Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

The Cosmic Value of Suffering

The Cosmic Value of Suffering | BaptismForLife.wordpress.comOne of the most perplexing questions we can ponder is, “Why does God allow us to experience so much pain and suffering in the church?” We all know someone in the churches of God who is really going through an agonizing health trial. Some are relatively short term trials, but others go back decades, and have caused years of intense pain and suffering. I know one man who has had Rheumatoid arthritis for 35 years, and has endured seven joint replacement operations. He is now on the strongest pain medication made, and even with that, he can barely endure it. The side effects of the meds are taking their toll too. He’s had two strokes, congestive heart failure, Chronic Obstructive Asthma, and has almost died of septic shock at least 3 times in the past two years. In spite of all of that, he’s one of the most inspiring examples of humble, unselfish service to the church I’ve ever known.

But every time I’m with him, that nagging question comes into my mind. Why him??? Why so much pain and suffering for so nice a guy?

This is one of those deep cosmic questions that men and women have been crying out in the darkness for an answer to since the time of Adam. Only the One who created the Cosmos has an answer that provides any comfort at all.

The Suffering Body

We all were advised to “count the cost” Luke 14:28, as we considered baptism into the Body of Christ. In Romans 8, we’re told what it costs to become glorified with Christ. … what it takes to join with Him in the family of God. Here, we find the Greek word sumpascho translated as “suffer with”. It refers to an intimate sharing within a Body made up of the called out ones (the ekklesia, the church). The next verses indicate that the reward for doing this will be well worth it.

and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. (Rom. 8:17-23)

So, we “suffer together, with Him” and with each other. How does that happen? We don’t endure crucifixion, scourging, and crowns of thorns – – so what do we go through together that equates with this word “sumpascho” — to experience pain jointly or of the same kind.

We find a clue to the answer to that question in the only other place in the New Testament where sumpascho is used, and that is in the description of the functional Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12. This whole chapter tells us how we are to function as a unified Body. Verses 1-11 tell us the purpose and the use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the common good. Then verse 12 begins to instruct us about joining together in one unified Body devoted to the well-being of every member.

That there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. (1 Cor. 12:25-26)

“Suffer with” is this word sumpascho again, “to experience pain jointly”. Notice, it says ALL of the members suffer with the one enduring the trial. So we can begin to see at least one purpose for some of the things some of us are enduring. All of us in the Body are to learn real EMPATHY for others.

Christ’s Sympathy

The book of Job teaches us about the natural human reaction to the suffering of a fellow Christian. the way Job’s friends reacted to his trials and affliction is typical — “It’s God’s punishment for something YOU did wrong, Job.” But God didn’t see it their way, and neither did Jesus agree with His disciples when they made a similar statement.

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. (John 9:1-3)

How might the “works of God” be made manifest among us today?

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (Heb. 4:12-13)

This is how personal Christ wants our lives “IN HIM” to be … everything about us, completely open and honest … nothing withheld, and … KNOW HIM intimately as we walk through life at His side, with His words to guide us.

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:14-16)

Jesus  went above and beyond the call of duty to show Himself as a sympathetic companion to us in life. The word “sympathize” here is another sum- word. We covered sumpascho (to suffer together with, to experience pain jointly), and here we have sumpatheo (to commiserate with, have compassion, to be touched with our feelings).

When we “come boldly to the throne of grace” God learns a lot about us … what our prayers are focused on, how much “like His Son” we are becoming”, and how much empathy we have for our suffering brethren who are enduring unimaginable trials. In the pain and suffering in today’s Body of Christ, you and I can learn from the example of Christ Himself to FEEL and EXPRESS sumpatheo, as He so often did during His encounters with people who were dealing with serious illness.

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Prayer warriors? you might be a nerve cell | BaptismForLife.wordpress.com

The NERVE!

I’m sure you’ve all heard this exclamation uttered in indignation by someone who was offended by the behavior of someone they expected to perform in a better manner … “The NERVE of some people!”

Well, I’d like to make today’s post a tribute to the nerve cells in the Body of Christ, as we continue this series of posts based on the book “In His Image” by Dr. Paul Brand. If you could be any type of cell in the Body of Christ, what type of cell would YOU be? If you consider yourself a “prayer warrior” in His Body, you might just be a nerve cell.

