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Archive for grace

Thinking out of the Box

November 15, 2011

A seminary professor often said that if we are going to make an impact with the Word of God, we must allow the Spirit of God to move us to think outside the box.  He did not mean that we should think beyond what is written in Scripture but that we should seek through observation and meditation to fully grasp the truth that is revealed from what is written.

I would like to take such a step while thinking of God’s perfect creation and the fall of man.  What we learn about the sinfulness of our sin has tremendous bearing on what we eventually believe about His immeasurable grace. Let’s begin, well, at the beginning.  Believers should recognize that the God who created us became our Savior.  The one who saves us, the Lord Jesus Christ, has all the attributes of deity.  He is eternal, co-existent with God, and co-equal with God, just to name a few.  A life-changing, out-of-the-box glimpse of the miraculous God that we serve is the realization that the second person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the very one who created us. The Bible says that all things were made by Him (John 1:3); by Him were all things created (Colossians 1:16); and God made the worlds by Him (Hebrews 1:2).

Since all things means all things, the words, “In the beginning God created” take on a fresh new meaning.  These words imply that the first works of creation recorded in the Bible – the heavens, the earth, the light, the plants and animals – were accomplished with the direct involvement of the Lord Jesus Christ. It follows, then, that He was also involved in the creation of Adam.

Now we are walking freely out of the box. God’s words, “Let Us make man in our image, according to Our likeness” has enormous implications. Catch this glimpse! The “Us” points to our Trinitarian God’s participation in creating man and in particular the involvement of the Creator of all things, the Lord Jesus Christ. It has been assumed by many that when God said, “Let Us make man in our image, according to our likeness,” He was speaking of the invisible likeness of personality. This is because the Bible makes clear that God is spirit, and spirits have no visible characteristics.  While likeness could very well point to unseen spiritual traits, image does make one think of a physical feature. It is possible that the second person of the Trinity appeared in a recognizable preincarnate form in the Old Testament.

Although Jehovah took upon Himself a human body in Bethlehem, that may not have been the first time that He revealed Himself in a recognizable form. Think of the first wedding – when Jehovah walked Eve down the isle to the man, so to speak.  We read that God fashioned Adam’s rib into a woman and “He brought her to the man” (Genesis 2:22). Is it possible that Adam saw a preincarnate form of the Creator? It is hard to imagine a disembodied spirit presenting a woman to a man.

Following their rebellion against God by eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve heard the sound of Jehovah God walking in the garden in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). Adam heard someone walking! It is difficult to conceive that a spirit could make walking noises as he approached. The guilt of the fallen couple impelled them to hide from God among the trees in the garden. How could one hope to hide from a spirit?

The first visible act of God in providing grace is recorded for us. Adam and Eve had compensated for their new feeling of guilt before God by stitching for themselves designer clothes made of fig leaves (Genesis 2:7). Their clothing did not meet with God’s approval, however, so He made tunics of skin, and clothed them (Genesis 3:21). Again, it is difficult to imagine a spirit stitching clothes and then putting them on someone.

What conclusions can we draw from God’s work as a tailor? First it was an obvious contrast to the couple’s tailor work. Second, it was God who initiated the gracious act. The couple was not asked whether or not they desired the clothes.  Finally, it was God who did the work.  He obviously killed animals – and this was long before the Mosaic Law was given. The picture given the reader is the very first foreshadowing of God’s future work in Jesus Christ.

Now back to the subject of Jesus Christ being the Creator of all things.  The Bible says that Jehovah Elohim formed man from the dust of the ground and then breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being (Genesis 2:7).  There may have been more to this creative act than meets the human eye. God created us as triune beings made of body, soul, and spirit (1Thessalonians 5:23).

God first created the visible part. One can just visualize the Lord Jesus Christ hovering over a large lump of clay like a potter would do and then reaching down and picking up slabs and shaping it. Slowly the clay began to take the shape of man. Then we picture the divine Potter creating the inward, invisible parts, leaning down and exhaling His breath into the nostrils of that clay form. At that moment, Adam awakened as a conscious being.  The lifeless lump of clay received life from God.

Again, out of the box we go! What is the true meaning of the English translation the “breath of life” in Genesis 2:7?  The original text of the Old Testament is the Hebrew language. The Hebrew manuscripts are those writings that are truly God breathed and totally inerrant. While it is true that the translators rendered the phrase “breath of life,” and surely they had reasons to do so, the literal Hebrew says that God breathed into the man the “breath of lives,” plural.

