The highest expression of us is to be hidden within the Unhideable One; to allow our anonymity to accelerate His aroma, His presence. Crawl on in; Abide in Him; let His life supersede all.
"Then he got up and left that place and went off to the neighbourhood of Tyre. There he went into a house and wanted no one to know where he was. But it proved impossible to remain hidden..." Mark 7
Here's a subtle little thought. If we focus first on intimacy with Jesus, there will always be voices that say that we're too inward, too individualistic in our outlook about what "Christianity" is. Yet consider Paul's later words about the reality of our salvation and what it means both practically and positionally:
"For, as far as this world is concerned, you are already dead, and your true life is a hidden on in Christ." Colossians 3:3
Our new life means certain death of the old; our place now is meant to be a hidden one: hidden in the living person and personality of Jesus Himself. And yet who is He? One who "gets up, leaves a place, goes off to another neighborhood. There He goes into a house and wants no one to know where He is. But it proves impossible for this Jesus to remain hidden."
The highest expression of us is to be hidden within the Unhideable One; to allow our anonymity to accelerate His aroma, His presence. Crawl on in; Abide in Him; let His life supersede all.
"[The new believers of Pentecost, along with the original group of believers] continued steadily learning the teaching of the apostles, and joined in their fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayer. Everyone felt a deep sense of awe, while many miracles and signs took place through the apostles. All the believers shared everything in common; they sold their possessions and goods and divided the proceeds among the fellowship according to individual need. Day after day they met by common consent in the Temple; they broke bread together in their homes, sharing meals with simple joy. They praised God continually and all the people respected them. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were finding salvation." Acts 2:42-47
These six verses, arguably the best-known in all the New Testament for describing the lifestyle of the Early Church, strike me as a beautiful picture of the three-part blend that our own lives should always be: an ecstatic reaction to the new life we've been given; a direct continuation of the life of Jesus through ours; a holy practicality that lives out the present temporal circumstances in light of the eternal. Consider these verses again through the lens of that heavenly blend:
They continued steadily learning the teaching of the apostles – thrilled, no doubt, by the depths and heights of all that Jesus offered; receiving, through the apostles, the direct words of Jesus; needing to know, to understand, more of what they’d just said 'yes' to – and joined in their fellowship – because, my goodness! what power, what joy, what love was offered up there; the actual power and joy and love of Jesus as directed now through His Body; a power and joy and love they needed to come under in order to be filled by – in the breaking of bread – because there’s nothing better than a meal with your newfound brothers and sisters; meals were a significant place where Jesus shared His life with His brothers and sisters; and because, well, they needed to eat somewhere! – and in prayer – because this Savior was ALIVE, He could be talked to anytime, anywhere; He loved to show Himself and delighted to talk to His friends and followers; because the apostles and new believers had very little idea what to do next.
Everyone felt a deep sense of awe – because they were surrounded by the glory of Jesus; because Jesus was consistently manifesting His life through lives; because we cannot help being awestruck by things heavenly and awesome – while many miracles and signs took place through the apostles – after all, they were “filled with the Holy Spirit”; Jesus just wanted to keep doing His thing; miracles and signs were simply a practical outflowing of heaven that bore present fruit in lives. All the believers shared everything in common – Who needs this stuff when you’ve got a whole Kingdom?; Jesus lived out His humility through living commonly with commoners; the new believers were from all over the Roman Empire and hadn’t brought enough clothes and food and money to last for, well, who knows how long! – they sold their possessions and goods and divided the proceeds among the fellowship according to individual need – Jesus and His Kingdom are all that matters, not this stuff I used to be so busy accumulating; the spirit of Jesus was rich with selflessness and humble, kindhearted burden-sharing; if we’re all part of the same Kingdom-family, why not internally take care of each other, since we’re now brothers and sisters!
