163. The One who promises.

One has to know what the essence of life is. To know is to be enabled to trust. One cannot trust anybody or anything. Life is difficult as it is.  Crime and fraud are lurking in the shadows waiting to strike at our weakest moment to rob and cheat.  Could we trust anybody in this universe that we do not even begin to understand?  Could our prayers become mocking curses to haunt and scorn us while we are considered so dumb to believe that there is a benevolent God to whom we can run in times of trouble?

The Greeks knew they could not always trust their gods.  Prayers and requests had to be carefully formulated.  An honest request could become a regretted curse.

There is a well-known story from Greek mythology about the love between Eos and Tithonus.  Eos was the goddess of daybreak and was cursed to constantly fall in love by the jealous Aphrodite.  Eos fell in love with the handsome prince of Troy, Tithonus.  He was mortal and would eventually die.  That would mean the end of their love, for even the gods had no power over death.  Eos begged Zeus to give Tithonus immortality, which he did, but Eos forgot to ask for eternal youth for Tithonus as well.  While he lived forever he became older and older, with no hope of dying.

Could one trust one’s prayers?

One of the jewels of the book of Philippians is the image and character of the One who makes the promise.

Let us read one of the opening statements in this letter.

…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. (1:6)

Paul uses the verbs for begin and complete that were used with regards to a sacrifice.  Jesus’ life and work are marked by his sacrifice on the cross. His sacrifice demands ours –love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all– says the old hymn. Only by giving all and surrendering fully, the work of Christ can come to fruition in the inner being of man.

God is good – all the time.  That is how He describes himself in his revelatory vision to Moses.  The word used here to describe “good” is agathos which means to produce benefits.  A synonym is kalos which describes attractiveness and excellence.

And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth…  (Exodus 34:6)

He is the source of everything good.  His work is always good.  His actions are rooted in love.  There is not even the slightest possibility of anything that can come from something other than love.

He started a good work in your life and here is the promise: He will complete it.  It is the substance of our faith, especially when things do not look and feel that way.  Can you declare this right now?  Just there where you are, make the statement that you trust God with everything you are and have, whatever the circumstances – good or bad, in crisis or smooth-sailing, rejected or loved.  God is good – always.

How would you know that you could trust him? Some people say they need a sign just like the people in the time of Jesus on the earth.  They need to be sure that He means it well.

Let us look at the word-jewels of the second chapter.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (2:5-8)

No mythology has an equivalent story of a god who took the likeness of mankind; of a God-king who became a slave to live and die amongst mortal men.  It is shockingly unheard of.  Jesus came to be amongst us to give us the sign of all ages – the Cross.  It is on and in our churches, around our necks and in our homes.  It is the sign by which we are known and the symbol of God’s peculiar people.  He gave it all.  We can trust him with everything – our life, our deepest wounds and secrets, our sin, our failures and our hidden hopes.

It is not all.  God exalted him as the triumphant victor over death and hell. Everything good that we hope for is guaranteed in his death on the cross. The first fruit of God’s guarantee is the miraculous resurrection of Jesus, doing what no other god can do.  Our mission is not a pathetic effort to fight all the horrific violence and evil with love and grace.  The love and grace of which the Cross is the substance is the powerful assurance that good will always win, however disastrous it may look. The Name of Jesus is the culmination of the power of his life and death.

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,  and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (2:9-11)

Jesus’ title in the early church was kurios, which meant master.  It was used to denote the owner and master of a slave and became the official title of the Roman Emperors.  Every so often is was used for pagan gods, but most importantly it was the word used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) for the Hebrew word (YHWH) Jehovah, the word for the Most High God.

The title conveyed that Jesus was the King of kings, the Master and Giver of life and fully divine.

Our worship comes from love. Love and the choice to reject love, conquered man’s heart and mind, not power and might.  It is his sacrifice on the cross that breaks resistance. Worship flows from love, never from fear.

Paul writes on the absolute supremacy of God.  It is here where theology and conduct can never be separated.  A mind pattern becomes a life pattern.  The way one thinks is eventually the way one lives.

Think upon the very best. Think upon the One that promises:

 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (4:19)

 

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