“Breath of lives” in the Hebrew is nephesh chayyim. Chayyim is a plural Hebrew word. In order to make a word plural in English, we simply add and “s” or an “es.” At the risk of sounding exceedingly simple, we could have one pear or two pears; one house or two houses. In order to make a Hebrew word plural, “im” is added. One might think of one cherub (angelic being) or two cherubim (two angelic beings), or one seraph (one angelic being) or two seraphim (two angelic beings).  You get the idea. God actually breathed into Adam the breath of lives.

In contrast, God had earlier created the animals giving to them nephesh chay, the breath of life (Genesis 1:21).  This is the major way that animals differ from humans. True to our triune nature, Jesus Christ created Adam with a body and then breathed into him a soul with an attached human spirit.  The animals do not have this human spirit. The words soul and spirit are often used interchangeably in the scripture, but there is a difference. The writer of Hebrews says that the word of God is living and powerful and sharp enough even to divide the soul from the spirit (Hebrews 4:12). This implies that they are not the same!

Allow me a little speculation. The soul connects human beings to the earth, giving them the ability to know, to feel, and to choose, in the earthly realm. It provides the appetites for securing food, shelter, protection, and the desire to procreate. In man the soul also had the human spirit attached to it. Adam’s soul connected him to the earthy realm, but his human spirit linked him to God.

Before the fall, Adam had ability and the desire to think and to reason accurately, not only about worldly things but also about heavenly things. Said simply, human beings were created to know God. Their living human spirits gave them the ability to appreciate their relationship with God and to choose to continue in it. With this knowledge, Adam understood the reason for God’s creation and in his innocence he knew that he was created to have dominion over the earth.

After his sin – as God had warned – he died! He did not fall over dead physically, but his human spirit died toward God. He no longer had the ability to use his mind, emotion, or will toward God. As a result of their spiritual death, the fallen couple hid themselves from God. The residue left upon them was still the image of godlikeness, but it was a defective image. Adam and Eve continued with their human appetites in tact and their intelligence – the ability to think and to reason, to feel and to choose in a limited earthy realm – but still far beyond that of the animals. Adam and Eve had become natural, soulish human beings. This is the very nature that this fallen couple passed to all generations of the human race (Romans 5:12). All sinned and died in Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22).

We are all born with Adam’s death image upon us. The fallen race has the desire to worship gods, but they worship gods coming from their own corrupt imagination. Paul wrote that the soulish person “cannot understand the things of God (human ability) neither can he know them (human ability) for they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).  In clothing the first couple with the animal skins, God established a prototype. If we want to know how God saves today it would not be a bad idea to go back to His original pattern.

God must initiate salvation. The spiritually dead can do nothing to help.  He does not clothe us with animal skins as an act of His saving grace, but He does clothe us. He clothes us with His special sacrifice. The fall did not catch God by surprise. He prepared a Lamb before He created the world (1 Peter 1:20). He eventually gave that Lamb to die on a Roman cross for us, and then He raised Him from the dead (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 4:25).  He lovingly calls us to Himself as a shepherd does his sheep and gives us the free gift of faith to place in His Lamb (John 6:37-39; John 10:28; Ephesians 2:8-9). He then wraps tightly those believing in His Lamb with the covering of the Lamb. Every believer is said to be “in Christ” (Galatians 3:26-28).  This is thinking out of the box.

Glimpses of Grace

October 19, 2011

At a meeting not too long ago, I overheard two fellow pastors questioning their call to the ministry. Think of this! They were wondering aloud why in the world they did not pursue a different educational path that would have given them a career to “fall back on.” This obviously caught my attention, and I settled in to listen more carefully. Both men were obviously discouraged about the ministries that God had placed them in. They were not sufficiently motivated to stay the course amidst all the obstacles they were facing.

In my mind, the call of God to preach His word to the world is the highest calling a human being can have. However, it is hard for some to stay the course amid all the possible pitfalls in ministry – the money that does not come in to pay the bills, church leaders that feel that it is their obligation to stand against everything the pastor suggests, disgruntled church members that think it necessary to keep something negative stirred up all the time, not to mention the personal family pressures. I wanted to say, “Fellows, don’t you remember how and why the living God called you to Himself in the first place?”

