Thursday, April 30, 2015

Pastoral Ponderings ~ Fearless Delighting, Boasting, and Rejoicing

          Last night, as I was drifting off to sleep, I already knew where God would be leading me this morning. Thankfully, I woke up thinking the same thoughts!
          It came down to this: the call to, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice,”[1] cannot be fulfilled in our lives while we are ashamed of our heavenly Father, or afraid of letting people know we love him.
          On the positive side, there is a sense in which rejoicing in the Lord involves boasting in the Lord. We cannot hide our joy in the Lord behind fear and shame of our Father, and we cannot rejoice in our Lord Jesus Christ without boasting of what he has done for us. This is certainly confirmed with Scriptures like this:
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”[2]
          When God tells us, Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart,”[3]he is revealing a relationship in which he delights to practice steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, and he wants us to delight in him so that he can delight in giving us the desires of our hearts.
          Rejoicing in the Lord requires that we do not boast in our own wisdom, but we rejoice that we understand and know God. It requires that we put off any boasting in our might, or our strength, or our abilities, and, instead, rejoice that we understand and know God. Instead of boasting in our wealth, albeit great or small, rejoicing in the Lord requires that we consider our greatest treasure that we understand and know God.
          In contrast to our own wisdom, and our own might, and our own riches, we see our God, our heavenly Father, our big Brother, our Holy Spirit companion, who practice steadfast love that is beyond our wisdom. They practice justice that is beyond our strength. They practice righteousness that is beyond our riches.
          God reveals the life in which he and his children share in the greatest joy. We cannot know the greatest joy when we rejoice and boast in something so small as our wisdom, our might, or our riches. Go up to the view of the International Space Station and find yourself, your wisdom, your might, and your riches on the map, so to speak. You will see nothing of yourself in the picture, and yet the whole earth is God’s footstool.[4] The whole earth is the LORD’s. Everything in the earth belongs to our God.[5]
          It is interesting that, in the Psalm in which God calls us to delight ourselves in him so that he can give us the most joyful desires of our hearts, David began by saying, “Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!”[6]
          What I realize right away is that the two negative exhortations speak of a comprehensive conflict with delighting ourselves in the LORD. When we fret because of evildoers, we have such an exaggerated view of our enemies that we end up with a very small view of God. We cannot rejoice in the Lord and fret because of our enemies.[7] We cannot rejoice in how powerful and mighty our heavenly Father is, and also fret about how dangerous evildoers are.
          In fact, it is fitting that Paul’s positive exhortation to rejoice in the Lord leads into his negative exhortation, “do not be anxious about anything.”[8] We cannot be anxious about evildoers, anxious about the evil day in which we live, anxious that we will not survive the bad things that are going on in the world, and also rejoice in the Lord at the same time.
          It is interesting that, when we boast in our wisdom, we will fret when evil men do things we cannot understand, or scheme things beyond our ability to strategize a countermeasure. When our wisdom cannot figure out what to do, we will fret because of what evil people are doing.
          On the other hand, when we rejoice that we understand and know God, we pray that wonderful prayer that God would strengthen us with power through his Spirit in our inner being, so that Jesus Christ would dwell in our innermost hearts by faith, so that we will have the power, together with all the saints, to comprehend the rich and full dimensions of the love of Jesus Christ, and to know that love that surpasses knowledge, so that God would fill us with all the fullness of his presence.[9]
          When our joy in understanding and knowing God is bolstered with our prayer to comprehend and know the love of Jesus Christ, there is nothing evil men can do to take us away from rejoicing in our God. The testimonies of those who suffered persecution, or saw that they were going to be martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ, is that they could not give up their boast in the Lord because their highest treasure was that they understood and knew the Lord.[10]
