Friday, July 31, 2015

Why Jesus? Reasons 1-5

The biggest question the world must answer is why we must deal with Jesus Christ. As C.S. Lewis so famously said, 
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”[1]
With a series of Scripture-cards, I am giving many reasons for, "Why Jesus?" He is the most important person to ever come into our world. By sharing these reasons, I hope to encourage those who already know why Jesus came, and to awaken many others to the wonders of Jesus Christ. 

As the image of the invisible God, Jesus represents all the interests of the Father. Because we all will deal with God, we all will deal with God's image.

Since Jesus is the very radiance of God's glory, and all will be measured by the glory of God, we will all be judged by how we respond to God's radiance, Jesus Christ.

Although so many like to think we came from nothing, we will all stand before Jesus Christ who is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. Our lives answer to him.

Jesus' relationship to the Father as his image, his radiance, and his Word, means that God has made himself known through his Son. All people will answer to how they have known the Son.

"Alpha and Omega" are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. They signify that Jesus Christ is Lord over the beginning and the end, and everything in between.

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

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] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity © 1952, C.S. Lewis, Pte Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1980, C.S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. 

Pastoral Ponderings ~ When the Treasure Just Has to be Shared

          There is a story in God’s book, a real-life kind of story, in which some outcasts of a city came across a huge amount of treasure.[1] They found silver and gold. There were sets of clothing more than anyone could wear in a lifetime. There was delicious food just waiting for them to enjoy.
          At first they were so overwhelmed with their surprising discovery that they began to hide the treasures so that no one could take them away. However, they soon fell under conviction that what they were doing was wrong. Even though the city of people had treated them as outcasts, they knew that there was enough treasure for everyone, and settled in their hearts that the only right thing to do was to go tell everyone in the city about it. In their case, they were well-received.
          When people become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ, they discover that the Worldlings around them do not appreciate the change in their lives. They discover that talking about Jesus is not politically correct, and that speaking of Jesus as our Creator, and the only Savior of the world, results in the outcast-treatment that Jesus their Lord went through himself.
          However, even though they are treated as outcasts in various social settings, sometimes to the extent of being disowned by families, kicked out of groups, or even threatened, attacked, and persecuted by their communities, they know they have found the most amazing treasure in the whole wide world. The more they get to know this treasure, the more they feel wonder that such a thing is possible.
          At first, there is a temptation to keep this treasure to themselves. After all, no one seems to want what they have, since so many associate the treasure with what is considered a sickness or deficiency of the soul.
          It doesn’t take long, though, until the very nature of the treasure itself overwhelms Jesus’ brothers with the consciousness that it is wrong not to share it. They know the world cannot see what they have. They have heard so many stories of the world speaking of their Savior as though he were their greatest enemy, when he really is their greatest hope.
          The more these people get to know the Father through his Son, the more the richness of the treasure compels them to accept that they cannot keep it to themselves. Even though they must break societal rules about rocking boats and stepping into comfort zones, they are sure that, if people could just hear what it is they mean by Jesus as their treasure, they would want to share it with them in the same joy as Jesus’ friends have already experienced.
          The message of the treasure is this: whatever is wrong with the world, Jesus the Son of God has the thing that fixes it. Whatever the world needs is found in the Son of God.
          To a world languishing in the hopeless belief in evolution, Jesus’ brothers have wonderful news of Jesus as the Creator of heaven and earth, the one who made man from the dust of the earth, creating them as male and female in his own image and likeness.[2]
          To a world confused over identity, and purpose, and meaning, Jesus’ family has wonderful news about who we are as his creation, who we are as male and female, who we are in distinction from animals, what it means to be the only creature made in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ, and what it means to find ourselves by returning to our Creator.
          To a world concerned about the future, Jesus’ friends have wonderful news regarding the certainty of things to come. In the same way as the lepers found treasure after a terrible scare from a marauding army, Jesus’ brothers know that there is a huge treasure waiting for the people of God after some terrifying trouble travels all around the earth.[3] They know that the troubles that come only lead the way to the return of their Savior, and the glorious home he is preparing for all those who trust in him.[4]
