Monday, March 31, 2014

Pastoral Pings ~ A Holy Touch for a Sinful Heart

          One of the great wonders of the world to me is the way that the holy God of heaven can touch the life of a sinful man of earth. It is not difficult to understand that God’s holiness abhors sin. I have been long enough in this world to understand why God can say that he detests sin, and abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.”[1]How then, or why then, is God able to touch me without detesting me, and without abhorring me?

          Today my thoughts were on the wonder of the way the holy and righteous God could enter our sinful world, become a curse for us, bear with us in our sin, somehow making us righteous in the imputed righteousness of his Son, all so that he could justifiably touch us with his holy hands, shape us, and conform us to the reality of righteousness that is in his Son.

          This wonder is expressed in Paul’s inspired declaration: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”[2] Now I get to wake up in the morning knowing that I have become the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ, while knowing that I am not yet the finished product God has been aiming for before time began.

          At present, I am in that ongoing journey of transformation that Paul described as, 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.”[3] How is it, then, that God can handle us in this transformational journey when we are still not yet fully holy and righteous as he is holy and righteous?

          There is plenty of sound doctrine in the Scriptures explaining how it is both possible, and real. However, I want to share an illustration that helps me feel the wonders of this gift. I have a picture of the imputed righteousness of Christ being like a transparent, shimmering film around me. On the inside of the film, I am still who and what I am, a much-improved  version of the old me, but still unrighteous by any standard of the word.

          However, between God and me is this shimmering film of righteousness making me righteous in God's sight by faith. Through this film, God can clearly see me as I really am, and yet he can also see me as righteous in his Son.

          God can  touch me through the film, as though he is never touching my unrighteousness, but only the righteousness of his Son. As God touches me, with this shimmering film molding itself between me and his hand, he can shape me, change me, rebuke me, and correct me, all in a hands-on kind of way, while never actually defiling his holiness by touching my sinfulness. It is a wonder that God can address my unrighteousness without ever touching it, without feeling that abhorrence over my sin because he is always touching the real righteousness of his Son.

          This is all possible because his Son did become sin for us, he did become a curse in our place. In the mystery of the Triunity of God, God-the-Son became sin so that God-the-Father could pour out all his holy wrath against my sin. The Son felt what his own wrath against our sin felt like from the Father. He did this so that the Father could touch us through his righteousness, and so conform us into that same righteousness, from one degree of glory to another. One day we will experience this incredible gift of his grace, that we will see Jesus just as he is,[4] the glory of God in the face of our Savior,[5] and become just like him.

          Again, this is just an illustration, so I will avoid making too much of it. However, it is one of the ways I see this wonder in my mind, that God can  touch me as I am now, so that he can mold me and shape me into Christ likeness, touching me where I am unrighteous, while only feeling the righteousness of his Son.

          And, because of this, the whole time he is dealing with me, molding me through the righteousness of his Son, there is the sparkle of joyful love in his eyes; the love that planned this incredible gift before the beginning of time.

© 2014 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)


[1] Psalm 5:6
[2] II Corinthians 5:21
[3] II Corinthians 3:18
[4] I John 3:1-2
[5] II Corinthians 4:6

Friday, March 28, 2014

Pastoral Ponderings ~ The Sealed in the Seals

“When he opened the second seal,
I heard the second living creature say, ‘Come!’”[1]

          In my quest to remain within the bounds of what is written, I find myself looking for simplicity, not for secrets that only elite interpreters can find. With that in mind, here’s where I am at.

          This introductory phrase to the second seal is just that, the introduction. It is a sign-post. It is directing the attention of those who are “sealed” by God[2] to the next description. By showing us how Jesus opened the second seal, and one of the living creatures called out, “Come!” we are now attentive to what comes next.

          From there, we can receive what is described as another characteristic of the age in which we are living. We are in the last hour, the last days, the end times, and there is going to be little distinction from one end of the age to the other. It seems like there may a recognizable intensity of experiences as we approach the end, but, since these things will be spread out over so many generations, it will be difficult to measure the present against the past, or to know how intense things must become to fully match the prophecies we are given.

          There is a sense in which, if we can first let our hearts rest in the fact of these prophecies, without worrying about how they apply, or what we will see, or what will come of these things, we will have a picture in our minds that we will recognize when they happen.

