UNVEILED SPLENDOR

Jn7:38,39 – Believe in me so that rivers of living water will burst out from within you, flowing from your innermost being, just like the Scripture says!”

Jesus was prophesying about the Holy Spirit that believers were being prepared to receive. But the Holy Spirit had not yet been poured out upon them, because Jesus had not yet been unveiled in his full splendor.

This is a classic passage of scripture that took on a whole new life to all of us effected by the River Outpouring in the 1990’s. This verses came alive to us as we found ourselves overwhelmed by the River that flows from the throne of God. Today’s verses are quoted from the Passion Translation. Here are some comments from the Passion Notes.

“This splendor included the splendor of the cross, the splendor of his resurrection, and the glory of his ascension into heaven. Just as water poured out of the rock that was struck by Moses, so from the wounded side of Jesus living water poured out to heal, save, and bring life to everyone who believes. The Holy Spirit poured out of Christ and into the church at Pentecost.”

The unveiling of Christ began in His work from the cross to the throne. The Glory of God was poured out on whosoever will as a result of His death, resurrection, and glorification in heaven. This passage calls it God’s splendor. Splendor means magnificent and splendid appearance, grandeur. The magnificence of God was released through the humiliating death Jesus experienced on the cross. His humility released the glory of God. The creator was cloaked in the form of a man and was executed by the Roman soldiers to fulfill the redemptive plan of God. Christ died to save sinners, even those who nailed Him to the cross. This was the beginning of the release of God’s splendor. After three days in a tomb Jesus was raised from the dead. Man’s greatest enemy, death, was conquered. The glory of God was displayed in God’s resurrection power. Then there is the glorification of the man, Jesus of Nazareth. From the humility of His arrest, trial, and death on a cross to the astounding splendor of Christ being glorified on the throne. This humble carpenter from Nazareth in Galilee is now ruling all things by His word. One glimpse of His splendor and we find ourselves in His glorious river.

THE WORD THAT SUSTAINS – MOVES EVERYTHING ALONG IN PERFECT ORDER

Heb. 1:3 -He holds the universe together and expands it by the mighty power of his spoken word.

I thought about this passage recently when I was reading about the miracle of Lazarus being raised from the dead by Jesus. I was struck by the simple command, “Lazarus, come out of your tomb”. That’s when I began to ponder today’s scripture text. In the Passion Translation it brings out the shades of meaning in the original text, Jesus holds the universe together and expands it by the power of His spoken word. In other words He is carrying everything along, even the stuff that appears chaotic, in order to complete His amazing plan. Lazarus’ family were upset, probably angry, and confused about the death of Lazarus. With all the miracles they had witnessed surely He would have performed this one; after all, Lazarus was His friend. They thought it was over but the Lord had bigger plans in mind. Here is how WUEST describes this verse.

“This act has to do, not only with sustaining the weight of the universe, but also with maintaining its coherence and carrying on its development….The Lord Jesus holds all things together and in their proper relationship to each other by His own power. The oceans are held in their beds. The rivers run down into the sea. The heavenly bodies are held in their orbits…..This act of maintaining this coherence, implies the guidance and propulsion of all the parts of the universe to a definite end. An illustration of this use of phero is found in the Septuagint, where Moses says, “I am not able to bear (phero) all this people alone,” where phero has in it the idea of the responsibility of the government and guidance of Israel. This sustaining of the universe, this maintaining its coherence in all its parts, the Son accomplishes “by the word of his power.” The universe was called into being by the Word of God, and is sustained by that same Word.”

Now its time to think about how this effects us. If He is holding the universe together and is moving along every part of creation to fulfill His plans, He has a specific plan for how you fit into the master scheme, and is just moving things along. Draw near to the Lord, He loves you and has a marked out plan for you to work in.

RESURRECTED

Jn. 11:25,26 – “Martha,” Jesus said, “You don’t have to wait until then. I am the Resurrection, and I am Life Eternal. Anyone who clings to me in faith, even though he dies, will live forever. And the one who lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

We see glimpses of it all around us. We see the deadness of winter yielding to the birth of life called spring. For months everything is dormant, caught up in a death like state until one day resurrection life is portrayed as all creation enters into the song of life. Then there is the daily picture that most of you have probably never thought of. Jonathan Edwards would say that every night we enter into a death like state called sleep. Each morning we are awakened to a glorious new day, we have a resurrection as we awaken to God’s new day. Edwards also said that the raising of the sun each day, dispelling the darkness, was a picture intended by God to portray the resurrection. Here is an interesting observation from the Passion Notes on resurrection.

