To the Praise of His Glorious Grace (Eph. 1:3-14) Part 3 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 11 October 2017

This was at the center of the Reformation, the 500th Anniversary of which we are celebrating this year. One of the slogans of the Reformation was Soli Deo Gloria—to God alone be glory. As our church is celebrating our 23rd Anniversary, we want to renew our commitment to this central idea in Christianity. That’s exactly what it means when we say, “It’s not about me; it’s about Christ.” If we can live by this, our life will be profoundly changed for the better and we will have a great insight into what God is doing in our life.  

 

But Soli Deo Gloria is not only right; it is also good that the focus and purpose of our life should be God-centered. If I desire that we should never forget this truth as individuals and as a church, it is because it is right for God and good for us. You see,God’s glory has many aspects and dimensions. God’s glory can be shown in a demonstration of His almighty power. Think about God’s glory shown in creation. What greater demonstration of omnipotence is there than the work of making all things out of nothing? How awesome it must have been when the Lord said, "Let there be light!" and the light burst out of the primordial darkness and shone with its blinding brilliance for the first time! What words can describe the wonder of the stars and galaxies explode into the dark, empty spaces of the universe! What a wondrous experience it must have been to watch the cataclysmic events of waters dividing, the continents breaking through the waters with roaring thunders, the ocean waters sinking to the deep in a great rush! What a sight it must have been when all kinds of creatures were being brought into existence in all of their abundant variety and exquisite beauty, in the sky and sea and land! How can we not sing, "How great Thou art!" when we in awesome wonder consider all the worlds His hands have made, when we see the stars, when we hear the rolling thunder, when we behold His power throughout the universe displayed!

To the Praise of His Glorious Grace (Eph. 1:3-14) Part 2 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 11 October 2017

When you think about it, this should be the most obvious thing. After all, long before He brought us into existence, He was, from all eternity. That which was created cannot be more important than the One who created it. What is created exists for the One who created it, not the other way around. The first chapter of the Bible affirms that God created the world for His glory and pleasure: “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). This is true especially of man, who is made in God’s own image—as we delight in our children, who are made in our image (Gen. 5:1). So, our life should be about God, not about us. Add to this the fact that God is morally obligated to seek His glory above all else because He is the Ultimate and Absolute Good.

 

I dare say that, if we can truly apply this simple truth, most of our problems with God and the questions we have about His ways will go away. Of course, God is God and finite beings like us can never fully understand an infinite God that He is. But our life will not be characterized by confusion and doubt.

 

 

Why do we live our Christian life with so much confusion and doubt, anyway? It’s because our mind and heart are not properly focused. We live in God’s world. He is the center of the universe and everything is designed to revolve around Him! Many people reject that view. Some really believe that they are divine. To believe that, their definition of “divine” has to be quite narrow: it cannot include things like omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence as well as eternity, aseity (self-existent), simplicity (the quality of not being divisible in any way), etc. Many claim that they can do whatever they put their mind to and create their own destiny. And they present their own transformation and success as evidences. But is it true that they can create their own destiny and make things happen simply by willing and applying themselves? They might have tapped into the physical and moral principles, upon which God built this world, and thus are able to accomplish a great deal. But that is a far cry from possessing infinite potential to do whatever they so desire! When they make such horrendous claims, “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision” (Ps. 2:4). He says, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you…”(Luke 12:20). Then what happens to all their bold, grandiose claims?

To the Praise of His Glorious Grace (Eph. 1:3-14) Part 1 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 11 October 2017

In this short passage, Paul says a lot about God, especially what He has done for our glorious redemption. But what is one unmistakable message conveyed throughout this whole passage? That, from before the foundation of the world to all eternity, God’s work of redemption is “in Christ.” But there is another message that is equally unmistakable: God does all things to the praise of His glory.

 

A long list of God’s goals mentioned in this passage can be divided into two categories: secondary and primary. His secondary goals are: choosing us that we should be holy and blameless before Him (v. 4); predestining us to adoption as sons (v. 5); summing up all things in Christ (v. 10); working out all things after the counsel of His will (v. 12); sealing us in Christ with the Holy Spirit and redeeming us as His possession/people (v. 14).

 

 

God accomplishes all these secondary goals for His primary goal: to the praise of His glory. You can’t miss it: “he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (vv. 5-6); “In [Christ] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory” (vv. 11-12); “In [Christ] you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (vv. 13-14).

But You Are...! (1 Pet. 2:9) Part 5 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 29 September 2017

We are God’s, not simply by virtue of His creation but also by virtue of His redemption. We are marked not merely by the fingerprint of the Creator but by the blood flowing from the nail-pierced hands of the Redeemer. Of us God says, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…” (Isa. 49:15-16). He cares for us as the very apple of His eye (Deut. 32:10). If God so cares for us, what should we fear?

 

 

As much as God loves and cares for us, let’s not ever forget that we are His. Though He deeply loves us, He does not exist for us; we exist for Him. He is our Maker, our Master, our Owner. It was He, who made us for His glory and pleasure. If we think of ourselves as God’s special possession, His holy nation, His royal priesthood, His chosen race, it will bring about the most radical change in our life and much needed clarity and focus into our life. At the end of the day, our success will be measured, not by how much we make of ourselves but how much we make of God—like a telescope that is there to magnify the heavenly bodies.

But You Are...! (1 Pet. 2:9) Part 4 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 27 September 2017

But now, all Christians, even the least of them, are part of “a royal priesthood.” Even at Peter’s time, many Christians were Gentiles according to the flesh. As such, they were not allowed to come into the temple proper: they could come only as far as the Court of the Gentiles. Now, in Jesus Christ, Gentile Christians have what an ordinary Jew could never hope to be—not even all the kings of Israel, including David! How can this come about?

You see, Israel was a holy nation in the sense that it was set apart from the world to God through the Sinaic Covenant. But it never became a holy nation in the sense that it was a kingdom of priests. It could never be as long as it remained under the Sinaic Covenant. For it was the Sinaic Covenant, which set the priests aside as a separate class. Unless one was born into the line of Aaron, he could never be a priest. In order for Israel to be a kingdom of priests, it had to be under a new, different covenant—the kind of covenant which made all of God’s people priests!

This is precisely what Jesus has done through the new covenant. Because Jesus offered Himself as the once-for-all sacrifice for all our sins, the animal sacrifices became unnecessary. This rendered the temple and the priestly office unnecessary as well. This new situation called for a radically different kind of worship and reorganization of God’s people—a worship without animal sacrifices, without the priests to offer up the sacrifices, and without the temple where the sacrifices were made.

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