To Those Who Love God, Part Two
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, June 20, 1999
Copyright © 1999, P. G. Mathew
The Father's Grand Purpose
We are continuing our study of Romans 8:28-30, which speaks of God's purpose for those who love him. God the Father has a great and grand purpose to create a family consisting of an elder brother and many younger brothers. The elder brother, who is God's Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, and the younger brothers, who are the church, are to be like him. In other words, God is creating a community of redeemed people who will bear the likeness of the man from heaven, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Paul spoke of this family of redeemed ones when he wrote in Ephesians 3:14-15, "For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and earth derives its name." This family is under one Father, God, who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It includes all those who have gone before us, those who are still on earth, and those yet to be born who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.
The Bible tells us that we who are younger brothers of our Lord Jesus Christ will be made like him and will share in his glory. That is God's great, grand purpose. So we read in Romans 8:17, "Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings, in order that we may also share in his glory."
What is God's ultimate purpose of creating this family of the redeemed? That we may honor forever our older brother, Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, and give him supremacy and preeminence in all things. We began to fulfill that purpose when, by the grace of God, we were enabled to confess "Jesus is Lord" and started to live under his lordship.
Additionally, God the Father wants to bring us to glory in Jesus Christ. We read about this in Romans 9:23, "What if [God] did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy whom he prepared in advance to glory?" and in Hebrews 2:10, "In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering." The purpose of the cross, the purpose of Christ's suffering, was to create a community out of wretched human beings who will one day fully reflect the glory of Jesus Christ and share in it. God has a plan to prosper us--a good plan.
As a father, I ask you who are fathers, and also those who are mothers: What is your purpose for your family, especially your children? What are we seeking for our children--that they become athletes, or rich or famous? Or are we promoting God's plan? If we examine ourselves, I think we would discover that our purpose for our children is not always God's purpose.
Oh, that we would align ourselves with our heavenly Father's intention and promote his glorious purpose in our children! Why? So that they can become part of this redeemed community of younger brothers who share in the glory of Christ and honor him forever and ever.
If we who are parents are not promoting God's plan for our children, we must confess our sin and change. My prayer is that the Spirit of the living God will open our eyes to see God's high plan and that we will purpose to promote it in each of our families. May our great hope and prayer be to see each child saved and made glorious, that he or she will reflect God's glory as a part of his family.
In All Things
In Romans 8:28 we read, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him." In the Greek we read, "We know to those who love him God works all things together for good." What is the "good" Paul is referring to? It is this purpose of God to bring us to glory.
We must realize that this promise is not for everyone. If you do not love God, then you have no part in his good purpose. In Romans 9:22 Paul clearly states what is going to happen to such people: "What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath--prepared to destruction?" Those who do not love God will be destroyed. God's promise is limited to those who love God.
When Bad Things Happen to God's People
Let us, then, examine this phrase, "in all things." In context it means that not only are the good things happening to us for our good, but also and especially the bad things. In all things God works for good.
In Romans 8:17 Paul writes, "Now if we are children," meaning children of God, "then we are heirs--heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. . . ." Jesus Christ took all our liabilities and now all his assets belong to us. Paul continues, "if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." In other words, we are called first to sufferings and then to glory. First, the cross; then, the crown of life.
In Romans 8:18 Paul writes, "I consider," meaning he carefully evaluated and understood the situation. What was it? ". . . that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Here again Paul was speaking about sufferings. So when we speak about "all things," we especially mean the terrible things, the things that baffle us, the evil things that happen to us. These are the things God will work for good in our lives.
In 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 Paul gave a catalog of some of the bad things that happened to him as an apostle, and which can happen to any Christian:
Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.
In Romans 8, beginning with verse 35 we find another catalog of bad things which can happen to Christians. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" Paul asks, and the expected answer is "Nothing! No one!" Why? Because the grip of God's everlasting and unfailing love is so strong that nothing--no bad thing--can separate us from the love of Christ. Paul continues,
Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
If we are Christians, God will work everything that happens to us, whether good or bad, to our good. If we love God, every bad thing, every evil thing, as well as every good thing, will contribute towards our ultimate good, which is to be made like our elder brother, Jesus Christ. In fact, if you want to follow Jesus Christ, you must know that God has ordained everything that happens to you, including the bad things. We do not choose bad things for ourselves, but God ordains and permits them in the lives of his people for their good. Thus, if you ever hear someone say, "Receive Jesus Christ and you will only have good times," that person does not know what he or she is speaking about. All things, including bad things, happen to Christians under God's sovereign ordination for their ultimate good.
The Blessing of Affliction
We find this truth illustrated throughout the Scriptures. In Psalm 119 the psalmist showed his understanding of this in several verses. In verse 67 we read, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word." Here we see good brought about by that which is not good. God permitted this man to be afflicted so that he would come back to the straight and narrow way of obeying God.
Again, in verse 71 we read, "It was good for me to be afflicted, so that I might learn your decrees." This seems like a paradox, but here again affliction contributed to the good of this chosen one of God.
In verse 75 we read, "I know, O Lord, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me." God is faithful to us, and that faithfulness includes disciplining us through affliction. Many parents spare the rod and spoil their children, but our heavenly Father will never do that. He is faithful to us; therefore, he ordains affliction for our own good.
The Example of Joseph
We see the idea of all things working for good clearly illustrated in the record of Joseph in Genesis 37-50. Joseph was a godly son who hated evil and loved good. Joseph's father Jacob loved him, but his brothers hated him. Once, when Jacob sent Joseph to his brothers to see how they were doing, his brothers saw him coming and plotted among themselves to kill him. His brother Reuben intervened in their plan and instead of killing him, the brothers put Joseph in a cistern and sat down to eat. While they were eating some Midianite traders on their way to Egypt to sell spices and other things came by. The brothers said to themselves, "What do we profit by killing and shedding his blood? He is one of us, so let us sell him to these people as a slave." They received twenty pieces of silver from the Midianites for the sale of their brother.
We must remember that Joseph was a child of God who was living a godly life and avoiding evil. He did nothing to bring about these bad things in his life, but it was God's ordination that he was maltreated by his brothers, thrown into the pit, sold to the Midianites, and taken to Egypt.
In Egypt Joseph was sold as a slave to Potiphar, captain of the guard. This was a another bad thing, but it was ordained by God. And if you read the account of Joseph's service to Potiphar in Genesis 39, you will find the refrain, "The Lord was with him. . . the Lord was with him. . . .the Lord was with him." The Lord was with Joseph, and because of that, the Lord prospered Potiphar and his entire household.
Was this the end of bad things in Joseph's life? Not at all. Potiphar's wife decided she wanted to have an affair with Joseph. She asked him to sleep with her, but Joseph told her, "How could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" His words again demonstrate the godly character of Joseph. Joseph knew that no matter where he was, even in Egypt, he was in God's presence and God was with him.
One day, however, when Joseph went into an inner room to do some business, Potiphar's wife grabbed him and tried to seduce him. Seeking to escape, he left his garment in her hand and ran. Then another bad thing happened to this godly man: Potiphar's wife accused Joseph of trying to seduce her, and he was thrown into prison. But even this turn of events was from God, and in the account of Joseph's time in prison we again read the refrain, "the Lord was with him. . . .the Lord was with Joseph."
After Joseph had been in prison for some time, he correctly interpreted a dream for Pharaoh's butler, who had been thrown into the same prison Joseph was in. When Joseph's prediction came to pass and the butler was restored to his position, Joseph told the butler, in essence, "Please remember me to Pharaoh. You see, I was sold as a slave for nothing and was put in prison for nothing. I have done nothing wrong, even though I have suffered all these years, and only Pharaoh can do something about it."
In God's ordination, however, the butler forgot to mention Joseph to Pharaoh for two full years. Finally, Pharaoh had two dreams which no one could interpret. At that moment, the butler was reminded by the Spirit of God about Joseph. Joseph was brought from the prison into Pharaoh's presence where he correctly interpreted Pharaoh's dreams and was promoted to the premiership of Egypt.
Pharaoh's dreams were precursors to a time of famine, during which Jacob and all of his family were brought to Egypt to settle there. When Jacob died, Joseph's brothers feared that Joseph would destroy them and their children for what they had done to him. But in Genesis 50:19-20 Joseph, speaking at the end of his life, told them about God's purpose in all of these things. He said, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."