Messenger Cells

Nerve Cells

Nerve Cells!  Did you know that the longest single cell in the human body is about 4 feet long? It’s a nerve cell that runs up the entire length of the leg from the big toe, and it’s as thin as a human hair. When there’s a need in any of the cells down there in the foot, that nerve sends an instant message about what’s needed to the brain via other spinal nerves. In fact, when there is pain, or a need anywhere in the Body, it is the nerves that transmit impulses to let the brain know.

Just a quick look at Ephesians 1:22 and Colossians 1:18 should serve to inform us Who it is who serves as Head of the Body — “the brains of the outfit” so to speak — that directs all of the functions of the Body, voluntary or involuntary. Christ is all the brain the Body needs! None of us have a “better idea” how to run the Body. The job “brain cell” is not open in His Body. Some may look at all of the division and dysfunction in today’s church and think “the Head” doesn’t have a clue what’s going on in the Body. On the contrary, He knows ALL – and is using the suffering caused in the Body by such things to evaluate every cell.

And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. (Col. 1:18)

What happens with you and I when we receive new prayer requests each week? When we receive an emergency prayer request, as we often do, don’t we immediately send a message to the brain in the Body of Christ? “Our heavenly Father,” we pray, “please send your healing power from the Head of all things to the church to our brother or sister who is in trouble.”

Prayer Warriors

How good a job am I doing as a nerve cell in the Body of Christ? The Christ of compassion hears our heartfelt emotionally driven prayers on the behalf of His people.

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

We can also act as nerve cells on our own behalf. Let’s turn to the example of Hezekiah in and look at what moved God to answer his emotive prayer.

In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’”

Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the Lord, and said, “Remember now, O Lord, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what is good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

And the word of the Lord came to Isaiah, saying, “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will add to your days fifteen years.” (Is. 38:1-5)

For one more example, let’s also look at the book of Daniel.

Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land. O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of the unfaithfulness which they have committed against You. (Dan. 9:3-7)

Prayer warriors? you might be a nerve cell  | BaptismForLife.wordpress.comIt’s evident from the wording here that Daniel viewed himself as a small part of a larger Body. Here, he was acting as a nerve cell on behalf of both his nation and his Church! The nation of Israel was in ruins — divided, dysfunctional, in captivity in Babylon, failed by its leaders — and Daniel was grieved because of that. Look at the emotion he puts into this prayer.

Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord’s sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate. O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”

Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God, yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand. At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision (Dan. 9:17-23)

How’s that for an answer? Oh that we could be given the skill to fully understand what’s going on in our churches and our nation today and why both are so dysfunctional!

So, whad’ya say? Are YOU a nerve cell?

Do you see another cell or two (or three) in the Body that need you to send a compassionate message to the brain?

Do you see problems that are causing damage to the Body as a whole, and you feel the need to convey your alarm about that to the head?

If you’re a messenger, one who spends a lot of time in prayer, a “prayer warrior”, then you may just be a nerve cell in the Body of Christ.

Our Metamorphosis

After missing a post or two because of the death of a close friend, I’d like to resume a series of posts (loosely) based on a fine book called “In His Image” by Dr. Paul Brand with the whole process of life, and death, in mind.

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die (Ecc. 3:1-2)

Ecclesiastes 3 says there is a time for everything, including times to be born and to die. To help facilitate the divine plan for mankind, even The Word was required to go through the full life-process as a human being. For Him as well, there was “a time to be born” as “the One Sent” who provided an exact pattern to show us how we can be changed to His image. He had a time to live to show us how to live — to teach us how to submit to the will of both He and His Father.

There was also for Him “a time to die” and spend 3 days and 3 nights in the grave, and then there was a time of resurrection when His physical body was changed into a glorious Spirit body again. His experience in the flesh taught Him EVERYTHING about what it is to be human. He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). He also “learned obedience by the things which He suffered” in the flesh (Heb 5:8).

During His physical life, “The One Sent” showed and told us what is expected of us in our physical lives, how to relate to our Father in heaven, how to communicate with Him, and how to use His example to arrive at real life. If we follow this template, Romans 8:16-19 tells us exactly what the future holds.

