2. Reality brings Worship

Wilderness Meditations: 2. Reality brings Worship

Ex 7:16 Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness

Back to Basics:  In 1647 the Westminster Larger Catechism, a series of question and answers for teaching believers, started out: Question 1: What is the chief and highest end of man? Answer: Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever. The truth is that ‘glorifying God’ is the right and natural response of a man or woman who has encountered God and realised how wonderful He is. Many Christians today, I believe, have lost sight of His glory and although some utter words that we call worship, it is only a very few who really pour out a heart response that is the automatic natural response of encountering God.

Decline in Thinking: The enemy has been at work over recent centuries and most of us have not been aware of it. One writer plotted the inadvertent ‘descent of man’ and his corresponding thoughts about God through a variety of thinkers and scientists: Copernicus discovered that the earth was not the center of the universe. We are but a speck of dust in the cosmos.  Newton provoked investigation into the age of the earth. Today it is considered 4.54 billion years old. Mankind is just a marker at the end of existence. Spinoza, taught us that to the extent that we are physical beings, we are subject to physical laws, all of which have the character of necessity. Determinism followed. No freedom.  Marx argued that the whole of human history was shaped by economic forces.  Darwin, concluded that human beings were just one branch of the primates. Freud, maintained we are driven by sex instinct and the death instinct. So we are all accidents, there is no meaning, no God, no man made in the image of God. That is how ‘thinking’ flowed through the centuries and this is what is taught today, this is the ethos in which our children are brought up, not that God created all of what we know, every atom and molecule in existence and us in His image.

And then Covid-19 and Wilderness. Suddenly people are going online to investigate church, the conduit to God. Suddenly people are going online for services, suddenly more Bibles are being sold. It would appear that Solomon’s words, He has … set eternity in the human heart,” (Eccles 3:11) are rising to the surface of our consciousness in a new way – there is more to life than material things. It is early days, but is it the start of a new seeking after God? When leaders and scientists are changing their minds so often, who is there to bring certainty? God perhaps.

Resist Oppression: The people of God were oppressed by Pharaoh in Egypt. He held them in slavery. The apostle John was under the distinct impression that that is how it is with Satan and the unbelieving world today: the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 Jn 5:19). But we have been set free from his oppressive slavery. And yet, so often, the enemy seeks to oppress the people of God living in this fallen world with negative thoughts and feelings, but God says to him, “Back off! Let me people go so that they may each day worship me IN this wilderness!”

Will you rise up and cast off the negatives that the enemy brings through the media and others, cast off thoughts of conspiracy theories and all the rest of the rubbish he would use to pull us down into confusion. We ARE the people of God!!!!! He has delivered us out of Egypt. He’s with us. Worship Him! Do what you’re made to do, upset the enemy with truth. Worship the Lord God Almighty! This is a place of worship!

Regaining Perspective: The truth is that God and God alone is worthy of worship. It doesn’t matter where you are, in the valley in the shadow of death or on a mountaintop bathed in sunshine and hope, that fact remains exactly the same – God is worthy of our worship. Failure to worship indicates a failure to realize who He really is, the all-mighty, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise, eternal, never changing, Creator of all things, Lord of all things. Merely because He does not tower over the world bellowing, “I am God, worship me you puny beings,” merely because He does not scare us into oblivion with His might, His holiness, His awesomeness, don’t think that He is not worthy of your adoration. If the experience of lock-down has caused you anxiety, if it has left you wondering and fearful, if it has left you devastated at the loss of a loved one or even a job or a business, don’t let your anguish dominate you and pull you down so that you almost feel like giving up life itself.

These realities are painful but they are not the whole picture and to be able to see that, maybe we are going to have to wait until we come out the other side, come out of the valley in the shadow of death and be able stand once again on the heights and look down and see the full panorama – and wonder. And when we see the end result we will bow and worship. So, as a child of God, why not bring that future into the present and by faith worship Him – He does know what He is doing in the midst of the Pandemic brought about by human failure. He is working for our good and the good of the world in the midst of it.

It may appear dark under the shadow of death sometimes, but let Him lift you up by the Spirit to be above it and catch the big view so when you come down again, you can worship here in the wilderness while we wait the outcome. As you do it, watch how your spirit will be lifted. Worship brings the reality to the fore and that dispels the half-truths. Do it.

12. A Glorified Body

Short Meditations on the Body of Christ:  12. A Glorified Body

2 Thess 2:14   He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is an unusual concept and, I suspect, one that is foreign to many believers. Glory is a strange concept. We get it when, in the Old Testament, the glory of the Lord filled either the Tabernacle (Ex 40:34,25) or the Temple (2 Chron 5:14 & 7:1). It was an immense brightness revealing the presence of the Lord. Generally we might say it means divine splendor so in our verse above it might read, “that you might share in the divine splendor of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In his prayer before the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus used this word six times. Sometimes it was about himself: “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” (Jn 17:4,5) i.e. Father I have revealed your divine splendor by what I have been doing, but I realise that has been limited so let the same splendor that I have when I am in heaven be seen by the things that are about to happen (my death, resurrection and ascension).

