20th March 2012

Consider Yourself

“Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;”
Hebrews 3:1 (KJV)

Consider Yourself is the title of a song from Lionel Bart’s famous West End musical, based on Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist. The song, which captures the moment when Oliver is accepted into Fagin’s young band of thieves, concludes with the following lines:
Consider yourself our mate.
We don’t want to have no fuss,
For after some consideration, we can state…
Consider yourself
One of us!

Shortly before one of the leading Pharisees, a man named Nicodemus, paid an unexpected visit to Jesus under cover of darkness, the crowds had been drawn to this new miracle worker and his teaching concerning the Kingdom of God, and wanted there and then to identify themselves with him (John 2:23). Jesus had refused that invitation in verse 24, and now it was the turn of some in the religious establishment to seek to control Jesus by adopting him into their own teaching fraternity. 

“We know…” Nicodemus attempted to explain to Jesus, “that you are a prophet sent from God…” referring to the acknowledgement by some leading Pharisees of the miracles that were fast becoming a hallmark of Jesus’ ministry (John 3:1-12). The Pharisees regarded themselves as the ones ‘in the know’ as far as religious matters were concerned, and the Pharisee, Nicodemus, appears to want to grant a Pharisaic ‘seal of approval’ on the new Rabbi from Nazareth, effectively making him one of their own. “Consider us” they might have said, “and join our company.” 

But Jesus’ reply took Nicodemus completely by surprise. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” The Kingdom of God, Jesus revealed, was unfolding there and then (Luke 17:20) but, without experience of the new birth, it was impossible even for these religious leaders either to see it or to enter into it. 

As Jesus demonstrated to Nicodemus, the new birth is a work of the Spirit, not of the flesh, and the Spirit–just as the wind that blows around us–is beyond our control, though we hear its sound (or voice) and can respond to it. We can’t control it (John 3:8). 

Just like the crowds who had gathered to hear him, we want to take hold of Jesus and make him our own. We look at ourselves and consider that we want to be more like him and so we strive to re-fashion ourselves in his image. This all seems very good, but the focus is often more on the self and less on Jesus who must be not only the object but also the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). 

Instead, our confidence needs to be, as T. F. Torrance has said, “in Christ’s grasp of us rather than in our grasp of him.” It is Jesus who has chosen us, not we who have chosen him (John 15:16), and we can be confident that, having taken us to himself, he will hold us firmly and securely (10:28). 

The new birth that Jesus calls us to is a sharing in the new life that he has effected for us through his own life, death and resurrection. Jesus is the new birth. He is the new man or the ‘second man’ as Paul calls him (1 Corinthians 15:47) and we can only discover our true identity as we forget ourselves and consider him, resting in his grace.  Only when we consider Jesus as the very substance of our being, do we experience our true self, expressed through a perfect life (his), in full communion with God, our heavenly Father. 

As Paul stated in his letter to the churches in Galatia: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). 

Heavenly Father, thank you so much for the new birth you have granted us in Christ, your Son. Help us always to consider him and the great salvation he has wrought for us, through his life, death and resurrection, as we rest in his grace.

Study by Richard Dempsey

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