Maybe We're Missing Something
Before I start this, I'd better add my usual disclaimer right up front: I'm not a scholar or theologian, so: What do I know?
Paul Burleson recently pointed me to a book entitled "The Shack" by William P. Young. If he said I should read it, then I should read it. So I did.
Wow. He said it would affect me in ways that were almost impossible to explain, and it did just that. But I got one crystal clear and radical idea out of it, that I just can't shake. Oh, there were lots of others, too, but this one really grabs me, and for a lot of reasons.
Thinking over what it said, and in light of a SS lesson I was preparing last Sunday morning, I called up the following verses:
Philippians 2:5-8: "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!"
Now, the idea that I had came from "The Shack", and as a result of something that's troubled me for years. And it was fueled by something I'd heard many times in sermons, namely that Jesus was "Fully God, as though He were not man at all, and fully man, as though He were not God at all". I've never agreed with that, for several reasons. I guess the main one is that, when He was on the cross, if He'd been fully God, He couldn't have died.
I don't think God, being the Self-Existent One, can die. Now don't yell one of those statements about something God cannot do ... like He can't make something so big He couldn't move it. Such things are exhibits of His unsearchable and unlimited power, and not a commentary on some non-existent inability to do something which cannot exist or occur. But what if it was the case, that Jesus chose not to "grasp" equality with God, did indeed make Himself nothing, a mere human, and then lived a sinless and perfect life, fitting for the required sacrifice? How then could you explain His miraculous powers and seemingly superhuman knowledge? Would that even be explainable?
I think so. His relationship with His Father was so close that all the Father had was available to Him. I can identify with that .. I know the extent I'd go to if and when my family needs something, and I'm sure Jesus' relationship with God was even closer than my sin-clouded self's with my sons & their wives & kids. Even than that with my wife.
And of course I hold to the doctrine of the Trinity. The Bible says Jesus is God. Period.
So ... when Jesus told disciples they could go out and chase demons away and cure illnesses, perhaps it was that the power came directly from His Heavenly Father. And the same thing for the other miracles He did, and the supernatural knowledge He displayed here and there. Maybe He was powerless (relatively) other than that which flowed from God.
Say, might that explain why He said things like this......
John 5:19: Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (NIV)
Hmm ... I'm not a scholar but I've heard this thing about Okkam's Razor (oft paraphrased as "All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best"), so let's apply it. Jesus said He couldn't to anything by Himself, so let's say that's absolutely true. If He was God (which I believe), then He must have voluntarily laid that aside ... did not grasp it ... and depended then on God to intervene when the humanly-impossible was called for. And He'd know when it was time for that, what with His lack of sin-induced blindness and all.
Is that thought affirmed anywhere else? I think so:
John 14:10: Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. (NIV)
So when Jesus knew a certain Samaritan woman's marital history, when He tossed demons out of their fleshly home in that Gadarene guy, when He ended funerals by terminating someone's death, maybe it was God doing it through Him. Like .. I don't know .. but it seems .. well ... logical and all.
But doesn't that rub against conventional "He could do anything 'cuz He was God!" thinking"? Yup. But maybe we think conventionally because we're a lot more comfortable thinking there's little of that stuff that's going to happen now, so we don't need to believe God for that.
I've heard it said that Baptists believe in miraculous healing, as long as nobody's getting any better!
I've also heard it said that we're not afraid of failure. Most of us have had enough practice at failing, that we're used to it, anyway. No big deal any more. Well, some author I respect (I forget who .. hey .. I'm old .. I'm entitled .. I just never wanted to write about it until now, ok?) said that what we're really afraid of is success. And I agree.
God has done a miraculous thing here and there in my life. Healing, unexplainable knowledge, stuff like that. And it's not a warm fuzzy thing .. it's intimidating in the extreme. To be close up to a display of God's power is not comfortable. So yeah, there's a lot more comfort in same-old same-old religious practice, than there is in the faith-filled arena of the unexplainable.
So, what's the big deal? Maybe it's that those unexplainable things Jesus did were performed courtesy of the same God Who might just be standing ready to do that sort of thing today. Perhaps He'd give us unexplainable knowledge if we were as devoted to His service. And if we're not afraid of what others might think of that.
Say, wouldn't stuff like that disrupt our religious ceremonies and rituals and Bible studies and worship services?
I doubt that's (really) an oft-desired thing.
Now, lest someone think that might lead to egotism or self-aggrandizement, that's always a risk in the outworking of ANY Spiritual Gift, whether there's EVER any miraculous manifestation. Let one lesson be seriously blessed, and someone'll tell the SS teacher he's wonderful. Ditto for preaching. Or the exercise of any other gift. But I'm reminded that every gift tells you nothing about the recipient of the gift ... it only tells you about the Giver!
So. Every such manifestation, is a wonderful testimony to the purpose and the nature and the intent of our Heavenly Father, and His unfathomable love for His people.
Every Spiritual outpouring, even the ones we're afraid of.