Think about that. God worked all things together for good, including every trial Joseph had undergone, "to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." In the same way God works all things in our lives for his ultimate purpose, which is that we be made part of God's family.
The Example of Job
We find another example of all things working for good in the life of Job. Like Joseph, Job was a godly man of integrity, a just man who loved God. But as we read the book of Job, we see many bad things happening to him.
Job was the wealthy patriarch of a large family, yet in one day he lost all his livestock, property, and children. How did he react? In Job 1:20-21 we read, "At this Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said, 'Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked I will depart. The Lord gave; the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised."
Modern so-called "faith preachers" mock this verse, saying that Job's reaction was wrong. But what does the Bible say? In verse 22 we read, "In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing." In God's estimation, Job's reaction was correct.
Job's wife, however, did not like what God had done to her and her husband. After all, their property was gone, their house was burned down, their children were dead, and her husband was sick, sitting on an ash heap and scraping himself with a potsherd.
Fed up with the situation, Job's beloved wife gave him some counsel. In Job 2:9 we read, "His wife said to him, 'Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!'" From these words we can certainly deduce that Satan was trying to work through Job's wife. But Job answered her, "'You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?'" (v. 10) And then we read, "In all this, Job did not sin in what he said."
Throughout the book of Job, we see that Job trusted in the goodness of God, despite all the problems and evil things that happened to him. In Job 13:15 we find this ringing declaration, "Though he slay me, yet I will trust in him." Job put all his hope in God.
The Example of Paul
What about Paul? We have already read some of the terrible things that happened to him. How did he handle them? In Romans 5 Paul gives us a profound revelation that he received in terms of what bad things can do to a Christian. He realized that bad things have a positive role to play in the life of a Christian.
In Romans 5:3 Paul writes, "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings." I don't know if we are spiritual enough to say that with Paul, but this is a test by which we can measure our spirituality. When we are suffering, do we rejoice? Are we persuaded, convinced, and certain of the positive contribution that suffering makes in accomplishing God's purpose for our lives? Paul was, and so he added, "because we know that suffering produces perseverance."
What about you? Do you want perseverance, which is the ability to stand up under pressure? If so, then you will have to experience suffering. There is no other way in which this character quality of perseverance can be produced in us.
But there is more. Not only does Paul say, "We know that suffering produces perseverance," but then he adds, "perseverance, character. . . ." Do you want Christian character, to be made like our older brother, Jesus Christ? As with perseverance, the key to having this trait worked into the fabric of our being is to experience suffering.
Then Paul continues, "and character, hope." Do you want hope? Again, it is the result of suffering.
Paul concludes, "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." Why could Paul rejoice in his sufferings? Because he knew that ultimately they would result in hope. But we must realize that the hope Paul was speaking of is not hope in anything in this temporal world. He was referring to the hope of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, the hope that we shall be made like him, and the hope of sharing in his glory. This was the sure hope that caused Paul to glory even while he was suffering.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7 Paul wrote, "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me." What was the good purpose of this thorn in the flesh, this messenger of Satan? To keep Paul from becoming conceited.
What about us? Oh, we would pray, "O God, remove this thorn from me, and then I will be fine." But God removes his thorns only in his time when his purpose is accomplished. Such "thorns" are God's agents of change and good in our lives.
Paul said God gave him a thorn in his flesh "to keep me from being conceited," and then he added, "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me, but he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you.'" In other words, God was telling Paul, "No, I am not going to remove this trial, this thorn in your flesh, but in its place I am going to give you grace, which will be more than sufficient for you to deal with it."
Have you learned this truth? God may not remove an affliction from us, even after much prayer. But that is not the end of the story. God also tells us, "I will give you grace, and it will be sufficient to cause you not only to endure but to rejoice as you understand that this affliction is working ultimately for your good."
Paul continues, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses," meaning his afflictions and suffering, these thorns in his flesh. Why did he say that? "so that Christ's power may rest on me."
