Much of life is spent learning distances — a sense of proportion, size and proximity; the distance one should keep between good and evil things; the distance involved in physical separation; the distance of social propriety, that is, you don’t just walk up and slap President Trump on the back and say, “Hi, there Donald.” Then there is the most significant distance of all — the distance between man and God, the “great gulf” between heaven and hell; the infinite distance between the Creator and the created, between creature and Creator; the mortal and the immortal.
Another struggle which all of us face is that of identification — who are we? Who am I? This infinite distance between God and me forces me to confess that I am a sinner. That is our identification before God. Jesus’ identification with me in the incarnation demands that I confess it, own it — “I am a sinner.” I must not deceive myself in this, or else I shall enter eternity in deep tragedy. “All have sinned and come short (note the distance) of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). What God did for us is so important. Paul dealt with that when he said to the believers at Corinth, “God made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
We find our true identification only in Jesus. It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who aptly captured this struggle in our thinking in that moving poem he wrote while awaiting execution in a Nazi prison. In part he wrote,
Who am I? This or the Other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow
Am I both at once? A hypocrite
And before myself a contemptible
Or is something within me still
like a beaten army
Fleeing in disorder from victory
Who am I? they mock me, these
lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God,
I am thine!
Paul gives us more pointedly in Galatians 2:20 the bridging of the gulf and our complete identification with Jesus — “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
In Jesus Christ the problems of distance and identification have been solved. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn. 14:6). In Jesus we come to know ourselves and the One who made us. In Him we find the right way to live, the truth to believe and the strength to continue living.
I trust that the distance from there to here has been diminished as you realize the significance of Jesus Christ, the distance which He came, the identification He bore for us. Trust Him. Talk to Him. “For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). This same Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
God is always with His people. Jesus suffered abandonment for us. That is why He cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” (Matt. 27:46)? He was experiencing that awful alienation which sin brings and which death is — separation from God, from life, from truth. It is awful. We don’t have to experience that separation! Paul realized that fact in his own life. “And when there arose a great dissension, the commander, fearing lest Paul might
be pulled to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them, and bring him into the barracks. But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome” (Acts 23:10-11).
It was this Paul who was able to write Romans 8:31-39. Read it! Study it! It is God’s Word to you and me at these critical moments in our history as individuals and as a nation. It is where we can stand before God and one another — free and filled with the Spirit of Christ, accepted in Him, identified with Him. I want to emphasize these words from this magnificent passage – “If God is for us, who can be against us? . . . He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? . . . Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:31-32, 37-39).
When we come to Jesus, distance and identification are no longer a problem. God’s promise is — “I will be with you. I will give you rest. No one will be able to separate you from Me.” Grace has been enthroned and the way is open to abundant life in Christ. Come to Him for it. He will give it to you. It is God’s gift to you. You cannot earn it or buy it. God has said when you come to Him in Jesus’ name and ask His forgiveness for your sins, He will give it to you.
Let me hear from you on what you think about life’s distances, separations and how to overcome them. What about what God has done for us in Jesus? What about how these truths impact our politics and government? What are your thoughts and ideas related to what is happening today?