A Heart of Flesh

Ezekiel 36:26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

God has always intended to make us genuinely different people. That change is real only if it takes place on the inside. A new heart and a new spirit aren’t mere matters of outward behavior. They are the result of the transformation of our very selves.

Have you ever spent a considerable amount of time living or working in a different culture? In small ways you adjust certain behaviors, but that doesn’t mean you have changed who you are. When I did cross-cultural mission work in the poverty-stricken inner city neighborhoods of Milwaukee, I learned you had to be very careful about any physical contact with minors, even the most innocent kind of touch. For many of them, almost all physical contact has been either violent or sexual in nature. But that didn’t change the way I played with my own children. When I was working with our sister churches in Scandinavia, I learned that you take off your shoes at the door, much like they do in Japan. But I still walk around my own house with shoes on most of the time.

The Lord doesn’t bring us back to himself for a visit. He makes us his own forever. So he doesn’t ask us to accommodate a few quirky customs he has by adjusting our behavior for a little while. He makes us different people. He gives us a new heart and a new spirit. He leaves nothing that goes on inside of me untouched.

In our language and culture we tend to separate “mind” and “heart” and “will.” “Heart” has to do with what we feel and believe, not necessarily how we think. In Hebrew language and culture these are a package deal. The new heart involves how we feel, and how we think, and what we want. Right and wrong, good and bad, like or dislike, true or false–don’t expect any of it to be the same when the Lord is through working on you. He fully intends to remake us on the inside.

This is what happens when God calls us to faith. Notice that this is not a self-improvement project. “I will give you a new heart….I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh,” the Lord says. I’m sure you have seen fossils before. They are amazing stone images of plants and creatures from the distant past produced by the forces of nature over long periods of time. But no one would mistake them for living versions of plants or animals. No one would expect them to be able to do the same things.

That’s like our hearts, the Lord says. Sure, our hearts may do an adequate job of pumping blood through our bodies. But when it comes to believing the right way, thinking the right way, wanting the right things, they are no more alive than a fossil. God has to come and cut the stone heart out of our chests and replace it with a heart of his own making that actually works.

Thankfully, in his grace, that is what he does. Through word and sacrament we get a heart transplant. The gospel changes us. God’s grace has made us spiritually alive.

You Will Be Clean

Ezekiel 36:25 “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.”

The God of the Bible once chose a people for himself. It’s not that he ever desired some people not to belong to him. He was happy to have them all. But in general humanity kept running away. So he chose the family of Abraham, which became the nation of Israel. These people became his very own.

But they kept running away from him, too. After a thousand years of trying to work with them, he kicked them out of their homeland. He stopped treating them like his special people. This same prophet Ezekiel saw a vision in which the Lord picked up his presence and left the temple in Jerusalem. Then the Babylonians came and took the people away. For seventy years they lived in a foreign land.    

Still, God had a plan to take his people back, and to take his people home. In order for him to take his people back, and have them live with him, some things had to change. His people needed to be cleansed. He promised through Ezekiel: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean.”

Don’t think that this cleansing was just a formality. Every human needs it desperately, no exceptions. We bring far more filth with our sins than the filthiest flee- or lice-infested stray dog or cat ever did. The Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles both confront the peoples of their times with long laundry lists of common sins–not just sins common among the “heathen,” but things believers, Christians, struggle to do or let go.

Some of these we might categorize as sins against holiness. These are the kinds of sins in which we indulge our personal desires. We lose our self-control. We misuse God’s gifts like food, or drink, or sex.

Some of these we might categorize as sins against love. We care only for ourselves. We ignore our neighbor’s needs. We live selfishly in the way we use our time, our money, our talents.

At the root of our Lord’s concern are “all your idols.” Something or someone creeps into first place in our hearts ahead of God. In Ezekiel’s day, this was often literally gods of other religions. The cult of Baal and Asherah promised you fertile land and fertile animals, a more bountiful life, if only you would embrace unmarried sex. That wasn’t very hard to promote. The cult of Molech promised power and success if only you would sacrifice your own babies, your own sons and daughters, to death by burning them in the arms of the idol.

