So…..What's the Point?

Musings from a Fellow Struggler

Archive for the month “December, 2013”

Hye Bub! Whaddaya Looking AT?- Part 6

 

 

 

an old man looking at something

Parts 1-4 of this series provide the first answer to the questions “what should we be looking at?” and “what should we be seeking after?”  In sum, we should be looking at and seeking after what is unseen because what we call ‘reality’ exists by means of what we can’t see. (Heb. 11:3) Seeing the unseen, therefore, reveals to all believers that ‘eternal weight of glory’ behind this otherwise unsubstantial, fleeting and temporal life. (2 Cor. 4:17-18) This is what it means to “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7) for it is only faith that gives us ‘healthy’ eyes to see the unseen, fill us with light and make us lights in a world overwhelmed by darkness. Now, consider this:

Hebrews 12:1–2 (NKJV)

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

One important theme of this letter to the Hebrews is the suffering and persecution that comes because of faith in Jesus and resulting temptation to turn back from this faith that proclaims Him the fulfillment of all the Old Testament spoke of concerning Israel’s Messiah andthat He is the Savior of all people who embrace Him, whether Jew or Gentile. Hebrews 11 and 12 bring the whole discussion of remaining faithful to Jesus in spite of horrible circumstances to a climax first by showing the necessity of seeing the unseen by faith, citing a host of examples who did just that and, second, that Jesus, who is the Alpha and Omega of all that exists (i.e. the Word through which creation came to be) is at the same time the Author and Finisher of the faith by which all of us now bear an “eternal weight of glory”. Therefore, “looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith” is a logical second answer to the questions ‘what should we be looking at’ and ‘what should we be seeking’.

The word “looking” is the Greek word ἀφορῶντες and means, among other things, to have one’s eyes fixed upon something or someone; more colloquially, we might say “to be fixated” on Jesus. Looking unto Jesus (not a preacher, church, Christian celebrity, secular celebrity, athlete, music artist etc.) makes Him that singular Center around which our lives revolve. But, more importantly, since He is the Originator of the very faith whereby we see the unseen, singleness of vision fixed on Him alone is the only way we ever ‘see’ anything in proper perspective.

The point is that looking at and seeking after anything the world considers worthy of pursuit will most assuredly fill us with darkness. Should we try looking at the world and Him at the same time, as many do these days, we will become cross-eyed, unable to run the race set before us.

But, even though we know all this, there many shiny objects out there to distract us, aren’t there? A perilous change within Christianity is that many ‘shiny objects’ once plainly seen as sinful and idolatrous are now accepted as harmless, vestiges of an old-fashioned way of life that can’t be sustained in our modern world. From the way men and women, boys and girls, dress, the way they talk, the places they go, what they look at and seek after, to the epidemic moral laxity that now guides their life-changing decisions, the myriad shiny objects of the world have eclipsed the Originator of their faith. He is ‘watered down’ to an innocuous and non-threatening ‘nice guy’ that champions even the vilest life-styles in the name of love, tolerance and acceptance. And all of this is not just happening on the streets but also in churches that once held fast to the gospel and to the centrality of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords only now to have taken their eyes off Him to look at the new shiny objects the world displays.

We must see Jesus, not as we would like Him to be, not in our image, but as He really is. This cannot happen, nor will it happen, until all of us become fixated on Him again and stop looking at everything, and everyone, else as a guide to the kingdom. There is no substitution for and no alternative to Jesus: He is all in all or He is nothing to us; no in-between, no place for being cross-eyed, trying to look at the world and Jesus at the same time and then expect to be filled with light, much less ‘see’ where we’re going.

© W.G. Ryzek 2013

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Hey Bub! Whaddaya Looking At?- Part 5

an old man looking at something

Parts 1-4 of this series offer the first answer to the questions “what should we be looking at?” and “what should we be seeking after?”  In sum, we should be looking at and seeking after what is unseen because what we call ‘reality’ exists only because of what we can’t see. (Heb. 11:3) Seeing the unseen, therefore, reveals to all believers the ‘eternal weight of glory’ behind this otherwise unsubstantial, fleeting and temporal life. (2 Cor. 4:17-18) This is what it means to “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7) for it is only faith that gives us ‘healthy’ eyes to see the unseen, fill us with light and make us lights in a world overwhelmed by darkness.

The next few blogs give the second answer, namely that we must be “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith”. Doing so insures that what we look at and seek after make Him that singular Center around which our lives revolve. But, before we consider this second answer I think it necessary to digress a bit because Christmas Day is fast approaching.

Apparently, according to some polls I’ve seen, only about half of Americans think Christmas is uniquely religious while the other half see it as merely a cultural phenomenon. Even if this polling is only remotely accurate it indicates the darkness within our world is deep, far-reaching and increasing as human history draws closer to its completion. That Light has come into this dark world is part of the Christian message and  as far as this series is concerned means that being filled with light is to be like Jesus when He became flesh and dwelt among us.

