What lies ahead?

As we endure lockdown, consider what lies ahead-

“Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore.

Isaiah 65:17

The current crisis helps us see the value of moving on from our current realities to something far better.

Be glad; rejoice forever in my creation! And look! I will create Jerusalem as a place of happiness. Her people will be a source of joy.

Isaiah 65:18

We are driving our current earth to destruction. We will be so grateful to start again. Our current cities destroy the soul. The Jerusalem Jesus creates will be a place of happiness. His people will be joyful in fruitful lives.

I will rejoice over Jerusalem and delight in my people. And the sound of weeping and crying will be heard in it no more.

Isaiah 65:19

Consider a time when, being with Jesus, we will be spared from grief.

In those days people will live in the houses they build and eat the fruit of their own vineyards.

Isaiah 65:21

We can look forward to a time of creativity and rewarding work. Consider how much easier life could be without protecting the fruit of our labour from those who would steal and kill and destroy. Looking at what we have to endure, consider how much easier and more joyful life would be if everyone knew that everyone else would do what was loving and kind?

That is what we have to look forward to!

Message of a filled life

Path through wilderness

We live in a spiritual wasteland. The Lord desires to enter it and asks us to participate.

“Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!

Isaiah 40:3

Our role is to clear a way through this wilderness and make a straight path for him. Straight paths drive uncompromisingly through the obstacles of our lives.

Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places.

Isaiah 40:4

Our high places of false worship are to be levelled. The valleys of weakness filled in. The Lord prepares us to be the road, through which he reaches others.

A voice said, “Shout!” I asked, “What should I shout?”

Isaiah 40:6

Yet, we don’t know the message. Once it was clear, but the barrenness has taken away our self-confidence.

 “Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field …  The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.”

Isaiah 40:6-8

Our beauty fades. What a contrast with the glory of the Lord and his word. This glory lives in us as we live out his love through faith. His glory overwhelms our wasteland lives.

… O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!”

Isaiah 40:9

So, the message we proclaim is our testimony of how God has filled us, Christ in us, the hope of glory!

The blessing of “NOT”

Curious that there is blessing in being apart and not having!

Blessed is the one who does not…

Blessing comes because we stand with God in integrity, and because we need that blessing to counter life’s temptations.

walk in step with the wicked

The wicked are those convinced they are right, and willing to manipulate their will. They take the moral high ground, but their fruit is not love.
We need God’s grace to walk with him in love, leaving wicked’s forceful arguments.

or stand in the way that sinners take

Sinners deny no desire and refuse no pleasure. This contrasts with God’s faithfulness. Am I willing to wait for God’s fulfilment or driven to satisfy my needs?
We need faith to rest in God content with what he has given and leave the road of temptation.

or sit in the company of mockers,

Mockers laugh at anyone who takes God seriously, so sitting with mockers dulls us to intimacy with Jesus.
We need hope in God to distance ourselves emotionally from those who mock in order to sit humbly and expectantly at Jesus’ feet.

The next verses tells how the Lord establishes and empowers this love, faith and hope in our lives.

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers. [Psalm 1:1-3]

Sharing in Heavenly Glory

We discover Glory through seeing Jesus’ return to heaven.

How the king rejoices in your strength, O Lord! … For you have … withheld nothing he requested. (Psalm 21:1-2NLT)

Following his crucifixion, Jesus returns with joy at God’s victory.  All has been done, not by superman Jesus but, in divine partnership with God.

You have endowed him with eternal blessings and given him the joy of your presence. For the king trusts in the Lord. (Psalm 21:6-7NLT)

This glorious life of faith, hope and love is beyond anyone but for his eternal blessings of grace given to those who trust him.

You welcomed him back … You placed a crown of finest gold on his head. (Psalm 21:3NLT)

Like Jesus, we receive the victor’s crown after faithfully running the race set before us. Faith meets our weakness!

He asked you to preserve his life, and you granted his request. The days of his life stretch on forever. (Psalm 21:4NLT)

Hope looks above the crisis to a sovereign Lord- the adventure of an eternal exploration of the infinite God.

Your victory brings him great honor, and you have clothed him with splendor and majesty. (Psalm 21:5NLT)

God clothes us with the fruit of the Spirit; a love which exudes splendour and honour.

Glory in service

The last of three avenues that Jesus says lead to glory-

Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me. [John 12:26]

When the Lord of the universe honours us, there is glory, like in the parable of the talents where the kings says,

“Well done good and faithful servant.” [Matthew 25:21]

Many love praise and personal achievement. The Father honours those who set aside personal ambition and follow Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve, into the service he has for them.

