Friday, July 31, 2009

"Now Appearing"

"For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself,
now to appear in the presence of God for us."
(Hebrews 9:24)

The writer of Hebrews provides one of the most thrilling truths in the Bible by proclaiming that the Lord Jesus Christ is now appearing before His Father for our benefit. The Apostles Paul and John confirm this mediatorial office of Christ's priesthood that eternally maintains our standing and relationship with God.

"There is one God, and one mediator
between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus."
(I Timothy 2:5)

"If any man sin,
we have an advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous."
(I John 2:1)

Just as we could not birth ourselves spiritually and originate our relationship with God, neither do our own actions or merits secure our place in His family. The Apostle Peter adds to our consideration by writing that we are "kept by the power of God," and the writer of Hebrews again provides assurance in numerous Scriptural declarations of a salvation that is originated, continued, and completed by "the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2).

"But this Man, because He continueth ever,
hath an unchangeable priesthood.
Wherefore He is able also to save
them to the uttermost
that come unto God by Him,
seeing He ever liveth
to make intercession for them"
(Hebrews 7:24-25).

"Neither by the blood of goats and calves,
but by His own blood He entered in
once into the holy place,
having obtained eternal redemption for us."
(Hebrews 9:12)

"Then said He, Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God.
He taketh away the first (covenant),
that He may establish the second.
By the which will we are sanctified
through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ
once for all...
by one offering He hath perfected
forever them that are sanctified."
(Hebrews `10:9-10; 14)

"But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever,
down on the right hand of God."
(Hebrews 10:12)

May such a floodtide of grace in Christ Jesus wash over our soul and cleanse away every discouragement, every hesitation to join our Lord in appearing in the presence of God, and every failure to avail ourselves of a grace so abundant that our great High Priest even now presents to His Father the tangible evidence of His mediation on our behalf. "What are these wounds in Thine hands?" asks the Father. "Those with which I was wounded in the house of My friends" responds the Son (Zechariah 13:6). "Then they are My friends as well," we might imagine the Father declaring. "And thus I will receive them as I receive You, My Son."

For the born again believer in the Lord Jesus, the consideration of such grace calls to the depths of our being, breaks our heart anew, and motivates us to respond in far greater love, faith, obedience, and consecration to God and others. Love begets love, and our Lord's perfect faithfulness to us stokes the hearth of our own heart's flame of devotion. Yes, even now He is appearing in the presence of God for us, bearing our person and name in His heart, and on His hands and feet. And even now let us appear also to give thanks, rejoice, and then go forth spiritually invigorated to declare with the Psalmist, "I will love Thee, o Lord my strength!" (Psalm 18:1).
"Having therefore, brethren,
boldness to enter into the holiest
by the blood of Jesus,
by a new and living way,
which He hath consecrated for us,
through the veil,
that is to say, His flesh;
and having an high priest
over the house of God;
let us draw near
with a true heart in full assurance of faith."
(Hebrews 10:19-22)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

"A Relevant Gospel?"

Occasionally in Christian circles the notion is proposed that we must "make the Gospel relevant to people." The Biblical truth of the matter, however, is that people must be made relevant to the Gospel.

Our Creator alone sets the terms by which we approach Him. Certainly He works in various and individual ways as He draws people to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and our presentation of the Gospel may be accompanied by faithful illustrations, metaphors and homilies appropriate to our audience. It is must be clear, however, that the truth of Christ will seem offensive rather than relevant when first heard and understood by unbelieving hearts.

"Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him. When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them" (Acts 5:29-33; emphasis added).

The Gospel rightly presented tells us who God is, and who we are. The contrast is not pleasant to behold. We are not what we should be apart from Christ, and our attitudes, actions and words are contrary to God and the perfection of His person and way. The extent of such rejection is that we are condemned without the Lord Jesus, and our only hope of escape from eternal wrath is His saving grace. The Apostle Peter indicted those of His day - "Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree" - and we must also tell our world that there is blood on our hands, the blood of the Lamb who had to die in order to save us from our sins. God's terms are full acceptance of this painful truth, with no excuse offered, and then full acceptance by faith that the Lord Jesus is our only hope for redemption.

I once heard it said that no happy person has ever believed in the Lord Jesus. There is truth in this statement because God's message of grace in Christ is barbed in its initial presentation. The conviction of the Holy Spirit cuts deep into the heart of the lost sinner, proclaiming his guilt and condemnation as the dark backdrop against which the hope of Christ shines forth in glorious display. Softening the Gospel with "relevance" is completely inappropriate for this Biblical evangel of grace in Christ, and we must join the apostles of old in diagnosing the disease even as we prescribe the cure....

"Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:.. whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death...Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ....Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

(Acts 2:23-24; 36-38)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Thorns and Thistles"

"Before I was afflicted I went astray:
but now have I kept Thy word"

(Psalm 119:67).

Difficulty, hardship, and pain are prerequisites to faith. Relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ would not begin if life was always a journey on a smooth path. Nor would it continue to any significant degree.

The primary reason for this is the strain of pride and self sufficiency that characterizes all born of Adam's fallen race. Our original physical birth involved our being infected with the delusion that "ye shall be as gods," the deception offered by Satan to our original forefathers Genesis 3:5). We innately perceive ourselves as having the capacity to navigate the course of our own existence, believing that we should be able to do what we want to do. This is recipe for disaster, of course, but we wouldn't know it unless God orchestrated an existence wherein affliction in a myriad of forms revealed to us the truth of our need. We are dependent on our Creator for "life and breath and all things," and our very being is sustained by "the word of His power" (Acts 17:25; Hebrews 1:3). Apart from affliction, we would never know this, and God has therefore graced our existence with many thorns and thistles to humble and illuminate us.

