Child of God

Antonio Allegri’s Head of Christ – Public Domain

“Now if we are children then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory” (Romans 8:17)

The story is told of a wealthy husband and wife who traveled around the world collecting wonderful and costly works of art.  Their home was filled with the finest sculptures and paintings.  In time the wife passed away and their son grew up, joined the military and went off to war.  One day a knock at the door brought the terrible news that his son had been killed in battle.  The man shut himself away, alone in the house with all his valuable treasures.  Years later, another knock at the door brought a surprise visitor, a friend of his son from the military.  He held a brown-paper-wrapped package in his hands and told the old man that he had been searching for him for many years to give him a portrait he had painted of his son shortly before he was killed.  The father thanked the friend and unwrapped the package with tears in his eyes.  The painter-friend had captured the essence of his son, especially in the eyes.  He took down his prized painting from above the mantel and placed the painting of his son in its place.

When he finally died his estate announced a great auction and the most important art collectors and dealers from around the world came.  The auctioneer gaveled the auction open and displayed the first painting – the simple portrait of the man’s son.  The auctioneer asked for a bid. No one said a word.  He asked again, who will give me just $25 for this painting?  No one moved.  They weren’t there for sentimentality, they were there for the great sculptures and beautiful paintings.  Finally, one man in the back raised his hand, “I didn’t come here to buy anything, I just wanted to watch, but I’ll take the painting for $25.”

“Going once, going twice, sold to the gentleman in the back for $25.”

Then the auctioneer rapped the gavel on his stand and announced, “The auction is now closed.”

“Closed! How can that be?”  “What about all these paintings and sculptures?  There’s a whole house full of treasures to be sold.”

The auctioneer put down his gavel, “The old man’s will declared that only one painting would be sold – the painting of his beloved son.  Whoever takes the son gets it all.”

God set His beloved Son to redeem lost souls and bring them into His family.  He said that whoever chose to believe in His Son would instantly become His child and would have rights to all He owns – which is heaven and earth and all the universe and eternal life.  The Son is the Way to all the treasures of God – actually, the Son is the greatest treasure of God.  And those treasures can be yours if you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord.  It’s an incredible offer – you trade your sinful life for the glory of Christ.  Don’t pass it up.

Whoever takes the Son gets it all.

Lord, You are far and above the sinful creatures on earth, but in Your great love for us, You gave Your Son so that we could have it all – redemption, hope, joy, peace and eternal life in heaven with You.  Only a fool would pass up such a wonderful offer.  I chose Jesus.

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Advent 2015 – Day 7 – Hope in His Glory

Advent candle 1We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Romans 5:2

We started this Advent week of hope looking at Isaiah 9:2 and the light that Christ brought to the world.  It is fitting that we end this week in Romans 5:2 – rejoicing in “the hope of the glory of God.”  The Greek word that Paul uses for glory is doxa, from which we get the word “doxology,” and it is referring to the awesome, brilliant light that radiates from God’s presence.

In the highest heavens God dwells in majesty, far beyond our most vivid imaginations.  John tried to express the excellence of God in the book of Revelations, but his human words failed.  The best he could do was to equate what he saw with the most grand and glorious sights here on earth, and even that fell woefully short.

One day, much sooner than the world realizes, Jesus Christ is returning—not as a helpless baby, but as the King of kings and Lord of lords.  He will come to claim those of us who have trusted Him as their Savior, and He will bring us to His—and our—eternal home.  In that place will be all the wonders John could not describe.  And we will see the glory of God.  Oh, how we will rejoice!

That is your hope my friend—the awesome, brilliant glory of God, there before your very eyes.  The light that illuminates all of heaven will shine on your face; the radiance of His beauty will be reflected in your eyes.  Every heartache and struggle in this life will fade away as you behold what no human eye has ever seen.  The glory of God!

Is your hope firmly fixed on Jesus?

How to be Perfect

“Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48

I never thought of myself as a perfectionist. The truth is, I knew “perfect” was so far out of my league, I didn’t expect it. I was just pleased if my mistakes were few and not too glaring. When I worked as a church secretary I used to say “If there wasn’t a mistake in the bulletin, people would think someone else did it.” I didn’t expect perfection from myself – that is until I started back to school, and perfection became the goal. Not for my sake mind you, for my grades became my expression of gratitude to God for the opportunity to go to seminary. But my friends noticed how discouraged I became when I didn’t get an A on an assignment or missed even one question on a test. I wanted to be perfect – after all, isn’t that what God expects of me? Isn’t that what Jesus said?

