Archive for September, 2012

Believe and see

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, replied, “Lord, by the time the body will have a bad smell, because he has been buried four days.” Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you would see the glory of God?”
John 11:39-40

Martha was a woman just like any of us, fickle in our belief. In one moment, she stands in agreement with Jesus’ powerful declaration of Himself and announces her belief in Him (John 11:25-27), but when she is placed before the tomb, her unbelief is revealed so clearly (John 11:39). Jesus couldn’t have been fooled that Martha is concerned about the smell or hygiene issues. To translate what Martha is truly saying, “Lazarus has been dead for four days and is most surely and truly dead. Opening the tomb will do nothing more than release the stink of decomposition.” Jesus can’t possibly resurrect a decomposing body… can he?

Jesus then makes a powerful statement, “if you believe, you would see the glory of God”. Believe and see the glory. What did Jesus mean see the glory? Was it just seeing the miracle?

For this reason they could not believe, because again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and understand with their heart, and turn to me, and I would heal them.
Isaiah said these things because he saw Christ’s glory, and spoke about him.
John 12:39-41

Jesus later spoke about those who did not believe in Him and contrasted them against Isaiah who “saw Christ’ glory”. Here, seeing the glory of Christ was the same as believing in Jesus as Christ cymbalta generic. Think about how Jesus helped the unbelieving father to believe – he healed his daughter. Think about how Jesus helps unbelieving Martha to believe – he resurrected her brother. Seeing God’s glory isn’t just seeing the miracles, it is believing in the person and mission of Jesus Christ.

But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.
John 10:38

Jesus is the glory of God (John 1:14). To see God’s glory is to see Jesus as Christ. But not just as Christ the saviour of the world, but Christ who is capable of resurrection and life – the one that death has no hold over. When Jesus prays “Father, glorify me at your side…” (John 17:4), He speaks of being raised from death and being in God’s presence – not by removing His humanity, but glorifying His humanity. Jesus speaks of His bodily resurrection as His glorification. It is the confirmation that Jesus is Christ – that death has no hold over Him (1 Corinthians 15). Lazarus resurrection was a demonstration of Jesus’ power over death and foreshadows His own resurrection/glorification… and ours (Romans 8:18).

This is big news. When we believe, we see His glory and we possess His glory. We possess His resurrection. The confirmation of life eternal is founded in the glory and glorification of Jesus Christ.

He called you to this salvation through our gospel, so that you may possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 2:14

Glory and sin

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.
Romans 1:20-22

We are without excuse because God is revealed in creation. It is that simple. The trees, the hills, the seas, the stars, the animals, our bodies and every intricate detail of anything that exist demands that there is a creator. And we know without a doubt that nothing comes from nothing. That is perhaps the most fundamental and factual philosophical and scientific statement one can ever make. Yet in our claimed wisdom, we have denied all that is before us. We have denied giving glory to the creator.

So what is sin? It is the denial of God’s glory.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
Romans 3:23-24

It is not just the denial to give God glory, but the denial of God’s glory. That is why sin causes people to become fools and exchange the glory of God for creation. We fail to value God’s glory. That is how we “fall short of the glory of God”. When God measures our morality and spirituality, He doesn’t measure it by our accomplishments, abilities or morals; he doesn’t measure it by other’s accomplishments, abilities or morals; nor by any other thing in creation. He measures it by Himself – His own glory. Anything that falls short of His own glory, fails. Anything that fails to value His glory as He does, fails. It is a derailment from our original created intent (Isaiah 43:6-7; Colossians 1:16).

Falling short of God’s glory means exchanging it for something of lesser value. All sin comes from not putting supreme value on the glory of God…All sin is a despising of God, before it is a damage to man. All sin is a preference for the fleeting pleasures of the world over the everlasting joy of God’s fellowship.
John Piper

Restoring God’s glory is the mission of Christ. That is why when we believe in Christ, we value God’s glory. Christ and God’s glory are inseparable.

