 26:39). When Jesus approached Jerusalem, He foresaw the people’s suffering and He wept (Luke 19:41). Jesus was in all ways an ordinary human being; He did not appear as a child with divine privileges. Even as a child, He went through the normal rigors of learning and increased in wisdom (Luke 2:52). When Jesus came back to His hometown and taught at the synagogue, the people were astonished and said, “’Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not His mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?’ And they rejected Him” (Matthew 13:54-57). The scriptures proved that Jesus was not an outstanding child having seen Him growing up. Hence, they were amazed that Jesus exhibited such wisdom and power in His ministry. Yet in another instance when Jesus was in the process of gathering His disciples, Nathanael commented, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). Jesus’s ordinary and inconspicuous beginnings are corroborated.
Jesus’s desire to share in our human experiences and sufferings motivated Him to empty His immortal attributes to take on our corruptible body and fallible nature. His act of emptying Himself of immortality gave Him the means to identify with the human psyche.
In 1 John 1:3, the apostle John spoke of having true fellowship with God that made our joy complete. The term fellowship is derived from the Greek word: “koinonia”, which means sharing the heart and forming an emotional bond. In order to have fellowship, it requires all parties to share a common environment and the same experiences. We as human beings are able to identify and feel with one another because we are all beset with the same weaknesses and experience relatively similar challenges in life. Even among friends, we prefer to congregate with people of similar background and experiences because there we find solace and acceptance. Recovering alcoholics tend to congregate in self-help groups that provide support for one another because they could find empathy and fellowship. The process of fellowship involves the mutual exchange of experiences, empathizing with one another’s burdens and emotions.
In order for two parties to connect, it is essential for both parties not only to be completely human and but to share similar life experiences as well.
Jesus demonstrated His love when He exposed Himself to the full spectrum of human experiences and suffering
John 1:14 says, “the Word… dwelt among us.” In order for Jesus to connect with us, it is necessary that He share the same earthly environment, the celebrations and the trials of life. He was born as a mortal and He died as a mortal. For 33 years, Jesus “dwelt among us” and was not for a moment shielded from the rigors and temptations of human life. His exposure to the common trials of life as an ordinary human being would give Him the means to identify with us.
a. Jesus understood your disappointment when your closest friends betrayed you; for He Himself was betrayed by His very own disciples.
b. Jesus understood how it felt when your own brothers did not believe you; for He was rejected by His own brothers who did not believe in who He claimed to be and sought to expose Him (John 7:5).
c. Jesus understood the pain of losing a loved one. His own cousin John the Baptist was beheaded and He had to go to a secluded place by Himself to grieve (Matthew 14:13).
d. Jesus understood the dilemma when we have to make tough decisions between suffering and comfort. He struggled with decisions concerning the way of obedience and suffering with great intensity (Mark 14:36).
e. Jesus knew the pain of seeing our loved ones grieve, when He felt His mother’s sorrow while He hung on the cross (John 19:26-27).
f. Hours before going to the cross, Jesus said to His disciples, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death.” (Matthew 26:38). On the cross, He experienced the shame and the condemnation of one being raised up as a spectacle for the world to see. He knew what it felt like to be wrongly accused by His own people, the people He healed just a few days before. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3).
g. Jesus knew what it’s like to be forsaken as an orphan for He was “abandoned” by His heavenly Father when He bore the sins of the world (Matthew 27:46).
h. He experienced the joy and exhilaration when His disciples finally came to understand who they were as sons of God (Luke 10:21).
i. Given that Jesus took the full punishment of eternal hell fire ahead of us; that would mean we will never walk that path nor will we ever understand the depth of His suffering. He understood our suffering, but we will never fully understand His. Jesus’s death on the cross is perhaps the greatest demonstration of God’s love towards humanity.
Jesus’s earthly experiences became the basis through which He connected and identified with every human being.
God demonstrated His love by actively journeying and identifying with us in our daily struggles
Jesus actively identifies with our trials and tragedies. During the funeral of his friend Lazarus, while sensing the loss, He wept (John 11:35). He felt the sorrows of His disciples when He told them of His imminent departure (John 16:6).
Not only can He identify with our emotional state, He desires us to sense His emotions and passions. The two men who met the resurrected Christ en route to the village of Emmaus felt in their hearts the warmth of His love (Luke 24:32). Even though their eyes could not recognize Christ, yet their hearts and emotions felt the warmth of His presence. Jesus desires fellowship with us; He does not withhold anything from us and would disclose to us all things (John 16:15). Jesus connected with those who were ill-esteemed in society; He called the tax collectors and sinners His beloved (“Philos”) (Matthew 11:19). We often exult in Christ’s covenant to walk with us and identify with our needs and sufferings. But the onus is also on us to identify with Christ’s passion for the world. In Philippians 3:10, the apostle Paul talked about having fellowship with the sufferings of Christ. The word “suffering” originates from the Greek word “pathema” which also means the passions of the heart. Could we identify with the passions of Christ, and the perfect love that impelled Him to the cross?
