Sunday 27 February 2022

A Letter to My Muslim Friends – V

Let’s Relate to God

Dear Friends,

This blog deals with some extremely important issues, beginning with the mystery of worship. Mystery of worship is such that once you start exploring it, at every stage of your progress in worship, you will be awed by its greatness. Let’s take the first step toward it.

To begin with, what is worship? Sounds strange, isn’t it? But, I assure you that once I move on in this brief discussion from where we are now, you will understand why I ask this question. It is written in the Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter 8 from verses 2 to 4:

“And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him (Jesus), saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

I had read this verse right from my childhood but never understood its hidden meaning until very recently. The thing to be noted in this verse is that a man suffering from leprosy comes to Jesus in order to get healed from his disease. That is his purpose for approaching Jesus. I failed to notice the import of the phrase ‘worshiped Him’. Where does worship reside in his action? It is exactly in his attitude and speech. This is what he says: “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

What exactly he is doing here? He accepts that God’s will is above all…it is supreme. That, exactly, is worship! …Accepting the supremacy of God’s will. God’s will doesn’t fail. With His will goes His powers and authority. Very often we hear some people say, “If I don’t do what I say that I will, I am not Samuel or Suleiman or whatever it is.” Here, they emphasize their capacity or ability to do what they say, and on that capacity depends their real identity. But it is a fact that we fail at one time or the other. We are bound to. That proves that we are human.

By the same token, the fact that God never fails in fulfilling what He wills proves that He is God. Therefore, when this leper says that if Jesus wills it to heal him, He will certainly heal him. Of course, the sick man himself wants to be healed from his disease; but he accepts that his own will doesn’t matter. He also accepts that what really matters is that Jesus wills it to heal him. If Jesus wills, He will certainly heal him.

In other words, he asks Jesus to fulfill His will in his life. That’s prioritizing God’s will in his life. God is glorified in his acceptance of the fact that the will of God (Jesus) alone does not fail - no matter what. It is this kind of faith that makes worship. It is this kind of faith that pleases God.

Indeed, this man has a very peculiar way of declaring his faith in God. He doesn’t talk about his faith in God. He doesn’t tell Jesus how bad is the problem he is suffering from. Rather he says that if Jesus wills, He can heal him. It glorifies Him. Glorifying Him is worship.

But this is not all! When we talk about God’s will, we need to know His will. But how can we know the will of someone that we cannot know? In the same way, how can we glorify God in a manner that befits His Person if we don’t know Him?

This is THE question.

If we don’t know God, we can’t know His will…we can’t glorify Him. That, exactly, is the reason why God wants that we know Him. The point is, He is not unknowable. And knowing Him doesn’t mean knowing that He is God and lives forever in a place called Heaven outside the ken of one and all. Rather He wants us to be acquainted with Him, be familiar with Him and, finally, be related to Him. Yes! He wants us to become His relatives. He wants to build a family and have us as part of His family. He wants us to enjoy Him for what He is and He literally enjoys our company. He loves us. And, He loves it to see us love Him.

Now, we all know what family means to us. But if we are to learn how God sees His family, it would literally humble ourselves by dint of its greatness and uniqueness. Our understanding of a family is not even a shadow beside the conception of family that God has. Please note that He wants us to grasp His conception of a family.

Jesus puts it in simplest terms in the parable of the prodigal son. I’d like to quote it whole from the Bible. It is found in Luke 15: 11-32. Here…

“A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.

But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.’

And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.”

This seemingly simple parable contains some very important information:

1.  The father represents God

2.  The father is someone that both the good son and the bad know. This is important. It clearly states that both types of people know God. God is not someone unknown

3.  Now the question is, “If a person knows who the true God is, then why would he desire to part with Him?” Proverbs 18 from the Bible has this answer to this question: “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment.” It means a person who parts with true God is driven by his desires to follow ungodly ways. He cannot fulfill his sinful desires as long as he stays with God. So, he chooses to be away from God

4.  The result of having his own way is that this prodigal son gains for a time being all the fleshly pleasures and loses God’s blessings. He becomes a poor man. Nobody gains anything when he loses God’s blessings. He only loses. Jesus clearly states it in Matthew 12:30: “…he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.”

5.  When he becomes poor, the time of famine starts. The world, of which company he enjoyed dearly once, refuses to support him in his bad time. Thus, he gets firsthand knowledge of the difference between the friendship with the world and the relationship to God the Father. The world reduces him to the status of a slave. As a slave, he is given the responsibility to feed the pigs. When he would grow hungry, he would feed himself with the same pods that he used to feed those pigs with. As a swineherd, he becomes just like those pigs. Now, he realizes how stupid he was in rejecting the few responsibilities that he had to shoulder as the son of the Father. After all, he was rewarded for shouldering those responsibilities in such a way that it far outweighed the efforts involved in fulfilling those responsibilities

6.  The positive thing about this prodigal son is that he arrives to a decision to return to the Father. This is important

7.  Significantly, when this prodigal son is thinking of returning to his Father, he doesn’t know how eagerly his Father is looking for his return all the time that he is away from Him. He returns to his Father with a view to be granted a status of His slave but the Father shows with His attitude that, while all the time that he ceased to be a son to Him, the Father remained Father. Father didn’t change. Therein lies the real hope of the prodigal son who represents the mankind that has forsaken God. If we return to God, He is very much willing to accept us

Now, let’s go deeper into the kind of relationship that God eyes for us for eternity. Again, it is Jesus who discloses it to His disciples in John 14:

“At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”

The most obvious meaning of this remarkable statement of Jesus is that God wants us to be part of His life. When we discuss it further, we realize how simplistic this meaning actually is. The significance of this statement is well brought out by the imagery of the body of Christ. The Church (the believers in Christ) is called the Body of Christ in Colossians 1:18, and Christ Himself is called the Head of this Body. When Christ says that He is in His Father, the Church also is in His Father.