Day after day they met by common consent in the Temple – they couldn’t get enough of Jesus, His Word, His life-in-them, and each other; Jesus had walked His day-to-day with the disciples and still desired the same; why let the fire of the Holy Spirit smolder when He is always ready to self-stoke? – they broke bread together in their homes, sharing meals with simple joy – the joy of new life was always bursting forth, even as they ate; Jesus, again, loved to pass His meals with all sorts of people; again, we all need to eat: Why not with each other, since we’re all now One? They praised God continually – How could they not! so rich was their newly found inheritance; Jesus always praised His Father; practically speaking, we cannot help continually doing what consumes our hearts – and all the people respected them – these were people alight with joy, kindness and love; Jesus was living His perfect life through them; the world, for all its arguments, cannot argue with the unvarnished Way of Jesus. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were finding salvation – because the new believers lived up to their heavenly privileges; Jesus never stops seeking the lost; and “the light still shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out” (John 1:5).
May that "blend" be as richly evidenced in my life, in your life, today!
When we look at the opening of Peter's message to the Pentecost crowds, the prophecy from Joel 2, what's so particularly wondrous (apart from the fact that it's positively filled with wonders) is the relatively passive role that His people are meant to take in the unbridled active presence of the Holy Spirit. Just look at the way the verbs play out for God's sons and daughters:
‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out my Spirit - meaning, Here He comes! Open up and simply receive what's being poured forth so liberally - on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy - meaning, open their mouths to the direct words of God, not their own; they will be spoken through - your young men shall see visions - their natural field of vision will be overlaid with the supernatural; they will see God's sights - your old men shall dream dreams - they will lie down to rest and, through no effort of their own, be given God's dreams for the Church.
And on my menservants and on my maidservants I will pour out my Spirit - again, open up! be filled with this free offering - in those days and they shall prophesy - again, being spoken through. I will show wonders - sit back and watch! - in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapour of smoke - whoa! The sun shall be turned into darkness - He'll do that - and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and notable day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord - This is the prophecy's first available action of our own wills. This is the first time in Peter's words from Joel 2 that we are offered an independent action that requires our activity. Everything else is done to us, for us and through us - the Holy Spirit manifesting all the glorious power of Heaven - and all we're given to do is, by Belief, call upon the Name. Which nets us what? - [They] shall be saved.’ Be saved. Not save ourselves...
So in this present generation, these "last days" as Peter and Joel refer to our times, we are meant to be Holy-Spirit-poured-into, prophetic visionaries who dream His dreams, flooded by His Spirit and His words, and who are able to fearlessly observe the "signs of the times," call upon His name, and live out our salvations. Our active submission to His Way, to the Holy Spirit who now lives in us, creates a lifestyle that allows us to passively receive all the power and glory and purposes of the Kingdom for this world. What others might see as passive belief is actually our greatest action. From there, everything can springs from His plans, His power.
As he walked along the shore of the Lake of Galilee, he saw two fishermen, Simon and his brother Andrew, casting their nets into the water. "Come and follow me, and I will teach you to catch men!" he cried.
At once they dropped their nets, and followed him.
Then he went a little further along the shore and saw James the son of Zebedee, aboard a boat with his brother John, overhauling their nets. At once he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and went off after him. (Mark 1)
In those five verses, in the calling of Peter, Andrew, James and John, what really strikes me is the image of the nets, their main tackle for their life-work as fishermen. It's what they're using, when Jesus first stops to watch them, to actually make a catch of fish; to provide for themselves and their families. It's what they're caring for, carefully mending, "overhauling," when Jesus walks up to James and John; their maintenance ensures their future livelihood. Really, these nets are their life. A fisherman without his net, in that day and age, was nothing. When these two pairs of brothers, on this one stretch of coast, drop their nets in the presence of Jesus, it is their highest expression of total self-abandonment. They will now source their lives in this Man rather than in those nets.
What is normalcy to us, today? What is "life" in our present context? Education; physical prowess; looks; charm; career; possessions; family; friends; reputation; honor; future legacy; family name? Let me help you. It's what we throw around to get what we need; to make sure this world knows "WHO I AM"; it's what we most attend to in order to ensure our future livelihood, position, personal comfort...