A friend of mine whose wife passed away suddenly was questioning why God allowed this to happen to him. Both he and his wife had been serving God and the church faithfully for many years and he felt he did not deserve this at all. One bright sunny day, as he was driving along a highway, his heart was gloomy on the inside and he felt no one could really understand how he felt. Then out of nowhere, dark clouds started gathering. “Where did these clouds come from?” he thought to himself. Suddenly, there was a sound of thunder and flashes of lightning followed by a downpour. The rain was so heavy he could barely make out traffic. Then he sensed a stirring in his heart, a still but distinct empathy that God was crying with him. That moment brought a profound friendship and a connection with God that he was indeed not alone.
In the next section, let us discuss how we as human beings made of flesh and blood can commune with God whom we cannot normally see or touch. The reason I wrote this section is to help us understand that there is a place where God is revealed through our natural senses. However, we must also not come to the conclusion that if we lack such experiences, we are deficient in our faith. Rather, we are motivated to approach His presence with an open mind being aware of the joy this new paradigm will bring us.
God demonstrated His love by connecting and touching every person with a human touch
Part of the process of fellowship and connecting with one another involves the use of our natural senses. Hence, when we relate to God, He allows us to sense Him with our natural senses. Through our natural senses, we come to know God as a person; He is not a concept nor is He distant and impersonal. God is a person, and who desires fellowship. Psalms 139:17-18 said that God is thinking of us, even when we are asleep. And He is still there with us when we are awake. In John 13:23, we see the apostle John (the disciple of Jesus) reclining on Jesus’s bosom, which speaks of Jesus’s desire for intimacy. It also speaks of Jesus’s humility when He came near to touch and wash the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17).
Jesus came as a person and related to man through the sense of touch. Touch communicates intimacy, proximity and humility that words and concepts alone could not adequately express. To a person in sorrow or in desperation, a touch or a hug could do much more than a thousand words. Jesus frequently communicated His love through touch and intimate contact. Our human senses are not made for carnal purposes but for spiritual fellowship and communion with God and with one another. In the passages below, we see Jesus reaching out to humanity and touching them. And man’s natural senses play a major role in recognizing Jesus as God coming in the flesh.
In Mark 1:41, Jesus had compassion and touched the leper.
In Luke 2:25-32, Simeon, a devout man would not die until he saw and touched the Christ. Having seen the Child Jesus at the temple, he was given the peace to depart, and he said, “My eyes have seen your salvation.” For Simeon, seeing Christ and touching Him is a consummation of his faith bringing peace and fulfillment.
In Luke 18:15, Jesus made Himself accessible and tangible to the little children by touching them. Children do not respond to audible communication as much as to touch.
In John 4:42, the Samaritans could not have believed until they saw and heard for themselves the person of Jesus Christ. The testimony of the Samaritan woman was somewhat insufficient for the villagers to know God until they heard and encountered Jesus for themselves.
In John 20:27, Apostle Thomas could not have believe until he touched the scars of the resurrected Jesus.
In Acts 1:3, Jesus after His resurrection, for 40 days chose to appear in His resurrection body to many as evidence of His resurrection. Although he spoke about His resurrection before His death, it is still necessary for man to see and touch the resurrected Christ.
Unless God becomes tangible and perceivable to human senses, they may never comprehend God or commune with Him. Christianity will be confined to a mere ideological exercise in the name of faith, devoid of the hope of ever seeing or touching the Emmanuel. Emmanuel is God’s name and it means “God with us.” People will continue to live unfulfilled and unsatisfied lives until they see God and interact with Him in person.
Many Christians today record the experiences of their communion with God as intimate and tangible. One such person of great contribution to the Christian world is brother Lawrence who served as lay clergy in a Carmelite monastery in Paris in the 17th century. Despite his lowly position, he had a reputation for experiencing profound peace, and visitors would come to seek spiritual guidance from him. Christians commonly remember him for the intimacy he expressed concerning his relationship to God as recorded in a book compiled after his death – “The Practice of the Presence of God”. In this highly respected Christian classic, he said: “The soul accustomed by this exercise to the practice of faith can actually see and feel God by simply entering into His presence. It evokes Him easily and obtains what is needed. In so doing, the soul could be saying: ‘to approach the Blessed’, in that it can almost say, ‘I no longer believe, but I see and touch’”.
Apostle John wrote in 1 John 1:1-4,
What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at, and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life… we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that your joy may be made complete. (1 John 1:1-4)
Fellowship with God in a way that involves our whole being (i.e. our thoughts, emotions, and physical senses) makes our joy full and life abundant.
