When I first became a Christian, I struggled to feel close to Jesus. I found it much easier to connect and communicate with the Holy Spirit. Yet when I had my encounter on the Alpha course, I experienced all three aspects of God at once. I felt the overwhelming love and protection of God, I saw my Lord Jesus Christ and invited him into my heart, and I knew the Holy Spirit was allowing me to have this experience. I knew that all three parts were there, ready to love and welcome me but I struggled to maintain that connection. Like a poorly tuned radio signal.
Things began to improve as I started to read or listen to a section of the Bible every day and meditate more on Christ’s life and the nature of his journey and sacrifice. When the opportunity came to attend a discipleship course at my local church, I leapt at the chance because I want to live as a good modern Christian and learn how to spread the message to others. To do this I need to improve how I listen to God.
The question for the first session was: Jesus – Who is he?
Well, he is a human being who is also God. That is a really difficult thing to understand. He was born just like all of us. He could feel pain, the full range of human emotions, he had doubts and fears and tangible relationships, but he was God and has existed since The Beginning. He is right there in Genesis 1; He is The Word. “and God Said”, that is Jesus creating as God. All three parts of the trinity are there from the very beginning.
That is a difficult thing to comprehend, how can someone be 100% human and 100% God? The leader of the course had us picture a television. The colour and volume could each be turned to 100, or to 0. The options were a picture with no sound, sound but no picture or the ideal, both together. Together, they allow us to appreciate the sound and picture simultaneously to form a heightened experience. Jesus is like that, by being God and Human, we can come closer to our creator and see the true beauty of that relationship whilst being completely and utterly understood.
The Reading: Philippians 2: 5-11
The reading for the session came from Paul’s letter to the Philippians whilst he was imprisoned in Rome. We listened to the reading twice the NIV version and the Message version. I got to read a third version as my bible is NLT. We thought about what phrases or words stood out to us and I have highlighted them below.
5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
6 Though he was God,[a] he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges[b]; he took the humble position of a slave[c] and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form,[d] 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Philippians 2: 5-11 [NLT]
I have always struggled with authority. Particularly at school. I don’t believe you should respect people just because of their age and I think it’s fine to call people out when they say something fundamentally wrong, biased, or based on false information. As a child I could have been more polite about it, then perhaps I wouldn’t have been labelled as precocious. As an adult I pick my battles and words more carefully. I can be brash, blunt, ornery, and often fall into group leader roles but within me I have felt a desire to be subservient to something. To obey something other than myself. I thought I could find that in a sexual relationship, that perhaps I could be submissive there, but that route led to all manner of problems both emotional and physical. When I accepted God as my Lord and the master of my life it filled a void for me. This was a force I could always respect, that I wanted to please and obey. I do not feel awkward when I humble myself before my Lord. I know that I am loved beyond my imaginings and that if I obey God’s will
This passage spoke to me in particular because it tells us that Jesus put aside his divine right to become humble before God, he became God’s slave. Whereas I only had to put my self-interest to one side, Jesus put aside many of his rights as God, he submitted himself to God’s will and was crucified as a criminal, with murderers. There are some people I would die for or risk myself for, but when I try to imagine death by crucifixion, I feel nauseous, I start to sweat, I want to cry. Its horrific. I don’t think I could do it for anyone. Jesus did it for people he never met, for me, for you, for the worst sinners those we don’t feel deserve redemption. He died to give us all hope of an eternal life in God’s love. It is quite frankly amazing.
The Universe and My Aquarium – Why was God a man?
Following the reading, the session leader read an abridged version of The Universe and My Aquarium written by Philip Yancey. It’s a fantastic metaphor for why God had to send their son to bridge the gap between two completely different worlds. The fish are constantly afraid of the person that is trying desperately to care for them and keep them safe. They only way to make them understand is to become a fish and live among them. Then you could explain why the keeper is acting the way they do: you can share the message that the keeper loves you and does things out of that love.
God had tried to care for us and each time we grew scared and disobeyed him, it’s all over the Old Testament. God sent their Son to die for us and offer us redemption for our sins and uninhibited access to God’s love. Jesus Christ lived, died and was raised again to allow us to come into God’s love and enjoy everlasting life after death.
A lot to consider over the next two weeks
The course is fortnightly and I have a lot to consider. The first verse tells us to have the “same attitude” as Jesus Christ. To me that means to put God’s desires and wishes above my own. To do that I need to listen carefully and keep my heart open to God. It certainly isn’t going to be easy. Our lives are busy and full of temptations. I am going to end this one on a prayer I think:
“Lord, please help me to hear your voice. When I read the Bible, when I walk in nature, when I am quiet and meditating. When I hear your voice help me to put my own desires and fears aside so that I can enact your will and trust in your vision for my life”
Thank you for reading this, God Bless.