Beholding is becoming: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” 1 Corinthians 3:18
“This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” (John 11:4–6 ESV)
Wow! Jesus said the illness would not lead to death, but Lazarus died. Jesus knew that God was going to use the physical death of Lazarus to bring Himself more glory by raising him from the dead. The interesting thing is that verse 6 tells us that he loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus so he decided to stay where he was for two additional days. What? If you love me, come and deliver me! If you love me, spare me from this pain! If you love me, help me now! Jesus loved them, so He let Lazarus die and let Mary and Martha grieve and mourn? Yes. This is hard for our western minds to comprehend! Then He says, ““Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”” (John 11:14–15 ESV). Jesus knew that allowing Mary, Martha and the disciples to go through such heart wrenching pain would lead them to a deeper and more abiding truth. Deeper faith that leads to joy is in focus here, not their immediate comfort. Suffering has a way of moving us in to closer proximity to Jesus because it causes us to depend upon Him more; it often times reveals our complete lack of control over our lives and world. Martha, Ms. Type “A”, meets Jesus before He even made it into town and said “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” (John 11:21–22 ESV) She has real faith as she proclaims “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” (John 11:27 ESV).
In one of the most encouraging passages in the New Testament, we see Jesus “deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled,” (John 11:33), weeping (verse 35) and again in verse 38 He is described as being “deeply moved.” He felt deeply and strongly. Jesus mourns over the pain and difficulty of loss of His friend and for Mary and Martha. This passage is encouraging because He did not tell them to “have faith,” “suck it up,” “stop crying,” or “just trust.” No, he entered in and wept with them. What a great pattern for us to model when we are engaging others in deep despair. Sometimes, we just need to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Undoubtedly, Jesus was thinking “this is not how I created things to be; death and the separation and grief that it causes was not part of the design!” Lazarus’ died because sin entered the world and the harmonious rhythm of the perfect paradise of Eden was fractured (Genesis 3). God’s original design was broken and we now are forced to mourn deeply because of this fracture, because of sin. But, Jesus came to destroy death (1 Corinthians 15:23-28), “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away,” (Revelation 21:4) and “make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). No more pain, no more brokenness, no more agony. Jesus came to remake the perfect paradise of Eden. There is coming a day when this world, and all of its brokeness will pass away. Suffering helps us to recalibrate our heart’s affections and the object of our hope!
11 Ways God Works for Us by John Piper
“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:1–3:3 ESV)
Paul views his life as Christ’s and lives on mission to accomplish his calling by reminding himself that Christ lives in him and loved him and died for him. Gospel logic drives Paul. He ferociously reminds himself of Christ’s sacrifice to empty himself so he can be filled with the Holy Spirit. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” Galatians 2:20-3:3. Paul then presses in to the Galatians this same thought process. The Galatian Christians had left the Gospel of Grace and gravitated to a works centered sanctification, which is our natural proclivity because we always like to add something of our own. They implemented rules and regulations (laws) to change – Paul asks them, “who has bewitched you,” and prompts them to continue in the Spirit of Grace. You started by the Spirit of Grace and are sanctified by that Spirit. Gospel threads are in focus here. The One who began the good work in them was the One that would be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6).
The law (our moral obedience to God) reveals sin (Romans 3:20-26) and functions to restrain it’s effects, but it is powerless to redeem and restore the soul – only Grace redeems and restores. Our white knuckled obedience to God is powerless to produce love and affection. You can obey God’s laws and commandments without trusting him, but you can’t trust God without obeying Him. One involves a contrite heart, and one involves a self righteous heart. Which one is yours?
“What does this mean? It means that we not only want our school to be a place of learning, but a culture of grace as well. Rules and regulations are necessary because they work to reveal and restrain sin, but they cannot rescue us from it. It is only God’s grace that has the power to change a person’s heart. So we must always make sure, that in the classrooms and hallways of our schools, that we are not asking the law to do what only grace can accomplish.” http://www.paultrippministries.org/yourchristianschoolacultureofgrace
Undoubtedly if you have been in the faith very long you have have experienced dry periods in your walk with God. But, if your walk with God has become characterized by drought then something is wrong. If you have little affection for Jesus then something is not right. The common answer is that we should join a Bible Study, pray more, serve more, get in a small group, and the list goes on. But we know that the disciplines, on their own, are powerless to irrigate our dry souls, we need something much more to satiate our longings. We need to be captivated; we need to move from a marginalized faith to one that is impacting and fully engaged – and because we want to, not because we have to. CS Lewis’ quote from the Weight of Glory puts it this way: “Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” Affection or desire is a crucial component to our faith; John Piper puts it this way: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” If you want to be truly filled and satisfied, then your life must be reflecting the glory of God – that is God’s created purpose and the way the universe works. There is no system or formula to produce affection or desire, it is by constantly reminding ourselves of God’s great love and mercy for us that our affections are stirred. The more we understand the gap between our holy sovereign Creator and us and that He was willing to bridge that gap, the more our worship and appreciation increases. This grace is the fuel for Christian growth.
“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.” (Colossians 1:21–23 ESV)
We were all alienated from God, dead, helpless, hopeless. Dead men can’t reach out, but because of His great love, He reached down. He has reconciled us (notice that we are passive) in order to present us as holy, blameless and above reproach before Him. This is possible because He did it, not because we contribute anything. It is imperative that we not shift our hope from the Gospel as we begin our sanctification process. Meditating upon these truths presses the Gospel deeper in to our souls and provides the fuel for sanctification because we become confident of this, “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6 ESV).
Paul reminds them of who they were and what God did for them in Jesus. These are Christians that he is talking to. Remembering what God has done and continues to do has a way of redeeming our rejoicing. The Gospel does that, it reminds us of our complete inability and His complete ability. It reminds us of the great exchange, His righteousness for our unrighteousness. We brought nothing to the table, being spiritually bankrupt and we continue our relationship the same way – in utter dependance.