August 27, 2015 § 8 Comments
The headline Colorado Movie Gunman Sentenced to 12 Lifetimes and 3,318 Years should tell us a lot about our own God-given sense of justice. It clearly extends far beyond this lifetime. James Holmes murdered 12 people and wounded another 70 when he opened fire in a movie theater in 2012. The jury couldn’t unanimously agree over the death penalty, so Holmes got the maximum life sentence. Logically, one lifetime would be enough to keep him behind bars for eternity, but our sense of eternity (Ecc. 3:11) and justice (Job 37:23) seems to surpass the limits of this world. Our dissatisfaction with human justice is a reflection of the court of the divine. We are made in the image of a God who is by nature the essence of justice, and that we would intuitively recognize grave injustice and seek to satisfy it by such extremes demonstrates this very truth. We know there must be more to it.
[Related post: Plus Infinity]
May 28, 2015 § Leave a comment
The crazy thing about mortals is that we have no actual experience with infinity, but every day we talk, live and love as if we do. We’ve heard Buzz Lightyear’s “To infinity and beyond,” and heard ourselves complain about a stoplight that takes “an eternity,” and we’ve pledged to love someone “forever.” Everyone either hopes in or wonders about an afterlife. Eternity is something we’ve never seen but forever seem to know. We can’t even reach it with math. The best we can do is write symbols that mean we are moving toward infinity. Why is the infinite so familiar to the finite? It’s almost as if God “has put eternity into man’s heart,” as Ecclesiastes 3:11 puts it. Maybe we assume that some things go on forever, or that they should, because an eternal Creator made us in His likeness. His plan for us was for eternity, and from times of old we have known that we are not just made for this world (Hebrews 11). If the desire of Elohei Kedem (Hebrew name for Eternal God) is for a relationship with His people, it stands to reason that a sense of foreverness would be one of the intuitions He implants in our hearts. The Alpha and Omega gave us something we can’t quite wrap our heads around, but we can wrap our hearts around it.
We are all aware of eternity, but do we live in light of it?
Related post: The Destination Before the Journey
February 1, 2015 § Leave a comment
Is there anything better than a joyful reunion with someone you love? Maybe it’s an old friend you’ve lost track of over the years, or a long lost parent you’ve reconciled with that you’ve welcomed back into your life. Or maybe it’s the thrill of meeting a celebrity, or your favorite rock star, author, or rock-star author. We’ve all experienced the anticipation and excitement of that face-to-face meeting. I look forward to seeing my dad again in heaven. A grieving friend of mine recently spoke of two miscarried children she will meet in eternity. These are the reasons Christians mourn the loss of their brothers and sisters in the Lord differently than the world does.
One Day, we will see the face of God. Take a break from this screen a moment and really think about that meeting. What do you think that will be like? Will you be thinking about your other relationships? Will you remember your joys or trials, your victories or losses? Will you laugh at or cry about the way you spent your time in this life? Or will you be lost in His gaze? Will anything else matter at that moment?
As mortal human beings, a look at God in His full glory would literally kill us. God, hidden in a pillar of cloud, answered Moses’ request to see His glory in Exodus 33:20: “No one may see me and live.” 1 Timothy 6:16 describes a God “who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.” John 1:18 and 1 John 4:12 also tell us that “No one has ever seen God” except God’s Son. What about seeing God’s full glory, His “unapproachable light”, would kill us? (A bug zapper comes to mind. Well, my mind. You can decide how well that analogy fits).
Jonathan Edwards wrote: “God is arrayed with an infinite brightness, a brightness that doesn’t create pain as the light of the sun pains the eyes to behold it, but rather fills with excess of joy and delight. Indeed, no man can see God and live, because the sight of such glory would overpower nature, . . . ’tis because the joy and pleasure in beholding would be too strong for a frail nature.”
As far as a medical cause of death, we’re probably talking about cardiac arrest here, which can occur in cases of extreme pleasure. I’m certain there are other views on what aspects of God’s glory is so overwhelming, or the ways God might physically and sensorily manifest His full glory (and what a portion of that glory really looked like to Moses)—but it’s clear from Scripture that it’s simply too much for human beings to behold.
God did allow certain people to get a glimpse of Him in a subdued form. There was a cloud as mentioned above, or a pillar of fire, a burning bush, a sanitized vision or dream, an angelic messenger, and of course Jesus Christ. Jesus retained His deity but was fully man too, His glory concealed in a wrapping of humanity. He did this so that He could die in our place and so that we could relate to Him and live. Much of who God is was revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, but as far as the the “unapproachable light” of God, there were only brief glimpses in Jesus (i.e. the Transfiguration in Matthew 17:2).