When Jesus emptied His immortal attributes and put on our corruptible body and our fallible nature; when He immersed Himself fully into the human experience, being born as a mortal and died as a mortal; we could only so much as begin to comprehend God’s idea of love or more precisely, “agape”, which means perfect love or sacrificial love. A doctor may devote his time and energy to diagnose our illness and to treat us, but he may never understand our fears and pain. Jesus, motivated by agape put all of humanity’s sicknesses, emotional wounds of brokenness, abandonment, fears and sorrows onto His own mortal frame. His act of journeying and suffering alongside with humanity brings a healing that medical science can not. Jesus exchanged the immortal attributes of His soul and body for our mortality! When Jesus touches us, His touch is one of empathy, humility, and faithfulness to the end!
On that day when Jesus was resurrected, His immortality was restored and He overcame the power of death on behalf of humanity. Today, as His Spirit touches us, He causes us to partake of His immortal attributes, which are divine wisdom, love, power, and physical and emotional well being. Through the Spirit, His human touch continues to restore us from our brokenness and empowers us to live the resurrected life.
Having understood His desire to reach out me, how do I then sense His love and respond to Him?
First, we must make a decision to forsake our self-righteous and deceptive ways and walk in His commandments. God’s Law is the first foundation and the meeting point of our relationship with God. The ability to sense the love of Jesus begins with a decision involving the posture of the heart. A person who so desires to encounter God must first make a genuine commitment to love God and keep His commandments. Only those who desire to walk in the truth will be able to know God and experience His love. 1 John 2:4-5 says,
The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His Word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. (1 John 2:4-5)
Keeping God’s commandments also means living our lives according to God’s plans and not ours. Unless we are willing to lay down our own plans and take on His, we can never fully experience God’s love and glory.
Also, we have to believe that all our sins are forgiven because of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. We stand today and forever, fully and permanently accepted as His sons. Hebrews 4:16 says that we can boldly draw near to the throne of grace for communion to obtain help. God’s wrath towards us is placed upon Jesus on the cross and erased forever (Romans 5:9) causing us to stand in the full favor of God. Hence, in all our endeavors, we release our anxieties and fears to Him (Philippians 4:6-7). In exchange, we receive His peace and strength to overcome our issues.
Hence, we must learn to live one day at a time, and to rejoice in what has been accomplished for the day. Knowing, it is by His grace and our faithfulness that we become victorious. God is faithful to fill up the measure of our weaknesses to ensure our success. Such is like a child trying to understand the Father’s nature and how to receive His love. In figure 4.4, we see a child, trusting God for daily needs.
Thirdly, we respond to God by laying down our lives as God’s ambassadors of love to the world and to help establish His Kingdom. Before Jesus came in the flesh, God had never explicitly taught His people to lay down their lives for Him or for one another. But as Jesus was about to lay down His life for humanity, He taught in John 15:13,
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
Hence, our response to Jesus’s act of sacrifice is a sacrificial love for God and for others. As a child, we learn to receive love from God, but as we mature into sonship, love overflows and we begin to express our love towards God and others. In figure 4.5, we see a change in the way the man interacts with God as compared to the child (figure 4.4).
Such is a fellowship, a two-way communion of love. The apostle Paul desired that he himself was accursed (if possible), in order to bring his people to repentance (Romans 9:3). Moses likewise prayed to the Father, “if You will, forgive their sin, and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!” (Exodus 32:32). As we lay down our lives, we begin to feel a greater dimension of God’s love and blessings flowing into us, then overflowing into the world.
Jesus refocuses our gaze from superficial compliance to laws to the hidden issues of the heart
There is a difference in focus between the laws of Moses and the truths of Jesus. The 10 commandments are a system of moral codes purposed to constrain a person’s behavior, not alleviate his underlying desires. Jesus’s teachings went beyond superficial and behavioral compliance to laws to the hidden issues of the heart. Now, truth exposes and addresses the issues of the heart, whereas laws seek to enforce lawful behavior through a system of punishments and rewards. John 1:17 says, “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” Jesus said in Matthew 5:27-28,
27 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)
Jesus taught that one who is consumed with lust has already committed adultery (in his heart) even though the physical act of adultery may not be committed for fear of being discovered. In Luke 7:39, Jesus knew what Simon was thinking when Simon said to himself, “If this man (Jesus) were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.” Jesus uncovered the self-righteous attitude of Simon who despised the woman thinking that he himself was righteous not needing forgiveness from God.
In Matthew 22:34-40, we see one of the experts of Moses’s Law asking Jesus, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” This question revealed the mind-set of the Jews as seeing the laws as individual codes; each law having an intrinsic level of importance relative to the other codes. However, Christ interpreted each code of the laws as being undergirded by a single command – love. Jesus said,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
The individual laws are merely applications of the greatest law, which is love. Hence, it is not so much as the relative importance of each code but the undergirding attitude, which is love towards God and towards others. Their question revealed their complete lack of understanding of the Law. It is like asking the question: who would you save first, your spouse or your child? The answer is obvious: I would save both my spouse and my child! Put in a nutshell, Jesus taught that if you have love, you would fulfill the whole Law and also all the teachings of the Prophets. Each code of the law is an expression of the greatest law, which is the law of love.
