Instant Gratification: What Have You Done for Me Lately Jesus?

Instant Gratification: What Have You Done for Me Lately Jesus? December 26, 2018
Icon of “Christ the Great High Priest,” with Sergey Radonezhsky and Evfimy of Suzdal, 1681 {{PD-1923}}

We live in an instant gratification culture in which we often ask, “What have you done for me lately?” This same instant gratification perspective can influence our approach to God and Jesus whereby we ask, “What have you done for me lately Jesus?” Similar to someone opening presents ecstatically on Christmas morning and forgetting or discounting the next day the gifts they received, so it is when we behold God’s gift of the newborn Jesus. Instant gratification spirituality would tempt us to return Jesus after Christmas Day for an exchange or recycle him in his swaddling clothes as if he’s used gift wrap.

The Letter to the Hebrews speaks not of recycling Jesus but trampling him underfoot. God’s response to those who are tempted to demean and dismiss Jesus in this way receive the following warning. In other words, God does not take too kindly to Christmas present returns:

Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.  How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:28-31; ESV). 

In the author of Hebrews’ mind, there is no valid reason to return Jesus or try to recycle him. After all, his value exceeds the Mosaic Law. His blood is spotless and pure. He is not merely a servant like Moses. He is the Son of God and King. Here we call to mind the theological paradigm of the munus triplex (three offices of Jesus Christ: Prophet, Priest and King), which we find here at the very beginning of Hebrews in Hebrews 1:1-4:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs (Hebrews 1:1-4; ESV).

Jesus is God’s first  and final Word. As the Godhead’s first word, God created the world through Jesus and upholds the universe through him. As God’s final Word, he reveals the fullness of God’s glory par excellence. We must ask ourselves: what other word would truly satisfy our hunger and hope in the midst of trial and temptation? Not only is Jesus the first and final Word as God’s great Prophet, but also he is the pure lamb of God and great High Priest who offers himself up as the spotless sacrifice for our sins. Moreover, Jesus is God’s heir over all things, that is God’s King. Thus, as the one who sustains the world as God’s first and final Word, as the one who alone cleanses the world of sin, and as the one who has inherited all things, he has not only done things on our behalf in the past. He continues to do things for us in preserving our eternal and future estate while seated at God’s right hand and bearing the most excellent of names as God’s heir.

The author of Hebrews is sympathetic to the difficult situation his letter’s recipients endure. Times had become difficult and they are experiencing persecution for their faith. They may very well have been thinking: Where is Jesus when you need him most? Like them, we can easily forget that the large print (there’s no small print with Jesus) indicated that he would not take us out of this world of suffering but preserve and perfect us through suffering. In fact, Jesus goes before us into suffering, going above and beyond what we endure (See Hebrews 12:1-17; cf. John 17:15).

As the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), we can never rightly ask of Jesus: “What have you done for me lately?” Jesus is always working, always upholding, always in the process of sanctifying us so that someday we will be perfect as he is, complete in him and reigning with him. So let us not succumb to the lures of false advertisements and pledge our allegiance to competing brands. There’s no way you can return Jesus to get a better spiritual product or a better deal. The gratification we receive is not instant, but lasting and eternal.

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