Reflections on the Gospel, #3: Fulfillment Extending

Jesus again said to them … I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

John 10:7a, 10b

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17

All the promises of God find their “Yes” in Jesus, but the “Yes” does not end with Jesus. Through the merit of his life and death, Jesus won for himself resurrection and glory. But he didn’t win it only for himself, but also for us. He is our Messiah (Christ): the Anointed One of God sent to save the world and rule it in righteousness. “Sitting at the right hand of God,” Jesus has been established as the King and the head of the human race. From where he sits in heaven, with divine power, he draws all people to himself (see John 12:32). He pours out the Holy Spirit of God to prepare humanity for “a new heaven and a new earth,” where “he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more” (Revelation 21:4). In him, then, even now, “the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15), and indeed, in our midst (see Luke 17:21). At the end of history, however, God will remake the world, and the Kingdom of God will be fully established, forever.

Therefore everyone who unites themselves, heart and mind, with Jesus, taking him as their Lord, God, Savior, Teacher, and Friend, will receive from him the Holy Spirit of God, and the promises of God will begin to be fulfilled in them. When they are baptized into Jesus, they will have all the guilt of their sin washed away (see Acts 22:16). They will have God’s love poured into their hearts (see Romans 5:5), giving them a new heart and new spirit (see Ezekiel 36:26). Because of this, they will begin to be capable of living their lives as Jesus lived his (see Matthew 5:48; Romans 8:3-4; 1 John 2:4-6). Even when they undergo pain and suffering, they rejoice in hope (see 1 Peter 4:13). As Paul the great apostle of Jesus wrote, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Furthermore, because Christians are united to the Son of God, they become true sons and daughters of God. Paul also wrote, “All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:14-16). John, another great apostle of Jesus, wrote, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).

Surely, the transformation of Christians in the image of their Lord does not happen all at once, and though it is often hidden to the eyes of the world, it is no less real. As the Lord himself said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches” (Matthew 20:31-32).

How do Christians grow in Christ? How does his fulfillment extend within them? Strengthened by God, they grow by obedience to God and his commandments, by prayer, works of service and love, repentance, reading and reflecting on God’s word (the Bible), the fellowship and support of other believers, the ministry of those who lead the Church, communal worship of God (called “liturgy”), and by encountering God in powerful symbolic rituals known as “mysteries” or “sacraments.”  In these various ways, Christians make contact with the divine life of God in his Son Jesus Christ. Doing or receiving these things in faith, they receive more and more of the gifts God wants to give to us — and the greater fulfillment of his promises.

In these ways, the fulfillment of God’s promises that began in Jesus is spreading to those who love him and follow him. And through them, it is spreading also to the rest of the human race. How does this happen? First, followers of Jesus share the Good News of his salvation and invite people to enter into this new life of faith. Second, they do works of love that bear witness to the Kingdom of God in order to inspire in others greater hope and desire, paving the way for God’s work within them. Third, they pray and intercede for the blessing and salvation of others. Fourth, the very inner transformation they experience acts as an invisible spiritual influence in the world, like leaven hidden in a lump of dough (see Matthew 13:33).

In these ways, followers of Jesus Christ are God’s instruments to draw all people to himself. Christ was born in their hearts by faith, and they want to see him born everywhere else. Jesus “came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b). “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). In imitation of their Lord and King, Christians strive to plant the seeds of this life, of this new creation, everywhere.

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