Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Higher-and-Deeper of Transformation

Years ago, I noticed that Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman[1] involved a pattern. He would show the woman something about him she couldn’t have known, and then show her something about herself she needed to face in order to fully experience relationship with him.

By the end of that particular study, I had identified the Jesus-focused things as “Highers”, and the people-focused things as “Deepers”.[2] I realized that I had seen this in many parts of Scripture, where God’s revelation of himself in more glorious ways than people knew him resulted in them seeing their poverty of spirit more deeply than ever.

While I would not claim to present this as a doctrine of God’s activity, it has proved helpful to me in facing those times in my life that cannot be explained any more precisely than “yucky”. Even while facing thoughts and feelings that fit the profile of the psalmists’ description of hopelessness,[3] I remind myself that every Deeper I have ever faced has always been preceded and followed by the gracious Highers of God.

The Deeper of the last few days, yucky as ever, has been the deep, poverty-of-spirit feeling of some kind of inner detachment. We were made for love-relationship with God and his people, life confronts us with traumatic experiences that wound our souls to such an extent that they run for cover, and God blesses his children by leading us to see this deeper need.

Why does God do that? Why does he bless us with such poverty of spirit that we mourn what is inside us, and such mourning of our wounded, sinful, messed-up condition that we meekly admit we can’t fix it, and such a sense of resigned meekness that we find ourselves hungering and thirsting after the very righteousness we do not have in whatever part of our inner selves that is staring us in the face?[4]

Answer: because then he can satisfy us with the righteousness that is by faith. In this gift, he delivers us out of the domain of darkness, including whatever lingering effects we need help with throughout the course of our lives, and transfers us into the kingdom of his beloved Son,[5] including all the ways we need to continuously be “transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”[6]

This mornings “Higher” came, as usual, out of nowhere. Actually, it came from the Holy Spirit who daily teaches us the words of the word,[7] but, as far as my perspective, I could not see it coming. The treasure was found in this phrase,
29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8)

It was the three words, “in order that”, that grabbed my attention. My detached soul, my wounded soul, disowned and rejected by so many people, needed to come before this glorious message of grace.

What was the message? That God had decided things before the beginning of time that would do everything necessary in our lives “in order that” he could bring about this glorious and wonderful thing, that Jesus would be, “the firstborn among many brothers.”

Everything I had ever heard in arguments about God’s right to love people beforehand, to predestine them to something he decided they would have and experience, and sovereignly work everything in their lives together for a particular good,[8] had hidden this wonderful treasure from sight. The purpose of all God’s fore-loving, and predestining, and calling, and justifying, and glorifying,[9] is that the kingdom of his beloved Son[10] is a place where Jesus becomes the firstborn brother among many brothers.[11]

How do I fit into this? I am a brother among brothers. There is no distinction between me and all the other brothers. We have all “received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’”[12] God, “predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,” and his act of predestining us to this adoption secures our place in the brotherhood of believers over which Jesus is our firstborn brother.

Again, while the objective revelation of Scripture speaks of these things more gloriously than anyone could miss, the ministry of these things to my inner being is carried out through the personal activity of God by his Holy Spirit. And what the Spirit is saying to me today is that all the work of God is an “in order that” that cannot fail.

Therefore, I can confidently say with older brother Paul, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”[13] What completion? That every one of Jesus’ brothers will be fully conformed to the image and likeness of our Savior so that he can be the firstborn over a kingdom of priests[14] of whom he is not ashamed to call his brothers.[15]

© 2016 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] John 4:1-42
[2] It looked to me that the things Jesus showed about himself took the woman higher in her thoughts than she had ever gone before, and the things he showed her about herself were taking her deeper into herself than anyone had ever taken her. Together, this brought her through the Beatitudinal Valley where she wanted to know him as her Messiah.
[3] Psalm 40:1-3, 69:20, 88:7
[4] See the Beatitudes of Matthew 5:3-12. They show that, as we find ourselves experiencing each of the things described, we are to consider ourselves blessed by God for the grace that draws us into such a journey of transformation.
[5] Colossians 1:13-14
[6] II Corinthians 3:18
[7] Jesus was very clear in his letters to the seven churches (the complete church through the completion of time) that he wanted everyone to “hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22). We ought to expect our time with God in his word to lead us into this ministry of the Spirit.
[8] See Romans 8:28 as a necessary part of the context to understanding verse 29.
[9] Romans 8:30 is also a necessary part of the context to understanding verse 29!
[10] Colossians 1:13-14 again.
[11] I am not saying I didn’t know this. I’m only glorifying God for the way he teaches and reminds us of his truth through the daily ministry of his Holy Spirit. Sometimes we need to learn about a familiar subject, but at a new grade level, if you will.
[12] Romans 8:15
[13] Philippians 1:6
[14] I Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6, 5:10
[15] Hebrews 2:11 (see context of Hebrews 2:10-13)

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