Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"Apart from Christ, Let Nothing Dazzle You" (Part 2)

“Apart from Christ, let nothing dazzle you.”

This oft quoted saying comes from Ignatius of Antioch (c. 50 – c. 117) who was discipled by the Apostle John himself. He later served the churches of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) after John’s death, and eventually wrote a number of letters to some of those churches. Last week I provided you with the context of this quote, and then made a few comments about what Ignatius meant by it. This week I want to address the question, How can our souls be dazzled with Christ? I have four answers.

First, we dazzle our souls with Christ by meditating on his being and attributes. For example, Hebrews 1:1-4 provides us with at least seven claims about the being of Christ. Each claim is stunning in itself, but taken together they lead us to the inevitable conclusion that he is in fact God. Specifically, the author claims that (1) God the Father appointed Christ to be heir of all things, (2) God the Father created all things through Christ, (3) Christ is the radiance of the glory of God, (4) Christ is the exact imprint or re-presentation of the nature of God, (5) Christ upholds the universe by the word of his power, (6) Christ made purification for sins so that we can be forgiven by believing in him, and (7) Christ is forever seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high, that is, he sits on the very throne of God.

In only 72 words, the author of Hebrews masterfully exalts the glory of Christ and our souls will be dazzled if we savor what he has said. So often we settle for a quick sample of the glory of Christ that’s revealed in the Bible, but true amazement is the fruit of deep meditation. To be dazzled with Christ is free but it is not cheap, so may we open our Bibles and savor the vision of the Savior that is found on every page. 

(Click here for a sermon I preached on Hebrews 1:1-4.)

Second, we dazzle our souls with Christ by meditating more specifically on the cross, for on the cross the manifold excellencies of Christ were most vividly displayed. And we meditate on the cross by opening to one of the Gospels, reading a portion of the passion narrative, and slowly meditating on it. As for me, I like to read carefully to ensure that I’m understanding the fine details of a particular portion, and then I close my eyes and prayerfully imagine myself being there. I try to see and hear and smell and feel and taste each scene, and I ask the Holy Spirit to give me insight as I do. After years of approaching biblical stories in this manner, I can testify that the Holy Spirit is always faithful to provide insight and impact when we sincerely seek to see our Savior.

Third, we dazzle our souls with Christ by seeing Christ in all of Scripture. Jesus saw himself in the Law, the prophets, and the writings (that is, the entire Old Testament; see Luke 24:27). The Apostles preached Christ from the Old Testament (see for example, Acts 17:2-3), and New Testament books like Acts and Hebrews are so full of Old Testament quotes and allusions that it is tempting to think of them as Christ-centered commentaries on the Old Testament. The more we gain the legitimate sight of Christ in all of Scripture, the more we will be dazzled with him who is the fulfillment all of the purposes, plans, and promises of God.

Fourth, we dazzle our souls with Christ by meditating on his glory as revealed in creation. John 1:3, Colossians 1:16, and Hebrews 1:2 teach us that God the Father created all things through Christ. The Father is the architect, Christ is the builder. The Father is the visionary, the Son is the implementer. When we look upon any aspect of creation, we are seeing the vision of the Father and the handiwork of the Son.

The more this reality sinks in, the more we will be dazzled with Christ when we look upon the sun and the stars, the lakes and the seas, the mountains and the trees, the birds of the air and the fish of the sea and the beasts of the field, the image of God that is beaming, however dimly, from every human being. In fact, Hebrews 11:3 teaches us that one of the functions of creation is to build our faith in the Creator. It is designed to capture our minds and hearts, and to cause us to bow before him who created and sustains all things with nothing more than his word of power.

Next week I plan to write one more blog addressing the question, Does Ignatius’ quote mean that we are not allowed to enjoy anything outside of Christ? But for now I want to challenge you to choose one of my four suggestions and do it. Learn the habit and art of contemplating the glory of Christ, for as you grow in this discipline you will discover that your soul will naturally be dazzled with Christ and the things of this world will strangely fade away.

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