Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A LONGING TO SEE GOD’S BEAUTY

One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.
For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.
And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the LORD.
Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
8You have said, "Seek my face."My heart says to you,
"Your face, LORD, do I seek."

Psalm 27:4-8



There is a story told by the writer Sam Storms that challenges me in my passion for Christ.

Nepal is a Hindu state of some 16 million people that lies nestled in the Himalayas between northern India and southw¬estern China. Until recently, it has been overtly antichristian. The missionaries there are courageous and few. One such person lived and ministered in Katmandu. An encounter she had one day with a Hindu woman was indelibly planted in her memory. It was a religious holy day. Schools, businesses, and other establishments were closed. It was a day of worship for those whose Hindu faith gave them the option of bowing before one of several million deities (literally!).

This missionary thought she had seen it all. Until that day. There in the middle of a busy street was a Hindu woman bowing low, chanting and prostrating herself before a pile of yak dung! In case you didn't know, a yak is a domesticated ox. I realize that doesn't diminish the mess of the image, but at least you know now what she was deal¬ing. Scattered amidst the dung were flowers, worshipfully placed there by this devotee of an obviously unusual "god." There in public for everyone to see, was a lady who was quite serious about religion, about her "god." She suffered no embarrassment. She showed no signs of hesitation. She had no fear of disrupting traffic provoking opposition or incurring the ridicule of those who might find her act of devotion a bit out of the ordinary. Think about it for a moment. Let it sink in. Better still, let it stink in! Try to grasp the quality of zeal, misguided though it is, that would prompt someone to worship yak dung. Try to get a handle on the depth and intensity of such religious commitment. I'm sorry to put it this way, but in all seriousness, this woman would have died for that pile of dung.

So what's the point of this distasteful story? I can't know what it is for you, but for me it's quite simply this: Just how serious am I about the kingdom of God? I worship the One, True, Living God, yet I probably do so with less zeal than this woman worships a pile of dung! It forces me to ask: How devoted am I to the King of kings and Lord of lords? Am I as unashamedly dedicated to the God of heaven and earth as that Hindu woman is to the droppings of a yak? How passionate is my pursuit of the living God and His will? That’s the point of the story for me. You may laugh at that woman but I feel that she shames us.

Last week I wrote about the self-authenticating and compelling beauty of Christ; why He, rather than someone or something e1se should be the object of our affection and devotion. Why should we have a passion for Jesus? What is it about Jesus that leads us to tell the world about our love for Him in word and transforms how we live our lives? What is it about Him that causes us to be satisfied in Him above every existing pleasure the world can offer us?

There was something about yak dung (don't ask me what) that attracted this Hindu woman and so captivated her heart that she was willing to pay an¬y price to praise it. Why, then, Jesus? It may seem like a silly question. Especially when one thinks of yak dung as a potential rival! Why should we believe that Jesus is sufficiently worthy of our love, passion, and devotion? It is because the beauty of God in Jesus Christ is incomparable.

Beauty is not something we would normally include in our vocabulary about God. We prefer words like sovereign, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, gracious, merciful, loving, just, holy, etc. David thought of God in terms of beauty. He cried out to God, One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. In view of David’s painful and distressing circumstances, one might have expected him to cry out for rest, comfort, peace, three meals a day, a good night sleep, or perhaps a permanent and safe home away from his enemies. But for David there was a higher aspiration of and desire in his heart.

Notice that in this verse that there is a future tense combined with a past tense to express a passionate desire which extends out of the past and into the future and therefore runs through his whole life. What is this passion, this desire, this longing? To dwell, to see, to gaze, and to meditate. And who or what is the focus of this passion? The Lord God, in all of His supreme beauty, His glorious majesty, His indescribable splendor, His unfathomable, ultimately incomprehensible grandeur. Is this true of you? Is this true of us? Can it be possible for us in the 21st century with all the demands and business of our lives? No matter, as Augustine said, “God thirsts to be thirsted after,” no less by you and me than David!

David’s desire, and I plea with you and pray for you that it is or will be your desire, is to dwell in the presence of God, to behold God, to meditate upon the beauty and splendor of God, to bask in the invigorating light and glory of everything that makes God an object of our affection and delight and admiration. No wonder, for there is no better way to enjoy God than to behold His beauty.