          To have that joyful boasting in God, something no one can take away from us, makes us fearless of our enemies. We may cringe at what they can do to us in bodily harm, in destruction of possessions, and meeting places, and homes, but we will not fear the evils of evil men because our joy, and our boasting, is that we understand and know God!
          In particular, those who come to God through faith in Jesus Christ understand God to be our Father. We know him as our Father. We delight in this rich, radiant fellowship of grace, that God has made himself known to us. He has adopted us as his sons. He chose us and predestined us for adoption. We see the evil of the evil doers, and we marvel at God who practices steadfast love. We see the evils all around us, and the delight that wicked men have in their evil deeds, and we boast and rejoice in God’s justice that has so conspired to bring about our own justification, and will fully succeed at handing out justice against evildoers. We rejoice in him because we know that his justice will be exalted above the evil deeds of the world.
          I see this in the revelation of Jesus’ return. The world will be filled with terror at his coming, calling on the rocks and mountains to cover them at sight of the wrath of God and the Lamb, and God will leave no stone unturned, so to speak, in meting out his justice to every person who does evil.
          God’s word declares that, There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil.”[11] It tells us that, at Jesus’ coming, “all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”[12]God’s word describes the terror that evil people will experience at Jesus’ return as:
15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”[13]
          This is why we are not to fret and worry over evildoers. This is why we are not to be anxious about the way that the world rises up against Yahweh and his anointed.[14] Both old and new testaments tell us of the animosity of the world, the flesh, and the devil against our great and holy and mighty God. It never once tells us to fret about this. It never once tells us to worry about what evil people will do. It always directs us to rejoice in the Lord, to delight in the Lord, to boast in the Lord. We are to exult in the Lord God, our heavenly Father, our faithful and loving brother, and our gracious companion Spirit.
          Not only does David tell us not to fret because of evildoers, but he also instructs us, “be not envious of wrongdoers!” [15] The two go hand in hand, like two sides of the same coin, but with different emotions attached.
          One danger for us is to live in fear of our enemies. The other danger is that we become envious of our enemies. We can see how the wicked seem to prosper in situations where the righteous suffer. We can see how the wicked get promotions, while the righteous miss out, are demoted, lose their jobs or businesses because of their faith in Jesus Christ, and are even ostracized from employment. We can look at the prosperity of the wicked, and the misery of the righteous, and allow ourselves to envy what the wicked enjoy in this lifetime.
          As David leads up to us delighting ourselves in Yahweh, and experiencing the true desires of our hearts, he must rule out any room we might give to envying the wicked. We cannot look at the success of the wicked in any beneficial, desirable, envious way, and then so delight ourselves in the Lord that we get the desires of our hearts.
          If any of us realize that our fear of man, or our envy of the wicked, are keeping us from rejoicing, and delighting, and boasting in the Lord, do not look in the mirror for the solution. Turn to God, call out to him in faith, and ask him to bring you to both understand and know him, that he is God, that he is the Lord, and that he “practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.” It is his will for us to know him like this, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”[16]
          When we truly accept that these are the things in which our heavenly Father delights, and that all these qualities are exercised towards all his children, we will begin to delight, and rejoice, and boast in who God is to us, and who we are to him.
          And not only that, to help us call out to God about these things, he has given us Paul’s exemplary prayer of Ephesians 3:14-21 to encourage us along.