My mind went back to my own reasons for hanging tough through the years. How had I been motivated to stay the course through it all? That thought always draws me back to the amazing glimpse of grace that I received in 1989 during a morning walk. God used it to change the entire course of my ministry. I was going through a particularly rough time in the congregation that I was leading. I was looking to God for answers and pondering some passages that I had recently studied.

Centuries ago Paul was facing the same opposition for preaching the gospel. He found that he had to defend himself before the very people who should have trusted him totally. I identified with that! Some even accused him of using the gospel to serve his own selfish desires. Quitting was never an option. Paul said that we are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed. We are perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed.

What enabled Paul to persevere in the face of such suffering? He thought back to the day of His own dramatic Damascus Road conversion when he met Jesus Christ face to face. It has always been fascinating to me that God blinded Paul so that he could really “see” for the first time. From that day on, his ministry was to advance the cause of Jesus Christ, not his own. Then he gave one of his famous conclusions marked by the word “therefore.”

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 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.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

I am painfully aware that my outward man is perishing. My body is growing older and wearing out! I do not have all the time in the world to finish the purpose that God has set me apart to do.

Paul went further! We are not to lose heart because the spiritual man inside is being renewed day by day. This is a comforting thought! No matter what is going on around us, the Holy Spirit is constantly renewing our minds and is steadily conforming us to the image of Jesus Christ.

What an encouragement! But how is this possible? Paul made this amazing contrast. He said that our momentary light affliction is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. What exactly did Paul mean by a “momentary light affliction.” He tipped his hand in the same book. Read this recap of his life!

“In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:23b-27)

This is momentary light affliction? Up against that backdrop, my problem with the congregation didn’t appear so bad. Paul said that all that he was going through in this life paled in significance when compared to the eternal weight of glory that awaited him. Seeing Christ face to face far outweighed the effects of an aging body – the suffering, the defeats, all the heartaches in this life.

What Paul said next became the motivation for my life’s ministry. He said that I was to begin looking beyond the things that human eyes can see and begin to peer into God’s unseen world. The things that I see with my physical eyes are destined to pass into oblivion. They are just temporary passing things. The things that I cannot see with my human eyes are eternal things.

My mind raced on to a third passage that I had recently studied. Contrasting human wisdom with God’s wisdom, Paul wrote these incredible words that God etched forever into my mind.

“But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-13)

God’s wisdom is knowledge that cannot be seen with human eyes or heard with human ears. That sounded familiar! In fact, God’s wisdom is that which has never entered into a human mind before. Incredible! That would mean that this wisdom is not the rehashed human understanding coming from the mind of man.

Paul then wrote something that has become the motivation for the “Glimpses of Grace” ministry and the day by day church ministries that God has led me to. He said that God has revealed these hidden things to us through His Spirit. Hold it! Is this saying what I think it is saying? Is Paul saying that God’s Spirit opens to our human spirits the deep things of God, the hidden wisdom of God? Is he saying that we can know the things that human ears have never heard, nor eyes have ever seen! We can know the things that no human mind has ever thought. That is exactly what he is saying! This is fascinating!

How is this possible? The next line reads, “What man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him?” I alone know my own secret thoughts! Likewise, the Spirit of God alone knows the deep things of God. My mind began to race. “We have received, not the spirit of this world – but the Spirit who is from God!” Why? “In order that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” The Spirit of God lives in me. He has a purpose for being there. He can teach me the “deep things” of God. We can know the things that have been freely given to us by God.

The final words of the passage “comparing spiritual things with spiritual” actually sent me into another world. The Holy Spirit brings to the mind spiritual thoughts as the words are read. As I study the written words of the Bible, verse by verse and line upon line, God the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of my mind to see and understand the deep, fascinating wisdom of God behind the scene. That is absolutely incredible. I (we) can know the mind of God!

Here’s a catch! These glimpses into God’s unseen world cannot be found by searching for them. God opens them to us at His pleasure as we study the Bible word after word and line by line year after year. These “glimpses” are not unique to only a few special Christians. They are open to all. Since we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, we meet the criteria to receive them. There are not different glimpses for different people. Every believer receives the very same truth.

God has not taught me everything that I have desired to know about His plan, but He has been pleased to give me small insights, small “glimpses.” These insights placed together began to etch a beautiful portrait in my mind. God has opened to me His incredible salvation plan, the true identity of Jesus Christ, the immense value of His death and resurrection, and the nature and purpose of the Holy Spirit, to name but a few.  These are truly God’s glimpses of grace.