The Spirit taught us to constantly give thanks for God’s blessings and to cause our minds to dwell on all things that are excellent and lovely (Philippians 4:8). We must guard our minds and hearts from all things evil and deceptive. In our work place, we are motivated not by personal gains but by the hope of making the world a better place through our work. Even when I am not appreciated or rewarded for my efforts, I will continue to do my best anyway. The apostle Paul wrote, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” (Colossians 3:23). In so doing, we could walk in love and fulfill the whole counsel of God’s laws.
When we meditate on the teachings of Jesus, the Spirit of truth searches the intents and desires of our heart in the light of grace. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life that laid undetected under the lens of the laws, were exposed in the presence of truth and grace (1 John 2:15-16). Jesus, in Matthew 25:34-36 taught about the standard of God’s judgment which weighs the attitudes of the heart towards the poor and the outcasts of society. Jesus said,
“34 Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.” (Matthew 25:34-36)
If left hidden evil and hypocrisy become ticking time bombs to explode any time. They are footholds of the devil to emerge when opportunities are presented. Hence, we must meditate on both the Old Testament laws as well as Jesus’s teachings in the gospels. Jesus’s teachings focuses on sanctifying the heart in mercy, justice and faithfulness while the 10 commandments keep our boundaries in check. In meditating on the whole council of God’s Word, we keep the truths of the Law in our heart. while keeping our actions in check in the code of the laws. In Matthew 23:23, Jesus said to Jews,
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23)
Jesus rebuked them for keeping the laws of tithing without living out the truths in their lives. They did not act justly and mercifully towards those who were poor and deprived. Hence, Jesus’s requires God’s people to keep the laws with the attitude of justice, mercy and faithfulness.
The Grace of Jesus vs the Fear of Punishment
The revelation of Jesus in the flesh brought something that the knowledge of the Law or the fear of God did not – grace. The fear of God may compel us as His creatures to do His will, but the sacrifice of Jesus reveals to us what the Creator is willing to do for His undeserving creatures. As the Creator laid down His life for His creatures, we understood what true love and grace are. Grace that provides a secure environment for us to bare the brokenness and the hidden issues of our hearts shamelessly before Him. In the presence of Jesus, there is no fear of punishment or condemnation for those who love Him. As we are accepted as His children, our hearts are given the space and time to grow.
The power of grace is greater than the fear of punishment from the Old Covenant. Fear causes us to try to escape punishment. However, grace frees us and causing us to lay down our lives completely for God. It is Jesus’s act of selfless sacrifice and mercy which moves us to give our lives as a living sacrifice to Him. Grace is enabling, but fear is stifling.
I remember my second year of work in one of the most sought after IT firms of the world. My department was scrutinized for under performing because we could not meet the revenue target for the year. As it is required for the company to lay off those who could not meet the revenue target, I was mentally prepared to leave. However, the company made a turn around decision not only to retain our employment, but also to give us a reward for our hard work even though we did not produce much fruit. The company said they were gracious because we showed resilience during the economic downturn. This incident brought us much trust and loyalty for our company. In the following year, our department performed much better with less negative turnover and the team was more united and creative because of the grace shown towards us. Grace is indeed greater than the fear that comes from the Old Covenant.
The people of the Old Testament were instructed to choose between blessings and curses. In Deuteronomy 28:1-2, Moses addressed the people,
“1 Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2 All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 28:1-2)
The reward of blessings (Deuteronomy 28:1-14) and the terror of curses (Deuteronomy 28:15-68) were explicitly laid down before the people so that they could make a decision of commitment. The entire generation during the time of Moses had an immature mentality of a child. They were driven by the reward of blessings and the fear of curses. This is the typical way parents reason with a child; reward or discipline, the carrot or the stick. However, this should not be so with children who are mature. While a child is motivated by reward or deterred by the threat of punishment, a son is moved by his love for the Father and His principles. He is not fixated on selfish gains, the focus is on joining the Father in His business.
Jesus came to reveal to us what the Son is like and how a son should be properly motivated. Jesus said, “‘Behold, I have come to do Your will.’ He takes away the first in order to establish the second.” (Hebrews 10:9). Jesus was wholly motivated by His love for the Father to do His will. By His obedience and sacrifice, He removed the first and established the second. What was the first? The first was the mentality that came with the laws of Moses, which was a self-centered motivation of incentive by reward and deterrence by the fear of punishment. The second is the mentality that accompanies grace, which is an obedience motivated by love for God.
In another passage in Galatians 4:3-5, the apostle Paul taught that a child was held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.
