This week's "thought" comes from a book entitled, "A Hope Deferred -- Adoption and The Fatherhood of God." It's by a man named, J. Stephen Yuille, a pastor living in Texas. He confesses to always having believed, and preached, on the doctrine of "adoption" from Romans 8:15-17. But says he never fully understood all that was implied in that one word adoption, until he and his wife were unable to have children and adopted a baby girl from China.
In summarizing the book Joel Beeke calls it, "a precious mosaic of personal stories and biblical teaching that go straight to the heart." Through their failed struggle to have children, and then in adopting, he says: "God granted them a deeper knowledge of His fatherly love." The books appeal is also aided by the fact that its a quick read (150 pages) and the author is a gifted writer! Enjoy.
"Here's a precious (and often neglected) truth: Christ is a man. We confess that he's fully God and fully man in one person. And we confess that his two natures remain distinct. In other words, the properties of his humanity aren't transferred to his deity, and conversely, the properties of his deity aren't transferred to his humanity. His deity is never hungry or thirsty. Likewise, his humanity is never omniscient, omnipresent, or omnipotent.
During the incarnation, Christ's deity is veiled. To fulfill his mission, he lives in complete submission to the Father and in complete dependence on the Holy Spirit. This is how we understand his "growth in wisdom" (Luke 2:52). This is how we understand his prayer life. This is how we understand his ascribing his miracles to the power of the Holy Spirit. This is how we explain his ignorance concerning the time of his return (Matthew 24:36). And this is how we explain his anguish in the garden: "Remove this cup from me" (Mark 14:36).
Now, you might be wondering why I'm belaboring this. In a word, its extremely important. If our only view of Christ is his deity, we're missing something. Christ is a man who lived in submission to the Father and dependence upon the Holy Spirit. As a man, he knows all about sorrow and suffering. He knows what it's like to be hungry. He knows what it's like to be weary. He knows what it's like to face temptation. He knows what it's like to experience betrayal. He knows what it's like to encounter injustice. He knows what it's like to suffer abandonment. He knows what it's like to lose a loved one. As Mary stands at the tomb, weeping over her dead brother, Christ also weeps (John 11:35). That reminds us of his compassion. He empathizes with our frailties and sympathizes with our sorrows. He's, "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3). When we draw near to him, we find refuge from sorrow and suffering in the shadow of God's wings.
That reality is made abundantly clear in Hebrews 4:14-16. There we read: "We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every way has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need"...
Christ carries all our burdens. When a woman marries a man (or visa-versa), her burdens become his. Similarly when we marry Christ (become one with him), our burdens become his burdens. Paul says, "For while we are still in this tent (this body), we groan, being burdened" (II Corinthians 5:4). We have lots of burdens. We bear the burden of wayward children, the burden of lost loved ones, the burden of discouragement, and the burden of illness. But Christ takes all those burdens upon himself. He empathizes with us better than our friends, siblings, spouses, pastors, or any other person we know. Do we realize that? He has a better understanding of our burdens than we do. And as we draw near to him by faith, he imparts his grace to us, whereby we are strengthened. When we're in the midst of affliction, we can be certain that God will help us in one of two ways: either he will remove us from trouble, or he will support us in trouble. Now the following point is crucial: God doesn't always do the first, but he always does the second. He always supports us in trouble...
Many of us struggle with affliction and accompanying sorrow. We feel like the mythical figure, Atlas, with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Often times, affliction is beyond our control. We are powerless to do anything about it. And our sense of helplessness is increased by our limited view of what God is doing. At times like these, we want answers to the question "why?" Yet we must hold to what we know. We know God governs all things according to the pleasure of his will (Ephesians 1:11). We know his goodness dictates his providence [the way he orders the affairs of this world], meaning he designs affliction for our benefit (Job 5:18, Isaiah 30:26, Hosea 6:1). We know his wisdom governs his providence, meaning he's in ultimate control (Job 42:2). There's no pain he can't remove, no danger he can't prevent, no misery he can't comfort, no enemy he can't vanquish, and no need he can't supply (Jeremiah 32:17 and 27, Matthew 19:26, Luke 1:37, Luke 18:27, Phil. 4:13). Finally, we know we can take refuge in the shadow of his wings, where we find "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief."
Our failure to remember the full humanity of Christ often deprives us of the needed ability to remember that Christ sympathizes with us (rather than frowning at us) in our struggles and weaknesses. To forget that robs us of the comfort and consolation God meant for us to receive by reflecting on the struggles that Jesus encountered because of his humanity.
He wasn't just acting when he wept at Lazarus death. He wasn't simply pretending when he said he was thirsty from the cross. When he was pierced on the cross, "blood and water flowed out," showing us he was fully human. These were expressions of the truth of his incarnate humanity -- something we can often forget if we stumble into the heresy of "Docetism" which is so common in some evangelical circles.
Docetism is a word we get from the Greek word "dokein" which means, "to seem." A "docetist" is a person who claims Jesus only "seemed" to be human. They believe he was just a ghost or phantom figure. "He was able to walk on water," as one man once told me, "because he didn't weigh anything."
That's the error of so over-emphasizing Jesus' deity. We forget, or virtually nullify, his humanity. And in doing so we create a faith that is quite different from the one given to us in the New Testament (I John 4:1-2)."
We gain strength and confidence from the knowledge of Jesus' deity; we gain comfort, hope and consolation from the knowledge that he "was tempted in EVERY way just as we are... yet without sin." The sin, then, is not in being tempted, but in giving in to the temptation, and the comfort is that He understands. The fact that he sympathizes with me in my sorrows brings me closer to him relationally. What is true in human friendships is true of Him -- we gravitate toward those who we feel will understand us, and listen with both an empathetic ear and heart to the struggles that confront us.
Take a minute and think on Jesus humanity. It helps us, says the author of Hebrews, to "draw near to the thine of grace" and find grace to helps us in our times of need.
Blessings, Pastor Jeff