How real is your Jesus? Coming to a realisation that Jesus Christ is a real person, with whom we can have a vital and dynamic relationship, is essential for a life of meaningful faith. This is the most significant milestone on a road marked by turning to God, repentance and willing enrolment as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Throughout a Christian’s life, enjoyment of this relationship is designed to be a fountainhead of joy and hope, awe and wonder.
It never ceases to amaze me, however, as to how quickly I can fall out of a meaningful relationship with Jesus. How easily I can replace the real Jesus with a golden calf, called by His name. It’s not that I mean it to happen. For me, it can come about through any number of reasons: busyness or a failure to prioritise time apart with the Master; disappointments that cool my ‘first love’. Distance appears. And distance can affect any relationship badly. A numbing, a cauterising of love and longing sets in. And the reality of love, intense and shared, becomes but a memory. Yes, still a Saviour. Yet no longer a personal, deeply known Lord. In reflecting on the opening words of the Declaration of Principle, let’s explore this relationship more fully.
God made us for intimacy with Himself. We see this in the story of God’s intended relationship with humanity, in the opening chapters of the Bible, in the Book of Genesis. It’s there in the way the great leaders of God’s people – Noah, Abram, Moses - are treated by God and relate back to God. Above all, we see God’s pursuit of a holy intimacy with humanity in His Word becoming a human Being, in Jesus Christ. It is this relationship of intimacy, lost through human sin, that Jesus Christ restores for us: a relationship of intimacy between mankind and God. And it is this relationship that God wants you and I to grow in. Jesus Christ came in our humanity to embrace everything that we are. It is because of Jesus Christ that we can see and understand what a mature and fully developed human being, in relationship with God, looks like; and how that might begin to be formed and shaped within us. So it is that the Apostle Paul, in describing Jesus Christ’s coming among us, repeats, in emphasis, both Christ’s coming ‘in the likeness of men’ and His ‘appearance as a man’ (Philippians 2.7-8), Jesus Christ meets with us as a real, human person.
Yet Jesus Christ is so much more than just a special person, with whom we can develop a relationship. Awesome and awe inspiring, He is the key to the Universe. Through Him the Cosmos came into being: for Him the Cosmos was fashioned (Colossians 1.16). He brings meaning and definition to everything. He is Supreme, the Son in whom God our heavenly Father, the source of our salvation, has fully invested Himself (Hebrews 5.9). It is through Jesus Christ that the majesty and beauty of God, in all His holy love, compassion and mercy, is revealed to us.
In this manner our Declaration of Principle begins. It builds on the foundation of entering and possessing a deeply personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Not ideas or developed doctrines about Him. But an understanding of life that acknowledges Jesus Christ as a real person, with whom we are to enter into and develop real relationship.
How, though, do we do this? How can we have relationship with someone we neither see nor touch? The people of Israel, in their desert wanderings, gathered around the Tabernacle. Then when settled in their land, it was to the Temple in Jerusalem, built by Solomon, that God’s people came to worship Him. Herein lies a clue to two truths we need to hold before us, in growing and developing in our relationship with and knowing of God.
Firstly, God wants us to invite Him into our lives. It really is that simple! At a personal level, it starts when we invite Jesus to take His rightful place, at the centre of who we are. To bring our lives, His and ours, together. This is an invitation, for each of us, to personally respond to. It is also an invitation for us when we gather together, in Jesus’ name. Jesus declares that, when people gather together in His name, He is present among them (Matthew 18.20). The presence of Jesus is to be recognised when people gather in His name: mindful, focussed and seeking after Jesus Christ and what He stands for.
Secondly, Jesus explains how this could be: that He would send another, the Holy Spirit, to be with us and guide us (John 14.16-18). The Holy Spirit, who gives life and form to God’s Creation, takes and shapes us, that we might come to bear and exhibit the distinctive mark, the imprint, of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1.14). The Holy Spirit’s presence is neither abstract nor theoretical: His presence is to be experienced by us (John 7.38-39) and found among us (Acts 1.5).
God calls us to intimacy with Jesus Christ. He reveals Himself, the source of our being, the One to whom we owe loyalty and worship. He is our basis for life and living. Through participation in a life that is fashioned from His life, ministry, death and resurrection, we grow and mature as God’s children, refashioned and refined in this life, prepared for all eternity. This means that we need to spend time, drawing apart and drawing close to Him. We need to develop perspectives and practices that will allow us convey and demonstrate His presence and love to others. This will always be something for us to grow further into, as He grasps us in the wonder of fellowship with God. He embraces us in the holy love of God, that we might minister His presence to others.
Pursuing such intimacy with God will challenge and change our priorities. It will shape the type and manner of relationships we establish, develop and pursue with each other, as well as with other people. As Jesus Christ draws us into deeper relationship with Himself, the types of relationship we look to have with other people changes. Righteousness, honesty, acceptance, forgiveness and reconciliation become norms that we will be drawn to and learn to long for, as we seek to embody and enact the pleasure and purposes of God our Father.
This is the life that is rooted in Jesus Christ. This relationship will bring an ongoing change in us: the transformation of our humanity to become more holy, more like Jesus. Whilst the fullness of revelation from God comes through Jesus Christ, our comprehension of that revelation is, for now, yet incomplete. We do not each begin with the ability to comprehend all that is true: rather, we begin by apprehending the way, the truth and the life that is made known to us through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ’s Lordship over and in our lives is something that needs to develop and grow in us, whilst our sense of autonomy and independence from God decreases. Sin involves separation: separation from full and meaningful intimacy with God and, consequently, from other people. God does not want any of us to be isolated or marginalised. He wants us to come into life, life in all its fullness.
It is with the recognition of such awesome life and mercy, abundant in Jesus Christ, that our Declaration of Principle begins.
Questions for reflection:
• When did you first become aware that there is a real Jesus Christ, with whom you can have a personal relationship?
• When do you find the best time, to take time to be with Jesus?
• Have you ever felt your ‘love grow cold’? How did you come to know Him better, again?