Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Surpassing Glory of Christ


The church and even the secular culture uses words life savior, redemption, Jesus, Christ, Bible, cross, resurrection, heaven, hell, and many other religious terms which when used colloquially are innocuous at best. They are familiar ecclesiastical terms which have been so bandied about that their true spiritual glory and essence are all but gone. We have become numb to the spiritual reality and are content with names and by products. But can we just pause for a moment and allow the Spirit to break open our hearts and minds and once again lead us into the glorious mysteries of the One we call Christ?

Rev.1: 12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;
13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

Rev.4: And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.
And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

Rev.19: 11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
16 And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King Of Kings, And Lord Of Lords.

Try and digest all that profound imagery in your head and in your heart. Does that sound like the Jesus being portrayed in today’s evangelical culture? When you embrace the majesty and glory of the True and Faithful Christ you can plainly see just how innocuous the church has made their own caricature of the One called Christ. But leaving that harmful deception, let us remove the shoes from our hearts and let us proceed with great reverence and humility into sacred ground.

God spoke and all creation was. Who among us can actually comprehend such an event? All we can do is by faith accept it. Any attempt to explain it only reveals our finite ineptitude. And within the Creator’s own words He reveals that the Word, known to us as Jesus, created all of it. Again a colossal mystery of epic proportions. And how can we fully understand how Christ created man while fully realizing man’s coming treachery and yet He still makes man is His own image and knows full well the price He will pay to provide a ransom and a redemption for those who love sin and self more than they love Him? This is the mind numbing reality, and yet if we just receive it in the natural it seems like part of Grimm’s fairy tales.

But God, Who is a spirit, wraps Himself in human flesh and comes as a baby born in Bethlehem and born in a stable of all things. This humble and unlikely birthplace does not diminish the glory of the event but in reality only enhances it. That the Creator would come and be born through a human womb in a rather peripheral town and in a place where animals ate and slept represents the pinnacle of humility. God doesn’t come as a human king, but He comes as a baby born to a young peasant woman. The entire narrative is an unspeakable miracle and mystery. But when we understand the motive it becomes all the more glorious. What sacrifice! What humility! What glory!

But as the years passed the gospel narratives and Jesus and His teachings were made to bend to the convenience of the culture until ultimately the mystery and the majesty and the glory have been removed from Christ Himself and He became only a good friend and a sometimes advisor and even an American. Oh but that is nothing but a diabolical lie! He Who was God in the flesh lived and taught as One who had authority, and He had the authority of the Eternal Word covered in human flesh. No one ever spoke as did He, and no one ever lived as did He.
Here was the manifestation of the invisible God living and breathing among us. This was the mystery of all mysteries. Paul says in his first letter to Timothy, “great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” The Incarnation was the greatest mystery which today remains clothed in glory and understood only through redemption. The Holy Spirit who was the seed in Mary’s body is the only one who can illuminate our hearts and minds to even a portion of that glory. God became flesh. Words alone can never encapsulate sop great a mystery.
What a glorious plan. It was so glorious and so eternal that the Jews could not see it. They understood things in the natural and they saw kingdoms of this earth, but they could never see redemption through a human sacrifice on a wicked Roman cross.
But the conundrum becomes the vehicle through which this glory shines. It would have been much easier for the all powerful God to come down and destroy all who opposed Him, and that we could have understood. But when we think about a divine baby born in lowly circumstances we are awestruck with amazement as well as being confounded. Men’s thinking is always confined to the temporal and the carnal while God’s mind surpasses time and space. To see where Bethlehem would lead is far beyond us, especially to see it lead to Golgotha.
But this God-man lived and breathed here on earth and lived a life without sin. Yes, the miracles drew crowds and His words penetrated hearts and minds, but who could have seen what would become the crowned jewel of His eternal glory? Bloody, sweaty, filled with suffering and pain and gore, and openly mocked by men and women of all stripes the cross seemed the most unlikely place for the glory of God. The place reeked of death and violence. And it was unmistakably unjust and showcased the most despicable elements of man’s heart. And given the power of the creator how could this pitiful figure be a god of any kind?
But if that is what you see and understand then you have missed it all! This pitiful figure was not suffering because men had overpowered him and he was at their mercy. No this was the Creator God voluntarily submitting Himself to all the shame and mocking and blood and even death. And it wasn’t for some twisted divine theatrics. This was the heart and the glory of God on display for all eternity. This was why He came; this was Bethlehem; this was Nazareth; this was Capernaum; this was Galilee; this was Bethany; this was Jerusalem; this was the culmination of everything that had been set in motion when God spoke creation into reality.
But when we arrive at Golgotha and look upon this viciously beaten frame we are stripped of all reason and logic. This kind of spectacle was never a part of our visions of the Divine Being. In fact, we always would assume that God would be the one to either put a stop to such violence or meet it out to deserving miscreants. But as we gaze upon this bloody scene we cannot fathom the suggestion that this is God in the flesh and the Christ Himself. Now we are immobilized by bewilderment and perplexity. It just does not make sense. And in that you would be correct.
But now the Spirit enters your heart and mind and presents a revelation which illuminates the impossible and conveys the eternal truth. You look again and suddenly, and without relying on your own wisdom and intellect, you begin to see it, or more appropriately, you begin to see Him.
This is an eternal epiphany which when received transforms the mind and the heart and the soul. You now see God bleeding and dying, and your heart is now transfixed upon a sight which is disgusting and unappealing in the natural. And those around you who still only see a dying man cannot understand why you see something and Someone far greater than what they see. And even more disturbing to your human peers is the fact that you seem to be in love with this bleeding, dying Jew. It will not be long before the strength of their friendships will wither.
Hollywood would have never created such a narrative. To suggest that God in human flesh presents Himself as a bloody sacrifice and suffers and dies for those who are His enemies is absurd to the human understanding. But He bleeds; He suffers; He is bruised and beaten; He sweats drops of blood; He is mocked and ridiculed; and dies slowly and in great distress. God has died. There can be no greater glory than this.
Glory? How can that excruciating death be a reflection of God’s glory? That is the question most will ask. To understand even the smallest part of God’s powerful love one must go to Golgotha. It is there the glory of God will be unmasked for all who will to see it. It is not palatable to the sophisticated mind of modern man. It is not compatible with the religions of the world. It is not logical to the intellect of man. In fact, it is unimaginable to say the least.
But in the end it is the clearest and most open revelation of the glory of God that a human can ever know.
And it was given for that vilest of creatures called man.
Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift.


