The Apostle John wrote in John 1:1 that, “In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And later in verse 14, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”
We know that a man’s words are his thoughts revealed. If this is correct then Jesus, the Word is the way to the hidden thought of God. If my words are my thoughts expressed then Jesus is in essence the very expression of God. Unless I put my thoughts into words you cannot understand them. To understand God we must understand his character, for what he is like in character, we, his children, must also be like. So the hidden thought, God, becomes the Revealed Word, Jesus.
But Jesus is more than just the spelled-out word he is the lived-out word. He is the mind, heart and Spirit of the Father lived-out in the language of every-day life for every man. As a Hindu student once said when he had received a Bible, “I am glad to read about the Man who practiced everything he preached.” To understand what God is like we must look to Jesus. God is like that which we see in Jesus. And if he is, then he is a good God and we can completely trust him.
The life of Jesus gives us a picture of the character of God that is so beautiful, so harmonious, so alluring so ‘just what life ought to be’, that he is as inescapable to our spirits as the force of gravity is in the physical realm.
The life of Jesus lived out in word and deed is the very portrait of the character of God made available to each one of us. And if that is true then what he is, we can become as well. As a doctor once wrote: “If the Heart of our Heavenly Father is like this gentle heart that broke upon the cross, he can have my heart without qualification.”
In Matthew 5:17 Jesus said, “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” The commandments were a code of righteous behavior but Jesus came and gave it life, raising goodness out of a set of moral laws and requirements basing it on love. The difference was one was devoted to an idea, the law, and produced the perfect Pharisee and the second was devoted to an ideal, full of grace, and produced the perfect Lover. Righteousness had as its goal a required duty while the other, Love, has as its goal unlimited possibilities.
The one brings what duty compels, the other what love impels which is not of duty but of privilege. Duty compels you to go the one-mile, to offer the cheek, to give of your tunic. Love impels you to offer the second mile, the other cheek and to not only give your cloak but your tunic also. The force of love impels you to realize that loving your friends is not enough, you will love your enemies till they become your friends.
The Law demands that the punishment fit the crime. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is the law of our justice system. (Exodus 21:23-24) It may restrain the deed but does little to restrain the person. Law touches the surface, love touches the center, one is retributive the other is redemptive. One is governed by its legal attitudes the other by its love attitude. Loving your friends only is a product of the law of retribution, loving your enemies becomes the love that redeems those who are separated from you.
Jesus has sat before us the perfect ideal of human living, gave us a philosophy of life, met sin, suffering, and death at the cross, arose, and redeems and leads the ages and threw open the gates of full life to all men.
A Philosophy of Life
(In the following section I paraphrase the writings of E. Stanley Jones,
whom I admired a great deal.)
As a perfect lover you are open to the assumption that within every man are two men. One that is evil, whom you are not to resist, at least on his level and with his weapons, and another man, who is not evil, but who is susceptible to the appeal of love. Get to that man and you win, said Jesus. Retaliation always loses, even when it seems to win.
If I should strike you on the cheek it is all about, “Who I am!” and “What you are!” But as the perfect lover you rise to your feet and looking to find within me a man who is susceptible to the appeal of love you offer the other cheek. And if I strike your other cheek it now becomes, “Who you are.” and “What I am really like.” The law of love takes you from resisting on his level and with his weapons and puts you on a much higher level.
The law of love forces the man to go further than he is ready to go thus revealing his true character. His desire is to break your face, and you, as a Christian, try to break his heart.
When you choose to turn the other cheek you move into a position where you are redefining the conflict and in doing so you assume moral control of the situation. This enables you to choose your own weapons and place of battle. You take the situation from out of his control and you compel him to stand on ground that he is not familiar with and to use weapons he has no skill in using.
If some one forces you to go one mile you are his slave. But if you of your own free will decide to go the extra mile then the situation dramatically changes. The first made you a slave the second mile gives back your dignity and moral control over the situation.
Jesus put before us the philosophy of a completed life. When Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28.
Under the law the best you could hope for was, “Do not commit adultery.” That was because there was nothing within the law that could stop the thinking process. The will of the Father expressed through the words of Jesus is that even the temptation to not look at a woman lustfully is now possible.
The Mark of True—Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors & Teachers
Ephesians 4:11-13, “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” We find that the work of the apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher is to produce a perfect man, perfect according to the fullness of Christ. He sat before us the ideal life “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48
This was made possible only by the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ and is available to us as we give ourselves fully to Him and live in this supernatural power given at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit in us ‘the Hope of Glory.’ Romans 8:11
We pray that you will be overwhelmingly filled with ‘Him’ especially in this hour of uncertain changes in our world and that each day you will come even closer to attaining to that whole measure “of the fullness of Christ.”
Rex and Lois