Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Rejuvenating Power of the Gospel: And brought life and immortality to light ...

"... the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus ... (has) ... brought life and immortality to light ..." (2 Timothy 1:10).

In some ways the "dark ages" is a fitting label for all those years preceding the birth of Jesus Christ. The people who lived between Eden and Calvary lived in a pretty dense fog. While they lived with a knowledge of God's great redemptive promise, they saw it only in the shadows. The watched the great sacrificial system, seeing in it some nuanced previews of God's promised reality, while still wondering just how God would punish sin while redeeming sinners.

They understood that One would come with heavenly authority to reclaim and reform what sin had polluted, but just who He would be, and how the task would be accomplished was beyond them. Peter understood their longing as generation after generation lived and died without realizing the promise. He described it in 1 Peter 1:10:

As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.

He followed that declaration about the prophets with another incredible assertion that the marvels of Messiah and the redemptive plan were "things into which angels long to look" (vs. 12). The prophets and the angels, and the people as well, kept staring longingly into the future but only saw the mists of promise. The reality of fulfillment was all too elusive.

Think of a time when you were looking forward to something. Maybe it was a long awaited vacation, or a visit from an old friend, or even attendance at a concert or other event that you had decided on long in advance. As the time drew near did your excitement and anticipation heighten? Now imagine that you had been promised this great event, but not given any details either as to the process or the date it would happen. You would have all the hope, all the excitement, all the longing as it grew and grew. But you would not know for certain that you would ever actually come to enjoy the fulfillment of the promise.

Throughout the Old Testament the people of God held onto the promise. Their prophets carefully studied each progressive layer as God unfolded His Messianic plan. And apparently the mystery was so engrossing that even the angels were captivated. The whole story of God's promised Messiah and His redemptive plan was like the best novel ever written. It was spellbinding. It grabbed your heart and your mind and just wouldn't let go. But it also was elusive to all but the last generation of Old Testament saints. Hebrews 11:39 reminds us that "all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised ..." 

Perhaps Paul was intending to remind Timothy of the privileged position he occupied as one who had at last seen the promise fulfilled. Perhaps Paul wanted Timothy to remember those who, having far less knowledge than he had, still remained steadfast and faithful. They had persevered through much worse circumstances than those confronting Timothy in Ephesus. And perhaps Paul wanted Timothy to remember that others, failing to see God act as they had hoped, gave in to their selfishness and fell into the sins of complacency and despair. Just like Timothy.

Whatever the case, Paul considers the fact that Timothy has lived to see Messiah to be a huge privilege. No longer does he have to live each day with the hope of redemption; he now possesses the undying assurance that he has been redeemed. Someday has become today, and today has become the assurance that all the tomorrows can be lived before the face of God as a loved child, fully at home and at rest.

The coming of Jesus Christ in heavenly authority and power was akin to the creation of the sun. The light broke into the darkness, and hope was fulfilled. All that God had promised he had now made real. The darkness of death would no longer dominate the spiritual landscape of humanity. Now the light of life had come, bearing witness through an empty grave that life as God intended it was now an eternal reality. Jesus turned on the heavenly spotlights, focused on himself, and Paul is shouting to Timothy that he must stop focusing on the situations that surround him and get back to being enthralled with the Savior who has saved him.

Like Timothy, we are all prone to find our identity in our circumstances. We become the challenges we face, the losses we sustain, and the heartaches we carry. But this is actually to go on living in darkness. As Christ-followers our identity is no longer shaped by the things of this world. We are new creatures, born again to eternal life. We are not our own for God has purchased us, and made us his own. Our lives are "in Christ" and in him alone will we find our true identity. And nothing is more rejuvenating than this!

Hope this helps,



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