The born again believer in the Lord Jesus is not exempted from the necessity of being educated by difficulty. We retain our earthly humanity after we enter into relationship with God, and we are still susceptible to the deception of proudful independence. Our loving Heavenly Father therefore determines and allows for discomforts to come our way for the purpose of leading us to increasingly recognize our need, and His supply. We hurt, and then we trust. This is a necessary dynamic of God's working in our present lives, and a primary reason that the Apostle Paul declared that he literally took pleasure in distresses (II Corinthians 12:10). Indeed, Paul knew that pain is a primary motivator for the trusting heart to trust even more.

It is not an easy way, but it is God's perfect way in our present lives. Let us rejoice that a Heavenly day approaches when affliction will no longer be necessary for leading us to better know and trust our Lord. And let us rejoice that in this day, our pains will not come to us arbitrarily or without meaning. They will provide opportunity for better knowledge of He who was "a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3). Such growth in perceiving Him rightly will prepare us to live in the peace of faith rather than the turmoil of independence. It is our Father's gift to us, and His working in our hearts to reveal the magnitude of our need and His supply.

"I know, O LORD, that Thy judgments are right, and that Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me."
(Psalm 119:75)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Unexpected Lessons

(Friends: Frances wrote the following for her blog,
The Powder Room
- --
and I thought I'd share it with you. I think you'll be blessed. Glen).

Unexpected Lessons
I was preparing for our church services at an area convalescent center this morning and I began to think about Jim.

Jim was there when we first started doing the services about six years ago. He was in a wheelchair after a stroke, but only his strength was diminished. His mind was as sharp as a tack and the twinkle in his eye and the light in his spirit were as bright as the noon day sun.

Jim taught me an incredible lesson. Here he was, almost a hundred years old, in a wheelchair, in a nursing home and yet he would say, "Yesterday was the best day of my life!" And he would absolutely mean it! He had a love and zest for life that was not abated because he was in a nursing home. He taught me that the love and wonder of life was not what was around me, but what was inside of me.

Often he would join us when we would sing, "In the Garden". You could tell by the timbre of his voice that at one time he had a beautiful tenor voice. On the last note, he would always ring out a loud final sliding note. It was a perfect touch to our songs together. To this day, when we sing that song, I almost expect to hear that sliding tenor at the end.

This morning I thought too of Bonnie. Bonnie was born with cerebral palsy. By the time we met her, her body was twisted and bent over so that she couldn't even see your face. She could barely speak. One day she surprised me by putting an index card in my hand. On the card was some shaky but clear writing. It simply said "Today is Bob's birthday."

You see, her brother Bob was always there, too. His wife had suffered a serious stroke and was a resident there. Bob came to take care of her everyday. Bonnie wanted to make sure we knew it was Bob's birthday, so we could sing Happy Birthday to him. Bonnie was one sharp cookie -- it was up to you if you wanted to spend the time to find that out. I carry that card in my Bible as a reminder to never underestimate someone's ability.

This morning I thought of Pat also. Pat was Bob's wife. Her stroke was so severe she could no longer walk or talk. Each Sunday Bob brought her to church. The only way she could communicate was to make motions with her one good hand, but there was a light in her eyes that showed she was listening and praying and caring for everyone in that chapel. Her body looked broken, but her heart was as whole as it had ever been.

Jim and Bonnie and Pat have all gone to be with the Lord, but our chapel is full of other "Jims" and "Bonnies" and "Pats". Week after week, year after year, we go to this chapel to minister and instead, we are the ones being ministered to. We are the ones being taught the lessons, by these dear friends who have spent their lives serving their families, serving their country and serving their Lord. I continue to learn from them each week and be blessed by their joy, their enthusiasm and their strength.

"God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world
to confound the things which are mighty;
and base things of the world, and things which are despised,
hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not,
to bring to nought things that are:
that no flesh should glory in His presence:"
(I Corinthians 1:27-29).

Monday, July 27, 2009

"As If We Had No Eyes"

The vast bulk of our lives is unwitnessed by all human eyes, including our our own. God, however, views every aspect of our life and being with perfect clarity.

"All things are naked and opened
unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do."

(Hebrews 4:13)

The scope of our vision, perspective, and understanding is far more limited than we realize. Much swirls around and within us that we cannot begin to see, and countless influences direct us in making decisions. If we could fully recognize how little we recognize, the stark extent of our blindness would terrify us. Left to ourselves, we stumble as in the darkness, and the best and brightest among the human race see but glimmers of the light of reality. "We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men" (Isaiah 59:10).

There is One "who hath eyes like unto a flame of fire," and whose gaze penetrates to the heart of all reality (Revelation 1:14). He sees the inner workings and outward dynamics of every one of the innumerable atoms that comprise the physical universe. Even more, He sees us just as completely. No moment of our existence has been unwitnessed by the Divine gaze, and little wonder that the Psalmist declared, "Many... are Thy thoughts to us... they are more than can be numbered" (Psalm 40:5). There are countless implications of such truth, leading David to also affirm, "I will trust in Thee!" (Psalm 55:23). It is insanity at best and evil at worst to trust in the blind person that we are apart from the light of God. And it is salvation, light, truth and love to trust in His penetrating eyes and ever active mind that see every detail of our lives.

True vision begins when the light of God shines so brightly unto us and within us that we confess with Isaiah, "We grope as if we have no eyes." It continues as we look to the great Witness, the only true Witness of our life and being. He sees our center and circumference, and He sees our past, present, and future with perfect clarity. We see, in real terms, so very little. Trusting our Lord, therefore, is the only reasonable thing to do, and opens to us the possibility of a life attuned with a growing awareness of reality only possible for those of whom it can be said, "They looked unto Him, and were lightened" (Psalm 34:5).

"Thou God seest me."
(Genesis 16:13)

"He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool,
but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered."
(Proverbs 28:26)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"God Helps Those..."

Dear Friends,
We rarely send out a Saturday devotional, but I find the subject addressed below interesting, and thought I'd go ahead and send it along. Thanks, Glen.

"God Helps Those..."

Benjamin Franklin once said that "God helps those who help themselves." Many people repeat this as if it were Scripture, while born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ often take a firm stand against the notion.