          If we can then rest in the little bit we know, and accept that we see similarities to the divine descriptions that show the validity of God’s words, while holding off the demandingness of the adult-mind that must put things in boxes and make things fit prophetic time-charts, we will then be able to appreciate that things will happen as described, for as long and as often as God has determined is necessary to fit that description.

          In other words, this isn’t ever about us being able to decide when something has been completely fulfilled, but for us to realize that these things will happen. They are in God’s hands; Jesus is the one who breaks the seals, so it is really up to him how much has to take place for any one of the seals to be fulfilled. When we can rest in Jesus, not in an interpretation of the seals, we will have rest in everything that is happening in the world.

          We are given this revelation of Jesus breaking the seals so we can rest in the fact that he knows what all has to happen for this seal to be fulfilled. One of the living creatures calls out “Come!” and whatever has to happen at that command will happen without reserve.

          If we do not know all that this means, or all that it will entail, we can rest in the fact that everything Jesus means by this seal will be exactly as he said, and everything the living creature called to come forth at this command will come forth. When Jesus returns, this seal will have fully done its work, and there will be no doubt that these things happened just as Jesus said they would happen. It is not necessary for us to see and recognize all the ways these things will happen, nor to be able to say that we know how full the end times are, and how close to reaching their completion.

          The fact is that we are the servants of the Lord Jesus Christ,[3] so we are to serve him until he comes.[4] Each of the seals tells us the things to expect during the last hour so that we don’t get sidetracked by fears that things are not turning out the way God planned. If we can accept that our serving of Jesus Christ will be surrounded by things that look the way these seals describe, we will not focus on the seals, but on the service.

          There are times I have undertaken projects that exceed my experience. I have had to rely on descriptions and diagrams to give me assurance that I am on the right track. Sometimes I have been surprised at the order things need to be done, or the way that pieces need to be put together, so the diagrams have assured me that I am doing things the right way.

          In a similar way, we are setting out to walk through the end times. We are surrounded by stories of what things are going to be like. We will meet many people intent on taking us way beyond what is written, and getting us side-tracked with wondering how to measure what we see taking place around us. Plus, we hear all kinds of nattering from the world about how wrong we are, and silly we are, and stupid we are to believe in Jesus, and to believe in the Scripture’s description of world events.

          We are given these pictures in the book of Revelation like the diagrams in a set of instructions. The diagrams tell us what to expect as we serve Jesus. We are told what to think of the generation in which we live. We are told the kinds of things we may see in our generation, in our locale, in the world during our lifetimes. The instructions for serving Jesus are not about those diagrams, but the diagrams tell us what will happen as we serve Jesus.

          In other words, seeing these things do not tell us we are doing things the wrong way. We are given these diagrams to tell us that serving Jesus will be surrounded by these things, so don’t let them distract you when you see them. You see something happen in your day that looks like a beast coming out of the sea? Jesus told us that would happen; now carry on serving him until he comes.

          You see something that looks like the biggest expression of the antichrist any generation has ever known? Don’t worry, Jesus said that would happen, so become more earnest in serving Jesus until he comes because the days in which we live are so evil.[5]

          Do you see things going on in the world that seem like a return to the ultimate, quintessential wickedness and idolatry of Babylon? Don’t waste time being surprised by such a thing, because Jesus said we would see things like this. Now what work has he given you to do? Put your time, and energy, into doing that work with all your heart, and soul, and do not be distracted by the things that are turning out just as Jesus said.

          Do you see churches turning to adulterous relationships with the world that fit the description of a wife prostituting herself with many lovers? Do you see churches forsaking their first love, falling in love with the world, doing things in ways that please the world instead of pleasing Jesus? Be assured that God said such things would happen, so do not become distracted by them. Serve the Lord Jesus until he comes. Let the adultery you see in other churches stir your heart to pure-hearted devotion to Jesus Christ in your generation.

          In other words, do not be discouraged about the work Jesus is doing to build his church, because he is building his church, and you are part of it. The apostate church, the church that prostitutes itself with the world, is part of the grand tapestry picturing this last hour. Instead of considering the decline of the church to be a sign of failure on Jesus’ part, seek to be the most Spirit-filled, Christ-centered, God-honoring, Bible-following church you can be part of with the help of the Holy Spirit who fills us up to the full.

