Sunday, April 28, 2019

...As the Waters Cover the Sea

The Knowledge of the Glory of the Lord

“…the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14 NIV). 
Have you ever stopped to think about how it is that the waters cover the sea? The simple answer to this question is that they cover the sea completely—from the surface all the way to the ocean floor. And so, in like manner, we look forward to the knowledge of the glory of the Lord covering the earth fully and completely. This sentiment is echoed throughout Scripture -  

“May the whole earth be filled with his glory” (Psalm 72:19 NIV). 
“... as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth” (Numbers 14:92 NIV). 
“The whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:2 NIV).

What is the Glory of God?

God's glory has to do with his power, and his renown, but it is also directly related to his nature. When Moses asked to see God's glory, Scripture tells us that God acted by showing Moses the one thing the world needs the most...his goodness.

"Then Moses said, ‘Now show me your glory.’ And the Lord said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence’” (Exodus 33:18-19 NIV).

The glory of the Lord is awesome in its splendor like a vast, deep ocean which covers everything beneath it. Yet, beyond its depth and its fullness, the ocean exhibits other qualities and attributes which address the implications of the manifestation of his glory. These four states of oceanic glory help describe the magnitude of the majesty and glory of God. 

Still Waters

At times, waters are placid, peaceful and still. This glory emotes safety, serenity, and rest. Not only is it peaceful, it is a state that reflects on earth, the glory of heaven above. In this state, we might be tempted to sit and be stagnant in the status quo of the moment, forgetting the deepness beneath. 

Wind and the Water

Gentle motion, navigable sea lanes, and the ebb and flow of normal life are accomplished in the midst of fair weather. Wind that fills the sails and ruffles the surface of the waters makes for easy travel. The glory of this state is that learned skills can be applied in conjunction with the rhythm and flow of nature to produce forward motion and momentum. 

Stormy Weather

Heavy storms can unsettle the sea, bringing challenge and risk, making travel dependent upon the mercy of the waves. The vast majority try to avoid its unavoidable glory and run from its transformative power. But the fact that at least two miracles recorded in the Gospels took place amidst stormy weather, should encourage us to trust and leave fear behind.

Volatile Conditions

Harsh atmospheric and geological events can turn the sea into a force to be reckoned with. An earthquake, for example, can set water in motion, building wave upon wave until it reaches critical mass, not unlike the waves of revival. Often resisted, this force of glory is actually the remedy for those who possess an unquenchable thirst. Here, there is no more argument as to the majesty of His power.

Navigating the Glories

If we pray for the knowledge of the glory of the Lord to cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, then we must respect every aspect of how his glory manifests and the manner in which it covers creation.

Friday, April 5, 2019

What are Works and Why Should Believers Perform them?

The Works

Work: 2041 √©rgon - work, task, employment; a deed, action; that which is wrought or made, a work.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these…” (John 14:12).

Types of Works

In the New Testament, works (sometimes translated as deeds or some other variation) consist of anything from clothing or feeding someone in need to healing the sick. When the word work (ergon) is used in Scripture, there is no indication as to whether it refers to a natural or supernatural work, outside of the context in which it is used. That said, even passages which favor natural works to supernatural works, or vice versa, don’t necessarily exclude works on the other end of the spectrum. So the above passage could also include natural works like feeding the poor, and James 2:14-25 could also include healing the sick, without either passage specifically referring to these alternate works.

Work Standards

Whether supernatural or natural, it is clear through scripture that we are to do the works of Jesus—and as Jesus said, greater works than he performed. It is not clear whether Jesus was saying that we will perform more powerful works than he performed, or merely that we will perform a greater quantity of works. Regardless, we would do well to at least attempt to match the works of Jesus, despite not having a full record of the works he performed.
“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name…Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 20:30-31, 21:25 NIV).

The Worth of a Work

The deciding factor in terms of a work’s worth, as far as it concerns those who perform them, is whether the work is done in the name of Jesus and if it is performed in love.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed (ergon), do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17 NIV).
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NIV).
When Jesus rebuked those who would perform works in his name, he did so because they performed these works outside of a relationship with him while at the same time, they tried to justify themselves by their works, not by the righteousness imputed to them by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23 NIV).
While God is omniscient and is familiar with the entirety of his creation, this passage refers to a lack of intimate relationship which was not of his choosing. This situation speaks to the state of their hearts and not their performance of the miracles. Jesus would not punish anyone for doing the very works he commanded us to perform, but he is obligated to judge the heart and motivations of man.
“…He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart.” (1 Corinthians 4:5 NIV).
We should not neglect the works of God for fear of punishment.
“This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:17-18 NIV).
The opposite of the fear of punishment is love and in this love, we are empowered to be like Jesus so that we can perform the same works that he did.