“The Aramaic uses a word that is related linguistically to the name Noah, who was symbolically “resurrected” from the flood as the life-giver to those who repopulated the earth. Resurrection is superior to life, for life can be defeated and ended. But resurrection overcomes. Life is the power to exist, but resurrection is the power to conquer all, even death itself. Believers must learn to live in Christ our Life, but also, Christ our Resurrection to conquer all things.”

We are all born in a state of spiritual death. Paul said that “you were once like corpses, dead in your sins and offenses”. When Christ came into our lives we were literally born again. We were in the graves of our sins and Christ called us out into this brand new life. Every time I read or hear about this great miracle of Lazarus being raised from the dead I focus on the scene, Christ looking into the dark tomb of death and calling Lazarus by name, “Lazarus! Come out of the tomb!” Then I am reminded that Jesus stood outside of my tomb of death and called me by name. He called me to live in His new resurrection life. I was dead in my offenses and sins, now I am living by the power of resurrection.

GRAVE ROBBER

Jn. 11:25-27 – Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” She *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.

I love the story of Lazarus. It was one of the last miracles in the ministry of Jesus and had to be the most important of all. After all, when Jesus turned the water into wine as His first miracle, we learned He would save His best miracles for last. Why is this miracle so important? First, Jesus always takes care of His friends. Are you a friend of God? That is what Jesus called His followers, they were His friends. This is what we are called to, friendship with the Lord. This is definitely our place of safety.

Next, we see a picture of why Jesus came in this miracle. Lazarus was dead, laying in the tomb for four days. There was nothing he could do to fix his situation. There was no doctor, lawyer, politician, or health consultant that could change these circumstances. Lazarus was dead. This is a picture of where all of us are without Christ, dead in our sins. The only solution? Jesus had to intervene and raise Lazarus and us from the dead.

Ever been in a horrible situation that you can’t fix? Getting a little to close to home? Is it possible we are all in a situation at this moment that no one can fix? I think the answer to that question is a definite yes. No doctor or scientist has the answer for the Corona plague. The politicians seem to be using this moment to advance their own agendas; you know the drill, “never waste a disaster”. But behind it all, waiting for His moment, is the grave robber Himself.

Remember how Jesus showed up in the darkest of moments and spoke into the tomb of death. “Lazarus, come forth”. All hope was lost and then resurrection life raised Lazarus up from the grave. That seems to be how Jesus operates. The good news is we are in one of those dark moments and I think I hear some rustling outside our tomb.

TROUBLES AND GLORY

2 Cor.4:16 – 18 – So no wonder we don’t give up. For even though our outer person gradually wears out, our inner being is renewed every single day. We view our slight, short-lived troubles in the light of eternity. We see our difficulties as the substance that produces for us an eternal, weighty glory far beyond all comparison, because we don’t focus our attention on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but the unseen realm is eternal.

This passage is one of those that cause a mixed reaction in most of us. Paul is connecting the dots between trials and suffering with the manifestation of anointing and glory. Paul would have to be the greatest source for this teaching in light of the persecution he endured throughout his ministry. If you read carefully through today’s passage you will see Paul’s connection between suffering and glory. Paul said the key was the focus of our attention. The circumstances we are facing are screaming for our attention. Behind the scenes is Jesus and all He makes available to us. Set your gaze, set your affections, on Christ in the midst of your affliction. Those two things connected together seem to release the amazing power of God. Here is how the Expositor’s Commentary describes this.

“But this production of glory was by no means automatic. Only as attention was focused on what was unseen did suffering lead to glory. Behind the contrast between “what is seen” and “what is unseen” is the Pauline tension between the “already” and the “not yet”, the contrast between what is now seen by mortals and what is as yet hidden from mortal gaze. Paul affirms that his affections are set “on things above”, on lasting realities as yet unseen, on the age to come that is present in promises and blessings still to be fully realized.”

Not many in today’s Christian circles focus on things to come, in other words the heavenly realm. Many have their focus limited to what blessings we can experience in this life. When times of trial comes (I’m thinking Katrina or the Corona Pandemic) if your focus is on blessing in this world only you will easily slip into fear or depression. Turn your gaze onto Jesus and His heavenly kingdom and all of that changes. You will find yourself satisfied and caught up in the unveiling of His glory.

OPEN LETTERS

2 Cor.3:1,2 – Are we beginning to sound like those who speak highly of themselves? Do you really need letters of recommendation to validate our ministry, like others do? Do we really need your letter of endorsement? Of course not! For your very lives are our “letters of recommendation,” permanently engraved on our hearts, recognized and read by everybody.

