Friday, December 2, 2011

Christ in you, the hope of Glory

“I have become it [the church’s] servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness—the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:25-27 NIV)
I included the three verses to give some context to the passage, but the phrase I want to close in on for this article is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” By now we’ve already celebrated the first Sunday of Advent, on which the theme for that Sunday was “hope”. When I think of “hope” in regards to Christmas, one main theme comes to mind.
Living in the age we do, we often take for granted the hope that Christ offers. All of us have grown up in a time where the orthodox church has universally recognized that salvation is found in Christ’s atoning sacrifice, so that’s not something we have to wait on or longingly hope for. The work of Christ is done and it comes to us now by faith in Him.
What we do still hope for, though, is the reality of that finished work on the cross for us. While we’re still here on this earth, we have not fully experienced that work of atonement, that work of clearing us before the Father on that day when we stand before Him. The celebration of Christmas for us is the recognition of a plan of God, put in motion with the incarnation of Christ—His coming to the earth in human form. That event set in motion God’s plan of redemption that had been told about for centuries, but in ways that left the details cloudy at best.
Paul writes in his first letter to the church in Thessalonica, 4:13, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.” Paul goes on to tell them what to expect when Christ returns, but he does so in order that they may have a greater hope than the rest of the world. We have faith in the promise of God that one day, whether at the end of our days here on earth, or when He returns to rapture the church to heaven, one day we will experience “Christ in you, the hope of glory”.
Christmas marks the celebration of God’s great gift to all who will believe. It marks hope renewed as we look forward to our heavenly home; joy experienced through the forgiveness we enjoy in Christ; peace with God made possible as we take on the righteousness of Christ; and the love that motivated the whole plan of redemption.
May your Christmas celebrations be filled with reflections on what is ours now in Christ, whose earthly birth we celebrate once again this year. Have a blessed Christmas!

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

“Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1:1-4 NIV)

The more I learn about God, ( and I am still learning about Him every day), the more I am amazed at His great love and provision for us. The more I come to understand about His nature and character, the more I am stunned by His patience with us—with me! The more I gain knowledge and understanding of Him, the more I sense the grace and peace that is ours in Him.
On one hand, you’d think that understanding more and more about this incredible God who has created all there is, and holds it all together; who holds unspeakable power at His disposal, the more I would be in fear of Him. But on the other hand, the more I learn about His love for us demonstrated through His Son, Jesus Christ, and that His “great and precious promises” are for us, the more comfort that brings me. When things on the surface seem to go awry, I know that He holds us in the palm of His hand, and only allows what He deems best for us.
At a time of the year when we are urged to reflect on our blessings, and return thanks to Him who has given us so much, may “His love for us” top the list of things we are grateful for, knowing that such favor is undeserved and unwarranted, except that He has chosen to love us in such incredible ways.
From Peter’s first letter, we have this rich promise as well: “In this [our salvation] you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1Peter 1:6-7)
Even in the midst of difficult times, we are assured that God is working on our behalf, working to refine our faith into something more valuable than gold.
I pray that the more you learn about God, and the more He reveals Himself to you that this knowledge will bring grace and peace to your heart and mind as well.

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Thursday, October 13, 2011

“God is exalted in his power. Who is a teacher like him? Who has prescribed his ways for him, or said to him, ‘You have done wrong’? Remember to extol his work, which men have praised in song. All mankind has seen it; men gaze on it from afar. How great is God—beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out.” (Job 36:22-26 NIV)

When we begin to think about God, who He is, what He is like etc, it can be overwhelming because He is truly beyond our understanding. But, I would encourage you, rather than throwing up our hands in despair that we’ll never really know what He is like while we’re still on this side of heaven, make an effort—make a valiant effort to know Him.
It’s true that God’s “thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways declares the Lord,” (Isaiah 55:8), but God still works through the world we live in and through His Word to make Himself known to us. While it’s true that our simple human minds can’t fully comprehend His majesty, we are drawn closer to Him when we seek to know Him better. While it is true that He has created the entire natural world that we see, and much that we can’t see, beyond the stars, galaxies that our strongest telescopes have only begun to see, the psalmist still can write, “I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.” (Psalm 116:1-2)
It seems apparent that the Christian church today in large part has given up her pursuit of God, and instead of finding out who He is through a deep faith relationship with Him, we have crafted an image of Him that we’re willing to deal with; that we feel comfortable with. With the paltry wisdom God Himself has given us, we have made ourselves a mental image of God—no less an idol than the false gods that the Israelites were chastised for in the Old Testament.
If there is a prayer we can pray and expect God to answer, it is to ask Him to make Himself known to us. I believe He is just waiting for just such an opportunity to reveal Himself to us. In fact, it’s entirely possible that because we’ve neglected such a pursuit that He is holding off answers to other prayers we have been bringing again and again to Him. He’s more interested in a serious relationship with us than to make our life here on earth easier or better.
Just because a complete grasp of an understanding of God is impossible in this life doesn’t mean that understanding more of Him isn’t a worthwhile quest. Ask Him to make Himself known to you…but be ready, because He may just knock your socks off!

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen