From Luke 14, with some thoughts:
Now as Jesus proceeded on his journey, great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and spoke to them, “If anyone comes to me without ‘hating’ his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be a disciple of mine…” In Acts 13:3 in the NIV, we read, “So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on [Saul and Barnabas] and sent them off,” while, in the Phillips’, it reads, “At this, after further fasting and prayer, they laid their hands on them and set them free for this work.” It’s the different parsings of ἀπέλυσαν that leads to “sent them off” versus “set them free…” But where it gets really interesting is in one of the other meanings of that particular Greek word: “to divorce.” The Way of Jesus will always be a way filled with personal partings…
“The man who will not take up his cross and follow in my footsteps cannot be my disciple.” This isn’t some nebulous statement that we’re not meant to comprehend. Jesus not only went to the Cross to set us free from the condemnation of sin, His whole life was one of cross-bearing as He battled the power of sin. The Cross must always define our justification and sanctification. His wholly sanctified life is coursing through your veins right now…
“If any of you wanted to build a tower, wouldn’t he first sit down and work out the cost of it, to see if he can afford to finish it? Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation and found himself unable to complete the building, everyone who sees it will begin to jeer at him, saying, ‘This is the man who started to build a tower but couldn’t finish it!’
“Or, suppose there is a king who is going to war with another king, doesn’t he sit down first and consider whether he can engage the twenty thousand of the other king with his own ten thousand? And if he decides he can’t, then, while the other king is still a long way off, he sends messengers to him to ask for conditions of peace. So it is with you; only the man who says goodbye to all his possessions can be my disciple.” And there’s just one discipline that’ll enable us to rise to that level of belief: a complete pursuit of understanding just how very good He is!
May that be the entirety of our day today.
In his Ethics, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:
“For in knowing Christ man knows and acknowledges God’s choice which has fallen upon this man himself; he no longer stands as the chooser between good and evil, that is to say, in disunion; he is the chosen one, who can no longer choose, but has already made his choice in his being chosen in the freedom and unity of the deed and will of God. He thus has a new knowledge, in which the knowledge of good and evil is overcome. He has the knowledge of God, yet no longer as the man who has become like God, but as the man who bears the image of God. All he knows now is ‘Jesus Christ, and him crucified’ (I Cor. 2.2), and in Him he knows all.”
Put that against Paul's version of a Profit & Loss in Philippians 3, given the reality of Union:
"Yet every advantage that I had gained I considered lost for Christ’s sake. Yes, and I look upon everything as loss compared with the overwhelming gain of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord. For his sake I did in actual fact suffer the loss of everything, but I considered it useless rubbish compared with being able to win Christ. For now my place is in him..."
Our chosenness makes the choice for the availability of Union everyday, not our "choosing" to abide in Jesus. It is our chalking up only Jesus as our basis that unites the Heavenly Reality with our Experience-of-reality. As we learn the riches we possess in being possessed of Him, like Paul did, the "losses" we incur become as nothing. His choice of us sets us free from choosing. We are free to be the possessed ones.
Hear Jesus in John 10: "I am the door. If a man goes in through me, he will be safe and sound; he can come in and out and find his food. The thief comes with the sole intention of stealing and killing and destroying, but I came to bring them life, and far more life than before. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd will give his life for the sake of his sheep. But the hired man, who is not the shepherd, and does not own the sheep, will see the wolf coming, desert the sheep and run away. And the wolf will attack the flock and send them flying. The hired man runs away because he is only a hired man and has no interest in the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know those that are mine and my sheep know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I am giving my life for the sake of the sheep."
Jesus Himself is the "door" for the fold and the "good shepherd" for His sheep. Picture that. For the sheep, He is the entirety of their daily reality. He is both the opening to the place of safety and the guardian of that place itself. He is All. He surrounds. For the sheep - for us! - there is nothing but the Presence of Jesus, both around and within.
May we "go in" today and "know" Him; may He be our everything, our hope, our life, our surroundings, our strength. Thank you, Jesus!
Psalm 119:140 - "Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them."
