Wednesday, January 30, 2008

From the Heights to the Depths

In the month of February we will see the heights of glory in the Transfiguration and the depths with our observance of Ash Wednesday, the Temptation of Jesus, and the season of Lent. It’s popular in America today to minimize talk of suffering in the Christian life. Prosperity and good feelings about yourself are the standards for what it means to be a Christian and what it means for God to bless you.

It’s no wonder, then, that things like Ash Wednesday and Lent, somber reflection on our sinfulness and the need for repentance, aren’t all that popular. In fact, there are Christians who might even believe that it goes against the Bible. We are forgiven, aren’t we? We are a new creation, aren’t we? Jesus died, yes, but He also rose.

It’s commendable, of course, to make clear these things. We shouldn’t be moping around when we are in fact a new creation. It is indeed true that our sins have been forgiven. So why the need for going from the heights—the glory of Christ shown in His Transfiguration—to the depths—talk of being dust and ashes, utterly corrupt, and in need of mercy? Why not a more positive message of feeling good, of having a life in which we’re prosperous?

We shouldn’t confuse the depths with misery. We shouldn’t think that God wants us or calls us to be down or somber. What we need to see is that our life in Christ is exactly that—life in Christ. It is not one in which the barometer is how we feel or how well things are going for us or even what the world thinks of us. Our life in Christ means that we are wrapped up in Him—His life.

Christ Himself went from the heights to the depths. His Ministry began with a triumphant display of God’s power and grace in His Baptism. But what immediately followed was going to the depths: He was sent out into the wilderness (by God) to be tempted by Satan. Jesus certainly could have come to earth and carried out a prosperous reign as He is the King of Kings. But He chose the path of suffering.

On the Mount of Transfiguration He once again displayed His glory. But the Transfiguration wasn’t really about the glorious display of power but about once again going down to the depths. It was soon after He made His way down the mountain that He set His face toward the place where He would suffer and die.

So what does this mean? It means that we ought to be careful about how we view the circumstances of our lives. When we’re in the depths, does it mean that God has deserted us? Is God blessing us only if things are going well, we’re feeling good about life, we are prospering?

No, rather it means that what God has called us to is not necessarily what it seems. New life, forgiveness of sins, eternal salvation, don’t necessarily mean an easy ride in this life. His eternal blessings to us don’t necessarily mean we’ll prosper and always feel on top of the world. It does mean, though, that whether you’re at the heights or in the depths that He’s with you. “If I ascend to heaven, You are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there!” [Psalm 139:8] Whatever you’re going through, He’s there with you because He’s already been there. He has gone to the cross. He has emerged from the empty tomb. The depths you find yourself in do not compare with the heights of eternal glory in heaven that He has already prepared for you.

1 comment:

Peter said...

Wonderful, simply wonderful. Thanks for this powerful word!