Saturday, August 1, 2015
Have you ever seen people fold dollar bills or bills of higher denomination so that the President’s portrait or the landmark building on the reverse side metamorphoses into a mushroom or some other image? It’s just a cheap parlor trick, but it does remind us of the truth that what we see may be a distortion of what truly is.
I recently had a dream like that. In the dream, I was viewing photographs of myself from college years and beyond. A software program displayed the images on my computer screen, at first chronologically and one by one, then in kaleidoscopic collages with the individual images rapidly changing in size, position, and juxtaposition.
The flirtatious glance of the young woman seated on the bronze tiger statue at Princeton gave way to the weary, sleep-deprived, and overworked frown of the medical intern. Then the intense, longing look of new love, and the radiant, joyful smile just before the preacher said “You may now kiss the bride.” The elated grin just after delivery, snuggling our precious infant son in my arms.
Images of my face then started to blend with those of my loved ones – my husband, our son, my parents, the Pastor who baptized us once we were saved, my maid of honor whom I led to the Lord -- and it seemed that each of these faces had left their mark on my own. Still more images -- of worry over daily struggles; celebration at holidays and birthdays; grief at funerals; anticipation as our son, now a handsome young man, strode masterfully across the stage to receive his college diploma with highest honors.
With the passing years, my face began to take on the inevitable changes due to the curse of sin, sorrow, and aging traced all the way back to the rebellion of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). “Laugh lines” that aren’t so funny, and “lines of expression,” even though I know my eyes and mouth would be much more expressive without them.
And then I saw the most amazing image of all! With deft artistry, the software rapidly sorted through all the images, selecting part of a smiling lip from one photo, a twinkle in the eye from another, a few pixels here and a few pixels there, until I saw a completely different representation of “my” countenance.
It was the beautiful face of an innocent young child, yet timeless and ageless thanks to an overlay of wisdom, completion, and maturity. It radiated love, peace and joy. It was a compilation of all my best features, feelings, and experiences, blended by the Master into a unique representation of who I would one day become in Him.
I awoke from the dream longing for the glorified body (1 Corinthians 15:40-49) He has promised each of His children – those who have been saved by faith in his death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). That body will never age, feel pain or sorrow, get sick or die.
When He returns for us at the Rapture, we will be instantly changed to be like Him, and we will meet Him and one another in the air, never again to leave His radiant presence (1 Corinthians 15:51-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). Only then will we experience true and eternal joy (1 Peter 1:8), love (1 Corinthians 13:13), and peace (Philippians 4:7).
Each of us will be recognizable to one another, perhaps not through our appearance, but in some way through an amalgamation of our most positive and distinctive qualities and experiences, as in my dream. The resurrected Christ did not lose the nail prints in His hands and feet, nor His spear wound (John 20:27), for these were a permanent emblem of the sacrifice He so lovingly and completely made for us.
When Peter saw Moses and Elijah glorified with Christ at His transfiguration, he instantly knew who they were (Matthew 17:1-4), even though they had died more than hundreds of years before, and he would have no way of recognizing them except in the supernatural.
I believe that when we see our loved ones in Christ in Heaven, we will immediately recognize them even though they will no longer bear the scars of sickness and aging. Regardless of how young or old we are when we go home to Him, we will be youthful, vibrant, and radiant like the risen Christ.
I believe we will still show the distinctive features of our life story, experiences, and earthly relationships, yet transformed by our new purity of heart and absence of sin. We will be changed so much that God will give each of us a new name (Revelation 2:17). The end result may be a face that glows with innocence and His holiness, but that is ageless and timeless because it belongs to a soul transformed by God’s wisdom (Romans 12:2).
This dream also reminded me that God works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28), texturing our countenance, our lives, and our eternal being by allowing trials as well as blessings to shape us, bringing us closer to and more like Him in faith. Like a Master Sculptor seeing Michelangelo’s David in a block of marble, God sees in each of us the potential for a unique, perfect, glorious being truly reflecting His image. He created us in His image (Genesis 1:26-27), and though sin has disfigured us here on earth, one day we shall be as He is! (1 John 3:2)
Slowly and deliberately He chisels our features with the suffering He allows in our life to conform us to His image (Philippians 3:10). Gently He softens the rough edges with the Godly friends, teachers, and pastors He directs to our path (Proverbs 27:17). Faithfully He lights the fire of the Holy Spirit shining through our eyes and glowing in our faces so that we can be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14; Philippians 2:15), just as He is the One True Light (John 1:9; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46).
Until we receive our new, timeless countenance, may we let His light illuminate our faces and see others as He sees us, each with the potential to be like Him in glory!
© 2015 Laurie Collett
Saturday, July 25, 2015
A dear sister in Christ asked me a great question: Because Jesus died for my sins, and we no longer have to offer sacrifices for the forgiveness of our sins, does that mean we no longer have to live by the commandments that God gave Moses?
