Category Archives: God’s Glory

Holiness Is Anything But Casual

Awful Glory

Holiness carries connotations of stuffiness. Typically it conjures up images of dour old spinsters sanctimoniously reading their King James Bibles as they pass judgment on anyone who tries to enjoy life. Not exactly appealing, even to the best of us.

Generally, we don’t like thinking too seriously about God’s holiness either. We don’t mind singing popular praise songs that mention it, mind you. We just prefer not to delve deeply into its implications.  That reluctance comes, in large part, from instinctively sensing that facing His holiness inevitability means confronting our unholiness.

Indeed, the prophet Isaiah had an encounter with God’s holiness that completely devastated him.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” ~~Isaiah 6:1-4 (ESV)

How different Isaiah’s encounter with the Lord was from 21st Century claims of God appearing to people in visions or speaking to them. The accounts I’ve heard, even of God supposedly speaking personally to them, rarely included remarks of wonder at His presence, and almost never mentioned any conviction of sin. In fact, they usually expressed a casual attitude, practically ignoring His holiness altogether.

In reality, the Lord’s holy nature should cause us to tremble!

Think about the apostle John, who had such a deep friendship with Jesus during the Lord’s earthly ministry that he laid his head on Jesus’ chest. 70 years later this faithful man saw Christ in all His glory.

12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. ~~Revelation 1:12-17a (ESV)

John’s personal friendship with Jesus did not negate his sense of awe at being exposed to Christ’s unvarnished holiness and glory. There was nothing casual about it. Like Isaiah centuries earlier, John was overwhelmed by the Lord’s holiness.

God’s glory and holiness have a power and beauty that few men could handle. Only in our resurrected bodies will we be able to withstand such magnificence. And even then, I wonder if, like the holy angels in the Temple with Isaiah, we’ll cover or faces because of the brilliance of His holiness.

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Proclaiming God’s Glory

One of my favorite aspects of the Christmas season is that people tolerate — and sometimes even enjoy — hymns that celebrate Christ’s incarnation. What a glorious thing! Granted, many have little idea of what the hymns actually mean, but they sing them anyway.

Maybe we can use these beloved hymns as springboards for telling others that God the Son became a Man so that He could shed His blood to atone for the sins of all who will believe. For instance, the angels in the hymn I’m featuring today shout “Glory to God in the highest” because the Savior had been born. We can share this popular hymn and then explain why the angels had such tremendous joy. Joy that could cause our friends to sing their own praises to God.

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The Longings Of One Physically Disabled Woman

Commonwealth Mall Sept 2012 026Being a physically disabled Christian often requires responding graciously to assumptions that my able-bodied brothers and sisters in Christ make. One friend envied all the extra time I have to study God’s Word (never mind that everything takes longer and my Personal Care Attendant schedule limits the hours I have on my computer). Countless people think of me as a prayer warrior (never mind that I struggle more with prayer than any other spiritual discipline). And almost everyone assumes I wish I could walk (believe me, I’d much rather be rid of my speech defect).

But the assumption that most bothers me is that I can’t wait for my resurrection body.

Friends often talk about having foot races with me in heaven. They envision me pushing them around in wheelbarrows (as payback for all the times they pushed me around in my manual wheelchair), and they anticipate dancing with me or wearing me out on a celestial tennis court. And I appreciate their desire to see me free of my Cerebral Palsy, with all its muscle tension,  skeleton distortions and limitations. Of course my resurrection body will be a wonderful relief after my earthly lifetime as a quadriplegic.

I am looking forward to having a glorified body, but not so that I can run and leap and dance. As wonderful as those things may be, I believe they will take a very distant second to the real joy of heaven.

Revelation 5:6-14 is my favorite description of heaven. Please click this link and read it. You’ll find no mention of healed bodies or formerly disabled people playing tennis, but you most definitely will find multitudes praising the Lord Jesus Christ, centering all their attention completely on Him. You’ll find adoring declarations of His worthiness to receive honor and glory because of His work on the cross.

Our resurrection bodies certainly will be liberated from physical weaknesses, but that liberation has a purpose far beyond our physical comfort. Ultimately, our resurrected bodies will be free from the corruption of sin.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. ~~Romans 8:18-25 (ESV)

Recently, a friend of mine remarked to me that once we have our resurrected bodies we will be able to worship the Lord without mixed motives. No more wondering if others see how spiritual we look. No more trying to manipulate Him into giving us what we want. Our glorified bodies  will enable us to worship Him in total purity, with no sin polluting our praise.

I don’t really care about being set free from my disability in heaven,  though I know I’ll praise the Lord  for that blessing as well.  I eagerly await a resurrection body no longer infected by sin. A body free to praise the Lord Jesus Christ with pure motives. A body that can stand before His glory and holiness without flinching in shame.  I long to see His face.

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Saturday Sampler: November 19 — November 25

bible-sampler

Thanksgiving has passed, but the holiday season is just ramping up! You might want to read Michelle Lesley’s 10 Ways to Share the Gospel During the Holidays for some practical evangelism ideas. I am planning on implementing #10 myself.

For an intriguing approach to Bible reading, consider Why You Should Live in the Psalms by Scott Slayton of One Degree To Another. I’m not sure yet whether or not I’ll try his suggestions, but it definitely captures my interest. See what you think.