God invites us to do just what David desires. He creates the longings and satisfies the longings of our soul (Jeremiah 31:33). David goes on in verse 8 and we receive an astonishing invitation from God, You have said, "Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” God invites us to seek His face, to dwell, to see, to gaze, and reflect upon His beauty. How does that affect you? This is God’s desire for you: “SEEK MY FACE”!

Some of you perhaps are not accustomed to receiving an invitation to anything. You rarely get invited to lunch after church, to birthday parties, to weddings, or to share your opinion on an important topic. Also some of you are notorious for turning down invitations (like me!) but this is one you don’t want to miss. This is the greatest invitation to the greatest experience of all! God wants you and me to seek His face! We seek to behold his beauty, to be with him, to meditate on him. This is our central business for your life- to see the beauty of God. To get our heads into the heavens. To know him for whom he is. He is the main reality- not buildings, not Christians, not missions, not heaven. God himself is what we seek. And David adds in Psalm 40:16, Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You.’ David did not dishonor this beauty by saying, "Ho hum." How could you possibly see the beauty of God and respond that way? No. This is God’s mission and our mission: to rejoice and be glad in him. To delight yourself in the Lord! (Psalm 37:4)

The results of this passionate pursuit of God’s beauty are staggering! Not only is beholding the beauty of the Lord indescribably enjoyable, it is profoundly transforming! The apostle Paul put it this way in 2 Corinthians 3:18, and we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. Listen to how the Amplified version puts it: “And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another.” The point is we become like we that which we look at. We will never become transformed into the likeness of God, nor conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, nor be able to live for the glory of God until we learn to behold His beauty. To see Him is to become like Him. Look at the beauty of Christ, you become beautiful.

Jonathan Edwards wrote of this transforming beauty in his sermon The Highway of Holiness. ' Tis the highest beauty and amiableness, vastly above all other beauties; 'tis a divine beauty, makes the soul heavenly and far purer than anything here on earth-this world is like mire and filth and defilement [compared] to that soul which is sanctified-'tis of a sweet, lovely, delightful, serene, calm, and still nature. 'Tis almost too high a beauty for any creature to be adorned with; it makes the soul a little, amiable, and delightful image of the blessed Jehovah. How may angels stand with pleased, delighted, and charmed eyes, and look and look with smiles of pleasure upon that soul that is holy!

Think about this. How much money is spent, how much time is invested, how much worry, fear, and consternation, how many products must we buy, how much effort do we exert in order to enhance our outward beauty? Yet no matter how much we invest, you can’t stop the aging process and with that all that comes with it.

Oh how little time, if any, is invested in enhancing our inner beauty, the beauty of our souls. Yet in God’s world, this is true beauty! “The worth and excellency (beauty) of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love” said Henry Scougal. The good news is that God’s beauty program is free, it’s a gift of grace, and the results are guaranteed 100%. As David beheld the beauty of the Lord, as he meditated upon the glorious perfections and passions of God’s character, he became more like God. More than that, he fell more and more in love with God.

The beauty that we find in Jesus is so perfectly in Him that everything else can't help but be seen as disfigured and distorted and shameful and repulsive and unworthy of our devotion or love. That’s what happened to the disciples. That’s what happened to David. Has it happened to you? Have you just heard about His beauty? Testimonies aren’t anything like the real thing. Why be satisfied with that when Jesus offers you a direct experience of the deepest longing of the human soul: To see and enjoy the beauty and glory of God in Jesus Christ!

Would you take a journey with me to see His beauty? Has Jesus captured your heart? Remember our story of the Hindu lady? There was something about yak dung that attracted this Hindu woman and so captivated her heart that she was willing to pay an¬y price to praise it. Maybe it isn’t something as crass as yak dung that has captured your heart. But Paul says any potential rival to Jesus Christ is dung! (Philippians 3:8)

Jesus alone is the All-Satisfying Object of Beauty. Do you want to see his beauty this week? Oh dearly loved by the beautiful one, you can. He wants you to. He wants you to see it so that you will savor this beauty above every rival, threat, or substitute.

May the Holy Spirit this week lure you into joy so that you say with David and me, "One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple" (Psalm 27:4).
Pastor Bill

















2 comments:

Surfer Brendan said...

Worshiping dung? That's absurd. Thanks for sharing the story - I've added it to my website section on Hinduism www.godorabsurdity.com/hinduism.html

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