We’ve had the pleasure of having been to Colorado a few times in the last 10 years. We stay in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, stay about 11,000 feet above sea level. (Our WBVN studios are 485 feet above sea level to put that in perspective.) It’s beautiful there in a way that’s truly a Colorado way. For one thing the humidity– well, there is no humidity! The sky is so blue it would shame a robin. Night skies share the same view that Abraham must have seen when God promised him all those descendants. There’s a silence at 11,000 feet that we never find at our house. There are colors reserved only for Crayola Crayon boxes. And while we always try to catch the aspen autumn and its golden/yellow perfection, in 2014 we caught the aspen autumn plus snow plus sunshine: a picture I could not have imagined in my mind until I had actually experienced it. I have over a thousand pictures of the San Juans. There is so much to see and every time we’ve been there, even in the same locations over and over, Colorado offers a different look from year to year. Of those 1000 pictures I probably stare at 50 over and over, I have them in a folder in my computer marked favorites. I actually have three or four that I think everyone in the world should see. They come as close as is possible to expressing all I can imagine or hope for in a picture of the Rockies. And yet, while all are wonderful and tell their unique story about those Colorado mountains, none of them express or say enough to really give you the feel of standing on a Jeep trail at 13,000 feet and looking from a 360 degree angle at all that surrounds you. There really is no word or words that can capture the fullness of all you see and hear there. I actually treasure each picture and re-live a lot of wonderful experiences when I view them. However, as much as I enjoy them, I’m unable to convince or create the appreciation I have for them in other people, unable to transfer the deep meaning or remembrance of a day there. Something comes up short in the transfer of that story with just my words or those pictures. The only way I can ever get someone to appreciate what I just said would be to take them there; stand them on top of Engineer Pass or Black Bear and have them actually experience what I’m talking about. Then their breath might be taken away as mine was, only then might they interpret the colors and experience those moments themselves. All that to say this, God in His Wisdom, understood the same thing about His beauty, His Grace, His Unconditional Love that’s why: Jesus!
I will often sit at my desk looking at those pictures and think about how beautiful they are, how pleased I am with their representation of what we’ve experienced there. But, at the same time I know I am looking at something that, no matter how terrific they are, they come up a bit short. Our language, like our pictures, can’t fully or adequately capture the full beauty of God. There’s a reference in the Bible that there are not enough books, not enough libraries to contain all that could have been written or said about Jesus Christ. The Old Testament was a guide to a chosen people to learn and follow Yahweh, to give them a picture of God. However, we know it wasn’t a complete picture because there was a fulfilling that had to take place, something more than what had already taken place and was recorded in scripture; that fulfilling was by Christ Jesus. Words create a concept of God, give information about, help us understand more about Him, and they are anointed to help change us, to settle us, bring us from darkness to Light. However, words are not the whole story. Sure, they represent something but can never be exactly the thing they describe. Just as my Colorado pictures are not as revealing as the real thing– not just like standing on Opher Pass and looking in every direction, feeling the wind blow, feeling the air temperature, seeing a clear, hazeless blue sky and touching the weathered stone of the mountain you’re standing on. God gets that, and in response to our weaknesses to simply rely on the language of scripture, He went a step further: He made a Promise to believers to not only send His scripture letters to us, the manual of Life for us, but send the actual representation of, actual likeness of, the exact image of Himself to us and send it in the form of flesh: Jesus the revealer and the revelator of God. Scripture says no man knows the Father but the Son. Jesus himself made an outlandish statement, that if you have seen me you have seen Him, that he and the Father were one, even equally one!
‘All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knows the Son, but the Father; neither knows any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him’. (Mat 11:27-28)
In Jesus’ life we see, feel, experience the real thing about God where we live, in our own environment. Jesus came to show us what no man had ever been able to fully show. Today, Jesus is the Father’s language to us, expressing Himself to us in and through His Son. ( ‘…who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. Heb. 1:1-3) In 1 John 5:20 scripture identifies what was the actual purpose of Jesus coming in the flesh: ‘We know that the Son of God is come, and has given us an understanding, that we may know him that is True, and we are in Him that is True, in his Son Jesus Christ’. To know Him as He really is, revealing the exactness of Him.
Because of Jesus we have the true fingerprint of the Father. Not a man that was religious, not just wise, not only God but man with God. No more guessing or imagining, Jesus made an invisible God visible (Colossians 1), never again to be a mystery or mistaken as ‘an unknown God’. Jesus was the parting of the curtain that fully displayed the heart of God. Simply, Jesus was the specific Way to see, interpret and understand his Father. Luke 24 and John 5 both express that beginning with Moses, through all the Old Testament and the New, all scripture pointed to Jesus.
The Gospel is not a good promise for the future, not just a hope that tomorrow will be better; this is good news now, on the spot good news. Fact news, not something to be earned someday, but a gift today. John declaring in Chapter 17, ‘…this is life eternal, that they know the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent. It is finished. Now we can know Him as He wished to be revealed. Jesus Christ has done that. God showing us His opinion, His motivation and determination to be with us. Jesus is able and worthy to accurately interpret and describe the heart of God. John in Revelation 5 writes, hearing a voice behind him and turning, there was the Lamb of God, the angels ‘Saying with a loud voice, worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.’ I think that pretty much covers everything, Jesus was ‘spot on’.