How can you judge the legitimacy of a ministry? Is it the buildings they have built? Or could it be the size of the following that they claim or actually have? Or maybe it is the financial power or political influence they wield. No, that’s not what Jesus said. He said you judge a tree by its fruit. The fruit He was talking about were known by the aforementioned indicators. He was talking about human lives that have been impacted by that ministry. That was what Paul was getting at. He said he needed no recommendation letter, even from the church in Jerusalem. Paul’s letters were human lives. He said the proof of his ministry was the Corinthians themselves, they were his letters of recommendation. Here is how William Barclay describes this passage.

“There is a great truth here, which is at once an inspiration and an awful warning–every man is an open letter for Jesus Christ. Every Christian, whether he likes it or not, is an advertisement for Christianity. The honor of Christ is in the hands of his followers. We judge a shopkeeper by the kind of goods he sells; we judge a craftsman by the kind of articles he produces; we judge a Church by the kind of men it creates; and therefore men judge Christ by his followers. Dick Sheppard, after years of talking in the open air to people who were outside the Church, declared that he had discovered that “the greatest handicap the Church has is the unsatisfactory lives of professing Christians.” When we go out into the world, we have the awe-inspiring responsibility of being open letters, advertisements, for Christ and his Church.”

I thank the Lord for the men that discipled me in my early years as a Christian. My life and ministry today is a reflection of their lives. So if you really want to know about the validity of a ministry take a good look at the inner circle. There you may find a good read. They will tell the story of what is really going on at that church.

GREATER GLORY

2 Cor.3:7,8 – Even the ministry that was characterized by chiseled letters on stone tablets came with a dazzling measure of glory, though it produced death. The Israelites couldn’t bear to gaze on the glowing face of Moses because of the radiant splendor shining from his countenance—a glory destined to fade away. Yet how much more radiant is this new and glorious ministry of the Spirit that shines from us!

The scene of Moses returning from Mount Sinai with the two tables of stone is the stuff of movies. Moses was an amazing character that stood as a giant over all of the prophets that would follow him. His face was shining with God’s glory that was too bright to look upon and had to be veiled. He was carrying in his arms the Ten Commandments that became the foundation that civilization would be built upon. The Jews always considered themselves disciples of Moses. Paul was preaching something different. Paul said that the glory that was on Moses and even on the Ten Commandments paled in comparison to the glory in the gospel. Paul even called the law the ministration of death. He declared that the face of nominal Christians shone with more glory than Moses. Here is how Adam Clarke describes it.

“Yet this ministration of death…was glorious-was full of splendor; for the apostle refers to the thunderings, and lightnings, and luminous appearances, which took place in the giving of the law; so that the very body of Moses partook of the effulgence in such a manner that the children of Israel could not look upon his face; and he, to hide it, was obliged to use a veil. All this was intended to show the excellency of that law, as an institution coming immediately from God: and the apostle gives it all its heightenings, that he may compare it to the Gospel, and thereby prove that, glorious as it was, it had no glory that could be compared with that of the Gospel; and that even the glory it had was a glory that was to be done away—to be absorbed, as the light of the stars, planets, and moon, is absorbed in the splendor of the sun.”

The glory on us is reflected glory, reflecting the majesty of Christ. This reflected glory shines brightly in the land. It attracts whoever is hungry and draws them from the darkness of this life.

REST

Exod. 33:14-16 – And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us?

Moses had had quite enough. He had been through the threats of Pharaoh, the challenge of the magicians, plagues of flies, frogs, rivers turning to blood. After that he dealt with doubting and complaining Israelites, rebellious leaders, and a drunken party that looked like Mardi Gras. He told the Lord I can deal with all of this stuff and even the threat of resistance of enemies but there was one thing Moses couldn’t do. He could not face another step of this journey without an assurance that God would go with him. The Lord reassured Moses that His Presence would go with him and the Lord would give Moses rest in the midst of the journey. Dick Mills breaks down the word rest from the Hebrew Bible. This gives us insight into God’s promise.

“give rest, nu’ach; To rest, settle down; to be soothed or quieted; to be secure; to be still; to dwell peacefully. This verb occurs about 65 times, first in Gen. 8:4, which states that the ark rested on the mountains of Ararat. Nu’ach is the verb that describes the Spirit of God resting upon the Messiah (Is. 11:2), or upon the 70 elders of Israel (Num. 11:25). The name “Noah” (“Rest-Giver,” or “Comforter”) is derived from nu’ach. In the present reference, God’s presence will give rest to His people, that is, His presence soothes, comforts, settles, consoles, and quiets us.”

