Degrees of Glory

Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of the certainty of where our story ends. There are ups and there are downs in the Christian life, and some of the highs are really high and some of the lows are really low. Just as your plane of vision changes while riding a roller coaster, sometimes we get confused on where we’ll actually end up, afraid one of those dips may not pull up in time to avoid disaster. How comforting, then, to look to the Word of God and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that every one of us who belong to Jesus will also be made like him in the end. We can know this because sanctification is ultimately his work anyway – work that he has promised to do. Here are a few passages.

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29). There are some loud theological words in this passage that raise some important questions, like, “What exactly does ‘foreknew’ and ‘predestined’ mean?” But for this writing, these pursuits are not the point. The point is this – if you a believer in Christ, you will ultimately be changed into the likeness of Jesus. It is as sure today as it ever has been, regardless of what your recent or not-so-recent experience has been. It’s up to him, and there’s nothing you can do about it. That is not constraining, it’s comforting.

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the Spirit of him who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies, through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom 8:11). Everyone who belongs to Jesus has the Spirit (Rom 8:9). And if you have the Spirit, life is yours. There are no surprise endings.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:17-18). The Holy Spirit is God and brings freedom everywhere he goes, and your person is no exception. We all are becoming more like Jesus, from one degree of glory to the next. Progress may be unsteady from our wavering perspective, but it is as certain as the Word of the Lord. How do we know this? Because “it comes from the Lord.” Who, in case you forgot, is the Spirit.

“And I am confident of this: that he who began a good in work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6). You have a role to play in your sanctification. You are to battle the flesh and “let not sin reign in your mortal body” (Rom 6:11). God equips you “to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). But in all these things, never forget that it is God who began the work. And it is God who will finish the work.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28). The Shepherd takes care of the sheep, and he’s never lost any. Not even one.

“We eagerly await a Savior from [heaven], the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Phil 3:20-21). If you trust in Jesus, you are included in that “our.” By his own authority, Christ is going to make your sin-filled body like his sinless, perfect body.

“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification, and its end, eternal life” (Rom 3:22). This is the clearest of all, perhaps. Man I love this verse. Easy and beautiful observations: 1) Sanctification has an end. 2) That end is eternal life.

“And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom 8:30). The “Golden Chain” of salvation. This verse is sweet sweet sweet. It means that salvation is an inextricable web, a work of God from start to finish. No one has ever begun who has not finished. There are no exit ramps on the highway of salvation. You will arrive safely at glory.

All this is to encourage you and let you know that even though the struggle hurts, it doesn’t go on forever. If you’re at the top of the spiritual stratosphere right now, take the time to encourage another believer. And if you’re in the midst of the struggle, know that the struggle has an end. And, because of the grace and lovingkindness of God toward you, you will win. Until then, keep seeking that next degree of glory.

FTH.


The Shortest Blog Post Ever

“If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” – Galatians 1:10

Let’s do this inductively. I ask. You answer.

If you are trying to please man, are you a servant of Christ? _________________________

Is it even possible to be a servant of both man and Christ? _________________________

Who are you serving? ________________________

Who should you be serving? _________________________

FTH.


How To Pray

Jesus was called “Teacher” more than any other title, and he was (and is) the greatest teacher of all time. Literally millions (if not billions) of people have contemplated his words, applying this interpretative method or that, trying to understand exactly what he meant by what he said. No question about it, sometimes it takes a huge amount effort to decipher the mysterious words of Jesus. The Bible does not yield its fruit to the lazy.

That’s why we should be extra-thankful when Jesus does choose to speak directly rather than enigmatically, in open principle rather than in parable. And you can’t get much more clear than what Jesus says about prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 (the Lord’s Prayer). There’s no story, no illustration, no parable, no mystery, no enigma. Jesus looks right at the disciples and goes straight at them. Here’s the text of the Lord’s Prayer:

“This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,

your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from the evil one.'”