Glory and redemption

Monday, September 24th, 2012

When Jesus had finished saying these things, he looked upward to heaven and said, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, so that your Son may glorify you – just as you have given him authority over all humanity, so that he may give eternal life to everyone you have given him. Now this is eternal life – that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent. I glorified you on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me at your side with the glory I had with you before the world was created.
John 17:1-5

God’s glory has a central role in every redemptive action. First, we look at the redemptive and glorifying role that Christ plays. Here are the things we see here:

God’s glory in Christ 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was fully God… Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father.
John 1:1, 14

God’s glory began before all of creation – before the world was created. Jesus Christ was not the start or cumulation of God’s glory. Christ has always existed with God. He is the same presence of God, the same fullness of eternal glory. In fact, glory resides inherently within God (and Christ). The words “by your side” is better translated as “in your presence”. God and His glory are inseparable, wherever God is there is His glory. When God’s presence manifested on Mount Sinai, His glory was there (Exodus 24:16-17). When He met in the tent with Moses, His glory was there (Exodus 40:34). When His presence was with the Ark of Covenant, His glory was there (1 Samuel 4:21-22). When the temple built by Solomon was dedicated to the Lord, His glory was there (1 Kings 8:11-12).

God’s glory amplified in Christ

I am the Lord! That is my name!
I will not share my glory with anyone else,
or the praise due me with idols.
Isaiah 42:8 (See also Isaiah 48:9-11)

God is jealous for His glory. He wants all of it and He doesn’t take it lightly. All of creation is marked with His glory (Psalm 19:1), even man is created for His glory (Isaiah 43:7). If His glory is diminished, God is insulted. That is why His glory needs to be amplified.

Here Jesus, being fully God and is the fullness of God’s glory asks to be glorified for the expressed purpose of glorifying God back. Imagine a feedback loop getting louder and louder forever; this is the complete amplification of God’s glory – the Son glorifying the Father, who glorifies the Son. It is no wonder that Jesus is entirely glorifying to Him because that is all that Christ does (John 5:19)!

God’s glory amplified in Christ’s redemption

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
John 3:17 (See also John 4:34, 5:36)

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
John 19:30

It is no secret. Jesus was sent on a mission. His mission is clear in John 17:3 – to bring his own to eternal life by restoring the relationship between man and God (John 17:22-24). That is what it means to “know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent”. The knowledge here isn’t just an intellectual knowledge, but an experiential and spiritual one. John tells us specifically that the completion of this redemptive work brings glory to God.

We tend to think that God did it all for us. We think that it was entirely for us that Christ came and for us that He died (John 3:16). We tend to place ourselves in the center of the story of redemption. But the truth is that God is at the center of redemption. God brought Israel out of Egypt for His name’s sake (Isaiah 49:3). He brought Israel out of captivity for His name’s sake (Ezekiel 36:22-23). God forgives our sin for His name’s sake (Isaiah 43:25). We don’t motivate God to redeem us, because we have no merit or strength that God might be motivated by. The only thing that could motivate God is God Himself.

Time to get off our high horse and put God in the center of redemption.

Belief / unbelief

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. It has often thrown him into fire or water to destroy him. But if you are able to do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Then Jesus said to him, “If you are able? All things are possible for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the boy cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
Mark 9:21-24

Belief is a complex emotion, it is something we arrive at after considering the options and reasons both intellectually and emotionally. Yet belief is something that we sometimes have little control over; we can’t force ourselves to believe in something that we simply don’t believe in.

The father’s words revealed the fickleness of his belief. While his belief caused him to bring his son to Jesus and the disciples, his unbelief questioned Jesus’ ability to “do anything” for his son. Such is the fickleness of our own hearts: we have unbelief even in our belief. While we believe in a sovereign and omnipotent God, we don’t necessarily believe in his sovereignty and omnipotence in every situation in our lives.

In those situations, God says, “All things are possible for the one who believes” and in our hearts we ask “we already believe but how do we make our unbelief believe?” We’re back to square one – the solution to our impossible situation is another impossible situation. That is why the father’s cry is so relevant to us.

“I believe, help my unbelief!” we cry, because only God can. God makes the impossible possible. If we would recognize that our hearts don’t always steer the way we want them to, we can acknowledge that Christ is our only solution.