The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. (Rom. 8:16-19)

Our Metamorphosis | BaptismForLife.wordpress.comWhen we take the Great Baptist Jesus Christ up on His promise to “baptize with the Holy Spirit” (click here to review the “Baptism For Life” posts), He plants the “earnest of the Spirit” (2 Cor. 1:22) within us. It’s like a little bit of God’s own DNA, and we spend the rest of our lives going through a process of spiritual “DNA replacement,” growing little by little “from GLORY to GLORY” in a Biblical/spiritual metamorphosis from the old man to the new.

When we then die, we become like a chrysalis – – resting, waiting to burst forth into a glorious new life! For all of our remaining years after conversion, we are like a voracious feeding caterpillar devouring God’s word and “growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18).

In our “caterpillar stage,” we should be “working out our own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12) — living as though our actions have eternal consequences. Studying the word and living it so that when we die and come to that “chrysalis stage” of life, we are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,” as it says in Ephesisans 1:13.
And when God seals a promise, there is no force in earth or heaven that can stop it!

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. (Psa. 116:15)

This verse from the Psalms gives us an assurance about good men and women who live their lives well. Those in the “chrysalis stage” awaiting their transformation into a spiritual “butterfly” are precious to God. And so, the death of a close friend who has “fought the good fight … finished the race … and kept the faith” as Paul said he’d done in 2 Timothy 4:7 serves as an inspiration to re-commit ourselves to the REAL goal of life — being re-created in God’s image.

Christ In YOUR Image

Christ In Your Image BaptismForLife.wordpress.comLast week, we began a series of posts, based on a book by Dr. Paul Brand, and Philip Yancey entitled “In His Image”. In that post, we talked about our ability to properly ‘discern’ the Body of Christ. When you and I think of the concept of what we are, and being transformed into that type of magnificent being “from glory to glory,” there is a disconnect for many of us because we feel so ‘ordinary.’ In the society around us — so driven by media hype, and adoration of those few “beautiful people” at the top — most of us feel very ‘inferior’ to those chosen few, selected from the gene pool of humanity for fame, beauty, and fortune.

Yet the entire plan of God for mankind does not focus on that top rung of human society. Rather, the “One Sent” as the representative of the Godhead to mankind purposely aimed His entire ministry at the oppressed “inferiors” of the human realm, and NOT at the rich, or famous, or powerful, or beautiful.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. (Isa. 61:1-3)

We might think that that, in itself, is a magnanimous thing for so great a being to do … to invest His time and effort in a ministry aimed at comforting the poor, oppressed and depressed dregs of humanity down here, but what speaks to us even more loudly than His preaching is that to better serve us, He became one of us.

But made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Phil. 2:7-8)

So He purposefully divested Himself of the very things human beings so earnestly covet; fame, fortune, power, glory, honor, pride, and beauty, to become … an ordinary man.

Since you and I ARE human, and we think of Him as a “perfect” being, we can still fall into the trap of thinking that He gave Himself some physical advantage, as well as the perfection of the Spirit we know He had, but there is no indication of that in the descriptions we’re given.

For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. (Isa. 53:2)

The Hebrew word for “form”  is to-ar (H8389), a masculine noun meaning form, appearance, beauty. It refers to the contours, and outward form of something. The word “comeliness” is hadar (H1926 hadar), and it means glory, splendor, majesty. Elsewhere, it is used to describe the impressive character of God, and His magnificent beauty. Christ’s human physical body did NOT have any of that to attract people to Him.  In fact, because He was “nothing special” physically, it was easy for human beings to “despise and reject Him”, and He was more fully able to identify with the human condition because of this.   He knew the sorrow and grief of being ostracized, ignored, and mocked, as “unimportant” and even “ugly” people often are.   “He bore OUR griefs, and carried OUR sorrows” vs. 4.

If you or I could choose any ‘form’ we wanted to as a human man or woman, what would it be? Well, this great Being — the greatest spiritual man to ever live in a physical body — chose to live that life in an ordinary, unimpressive body specifically so that He could truly identify with the ‘least’ of us.

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:14-16)

This being came to earth in a lowly form … in OUR IMAGE … so that He could identify with the real human condition of you and I.  The magnificent Word, the Son of God, the One Sent, the King of Kings,  literally chose to “walk a mile in YOUR shoes”, so the He could more intimately know YOU, and serve your needs!

Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (Heb. 5:7-9)

In every case, Christ identified with the lowly in life — healing the paralytic, the blind, the demon-possessed, and the infirm masses. In parables, He held up Lazerus against the rich man and the grief-stricken, repentant tax collector against the self-glorified Publican. Always, “the least of these” are the ones He identifies with as “My brethren.”

However “unworthy” we might consider ourselves — and we ARE all unworthy of Him — He has made every effort to fully identify with us in the human condition, taking physical form in our unimpressive likeness, so that we could identify more fully with Him and come to believe in the “impossible” prospect that we “ordinary people” could really be created IN HIS IMAGE.

 

In His Image

I’d like to do something in today’s blog post that I’ve never done before – to recommend a book entitled “In His Image” by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey. As a Christian, I’m always seeking a better understanding of my God, His Christ, and the Body that they have called me to be a part of. In fact, discerning the “Body of Christ” is critical to our remaining a healthy part of that Body as we mature in the faith which was once delivered.

His Body

So let’s start out in the scriptures with 1 Cor 11:23-32. We always read this on the Passover, and if we’re not careful, we can stick it back up on the Passover shelf until next year and just forget about it …(read- vs. 29)

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. (1 Cor. 11:23-29)

Just what are we to be discerning about the Lord’s Body, and how are we to discern it? Is there a pattern that we can use to examine the Lord’s Body? Can we look at this as a daily, ongoing spiritual exam, like a doctor examining a patient as we look not only at the Body of Christ as a whole, but at our own contributions to the healthy operation of the Body. Why is this lack of RIGHT discernment cited as the cause of what we see in vs. 30?

For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. (1 Cor. 11:30-32)

In light of all the illness, heavy trials, and untimely deaths in all of the churches of God today, maybe we should take a long hard look at ourselves and how we regard the Lord’s Body, as it is presented in the scriptures. We ARE, after all, being created “in His image and in His likeness”, and though we are dwelling in these temporary physical bodies now, as called out ones, we are being re-created in His spiritual image and likeness. As a means to facilitate that re-creation, we have been placed in a spiritual BODY as well. There ARE many bodily processes and functions we can learn from as we go through this life-long transition.

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:12-13)

Learning In The Body

How much of what we experience in life as members of His Body does He vicariously experience because He is the Head of His Body, and ‘lives in us’? Is His Body ‘still suffering’ in us? (in our flesh, so to speak), when we are going through our own baptisms of fire (fiery trials)? Could Jesus Christ still be doing, through His Body (the church) what He did in His own human body while He lived in it?

though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. (Heb. 5:8)

Is Christ still learning, as He lives in us while we learn obedience by the things which we suffer? This goes to the heart of what it means to become a part of the Body of Christ.

That there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. (1 Cor 12:25-26)

Remember we referred to vs. 13 earlier. Now, notice in vs. 25 and 26 how intimate a thing we share, not only with Christ, but with each other. The word for “suffer with” is the Greek word, sumpascho (G4841), which means to experience pain jointly.

 In His Image, baptismforlife.wordpress.comI now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church (Col. 1:2)

This attitude evidenced in Paul was one of a literal slave to his Master. He was willing to suffer anything for the sake of Jesus Christ’s body, “which is the church.” What does it mean here when it says ‘that which is “lacking”? how could there be anything ‘lacking’ in  in the afflictions of Christ?

Just let me ask this question: Did Christ’s experience in his human body teach Him about the full spectrum of human experience? Did He experience life as a paraplegic, as a blind man, as a couple raising an autistic child, as a single mother of 7, as a man stricken with cancer, or any of a host of ailments, trials, and maladies we see today in the church?

And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Eph. 1:22-23)

This speaks of Christ as the Head of the Body … a position and responsibility given to Him by God the Father. Why did the God of all wisdom place Christ in such a position? In the human body, nerve impulses travel from literally every part of the body to the brain, which regulates bodily functions to supply every need for every cell in the body.

The author of “In His Image” views himself as a single cell in the Body of Christ, and based on a lifetime of medical experience, shares some very valuable insights that we can profit from as fellow members of the Body. I’ll be sharing more details, based on the book, personal observation, and the scriptures in my next few blog posts. Thanks for reading.