© 2015 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] Philippians 4:4
[2] Jeremiah 9:23-24
[3] Psalm 37:4
[4] Isaiah 66:1
[5] Psalm 24:1
[6] Psalm 37:1
[7] This includes continually rehashing what enemies of the past have done so that we are not renewing our minds with the transforming reminders of what God has done, is doing, and will do.
[8] Philippians 4:6
[9] Ephesians 3:14-19
[10] Matthew 13:44-46 illustrate the treasure of coming to understand and know Jesus Christ.
[11] Romans 2:9
[12] Matthew 24:30
[13] Revelation 6:15-17
[14] See Psalm 2:1-12
[15] Psalm 37:1
[16] I John 5:14

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Home Church Video ~ "The Loving Brotherhood That Joyfully Unites to Victoriously Stand Firm" ~ Part 2

In part two of our look at Philippians 4:1, we consider, "The Prized Relationships of the Brotherhood." The brotherhood of believers in Jesus Christ has the capability of being the most loving and joyful place in the whole world. Our leaders emulated that love and joy in their relationships to the churches. We have all that we need to follow in their steps and fellowship with one another in the same joyful love, and loving joy. 

Join our home church as we consider the relationships that help us to stand firm together in our Lord Jesus Christ.

© 2015 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Pastoral Pings (Plus) ~ Getting it Together for a Joyful Body

          In my pondering through Scripture, I often have to remind myself to consider what I am reading through the biblical mindset of the one body of Christ, rather than thinking of it only in its application to me personally. It is too easy to fall into the world’s independent worldview and assume that everything I read in Scripture is just between me and God. Anything he instructs in the letters to the churches falls on me to figure out and perform.
          In this erroneous focus, how well I am doing rests in how well I am doing. The measure of everything to do with my life is just between me and God. I am either strong or weak. I am either succeeding or failing. If anything is wrong, it's up to me to fix it.
          If we allow this independent thinking to rule the church, everyone rises or falls based on only their own behavior, or their own experience of the things God speaks about. This creates the false image of the church hero who does everything in God’s word better than everyone else. It also causes some people to stand out as utter failures at doing what they are told. In-between is a whole mob of God’s children who pretend to be okay because they don’t want anyone to know that they are not doing as well as they put on.
          When I look at Scriptures through the mindset of the one body of Christ, and apply the exhortations and instructions to what it looks like for God’s people to do these things together, I find a far more hopeful picture. I will use my present focus on, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice,”[1]to illustrate.
          If I read this through the individualistic mindset of the world, I see only that God expects me to rejoice in Jesus Christ always. It doesn’t matter how I am doing, or what I am going through, it is up to me to stay connected with Jesus in such a way that the overriding characteristic of my life is rejoicing. When I find it too hard, I must take responsibility for dealing with me and God in whatever ways are required for me to turn my frown upside down, so to speak.
          The fact is that, for many of God’s children, there is too much hard stuff going on in us, and around us, for us to successfully “obey” this exhortation. This means that, when rejoicing in Jesus is just between me and God, those days where I find it impossible to rejoice are a failure. Add too many of those failure-days together, and I become consumed with frustration, and then hopelessness. Life becomes too hard, and all I have left is to find some church-approved escapism, or do my best to pretend so no one will harass me for my failure of a Christian life, or just stay home and do the just-me-and-God-in-nature counterfeit of life.
          On the other side, when we look at, “Rejoice in the Lord always,” as an exhortation to the whole church as the one body of Christ, everything suddenly looks different. This is about a church rejoicing in the Lord always. This is about the combined fellowship of pastors, and elders, and congregation. This includes all the different maturity levels of congregants. This involves those who are weeping and those who are rejoicing, all at the same time.
          So, as anyone in the church faces their own inability to rejoice, they meet together with their church that seeks to rejoice in the Lord always. Their church has learned never to deny how anyone is really doing (hence weeping with those who weep, and rejoicing with those who rejoice[2]). However, they are a church that pursues joy. They join the apostolic ministry to “work with you for your joy.”[3]
          When someone who is struggling with inner heartaches, or has just been hit with joy-crushing news, is in a church that pursues joy together, they can look forward to prayer meeting night, or their small group meeting, because they know that the church will connect with them in their heartaches in order to return them to joy. The church will pray the prayers that promote the fellowship in which God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.[4]
          In a church that seeks to rejoice in Jesus at all times, and in all ways, God’s children can be honest about every failure at joy, every overwhelming inner broken thing they don’t even understand, while knowing that the pastors and elders are working together to return them to joy. They know there are mature members of the congregation who have weathered the most joyless circumstances imaginable, and have so found Jesus as the pearl of great price,[5] and the treasure hidden in the field,[6] that now they lead the way in rejoicing with that “joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,” because they are, “obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”[7]
          While I have often been punished for sharing my feelings with church folk, I still believe wholeheartedly that my freedom and maturity in rejoicing in Jesus always require deeply personal fellowship with God and his people at the same time. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full,”[8] and the apostles said, “we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”[9]
          Did you notice that? Jesus said, “my joy,” and “your joy.” John received this and passed it on as “our joy." When Jesus’ joy fills the church so that the church feels our joy increasing and maturing, even the most wounded of God’s children can come into the church with absolutely nothing to contribute to church life except their need. The rest of the church can wrap such brothers and sisters in the arms of love so that the rejoicing of the one body of Christ fills the individual members of the body with constantly growing joy.
          If you consider yourself quite hopeless in the joy department, see yourself as a wounded member of the body. Would you would allow an injured part of your body to take the time to heal while the rest of the body sends healing life to the injuries? In the same way, join with other believers to seek the body-life in which a rejoicing church ministers joy to the whole body, no matter how joyless any given member of the body feels.
          After spending considerable time pondering what Paul meant by calling the church his “joy and crown,”[10]I now know something more of what it means that we rejoice in the Lord always within the widest possible expressions of the body of Christ. If older brother Paul can make me feel treasured and prized across the distance of almost two millennia, Jesus can lead churches to treasure and prize one another into rejoicing in the Lord always. Together.

