What is it that defines you?

I’d like to begin this morning by asking you to ponder a couple of questions.  The first question is “How do we know what someone is really like?” We reveal who we are to one another through what we say, what we do and how we continue to be over a long period of time.  In this time of Covid, we have all grown accustomed to coming together in fellowship on a Sunday morning wearing masks.  I’d like to suggest to you that for some people there may also have been times before Covid when they came to Church wearing a very different kind of mask – a mask of bravery or a mask of pretence.  If we are honest with ourselves, we’ve all been there at one time or another haven’t we?  There may have been things going on in our life – at work, or at home – in which we were struggling. Our default position is often to be very English – a stiff upper lip, with a veil pulled over our emotions.  Of all the places where we might be though, surely the place where we can be most real is in the house of God?

Have you ever noticed that Jesus never pretends?  He is always authentic, always the real deal.  He reveals who he is through his teaching, his actions – his birth, his life and earthly ministry, his death, his resurrection…and his exaltation.  He shows us the way, how to be, and reminds us who we really are in our humanity.

This leads me to ask my second question for you to ponder this morning. The question is “What is it that defines you?” Our natural responses might include things like the job that we do, the role that we have in the family, the place where we were born and raised – I am sure there are many other things you could add to that list.  All of these things are of course, important.  But I would like to suggest that there is something that comes before all of those, something that takes precedence above all of them, and that something is a deep truth – we are children of God and loved by God.  If we are able to acknowledge that, if we are able to receive God’s love, then how we relate to everything else around us in life changes.

Being a Christian is so much more than simply ticking the boxes of religious observances and practices.  Jesus is alive and real; I have seen so many lives transformed by faith in Jesus, when people have seen a glimpse of the fullness of God’s transforming and redeeming love.  He can change our life forever; an encounter with Jesus is a genuine invitation into a new life in all its fullness as we enter deeper into a relationship with him.  Jesus is our life and light.  That’s why we must constantly return to the foot of the cross.  That’s why every time we gather before the Lord’s Table, we are invited to remember all that Jesus did, all that Jesus accomplished and be renewed in hope and light and life.  At the foot of the cross and before the Lord’s Table we have an opportunity to be redefined, to remind ourselves of our true identity. 

In light of these revelations – this deep truth – we are invited to respond with awe and reverence, and to be drawn deeper into heartfelt worship with humble and grateful hearts.  The extraordinary lengths that God was prepared to go to in order to reconcile us to him are astonishing.  No wonder that so many who encountered Jesus fell down on their knees and worshipped him.

The Lord we serve and adore is the ultimate revelation of the Father, sharing with him the sovereignty of the ages and bringing into reality the divine purpose for the ages.  Our passage from John’s Gospel shows how Jesus was with the Father before the creation of the world.  In the opening verses we see echoes of Genesis 1 – when God spoke, creation took place…and Psalm 33:6 – by the word of the Lord, the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth.  Whatever else John is going to tell us, he wants us to see his book as the story of God and the world, not just the story of one character in one place and time. This book is about the creator God acting in a new way within his much-loved creation. It is about the way in which the long story which began in Genesis reached the climax the Creator had always intended.  And He will do this through ‘the Word’. In Genesis 1, the climax is the creation of humans, made in God’s image and likeness. In John 1, the climax is the arrival of a human being, the Word become ‘flesh’.

John also shows Jesus’ deity and essence (Jesus is fully God) as well as His incarnation (Jesus is fully human too – the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us).  As Jesus gives life and is life, raises the dead and is the resurrection, gives bread and is the bread, speaks truth and is the truth, so as he speaks the word he is the Word.  God’s word is the one thing that will last, even though people and plants wither and die (Isaiah 40:6–8); God’s word will go out of his mouth and bring life, healing and hope to Israel and the whole creation (Isaiah 55:10–11). These verses serve to give us some indication of how we should read and understand the entire Gospel, almost like an overture to an opera.

Amongst all other religions, in Christianity both the person of Christ (Who is Christ?) and the work of Christ (what he accomplished) stand unique.  Our understanding of the person of Christ and the work of Christ has to be central to our faith; and the implications of having a wrong understanding is that the bedrock of our faith is undermined. Jesus is a stumbling block to non-Christians, Atheists, and other faith groups.

If you want to get to know God the Father, take a long hard look at Jesus – God the Son, and to get to know him by reading the Gospels in the power of the Holy Spirit. As we get to know Jesus, we will quite naturally enter into a deeper place in relationship with all the fullness of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Jesus became human to reveal the Father to us and to reconcile us to himself that we might become children of God.  We are able to connect with Christ in his humanity and worship him in his deity as he shows us the way to the Father.  We are reminded that the primary reason for our existence is to worship and be in relationship with God. Jesus stepped down into our darkness and our condition of human weakness, pitched his tent and revealed his glory.  Jesus is the author and finisher or completer, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2)

We will soon be entering the season of Lent and which we may choose to journey to the cross with Christ.  In this time may you have a fresh and a deeper revelation of Christ mindful that in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; and in this time of uncertainty that all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

It may be in reading this that you would like to know this Jesus I write about. If you are not a church-goer, I encourage you to go along to your local Church and ask the minister to tell you about Jesus. If you are a church-goer and want to know him more, keep reading the Bible and I pray that He may reveal himself to you through his Word.

Amen

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