In the most elemental sense, the statement is false. The very problem with fallen humanity is that we cannot help ourselves concerning the most important matter of life, namely, our relationship with God, and subsequent life of devotion to Him and others. We cannot independently approach Him, we cannot cleanse our hands of the stains of sin, we cannot change our own hearts, and we cannot effect the life of loving holiness to which we are called. "Without Me, ye can do nothing" declared the Lord Jesus, and true life only begins when we acknowledge our helplessness. "LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am" (Psalm 39:4).

Conversely, believers must be careful in our response to Franklin's statement, which does contain a modicum of truth. We are called to be the most responsible of people, and to avail ourselves of the grace God gives to fulfill our duties and take care of our personal needs. "Study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you" (I Thessalonians 4:11). A categorical disagreement with Franklin's statement may cause some to perceive that we are advocating irresponsibility. We do well, therefore, to consider our position fully, and to affirm that our trust in God perfectly correlates with doing for ourselves that which His grace enables.

God gives to all "life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:25). Every creature in the universe is utterly dependent on Him for everything. The believer knows this, and rightly seeks to direct all glory to the source, supply, and sustenance that comes from God alone. However, it is also true that we play a role in applying ourselves to receive and apply such abundance. We trust Him, submit ourselves to Him, and do the things He lays before us with the wisdom and enabling He provides. We might say, God helps those who help themselves - to His help. Ben Franklin's statement is incomplete, providing opportunity for believers a platform to share the truth of our complete dependence on our Lord, and also acknowledge our devotion to the personal responsibility that genuine faith in the Lord Jesus always produces.

"In Him, we live and move and have our being."
(Acts 17:28)

"If any would not work, neither should he eat."
(II Thessalonians 3:10)

Friday, July 24, 2009

"The Most Emotional Person"

Sadness is not unfamiliar to God. He is, in fact, infinitely more familiar with it than any other being.

"And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart" (Genesis 6:5-6).

Many questions arise from this pronouncement of grief within the Divine heart, and much mystery as to how a being of perfect foreknowledge could be so saddened by the fact that He had created a human race He had always known would rebel and nearly destroy itself.

No attempt will be made in this consideration to solve this enigma. Of more interest is the fact of grief's presence in God's heart, and of our perception and understanding of Him. Indeed, God is the most emotional person who exists. His feelings are always in perfect alignment with His character and way, of course, and unlike ourselves, never does emotion cause our Lord to deviate from His holiness. He is nevertheless a feeling being, and the intensity of His emotion is of an infinite measure that would burst our hearts if somehow deposited into our own souls.

What must grief and sorrow be in one who feels emotion to the utmost degree? We would be horrified if we knew, and it is most solemn to consider that our Heavenly Father understood before creating the human race that we would bring great sadness to His heart. He created us nevertheless, and thankfully, the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ makes possible an infinite wellspring of joy to also fill the heart of God. "For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame" (Hebrews 12:2). Perhaps this offers a glimmer of an answer, namely, that through Christ we possess the capacity to so rejoice the being of God that it was worth any and every sorrow.

"The Lord taketh pleasure in His people" (Psalm 149:4). Every honest believer will readily admit that we have grieved our Father both before and after we trusted in the Lord Jesus. Recalling that such sorrow is known in God to an emotional measure beyond degree surely causes within us our own grief. However, the knowledge that we can also bring great pleasure to our Lord lifts us up to proclaim with the Psalmist, "I will bless the Lord!" (Psalm 16:7). We will declare His wonder in both word and deed, and if it be true that He "taketh pleasure in His people," then we will certainly seek to give it! Christ-enabled love, faith, obedience, and an outpoured life to ministry to others is our capacity for blessing the heart of God. This day offers the opportunity, and surely the fact that we have too often pained our Father's heart births within us the deepest longing to please it.

"Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy."
(Psalm 43:4)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

"God Only"

It is at once the most wonderful and the most excruciating truth of our existence.

"I am thy God"

(Isaiah 41:10).

God only is the life, joy, peace, contentment, and fulfillment of our hearts. There is no more blessed reality to ponder because the One for whom our hearts were made is perfectly willing and able to fill us with the abundance of His glorious Person. Such truth rings through the ages from mountaintops and valleys, palaces and prisons, cradles and graves, and every venue of human experience. The Lord Jesus Christ is the joy of our joys, the joy in our sorrows, and He offers His peace in any venue, circumstance, situation, or condition. He is the Life of our lives, and having Him, we have all we will ever need to be fulfilled whenever, wherever, and whatever.

Such truth, however, is also the most difficult reality that confronts our hearts and minds. We were conceived in the sin that tells us to look elsewhere for life and fulfillment. Adam's offspring are born gasping for air, and also grasping for things, possessions, people, conditions, and circumstances. "If only I had this or that, him or her, this opportunity, or that freedom, I could be content!" Such is the sad delusion of our flesh, and even the most devoted believer must confront the frequent temptation to believe that many are our needs, and many our supplies. Our humanity lusts for something other than God to be the peace and joy of our hearts, and does not quietly surrender its frantic gasping and grasping for the wind.

"My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus"

(Philippians 4:19).

Certainly our Heavenly Father ministers His fulfillment through countless vehicles and means. People, things, possessions, venues, circumstances, and conditions all serve as the vessels of His abundant supply. We are to give thanks for them all, and gratefully appreciate them. However, the container is not the Content, and it cannot be. All our need is supplied "by Christ Jesus," and while the Apostle Paul's promise to the Philippians concerned physical provision, it originates in the overall teaching of Scripture that our Lord is the heart and essence of all provision (including spiritual, mental, emotional, and relational).

