Christianity 201

December 20, 2018

Baby Jesus and the Surprising Visitors

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by Clarke Dixon

When a baby is born certain people are invited to come and see. Usually they are loved ones; family, or good friends. Sometimes people take the intuitive to show up even without an invite. The birth is significant to them. Now let us look at the visitors on that first Christmas.

Shepherds are invited. Surprise! This is not an invitation from Joseph and Mary, who presumably would not have even known the shepherds. This is a special invitation from God! Why the shepherds? Why does God not invite the religious leaders or the political leaders? The shepherds were not the elite representatives of clean, holy, set apart Israel.
They were representative of the worldly, unclean, normal people of God. These are the kind of Israelites who would not be welcome in the most holy places of the temple. They are not holy enough. Why them?

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10–11 emphasis added)

The wisemen take the initiative and show up. Surprise! Who are these wisemen? They are technically magi, which means they are astrologers, perhaps even priests, from a foreign religion and people. They would have been frowned upon by the holy and especially not welcome within the temple. But they were welcomed into the presence of Jesus. The magi represent those beyond Israel, people different from, and not as holy as the Israelites.

“I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.”

This is only the beginning of “surprise visitors” who are invited and welcomed.

Look to whom Jesus went; people on the margins, the unclean, the diseased, sinners and tax collectors, even a Samaritan woman. Look who took the initiative to call upon Jesus, to come and see Jesus; the diseased and unclean, sinners and tax-collectors, foreigners even.

“I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people

Read through the Book of Acts and pay attention to whom the early church was sent. Anyone and everyone! There is even a special mission to an Ethiopian eunuch in Acts chapter eight. Phillip is sent on a mission from God to help the eunuch discover Jesus.

“As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?”” (Acts 8:36 NRSV)

What if the question was “What is to prevent me from being in the presence of God at the temple?” We should not lose sight of the fact that the eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship. The answer would be clear; “you are a foreigner, a eunuch, you are not a priest, you are not the High Priest, you simply don’t make the grade and never will.” However, nothing hinders him from being baptized. Nothing hinders him from experiencing the presence of God in Jesus.

“I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people

We have been looking at the “who and whom.” Now let us look at the “what.”

In the Old Testament, as God takes the time to teach about holiness, there is a constricting, a narrowing down of those who belong in the presence of God.  There is a narrowing down to those who are set-apart, or a “holy” people. They are narrowed down to being descendants of Abraham, then down to the descendants of Isaac, then down to the descendants of Jacob. Then there is a narrowing down to those who could approach God in the temple, those who were set-apart as the holiest of the holy. First there is a narrowing down to the tribe of Levi, then those priests who had properly prepared through consecrating themselves, then only the high priest. He was to be the cleanest of the clean, the holiest of the holy. However, even he does not belong in the presence of God. Only certain people make the grade and then even they can never make the grade. No one can truly stand in the presence of God.

We find this fact reflected in a passage from the Book of Revelation which reflects on the question “who can stand” in the presence of God given the consequence of sin.

“Then the kings of the earth and the magnates and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”” (Revelation 6:15–17 emphasis added)

This thought is reflected in the words of a song often sung during Advent and Christmas:

The sun cannot compare to the glory of Your love
There is no shadow in Your presence
No mortal man would dare to stand before Your throne
Before the Holy One of Heaven, . . . 

(from “Offering” by Paul Baloche, emphasis added)

This reflects the teaching of the Old Testament, that really, no one has the right to stand in the presence of God “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NRSV).

We are not without hope. The question “who can stand” is answered:

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, . . . .“These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9,14 emphasis added)

Back to “Offering” by Paul Baloche:

It’s only by Your blood
And it’s only through Your mercy Lord I come

While there is a constricting and narrowing down in the Old Testament, there is an opening up, a widening up which we see beginning at the birth of Jesus and continuing through his life and the ministry of His Church. The shepherds, the magi, the people on the margins, the unclean, the eunuchs, the Gentiles, anyone and everyone is invited and welcome.

