Greetings again friends! Let’s continue with God’s story about man. Again, may I wish you all the joys of Christmas, and a reward-filled New Year, 2015.
We have seen the Why, What, and How of God’s story of man that began with Christmas in parts 1 and 2. Let’s answer the final question, When?
The account of Jesus birth was recorded by Luke in this way, “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” (Luke 2:1-20) This is the most beautiful and inspiring part of God’s story about man. For in it we witness the humblest manner God chose for His Son to enter our human world through the virgin Mary, in a manger, in the little town called Bethlehem.
The Magi Bring Gifts – Panel belonging to the old set Polyptych of Viseu Cathedral now the Grão Vasco Museum. (Wiki Commons)
Let’s now answer the final question When …
When…does all this happen in man? When…does this activity of God in making man into His own “image and likeness” become reality? It takes place when a human believes in the Messiah God has provided to make it possible. We take faith for granted. But for God, faith is the turning point in human life and in our relationship with Him. How… because every time a human believes in the Messiah God, a true miracle takes place. Listen to what this miracle does, Paul says, “WHEN YOU BELIEVED, YOU WERE MARKED IN HIM WITH A SEAL, THE PROMISED HOLY SPIRIT, … (Eph.1:13-14). You and I were specially and personally marked by God our Father as His own CHILDREN with His own seal of adoption in His Spirit – that is what faith in Jesus does. Faith in His Son is what moves God to do miracles – this one, all-important miracle of all man can ever want. You see, when it comes to matters about the spiritual realm of God and the physical realm of man, the only bridge that connects the two realities is faith. Faith is the only thing that bridges this wide divide between God and man. This passage goes on to say what the seal of the Spirit does, “who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory”– yes, we are guaranteed immortality, for eternal life is the “likeness” of God. He is Spirit-composed. Do you believe?
We know what a seal is, right – Paul said God set His seal upon believers. We place our seal of approval on a legal document to confirm ownership of something, or whatever the legal transaction may be. The seal of God is the seal of His Person in the Holy Spirit. By receiving the seal of the Holy Spirit man receives the image of God, in the very Person of God, which is the Love of God, and the Life and immortality of God. The Spirit breathes and vitalizes the Triune life of God in man. That is the way God our Father had planned for man to take on the “image and likeness” of God. By implanting and unifying Himself to humans, man takes on the “image and likeness” of God. There is no other way. Paul confirms this born again experience and its resulting life, “What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in Love.” (Gal.5:6, MSG)
The Pew Research Group says, and I quote, “Nearly half (47% of Christians) says that one’s actions are the key to determining eternal fate, with nearly one-third (29%) saying that being a good, moral person is the key to everlasting life.” So what do you think? Is it about man straying from a moral code? Or is it something much deeper – that we have strayed, that we are removed from Him?
A Barna survey says most Christian don’t believe in the existence of the Holy Spirit, neither do they believe in the existence of the devil, Satan. (www.pewresearch.org /www.barna.org) A person may claim to believe in the death of a man called Jesus. He can go so far as believe in His resurrection, and salvation by grace alone. But if he does not believe in the God who is Triune in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, he is not a Christian. If you believe in Jesus, you cannot not believe in the Trinity, for He is the Trinity and homoousiosly part of it. The Tri-Personal God is the governing center of all Christian belief – it is the image of Triune Love man is made to take on. (see part 1)
Holy Spirit – Image and Likeness of God
Jesus said, “The Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing” (John 6:63). Isaiah said all our good human acts are like filthy rags to God. (Isa.64:6) The human effort to be morally good springing from the fruit of ‘good and evil’ (because that’s all it is), cannot and will not conform man to the “image and likeness” of God. Only a rebirth and the indwelling life of the Holy Spirit does that. Notice how the image of God, the likeness of God takes shape, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1John 4:7-8). There is human effort, don’t be mistaken, but Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live,” but we live by faith and that’s supplied by the Holy Spirit… “the life I now live, I Iive by the faith of Jesus.” (Gal. 2:20). It takes the faith of Jesus to live like that, not our faith. Our human faith was crucified on the cross. Speaking of the purpose and role of the Spirit in human life, Jesus said, “He (Spirit) will honor me; he will take from me and deliver it to you. Everything the Father has is also mine. That is why I’ve said, ‘He takes from me and delivers to you.’” (John 16:15). The purpose of the Spirit is conform man to the image of Christ’s Person through faith the Spirit supplies. Like living waters of a covering ocean, He covers man with the Love of God.
The Covering Love of God, Like an Ocean of Living Waters (John 7:38-39) (Wiki Commons)
Jesus has to take on the likeness of man, and man has to take on the likeness of God. Jesus can’t live the ‘Immanuel life’ in heaven – He has to take on His own humanity through Mary. Likewise, we cannot live the Triune Life of God’s Love, God’s very “image and likeness,” unless we are born again and the Spirit unifies Himself with us. Just as Jesus became fully God and fully man, we become a new species of humanity who is given a rebirth with divine life through the Holy Spirit. We have to be born again in the power of the Spirit. So, it’s not about human effort, no matter how noble our intentions, it is about God literally unifying Himself through the birthing of the Holy Spirit in man – it’s a new birth into the Triune Life of God.
