Again, on our social network site for our favorite charity, sponsoring some of the world's poorest children, we have a discussion group, which discusses many of life's challenges, usually in relation to God or the Bible; or maybe the other way round, talking about God or the Bible in relation to many of life's challenges. This past week's entry from "C & A" was about love. Following is my comment, followed by my description of a friendly objection from "T", followed by my reply. Names are abbreviated for privacy:
Thanks for this post "C" and "A"!
I've thought and prayed about this since it was posted.
Jesus, in what I think of as His "Last Will and Testament", said "Abide in Me, and I in you, ...for you can bear no fruit unless you abide in Me." The Gospel of John 15.
Beloved, what manner of Love has the Father bestowed upon us that we should be called "the children of God"....Beloved, NOW are we the children of God, but it is not yet apparent what that will look like. But we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
I John 3 ('epistle' or letter)
Ok, here is what I think, in fact I'm convicted to my core:
Beloved, it is imperative that we know who God IS. Only, Only by knowing Him intimately, can we hope to be like Him at all. Only in knowing Him can we begin to conform to His image. Only in there can we fulfill the purpose of our creation. We were created "in the image of God" imago Dei. How can we be image bearers, if we do not know what the true God looks like? This is why Theology (the study of God) is central to who we are - not necessarily college or seminary training, but definitely being intentionally vested in getting to know Him.
If God is all about glorifying Himself, if not getting embarrassed by the people called by His name, is paramount, if getting a good return on his investment is high on His list, then I think Warren Buffet (Berkshire Hathaway) , and Steve Jobs (Apple) and Bill Gates (Microsoft) should be excellent image bearers, because they have glorified themselves, they separate themselves from people who embarrass them, and they get a very good return on their investment.
Beloved, I submit to you that the God you and I know is eternity away from that image:
I Corinthians 13 describes love. For years it sounded like another endless, impossible 'to do' list to me. That is until I understood that I Corinthians 13 is really a picture of Jesus, and Jesus being the Express Image of the Father, I Corinthians 13 is a picture of Eternal God.
As I wrote, if God is self absorbed and self serving, always about "glorifying God" then we have no shortage of people bearing the image of god on earth.
We read in 1 John that God is love. If this is true, what does He look like? My friend Bobby Grow likes to say that the Trinitarian God is "shaped by His love": It is within this dynamic, wherein the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father, and the Father and Son love in the communion of the Holy Spirit wherein He freely chose to create a mirror of Himself in His image who might further reflect His love for the other; and in so doing created a community of creatures who find their greatest delight and purpose by loving Him — through Him — and by loving their neighbors. [Posted at EVANGELICAL CALVINIST (see sidebar for link), November 2010.][I apologize for using your name without permission Bobby. I figure like the politician, or was tat "Citizen Kane"? said "I don't care what the press says about me, as long as they spell my name right."]
You see, Father, Son and Holy Spirit have been forever about loving each other. Here, let us get a I Corinthians 13 working definition: Love is other absorbed, not self-absorbed. Love is always, me concerned with what is best for you, not me.
I do nothing on my own account, but as my Father has taught Me, I speak these things. And He that sent Me here, is with Me: The Father has not left me alone, for I do always those things that please Him. John 8
That is being totally enthralled with someone else. Then, love is, as "T" wrote: For God so loved the world that He gave His only son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Just as Father, Son and Holy Spirit are enthralled with each other, God is Selflessly committed to us as well. He loved each of us so much that He sent His only Son to suffer and die on our behalf. And Jesus loves His Father, and us so much that He walked out His vicarious life, and to the cross with JOY. It is God’s nature, again, His joy, to have done this gratis – no strings attached, and in fact any requirements would be contrary to the true nature of God. So we can only receive from Him by faith, as a hungry little child opens his hand to receive a bowl of rice.
Nothing in my hands I bring,
simply to thy cross I cling,
naked come to thee for dress
helpless look to thee for grace,
foul, I to the fountain fly,
wash me Savior, or I die.
Augustus Toplady 1740-1778 from the Hymn “Rock of Ages”
[ADDENDUM: As full disclosure, ironically, Dr Toplady would probably disown about 50% of my theology here, as He was a "Federal Calvinist, and one of the first publishers of a version of TULIP.]
It is imperative that we know so well our frame of dust, and our penchant toward sin, that we can never be fooled into thinking that we are righteous, or in any way merit any consideration. We must become so well aware of His Sinless Holiness, and His selfless, NO strings attached, no holds barred love, that we will as much as possible, never again doubt His Holiness, or His selfless love for us, and our security in Him. If we love, out of obligation to love, is that love or chains? Is it acting out of our duty [and for our own security]?