We must make it a central tenet of our faith that if we lost everything in our lives, but God remained with and within us, we would have in reality lost nothing. He is our fulfillment, and the true joy of every joy. Again, there is no greater balm to the believing heart, but no greater challenge to our earthly humanity. "The flesh lusteth against the spirit" wrote the Apostle Paul to the Galatians, and presently we must expect much opposition within our earthly sensibilities to the glory of "God Only" (Galatians 5:17). In our spirits, however, the Holy Spirit is continually working to reveal the singular fulfillment of the Christ for whom our hearts were made. Many opportunities will call us to affirm the blessed truth, and prepare us for the glorious eternity when we will sing with every fiber of our glorified and Christ-saturated being, "This God is our God forever and ever!" (Psalm 48:14).

"He is thy life"

(Deuteronomy 30:20)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"God Heard a Prayer"

Prayers offered from the altars of our own pains, losses, and difficulties may one day lead to heavenly encounters with those blessed by our intercessions.

Perhaps a brother in Christ may approach us on some street of gold so pure that it is transparent. "You don't know me," he may say, "but I know you. Back in July 2009 of our earthly sojourn, I was at the end of my ability to go on. I was ready to forfeit God's gift of life, and was a moment away from doing so.

But then God heard a prayer. It was yours, my brother, it was that prayer you prayed for others who were hurting as you were hurting. You didn't know who they might be, and you said so to God. You nevertheless asked Him to help and comfort not yourself, but somebody else.

Our Father heard you, my brother, and instantaneously dispatched an angel to stay my hand. He did, and I somehow found a way to go on. And then, two weeks later, I became a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and received eternal life. So, my brother, I am here because of Him. God heard your prayer offered from your own trial, and so, from the bottom of my redeemed heart, thank you. Thank you so very much."

The love of Christ dwelling within our born again hearts beckons us to see our sorrows as opportunity for ministering blessing to others. Our very faith began in such beauty and sublime determination by our Lord to "give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). He died that we might live, and the same spiritual dynamic now governs our own lives. "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5). We are to see our losses as altars of prayer whereby we ask God to provide the same comfort we are receiving to others who hurt as we are hurting (II Corinthians 1:3). "So then death worketh in us, but life in you" declared the Apostle Paul, and such ministry is now ours to fulfill from the crosses God determines or allows in our lives. We can only imagine how readily and powerfully God moves in answering prayers offered from our altars of sorrow (II Corinthians 4:12).

Somewhere, some place, somebody is hurting just now in a way very familiar to our particular pains. The Spirit of Christ is moving within us to guard against our sinking into the black hole of self absorption. He is calling us to send forth earnest requests to help those who share our difficulties. Heaven alone will reveal our Heavenly Father's answers to such prayers motivated and enabled by the love of His Son... "God heard a prayer."

"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you."
(II Corinthians 4:8-12)

"The Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends."
(Job 42:10)

"Cursed... Blessed"

"Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin" - but cursed was the Man to whom He did (Romans 4:6)

"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree" (Galatians 3:13).

Having eternally been His Father's chief delight, the Lord Jesus Christ became on the cross of Calvary the object of His Father's utter rejection. Our Savior was "made to be sin for us," and cursed by God so that we might blessed with the love, acceptance, and favor of the Father heretofore reserved for His beloved Son (II Corinthians 5:21).

"I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them"(John 17:26).

The enormity of this prayer, and of the cost required for its answer, drives us to our knees upon any serious consideration. The love of God was made resident in believers because it was forcefully taken away from the One who was so worthy of it We cannot imagine what it meant for the fabric of the triune God to be rent when our Lord died upon the cross of Calvary, but it had to be the most horrible grief and loss ever known. Little wonder that the Lord Jesus is declared by Scripture to be the "man of sorrows," and little wonder that He is now anointed with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows" (Isaiah 53:3; Hebrews 1:9).

Of great wonder, however, is the aforementioned love, acceptance, and favor that are now ours because of our Lord's suffering. In proportionate degree to His rejection, born again believers are now received into the heart and blessedness of His Father, and our Father. We are "accepted in the Beloved," and "have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus"(Ephesians 1:3; Hebrews 10:19). So long as we come by this way, we can always approach God in confidence of being received because, again, He loves us as He loves the Lord Jesus. Our Lord's person, merit, and work are the basis of our access, and His cursing purchased our blessing. Love, faith, and devotion to His glory and will must be our responses to such grace, and the determination to avail ourselves more and more to the presence of God made possible by the absence of God known so sorrowfully upon the cross of Calvary.

"My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"

(Matthew 27:46)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"Worship, In Its Essence"

(Thanks to our dear friend and sister Peggy for inspiration on this one.)

Worship is often defined in contemporary terms as praise, thanksgiving, and song directed toward God. In Biblical terms, these devotional forms may be expressions of worship, but they are not worship in its essence.

"And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt (test) Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship" (Genesis 22:5; emphasis added).

First mentions of important subjects in Scripture often set the stage for interpretation of the matter in the rest of God's Word. This is true of worship, which is first referenced in Abraham's announcement that he and Isaac were journeying into Mount Moriah for this holy purpose. There is no indication that Abraham went into the mountain to praise, thank, or sing. He rather went into the mountain to kill Isaac, in faith and in obedience to God. This is worship in its primary definition, that is, to trust and obey God at whatever cost (and to some degree or another, there is always a cost).

The word worship means to bow down. While this references posture in one sense, the deeper meaning is deference to the glory and will of God. As a good friend recently said, "I seek to default to the Holy Spirit when faced with the issues of life." The Lord Jesus Christ declared this devotion in the garden of Gethsemane. "Not My will, but Thine be done" (Luke 22:42). Thus, the greatest Worshipper who ever lived showed us in more measure than Abraham what it means to sacrificially bow before the glory and will of the Father. This is worship in its essence, and the worshipping life of the Son of God now dwells within the heart of those who believe, making possible the same devotion. "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Galatians 4:6).

This truth opens the door to the everyday, every moment experience of God that our Savior made possible for those who trust Him. No longer is worship viewed in terms of time and place, but rather in terms of life. Any time we walk after the Spirit rather than the flesh, we are worshipping. Our sacrifice of human inclinations and impulses is the fruit of our determination to believe that "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Romans 8:13). With the subsequent fruit of practical obedience, we worship God in the most fundamental meaning of the term whenever we trust and obey Him.