In other words, we, the believers in Christ are in Christ and the Christ in God. Thus, we reside in God. The whole thing raises a vivid picture of God as a building and Jesus and His followers are parts of this building. To many, this might appear to be an abstract concept which it certainly is not. I will move on to explain it further…

Please refer to Revelation 3:12 where Jesus is talking about the Church in Philadelphia (people who belong to this church):

“He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.”

It is very interesting to refer to what Revelation 21:22 has to say about the temple in heaven:

“But I saw no temple in it (New Jerusalem), for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”

If there is no temple in Heaven, how can we explain the reward that Jesus says He would mete out to the members of the Church of Philadelphia? He says that He would make them a pillar in the temple of God the Father; how?

The thing is that it is the New Jerusalem that is called the tabernacle of God in Revelation 21:3. Being pillar in the temple of God means a place of importance in the New Jerusalem. The person who is made pillar in the temple of God will never go out of this city. This city is in Heaven, as we are informed in Revelation 15:5, and it is the same tabernacle of God. When the New Jerusalem comes down to the New Earth, see Revelation 21:2, the tabernacle of God takes place among men. That is the time when God will live with men! And men will be related to God in the same way that a pillar in the temple of God is related to the temple.

Now, remember, who is the temple in the renewal of all things? It is the God and the Lamb (Jesus) themselves! The New Jerusalem is no longer considered the temple of God. Because it is not only the House of God, it is also our own House. The difference between our house and His is obliterated when He chooses to live with us. Now, the focus shifts from the House (Building) to the Relationship.

This is extremely important to understand. It helps us understand what it means to be a pillar in the temple! It indicates the kind of existence that the members of the Church in Philadelphia will have when God starts living with the mankind! They will directly see the face of God Himself...for eternity!

What are the implications of this bit of information?! You just have to remember what happens when the believers in Jesus will see Him face to face when He appears in sky for the event we referred to as the Rapture.

After Jesus’ Ascension to Heaven, this will be the first time that they will see Him face to face; but this time they will see Him in the same glory that He had before the foundation of the Creation. During the time of His First Coming, He was in the human form; during the time of His Second Coming, they will see Him in His original divine form. And, when they see Him as He is in His divine form, they will transform into His image. That happens because they see Him as He is. How can this happen?

As I have said elsewhere, the body of Jesus represented the ‘sinful’ mankind. When it was crucified and died on the cross and buried in a grave, the ‘sinful self’ of the mankind (that believed in Jesus and accepted Him) also died and buried in the grave. When Jesus was resurrected on the third day, all the believers (who were dead before Him and those who weren’t dead but would die after Him) too were resurrected! When the resurrected Jesus returned to God the Father, so did all the believers in Jesus! There, in Heaven, Jesus lives in the same glory that was His before the foundation of the Creation. And, in Him, all the believers also live glorified life.

Hard to understand, isn’t it? Let me explain it further. Jesus was the fulfillment of all the promises that God held out to the mankind through Jesus. When we put our faith in Him, and accept Him as Savior, we possess the promises we have in Him. At the appointed time, we also shall possess the fulfillment thereof.

To make it even simpler, the glorified self of the believers is in glorified Jesus. We, the believers, on earth are but shadows of our real self. When Jesus appears at the time of the Rapture, our glorified selves will be REVEALED in us, making us also glorified like Jesus. This is a big, big mystery that not too many people are able to grasp. But, here, you have it.

This, naturally, brings us to discuss in some detail the glory of Jesus Christ. According to the Book of Hebrews 1:1-4, we have this description of Him:

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers (ancestors) by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name then they.”

As stated elsewhere, when we become like Jesus, we become the sons and daughters of the God Most High. It means we shall become gods. Children of God cannot be human. They are bound to be divine…bound to be gods. Before we approach God in Heaven, it was must for us to become like Jesus. That makes us worthy to be presented before God the Father.

When we have glorified existence in Heaven, we acquire the capacity to be in the presence of God. Because our ‘glorified’ self is free from sin. Because it is free from sin, it is holy and does not get destroyed by the glory of His presence. Isn’t that amazing? But, rest assured; this wonder doesn’t stop here. There is even more to the existence in Heaven than we have discussed here.

What we gather from this discussion is that the believers who belong to the Church in Philadelphia hold the promise of being made a pillar in the temple, that is, God the Father and Jesus Christ. In other words, their ‘self’ forms part of God and Jesus in Heaven, not the whole. We are gods; we are not God. I hope you are able to understand this.

The thing is that this particular promise is given to the believers belonging to the Church in Philadelphia. There are other believers who belong to other churches. There are Seven Churches in the Book of Revelation. The believers in Jesus will fall in one or the other of these Churches in Heaven. And, each of the Seven Churches has a different reward from God. What kind of reality we would have in Heaven when all these Churches receive their respective rewards in Heaven from God?!

Well, it will require another blog to discuss it. As I get time, I write on different topics. I will certainly write to answer the question I raised here. I hope this discussion helps you in some way.

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