Jesus was the perfect, complete sacrifice. He said "It is finished" (John 19:30) because His completed, perfect work on the cross was sufficient to pay for all the sins of all mankind, past, present and future (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2). When God looks at the born-again believer (John 3:3-8), He no longer sees our sins, but the perfect righteousness of His Son (Romans 3:22,25;5:18).
Jesus Christ has forever removed us from the penalty of sin, which is death (Romans 3:25. Animal sacrifices (Numbers 15:1-13), which only temporarily covered sins and did not remove them, had to be repeated often, but His perfect sacrifice only needed to be made once (Hebrews 7:26-28; 9; 1 Peter 3:18).
So we no longer have to offer animal sacrifices -- instead, we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). We know that we cannot perfectly keep the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17; Romans 3:23), but even when we do sin, we cannot lose our salvation (Romans 8:35-39).
But Jesus expects us to refrain from sin by yielding to the Holy Spirit within us, Who cannot sin (1 John 3:9). When we do sin, breaking the commandments in thought or in deed (Matthew 5:28), as we do nearly daily by having a covetous or lustful thought, getting angry, etc., it is because the sin nature that we still have to deal with has momentarily won out over the Spirit (Romans 7:14-25).
Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15,21). He also summarized the Ten Commandments by saying "Love God (the first four commandments) and love one another" (the last six commandments; Matthew 22:36-40).
So what about all of the law that God gave Moses? To understand which laws still apply to us today, we must rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). Some of those laws were intended specifically for His chosen people at that time in Bible history, like keeping menstruating women outside the camp (Leviticus 15:19).
Many of these laws preserved the lives of His people. In an age when “physicians” in Egypt “treated” open wounds by rubbing animal dung in them, the laws God gave Moses at the same period in history contain the elements of modern day germ theory. In essence, avoid and cleanse yourself after contact with sick people, dead bodies, unclean animals, and human waste, and you’ll live longer (Leviticus 11; Exodus 15:26). Only through the Holy Spirit could Moses record these laws long before mankind even had the first clue that bacteria existed and caused disease.
Some of the laws, such as not mixing two kinds of fiber in the same garment, are never mentioned in the New Testament, and I think it's safe to assume that those are not intended for God's children in the Church Age where we are now. Other laws, such as those dealing with circumcision (Leviticus 12:3) and diet (not eating shellfish, pork, and other unclean animals; Leviticus 11) have health benefits even today, although clearly we do not need to follow these laws to be saved.
The early church argued about some of the laws, with Peter and others even insisting wrongly that Gentile Christians should be circumcised before they could be truly saved. But Paul explained that we are saved by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9) through faith alone, and the church then specifically concluded that these Jewish laws did not apply to Gentiles who were engrafted into God’s family by their faith (Romans 11:5-25; Acts 15:1-11).
Adding a practice like circumcision to God’s perfect plan of salvation through faith in the atoning sacrifice of His Son to pay for all our sins is like a slap in God’s face, for it implies that the ransom price Christ paid for us was not sufficient or complete (Romans 4:1-16).
However, other laws that God gave Moses, such as laws prohibiting homosexual acts, are repeated in the New Testament. Jesus reiterates Adam’s statement (Genesis 2:22-24) that one man and one woman unite as one flesh in the sacrament of marriage (Matthew 19:4-6), and Paul specifically states that homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:26-30).
We are saved by grace, not by works, and Jesus Christ has freed us from bondage to sin. Given our liberty in Him (Luke 4:18), are we not freed from the law? (Romans 7:4-6). When asked if we can sin freely so that God’s grace can much more abound, Paul replied, “God forbid!” (Romans 3:31; 6:1-15).
We should yield to the Holy Spirit, Who empowers us to keep the law that is still our standard of conduct, namely the Ten Commandments and any commandment repeated in the New Testament. But praise God, even when we do sin, we cannot lose our salvation, and we no longer face the penalty of sin, which is physical, spiritual, and eternal death (Romans 6:23).
Similarly, we can't earn our salvation by being "good" or by not breaking the law (Romans 3:10-12) If we are guilty of breaking even a single point in the law, whether in deed or even in thought, we are considered guilty of breaking the whole law (James 2:10-13). .Only One Person could keep the law perfectly, and that is Jesus, Who died and rose again so that we could be freed from sin and death (Hebrews 9:14-15).
We still need the law, not for salvation (Romans 3:19-21; Hebrews 7:19), but as a mirror to show us our sin and our need for a Savior (James 1:22-25). May we daily die to our “old man” – our flesh that still wants to sin – put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-13), and yield to the Holy Spirit Who cannot sin and Who will lead us in the path of righteousness!
© 2015 Laurie Collett