Sunday, April 11, 2010

Heaven on Earth Glimpsed

I've been having one of those weeks, where things are just making sense. And it isn't so simple as to say it is just this one way, excluding this or that. I am experiencing the joy of the LORD, and it is as if in His grace, the mysteries of the universe are revealed. If I could sum it up, it is paradox; God is both thoroughly pleased with the unfolding outcomes of His providence and the world's response, and at the same time, righteously angered and vexed with the rebellious and ignorant ways of humanity. I think this is possible because God is infinite and beyond time as we experience it.

I want to share a vision I believe God to have given me in grace, and I hope it edifies those who read this to better grasp the majesty of the Great God. I need to set the vision in context, however, which I will do now through narrative.

My journey of discovering God is going on its thirteenth year. Many of those years have been spent bouncing back and forth between treasuring the grace poured out on me (and fellow believers that we could even know Him) and writhing in the torture of not being able to offer up the level of devotion and honor due Him. This more unpleasant aspect of the Christian journey has found a new dimension of brilliance after spending a season discovering a most true and wonderful aspect of God: I had revealed to me the glory and majesty of God, grasping more fully the splendor of His Holiness. Do YOU comprehend what it means for God to be fully separate and other than you and I? We commit a grave error and dishonor to God when we consider Him altogether like us (see Psalm 50, and note the attitude of God in His frustration and anger toward an irreverent people). No, I'm serious. Stop and read it. I want the gravity of such a posture with God to settle into the depths of your soul. You should feel convicted and and undone, much like Isaiah felt before God (Isa 6).

This season of my life was the most profound I had experienced up to that point. God is OTHER. He burns with an intensity of glory that kills those not extended Christ's covering. To this, we should appropriately fall to our knees (and even face) in awe, fear and reverence to God, as I continually do. But that is not all.

In continuing the story, I must share how these newly discovered gems of truth quickened me and those journeying with me to action, as the Word of God must do. A quick tangent: Imagine God in the midst of creating, speaking things and life into existence! What power is behind the words of God uttered from Him! What transformative and creating power does the Word of God have in regards to us as we receive! Ponder that for a moment. God's Word was having an effect on us who were seeing glimpses of God's majesty, and it was profound. We were given eyes to see how God was and how the world was, and the natural response was to grieve the state of the world, even the Church, as she is still in a state of harlotry, just like Israel before the time of Christ's first coming. We grieved and were compelled to cry out for justice to be done God by crediting Him the glory due His Name. We thought this looked like separating our flock from perceived dangers of spiritual harlotry, that we as a church would not contribute to the state of adultery by partnering with churches with particularly controversial positions on things like abortion and homosexuality. Some of my friends, I fear, are stuck in this position of writhing for fear that they will be judged harshly by a wrathful and glorious God who is serious about the state of sin and the wrong actions born out of that state, if they do not devote their life to warning others of this character of God. While this is true and God remains a God of wrath, I have yielded to God's outpouring of revelation and sense the picture is much more grand than that. I think it was this sentiment that caused alarm and hesitation in the elders of our church to oppose my group and the things we urged to happen. It was a messy and destructive process. Grace should have been extended more liberally on all sides. I pray God redeem and create new life out of the rubble. I pray all sides trend slowly and lightly forward, speaking in humility and receptive to the truth the other side can and does speak for the other. The truth is in both sides, which ties into the vision given me. I'm not there just quite yet, however.

It was my mentor, Jerry Nelson, who I believe summed up well the next chapter of my journey, which I find myself in now and further offers a unifying truth to these two sides of the faith. He said (and I paraphrase) that what is most glorious about our God is the fact that in His Holiness and intense Glory, God is with us and offers the opportunity of relationship with Him through the Son's sacrifice. Immanuel is extending mercy to a depraved people despite how egregious our state is for Him. Remember, God is infinitely perfect and without wrong, without flaw or defect. Our very nature is compromised and it would go against the very nature of God to associate with us if it were not His nature to love gloriously and perfectly. It is for His Name's sake that He relent (Isa 48:11).

You see, what the elders of my church have steadfastly proclaimed and find foundational is the fact that God is loving and gracious and adamant at pursuing us for relationship. We too, can express our devotion to God through relationship with Him and one another. This is all very biblical and beautiful. And you must also see that my small group who had revealed to us the splendor of God's majesty, on an ontological basis - His very essence - was discovering and responding to truths that are very much biblical and beautiful. Even our warnings and desires for pursuing holiness (i.e. separateness) are biblical. What once was seen as contradictory in my eyes, how my elders either had it wrong and my small group had it right, or vice versa, I see that way no more. Now, I see, as in a vision, the persons of our God like a many-faceted jewel, sparkling brilliantly from one vantage, at which the sight makes you lose your breath and you can't help but fall to your face in worship, for He is that gloriously majestic and beautiful. Only, circle about the Jewel, which is our God, and from that vantage you behold a whole different scene, with wholly different truths, yet equal in importance though different in response. It is the same God, but more complex than our minds can conceive. He truly is infinitely Holy and Glorious, full of Grace and Love, wrath and mercy.

Let me tie this to a couple parables that Jesus shared:

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had bought it" (Matthew 13:44-46).
Upon beholding God, we experience a revealing of truths: of Him, of our world, and of a proper response aligned with such profound insights, and we are much like the man and the merchant in that such a treasure as God demands response, only there is not one right response. Just like the man is compelled to purchase property (where the treasure is amply located), the merchant is compelled to purchase a pearl, the object of his desire. Depending on one's vantage, a proper response may look differently than what another's response should be. You may need to buy land to build a church to serve God. You may have to adopt an orphan girl and name her "Pearl." It's going to look different depending on where we are with God. The coherence of responses, though, is that sacrifice and self-denial is required. Both the merchant and the man had to sell all that they had. We cannot only partially turn away from our worldly lives, not in the end. The more we gloriously search out the matter of God's persons (Proverbs 25:2), the more we realize we will never be the same. Sanctification is to be conformed to His likeness; do not forget that. God is jealous and will purify His Bride.

Realizing these things this week has been like entering the throne room of God, despite physically being bound to this fallen world. Heaven is a lovely notion, a reality not yet received. It has been glimpsed, however, and it steadies me for more abuse until He takes me home, into His Arms.

No comments: