The amazing and startling good news at Christmas is profoundly simple. The God of the universe, of his own will, entered the confining and painful world of those he created and loved. “Emmanuel, God with us,” (Mt. 1:23) is far more than a quaint Christmas cliché. It was and remains today a bold and decisive move into the risky world of broken humanity, a lavish identification with our desperate condition. Jesus entered life on life’s terms in complete identification. In the words of Charles Wesley’s famous hymn “And Can It Be,” Jesus “emptied Himself of all but love, and bled for Adam’s helpless race.”
At a time when much of the world is getting ready to celebrate the incarnation, we might rightly ask what it meant for Jesus to be “fully man” as well as “fully God.” While we cannot exactly comprehend the eternal entering time, we do know that Jesus endured the full range of human emotions and experiences common to humanity. Anyone who has read the four gospels knows Jesus hungered and thirsted, was tired, angry, temped and fearful. He felt the pain of rejection, loneliness and mockery and had “nowhere to lay his head.” When it came to temptation, Jesus was under constant pressure, especially in the crucible of the wilderness after his baptism and certainly throughout his earthly ministry. In one of the most remarkable sentences in the Bible, Hebrews tells us Jesus “was tempted in every way as we are…” Heb. 4:15.
As we often say in our LWL presentations, this must mean that, among many other temptations, Jesus was tempted sexually. We do not know exactly how but the Son of man experienced it all. But why did he have to be tempted? Because Jesus had to “taste death” and the temptations that go with it. For Jesus it meant feeling the pull but then surrendering it. Hebrews puts it this way. “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” Heb. 2:9. To redeem us, Jesus had to go through what we experience in complete identification. This includes the pull of sexual temptation. He tasted death (separation from God) and its consequences, so we might not have to, and he opened the pathway to recovery for all who want to stop.
Because Jesus “tasted death for everyone,” we can know that during our most difficult days, we may be down but not out. Our resilience comes from knowing that despite the problems of life, even during our self-inflicted wounds, we have the confidence that we will ‘not come into judgment” as John says but have “already passed from death to life.” John 5:24. We can know that we live in a world of temporary setbacks, not disqualifying defeats. As Kipling put it, we can “meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same.” It came to pass. It did not come to stay.
What does this mean for those of us who struggle with lust? At least three things.1. There is nothing we can go through that Jesus is shocked by or cannot understand. He was challenged by similar things and understands the pull. In fact, the one who resists the pull, as Jesus did, understands it more than anyone. 2. He promises to be with us in the midst of each temptation, interceding for us directly in the moment. He “always lives to make intercession” for us. Hebrews 7:25 3. As our Lust-bearer, he promises to take from us what we were never meant to bear, if we simply let him…rather than try to handle it ourselves. (The lamb of God who takes away…) I remember the time I realized for the first time what God was asking me to do in a lust encounter. It was not to prove how strong or how weak I was, but whether I was willing to surrender to His presence as my provision in that moment. (And perhaps bring someone else into my struggle.)
So as you contemplate Nativity, (Jesus going native, if you will), remember that the lust problem is exactly why he came. He takes away the sin of the world. We cannot. And the lust solution is exactly what he offers, the true connection our lust is looking for. It all began because he took the risk. Think about it. Our abiding prayer is that many will take the risk of recovery in 2019 and find new life. Thanks to you, we can reach them.