          Even when it appears to us that there are many descriptions of the red dragon trying to devour the woman, the church that Jesus is building,[6] and when it seems like God has withdrawn any experience of that true church from our generation, and we feel like Elijah when he thought that he was the only one in Israel who was still following God,[7] there is the picture of the triumphant church in the midst of red dragons to assure us that God has kept his elect safe all throughout the last hour.

          One exhortation that stood out to me this morning as an application of what I am learning, is this: Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”[8] The seven seals show us the characteristics of the last hour so that we will appreciate that the church will go out conquering, and to conquer,[9] in a world that is exceptionally evil. The world will go from bad to worse,[10] while the church that Jesus builds proclaims “this gospel of the kingdom”[11] that the gates of hell cannot restrict.[12]

          Put Paul in prison, and the prison guards become his mission-field.[13] Put Paul to death, and his testimony lives for two thousand years, assuring the worst of sinners that Paul received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”[14]

          Now Paul’s example, and John’s book of Revelation, and all the gospels, and epistles of the New Testament, stand as an example to us of what it looks like for the church to be “more than conquerors”[15] in a world that is quickly traveling the wide road to the lake of fire. Because the days are evil, we do not become discouraged and mediocre. We become careful about our walk, wise about our ways, devoted to the best use of our time for the kingdom.

          Do you see the days turning as evil as the book of Revelation describes? Then the seals are being opened and fulfilled just as Jesus revealed. Now, what has he spoken to you about this morning, what is he doing around you, and how are you going to join him in his work?

© 2014 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)


[1] Revelation 6:3
[2] Revelation 7; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30
[3] Revelation 1:1
[4] Luke 12:37
[5] Ephesians 5:15-16. Note that all the context of Ephesians 4-6 shows how the church should live because the days are evil, and we are exhorted to live worthy of our calling in the Lord Jesus Christ (4:1).
[6] Revelation 12 uses this imagery and shows how the church Jesus is building is kept safe from the red dragon’s lies and deceptions.
[7] I Kings 19:9-18; Romans 11:1-5
[8] Ephesians 5:15-16
[9] Revelation 6:1-2
[10] II Timothy 3:13
[11] Matthew 24:14
[12] Matthew 16:13-19
[13] Philippians 1:12-13
[14] I Timothy 1:16
[15] Romans 8:37

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Pastoral Pings (Plus) ~ A Strong Church in a Savage World

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.[1]

          “Therefore.” While this “therefore” directly follows Paul’s teaching on the certainty of the resurrection, it also concludes the teaching section of this second letter to the Corinthians. It presents us with a wonderful expression of expectation. On one side is a letter filled with teaching on living to the glory of God, complete with Paul’s amazing defense of his ministry, and affirmations of truth that will carry the Church through the last hour. On the other side is the expectation that we are going to do something with what we have been taught.

          With that in mind, this “therefore” is a call to a conclusion that is more than just mental agreement with what Paul said. The application of II Corinthians, and all of the New Testament Scriptures, is to do something to us. The Church is sent out into the world to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching these baptized disciples to obey everything Jesus has commanded.[2]

          Paul has just given the Church some wonderful teachings, some careful explanations, some strong clarifications, and some relentless exhortations, for us to keep busy doing the work of the kingdom no matter what kind of false apostles or false teachings speak against us. There is a “therefore” filled with both hope and accountability. We are the Church, so don’t let anyone, or anything, restrict us in our affections, our first love, or anything else that is God’s work in our hearts. Instead, go out and live the life we have been given, living worthy of the high calling of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.[3]

          “My beloved brothers.” The Church is a brotherhood.[4] All believers are sons of God.[5] We are knit together with the bond of love.[6] As the beloved sons of God, we seek to live worthy of our calling[7] by imitating God in his love for us, living a life of love that is an expression of the love Jesus Christ has for us.[8] All who have received the gospel of grace through repentance of sin, and faith in Jesus Christ, are the beloved sons of God the Father, the beloved brothers of the Lord Jesus Christ,[9] and a brotherhood of love to one another.

