” That they may behold my glory” – The Prayer of Jesus 


Gifts of the Ascended Christ

 

The greatest desire that Christ expressed in his prayer was that his people might be with him to behold his glory. It is clear that in this prayer the Lord Christ was referring to his own glory and the actual sight of it.

Only a sight of his glory, and nothing else, will truly satisfy God’s people. One of the greatest privileges the believer has, both in this world and for eternity, is to behold the glory of Christ.

Ever since the name of Christ was known on the earth, there has never been such direct opposition to the uniqueness and glory of Christ as the present day. It is the duty of all those who love the Lord Jesus to testify according to their ability to his uniqueness and glory.

I would therefore try to strengthen the faith of true believers by showing that to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ by faith is the climax of all Christ’s requests for his disciples in this present world. Here in this life, beholding the glory of the Lord, they are changed into his own likeness by his Spirit (2Cor.3:18). Hereafter, they will be like him for they will see him as he is (1 John 3:2). This knowledge of Christ is the continual life and reward of our souls.

If, therefore we would have a more active faith and a greater love to Christ, giving rest and satisfaction to our souls, we must have a greater desire to see more of his glory in this life. We should not look for anything in heaven other than what we have some experience of (by faith) in this life. If we were fully persuaded of this we would be more often thinking about heavenly things than we usually are.

– John Owen (1684) from The Glory of Christ, the theme of the final year of his life (d.1683).

If Owen found it difficult in England in his day, how much more in our day to keep the greatest gift of all our constant priority. The Advent season is the perfect time to evaluate the year and one’s own choices to judge how well we have resisted all the distractions of the world and kept our eyes on this Leader who is both the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

 

Watch ‘Jesu, Joy of man’s desiring’.

For Brazilians: YouTube honoring Nilson Fanini (1932-2009)  “Verei Jesus como Ele e’ ” e tambem “Para Que vejam a minha gloria” http://youtu.be/3HLhhHNDvxg

Related Post: What difference has looking made?

 

 

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The difference between “ what would Jesus do” and “what IS Jesus doing”! You may be familiar with the popular fad that was revived in recent years that sought guidance for Christians in daily decisions by answering with WWJD. Like so many fads in Christianity, I always felt that though the intent was a sincere attempt to influence life’s decisions by reference to the historical Jesus, this version of what it means to be a disciple of Christ completely missed the heart of the Biblical Gospel.

In the last few days, I have been reading a book which confronts this misunderstanding in the American churches with a fresh exposition of the doctrine of the Ascension of Jesus. The book which was published in 2004 by Gerrit Scott Dawson, is entitled –

Jesus Ascended: the meaning of Christ’s Continuing Incarnation“.

I read a lot and have considered myself a full-time student for over 50 years. It has been a long time since I have been as profoundly moved as I have in reading this book about the present life of Jesus of Nazareth now in His heavenly session as our King-Priest. The fact that I have been celebrating the Festival of the Ascension for over a week now was the preparation needed to be able to profit so much from this author and the mature understanding he has of this neglected part of the Biblical narrative. I would love to recommend this book to everyone but I won’t because of one principle that is a priority here at E4Unity and that is the recognition that each individual is unique and in no way would the many be able to profit in the same way I have from reading any book. In the area of what is called “spiritual formation” that means that real progress is made only when we are able to see these things for ourself, through the “eyes of faith”, and that means we must be patiently brought in life’s experiences to desiring such things as this present world can never give or satisfy our inner spirit with.

I want to leave you with some quotes from Dawson. He is an excellent writer and this book is very “reader friendly” in the sense that he tells you what his topic is, tells you how he is going to approach it, and even gives you upfront a short direction on “how to use this book”. I will tell you that he is a Presbyterian pastor and so he is thoroughly pastoral- that is he concerns himself in the end with the purpose of this doctrine in living here on planet earth, the life of Christ in heaven transmitted to us by the Holy Spirit as we learn to live, not in the flesh, but by faith in God’s abundant provision in His beloved Son Jesus.

He has included some of the rich comments from past teachers in the churches, both from the Patristic fathers as well as men like John Calvin,  Andrew Murray, and Lesslie Newbigin. He has a robust exposition of what the the Ascension of Christ has meant to the Church in the past as well as how it can be instrumental in reviving us in the challenge we are now facing in our own generation.