More or less these same gods, minus the religious trappings, still spook around in our own culture today. Anything can become our idol, a rival god. To the Lord, that is disgusting filth. In fact, the word Ezekiel uses for “idol” is related to a word that means “manure” in the Hebrew. The Lord may love us, but he is not content to have that filth in his home or around his person. If he is going to take us for himself, he needs to cleanse us.

So that is what he does. Notice the pronouns here. “I will sprinkle clean water on you…I will cleanse you from all your impurities.” He doesn’t say, “Go take a bath and come back.” He says, “I will do this.” The Lord is in the business of making his people clean and washing their sins away.

For Ezekiel’s original audience, sprinkling with water was something they knew from the temple. There was a sprinkling ceremony that purified the men who worked in the temple. Another sprinkling with water was used to cleanse people who had been in contact with dead bodies. All of this was a picture, a foreshadowing of a greater sprinkling and cleansing to come.

Referring to the blood of Jesus’ sacrifice, the author of Hebrews says in chapter 10, “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water” (vs. 22). When we come to faith, Jesus’ blood is sprinkled over us, so to speak. We receive the full cleansing of his sacrifice at the cross. We have been washed of our sins, and we don’t have to carry a guilty conscience around with us anymore.

Then there is the literal sprinkling of water at our baptisms. Baptism is always connected to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Baptismal water is always mixed with Jesus’ blood, spiritually speaking. That is why Ananias could say to Paul at his conversion, “Get up, be baptized, and wash your sins away” (Acts 22:16). In the waters of our baptisms God is saying, “I am cleansing you.” We are passive, but God is active, promising us the forgiveness of our sins.

God’s cleansing makes us a people acceptable to him, a people he welcomes into his own home.

Jesus Exalted

Philippians 2:9-11 “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Sometimes Christians complain that department stores are disrespecting Jesus if they substitute “Happy Holidays” for “Merry Christmas.” Of course Jesus is the reason for the season. Of course the stores are all too happy to make a buck off his birthday. But I don’t know that Jesus is particularly pleased when people who don’t even believe in him reference his title in their season’s greetings. He never made it his mission to become a seasonal slogan. If Christians want to defend his honor, they might start by being careful not to use his name as an exclamation point. Then let’s find the courage to go and tell someone who doesn’t know, why Jesus means so much to us.

In Paul’s world, just talking about Jesus in public could land you in prison. That’s where he was writing this letter to the Christians in Philippi. In our world, there are still over 50 countries where talking about him in public can get you arrested. Should that surprise us in a world that crucified him when he visited the first time?

Trends and statistics for Christians can be depressing. Every recent study indicates between 70 and 80 percent of young people raised in the church will leave it by age 30. Society at large tries to ignore Jesus or remove him from public life. It is easy to fear that Christianity is dying. Maybe the faith Jesus started is a failure after all.

Paul has two answers for our fears. “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.” You can’t take away the honor Jesus has already been given. Not only did God raise him from the dead. In response to his sacrifice for our sins, God has given him the highest position and most respected name of all. Jesus may have been executed when he was here. The people he left behind may struggle. But those who continue to trust in him need to know that they are playing on the winning team.

And when we reach the next life, where Jesus already enjoys these honors, no one will be able to deny his greatness: “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Note that Paul does not say that all these knees bowing to Jesus do so because they believe in him as his people. He is not predicting a mass conversion.

In the end even his enemies will have to acknowledge him. Jewish priests and Roman soldiers mocked the idea he was some sort of king while he hung on the cross. They will all bow down to him and call him Lord. Literally hundreds, maybe thousands, of people I have met have smiled and told me they aren’t interested in church or religion at the door. They will all bow down to him and call him Lord.

And we will be there, too–our faith confirmed, our doubts dismissed. But when we bow, we will bow as royal guests of the King, saved by his humble grace. For this, God the Father himself exalts him.

