Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Marvel at Christ's Power and Glory

"I have looked upon you...beholding your power and glory" (Psalm 63:2)

I'm not much of a baseball fan. But I'm beginning to understand why it's so appealing. I was sitting on my futon a couple days ago watching a little of the Sox, or maybe it was the Cubs, I don't remember which (I could get in trouble for saying that). And I was remarking to Sara about the futility of our culture throwing millions of dollars at this meaningless sport. These guys are paid so decadently just to be really good at hitting and catching a ball and scoring points.

But then it occurred to me that a big reason for their bloated salaries is that millions of people pay to see them play. Why? Power and glory. It's really awesome to behold these feats of athleticism: The power of a pitcher hurling a ball with tremendous control, speed, and accuracy; The glory of a batter's hand-eye coordination working with his well-developed muscles so that his bat connects with the ball, sending it soaring like a comet over the field to be either plucked from the air with one hand by a well-trained outfielder or welcomed by happy fans. The more I watch sports now, the more I see the reason millions of people are okay with these athletes being paid millions of dollars. They love to see strength and beauty, power and glory.

This is the common thread woven through the fabric of humanity, we love to see and marvel at power and glory. Whether it's athleticism, movies, good books, good music, good food, history, going for walks or hikes, scuba-diving, astronomy, philosophy, theology... people have an innate longing for greatness, for action, adventure, beauty, harmony, strength, splendor, power and glory. Why? This common craving is due to the Creator we all have in common.

Since we know that there is power and glory to be beheld in the creation, then how much more is there to see in our Creator? For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made. (Romans 1:20) This common yearning in our hearts for strength and beauty has been sown into our fabric by an all-powerful, infinitely glorious tailor, Almighty God. Ultimately, we all want to see greatness because we were made to see it in God.

Where's the best place to look for greatness, to find your hunger for God's power and glory satisfied? God in the flesh, Jesus Christ. He is the perfect, eternal self-expression of God, the Word of God. The Bible says, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1, 14) That's why the story of Christ's life and death and resurrection is called "good news," or "the gospel," - in it we see the power and glory of God.

If you trust Christ to be your own Lord and Savior and Treasure it's because he has opened your eyes to see his glory in the gospel. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6) If you don't yet trust in Christ, or aren't sure about all this, I plead with you to just ask God to show you his power and glory in Christ, and then look for it in the Bible. The light of the gospel of the glory of Christ is more powerful and beautiful than anything in this world. You haven't seen beauty until you've seen God's steadfast love for sinners demonstrated on Christ's cross. You really haven't lived until you've admired Christ coming to life again victorious over death. That's why the Apostle Paul says this is of utmost importance. He says:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you-- unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures... (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

We all want to see greatness. We were made for it. But we can't even live to see it until we see the power and glory of Christ in the gospel. Look to Christ today, friend. Turn from your sins and believe this marvelously good news.

Monday, August 13, 2007

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. (Psalm 63:2)

David found life-giving pleasure in looking upon God, and we can do the same by looking at Christ. But where can I find Christ? We can find Christ where David found God, in the sanctuary.

We can find Christ in the sanctuary. Where is that? Psalm 27:4 says the house of the LORD is where David wanted to always dwell. He wanted nothing more than to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD...in his temple. But the tabernacle God had Moses build and the temple Solomon built and the one Herod built have been destroyed. Certainly, this doesn't mean we can't find a sanctuary to see God in, does it? Well, let's see what Jesus has to say about that.

He said to a Samaritan woman a couple thousand years ago, Believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. (John 4:21) The Samaritans had constructed a temple on Mount Gerizim and argued that theirs, not the Jews' temple was the true temple. But Jesus told this lady that this contraversy would be obsolete soon, because, he goes on to say, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. (John 4:23). So someone could rightly say now that our worship is not confined to a geographical location; we who trust in Christ can see God in a different kind of temple, in spirit and truth.

What does Jesus mean when he says true worshipers will worship the Father in...truth? I believe he unfolded the meaning of that in a previous statement to this Samaritan woman, You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. (John 4:22) Samaritans did not know what they worshiped, that is, they did not worship in truth. They rejected all of the Old Testament Scriptures except for the first five books. So their knowledge of God was sorely limited. Worshiping God in truth has to do with knowing God as he has fully revealed himself in all the Scriptures. And Jesus says that means knowing that salvation is from the Jews. The Savior of the world is the Jewish Messiah, Jesus. Only if you trust in Jesus can you be saved from your wrath-deserving sins to worhip the Father in truth. Jesus is our sanctuary, the truth in which we can look upon God.

Jesus says, God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. What does it mean to worship God in spirit? First God takes the Scriptures that he breathed out and shows Jesus to us in them (Jesus said ...the Scriptures...bear witness about me - John 5:39). And God then miraculously causes our spirit to live by his Spirit (It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life - John 6:63). Therefore we can commune with him, worshiping him spirit to Spirit. Then he makes our spirits live more and more vibrantly, joyously, abundantly through the truth of his word.