Whom do we really serve? Jesus, at times tests our motives by leading us away from the service we have invested in. Do we love the ministry or Jesus who gave it? From whom are we looking for honour? It takes faith to follow Jesus away from apparently good things.

Jesus uses service to test faith. Do we really believe that he will resource the work he has set before us? If the task ahead is beyond us then knowing our limitations, we wrestle with the challenge. It takes faith to follow.

Sometimes we are perplexed. Are we able to rest assured that he has said,

“Where I am, my servant also will be.”

If our heart is set on serving Jesus, we can trust him that he has us in the right place.

So, Jesus encourages us to follow him into faith filled service and promises that the Father’s honour will follow.

Glory in eternal life

The second of three avenues that Jesus says bring glory is the road to eternal life.

Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:25)

This eternal life is our hope; the hope of a life of intimacy with the God who loves us. Jesus expressed eternal life in these terms-

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)

Our anticipation of this intimate relationship with our Lord in heaven inspires us to remain faithful to the end. We don’t want to meet him in the end with the shame of betrayal. So Paul wrote of

endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:3)

This faithfulness to our Lord leads to choices that force a choice between our Lord and those we love, even ourselves. In choosing Jesus, we can look like we hate others, even our own lives. Since God is love, when we look back we see those choices expressing his love and demonstrating our knowledge of him.

This hope is ready to wait for eternal life in glory and it is developed through patient endurance. It is also fulfilled in facing crises. Knowing Jesus’ goodness, we set our hope on the grace he will bring at just the right time, often completely turning the situation around.

So let us, by grace, endure to eternal life!

Glory in fruitfulness

Fruitfulness is the first of three avenues Jesus says bring glory. He explains how-

Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. [John 12:24]

What does fruitfulness look like?  The fruitfulness Paul lifts up is the fruit of the Spirit; a love characterised by joy, peace, patience, kindness, … (Galatians 5:22-23 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-7) This is no surprise. Paul writes, “And now these three remain- faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Love is a gift that we receive free of charge through God’s grace. It is a gift we pass on to others when we bring a hopeful joy, when we are patient and kind with those expecting the worst. It is a vibrant, generous life just like Jesus’.

Why does love require us to ‘fall to the ground and die’? Our culture demands that we love ourselves first, and then from a secure base, love others. Dying is not loving ourselves!

Fruitfulness is God’s love expressed through us. If I first love myself, then my love originates in me. Until my ego dies I get in the way of God’s love through self-protection, selfish ambition or vain conceit. Ego love builds barriers leaving me alone.

God’s love is risky. In taking the risk to love we learn to depend on his love, protection and resources and so our lives bring him glory.

Living for God’s glory

Jesus explains for us the way he sees glory; the glory of heaven –

Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. [John 12:23]

I notice that this glory differs from the glory he has just received as he entered Jerusalem. He points to three areas that he recognises as true glory.

Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. [John 12:24]

The first area is fruitfulness, a fruitfulness that is gained through giving of ourselves in love at a personal cost.

Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. [John 12:24]

The second area is eternal life which Jesus defines as knowing himself and the Father in John 17:3. There is glory in the depth of our relationship with Jesus.

Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me. [John 12:26]

The third area is receiving the Father’s honour, an honour reserved for those who serve him.

The glory of the world is dependent on the recognition of other people and so requires us to show off. Jesus’ glory is based on choices and the evaluation of our Lord, who sees everything.

Whose glory then are you living for?

Glory

What is glory? How was Jesus glorified? One time was his entry into Jerusalem.

 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, ‘Hosanna!’  ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’  ‘Blessed is the king of Israel!’ [John 12:12-13]

The crowd honour Jesus acknowledging his identity. He has achieved iconic status in their lives.

Do we glorify God through a passionate and single hearted focus on Jesus?

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’ ‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’ [Luke 19:39-40]

The second indication is Jesus’ character in challenging circumstances. He neither ignores, nor attacks his accusers, but affirms truth with humility.

Do we respond to trying circumstances with grace?

Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. [John 12:17-18]

The third part of glory comes through what Jesus has done –raising Lazarus from death. The Father honours those who do his will.

Do we serve Jesus through doing his will?

Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. [John 12:23]

Yet Jesus points to a greater glory to come- his death on the cross.

 

Over the next weeks I plan to explore each of these three areas of glory.