And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 ESV
God loves us and loves living with us.
That’s a hard concept to imagine, but the scripture is full of this truth – of a world made as a dwelling place for mankind with God; of the Old Testament tabernacle where God desired to meet with His people; and in this verse, the glory of God in Christ, the Living Word of God, “tabernacling” among us. That’s the word that is used in John’s statement there – God setting up His tent so He could live with us. And ultimately, God sends His Spirit to live in those who are born again spiritually through faith in His Son. So we have the fulfillment of God’s plan all along, Heaven joined with Earth in these frail bodies which have become a temple of the Holy Spirit in Christ.
But God is holy, and we are not, until we meet Jesus. And after we meet Him, it takes a while to learn to live like Him, to live holy lives.
God’s love for us and His desire to live with us must address the problem of our sin, our rebelliousness toward Him. We are all unholy before meeting Christ, and we have no idea of the deep effect that our depravity has on us until God reveals it to us over the course of our lives. As God shows us the reality of what our rebellion against Him looks like, we feel shame and guilt and want to hide from His holiness and purity. We still act just like Adam and Eve did in the garden, hiding from God as He seeks to walk among us and with us. But that doesn’t stop God.
The truth hurts, it really hurts. But it also heals us in Christ.
That is the good news of the Gospel. God’s love for us in Christ overcomes our sinfulness. Christ paid the price on the cross to restore us to friendship with God, and then God clothes us in Christ’s holiness as a gift – a perfect purity in Christ that restores not only our friendship with God, but the potential for full delight in that relationship. God, in Jesus Christ, gives us a salvation that is so perfect that we are free to learn to enjoy Him fully, as fully as it would have been in the Garden of Eden; and He is free to live with us and love us as if we had never sinned even though we still struggle with leaving it behind. So the truth is, in Christ, we are made holy by being clothed with Christ’s righteousness and are being made holy in everyday life by the presence of the Holy Spirit in us – and God delights in us all along the way.
He remembers that we are but dust (Psalm 103:14), and we have this treasure of the Holy Spirit in earthen vessels (our imperfect bodies with our growing maturity that is a work in progress) so that it is clear that the great power that is giving us life and joy is not from us but from God. So as we become painfully aware of our weaknesses, striving to grow on our good days and feeling apathetic and like a failure on other days, the beautiful truth is that in Christ, none of this fazes God. He is at work. He is growing us up whether we see it or not. And He loves us with an everlasting love. He even likes us. He delights in us! Hard to believe but true!
And when in faith we pursue Him and partner with Him in this process of growing up into the character of Christ, we get glimpses of the unstoppable truth of His promises, the fullness of joy that He promised us and a small taste of what we are destined for fully in eternity.
So when the apostle John reflected back at his few short years with Jesus, John marveled and staggered under the weight of the truth that God revealed in Jesus. But notice what John wrote first – Jesus was full of grace – grace and truth. Grace is this amazing, beautiful gift of God that brings us out of our life in the pain of darkness into the joy of His marvelous light and teaches us to stay there, to learn to live there. Grace is not turning a blind eye to sin – grace is the result of the floodgates of God’s power being released into our lives to heal us and make us whole because sin has been completely and perfectly paid for by the blood of Jesus on the cross.
So when the truth hits us and we feel like it will crush us, and guilt and shame and the desire to hide from Him come rushing in, the truth of the Gospel can come and bring us fresh heart that overcomes the weight of our past and our fear of the future. The truth of the Gospel erases the pain of our failures and re-centers us in the potential of the overcoming life of full delight in Him in the awareness of His full delight in us – in Christ.