Friday, May 24, 2013

Have we seen Christ?

 “Legalism doesn’t need God. Legalism is the search for innocence—not forgiveness. It’s a systematic process of defending self, explaining self, exalting self and justifying self. Legalists are obsessed with Self—not God.” 

For the past year or so, I’ve been reflecting more and more on what I have seen of Man-Centered Theology in my church and pondering how to help turn the focus of these believers more to Christ than Self.

Even though the theology here is not very systematic or cohesive, the bottom line is usually quite clear. Christ as Savior from sin, Victor over Satan and death and Redeemer from damnation - the central figure of our faith and confession - takes a second place to the importance of Me, My efforts and My ‘keeping myself blameless’.

As I was in church this past Sunday, this thought would not let me go: 
If I insist that my goodness, my zeal, my church-going, etc., is what saves me in the long run...

have I ever truly seen Jesus Christ?

The apostle Paul says this of those who have not believed in Christ, both Jew and Gentile, “...their minds were blinded: for until this day the same veil remains when they read the Old Testament, the veil that is done away with in Christ. To this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart, clouding what they hear... the god of this world has blinded the minds of those who do not believe, so that the glorious light of the good news of Christ, who is the image of God would not enlighten their hearts...” (2 Cor.3:14-15, 4:4)

I think that this is very applicable to many ‘christians’ in churches today.

Paul spent all of chapter 3 of 2nd Corinthians comparing the New relationship with God given through Christ with the Old covenant of Law. He starts with the ‘chosen people of God’ when discussing how people miss out on Christ. How does Satan so effectively blind the eyes and mislead the hearts of those who are ‘good people’, who believe in God, yet have never truly comprehended ‘the glory of God in Christ Jesus’?
           After all, these are people who studied the scriptures and knew the commands of God. They even recognized Him as the One true Creator who has the right to demand moral uprightness from His creation, and dedicated much of their time and energy to adapting their lives to His commands.

Yet they missed the very One to whom the Law pointed. Paul tells us that the purpose of the law was to reveal man’s need for the Savior promised by God. (Rom.3:19; Gal.3:22) However, God’s Chosen People took so much pride in the fact that God chose them above all others, and gave them His law that they turned their focus away from the promised Deliverer and to their own ability to keep the law. “Being ignorant of God’s righteousness, they zealously established their own righteousness as the ultimate standard, not submitting themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the Law, imparting His righteousness to anyone who believes in him.” (Rom.10:3-4)

I know that I have a tendency to over simplify complex theological concepts... but I am living and working and teaching in a very uncomplicated theological setting. I truly am perplexed at how people who claim to make the Bible their “Ultimate Rule” in teaching and practice can so easily set aside so much of the New Testament, the very essence of the New Covenant established with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This is the crux of the matter to me:
Either I see in the Scriptures my own lack of righteousness and begin to seek the Answer - the repeatedly Promised Redeemer of the Law and the Prophets...
OR I see myself in every line.
My hands are clean before You, O Lord...” (Ps.18:20-24).
On every page of scripture, Old Testament and New, I see my chance to prove to God and others how good I really can be when I try.

If that is how I read the Bible, then my mind and heart is just as clouded and deluded as the most stubborn, self-righteous Pharisee. I may never truly see Christ.

...God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ... we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, not of us.”         

Not. Of. Us.

I am becoming almost desperate to walk into church and hear Christ Himself glorified far above any good that we may possibly find within ourselves.

my efforts, my attendance, my prayers, my appearance, my words, my blamelessness, my witness, my righteousness, my rejection, my acceptance, my separation, my repentance, my sacrifice, my sin... my sin, my sin, my sin...

I want to see Christ.

I want to hear Christ.

I want to praise Christ for His love, His mercy, His righteousness, His sacrifice, His resurrection, His goodness, His blamelessness, His beauty...

Jesus said that the Jews believed they would gain eternal life through their studying of the Scriptures, but that they would never attain their goal - because they never saw Him, the One to Whom all of Scripture points... and not having truly seen Him, they were not willing to come to Him and rejoice in accepting the Life He offered freely. (Jn. 5:39-47)
How is it that we are so ready to repeat the deadly mistakes that the Lord Himself pointed out so clearly, that his apostles expounded on in such detail?

Have we ever truly seen Christ?

Warrior-Chieftain and Lord, Vanquisher of hell, I Thy creature and servant offer Thee songs of praise, for Thou hast delivered me from eternal death. But as Thou hast unutterable loving-kindness, free me from every danger, as I cry: Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me.
We see most eloquent orators voiceless as fish when they must speak of Thee, O Jesus our Saviour. For it is beyond their power to tell how Thou art both perfect man and immutable God at the same time. But we, marveling at this Mystery, cry faithfully:
Jesus, Eternal God!

Jesus, King of Kings!

Jesus, Lord of Lords!

Jesus, Judge of the living and the dead!

Jesus, Hope of the hopeless!

Jesus, Comforter of the mournful!

Jesus, Glory of the poor!

Jesus, condemn me not according to my deeds!

Jesus, cleanse me according to Thy mercy!

Jesus, take from me despondency!

Jesus, enlighten the thoughts of my heart!

Jesus, make me ever mindful of death!

Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me!”  
Akathist to Our Sweetest Lord Jesus Christ


Caleb Suko said...

I appreciate this question "Have I ever really seen Christ?" I think the problem I often have is that I want Jesus to be my helper instead of my leader, I want him to be my co-pilot instead of taking full control. I'm reminded of Paul's words in Philippians "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain!"

Unknown said...

Great points! This is a struggle we have working in Latin America, where legalism has completely clouded the Gospel. Getting people to understand that our relationship with Christ is all about His grace to us, not our works for Him is an uphill battle sometimes!

Ed said...

Thanks for posting this. Having lived with Jesus for nearly 42 years I am only beginning to see Who He is, in contrast to Who I have presumed Him to be. The great, blinding obstacle for me has not been legalism so much as Western individualism, and the expectation of comfort and privilege as one of His Own ... completely antithetical to The Gospel.