“We have such difficulty conceiving how, or even believing that, the body of Jesus went to heaven that we may want the doctrine to remain in obscurity” (p.3)

“In no way, then, did the ascension signal simply a return to business as usual between God and humanity. Rather, the ascension of Christ is a vital hinge on which turns the work of the Mediator, the incarnate Son, our Redeemer in all his offices.” (p.8)

“My premise is that the church- our local church and the churches of the west-needs to recover the meta-narrative of the gospel as a counter-story, indeed a better story to the one the world tells. . .one of those episodes, the ascension, has been sorely neglected in the church’s telling of the story. The silence. . .cuts us off from the present work of Christ in heaven and from the conclusion of the story. . .recovering a proper and robust doctrine of the ascension can reconnect us to a sense of our true citizenship in heaven and the implications of that identity for life in the world.”(p.25)

Dawson’s book is divided into three parts, and we haven’t even reached the second one yet. But I don’t want to impose on you so I will close for now with one more, this time, a quote from Andrew Murray. Murray has also been one of my favorite devotional writers for a long time. Dawson may be the first Presbyterian writer that I can think of among contemporary ones that utilizes the treasures in Murray so often and so freely. He says here, that ” the church can reclaim the fullness of its story, with spectacular results.” And then quotes Murray-

” Faith has in its foundation four great cornerstones on which the building rests- the Divinity of Christ, The Incarnation, the Atonement on the Cross, the Ascension to the Throne. The last is the most wonderful, the crown of all the rest, the perfect revelation of what God has made Christ (to be)for us. And so in the Christian life it is the most important, the glorious fruit of all that goes before.” (p.26)

In part two, one of the highlights for me was his discussion of Calvin’s interpretation of the Lord’s Supper as one of the means of grace directly connected with the ascension. We will have a great deal to come back to on another occasion. For now, we must get ready to celebrate once again another Festival: The Day of Pentecost.

The link to the book is the on-line edition where you can read most of it at Google.books.

That All Depends on WHO we pray to, doesn’t it?

As I was preparing my mind and heart to spend time in intercession for my country, I found myself asking this question: Is the Bible sufficient to give me the guidance I need to pray intelligently at this time for my country?

I had read a blog of my friend MoSop on the Bible’s influence as one of the sacred books that guides her own Mormon faith. All of the Christian traditions, whether they realize it or not, have those other sacred texts or creeds in addition to the Bible. But is the Bible alone  sufficient   at a time like this? Let me give you a small sample, taken from the Lectionary readings for today, including Psalm 50, and see if you can figure out, based on the context in Israel’s future, if this gives us any guidance at all in thinking about the One I pray to:

But to the wicked God says:
“What right have you to recite my statutes
or take my covenant on your lips?
 For you hate discipline,
and you cast my words behind you.

Read the entire Psalm 50 

I have certainly read and greatly benefited from those other books, the commentaries, and the covenants from the diverse Christian traditions, the Orthodox, the Roman Catholic, the Lutheran, the Reformed, and a host of others including Seventh Day Adventists and now the Latter Day Saints. But when it comes right down to the bottom line, it’s always the Bible that has the final Word as God’s voice that this sheep recognizes and is dedicated to hearing in order to obey from a heart of passion for Him.

I did receive real orientation in Psalm 50 as to how I must pray today for my country. For one thing, I was reminded that I could not take for granted that I had any hope of being heard and my petitions answered if my own heart was not right in my relationship with Him to whom I had the audacity to present requests. I have to alter my own attitude first at His altar. There is a wonderful text in the New Testament, recognizing we are now on this side of the Christ event and His victory, awaiting Pentecost in the Biblical narrative, that assures us that if we ask anything according to His will, we know He has heard us and He has given us what we asked of Him.

May you participate in the National Day of Prayer with others from different faith traditions of your own in a meaningful way-just keep the Biblical narrative in your thoughts and hearts.

RESOURCES ABOUND 

 Once we choose to deliberately set our own cherished orthodoxy into the background and concentrate on celebrating our unity, we will find a rich and varied treasure chest in the traditions of other Christians. Perhaps at this point I need to make an apology to those who are not a part of the Western tradition, especially Anglo Saxon and white. I am very aware that there are rich resources outside the of those usually posted on American blogs. Having speant years in Brazil, I have learned how limited our own life experiences are and how much we need to deliberately seek out those beyond our own horizons. In a limited way I have tried to include some of those both on my Blogroll and in my E4Unity toolbox as well as on the Saints Gallery pages.

I have found a rich supply in the Liberal wing of the American churches, especially in the first half of the twentieth century, which I am afraid, has been greatly ignored by Evangelicals. One example is Karl Barth himself. I have learned much from him and other outside my own tradition in regards to Christian unity. Here is a small excerpt from a study on Barth’s concept of the Preaching role of the Christian minister:

“The positive factor in the new development was this: in these years [the 1920s] I had to learn that Christian doctrine, if it is to merit its name, and if it is to build up the Christian church in the world as it needs to be built up, has to be exclusively and consistently the doctrine of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is the living Word of God spoken to us men.  If I look back from this point on my earlier stages, I can now ask myself why I did not learn this and give expression to it much sooner.  How slow man is, especially when the most important things are at stake!… My new task was to rethink everything that I had said before and to put it quite differently once again, as a theology of the grace of God in Jesus Christ…  I have discovered that by concentrating on this point I can say everything far more clearly, unambiguously and simply, in accordance with the church’s belief, and yet far more freely, openly and comprehensively that I could even have said it before.  In the past I had been at least partly hindered, not so much by the church tradition as by the eggshells of a philosophical system.” – from PREACHING and BARTH

