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Dealing with Death

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Awesome and Fearsome: God’s Majesty in the Eyes of His Friends and Foes

Sadly, a few professing Christians today seem only to see their God as fearsome. Meanwhile, and far more sadly, countless unbelievers seem not to fear their God at all.

This is a tragic reversal in our fallen age: that a few, who could feel safe, do not — while many, who should be frightened, are not. This tragedy will be remedied in the end, but those of us who know ourselves secure in Christ want to help, when we’re able, bring genuine emotional comfort, or appropriate discomfort. Perhaps recovering an often-overlooked attribute of God — that of his majesty — could help us unsettle sinners and freshly settle true saints.

Greatness of His Majesty

Scripture’s first explicit mention of God in his majesty came with what was the world’s greatest deliverance until Calvary. After ten horrible plagues, Egypt’s pharaoh had finally acquiesced and let the Israelites go. But then he changed his mind, made ready his chariot (with hundreds more, Exodus 14:6–7), pursued God’s people into the wilderness, and came upon them with their backs to the sea, and seemingly nowhere to flee. Then, to the astonishment of both Israel and Egypt — and all who would hear the account far and wide, for thousands of years — God parted the sea. The Israelites walked through on dry ground, and when the Egyptians followed, God brought the waters back upon them to their destruction. As Exodus 14 ends,

Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses. (Exodus 14:30–31)

Exodus 15 then breaks into a song of praise to God for his stunning rescue — and here, for the first time in Scripture, God’s people praise him for his majesty:

Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power,your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries . . . .Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?Who is like you, majestic in holiness,awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? (Exodus 15:6–7, 11)

The choice of the word majesty says something profound about the worshipers. Majesty attributes to God not only great size (verses 7, 16) and strength (verses 2, 6) but expresses awe and wonder in the mouths of his people.

God’s foes flee in terror, but his friends declare his majesty.

Through Two Sets of Eyes

Here, on the shores of the sea, a great distinction between “my people” and “not my people” emerges: God is “awesome” in the eyes of his chosen (Exodus 15:11), and awful in the eyes of their foes.

As early as the fifth plague, God had specified to Moses that he would “make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing of all that belongs to the people of Israel shall die” (Exodus 9:4). God then reiterated this distinction when forecasting the tenth and final plague: “But not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel” (Exodus 11:7).

So too, Moses himself, in the months to come, would plead this very distinction when interceding for the people, face to face with God on Mount Sinai: “Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:16). This “distinguish[ing] between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean” would be institutionalized for centuries in the old-covenant tabernacle, sacrificial system, and priestly service of the nation (Leviticus 10:10; also Ezekiel 44:23).

Fearsome: For Them, Against Us

In Exodus 14, the Egyptians were the aggressors, hunting down Israel in the wilderness and charging into the sea after God’s people — until “the angel of God,” that is, the pillar of fire and of cloud, pivoted on them to their horror.

The pillar had “moved and went behind” Israel to protect the nation from the onslaught of Egypt (Exodus 14:19–20). But when God’s people had gone into the sea on dry ground, and the Egyptians pursued and went in after them, the pillar then “looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic” (Exodus 14:23–24). Now the tide turns, just before God releases the tides. In terror, the Egyptians turn to flee. But it is too late.

“Divine majesty terrifies those at odds with the one true God.”

Not only does God burn with frightening strength to scare Egypt, but the song of worship in chapter 15 celebrates that news of this event will soon spread to make all Israel’s foes tremble: Philistia, Edom, Moab, and Canaan (Exodus 15:14–16). Divine majesty terrifies those at odds with the one true God. Even as his people praise his majesty, so they mention the terror of those arrayed against him, or pondering flight from him. “Will not his majesty terrify you,” asks Job, “and the dread of him fall upon you?” (Job 13:11, see also 31:23).

So too in the early prophecy of Isaiah. Three times in short space, he tells of those, set against God, who soon will seek to hide “from before the terror of the Lord, and from the splendor of his majesty” (Isaiah 2:10, 19, 21). The one who is “majestic in holiness” to his prophet will be threatening, indeed terrifying, to any who have set themselves against them, if they would only open their eyes and see.