Jesus (jee-zuhs), n. born 4 b.c., also called Jesus Christ. (also: the One who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist…For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, whether things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight… Col 1:13-22
It was over thirty years ago. A friend of mine and I worked together, both were believers in Christ. He later became the pastor of one of the churches in the area and continues to teach about Christ today. In one of our discussions, he simply said, ‘Ken, you don’t have enough Jesus in your conversations.’ I’ve thought about that, revisited that statement over the years. In some sense, there was something not true about it, but still I knew that there was something about his comment that lit a small flame in my heart, put a question in my conscience. I mean, I talked about Jesus all the time, not always by name, however, in my mind, my words always referred to him. And that was the key, right there in that statement I just made in this letter. I’ll explain later.
Over the years I migrated through listening, studying, and reading Scripture. Never was the idea of not having enough Jesus in my conversation something I wrestled or struggled with, but it was still rattling around in the back of my mind. Why had my friend said that to me? You know, some things just take a while to come into our understanding. John was 90 years old when he wrote of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Even after walking with and talking to Jesus during Messiah’s ministry it took John a while. It was a journey for John; it should be a journey for us. We’re not ‘finished’, there is always more to discover and to be revealed to us by the Spirit of God.
It’s akin to discovering the first few verses in Hebrews: ‘God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high…’ that produces a different conversation about Jesus if you ‘deeply’ consider that scripture.
It’s coming to the understanding that Jesus is the Father’s exact likeness, the expressed and exact image. Jesus is, by the very nature and character of God, the perfect expression of the Father’s intent to include us in the Life of God. If you will, Jesus is the perfect display of the Father’s Heart. The Cross, Death and Resurrection was always in the heart of Father, Son, Spirit. They were His Finish to redeem us, the final act of His dream to embrace us and literally be Emmanuel (God with us). They were representative of His intent to embrace us to the point of never leaving us or forsaking us, having placed us at the doorway of a new and living way, a way that permits us to come to the knowing of living and moving and having our being in Christ. That Way permits us to be in His presence, not occasionally, but in all we do!
Jesus did not come to give us a 10 point plan on how to improve ourselves, not to establish a new ethic, not a political solution, not even to compete with a new religion, but came to grant us relief for the stuff of our souls. (Our world today can’t even admit there is such a thing as ‘our souls’, let alone address or remedy something it doesn’t believe exists.) Unlike the secular psychology or religious rules, Jesus came to reveal the heart of His Father and to redeem people back to their original relationship, the original value experienced between Adam and his Creator. Actually, it’s a value that goes back even further than that because before the foundation of the world, before time and Adam existed, the Father, Son and Spirit’s hearts dreamed of you. Before being in our mother’s womb, we were in the heart of God, and His giving up on you was just not part of the plan, not the will of God.
I had a friend who carved eagles, frogs, birds, etc out of blocks of wood. When someone asked him how he did that, he replied he simply removed all that’s not eagle. That’s what Jesus has done for us. He’s removed all that is not Gospel for us, leaving us a recognizable image of the Father’s heart toward us. Simplified, His passion and love for us is shown in the incarnation of His Son. God revealed His will and nature in a person, revealed Truth and Life in Jesus Christ. Jesus led us to where He is and set up shop with us. The price paid for us was so high, so deep, that it’s not so fragile you never know what to expect next. The Author and Finisher of Faith is without shadow or turning; the same yesterday, today and will be the same forever. How can we think of such a Faith for us? I think it’s buried in our hearts and, like a river of living water, it bubbles up out of our being and is capable of transforming our minds. We so often think that we have to change our heads to strengthen our heart; actually, our hearts are strong in the Lord, it’s our thinking that needs redeeming by experiencing Christ in us, out of our ‘bellies’ comes evidence of God indwelling. According to John 14:20 Jesus is in the Father, Jesus is in us, we are in Him. We have inside us what we need to change our minds, not having to call Him down from heaven, but living in our hearts, waiting to be revealed by our seeking Him.
On Christmas Day in 1624, John Donne wrote … ‘God has made no degree to distinguish the seasons of His mercies. In Paradise the fruits were ripe the first minute, and in heaven it is always autumn, His mercies are ever in maturity. We ask our daily bread, and God never says you should have come yesterday. He never says you must (come) again tomorrow, but (says) today if you will hear His voice, today He will hear you.’ That expression of the Love and Character of God is seen in His Son in an ‘earth-suit’.
This salvation, this Gospel was no mistake, not a plan B. We must give Him credit for a greater Wisdom than that. In the wisdom of God, Adam and, yes, you are no mistake. The Son of God created all things on earth and in heaven. We may be alienated in our minds but Jesus came to change our idea about the Father, came to give us understanding, not leaving us as orphans but revealing Emmanuel, revealing Him with us. The same Son that created the Universe, the engineer that hung the stars, the planets, the moons, the same Creator that precisely balanced all and in Whom all is held together, created the earth at a perfect angle so that the two hemispheres could experience winter and summer at the precise same time, spun the thing like a top, circled it around a star. Had it not been so precise and had it stood up straight, New York would be 40 degree year round, Phoenix 120 and the equator would be boiling, the North and South Poles, -100 each day. That same Son engineered your salvation! Perfectly! He is able and He’s been set above all things. He is Jesus! Now that’s the Jesus part of my conversation. It’s not that all those years ago I was guilty of overestimating Jesus, it was that I was guilty of underestimating the Love, Mercy, Grace– i.e. underestimating the Engineer. There you go, Todd. You win. You were exactly right. I was guilty thirty years ago, guilty of talking about him, instead of Him! Jesus Christ, Lord of all….all!