          “Be steadfast.” This draws us to a personal resolve to endure until the end.[10] It is our own personal determination to continue on the narrow way that leads to heaven.[11] Like Paul, we want our lives to be characterized by “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.[12]We have determined that we will “run with endurance the race that is set before us”.[13]

          “Be… immovable.” While “steadfast” directs us to the inner resolve of the believer, choosing to endure until the end,[14] being immovable speaks of the same quality in relation to outer opposition. Things will happen to us that are aimed at dissuading and discouraging us from continuing until the end. Our response is to be immovable, unshaken, unimpressed with the red dragon’s plethora of snares and traps.[15]

          Even when we fall into a sin, or find that the evil one has snared us with something that surprised us, or that we got stuck in a trap that caught us unawares, the steadfast heart immediately flees to the cross of Jesus Christ in an immovable, unshakable certainty that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin,[16] and so we cling to Christ our Savior as we pursue the narrow road to heaven.[17]

          “Always abounding in the work of the Lord.” I love the progression. The “therefore” directs us to all the teachings Paul has given. The “beloved brothers” reminds us of who we are as we respond to Paul’s teaching. The “steadfast” tells us how we are in relation to inner pressures, and the “immovable” tells us how we are in relation to outer pressures. Now that we are the beloved sons of God, standing firm in every way, we are to get about the “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.[18]

          And, in Paul’s usual clarity, he does not merely want us doing the work of the Lord, but “abounding” in the work of the Lord. Our hearts should immediately agree with God in this, that we want our work for him to abound. We want to bear “much fruit” to our Father’s glory.[19]

          “Knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” Notice the condition of “in the Lord”. Jesus said there would be many who would stand before him in the judgment and argue that they had done many amazing acts of ministry in his name and yet find themselves on the wrong side of his throne.[20] He was making the point that people could do many things, even signs and wonders, and still not be doing the will of the Father.

          Paul wants Jesus’ Church to know that, whatever we do to abound in the work of the Lord, when done “in the Lord”, will not be in vain. It will not be empty, or unproductive, even when everything in life claims it is so. There will always be false teachers, false gospels, false signs and wonders.[21] There will always be people deceiving and being deceived.[22] The red dragon will always look like he is on the verge of devouring the woman and her offspring.[23] There will be seasons of opposition to the church that look like every Christian we know has either fallen away or been thrown to the lions.

          The reason we are to be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,” is because we “know” that the labor we do in the Lord can never be in vain. While doing anything apart from Christ amounts to nothing,[24] doing anything in Christ will be richly rewarded on the day that Jesus comes.[25]

          While the epistles to the churches band together to teach us the truth, providing us with the hearing of the words of Christ that give us faith,[26] the book of Revelation is like the grand “therefore” of Scripture, calling us to stand firm in the Lord Jesus Christ no matter what beasts, and antichrists, and demonic minions fill the earth during this last hour. We can go out “conquering, and to conquer”[27] in Jesus’ name, because “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world,”[28]and “everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.[29]

          With that in mind, be strong, and serve Jesus until he comes.

© 2014 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] I Corinthians 15:58
[2] Matthew 28:18-20
[3] Ephesians 4:1; II Thessalonians 1:11; Philippians 1:27
[4] I Peter 2:17; 5:9
[5] Galatians 3:25-29
[6] Colossians 2:2
[7] Ephesians 4:1
[8] Ephesians 5:1-2
[9] Hebrews 2:11
[10] Mark 13:13; I Corinthians 13:7; II Timothy 2:10,12
[11] Matthew 7:13-14
[12] Philippians 3:13-14
[13] Hebrews 12:1-3
[14] Matthew 24:13
[15] Ephesians 6:10-20 shows the church putting on the whole armor of God in order to stand firm against everything the evil one sends against us. Revelation 12 gives us a picture of the red dragon’s attacks on the church, and God’s providence and protection in keeping his people firm until the end.
[16] I John 1:7
[17] I John 1:9; 2:1-2
[18] Ephesians 2:10
[19] John 15:8
[20] Matthew 7:21-23; Matthew 25:33 (31-46)
[21] Matthew 24
[22] II Timothy 3:13
[23] Revelation 12
[24] John 15:5
[25] Hebrews 11:6; II John 1:8; Revelation 11:8; Philippians 3:14
[26] Romans 10:17
[27] Revelation 6:1-2
[28] I John 4:4
[29] I John 5:4