          As Jesus’ brothers hear the world cry and complain about sickness, and financial woes, and getting their own way, and fighting over issues, and values, and worldviews; and they hear the world treasure their selfishness, and their pride, and their cruelty against other human beings, the glory of their treasure shines out all the more brightly, and the need to shine the good news all the more glaring.
          And then there is what Jesus’ friends know about death. Here they find such a bittersweet quality to their treasure that they cannot bear to keep silent about what they know. They know that death comes knocking. They know that everyone dies. They know that “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,”[5] and so they want everyone to know the provision of this treasure that saves from God’s judgment against our sin.  
          However, they also know that, “Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him,”[6] and they want everyone to know that they can change what happens to them when Jesus returns. Instead of judgment, they can have the final installment of salvation. Instead of being those who mourn when Jesus returns,[7] who call on the mountains and the 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, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”[8] they want people to know the joy of being Jesus’ brothers now,[9] and to “know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”[10]
          When Jesus’ friends know that eternal life is to know God who created us,[11] and wanted us as his adopted children,[12] and that people will perish in their sins[13] if they never reach out to Jesus and receive him as their Creator,[14] their Savior,[15] and their Lord,[16] the very nature of the treasure makes them want everyone to know they can have life instead of death,[17] and joy instead of sorrow.[18]
          Jesus came into the darkness of our sinful planet and revealed himself as the Light of the world.[19] The nature of light is to shine, and so God “shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”[20]
          Jesus then told his followers, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”[21] This means that Jesus’ disciples extend his light for all to see in a way that is similar to a branch extending the life of the vine in order to bear much fruit.[22] They do not hide this light from the world, for that is utterly contrary to what the light has already done to them.[23] Instead, they abide by Jesus’ own words, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”[24]
          With this new identity as light, bearing the treasure of knowing and loving the Lord Jesus Christ, the family of God must tell the world that they have found this treasure, hoping to find a few people who will respond with the same joy as they themselves have experienced. It really doesn’t matter whether the world continues to treat them as outcasts, or welcomes the Savior with great joy. The nature of the treasure is so full of good news that it must be told.
          The message given to terrified shepherds a long time ago continues to be the message of hope God and his children shine into the world: 
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”[25]
          You are one of “all the people.” The Savior has been born “unto you,” just as unto the shepherds. Jesus is “Christ the Lord” over every name, power, authority, religion, nation, government, and interest group, you can imagine.[26] You can know, “joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,” by, “obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”[27]
          Well, my time with God made me rather “light”-hearted this morning. This is not unusual. For anyone who is a brother to the Light of the world, shining his light for others to see is our new identity in the Lord Jesus Christ.[28] Jesus said, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”[29] I pray that this is exactly what happens throughout the course of this whole day! After all, there is most certainly treasure enough to share.

© 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] II Kings 7:1-20
[2] Genesis 1:26-27 shows God’s plan and work of making man in his own image and likeness, and Genesis 2:1-25 zooms in on the distinctive way in which Jesus made the man and the woman for relationship with him, and relationship with each other.
[3] The book of Revelation is the grand finale of Scripture, showing God’s ultimate victory over all the evils and bad things that will take place throughout the remaining centuries of time.
[4] John 14:1-6
[5] Hebrews 9:27
[6] Hebrews 7:28
[7] Matthew 24:29-31
[8] Revelation 6:16
[9] I John 3:1
[10] I John 3:2
[11] John 17:3
[13] John 3:16-18, 31
[14] John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15
[15] Luke 2:11; Acts 5:31; Philippians 3:20
[16] John 20:28; Acts 2:36; Romans 16:20; Philippians 2:9-11 (references to Jesus Christ as Lord are too numerous to include them all! A search at will show over 6,700 uses of the word “Lord.” 173 verses come up when searching for both “Jesus” and “Lord” in the same sentences: )
[17] John 1:1-5
[18] John 15:11; I John 1:4
[19] Isaiah 9:2; Matthew 4:16; John 1:9
[20] II Corinthians 4:6
[21] Matthew 5:14
[22] John 15:1-11
[23] Matthew 5:15
[24] Matthew 5:16
[25] Luke 2:10-11
[26] Philippians 2:9-11; I Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16
[27] I Peter 1:8-9
[28] Ephesians 5:8-9
[29] Matthew 5:16