Awesome: Against Them, For Us

As imposing and awful as this majesty will appear to his enemies, so it inspires a comforting and reassuring awe in those whom he protects. As Moses declares to Israel, who is on God’s side, seeking his help and protection, God will wield his strength for their good:

There is none like God . . . ,who rides through the heavens to your help,through the skies in his majesty. (Deuteronomy 33:26)

Again, his redeemed ask, “Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11). For them, the same imposing size and strength that incites horror in their foes is majestic love and comfort. “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed” (Exodus 15:13). For his people, God’s majestic power inspires the awe of worship:

Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven. He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints, for the people of Israel who are near to him. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 148:13–14)

For his own, in his city, “there the Lord in majesty will be for us a place of broad rivers and streams . . . . the Lord is our king; he will save us” (Isaiah 33:21–22). The largesse [laar·zhes] of God which throws his foes into a panic means safety and salvation in the mouths of his friends.

More majestic still is Psalm 45:4, which speaks not only to a Davidic king on his wedding day, but also anticipates David’s greater descendant to come, the long-awaited Christ:

In your majesty ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!

It is the king’s own people — those who know him as their sovereign, and themselves as his people — who see their Anointed ruler as majestic. Majesty is a word of awe in the mouth of his redeemed.

Holy Fear to Holy Awe

What about those few professing saints today who seem only to see their God as fearsome? And what about the many unbelievers who don’t seem to fear God at all?

For both, time will tell. The unbelieving Egyptians didn’t exhibit any fear, until, all of a sudden, in an instant, the pillar of fire pivoted on them. Then they panicked. So will it be one day soon with all who set themselves against the majestic God. Then they will fear.

“Holy fear leads to holy awe.”

But for his saints, who claim the name of Christ, and yet find themselves dogged by seemingly intractable fear, rather than awe, when they think of God almighty, we end with good news. The holy awe of worshiping his majesty is not at odds with a holy fear of his size and strength. In fact, such holy fear leads to holy awe. Exodus 14 ends with holy fear: “Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord . . .” But knowing themselves to be his covenant people, this fear did not lead to panic, but faith: “. . . and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses” (Exodus 14:31). So Exodus 15 begins with praise.

When we glimpse the greatness, power, and glory of God’s majesty, we should indeed fear ever turning our back on, and fleeing from, such a God. And that is a holy fear we seek not to banish but follow its leading to faith, which leans into him, receives his stunning provision of safety in Christ, and enjoys his majestic final protection against any and every foe.

Build Structures to Serve Your Calling

Audio Transcript

The weekend is over. We’re back to work, and back to work thinking about work — particularly how we can be most fruitful by leaning on strong administrative structures that we need in place. We’ve never talked about this angle of leadership on the podcast. So it should be interesting. How do we build the structures we need so that we can fulfill our calling in the world?

The topic is relevant for ministries and relevant for Christian business leaders and relevant for health-care providers too. In fact, today’s question comes from a doctor, who writes this: “Dear Pastor John, I’ve greatly enjoyed Ask Pastor John over the years. Thank you for blessing and strengthening my faith in Jesus Christ. My question is this. I’m a doctor. I’ve tried to live and serve by 1 Peter 4:10–11. However, I’m also the practice owner. My family and our two dozen employees and their families all financially depend on the profitability of our practice. Increasingly, I find my thoughts and efforts consumed by the profit-seeking aspects of running a business. Biblically, is there a way for me to reconcile a God-honoring attention to patient care with my responsibility as a business owner to generate a profit so that employees can provide for their families?” Pastor John, what would you say to this doctor?

The answer to that last question is yes, there is a way to reconcile a God-honoring attention to patient care with the responsibility of the clinic owner to manage the affairs of the clinic in such a way that it remains financially viable — that is, remains in existence. It may be that you don’t need to talk primarily in categories of care versus profit, but maybe in the categories of clinic existence and clinic care.

Two Kinds of Care

In other words, perhaps the way to think of these two sides of the clinic’s life is that there are two kinds of care, not care versus something else, but two kinds of care that one must attend to in order for patients to be helped. One is the immediate care of diagnosis and treatment for all the maladies that people come to the clinic with, and the other kind of care is to see to it that the very possibility of diagnosis and treatment exists — namely, a clinic with doctors and the resources they require to do the healing work they’re called to do. These are really two forms of caring, aren’t they?

