Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wonderful In Our Sight

For those of us who are believers in Christ, there is a deep inner sense that we desire and pray for those who are closest to us, such as neighbors, friends and family members, who are not believers in Christ to join us in our faith. Perhaps a non-believer would look at that desire and see it as a matter of "misery loves company." However, I think that our desire for others to come to faith and trust in Christ is more than simply trying to make others like us.

Christians understand that we have a treasure by being in Christ. The old Puritans would refer to this as "union with Christ." There is in that relationship to Christ a delightfulness which we want to share with others. While there have been exceptions, the primary motive for a Christian to evangelize is not one of creating conformity, seeking dominance or being a kill joy. It has been to show others the utter delightfulness of life in Christ and to share that with others.

This delightfulness is not some sort of spiritual replacement for a drug high. It is not living a problem-free life (Often, when one comes to faith in Christ, some problems end but many new ones begin). This delightfulness is knowing, more, better and deeper, who Christ is. It means a deeper sense of joy that is not always the same as earthly happiness. A believer in Christ can stand by the graveside of a dead spouse or child and, in the midst of very real grief, continue to possess a deep sense of joy and delight in Christ, who sees us through all the circumstances of life.

It is not uncommon to face insult or rebuke for speaking about Christ to others. On some occasions, such insults or rebukes might be justified. Someone might be personally offensive in their presentation. Instead, we must be diplomatic and allow the message (not the messenger) of Gospel to be the expected source of offense. The Good News of salvation in Christ makes no sense if the bad news is not given too. Each of us has sinned and eternally offended the God who has created us. If we don't have a way of standing without sin and fault before God, we face eternal separation from Him. What's worse is that even if we could live a sinless life starting today, the sin of our past has already disqualified us. We need help. The Good News is that Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead to pay that penalty for every person who trusts & relies on Him. His perfect life is offered to us. Simply believe.

When this offer of the Gospel is presented, it might be met with rebukes or insults. We may be tempted to take this personally. However, words of rebuke or insult do not change what is. Christ is just as marvelous if He is rejected by one as well as being accepted by another.

Let me offer two comparisons. First, let me take Christ's parable of the pearl of great price and tweak it slightly. Let's say that you have acquired not a pearl but a diamond. You have heard about this diamond and have beheld its brilliance. The way that it refracts the light is a delight to behold. You begin to share accounts of this wonderful diamond with others. They begin to insult you or make comments about how they've never seen such a thing. Others might deny that a diamond can be so wonderful to look at. After all that, is the diamond less beautiful and delightful because others fail to appreciate it? Hardly. The diamond remains. Its' delightfulness to you remains.

A second comparison is taken from the life of the Italian astronomer and mathematician Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642). While Galileo is not considered the inventor of the telescope, he is the first known person in history to make observations of the night sky using one. In January 1610, Galileo looked into the night sky and saw wonders no human eye is ever known to have seen before him. He saw the planet Venus go through phases like the Moon does. While his telescope was not powerful enough to make out the detail, he saw what appeared to be bumps on the sides of the planet Saturn (the bumps were really Saturn's rings).

One of those wonders which he was the first to behold was the motion of four moons around the planet Jupiter. See the picture above to get a sense of what Galileo saw. At first, he thought these four objects were simply dim stars. But as he watched night after night, he observed that these "stars" actually moved. He understood that these four objects were small moons in orbit around Jupiter.

Galileo's problem is that he was seeing things which were not supposed to be happening. The Roman Catholic Church of the time had bought into the philosophy of Aristotle. According to that odd mixture of Bible and ancient philosophy, the Earth was the centerpiece of God's creation and thus, quite literally, at the center of the Universe. All things out there were supposed to be revolving around the Earth. However, Galileo discovered exceptions that, according to the Catholic theologians in the land that he lived in in that time, could not exist.

As Galileo began to make known his findings, he ran into trouble with Roman Catholic Church authorities. He pleaded with them to look through his telescope to see these wonders too. They refused. According to them, because (as they reasoned), those things should not be there, they could not be there.

I leave this as the principle behind the second comparison. When we have beheld the glories of God in Christ by faith and seen the wonder of who He is, we often face from others what Galileo faced from the Roman Catholic Church of his time. Because something does not fit a set of pre-conceived notions, whatever seems to contradict those views cannot be there. Those who do not believe follow such a line of "reasoning." They refuse to look at these things.

In Galileo's time, the moons of Jupiters did not stop orbiting Jupiter simply because the Pope and the Cardinals of the Catholic Church refused to believe or to look at the evidence. Every uncloudy night, the evidence was there. In the same way, those who refuse to behold the wonders of Christ don't make Christ go away because they refuse to look and consider. We have these wonders in Christ that no one can take away. At those times when you are discouraged, keep this is in mind and take it to heart.

I'll close with a prayer which Galileo wrote after viewing what he did in the night sky. He was the first to behold the wonders of the night sky in such detail. We too might be the first of our family and friends to behold the wonders of Christ.

"I render infinite thanks to God for being so kind as to make me alone the first observer of marvels kept hidden in obscurity for all previous centuries."