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Pastoral Pings ~ The Morning the Mourners are Comforted

          Sometimes when God convicts me of some sin I did not know was in my life, or a way that I am dragging my feet in doing his will, or some sarky[1] thought or habit that is holding me back from fully embracing his will, I’m just about to get all set to feel the deep mourning for whatever it is that is wrong, when suddenly a wave of joy comes over me at the wonderful gift of God’s grace to someone who is just like he is revealing.
          At times it is the awareness of the Beatitudes.[2] They tell me that it is a blessing of God’s grace to feel poverty of spirit. It is a blessing when we feel such mournfulness over our sin that we are sick and tired of being the way we are. It is a blessing from God’s gracious throne-room when we find ourselves feeling the meekness that knows it could never fix what is broken and messed up within us. And, it is God’s blessing on his children when they feel such a hunger and thirst for the righteousness that they do not have, that God is sure to satisfy them with the righteousness that he expresses and gives so freely in his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
          Other times I am comforted by the way God works through the Highers and Deepers as expressed in his ministry to the Samaritan woman.[3] When I consider how gently and graciously he spoke to her, moving from one Higher thought about him, to a Deeper thought about herself, I appreciate the gentle way he ministers to me so that I can accept each next Deeper as just as precious to my growth in Christ as the most amazing Highers I experience along the way.
          Sometimes I find comfort from knowing that God will not fail to carry on to completion what he has started in me.[4] He set out to have a people in his own image and likeness;[5] his Son secured our salvation so we can be restored to his image and likeness;[6]he is constantly working to conform us to the image and likeness of his Son “from one degree of glory to another”;[7] and one day we shall be just like Jesus when we see him face to face.[8] I have no doubt God will do that. I sometimes wonder if it could happen more quickly than I have experienced, but I humbly understand that there are far too many factors for me to dissect such wisdom and knowledge of God.
          There are so many other Scriptures that give me comfort that God is just as “okay” with me at my worst moments of immaturity as he was when I received Christ, and as he will be when I am with him in his image. The way he worked so powerfully through David as a man after his own heart, even though David sinned so grievously; and the way he worked through Peter even after Peter denied him three times; and the way he worked through Paul even though Paul (then Saul) relentlessly persecuted the church, all encourage me with the grace of God that glorifies God’s strength in our weakness.
          Knowing that all is always well with my soul because of the finished work of Jesus Christ does not make me satisfied to be as different from Jesus as I am. However, I am satisfied that God is working in me both to will and to work for his good pleasure, and so I give myself to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling.[9] What he does for his good pleasure is also for my complete joy,[10] and so it is imperative that I press on in my growth in Christ, painfully hopeful as that may be.
© 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] “Sarx” is a transliteration of the Greek word translated “flesh” in the Bible. We use the words “sark” and “sarky” to refer to “the flesh” and its disposition to do things independent of God, trusting in self instead of the Holy Spirit.
[2] Matthew 5:1-12
[3] John 4:1-42
[4] Philippians 1:6
[5] Genesis 1:26-27
[6] Romans 8:28-30
[7] II Corinthians 3:18
[8] I John 3:1-2
[9] Philippians 2:12-13
[10] I John 1:4

