I haven’t been in the most energised mood for the last couple of months, but I have learned that if I pray about how I feel a word will come to me which precisely describes my inner state. In this case that word was “uninteresting”. My listlessness over the last few weeks stems from an inner conviction that my life is without much interest to others, to myself or to God! This may not be as trivial as it sounds, for whoever believes they are “uninteresting” will find themselves stripped of motivation and initiative in serving Christ. Of course I know that being “interesting” is not a true spiritual value, but it points to much deeper currents at work within me that have something to say about Jesus and the Church. Having just come through the festive period when worldly celebrations have been accentuated I can sense the Lord wanting to share something about true celebration. If the essence of celebration is to highlight and intensify joyful appreciation of what is being celebrated then it is godly celebration of Jesus that will intensify our intimacy with him and release wellsprings of refreshment for the days ahead. This teaching approaches the subject celebration from the foundation of coming to a greater revelation of Jesus’ own identity.
The famous prayer of St Brendan ends with, “Tune my spirit to the music of heaven,
and somehow, make my obedience count for You.” For this article the act of obedience is celebration and the heart tuned to heaven beats in the rhythm of the simple but deep chorus, “Celebrate Jesus celebrate”. Our eternity will be filled with celebrating the life of Christ; “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might forever and ever!”” (Rev 5:13). This is no new insight, but what is usually missed is that our never-ending praise will be a harmony with Jesus’ own celebration of his life as the incarnate Son of God.
The writer to the Hebrews shows profound understanding when he testifies of Jesus response to the Father; “God has anointed you (Jesus) with the oil of joy beyond your companions….I (Christ) will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation/church I will sing your praise.” (Heb 1:9; 2:12). Jesus’ whole heart, soul, mind and strength are filled with a celebratory love for the Father. This celebratory love is poured out in the Spirit on the Church. Sounds simple, but unless we strip away some of our cultural confusions we will misunderstand the character of Christ’s self-enjoyment.
Going into Koorong books recently Donna remarked that she didn’t want to get a grandson one of those “you are special” books but something which would of the great breadth of God’s love in creation (cf. Rom 11:33-36). Today many churches are built on an individualistic self-oriented “you (singular) are special” message but this is not how Jesus saw himself. Jesus never considered he was special in-himself but saw himself only in relation to the Father. At this point I must become a little theological, for as a P/person Jesus possesses a divine-human consciousness that is absolutely unique.
In his mind Christ was simultaneously aware of two seemingly contradictory realities. Firstly, that everything he experienced of the world, the sun, sky, people, food, drink etc. was there solely for him. Paul states this boldly about Jesus as God’s Son; “all things were created through him and for him” (Col 1:16). Secondly, Jesus was aware that his own life belonged totally to the Father, “I live because of the Father” (John 6:57). As Son of God Christ is aware that creation has a place in him and as Jesus of Nazareth he knows he has a place in creation. Christ’s unique identity is that he is fully present in this world (immanent) and fully beyond it (transcendent). As both present and beyond he is the Mediator between the Almighty Father and a fallen world in desperate need of reconciliation with God (1 Tim 2:5; Mark 14:36). In perfectly reconciling everything which was fallen back to God Jesus’ whole heart, soul mind and strength is filled with a celebratory love for the Father. Overflowing with the pleasure of the Father Jesus’ overwhelming joy includes celebrating his saving life with us. “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”” (John 16:24 cf. Heb 12:2). This is why Jesus, whose life is both so unlike and so like ours, is the everlasting focus on our joyful worship. What however might this mean in practice?
Over the festive season I heard of a well known Christian killing himself, then last week I attended the very real funeral celebration of a believer. The difference between these two modes of experiencing death is knowing who we are “in Christ”. Our understanding of our self-identity needs to follow Jesus’ sense of his identity. As Jesus never considered he was special in-himself but saw himself only in relation to the Father our true identity is in Christ alone. Every debilitating Christian experience of lowness, from the mood of uninteresting to suicide, flows from a miniaturised vision of the God-in-Christ to whom we belong. A mini-Christ means a mini-Christian. This crisis of a severely reduced sense of Christian identity is the crisis we are facing. Compare the petty visions for prosperity and churchianity that dominate the spirituality of our day with Paul’s cosmic vision of who we are in Christ; “all things are yours… the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” (1 Cor 3:21-23). A proper vision of Jesus will super-stretch our spiritual appreciation of our own personal identity, “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have come to fullness in him” (Col 2:9-10). The spontaneous result of a revelation of our identity in Christ will be….“Celebrate Jesus celebrate”; and in festively celebrating Jesus’ life we will enjoy all that he has done and made. Such is “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16).
Convicted by such insights I am seeking the Lord for new avenues for the godly celebration of Jesus. Not as some matter of mere personal piety but out of a deep need for new levels of energy to more freshly serve the Lord (Col 1:28-29). The broader Church to which we all belong also needs to follow this path, for Christianity as we know it has plateaud in spiritual intensity and influence. I believe the reason for this plateauing is that we have failed to come to terms with the deeper anguish of the cross. As Jesus’ own ascension to joy came only through his “enduring the cross” as a P/person unaware of the full dimensions of his own identity, “My God…why have you forsaken me?””, so there are dimensions of the “fellowship of sufferings” that we have yet to embrace (Heb 12:2; Mark 15:34; Phil 3:10). Certainly this includes a painful dying to all desire to be “interesting” or “special” in our own right. Every Christ-ian is a remarkable person, but solely because we belong to Jesus. As we choose day by day to “tune our spirits to the music of heaven” the power of Christ’s unique life will penetrate ever more deeply into our consciousness of who we are in him. By faith alone I believe this will happen for many of us in the days of refreshment that lie ahead (Acts 3:20).
On this topic see; http://thecommonlife.com/files/books/Your_God_is_Too_Small.pdf