We might give up hope for people. We might give up hope for ourselves. We are not the right kind of people, we don’t make the grade, we are too sinful, too different, too intellectual, too something or other. We may not be the kind of people who would make the grade for serving as High Priest but don’t worry, that job is already taken. Jesus is our High Priest, God the Son, and he has given his life as the ultimate sacrifice to reconcile us to Himself.

Don’t ever give up hope for others, or yourself. If shepherds are invited and foreign astrologers are welcomed into the presence of God, then you are too!

I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people

“All the people” includes you. The shepherds responded to the invitation by going to see Jesus. The magi took the initiative to seek him. Have you responded to God’s invitation? Are you seeking Him?



Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Ontario, Canada. All scripture references are NRSV.

Check out Clarke’s blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon.

November 14, 2018

You Can’t Be Affluent in Faith and Ignorant in the Word

Today we’re back with Lori Thomason at Pure Devotion. Click the title below to read at source. Click here to read her story. To read this at source, click the title below.

Speak for Your Servant Hears

I Samuel 3:8-10 (NKJV) And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. So he arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you did call me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord had called the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant hears.”

God speaks to people every day. Whispering within by His Spirit inviting us to sit in His Presence, meditate on His Word, speak with Him in prayer, and listen to what He says. Though desperate for our attention, the Lord does not speak above soft utterance. He is a gentleman who vies for one’s acceptance but would never force us to come. The Lord called to Samuel. Just a servant to the prophet, the boy served in a time when the “word of the Lord was rare” and there was no “widespread revelation”. God had a word. He needed a voice. He spoke to Samuel.

It would be natural to seek out the only one close by. The person you expect to hear from which in Samuel’s case was Eli. Eli, now advanced in years, depending on the boy as the word of God says, “his eyes had begun to so dim that he could not see.” I believe this is a natural and spiritual reference. So when the Lord spoke to him, it was only natural for him to assume it was his earthly master calling out. However by the third time, Eli realized that the Lord was speaking to the young man and so instructed him to go lie back down and if he heard the voice again to say, “Speak Lord, for Your servant hears.”

God is speaking to you today. You may not hear him or understand that it is the Lord but I promise you that the Lord is trying to tell you something. There are secrets and hidden things that belong to you and God will only reveal to you. Personal, life changing, and intimate details of a future that is absolutely too good to be true. Things that will change your hopeless perspective to a faithful pursuit. It is time to stop running with every little question to the men and women of God, family, friends, acquaintances, social media, and any other mentor or advisor. God is speaking His Word directly to you today. You must only say, “Speak Lord, for Your Servant hears.” Are you listening for the voice of the Living God today?

Deuteronomy 29:29 (NKJV) “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

Every secret thing belongs to the Lord our God. What does that mean? There are things not written in His Word for you and me that can only be discovered in an intimate relationship with God. Righteousness gives us full access to God including every secret and hidden thing reserved for you. His Word defines His Nature and His Intentions for us. It creates familiarity so there can be discernment in the voices heard within our heart and head. In other words, by reading, studying, mediating and coming to know God’s Written Word (the Law) – then and only then can we distinguish between them all. Secondly, Jesus is the Word. Without the person of Jesus Christ, there is no salvation or righteousness. We must have a personal relationship with Jesus (who is the Word of God made flesh) to know and understand the communication of God with His People. The keys to the Kingdom unlock the secrets and hidden things to God’s People.

Isaiah 45:18-19 (NKJV) For thus says the Lord, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the Lord, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth; I did not say to the seed of Jacob, ‘Seek Me in vain’; I, the Lord, speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17) You cannot be ignorant in the Word and affluent in faith. It’s contradictory to think you can have all of God’s Promises randomly because faith in God is intentionally sowing our life in the Kingdom of God and reaping faith’s productivity. Faith is completely believing and being fully assured of God’s Faithfulness outside of every natural sense that people rely upon. It means taking God completely at His Word. Are you seeking God in vain? By ignoring the Word of God as our way of life, we are living the same life expecting different results which some might call insanity.