We have a special nozzle on our kitchen faucet that Frances purchased at a local store for $2.50. It diffuses the water in various ways, and is very effective. We love it, but recently, it has begun to come apart when we try to adjust it. It's still fixable, but hey, we may have to spend another $2.50! Just now, I went over to use the faucet, and there it goes again, coming apart. My initial reaction was to be very irritated, and I started to mutter my feelings. But then it occurred to me, "No, this is opportunity to trust the Lord, and to maintain my composure, giving thanks in this seemingly insignificant situation with a heart of peace instead of complaining." By the leading and enabling of the Holy Spirit, I therefore determined to trust and obey God rather than be irritated and verbally disobedient.

This is worship, in its essence. It's a tiny situation with seemingly little sacrifice, of course, but that's the beauty of worship as the Lord Jesus has made possible. Everything in our life is opportunity for self-sacrificially trusting and obeying God! Grace and truth in Christ offers a life of loving worship in all things, both large, small, and mundane. Certainly we may express worship in the contemporary meaning of the term. We may praise and thank, and we may even sing. However, these are fruits of true worship rather than its essence, because we have already worshipped Biblically if we have determined to trust and obey God. This is the sublime heart of worshipping God in Spirit and in truth, as introduced so long ago when a man journeyed into a mountain to sacrifice a son he dearly loved, in order to trust and obey the God whom he loved even more.

"The woman saith unto Him, Sir, I perceive that Thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and Ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth."
(John 4:19-24)

Friday, July 17, 2009

"The God Of the Word and the Word Of God"

"Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Genesis 2:7).

"When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat" (Genesis 3:6).

Satan offered to Eve an experience of beauty, pleasure, and wisdom apart from the constraint and consequence of God's "Thou shalt not."

We are also tempted to desire God in personal terms only, and without the command and standard which His Word provides for us. There is no such experience, however, even as the Lord Jesus Christ declared: "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). The complexity of our nature demands this dual knowledge of our Lord. Our walk with Him will be living, personal, and real as manifested in us by His Spirit, but also structured, defined and tempered in accordance with the authority of His Word. Our love for the God of the Word can always therefore be measured by our love for the Word of God, even as the Psalmist exulted, "I will delight myself in Thy commandments, which I have loved. My hands also will I lift up unto Thy commandments, which I have loved" (Psalm 119:47-48).

The New Testament of grace proportionally contains no fewer commands than the Old Testament of law. We are no less called to obey than were the Jews of old. The dynamic of such obedience is fundamentally different, however, as our capacity for obedience flows from God, as well as to Him. The Holy Spirit dwells within the born again believer to motivate and enable our doing the will of God. "It is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). United with this inner working is the written Word of God which guides, defines and commands for us that path which the Holy Spirit paves. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (II Timothy 3:16. One does not and cannot exist without the other, and we must question any supposed obedience which does not flow from living relationship with God, and any supposed experience of Him which does not motivate love and allegiance to the written Word of God.

"Thy words were found, and I did eat them;
and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart:
for I am called by Thy name, O LORD God of hosts."
(Jeremiah 15:16)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"The Main Thing"

(Thanks to Larry for inspiration on this one.)

By definition, world events affect us because we live in the world. Being aware of what is going on around is therefore a good thing, and will prepare us to deal with happenings over which we have control.

There is a danger, however, for born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ if we become too focused on the world's social, political, economic, and cultural doings, especially the things that trouble us. We may be distracted from confronting the greatest danger that threatens us, namely, that we succumb to the personal temptations that face us on a daily basis. Our spiritual enemies ever seek to divert our attention from trusting and obeying God in the present moment and circumstance, and from being faithful to Him in the everyday matters of our lives. It is there that genuine godliness is most required, and most revealed if we are truly living our lives "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2).

In changing and challenging times, and in the era of almost instantaneous mass communication, the world is more with us than ever before. The possibility of being distracted from facing our primary challenge is therefore with us also, and we must exercise much determination to fulfill our calling to personal faith, obedience, and ministry to others through the power of Christ. Indeed, if we face this challenge successfully, we will discover that our hearts will be kept in peace regardless of world's ebb and flow. We will also find ourselves far more enabled to deal with the changes and challenges in a manner that glorifies the Lord Jesus, and leads others to being sure that the main thing remains the main thing, and the first thing, the first thing.

"Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."

(Matthew 6:33)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"It Is Written?"

Satan views the Scriptures as a viable weapon in his hands, even to the degree of wielding them to tempt the Lord Jesus Christ.

"Then the devil taketh Him up into the holy city, and setteth Him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto Him, If Thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee: and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone" (Matthew 4:5-6).

The devil misapplied the truth, of course, and was countered by the Lord's rightly interpreted and applied Word. "Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God" (Matthew 4:7). This presents a powerful lesson to us concerning Scripture, namely, that both God and Satan seek to communicate the Bible to us. The latter misrepresents what the Word of God actually says, but often very subtly and skillfully. To the unsuspecting, our enemy will wield a distorted blade of the sword of the Lord itself to wound us even as we are seeking the healing light of God. Failure to understand this guarantees our deception, particularly in a generation wherein we are exposed to so many voices and influences.

A friend recently gave me a book describing the views of a particular movement that prides itself on doctrine and adherence to the Word of God. Sadly, however, many in this group have no qualms whatsoever about redefining the meaning of Biblical words long established linguistically. In essence, their theology serves as the arbiter of interpreting Scripture rather than the seeking to let the Scripture say what it says, and then mold their beliefs to its singular authority. The serpent's subtle voice is clearly heard in the distortions, and the group in question provides a warning and lesson to us all.