"The fuel of worship is a true vision of the greatness of God; the fire that makes the fuel burn white hot is the quickening of the Holy Spirit; the funace made alive and warm by the flame of truth is our renewed spirit; and the resulting heat of our affections is powerful worship, pushing its way out in confessions, longing, acclamations, tears, songs, shouts, bowed heads, lifted hands and obedient lives" (John Piper, "Desiring God" p. 77).

This "true vision of the greatness of God" is what David saw in the sanctuary. I've said that our worship is not now confined geographically, for we worship in spirit and truth. But does that mean that we can be individualistic worshipers who say that the invisible, universal church of the spirit is sufficient as our sanctuary? No. Although God's church is universal, it necessarily manifests itself in visible, local assemblies. Practically speaking, if you want to look upon God in the sanctuary, you need to gather with other believers who worship in spirit and truth. Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together... (Hebrews 10:24-25). You need to gather with a church who worships God in Christ as he has revealed himself in the Bible. Then you will resonate with David's prayer, So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Thirst for Jesus

What do you long for? Is there someone in your life who takes hold of your attention and affections so much that you desperately desire him or her? There should be. If there's anything or anyone you should rightly feel like you cannot live without, it's God. We must desire God like nothing else. If anybody or anything captivates your thoughts and captures your longings more than God, you are idolizing that person or thing. Repent from your idolatry, friend. Repentance is a gift, so ask God to give you the ability to turn your back on your idols and your face toward him. Desire God above all, friend. This passionate longing for God is a gift, so beseech God to stir up a genuine longing for him. All these good gifts flow from one Fountain. And I assure you, if you come to quench your thirst on the living waters of this Fountain, Jesus Christ, you will not be disappointed. Christ alone satisfies forever. Long for him. He says, If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, "Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." (John 7:37-38)

Look to and long for Jesus, and you will find yourself resonating with the desire of David:

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. (Psalm 63:1-2)

David knew he could not live another second without God, nor did he ever want to. David found life-giving satisfaction in pursuing God. He says to God in another Psalm, You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11) Here, in the 63rd Psalm, we find how David found this satisfaction. He says to God, I have looked upon you.

David looked upon God and was satisfied. Oh, how beautiful and warm and lovely must God be to satisfy those who look upon him! David loved to take in this divine view of God so much that all he wanted to do was look upon him! In another Psalm he says, One thing have I asked 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 gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. (Psalm 27:4) David was absolutely mesmerized by the the splendor of God, because when he looked upon him he was satisfied. So the question I hope you're asking is, How can I be so satisfied by looking upon God?

You and I can look upon God by looking at Jesus! Jesus is the Son of God! He says, If you knew me, you would know my Father also. (John 8:19) He also says, Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14:9) Look to the crucified, risen-from-the-dead, reigning-over-all, Lord Jesus Christ, friend. Look to Jesus. Long for Jesus. He says, Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (John 4:14)

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Sovereign Over Our Hearts

Since God is sovereign, do we make real choices? How does his sovereignty relate to our responsibility in salvation? Look at 2 Chronicles 30:1-12 for an enlightening piece of this puzzle.

Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem to keep the Passover to the Lord, the God of Israel. For the king and his princes and all the assembly in Jerusalem had taken counsel to keep the Passover in the second month— for they could not keep it at that time because the priests had not consecrated themselves in sufficient number, nor had the people assembled in Jerusalem— and the plan seemed right to the king and all the assembly. So they decreed to make a proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, that the people should come and keep the Passover to the Lord, the God of Israel, at Jerusalem, for they had not kept it as often as prescribed. So couriers went throughout all Israel and Judah with letters from the king and his princes, as the king had commanded, saying, “O people of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that he may turn again to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were faithless to the Lord God of their fathers, so that he made them a desolation, as you see. Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the Lord your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you. For if you return to the Lord, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.” So the couriers went from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, and as far as Zebulun, but they laughed them to scorn and mocked them. However, some men of Asher, of Manasseh, and of Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of the Lord.
(2 Chronicles 30:1-12, ESV)

There was a real condition: "if you return to the LORD, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him" (2 Chr. 30:9, ESV). On the surface it looks like if we do our part, God will do his (synergism). If you repent to God, God will show you his grace.

Verse ten shows that many would not fulfill this condition and thus find God's grace. "However," verse eleven continues, "some men of Asher, of Manasseh, and of Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem." Praise the Lord! Some men repented! They fulfilled the condition necessary to find God's grace and mercy.

Finally, verse twelve digs down and gets to the bottom of how these men responded differently to this call to repentance: "The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of the LORD." God's gracious hand ultimately caused those "men of Asher...Manasseh, and of Zebulun" and "also... Judah" to fulfill this real and necessary condition of repentence so that they could enjoy his gracious face (monergism).

God is sovereign over repentance. God ultimately controls the hearts of men. We do make real choices that God ordains. Aren't you glad that your life rests in the omnipotent hands of the merciful and gracious Lord Jesus Christ (and not in your own)?! He reigns supreme over whether or not we choose him. Therefore all the credit for man's salvation belongs to him. All glory and honor and praise be to our merciful and gracious and sovereign Lord forever and ever!

"For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen." (Romans 11:36, ESV)