Now, admittedly, the one is more immediate and feels more like care, because the doctor or the nurse is sitting face to face with a sick patient and talking about how healing might be pursued. But if there were no clinic to come to, and no doctors and nurses and laboratory staff to follow through with, the diagnosis and the treatment wouldn’t have any effect, or they wouldn’t even happen.

So the more immediate care is dependent on the more general, broad, behind-the-scenes care, the business side of the clinic, which must take into account costs of rent, and utilities, and upkeep, and sophisticated medical devices, and receptionists, and scheduling, and insurance reports, and computer support, et cetera. One can feel why our friend would begin to feel submerged under that kind of demand, but they really are two essential forms of caregiving, even if it’s less direct in one way and more direct in another. If the clinic goes out of existence because of poor management, poor pricing structures, poor collections, poor planning for patient load, everyone suffers and care ceases.

Trellis Work, Vine Work

So let me say a word to the actual inner struggle the doctor is feeling as he wrestles with these two kinds of care. He says, “Increasingly, I find my thoughts and efforts consumed by the profit-seeking aspects of running a business.” Now, how many pastors, how many educators, teachers, how many leaders of inner-city ministries have felt this very same sense of being consumed by the financial and structural demands that undergird a ministry, on the one hand, while they long to be doing face-to-face, actual ministry or teaching or counseling to people, on the other hand? There’s nothing unique, it seems to me, about a medical practice in that kind of struggle. This is true of churches. It’s true of schools. It’s true of all kinds of ministries.

For example, a book was published some years ago by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne called The Trellis and the Vine. The description of the point of the book goes like this:

All Christian ministry [and you could say the same thing about a lot of secular service providers, I’m sure] is a mixture of trellis and vine. There is vine work: the prayerful preaching and teaching of the word of God to see people converted and to grow to maturity as disciples of Christ. . . . And there is trellis work: creating and maintaining the physical and organizational structures and programs that support the vine work and its growth.

And then the authors ask, “Has trellis work taken over for you in your ministry? Has it begun to consume you?” They say it does have the habit of doing that.

In Acts 6:1–7, the apostles were about to be overwhelmed, consumed by the demands of trellis work (providing the personnel and structures for the distribution of the food among the widows) when they needed to be giving themselves to the vine work of the word of God and prayer. And the remedy for that was the putting in place of gifted people who were really good at trellis work in order to free the apostles to do the vine work that they were called to do.

“The diversity of gifts for maintaining the viability of a clinic or a church or a school or a ministry is crucial.”

I recall, very personally, when our church got to a certain size, and I was about to be consumed, overwhelmed as the lead pastor, and we put in place for the first time in the history of the church an executive pastor alongside me, and that resulted, I would say, in twenty more years of flourishing as a staff and church. And then, eventually, we put in place financial specialists, who could handle all kinds of complex workings behind the scenes of a growing church, and so on.

All Christian ministry, and even secular service providers, is a mixture of trellis and vine. There’s vine work: hands-on, face-to-face meeting of people’s needs. And there’s trellis work: creating, maintaining the financial and organizational structures that support the vine work.

Four Words of Encouragement

So maybe I could sum up my counsel to this beleaguered doctor with four statements.

First, view both the trellis work and the vine work — the financial, structural work, and the diagnostic and treatment of patients face to face — as two kinds of love, two kinds of care.

Second, put in place gifted people who are really good at the kind of business management your clinic requires in order to free up medical staff to do their more immediate care. This is right at the heart of what Peter was saying in 1 Peter 4:10: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” The diversity of gifts for maintaining the viability of a clinic or a church or a school or a ministry is crucial. Pray that God would lead really gifted people to do the kind of specialized tasks that a complicated clinic — or business or ministry — requires.

“God will not honor the cutting of corners, the loss of integrity, in order to do good.”

Third, don’t ever do evil that good may come (Romans 3:8). That is, don’t try to justify dishonest business practices because they will keep the clinic alive for the sake of love, for the sake of patients and employees. God will not honor the cutting of corners, the loss of integrity, in order to do good. There’s always a way to help people by doing the right thing.

