Jesus Christ is Lord of All

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Vision of the Alpha and Omega

Dear Father,
      Thank You that though the earth and the heavens will be destroyed, You remain the same. They will become old like a garment and like a mantle You will roll them up. But Your years will not come to an end. You are our Light and in Your Light we find Life throughout our few days on this earth. We look to You, Jesus, as the brilliance of Your Father. Thank You for the seed of faith that You have granted to us. Please help us to act according to the measure of faith that You have given us and to trust in You to multiply our seeds and increase the harvest of our righteousness. Please forgive me...and thank You for keeping me in Your promise.
In Jesus Christ's Name,

Theme Song: White Flag

So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.2 Peter 1 

     This letter is about the ongoing vision that we ought to have throughout each of our remaining days on earth. This vision is based on faith in the eternal Light of God. As we remember our past, walk in our present circumstances, and contemplate the future, our vision of the brightness of the glory of our God must guide our every step. In view of this vision, we are called to live in the faith that we have been granted. Whatever is the measure of faith that we have received, large or small, we must live, act, and think according to it. For this faith has been granted to us by the Spirit of faith. One day, our faith will be sight and we will behold the full brightness of His Light.

I. The Vision of the Alpha and Omega

      God taught me something about the vision of the Alpha and the Omega in the car ride on the way home from Indiana last weekend. I was staring out the left window in the evening when the sun was just starting to set. The sun was on my left hidden behind numerous trees and other obstructions. I could faintly see the splendor of its brightness for most of the ride. Sometimes, after a long wait there would be a partial clearing and streaming streaks of light could be seen from the sun. Rarely, the view was completely cleared and I could see the full perimeter of the sun. When I could see the entire sun, my eyes were blinded and tears came to my eyes. Then, almost instantly the forests would block the sun again, but I still had tears in my eyes. The forest would remain for a long time and the tears faded, but I knew that the sun was there. I knew that it was there because I had seen it and it had overwhelmed me. I knew that if all of the forests and other obstructions were burned down, I would see the sun in its majesty. And then I dreamed of a chariot that would come and bring me to the middle of [the heart of] the sun and yet leave me unscathed. I could then experience the warmth and brightness of the sun in full glory and nearness. From my place in the car, covered with the exterior of the car, held down by gravity, limited by my human frailty that would render me destroyed by intense heat/brightness unless supernaturally protected, and my lack of a chariot to take me to the heart of the sun, I still knew that there was a sun that was brilliant and warm. Nothing could shake my belief in the existence and power of the sun....and the sun only reflects the glory of the One true God who alone is to be worshiped.

      The Lord God is the only eternal brightness and splendor by which we are able to see Light in our days on on this earth. He tells us that He is the Alpha and the Omega, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty (Rev 1:8). It is our Vision of the Alpha and Omega that carries us along and sustains our souls. Our Vision of the Eternal God is by faith and not by sight. And yet, in His grace, the Father has chosen to give us the Light of the Knowledge of the glory of God at the present time. Think back to your past and think of the cumulative brightness of His glory that You have seen. You are likely thinking of times that you spent at the foot of the cross, beholding the love of the Father shown in the sacrifice of His Son. All parts of the Trinity suffered in love at the cross. The Father sacrificed His Son, not reluctantly, but willingly and with pleasure. The Son suffered as He bore our sin and drank the cup of His Father's wrath. The Spirit of God suffered as He endured the shame of Christ's suffering until Jesus committed Him into the Father's Hands. There is a great brightness that we have seen as we comprehended the great love shown at the cross. We have also seen His brightness as we look back to His refining and sanctifying power. Think of all the sins that laid so very hard on our souls, but which the resurrection power has freed us from either completely all at once or slowly over time. We have seen the waning of the power of the enemy in us over the flesh to some degree. We know that there is a vision of His splendor that causes us to loose appetite for sin and to be filled with expressions of praise and worship for the freedom that the Son has granted us. We also think of the outstretched Arm of God during those difficult times of our lives, when apart from Him, our hearts and our flesh would have failed. Our God has been the strength of our hearts and out portion forever. Thus, the Vision of the eternal God has been granted to us in part, by our remembrance of the streaks of brightness which we have seen up until this day. And as we contemplate the past brightness, we are truly contemplating the future brightness. His brightness has been as great in its infinite magnitude as it will ever be from the beginning to the end. It is a strange concept: any glimpse of the glory of God which we have seen is pointing to the future and eternal Light of God. And in this sense, our life is meant to be lived in faith in the true Light.

