"But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding."
Job 32:8

Monday, June 10, 2013

Degrees of Glory

 I want to share a story today. Something I feel led to share because of something I believe God revealed to me several years ago. It was around the end of grade ten; exams had just about finished and I remember sitting down at the table with a group of friends and one of them said something that I thought was wrong, so I openly judged her for it.

That wasn't smart.

I look back on it now and remember later on on same afternoon, I was talking with an older brother in Christ about it because my words had hurt her and I wanted to make things right. As I was talking with him in this cafe downtown, guess who walked in? And as she walked past us... man, it was the 'cold shoulder' personified. My older brother chuckled in bewilderment and we continued talking. I eventually was able to make amends with her.

While it wasn't smart of me to do that, nor morally right in the way I did it, I don't regret it. Because around that time, it was when I started to view my Christian walk differently and, through this new lens, the will of God in my life seemed to become a little more clearer.

I began to see segments of my Christian walk as different lessons God was teaching me and that experience with being judgmental was all part of God shaping me and rebuking me so that I could conform more to His image. Painfully, the latter end of grade ten was about hypocrisy and being judgmental. : /

But it isn't always that way where failure must be included. A while ago, in the blog post Spiritual Valleys, the topic of suffering and perseverance was discussed and the idea that God places trials in our lives to build us up so that we can learn to trust more in Him and allow Him to strengthen us rather than relying on our own strength.

And all of this links in with one of the most comforting reminders that God has provided each time I stumble or fall: that while we are His children and are saved, our walk is a journey that will take a lifetime, not a day.

One verse in 2 Corinthians puts this concept quite beautifully:

2 Corinthians 3:18, "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." (NIV)

Or as the ESV puts it, "And we all... are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another."

I'm quite fond of the way the ESV words it because it gives this imagery of steps of glory that we slowly travel up. That, as we progress, God takes us from one step to another as we are transformed more and more into His likeness.

If we look in Scripture, we can see these lessons. And not only that, but these lessons are a requirement, not an option.

Revelation 3:19, "Those who I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent." (NIV)

Hebrews 12:7-8, "Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons." (NIV)

That's a scary thought. If I don't see God pruning and refining in my life, I would likely have serious need to examine my salvation and where I stand in my faith.

And Revelations 3:19 sheds more light on this topic of discipline and how He works in our lives through the last several words of the verse: "So be earnest, and repent."

Repentance is about turning away, changing one's mind, and the major thing we as Christians are always called to turn away from is sin.

These degrees of glory are all about us turning from our sin and becoming like Him. And when we think of it that way, does it not become so much more simpler with knowing who He is and knowing that being like Him is our very goal?

But, at least as teenagers, doesn't it feel as though we sometimes think we know best? Our parents say "Don't do that" and we do it anyway.

Well, at least I did that... a lot. :P

But our parents give us these warnings for good reasons.

Proverbs 5:11-12, "At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. You will say, 'How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction!'" (NIV)

At the end of the road, of this life, we'll wish we had listened to our parents if we didn't in the first place. And since God makes this comparison in Hebrews 4 between a loving father and Himself, then how much more so should we be listening to God's warnings and counsel found in His Word?

Proverbs 1:7, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline." (NIV)

At the moment, I find myself in Proverbs and I was reading about wisdom which is personified as a woman and often contrasted with the adulteress or foolishness. A lot of people in the world seem to have this idea that what God has to offer doesn't compare to sin and that God's offer is dull, plain or boring.

But notice this verse which speaks of wisdom and what she has to offer.

Proverbs 9:1-2, "Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars. She has prepared her meat and mixed wine; she has also set her table." (NIV)

Meat and mixed wine.

Now, I'm pretty hungry at the moment so that sounds pretty dang good, but compared to the 'stolen waters' and the 'food eaten in secret' which is offered by Folly, the mixed wine and meat would be the logical choice, right?

But don't we often try to avoid discipline because it seems unpleasant, no matter how beneficial it may seem in the future? And these reminders coming from fallible people like our parents or older siblings in Christ, in our own cynical minds, it can sometimes be hard to believe the future benefits exist... but coming from an eternal, omnipotent God?

Isaiah 48:17b, "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, and directs you in the way you should go." (NIV)

Hebrews 12:11, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (NIV)

Continually, throughout Scripture, we are taught of the present sufferings and future glory. The deeds in this world that lead to treasure in Heaven and here, in Hebrews 12, the present discipline that will lead to a 'harvest of righteousness".

In light of this it becomes abundantly clear that all of this is God's will for us: this very discipline and degrees of glory.

But sometimes, when we hear 'the will of God', we suddenly feel this overwhelming sense that we don't know what that means. That we can't understand it.

But, whether we know it or not, we are commanded to understand it.

Ephesians 5:15-18, "Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit." (NIV)

And how can we know the will of God and understand the degrees of glory that He leads us in?

Scripture. It will always return to knowing Him and His Word. While the world changes and the mockery evolves, He and His commands and His Word remain the same.

So now this the question we are each faced with this week is: what degree of glory is He leading me in my life, right now?

God bless you all.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NIV

If anyone if curious, John McArthur's sermon on discerning God's will is worth watching if you have a spare hour and can be seen here which I, personally, highly recommend.

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