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Archive for April, 2018

How God Grows a Work

April 30th, 2018

The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:2-3 NIV)

Christ envisioned the kingdom of heaven in terms of growth – like a seed planted that produces a crop, bearing a hundred times, or sixty or thirty times what was originally planted. Or like a small seed that grows into a tree that even the birds can nest in the branches (Matt. 13). Any pastor who does not have the growth of the church on his heart has certainly not grasped the reality of the work of Christ in this world.

But how does God grow His work? That is the question. Does He grow it by manipulation? Does He grow it by worldly means? Does He grow it by worldly advertisements, or by the preacher promising people will become richer or healthier or happier?

The passage from Psalm 147 above says that He grows it by love, by tenderly and graciously dealing with the brokenhearted, the hurt, the hopeless, the wounded, the damaged souls of this world. The gathering of the exiles back into Jerusalem was emblematic of the work of God in the growing of the church, and the ones whom God calls to come to Him through faith in Christ are touched by the love of God for them.

It is the great need of the church and of each individual Christian to experience God’s love on a deep personal level. Love builds up like nothing else can or ever will. That God so loved the world that He sent the Son to die on the cross for our sins is the seed of the gospel. Christ, who had no sin of His own, died voluntarily for yours and mine, and this is the heart and soul of the gospel.

Hurt people hurt others, and loved people love others. The one who is being healed by the love of Christ for him is the one who is also loving others in Jesus’ name. Love builds up. Love is patient and kind, encouraging, and tenderhearted. Love listens and blesses and hopes all things. To be a loving Christian must be achieved by the Spirit in us. This must be the great means by which the church of Jesus Christ grows. We are to love people into God’s kingdom. And we are to love them until they grow in grace and become His instrument to love and reach others.

…speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Eph. 4:15-16)

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God in Christ

April 21st, 2018

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son … For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. Col. 1:13-19

The kingdom of God is always revealed through personality. The heavens declare the glory of God, but His rule is declared through Christ. The idea of a kingdom is not possible unless there is a king. For the last several centuries there have been brave democratic experiences of many nations, yet all have felt a need to have some human person to be “on top of the heap” or to embody the values and identity of the nation. We may validly ask on earth whether or not the people of any nation can identify with each other strictly through mere impersonal means.

True values must have a face. There is an ache within the human heart for intimacy, and though some of us are more drawn to ideas than others, no human can say that he is fulfilled in life without intimacy and relationships with others. God has placed this need in our natures and it is an indispensable element of who we are. And it is the unchanging reality of who God is as well. He reveals Himself to us best as Father, Redeemer, Shepherd, Comforter, Teacher, and Friend – all of which are roles that demand personality and relationships.

The Bible is abundantly clear that God is a Person and He has revealed Himself through Jesus of Nazareth. The Bible testifies that all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell Him. And it was not some impersonal principle who served as the Creator, but it was God as a Person who created personality. Along with that creation is individuality and the ability to express oneself and to think for oneself.

Christ was not some mere afterglow of the eternal. He was and is God who was God from before the beginning. Some I know have struggled with the concept of the Trinity, but without this concept we have no explanation for community or the capacity for people – God’s creation – to exist in relationship with one another. However far back we may go in time, we will eventually come to a point where only God exists. And if that God were a single solitary entity, with no capacity for fellowship or intimacy with another, what type of world would such a God create?

Christ spoke plainly of the glory and love he and the Father shared from eternity (John 17:24), and there is the element of God’s eternal nature that speaks of unity, wholeness, and intimacy. So the kingdom of God that He invites us to is one of love and intimacy, where community and unity will be experienced in and through Christ. Yet where individuality will still be maintained, and where sin will be purged out of our spirits.

We people are not more profound simply because we have been trained to think in metaphysical terms, in objective notions of truth and reality that are divorced from personality. If anything, we demean ourselves when we think of God or His eternal reality as such. For His personality begat our personalities. And we are going not merely toward an idyllic setting but to the Lord Jesus Himself.

The kingdom of God is never about impersonal rules. It is eternally centered in the reality of the divine Personality of Jesus Christ, the Son He loves. So we are most at home when we think of our life in these terms. I am sixty-seven years old today and as we age it is not, as we might think, that our wisdom only increases in terms of logic. In fact, our capacity to think clearly seems to diminish somewhat with age. But our capacity for intimacy should increase, our willingness for honesty and unaffected intimacy, and ever deepening relationships grows. There in eternity we shall know fully, even as we are fully known (1 Cor. 13:12).

Let Christ draw you to Himself, and be comforted with the assurance that this knowledge shall never fade with age, or shall it dim or become dull throughout eternity.

Daily Devotions, The Last Surprises of Life