Growing Up in Grace

What does it mean that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people (Luke 2:52)?

To me, this means that while Jesus was born fully God and fully human, he wasn’t born fully formed. That is to say, even Jesus grew into who he was, and is. He was fully human, but he also had to grow into that humanity. He was born fully God, but he had to grow in his understanding of what it means to be the Son of God. Isn’t this what Hebrews 5:8-9 is talking about? “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered, and once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (NIV).

It is hard for me to imagine Jesus learning anything. But what else could be the case – as he grew as a boy under Mary & Joseph’s care; as he listened in the synagogue; as he spent time with his Father in the wilderness? Even Jesus’ cry in the Garden before his arrest and crucifixion (“Father, take this cup from me”) is the transparent honesty of a man who is choosing to yield himself, moment-by-moment, to God’s eternal plan. 

If Jesus learned obedience through suffering, is it any less true for you and me? Should we expect to grow in wisdom and grace simply by letting life happen? A few verses after we read about Jesus’ obedience, Hebrews 5:14 says, “Solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

The word “mature” in this verse is related to the word “perfect” in Hebrews 5:8, where it is used to describe Jesus. It’s a word that also has the meaning of wholeness. The picture is this: Jesus grew into his calling; he learned what wholeness and perfection meant for him.

If it was true for him, is it any less for us? If Jesus learned through suffering, should we expect to grow and learn if life never gives us a cup that we don’t want to drink? As we approach the new year, the challenge for me — and you, too — is to discipline ourselves to learn from even the most difficult aspects of life. To grow into grace as we face up to the challenges in life. Jesus experienced this on a grand scale, and in so doing, he set an example for us. Maturity, wholeness, what we can call “a grown-up faith,” comes through continually learning what it means to follow Jesus. When things are good, yes; but especially when they are not.

Staffing Updates at Fern Creek

This past Sunday, I announced some staffing additions at our church. I am excited about the changes, and the new leadership that is joining us.

This week, Mark Jones has joined us as Interim Associate Minister. Mark & his wife Gail are between ministries, and they are at a place in life where Mark is able to help us for the next several months here at Fern Creek Christian Church. This is not their first go-round with us; Mark served as senior minister at FCCC from 1989-96.

While he is with us, Mark will help people get connected to the church, he will do some teaching and preaching, and he will provide general leadership and ministry support within our church family. Unfortunately, Mark’s ministry with us will be short-term, as we don’t have a full-time opening that matches up with his gifts and our current needs; so Mark will be looking for a full-time, permanent position in leadership and teaching. But while he does that, he and Gail have located in Louisville, where Mark’s parents live. I hope you’ll make Mark & Gail feel welcome, as they share with us and serve with us over the next several months.

We have asked Mark to join us on this interim basis because the leadership has been talking with a person to come on staff as our full-time minister of discipleship. This person is in campus ministry, and if he is going to join us at Fern Creek, it will not be until the school year is complete. This leads to the need for some help in the meantime; this is where Mark comes in.

Let me say that I sense God’s hand in all of this. I believe that we have a full-time, long-term person in mind for the discipleship position who will help lead us forward as a church in the area of growing to look more like Jesus. But I believe that Mark’s coming is also a win-win, as he helps our church not lose momentum in the meantime.

And one more addition to share with you. We have also been talking with a young man about helping Josh Cooper and our student ministry. In January, Justin Timmins will join the staff at Fern Creek as part-time Associate Student Minister. Justin is a senior at Milligan College, and will be joining us on weekends. Justin’s wife, Nickie (Ball), grew up at Fern Creek. We are excited to welcome Justin, and welcome Nickie back to FCCC.

If Fern Creek is your church home, please be praying as God continues to lead us through these staffing changes. I am looking forward to what God will do through them — and through all of us, together!

I’m only human

“I’m only human.”

How many times have you heard people say that? How many times have you said that? Usually, we say it when we’ve done something we know we shouldn’t have done.

I cheated on the test. I’m only human.
I stayed up too late watching TV. I’m only human.
I got a little angry and said things I shouldn’t have said. I’m only human.

But why is it that our “human-ness” is clearest to us when we stumble?

The amazing truth of Christmas is that Jesus comes to us as fully God. But is it any less remarkable that he also comes to us as fully human? Both aspects of Jesus defy full explanation, but I wonder: might his humanity be harder for us to appreciate than his divinity?

You see, I already understand that I will never fully grasp what it means to be divine. But the fact that Jesus is also human means that everyone else who has ever lived — Everyone Else — has missed out on what it really means to be fully human. As Hebrews 4.15 says, Jesus has been tested in every way, and yet is without sin. In other words, only Jesus has faced life — with all its temptations, struggles, trials and tests — and lived a complete, perfect, fully whole life. Jesus faced life fully, and he lived life fully human.

This means that if I want to understand what it means for me to be human, I have to look at how Jesus lived. And learn from what he taught. And find myself in him. For so many people, following Jesus ends up being about: what I can’t do, or the rules I have to follow. Instead, when I read Scripture, what I find is an invitation to find myself in Jesus. To be more human, not less — as I find who I am truly meant to be, in Jesus.

So, during this Christmas-time, reflect on Jesus’ humanity. Consider what it means that Jesus has become fully human, opening the way for you and me to become fully human, ourselves. Through his grace, I become the Jeff I am truly meant to be. And you become the person you were meant to be. More complete. More whole. More human.