Receiving the Riches of Glory – 2 Corinthians 8:9

Dr. James Montgomery Boice, the late pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, captures the essence of Advent: “Jesus descended from the peak of glory to this lowly position in order that He might raise us from our lowly position to His glory.” The significance of the incarnation is not only that we know the grace of Christ now, but that we will share His glory in the hereafter. Jesus was made lower than the angels and tasted death for everyone in order to bring “many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:9-10).

Of what do the riches of Jesus’ glory consist? Hear how the Apostle Paul describes the riches of His glory from 2 Corinthians 5:

First of all, it involves receiving an eternal house. 2 Corinthians 5:1 says, “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

The picture of a tent suggests a lack of permanence and insecurity and is a common symbol of earthly life and its setting in the body. Our earthly house is compared to a tent, which serves as a temporary dwelling. Our eternal house is compared to a permanent building constructed by God Himself. Many people wager their lives on death being
the end, but a Christian knows he will live forever with a glorified body in perfect communion with his Lord.

Secondly, it involves receiving an eternal home. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:8: “We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”

As believers, we enjoy a most wonderful relationship with our Lord that will never end. We will be perfectly known and perfectly loved forever and ever. The phrase “with the Lord” suggests a dynamic, intimate communion with Jesus Christ. The riches of His glory consist in having an eternal home to go to at the end of our days. What a comfort this is! Jesus assures His followers in the Upper Room: “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).

Finally, it involves receiving an eternal weight. 2 Corinthians 4:17 is a reminder of what suffering and affliction produce in the life of a Christian: “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.”

We ought to commit ourselves to read at least once a year C.S. Lewis’ essay, The Weight of Glory. It can lift us from the harsh and stark realities of this world and renew our vision for what is ultimately in store for us in the coming kingdom of our Lord.

“Apparently, then,” Lewis concludes, “our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honor beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache.”

Ultimately, what we all are truly longing for is GLORY – inexpressible glory. We want
to be welcomed, received, acknowledged by, and taken in by God into His dwelling
place. This is exactly our future because the only-begotten Son of God became a man to take upon Himself our rags of sin, condemnation, rejection, guilt, shame, brokenness, isolation, and insecurity. He has granted us His favor, smile, and righteousness. The words of the prophet Isaiah summarize how we should respond this Advent:

“I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10).

The Normal Christian Life Involves Suffering

Though many in the evangelical church in America today will tell you differently, the normal Christian life involves suffering and afflictions. The apostles galvanized the first century disciples with this reality check: “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom” (Acts 14:22). When we are called to face this reality personally, let us not be alarmed or surprised.

Why is it important to remember this?

1)  Our hearts tell us otherwise. We often have a sense of entitlement and believe that we deserve a peaceful, happy life.

2) Our culture tells us otherwise.

3) Some branches of Christianity tell us otherwise (that if we have enough faith, we will be prosperous and healthy).

What does Scripture teach us about suffering?

1) Every believer goes through suffering-remember Job, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Mary, David, Jeremiah, Paul.

2) Jesus said His followers would suffer…John 16:33, 1 Peter 4:12

3) God uses suffering in purposeful ways.  John 15 reminds us of the divine pruning that must take place; it removes self-reliance and causes us to abide in Him.  Samuel Rutherford said, “Let Him plow; He purposes a crop.”  Hebrews 12:5-11; Genesis 50:20; Acts 4:27-28

Certainly, God uses suffering to discipline us and refine us to reflect His character. Yet, suffering doesn’t always mean that God is displeased with us or paying us back for the sins of yesteryear. Generally, this is simply not true. All one must do is read the story of Job and his friends. Job suffered not because there was unconfessed sin in his life, but simply to fulfill the redemptive purposes and plan of an all-loving, good, and sovereign God.

How can we respond well to suffering?

1) Look to Jesus.  Think about our suffering Savior.  Heb. 12:1-3 and Isaiah 53

2) Look to Scripture. Reflect and meditate on the promises of God….like Isaiah 41:10 and Hebrews 13:5.

3) Strive for an eternal perspective. What is this in light of eternity?…2 Corinthians 4:16-18 and 1 Peter 5:6

4) Rely on God…1 Peter 5:10

Remember that one reason that we are Christians is that suffering doesn’t have the last word. Jesus, the perfectly innocent One, suffered and died to end all suffering and death. This is great news

The Purpose of God-Sent Afflictions

To be thankful only for our comforts is to make an idol of this life. “God-sent afflictions,” says Maurice Roberts, “have a health-giving effect upon the soul” because they are the medicine used to purge the soul of self-centeredness and this world’s vanities. Pain, in other words, sharpens us, matures us, and gives us clear “eye-sight.” Pain transforms us like nothing else can. It turns us into “solid” people. Roberts continues, “Those who have been in the crucible have lost more of their scum.” All of this should cause us to be deeply thankful.

It has been said that restlessness (pain) is the second best thing because it leads us to the Best Thing (God). It is only when we come to the end of ourselves that we come to the beginning of God. And it is only when we come to the beginning of God that we come to the beginning of life. The paradox of Christianity is, in the words of Jesus, that if you want to find your life, you must lose it (Matt. 10:39).

In the world’s economy, life precedes death; in God’s economy, death precedes life. The cross always precedes the crown; desperation always precedes deliverance. The good news, and the thing that should cause us to be both supremely thankful and hopeful, is this: When we lose one home, we secure another. Thank God!

