Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ephesians. The "Praise of His Glory" - what does it mean?

"New Heavens and earth, where righteousness dwells.

The earth will be full of the knowledge of the glory of YHWH as the waters cover the sea.

Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power...The last enemy to be destroyed is death...When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God."

Here are a few verses that indicate the big picture of God's plan. It becomes difficult to understand certain things (like the place & purpose of the Law) if we think that God's "endgame" is merely to have the souls of justified men & women join him in a heavenly plane. That's not the picture that we get from scripture.
Reading Romans & his other epistles, it gets confusing to hear Paul explain what the Law is all about. One minute he's saying God gave it to increase transgressions. The next He's saying that it has "righteous requirements". Then it's a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. It can't produce righteousness. And he says that Abraham was righteous before the Law came, merely by faith. So, if there was righteousness by faith apart from the law before the Law came, what was the point of it coming in the first place?!? What need for Christ?

Well, I don't know all the answers, but I think the reason this seems confusing is that we assume that God's point in this whole spread is to get people justified. If that were all there were to it, then not much of what God has done through the ages makes any sense.

But God doesn't intend to stop with our justification. Justification and restoration of right relationship with God is just the starting point. First the Jews for thousands of years are trained by the Law to know what righteousness looks like. The Law, just like the birth of Seth, the calling of Abraham, the choosing of Jacob, the anointing of David, are all stepping stones on the mysteriously gradual plan of God to redeem the entire created world. It trains them for the messiah's coming but they-and then the Gentiles-are justified by faith. Jesus Christ comes, and in Himself creates a new human nature through his Life, Death, and Resurrection. That nature is to be formed in us both through the Spirit, in the "inner man" (or woman). The Law of Christ is in us through the spirit. That's where we are now in the program.

Then at his coming our bodies will be redeemed.

Then authority will be given to the saints to rule in their redeemed bodies, indwelt by the Spirit and given eternal, spiritual, physical bodies. Under Christ they will rule.
All men will be raised, judged, separated to their eternal destinies.
Then the universe itself will be recreated, renewed, just as we were.

Then all things will have been returned to the creator, and the whole beautiful works will be filled with his glory. Every beauty & excellence in every person, mountain, food, story, blade of grass, or whatever created thing that exists, will be recognizeable as coming from God the Father.

And that's when the saints will see that it really is to the "praise of His glory" - with the glory of God shining out of every drop of water, every leaf, every eye, all will be taken in and enjoyed by the Sons and Daughters of God and result in an endless process of enjoyment and praise for that Glory.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ups and downs. School gets so wearisome past a certain point, when you've learned what you wanted to know and are then forced to read and listen to all sorts of banalities that suck the excitement out of discovery. I doubt that it's possible to be bored to death, but I don't doubt that a person's natural interests and curiosity can be kidnapped and smothered to death in some dark alley by peer-reviewed academic mob-bosses. Lord, deliver me from my enemies!

Or maybe I'm just whining because my mental exercise routine has become less like a footrace and more like a forced march - in either case, the endurance and requisite muscle groups of the mind are growing, which is one of the main reasons for the whole exercise in the first place, right?

I've been reading through Ephesians, especially chapter 1, in preparation for a home group that looks as if it won't be taking place for a while. But it's impossible to seek God in the instruction of his apostles without coming away the better for it, and one thing among many that struck me was the confidence with which Paul says "when you believed you were marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit, and that's how you know you're going to get the inheritance."

Now, to cite something that isn't visible, tangible, or otherwise immediately detectable as evidence for something in an unseen future seems odd somehow, unless the "marking" of the holy spirit isn't as ethereal and uncertain as I've often felt.

Then I came across Richard Baxter's words in his "Dying thoughts": "That this Spirit is given to all true believers is evident by the effects of His being given, They have ends, affections, and lives different from the rest of mankind; they live upon the hopes of a better life, and their heavenly interest overrules all the opposite interests of this world. In order to this they live under the conduct of divine authority, and to obey and please God is the great business of their lives. The men of the world discern this difference, and therefore hate and oppose them, because they find themselves condemned by their heavenly temper and conversation. Believers are conscious of this difference; for they desire to be better, and to trust and love God more, and to have more of the heavenly life and comforts; and when their infirmities make them doubt of their own sincerity, they would not change their Governor, rule, or hopes, for all the world; and it is never so well and pleasant with them, as when they can trust and love God most; and in their worst and weakest condition they would fain be perfect...whence are thy groanings after God, thy desires to be nearer to His glory, to know him and love Him more?...Who breathed into thee all those requests thou hast sent up to God? Overvalue not corrupt nature, it brings forth no such fruits as these...Thy holy desires are, alas! too weak, but they are holy." -

This is comforting to me, because I often wonder what real evidence there is of the Life of God in me, if there's anything that proves I've received the Holy Spirit. The things that Baxter points out I see as true in me and in the others I know who've responded to the call of God. Usually it's difficult to get anyone to say what the real change in converted persons IS, and when we read the apostle's words "Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test?", we think "uhhhhh, what's the test? what are the questions? Is it multiple choice or true/false? or is it more of a feeling?" Most Christians I've met (including the one I meet in the mirror) get concerned because they don't see the holiness they want or expect in their own lives.

But, thank God, I can adapt Baxter's pronouns and say: "my hopes have been too low; but I have hoped in God, and for his heavenly glory. My prayers have been too dull and interrupted; but I have prayed for holiness and heaven. My labors have been too slothful; but I have labored for God and Christ and the good of mankind. though my motion was too weak and slow, it has been God-ward, and therefore it is from God."