And finally, I would say, God has promised — he really has, and he keeps this promise — in Philippians 4:19 to meet all our needs “according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Trust him. Trust him to do that, and roll the burden that you feel for the complex side of this clinic — roll that burden onto the Lord. George Müller, who had to keep an infrastructure running to maintain thousands of orphans, used to say when people asked him about his peacefulness, “I rolled sixty burdens onto the Lord in prayer this morning.” I love that. I want to be like that.

So, God bless you for bearing the burden of a medical clinic that serves both patients and employees, both by its immediate medical care and by its trellis-like financial viability. May God give you the wisdom and the grace to put the people and the structures in place that enable you to do what you love to do and so find everybody flourishing in that great work.

Build Structures to Serve Your Calling

How can leaders prevent the pressures of running an organization from squeezing out opportunities for face-to-face work and ministry?

Ten Looks at Jesus, Part 2

We ended the first session, and Look #5, with why Jesus was despised, rejected, and crushed to death at the cross: for us, for “the many,” for those who receive him through faith (Isaiah 53:4–6). I noted there, at the end, “the joy set before him.” That, as Isaiah 53:11 foretold, “out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied.” In other words, it pleased him. He delighted to be put to death. His willing was not an empty willing but a full, satisfied willing — full enough to sustain him in horrifying agony and suffering.

But what such joy requires is resurrection. If Jesus stays dead, there is no joy, no delight, no God-honoring and church-loving willingness. But resurrection is right there in Isaiah 53:10–12:

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;     he has put him to grief;when his soul makes an offering for guilt,     he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,     make many to be accounted righteous,     and he shall bear their iniquities.Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,     and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,because he poured out his soul to death     and was numbered with the transgressors;yet he bore the sin of many,     and makes intercession for the transgressors.

So much there: substitution, willing submission, intercession (which we’ll come to). But for now, amazingly, resurrection:

Verse 10: “He shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.”
Verse 11: “He shall see [his offspring] and be satisfied.”
Verse 12: “I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death.”

The resurrection is not icing on the cake of Christianity. With Christ’s life and his death, it is the cake. If he did not rise, then he is dead — and it all falls apart. Unlike with sacrificial animals, appointed as a temporary provision, the once-for-all salvation is not accomplished without the resurrection of the suffering servant.

So before we go on, here are our five looks at Jesus so far:

He delighted his Father before creation.
He became man.
He lived for his Father’s glory.
He humbled himself.
He died for sins not his own.

Now, to the rest of our ten looks at Christ.

Look #6: He rose again.

Colossians 1:15–20 might be the most important six consecutive verses in the Bible. Here we find both creation and salvation cast in utterly Christ-centered terms:

[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Jesus is “the firstborn from the dead.” During his life, all those he restored to life died again. But when Jesus rose again, he rose never to die again.

Our key term for Look #6 is resurrection. Which means not to be restored to your fallen, human body to die again, but to rise in your body to the indomitable life of the next age. It is a real body. In fact, we might even say a more real body. What will be true of us was true of Christ’s human body first. 1 Corinthians 15:42–44:

What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body [not a spirit but a spiritual body]. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

So resurrection refers first to Jesus’s human body, then also, in him, to ours. And the resurrection of Christ not only made good on God’s word, and not only vindicated Christ’s sinless life, and not only confirmed the achievement of his death, and not only gives us access to his work, but the resurrection means he is alive to know and enjoy forever.

There is no final good news if our Treasure and Pearl of Great Price is dead. Even if our sins could be paid for, righteousness provided and applied to us, and heaven secured, but Jesus were still dead, there would be no great salvation in the end. At the very center of Christ’s resurrection is not what he saves us from, but what he saves us to — better, whom he saves us to: himself.

Look #7: He ascended into heaven.

Twice Luke writes about Jesus’s ascension. The first time at the end of his Gospel, Luke 24:50–51:

[Jesus] led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.

Then, in more detail, at the beginning of Acts:

When [the disciples] had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:6–11)

So, Luke 24 says, “He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.” And Acts 1 says, “He was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” Then the angel says, “Jesus . . . was taken up from you into heaven.”