© 2015 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] Philippians 4:4
[2] Romans 12:15
[3] II Corinthians 1:24
[4] While Psalm 147:3 speaks of God healing the brokenhearted and binding up their wounds, Christians must factor this in to the life of the body of Christ where Jesus, as our head, now works his healing ministry to the brokenhearted through the love and spiritual gifts of the church.
[5] Matthew 13:45-46
[6] Matthew 13:44
[7] I Peter 1:8
[8] John 15:11
[9] I John 1:4
[10] Philippians 4:1

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pastoral Pings ~ Good God and His Rejoicing Children

          I woke up this morning with a verse of a Scripture chorus playing in my head. It is based on these words, “For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.”[1]It was encouraging to consider such wonderful attributes of God as my groggy mind entered a new day.
          My first focus this week is on the exhortation from God’s word, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”[2]Rejoicing in the Lord absolutely requires that we know him as he really is. Many people miss out on rejoicing in the Lord simply because they believe things about him that are not true.
          Even among those who profess faith in Jesus Christ, many have a secondary program (perhaps primary for some) of negative thoughts and beliefs either disparaging God himself, or accusing them of being unworthy of how good he is. Either way, the wrong beliefs are a serious deterrent to rejoicing in the Lord.
          To rejoice in the Lord, we must believe and know that he is good. In contrast to all that is bad in our lives, God is good. In contrast to all the bad things people have done to us, God is good. In contrast to religions that are violently intent on doing harm to God’s children, God is good. When we believe this, and know this, we have grounds for rejoicing in our heavenly Father.
          To rejoice in the Lord, we must believe and know that he is forgiving. If we believe God is only a holy and righteous judge (he is that, but so much more), and we know that we are guilty of sin, how could we rejoice? To know there is a coming judgment against our sin is fearful. However, to believe and know that God forgives his children gives remarkable cause for joy.
          David knew this even while living under the law. He knew the kind of God who would provide so many sacrifices to continually deal with sin, to cleanse the child of God from all sins and transgressions. Every day we wake up to a Father who forgives all our sins. Now that we have the gospel record of Jesus’ death for sin, his once-for-all presentation of himself as the ultimate, complete, and eternal sacrifice for sin, we have reason to rejoice in the forgiveness we have received by grace through faith.
          To rejoice in the Lord, we must believe and know that he is abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon him. On one side, we must believe that God, by his very nature, is abounding in steadfast love. He not only is love, and he is not only steadfast in love, but he is abounding in his steadfast love. His love endures forever, and it endures as a non-ending, ever-flowing, overwhelming fountain of steadfast love.
          On the other side, we must believe that this wonderfully abounding steadfast love is to all who call upon him. If we think that God is wonderfully abounding in steadfast love to all the good people in church, but he would never relate to us in such a way, we have just dismissed a major cause of our rejoicing. Everyone who calls on God through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ has the same absolute assurance, and the same cause for rejoicing. God’s steadfast love towards us endures forever. Rejoice!
          As I looked through Psalm 86 to get some sense of the kinds of things David was going through as he exulted in God’s goodness, forgiveness, and abounding steadfast love, I came to this hugely significant contrast:
“O God, insolent men have risen up against me;    a band of ruthless men seeks my life,    and they do not set you before them.But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”[3]
          While this gave so much reason to meditate on the comforts of God’s word, the essence of how this spoke to me was this: on one side, we have people who should be humble and merciful because we all know that we are sinners deserving the same just condemnation for our sin. Instead, David is faced with people who are insolent, who have risen up against him, who are ruthless, and seek his life. They have no regard for God, and so they seek his harm.
          On the other side, we have the God who has every reason to be against us, and yet David found him to be merciful and gracious. While his enemies were quick to anger, God was slow to anger. While his enemies sought to destroy him, God was abounding in his steadfast love and faithfulness toward David.
          While the wonders of the goodness of God overflow out of these Scriptures far beyond what a little blog post can express, the conclusion is still rather simple: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

