Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Jesus' High Priestly Prayer -- Part 4

Jesus’ prayer is, “Father glorify your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You.” The glory of God is so important to Him that it forms the motivation for all He does. So many times we turn everything around and make ourselves the center of all God does. Even when we preach the gospel and talk about the death of Christ we focus on ourselves as the center and reason for all that took place. We attribute the entire event to God’s love for us. Granted, He does love us, but that is not the center, focus and reason for the saving work of God.

In Isaiah 48:9ff for example, we read, “For My name’s sake I will defer My anger, and for My praise I will restrain it from you, so that I do not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For My own sake, for my own sake, I will do it; for how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another.”

In Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.”

After speaking about His judgment on Israel for profaning His holy name, God says in Ezekiel 36:22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord,” says the Lord God.’”

Lest you think this is found only in the Old Testament, 1 John 2:12 says, “I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.”

The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. (Romans 1:18) Why is this wrath unleashed against us? Verse 21 tells us the answer: “because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful…”

The glory of God is extremely important to Him. It is the reason He does what He does, it is what we are to be about even down to the most mundane aspects of our physical life, and the lack of such glory is the reason for His wrath being poured out upon humanity.

Shouldn’t this knowledge motivate us to be more focused on how we can do a better job at reflecting God’s glory in our lives – our homes, marriages, recreation, work, and churches?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Jesus' High Priestly Prayer -- Part 3

Continuing now with our discussion of Jesus’ prayer, we can see the purpose for His request is that the Father glorify Him. Jesus prays, “Father glorify your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You.” Jesus’ desire is that God might be glorified.

What does it mean to glorify God? To me it means to make God look good in all the facets of His character. Jesus spent His entire life seeking to be obedient to God and to show what He was like so that people would see God in all His beauty and praise Him as a result.

Just as for Jesus, our motivation as we pray ought to be based on the glory of God. Even in the “Lord’s Prayer” we read the phrase, “Hallowed be thy name.” Even the seemingly mundane aspects of our life are to be to the glory of God. See for example I Corinthians 10:31 where we are told that even our eating and drinking should be done to the glory of God.

Some people try to separate the material world from the spiritual. This attempt has its roots in Gnosticism and is rejected by the Word of God. In I Corinthians 6:19 we read, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

The reason I bring this up is because God’s glory is at stake in the way we treat and use our body. This fleshly, material thing we call our body belongs to God. It is not our own. It has been given to us to use in this material world to interface with the world around us and to interact with others. It is not evil as the Gnostics teach. It is not to be used for our own sinful purposes, but to demonstrate the glory of the almighty creator God.

Scripture brings the goal of glorifying God right down to the nitty gritty of our life in our body in this physical world.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Jesus' High Priestly Prayer -- Part 2

We’re continuing our series of thoughts on Jesus’ high priestly prayer of John 17.

In the next phrase of Christ’s prayer He says that the “hour has come.” At least three times (John 7:6 John 2:4 John 7:30) the Scripture says that His hour had not yet come. Here though the time has come. The whole purpose of His coming was to die on the cross to pay the penalty of sin. That time was upon Him at that very moment. The crucial events immediately leading up to the crucifixion had begun. This was it.

It’s interesting though to observe the way He describes this hour. It is the hour of His glorification. Sometimes we look at the betrayal of Christ and His rejection by the people and His ultimate crucifixion as anything but glorious. But to Jesus and to God, this was what it was all about. This was the purpose for his coming. In John 12:27 Jesus’ soul is described as troubled and Jesus says clearly that for this purpose He had come to this hour. The glory of God is revealed in the cross and to unpack all of that would take an entire book, but what strikes me as crucial is what Romans 3:26 says. The cross was a demonstration of the righteousness of God in that God was just in His condemnation and judgment of sin and at the same time gracious in that He is able to justify those who have faith in Jesus.

To me this is the glory of the Gospel. Some people look at God as a kind loving grandfather figure who lovingly embraces all. And while that picture has some sentimental beauty, it does not accurately show forth the glory of God’s righteousness and justice. Who else but God could have thought of a means whereby both aspects of His glory could be shown in one event!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Jesus High Priestly Prayer - Part 1

I’m enjoying a beautiful Michigan day while listening to a Brahms symphony on my ipod and taking some time to think and meditate on the Word of God in preparation for teaching Sunday School tomorrow. This is blueberry country and our daughter gave us some blueberry flavored coffee for our anniversary and so I am enjoying that as well.

We’re studying John 17 in our adult Sunday School class and so this passage is dominating my thinking during this stretch of the late summer.

This passage is often referred to as our Lord’s high priestly prayer. Given the fact that He is praying for all of those His Father had given Him, we can understand why people have given the passage this heading.

He begins the prayer, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You.” John 17:1

Many things could be observed here. For example, he addresses God as Father. Obviously He is the Son of God and therefore it makes sense that He would address God this way. My thoughts immediately shifted to the “Lord’s Prayer” where Jesus taught us how to pray. He told us that we should pray, “Our Father”. Isn’t it an amazing thing to think about the fact that Jesus would teach us to address God in the same way that He does? What right could we possibly have to pray this way?

The reason of course is that we have been adopted as one of God’s children. Romans 8:15 says, “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’”

Some people would generalize this to say this applies to all human beings, but John 1:12 tells us that “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”

Because of our adoption as God’s children we have the right and privilege to address Him as Father just as He did. The next time you address God as Father in your prayers, do it consciously and with gratitude for your adoption as one of His sons.

Check back frequently as we consider more of Jesus' prayer in the days ahead.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Free From the Law

One of the most powerful and life-transforming truths that we need to grasp when it comes to our death with Christ is our relationship to the law.

Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 15:56 “the strength of sin is the law.” In Romans 7:8 we read, “But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead.” He goes on to explain that it isn’t the law’s fault. It is sin that is the problem, but sin used the opportunity that the law provided and brought death.

Romans chapter 7 begins by discussing the marriage relationship. Basically if a woman marries another man while her first husband is still alive she is committing adultery, but if her husband has died, she is free from the law of her husband and is therefore not committing adultery if she marries another man. Paul’s point is that in the same way we died to the law when we died with Christ. The law no longer has jurisdiction in our case.

The sinful passions that were aroused by the law brought forth fruit for death. But now (verse 6) having died to what we were bound by we are able to serve in the newness of the Spirit. In this way, as verse 4 tells us, we are able to bring forth fruit to God.

The law, although good, gives sin its power. When our relationship to the law changed through our death with Christ, sin’s ability to gain strength through the law has been destroyed.

The key to victory as we deal with temptation and sin in our lives is to realize our position in Christ which is that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1) Neither the law nor Satan, the accuser of the brethren, can hold over us the threat of death and punishment for sin. The penalty for sin is death – but – we have already died with Christ. The punishment has already taken place. We have died and been raised to a new life and the guilt is gone. The law that would accuse us doesn’t apply any more.

Take some time to mull these things over in your mind and meditate on them. Read through Romans 6-8 every day for a week and see what God will do in your life as you begin to live out the truth of your death and resurrection with Christ.