As a child, the end of December was the most wonderful part of the year. First, Christmas, then my brother’s birthday, then mine, then, new year’s eve and then of course, the dawn of the new year. It was wonderful, fun, exciting, party filled and abundant in food. Growing older it has become less party oriented and more thought focused; a time to take stock, think, meditate, a time to be grateful and to reassess priorities, a time to focus on essentials. But what is essential?
There is a very interesting conversation recounted in the gospel of Luke, a conversation between Jesus and His disciples. It starts out innocently enough as a question to the disciples. We can imagine Him turning to them and asking in a simple conversational tone “who do the crowds say that i am?”. They pipe up, offering different responses as to what those others thought of Jesus. And then, more solemnly, almost as if looking directly into their soul, He puts them on the spot “and who do you say that I am”. Ah, we…. And quickly Peter gets it , “You are the Christ the Son of the living God”.
And every man, woman, child is required to answer that same question; ‘ who do you believe that Jesus is?’. That, in my view is the essential question of human existence. It is the reason why, every year, as we feast and fête at the celebration of His incarnation, as a minister I like to draw attention once again to the nature of the One we worship, to the fundamental things we must know and believe about Jesus to be true followers of Him, things that inevitably trigger a paradigm shift in our lives. This is vital for believers in Christ today, more than ever before.
Pondering Jesus may not be a favourite occupation of Christians, but it is much needed.
Thus as we welcome a new year, and compose resolutions to observe, habits to change and directions to pursue, we will do well to include on that list, or rather, have crowning the list, a re-evaluation of our perspective of Jesus. Followers of Christ can no longer be content with ‘believing’ in or even ‘loving’ Jesus, we must be quite sure that we ‘know’ Jesus. Our very lives hinge on this. It is a matter of great urgency, it is indeed a matter of survival.
It is tempting, in the increasing hostile climate in Europe and America towards Christians, to jump on every bandwagon for diverse causes and against the perceived enemies of the faith. Yet the real dangers lurk within, the non belief of the believers, the increasingly fuzzy vision of Jesus, the lack of certainty as to the basic tenets of the faith, leading to a blurring of the lines, a willingness to alter biblical revelation of the Son of God to accommodate alternative views of divinity, the refusal to face the logical consequence of God become flesh, rejected by men.
For we bemoan the unbelief of the world, yet if the Scriptures are to be believed, it is less the unbelief of the world that is the problem, but that of the church; the salt that is in danger of losing its saltiness. The difficulty is not that the world is dark but that that which is meant to illuminate it is itself sliding into darkness; the darkness of compromise, a subtle and insidious worm eating away at the average believer in many of our churches as we struggle, for whatever reason, to fit in, and be thought reasonable by those who think our faith unreasonable. The inevitable outcome is discomfort, lukewarmness and worse, backsliding.
We must see Jesus. Theological frameworks help but are not the answer, we need a clear picture in our spirits of the Son of God. It is the work of the Spirit breathing life into the word. This is what fires us up. We are not in relationship with a philosophy but with a Person. And it is as we see Him and are enamoured of Him that we believe Him and are committed to Him and to His ways and can swim against the tide.
So who do you say that He is? Let us begin the new year in firm assurance of faith, with an unwavering commitment to the Son of God and an unshakeable determination to make His name glorious in our generation. We may not get the entire world to go with us, but whatever happens , we must not let the world get us to go with it.