Don’t you love that? “Hey guys, here’s how to pray.” Can’t get much more clear than that. And since these words are inconceivably famous (and important), I want to make sure that Jesus’ words are understood the way they were spoken – clearly. So here’s a simple commentary on Matthew 6:9-13. (Notes are compiled from the ESV Study Bible, NIV Life Application Study Bible, and Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary. That’s it. You’re like, “Hey, I could have learned all this stuff and compiled it on my own!” Exactly, so go do it. Learning firsthand will thrill you, and the Bible does not yield its fruit to the lazy. Oh wait I already said that.)

The prayer consists of an introductory address followed by six petitions (or requests). The first three petitions involve the preeminence of God, and the last three involve personal needs within the community. The order of these priorities should be noted.

v.9 – This, then, is how you should pray does not mean to pray using only these words, but to pray like this, to pray with this kind of attitude and these kinds of priorities. Repeating this prayer from the heart is a great idea, but people often reduce it to empty, mechanical recitation of these exact words. Interestingly, that’s exactly what Jesus had just warned against doing (v.7)! Jesus himself repeated a different version of this prayer in Luke 11:2-4. The motivation of the one praying is more important than the words themselves (although the words are important).

v.9 – The word for Father is “Abba” in Aramaic (not Greek. Jesus mostly spoke Aramaic and the gospels were translated to Greek as they were written by the apostles). To say that the term means, “Daddy”, might be going a bit far since Greek and Aramaic-speaking adults also used this term of their parents in a respectful way (“Dad” might be a better fit?). However, the word definitely carries the connotation of familiarity and fatherly affection. We can be comfortable calling God “Father,” because he himself has invited us to do so.

v.9 – Hallowed be your name is one of the most important phrases to understand. It is not a description of God’s name, and it is not an ascription of praise to God.  It is not another way of saying, “God’s name is hallowed.” It is actually a petition, or request. The verb form in Greek is in the imperative form. An accurate rephrasing would be, “Let your name be hallowed” or “Cause your name to be treasured”. The Lord ’s Prayer starts by asking God to act in such a way that would make his name great.

v.10 – Your kingdom refers to the kingdom of Jesus Christ that is present in the hearts of believers right this moment. This same kingdom is the one that will ultimately be fulfilled when Christ returns to earth to set up his eternal kingdom. Your will refers to the “revealed will” or “moral will” of God, which involves conduct that is pleasing to him as described in Scripture.  In heaven, the moral will of God is followed perfectly; therefore we pray that we will do likewise on earth.

v.11 – The prayer involves praying only for daily bread. These words would have clearly been understood by Jesus’ audience to refer to the daily supply of manna that Israel had collected in the desert 1400 years before. During this time the Israelites were not permitted to try to gather more than one day’s supply of bread, but only to depend daily on the Lord’s provision (the only exception was gathering two days’ worth of manna on the day prior to the Sabbath).

v.12 – Forgive us our debts does not refer to a request for justification (salvation), since we are once and for all justified at the first moment of saving faith. It refers to a request for the restoration of day-to-day fellowship between the believer and God, fellowship that gets broken when we sin and do not follow God’s will in our lives “as it is followed in heaven” (see v.10). Note the immediate result of the restoration of this fellowship – we also have forgiven our debtors. True gratitude for forgiveness will inevitably carry over to our relationships with others. Vertical grace leads to horizontal grace.

v.13 – Lead us not into temptation does not imply that God would ever directly cause us to sin or to do evil. However, he does allow us to be tempted and tested, situations which we should face with joy (James 1:2). Even so, it makes sense to pray to avoid these times of trial if possible (Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane). An accurate rephrasing of this petition would be, “Spare us from situations that would cause us to be tempted/tried”.

The words, “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” were a later scribal addition, not part of the original Bible text. However, they are theologically accurate and there is no harm in concluding the prayer with these words.

There it is. Now go get prayed up.

FTH.