Jesus — in his risen human body — was lifted up, carried up, taken up, until a cloud shielded the sight of his apostles, and he was gone. And this was no novelty act. This was crucial for the presentation of his finished work in the very presence of the Father and for the fulfilling of the ancient prophesies of his sitting on David’s throne and ruling as sovereign over the nations.

Christ’s Coronation

Luke 24 and Acts 1 give us the earthly vantage of his ascension. But we also get a glimpse from the other side in Hebrews 1. His ascension, human body and all, brings him to heaven, and Hebrews 1 captures something of this great moment of his processing to the throne and being crowned king of the universe. Hebrews 1:3 says,

After making purification for sins [that is, through his death, and being raised and ascending], he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

Hebrews 1:5 then takes the great coronation hymn of Psalm 2 and applies its Messianic declaration to Jesus as the heir of David: “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.” And Hebrews 1:6 says that “when he brings [carries, lifts up, takes up] the firstborn into the world [that is, “the world to come,” Hebrews 2:5], he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’”

All this to set the scene for Psalm 110 in Hebrews 1:13: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” Not a full account, by any means, but a taste of that climactic moment of coronation on the other side of the ascension.

Enthroned as Man

There are two critical realities worth mentioning with his enthronement and sitting down. (1) In taking his seat on the very throne of heaven, he comes into the fullness of divine sovereignty, and now as man. As he says at the end of Matthew, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). It always was his as God. But now, he has come into full possession of the divine rule over the universe and all nations as man, sitting as the climactic human king on the throne of heaven.

“From heaven’s throne, the risen Christ pours out his Holy Spirit in new measure on his people.”

Which leads then to (2) his pouring out his Spirit (Acts 1:8: “When the Holy Spirit has come upon you . . .”). From heaven’s throne, the risen Christ pours out his Holy Spirit in new measure on his people for the accomplishing of his ongoing work in the world of applying his salvation to his people.

Perhaps you know from the Apostles’ Creed: “He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.” Now as we move from Look #7 to Look #8, we move from past to present, from ascended and enthroned to is seated and is interceding.

Look #8: He intercedes for us.

Present tense. This is what Jesus is doing right now — interceding. Until now, we’ve rehearsed seven past-tense verbs: delighted, became, devoted, humbled, died, rose, ascended. But now: intercedes.

Now he “is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty,” and as Isaiah 53:12 says, he “makes intercession for the transgressors.” As Romans 8:34 celebrates, “Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” But our main text for Look #8 is Hebrews 7:25:

He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Our key term: intercession. So what does it mean in general and specifically, as it relates to what Jesus is doing right now? In general, to intercede means to go between two parties in an effort (1) to reconcile them to each other or (2) to advocate for one with the other. We often talk about interceding in prayer when we pray on another’s behalf, but the specific kind of interceding Jesus does for his people, with the Father, is distinct from our praying for each other.

“There is one God,” says 1 Timothy 2:5, “and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” So Jesus’s intercession for us is not an asking on our behalf based on the mediation of another. Jesus is the mediator. He himself is the intercession. And so Hebrews 7:25 says, “He always lives to make intercession [for us].”

Which means that with his every breath, with every beat of his indestructible new-creation heart, he is our living, indissoluble link to God. I don’t think we’re to picture Christ in heaven as our intercessor, on his knees, begging the Father, “Please, don’t destroy him — I’m asking for that one.” No, he ever lives to make intercession for his people. How does he do it? He lives. If we are his, and he is alive, then his very life, his very breath, the very beating of his glorified human heart (that will never stop beating), intercedes for all those joined to him by faith.

Seated in heaven, Jesus is not anxious or uncertain. He is not scurrying around heaven’s throne room. He lives. He sits on heaven’s throne, secure and utterly stable, in perfect heavenly equanimity and composure, interceding for his people with God almighty by his very life and breath. And as the Apostles’ Creed confesses, “From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.”

Look #9: He will come again.

Now to the future: his second coming, and with it, the final judgment. This is the next distinct step in history. He will return and bring with him the fullness of mercy and grace to his people, and at long last perfect and final justice to the world. “He comes on that day,” says Paul in 2 Thessalonians 1:10, “to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed.”