God’s Amazing Seed

 

Corn 2

July 14, 2011

I just finished helping my family put up approximately 300 ears of corn at our little farm. I remembered planting the seeds back in late April. This ritual has happened many times before, but it never fails to bring to my mind God’s faithfulness to germinate the seeds. Our corn is a product of God’s ordained plan for the cycle of life.

From the very beginning, God established His unchanging blueprint of biological reproduction. God commanded that all living things reproduce after their kind, both plants and animals. This reproductive cycle has held its pattern since the dawn of creation. The phrase according to its kind is repeated over and over for an incredible purpose. Apple seeds produce apples; peach seeds produce peaches; corn seed . . .  you get the idea.

God created human beings and placed them upon the earth. Like the plants and the animals, He told them to be fruitful and to multiply and fill the earth.  He provided all that they would need to thrive. There was only one thing God told them not to do. To disobey Him at this one point would bring death. We know what happened.  The first couple disobeyed, and they died. Their human spirits – their connection to God – died. They became natural, sinful people separated from God. Sin and death had entered the world.

In obedience to God, after the fall Adam and Eve began to reproduce. True to God’s regeneration formula, they reproduced after their kind.  They were now sinners, and they populated a world of sinners. Death spread to all because Adam’s seed had become corrupt seed. God connected the entire biological world to Adam’s fall. Paul said that the entire creation was subjected to futility and locked in the bondage of corruption. All biological seed is stained with death. Regardless of whether we get rain or not, Papa’s garden is going to die. Why? Corrupt seed!

But wait! Amazingly God allowed at least two kinds of seed to slip past the corruption of the fall. These two seeds are the very reason that we become Christians. The first was the miracle seed of the Holy Spirit planted in the womb of the virgin Mary. This seed produced the Lord Jesus Christ.  Without a human biological father, He was born without the sin of Adam.  Thus, He who knew no sin became the sinless Lamb of God who died for us.

The other seed is the living seed of the Word of God. The words of the Bible are living and powerful spiritual seeds. God, You are a genius! This miracle seed is being used to spawn a new generation of people – spiritual people. The apostle Peter said that “we have been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever. Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:23-25).

Born again? Yes. Christians experience a second birth – a spiritual birth that connects us to God. An incorruptible seed generates this birth. Peter contrasted all human life that comes from corrupt fallen seed with grass. Like grass, we are all destined to die. And all of our human achievements, no matter how impressive, are fleeting. All of man’s glory – that which sheds light upon man: pride, wisdom, intelligence, beauty, talent, wealth – is temporary.  It appears briefly like a mist, and then it is quickly gone. In contrast, the spiritual seed of the word of God is eternal seed. The only thing that lasts through this fallen world must come from this seed.

Peter stressed that the gospel of God’s grace is that eternal seed. When physical seed, like our corn seed, is placed into the ground and is germinated, new life begins. Likewise, when the gospel is planted into the soil of the fallen human mind and germinated by the Holy Spirit, new life is generated. But this life, unlike the fallen corn seed, will never die because seed that will never die produces it. Amazing, absolutely amazing!  God, what a genius you are!

A Chip off the Old Block

October 26, 2008

One of the most amazing glimpses into God’s unseen world is the truth concerning our sin.  It is apparent to me that what God the Holy Spirit has taught me about sin ultimately determined what I now believe about God’s grace.  The horror of sin is what makes grace, grace.

What does it mean to be a sinner? What does Paul mean by his words all have sinned and come short of the glory of God?

I understand that sin means “to miss the mark” and the mark that we have all missed is the absolute righteous standard of God. God requires that I have a righteousness equal to His own if I am going to live in His presence. Yet it became painfully obvious to me that I had not come close to measuring up to that standard. I was not alone! There is not even one righteous man, not one?

Our sin has everything to do with Adam the first.  How exactly are we connected to him? As I attempt to answer this question, I am aware that I am gazing in awe into God’s unseen world.

This is what I was taught early in my Christian life – that I had been spiritually “influenced” by Adam’s sin in the garden. This mysterious influence causes everyone to sin.  We are born spiritually innocent, and we become sinners only when we reach the “age of accountability” before God.  That age is not the same for everyone. When that age is reached, we are then held accountable to God for our sin, but not before.

I once believed and even taught this! The problem I ran into is I could not find this “accountability teaching” anywhere in the Bible. The truth is, I was not born innocent before God and, therefore, I did not become a sinner with time.  I was born a sinner and this nature expressed itself outwardly early and often.

