Now is the Son of Man glorified…

When Judas the betrayer had left the upper room, Jesus  said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” (John 13:31). In these profound words Jesus tells us that the coming crucifixion, however horrible and sad in our eyes, was truly glorifying to both God the Father and God the Son. Jesus does not speak of it as humiliation or disgrace, but as the most glorious part of His work on earth.

J.C. Ryle says that the crucifixion brought glory to the Father as “it glorified His wisdom, faithfulness, holiness, and love.”

It showed Him wise, in providing a plan whereby He could be just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly. It showed Him faithful in keeping His promise, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head. It showed Him holy, in requiring His law’s demands to be satisfied by our great Substitute. It showed Him loving, in providing such a Mediator, such a redeemer, and such a Friend for sinful man as His co-eternal Son.

And as Jesus said so plainly, there was glory in the cross for the Son of God as well. Ryle continues to explain [from Expository Thoughts on the Gospels—John; III.45].

The crucifixion brought glory to the Son. It glorified His compassion, His patience, and His power. It showed Him most compassionate, in dying for us, suffering in our stead, allowing himself to be counted sin and a curse for us, and buying our redemption with the price of His own blood. It showed Him most patient, in not dying the common death of most men, but in willingly submitting to such pains and unknown agonies as no mind can conceive — when with a word He could have summoned His Father’s angels, and been set free. It showed Him most powerful, in bearing the weight of all the transgressions of the world, and vanquishing Satan, and despoiling him of his prey.

As you think of the cross of Jesus, consider the glory it brought to the Father and the Son.

pdb

“How Does Jesus Come to Newtown?”

In light of today’s horrific events in Connecticut, Pastor John Piper has written the following at his Desiring God blog.

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We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize . . . but one who in every respect has been tested as we are. ~ Hebrews 4:15

[Piper:]
Mass murder is why Jesus came into the world the way he did. What kind of Savior do we need when our hearts are shredded by brutal loss?

We need a suffering Savior. We need a Savior who has tasted the cup of horror we are being forced to drink.

And that is how he came. He knew what this world needed. Not a comedian. Not a sports hero. Not a movie star. Not a political genius. Not a doctor. Not even a pastor. The world needed what no mere man could be.

The world needed a suffering Sovereign. Mere suffering would not do. Mere sovereignty would not do. The one is not strong enough to save; the other is not weak enough to sympathize.

So he came as who he was: the compassionate King. The crushed Conqueror. The lamb-like Lion. The suffering Sovereign.

Now he comes to Newtown, Connecticut.

READ THE WHOLE THING HERE.

[Piper’s concluding thought]
The God who draws near to Newtown is the suffering, sympathetic God-man, Jesus Christ. No one else can feel what he has felt. No one else can love like he can love. No one else can heal like he can heal. No one else can save like he can save.

PS: I would encourage you to search the Desiring God website for additional helpful, biblical thoughts on the topic of “suffering”.

The little things…

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31 esv

The prince of preachers, Charles H Spurgeon, (c.1869) reflects on this…

I would, with special earnestness, beg you to believe that God is in little things.

It is the little troubles of life that annoy us the most. A man can put up with the loss of a dear friend sometimes, better than he can with the burning of his fingers with a coal, or some little accident that may occur to him. The little stones in the sandal make the traveler limp; while great stones do him little hurt, for he soon leaps over them.

Believe that God arranges the littles. Take the little troubles as they come and bring them to your God, because they come from God. Believe that nothing is little to God, which concerns His people. To Him, indeed, your greatest concerns may be said to be little; and your little anxieties are not too small for His notice.

The very hairs of your head are all numbered; you may, therefore, pray to him about your smallest griefs. If not a sparrow hops upon the ground without your Father — you have reason to see that the smallest events in your career are arranged by Him, and it should be your joy to accept them as they come, and not make them causes of irritation, either to others or to yourselves.

This is a truth on which you may rely implicitly, and exercise yourselves continually, until you lull the sharpest pains, calm the most feverish excitements, and obtain the sweetest repose that a Christian can indulge in.

Everything in the future is appointed by God. All is in the hand of the great King. The Lord is King; let his people rejoice!

Mocking Muhammad Vs. Mocking Christ – A Deep Difference

The headlines are full of the violent reprisals of the defenders of Muhammad.

David Mathis asks, what, then, does it mean when Muhammad’s followers begrudge him the kinds of mockery Jesus embraced, and taught his followers to likewise embrace?

In a briefly and timely article, which gleans from the wisdom of John Piper’s writings, Mathis reminds us of a deep — and beautiful — difference between Jesus and Muhammad: Jesus definitely intended to be mocked, humiliated — and killed.

Jesus is unique. And Christians believe there is a divine beauty in the mocking that he willingly subjects himself to by becoming man — because it’s a mocking and reviling and bruising and dying that is for us and for our salvation.

There is also significance to our (non-violent) response when our Savior is despised: “Jesus’s uniqueness and beauty is on display if his followers respond with grace when he is reviled.”

Read the whole thing at the Desiring God blog.

Words for the Grieving Ones

On Thursday morning many friends will gather alongside a family as they lay to rest a much loved wife and mother, who died in the early morning hours last Monday. Only a few months ago she was in the prime of life, caring for her husband, serving children in a local school and walking faithfully with her Lord. Then the cancers came; and a grim prognosis; and a season of difficulty for this saint. Grief gained a beachhead in our hearts weeks ago, and its invasion is now in full force.