“Jesus is coming back. And those who reject him will stand in terror. And those who love him will thrill at his coming.”

Jesus is coming back. And those who despise and reject him — whether through apathy or outright hatred — will stand in terror. And those who love him will thrill at his coming and marvel at him, which will glorify him, and receive rewards from him, the righteous judge.

One of the great glories of Christ is that God will judge the world through him. When Peter opens his mouth to proclaim the message of Christ to the Gentiles for the first time, he not only recounts Christ’s death and resurrection and the witnesses “who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead” (Acts 10:39–41). But he also says that Jesus commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that “he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42).

And Paul preached in Acts 17, God “has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). Let’s consider five distinct aspects of this coming justice (our key word for Look #9).

1. He will come in glory.

First and foremost, this second coming, as final judge, is very much about the glory of Christ. His saints will marvel; his enemies will cower. “The Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father” (Matthew 16:27), and “the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him” (Matthew 25:31). No eye will miss this (Revelation 1:7). No corner of the earth will be unaware. All else will stop. Every eye will see him — in his glory.

2. All will stand before him.

But not only will every eye see him. Every person will stand before him. “Each person,” says Jesus (Matthew 16:27). “Each one,” says the apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 5:10). And not just those alive at the time but “the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42; Romans 14:9; 2 Timothy 4:1; 1 Peter 4:5). “We will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Romans 14:10). And whom will we see seated on that throne? “Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead” (2 Timothy 4:1).

3. He will separate wheat and weeds.

Then, for those who are in him by faith, there will come a glorious and perfect discrimination:

Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Matthew 25:32)

In this glorious and horrifying moment, all human pretenses and illusions will be stripped away, and one thing will matter: Are you wheat or weed? As the Judge had said in his first coming, “Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn’” (Matthew 13:30) — and it will be a spectacular barn.

4. He will remedy every wrong.

First the weeds, he said, will be bundled and burned. And in that day, every just cry for justice will be answered, and far more fully and finally than we are able to answer pleas for justice in this age. We will put our hands over our mouths as the risen, omnipotent Lamb executes perfect justice in his perfect righteousness, with no excess and no compromise.

How many seemingly irreconcilable conflicts in this age, which our judges and judicial systems stumble over again and again, await the day when the Judge finally comes and sets all to rights? And we will marvel at his justice.

5. He will reward the righteous.

Finally, he will gather the wheat into his barn. Having remedied every wrong, he will reward every cup of cold water given in his name (Matthew 10:42). He will reward the righteous — those who are righteous ultimately by faith but also in true measure by the Spirit.

In his extravagant generosity, grace, and mercy, he will lavish his people not only with entrance to a new heavens and new earth, where righteousness dwells, but on top of it all, he will reward his people for what good they have done “in the body” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

On that great day, we will see it with our own eyes — and feel its full effects as recipients of his great mercy by faith: our advocate will stand supreme as final judge and complete the arc of his glories as the God-man.

And so one last Look remains: eternity future.

Look #10: We will enjoy him forever.

In an important sense, Look #10 is not the end but a new beginning. Now, and till then, “we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now [we] know in part; then [we] shall know fully, even as [we] have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). “When he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). To see him, face to face, in his glory — with all history complete — will be not only to know him but to enjoy him, in that great climactic moment, and increasingly forever.

In Revelation 5, the scene is set in heaven. The apostle John sees a scroll in the hand of the one seated on the throne. In verse 2, an angel lifts up his voice and asks, “Who is worthy to open the scroll?” And heaven goes quiet. No one is worthy. And John says he began to weep because none were found worthy. Then one of the elders of heaven turns and says to him,

“Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:5)

Then John reports, “I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, . . . they sang a new song, saying,

Worthy are you to take the scroll     and to open its seals,for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God     from every tribe and language and people and nation,and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,     and they shall reign on the earth.

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne . . . the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,to receive power and wealth and wisdom and mightand honor and glory and blessing! (Revelation 5:5–12)

So, John sees a Lamb who is the Lion. He sees one who had been slain now standing, risen. He sees one who is worthy, like no one else is worthy, to take the scroll of history from the hand of God almighty and open it. He sees a lion-like Lamb and a lamb-like Lion who in the very presence of God almighty in heaven receives the praises of heaven’s angels and myriads of myriads.