Let’s get this right out on the table. God is perfect, and we are not. The Bible is replete with God’s perfection: His works are perfect (Deut. 32:4), His knowledge is perfect (Job 37:16), His ways are perfect (2 Sam. 22:31; Ps. 18:30), His law is perfect (Ps. 19:7; James 1:25), His beauty is perfect (Ps. 50:2), His faithfulness is perfect (Is. 25:1), His peace is perfect (Is. 26:3), His will is perfect (Rom. 12:2), His power is perfect (2 Cor. 12:9); and we can give thanks that He gives perfect gifts (Jas. 1:17), and that His love is perfect (1Joh n 4:18).

But you and I? We are from perfection with no ladder tall enough to reach it. We are flawed, we are weak, we have tempers and attitudes and prejudices; we are selfish and self-centered. We are human, with all that our humanness entails. And we are sinful. God knows all this. So why, then does Jesus tell us “Be perfect.”? Why throw out a command He knows we will never achieve?

There are two points we need to consider in this impossible quest for perfection.

In the Greek, the word “perfect” means “perfect, complete, mature, finished.” Jesus is using both meanings to speak of our lives here on earth – and our lives in heaven. First, He is expressing what James echoes with the same Greek word, teleios, when he says “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4-emphasis added). Modern translators have Jesus saying “perfect” and James saying “mature,” but the word in the Greek is exactly the same. And both are saying that we are to work towards maturity in our Christian lives. Listen to Paul’s words, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” This “perfection” is the life-long process of growing and becoming mature believers, and it doesn’t happen overnight. It is a day-by-day, choice-by-choice walk – the walk of faith. It is also the perfecting work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, as He leads and guides us on to this maturity. Knowing that I am “a work in progress” frees me from the burden of perfectionism.

Jesus also uses the word to express our future state, when we are complete – in Him. You see, the root word for “perfect” and “mature” is telos, which means “end result, outcome, goal. This is the work of Christ that achieves the end result of perfection.  The writer of Hebrews expresses it beautifully: “By one sacrifice He (Christ) has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:14).   Christ has made us perfect before the Father through His sacrifice on the cross.  This verse also encompasses both expressions of perfection in heaven and the perfecting work in this life.  Want to dig a little deeper? Look again at James 1:4. We examined the word “mature,” but let’s look at the word “complete.” The combined root definitions of “complete” mean “whole, entire” with “share, place, inheritance.” Oh, this is so exciting! We will be made perfect, as Christ is perfect, when we have come into the entirety of our inheritance, our share of eternity – HEAVEN! The perfect place for perfect people!

Jesus is giving us both the perfect way to walk in this life as His followers and the promise of a perfect eternal home as His perfected saints.

So why does Jesus command us to “Be perfect, therefore as your Father in heaven is perfect.”? I think Charles Spurgeon expresses it very well: “The youthful artist as he grasps his newly sharpened pencil can hardly hope to equal Raphael or Michelangelo; but still, if he did not have a noble ideal before his mind, he would only attain to something very mean and ordinary.”

Perfection is the aim, it is the picture God paints in our minds, not as an unrealistic goal, but as a promise and a vision. Certainly we will stumble and fail, and for that He sent us a Savior – a Savior who makes us perfect in every way.

Holy Father, I cannot achieve perfect grades, be a perfect parent or live a perfect life; but I can look to my perfect Savior and know that I am perfect in Him. Amen.

The Hope of Home

“In my Father’s house are many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you…that you may be where I am.” (John 14:2,3)

There’s something special about home, especially at Christmas.  In WWII, teary-eyed soldiers in Europe sang, “I’ll be home for Christmas”[1] as they sat in muddy foxholes.  College dorm buildings become ghost towns as students head for home and family for the holidays.  At Christmas, we long to be with those we love the most.  We long for home.   And for Christians, that longing for home extends beyond this earth to our heavenly home.

I am so grateful for God’s faithfulness to keep His promises, especially the promise of an eternal home.  There was a season in my life when, through a series of set-backs, our family lost our home.  The kindness of a friend kept a roof over our heads, but it was the hope I have in God’s promise that kept me going as I continually reminded myself: “This world is not my home. Jesus is building a mansion for me in heaven.”  Jesus’ words in John 14:2-3 were my hope:  In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