The dangers of presumption

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
After the Lord had spoken these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My anger is stirred up against you and your two friends, because you have not spoken about me what is right, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job will intercede for you, and I will respect him, so that I do not deal with you according to your folly, because you have not spoken about me what is right, as my servant Job has.”
Job 42:7-8
 
Can we assume knowledge of God or His ways? Can we ever guess his intents and purposes? Yes and no. That is what stirred up God’s anger against Job’s friends – presumptuousness towards God.
  • They were presumptious about God’s sovereignty
    Job’s friends said “Job’s suffering must be the result of sin, since He is a just God who punishes sin.” Yes, God is just and punishes sin, but it is not up to us to decide when or how. We cannot predict when, how or why God does things – even if He promises to. Their error is that they boxed God up into a non-sovereign being. But God’s intent is not man’s intent, and He is not liable to explain His intent or actions to us. God simply does as He pleases, we cannot and should not relate to God as an idol with predictable cause and effects that we can manipulate, predict or expect.
  • They were presumptious about God’s intent
    Right from the beginning Job’s friends assumed God’s intent was to punish Job for sinning. Doing so, they perpetuate the myth that one’s prosperity and health is an appropriate measure of one’s righteousness. Rather than comforting Job, they added to his misery by maligning him. They were more concerned with justifying their own interpretation of God’s intentions than listening to Job and encouraging him to trust God through unexplained suffering (as Elihu did).

Did the bible not say that Jesus calls us friends because He has revealed the Father’s plans to us (John 15:15)? And doesn’t Paul say that we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16)? Yes, we are friends and we have His mind but He is and still will be God. He is entirely sovereign. We stand on dangerous ground when we assume or predict God’s intent and actions – the how, when, what and why of anything beyond what has already been revealed in the Word. What we can be sure of is that God is God, and we are not.

Cares

Monday, September 17th, 2012
And God will exalt you in due time, if you humble yourselves under his mighty hand by casting all your cares on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:6-7

What does it mean to “humble yourselves under his mighty hand”? Simple, it is to cast all my cares on God. By throwing/casting my cares on God, I bear my weakness and vulnerability before him. It is me saying “I cannot, but you can”. It acknowledges my small and humble position before God. He doesn’t want some of our cares/worries/burdens, He wants all of it. He desires that my admission of weakness is complete – a submission of my entire live, not only a portion.

Peter tells us three things that make this easy:

  • God’s hand is mighty
    What might seem impossible for us, is possible for Him (Luke 18:27; Matthew 19:26). God is infinitely stronger.
  • God cares for you
    God isn’t a far away, judgemental and uncaring God. He is very much the opposite. If He cares for even the birds, flowers and grass, surely He cares for you (Matthew 6:26, 30).
  • God promises exaltation in His time
    That is our hope in times of burden and suffering, that He will in His time make things right (1 Peter 5:10). Our submission to Him means that He does so in His way and in His time, we are fully submitted to His mighty hand. This might seem like a gamble but let me assure you that there is surety in God’s promises. It isn’t an empty promise – He can because he is mighty and he will because he cares. Only God can make such a promise.

The wicked prosper

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Certainly God is good to Israel,
and to those whose motives are pure!
But as for me, my feet almost slipped;
my feet almost slid out from under me.
For I envied those who are proud,
as I observed the prosperity of the wicked.
For they suffer no pain;
their bodies are strong and well- fed.
They are immune to the trouble common to men;
they do not suffer as other men do.
Arrogance is their necklace,
and violence their clothing.
Their prosperity causes them to do wrong;
their thoughts are sinful.
They mock and say evil things;
they proudly threaten violence.
They speak as if they rule in heaven,
and lay claim to the earth.
Therefore they have more than enough food to eat,
and even suck up the water of the sea.
They say, “How does God know what we do?
Is the sovereign one aware of what goes on?”
Take a good look! This is what the wicked are like,
those who always have it so easy and get richer and richer.
I concluded, “Surely in vain I have kept my motives pure
and maintained a pure lifestyle.
I suffer all day long,
and am punished every morning.”
If I had publicized these thoughts,
I would have betrayed your loyal followers.
When I tried to make sense of this,
it was troubling to me.
Then I entered the precincts of Gods temple,
and understood the destiny of the wicked.
Surely you put them in slippery places;
you bring them down to ruin.
How desolate they become in a mere moment!
Terrifying judgments make their demise complete!
They are like a dream after one wakes up.
O Lord, when you awake you will despise them.
Yes, my spirit was bitter,
and my insides felt sharp pain.
I was ignorant and lacked insight;
I was as senseless as an animal before you.
But I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me by your wise advice,
and then you will lead me to a position of honor.
Whom do I have in heaven but you?
I desire no one but you on earth.
My flesh and my heart may grow weak,
but God always protects my heart and gives me stability.
Yes, look! Those far from you die;
you destroy everyone who is unfaithful to you.
But as for me, Gods presence is all I need.
I have made the sovereign Lord my shelter,
as I declare all the things you have done.
Psalm 73

