Yesterday, I heard a challenging statement on the radio that I would like to pass on. The preacher said something to the effect of, “Much of our Christian life is closing the gap between reputation and reality.” I tend to agree.
Reputation is what others think they know about us. Reality is what is actually true of us. Reputation may be nothing more than the image we project or the image others perceive. Reality is what we are; our character.
Often times we are afraid to let others see the reality. We fear their rejection. We worry that they may think less of us. So, we hide behind the image we project. Or, we fail to correct a misperceived idea that we know we aren’t worthy of. What’s at the heart of this? I think at least two things: pride and unbelief.
Pride because we are selfishly concerned with how we look to others. We live to get others to see us, talk about us, and depend on us. Somehow we keep gravitating to the sinful notion that the world revolves around us.
It’s an expression of unbelief because we are failing to rest in the gospel of our security in Christ. We are failing to actively believe that through Christ we have been freely and forever accepted by God. Christian friend, God loved us when He knew the reality about us (Rom 5:6-11). He has accepted and adopted us in Christ. Believe the gospel declared in Rom 5:1-2, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand…”
Because of the gospel, we don’t need to be hypocritical pretenders or projectors. Rather, by the Spirit’s help, let’s keep putting pride and unbelief to death and, by God’s grace, continue to close the gap between our reputation and reality.
Psalm 29:3 declares God to be “the God of glory.” This is a statement revealing who God is. He is glorious. In other words, God has inherent, intrinsic glory. Glory is of the very essence of the Divine Being. Therefore, His glory never diminishes, fades, or improves. It is unchanging.
What is glory? To be sure, our creaturely minds cannot fully comprehend the magnitude and majesty of God’s glory. Many words could be used to describe God’s glory. But, let me offer two that might help. Glory has to do with weight and worth.
There is a “weightiness”, a “heaviness” to God’s Being. In the Scriptures when people encountered certain manifestations of God’s glory, they were noticeably affected. Moses’ face shone so bright that he had to wear a veil. On the day that the temple was dedicated, the priests could not stand to minister in it because of the Glory that was present. When Job experienced God’s glory, he responded, “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth….I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 40:4; 42:6) When the Apostle John saw the glory of the risen and reigning Christ, he fell on his face as a dead man. Mortal man cannot remain unaffected by the experience of the weight of God’s glory.
Glory also speaks of God’s worth. Unlike everything else in all creation, God’s worth is not a derived worth. It is unaffected by human opinion or desire. The God of glory is the source and determiner of all worth. He is infinetly abundant in worthship and gloriously incomparable in honor. “To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?” (Is. 40:18) He has been, is, and ever will be worthy.
Therefore, let us “ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name.” (Ps 29:2 italics mine) And, “let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. ” (Heb 12:28-29) May God grant that our experience and expressions of worship increasingly reflect His weight and worth, for the God of the gospel is also, the God of glory!
The first seven chapters of Leviticus are instructions on the various types of sacrifices that God’s people were to offer unto Him. In chapters 4-6 we find this truth, “And the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven,” repeated 10 times. Surely God is teaching some valuable truths.
First, God is holy. He is other than us in purity. He is transcendent in perfection and goodness. He cannot abide with guilty people. He cannot be served with unclean hands. He will not receive profane worship. He must prescribe and provide for the way of worship and relationship.
The second truth necessarily follows the first, namely, that sin has separated humanity from this holy God. The Israelite worshippers had to have a God-appointed priest who would act as a mediator between God and the people. The priest would offer up the sacrifice on behalf of the worshipper.
Thirdly, not only does man need a priest to mediate, but a sacrifice to atone. Sin not only separates man from God, but puts him under God’s righteous judgement. That judgement is death. God must punish sin. Thankfully, Leviticus shows that God graciously provided for a substitute to be sacrificed in place of the worshipper. Through a mediated and unblemished offering, the offender was forgiven and his worship accepted by God.
Lastly, the fact that these sacrifices were to be repeatedly offered shows their inability to satisfy God’s wrath for human sin and to cleanse the conscience of the sinner. These sacrifices were temporary and preparatory. They were put in place by God until the time when the ultimate, once for all sacrifice was made by Christ. Jesus came to be both High Priest and Sacrifice, Mediator and Substitute. He alone was able to go before God in perfect holiness as our High Priest and to offer up himself as an unblemished sacrifice on behalf and in place of his people. He is the fulfilment and point of Leviticus 1-7! (Hebrews 10:1-18)
Today on this Good Friday we are not picking out a spotless lamb to take to the priest so he can offer it to God for us. Nor are we participating in bread and wine as a means of atonement offered by a priest. No, rather, we are reflecting upon and exulting in the once for all sacrifice of our High Priest offered on the cross of Calvary. Through faith alone in him alone we have the forgiveness of sins and fellowship with our holy God. So, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrew 10:22-23
“He fell on his face…” (Matt 26:39) Don’t let this phrase pass you by. In Gethsemane, the Lord of Glory is laid low on the ground. The Almighty is bowed down because his soul is “sorrowful, even to death.” The Incarnate Word is pleading in prayer.
Can you see him? Can you feel the cool grass and smell the dirt beneath him? Can you hear his groans and cries to the Father? He is “sorrowful and troubled.” There is a an agony so intense that “his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:44)
What is the source of this sorrow? Well, we hear it in our Lord’s prayer, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me…” The cup was the cup of sin and judgement. It represented the wrath of God toward sinners. Jesus knew that he was about to be so identified with sinners that he would become sin for them (2 Cor 5:21). And in so doing, take upon himself the wrath of God. He would suffer outside of the camp cut off from the Divine Presence to bear the curse that our sins deserved.
This is what agonized and shook our Lord Jesus. But, thankfully, that wasn’t all He prayed, for Jesus followed “let this cup pass from me” with “nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” In humble submission and unforced volition, Jesus takes the cup, as it were, and carries it from Gethsemane to Golgotha and drinks it dry, pouring out his life as an offering for sin. And by that act, Jesus turned the cup of sin and judgement into the cup of forgiveness and salvation. He holds that cup out to us. But we must take it. We must humble ourselves in repentance and faith.
So, I suppose, in a sense, Jesus fell on his face that we might fall on ours. His falling meant death. Our falling means life!
Chuck Cook is the pastor of Grace Bible Church - Rolla.