Monday, March 09, 2009

A Brief Word of Praise to Christ

It's late, I'm tired, but it's been a great day!

Class commenced with introductions. There are about 22 of us in this particular course, and 60 or so in the entire program. To my left was a man who's been serving a church in inner-city Cleveland for 12 years. He succeeded his father who was there for 28 years before that! To my right was the CEO of a major Christian publishing company, and farther to the right was a man who is laying down his life--literally risking his life--to put the Bible in the language of a people group in northern Mexico who, for the most part, don't speak Spanish. Across the room is a pastor of a Chinese church in Birmingham, Alabama, and two seats away from his was a young man from South Korea who's been serving as a pastor in the USA for four years. And around the rest of the table there's a mix of pastors and missionaries, all of whom are eager to dive into Hebrews.

It's a little difficult to explain what I was feeling as each person introduced him or herself. I thought, "What a privilege it is for me to be in the presence of such as these." I remember who I was before I was in Christ, and I can't believe that I have a place at the table with such humble and bold servants of God. Thank you, Father, for your mercy in Christ.

Dr. Don Carson began his lecture for the day with some prelimary comments about the recepients of Hebrews, the author, the date, the style of language, the use of the OT, etc. Then he turned our attention to Hebrews 1:1 and we simply worked our way, verse by verse and sometimes word by word, to the end of chapter two. It took about five hours.

As we pondered the first few verses, especially the lines about Jesus creating and sustaining all things, I could not help but gaze out the window at the woodsy landscape and worship this Jesus of whom we were speaking. "The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands" (Psalm 19). It was as if Jesus was distracting me from study in order to fill my soul with the wonder of him! It was as if he was saying, "Ponder me, and ponder deeply, but know me and worship me in the midst of your pondering." He would not let me think of him in the same way one thinks of any other subject because he is not merely a subject to be studied--he is the Living God! Thus, unlike any other subject, when we come to consider him we ponder in order to praise, we study in order to sing, we work in order to worship, we labor in order to love. I was so grateful to Jesus for capturing my heart like this!

As we continued on in chapter one and spoke at length about how the author uses the Old Testament, I became more and more captured by the beauty and utter supremacy of Jesus over all things. I know that must sound sappy and superlative, but I don't know how else to say it. The argument of Hebrews is that Jesus is "better" than all things--better than angels and Moses and the high priests of Israel and the old covenant, etc. And the author makes this argument by carefully interpreting themes that are deeply imbedded in the entirety of salvation history, like the Davidic Lineage, so that as one begins to comprehend just who this Jesus is he will tremble and fall at his feet in whole-hearted worship. This is the design of Hebrews: to open our eyes to who Christ really is, to strike awe in our hearts, and to cause us to worship him with our lips and with our lives.

And I guess what I'm saying is that the intended affects of Hebrews worked in my life today. At points I felt so lost in the contemplation of Christ that I was, for all intents and purposes, unaware of my surroundings. Jesus captured my heart today, plain and simple. It made me think of the old hymn,

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of his glory and grace.

It really is a privilege to sit at the table with pastors and missionaries and other servants of God. It really is a privilege to sit under the teaching of Dr. Carson and benefit from a man who has walked with Christ for so many years. But as with the angels and Moses and high priests and the old covenant, Jesus is better than these. He alone is worthy of adoration and praise, and I'm so grateful to him for capturing my heart as well as my mind today.

I look forward to more of the same tomorrow as we dive into chapters 3-5, probably. But for now it's time to take my rest.

Thanks for praying.

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