Monday, March 15, 2010

Living Vicariously

Today will be a little different because my friend, Stephen Bean, and I decided to post on each other's blogs today. I have five great friend who write on a blog called Grace and Peace. So below is a great post from Stephen who graciously accepted the offer to write a post for this blog. I also had the privilege today to post on the Grace and Peace blog. If you'd like to check out that post just click the link.

Everyone would like to be someone else at one time or another. By that I don’t mean that every single person hates him or herself. I simply mean that there are times when you think of the life another person lives, the advantages that you see in their life, and you probably think “that person has it so good.” Most guys I know would love to be a PGA golfer, making millions to do their hobby. Some people love to hear the stories of rock stars, movie stars, or maybe just a friend who has a cool life. The joke (which can be very true) is that we like to hear about these people’s lives so that we can live vicariously through them.

The term “living vicariously” is usually meant to express the idea of one person experiencing a life second hand while acting or dreaming as if it is their own life. But in another sense the word “vicarious” expresses the concept of living as a substitute, that is what I want to talk about in this post, the irrationality of the vicarious nature of the gospel.

though he [Christ Jesus] was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant [lit. slave], 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 2:6-8)

The gospel is completely contrary to our way of thinking. Certainly many people would love the opportunity to trade lives with another person, but nobody drives past a homeless man on the street and thinks “what I wouldn’t give to be like that.” However, that is what Jesus did. He who was already worthy of praise for his holiness, his wonderful creativity in creation, and his merciful patience with rebellious people took on human flesh. Think about that for a moment: one of the great side benefits we look forward to in heaven is the absence of physical aches and pains. We look forward to a day without heartbreak, stubbed toes, and temptation to sin. But Jesus put himself into a body and a world that would cause him to experience all of these things which we are now used to but are not worthy of the king. And this is all aside from the central purpose of his life on earth, his death and resurrection. What would motivate this seeming insanity?

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

The reason the Son humbled himself to live in such a wretched place compared to what he deserved was to bring glory to himself. This is strange to us. We think “so you lived here for a few decades to show how much better than us you are?” And the answer to that question is sort of but the question misses the point. Jesus did this in order to show his supremacy over all things by rescuing helpless sinners. He subjected himself to the same life that we tread through daily but did not sin.

We might wonder why Jesus' vicarious life and death, in our place, matters. How it affects us to know the humility of Christ in the incarnation. The answer is found in Philippians 2:5 when we are called to imitate him, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” The mindset that Christians should have is that of Christ, humbling themselves as servants to one another. This is just another example of how the gospel changes lives.

Grace and Peace,
Stephen

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