Isaiah 48:5-8 (NKJV) Even from the beginning I have declared it to you; before it came to pass I proclaimed it to you, lest you should say, ‘My idol has done them, and my carved image and my molded image have commanded them.’  “You have heard; See all this. And will you not declare it? I have made you hear new things from this time, even hidden things, and you did not know them. They are created now and not from the beginning; and before this day you have not heard them, Lest you should say, ‘Of course I knew them.’ Surely you did not hear, surely you did not know; surely from long ago your ear was not opened. For I knew that you would deal very treacherously, and were called a transgressor from the womb.

In Jeremiah 29:11 [we read] that the Lord knows the plans that He has for you. Thoughts of peace and not of evil. To give you a future and a hope. This is confirmed in other scriptures including Psalm 139, Ephesians 2, and Romans 8. God has revealed His Purpose for us and instilled it us with a measure of faith to attain it. There is no such thing as coincidence without separating ourselves from God. Why? God is Sovereign. Coincidence implies a compromise in God’s Sovereignty. A breach in His Power and Authority. It means that He is not the Great I AM. Creator of the World and everything it in. It crumbles all foundations of faith because it compromises the Truth. The Word. Coincidence is not possible when Roman 8:28 is true. God not random. He is reckless only in His Love for us.

Ephesians 3:8-12 (NKJV) To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.

Oh friend, God is speaking to you today. He has a voice that is absolutely worth hearing. Daniel said, “He reveals deep and secret things…He knows what is in the darkness and Light dwells within Him.” (Daniel 2:22) He knows everything about you. Every significant and insignificant detail. His Grace is always sufficient. He wants to have a relationship with you unlike the superficial friendships formed in this world. He sent us His Word. An instruction book for better living and a new life. God then sent His Son, the Word wrapped in flesh, to be a poignant love letter of the deepest devotion and utmost affection for lost and dying people like you and me. He continues to speak though few are listening. Jesus said that while He was speaking in parables fulling the prophecy, “I will open My Mouth in parables; I will utter things kept in secret from the foundation of the world.” Pay attention to the red letters. What Jesus spoke in parables always contain even greater hidden truth and meaning. The manifold wisdom of God is available to us but cannot be complete until we listen to the still small voice of God whispering secrets and hidden truths to us just for us that cannot be given by another only confirmed. There is no such thing as a coincidence in the life of a Christian. God has an intentional plan and is devoted to its fulfillment. Jesus came to give you and I access to the Father including a rich and satisfying life. We must avail our eyes, ears, mind and will to the spoken word of God and when He whispers to respond, “Speak Lord for your servant hears!”

I Kings 19:11-13 (NKJV) Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

 

June 2, 2018

God As a Thriving Artist

We’re returning today to another excerpt from the 2010 Zondervan book, A Certain Risk: Living Your Faith at the Edge, by Paul Richardson. Paul is the son of missionary Don Richardson. To learn more, check out a story we did at Thinking Out Loud on Mustard Seed International.


God reveals that he is surprisingly nuanced. Story by story, the One who said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness,” beckons us into his depth. Reading through the Bible is a bit like finding out that a Herculean offensive tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers writes poetry and bakes rhubarb pie. Just like any individual person, God has personality traits. He relates to others through his heart. He loves, he feels sadness, anger, jealousy and, despite our well-planned, perfectly logical predictions of what he should  be, he even feels regret. God experiences the full possibilities of passion and creates us to know his passionate heart. God cries out in celebration. He listens and he talks.

We are intrigued by statements such as “God said to the woman,” “The LORD said to Cain,” “God said to Noah,” “God said to Abraham,” and “God said to Jacob.” God sits down with Abraham in his tent, and he chats with Moses as you and I would speak to our closest friends. He whispers to a child named Samuel in his room. He spends time with a boy named David in the shade of a tree and breathes music through his harp.

