Monday, March 24, 2014

Pastoral Pings (Plus) ~ The Sparkle That is More Than Gold

          Yes, I have been looking for it my whole life. I have not known what it was until distant family members described it to me. Now that I have heard it put it into words, and felt the delightful inner surge of desire to know this with all my heart, and soul, and mind, I can’t stop looking for it wherever I go, and seeking to show it to people all around me.

          The saying, “All that glitters is not gold”,[1] is certainly true. However, while it was originally meant in a negative way, reminding people that very cheap trinkets can glitter as well as valuable pieces of jewelry, it can also remind us of treasure far greater than gold, that presents us with a sparkle even more priceless.

          There is a sparkle of love that is contained in someone’s look that defies the greatest collection of gold, diamonds, or precious stones. To walk into a room and see someone’s face light up because we are there is a greater gift and experience than any material treasure.

          However, for many of us, such talk is like a book club discussing fairy tales. The only stories we know of such things are those we imagine, or those we read of other people we have never met. In real life, anything resembling a sparkle of love in someone’s eyes seems to be a fleeting experience at best.

          The question is, do we have any reason to think of God’s love for his children as something that would approach the wonder of a sparkle in someone’s eyes? Is there anything beyond a figure of speech, or an imaginary encounter, that would give our faith the same gift of delight as when we hear of this elusive glittering love?

          I think of the parables Jesus told when he was trying to help the hypocritical religious leaders understand why he was spending time with “sinners”.[2] To clarify, Jesus was not accepting sinners as they were, and making them feel loved and accepted while they continued in their sins. He was befriending the sinners who heard his preaching of the gospel, repented of their sins, and entered the kingdom of heaven by faith in Jesus as their Messiah.

          In that context, Jesus said that welcoming the sinners into the kingdom of heaven was likened to a shepherd rejoicing over finding a lost sheep, and that the Father in heaven was rejoicing along with Jesus every time one of these sinners repented and received the gospel. He added that the same joy someone would feel when suddenly finding a valuable coin that had been lost is the joy that God feels when these sinners received the gospel and entered the kingdom.

          By the third parable, Jesus spoke very personally of a son who threw away his family, and his inheritance, squandering his life in sinful living. He illustrated God’s response to such a person by describing a father who came running towards his son with joy and love as soon as he saw his son finally returning home.

          All three of these parables declared the same thing, that there is great joy in the one who sits on the throne of heaven, and in the Son who brought the love of God into the flesh of a human being, whenever their lost children return to their home. It is not little joy. It is not letting the sinners come in the back door of the basement and quietly take a seat in the back pew so as not to disturb all the good religious people who have been behaving themselves the whole time (so they thought).

          Rather, it is a kind of love that rejoices when the lost come home. Jesus gave us three witnesses (in his parables), that this is the way God is with us when we come home to him through the gospel of the kingdom.

          These three witnesses revealed what had already been prophesied of the work of God hundreds of years earlier. God’s prophet declared, “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”[3]By the time of Jesus’ coming, the majority of the people were living meaningless religion that could not recognize their Messiah because he was so different from what they wanted.

          However, the sinners saw Jesus as someone who rejoiced over them with gladness as they acknowledged and confessed their sin. They were now able to spend time with the Word of God and feel his presence quieting them with his love. His joy over them coming into the kingdom was like one exulting over all these repentance sinners with loud singing.

          Jesus was the one showing us the love of God, the image of the invisible God rejoicing over the last sheep that had come home, the lost coins that had been found, the lost sons who had returned from their sin to once again be at home with their Father.

          There is coming a day when we will no longer need to take these things by faith. Jesus will come in the clouds, making his presence known so clearly that his children rejoice at his appearing.[4] We will suddenly be fully transformed into his likeness because we will see him, and look upon him, and become just like him.[5]

          While the world calls on the rocks and hills to cover them because they see the wrath of this Lamb of God against all their unrepentant sin,[6] the children of God will see the one who rejoices over them with singing as he gathers us all to himself forever and tells us to, “Enter into the joy of your Master”.[7] At that time it will be clear, the predominant description of our firstborn Brother taking us home will be the sparkle of love in his eyes.

© 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] A phrase made famous by Shakespeare in the late 16th century, but with historical precedents going back to the 12th century.
[2] Luke 15
[3] Zephaniah 3:17
[4] Matthew 24:29-31
[5] I John 3:1-2
[6] Revelation 6:15-17
[7] Matthew 25:21, 23

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