I realize that this subject creates a minefield of emotion in us all.  However, emotion is never to become a substitute for truth.

Jesus said it is “that which proceeds out of the man that defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.’” (Mark 7:20-23)  King David said that he was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin his mother conceived him (Psalm 51:5).

Adam did far more than just influence me to become a sinner.  In the very beginning, God planted a garden in a place called Eden and in that Garden He placed the first man, Adam. God planted many beautiful fruit trees and He also placed there a tree that He called “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” God told Adam to freely eat from all the trees with the exception of this one tree. The fruit from this tree was verboten (forbidden).  The reason was made clear. God said, in effect, “Adam, if you disobey Me, you shall surely, most positively, without a doubt, die” (Genesis 2:17).

Adam ate from the tree, and true to God’s word he died.  His physical heart did not instantly stop beating, nor did he stop breathing and fall over lifeless.  That would have ended the episode right there.But Adam died.  Death in the Bible means separation. Adam immediately became separated from God. Adam’s sin did not take God by surprise. In fact, God had a sacrifice already prepared from before He even made the world (1 Peter 1:19-20).  That tells me that God’s creation, the fall, redemption and restoration of man, is all about God’s glory, not man’s.

Remarkably, Adam was not alone in his sin. Oh yeah, you might say, Eve was involved also.  She is not the one I had in mind. Paul’s words “in Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22a) drift into my mind. Every member of the human race was there in Adam when he sinned.  How is that possible?  Adam sinned and died thousands of years ago.

If I believe the Bible, then I trust that Adam and Eve were our first human parents. The entire human race came from them. So it is obvious that the genetic makeup for us all – our DNA – was in our original human parents. So we were there in the Garden in Adam when he sinned and died. In like manner, I was in my great-grandfather Greenberry Hill, when he was fighting in the Civil War.  Had my grandfather been killed in that war, having no children, then I would not be here. I would have died in Him.  All of his future children would have died in him.

Likewise, we were all there in that garden when Adam sinned and died.  When he sinned, all sinned!  When he died, all died!

“By one man sin entered into the world and death by sin and so death passed on all men for all sinned” (Romans 5:12).  Human sin and death entered into the world through Adam. How did Adam’s transgression pass from him to all men? Adam’s physical seed from which the human race was to be regenerated became corrupt when he disobeyed God. Adam died physically at the ripe old age of 930 years.  All of his offspring, his children and grandchildren – his seed – also died.

Genesis chapter five is one gigantic list of tombstones marking the fact that Adam’s death seed was moving out full speed ahead. Since we all were regenerated from Adam’s fallen seed, father to child, generation after generation, Adam’s sin and death finds its way to all and as a result we will all die physically, assuming that Jesus Christ does not return first. Like the smell of perfume opened in one part of the house eventually spreads throughout the entire house, Adam’s death passed from him throughout all of the generations of man. This is what makes the virgin birth of Jesus Christ so very important!

When Adam sinned, the plants and animals also began to die because the seed that regenerates them was attached to his fall. Like Adam’s seed it became corrupt.  Paul writes that all of creation was subjected to futility (Romans 8:20-21).  Every member of Adam’s fallen race is born physically alive but spiritually dead. Every animal and plant will die because they have all been regenerated with fallen corrupt seed.

For all sinned.  All sinned when Adam sinned. I was born a chip off the old Adamic block. I did not become a sinner with time and evil influence.

For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God means that I sinned and died in Adam and that sin passed down to me and through me on to my children and grandchildren.  Jesus was speaking to a wanna-be disciple who desired to follow Him but asked first to go home and take care of his family responsibilities. Jesus must have stunned him with these scorching words, “Follow Me and let the dead bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:22; Luke 9:60). How do dead people bury dead people?  He was obviously speaking of spiritual death.  I am not a sinner because I sinned. I was not innocent before God until I sinned. I was born guilty before God and separated from Him.  I sin because I am a sinner. The implications of this truth are extremely important.  If I was simply influenced by Adam’s sin then I have the power within myself upon hearing the gospel to scurry to the cross work of Jesus Christ and find life.  However, if I was born dead in Adam then God had to bring the gospel of grace to me and then give me the ability to understand it and the faith to believe in Christ and receive life.  Lazarus remained dead until he heard a familiar voice calling his name and so it is with all men.

For more on this subject, read our article “The Fall of Man.”

Why Another Blog?

