Pastor's Blog

To the Glory of God Alone

Gravity. The ineluctable force of the universe. It cannot be escaped. It cannot be avoided. Even the weightless, airless vacuum of space submits to gravity. It bends light. It controls the planets. Down to the budding of individual seeds or the path of a single raindrop: gravity matters. Skin sagging with age is impacted by gravity. Food cooking, wheels staying on the road, a ball kicked through goal posts or hit into the outfield, air forced through a trumpet to make music, behemoth ocean liners plowing paths through the waters; yes, from the mundane to the majestic all are touched by gravity. 

Yet none of us see gravity. We see gravity's effects. Only a fool - and a foolish fool at that! - would imagine he or she could defy gravity. Let him or her walk off a cliff or stand unmoved beneath a falling boulder and claim exemption from gravity. They will quickly experience otherwise. They are not exempt.

The glory of God is the ultimate of the universe, of all existence. Gravity yields to God's glory, for God created and sustains it. All of the universe, from the stars moving in their course to the firing of synapses in each individual brain in each individual person - all thoughts and actions - are accountable to God's glory. All plans and purposes. All hopes and desires. All prayers. All striving. All rest. All proclamations. All history.

All.

The doxology of Romans 11 cannot be excelled. It is ultimate and exalted.

"For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen."

God has so ordered the world that though people may try to avoid or suppress or excel His glory they try in vain. God's glory has always and will always prevail. Even today (as it has ever been) as modern, or post-modern, or meta-modern thinkers grapple with existence they still fall back (like gravity?) to questions of meaning. Humanity, try though it may, has always been incapable of supplying its own meaning. We have always been drawn inexorably to look for meaning. We know we are not enough. We know there is something more. Something larger, deeper, far more all-encompassing than ourselves. Something more exacting, more precise, even more granular that ourselves.

To pursue the glory of God in all things is to acknowledge our own smallness, regardless how big we may seem to ourselves or to others. God's glory provokes an authentic humility, a sense of awe that strips away pride of self. Yet, too, God's glory is winsome. It is attractive. It pulls us towards God because we are made in His image. We are spiritual beings. We have eternity set in our heart. We know we are over-built for this fleeting world. In being closer to God we find comfort and rest. Oh, and joy! Because God is joyful. He is love.

We were not made to live our lives pursuing ourselves. When we search for our "self" we never find the treasure we think we seek. In the search for "self", what do we seek? What "end point" is the terminus in the search for self? Contentment? Self-acceptance? Finding our groove? What does all that mean? How do we know it when we finally find our self? More self? A better self? More than what? Better than whom?

No, we are not made to pursue our "self." We are made to pursue God. We are made to be content only in God. And God has so ordered life that in pursuing Him, in seeking His glory, the blessed serendipity is our own rest, contentment, purpose, joy and love. 

Our salvation is to God's glory. He is glorified in the salvation of sinners! He is glorified when our hearts and minds are turned to Him and shaped by Him. When His hands become our hands in this world and His heart pulses within our own. What did Jesus say?

"Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

The itty-bitty letter of Jude closes with an incredibly large thought:

"Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen."

The large thought is that God's ultimate work for us in Christ - our salvation! - does have an ultimate end. It does terminate. There will come a time when, because of Christ, we will stand blameless before the glory of God ... with great joy! We will see the face of God. We will behold the glory of God. Unfiltered. Without a veil.

Importantly, this will be enough. More than enough. His glory will so embed and overwhelm us that, for eternity, we will be content - no, overjoyed! - to be in His presence. And we will not be before Him rigid and transfixed like the monolith faces of Easter Island, staring forever outward. No, we will have life - active life - to live with Him forever. 

All of life, in life and death and beyond, to the glory of God Alone.

Posted by Tim Alexander with

I Am Saved and Live THROUGH Faith Alone

"Faith Alone" gets a bad wrap. At least, I think it does.

Images of shyster preachers in shiny polyester, hair groomed about a decade beyond acceptable, sweat shining on their foreheads as they work up a lather: "If you ... uh ... buh-leeve! If you buh-leeve!" 

And that image seems paired with another, even more depressing. Desperate people in great distress: perhaps poverty, perhaps disease, perhaps anguishing family crisis. They have gathered at the feet of the shyster. They seem to hope if they will just say, "I buh-leeve! I buh-leeve!" with enough summoned intensity that dawn will break over their darkness. Riches will come. Health will return. Families will heal.

Of course, the two images presented above are caricatures. Theatrical absurdities. Such calls to faith and such cries of faith do happen but they are in the minority.

The shyster preacher does not represent the historic call to Christian faith. For every snake-oil salesman, church history could supply hundreds, if not thousands, of humble pastors who thoughtfully and winsomely called people to Christ. 

The desperate, oh-so-easily manipulated listener is not indicative of those who, down through millennia, have believed. The wide net of the gospel has gathered many, many ... many different types of believers, from all strata of society, holding all shapes and sizes of needs and/or questions and/or doubts. 

But those bad images stick, don't they? As though the whole notion of "faith in Christ for salvation from sin" is a hoax propounded by the unscrupulous and accepted by the unthinking. And if the whole idea, itself, is a pig-in-a-poke then its not hard to dismiss it. No such thing as sin. No such thing as any need for salvation. "Run along and take your gospel to the blithering idiots who seem to believe they would need such a charade."

Oh, I bristle at the powerful work of the evil one. How he does blind the eyes of the lost!

Does any person doubt something is broken in the people of the world? In spite of historians we keep on repeating the same tragedies, killing ourselves in the same wars. In spite of teachers and philosophers we can't seem to educate ourselves out of deceit, or greed; can't seem to cultivate an enduring culture of compassion, or mercy, or generosity. We no more than set up islands of flourishing than they are swamped by the rising waters of self-interest and self-protection.

To say, in earnest and with full, heart-felt conviction, "I believe Jesus is the Son of God who died for me and rose from the dead," will not bring back lost manufacturing jobs. Saying it will not cure cancer, stop earthquakes or bring Daddy back home. But then again, Jesus never said it would. In fact, He promised in this life we would have hardships. He even said He had come not to bring peace, but division.

But accepting Jesus as Savior and following Jesus as Lord does change life! It does! Here and now and ... eternally. Saving faith cleanses me of my sin (oh, yes: sin IS real) and fundamentally alters my life going forward. I live forgiven. Not beleaguered by past guilt. Not lacking purpose for a full life. Now my every action and breath has been redeemed by the grace of God. I do not fear death. I may fear dying but I do not fear death.

Think of how much anxiety and grief in life is drained because I no longer fear death as the end to living. Think of how much more flexibility I have, because of salvation in Christ, to deal with the inevitable crises of life and relationships. Think of how much freedom I have to know, with certainty, not only am I a person of worth but you are, too. 

To be saved by faith is not a mere few words said in the passion of desperation.  It is a changed and sanctified ... sanctifying ... life. All of life is changed. Life now and life forever. 

All because of faith in Jesus. No, not faith in ourselves. Not faith in ... faith. But faith in Jesus. The crucified and risen Jesus. Jesus Who is beyond us but Jesus Who comes to us. Jesus Who lives with us and abides in us ... through faith.

 

Posted by Tim Alexander with

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