Want the height? Go down!

How do we get to heights with God?

“I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble.

Isaiah 57:15

Some trust in their approaches to gods through going to spiritual places and performing spiritual exercises, the Lord says that the ones he is looking for are those who fall before him.

In order to go up to him, we must go down before him!

In Jesus’ story of the pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18, the pharisee was confident before God because of his spiritual exercises. The Tax Collector, whose standing in society would be like today’s loan shark, humbled himself before God. It was the tax collector whom Jesus says was made right with God.

Do we trust in our spiritual exercises and developing righteousness to reach the Lord, or do we humble ourselves, and give ourselves to him – maybe through spiritual exercises?

God says, “Rebuild the road! Clear away the rocks and stones so my people can return from captivity.”

Isaiah 57:16

The road to God from captivity is littered with obstacles –things we worship that are not God. In v6 Isaiah had mocked people who worshiped stones. Now, these objects of worship must be cleared from our lives so we can return to the Lord.

The problem with our idols is that we are attached to them. It requires humility to admit they even exist before we can take that step to remove them.

Power and Understanding

What would you do with all power and understanding?

Great is our Lord and mighty in power; …

Psalm 147:5

The extent of God’s power is seen through the creation of all things. We see the breadth of it in the galaxies, we see the depth in the sub-atomic particles.

He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.

Psalm 147:4

When God names, he does so with understanding and care. The name is not merely a label. When he gives us a new name, it tells of whom he sees us to be. So, he names the billions of stars with care, describing each one’s specialness.

his understanding has no limit.

Psalm 147:5

Creation also shows his understanding. Knowing all things, he can predict and control events. Our culture is concerned about things on the edge of its understanding such as global warming, political turmoil and the like. The Lord who understands the impact of every CO2 particle and every political decision is not concerned. He could bring everything into balance, if we would humble ourselves to ask.

The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.

Psalm 147:6

Many use power or understanding to engineer or force their will. This however, is wickedness. God’s use of power elevates humility. So, Jesus, having all power, chose humility when he allowed himself to be executed. Only when it was too late did the wicked discover what he had understood, that he was conquering the power of death!

Being human

What does it mean to be human? I find Jesus’ take shocking. When I survey our culture’s opinions I see anything from a triumphalistic ‘Top of the heap’ to ‘A virus wreaking destruction’. For many Christians, people are made in the image of God, and so to be respected.

My shock came looking at the logic of Philippians 2:7, starting at the end.

… he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,  being made in human likeness.

Firstly, Jesus was made in human likeness.  Then going back, I read ‘the very nature of a servant …’ The implication is that the nature of a human being is to be a servant! I am shocked! We live in a culture that exalts freedom, yet our nature is to be a servant.

The fact is our nature is seen in our attitudes. We use freedom to pursue our passions, yet we become servants to whatever we exalt. If I exalt money, I become a slave to money. If I lift up family, I become a slave to family.

These false masters destroy us as we pursue them and their dream turns out bankrupt. When I pursue Jesus, He leads me down a path that fulfils. He said,

‘If you hold to my teaching you are truly my disciples, then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.’ John 8:32

Jesus’ teaching is love. When I pursue Him, He frees me to serve in love, and I discover I am loved.

 

 

A more detailed study in Philippians 2 – ‘Who are we before God?’

 

Christ in us – Majesty

Our culture tries to smear us with shame for following Christ. Atheism’s angry voice dominates. I want to fit in, yet that means concealing the majesty the Lord has clothed me in, covering it with the clothing of the world. It takes faith and courage to be clothed in righteousness.

Psalm 45 expresses the Lord’s perspective.

V3 ‘ … Clothe yourself with splendour and majesty.’

How can we clothe ourselves in splendour if we have none? We do not understand that when we humble ourselves to show kindness to a child, we are clothed with splendour.

v4 In your majesty ride forth victoriously
in the cause of truth, humility and justice;
let your right hand achieve awesome deeds.

We think of majesty as the domain of the celebrities flaunting and exaggerating greatness. The Lord sees majesty when we humbly acknowledge the truth that outside of Him we are nothing; when instead of currying favour, we surrender our advantage to defend the oppressed. Others see foolishness, the Lord sees awesome deeds.

v8 All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; …

Lives transformed by Christ give off His aroma but we are not aware. Visitors to our home often mention it’s peace. To us, it is normal. Only those for whom it is not, notice the contrast.

We often despise ourselves, seeing nothing in our lives for the Lord to get excited about because we look through the world’s values. Christ however sees His glory being displayed.

 

For the detailed study see Caught up with Christ