3 So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:3-5)
What does it mean by one being held under bondage in the elemental things of the world? It means the mentality of one being driven by reward or deterred by the natural consequences of punishment. However, when Jesus came, He demonstrated the maturity and mentality of a Son. All who were immature, being driven by selfish agendas may now be correctly motivated as a mature son of God putting on the mindset of a son. Those who are filled by the Spirit of Jesus no longer act childishly, nor out of fear like a slave, for sonship is motivated rightly by love and honor for God (Galatians 4:6). Jesus was exalted above all creation because He made an unselfish commitment to do the Father’s will even though it meant death and suffering for Him. What was unjust for Jesus meant mercy and justice for humanity! As we are now sons of God, His commandments become our absolute delight. It is indeed our joy and desire to fulfill the Father’s will on earth. Acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly before God is our way of loving God and His laws. We need to continue to evangelize the nations by helping them understand the coming of God’s Kingdom and how they can walk in His ways.
How do you then help a child progress towards maturity? Some insist that one should only keep fulfilling the needs of the child and the child will automatically and naturally mature towards adulthood. Their philosophy is not to expose the child to the tougher side of love, but rather to maintain the feeling of being loved. This concept of love is romantic, that love must always make one feel good. However, real life experiences show us that the transition of a child towards maturity is usually not automatic. The truths that are needed for this transition from childhood to adulthood need to be taught through discipleship. Here, the ways of Christ and the vision of God are inculcated early in life. Proverbs 22:6 says,
Train up a child in the way he should go. Even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
Maturity cannot be achieved by merely fulfilling the child’s felt needs, nor by bandaging his wounds and maintaining the feeling of being loved. It is through intentional discipleship, that a child is guided and disciplined in the ways of love, wisdom and confidence.
In John 21:15-17, after Jesus resurrected, He met Peter while he was fishing and asked him three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these (referring to his self-centered approached to life)?” Peter answered, “Yes, Lord. You know that I love You.” Then, Jesus said, “Shepherd My sheep”. Why did Jesus ask Peter repeatedly if he loves Him? Was Jesus merely seeking to ascertain if Peter understood the motivation of Jesus’s willing sacrifice? In fact, Jesus was soliciting a commitment from Peter as a response to His sacrifice on the cross; a commitment to build His Kingdom. It is obvious that Jesus’s love as demonstrated through His death, did not spontaneously change Peter’s life purpose. Peter was still very much fixated on his own needs rather than the needs of others. Jesus had to challenge Peter to shepherd His sheep as a befitting response towards God’s sacrificial love.
The Teachings of Jesus and Apostle Paul’s Epistles
The teachings of Jesus and the epistles in the New Testament provide many lessons which are relevant and even vital for personal victory and success. Here are some:
Seek first to understand, then to be understood. James 1:19 says, “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak.” We all have tendencies to be too quick to draw conclusions and give advice. Our advice are colored by our own life stories and pet remedies. Active listening communicates love and empathy. Many are depressed because people don’t listen and empathize with one another enough. In this stressful and “to each his own” society, there is little true empathy among family members, colleagues and friends. There are abundance of talkers but no listeners or empathizers. In John 4:1-42, Jesus met a Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus empathized and identified with her pain and her broken past. Jesus did not condemn nor rebuke her, instead He appealed to her willingness to worship God in spirit and in truth.
Empathy extends beyond facts and logic into the emotions of the heart. Laws communicate principles and precepts without empathy. Jesus came to empathize and to experience the full spectrum of human life. The secret of Jesus’s success is His willingness to understand and to empathize. Empathy is the currency of influence. If people feel that we care and are willing to journey with them, then the more power we will have to influence them. Seeking first to understand is not a communication technique, but a trait that flows out from a person of love and character. If your conduct constantly shows kindness, being unassuming, non-judgmental, showing genuine interest in people, then people will feel safe with you and trust you. People are not so much convinced by what they hear from you, but they will believe what they observe in you. Sometimes it is better to just make understanding and empathy the goal without giving solutions to their problems until you are invited to do so. When you have sufficiently gained trust, then others will take off their mask and open themselves to you.
Whether as a businessman, a spouse, a parent or a minister, seeking first to understand, then to be understood is the single most important principle to build trust and networks that God can use to bless and touch lives.
Making promises and keeping them. This principle happens to be the quickest way to build credibility and also the fastest way to destroy one’s reputation when failing to deliver on the promises made. Faithfulness is the quality of making promises and keeping them. In Matthew 6, Jesus taught about the faithfulness of God in taking care of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Families and friendships are built on trust. Corporations and nations are built entirely on trust. In fact, the whole creation is sustained on the faithfulness of God. Every morning, we trust that the sun will rise the same way it has always done. In Deuteronomy 7:9, Moses urged the people to trust God,
“Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments.” (Deuteronomy 7:9)
A trustworthy person is one who makes promises and keeps them. He is reliable, and valued by all. He will be considered an influential person, a valuable asset to his organization. The words of a trustworthy person are powerful and effective. The beginning of leadership and influence is trustworthiness. Hence, it may be better to come across as less eager and helpful rather than being glib-tongued and unreliable.