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

When the Invisible Man Meets the Image of the Invisible God

          If one of our brothers or sisters in Jesus Christ has a spiritual virus that keeps telling them they are silent, invisible, and worthless, what will happen to their relationship with God and his people when they try to be part of the work God is doing in the church?
          One thing that will happen is that they will tend to relate out of either the “too much” or “nothing at all” pendulum extremes. Some people who have come to believe they are silent, invisible, and worthless cannot seem to help themselves from trying way too hard to get people to hear them, see them, and value them. Others will respond to the same inner-condition by giving up any hope of anyone hearing them, seeing them, or valuing them, so they shut down all together.
          If churches do not understand the ministry of the Holy Spirit to heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds,[1] or that God has a special interest in being close to the broken and contrite of heart,[2] they will look at the busy-beavers in the church as though their activity is proof of the Spirit-filled life, rather than the evidence of an unmet need to know God.[3]
          I remember growing up hearing that the most active members were the “committed” people. If I wanted to be part of this well-respected elite group, I needed to sharpen up on my activity commitments. Commitment and activity gave status and recognition. These are very poor facsimiles of the feeling of significance and worth we are longing for, but when there is a famine of treating one another with God-sized feelings of worth, counterfeits can be quite addictive.
          What I realize now is that many committed people in the church are broken people trying to get someone to hear them, see them, and value them. I also realize that many uninvolved attenders are broken people who have given up all hope of anyone hearing them, seeing them, or valuing them.
          What, then, is the connection between people who feel invisible, and Jesus Christ who is the image of the invisible God?[4]
          It is this: that Jesus Christ came to bring us into a relationship with God where we know him as the Father who knows us. Everything to do with our significance rests in God. We are his dream. We are his creation. We are his design. We are the one and only creature in the whole world that was created in God’s own image.[5] We are the special object of his attention in conforming us to the same image as Jesus Christ “from one degree of glory to another.”[6]
          We know that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners,[7] and give us eternal life.[8]However, Jesus’ description of the eternal life that is given to saved sinners is this, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”[9]
          Do you see the two-way relationship? God sent Jesus so that Jesus could bring us to know God. To live in the mutual relationship of knowing and being known is part of being in the image and likeness of God. The triunity of God reveals a relational God who is constantly in the reality of knowing one another, and being known by one another. They made man for this, and saved man for this.
          Just before Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, this is what he prayed for us: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”[10]
          Jesus described a relationship within the Triune that was Jesus in the Father, and the Father in Jesus. His prayer, which the Father is most certainly answering, is that we could be in them, just as they are in one another. This relationship of being in Christ, gives is the greatest significance of all, the very significance and worth we were created to know and enjoy.
          So, what does the invisible child of God do when even the church has trouble seeing him, hearing him, or valuing him? He looks to Jesus who is not ashamed to call him brother,[11] to the Father who considers him a beloved child,[12] and seeks to know them in their fellowship of knowing him.
          The hope set before such a child of God is that there is coming a day Paul described like this: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”[13]
          In this lifetime, we may be much more aware of seeing in a mirror dimly, and knowing only in part. But we keep growing in love relationships with God and his people because we are constantly being conformed to the image of the invisible God from one degree of glory to another,[14]and, the God who will carry on to completion the good work he has started in us,[15] will one day cause us to just as fully know as we have been fully known from before the foundation of the world.
© 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 147:3
[2] Psalm 51:7; Isaiah 57:15; 66:1-2
[3] I do not mean that everyone who is active in the church is operating out of this unmet need, only that we need to look at those who are the most committed to make sure they have a testimony of knowing God as the one who fully knows them.
[4] Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3
[5] Genesis 1:26-27
[6] II Corinthians 3:18
[7] I Timothy 1:15
[8] John 3:16
[9] John 17:3
[10] John 17:20-21
[11] Hebrews 2:11-13
[12] Ephesians 5:1-2
[13] I Corinthians 13:12
[14] II Corinthians 3:18
[15] Philippians 1:6

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Pastoral Pings ~ The Word and Testimony of Pleasing God