A Concerned God

Exodus 3:7-8 “The Lord said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…”

The theologian’s term for God’s all-knowing ability is “omniscience.” No truth, no fact, no event ever escapes his notice.

The point of this talent is not that he could be the all-time winningest champion on Jeopardy, or that it qualifies him to teach the entire university curriculum. Those things may be true. “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.” David writes in the 139th Psalm. “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.” The point is, the Lord is entirely familiar with the most intimate details of our lives. And he acquaints himself with them not because he wants to catch us, or shame us. He makes them his business because he is concerned to help us.

The Lord did not feel obligated to explain to Moses why he waited a couple of hundred years and several generations to do something about the suffering of his people. That doesn’t change the fact of his concern. Timing can be a complicated thing. Before you bake the bread, it’s wise to let the bread dough rise, even if you are hungry right now. Otherwise you might end up with an inedible brick.

Just because the Lord doesn’t explain to us why he waits to intervene in our suffering doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a perfectly good reason for waiting. In the meantime, if you want to know what he is really like, trust him when he says, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people…and I am concerned about their suffering.”

Then he reveals that he is the God who rescues us in his love. “So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…” So begins the story of the greatest deliverance before the coming of Christ.

Israel was a slave nation: no army, no weapons, no organized leadership. Egypt was a superpower: an empire whose wealth, and technology, and military had no superiors. There was no way the little nation of sheep farmers turned brick layers was going to escape to freedom without divine intervention. It would take a miracle– at least a dozen of them before God was done.

But God did what he promised, because that is the kind of God he is. He comes down. He gets involved. He delivers his people even when it looks like all hope is lost. It makes it easier for everyone to see that the escape was not luck, a fluke, or a sudden surge of human ingenuity. It was God, the one whose loving concern leads him to deliver his people.

You could say that the whole Bible tells this story over and over again. The names and places change. The story is always the same. God’s people are trapped in misery, usually due to some foolishness of their own. The Lord intervenes to rescue them: from bad decisions, bad behavior, bad neighbors, bad family members, bad employers, bad leaders, bad empires, bad weather, bad health, even bad religion. It all culminates in the big one, the rescue of all rescues. He let his own Son be crucified to deliver us from our sins and free us from death. This rescue tells us, like no other, what God is really like.

Mark Paustian tells about the time he arrived at church early to set up for Sunday service and found a young woman waiting there. “I hope you don’t mind my being here,” she told him. “I don’t believe in God.” “Why don’t you tell me about the God you don’t believe in,” he offered. “Maybe I don’t believe in him either.”

She went on to describe a god who sits on his hands, does nothing about the pain in the world, invents arbitrary rules, and enjoys judging and killing people. “Guess what?” Pastor Paustian said. “I don’t believe in that God either.” Then he went on to describe the God of all power, who is still holy and just, but who might best be understood this way: He is the “God with skin on,” Jesus Christ. He is the God who made the very beam of wood that got too heavy for him when he had to carry it up the hill where they executed him.

He is the One who could do everything, hanging on the cross doing nothing. Just dying. For me. He is love in flesh and blood, alive again three days later, because he is concerned about his people.

A Holy God

Exodus 3:4-6 “When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’ And Moses said, ‘Here I am.’ ‘Do not come any closer,’ God said. ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.’ Then he said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ At this, Moses hid is face, because he was afraid to look at God.”

On the mountain Moses came face to face with the God who is holy. Ordinarily, Moses’ sandals kept his feet from being defiled by the dirty, dusty desert floor on which he ran his sheep. In God’s presence those same dirty sandals defiled the dust made holy by the presence of a God so pure, so distinct from the people he had made, that Moses was afraid to look at him.

At best, people conceive of gods who are larger-than-life versions of themselves. These homemade gods value what they value, crave what they crave, tolerate what they tolerate, and condemn what they condemn.