Obviously, bloggers this week focus quite a bit on Thanksgiving. Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life writes about the topic from an interesting angle in her blog post, Freezing Out Fear. It’s shorter than most of her posts, but it’s no less powerful.

The holidays can certainly bring out the best and the worst in us, can’t they? In her essay for The Gospel Coalition Blog, Melissa Krueger illustrates how A Beautiful Table and a Bitter Heart can dishonor the Lord.

Continuing her very convicting series on “acceptable” sins, Erin Benziger of Do Not Be Surprised gives us Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Selfishness. She makes points about this particularly damaging sin that I’d never considered, and her perspective might challenge you a little as well. The entire series is definitely worth your time!

We celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation nearly a month ago, but let’s not suppose that we can move on to other things and forget all about it. Equip, a blog out of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, features Stephen J. Wellum’s article entitled Are the Five Solas Biblical? We all need this refresher.

Pastor Gabe Hughes examines the recent #Churchtoo campaign on Twitter that intends to indict Christian churches for allowing (if not encouraging) sexual harassment and assault. His article, #Churchtoo: Confronting Sexual Abuse in the Church…And How Not To Do It, looks at the sin of sexual abuse from a Biblical perspective rather than as a reason to discredit Christianity.

Writing for Common Slaves, Joe Reed offers an extended quotation in Doctor’s Orders: Lloyd-Jones on obsession with polemics. If you can’t get enough of “discernment ministry,” you might do well to read this one.

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The Christian Professor Marvel

Psychology AftermathOnce a year, a certain guest speaker came to our church in California.  By God’s providence, I missed his first visit (I can’t remember why, though I suspect I had a cold that I didn’t want to share).

In the days following,  my friends gushed over this man’s ministry,  recounting his “words of knowledge” as verification that he operated in the “power of the Holy Spirit.” Even a friend who had previously expressed skepticism regarding Charismatic phenomena tried to convince me by saying, “He told me things about myself that only the Lord and I knew.”

“Like Professor Marvel in The Wizard of Oz?” I asked, pretty much ending the conversation.

The biggest draw to the annual meetings with this man, however, was that people got “slain in the Spirit” when he prayed over them. My girlfriends anticipated his meetings, positively giddy over this prospect. Even in my Charismatic days, I saw no point in people falling backwards to the floor in spiritual ecstasy.  But this prophetic speaker started coming around after I’d turned from Charismatic theology. Thus the very prospect that made them giddy made me nauseous.

The last year he came, I told my pastor that I wouldn’t attend church that week because I couldn’t support the practice of slaying people in the Spirit.  My pastor, in an effort to persuade me that the practice was godly, blurted out, “But Deb, your best friend gets slain every year!”

No appeal to Scripture whatsoever.  Please notice that point.

In both conversations I’ve recounted today, people based this man’s credibility on the personal experiences of those who attended his meetings, not on whether or not he accurately preached God’s Word (which I doubt, given the Charismatic excesses that routinely accompanied his appearances). And that appeal to personal experience troubles me even more today than it did at the time. Although my friends didn’t realize it, they elevated personal experience over the authority of Scripture.

Yet the apostle Paul warned that not everyone who appears to preach the Gospel actually does.

12 And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. ~~2 Corinthians 11:12-15 (ESV)

Not once, in all the years that this man came, did anyone tell me he inspired them to study Scripture, that he exhorted them towards holiness or that he helped them see Christ more clearly. As I recall, they always came away focused on themselves instead of the Lord. And that disturbs me.

Ladies, the Lord didn’t institute His Church so that we could enjoy Christian equivalents to psychics or luxuriate in euphoric trances. His Church exists solely to glorify Christ Jesus and to equip His people to proclaim the Gospel. Spiritual goosebumps may offer momentary pleasure, but usually they distract us from Him. We must evaluate preachers, not by personal experiences they make available, but by how faithfully they handle the precious Word of God.

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Creator And Sustainer

Majestic Name

Colossians 1 may well be one of my favorite chapters in the Bible! This morning I read just one section of it, but I couldn’t stop taking notes and marveling at the depths of Who Jesus is and how absolute His power is. Look at the passage with me.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. ~~Colossians 1:15-20 (ESV)

Every time I read this passage, it thrills me! Even beyond being a compelling testimony to Christ’s deity (which alone excites me quite a bit), the idea that He personally created the entire universe, and now holds it together boggles my mind. The more I think about His centrality in sustaining every molecule of creation, the more astounded I am.

I respond to this majestic description of the Lord by worshiping Him. Really, what other response possibly corresponds to His preeminence?

Please run Colossians 1:15-20 through your brain for a few minutes. Think about its richness in portraying the Lord Jesus Christ as the Creator and Sustainer of this universe, from the vastness of outer space to the complexity of a single cell. Then remember that He became a Man in order to shed His blood on the cross to pay for our sins. I believe those thoughts will propel you into worship too.

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Nothing Is As Fair

This week, I want to post a hymn that completely exalts the Lord Jesus Christ. I didn’t want one celebrating what He’s done for wretched sinners like me, although I love those hymns. Nor did I want one expressing my desire to serve Him, although I love those hymns as well. I wanted something that said nothing about me and everything about how wonderful He is.

One hymn came to mind. This magnificent hymn contrasts Jesus with the beauty of His creation. As fair as the various elements of creation are, none of them compare to Him.

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