Friday, September 7, 2012

He Came for Us

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:5-11).

While Paul cites Christ as an example of humility for us to follow, the above verses are also worth contemplating in connection with what Christ has done for us. In fact, it pays to read the Bible as a whole with the mindset that appreciating God's work is even more important than learning what work He has for us. If you're anything like me, you have days when trying to live the Christian life feels like an exercise in misery. It's not that we'd rather be living in sin; it's just that the battle seems endless to the point of utter futility. Psychologists tell us that when human beings feel trapped in "treadmill" work--same monotonous duties day after day and no real sense of purpose or progress--they will resort to anything, even suicide, to escape. For those of us with perfectionist tendencies, the Christian walk often feels like that treadmill: however much progress we make, it's rarely fast, obvious, or anywhere close to the ideal; and we find ourselves constantly looking at the remaining distance in exhausted despair, feeling we haven't a chance anyway. Perfectionists are so addicted to "finishing" and "completeness" that we find it almost impossible to rest short of the goal, or to understand how Paul could say "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect... straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal" one minute and "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances" the next. (Phil. 3:12-14; 4:11.)

The enslaving conviction that it's really up to us--the very thing Jesus endured humiliation and crucifixion to free us from--is an idea that dies so hard as to make literal crucifixion look like the quick chop of a guillotine. And avoiding the temptation by abstaining from work is rarely an option.

While actually breaking the temptation's power is the Holy Spirit's work, we can cooperate with Him by remembering that spiritual growth is slow-but-steady progress. And that God is patient and loving; having the end in mind, He doesn't expect us to get it right every time starting now.

And that Christ came to do the hardest work for our sakes--and will come again to finally free us from the burden of the curse.

He came for us:
Came from the matchless palaces of Heaven
To Earth's cold night, into a shabby stall;
The Son of God, the Hope of sins forgiven,
The Holy Lamb, the Precious Life of All:
He came for us.

He came for us:
Down from His timeless throne where angels worship
To human scorn, to die a cruel death,
To bear our pain, to dare a life of hardship,
To buy our freedom with His final breath:
He came for us.

He'll come for us:
Someday when this world's strife and toils are over,
When days of Earth have run their final course,
Our God, our Lord and ever-holy Savior
Will take us home to our eternal Source:
He'll come for us.