Relationships Part Three
Jesus - God with us, Christ in us: The New Covenant
God has always been with us, “In Him we live and move and have our being.” 
Psalm 139 extols:
“Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,
even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.”
If God has always been with us, within an existential and relational paradigm, then what, if any, is the difference that is to be found in the “God with us”, the new covenant, the new relationship? What is new?
This depends on who Jesus of Nazareth is, and our answer to the latter of the two questions that Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?”, “Who do you say that I am?”
Peter’s answer as recorded in Matthew was: “ You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Martha’s answer in John’s Gospel was “I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming to the world.”
Other statements made of Jesus in the Gospels include: Emmanuel-God with us,Jesus Christ, Son of God, Son of Man Word ..with God.. was God…became flesh,” “John the Baptist, ..Elijah, …Jeremiah, …one of the prophets”.
The answers are varied and unending. They evolve and change, even as perceptions, understandings, relationships and experiences, grow and change, for each of us, respectively.
Many in the early church struggled as they grappled with this.
Giving an answer is one thing. But what does our answer really mean? The extent of our ability to express with clarity what our answer really means is one measure of our understanding of our answer and consequent significance, ramifications, impact and consequences. Clarity will also enable us to better communicate, reveal and share with greater simplicity our thoughts and actions with others.
Many views and perceptions, as to Who Jesus, are also found in the historical records of creeds and writings in the early church. Though, the overwhelming answers were that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” and ‘Word. Who was God, became flesh”, the meanings that were attached to these answers were not the same.
 Acts 17:28
 Psalm 139:
 Mark 8:27
 Mark 8:29
 Matthew 16:16
 Mark 8:29 only records the answer as “You are the Christ”.
 John 11:27
 Matthew 1:23
 Mark 1:1
 Luke 5:24
 Matthew 16:14
Every day a Good Friday
Once upon a time, there was a light that shone so brightly, a fire that burned so pure and true. It illuminated all things, turning night into day and opening eyes so they could see. Everyone was amazed that this should be. “Is this light real?” they asked. “How can the light brighten our darkness, when the light cannot brighten itself?”
The Man Jesus
It is very common to hear about Jesus’ life through his three and a half years of ministry, and it is sometimes difficult for us to identify with his milestones in a meaningful way. Not many of us have had to stand up against the religious and political leaders of the day with a completely new message. In a similar way, it is easier to see ourselves receiving miracles instead of performing miracles as Jesus did for others.
Jesus’ life was set apart to be totally different but, when we take a closer look, we find that it also very much like yours and mine.
He was a refugee.
As a babe, he had to flee from his homeland because of the ambitions of King Herod against him. As a child refugee, he grew up in the land of Egypt, whose pharaohs once enslaved his people. He had to wait until the death of Herod before his family returned to the land of his birth.
He lived under occupation.
He returned from Egypt to a land under occupation by a foreign power. The land of his forefathers had become the Judaea Province of Rome. A Jewish child, he grew up in the faith and traditions of his people, “like a tender plant, a root from dry ground”- Isaiah’s imagery. He had an inquisitive and sharp mind and amazed teachers in the Temple at Jerusalem at the age of twelve.
He was a carpenter, a tradesman by occupation. However, he had a rather nondescript appearance and physique. Isaiah spoke of him as having “no form nor comeliness… there is no beauty that we should desire him”.
He was familiar with discrimination in many situations. He knew what it felt to be at the receiving end of contempt and rejection by others. Sorrow was a frequent companion, grief a regular acquaintance.
He was also familiar with Zealots openly inciting the local populace to rebel against Roman authority. He saw and felt the yoke of the Law that the Teachers of the Law imposed on the general populace. They had retained its forms but lost its substance.
It was this man, living with the challenges and concerns common to the day, who professed to be equal to God. Quite a number found his claim to be blasphemous. How can this man be God?
A New Beginning
A new beginning gives us an opportunity to start afresh without prejudice or baggage. The old life and relationships have passed and are no more. From death and ashes, we are reborn, like the legendary Phoenix, to live life anew, to start on a clean sheet.
Slightly more than two thousand years ago, humanity was given a new beginning. Humanity was born from above. God become a human being.
In God becoming human in the person of Christ Jesus, an entirely new relationship between God and man came into being. The old relationship between God and man was replaced totally.