So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.2 Peter 1 

    During the car ride, I could not see the full brightness of the sun for most of the time. Much of the time the sun was blocked. In a similar manner, we do not continually see the full glory of God. And even the greatest vision of His splendor that we have seen is minuscule compared to the coming glory. Much of our lives, the toils, hardships, persecutions, and temptations, like trees, are used by the devil to tempt us to forget the brightness that we have seen: the sheer ray of the coming brightness. But as we walk by faith and not by sight, we are believing that Son of God is radiant and perfect in His brilliance. We believe that one day we will not have a need for a lamp, because the Lamb will be our Light. Before Jacob breathed his last he said, "The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day,16 The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads;"(Gen 48) Jacob had seen the glory of Christ as his good Shepherd who has redeemed him from all evil. Did Jacob harbor no evil thoughts and commit no sin in his time on earth? No, yet he states that the Angel of God has redeemed him from ALL sin. In view of God's faithfulness, he trusted in the future Messiah who would truly bear his sin onto Himself and impute His own righteousness onto him. Joseph who told his brothers before he died,  "I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.”25 Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here.” (Gen 50) Joseph had seen the brightness of the Alpha and the Omega in part, and in faith he was able to pass on the confidence and assurance of the coming glory to his brothers. All of the chosen people of God have walked in this manner, trusting in the future brightness. They died in faith without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were aliens and strangers on this earth (Heb 11:13). Though the coming of the Christ was in the future, Joshua says that not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass (Josh 21:45). 

     Foremost, we remember Jesus who is the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Whatever faith that we have been granted has been authored by Jesus. He will perfect our faith in the days to come. His promise to conform us to the Image of Christ as we behold His righteousness by faith is very precious and as we hope and long for the coming brightness, our hearts are purified at the present time. Jesus knew the glory of the Father and had shared in it before the world began (John 17:5). If any man had a vision of the brightness of the Alpha and the Omega, it was the Word, the God-man, Jesus Christ, who walked in perfect faith, obedience, and love. 

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Heb 12:2

     This week a young man who was heart-broken over some events in his life said "God won't talk to me Preethi, we don't speak the same language". Do we not all feel this way during some trials in our lives. We start to doubt that we are even His children, or that there is any way out of a prison of an earthly desire, temptation, illness, etc. We forget the brilliance of His glory seen in the Word that we had read through the Spirit who brought understanding to the eyes of our heart. Remember, dear saints, Jesus is the Authors and PERFECTER of our faith. If we have seen anything of His brightness in your past, may the Spirit grant us repentance, faith, and hope so that we have have our consciences sprinkled clean of a guilty conscience. Has this young man been hardened eternally? Have we been eternally hardened? God tells us "Today if you hear My Voice do not harden your hearts..." (Heb 3:15). Are we unable to repent? If we can repent, may we repent! But do not resist the Voice of the Spirit. For when we speak against the Spirit and resist His power in doing so, we are unable to repent. And when we do not repent, there is no forgiveness. Thus, the blaspheme of the Spirit is the unforgivable sin in the sense that in our blaspheme, we are resisting the Person who alone is able to cause us to repent and receive forgiveness. There is no other way to repent, but to heed the Voice of the Spirit through the Word. And there is no way to receive forgiveness for our sin unless we repent.

II. Offering Ourselves with the Faith that we have been Granted

Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Cor 9:7

     God comforted me this week with the exhortation that I must act according to the faith that I been granted. Our gifts are accepted according to what we have, not according to what we do not have (2 Cor 8:12). Just as the widow was praised for giving the two coin that she had, God is pleased when we obey Him with whatever measure of faith that we have been granted. Often, we have ideals of moral perfection, and we feel so far from meeting them in the attitudes of our heart. And yet, though we seem to have failed almost entirely, God tells us to obey in whatever faith that we have, however small it may seem, and how vastly we seem to be failing in other areas.

     God has allotted a certain measure of faith to each of His children (Rom 12:3). To some, great faith has been granted and to others, just a mustard seed of faith has been granted. Why did God tell us that if we have faith like a mustard seed, we can move mountains? Was it because no more than a small amount of faith is required to accomplish great wonders for the glory of God? Yes, but the manner is which this occurs is important for us to consider. The way in which small amounts of faith result in great revelations of God's glory to the world is the Father's ability to multiply our faith. Just as the young boy gave up his lunch and Christ multiplied it for the satisfaction of many, when we obey in the small amount of faith that remains in us, the Father is able to multiply it unto His glory and our conformance to the Image of His Son. He is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us (Eph 3:20). He is the very Person who has granted us this mustard seed of faith. He is the supplier of seed to the sower and bread for food. He supplies and multiplies our seeds for sowing and increases the harvest of our righteousness (2 Cor 9:10). We will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God (2 Cor 9:10-11). As we make a step, however small it seems to us, according to the minuscule faith that we feel that we have, God is able to give us more and more faith. He gives us a growing faith, a growing obedience, a growing LOVE which is the essence of the perfect unfailing eternal goodness of God. To the one who has faith, even a mustard seed of it, more will be given to him and he will have an abundance (Matt 13:12).