“Our sight of Christ and nearness to him and enjoyment of him will not be momentary, but eternal.”

Our last key term is beatific vision, which means literally “the sight that makes happy.” This is the great Happiness to come, the final happiness for which our souls have longed our whole human lives. And as much as we long for that coming first instance, our sight of Christ and nearness to him and enjoyment of him will not be momentary, or static, but eternal and dynamic — ever increasing, ever progressing, ever clearer, ever deeper, ever sweeter.

The one who once, in his state of humiliation, “had no form or majesty that we should look at him” (Isaiah 53:2), will be the supremely Majestic One from whom we will never want to turn away our gaze. We, his people, will be his bride, and he will be our Groom to enjoy forever. Not only will we have him as ours, but he will have us as his. Then we will delight in, and increasingly so forever, “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus [our] Lord” (Philippians 3:8).

One Look at Yourself?

So, ten Looks at Christ. Seven past, one present, two future:

Preexistence: He delighted his Father before creation.
Incarnation: He became man.
Devotion: He lived to His Father’s glory.
Submission: He humbled himself.
Substitution: He died for others’ sins.
6 Resurrection: He rose again to eternal, glorified human life.
Ascension: He was lifted up to heaven (and sat down as king).
Intercession: He intercedes for us.
Justice: He will come again to right every wrong and reward.
Beatific Vision: He will be our delight forever.

For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. And after these ten looks at Jesus, might we end with one look at ourselves? I won’t pretend to know what the particular need is for you.

Perhaps here tonight you’ve heard Jesus’s whole story, from beginning to end, for the first time.

Or perhaps you’ve heard it before, at least in bits and pieces, but it’s never been compelling until, strangely, somehow, tonight. Maybe your looks at Jesus have been few and far between. But ten looks kept your eyes on him longer than ever before, and your heart is swelling with admiration.

Or perhaps you’ve heard his story before, you know it well, and now you’re encountering him again tonight.

And there is so much more to behold. So let me end where we began, and make Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s counsel to a friend a happy exhortation to us:

Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely. Such infinite majesty, and yet such meekness and grace, and all for sinners, even the chief! Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in His beams. Feel His all-seeing eye settled on you in love, and [rest] in His almighty arms.

Monday, December 5, 2022

This is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.Part I (00:13 – 06:27) To Preserve, Protect, and Defend the Constitution of the United States: That is the Presidential Oath of Office, and No One Should Enter that Office Who Contradicts ItPart II (06:27 – 09:55) The Danger of Recklessness in Leadership: We Need for Qualified and Courageous Conservative Presidential CandidatesPart III (09:55 – 18:14) Anti-Semitism is an Ever-Present Danger in Public Life — Conservatives, and Especially Christians, Must Reject It and All Who Support ItPart IV (18:14 – 20:38) LGBTQ Revolution Collides with Religious Liberty and Free Speech: SCOTUS Hears Oral Arguments on 303 Creative Case TodaySign up to receive The Briefing in your inbox every weekday morning.Follow Dr. Mohler:Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | YouTubeFor more information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to more information on Boyce College, just go to write Dr. Mohler or submit a question for The Mailbox, go here.

The Angel and the Virgin (Part 2 of 3)

Some quickly dismiss Christ from their Christmas celebration because they think science can’t explain His incarnation. But science is also unable to disprove it. How does that affect the Christian faith? Find out when you listen to Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


Much Will Be Required

You know the old adage, I’m sure: To whom much is given much will be required. Or, to express it in the words of Jesus, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” The point is clear: God holds us responsible for all that we have. Said otherwise, God holds us responsible for all that he bestows upon us.