Psalm 73 is a difficult psalm for many to read and hear. It is the honesty and truthfulness of the psalmist that cuts to the bone. He rightly observes one thing: the wicked prosper and flourish. For many who believe in what we now call prosperity gospel, this is an especially hard thing to swallow.

Just in case we are tempted to deny this fact and imagine this to be something that only happened “in those days”, just look around. Do we escape pain and suffering more than pagans? Are our bank accounts bigger? Do we live in bigger houses, have more children, live longer and more enjoyable lives? No we don’t. If we measured God’s favour and blessing solely by earthly health and wealth, certainly we would lose all credibility as Christians and God would lose all credibility as God. Didn’t God say that we will be blessed if we believe in Him and have faith? Doesn’t God promise that He will provide all our needs? Yes He did. But He maintains sovereignty over all (Psalm 73:28, “I have made the sovereign Lord my shelter”). He need only be fair in His own eyes, not ours. We cannot measure God’s sovereignty by our yard stick.film Born in China trailer

Thankfully, God (and the psalmist) doesn’t leave us stuck with this problem. He goes on to reveal a more eternal view.

  • Their enjoyment is only temporal, there is an end to this perceived unfairness (Psalm 73:17,20). But those who are near to God escape destruction in the shelter of His presence (Psalm 73:27-28).
  • The end for them is not sweet, desolation and destruction awaits them (Psalm 73:18-19, 27). Contrasted against the “position of honour” for the one whom God holds (Psalm 73:24).

But this eternal view isn’t the end. What He goes on to is a God centric view. He comes to the conclusion that nothing on earth is more worthy than God. Read what he says here:

Whom do I have in heaven but you?
I desire no one but you on earth.
Psalm 73:25 (See also Psalm 73:23-28)

Consider how God is central to every saving action, not man. God holds the psalmist right hand, therefore the psalmist is continually with Him. God guides with wise advice and will lead him to a position of honour. God protects his heart (unlike the wicked whose heart is corrupted by riches, Psalm 73:7-9) and grants stability. When the psalmist understands God’s redemptive desire and ability, he reassesses his position and declares that God is ALL he needs and ends with “I declare all the things you have done” (Psalm 73:27-28).

Ask, seek, knock

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Matthew 7:7-8

Repetition is a brilliant thing.  Especially when things are repeated a second time but not exactly the same, yet emphasizing the same thing. How is it different? Ask, seek and knock and give, find and opened seem to be static actions and responses in verse 7. This Implies a kind of man’s action – God’s response cycle between man and God. But the words used in verse 8 use the Greek present imperative, indicating continuous and constant asking, seeking and knocking and the promise behind this is a constant receiving, finding and opening. If there’s no limit to our God’s desire and ability to give, find and open, there is no limit to our asking.

And that is the guarantee of the repetition here. In verse 7, ask, seek and knock are repetitions of the same human action and give, find and open are repetitions of the same response from God. In verse 8, we find the exact same actions and responses. Jesus is placing His guarantee on God’s response to meet our needs. We have a need, God will respond with provision. It is that simple. Let us not be limited by our asking, seeking and knocking, but instead have full assurance that He will meet ALL of our needs.