As Elohim reveals his many other names, he delicately invades our understanding. For those who care to know him, Elohim becomes El Echad, the One. He is El Hanne’eman, the Faithful One. He is El Emet, the Truth; El Shaddai, the All Sufficient; El Gibbor, the Champion and Warrior. He is El Roi, the God who sees me; El Chaiyai, the God of my life; El Sali, the God of my strength; El Rachum, the God of compassion. By the time we reach Isaiah, Elohim is no longer far away. He is Immanuel, God with us. From beginning to end, God becomes less distant and more alive. In the matrix of human faith, God reveals himself to the mundane, moving from mystery to increased clarity. God not only approaches in proximity. He approaches in time, advancing from the distant past into this very moment. The God who spoke to Noah, Abraham and Moses becomes my God now.

Throughout his story, Elohim reveals a stunning and invigorating motif. He is a thriving Artist, present in real time, pervasively engaged and continuously interacting with his creation. The psalmist wrote,

“When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.” (Psalm 104:30)

All through the Scriptures, God reveals himself as a craftsman, a carpenter, a composer, a designer, a gardener, a potter and an author. These creative terms don’t refer only to his activities during the original six days of creation, but to his ongoing work in history. Jesus said,

“My Father is always at his work to this very day.”  (John 5:17)

God is the Creator — “the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) The Potter’s hands are still covered with clay. The touch of the Potter’s hands is sometimes painful, but the finished vessel is a beautiful work of art.

Consider God’s creative response to a stretch of desolate wasteland. He shouts exultantly through Isaiah (Isaiah 41;18-20),

I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
and the parched ground into springs.
I will put in the desert
the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set pines in the wasteland,
the fir and the cypress together,
so that people may see and know,
may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
that the Holy One of Israel has created it.

December 22, 2017

The Four Mysteries of the New Testament

This a rare encore presentation here at C201. This original devotional first appeared here in December, 2013.


Psalm 139:14

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

There are some things that are just neatly tied up with a bow. Unlike a sitcom where all the subplots are resolved in 30 minutes, the realm of trust, faith, and belief is a realm of mystery.

The NIV translates Greek into English as “mystery” four times in the New Testament. The first has to do with the relationship between Gentiles who become followers of Christ (spiritual Israel) to those who originally carried God’s promise (ethnic Israel or national Israel). Not surprisingly, the passage is in Romans:

11.24 After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!

25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, 26 and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written:

“The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.

The transfer of God’s favor to such a broader, wider number that occurs with the coming of The Messiah (and the subsequent revelation to Peter that Gentiles are to be part of the Messianic promise) is really much of the major theme of Romans, and while it is relatively easy to be a partaker of such grace, it is relatively challenging to begin to understand it in the context of God’s master plan. “‘Tis mystery all.”

The second instance, also in Romans occurs in the book’s closing chapter and reiterates this aspect of its theme:

16.25 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

The third instance occurs in I Cor. 2 and also refers to a widening or a broadening of God’s disclosure to His people through the Holy Spirit:

2.6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Some brief comments from Matthew Henry are helpful in this passage:

  • Though what we preach is foolishness to the world, it is wisdom to them. They are made wise by it, and can discern wisdom in it.
  • [T]he wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom of God—what he had a long time kept to himself, and concealed from the world, and the depth of which, now it is revealed, none but himself can fathom. It is the mystery which hath been hid from ages and generations, though now made manifest to the saints (Col. 1:26), hid in a manner entirely from the heathen world, and made mysterious to the Jews, by being wrapped up in dark types and distant prophecies, but revealed and made known to us by the Spirit of God.
  • [H]e had determined long ago to reveal and make it known, from many ages past, from the beginning, nay, from eternity; and that to our glory, the glory of us, either us apostles or us Christians. It was a great honor put upon the apostles, to be entrusted with the revelation of this wisdom. It was a great and honorable privilege for Christians to have this glorious wisdom discovered in the gospel…

The fourth and final use of the word in the NIV is in relationship to days to come, what some call the afterlife as found in I Cor. 15:

15.50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.


Related Song: You are Mystical (audio only in 50px window; click arrow button in center to play)

August 7, 2015

What About Those Who Have Never Heard?

I have always been attracted to articles that deal with the eternal destiny of the un-evangelized, not because I expect to resolve this issue, but because it challenges me to think. Writers don’t necessarily agree on this topic, and I believe that’s part of living in a world where we “see through a glass darkly.” (1 Cor. 13:12)  This article appeared at the blog Wintery Knight, which in addition to a lot of political discussion, contains a number of thought-provoking articles like this one. Click the link below to read at source.

