“We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich, as having nothing, yet possessing everything” (2 Corinthians 6:8-10, ESV).
Paradox is used to reframe a reality that is outside of normal perceptions. When used in the Bible, paradox helps us perceive an alternative universe–the Kingdom of God–where God rules and reigns.
The normal Christian life is a great paradox. It’s life, but it’s death. It’s sorrow, yet joyful. It’s deficiency and sufficiency.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you” (2 Corinthians 4:7-12, ESV).
The “treasure in jars of clay” verse (2 Corinthians 4:7) is probably in the top three of my favorite Bible verses!
The treasure spoken of refers to “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (vs 6). And God gives this knowledge of Himself–this treasure, revealed in Christ Jesus, to human beings to do with as they please–accept it or reject it.
In these verses the Apostle Paul describes what life is like for those who possess this treasure. He describes what we might call The Normal Christian life–affliction, bewilderment, persecution, adversity AND eternal life.
This meditation was originally posted on 9/3/2013.
“For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silvanus and Timothy—did not become ‘Yes and no’; on the contrary, a final ‘Yes’ has come in Him. For every one of God’s promises is ‘Yes’ in Him. Therefore, the ‘Amen’ is also spoken through Him by us for God’s glory. Now it is God who strengthens us, with you, in Christ and has anointed us. He has also sealed us and given us the Spirit as a down payment in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 1:19-22, HCSB).
Do you ever get down and depressed because you feel like you’ve got so much to handle and you just can’t do it all? And then you get all locked up inside and you don’t do anything. I call it “gridlock of the soul.” Why even try, you wonder.
It seems like life is saying “No!” to you, “No you can’t. No you can’t. No, no, no!”
When life keeps telling you “No,” there is something you can do to escape soul gridlock.
Open your Bible to 2 Corinthians 1:19-22 and read, re-read, and read these verses again until you realize that when life seems to be telling you “No,” God is telling you “Yes!”
And not just “Yes,” but an emphatic “Yes,” God’s big “YES!”
“And he said to him, ‘If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?’ And the Lord said to Moses, ‘This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name'” (Exodus 33:15-17, ESV).
The backstory of these verses is that while Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments and other instructions from God, at the base of the mountain the Israelites had fashioned a golden calf to worship as their god, thinking Moses had abandoned them.
When Moses came down from the mountain he was so enraged that he threw down the Ten Commandment tablets and smashed them. Futhermore, God was ready to rid Himself of the Israelites. He told Moses to go ahead and lead the people to the promised land but He would no longer accompany them with His presence. Instead, God would send an angel to lead Moses and the Israelites into the land.
Moses was not satisfied with that plan and in these verses Moses implored God not to abandon His people. Moses begged God to reconsider and to go with him and the people of Israel to the promised land.
Moses declares that it is only God’s abiding presence with the Israelites that makes them distinct from all other people on the earth!
“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:8-12, NIV).
In a recent discussion in Sunday School our class got off the lesson and into a discussion of “forgiveness.” Of course, we generally concluded that it is much easier to forgive than to forget.
You may have even said that sometime in your life about somebody who has wronged you, “I can forgive them but I can’t forget it.”
When you analyze what you are saying in terms of how God transacts forgiveness, you soon realize that “forgetness” is an integral part of forgiveness. It you don’t forget, then you probably haven’t forgiven.
“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.'” (Luke 22:34, NIV).
At the Last Supper Jesus warned His disciples that He was going to be taken into custody and killed and that some of His followers would lose faith in Him. Impetuous Peter declared to Jesus that He would never be disloyal.
Then Jesus notified Peter that a few hours in the future–before the day was over–he would deny being a follower of Jesus not just once but three times!
You know the rest of the story. Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s future happened just as Jesus foretold.
What’s significant about this story for this discussion is that it reveals to us something very important about the character or nature of God: God knows the future!
If God knows what would happen six hours in the future, then why wouldn’t He know what will happen six days or six months or six years or even 6,000 years in the future?
“As I looked at the creatures, suddenly there was a wheel on the earth corresponding to all four faces of the creatures. The appearance and composition of the wheels were like sparkling topaz. There was one shape for all four of them, as if one wheel were inside another. When they moved in any of the four directions, they moved without swerving. Their rims were tall and terrifying, because all four of them were filled with eyes all around. When the creatures moved, the wheels moved next to them. Whenever the creatures rose above the earth, the wheels also rose up. Wherever the wind would appear to go, the wind would make them go there too. The wheels rose up beside them, because the spirit of the creatures was in the wheels. When they moved, the wheels moved; when they stood still, the wheels stood still; and when they rose above the earth, the wheels rose up along with them, because the spirit of the creatures was in the wheels” (Ezekiel 1:15-21, CEB).
What if God threw open the gates of heaven and let you see what He was doing. How would you describe it? The words or analogies you would use to describe it would be limited by your own personal experiences and understanding. Maybe you would use unusual descriptions of what you’re familiar with to describe what you’re not familiar with.
And, could you take it all in at once? Perhaps you would focus on a few aspects of the scene that stand out to you the most.
That’s what happened to the prophet Ezekiel when he got a glimpse of what God was doing. His description is rather perplexing. It almost seems like he’s describing a UFO sighting or a scene from a Star Wars movie with ancient terminology!
Ezekiel saw something that looked like a tornado or whirlwind moving closer to him. As the storm moved closer he was able to observe more precise details and features of what he saw.