Is Christ's power resting on you, especially in the midst of affliction? Are you rejoicing in your sufferings or murmuring and complaining? If you are murmuring and complaining, then you are not understanding God's intention for your suffering, which is your ultimate good. You are missing the grand and glorious purpose of God.
Paul concludes, "That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." Through his sufferings, Paul became strong in the Lord. He was strengthened by God's grace to serve God.
The Example of Jesus Christ
Let us look at the example of Jesus Christ himself. He came from heaven into this world as the suffering servant, as we read in Isaiah 53.
Jesus knew he was called to suffer and he spoke about it several times. In Luke 9:22 Jesus told his disciples, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed, and on the third day be raised to life." And in Luke 24:26 Jesus asked, "Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?"
Jesus Christ had to suffer; it was divinely ordained. In other words, Christ's suffering was of divine necessity, a divine must, the divine will. In Luke 24:44 Jesus told his disciples again, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms" -- everything, that is, about his death, burial, and resurrection.
In Luke 24:46 we read, "He told them, 'This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.'" Now, here the translation is not right. In the Greek we read, "It is necessary that Christ suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. . . .'" It is necessary! (PGM) What good can come from the suffering and death of Christ? That "repentance and forgiveness of sins be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." Without the suffering and death of Christ there could be no salvation, because from the cross alone flows grace and mercy. That is the good God intended for Christ's suffering.
In Acts 2 beginning with verse 22 Peter spoke of the Christ's suffering and God's purpose for it, saying, "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourself know. This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him."
All Things Work Together for Good
Our sufferings, like the sufferings of Jesus Christ, are all a part of God's grand and glorious plan to work everything in our lives for our good.
When I was a young boy, my father had an old watch I loved to look at. One day when my father was not at home, I took the watch out from its place and, using some crude instruments, opened it up. I was fascinated by what I saw. There were so many wheels--big and small--which were all moving. Some went forward, some went backward; some went slow and others went fast. All of these wheels were working together so that the right time could be displayed on the face of the watch.
In the same way, everything that happens to us--big and small, forward and backward, slow and fast, pleasant and painful--is put together by the Great Designer of the universe, Almighty God, for his grand purpose of our good.
We must recognize that ours is not a world of random chance, a world with no design or purpose, a world that just came about but no one knows how. We must recognize that there is a God, who created the world and everything in it, including us. And we must acknowledge that every step of a Christian, a righteous man, is ordained and ordered of the Lord.
In every Christian's life there is a big wheel and small wheel, a forward wheel and a backward wheel, a fast wheel and a slow wheel. All contribute to the grand purpose of creating a family in which there is an older brother, Jesus Christ, of whom the writer to the Hebrews says, "We see him now crowned with glory and honor."
The Grand Purpose of God
As finite human beings, we often question why certain things happen to us. However, as Christians we know the grand purpose of our Designer and therefore we can trust in him. In Ephesians 1:4 we read that God chose us from before the foundation of the world to make us holy and blameless in his sight. He will never fail to achieve any purpose of his, and so, in his time, we will all be glorified and presented to him as a spotless bride with exceeding joy and great glory.
This is the destiny of everyone who loves God. However, if you do not love God, your destiny will be totally different. It is called the destiny of destruction. I hope we will all be sober-minded and consider the reality of these two eternal destinies.
Did you know the world as we know it will not last forever? The Bible says the fashion of this world is passing away. In fact, it says this world is destined to be burned--all the elements shall melt with fervent heat. But God has a plan in which he will create a new heavens and a new earth. There God's people will dwell and there God himself will dwell personally in the midst of his people.
That is the great, grand plan of God. It is the hope we have for our future, a good plan. It is the Lord's plan--a plan to prosper us and not to harm us, a plan to give us hope and a future.
If I were you, I would spend all of my time ensuring that I was a part of the good plan of God. I care nothing about being included in any other plan, for what will anything else profit me if I am excluded from this plan of God as revealed in the pages of the Scriptures, especially in Romans 8:28-30? Therefore, my primary goal in my life is to ensure that I am included in God's great plan.