We sometimes laugh at the cartoonish gods of Greek and Roman mythology. They are greedy, lustful, envious, moody, petty, violent, conceited–larger-than-life versions of the people who worshiped them. I submit to you that those same gods, minus the cartoon images, have largely conquered and colonized the culture in which we live today. They have made deep inroads even into our Christian churches. That is why, in the name of god, people will defend perversions of every sort, stinginess, disregard for the poor, the slaughter of the innocent unborn, deceit, vulgarity, and worse. That is why the person who tells you to listen to the voice of god within is probably an idolater urging you to make a god who looks like yourself.

The holy God of Mount Horeb is not one of us. If you find it hard to look at him there is a reason for that. He is better than we are. No, that is an understatement. He is everything we are not. He is so utterly true and authentic that we shrink from his absolute honesty. He exposes me, the fraud I am. He sets the standard of right and wrong. He is the standard of right and wrong. He tolerates no deviation from it. He is the only being in the universe who has a right, a claim, to making everything about himself. He is God.

But in his holiness we find not absolute selfishness but absolute love. He lets nothing get in the way of giving his creatures exactly what they need, not even their own objections, not even his own pain and sacrifice. His burning desire to save his people moves him to come to their rescue. Moses was the man of the moment for his saving plan. Jesus is the greater Savior for all people, whose mission to rescue us from sin God was protecting by sending Moses to rescue Israel from Egypt.

“So this is what God is really like,” Moses must have thought as he stood barefoot in front of a fire that didn’t burn, and he hid his face. He is so holy, and yet he comes to us and stoops to save us. He is still so holy, and so zealous to come and save.

Meet God

Exodus 3:1-3 “Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, ‘I will go over and see this strange sight–why the bush does not burn up.’”

The burning bush was not a magic trick. It was an introduction. God needed to introduce himself to Moses some way, and this is how he chose to do it.

Maybe his method seems strange. With Abraham, the Lord adopted a human form to come and visit him. With Jacob he appeared in a dream. Sometimes, it seems, he came as little more than a voice.

For Moses, he is this fire engulfing a mountain shrub, but the branches and twigs are not glowing red, then turning black and disintegrating into ash. The leaves were not curling and then disappearing in the heat. The miracle was an important part of God’s “How do you do?”

The fire that burns down your house or destroys 10,000 acres of forest is a powerful thing. We don’t play with fire because we know it is dangerous. That is the natural power of fire, and we respect it. A fire that can leave a perfectly combustible plant untouched, that can live in its branches without consuming its life, is more powerful still. It is the supernatural power of God, who is not limited by the laws that ordinarily govern the way the universe works. For him the laws of physics are only suggestions. God’s introduction to Moses, where he first meets him, was a way of reminding his future prophet and deliverer, “I am all-powerful. I can do the impossible.”

That was going to be important for Moses going forward. The Lord was going to ask Moses to take his life into his hands and confront one of the world’s most dangerous dictators. Imagine if he asked you to march into North Korean crazy-man Kim Jong Un’s office and demand that he let his people freely travel to the south. You might want to know that the Lord had some supernatural power up his sleeve, because nothing natural was going to bring you out alive. This burning bush was a start to build Moses’ confidence.

God’s almighty power is still a good starting point for knowing what he is like. Some people believe they meet God in the power or beauty of nature–storms, hurricanes, earthquakes; stately forests, tranquil lakes, mountain vistas, or gorgeous sunsets. None of these is God himself. They are only his fingerprint, only his craftsmanship. But you would be right to conclude that a power far higher than yourself stands behind the forces that make us feel so small.

Some people find it hard to believe in an almighty God in a world that seems so out of control, so plagued by catastrophe, cruelty, and suffering. These are not due to a lack of power but consequences of his love and respect for freedom. Sinful people brought these things into the world. You and I have to survive in such a place.

One God alone has the power to deal with the problems of sin and its effects: catastrophe, cruelty, and suffering. It would be foolish to face these without the only God who overcomes it all.

God’s Choice to Give You Life

James 1:18 “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”

God chose to make us alive spiritually. He gave us the new life of faith. Here’s a thought with Mother’s Day approaching: God giving us the new life of faith was like a mother giving birth. Who does all the work, all the sweat? Certainly not the baby. It gets squeezed, and pushed, but it’s not actively involved one way or another. No one gives the baby a high five after delivery and congratulates it: “Good job, junior! Nice arrival! You showed up well.” Mom is the one who gets all the hugs, all the kisses, all the credit, because she did all the work.