Works Commission

John 14:12 does not stand alone as a command to do the works of Jesus. The Great Commission, given to all believers, is a call to spread the Gospel in tandem with performing the works of Jesus.
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well” (Mark 16:16-18 NIV).
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV).
“…Wait for the gift my Father promised… the Holy Spirityou will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:4-5, 7 NIV).
“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams’… Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:17, 38-39 NIV).
Matthew, Mark, and Luke settle the argument of whether the performance of supernatural works were just for the original disciples, or for all. Mark tells us that “those who believe” will do these things. First of all, those "who believe” are what we refer to as believers—the same believers who in the previous verse are saved by means of their belief. Then, becoming believers, they will do these works—unless of course, they stop believing. Are you a believer? 

Matthew lets us know that the things Jesus commanded them to do, they were to teach those who came after them, up to the end of the age. Luke reiterates the same theme that supernatural ability accompanies the giving of the Holy Spirt who is offered to even those who are “far off” into the future. As believers, we’ve been commissioned to repent, believe the Gospel, and do the works of Jesus. That’s what believers do!

Love Your Work

As already stated, a work as referenced in the New Testament is more than an action; it is an expression of love as Paul so eloquently expresses in his letter to the Corinthians:
“But desire the greater gifts. And I will show you an even better way…Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, and above all that you may prophesy…So also you — since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, seek to excel in building up the church” (1 Corinthians 12:31, 13:13, 14:1, 12 HCSB).
So in these passages, Paul reiterates Jesus’ intention that we should perform the works of the Spirit and he does so in the most intense way. The term eagerly desire means to burn with zeal, to be jealous for, and to bubble over out of desire. It would be difficult to believe that Jesus would ban us from performing these works, then allow Paul to endorse them with such intensity. Jesus’ rebuke, while off-putting, should not overwhelm the subject as his rebuke does not apply to those who are in good relationship with him, are pursuing love, and are not seeking to establish their own righteousness by means of the works they perform. 

And, remember that the opposite of love is not hate, but fear (1 John 4:17-18 NIV) and it is fear that keeps most from pursuing the gifts so that they may perform the works of Jesus. In addition, if we love our work, we won’t hide our light under a basket, nor will we, through fear, bury in the ground the investment that he’s given us.

Why Works?

The works of Jesus are performed to confirm his word. Scripture could not be clearer about this. These passages show that they were performed by Jesus and all who come after him so that it is clear that God’s kingdom has begun to manifest as an ongoing and perpetually growing witness of that Kingdom until he returns with a full manifestation of heaven on earth.

“For the works that the Father has given me to finish--the very works that I am doing--testify that the Father has sent me” (John 5:36 NIV).
“Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father” (John 10:38-39 NIV).
"Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know” (Acts 2:22 NIV).
“But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28 NIV).
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness” (Matthew 9:35 NIV)
“Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness…’As you go, proclaim this message: “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give’” (Matthew 10: 1, 7-8 NIV).
“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5 NIV).
Jesus sent his disciples out to proclaim the Gospel in the same way that he proclaimed the Gospel—with signs, wonders, and miracles. He then commanded them to teach others all that Jesus had commanded them. Years later, Paul followed suit with the same emphasis upon the power of the works of God. 

Keep Working!

We do the works of Jesus because:
  • He commanded us to do them (John 14:12, Mark 16:16-18, Matthew 28:18)
  • He demonstrated how to do them (Matthew 4:23, Acts 10:38)
  • He empowered us to do them (Acts 1:9, 1 Corinthians 12:11)

Believers should do the works of Jesus out of obedience to his word and out of love (John 14:15-23). Yet it is clear that many believers are not aware of what Bible says about the works we are to perform, nor have they been exposed to a proper demonstration of their use. As believers, our first priority is to read the Scriptures and prayerfully consider what they say and then, seek an opportunity to fulfill them.

Remember that:

“..Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17 NIV).