23 May 2015

Real Glory

Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.  --1 Corinthians 4:5

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality . . .  --Romans 2:6-7

I think of Sarah Smith in The Great Divorce, the shining, luminous, utterly normal, glorified human being who lived a mundane life, in Christ, built on a million small acts of love and service in this life. And reaped what she sowed in the next.

What a day it will be. A day when true honor will be unveiled.

We hear that Eastern Asia is an 'honor/shame' culture. But more deeply the entire human race is an honor/shame race, some cultures making it more explicit than others. Tonight when the Rockets play the Warriors, we will see the quest for honor, for glory, here in the West, and the terrified fleeing from shame. It's one reason the rest of us watch the NBA playoffs, to get vicarious glory through our team's triumph.

And each of us senses varying degrees of shame and honor as we move through any given day. Maybe you don't notice it much because it's like a fish in water. Felt levels of honor and shame are what we are constantly immersed in. Our entire fallen existence is one of perpetually moving away from shame and moving toward glory.

What a day that will be. An unending day.

When real significance is unveiled. When a billion unheard of Christians who never made any real money and never wrote a book and never spoke into a microphone are introduced by the Lord Jesus to the universe. What will it be like?

That strange day when every name of every famous unregenerate man is suddenly difficult to remember, slipping through the fingers of our memory, suddenly lost to oblivion. Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and Lebron James all have a chance at true glory. The window is still open. But if they persist on their current trajectories, they are actually becoming smaller and smaller, more and more deeply inconsequential with each passing day. This frothy, unsatisfying glory they've found, and which the rest of us are after, and which is so difficult to get, can be left behind for the real thing, which is free for anyone. All it requires is dying. Committing self-glory suicide. Liquidating the accounts of self-honor we're amassing and re-investing in Mark 10:43-45. Solid, substantial, permanent, invincible greatness. Not this ridiculous preening and parading, so transient, so ephemeral. Here for a moment, then gone forever.

What a day. When God brings to full blossom the seeds of resplendence planted and cultivated in this life in quietly faithful men and women who laid down their arms against God and gave up. Our jaws will drop.

What if God's assessment of things, which we always knew to be true, in our heart of hearts, will rinse this world clean once and for all? What if the glorious men and women of this world, the end of which is right around the corner, are not the glorious men and women of the next world, the end of which will never come?

I find myself reminded, even rebuked.

04 May 2015

What Is the End Result of a Christian's Sins?

God often blesses us when we are not aware of it. God lets you fall into a sin perhaps, and that drives you to the throne of grace, with outcries for help, as the apostle's word is in Heb 4:16, as a man undone utterly and forever, if God pity you not.
This prayer, though in itself a less good than thy sin was evil, yet to you is turned a far greater blessing than your sin has evil in it (as to you).

Such is his goodness. Your sin shall be pardoned, and though it be a loss in itself, yet to you, having so great a consequent and effect of it, you come off a gainer. God has blessed you with a further increase in the heavenlies, and it shall never be taken from you.
--Thomas Goodwin, preaching on Ephesians 1:3, in Works, 1:63

23 April 2015

Dazzling the Eyes of Angels

In his little book Saved by Grace on Ephesians 2:5 John Bunyan considers God's 'carriage' toward sinful men and women. How does he come to us? In what heart? What is the look on his face, the tone of his voice? 
God comes to the sinner while he is in his sins; he comes to him now, not in the heat and fire of his jealousy, but in the cool of the day, in unspeakable gentleness, mercy, pity, and bowels of love: not clothing himself with vengeance, but in a way of entreaty, and meekly beseeches the sinner to be reconciled to him.

It is expected among men that he who gives the offense should be the first in seeking peace; but, sinner, betwixt God and man it is not so. God is the first that seeks peace.

O sinner, will you not open? Behold, God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ stand both at the door of your heart, beseeching you to be reconciled to him, with promise to forgive all your sins if you will but comply.

O grace! O amazing grace! To see a prince entreat a beggar to receive alms would be a strange sight; to see a king entreat the traitor to accept of mercy would be a stranger sight than that; but to see God entreat a sinner, to hear Christ say, 'I stand at the door and knock,' with a heart full and a heaven full of grace to bestow upon him that opens, this is such a sight as dazzles the eyes of angels. 
--John Bunyan, Saved by Grace, in The Works of John Bunyan (Banner of Truth), 1:350

22 April 2015

The Cross and Relational Annoyances

'. . . and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.' --Ephesians 2:16

Goodwin, preaching on this text:
We are to look upon Jesus Christ hanging upon the cross as an equal arbiter between both parties, that takes upon himself whatever either party has against the other.

Lo, here I hang, says Christ dying, and let the reproaches wherewith you reproach each other fall on me, the sting of them all fix in my flesh, and in my death die all together with me; lo, I die to pacify you both. Have then any of you something against each other? Quit it, and take me as a sacrifice in blood between you: only do not kill me and each other too, for the same offense; for you, and your enmities, have brought me to this altar of the cross, and I offer myself as your peace, and as your priest.

Will you kill me first, and then one another too?
--Thomas Goodwin, Works, 2:381

25 March 2015

Most Like a Crucifixion

Reading The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis for the first time and came upon this passage today. How I need to hear this, again and again.
We must go back to our Bibles. The husband is the head of the wife just in so far as he is to her what Christ is to the Church. He is to love her as Christ loved the church–read on–and gave his life for her (Eph 5:25).

This headship, then, is most fully embodied not in the husband we should all wish to be but in him whose marriage is most like a crucifixion; whose wife receives most and gives least, is most unworthy of him, is–in her own mere nature–least lovable. For the Church has no beauty but what the Bridegroom gives her; he does not find, but makes her lovely. 
The chrism of this terrible coronation is to be seen not in the joys of any man’s marriage but in its sorrows, in the sickness and sufferings of a good wife or the faults of a bad one, in his unwearying (never paraded) care or his inexhaustible forgiveness: forgiveness, not acquiescence.

As Christ sees in the flawed, proud, fanatical, or lukewarm Church on earth that Bride who will one day be without spot or wrinkle, and labors to produce the latter, so the husband whose headship is Christ-like (and he is allowed no other sort) never despairs.
--C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves, pp. 105-6

22 March 2015

Acts 1:8

21 March 2015

Discerning a Pastoral Call

Dennis Johnson:

25 February 2015

A Multitude of Mercies

God hath a multitude of all kinds of mercies.

As our hearts and the devil are the father of variety of sins, so God is the father of variety of mercies. There is no sin or misery but God hath a mercy for it. He hath a multitude of mercies of every kind.

As there are variety of miseries which the creature is subject unto, so he hath in himself a shop, a treasury of all sorts of mercies, divided into several promises in the Scripture, which are but as so many boxes of this treasure, the caskets of variety of mercies.

If thy heart be hard, his mercies are tender.

If thy heart be dead, he hath mercy to liven it.

If thou be sick, he hath mercy to heal thee.

If thou be sinful, he hath mercies to sanctify and cleanse thee.

As large and as various as are our wants, so large and various are his mercies. So we may come boldly to find grace and mercy to help us in time of need, a mercy for every need.

All the mercies that are in his own heart he hath transplanted into several beds in the garden of the promises, where they grow, and he hath abundance of variety of them, suited to all the variety of the diseases of the soul.
--Thomas Goodwin, Works, 2:187-88