Sometimes it was about us: “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.” (v.22) This must refer to the work of the Holy Spirit who unites us by bringing life to us all as He indwells us. In other words, the presence of the Holy Spirit within us should be revealing to all onlookers the presence and divine splendor of God, by who we are and what we do. Who we are? Are people able to look at us and see something different about us, not an arrogance or self-centred piety but a humility that expresses love and goodness and is there to bring God’s love and goodness to whoever we find ourselves with, as much as they may be open to us.

What we do? We have just touched on that because it should flow out of who we are. Jesus touched on this when he taught, “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:16) i.e. let God’s goodness and presence and divine splendor be seen through the good that the Holy Spirit inspires you to do. When we forgive, when we love, when we do good, when we bless, when we persevere, when we are patient, when we are kind, is it with such divine inspiration and empowering that people look on and wonder and say, “How can you be like that? I want what you have.” Who was the famous saint who said, “Evangelize by all means; use words if you have to.”? God’s glory is revealed more by deeds than by words (Acts 2:22 where words are not mentioned!).

25. The Glory of Jesus

Meditating on Great Themes in John:   25. The Glory of Jesus

John 14:13,14  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Of the four Gospels,  John has a unique perspective that has been formed by many years of reflecting on the wonder of those three marvellous years with Jesus and coming to see and pick up on things the others had not seen in those earlier days. The word ‘glory’ appears 19 times in this gospel. Add nine times the use of ‘glorify’ and we begin to see something significant. It will reach its climax in what we tend to call Jesus’ high priestly prayer of John 17 but it appears as we’ve noted many times earlier on.

We see it first in John’s prologue: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1:14) Glory here simply means splendour, thus “We have seen his splendour, the splendour of the one and only unique Son of God”.   John reveals Jesus as one who stands out uniquely in this world.

It was after the miracle of water into wine that John commented, “the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.” (Jn 2:11) i.e. through this miracle he started to reveal the wonder of who he was.

In an argument in Jerusalem, Jesus said, “I honour my Father and you dishonour me. I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge.” (Jn 8:49,50) The Father will be honoured when Jesus is glorified and He wants that to happen.  That happened in the case of Lazarus being raised from the dead where, before they went to Bethany, Jesus had said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (Jn 11:4) There would be those who would see this and hear of this and they would praise God because of it. They would also highly esteem Jesus and it was that which brought about the events of Palm Sunday.

In that last week in Jerusalem John explains, “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfil the word of Isaiah the prophet,” (Jn 12:37,38) and goes on to quote Isaiah and then comments, “Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.” (Jn 12:41) i.e. Isaiah foresaw the day of Jesus and his splendour being revealed and yet not being realised by so many.

Again and again it is clear that Jesus’ intention was that the Father would be glorified, for example: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father,” (Jn 14:13) and “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (Jn 15:8) You remember we have said previously that Israel’s calling was to reveal the Father so that He will be glorified and people will turn to him. Also with Jesus’ ministry and with us. Thus in his life and ministry, Jesus’ primary task was to reveal the Father and His glory.

In the prayer of John 17 we first hear, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” (Jn 17:4,5) See the two elements in this: first, the past ministry on earth of Jesus which has glorified the Father and directed many to Him and, second, the request to be returned to heaven to receive the glory again that he had had before he left heaven. This accords with the apostle Paul’s words about Jesus: “Christ Jesus, Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Phil 2:6,7)

Do you remember Jesus words about being the bread of life who had come down from heaven. John, uniquely among the gospels, reveals Jesus as the Son who has come down from heaven, having laid aside all his majesty, all his glory, to live in a single human body with no splendour except that which was revealed through his works.

A few sentences on in the prayer, he prays, “I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.” (Jn 17:9,10) i.e. all these followers now bring glory to the Father. That was the followers he already had, but he also prays for future believers as well: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (Jn 17:20-23) Our unity should bring glory to the Father. How tragic that the Church is so divided. Nevertheless, it should be the life of Jesus in us that still points the world to the Father. That is the intent of the Godhead.

He concludes, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” (Jn 17:24) His final desire is that we, his followers, will be with him in heaven so that we may see what he is really like. Be ready to have your mind blown away!

This is the culmination of these studies. We said earlier on that there were two big overriding themes – the person and identity of Jesus and the transforming power of his ministry. That is what it is all about and that so that men and women will be drawn to the Father through him and through his ministry – expressed today through us his followers and thus both he and his Father will be glorified, to have something of the spendour that they have in reality in heaven, revealed through their works through us, here on earth.

No wonder John wrote in the concluding chapters, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (Jn 20:30,31) And believing, we may glorify Him while we can in these years we have on earth, until one day we come face to face with Him in heaven and behold the reality of the wonder of the Father and the Son. There we will have a new spiritual body that will be able to see this wonder and not be destroyed. There we will see him as He truly is, and we will worship. Hallelujah!