Thursday, June 24, 2010

Beholding the Glory

It's a funny thing about knowing Jesus, that the longer you know Him, the greater the longing to know more about Him becomes. It's a desperate, but exquisitely beautiful, hunger that drives you to try to get closer and closer; to search out the things of God in His Word; and to constantly seek His presence and strain to hear His voice. But there are some followers of Christ who have let their love for Jesus grow cold. They've lost the hunger and forgotten the joy and passion of "first love." Or maybe they never knew it, but when a person's love of Christ is "lukewarm," a spirit of religion can slowly begin to take root. The joy and passion of knowing Jesus, and the freedom available in Him, are slowly replaced by a hardhearted, self-righteous, bean-counting mentality that keeps a close watch on what others are doing and not doing, and feels justified to openly criticize. It's people like this who've earned the Christian church in North America the label "hypocrite". 

God does not take this issue of love growing cold lightly. The first and greatest commandment, according to Jesus is to love God with all  your heart, soul, mind and strength, and throughout the Bible God calls His people to return to their first love. He doesn't like it when the things of the world distract us from loving Him with all we've got.

In Revelation 2, Jesus asks John to deliver a message to the Christians in Ephesus. Although by all appearances the Ephesian church seems to be doing everything right, Jesus says, "But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first." He goes on to give the Ephesian church an ultimatum, either turn back to what you once were or lose your place in the Kingdom of Heaven. He knows that a people who have lost their first love for Him will not represent Him or serve Him as He desires they should.

I've been in the midst of churches who've lost their first love for one reason or another. One such church enjoyed an amazing time of revival that made it a place of healing and power; it impacted nations as many received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and were anointed to preach and minister. But even so, their love grew cold because they became complacent, believing that, because of the great move of God among them thirty years ago, they knew all there was to know about Him and didn't need to seek Him anymore. The hunger to go deeper, the longing to draw closer, slowly faded and was replaced by arrogance and pride and gossip and strife took hold of the people. The Holy Spirit was all but removed from this church for a time, but thankfully, they have turned and there is life among them again.

So what is the secret to staying in that place of first love? It's not easy to remain there, especially when those who've become jaded by familiarity and complacency scoff, and scorn, and even try to trip you up. You start to doubt and to wonder if maybe you really are foolish, or crazy. It takes focus, it takes work, and it takes help and encouragement to "abide" in Jesus' love. But I believe the "secret" lies in this simple but profound verse:

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. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

It's when we behold His glory that we fall deeper and deeper in love with Jesus. It's when we are beholding His glory that we experience the awe and wonder we felt when we first met Him and were born again. It's while we are beholding His glory that we remember who He is, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the One who is above everything on earth and in heaven and under heaven, the Alpha and the Omega, the One through whom and for whom all things were made - the exact representation of the Father. And as we behold His glory with unveiled face - not running away or holding anything back - we are changed. As we continue to behold His glory we are slowly transformed into the SAME image, becoming more and more like Him. We do not fall back to our old comfortable  ways or become complacent with what we have and what we have achieved. No, we continue moving closer to His holiness and majesty, always being made more like Him from one degree of glory to another.

I want to be awakened to Christ's glory every single day, to pursue precious glimpses of His glory in every waking moment. One experience of His glory just isn't enough for me. There are times when I need His grace to do this, times when sorrow or complacency and jadedness begin to set in. But as I continue to seek Him and to behold His glory - even in the very world around me - I find I can abide in that place of first love. And I find that the hunger and thirst for more of Him continues to grow stronger every day. It's this hunger and thirst - placed in me by God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit - that drive me to go deeper, to seek further, to keep longing to know more of Him and to be more like Him.

I read the latest newsletter from Threshold Ministries while taking a break from writing this post and was reminded that as a member of Threshold I am exhorted to:

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. (Romans 12:11)

Lord, I pray for those who think they know you but have lost their first love. They've forgotten what it means to be loved by You.  They've lost the joy and the passion of knowing You. May they behold Your glory and be renewed. May they fall in love with you all over again. And, Lord, it's only by Your grace that we can abide in Your love. I ask that You would give me my daily portion of grace and revelation so that I can remain in Your love, beholding Your glory forever!

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