Jesus kept his promise to the Father and did not look to His personal interests but remained faithful even unto death. For this reason God exalted Him and gave Him a name above every name (Philippians 2:9). The road to honor and glory is trustworthiness and delivering on every promise we have made whether great or small.
Honesty and Integrity. A person of integrity is one who lives in harmony with his conscience and with all aspects of his life. He is not divided, living between two worlds of distinctly different value systems. His life is governed by one set of principles. He is in public what he is in private. He doesn’t allow his mind to entertain fleeting moments of sin and pleasure but is loyal to the Word of truth. Nathaniel Hawthorne, a writer of moral stories said this, “No man for any considerable period can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude without finally becoming bewildered as to which may be true.” To put it plainly, his true colors and weaknesses will be revealed. King David of the Old Testament said, “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for You.” Yet again in another Psalm he says, “So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them with his skillful hands.” (Psalm 78:72). David, before he became king, when he was pursued by King Saul, spared his life twice when he had opportunity to kill him (1 Samuel 24, 26). No wonder God said David as a man after His heart (1 Samuel 13:14).
A person of integrity is not perfect, but he is brutally honest about his true character and state of emotion. Jesus, at the funeral of his good friend did not hold back His emotions, but wept openly displaying his affection for Lazarus (John 11:35). A person of honesty has a clear perception of his identity and self-esteem. He does not hide his failings nor is he ashamed of his weaknesses. He is willing to put his integrity and honesty above pride and the natural desire to hide mistakes to avoid embarrassment.
A person of integrity is one who lives with perpetual peace of mind, with self-honesty and self-unity. Integrity is the greenhouse for psychological health and passions of life. Many problems of life and disharmony of the soul are the results of ignoring and violating the conscience which creates a loss of integrity and personal guilt. A person of integrity has strength of character, authenticity and a fiery passion for life.
The secret to keep one’s integrity and honesty is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as himself. Leave no part of your personality or thoughts to the grey areas of life but hold firmly to high standards which are able to prosper us and keep us from stumbling.
Do unto others what you want done unto you. In Matthew 7:12, Jesus taught,
“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)
This is usually referred to as the golden rule of loyalty and success. It is also commonly known in negotiations as the win-win attitude. The underlying motion of this attitude is to try to champion the other party’s goals as much as your own. This is a massive shift away from the usual win-lose thinking which comes from society’s scarcity mindset, and which says the more the other party gets, the less there is for me. Often the game is how to manipulate to gain advantage over the other party to get him to concede as much as possible. This golden paradigm raises all parties to a new level of trust and synergy which is truly liberating. It also requires vulnerability, courage and kindness.
We must learn to suspend our own interests long enough to understand what the other person wants most, and why. When people sense our desire to bless and not to deprive or manipulate, they will start to open up to find creative ways to cooperate and help each other succeed. Philippians 2:3-4 teaches us:
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)
The Glory of the New Covenant vs the Blessings of the Old Covenant
When Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt and into the land that God had promised, God made a covenant with them saying,
“9 Be silent and listen, O Israel! This day you have become a people for the Lord your God. 10 You shall therefore obey the Lord your God, and do His commandments and His statutes which I command you today.” (Deuteronomy 27:9-10)
From the passage above, we learn a very important truth: God has accepted the Israelites as His people even before they could obey His commandments. God had intended on making His people righteous apart from their works. As illustrated in figure 4.6A, God extended His invitation in the days of Moses to call the Israelites, His people and His sons. In fact, God said through the Psalmist,
I said, “You are gods. And all of you are sons of the Most High.” (Psalms 82:6)
This understanding goes contrary to the prevalent teachings that God’s desire to justify His people is revealed only through Jesus in the New Testament. However, despite God’s willingness to adopt the Israelites as His own people, they could not reciprocate in recognizing God as their Father! This covenant (which is called the Old Covenant) could not free the people of their hardness of heart to love God and His ways. However, the New Covenant unlocks the heart of man to recognize God as Father how and to love His ways. Figure 4.6B illustrates the Holy Spirit through the sacrifice of Jesus broke the bondage of slavery and sin, enabling man to recognize God as Father. The apostle Paul wrote,
15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, Abba! Father! 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God. (Romans 8:15-16)
Hence, the reconciliation between God and man involves God extending His invitation and man’s acceptance of that invitation. The invitation was extended by God in the Old Covenant, and man accepted God’s invitation in the New Covenant. God’s love and His desire to save humanity is constant ever since the foundations of the earth. God went the extra mile to free man’s bondage to sin through the sacrifice of His Son, so that humanity may recognize God as his Father. The apostle Paul wrote,
He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will. (Ephesians 1:4-5)
There is another distinction between the Old and the New Covenant: The Old Covenant envisages an earthly kingdom with earthly prosperity, but the New Covenant set its vision on the glory of God in the heavenly kingdom. God made a covenant with the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 27-28, that if they obey the laws, they would be blessed with peace, riches and honor. The Old Covenant promised earthly prosperity if they obeyed God’s laws, and curses if they disobeyed. The reward and blessings of the Old Covenant are land and earthly prosperity (Deuteronomy 5:33). Deuteronomy 28:1-14 gives a detailed description of the blessings of the earth following obedience. This is what God had promised to give if the people could fulfill the covenant with God.