God’s Love will always give man the freedom to choose which way to go. God in His Love, will never exercise His authority whether by coercion, physical force, or even psychological means, to enforce obedience on anyone. But through the Spirit we are given true liberty to understand who we are destined to be as a person within the Triune Godhead in Christ. Peter said your are like ‘living stones’ being built into a spiritual house for God and for mankind. (1Pet.2:5) Paul said you are the temple of God and the Spirit dwells in you. (1Cor.3:16; 6:19) Through our calling and gifts and destinies, we obey willingly and lovingly. There’s a saying that says find what you love doing, your gift, and you’ll never “work” the rest of your life. That would be God’s own story He writes in your personal life. But that’s another subject, suffice to say, your gift and calling, whatever it may be, is essentially from Jesus and is Jesus for the Bible says ”this secret of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. In him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.” Col.1:16-17; 2:3) Our gift is our charge and mandate in life, isn’t it? It is our personal place in life where Jesus gives us authority, which is our destiny in Him.
The Relevance of Christmas – “Born Again”
Let’s see how this divine purpose takes place exactly. Here’s where the relevance of Jesus’ birth, and the message Christmas should convey to us. The process of making man into the “image and likeness” of God takes place in man in the same identical manner as the birth of Jesus in becoming human. What does the Scripture tell us of the birth of Jesus? It tells us that He is the child of the Holy Spirit. He is the Son of God. (Matt.1:18-24) The angel told Joseph, “The baby inside her (Mary) is from the Holy Spirit.” (V.20, emphasis mine) He is to be called Immanuel, God with us. (V.23) This is how God took on the image of our humanity and joined it to the Triune image and Person of God – by being born a human through Mary in the power of the Spirit. He became the prophesied Immanuel – fully God and fully man, “God with us.”
Like the Transformation of a Dead Planet to a Living Earth, Man is Born a New Creation in the Image of God. (Wiki Commons)
Now with humans, taking on the image of the Tri-Personal God is the exact birthing process, the exact copy of Jesus birth, but in reverse. Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again” (John 3:7). He said, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). Man must undergo a new birth. That’s the relevance of Christmas for the believer. We say it’s Jesus’ birthday, but we ought to ask what does it mean? Think about this, God cannot take on the image of Immanuel unless He is born a human, in the same way, man cannot take on God’s divine “image and likeness” unless he is born of the Spirit. In both instances, there is a birthing process. So we see the salvation offered to us is very much a Tri-personal activity of God in His interactive Love through and through.
Christmas is as much about Jesus human birth as it is about man’s spiritual birth. It’s hard to believe that most Christians do not believe in the existence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s power makes this new birth in God’s spiritual Kingdom possible for man, just as the Spirit made Jesus birth in our human world possible. The new birth fundamentally means the Spirit’s power will take man eventually into immortality as John 3:16 affirms, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
“To Fulfill ALL Righteousness”
So, I would like to put across to you that Christmas, the day we celebrate the birth of the Messiah, is not only a time of celebration of Christ birth by itself, but His birth made possible our birth into the divine image of God in the Spirit’s power. Jesus became the first human to receive the Holy Spirit under the New Covenant when He was baptized in the Jordan. Remember, He did not need to be baptized because he had no sin to repent of. When John first refused to baptize Jesus, He told John it must be done “to fulfill ALL righteousness.” What does that mean? He was being baptized for us, so when the Spirit hovered upon Jesus in the form of a dove, and the Father declared, “You are My dearly loved Son, and you bring Me great joy,” Jesus inaugurated the new birth in man which brings the God-life which is the only way that ALL God’s righteousness can be brought to man. (Matt.3:13-17) John told the people, “I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:8)
So, next time you hear a middle-of-the-story message of Jesus dying to save us from our sins (redemption) always see it as a jigsaw piece of a bigger picture we have covered today about God’s purpose to make man in His image (incarnation). It tells us why Jesus’ birth as Messiah by the Holy Spirit made possible our spiritual birth into the Triune Life of God. He came, was born in Bethlehem, baptized by John in the Jordan, lived perfectly doing good, died as a worthy sacrifice for human sins, was resurrected and ascended into the Triune Being of God, taking our humanity with and in Him and is our Mediator and High Priest today. He sends the Spirit who gives us a new birth to live the Triune Life in Christ, and so fulfill the original purpose – the purpose God has never deviated from, to make man into His “image and likeness” and complete ALL righteousness in man.
To view the complete write-up on these subject of Christmas, you may read parts 1 and 2 below, posted on November 29th and December 6th respectively.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to write me in the space provided below, or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until we meet again in my next post, may the blessing of the God who ceaselessly expresses Himself in His dependable Triune Love, be with you in this Christmas season of the birth of Jesus the Messiah. May the Spirit enliven you and make all things concerning you possible in Triune Living as a Bula man-river.*
Kiang, (Your Servant in Christ),
* The “Bulamanriver” is the metaphor describing the union of man with the Love of the Triune God flowing in humans, making possible the “Triune Life” – the source of the miraculous life in man. To read the many facets of life of the Bula man-river, go to my website www.bulamanriver.com where you can order a copy of my Book.
All scriptures are taken from the NIV Version 2011, unless stated otherwise
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