"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

Friday, February 15, 2008

Death, Vanity and Valentine's Day

I feel as though I have had so much to say, yet very little time to say it these last few months, hence my lack of blogging. But another holiday has come and gone and so I will sit down long enough to share my Valetines day thoughts.

This Valentine's day I spent alot of time thinking about death and vanity. Not because I am jaded against the Holiday. I really like Valentines day. I think any excuse to express love to those people who are special to us is good in my book. No, I have been thinking about death and vanity because I have been watching a John Piper video series, "The Blazing Center", and looking at a few of his sermons (desiringgod.com, you should really check it out!) in preparation for care groups and speaking engagements, and John Piper is really messing with my mind (in a good way, I should add). The things he has said have challenged the way I look at God, and strive to please him.

One of the video series' sessions was titled "God's Vanity" and those words sitting next to each other rub me like a toddler on an ornery old cat. They make me uncomfortable.

But John Piper points out (most of the rest of this blog is his wisdom, not mine--thanks Pastor Piper!) that many Scriptures make God sound vain. God seems to have a pretty strong desire to bring himself glory. Glory is a priority to God.

Look at this passage Piper points out,

"For my own sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you that I may not cut you off. Behold I have refined you, but not like silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another." --Isaiah 48:9–11

When we look at passages about worship, and honor and glory being brought to the Lord, It can sound vain. But is it?

Then we read passages about Jesus bringing glory to the Father, and the Father delighting in the Son. But if the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are one, isn't this vanity?

Here are some words from Piper,

"Since the Son is the image of God and the reflection of God and the stamp of God and the form of God, equal with God, and indeed IS God, therefore God's delight in the Son is delight in himself. Therefore the original, the primal, the deepest, the foundational joy of God is the joy he has in his own perfections as he sees them reflected in his Son. He loves the Son and delights in the Son and takes pleasure in the Son because the Son is God himself.
At first this sounds like vanity, and has the feel of conceitedness and smugness and selfishness about it, because that is what it would mean if any of us found our first and deepest joy by looking at ourselves in the mirror. We would be vain and conceited and smug and selfish.”

I think of it like this: If I were to have walked up to a girl on Valentine's day, and handed here a card that said,

"Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

I'm pretty awesome,

so you should date me."

the response would be less then positive. First, I used the "Roses are red" routine.....WAY over done. Second, the poem didn't rhyme. Third, it is horribly vain, and doesn't showcase love at all.

So, the question is-- how does God's pursuit of his own glory show his love to us?

I love that John Piper uses this story to help us see this. John 11:1-5 ESV

1Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3So the sisters sent to him, saying, "Lord, he whom you love is ill." 4But when Jesus heard it he said, "This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it."

5Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

I love that. If one of my buddies was on his death bed, I would be booking it home to be with him, especially if I knew I could heal him. I wonder what was going through Lazarus's mind. But because of Jesus' love, he stays so that the glory of God may be displayed.

John 11:32-44 says,

32Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34And he said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." 35 Jesus wept. 36So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" 37But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?"

38Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days." 40Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?" 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me." 43When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out." 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."

A couple things strike me about Christ's love here.

First, Jesus believes that the best way to love his friends is by allowing Lazarus' death so that he can glorify the Father through raising Lazarus back to life.

Why is it that God's love is best displayed through his glory being shown? This is because God invites us into relationship with him, and John Piper points out that the best, most loving gift he can ever give us is himself. Why? because our God is perfect! He is glorious! He can't be vain because to not recognize his perfection and call us to recognize it as well would be sinful. There is nothing greater than God. God could (and does) give us any number of gifts, but putting any of those gifts before him is idolatry. Piper points out that God must bring glory to his name because to do any less would be idolatrous.

He loves us so much that he, the creator of the universe, gives us himself in all his beautiful glory! and thats what makes the next words so significant.

Jesus Wept.

What alongside Gods glory could point out his love more?

As I prepared to speak on this passage for Valentines day, I was suprised to randomly come across a Relevantmagazine.com blog that spoke of Lazarus' story in light of Valentine's day as well. wierd.

The author, Billy Roberts says,

"When Jesus shows up on the scene, what does scripture say that He does? It doesn’t say Jesus remained firm and held His emotion in. It doesn’t say that He assured people things would be fine in the future (though He knew they would be, as things would change very shortly.) It says two simple and yet unbelievably profound words, “Jesus wept.” Two short words, but they hold greatly significant truths within them." (A Valentine's day Loss, Billy Roberts)

I find this to be of amazing sigficance because Jesus hurt with them. He knew the loss they felt. Martha and Mary expected Jesus to come and stop Lazarus from dying. There desires weren’t met. Instead they felt the emptiness of death. And, I believe whether we have experienced death or not, we have all felt the pain of emptiness and unmet desires. Empty dreams, empty relationships, empty promises. Loneliness and loss.

Roberts reminds us that Jesus is there with us in our loss. Jesus stands beside us weeping in our pain. But he also longs to bring us past that pain to something great. He shows us that he has got something so much better for us; Himself. And his glory shines. He invites us to turn away from death and towards life.

Mary got it. She saw that in giving himself and revealing God's glory, Jesus gave the greatest gift he ever could. In response, six days later during a meal, she anoints Christ's feet with nard, an expensive ointment she spent a year's wages on. Judas, who was also there didn't get it. He was focused on money (a whole flippin years wages!). He didn't see that all the money in the world couldn't buy the best gift he could ever have. And that gift was sitting right there in the room with him, defending the woman who got it.

Do we get it? Jesus weeps for our pain and longs to give us so much more. Do we realize that if we are in Christ and Christ is in us, we have the beautiful glory of God in us and on us and around us and that we couldn't possibly ever have a greater gift then to be in intimate relationship with our Creator, Lord, and King?

"Delight in the Lord, For he is good! His love endures forever!"