We, at long last settled as being secure in Jesus’ love, through no merit of our own, are now free to love back. Oh. We will be hurt and tested: “If He really does love me, how can He allow this in my life?”, because He loves us and wants us to mature in our faith in Him, to grow to be adults in the Lord. As we become sure that He is securing our lives unto life and unto eternity, no matter what, then we can begin to take chances to love others with abandon: “They can’t really hurt me, I’m in God’s hands.” This does not mean we write a blank check. Jesus never did, but gave freely, lavishing His love with discipline according to that person’s long term best interest.
Beloved, in learning that our God and Savior are really love personified, that God is motivated by selfless love, we over time become confident in Christ, that He perchance really loves us, and really has our best interest at heart, even when we reject His counsel. I believe that, as we begin to know Him well, we begin to reflect Him better and better, because we see Him as He is: a selfless giver of love: Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her. You see, this is not compelled by commandment, but by reflection, by imitation.
Beloved, a son who has been nurtured by, and is secure in his father’s love, sees his father’s work and says “that’s the kind of man I want to be”, and imitates the works that his father does, not for fear of loss, or being found not to be a true son, but out of a simple desire to be like his father, and to please his father. Although Eternal Son of God, Jesus became a man child, He learned about His father in Heaven (just conjecture, but Joseph must have been a fairly decent image bearer himself) through Scripture, preaching, his 'parents' and godly neighbors. The Holy Spirit led Him along as well [understatement of epoc proportions]. He grew in wisdom and stature. He loved and revered His Heavenly Father perfectly, and wanted to be just like Him. The Holy Spirit helped Him to fulfill that all of the way to the cross and death, out of love for His Father, and us.
Sealing the end of this? Beloved, unlike Dorothy, of The Wizard of Oz, the answer is not in you, the answer has never been in you, through perseverance, trying harder to be good, disciplining yourself. These efforts become part of the process, but Beloved, your purpose for being here, your purpose for ever having been created, is to receive God's love freely, this is your joy; and to bear His image, as selfless giver of love. The answer is always and repeatedly looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, through Scripture and prayer to again and again become so well acquainted with Him, and the love He intends to lavish on us, that everything we can give, or stand to lose, are nothing compared to that love.
[NOTE: To this comment, my trusted friend and Sister "T" objected that she was "a little offended" that I so much discounted God guarding His glory, and defended His right and duty to defend Himself. The following is my reply:]
Yes "T", I believe that you are using the correct usage of "glory", while I'm using a less thoughtful or more careless one.
Still, there is a nuanced difference in interpretation: for example, when Jesus prayed "Father, glorify your Son [why?], so that your Son may glorify you." Again, son is ultimately interested in the Father's Glory.
Father and Son are eternally committed to guarding one another's honor. That's just one example; others, not so clearly in service to other, may seem to be self-service.
There's a number of ways to go about this.
A guy at work says "well you know they found Jesus' bone box [ossuary]".
I don't know if you've heard this one, but archeologists have found an ossuary identified as containing someone named Jesus, and a couple of Marys (or they were in adjoining ossuaries). Anyhow, to claim that this is Jesus our Lord offends me greatly, because Jesus’ bones are nowhere on Earth. As the First Fruits of the resurrection, His bones are part of His resurrected body in Heaven. I'm offended because it is a lie, moreover, I'm offended because it makes Jesus out to be just a man. I'm offended because it is contrary to the true Glory of God. So that is me, filled with the Holy Spirit, viscerally moved to defend the honor of my Lord and God.
Also at church one recently said “I wouldn’t be surprised if, when we get there, God says that we all got it wrong: Christians, Buddhists, Muslims etc.” What!?! You mean Jesus didn’t die for us, rise again the 3rd day according to the Scriptures? You mean as The Word, He failed to reveal the Truth of God? You mean as the Express Image of the Father, He was no more valid then the Qur’an? In times like these I don’t know whether to suffer in silence or rage: “What the sam hill did they teach you in Sunday School!?!”. On that day, I suffered. That same day another one said “I would like to think when we get there, Jesus will be just another guy on the street.” My heart sinks. I digress.
“The Glory of God" is not defined or judged by man's judgement. When Jesus prayed that the Father glorify the Son, He was praying that the Father carry out His plan for the next 3 days. This included being betrayed by His friend, another friend denying that he knew Him, and all of His friends abandoning Him. It included trial as a false prophet by His own people, being spat upon by the unclean gentiles of all people, and tortured, and executed a traitor's execution. It was scandalous that the blameless Son of God should be treated this way, and yet this is what He prayed for. Later in the evening, He would pray that this cup be taken from Him, “Yet not my will, but thy will be done”.