It is worth noting that some applications of the word ‘light’ in the New Testament are not only meant to be antithetical to darkness (i.e. sin and evil) but also a counter to proto-gnosticism (via Platonism and neo-platonism) developing in the early 1st century Church (addressed in John’s gospel, 1st John and some of Paul’s letters)) and, later, full-blown Gnosticism fought against by the first post-apostolic church fathers leading to the Nicene council in AD 325. These philosophies generally agreed that the material world is evil (darkness) and all that is immaterial is good (light). Of course, such views ran counter to any notion of incarnation, God becoming ‘flesh’, and became the basis for heresies that denied the full deity of Jesus. That Light is an incarnate Person is unique to Christianity.

Consider with me, then, these New Testament passages that, when taken together, remind us of the enormous magnitude of the Incarnation.

Luke 2:25–32 (NKJV)

25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, 28 he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:

29             “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,

According to Your word;

30             For my eyes have seen Your salvation

31             Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,

32             A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,

And the glory of Your people Israel.”

 

Among other things, this passage, based on older prophecies, shows that we Gentiles were included in God’s salvation plan all along, that together, both Jews and Gentiles, would make up the Church, the Body of Christ. We, like Simeon, have truly “seen the Light”.

 

John 1:1–14 (NKJV)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.

12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

This profound passage unveils what transpired at His Incarnation, God becoming flesh, Light and Life ensconced in a human body for all to see from birth, through death to His resurrection and ascension.

John 8:12 (NKJV)

12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

John 12:35–36 (NKJV)

 

35 Then Jesus said to them, “A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them.

 

1 John 1:5–7 (NKJV)

 

This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

 

Matthew 5:14–16 (NKJV)

 

14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

These verses show that because He is the Light, we are lights in the world and, to the degree we “walk in in the light as He is in the light” we have continuous fellowship with Him and are effective at illuminating this world with truth.

Luke’s version of the lighted lamp gives us the relationship between being a lamp, the condition our eyes and what we ‘look at’ and what we ‘see’ which brings us back to the theme of this series laid out in parts 1-4.

 

Luke 11:33–36 (NKJV)

33 “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. 34 The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35 Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.”

 

I end this installment with a heartfelt Merry Christmas to all who follow this blog and to all who may come across it from time to time.

 

 © W.G. Ryzek 2013

Hey Bub! Whaddaya Looking At?- Part 4

 

 

an old man looking at something

This series has to do with what we look at, what we see and whether we are filled with darkness or light. The darkness of the world feels like a vice-grip that slowly but steadily increases pressure to squeeze out what remaining light that remains. It is necessary, then, for us to look at the proper things and see them for what they are.

Take this ‘holiday’ season, for example. People, both buyers and sellers, are frenetically preoccupied with the economic bottom line the Christmas shopping season portends, even more than in past years. It is mammon on steroids taking attention away from the Christ of Christmas in order to make itself the center of attention. Looking at, and seeing mammon so flagrantly, almost obscenely displayed (along with its many cohorts through the media and advertising) will squeeze us with spiritual pressure to “conform” to the world instead of being“transformed by the Spirit”. And, I’m convinced as the day of our Lord’s return approaches, all of this will only get worse making it even more important that we consider carefully what we are looking at, what we are seeing, and what we are seeking.

In response to the question posed in the first blog “what should we be looking at?” the first answer comes from Paul and his example of “looking at the unseen”. We find this in 2 Cor. 4-5 where Paul describes his ministry and is the wider context of chapter 4:16-18 which we touched on in the last blog.

 

2 Corinthians 4:16–18 (NKJV)

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

 

Looking at the unseen and not what we see naturally is one path to overcoming the blight that bombards our natural eyes every day and gaining the proper perspective on what we look at and what we seek after. Otherwise we end up seeing everything the way the unregenerate do and find ourselves in lockstep with them rather than that illustrious list of saints found in Heb. 12.

The sum and substance of what Paul is getting at in these verses is stated in 2 Cor. 5:7: “for we walk by faith, not by sight…” and is a testimony to the veracity of Heb. 11:1-6. We interpret our environment and make judgments about it according to what we see. Paul tells us that seeing naturally is to see only what is temporary, fleeting, and, in fact, unsubstantial; the world around us is like a vapor or a fog. The judgments we make about it then are usually wrong, or at best, shortsighted. By ‘looking at things unseen’ we come to perceive an inward daily renewal culminating in an eternal weight of glory no matter what appears to be the case to the natural eye.