And THAT - our normalcy, our quickest self-definition, our Life - is what we must most quickly have down there at the feet of Jesus. A fisherman without his net was nothing. A disciple still holding his net is nothing too.
"Suddenly there was a sound from heaven like the rushing of a violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were seated. Before their eyes appeared tongues like flames, which separated off and settled above the head of each one of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit..." Acts 2:4
The Greek word used there for "filled" - ἐπλήσθησαν - means "to fill full of, to satisfy, to glut, to fill for oneself" or "to get ships laden" for voyage. When you think about your own experience so far with the Holy Spirit, it is so important to remember this: There can never be enough of the Holy Spirit in one's life, but there's always too little; we should never stop asking for more of His wondrous presence to fill us, through and through.
"But Jesus said to Peter [after Peter sliced off the ear of one of the men arresting Jesus], 'Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup the Father has given me?'" From John 18
In the other three Gospels, Jesus has only just been praying that this “cup” might pass without His having to drink it, and yet, according to Mark’s account, “it is not what I want but what you want” that matters to Him. But here’s what matters to us: What is this “cup”? What is the meaning of this that “the Father has given” Him on this night, and what will it mean for Jesus that He must “drink” it?
Looking back at the Old Testament, the Old Covenant, there are fourteen references, each using slightly different language, to describe a “cup of the Lord’s wrath” against the sin of the world and the accumulation of all wrongdoing throughout human history. Then, within the narrative of the Passover, we have the four promises of Exodus 6 – 1) “I will bring you out” 2) “I will deliver you” 3) “I will redeem you” 4) “I will take you as my people” – commemorated by four specific cups of wine – 1) The cup of sanctification 2) The cup of deliverance 3) The cup of redemption 4) The cup of restoration.
Now consider the promise of Isaiah 51, as it pertains to the coming of a Savior:
And why won’t we drink it again? Listen to Jesus, taking up the third cup (the cup of redemption) at that night’s Passover dinner:
As Jesus took and drank to the dregs the eternal “cup of the Lord’s wrath” on our behalf at the Cross, He was simultaneously pouring out His blood and thus, once and for all times, sealing a New Covenant between Himself and the Father. We are sanctified, delivered, redeemed and restored – the four cups of the Passover – because of the empty “cup of the Lord’s wrath” and the cup brimming over with Jesus’ shed blood. And what does He hold out to us?
Psalm 116 tells us: “the cup of salvation.”
And how full is that cup?
David declares: “my cup overflows.”
Grateful for our wonderful friend, Dale Brooks, who sent us this gem from Thomas Merton:
"Make ready for the Christ whose smile, like lightning, sets free the song
of everlasting glory that now sleeps, in your paper flesh, like dynamite."
Brothers and sisters, "the everlasting song of glory" is within us, "like dynamite," and it's our daily experience of the face - of the smile! - of Jesus that lights off this powder keg!
Closer, Jesus, draw us ever closer!
A famous moment, from Matthew 19, with some play-by-play notes in bold italics:
Then it happened that a man came up to Jesus - the perfect place to come with questions - and said, “Master what good thing must I do to secure eternal life?" This man is asking THE question which is "set in the hearts of men" (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and he is asking the only One who has, and is Himself, the Answer. For the so-called "Rich Young Ruler," so far, so good.
“I wonder why you ask me about what is good?” Jesus answered him. “Only one is good. But if you want to enter that life you must keep the commandments.” Jesus, in essence, casts the question back upon this man.
“Which ones?” the man asked, casting the question back upon Jesus.
“‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honour your father and your mother’, and ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’,” replied Jesus. To put the answer back upon some of the Ten Commandments, with the codicil of "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," is nearly a non-answer. Any Jewish male with any degree of Jewish education could've answered this question with a similar, and seemingly similarly non-helpful, response.
“I have carefully kept all these,” returned the young man. Which very well may have been perfectly true. “What is still missing in my life?” He is now, with beautiful vulnerability, opening his heart to admit that his personal religiosity is not working; that "the system" is not working. This is this man's "midlife crisis" of faith.