We are a race prone to deception, and allowed by God to live our lives in close proximity to a powerful deceiver (I Peter 5:8). Wise is the believer who understands this, and who recognizes that the devil likely uses the true Scriptures to deceive more people than the Satanic Bible. Indeed, we recognize the darkness of the latter, and if exposed to it, would be prepared to stand against it. The former, however, is so blessed and perfect in its declaration that if someone opens its pages and declares, "It is written," we may let our guard down. The challenge is great because it means that we are going to have to increasingly know the Word of God ourselves, and also be keenly vigilant about preachers and teachers to whom we listen. We will not find perfect communicators, of course, but even in times such as these, there remains a remnant of voices through whom the authentic light of God shines. May our Lord lead us to them, may He protect them, and may He raise up many more who brightly and faithfully gleam in the growing darkness.

"Such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works."
(II Corinthians 11:13-15)

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"Not Unto Us"

The vast preponderance of God's working in the world is unknown but to a few. This was true in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is true in the life of the church.

"And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen" (John 21:25).
"But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth" (Matthew 6:3).

Public Christianity and Christians have their place, but it is small in relative terms. Our Lord has for more grist for the mill, as it were, in the throngs of unknown believers who quietly walk and minister in their everyday lives. Modern times would seem to belie this because mass media makes it so possible for ministers and ministries to become broadly influential to the masses.
However, the truth remains that just as in the life of the Lord Jesus, most of God's doings by His church are effected in the quiet and the shadows where all glory is given to Him for His doings.

This truth speaks powerfully to you and me. We are among the hidden company through whom our Heavenly Father determines to most fulfill His purposes. We will receive little or no notice for our role, and will even be called to aggressively seek anonymity regarding our ministering to others. We're not to even let our left hand know what our right hand is doing. Our flesh may be tempted to chafe at such forgottenness, and much remembrance will be required that in real terms, we are not even worthy to stoop and tie our Lord's shoelace (Mark 1:7). Indeed, our sins were the reason He was tortured to death, and forsaken of God and man. All pride for doings and resentment for being ignored dies on the altar of such consideration, and the quiet and the shadows becomes our most cherished venue of ministry.

"As the dew that brought sweet manna, and then quietly stole away,
we long to be forgotten, Lord, to seek no accolade.
For each day the Light grows brighter, as it shines
from Your dear face,
only One is due all honor, only One inhabits praise.
So let us be forgotten, Lord, let us be forgotten."

"Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us,
but unto Thy name give glory,
for Thy mercy, and for Thy truth's sake."
(Psalm 115:1)

Monday, July 13, 2009

"The More We See, the More We Don't See"

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1).

The nature of God transcends normal human thinking and expression. By definition, it is impossible to be "with" someone that you "are." The Lord Jesus Christ, however, was both with God in the beginning, and He was God. He also occupied both aspects in eternity past because God is everlastingly who and what He is. "From everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God... I am the Lord; I change not" (Psalm 90:2; Malachi 3:6).

This truth presents to us the understanding that concerning the most important reality of our lives, God, we cannot understand. We can know Him and comprehend His truth as the Holy Spirit illuminates our heart and mind, and we can do so well enough to live lives of consistent godliness. However, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians that "The things of God knoweth no man," and "If any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know" (I Corinthians 2:11; 8:2). The brightest light of our being is that which acknowledges our ignorance of God. " Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth" (John 9:41).

Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have a clear word to declare to our world, the very Word of God faithfully interpreted and uttered. When communicated through the Holy Spirit, it speaks propositional truth that can be grasped by the hearer, and which leaves him with no excuse if he rejects it. However, the God whom we preach is of such infinite greatness that knowing Him humbles us with the awareness that He is beyond our normal definition of "knowing." The more we see, the more we realize that we don't see, and the more we understand that illumination and blindness will forever exist together within the heart of those who somehow know that which cannot be known.

This is unwelcome truth to a race of beings infected with the lie believed by Adam that "ye shall be as gods" (Genesis 3:5). Even devoted believers are tempted to be proud of the knowledge that "puffeth up" (I Corinthians 8:1). We do better to emphasize the "knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know" truth that humbles. It matters not how far we've come in the knowledge of our ineffable Lord. The journey's just begun. We will always feel this way because we are seeking the Infinite as we join David's quest: "My soul followeth hard after Thee" (Psalm 63:8). Complete knowledge is therefore impossible, and even much knowledge is minuscule in the light of God's infinity. There is no more thrilling thought. And there is no more illuminating thought.

"His greatness is unsearchable."
(Psalm 145:3)

Friday, July 10, 2009

"The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving"

One requirement of a heart of peace is the determination to be thankful for that which we have rather than covetous for that which we do not have.

"O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto Thee for ever... And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Psalm 30:12; Luke 12:15).

This truth is so obvious that it seems unnecessary to even consider it. However the simple realities of God's Word are often those most easily neglected. Thanksgiving is a principle affirmed by every born again believer, and covetousness is rejected by all. In the every day realities of life, however, it is easy to reverse our principled perspective. Coveting that which we do not have can so fill our sensibilities that little room is left for the gratitude that sweetens our soul. It often happens seemingly without our awareness that this destructive intruder has entered our heart and mind. And when it does, determined action on our part is required to restore our soul.

The action is one of exchange. We replace temptations to covet with remembrance of that which God has given, and with sincere thanksgiving. This may involve things, circumstances, situations, and conditions. It also may involve little emotion, and if it does, we may continue for a time to feel the emotional aspect of covetousness even as our heart and tongues are expressing gratitude to God. The Psalmist declared, "I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving," and in times of the pain, anguish, and tears of longing, exchanging covetousness with thanksgiving may feel very much like sacrifice (Psalm 116-17). Our natural inclinations often die hard on the altar of faith, and the lust for things God has chosen not to give rarely goes quietly to its demise.