– From the sermon Being Thankful for Pain, by Tullian Tchividjian

Three Rich Cordials to Cheer Our Souls

Mark 13:9-13 – 9 “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. 12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

My devotional reading took me through Mark 13 this morning and it is my custom when I find myself in one of the gospels to read through J.C. Ryle’s commentary entitled Expository Thoughts on the Gospels. I love his simple, straight-forward approach through the text. Today’s portion was particularly encouraging regarding Jesus’ teaching to his disciples regarding the end times. Listen to encouraging words that truly are a cordial to any follower of Jesus who encounters trouble, affliction, persecution and tribulation be it little or be it great.

  • For one thing Jesus tells us that “the Gospel must first be preached among all nations.” It must be, and it shall be. In spite of men and devils, the story of the cross of Christ shall be told in every part of the world. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Notwithstanding persecution, imprisonment, and death, there never shall be lacking a succession of faithful men, who shall proclaim the glad tidings of salvation by grace. Few may believe them. Many of their hearers may continue hardened in sin. But nothing shall prevent the Gospel being preached. The word shall never be bound, though those who preach it may be imprisoned and slain. (2 Tim. 2:9.)
  • For another thing, our Lord tells us, that those who are placed in special trial for the Gospel’s sake, shall have special help in their time of need. The Holy Spirit shall assist them in making their defense. They shall have a mouth and wisdom which their adversaries shall not be able to gainsay or resist. As it was with Peter and John and Paul, when brought before Jewish and Roman councils, so shall it be with all true-hearted disciples. How thoroughly this promise has been fulfilled, the histories of Huss, and Luther, and Latimer, and Ridley, and Baxter abundantly prove. Christ has been faithful to His word.
  • For another thing, our Lord tells us that patient perseverance shall result in final salvation. “He who endures unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Not one of those who endure tribulation shall miss his reward. All shall at length reap a rich harvest. Though they sow in tears, they shall reap in joy. Their light affliction, which is but for a moment, shall lead to an eternal weight of glory.
  • Let us gather comfort from these comfortable promises for all true-hearted servants of Christ. Persecuted, vexed, and mocked, as they are now, they shall find at length they are on the victorious side. Beset, perplexed, tried, as they sometimes are, they shall never find themselves entirely forsaken. Though cast down, they shall not be destroyed. Let them possess their souls in patience. The end of all that they see going on around them is certain, fixed, and sure. The kingdoms of this world shall yet become the kingdoms of their God and of his Christ. And when the scoffers and ungodly, who so often insulted them, are put to shame, believers shall receive a crown of glory that fades not away.

The Lord’s Mercy and The Black Horse of Affliction

In the Fellowship of the Ring, the ominous Nazgul ride into the peaceful Shire on huge black horses pursuing Frodo and the other hobbits looking for the ring of power. This graphic scene portrays what oftentimes happens in our lives: All is peaceful, happy, and simple. Then the black horse of affliction rides into our lives.

Charles Spurgeon writes: Be thankful for the providence which has made you poor, or sick, or sad; for by all this Jesus works the life of your spirit and turns you to Himself. The Lord’s mercy often rides to the door of our hearts on the black horse of affliction. Jesus uses the whole range of our experience to wean us from earth and woo us to Heaven. Christ is exalted to the throne of Heaven and earth in order that, by all the processes of His providence, He may subdue hard hearts to the gracious softening of repentance.

Let us praise our Lord that He is a God who extracts such mercies out of miseries!’ (from John Flavel) and He will do the same with us.

When we forget this about our Lord, we question, rail against, and complain to the Lord in times of trouble and travail. Why us? Why not us? Let us settle it firmly in our minds, that there is a message from God in every sorrow that befalls us. There are no lessons so powerful as those learned in the school of affliction. “No chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous–nevertheless afterward it yields peaceable fruit.” (Heb. 12:11.) The resurrection morning will prove that many of the losses of God’s people were in reality eternal gains.

Young people, how easy it is to consider a long life as an inalienable right and guaranteed certainty! You never know what a day may bring forth. The strongest and fairest are cut down and carried away in a few hours. Six University of Alabama students died in the deadly tornado of April 27th. Are you personally prepared to meet God? Are you putting off doing business with Christ? Are you living like you are ready to depart at any moment?

Why is it that I can confidently assure you that the Lord’s mercy will arrive in your time of affliction? Jesus was afflicted to end all affliction. Jesus died so that death would die. The prophet Isaiah reminds us: “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.  But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.”

How to pray for those who lead your church

The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 1 sets forth a number of directives for pastors… Pastors are called
1.    To work with God‘s people so that they find their joy in the Lord not in circumstances or any other thing.
2.    To pray, counsel, disciple, and preach so that God’s people “stand firm in their faith” (2 Corinthians 1:24).
3.    To come alongside and encourage God’s people in their time of affliction and trouble so that they are equipped to comfort and encourage others (1:4-5).
4.    To live before God’s people and a watching world with “simplicity and godly sincerity” (1:12). Haplotes is the word for simplicity. It means “an openness of heart revealing itself by generosity, a freedom from pretense and hypocrisy, and a mental honesty, liberality, and a singleness of purpose.”

If you are unsure how to pray for your pastors and the other leaders in your church, these four pastoral directives will serve as pegs on which to hang your prayers. Please take a moment and shoot a prayer arrow to heaven for them right now.