Then Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go now and sell your property and give the money away to the poor — you will have riches in Heaven. Then come and follow me!” We modern believers usually fasten on the complete financial abandonment Jesus requests, and, ourselves, get terribly fearful there: "Oh, no. What if He should ask that of ME? I certainly HOPE that's not the actual requirement for actually following Him..." Yet it's our sense that our security is in our possessions that's actually the most troubling subtext to such internal questions. And, really, it's our unawareness that Jesus is BETTER THAN ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING THAT THIS WORLD CAN OFFER that proves we don't even begin to know Him yet...
When the young man heard that he turned away crestfallen, for he was very wealthy. This man's mistake is not his greed, his greatest sin is not his worldliness; his actual error is that "he turned away." He was standing in the presence of Eternal Life Himself, personally engaged with Him, and chose to turn aside. Hadn't Jesus proved that questions were acceptable, that He would've loved to have this man accompany Him down the road a little? Perhaps if this man had spent another twenty minutes in Jesus' presence, self-abandonment would've seemed like nothing, his possessions would've seemed like dross.
Brothers and Sisters, there is nowhere else to go with our initial questions, our follow-up questions, our pure and impure motives, our struggles with this world, our hopes for eternity, but to Life Himself. And then - haven't we already seen this to be so true, so many times, in so many situations? - the secret is always to stay.
In John 17, Jesus prays: "I have given [the disciples] your word, and the world has hated them, for they are no more sons of the world than I am. I am not praying that you will take them out of the world but that you will keep them from the evil one. They are no more the sons of the world than I am — make them holy by the truth; for your word is the truth. I have sent them to the world just as you sent me to the world and I consecrate myself for their sakes that they may be made holy by the truth.”
What a mystery is our relationship to the world in light of being indwelt by the One who came, not to be of it, but to save it! We are the ones He daily sends to be “in” something in which we don’t belong; we are meant to be as disarmingly “other” as He Himself was, to catch people’s attention in the manner in which He did.
That’s why the closing of His prayer for His disciples is so incredible important. Consider the exact wording of verses 17:17-19 - “Sanctify them in the truth, your Word (λόγος, ‘logos’) is truth. As you sent me into the world, I also sent them into the world; and I sanctify myself for them, that they also might be sanctified in truth.”
Our experience of life-in-Jesus isn’t meant to be analogous to the life of Jesus, it’s mean to be absolutely identical. He was “sent,” we are “sent.” He was “sanctified,” we are “sanctified.” But the linchpin for our identical experience of His life can be found in how He states it in verse 17: You and I must be sanctified – bathed in holiness – in the truth that is the λόγος, the Word, Jesus Himself. There is no part of this that’s apart from Him. His eternal, never-changing life is running concurrent to your daily experience of your life.
“I have much more to tell you but you cannot bear it now. Yet when that one I have spoken to you about comes — the Spirit of truth — he will guide you into everything that is true." Jesus on the night before the Cross, from John 16
Can't your hear Jesus letting out a long, exhausted sigh before He says, "I have much much more to tell you but you cannot bear it now"? So what will He do? How will His disciples hear the rest, and know the truth? Well, He'll simply send the embodiment - actually the "enspiritment" - of Truth to live directly in their human spirits. When they have a question, all they have to do is ask. When they have a doubt, the Truth is right there. When they are confronted by a world filled with clouded understandings and un-truth, they need not fear. The Spirit of Truth is within them. Rather than fearing what's "out there," they can simply head inside...
Isn't it a marvel how our God creates these cul-de-sacs of Belief? If we want to know the Way, it's Him; the Truth, it's Him; life, it's Him; light, it's Him; love, it's Him; peace, it's Him. Every journey begins and ends in Him alone.
Thank you, Jesus, for that Fact.