We can only imagine what the sacrifice of gratitude must do in the heart of our Heavenly Father. He fully understands the price we pay to give thanks rather than covet, and doubtless He receives our offering with both empathy and joy. Certainly He also determines that our willingness to do without things that our flesh desires - and to do so with thanksgiving - will not go unrequited. "The meek... shall inherit the earth" proclaimed the Lord Jesus, and one reason that they will do so is that they have been willing, for the glory of God, to forego much that the world has to offer (Matthew 5:5). May our Lord grant much grace in leading us to replace thoughts of covetousness with thoughts of gratitude. His heart and ours will be abundantly blessed, and His name glorified as the smoke from our altars of thanksgiving declares that the Lord Jesus has filled our hearts to the degree that we share the Apostle Paul's joyful affirmation...

"I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need."

(Philippians 4:12)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

"The Father and the Son". . . Conclusion

"And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent" (John 17:3).

The essence of truth and reality is God, and the essence of God is that He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit dwelling in perfect oneness.

"The LORD our GOD is one LORD" (Deuteronomy 6:4).

The fact of God calls us to the great intellectual pursuit of our existence. The character of God calls us to the great moral pursuit of our existence. The nature of God calls us to the awed worship of our existence. The promise of God calls us to the faith and trust of our existence. The love of God calls us to the devotion of our existence, and the trinity of God calls us to the relationship of our existence.

The last point has been the subject of these considerations. God Himself exists, and has always existed, within the context of relationship. He has forever been as He is - "I am the Lord; I change not" - and thus He has forever existed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Malachi 3:6). It does not injure Biblical revelation to say that God is Himself a family. He is one, and yet there are three distinct personages in the Godhead. The three relate to one another in the perfection of love, and all other relationships in the universe are meant to mirror or image the glory of the Divine union. For the trusting sons and daughters of God in the Lord Jesus Christ, eternity will involve both the witnessing of this beauty, and also active participation because "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5). The Lord Jesus asked His Father "that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them," and His prayer was answered (John 17:26).

Certainly our understanding and experience of this hope of glory is limited in our present existence. But just as certainly, mere glimpses of the glory are enough to fill our heart to overflowing. God's grace in Christ has not only forgiven us and promised us an eternity in Heaven. It has also made us into the very temple of the Triune, and the holy scene where the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are known in expressions that would forever remain unknown without us. Indeed, the grace and mercy purposed by the Father, purchased by the Son, and provided by the Holy Spirit would have been hidden qualities in the Divine heart apart from the torrents now and forever showered forth upon believers in the Lord Jesus. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians of this indescribable wonder, and we close our thoughts about the Father and the Son with Paul's promise of a forever that will not suffice in fully revealing the glory of God...

"But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."
(Ephesians 2:6-7)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"The Father and the Son" Part 6

The Lord Jesus Christ was smitten by both God and man on the cross of Calvary.

"Him... ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23).

"We did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted" (Isaiah 53:4).

Our Lord's suffering at the hands of men is understandable in the sense that the sin of the human heart led to the murder of our Creator. His suffering at the hands of His Father, however, is beyond all comprehension. The "beloved Son" became for a time the object of the Father's rejection and wrath executed against sin, even to the degree that "He hath made Him to be sin for us" (II Corinthians 5:21). It was love that led to such mystery, love for us, and in fact, the same love that the perfect Lord Jesus had forever known with His Father.

"I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them" (Acts 17:26).

It is easily understandable that God the Father would so love God the Son. "He that sent Me is with Me: the Father hath not left Me alone; for I do always those things that please Him" declared the Savior (John 8:29). Incomprehensibly, however, the Father would ultimately leave His Son to die alone on the cross of Calvary, and judge Him in our stead. Having never sinned in His earthly lifetime, the Lord Jesus became in His death the very essence of sin in the sight of God. He was "made to be sin" despite the eternal reality of Christ declared by the writer of Hebrews: "Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity" (Hebrews 1:9). What must such complete upheaval of being have done in the heart of our Savior? What must it have done in the heart of the Father who so loved Him, but who made Him to be sin, and then judged Him as if He were the object of His hatred? No answers are forthcoming for finite minds such as we possess, but we can seek to let our hearts be deeply moved and changed by acknowledging the wonder of the love of God for us that led to the horror that was the cross.

"Jesus... who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame" (Hebrews 12:2).

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit deemed our redemption and subsequent relationship as so precious that it was worth their own agony to make it possible. We are "the joy that was set before Him," even as the Psalmist proclaimed, "the Lord taketh pleasure in His people" (Psalm 149:4). Such sublime truth calls us to sink our hearts as deeply as possible into vital and sincere response to our God. We can never requite His devotion, but to love Him, trust Him, obey Him, and communicate Him to others must be the great and motivating factor of our existence. In the blinding light of Calvary, and of "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?," how could it be anything less? The Psalmist provides words for our only proper response and determination...

"I will love Thee, o Lord!"
(Psalm 18:1)

"He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief."
(Isaiah 53:10)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

"The Father and the Son" Part 5

"This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent" (John 17:3).

If the essence of eternal life is the knowledge of the Father and the Son, as revealed by the Holy Spirit, we must determine to establish such truth deeply within our hearts.

By definition - "this is life eternal" - the knowledge of the Father and the Son will forever be our holy occupation. Forever has already begun for born again believers because in the present tense, the Apostle John wrote, "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life" (I John 5:13). We are not waiting for eternal life, therefore, but have already received it in the person of the Spirit of Christ. Eternity's occupation is therefore today's occupation, and as a matter of both doctrine and personal devotion, we must set out sails to the wind of knowing the Father and the Son, as revealed by the Holy Spirit.

This will involves countless expressions of such glorious truth revealed in our lives. First, we determine to acknowledge the God-exalting and self-decentralizing truth that the relationship of God the Father and God the Son is the most important reality and relationship in our lives. We therefore seek to grow in our knowledge of this holy and eternal bond by searching the Scriptures for increasing light concerning this most vital of truths. "In Thy light shall we see light" declared the Psalmist, and there is no brighter illumination than the Divine and triune relationship that constitutes the very essence of reality (Psalm 36:9).