This home exceeds anything the greatest architect could ever design.  It is grander than the finest castles and mansions in the world.  Hebrews 11:10 tells us that its “architect and builder is God.”  Our minds cannot imagine the beauty and immensity and wonder of this eternal, heavenly home.   Listen to these descriptions from Revelation 21 – “It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, it had a great, high wall, with twelve gates…each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.  The glory of God give it light and the Lamb is its lamp” (vs. 11, 12, 21, 23) And this precious promise: “Nothing impure will ever enter it” (v. 27).  Loved ones will be there, waiting to welcome us and show us all that God had prepared for us.  I will see my mom again.  The “great cloud of witnesses” that surrounded us and cheered us on will be there – Moses, Abraham, Paul, Mary, David, and a lady I really want to meet, Dorcas.  We will see flowers unknown on earth, we will enjoy the fruit from the tree of life, and drink from the river of life that flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb. (Rev. 22:1-2) And don’t forget this precious promise “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Rev. 21:4)

But the best part of our heavenly home is that we will forever live with our Heavenly Father and blessed Savior.  Listen to the words of the angel: “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servant will serve Him.  They will see His face…” (Rev. 22:3-4a-emphasis added).  That is hope for Christmas and every day.

Holy Father, This world is not my home.  My heart longs to be at home with You, with Jesus, and with the saints of all the ages.  Fill me with the hope that You have a place for me and I will never, ever be away from home again.  Amen.

 


 

[1]  “I’ll be Home for Christmas” Walter Kent, Kim Gannon, Buck Ram

This World is Not my Home

“O Paradise! O Paradise! I greatly long to see, the special place my dearest Lord in love prepared for me.”  Frederick W. Faber.

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God the Father Almighty

Maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Crucified, dead and buried;

He descended into hell

The third day He rose from the dead;

He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;

From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit;

The Holy catholic Church;

The communion of saints;

The forgiveness of sins;

The resurrection of the body;

And the life everlasting.

 “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”  2 Corinthians 5:1

 When I was a little girl, I heard a minister preach about eternity – and it terrified me.  I remember laying in my bed, trying to wrap my childish mind around the concept of eternity – of something that would never end.  My heart began to race with panic, and I cried myself to sleep that night.  I am far removed from that little girl, and God has graciously taught me many wonderful truths from His Word.  I still cannot wrap my gray-haired mind around the concept of eternity – but I am no longer afraid.

In this final phrase of The Apostles’ Creed, we are going to see what God’s Word has to tell us about heaven and about everlasting life.

Psalm 103:19 tells us the significance of this place called heaven. “The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.”  Heaven is the dwelling place of God, the place where He rules over all of His creation.  Heaven is so much more that the image that we have drawn in our minds.  Heaven is not sitting around on fluffy clouds, strumming harps, bored out of our minds.  It is a place of wonder and amazement, everything will be glorified because of the awesome presence of God. The colors of heaven will be more brilliant that anything we have seen on earth.  Plants more beautiful, food more flavorful, music more glorious (the angels will be singing after all).

Revelation gives us the most description of heaven.  In Revelation 3:12 Jesus speaks of the city of God, “the New Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from God.”  In this New Jerusalem we will drink “from the spring of the water of life” (Rev. 21:6). The Holy City will shine “with the glory of God,” with the “brilliance of a very precious jewel” (Rev. 21:11) Try to picture with me the descriptions in Revelation 21 and 22:  The city is made of pure gold  (the purest gold on earth is 24K, but the gold of heaven is “as pure as glass’) with walls of jasper, the foundations are twelve precious stones, the gates of the city are made of giant single pearls  The gold that our world revolves around – that’s just pavement in heaven, where the streets are made of pure, transparent gold.  There is no sun or moon, “for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.”  The city’s water source flows from the throne of God, as clear as crystal.  And the tree of life will be a source of nourishment, healing and life to all.

But here is the most beautiful sight of all: “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve Him.  They will see His face…” (Rev. 22:3-4, emphasis added).  We will see the face of God, the face of our Savior!  As a writer, here I fall silent.  What words could I offer to describe the glory of beholding the face of Jesus?

And we will have to privilege of looking into His face – forever.  For we will have life everlasting!  As hard as it is to comprehend, it is one of the foundations of our faith – eternal, everlasting life.

Life everlasting is the promise that has kept the heart of the Christian faith beating steadily through trial, persecution, and oppression.  It has been the song on the lips of the martyrs down through history.  Life everlasting is not just about existence that never ends.  It is about LIFE that never ends.  It is about our heavenly home and the uninterrupted presence of God.  It was purchased for us by the blood of Jesus, and secured at His resurrection, and when you accepted Christ, He “put His Spirit in [your} heart as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 1:22).

What are some of these “everlasting blessings?”  Glad you asked!  How about everlasting love (Ps. 103:17); everlasting righteousness (Ps. 119:142); an everlasting kingdom (Ps. 145:113); everlasting joy (Is. 35:10); everlasting salvation (Is. 47:17); everlasting kindness (Is. 54:8); everlasting light (Is 60:19 & 20); an everlasting name (Is. 56:5); and an everlasting Father (Is 9:6)?  Do you see now, why eternity doesn’t frighten me anymore?  It will be an everlasting paradise (Rev. 2:7)!

