Monday, August 8, 2011

Theme of the Day: What Is Man?

Every so often Providence arranges life so that a clear theme resonates through its events (or at least in what you read). Perhaps the Spirit is simply promoting an avenue of personal growth and someone else would not see the connections. But this day has seen a marvelous pattern of publication showing the greatness of God, the humility of man and the magnitude of the awesome love that comes from this relationship.

D.A. Carson's modification of the M'Cheyne Bible Reading Program includes Psalm 8. Verse 4 asks the following, "what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?"

In his For the Love Of God devotional for the day, Carson acknowledges, "Variations of this question carry different overtones, depending on the context." When I consider the majesty of man (rather, the lack thereof), it impresses on me the sheer infinity of God--at least, as far as my finite mind can grasp.

Consider yourself as you sit in your seat. Now ascend to where you can see the earth in your mind's eye. Can you see yourself anymore? Go out further to the edge of the solar system. The earth itself is nothing but a Pale Blue Dot. Zoom out to the edge of our galaxy, and the Sun is lost in a sea of galactic star light. You need not travel to the edge of our universe, where our galaxy's light would be extinguished, to understand how insignificant you are in comparison to this universe. And our very Universe is but a grain of sand to the Almighty Creator. What is man that God is mindful of him?

Scotty Smith wrote a prayer today pointing to where this thought should lead us:

That being said, it’s shocking to realize how much you [Jesus] love us—how much you actually make of us, Lord Jesus. Knowing you’ve forgiven all our sins is more than enough reason to praise you for eternity. Knowing you’ve covered us with your perfect righteousness is reason to praise you for ten eternities. But to see and believe you’ve made us your cherished Bride is staggering… thrilling… and ever so liberating. We’re not just going to heaven when we die, we’re entering a bridal chamber when you return.
How can this be, Lord Jesus? How can this possibly be? You’ve made us, a most unlikely and unworthy people, your bride, wife and queen for all eternity. This isn’t the story of Cinderella we’re in. There was nothing about us, or in us, that made us attractive to you. We’re the mean stepmother and the two conniving stepsisters—completely ill-deserving of your pursuit and affection. But such is the measure of your mercy and grandeur of your grace. You loved us in your death and now you serve us by your life.
God's greatness itself is great enough to dumbfound us with awe, but beyond revealing himself to us, he stoops down into humanity (Phil 2:6-7), and pours out a love where he sacrifices himself on the cross to redeem us (Phil 2:8). It's not simply about how big God is and how small man is, because any deist would could affirm that truth. The greatness of God that surpasses understanding is the love he shows to a seemingly insignificant speck of his creation.

A more significant part of our humility comes not from our physical stature but our spiritual depravity. Every person rebels against God and wishes to be like God, and wishes to be God. The love of God becomes all the more glorious, and Jonathan Edwards reminds us of this in a sermon entitled "The Spirit of the True Saints Is a Spirit of Divine Love" (thanks to Dane Ortlund for posting Edwards: Loving God):  
Consider what Christ has done for you. He died for you. O what did he bear for you. If you knew the pains, the distress, and the agonies the glorious Son of God underwent for you, how would the thoughts of his kindness and love to you overcome you. . . .
God in Christ allows such little, poor creatures as you are to come to him, to love communion with him, and to maintain a communication of love with him. You may go to God and tell him how you love him and open your heart and he will accept of it. You may be familiar in your expressions of your love to Christ, as little or unworthy as you are, for he is near to you. He is come down from heaven and has taken upon him the human nature on purpose, that he might be near to you and might be, as it were, your companion. . . . You may place yourself in his divine embraces.
As Paul points out throughout his letters, this work simply points back to the glorious grace of our Savior. Philippians 2 continues with what shall become of man, "Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so 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" (Philippians 2:9-11 ESV). Our relationship, through the promises of God and faith in Christ proclaims the riches of God's glory:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV) 
We can see how God-centered this universe is. It comes from and goes to verses 1 and 9 of Psalm 8:

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

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