Our Eternal Destiny
God's purpose is revealed in several other places in the Scripture besides Romans 8:28-30 and Ephesians 1:4. In Romans 9:10-11 we read, "Not only that, but Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad, in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls--she was told, 'The older will serve the younger.' Just as it is written: 'Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'" This is the foreknowledge in the golden chain of salvation, which consists of five links: foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification and glorification. All these relate to a certain number of people whom God loved before the creation of the world.
In 2 Timothy 1, beginning with verse 8, we read, "So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me, his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life--not because of anything we have done, but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time."
In other words, God purposed to save us and gave us to his Son so he might save us. Paul continues, "But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death," not for everyone but for believers in Christ, "and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." That again is God's purpose. God works all things together for good.
One scholar said this phrase "unto good" means that God's purpose is unto good, not unto goods. When I was growing up, I misunderstood this verse to mean that if I received Jesus Christ I would receive goods: the best grade in the class, the best job, the best health, all the money I needed, and so on. Many people have this view as well. But as I studied the Scriptures, I found out that is not God's purpose for us. We are not chosen unto goods, but unto good. And what is that good? What is God's ultimate purpose for our lives? As we read in Romans 8:29, it is "to be conformed to the likeness of his Son." The purpose of God is that we be holy and blameless, like Jesus Christ.
A Grander Purpose
That is the first purpose, but there is a second purpose, which is grander than the first. What is it? That Jesus Christ might be the firstborn among many brothers. God wants his Son, Jesus Christ, to be honored by us now and forever.
God the Father will not put up with anyone dishonoring his Son. In fact, one reason he gives us the Holy Spirit is that he might glorify the Son. The Father is very jealous about his Son's honor, so he is creating a family consisting of the older brother, Jesus Christ, and then a multitude of younger brothers who will honor him, that he may have preeminence, supremacy, in all things. It is God's grand purpose that we give all honor to his Son, Jesus Christ.
Think about this. We who were helpless sinners, wicked, ungodly enemies of God, lacking in glory, were brought to glory by the gracious atoning work of God's Son, Jesus Christ. God foreknew us, predestined us, called us, and justified us. He is sanctifying us and will bring us to full glory when we come into his presence, where we will shine as brilliantly as the stars in the universe. That is real glory.
But not only are we as God's people brought to eminence, but also God's Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is brought to preeminence That is the idea of being firstborn. You see, if we are eminent, he is preeminent.
Thus, we are destined for eminence, faith, glory, and brilliance, and even now it is worked into us. We sing a chorus, "From glory to glory he's changing me. . . . his likeness and image to perfect in me." That is what sanctification is. The marred image of God in us is now being restored through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, who is crowned with glory and honor as we read in Hebrews 2:9.
Destined for Glory
What does it mean to be brought to glory? In Romans 5:1 we read, "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand." When we are saved, we are brought into fellowship with the Father, but something else happens as well. Paul says, "And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God."
We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. We know that God is always glorious, so what does Paul mean when he says, "the glory of God"? Here Paul is speaking of the glory that God is going to confer on all who are included in his grand plan of salvation. If you are not included, you may experience all the glory this world can offer, but you will not have any part in God's glory.
Look at Romans 8:18. Remember, it is speaking about those who are included in God's plan. If you do not love God, if this does not make sense to you, if your heart does not throb and leap within you at these words, you have a different destiny.
In Romans 8:18 Paul writes, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Oh, how great is God's love for us! He demonstrated his love by saving us through Jesus Christ, and now he says, "I am going to make you glorious. I will work within you and outside of you for one purpose--to bring you to glory."
Thus, we can know that all our sufferings put together are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. In Romans 8:23 Paul writes, "Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." Here again we see the glory God is going to give us. We will be given new bodies like the glorious resurrection body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In Romans 9:22 we read about two classes of people--one destined for destruction and the other for glory. And in verse 23 Paul writes, "What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory?" If you are a Christian, you may be poor, you may not be respected by the world, and you may be ridiculed and persecuted. But let me assure you of this one great truth: if you are an object of God's mercy, your destiny is glory.
A Glorious Body
God's plan to bring us to glory includes our bodies. Have you ever wondered what God will do with our earthly bodies with all their aches and pains? You know, sometimes when I get up in the morning, there is pain all over. It wasn't that way a few years ago, but now there is pain. The tent is falling apart.
