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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Down the Road

Every day of our lives, by means of the Holy Spirit’s agency, God is steadily working away to achieve in each of us the character of his Son.

Transforming us involves both IN-forming us and RE-forming us — but there is often a fair bit of time that elapses between the two.

Sometimes that means today’s lesson is only understood later this week. And sometimes full understanding of any given piece of spiritual information is years or even decades away.

Two examples from Luke 9 interest me:

Some Standing Here

In the first instance, Jesus tells his disciples:
“There are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”
Interesting, enigmatic statement. Initially, nobody had the slightest clue what Jesus meant. Then, eight days later, a few of them were given a better opportunity to connect the dots. The Lord took Peter, John and James up a mountain to pray and appeared to them glorified in the company of two dead prophets. VoilĂ : three disciples had their first vision of the kingdom.

Did the three uniquely privileged disciples make the logical connection to Jesus’ earlier statement at that point? Perhaps, perhaps not. Definitely the rest of their number didn’t. Nobody told them, at least until after Jesus was raised from the dead.

Jesus planted seeds like this all the time. He had short-term goals — and long-term goals too.

Words Sinking In

Another instance from the same chapter of Luke:
“While they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.’ But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it.”
What can we say? Those words apparently took a while to sink in. But in this instance it was not just dullness, immaturity, lack of faith or inexperience that caused the disciples to miss the Lord’s meaning. God deliberately concealed the meaning of his Son’s words from them. It was information they’d need down the road, not today.

Those of us who have read the gospels all know now that Jesus knew in advance what was going to happen to him and was heading deliberately toward it. That’s a powerful piece of data about the nature of the Son. It could have been declared at or after the cross and it would still be important. But it was delivered before, and when its impact truly dawned on Peter, it gave rise to these equally powerful Pentecostal statements:
“This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”
Peter knew it was all planned and foreknown by God because Jesus had planted that seed in his head before he died.

Sailing Over My Head

How many times have you sat through a sermon you didn’t really grasp? How many times has a Christian friend earnestly tried to communicate to you some truth that sailed right over your head? How many times have you read and re-read something you know is important without being able to see why it’s important?

More commonly, we grasp the thing we’ve been told intellectually with no problem, but absolutely fail to apply the lesson. Information without reformation. The actual change the information was intended to bring about happens years down the road.

It happens to me all the time. Sometimes it’s because I’m dull. Sometimes it’s rebellion or rationalization that’s the problem. Sometimes it’s distraction and preoccupation with other things. Other times, I’m convinced, God is planting today a seed absolutely calculated to bloom and grow in my life at a much later date, when further experience and necessary confirming truths from the word of God have been learned.

When, in fact, the lesson is most necessary.

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