This month I have been impressed to share three words that have continually pressed into me. Initially they were personal, but now they are expanding in their implications and applications. This has encouraged me to share them. Hopefully they will impart some insights to your own minds and spirits. Here are the three:
- Ambition, understood in a negative manner as greed and lust for power.
- Manipulation, the dark modus operandi of “the system”. It is the means by which we are taken in by the puppet-masters of information and policy.
- Survival skills, street smarts. These are self-serving means needed to survive in a hostile culture. The objective becomes to conquer rather than to cooperate.
With some exceptions, these seem to have become unspoken “values”. They empower the agendas of some of our leading national institutions, both public and private. In short, much of our society has become takers rather than givers. This corrupts our social structure: religion; education; economics; politics; and even family structures, roles, and identities. We become cynical and suspicious, legitimately questioning the reality and safety of much of our world.
In contrast to that is my deeply heart-felt challenge: Are we able to place our confidence in the Kingdom of God? If we are to reject the MO of this world and yoke ourselves with Him, we are required to re-discover what it means to become and remain child-like. Not childish, but refusing to “drink the cool aid” of a society that seems destined to perish by suicide in ambition, manipulation and self-preservation.
In a unique way Jesus modeled this path for us. As the glorious Son of God, He stepped out of the ultimate reality of Deity. As a human man, He was born into the context of fragmented Judaism, sophisticated Greek philosophy, Roman power, and classical paganism ruled by the other gods. All these were operated and retained power by the big three mentioned above, which Jesus overtly rejected. In the wilderness He was tempted with ambition (“I will give you all these kingdoms. . .”); manipulation (“Throw yourself down from the temple and He will . . . “); and survival skills (“Command these stone to be make bread . . . “) [see Matthew 4:1-11]. Rather, He chose to be humanly yoked to His Father in and for all things.
Thus, in an entirely unexpected and incomprehensible manner, Jesus entered history under a different title: Son of Man. Some translate this as “The Human One”. Without diminishing being the Son of God, He is now able to identify with and deliver Adam’s darkened and corrupted race. I have eagerly sought to understand and embrace what that kind of name change signifies about His journey.
Oswald Chambers, one of my spiritual heroes, in his classic My Utmost for His Highest described Jesus’ journey with amazing clarity:
“We have no experiences in our lives that correspond to the events in our Lord’s life after the transfiguration. From that moment forward His life was altogether substitutionary. Up to the time of the transfiguration, He had exhibited the normal, perfect life of a man. But from the transfiguration forward—Gethsemane, the Cross, the resurrection—everything is unfamiliar to us. His Cross is the door by which every member of the human race can enter into the life of God; by His resurrection He has the right to give eternal life to anyone, and by His ascension our Lord entered heaven, keeping the door open for humanity.
The ascension (of Christ to His Father) is the complete fulfillment of the transfiguration. Our Lord returned to His original glory, but not simply as the Son of God —He returned to His father as the Son of Man as well. There is now freedom of access for anyone straight to the very throne of God because of the ascension of the Son of Man. As the Son of Man, Jesus Christ deliberately limited His omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. But now they are His in absolute, full power. As the Son of Man, Jesus Christ now has all power at the throne of God. From His ascension forward He is the King of kings and Lord of lords.” [Emphasis mine].
As Christ’s Body on the earth do we employ ambition (I want to develop a powerful. . .); manipulation (If I speak / pray / believe the right way, then God will . . . for me.); and survival skills (With enough faith I can avoid the struggles and pain of . . . .)? Are we trying in some strange manner to avoid the journey offered to us by the Son of Man? He chose humility modeling a cross rather than a crown. The Son of Man is a workable answer to the world’s struggle.