Now, to the phrase “eternal weight of glory”. To begin with, no Christian is merely just what he or she appears to be. We are a new race of beings, an alien race in fact whose home is not this world. If we are seeing things properly, none of us should ever feel at home here but be continuously “looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Heb.11:10 NASB. Italics mine) Seeing believers this way insures a love and respect due such glorious beings.

Secondly, we are already substantial, weighty, heavy, thick, radiant, eternal beings. However, in our present form, this weight of glory cannot be fully revealed, contained or sustained but nevertheless, to the unsubstantial vapor that is the world around us, we are impenetrable and immovable filled with the glory of God that is His Spirit within us.

Thirdly, there is something going on inside us of which the world has no clue. While it is in a state of decay, we are continuously rejuvenated even if it looks like we are falling apart. From the context of his letter Paul is addressing a specific kind of decay namely suffering associated with his ministry.

The point here is we are not from this world anyway, we all have a mission to carry out, everything around us is temporal and decaying, and so we give ourselves over to preaching the gospel without any reservations. Why?  We are renewed, rejuvenated, restored, strengthened by supernatural power no matter if the natural man is under duress and even facing death. The suffering is temporary and will yield to eternity. So, we imitate Paul when we “look at things unseen…” and “know that if the earthly tent which our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Cor. 5:2 NASB)

Just like Jesus who Himself was the embodiment of an eternal weight of glory we are the light in this world of sad and pathetic disintegration, to hold back the darkness until that appointed time and the end of all things as we know them. Thus, we come full circle to what He said in Luke 11:33-36 and Matt. 5:13-16 and are reminded that the walk of faith of which Paul speaks depends on what we look at and how we see it.

Luke 11:33–36 (NKJV)

33 “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. 34 The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35 Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.”

 

Matthew 5:13–16 (NKJV)

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

 

Hey Bub! Whaddaya Looking At?- Part 3

an old man looking at something

2 Corinthians 4:16–18 (NKJV)

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Luke 11:34–36 (NKJV)

34 The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35 Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.”

 

There are many ways of looking at something, or someone. just as there are different ways of ‘seeing’. The English language has terms like “gaze, stare, peep, glance, peek, gape, gawk” to describe some of these differences. Greek also has different terms for ‘looking and seeing” that to one degree or another parallel English counterparts

The word ‘look’ Paul uses in his Corinthian letter (2 Cor. 4:18) is from the same root word spoken by Jesus in Luke 11:35, one of the verses upon which this series is based. The NKJV translates σκοπέω  “Therefore take heed…” but the NASB has a better rendering: “Then watch out…” (or, put another way, “look out”) which more closely corresponds to σκοπέω used here as a warning.

The verses quoted above show a connection between ‘seeing’ and ‘looking’ and Paul gives us one answer to the question posed in the first blog, namely what sort of things we are to be looking at. Being filled with light is accomplished by “not looking at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen…” because the “the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal”. (2 Cor. 4:18 NASB)

So, we are to look at what can’t be seen and the more we look the more we see. This apparent contradiction is in fact the way things really are and to those outside the faith appear as sheer lunacy. But all Christians know it’s true: we really can see unseen things when we look at things properly.

Now, some ideas to note about this. First, from Paul and Peter we learn that this sort of looking and seeing has to do with living the Christian life in the midst of adversity and preaching the Gospel to the unsaved. Second, this kind of looking is a fixation, a staring at, and not just a casual or occasional glance; i.e. what  ‘catches our eye’ remains the focal point. Third, this sort of looking is possible only by means of faith. (Heb. 11:3) Fourth, we must become convinced that what we look at in the natural course of life will pass away and, even now, is being replaced by “an eternal weight of glory”.

This phrase “eternal weight of glory” is at the very least profound and is meant to awaken our consciousness to what IS the case about the temporal/temporary Christian life, not what we might suppose it to be. The phrase “eternal weight of glory” is meant to show the sheer substantiality of what is really real as opposed to what is only fleeting; in Paul’s case suffering for the Gospel, and with Peter, a “proof” of our faith accompanied by inexpressible joy in the midst of temporary adversity that comes with living an authentic Christian life. (1 Peter 1:7-8)

In short, when we look at the right things and thereby see clearly we are changed, illuminated, ‘filled with light’ and become light shining in the spiritual darkness that is the kosmos under the dominion of sin and Satan. This is at least part of what Jesus meant in Luke 11:33. Furthermore, when we look properly (in this case, at the unseen) and see things the way they really are the more substantial and ‘weighty’ we become. While our natural condition is fleeting, fragile, almost ghostlike, here today gone and tomorrow, Paul says we are being renewed day by day gaining spiritual weight (which he says is glorious) over and against our inherent weakness as fleshly beings.

These words of Paul call for further attention and will be the subject of our next installment.

© W.G. Ryzek 2013

 

 

 

 

 

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