"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works." (Titus 2:11-14) Christmas is about hope. "Long lay the world in sin and error pining. Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn." Zacharias recalls with hope the prophecy of the coming Messiah. "He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David, just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago." (Luke 1:69-70; also see Psalm 132:17)
At His first coming our Lord Jesus set us free from the penalty of sin (hell) and the power of sin (Rom. 6-8) and when He returns He will set us (and all of nature) free from all the effects of sin. "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies (sinless perfection). For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently (or eagerly)." (Rom. 8:18-25) Here and in other verses we hear Paul's longing for that Day when he will be face to face with the Lord he loves so, in his sinless glorified body in the glories of the new heaven and new earth. "I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far." (Phil. 1:23) "We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord." (2 Cor. 5:8) "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Tim 4:6-8) We see in all these verses Paul looking for, longing for, groaning for, desiring and preferring to be with the Lord. Even Abraham and the OT saints longed for heaven (Heb.11:16) and John by the Spirit urges us to pray for Christ's soon return (Rev. 22:20).
Before Jesus' first coming, the OT saints longed for the Messiah to come even as a young maiden longs for that special one to come into her life. Then when Jesus came at His first advent, we who put our trust in His soul-saving work at Calvary become engaged to Him. (That is one reason Jesus never married. He is engaged to us, His bride to be.) But what in-love, engaged couple does not long for the wedding day and the joy of consummation and communion for years to come. Likewise, if we don't regularly anticipate our marriage to Jesus (Rev. 19:6-8) and the bliss of heaven with our Lord, then our engagement to Him will lose its passion and joy. Yes He is with us in Spirit now but a lover longs to be with her beloved face to face. This is what is known as the beatific vision (beatific means, blissfully happy) – beholding our Lord face to face, literally, seeing God.
"We have got to realize the littleness of creation and to see it for the nothing that it is before we can love and possess God Who is uncreated. This is the reason why we have no ease of heart or soul, for we are seeking our rest in trivial things which cannot satisfy, and not seeking to know God, almighty, all-wise, all-good. He is true rest. It is His will that we should know Him, and His pleasure that we should rest in Him. Nothing less will satisfy us. . . . We shall never cease wanting and longing until we possess Him in fullness and joy. Then we shall have no further wants. Meanwhile His will is that we go on knowing and loving until we are perfected in heaven. . . . The more clearly the soul sees the blessed face by grace and love, the more it longs to see it in its fullness." (Julian of Norwich – Revelations of Divine Love)
"The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret. And surely, from this point of view, the promise of glory, in the sense described, becomes highly relevant to our deep desire. For glory meant good report with God, acceptance by God, response, acknowledgment, and welcome into the heart of things. The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last. . . . Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache." (C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory)
"God waits to be wanted, but He must be wanted for Himself and not for some lesser good He may provide. May we ask for the grace to long for the beatific vision, for the vision of God Himself."
(Ken Boa, Conformed to His Image)
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor. 15:19)
"There shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads" (Revelation 22:3-4).
"Millions of years my wondering eyes
Shall over your beauties rove;
And endless ages I'll adore
The glories of your love." -Isaac Watts
John Donne (1572-1631)
Holy Sonnets: Batter my heart, three-person'd God
1Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you
2As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
3That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
4Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
5I, like an usurp'd town to'another due,
6Labor to'admit you, but oh, to no end;
7Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
8But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.
9Yet dearly'I love you, and would be lov'd fain,
10But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
11Divorce me,'untie or break that knot again,
12Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
13Except you'enthrall me, never shall be free,
14Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
How do you relate to the idea of longing for God? How can you nurture such a holy longing? Does the hope of seeing Him face to face inspire and encourage your love and obedience to Him?
"So it was, when Jesus returned, that the multitude welcomed Him, for they were all waiting for Him." (Luke 8:40)
Even so, come Lord Jesus,
Len & Kristen
Recommended Books: "Journey of Desire" by John Eldredge; Heaven, "Our Real Home" by Joni Eareckson Tada
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