What will God do with people who have never heard about Jesus?

One of the most difficult questions for Christians to answer, especially when posed by adherents of other religions, is the question of what happens to those who have never heard of Jesus? In this post, I will explain how progress in the field of philosophy of religion has given us a possible (and Biblical) solution to this thorny question.

First, Christianity teaches that humans are in a natural state of rebellion against God. We don’t want to know about him, and we don’t want him to have any say in what we are doing. We just want to appropriate all the gifts he’s given us, do whatever we want with them, and then have eternal bliss after we die. We want to do whatever we want and then be forgiven, later.

Along comes Jesus, who, through his sinless life and his death on the cross, heals that rift of rebellion between an all-good God and rebellious man. Now we have a real understanding of the fact that God is real, that he has power over death, and that he has very specific ideas on what we should be doing. If we accept Jesus’ atoning sacrifice and follow his teachings, we can avoid the penalty of our rebellion.

The only problem is that in order to appropriate that free gift of reconciliation, people need to actually know about Jesus. And there are some people in the world who have not even heard of him. Is it fair that these other people will be eternally separated from God, just because they happened to be born in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Enter famous Christian apologist William Lane Craig to save the day. His solution is that God orders the world in such a way that anyone who would freely choose to acknowledge Jesus and appropriate his teachings in their decision-making will be given eternal life. God knows in advance who would respond, and chooses their time and place of birth, and he supplies them with the amount of evidence they need.

And this agrees with what the Bible teaches. The apostle Paul says this in his apologetic on Mars Hill in Acts 17:22-31:

22 So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects.
23 “For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘ N D ‘ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.
24 “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands;
25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;
26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,
27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;

28 for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’
29 “Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.
30 “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent,
31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

This passage is not difficult to understand, although some may find it difficult to accept. According to the Bible, God puts us in the best possible place for us to respond to him, and if we don’t, we are responsible. We decide how to respond to God’s efforts to make himself known to us. We would never find him ourselves, but he takes the initiative to reveal himself, without being coercive. It falls to us to investigate and find the clues, and re-prioritize our lives according to what we find.

In this research paper, Craig explains in detail how God foreknows how people will choose in every set of circumstances, and how God uses that knowledge to get everyone where they need to be without violating their free will. God wants the best for everybody, and has ordered to whole universe in order to give each of us our best opportunity for eternal life.

Here is a summary of the what is in his paper:

The conviction of the New Testament writers was that there is no salvation apart from Jesus. This orthodox doctrine is widely rejected today because God’s condemnation of persons in other world religions seems incompatible with various attributes of God.

Analysis reveals the real problem to involve certain counterfactuals of freedom, e.g., why did not God create a world in which all people would freely believe in Christ and be saved? Such questions presuppose that God possesses middle knowledge. But it can be shown that no inconsistency exists between God’s having middle knowledge and certain persons’ being damned; on the contrary, it can be positively shown that these two notions are compatible.

Go read this paper and equip yourself to answer this common question!

December 21, 2013

Some Questions are Not Resolved

 

Psalm 139:14

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

There are some things that are just neatly tied up with a bow. Unlike a sitcom where all the subplots are resolved in 30 minutes, the realm of trust, faith, and belief is a realm of mystery.

The NIV translates Greek into English as “mystery” four times in the New Testament. The first has to do with the relationship between Gentiles who become followers of Christ (spiritual Israel) to those who originally carried God’s promise (ethnic Israel or national Israel). Not surprisingly, the passage is in Romans:

11.24 After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!

25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, 26 and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written:

“The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.

The transfer of God’s favor to such a broader, wider number that occurs with the coming of The Messiah (and the subsequent revelation to Peter that Gentiles are to be part of the Messianic promise) is really much of the major theme of Romans, and while it is relatively easy to be a partaker of such grace, it is relatively challenging to begin to understand it in the context of God’s master plan. “‘Tis mystery all.”