"Abide in me, and I in you. For just as the branch cannot bear any fruit unless it abides in the vine, so you can produce nothing unless you abide in me." John 15
We talk about the "life of Abiding" so much and so often that I am completely used to, completely expectant of, the question that almost always immediately follows: "Yes, but what is 'Abiding'?" Fortunately for me, I don't ever have to answer myself, because Jesus gives the best definition by His use of direct comparison.
"For just as the branch cannot bear any fruit unless it ABIDES in the vine, so you can produce nothing unless you ABIDE in me." We should understand the words "Abide in me, and I in you" just as literally and clearly as we can see the workings of a branch and vine. The branch is part of the vine, shares the life of the vine, unreservedly accepts the sap of the vine, and bears the exact fruit of the vine from which it grows. It doesn't appear to fret much, to question, to take itself very seriously; it simply hangs on, lives and bears fruit.
Jesus is saying to us: "Come. Be part of me. Share my life. Be infused with my Holy Spirit. Bear the fruit I bore. Don't fret; no need to question; stop taking yourself so seriously - simply live in me and I in you. I cannot fail to bear my own fruit through you."
Brothers and Sisters, may we take full advantage of the intimacy and joy that are daily offered by sourcing our lives in Jesus' life. Let us, everyday, every minute of every day, Abide in Him. This is the Way.
“Every man who knows my commandments and obeys them is the man who really loves me, and every man who really loves me will himself be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and make myself known to him.” From John 14
What a wondrous cycle of love and life and living we are part of when we’re part of the Kingdom of Heaven! Out of the little bit of Him that we presently know, we obey, and, because of our obedience, we are enwrapped by the love of the Father, and Jesus too, and Jesus then shows us more of Himself.
To know is to obey is to love is to be loved is to know even more of His glory.
The cycle never ends. We live inside it and it lives inside of us. That, in my opinion, is the very definition of John 10:10 – “life, and life more abundant.” Let's enjoy it to the full today!
In reading through an excellent book on George Washington's interim years between the War and his presidency (Edward J. Larson's The Return of George Washington), I've been struck by his building, burning desire that a Constitution should be composed in order to solidify a national union of the states. His fear was that the disparate parts would become so disunited that the War with England would've been for naught...
The Church's Constitution has already been composed - it's Jesus, the Word Incarnate - and our "states" are the individual members of the Body of Christ. Our personal Union with Jesus constitutes the only path to Union in the Body; we will only be one with each other as we are one with Him.
It's Union or nothing. There is no middle path except the straight and narrow.
From John 14 with some thoughts:
“There are many rooms in my Father’s House. If there were not, should I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? It is true that I am going away to prepare a place for you, but it is just as true that I am coming again to welcome you into my own home, so that you may be where I am.”
These are verses that you’ll often hear spoken at a funeral, in a typically lofty funereal tone: “In my Father’s house are many rooms,” or, if it’s a King James funeral (they up the ante a little), “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” My sense, sitting in those pews, would be that these words have a “later” meaning for me, rather than right “now,” that only the one in the casket is enjoying the fullness of what Jesus is saying. But, more and more, I’m thinking it’s both, just as, on this night when Jesus is speaking, there’s both “now” – meaning that Friday through Sunday – and also “later” – when He will one day return – probably happening in His mind.
Consider two alternate readings, taking into account the potential “now” and “later” meanings of Jesus’ words:
NOW - “It is true that I am going away tomorrow to the Cross and the grave to prepare a place for you by destroying the law of Sin and death, but it is just as true that I am coming again – do NOT make plans this Sunday! - to welcome you into my own home and, by the way, into Me and I into you, so that you may be where I am and I always with you.”
LATER - “It is true that I am going away for a space of what you people call “time” to prepare a place for you in the eternal never-ending glories of the Kingdom of Heaven, the New Earth, the New Jerusalem, but it is just as true that I am coming again as the Bridegroom, with the sky rolled back like a scroll to welcome you, my Bride, into my own home where I am Light and Life, so that you may be where I am and that the wedding feast of the Lamb might never end.”
My friends, you are just as much a citizen of Heaven right now as you will be on the day you die. Your room – or mansion! – is already yours; live that way!