God chose to birth a spiritual life in us, and it involved its own kind of spiritual labor pains. James says God gave the gift of spiritual birth “through the word of truth.” And what word was that? What did that word say? It wasn’t a reasonable list of evidences for the existence of God. It wasn’t an abstract discussion of the nature and characteristics of God.

It was the word that showed you his love. It is the word that revealed that in order to save you, God traded his home in heaven for the slums of earth. He traded his glory and power for a weak human body, and he became the man named Jesus. He traded his holiness for your sin. He traded his life for your death. He traded his respect and praise for your shame and punishment. He traded his throne for a cross, and a stone slab in a cold tomb. He sweated and suffered and died over all this labor and sacrifice to save you and me, because that’s how much he loves you and me.

This word, this news, this love was the one thing powerful enough to land on the cold, barren planet that was my heart. Where there was no atmosphere, no sunshine, no water–none of the requirements for life spiritually speaking–this was the one thing that could miraculously establish the spiritual life of faith where no life had ever existed before.

Why? Just for the pride of being able to say he could do the impossible? No, “that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” You know what firstfruits are? They are the first part of the harvest, the first thing to come off the trees or out of the field. They aren’t only first in time, but God generally considered them first in quality and first in desirability. In the Old Testament he required that the people of Israel give him the firstfruits of their harvests in recognition of the fact that he had supplied the harvest in the first place.

In the New Testament God doesn’t want fruits or grains. He wants you to be his own. You are the one thing he desires. You are the one thing he regards above everything else he has made. You are the one thing he values more than anything in the world.

You want to know that God loves you, and that he has only your good in mind, when your life is up and down, and you see suffering you can’t explain? This is where you look, where he has made himself clear. Not at all the hard to interpret experiences of life in a complex and broken world that frankly is too big and too lost for our puny brains to comprehend. This is where you look. God’s proof lies in the gift of our new life and all the loving sacrifices he gave to make it happen.

Good and Perfect

James 1:16-17 “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

God knows how to give only one kind of gift to his people. James has two words to describe it: good and perfect. “Good” does not necessarily mean “pleasant.” It means wholesome, helpful, beneficial.

I run for exercise. This is good. It is rarely pleasant, at least not exclusively so. Sure, I enjoy fresh air and sunshine and scenery, and at first even the invigoration of my body in motion. But some days it is really cold, and the wind stings my cheeks, maybe blows down my collar and chills me. Some days it is really hot, and the sunshine beats on me, and the humidity presses all around. It feels like I’m carrying a hundred extra pounds in the heat, and the sweat stings my eyes. A couple miles down the road my lungs may burn no matter what kind of day it is, and my knees may ache a little, and I just want to be done. But do you know what? The benefit for my heart, and my health, and my mind is always the same. It is good.

So God doles out experiences, situations, the content of our lives, and James tells us everything that comes from him is a gift, and a good one at that. Sometimes this is obvious. Friends, family, love, a little feast to celebrate some happy milestone, new things to make our lives a little easier–we practically feel God smiling on us.

Sometimes this seems impossible to believe. An illness you will carry to your grave, people who break your heart, persecution for what you believe– we don’t see that these serve any good purpose, so it is hard to see how James can call them “good” or classify them as gifts.

But that is what he does. And he says even more. “Every good and perfect gift is from above…” As is so often the case, there is more than one Greek word for “perfect.” The one James uses here emphasizes that God’s gifts are “complete.” He gives you the whole package, just the way it is supposed to be.

Maybe you have bought something that required assembly before, and what you got was good so far as it goes. But there were parts missing. It couldn’t work right because of the missing parts. The life content God is giving you has no parts missing. They are all there in every situation, doing what they are supposed to do. As his gifts, they are perfect, even if that is hard for us to see.