Paul's instructions are.....instructive:
So if there is any encouragement among you, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, and being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or deceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each look not only on his own interests, but also the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. Who though in the Form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in Heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of the Father.
Philippians 2 Yeah, so much for Jesus being just another guy on the street. Yes!!!
So there it is: Humility, care for others, guarding the truth and The Father exalting the Son. It all has a consequence: Glory. Because everything that God does is glorious.
I'm having trouble bringing this back around. Maybe if I relate the type of thinking I'm opposed to: God is sovereign. God is sufficiently powerful to do anything He wants, I agree. Likewise, He can prevent anything He hates. Some define sovereignty as God controlling everything. They argue that everything that happens is done specifically for the Glory of God. This is where I’m offended. Auschwitz, the rape of Nanking, people sexually assaulted in church, etc. This is the consequence of a fallen world that God warned Adam and Eve against. Now, I understand that He will work all things for good to those who love Him, and this will fall out to His glory, but to understand that He planned the sin and suffering for His glory, I believe, reverses the purposes of God. God hates sin, and the Son of God Himself suffered for the Glory of God. I believe He Loves, and this falls out to His unimpeachable “Glory!”. His Father is just, and merciful, and truthful, and this falls out to His unapproachable “GLORY!”. God redeems the consequences of evil, which only evil itself produces in this world, glory be to God. That is said As If glory was value added. The truth is, God is glorious, and “Glory” defined is God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is Glory personified.
Jesus died for all creation, for all of the sins of the world. “Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world.” God so loved the world... that whosoever believeth in Him…
So, Father, Son and Holy Spirit in concert, created. God’s magnum opus was Mankind, created in the image of God, Male and Female created He them. He watched in sorrow as Adam rejected God. Then Father, Son and Holy Spirit, out of love for creation and mankind, set the wheels in motion to redeem mankind, and creation. In the fullness of time, The Father sent the Son on His mission, on the wings of the Holy Spirit, who caused Mary to conceive the Promised Seed. The Holy Spirit was the Anointing in Whom Jesus walked as a man [Theanthropos God-Man] in His vicarious life. My point being that, each person of the Trinity always serving the Other, and always bent on redeeming creation, and that, by the way, to present a spotless Bride to the Son. On the cross, having suffered the righteous wrath of His Father, He cried triumphantly “It is finished!”. This is the culmination of the “carnal union”: Jesus, in the incarnation, took on all human flesh vicariously, to pay for all the sins of the world. The “spiritual union” takes place as each individual believes in the Word of God, that He was sacrificed for their sin, resulting in the union of believer and the Holy Spirit.
I think of the Glory of God like the Hymn “How Great Thou Art”, you know: how beautiful and awesome His creation is and all that. But what brings me to true worship, is
"when I think, that God His Son not sparing,
sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in,
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died, to take away my sin.
Through the lens of Isaiah 53: Creator God is the suffering servant. The scandal is that Glory is in the willingness of the Son of God to be completely humiliated in the sins of the world: even the sins of those who never will repent. Likewise, in our suffering, we ask where is Jesus in this? The answer is He was on the cross.
So what I will stand by in my more than “nuanced difference” is that God is always a jealous God. Father always jealously guards the Glory of His perfectly obedient Son. Son jealously guards the honor and glory of His righteous and just and loving Father (e.g. the cleansing of the temple). Holy Spirit in concert with Father and Son supports God in His work and convicts the world of sin and convicts and comforts His children. And (hopefully) His children, convicted by the Spirit, as you were "T" in your reply to me , jealously guard the Honor and Glory of God.
What is left are those who although partakers in the carnal union, in that their sins were expiated on the cross, still reject the Son of God. What is left for those who have rejected the Salvation that the Son purchased for them on the cross? Gospel wrath! In the final judgment, responding to those who stumbled at the Rock of Offence, who rejected God’s son, who died for them, The Father will take those who were not resurrected in the first resurrection, and remove them eternally from the presence of God, and put them in the place of everlasting punishment.
At that point there will be no more sin in Heaven nor the new Earth. The Glory of the Lord will fill the Heavens and will be the source for Heavenly light. The Bride will forever worship God, in sinless purity.
I hope this helps. I'm grateful that you objected "T". It's sooo good to hear someone defending the Honor and Glory of God. I hope this is more clear. If this still doesn't pass muster for you, please let me know.
In the Peace of the Lord
[Italicized comments in square brackets are addenda for this blog]