Sunday, February 14, 2010

Glory: II Corinthians 3

“But if the ministration of death, written and engraved in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance, which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remains is glorious. Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech. And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” -II Corinthians 3:7-18

The call to spread the Gospel, the good news of Christ, is the most glorious calling one can have. In order to illustrate this point, Paul uses an Old Testament story found in Exodus 33. After returning from Sinai with the law, Moses’ face was shining because of the glory of God, in whose presence he had just been. Because of this, Moses needed to put a vail on as the glory faded from his face. Paul uses this story in a few ways to illustrate the beauty of the ministration of the Spirit.

First, Paul uses this story to show us just how glorious such a ministry is. For this, he uses comparison. Moses had God’s glory on his face from receiving the law. In the context of the New Testament, the law is the condemnation from God to show that man is imperfect, dead in sin, and needs a savior. Basically, the law shows us that we are dead on our own and need Jesus to live. Doesn’t that mean that Moses was being the minister of death? Yes, it does. So if Moses was covered in glory, so much so that he needed a vail so that people could look at him, think about how much more the glory will be for us someday as ministers of life, ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! And with such glory as our hope, we should be all the more bold to share the Gospel because no matter what opposition or persecution we may face here in this life, our future glory is greater still.

Paul also uses imagery to relate this story to today and give us a plan of action. Throughout scripture, vails are used to symbolize the Old Testament law system. In the story, the vail prevented the Israelites from seeing God’s glory on Moses’ face. It was blinding them from the glory of God. Jesus came to remove the vail, which would allow us, by a relationship with Him, to enter into the glory of God. He did not nullify the law, so that everyone’s vail has been removed, but He gives us the opportunity to have our vail removed if we turn our heart to Him. He frees us from the blindness we had with the law. Verse 18 says that we can now see the glory of the Lord unveiled….but that’s not all! Not only do we behold His glory, but we are transformed into the very image of His glory. Wow!

This glory is great, but it means absolutely nothing if we do not respond to our call to be ministers. Just like the moon, which reflects the glory of the sun, now that we are transformed into His glory, we need to reflect the glory of the Son. Since we now are in the image of God’s glory, those whose vails have not been removed should see His glory when they look at us. When someone looks at you, do they see the glory of Christ? My friends, we were not given this glory without purpose. We need to use this glory bestowed on us to be ministers of Christ to the world. This does not mean that everyone must be a professional evangelist or missionary. Instead, wherever God puts us, we should tell people of the glory of the One in whose glory we have been molded into. I urge everyone to be a vessel God can use to remove vails from others. That is our glorious calling!

Monday, February 8, 2010

True Worship: Psalm 30

"I will extol thee, O LORD; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me. O LORD my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me. O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit. Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved. LORD, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled. I cried to thee, O LORD; and unto the LORD I made supplication. What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth? Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be thou my helper. Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever." Psalm 30

The primary eternal act which we are called to do as Christians is worship. Missions and outreaches are important, but they are only purposed to satisfy a temporary need. In Heaven, there won't be unsaved people to convert or destitute people to provide for. Missions are temporary. Prayer is a HUGE part of life now, but in Heaven, we won't have any problems for God or sins to confess which leaves only prayer of worship as necessary. All other aspects of a relationship with Jesus are important now, but what does God's Word say we will be doing as we spend eternity with Him? In Revelation 4:14, it says that the 24 elders worshipped Him FOREVER. Gee, if worship is going to be what I'm doing for ETERNITY, shouldn't I start on that now?

Worship is only possible when we examine ourselves before and after Christ. Anyone can say, "Lord, I love to sing your praises." Do I actually mean it? Blindly saying words is dead praise. If you say, "I will give You all of my life," then you are held accountable to actually DO what you are saying. When you say, "Burn it all away, all that does not glorify You," you better be ready to give up that thing which you know you are supposed to give up. Praise without the heart is folly. We are guilty of lying to God, promising what we have no intention to do, and saying we love Him when in fact our mind is on the hang out this weekend, the history test you didn't study for, the really funny joke you came up with, the movie you are seeing tonight, etc. Don't think that I am saying this is something wrong with others but not me. If anything, I feel like I am directing this at myself, but perhaps you struggle with this too.

What are we praising God for? It has nothing to do with our present circumstances. Imagine this: a guy gets saved. The minute following his surrender of his whole life to Christ, he is put in to jail for a crime he never committed. He is young, only 12, and is sentenced to a life in prison. The next 60 years of his life, he is subject to the most cruel tortures when he is not in his solitary confinement cell. He is forced to watch each and every one of his friends and family members die a slow, cruel death in front of him. He is given a small cup of diseased lake water and a slice of moldy bread each day to live, and frequently gets sick from these things. His opressors refuse to kill him in order to prolong his suffering until 60 years later he is so diseased that there is no hope of his survival, so before his disease took him they executed him in the most painful manner possible. I could go on and on. This, by definition, would probably be the worst possible life deviseable. Does this man, of any man, have an excuse to not praise God? No, because even in the deepest depths of human torture, the state of Hell which his soul was delivered from was is worse still, and because the hope of Heaven outweighs the darkness of any experience on earth. We are not praising God for His goodness to us now, but the eternal goodness of His grace which salvaged us from the depths of destruction and lifted us up to eternal glory that could never be surpassed.

