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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Yes, God Is Just Like Jesus

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"The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God..."
- Hebrews 1:3a (NLT)

"Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
    He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation..."
- Colossians 1:15 (NLT)

"Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” 
- John 10:37-38 (NIV)

I grew up seeing Jesus as the tender-hearted and grace-demonstrating member of the Trinity, in contrast to the Father, who represented the harsher and demanding side of God, and who was more about wrath and judgment.

This thinking was partly influenced by some of the views of atonement that became especially dominant in later Christian history, those that portray God and Jesus as being in some ways opposed to each other. In other words, Jesus' suffering and death were primarily about satisfying our Father-God's anger toward us, and of God's need for justice for all of the wrongs we have committed.

In this view Jesus is seen mostly as our chief attorney and bondsman, the only one who could provide a way for a holy God to justly declare our sins forgiven and atoned for.

And that is certainly one way to read the text.

But another is to see God as the very one who loved the world so much that in Jesus God's heart of divine mercy and grace is being poured out in response to the world's most violent evil and worst rejection. So even in his suffering and crucifixion Jesus is none other than the most trustworthy of all representations of what the eternal God is really like.

This conviction was further reinforced by a sermon I heard recently at the worship service we attended with our daughter and family in Rochester, in which Pastor Scott Austin stressed this same conviction that God has always been, and will forever be, just like Jesus.

I don't have all of the answers as to how we interpret every text in the Bible through this interpretative lens, such as passages that exhort God's people to annihilate their enemies, but I'm increasingly convinced this is true.

Here's a song Pastor Austin composed on this theme, one I post with his kind permission:

Jesus, It Is Only You

Jesus, it is only you
I look for, and at, and through
Every shadow, each hard loss
Is cast in light shed by your cross, 
    is cast in light shed by your cross

There is no hymn, no creed nor verse
No prayer I utter, well-rehearsed
No doctrine that is half so true
As knowing God by knowing you, 
     knowing God by knowing you

Refrain:

Only you, only you, Jesus it is only you
Only you, only you, Jesus it is only you
Any moment spent in dread,
Every Canaanite who bled,
My fear and doubt, all war and strife
I see them through your death and life, 
     I see them through your death and life

And when I draw my final breath,
Gasping, grasping life to death,
There’ll be no more to pray or do
But plead and hope and trust in you, 
     plead and hope and trust in you
I plead and hope and trust in you

Refrain (2x):

© Scott Austin 2014

Here's a link to a series of three sermons Pastor Austin preached on this theme, the third of which deals with texts in the Hebrew Bible that portray God as vengeful: http://artisanchurch.com/series/a_christlike_god
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