Friday, April 24, 2015

Mysteries of the Christian Faith


Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendation from God. 1 Corinthians 4:5

EVERYTHING about the Christian faith is a mystery. Over time we learn to think theologically and God’s wisdom begins to make sense, but there are still more questions than answers. It won’t always be this way, however. A Day is coming when all our questions will be answered, and when we will know even as we are known. (1 Cor. 13:12)

Chief among the mysteries of our faith is the Lord’s incarnation. Throughout the Old Testament the pre-incarnate Christ made many appearances. He is Melchizedek whom Abram worshipped; the Rock that led the children of Israel through the wilderness, and the fourth Man in the fiery furnace who saved Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from a fiery death. But His greatest Advent is to be found in the mystery of the incarnation when “eternal God begotten of the Father from eternity,” assumed human nature, thereby exalting humanity to the highest heavens!

It’s true that human nature has been completely compromised by sin and that there’s not a trace of spiritual health remaining to it. But that’s not to say that sin is an essential property of man, or that we are the loathsome creatures and blight to the planet that the Nature Worshipers in Copenhagen would have us believe. In spite of original sin and our many actual sins we are still God’s creations! And though mankind lost its original righteousness when Adam sinned it has been fully restored to us by Christ who is the New Adam! By His birth, death and resurrection He redeemed us, reconciled us to God, justified us, glorified us, and in every other way returned us to full sonship by faith in His name. We all want to be praised and held in high esteem -- that’s as basic to Sinful Nature as breathing -- but there can be no higher status than the one we now possess as God’s people in Christ. His birth gives us dignity and His death makes us Holy, so let us give up our trifling attempts to be important in the eyes of the world, so that we might receive the commendation of God when Jesus comes again.

Jesus is God’s Great Gift to the world, but His incarnation isn’t the only mystery. St. Paul says, “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” (1 Cor. 15:51ff) St. Paul is speaking here of the Lord’s Second Advent in which He will judge the living and the dead. The world doesn’t know what to do with such information. It writes off the Christian faith as foolish. Or, in good post-modern fashion, it declares that it’s only valid for those who believe it but affects no one else, yet the mysteries of our faith are not fairy tales, or private revelations which only have consequence for those who believe them. Instead they are theological realities that will affect every person without exception.

Equally mysterious is the fact that our Lord knows all that is now hidden and that He will reveal it on the last day. We love our privacy. We all have secrets we’ve concealed from the world, and we’re glad that others can’t read our thoughts. When Warren Buffett, the world’s richest man, was asked what his guiding business principle was he said: never do anything that you wouldn’t want to read about in tomorrow morning’s paper, but when Jesus returns all that is now hidden will be revealed. He says in Luke 12:12 “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” We don’t like to hear words like this. They make us afraid because we all have many things that we would rather not have revealed. We all judge others harshly in our minds as if we were God. Neither have we been faithful stewards with the gifts God has given us, or in the vocations He’s placed us. Whenever the Scriptures make us squirm we should know for certain that we are hearing the Law. It’s not pleasant because it exposes the thoughts and intents of our hearts, but we need to hear it so that it can lead us to repentance. Only then can we understand the Great Gift that Christ is. As we can’t justify ourselves before God, neither should we condemn ourselves according to St. Paul. Instead we should let God be our judge and not be afraid to do so, because in baptism we are dressed in Christ, and in Him we stand before God in Righteousness and Purity forever.

St. Paul says in the last part of our text that, “at that time every man will receive his commendation from God.” Does that sound confusing? It shouldn’t. As Jesus praised John the Baptist before the people for his faithful ministry, He will also commend, confess and acknowledge us eternally before His Father in heaven (Matthew 10:32). He came to share our humanity, He lived for us, died for us, rose again from the grave for us and will come back one more time to bring us to the place He’s prepared for us. These are some of the mysteries of our Christian faith that we will one day understand fully. Until that time, may they sustain us as we fight the good fight of faith, and cause us to rejoice in the Lord always. Amen.

Rev. Dean Kavouras

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