michael said...

Rick writes: ".... Yes, the miracles drew crowds and His words penetrated hearts and minds, but who could have seen what would become the crowned jewel of His eternal glory? Bloody, sweaty, filled with suffering and pain and gore, and openly mocked by men and women of all stripes the cross seemed the most unlikely place for the glory of God. ...".

Yes even today worldwide still He is being mocked openly by men and women and sadly even among young people, 9 10 11 years old and younger mocking the Son of God! Makes me cling to those words Luke recorded He uttered dying on the cross for the sins of His people:

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. (Luke 23:34 ESV)

Anonymous said...

I'd like to share a song I came upon, which I found to be done tastefully here. It just lifts up Him up, and I imagine the choirs in heaven are constantly worshipping Him in praise and song.

I agree here, it's so easy to humanize the Lord and water Him down to our level and it's sometimes hard to remember who He is now, all glorious.

This is part of my church background where I came from.......we know that there are errors, big and small, in every denomination, but I also believe that we all have to allow God to refine us and I believe in the last hour He will unite us somehow, some way. In the meantime, if Rick allows, here is the song:

It's "When I Speak Your Name" (original Kari Jobe) but here done by the Indiana Bible College.


Cherie c. said...

Did anyone almost choke at the magnitude of this post with the huge lump that formed in the throat as you read?

Did an unexplainable tear threaten to spill?

Did it rip at your soul with a conviction so raw, you could hardly stand it. Or are we all immune to its teaching?

Melodrama is what will be said of the truth in this post. But if we see it that way, if we look upon it as just another sermon, then take a plunge in the cold bath of

Mark 9:44-46-48
44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

It cannot get any more serious than this. If God says something once it should bring about obedience. But three times, fear and trembling.

A watched a video where a street preacher was being called mean by a woman and she was asking people if they hated him because he was preaching the Gospel without the political correctness so often found in the church at large. He was speaking the truth and this very deceived woman was crying saying he would only make them not want to come to Jesus. How utterly sad. Profoundly sad that this woman prefers the God of man's imagination and compromise over the one true God and His Son Jesus, who died and rose again and who will return one day, not to save, but to exact God's righteous judgment to a willful, disobedient world.

I will be printing this post out and sending it to my sister and hope she reads it and her hard heart will melt and she will repent. All I can do is try.

If this doesn't make you pause and draw a deep breath of; I cannot explain, then you have become numb.

Pastor Rick, we need these shock and awe sermons. It is through teaching such as this that makes you fear and tremble which is the beginning of wisdom.

May God have mercy on me as I seek Him and repent. How could I have ever doubted His Word? When the fear of doubt regarding what is right starts at my stomach of fear and worry, I will rebuke it, and turn to Scripture. So much doubt being peddled in the world. So many versions of the Bible make it hard to know what is true. I will have to rely upon God the Holy Spirit to lead. I just hope I am not giving into something that makes me feel a certain way only to find out it may be wrong. That is the doubt of which I struggle and the enemy is happy to know that I struggle with this. I am weary. My only hope is hope in Christ alone. I want to have joy in my salvation and in being a child of God. I have joy knowing that He will chastise me when I sin, or in error. That sounds weird I know, but it is love. I would rather live with chastisement than to perish in hell. Who has bewitched me? Many.

You are correct brothers in Christ, I listen to too many human voices. So very right.

Annette said...

Just to even fathom our Father's wondrous love for us in terms of sacrifice; His Son, our Savior's blood was shed for thee....only to be resurrected in conquering death for all eternity. This truly brings a new and enlightened meaning to the words "Son of God and Son of man" for me as a saved sinner. And one cannot help but to go back to those very first foundational Scripture verses we learned as children "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." John 3:15-16

Thanks again Pastor Rick for another genteel reminder of God's promises..."that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Praise Him.