We tend to think of this principle when we consider all the good gifts we receive. We are to be faithful stewards of our money, acknowledging that those who have an abundance are particularly responsible to give with liberal generosity. We are to be faithful parents to our children, acknowledging that they are God’s children before our own. We are to be faithful pastors, keeping watch over all the flock as those who will have to give an account to the true Shepherd. It’s a principle that acknowledges God’s sovereignty over all the blessings we receive and our responsibility to discharge our duty faithfully.
But while we tend to consider this principle when it comes to the good things we receive, who’s to say that it doesn’t apply every bit as much to the difficult things? After all, just as God’s providence directs the sun it also directs the rain, and just as it directs times of laughter it also directs times of weeping. If prosperity comes from his hand so does poverty and if health can be his plan for us so may be sickness. It is not merely the good that we are responsible for, but also the difficulties. For they, too, are within his will.
And so as we encounter times of pain and illness, times of sorrow and loss, times of poverty and want, we should not merely ask, “How can I endure this?” or “How can I get out from under this?”, though certainly those questions may be appropriate. We should also ask, “How can I steward this? What is my duty in this? What does God meant to accomplish through this?”
What if Joni Eareckson Tada had chosen to live a life of despondency rather than embracing her disability as God’s will and as her particular ministry to God’s people? What if Susannah Spurgeon had pined away in self-pity rather than allowing her bed to become her office, the means through which she would send books to so many needy pastors? What if Amy Carmichael had allowed the poor health that forced her to leave Japan to end her missionary career rather than accepting it instead as God’s will to divert her to her ordained mission? What if Job had given up after the loss of all he held dear, what if David had dropped out after the death of his son, what if Paul had quit the field after being beaten the first time, or even the second or third?
All of these, and so many more, accepted their suffering as stewardship. They accepted it as something precious and meaningful and understood that it had called them to new duty, new obedience, new ways to be useful to God. And we have all benefited. We have learned more from how they endured their times of suffering than their times of joy, from their times of lack than their times of abundance, from their times of illness than their times of health. For while we may have learned what they professed to believe in days of sunshine, we have learned what they really believe in days of rain. And it has been a blessing and inspiration to us all.
Each of these did what we are all called to do—to embrace our sorrows as somehow consistent with God’s will, and to turn that sorrow outward in love for others and service to God. To whom much is given—even much sorrow, much pain, much suffering—, much will be required, for these give us unique opportunities to serve God’s people and showcase his glory.

WWUTT 1826 A High Priest Taken from Among Men (Hebrews 5:1-4)

Reading Hebrews 5:1-4 where the preacher compares the high priest in the order of Aaron to Jesus Christ, who is our great high priest who sacrificed for us. Visit for all our videos!

A La Carte (December 5)

Grace and peace to you today.

Today’s Kindle deals include a number of excellent devotionals from Crossway.
(Yesterday on the blog: Would You Consider Becoming a Patron?)
On Spiritual Dreams
I have read a number of different perspectives on Christians and “spiritual dreams.” This one, which I read over the weekend (and which is from a source I admire), was quite interesting to me.
An Open Letter to the Brothers I Went to Seminary With
I appreciated this open letter from a woman who attended seminary and who reflects on the men who attended with her.
If Christmas is just cultural, celebrate (or don’t) however you want
This is a good reminder that Christians don’t have to celebrate Christmas.
Brightest and Best (Video)
This great rendition of “Brightest and Best” features the Gettys and Ricky Skaggs.
Dealing with Difficult Decembers
“We spend so much time enjoying the nativity and celebrating the miracle of our Saviour’s birth, that we often forget to get excited and expectant once again for our Lord to come back.”
Chipping Away Our Confidence in Christ
Doug Eaton: “In the Christian life, there are times of rest and times of struggle, and what we do when the sun is shining will often determine how well we will fare when the rains fall and the winds blow. It is usually the pleasant times when self-confidence becomes exaggerated that many professing Christians tend to chip away at the rock upon which they stand.”
Flashback: Lost Is Her Treasure But Where Is Her Trust?
Let her not cling to him, Striving to fling from him, Death’s chilly hand, With its firm, frozen hold. Death has not made the choice, ’Tis but the Shepherd’s voice, Calling the little lamb, Back to its fold.

It’s pastoral malpractice to prescribe the law to penitent sinners as the source of a God-pleasing life. The law can direct and guide, but it cannot motivate or empower. The only legitimate motivation for the life of faith is not the law, but the gospel. —Harold Senkbeil

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