In Exodus 33, God acquiesces to Moses’ request for a taste of His glory. He gets a glimpse of His back as God passes by. This particular narrative ends before we find out how Moses’ reacted to seeing the backside (usually regarded as the worst side of anything) of God Himself, but in the next chapter “the skin of Moses’ face was shining” when he returned from the encounter (Ex. 34:29-35). Sort of a divine sunburn?
As mortal beings we can’t handle the full brunt of God’s glory, but what does a glimpse of Him typically bring? Although we don’t see Moses’ immediate reaction to seeing God’s back in Ex. 33, in the next chapter he is on his face in worship and repentence at God’s next cloud-masked appearance (Ex. 34:8-9). Other encounters with a glimpse of God in scripture reveal a similar penetant reaction. After Job heard and saw as much of God as he could handle, Job despised himself and repented immediately (Job 42:5-6). When God appeared to the prophet Isaiah in a vision, he declared “Woe is me!” as he lamented his own sin (Isaiah 6:5). Jesus’ disciple John, who walked with Jesus years earlier, saw a vision of Him in fuller (but not full) glory on the Island of Patmos and “fell at His feet as though dead.” (Rev. 1:17).
No doubt there was terror and awe in seeing just a part of God’s glory, but there is something about Him that made people want to also repent. When we are faced with God’s perfect holiness and righteousness, we can also see how far short we come to it. Repentance is an appropriate posture. This is part of what distinguishes the fear of man or monsters from a healthy fear of God (Matt. 10:28).
Francis Chan thought enough about our meeting God that he writes a great deal about it in a book that is supposed to be about marriage. On page 24 of You and Me Forever, Chan says, “Oddly, I meet very few people who think about that moment. Is it because we don’t really believe it’s going to happen? We think about upcoming vacations and imagine how much fun we will have. We think about upcoming trials and worry about how difficult they will be, Why don’t we think about seeing God for the first time?”
The moment we see God, no other relationship, not even our marriages, will come to mind. In fact the only relationship that matters in light of eternity is the one between you and Jesus Christ. And we could see Him at any moment. Any moment! That should change everything. Are you ready?
Everyone will see the face of God one day. We will be outside of the limitations of our physical body when we do, so we will not be able to “die” in His presence. If our sins are covered by the blood of Christ, we will be looking at the Savior. If we are still in our sin, we will be looking at our Judge. But “one day every knee will bow” (Rom. 14:11, Phil. 2:10), and we would all benefit from thinking about finally gazing upon His face. Especially if the realization of who He is (holy) and who we are (sinners) brings our repentance.
Fathers spend their time preparing for their children to leave home; our Heavenly Father is preparing a place for us to come home (John 14:3). This truth should leave with us with both hope and urgency. Our hope is the assurance that although we may be completely unraveled by the sight of our Savior’s face, He will be welcoming us home. A sense of urgency should come from the fact that many do not have this hope. The days are fleeting and we have work to do (Matt. 28:16-20).
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.” (1 Cor. 13:12). Wherever you are, think long and hard about seeing the face of God, and then decide what really matters.
April 2, 2014 § Leave a comment
My wife and I are still great friends with the first kid on my block to find Jesus. It was the Spring of 1998, the first nice day since we moved into the neighborhood, when I met this girl in the middle of the street that separated our houses. I was crossing the street to get to our mailbox and I passed her and her friend, who were both headed across the street toward my driveway (we have a basketball hoop). Before I could say hello, her first words were, “Where are you going?” I told her I was getting my mail, and I replied, “Where are YOU going?
Long story short, after several years of outreach to her, mainly through our church’s camp and youth group, that girl came to Christ at age 15. A decade later, she is a passionate and faithful believer, married to a passionate and faithful husband. She is usually one Christian I want others to meet when I talk about how Christ can change us and make us new. How does a person come to a decision to follow Jesus? They have their eye on the prize: Love, forgiveness, in heaven, with God, forever. This is the destination of the redeemed in Christ.
There’s this popular adage—the joy is in the journey—that doesn’t quite do it for Christians. We can have joy in the journey for sure, but THE joy is the destination of our journey, the future reality where our present hope is. In 1 Corinthians 13:12 Paul explains the difference between present and future revelation: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” The greatest thing for Christians is still ahead of us.
Why have our head in the clouds while we are here on earth? Some perspective: We are here on earth for a brief 100 years, give or take a decade or two, unless a doctor or icy step informs us that we have much less. But what we do in this little life—specifically whether we accept or reject what Christ has already done for us—determines our destination. And our destintion, whether it is heaven or hell, is eternal. We can do the math: Infinity minus 100 years is still infinity. After these years are gone, they will become virtually nothing. Why would we NOT be about the destination? We should absolutely make the most of this life, but if our head is here instead of wrapped around our final destination, then this world is the cloud that enshrouds our heads.
For Christians, the journey is first and infinitely foremost about the destination. That’s why it’s always good to ask a neighbor, “Where are you going?”