The blessings of the Old Covenant could best be represented by King Solomon, the icon of peace, riches and honor. However, the splendor of the nation under King Solomon’s rule could not endure; Israel was torn in two, which became the northern kingdom (Israel) and the southern kingdom (Judah). The Old Covenant and the promise of earthly blessings clearly failed to move the people to walk in God’s ways because their hearts were self-seeking. King Solomon himself was being enticed by women of other nations to serve other gods. The people and their King were self-seeking. They sought the pleasures of the world and pride of life. Israel was subsequently conquered by other nations and returned to a state of poverty and slavery.
Hence, there remained a need for another covenant that is more glorious and effective than the Old Covenant: a covenant that would regenerate the hearts of the people to walk in God’s ways. This New Covenant is Jesus, whose glory is unlike that of King Solomon or Moses. Unfortunately, when Jesus came, the people of the Old Covenant were so accustomed to earthly form of glory that they failed to recognize the glory of the New Covenant and rejected Jesus. Jesus said, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me.” (John 8:54). True glory is accorded by the Father who is the Creator and not by man. Hence, we need to seek the approval of God and not of man. The glory of Jesus is His obedience towards God and His sacrificial love for humanity. He willingly submitted Himself to the will of the Father and went to the cross. His sacrifice broke humanity’s hardness of heart freeing us to love God and His ways. For this reason, God exalted Jesus above all creation and He received an eternal glory (Philippians 2:8-9).
8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name. (Philippians 2:8-9)
Therefore, all who live and walk in the footsteps of Jesus, who would forsake their self-seeking mentality and seek to do God’s will will likewise receive glory, honor and immortality. The key to honor, immortality and eternal riches is sacrificial love and obedience towards God. Earthly blessings are merely a by-product of a life of obedience and love, which is the true glory of God. If you could gain the glory of God, you would have gained everything. Jesus displayed that true glory when He gave His life as a sacrifice for unrepentant sinners and God resurrected Him. Jesus received from the Father eternal glory and every knee must bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10). And all who have this attitude will likewise receive that glory. The glory of Jesus’s sacrificial love far surpasses the earthly splendor of King Solomon. The splendor of the Old Covenant is external, materialistic and temporal. But the glory of the New Covenant comes from the inner life of the Spirit and is eternal. The apostle Paul taught in 2 Corinthians 3:10 that the Old Covenant had minimal glory. The glory of the New Covenant surpasses it. He counted it worthy to endure much sufferings, hardship and imprisonment “so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10). Jesus showed us that all who seek eternal glory of the New Covenant must lay down their lives like He did (John 15:12-13). Jesus said,
“12 This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13)
Again Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24). Jesus meant that whoever wishes to obtain the glory of God like He did (“come after Me”), must live a life of obedience and sacrifice (“take up his cross”). Figure 4.7 illustrates that man’s response at the revelation of Jesus is sacrificial love for God and for man.
Only this time, it not only brings earthly blessings, but more importantly immortality and eternal glory. The apostle Paul also said that in order to partake in the glory of Christ’s resurrection, he must also share in Jesus’s sufferings and press on with the mind-set of Jesus Christ.
10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead… 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:10-11, 14)
In this New Covenant, we must not be distracted by the pursuit of earthly blessings, pleasures and fame. The eternal glory of God should be our focus even at the expense of temporal blessings. The more we learn to live like Jesus and to lay down our lives for the sake of the Kingdom, the more glorious and blessed we will become.
Jesus restores love and passion back into our inner life
How do we know whether a person’s heart is healed of hidden wounds? the orphan mentality, fear and insecurity, lust of the flesh and the pride of life can be well camouflaged. It is when he is able to start loving God by walking in purity and in loving others. Love is the greatest expression of the Law. Galatians 5:22-23 says,
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; such things are the true expression of the law. (Galatians 5:22-23, Paraphrase)
Love for God and compassion for others are the crowning jewels of a glorious and wholesome heart! Are we able to continue working and serving others despite not being appreciated? Are we able to love those who have hurt us?