Holy Father, Sometimes life is so hard here, and I cannot find a reason to carry on.  Fill my heart with this hope and assurance: this world is not my home, my “citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20).  Someday, I’m going home to walk on streets of gold!  Amen.

At God’s Right Hand (Part 5 of the Apostles’ Creed)

I believe in God the Father Almighty

Maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Crucified, dead and buried;

He descended into hell

The third day He rose from the dead;

He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;

From the Apostles’ Creed

“The Lord said to my Lord; ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’”  Acts 2:34

Through the Apostles’ Creed, we have considered God, who is the Creator of heaven and earth, and we have seen Jesus Christ, the Son of God; from birth, suffering, death and resurrection.  What happened after Jesus’ resurrection?  Where is Jesus now and what is He doing?  And why does this matter to my faith?  As always, we look to the Word of God to answer these questions.

The Gospel writer, Luke, tells us of Jesus being taken into heaven in front of the very eyes of those that walked with Him and would passionately carry His story into faraway lands.  He writes, “While [Jesus] was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into heaven.” (Luke 24:51)  Luke continues this testimony in Acts 1:9 when he says, “He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight.” In another Gospel account, Mark writes, “After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was taken up into heaven and He sat at the right hand of God.” (Mark 16:19) So how can we know that He truly is there?  We have the testimony of Saul (who became Paul) who heard a voice from heaven clearly identify Himself as “Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:5) We also have the account of Stephen, one of the newly appointed disciples, who gave an eyewitness report from the site of His own death by stoning.  Take in the beauty of his words; “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  ‘Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” (Acts 7:55-56) As he drew his final breaths, Stephen was given a glimpse of His Savior in heaven, at the right hand of His Father.  This was not the ramblings of a delirious man, but a bold declaration made under the power of the Holy Spirit.  Ever the faithful witness, Stephen proclaimed aloud the majesty of what he saw.  The writer of Hebrews confirms his vision in Hebrews 8:1 which says, “We have a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven.” As an interesting aside, note that Jesus is “standing at the right hand of God.”  in Stephen’s testimony.  Why standing? Look at Acts 8: 59: “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  Though Scripture does not give us details, I believe Jesus stood to receive Stephen into glory, to embrace this servant who died declaring the truth of the Gospel, and to welcome him home.

Is Jesus just sitting around on His throne waiting for us to die?  Not at all.  Romans 8:34 tells us that “Jesus is at the right hand of God, interceding for us.”  Looking at the root definitions for the word “interceding,” we understand that Jesus is with the Father, and “reminding” Him (as if God could forget) that we have taken part in His death through our faith, and that He, Jesus, has provided the perfect sacrifice for all of our sins.  Jesus reminded the Father that your angry outburst yesterday has been covered by His blood and sacrifice.  He interceded for you when you let your mind wander into sinful thoughts and for me when jealous envy overtook my heart when I saw my co-worker’s new car.  He died to provide atonement for every sin you and I have committed and will commit before our lives are done.  He lives now to intercede for us, pouring His precious blood over every stain that our sin creates.

Jesus is also at work, preparing a home for all who will believe and trust in Him.  He made this promise in John 14:2-3: “In my Father’s house are many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you, [and] I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”  Jesus is fixing up your room in His Father’s house.  Just the right colors and furnishings, everything will be perfect for you when you arrive.  Do you suppose His portrait will be hanging on the wall?  No, for we will not need pictures, we will see Him face to face, in all of His glory.  Imagine, all of the great men and women of the Bible, the martyrs, missionaries, servants, those who preached to great audiences of people, and those who lovingly wiped feverish brows in the name of Jesus all together in the great halls of God’s house.  And oh, what wonderful reunions with those who made it home before us!  My mom will be there, and dear and precious friends that I miss so much.  We will all share in the joy of God’s house, for Jesus has been working all this time to make everything ready.  No wonder He “apprenticed” as a carpenter for thirty years here on earth.

Faith in Jesus Christ is incomplete unless we know and believe that He waits for us in heaven, sitting at the right hand of our Father, interceding on our behalf.  Faith must believe that Jesus is preparing our eternal home, and He will stand to receive us when we come to this life’s end.  Is your faith in this life alone, or is it a faith that will carry you into eternity?

Eternal Savior, I am in awe of You.  You gave your life to ransom me from death, and You live in eternity waiting for me to come home.  I will see you face to face – Oh what a glorious day that will be!  Amen.