Advent Devotions: the WITH-ness of our God {from nearness to oneness}

Jesus Christ the Son of God became one with us, so that we could be one with Him! 

This glorious truth is at the heart of the Incarnation.  God became one of us!  One with us!  Why?  So that we could experience union with God.

And that takes us back to our 3 Greek prepositions for with:  (see previous post:  The WITH-ness of our God (prepositions):

  • para, meaning beside, nearby, in the immediate vicinity or proximity, alongside
  • meta, meaning with, in close association with, in companionship with
  • sun, meaning together in intimate union, inseparable from

We have been celebrating all month the glorious truth of Emmanuel, God with (meta) us, the Incarnation, God made Man -- in scripture, story, and song.  Last time, we saw that, during Old Testament times, God was certainly with His people, but in a temporary, transcendent, external way.  He was para, alongside, nearby so to speak.

But then Emmanuel came and everything changed!  Now God was in close association with (meta) His people.  But HOW?  That is today's question.

Let's look at the answer in 3 ways (and I promise we will finally see our last preposition sun).  Jesus is our Emmanuel, God WITH us:

  • In His Person
  • In His Passion (suffering)
  • In His Abiding Presence

1.  We've already talked about how God and man are united in Jesus Christ.  In His very Person deity and humanity are united:

 For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. Colossians 2:9 NLT

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! John 14:9 NLT

And then a significant verse tucked away in John 1:1-18 (you may want to look at the entire passage):

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling ("pitched his tent") among (our word meta, in close association with) us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 NIV

2.  But not only is Jesus our Emmanuel in His very Person, but also in His Passion (suffering).  It's a great mystery that God would deign to suffer and die... beyond our comprehension!  But suffer and die He certainly did, to pay for our sins and bring us to God.  In theological terms, we call that substitutionary atonement.**

Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit. 1 Peter 3:18 NLT

No passage says it more clearly and poignantly than Isaiah 53, the Old Testament prophecy of the Suffering Savior.  An in-depth study of this passage reveals treasures.  However, it doesn't just spell out in detail the sufferings of our Savior in dying as an atonement for sin (see vss 5-12).  It also describes Jesus' sufferings as a righteous human growing up in a fallen world with sinful men.  Let's look briefly at verses 2-4:

For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

Jesus wasn't one of the "beautiful people." He was ordinary...not attractive physically.  He was rejected, despised because of his "illegitimate" status. (It was no secret that his mom had gotten pregnant before marriage.) Our Savior suffered grief and pain.  Perhaps He was thought to be "unspiritual, ungodly," because He didn't play by the "religious rules."

Does any of that sound familiar?  Well, Jesus our "God meta us" identified with us in the sufferings of our daily life on planet earth.  And because He is both God and Man, He can not only empathize, He can and does help!

...he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted [tried or tested], he is able to help those who are being tempted....For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted [tried, tested] in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15-16

3.  As if all of this hasn't been exciting enough, hear this glorious truth:  Jesus Christ is our Emmanuel, God meta Us in His Abiding Presence...today!  Right now!  This is where our last with preposition comes in -- sun, together in intimate union, inseparable from.

In order to show the incredible depth of this preposition, I want to use an illustration that I've borrowed from a favorite Bible teacher, Wayne Barber.  He calls it "Biscuits for Jesus."  I've adapted it a bit to illustrate how all 3 of our with prepositions relate to each other.

There are certain ingredients that go into making biscuits:  flour, salt, baking powder, milk, sugar (if you’re Polish like me), and shortening (namely butter, if you’re Polish like me).  Anyway, as you gather the ingredients and place them next to each other on the kitchen counter, you could say that they are with each other (para, in the Greek), meaning alongside.

Then if you take them and place them in a bowl one by one, you might say that the ingredients are with each other (meta, in the Greek), meaning closely associated with.  At this point, each of the ingredients is still somewhat separate from each other.  Even in the bowl, you could skillfully separate the ingredients from each other to some extent.

BUT once you mix those ingredients together, roll them out and cut them, place them on the cookie sheet and bake them, there is no way you can separate those ingredients from each other.  There is a mysterious union of ingredients called “biscuits.”     That’s the Greek word sun, meaning united together with, inseparable from.  And this little word is our word with found in these significant Scriptures (and many more):

Since you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God… For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God… Colossians 3:1-3

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him…. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:3-11 ESV

That's right!  All of the highlighted with's in these verses are our 3rd with preposition sun, united with, inseparable from.   Now we've really plunged the depths of mystery...we are united to the Living God through our Emmanuel, God with Us.

Do you remember our summary statement from John 14?

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another [of the same kind as Himself] Helper, to be with [meta] you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with [para, in Old Testament times] you and will be IN you [in New Testament times]. John 14:16-17 ESV

How would the Helper be with us forever?  By being IN us!  United in life union...

I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20

Did you see that?  With (sun) and in!  You and I are united to the Living God.  We died united to Him, and now He lives His resurrection life in and through us...as us!  What glory!

...Christ in you, the hope of glory! Colossians 1:27

Take a few moments as this Advent season is coming to a close to reflect on Emmanuel Jesus, God with us.  Use the scriptures and songs in these posts and others that come to mind.  If you need a little nudge, explore these questions:

  • Are you experiencing the joy & comfort of your Emmanuel’s presence in the midst of your “everyday”?
  • Is there anything that you could take out of your life or put into your life that will “make more room” to enjoy the presence of your Emmanuel?
  • Write out in your journal your own expressions of love and gratitude to the ONE with whom you are forever united.

 

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**To further explore the mystery of the death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, click on Lenten Meditations: a Word of Abandonment  View the entire Lenten Passion series

 

 

Rejoice with exuberance in the Amazing Grace of our Emmanuel!  Click here:

A Christmas light display :)