In the midst of her treatments and the dramatic changes to her body, though, her spirit was undimmed and her delight in her family and daily life continued. Her simple, bright online notes communicated a measure of the wonderful personality we knew and loved — and encouraged many of us to hold our days more precious too. In her last days, we often saw evidence of the Scripture, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 esv

I had been much in fervent prayer for this sister for many weeks, in the pulpit and in private. I also have often wondered why such afflictions came to such a choice servant in the prime of her life. Although we do not often discover the answer to such “why” questions, we are reminded in the Bible about the holy and good character of our God. For instance, just today I read further in the passage cited above (Lamentations 3) and found these words about our God:

“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. …For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.” (3:25, 31-33)

That last verse in particular is instructive: We dare not judge the heart of God simply by a few of His actions. An old puritan pastor, Thomas Brooks, unfolds some implications of this text, for those wrestling with grief:

“No man can tell how the heart of God stands by his actions. His hand of severity may lie hard upon those upon whom he has set his heart as you see in Job and Lazarus. …Consider the gracious, blessed, soul-quieting conclusions that come out of afflictions. As Christ commanded the boisterous winds and the roaring raging seas — “He rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm” (Matt. 8:26) — so let the conscience speak to the soul: Be quiet and still; ‘Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord’ (Psa. 27:14), and ‘Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.’ (Psa. 37:7).


May the truth of God’s Word be like a sea-wall against the battering waves of our grief. God does not willingly or wantonly afflict His children! Our sovereign Lord does all things in accordance with His perfect will, for His glory and (ultimately) for the good of His people! And “He will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love.”

~ pdb

The Lord is the strength of my life

How does a Christian face death? The words of the Apostle Paul from 2nd Corinthians 1:8-11, where he recounts facing his own death, are very helpful. There he says, “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead (1:9). Sunday night I spoke from this passage as well as from Psalm 27, where David begins by saying, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

As an illustration of finding such strength in the Lord, I quoted Abraham Kuyper — a pastor (and former Prime Minister) from the Netherlands in the late 1800’s. He was the father of 5 sons and 2 daughters. In 1892, his 9 year old son took ill and then died. During those days he wrote several pastoral meditations, including one that commented on Psalm 27.

Some folks present on Sunday night asked that I post those words. Here is the extended quotation of Kuyper.

The Lord is the strength of my life, is the blessed utterance of soul, which coincides with the Pray without ceasing.

For, if you truly live in that sacred consciousness, that, from moment to moment, the strength of your life, by which you live and from which you live, is not in yourself, does not flow toward you from the world, but comes to you from the living God, then every breath, every heart-throb, every pulse-beat is to you a sign from the side of God, that at that very moment He maintains you, carries you by His strength and operates in you.

Your own life in you is then a witness of God’s omnipresence and of God’s almightiness, and every evening that you kneel before Him and lose yourself in the worship of the Eternal, is then to you a receiving anew of your own existence from the hand of your God.

And he ends with these words….

If then there come days of trouble, when care and anxiety well-nigh strangle the heart, or sudden danger overtakes you, or the strength for labor falls short, or sickness or the approach of death makes you pine away in yourself, then such a devout practical life in the fellowship of the Lord bears its choicest fruits.

You then went up and down with your God. You became more and more accustomed to Him. Yea, even in your minutest interests and least significant difficulties of life you have then learned to lean upon your God. And that constant practice has given your soul the bent for it, has made it a second nature to you, so that it would be difficult for you to exist otherwise.

The strength of your life is no longer in you, but in the Lord, and now in days of trouble or distress of soul there comes to you of itself from that rich, deep conviction of soul the grace of a perfectly sufficing consolation.

For if the Lord withdraws His strength from you, all your anxiety and all your exertion will avail you nothing. And when He continues to grant you this strength of life, there is then no power in heaven or on earth, that can break His might.

Does a difficult task await you? He Who imposed that task upon you is Himself the strength of your life, Who at that very moment from His almightiness shall pour the strength in you.

And does sickness overtake you, or the hour draw near when you must die, even then there is nothing gone, because you lie down in weakness, or presently depart from the earth.

For He is the strength of your life, and that strength which maintains you in existence, operates likewise in and beyond the grave, and continues forever in the heavens.

~ Abraham Kuyper, “The Strength of Your Life” (from In The Shadow of Death, Meditations for the Sick-Room and at the Sick-Bed, 1893 (Old Paths Publications reprint 1994).

The God of all comfort

Every so often find the Bible passage I am reading to be “perfectly timed” for the season of life I find myself in (and this seems to happen more frequently as I age). Reading the first chapter of 2nd Corinthians today was one such instance, with deep waves of blessing. Let me share the passage, and a few thoughts with you. May the Spirit of God bless you as well…

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (vv.3-4)

Our God has a clear purpose in mind for every affliction I face. And in the midst of these, He aims to also provide a place/time/supply of comfort for me. And these two (a goal & our comfort) work together — for if it is God’s aim for us to be “successful comforters of others” (and it is), then he will well equip us by comforting us well.

“For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” (vv.5-7)

The times in which we suffer are not times apart from our Lord Jesus Christ, but times when He is quite near us. The comfort God supplies can – and will – keep pace with our sufferings. Again, it is God’s aim for me to so gain from my experiences with Christ so as to comfort others in significant ways. Believers are not alone in these experiences, but have the companionship of others in Christ.

“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” (vv.8-10)

Ah, what a dawn of hope and sunburst of insight this passage brings! In our most difficult circumstances God designs that we rely upon and lean upon Him; and not upon ourselves! The Lord brought Paul to the end of his own resources — a death-like end to his own vitality — only to roll away the stone of despair, and impart resurrection-strength to his weakness. God is so powerful! And He is consistent, He will continue to help me again and again. I must affix my hope on Him!

O Lord, thank you for giving us this passage of Scripture, with clear encouragements for those believers in the midst of difficulties!
Increase our faith in your word, and our hope in You.
You are most worthy.
You are, indeed, the God of all comfort!
Amen.