His presence soothes, comforts, settles, consoles, and quiets us. This is all Moses needed; that is all any of us need. Presently, we are all going through uncharted waters dealing with the Corona virus pandemic. If we are worried He soothes us, if we are hurting He comforts us, if we are disturbed He settles us, if we are anxious He consoles us, and if we are restless He quiets us. The Presence of God literally marks us as a people. The only difference between us and the rest of the Lord is that the Lord literally goes with us.

CHRIST OUR ROCK

Isa.32:1,2 – Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, And princes will rule with justice. A man will be as a hiding place from the wind, And a cover from the tempest, As rivers of water in a dry place, As the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. The eyes of those who see will not be dim, And the ears of those who hear will listen.

There are different seasons we go through in life that may cause us to see life through a different lens. Christ is always our very present help in time of need, we may not be quite aware of the truth of that when things are going along in a normal or predictable way. Turn over the apple cart and we begin to see things differently. It’s most likely because we turn our eyes toward Jesus in those times and He makes Himself and His provision for us abundantly clear. Jonathan Edwards knew about troubles in this life pastoring a church at the fringes of colonial civilization during the French and Indian War. He wrote a sermon entitled SAFETY, FULNESS, AND SWEET REFRESHMENT IN CHRIST addressing our fears in this life His message encompassed three points which I will give you in a brief form here.

“I. “There is in Christ Jesus abundant foundation of peace and safety for those who are in fear and danger. “A man shall be a hiding-place from the wind, a covert from the tempest.”

One of the amazing truths in the gospel is the shocking reality that God became a human being. Christ took on a human body for eternity to save us from our sins. In this verse Isaiah saw this promise far off saying that “a man shall be a hiding place from the wind, a covert from the tempest”. We are all dealing with a tempest (storm) called Corona and Christ is our hiding place.

II. “There is in Christ provision for the satisfaction, and full contentment, of the needy and thirsty soul. He shall be “as rivers of water in a dry place.”

Christ has a river of joy and satisfaction flowing out from Him today. He is sitting with His Father on the throne and the glorious River of God is flowing out to the whole earth.

III. There are quiet rest and sweet refreshment in Christ Jesus for him who is weary. He shall be “as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.”

There are no trees our shadows when traveling in a desert. If you happen to come across a giant rock you can find relief and shelter in its shade. In our desert like world there is no shade for refreshment. The only place we can be refreshed and renewed is in the shadow of our Rock. Jesus is the Rock of Ages and provides shelter from the heat in this world.

HAVING CHURCH WHEN THERE IS NO CHURCH

Acts 2:42-44 – And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

We are living in an unprecedented time for our generation. The whole globe is being shut down by this strange virus. The last time anything close to this happened was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Even my friends in the Phillipines and Africa are dealing with the pestilence called Carona. We are being challenged financially, in our health, as well as the unprecedented time of not gathering for our church worship services. The Bible has answers for us in whatever we are facing in life. In today’s passage we can find some answers in dealing with situations where we may not be very comfortable.

There was chaos after Jesus raised from the dead. Earthquakes in Jerusalem during the crucifixion and again at the Resurrection. Many thousands of people were in Jerusalem from all over their world at Passover who were effected by the earthquakes and the spiritual outpouring at Pentecost. Many did not leave Jerusalem for years. It was a time of recovery from disaster and sorting through what the death and resurrection of Jesus meant. The extra population that remained in Jerusalem after that initial outpouring caused major financial problems. Persecution and threats were hindering public meetings. In today’s verses we find their response.

First, they were devoted to the apostles’ teaching. Today, we are following those same teachings recorded for us in the New Testament. With more time on our hands in our current situation we can dig into God’s word, read some solid spiritual books (I’m still reading the old stuff), and pay close atention to the teaching of the pastors through blogs and livestream meetings. Next, they continued in fellowship. Even though we can’t have many of our physical meetings at this tiime we can still conttinue in fellowship. For example, I feel an amazing spiritual unity in our nightly prayer meetings. I love this nightly spiritual connection with our church. Also, this is a great time to reach out to others in our life groups and other areas of influence. Phone calls of encouragement and zoom meetings can go a long way. You may be isolated but you don’t have to live isolated. The early church also continued in the breaking of bread. This was probably an early form of our communion service. Taking communion regularly and looking to the blood of Jesus for protection is essential in our current situation. His blood still saves us, delivers us from sin, protects us, and heals us of our diseases. They were obviously committed to prayer. Worship and intimacy with God is our very life source. This is where we grow everyday. Finally, they were practising supernatural giving. Property, resources and goods were given and shared. The future looked very unpredictable (like ours today) but giving had become a way of life. There was not only supernatural giving but supernatural harvest as well. We should all get hold of God and His word like never before. Unprecedented days of harvest for our resources and souls are just ahead.