A word on riches

Monday, September 10th, 2012

I have little desire to be rich. I see some gain in being rich, mostly gains in convenience and lifestyle, but what good does that serve in the bigger picture? People say that the Bible and Jesus has no problem with riches, the problem is with greed. But I beg to defer just a little and here is my proof. The Bible gives us many references as to why earthly riches are no good.

Do not accumulate for yourself treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.
Matthew 6:19

Everything on this earth is subject to depreciation and everything changes hands. Even the best cars breakdown, big houses need fixing up and the best silverware need polishing. Nothing last forever, and even if it did, it would be out dated and unwanted at some stage. The fact is riches to not last (Proverbs 27:24). Money is always moving, assets are always changing hands. People go from rags to riches and others riches to rags every day. I’ve been told that riches only last for 3 generations. Money is being stolen from right under our noses, by thieves and scammers, systems of power and natural depreciation.

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
Matthew 13:22

Wait a minute, shouldn’t that say deceitfulness of greed? If greed is the problem, then why is riches being mentioned here? Because riches are deceitful, it makes one feel self-provident. We’ve all heard of how those in less developed countries and in less fortunate situations are more receptive to the gospel. We need to ask ourselves why. Is it because when we see our earthly need, we start to understand our eternal need? Is it because God is meant to fulfil every earthly need? The deceitfulness of riches choke the word when our riches trick us into thinking that we have no need.

Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Matthew 19:21-22 (Also, Mark 10:17-30)

Would a man with fewer possessions react differently to Jesus? No one knows. All we know is that this man went away sorrowful because he had great possessions and he couldn’t bear to part with them. If even the poor find it hard to part with what they have (look at how they fight for food in Africa when volunteer organisations distribute provisions), imagine the rich! No need to imagine, just look around – how many rich men/women could bear to part with their possessions? Bill Gates’ call for the rich in America to part with their riches for the good of humanity, is one fine example. Few heeded the call. How many rich people would voluntarily pay more taxes?

Read Luke 12:16-21. The man was classified as rich, greedy but not generous. Is the Bible prejudiced against riches? Is the Word of God making a sweeping statement about money and assets? Did Jesus just generalise all the rich people as greedy and stingy? Perhaps. But more importantly, we need to ask ourselves why and how? What I do know is that there is one thing common about all these stories: Riches.

Incarnation

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father.
John 1:1, 14

(Christ Jesus) who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature.
Philippians 2:6-7

The incarnation is one thing that never fails to amaze me. The event of an all-powerful God becoming all-human with all the human limits and inabilities and yet remaining all-God (John 1:1) with all the omnipotence and is simply inconceivable. In fact, it might be seen as a logical error – to be powerful and weak at the same time. But that is our God functioning beyond our understanding. Yet Jesus didn’t function as God, He functioned as a human – with all of humanity’s limits. He was hungry, he was thirsty, he felt pain and suffering.

See Jesus wasn’t contextualised as human, he was fully human. Contextualise means he clothed himself as human, surrounded himself as human. But Christ wasn’t God clothed as human, He made Himself fully human. Leaving “equality with God”, He shared in our human nature. As a human, He was contextualised by the particular time and place in which he lived – the culture, his family, his environment, etc, as we are.

For since I am free from all I can make myself a slave to all, in order to gain even more people. To the weak I became weak in order to gain the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that by all means I may save some.
1 Corinthians 9:19, 22

Look at what God has done through the incarnation: by becoming fully human, Jesus exemplified what it meant to be “all things to all people, so that by all means I may save some”. Not in a deceptive or fake way of contextualising or clothing Himself with humanity, but being all that He is and all that we are at the same time. Christ was relevant, real and authentic. He suffered real human pain, thirst and hunger; yet as God, he offered the world a chance to be restored to Himself (John 14:6, John 17:3) and to enjoy everything that God is (John 17:6-11).

Christ is our example and “incarnation” is our call. Not that we are gods embodied in human form, but that we embody God’s Spirit in the places and times that we live that we might save some. We are not of this world (Philippians 3:20) but still live in this world (John 15:18-19; 1 John 15:15-17). His incarnation gives me the basis by which I “become all things to all people, so that by all means I may save some.”