And that is mostly hard for us to see. I could give you a hundred stories at this point that attempt to find God’s good and perfect gifts in situations that seemed to have evil written all over them. Christian author and editor Marshall Shelley once wrote about the short life of his little girl who was born with much of her brain having failed to develop. She lingered through various health problems for about two years. On the last day of her life, he writes about the procession of people who visited her hospital room and confessed the impact that this wordless, sightless little girl had had upon their spiritual lives–people learning to deal with their own loss, wanting to reconcile broken relationships, and especially moved to renew their relationship with God. “I sat there amazed,” he writes. “In the presence of a dying child, a child who couldn’t speak, we had a small revival–people confessing sins and drawing nearer to God.”

Our God knows something about “good” and “perfect” not adding up to “pleasant” or “easy.” Jesus is his ultimate gift. Much of his earthly life and ministry were difficult. Everything about his trials, crucifixion, and death were painful. But from this sacrifice God brought us the greatest good, the greatest gift of all—our salvation from sin and death. He invites us to trust that every other gift is good and perfect as well, no matter how hard that might be to see.

Never Know-It-Alls

1 Corinthians 13:9-12 “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

This is not an evaluation that my pride likes to hear. Though in theory we may admit that we don’t know everything, in practice we tend to forget it. We easily fall into making sweeping generalizations and drawing universal conclusions based upon the relatively thin slice of knowledge even the smartest of us possesses. Isn’t that why so much of so-called “modern science” is in such a mess?

Even our Bible knowledge is only partial knowledge of God and his will. It may be accurate knowledge. It may be useful knowledge. It may be saving knowledge. But it isn’t everything there is, only what God has chosen to reveal.

And don’t we struggle to comprehend the most fundamental truths God has revealed–Father, Son and Holy Spirit as One God; God becoming a man in the person of Jesus Christ; God’s promises of daily bread and protection when so much human experience seems to contradict them? “Oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”

In its present, incomplete form this knowledge, too, is passing away. It is not like the greater knowledge of heaven to follow. Because this is hard for us to get, Paul supplies three illustrations to help us. First, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” Many of the things we knew as children were not false. They were just profoundly incomplete. That fragmentary information of our childhood isn’t always very useful for the way we view things and behave as an adult.

As a child I knew that my toys were my toys. Believe me, I knew the word “mine” well. As an adult, I still know what it means that something is mine. But I also know what it means to be a husband, a father, a friend, a neighbor, and a citizen. The concept of “mine” has gone through some profound changes, just as our present knowledge of God will become something greater and different in the life to come.

Second, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.” Ancient mirrors were usually fuzzy compared to our own. Even when their clarity rivaled those we use, the image was still indirect and incomplete. Depth perception can be difficult to determine in a mirror. What’s the little phrase printed on the side-view mirror of your car, “Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear”?  Peripheral vision is limited in a mirror. The picture it reflects is only so big. That’s why, after you check your car’s side view mirror, you still have to look in the blind spot or risk an accident. So our face to face view of God will clear up the fuzzy, hard to judge, and limited view we presently possess.

Third, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” I may think I know myself, but I don’t know me anything like my Lord does. I know almost nothing of my own life between 11 o’clock last night and 6:30 this morning. I don’t know what disease might be lurking deep within my body. I know I have hair, but I have no idea how many. I know my tastes in food or music, but I don’t know why mine are not exactly like everyone else’s. But my Lord knows all these things.

Can we even begin to fathom what it will be like to know the Lord so completely and so intimately as he now knows each of us? Doesn’t that point to a difference between what we know now, and what we will know then, that is so vast as to demand that our present knowledge will pass away, and give way to something unimaginably greater and better? And doesn’t that help us to regard our current spiritual gifts with a proper sense of humility?

Perhaps your spiritual resume isn’t filled with fantastic abilities and impressive knowledge. But in his grace, in his forgiveness, in his Son, God has loved you. He has poured that love into your hearts. And that love will go with you, both his and yours, into eternity, long ages after what we think we know has passed away.