October 20,2008

I went to a pastor’s meeting recently and overheard two brothers questioning their call to the ministry. They were wondering aloud why in the world they did not pursue a different educational path that would have given them something to “fall back on.”  This obviously caught my attention and I settled in to listen more carefully.  Both men were obviously discouraged about the ministries that God had placed them in.  They were just not sufficiently motivated to stay the course.

In my mind the call of God to preach His word is the highest calling a human being can have. However, it is hard for some to stay motivated amid all the possible pitfalls in ministry – the money that does not come in to pay the bills, church leaders that feel it is their obligation to stand against everything the pastor suggests,  disgruntled church members that think it necessary to keep something negative stirred up all the time, not to mention the personal family pressures.

My mind went back to my own reasons for hanging tough through the years. How had I been motivated to stay the course through it all?  That thought always draws be back to the amazing glimpse of grace that I received in 1989 during a morning walk.  God used it to change the entire course of my ministry.  I was going through a particularly rough time in the congregation similar to those mentioned above.  I was looking to God for answers and pondering some passages that I had recently studied.

Centuries ago Paul was facing the same opposition for preaching the gospel that I was facing. He found that he had to defend himself before the very people who should have trusted him totally. I identified with that! Some even accused him of using the gospel to serve his own selfish desires. However quitting was never an option. Paul said that we are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed. We are perplexed but not in despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

What enabled Paul to persevere in the face of such suffering?  He thought back to the day of His own dramatic Damascus Road conversion when he met Jesus Christ face to face.  From that day on his ministry was to advance the cause of Jesus Christ, not his own.  Then he gave one of his famous conclusions marked by the word “therefore.”

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 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.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

I am painfully aware that my outward man is perishing. My body is growing older and wearing out!  I do not have all the time in the world to finish the purpose that God has for me.  Paul went further! We are not to lose heart because the spiritual man inside is being renewed day by day.  This is a comforting thought! The Holy Spirit constantly renews our mind and is steadily conforming us to the image of Christ.  What an encouragement! But how is this possible?

Paul made this amazing contrast. He said that our momentary light affliction is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.  My problem with the congregation didn’t feel light at the time, but when compared to the eternal glory that awaited me it was.  Seeing Christ face to face far outweighed the effects of an aging body – the suffering – the defeats – all the heartaches in this life.

What Paul said next became the motivation for my ministry.  He said that I was to look beyond the things that human eyes can see to God’s unseen world.  The things that I could see with my physical eyes were destined to pass into oblivion. The things that I could not see with my human eyes were eternal things.  God impressed upon me that I was to use my mind’s eye to see the unseen.  My thoughts went quickly to these words of Jesus Christ!  “But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear. “ My mind quickly raced on to a third passage that I had recently studied.  Paul was contrasting human wisdom with God’s wisdom. He wrote these incredible words that God etched forever into my mind.

But as it is written:  “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-13)

God’s wisdom is knowledge that cannot be seen with human eyes or heard with human ears. That sounded familiar! In fact, God’s wisdom is that which has never entered into a human mind before. That could not be the rehashed human understanding coming from the mind of man.

Paul then wrote something that has become the motivation for the “Glimpses of Grace” ministry and the day by day church ministries that God has led me to.  He said that God has revealed these hidden things to us through His Spirit. I thought of that statement for a long time. The next line reads, “What man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him?”  I cannot know the secret thoughts of another human being. Likewise, the Spirit of God alone knows the things of God. My mind began to race. The Spirit of God lives in me. He can teach me the hidden wisdom of God. The final words of the passage “comparing spiritual things with spiritual” intrigued me. What Paul is saying is that the Holy Spirit compares spiritual words with spiritual thoughts.

As I study the living words of the Bible verse by verse and line upon line, God the Holy Spirit teaches my human spirit the things freely given to us by God. That is absolutely incredible. I – we, can know the mind of God!

Another fact is that these glimpses of God’s wisdom cannot be found by looking for them. God opens them to me at His pleasure as I study the Bible word after word and line by line. He has not taught me everything that I desire to know about any one subject but has given me small insights into His plan. These insights placed together began to open God’s awesome plan for His creation. God has opened to me His incredible salvation plan, the true identity of Jesus Christ, the immense value of His death and resurrection, and the nature and purpose of the Holy Spirit, to name but a few.

These are the things that no human ear has ever heard nor human eyes have seen and the things that have never entered into the thinking of man. These are glimpses of grace.

It is my goal through this blog to share glimpses of God’s grace that He is teaching me.