home > Pastor’s Desk > 2020 > December > THE SURPRISING CHARACTERISTICS OF SINLESSNESS

THE SURPRISING CHARACTERISTICS OF SINLESSNESS

by Dr. Andrew Corbett, 24th December 2020

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel
Second Timothy 2:8

As we reflect on the birth of the Saviour once again this Christmas it is easy to get distracted with the gift buying, present wrapping, Christmas lunch preparations, and summer holidays, and in doing so lose sight of who it is we are remembering. With a hint of noëlic advent in his exhortation to Timothy, Paul reminds his protégé to remember the One who was born as the offspring of David. The promised offspring of David was to be the Messianic king of Israel and Saviour of the Jews. This is why Jesus was born in the town of David and made an annual visit to His ancestral territorial region of the city of David (which was located up from lower Jerusalem on Mount Zion and a little below the site of the Temple) according to Luke 2:41-42 — “Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.” And while we could consider how Jesus was indeed the ‘consolation of Israel’ as the elderly Simeon spent his life longing for, there is something that we might not consider too closely about the birth of Jesus. He was born sinless and lived a sinless life.

“Who among you can prove Me guilty of any sin? If I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe Me?”
John 8:46 NET

“We’re only human!” We all say it to justify our failings. But Jesus never did. It would be too simple to retort that this was because He was God in the flesh — and in so doing, diminish the fact that He had become human “just like us” and was subsequently tempted in every way just as we are.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Hebrews 4:15

None of us can ever attain sinlessness in this lifetime. (In the Resurrection we will receive a new glorified body like Christ’s and be partakers of the divine nature which cannot sin.) Therefore, an examination of Christ’s life gives us a revealing picture of what a sinless life looks like, and therefore a glimpse of what our potential was before the Fall. Consider the following and perhaps on Christmas Day offer a prayer of thanks that Christ exhibited these characteristics and what their implications mean for each of us:

Even though Christ was sinless, He was still-

◊ learning – in Luke 2:52 it tells that Jesus grew up learning to be wise and how to get along with people. This is remarkable considering that He maintained His omniscience, yet was able to have the human learning experience of discovery.

◊ keeping customs – in Luke 2:42 it tells that Jesus kept the customs of His family and in particular their religious customs. Later on we see that He made it His custom to be in a synagogue each sabbath (Luke 4:16).

◊ developing independence – in Luke 2:46 it tells that Jesus developed independence from His parents which afforded Him the privilege of spending time with other members of His kin beyond His immediate family and yet not in defiance of His parents. We see Him in the Temple learning and asking questions of the scribes and elders which reveals that He was formulating His own independent ideas and opinions.

◊ respectful – in Luke 2:47-49 it tells that Jesus was very respectful especially of His imperfect earthly guardians.

◊ submissive – in Luke 2:51 it tells that Jesus submitted to His parents which is also a demonstration of remarkable humility.

◊ spiritual – in Luke 3:21-22 it tells that Jesus was deeply spiritual and even though He was sinless, He was prepared to be water baptised (even though He had undergone both the Jewish rite of circumcision and purification as a child) and in Luke 4:43 He was engaged in preaching the good news about God and His kingdom.

◊ tempted to sin – in Matthew 4:1 it tells that Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the Devil and yet did not yield to this very genuine temptation.

◊ compassionate – in Matthew 9:36 and Luke 7:13 it tells that Jesus had compassion on people who were sinful. He spent time with them, ate with them, taught them, and healed them of their infirmities.

◊ emotional – in John 2:14-17 it tells that Jesus was angered with what some people were doing in the Temple precinct which resulted in the poor being taken advantage of. In Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34 we see that Jesus was sorrowful. In John 11:5 and Mark 10:21 we see that Jesus expressed love. And in John 17:13 we see that Jesus had joy.

desirous – Jesus had certain physical and aspirational desires. (This contrasts sharply with Buddhism which sees desire as the cause of all human suffering.)  In John 19:28 it tells that Jesus desired a drink. In John 17:5 it was his prayerful desire that His disciples would be guarded and protected after His crucifixion, and He also prayerfully aspired that they would be united (John 17:26).

What this brief list of sinless characteristics reveals to us is that these characteristics in themselves are not sinful. This list should also reinforce to us that the Christmas Child was and grew to be the most perfect human being who was incredibly strong, but incredibly gentle. He was supremely knowledgable, yet supremely patient. He was unlimitedly powerful, yet forbearing of those who maligned Him. He was the Ruler of the Cosmos with the power to instantly summon 12 billion+ of the cosmos’s most fierce warrior beings to obliterate any who withstood or defied Him, yet He surrendered to His enemies and permitted them to humiliate and desecrate His body. And when being tried by His judge, Pontius Pilate, He had the composure to tell the one who was judging Him that he was committing sin by doing so. 

Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over Me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered Me over to you has the greater sin.”
John 19:11

As you wake up Christmas morning, spare a thought for what a sinless life looks like and consider these characteristics that only the Lord Jesus the Christ has ever displayed. Then after some long pondering on these characteristics, consider how Christ’s sinless life gives us the gold standard for the kind of life that we too should aspire to live. Merry Christmas.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:5-8

Maker of the sun, He is made under the sun. In the Father He remains, from His mother He goes forth. Creator of heaven and earth, He was born on earth under heaven. Unspeakably wise, He is wisely speechless. Filling the world, He lies in a manger. Ruler of the stars, He nurses at His mother’s bosom. He is both great in the nature of God, and small in the form of a servant.”
Augustine

 

Your pastor,

Andrew

SUPER SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIANS

Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.

MAKING CHURCH A WELCOMING HOME

For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.

LOVE IN ACTION

Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.

THE TOOLS OF REMEMBERING

I like to think I have a pretty good memory.  I like to think I’m organised.  Generally, I am – I don’t double book appointments, I keep track of what I’m doing and when, I mostly turn up on time. But, on reflection, I’m not so sure this means I have a good memory.

TRUTH vs SOMETHING BIG AND HAIRY

“You were lying in your bed, you were feeling kind of sleepy.
But you couldn’t close your eyes because the room was getting creepy.
Were those eyeballs in the closet? Was that Godzilla in the hall?
There was something big and hairy casting shadows on the wall.
Now your heart is beating like a drum, your skin is getting clammy.
There’s a hundred tiny monsters jumping right into your jammies”!

These are lyrics from a song on the very first Veggie Tales video every made. The title of the song?  “God is bigger than the Boogie Man”. Junior Asparagus was lying in bed frightened, and Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber appeared to tell him that he doesn’t have to be scared of the imaginary monsters because, “God is the bigger.” My childhood night-time fears weren’t so much about big and hairy monsters, aka boogie men, or Godzilla in the hall. My fears were house fires – our home burning down, and “burglars” or “robbers”. But I certainly identify with lying in bed, my heart beating like a drum, my skin getting clammy, my imagination in overdrive.

CLOSING THE DEAL

In 1871, the American evangelist, Dwight (“DL”) Moody was preaching to huge crowds each night in Chicago. At the end of each message he would give an appeal for people to either respond immediately to the gospel message he had just presented, or at least go home and consider it. But on Sunday October 8th, 1871, a huge fire broke out in Chicago. It burned through the city for days and became known as The Great Chicago Fire. Around 10,000 people were homeless as a result, and hundreds of people lost their lives. Moody was heart-broken when he realised that many of the people who had died were the people who had attended that Sunday night meeting where he had urged them to consider accepting Christ. His deep grief over this tragedy led him to make a vow that he would never again merely urge people to simply consider accepting Christ. From now on, he vowed, he would plead with all those he preached to – to immediately turn away from their sins and turn to the Saviour. DL Moody committed his life and ministry as an evangelist to be someone who would always strive to close the deal because he was now aware—more than ever—that people’s eternal destinies were in jeopardy! 

BUILDING A MOODY CHURCH

The three things that make the Christian life exciting and enthralling are the same three things that enable a believer to develop a closer relationship with God. The combination of these supernatural gifts gives the child of God an awareness that there is more, much more, to this world than we can see, touch, taste or feel. When the Christian’s faith is grounded and buttressed in God’s Word, godly prayer, and God’s house he or she flourishes. But there are forces at play that are determined to stop the believer from reaching their spiritual destiny. While we might think these enemy forces only use the fiery darts of doubt to hinder the believer’s journey to glory, there is something that they successfully use far more often: our mood. This is why, for any church to be successful, it must discover how to build moody church.

PRAYING PRAYERS

The amazing thing about prayer, is that nearly everyone does it – but hardly anyone thinks they do it well. If you visit any Christian bookstore you will notice that the largest display of books is about prayer. And it’s not just Christian bookstores where you’ll find books on prayer. Regular bookstores also sell a wide range of books on prayer (even if they do classify them as books on ‘meditation’!). One of the most frequently searched questions on Google is, “How to pray” (which then points enquirers to over 2.3 billion web pages answering their question). But in all of human history – and two thousand years before anyone but one had ever heard of Google – there was just One person who was supremely qualified to answer this question. And fortunately for those of us who really want to know the answer to this question (without having to peruse more than 2.3 billion web pages!) He gave us the answer.

WHY SOME BELIEVE

Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.

UNPACKING CHRISTIANITY

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