The second instance, also in Romans occurs in the book’s closing chapter and reiterates this aspect of its theme:

16.25 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

The third instance occurs in I Cor. 2 and also refers to a widening or a broadening of God’s disclosure to His people through the Holy Spirit:

2.6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Some brief comments from Matthew Henry are helpful in this passage:

  • Though what we preach is foolishness to the world, it is wisdom to them. They are made wise by it, and can discern wisdom in it.
  • [T]he wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom of God—what he had a long time kept to himself, and concealed from the world, and the depth of which, now it is revealed, none but himself can fathom. It is the mystery which hath been hid from ages and generations, though now made manifest to the saints (Col. 1:26), hid in a manner entirely from the heathen world, and made mysterious to the Jews, by being wrapped up in dark types and distant prophecies, but revealed and made known to us by the Spirit of God.
  • [H]e had determined long ago to reveal and make it known, from many ages past, from the beginning, nay, from eternity; and that to our glory, the glory of us, either us apostles or us Christians. It was a great honor put upon the apostles, to be entrusted with the revelation of this wisdom. It was a great and honorable privilege for Christians to have this glorious wisdom discovered in the gospel…

The fourth and final use of the word in the NIV is in relationship to days to come, what some call the afterlife as found in I Cor. 15:

15.50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

November 17, 2012

Did God Reveal it To You, Or In You?

The beauty of scripture is that no small detail has been omitted and nothing has been included by accident. This discovery was taken from the blog of Baptist pastor Brad Whitt where it appeared under the title, The Location of Revelation.

“…to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles…” Galatians 1:16

Paul is describing for us the process of his personal salvation – the light of His Lord that he saw from heaven on the road to Damascus. In doing so he gives us a very unique insight regarding the location of that revelation. He tells us that it pleased God “to reveal His son in me.”

Why did he say “in me”? Why didn’t he say “to me”? Wasn’t the light that blinded him and arrested him on that dusty Damascus road an outer vision? Didn’t it stop him in his tracks with a brilliance that was brighter than any noonday sun? Didn’t it block the way to his old nature and cause his life to halt in the middle of its journey? Absolutely. Surely then, this was a vision of his Lord that was presented as a picture to his eye. Not at all. Because you see, no picture can only be a picture to the eye. A thing can only be revealed to me if it has first been revealed in me.

Are the beautiful mountains I am so blessed to see simply a picture that is presented only to my outward vision? Again, no. You see, there could in reality be no beauty without if there was not first revealed a sense of beauty within. Is the music that I hear only revealed to my ear? No, or I would always be deaf to its beauty. There would be no harmony without if there was not first a sense of harmony within. Such is it with the one described as “the fairest of ten thousand.’

I must confess. Many times I have secretly envied those who were permitted to look upon the bodily form, the physical person of Jesus. I have found myself jealous of those who were able to see the smile on His face, to hear the encouragement and comfort in His voice. Yet, wasn’t it those very ones of whom it was said, “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you.” So, in reality it was not the eye who saw the smile or the ear which heard the comfort. It was the heart, the life, the soul. It was the responsive spirit that was bearing witness with His Spirit. The open heart that ran out to meet its completion and found in Him the fulfillment of its salvation because it found in Him all that it ever desired.

That’s why God had to reveal His son in me. You see, I needed more than an audible voice, for I might mistake it for another. I needed more than to simply see handwriting in the clouds, because I might have been like a child who can’t read looking at letters in a book. I needed Him to reveal Himself in me.

You see, not even the most accurate description of a sunset could declare its splendor to one born blind, and likewise no description of Jesus could properly present His glory to a loveless soul. That’s why the Spirit of love must breathe into the heart the new sensation of loving, the new experience of being loved. He must unseal the soul’s eye, unclog the spiritual ear, so that the harmonies and symmetries of His creation might be revealed. It is only in His light that we will firstly and fully see light. Only when we are rooted and grounded in love will we be able to understand His love. That love, though revealed and familiar to all those who belong to Him, is still beyond our finite comprehension.

So, Paul says to you, “You will see the King in all of His glory and beauty when His glory and beauty is revealed in you.”

 

~Brad Whitt

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