 

For those not familiar with Karl Barth and his contribution to the Church, here is an excellent place to BEGIN

 

 

ORTHODOXY as BARRIER to UNITY

If you’ve been observing Christianity for any time at all, you will have noticed all the divisions that have resulted from schism. This is nothing new, in fact the tendency was already evident within the Biblical narrative- in New Testament times. The sectarian spirit which is now in full bloom, can be a major barrier to the full realization of the Unity which is inherent in the Body of Christ-God’s new creation. But it doesn’t have to be a barrier; it can be instead a great source of strength in diversity if we can only recover the fulness of God’s original design. It is, among other things, a question of desire and deliberate choice to be obedient to God and to live by faith.

One thing should be abundantly clear by now: all of the various claims to “orthodoxy”, or “the right doctrine on paper” as Horton says in his previous essay, can not possibly have any legitimate claim on the universal Church. If we would all just dwell on that reality alone until it became undeniable to all, we would then be ready to confront the enormous challenge of agreeing to put our version of “orthodoxy” in the place of distant second to God’s Orthodoxy. No, I’m not going to tell you what that is, I only will tell you that it exists and does not equal any one that is out there “on paper” nor is it in any way “the sum of the parts”.

Here is William Dell speaking about the strength of the Christian which is the gift and function of Christ’s Spirit, who alone creates and nurtures (sustains) this Unity-

“And this unity of believers is their strength; and when GOD shall take away all prejudices, suspicions, jealousies, particular ends and interests, divisions, separations, and schisms, that are among his own people, and the people of GOD shall be reduced into this blessed unity among themselves, and the Lord be one, and his name one, among them all, then shall the church also be of invincible power.”

” So that all they that strive with it shall perish; and all they that war against it shall be as nothing; yea, then shall the Lord make the Church as a new sharp threshing instrument, having teeth, and it shall thresh the mountains,” (that is, the kingdoms of the world,) ” and shall beat them small, and shall make the hills,” (that is, the lesser common-wealths,) ” as chaff.”

“But till the churches of GOD attain to this unity, it shall not do any excellent thing, it shall not work any notable deliverance in the earth, neither shall the inhabitants of the world fall. When the Spirit of GOD shall be a Spirit of unity in the faithful, and shall heal all the sad dissensions that are now between them, then also shall it be a Spirit of admirable power in them. ”      – William Dell, Christ’s Spirit: the Christian’s Strength

Michael Horton, editor-in-chief of MODERN REFORMATION magazine, writing the “Final Thoughts” for the recent September/October issue makes the statement that orthodoxy has always been risky business for the Biblical Christian. This essay has given me new hope. I quote it here at length and think you’ll agree, that in the midst of the present heated debate, we all need to ponder this reality of being

“in the world” and “sent to the world”, while not “loving the world”.  

The Risk of Orthodoxy

Orthodoxy is risky business. The choice before us, or any generation is not whether we’ll be apostates but to which side of the front we will defect. We will be faithful either to the spirit of the age, delivered through its parodies of God’s Word and sacraments, or to the Spirit of Christ, whose reign brings true freedom.

Either we will surrender to the market, the state, utopian ideologies, pragmatism, and the therapeutic worldview that feeds our narcissism, or we will be called out of ourselves by the surprising announcement that God has accomplished our liberation from the guilt and tyranny of our sins in Jesus Christ.

Ours is not the first generation that has had to decide to fight on. The early Christians might well have survived and thrived in the Roman Empire under the Caesars if it were not for their narrow-minded conviction that Christ alone is Lord and the only Savior of the world. It is never hard to go with the flow. Where did we ever get the idea that orthodoxy is for conservatives?

Today, religious pluralism has become the new orthodoxy of the American empire. But let’s not forget that the civil religion of our supposed glory days was as threatening to the health and vitality of Christian orthodoxy as it was for the era of “Christendom” after Constantine. Postmodernism becomes an easy target for those looking for a easy way of lionizing or demonizing whatever time we happen to be living in by God’s appointment. Yet regardless of our time and place, we are living in that tension of “the present age”, defined by sin and death, and “the age to come”, inaugurated by Christ’s resurrection, ascension, and sending of His Spirit.

Even in circles where we affirm the right doctrine on paper, do our lives indicate to our spouses and our children that we cling to Christ alone for our salvation and hope rather than to the ephemeral fads and fashions of entertainment and marketing? Do our children know by the way we speak and pray at home, in formal and informal ways, that the truth changes the way we think, feel, and live in relevant ways?

Or do they have reason to conclude that orthodoxy stops at the level of assent? Does it change the way we relate to them and to others? Connecting doctrine and practice…has always brought fresh witness to the watching world and service to our neighbors.

“Like the Word that defines it, orthodoxy is “living and active”, God’s true and faithful speech that creates the world of which it speaks. Before we can live it out, we must hear it, receive it, be bathed in it, and fed by it”.