We also accept the stunning and seemingly impossible truth that faith in the Lord Jesus has brought the wonder that is the love of God into the humble manger, as it were, that is ourselves. "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5). Note that the Apostle Paul does not write that God's love is revealed to us, but "in" us. This proclaims the fulfillment of our Lord's intercessory prayer chronicled in John 17.

"And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me" (John 17:22-23).

Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son have come and made their abode with us (John 14:23). We may not always remember such truth. We may not even have known it until now. And we surely do not always live as if it is true. But it always is. Born again believers are the temple of the love of God for His Son, and His Son's reciprocal response of devotion. We will eternally serve as perhaps the most vivid display of the love of God to His universe, a display made all the more glorious because it will take place in those whose former existence involved the necessity of God the Father, for our sakes, pouring out the fullness of His wrath upon the Son of His love. "My God, My God why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46). No answer was forthcoming from the Father who had turned away from the Lord Jesus during the blackness of darkness that enshrouded the cross. But the answer came to us, and it speaks to us even now. Yes, to the proportionate degree that our Savior was abandoned at Calvary, we have been received into the very heart of God Himself. Again, we have become the temple wherein the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have made their eternal dwelling place, and wherein the love of God will be forever known both in and by us. Little wonder, therefore, that "this is life eternal," and little question that this hope of glory should be the truth that most leads, motivates, and enables us.

"And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.Yet a little while, and the world seeth Me no more; but ye see Me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in Me, and I in you" (John 14:16-20).

Monday, July 6, 2009

"The Father and the Son" Part 4

"And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent" (John 17:3).

Life eternal is more about quality than quantity of existence. It is true, of course, that we shall everlastingly know the Father and the Son as revealed by the Holy Spirit. However, a state of being approaches for the born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ when "there should be time no longer" (Revelation 10:6).

We have no frame of reference for such an existence wherein we are not dominated by the sequential passage of moments. We do, however, know the primary occupation of life eternal. We shall know the Father and the Son as revealed by the Holy Spirit, because "this is life eternal." This is actually our primary occupation even at present, but much distracts and conflicts with the holy endeavor (including the constraints of time). There will be no such challenge in eternity, and amid the infinite variety of activity that will fill our lives and existence, all will present to us fresh illumination upon the glory of the triune God. Unto our glorified sensibilities, the Holy Spirit will eternally present to us the beauty of love as it exists in the Father and the Son, and wondrously, as it exists in our redeemed being. The display will never end because the being of God is infinite in goodness, and because no clock will demand that we must move on to another endeavor or responsibility.

Perhaps we might say that every "moment" of eternity will be as an eternity in and of itself. Beholding some aspect of the wonder of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will so fill us that the joy of the experience will, as it were, never leave us, and we will never leave it. Again, we have no frame of reference for such glory, but we do have the promise that our life will be as abundant as He who is our life. And we know that the heart of all matters will the heart of reality. We shall behold the Father and the Son as revealed by the Holy Spirit.

While limited by time, space, and earthly realities, our eternal journey into the heart of God has already begun if we have believed. This very day and moment offer to us the possibility of experiencing the defining essence of our lives. Life eternal is, again, far more about the quality of our being than its quantity. Therefore, as we walk with God by faith, the light of forever can transform the moments of time into something far more than we normally expect them to be. We may "see" something, or rather Someone, who causes the depths of our being to arise and then to kneel in the splendor of an eternally ancient glory that is now revealed to us, and even more, in us. The prospect is thrilling, and let us open our eyes in the expectation that the Spirit of God is more than willing to presently display the Father and the Son unto and within us.

"The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life."
(John 3:35-36)

"One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple."
(Psalm 27:4)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Our Most Well Worn Volume

Imagine a scenario in which you live in a country that banned all Christian books. You are left with only a Bible that you must keep hidden, and bring out to read only in secrecy.

Would your walk with God suffer? The answer to this question is interesting. First, for most believers, the loss of all material other than Scripture would be an issue because God has ordained teachers to help inform and illuminate His trusting children (Ephesians 4:11). He gifts certain people to keenly understand, interpret, and communicate the truths of the Bible, and we are all blessed by those with such calling.

On the other hand, being left with only a Bible could also be a blessing, especially in our generation wherein many believers read Christian books far more than they read Scripture. Much Biblical illiteracy results, and often leaves Christians as being babes who can spiritually feed on nothing but the pre-digested thoughts of others. Again, good teachers are a gift to us, but if their words or writings supersede the meat of the actual Word of God, the gift becomes a dangerous diversion from reality. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17).

The God-led teacher hopes that his words lead readers to THE Word. He seeks to focus all attention on the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Scriptures that serve as His lamp: "Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me" (John 5:39). The truly called teacher himself feasts upon Scripture, spending far more time reading the Word of God than the words of others. He also loves nothing more than the image of a reader laying aside his book in order to sink his heart into God's book. And he is fearful of his words being exalted because he knows that such accolade almost inevitably distracts from the One whom he believes is alone worthy of all honor and attention. Indeed, the God-ordained teacher looks at his own hands, sees them unmarked by the prints of nails, and weeps if he suspects that an ounce of his readers' devotion points in his direction.

Most who read this live in nations and cultures where Christian books are freely allowed. Let us give thanks, and avail ourselves to the gift. However, as long as we own a Bible, and are free to read it, it must occupy our primary and most frequent attention. Nobody will ever express God's truth as well as did the prophets and apostles whose words were perfectly inspired by the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the fact of the Bible's existence is based upon the blood of the prophets, the apostles, countless saints through the generations, and most of all, the Lord Jesus Himself. We honor them and Him when we make the Scriptures our most well worn volume, and the truth of the matter is that if we had only the Word of God to read and to study, "the unsearchable riches of Christ" would fill us to lavish spiritual overflow (Ephesians 3:8).

"Every Word of God is pure."
(Proverbs 30:5)

"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."
(II Timothy 3:16-17)
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