In elementary school, most of my good friends had older siblings at Westminster, a k-12 school that a majority of us would attend once graduating from our 6th grade. We would often go to football games there on Friday nights and walk the track during the game, taking turns wearing our friend Louise’s green Westminster jacket. Hot stuff doesn’t describe the coolness factor we felt walking those loops, particularly when it was our own turn to sport the green jacket. (The Masters green jacket doesn’t even compare!) Being in that place and wearing that jacket was like a seal of coolness that nothing else in the whole wide world could compete with on any level.
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Gal. 3:26-29
When that memory comes back, with tangible power, it is all the more interesting that God would help us to understand what it means to be “in Christ” by describing us as “clothed” in Him. The significance of being covered in His person and work, however, has far broader implications than a few laps around a track on occasion. Here is just a sampling of some of those realities: 1. dead to sin but alive to God in Christ (Rom. 6:11) 2. eternal life in Christ (Rom. 6:23) 3. no condemnation for those in Christ (Rom. 8:1) 4. impossible to be separated from the love of God that is in Christ (Rom. 8:39) 5. though one of many body parts, belong as one with the whole body in Christ (Rom. 12:5) 6. sanctified in Christ (1 Cor. 1:2) 7. given grace in Christ (1 Cor. 1:4)
But do you want to know what is crazy? Even though it doesn’t offer any of that, the green jacket is still mesmerizing, still promises so much coolness and glory and still feels so powerful.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Phil. 2:5-8
Jesus did not simply give up the green jacket of coolness, but more like an emerald jacket of power, glory, fame, allure and evident prestige.
Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matt. 26:38-39
I think it is fair to say that emptying Himself sucked. Just because He knew the end of the story, the plot line was not any easier or more enjoyable. The soul of the God-man was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. He was fully God and fully man indeed.
He must become greater; I must become less. John 3:30
I’ve always wanted to shout this line out with John the Baptist. “Yeah! Bring that kind of commitment on! I WANT to become LESS so HE can be MORE!!!” That is, of course, until He gives me the opportunity to really do so. My idea of becoming less has always looked more like the movie star, being interviewed in the midst of endless camera flashes, saying humbly, “Oh no, that is too nice. I’m no different than anyone else. I just read the script that was given to me.” But the kind of humbling and becoming less that we are invited into might not mean just sharing the green jacket, but giving it up altogether…and being “escorted” off the track.
But here is where the GOOD news comes in…He didn’t make Himself nothing as an exercise in self-denial nor does He ask us to share in His sufferings for meaningless merit badges or wasteful martyrdom. He did it because from the very beginning, His people have been grasping for life in every potential source other than in Him alone. The green jacket like the golden calf has no actual power to give life or preserve it or ever remotely make that life flourish. Jesus does all three, and gave up His life to break the power of the illusion that such life could ever be gained elsewhere. Other people’s idols are easy to walk away from, but mine terrify me with threats of permanent doom if I leave them. But He gives me more grace! He isn’t asking me to become less period. He is inviting me (and my demand for security apart from him) to become less so that He (the author of abundant life) can become more.
My soul’s great sorrow in taking off that green jacket may not make me sweat blood, but it does kind of make me want to throw up. No seriously ill person moves from death to life without some fear and trembling, some pain and loss, some tears and nausea. That sounds like pregnancy actually, which is the only way to birth new life.
For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ Acts 17:23-28a
I believe. Help my unbelief.