The laws of Moses target behavioral compliance. Compliance to the laws gains rewards whereas non-compliance reaps punishments. Hence, adults have learned to mask their true intentions and desires by putting up fronts according to society’s accepted code of conduct. The Chinese idiom “xiu shen yang xing” (錦楠昑) refers to the cultivation of one’s character and the discipline of one’s temperament resulting in personal success in the realm of EQ. However, people can see through “kind” techniques, or ceremonial courtesies. True kindness cannot be manufactured; it flows out of a genuine concern and love for others through small and spontaneous gestures. People are moved not by intimidation or coercion but by love and conviction. Proverbs 29:19 says,
A slave will not be instructed by words alone; For though he understands, there will be no response. (Proverbs 29:19)
Slaves cannot respond passionately and out of love towards their masters because there is no security nor inheritance, only fear. Knowledge of the laws, rewards and consequences alone can never really change our world to be a better place. Although laws provide direction, they do not provide motivation.
Ultimately, people should not be driven by fear or by personal benefits. True motivation comes from love. The love of God causes healing and regeneration of our hearts and releases passion for life. When motivated by love and truth, a person can go a long way. When Jesus came, He showed us what love and passion is all about by sacrificing His own life in exchange for our souls. Those who encountered Jesus had their lives transformed from slavery to sonship. Having encountered Jesus for themselves, they in turn displayed the very same love and passion that Jesus had for the world.
God’s Love Languages
Fellowship with God involves our mind, our heart and our physical senses. However, all of us are unique, we differ in our personalities and habits of connection. Gary Chapman in his book “The Five Love Languages” spoke about the different ways we give and express love to one another. Some people are more attuned to intellectual expressions. For such, communication through spoken words are important. Whereas for those who are more emotional, spending quality time is preferred. Some draw strength from physical touch; a reassuring hug could do much more than an hour of counseling. God knows how to speak the right language of love to us. He spoke through the written word of His love through our intellect. He sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts from which we felt His love. He engages our physical senses to reassure us of His faithful presence. He demonstrated His love by providing for our physical needs and answering our prayers.
At a Glance…
The second foundation of God’s revelation is the love of God. Although God’s love for Israel was revealed through His faithful provisions and the giving of the Law, humanity could not walk in it. God’s distant but loving protection and provision could not satisfy man’s emptiness and heal him of his brokenness.
At the right time, Jesus was sent to reveal God’s sacrificial love for sinful man. Jesus is the face of the Father. Yet God revealed His love by coming as a mortal and living among us as an ordinary man. He emptied His immortal attributes in exchange for our mortal body and fallible nature. His mortality was demonstrated by His propensity to physical tiredness, emotional responses and struggles with obedience to the Father’s will (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus experienced joys and pains as an ordinary man. Jesus immersed Himself in the human trials of brokenness, abandonment, fear and sorrows. The rigors of growing up and the 33 years of struggles on earth enabled Him to identify with our trials and temptations too.
God revealed His love by connecting with everyone through a human touch. He is actively reaching out to every man and woman today, touching each one through the Holy Spirit. As Jesus reaches out to us in fellowship and intimacy, He heals our brokenness and empowers us to walk in love.
God made a covenant with the people of Israel so that if they would obey His laws, they would be blessed with peace, riches and honor. The Old Covenant and the promise of earthly blessings failed to move the people to walk in God’s ways because their hearts were rebellious. The New Covenant, through the sacrifice of Jesus broke humanity’s hardness of heart and freeing them to love God and walk in His ways. The focus of the New Covenant is on the glory of God in the heavenly kingdom.
Our souls and bodies are indeed precious. The Son of God has redeemed them and our status is now elevated to that of a son of God taking on God’s immortal attributes! Jesus brought the grace of God and we respond by laying down our lives for God and for others. The grace of God sustains us in doing good despite our frequent failures. Through grace and truth, Jesus provided a secure environment for us to release the brokenness and the hidden issues of our hearts. The love of God causes healing and regeneration of our hearts to release passion for life.
A glance at the next chapter…
In the next chapter, we will discuss the third foundation of God’s revelation for abundant life, which is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate expression of God’s love. The Spirit was sent to unite with our spirit as one, so God’s glory becomes ours forever.
Issues to ponder…
1. What are the foundations of a strong friendship?
2. What are the relationships in your life that you treasure most? What’s so special about these relationships, that made them so precious to you?
3. Is genuine friendship about providing quick fix solutions to our friends in need? Or is it about journeying the trying times with them? Why is it easier to provide solutions than to listen and to empathize?
4. The people in the days of the Gospel saw the Jewish religion as a religious order. When Jesus came, He projected some things that were very different. What are those things that modern Christianity should seek to recapture today?
5. We know that Jesus understood us perfectly, but should we seek to understand Jesus? Why is it important to know what He thinks and feels concerning the state of our world today?
6. How does the revelation of Jesus change your perspective of the role of God’s laws in your life? How should you be motivated to live them out?