At the birth of Jesus, the angel’s proclamation to the shepherds was: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.…..” Then, multitudes of the heavenly hosts praised God saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace in human beings of goodwill.”
In a new beginning for the great I AM, GOD, a Saviour, Christ the Lord was born.
To understand and appreciate the significance and impact of this new beginning, we have to start at the very beginning of creation.
By This, We Know We Are Saved
The cross on Calvary has been a symbol of hope for Christians through the ages. How remarkable it is that the love of God transformed a gruesome crucifixion into good news of how He has saved us and will never forsake us.
When I first went to church, this was the gospel of Jesus presented to me. God loved me so much that He sent Jesus, His only begotten Son, to die on the cross to forgive my sins.
If I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, I would go to heaven and have eternal life with Him. Otherwise, I would go to hell and suffer eternal punishment.
My choice as an eight year old was obvious. I wanted to go to heaven and be certain of my salvation. From that moment, Jesus’ death on the cross (and his resurrection) became the core foundation of my Christian belief.
Interestingly, Jesus’ death is not where the story of the cross begins. Jesus was carrying his cross long before he was crucified.
My short stint with Professor James Torrance in Aberdeen started me on my journey to this realization. Professor Torrance described Jesus like this: “He, who was Son of God by nature, became son of man by nature, that we, who are sons of man by nature, may become sons of God by grace!”
And that is exactly where the story of Jesus’ cross begins…
People asked Jesus in John 6, “What sign (distinguishing thing) will you do, that we may see and believe you? What (thing or action) will you do (as proof)?” We still do today. Many still nurse thoughts that only by Jesus performing a spectacular and defining miracle for them can they believe that Jesus is who he says he is. And they are not wrong.
But belief in someone does not necessarily mean that you are in a love relationship with that person. Here lies the crux of the matter.
What is God’s purpose in sending Jesus? Is it only to believe in Him? If so, all that is needed is for God to perform a spectacular and defining miracle to show that God has sent him. It must be more than that. For even the devils believe in him.
Jesus had made a statement prior to the people asking. He said; This is the work (purpose) of God, that you believe into him whom He has sent.
There is a difference when we say that we are in a relationship with someone or we are into a relationship with someone. ‘In’ speaks of a state of where you are at, expressing the situation of being enclosed or surrounded by something. ‘Into’ is all about movement and progression deeper within the state of where you are.
In common speech, it’s the difference between “I’m with someone” and “I’m into someone.”
You are in a circle of relationships, even if you are on the outer fringes of the relationships. Where you are, there is room and space to move deeper into the center of the circle.
Miracles are meant to place you within the new circle of an experiential love relationship with Him. To grow and mature in this new relationship you need more than that.
The people needed to see and understand this.
So, how did Jesus respond?
Then I Remember
There are still many moments in my life when I feel alone.
Some of these moments are when ‘nerve attacks’ arising from my spinal injury hit me intensely and last for days. They feel like random electric current spasming from my spine to my toes. Many times I just lie in bed and try to sleep it off. When it becomes unbearable, I must confess I wish my life would end.
Many tell me that by Jesus’ stripes, I should be healed. They pray for me in earnest, yet nothing happens. Some share how God has told them specifically I would be healed. They too lay hands on me for healing but, once again, nothing happens. Others come to me saying I have not found healing because I have not received the grace to believe that God will do what he has said in the Scriptures. Perhaps I haven’t been waiting enough for this grace, they feel. But I have, and am still waiting for complete and total healing for over thirty years.
I have been told that God wishes us to prosper at all times and that He has given us the grace to do just that in Christ Jesus.Yet, in my years as a lawyer, I have gone through three years when my practice suffered heavy losses. I have also lost much in investments and ventures that I have entered into to generate income to plough back into worthwhile ventures for God but many ended in substantial financial losses.
Throughout these years, I have been encouraged by well-meaning souls to hold on to verses of Scripture that emphasize God’s overflowing grace and favour, especially: “My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in weakness”, “I have come to give you life; life in all abundance”, “Of his fullness we all receive and grace upon grace.”
These souls spur me to hang on for the day God fulfills his word. For me, and for many others facing hardship or pain, that day still hasn’t come. And it gets a little bit harder to believe that it was God’s word that was spoken.
Where is God and His grace in all of this? I wonder. What is He working out in my life?
Then I remember.