© 2015 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 86:5
[2] Philippians 4:4
[3] Psalm 86:14-15

Monday, April 27, 2015

Pastoral Pings ~ The Only Reason to Rejoice Always

          “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”[1]

          For the next while, I will focus my prayerful meditation on this verse, and those that follow.[2]I continue to consider Paul’s instructions in Philippians through the central exhortation of “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”[3]
          This means that I will be watching for the ways God is working in me and his church to will to rejoice in the Lord always, and to work into practice true rejoicing in the Lord at all times, and in all circumstances. And I will be considering how to work these things out with fear and trembling, always conscious that God is at work in me for his good pleasure and my complete joy.[4]
          My first thoughts on this verse lead me to consider it in contrasts. When Paul urges his beloved brothers to rejoice “in the Lord,” he calls them to a distinctive experience of rejoicing we cannot find anywhere else. There is no reasonable facsimile to the rejoicing God’s children can experience in their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
          In contrast to the wonderful reality and hopefulness of rejoicing in the Lord, to tell people to, “Rejoice always! Again I will say, Rejoice!” is to impose on them a hopeless expectation. The key, and central, and life-giving, reason to rejoice is in the person and work of Jesus the Christ. Telling a world filled with violence, religious hatred, godlessness of all kinds, evolutionary meaninglessness, and natural disasters galore, that people should simply rejoice instead of acknowledging their true feelings, is both heartless, and hopeless.
          At the same time, to challenge people: “Rejoice in (fill in the blank with anything you want) always; and again I will say, rejoice,” is equally hopeless, and perhaps more deceptive. It is hopeless to tell people to rejoice for no reason at all. It also is deceptive to tell people that they can find every reason to rejoice in something other than Jesus. Self-based joy is deceptively hopeless. Other-based rejoicing is deceptively hopeless. Money-based, or possession-based joy is fleetingly hopeless.
          While nothing-based joy, and wrongly-founded joy, are both hopeless, God speaks to his children about something that is not only better, but is the most hopeful reality that every child of God can experience. He presents the joyful song of, “Rejoice IN THE LORD always; again I will say, rejoice.” In so doing, he presents the most hopeful, certain, encouraging, uplifting, promising exhortation for all the children of God.
          It would take far more than a Pondering to explain all the reasons that Jesus Christ gives us cause, and hope, to rejoice always. However, there are three primary realities in the Son of God that give focus to our hope and joy.
          First, Jesus Christ is our Creator, hence our ultimate rejoicing is found in relationship with him, and coming home to his creative purposes for our lives.
          Second, Jesus Christ is our Redeemer, fully resolving the sin-problem that destroyed our relationship to him and his Father. He alone can restore people to the relationship with God that returns us to joy.
          Third, Jesus Christ is our Coming King. No matter what bad things happen in our world, with increasing worldwide hatred of the children of God, Jesus himself will return in glory, and fully return his brothers to eternal joy.
          God’s glorious word tells us, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”[5] The fact that we can know Jesus Christ as Creator, Redeemer, and Coming King, gives us reason to rejoice in him, and all we have in him. He will lead us into his fullness of joy, and his eternal pleasures, at his return.
          In the meantime, immerse yourself in the word of God. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”[6]Spend time drinking in the things Jesus has spoken to us. The joy he gives us enables us to rejoice in him always, both now, and forevermore.
          You are invited to this joy.