     As we walk in obedience that comes from faith, we know that even small acts of obedience in us are completely His work of grace in us. For it is God who is at work in us, both to work and to will according to His good purpose (Phil 2:13). Therefore, to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, we must obey in the faith that we have been granted. He is the PERFECTER of our faith and He will surely increase it. God tells us to go in the faith and strength that we have from Him at the present time as He told and sent Gideon to go in the strength that he had to deliver Israel from the hand of the Midianites (Judges 6:14).

     A prime example of the infinite reward of a seemingly petty faith comes from the parable of the lost son (Luke 15). After the prodigal son had squandered his father's inheritance in wild living, he came to his senses and said "‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’ (Luke 15) In his weakness and brokenness, this son did not have faith in the full extent of his father's love to receive him wholeheartedly as a son. But he did have a little faith. He had faith that his father would at least receive him as one of his hired men. He remembered that his father's hired men used to have bread to eat. In this memory, he was remembering a small amount of his father's goodness. So for us, dear saints, we may be going through seasons when our faith is minuscule and we are not comprehending His love for us. But as we remember having seen His brightness in the past through His salvation and faithfulness to us, we have enough faith to turn to Him. And He will increase our faith and obedience in the time ahead of that step made in the small faith that we had acted upon. 

     I want to share with you a view that I have towards the sins of the flesh. Some of you may have struggled with certain sins of the flesh that you felt you could never overcome. You prayed and wept and tried to refrain from this slavery to sin, but regardless of your desire for righteousness, the sin still weighs heavily on your soul and you wonder if the day will ever come when you will be free from that sin. You may even wonder if God has ceased to love you since you are "given over" to this sin at the present time. I have struggled with such types of sins. These sins are like the temptations of the demons that only come out with fasting and prayer. And in the midst of my plea to God to remove the grip of sin's curse on me, I imagine that there are two buttons. If I push the first button, I will receive the satisfaction of the sinful flesh, that is, the object of the deceitful promise of sin's temptation. If I push the second button, I will remain in the narrow path that leads to eternal Life, though many trials and persecutions will be along the way. We may do what we do not desire to do in the midst of our sins of the flesh, but we must ask God to show us what are the true desires of our heart. May it never be that our hearts truly desired the pleasures of the flesh over the perfect will of God for our righteousness...that we would have pushed the first button. Oh Lord, please perfect and guard the desires of our heart! If He had not predestinated us, we would never be able to overcome the desires of the sinful nature. But those He foreknew and predestined, He conforms to the Image of His Son. The work of His Spirit to purge the heart occurs just as surely as He has chosen us as His children and occurs in His perfect chosen time. 

     I have not completely understood the Words of Jesus below in Luke 14. Here Jesus speaks of discipleship. He essentially tells us that we must be willing to give up anything and everything for His sake. But just because we are unable to give up everything perfectly now, I feel the Father's call to give up what He has given me a willing desire to abrogate. He promises to continue to move in my heart to help me give up everything. I hope that day comes soon. Jesus also speaks here about the example of someone who starts building a tower but is unable to finish building it because the cost was too great. He also speaks of a king who is deciding whether he is powerful enough to go to war against another king. This king is too outnumbered to defeat the other king's army and must send a delegation to ask for terms of peace. The general principle I gather is: I cannot work against Him in wickedness, for then I would be destroyed at the final judgement. I cannot work to be righteous like Him through obedience to the law, because I would never have enough goodness [I would not have any at all] and would be unable to "finish building the tower" of my righteousness. The only thing I can and ought to do is to ask for a delegation of peace. Christ has granted us peace with the Father through His blood shed on the cross. In faith, whatever measure of faith that has been granted, may we continue to send the delegation of peace. May we never recant this delegation and seek to build our own tower. We do not have enough righteousness on our own to build it. And we cannot over-power this King by working against Him. Let us honor Him for He is our Lord, Master, and King!

25 Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, 26 “ If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand?32 Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Luke 14

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