Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Lamb is All the Glory

This morning I had the privilege of preaching a sermon based upon the following texts:
Revelation 7:9-17
Psalm 34:1-10, 22
1 John 3:1-3
Matthew 5:1-12
Here is the simplified outline I used to preach these texts.

  1. THE OBJECT OF THE SAINTS' EVERLASTING GAZE (Rev. 7:9-10, 14b)
    9After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"

    14b They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
  2. THE RADIANCE OF THOSE WHO LOOK TO THE SAVIOR (Ps. 34:5)
    5Those who look to him are radiant,
    and their faces shall never be ashamed.
  3. THE HOPE OF THOSE WHO ARE LOOKING FOR THE APPEARING OF THE SAVIOR (1 Jn. 3:2-3)
    2Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
  4. THE GOOD FORTUNE/HAPPINESS OF THOSE WHO SEE GOD (Matt. 5:8)
    8"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
I began this message by reading from the Richard Baxter's opening paragraph in chapter one of The Saints' Everlasting Rest. Considering Hebrews 4:9, "There remaineth therefore a rest unto the people of God," Baxter argues that

the end of all ceremonies and shadows is to direct them [i.e. the people of God] to Jesus Christ, the substance; and that the rest of Sabbaths, and Canaan should teach them to look for a further rest, which indeed is their happiness.
From here we began our consideration of each of these texts showing that Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, is the object of the saints' everlasting gaze. The psalmist learned from experience that those who look to the Lord (our Deliverer) are radiant. This radiance is not only one of joy, but also one of transformation. Moses' face had become radiant during his extended time of communion with God upon the mount. Moses' face reflected the glory of the One on whom he had been gazing. Paul argues that the glory Moses experienced was but a fading glory, and that the glory we experience through the ministry of the Holy Spirit is exceedingly glorious because it is transformational (see 2 Cor. 3:7-18). 1 John 3:1-3 builds upon this truth by stating that "we shall be like him, because we shall see him as his is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure." The point is not that we are to purify ourselves so that we might see God, but that, in looking to Jesus and gazing upon his glory in prolonged and consistent communion, he purifies us.

So, the common thread is seeing God. The more we look to Christ in holy communion, the more we are sanctified, purified, cleansed, transformed into his image. And if we have this hope in us and are purified as he is pure, we shall indeed see God along with all the innumerable multitude standing before the Lamb. For as Jesus taught his disciples on the mount, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8).

Along with reading some of Baxter's The Saints' Everlasting Rest, I also picked up Letters of Samuel Rutherford (Banner of Truth, reprint ed., 2006). If anyone was radiant for having seen Jesus it was Samuel Rutherford. Here are a few excerpts that I shared:

Oh how are we misted and mired with the love of things that are on this side of time, and on this side of death's water! Where can we find a match to Christ, or an equal, or a better than He, among created things!
(Letter 284, To the church in Ireland)

Your timeous [timely] word, "not to delight in the cross, but in Him who sweeteneth it," came to me in due time. I find the consolations and off-fallings that follow the cross of Christ so sweet, that I almost forgot myself.
(Letter 285, To Robert Gordon)

If heaven and earth, and ten thousand heavens even (round about these heavens that now are), were all in one garden of paradise, decked with all the fairest roses, flowers, and trees that can come forth from the art of the Almighty Himself; yet set but our one Flower that groweth out of the root of Jesse beside that orchard of pleasure, one look of Him, one view, one taste, one smell of His sweet Godhead would infinitely exceed and go beyond the smell, colour, beauty, and loveliness of that paradise.

If our Beloved were not mistaken by us, and unknown to us, He would have no scarcity of wooers and suitors.

He, He Himself is more excellent than heaven; for heaven, as it cometh into the souls and spirits of the glorified, is but a creature; and He is something (and a great something) more than a creature.
(Letter 289, To the church in Ireland)
If heaven is our aim, that is not high enough. As the visions of John in the Revelation show us, and as Rutherford so often reminded his readers in so many words, the Lamb is all the glory of Immanuel's land.

"Oh, how little of him do we see! Oh, how shallow are our thoughts of him!"
~ Samuel Rutherford

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