© 2015 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] Philippians 4:4
[2] Philippians 4:4-7
[3] Philippians 2:12-13
[4] God working for his good pleasure is always focused on his work to complete our joy as John describes in I John 1:3-4.
[5] Psalm 16:11
[6] John 15:11

Friday, April 24, 2015

Pastoral Pings (Plus) ~ A Parable’s Help For Our Treasure and Prize

          As I continue meditating on the apostle Paul’s affection for the church as, “my joy and crown,”[1] and his additional expression of, “For you are our glory and joy,”[2]I have enjoyed the feeling of wonder that comes from considering what mattered to him in relation to Jesus’ return.
          I am quite familiar with the sarky, works-based feeling that we are going to see disappointment on Jesus’ face at his return. I constantly remind myself of the good news of the gospel, that salvation, and our present life, and our standing before Christ at his return, are all about the righteousness of God that is through faith in Jesus Christ.
          Once I put aside any deceptive and accusing thoughts, I move past the fact that Paul was confident about the coming of Christ, and see this strangely beautiful thing that he looked forward to. His joy, and his prize, and his glory, and his crown, were the people who had come to God through faith in Jesus Christ.
          As I consider this from the viewpoint of what I would mean to Paul in this picture, that he would consider someone like me to be his treasure and prize because I am a beloved brother through my shared faith in Jesus Christ, I turn to other Scriptures to help me both comprehend the wonders of this relationship with God and his people, but also to give my heart the opportunity to know this relationship as fully as is possible this side of heaven. This is how God’s Spirit led me in his word today.
          In one of Jesus’ parables, he told of three servants who were each given a sum of money in trust, and told to work that money for the master’s business.[3] The master then went away on a long journey, leaving the servants to take care of things on his behalf.
          Upon the master’s return, he called his servants to give account of how things went for them. It is here that I gained some greater understanding of what Paul felt by considering the church his treasure and prize.
          Two of the servants came to the master smiling. They were happy to see their master, and delighted to show him how they had managed what he had given them. Both were excited to show that they had doubled what had been left in their charge. The master responded to both with the wonderful expression of, “’Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”[4]
          When I bring together the picture of the servants in this parable, along with Paul’s expressions of what he considered his, “hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming,”[5]I see what Paul will bring before Jesus when the Master returns. His “boasting” before his Savior would not be mere money, as is used as illustration in the parable. Rather, Paul’s treasure and prize at Jesus coming is expressed as, “Is it not you?”[6]
          Once again, I not only marvel at the confidence Paul felt in view of the return of Christ, but I am in wonder at his focus on what he prized and treasured. It is us who are the body of Christ, the one new man, the church, the saints who are set apart unto God as holy by grace through faith. His joy and crown were the church. His boasting before Jesus at his return will be, “Master, look at the people I have brought to you!”
          I know that Paul could not look ahead and see someone like me benefiting so much from his God-breathed writings to the churches. However, I know that I am as much part of Paul’s joy and crown as anyone in the Philippian church. Paul will welcome me into our heavenly home as my older brother rejoicing to see another gem added to the treasured and prized brotherhood of believers gathered before the throne. He finished his race knowing that there was a prize waiting for him. It was not a reward for good behavior; it was not a trophy setting him apart as better than the rest of us.
          Rather, it was his knowledge that he was given responsibility for something in his Master’s kingdom, and he would show Jesus all the people he had brought into the kingdom through the glorious gospel entrusted to him. It is no wonder he would tell Timothy,
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.[7]
          Paul knew he would receive the crown of righteousness awarded to him on that day, just as to “all who have loved his appearing.” But he wanted us to know that he considered us to be his joy and crown now. He wanted us to enjoy feeling that an older brother looked at the body of Christ, all the saints, without any favoritism and partiality, and considered us his hope, and his joy, and his crown of boasting before Jesus Christ at his return.
          The parable of the faithful servants helps us see how Paul rejoiced to multiply the gospel in heart after heart, and city after city, down through the ages, and how he prized and treasured the church as his joy and crown.
          It also shows that Paul’s joyful love relationship with the church in this lifetime led him into the joy of his Master forever. He knew that would be the case. He just wanted to make sure we would be there with him; and that we would enjoy knowing we would be there, and how excited he will be to see us when we join him in our heavenly home.

