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  • Writer's picturemattlillicrap

Getting the Tenses Right

When you look in the mirror, what do you see? A lot of us don’t like it. Perhaps there are lumps and bulges that weren’t there a few years ago. Perhaps there are lines speaking of regret and pain. Perhaps you’d rather turn away, or even get rid of the mirror altogether.

Pause there a bit longer, and really look, and it can get more uncomfortable can’t it? Underneath the surface there’s that swirling pool. There are broken relationships, things we wish had been different. There’s guilt. There’s shame.

So what do you do when you stand in front of the mirror? Is it the kind of place you can talk to God? Would you even dare?

If we feel exposed by our own reflection, what do we do with what God thinks of us? We’re sinful, and we know that sin makes us ugly to him. Right?

At church this term we've started walking through Mark’s gospel, hearing the beginning of the good news about Jesus. Mark’s whole gospel is that beginning: a story which calls us to find our place in its pages. A story which is yet unfinished, which invites us to make it our own story by coming to Christ ourselves.

The early verses are packed with stand-out moments. John the Baptist comes wearing bizarre clothing, eating even more bizarre food, but speaking a compelling message about one to come. Jesus bursts onto the scene to be baptised before disappearing into the wilderness with the wild animals.

It’s can be a bit odd, but perhaps the most-stand-out moment is when, out of 400 years of silence since the last prophet spoke, God’s own voice is heard. God the Father speaks from heaven and declares of Jesus:

“You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased.”

We hear that Jesus really is the Messiah just as Mark claims in verse 1, God’s long promised king, in the line of those declared to be ‘sons’ of God like David, Solomon and the others. But we also hear something unique. As the Son whom God loves, Jesus is God’s unique Son. He is no less than God the Son himself come to us.

But what do those famous words spoken over Jesus at his baptism mean for us?

Astonishingly, as we are invited into the story of Jesus, we can begin to hear God speaking those very words over us.

Let’s make that clear:

If you trust in Jesus, God the Father declares over you: “You are my son, you are my daughter, whim I love. With you I am well pleased.”

When we talked about that at church a few people asked the important next question: But we’re sinful, and we know that sin makes us ugly. Right? So how can this be true now? Surely this is what we’re hoping for in the future—that God will be well pleased with us when his work is done?

It’s a good question. And it shows that we need to get our tenses right. Is this delight really something which is true now in the present? Or only something to for in the future?

Although we Christians often describe ourselves as sinners, the Bible itself barely ever (if at all) describes someone who is trusting Jesus as a sinner as though that were our current identity.

Instead, if we trust Jesus, that’s what we were. That old identity was nailed to the cross with Jesus. It’s now in the past.

Instead, we have now been given a new identity: Saint.

Which is another way of saying ‘holy one.’

Which is another way of saying ‘pleasing, delightful, beautiful one.’

Chatting through this with a few people, I’ve noticed that it’s easy to assume that this is just some cosmic trick God plays on himself. One friend told me that they feel as though God must pull the wool over his own eyes when he looks at us.

Perhaps you feel like that. Does God just hold his nose and close his eyes before coming near to you?

No! Wonderfully, he really doesn’t! Trusting in Jesus means being united with him. That means being united with the very one in whom God takes such delight!

Our unity with Jesus means that everything that was his becomes ours—including his beauty and delightfulness to his Father. He dresses us in new clothes. He makes his home in us.

Then, as he does all that he begins to create his beauty in us. Over time we begin to reflect him more and more. Yes we go on fighting with sin, but that process has begun, and God delights in it. Which means God delights in you!

Many of us carry around a weight of failure, thinking we can’t really be pleasing to God, even now. My heart’s prayer is that as we enjoy him together, we would realise our new identity in Jesus more and more.

Incredibly, not only can we hear God the Father saying “with you I am well-pleased” (Mark 1:11) we can even hear Jesus saying “Ah, you are beautiful my love. You are beautiful!” (Song of Songs 1:15).

It’s worth meditating on as we head to that final experience of delight.

Onwards, to glory!

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