Look at Philippians 3:20-21. There Paul writes, "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body."
God promises to transform our lowly bodies so they will be like the glorious body of our Lord Jesus Christ. God's glory will be revealed in us inside and out as we are made anew, made glorious. We will be made fit by God so that we can dwell in God's world of perfection, world of brilliance, world of radiance, world of glory, world of holiness, and world of righteousness.
Preparing for Glory
When will this great transformation take place? When Jesus comes back again. Is Jesus coming back again? Yes.
Mockers may ask, "Where is the promise of his coming?" but the second coming of Jesus Christ is certain. After all, he came before, did he not? He came according to God's promise, in the fullness of time, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem us from the law. He lived, he died, he rose, he ascended and now he is seated on the right hand of God the Father, making intercession for us. He is the Lord of all, and since he himself has promised that he is coming again, he will come.
When, then, will we be changed? Look at 1 John 3:1-2. There John begins, "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us." We were sinners--powerless, enemies, ungodly, and wicked, but, oh, what love God the Father has lavished on us. But is it that we should be called slaves of God? Oh, no. John says, "That we should be called children of God!" We are brought into the family of God as children of God. No longer are we outside; we are inside, with God himself. And John earlier in his epistle writes that our fellowship is with the Father and the Son.
John continues, "And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him." Let me advise you: Don't try to court the world. If the world did not know Jesus Christ, it will not know you. If the world appreciates you and makes you a star, it means you are not a Christian. If we are Christians, the world must hate us. The world loves only its own.
Now we come to the point: "Dear friends," John writes, "now we are children of God, and what we will be has not been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."
When will we be perfected? When Christ appears. It may be today, it may be tomorrow, it may be many years from today. So John says, "But when he appears, we shall be like him. . . ." That is God's great plan. We shall bear the image of the man from heaven "for we shall see him as he is."
To see God calls for holiness and perfection, and we will be perfected only when he comes again. Only then we shall be able to see him as he is.
Brought to Glory
The Bible tells us about two families. The first one is under Adam, as we read about in Romans 5:12-20. Because Adam, the head of the family, sinned, all his children who bear his image, are also born sinners and are blind, lost and on the way to hell. But, by God's grace, there came a second Adam, the last Adam--our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the representative, the head, of another family--those who have been redeemed from the family of Adam and brought into the family of God.
In 1 Corinthians 15:49 we read, "And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man. . . ," meaning Adam, who was a man of earth, "so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven." We have an elder brother, Jesus Christ, and as younger brothers we are to be like him. That is God's purpose.
In Hebrews 2:9 we read, "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone." I want to note that the word "everyone" there does not mean everyone in the world, but everyone who is a Christian. Jesus Christ did not die for everyone in the world. He died for every person God from all eternity has chosen.
Now look at verse 10: "In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God," meaning God the Father, for whom and through whom everything exists, "should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering."
Why did Jesus Christ suffer and die? To deal with our great and terrible sin problem and thus bring many sons to glory.
Are You in God's Plan?
Are you included in God's great plan of salvation? That is the most important question anyone can ask. Are you included in the destiny called glory? Are you being changed by God inside and outside? Are you being made like his Son, who is now crowned with glory and honor? You should never give yourself sleep until you have thought about these things.
Let me put it another way: How does a person know if he or she is included in God's plan? What is the answer? It is for "those who love him." So you must ask yourself: Do you love God? Do you believe in Jesus Christ our Lord? Do you hope and trust in him? Is he your Prophet, Priest and King? If you can answer yes to these questions, you are in God's plan. If not, I urge you, to call upon the name of the Lord and be saved.
Look at this passage one more time. Verse 30 tells us, "And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." Isn't it wonderful? Salvation is by grace, which means that God does it all. God is the author of our salvation every step of the way. Everything that happens to us is under his divine control and ordination.
If you are suffering, I think you should be filled with great hope by now. He who loved us from the beginning will surely bring us to glory. Therefore, let us praise and thank our God for all that he has done and all that he will do for us in his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.
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Copyright © 1999, P. G. Mathew
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The "NIV" and "New International Version" are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™