© 2015 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] Philippians 4:1
[2] I Thessalonians 2:20
[3] Matthew 25:14-30
[4] Matthew 25:21, 23
[5] I Thessalonians 2:19
[6] I Thessalonians 2:19
[7] II Timothy 4:7-8

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Pastoral Pings (Plus) ~ Exulting and Exalting the Love of Jesus Christ

          It began with a collection of words that all began with the same letter. For some reason, I like it when the points derived from a Scripture can be expressed in that way. Perhaps this makes it easier to remember.
          Whatever the case, this morning began with the recognition that all the things I am learning of the joyful love-relationships of the church leave me with these e-words: experience, enjoy, and express.
          Experience: it is clear from God’s word that he wants all his children to experience the love of God that is given to us in Jesus Christ.[1] We are the beloved children of God,[2]and God wants us to know it, to feel it, to experience it.[3]
          Enjoy: it is just as clear that our experience of the love of God given through Christ, and expressed through the apostles and prophets of the early church, is to be enjoyable. Jesus spoke the truth in love for our joy.[4] Paul worked for our joy.[5] John wrote of the apostles’ experience of Christ to bring the church into fellowship with them and God in order to complete our joy.[6] Everything given to us in Christ, through the foundation-laying lives and ministries of the apostles and prophets,[7] was aimed at bringing us to enjoy the joy that God and his servants have in the children of God.
          Express: in the same way as branches receive the sap of the vine for their own good, and pass that sap on to the further reaches of branches, buds, blossoms, and fruit, so the believer in Jesus Christ receives the love of God in such a way that we can only continue enjoying the experience if we keep passing it on to others. There is no such thing as a Christian being loved by God in a dead-end  kind of way. The love of God must flow through our lives to give that non-ending experience of joyful love.
          This three-word (e-word) summary of the joyful love relationships of the church invited two other e-words to join the fellowship. When we experience, enjoy, and express the joyful love relationships of the church, we find ourselves both exulting in the love of Jesus Christ, and exalting the love of Jesus Christ.
          Exulting: exulting in the joyful love of God that is in Jesus and his church is to have such enjoyable experience of the love of Christ that we personally overflow with joy. Exulting is something that happens inside us. We feel happiness over what we have. We feel joy and gladness and delight in what we have. We overflow with testimony of the love of God. We find ourselves writing and speaking in long sentences of delight and wonder because we just cannot find enough words to describe what the joy and love and peace and delight feel like.
          Exalting: at the same time, our exulting experience of enjoying the love relationships of God and his people cause us to exalt the joyful love of God that accomplishes such things as this. Paul had been an angry and violent young man who was intent on destroying the church because he could not believe that this Jesus of Nazareth could be the Jewish Messiah. However, Jesus grabbed hold of his life so dramatically, raising him from the dead condition of his sin, and appointing him to apostolic leadership in the church, that we exalt the joyful love of God that would do this for such a man as him. At the same time, we exalt the greatness of the joyful love relationships that come through the love of God that would make Paul the man who teaches us to love the brotherhood of believers!
          Whether or not these five e-words make this easier to remember, God’s love brings us into the most joyful love relationships ever. They are ours to experience, to enjoy, and to express to others. They are ours to exult in as our own personal place in the joyful love relationships of our home in Jesus Christ, and they are ours to exalt as the gracious gift of the God who is love.
          For myself, my journey through God’s word this last couple of months has caused me to experience the joyful love relationships of God and his people more than ever before. I find myself feeling greater enjoyment of what I mean to God, what the whole brotherhood of believers means to the apostles and prophets who became the foundation for the church, and what we mean to each other in the present-day  generation of the body of Christ. I also find myself desiring to express joyful love relationship to the entire brotherhood of believers, no matter whether they live in my home, attend my home church, fellowship in other locations, or suffer in other parts of our world.
          The fact is that my exulting in the joyful love relationships of God and his people is growing, and so I find myself all the more eager to exalt the love of God before your eyes, and before your heart, so that you feel the invitation of God who “…so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”[8]

© 2015 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] Philippians 1:9-11; Philippians 2:1; Jude 1:21
[2] Ephesians 5:1
[3] Ephesians 3:14-21
[4] John 15:11
[5] II Corinthians 1:24; Philippians 1:25
[6] I John 1:3-4
[7] Ephesians 2:19-22
[8] John 3:16