Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Presence of Christ

Man has at his best longed for something more than a mere knowledge of an omnipresent God. Man at his worst has fled from the place where God met personally with him, showing proof of a darkened mind resulting from a tragic fall.

Let us focus for a few moments on the Presence of Christ. We acknowledge with gratitude that the divine attribute of Omnipresence is attributed to Christ. Scripture tells us much of His localized presence. This is by no means an attempt to think less of blessings brought to bear on our souls by the manifested presence of God the Father or God the Holy Spirit. However, given our marvelous union with the Son of God, our interest in the value of His present work and our longing for the Blessed Hope, His personal return to set up His kingdom, we want our minds and hearts to be enlarged as we think and meditate upon the Bible’s story of the theme at hand, The Presence of Christ.

His presence cheers the heart and soothes the soul. Those who have been privileged to encounter Him directly have deemed it a blessing greatly desired to stay with Him. The Gadarene demoniac, harassed by the dark forces of evil, upon deliverance, sat with Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. He was so enamored with what the Lord had done for him that he would go with Him on further journeys. This the Lord denied, but the story is enough to reinforce how precious the presence of Christ is when the dear delivered one demonstrated the longing of his soul.

Mary, a sister of busy Martha and loving Lazarus, chose the better thing. She sat at His feet while He taught and soaked up the time with Him. His presence caused to fade into the background all non-essential earthly responsibilities for this woman.

The disciples eventually began to understand our Lord’s message to them that He would die. His death, they saw, would cause them to be left alone without their leader and love. While fear was present, sadness was there, too. Our Lord knew their concerns and promised that after His death He would not leave them orphans. He fulfilled His promise when He breathed on them saying, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit” and pronouncedly so at Pentecost where they were filled with Christ’s vice-regent for proclaiming the ‘wonderful works of God’.

Even now, saints gather, maybe few in number or maybe many, and have no more important promise to claim than what our Lord said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”. His presence for that assembly elevates the mundane to the supernatural and sometimes even the ecstatic. To walk away from such a gathering and be able to say, “Surely, the presence of the Lord is in this place”, encourages the saints and can serve as a testimony to those on the outside. It is all about His presence. Without it, a church may meet, but they are a shell. A lamp stand being removed, Christ distancing himself from an assembly, is such an awful thought to the spiritual minded man or woman that they are wise to choose the repent option presented by our Lord where He makes it clear what may cause Him to take such drastic action.

The future, what of it? Will not His presence on the earth bring unparalleled peace, joy and justice to a sin-cursed world? And, is not the grand object of desire for the saved to be among that number who will meet Him in the air upon His return? There is something about His presence! It is alluring. Those that are privileged to be near Him as the first fruits in the future, do so, “and they followed the Lamb, whithersoever He went”. It may be their duty, but because of the One whom they follow, it is their blessed privilege.

As rich as it is to consider His presence with us, it is equally blessed to consider our presence with Him. His High Priestly prayer of John 17 included a request for us to be with Him where He is that we may see His glory. Paul said to “depart and be with Christ is far better”. It seems to me that there is a great matter to consider here. Our immediate enjoyment of the “far better” upon death is one type of being in His presence. Our resurrected state where we will be caught up to meet Him in the clouds and “so shall we ever be with the Lord” is another type of enjoying His presence: a different body, a different abode highlighted by being with Him.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Jubilation for Justice

On May 1, 2011 the world heard of the demise of a long sought after criminal. He was openly responsible for violent acts against the United States of America. He, while living, strategized for and encouraged others who would kill, maim or otherwise harm any American or ally of America. By definition, he was an enemy of the USA.

In the moments, hours and days following, the news of his death brought reaction. Crowds gathered at high profile places. Outside of the White House, at Ground Zero in New York City, at military academies, and elsewhere people assembled and displayed their feelings for the death of one who saw their beloved country as a foe to be taken from its position of power and made subservient to his ends.

The reaction was jubilation. At long last, almost 10 years from the date this man’s hallmark plot to kill came to fruition, the nation could breathe a sigh of relief. Finally, vengeance had taken place. The one who killed had now been slain. The one whose voice was used to mock and taunt his enemy was now silenced. Retribution, to the highest order, had occurred at the hands of the one whom the destroyer sought to unseat. Crowds sang patriotic songs, chanted, ‘USA, USA’ and in other ways showed that they were so happy for this day in America. Justice had been done!

In a recent message from Revelation 19 that was primarily focused on the marriage of the Lamb and His bride, it was pointed out that the word, ‘Alleluia’ was used only four times in the New Testament and they all appear in that chapter. Further, it was shown that the word was used by the Psalmist on multiple occasions, sometimes at the beginning of a Psalm, sometimes at the end and sometimes at both the beginning and the end.

Of particular interest was the reason for the use of the word which means ‘Praise Ye Jah’. In Revelation 19, understanding the time and setting is important. John has been privileged to observe a scene, even yet future, in heaven. It is ‘after these things’ that this particular scene unfolds. The ‘these things’ include the beginnings of the outpourings of the wrath of God. Bowls of wrath have been emptied on the inhabitants of the earth. A mysterious woman whose influence was widespread and mighty (for it affected the ‘kings of the earth’) had been judged by the One whose judgments are ever ‘true and righteous’. Further, this unleashing of God’s judgment was for the cause of ‘aveng[ing] the blood of His servants’, something for which they had long sought. Men, in short, suffered horribly and many died.

The ones who suffered at the hand of God were not innocents. They carried all the marks of, and were in fact, enemies of His. They openly rebelled against the ‘Lord of heaven and earth’. They hated and killed His servants.

The heavenly host reacted to these acts of God. They were acts of justice! The Lord had at long last taken action against those who hate Him and His people. Their reaction was one of jubilation. They praised Him profusely. Multitudes did not contain their joy and exulted with words of highest admiration. It was as if a portion of the Song of Moses was taken to its highest meaning: ‘The horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea’.

Make no mistake, the Bible makes it clear that God has enemies and that He will take vengeance on them. Rebellion began in heaven with Satan. It showed up on earth in the first man. By continually resisting God’s place and authority the rebel proves himself to be an enemy of the one in authority. Furthermore, man in his natural state is no innocent in the matter. All men are ‘enemies in their mind by wicked works’. Apart from God’s electing, quickening, saving grace men will remain in that state and find themselves among the number that the Lord will take vengeance upon. This vengeance will take the form of punishment in Hades upon death and permanence of suffering in the lake of fire upon final judgment at the Great White Throne, the Second Death.

Today is a day of grace. The gospel preacher, knowing the terror of the Lord persuades men. They cry for men to repent and offer pardon to rebels. They do not call fire out of heaven to destroy but rather leave the day of vengeance to the Lord.

But, when the time is ripe for judgment, the mindset of the believer will be in unison with his Lord. They will rejoice that the ‘wicked are consumed from the earth’. What seems so foreign to us now, praising God for judging the wicked, will become a source of jubilation to us then. For then, just as with the enemy of state recently killed, justice will have been served. This time, however, the one who doles out justice will be God himself.