          Two Scriptures came together in an illuminating way this morning. 
“and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”[1] “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”[2]
          No matter which part of God’s book we consider, there is both a universal and unique aspect to how we receive it. On one side, the only way anyone can relate to God’s word and his will is “by the blood of the Lamb.” Only through faith in Jesus Christ, believing in our hearts that Jesus died for our sins and was raised from the dead, and confessing with our mouths that Jesus Christ is most certainly King of kings and Lord of lords,[3] can we receive all that God has spoken.[4]
          On the other side, each of us receives God’s word in the uniqueness of who we are as persons, and how God has chosen to place us into the body of Christ. For that reason, each child of God has “their testimony,” the unique story of how the universally true words of God, and the universally the same redemptive work of Jesus Christ, work in each person’s life to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ.
          All that to say that, when it comes to discerning “what is pleasing to the Lord,” there is both the universal reality of what is pleasing to the Lord, and the unique way in which God leads each of his children to learn these things, and grow up in them.[5]
          In my personal place in the body of Christ, joining with believers around the world to discern what is pleasing to our God and Savior, God constantly confronts things that have not yet arrived at the “pleasing to the Lord” status. We must clarify that this does not mean our God is upset and disappointed with us until we get it right,[6] but that we must constantly learn and discern what pleases God in our own personal journeys with him,[7] and in the distinctive situations and circumstances we face in our present world.
          For me, that means facing how a lifetime of trying to please people in order to keep them from getting angry simply doesn’t fit my relationship with God. Trying to make people happy so they won’t hurt me with their anger is an expression of the flesh (the sark), that way of operating independent of God and his Spirit.[8] The call to discern what pleases the Lord does not call to our fleshly, self-protective strategies to find ways to make God happy so he won’t get angry at us.
          Instead, for the church to discern what pleases the Lord, we are talking about the poor in spirit who have mourned their sinful condition, meekly acknowledged that they cannot fix what is wrong with them, and felt the hunger and thirst for a righteousness they do not have.[9] Once people enter the kingdom of heaven, feel the comfort of God healing their sinful hearts, experience what Jesus does to fix what we have messed up with sin, and feel the righteousness of faith that satisfies their hunger and thirst, seeking to know and understand what is pleasing to our Father, our Brother, and our Helper, is all about sharing in their joy.
          My life speaks of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ that saves people like me. It also speaks of the unique things God must do for us fear-based people-pleasers who need to learn that discerning what is pleasing to the Lord is not about making God happy. It is about learning the things that are pleasing in God’s sight so that we can enjoy the same pleasures.
          After all, what is true of our God is that, 
   “You make known to me the path of life;in your presence there is fullness of joy;at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”[10]
If fullness of joy resides in his presence, and he is surrounded by unending and unlimited pleasures, wouldn’t we want him to make this path of life known to us so that we can share in his joy? I know that makes perfect sense to people like me.

© 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] Ephesians 5:10
[2] Revelation 12:11
[3] John 1:10-13; Romans 10:9-13; I Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16
[4] Hebrews 9:22 (the context of Hebrews 9:11-28 shows how Jesus’ blood does what no animal sacrifice could ever accomplish)
[5] In a similar way as arithmetic is universally true, but each student must learn it for themselves, and in the uniqueness of their personhood, skills, and limitations, so our relationship with God brings together what is universally and absolutely true about God for every human being, and the unique testimony of how we have come to Christ, and the things God is doing in our lives to cause us to grow up in Christ.
[7] Personal in the sense that we are each members of the body of Christ learning things for ourselves, and yet in intimate and personal fellowship with the whole body of Christ.
[8] While I am very sensitive, gentle, and patient when it comes to addressing the self-protective strategies we developed as children, it is still true that we learned and developed those things while living in the flesh, and are now able to learn new ways of thinking and living in the Holy Spirit.
[9] Based on Jesus’ teaching of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-6
[10] Psalm 16:11