Now I know that none of you have come even remotely close to the condition of the poor man I described. Our praises should be all the greater for Christ's mercy toward us now, because such a condition would be getting off way easy compared to the tourment of what Christ suffered. When we look at where we were, our praises our exponentialy more alive. When we look at where we now are in Christ, of our heirship to His riches and residency in His kingdom, the praises grow stronger still. That alone is enough reason to fall on my knees and praise God, but there is more still to praise Him for.

Say you got into some major debt, debt in the range that you could work a whole lifetime saving every penny and still never be able to pay. Bill Gates comes, pays it all for you, and says it was his gift. I know this is a cliche example, but it works. First of all, you probably would do whatever he says exactly how he says it. You might go above and beyond what he would ask you to do. You probably would not constantly nag him for favors, and you'd probably at very least thank him for everything when you did ask for a favor. Do we do the same thing for God? Let's look at each of the things I just said. Do we do whatever He says exactly how He says it? Do we completely follow these:
1 Peter 1:16 "Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy."
John 13:34 "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; AS I HAVE LOVED YOU, that ye also love one another." (emphasis added)
1 Thessalonians 5:17 "Pray without ceasing."
Those are just 3. The list is endless. I'm pretty sure we are all 0/3 on that one. How about going above and beyond what we are asked. Jesus also tells us to do that:
Matthew 5:41 "And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain."
Anyone do that all the time? Didn't think so. As for my third example, though Jesus does tell us to pray, as we saw in 1 Thess. 5:17, how often do we do the next verse, "In EVERYTHING give thanks;" (emphasis added)? It looks like we don't do a very good job of thanking Jesus for the debt He payed, which was not a monetary debt with temporary consequences, but an eternal one with indescribably huge ones. So what does this all have to do with praise? If Bill Gates payed that huge debt and all we did was treat him like garbage, he would probably (a) demand his money back and (b) get revenge on us for what a jerk we were. God doesn't do that! He doesn't take away our salvation, no matter how much our life is defined by failure to live up to what He asks. In fact, He actually speaks of rewards in Heaven for us! That is so crazy! If that does not make you want to praise Him, I don't know what will.

True worship is not the singing of a song. True worship is looking at where we were, where we are, and how we got there, and thanking God for His grace and love. I hope that this refreshed you with a new vision of worship. My prayer is that everyone, including myself, would look at the Cross and find the fervent passion to love our Lord, our Savior. My purpose was not to make anyone feel guilty about what kind of person they are, but to look at what kind of God we serve, this God who rewards those who deserve everything opposite of rewards, and in Him find true worship in your heart.

The Body of Christ: I Corinthians 12

Originally written as a letter to my friends, here are my notes on I Corinthians 12:

Paul starts out by saying that only those in Christ have the Holy Spirit, and everyone in Christ has the gifts of the Holy Spirit. What a sweet promise that is! I can be assured that I am never alone, that I always have the Spirit on my side, that the greatest Power in the universe is with me, helping me, strengthening me, guiding me. What a sweet power the Holy Spirit is, and I can take comfort knowing that his gifts are with me as well as with all of you. Now here is where you guys came into my thoughts. Next Paul says that though we may all be different people with different gifts to do different things, we all are serving the same God, working for the same purpose, and recieved our gifts from the same Spirit.

Then the gifts of the Holy Spirit are listed (9 in all). God thought of so many ways to bless us! The cool thing is, we all have one of these. I used to think that since I was curing lepors or speaking in tongues that I wasn't spiritually gifted. Maybe you've thought that too. But in this chapter it says were all gifted. In Hungary, after having each one explained to me, I found out that I did have one all along! How great God is! You all have one too, but maybe you don't know it. If so, pray and ask God to show it to you.

Then it gets really awesome. Many of us have read the passage about the church being compared to different parts of the body with each one doing its function, but in context it's even more beautiful! All of us are blessed with different spiritual gifts, all of us were specially designed to do something that maybe the rest of us could not do. People that some of us might be able to reach might not be reachable by others of us because of our design. However, when put together, we have an awesome functioning body of Christ able to do whatever Christ desires and all working in conjunction for our greater purpose- to glorify God and further the kingdom of our King! I thought it was a beautiful chapter (as is the next one, the more famous I Corinthians 13- who knew that such a great chapter was before it?) Anyway, I love each and every one of you and thank God for putting all of you guys in my life. He is so wise to put all of us together, and together we can reach the lost, dying world. I hope this blesses you as much as it is blessing me.