When we "thoroughly test" something, it's generally with the purpose of approving it for a constant use. We want to be certain that the item, system, product or outlook won't be found wanting after repeated, consistent usage. If it seems to perform upon our first test, we're inclined to make the purchase and possess it as our own. And if it truly stands the test of time, we'll eventually give it a place of "love" in the way we live our life.
Oh, how much more should we be "thoroughly testing" the promises of our Savior and approving them by constant use! How much more seriously should we test our certitude in His words and find them never lacking by repeated, consistent usage! As we see His promises being proven time and again, may we never cease to Believe them and possess their vital rewards! And as they stand the test of time, may we always give our love to His words in the way we live our lives!
Test the worthiness of His every spoken promise. Love the way His words are Life to you!
From Galatians 4:
"At one time when you had no knowledge of God, you were under the authority of gods who had no real existence. But now that you have come to know God, or rather are known by him, how can you revert to dead and sterile principles and consent to be under their power all over again? Your religion is beginning to be a matter of observing certain days or months or seasons or years. Frankly, you stagger me, you make me wonder if all my efforts over you have been wasted!"
Consider the underlying statements in this paragraph: 1) “gods who had no real existence” – Can you picture people who’ve made their own god out of their own labor and now bow down to worship it in all its false glory? “Oh, thou chair that I hast crafted and hewn with my own hands, certainly you are the god of all the planets!”
2) “you have come to know God, or rather are known by him” – Imagine that! The actual God of the universe who actually crafted the entirety of Creation! The One who saw our fallen sinful selves and wouldn’t accept our separation and, so, sent His Son to redeem us by His blood! The One who became flesh and then walked out a perfect life, giving us a glimpse of the immensity of the Godhead in human form! The One who took the penalty of our sin – tried, mocked, flogged, condemned, murdered – so that we might taste life eternal! The One who strode out of the tomb to show the power of the unquenchable Life and ascended to take His king-priestly place at the right hand of the Father! Yes, that One “knows” us!
3) “Your religion” is becoming a matter of “seasons or years” – If you and I become “Sunday-only people,” observing one day as our “season” for worship, we’re taking the enormity of our God and treating Him as befits mute idols. Essentially, we’re sitting down in the false-god Chair’s lap; we just happen to call it a pew!
You see, the greatest glory in all human history is the Eternal God conforming Himself into the form of a man to save us from our sin. But the greatest human tragedy is when we try to conform that overwhelming glory to the whims of our lifestyle. May it never be so for us, brothers and sisters!
Then [Jesus] said, “The kingdom of God is like a man scattering seed on the ground and then going to bed each night and getting up every morning, while the seed sprouts and grows up, though he has no idea how it happens. The earth produces a crop without any help from anyone: first a blade, then the ear of corn, then the full-grown grain in the ear. And as soon as the crop is ready, he sends his reapers in without delay, for the harvest-time has come.” (Mark 4)
You and I need only be profligate spreaders of His seed and, when He tells us, the sent harvesters of His eternal crop. Those are the only two calls on our life. We don't need to invent anything else. We, in fact, are living as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Amos:
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, "when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills..."
Our constant sowing and harvesting become one in the presence of the New Wine that is Jesus' shed blood. Our personal salvation is meant to catalyze our prayer and work for the salvation of others. Now. And every day of our lives.
"When that revelation [of the need for personal Union] had been made, and when it had been accepted by the common faith of the [Early] church, Pentecost became divinely inevitable. The barriers of human resistance were broken at last, and the encompassing, waiting, besieging sea of the Spirit rushed in. At last the living Father, through the Son, had found receptive vessels, and therefore the Spirit was given. From that point forward, believing men and women knew that no union with such a God could be too close and too steadfast. Their true life was hidden with Christ in God, and all true progress in it was progress within the absolute revelation."
From The Missionary Message report, as quoted by Andrew Murray
Isaiah 30:15a - "This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: 'In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength..."
Better to do nothing in the center of His will than a 50/50 flesh-and-Spirit mix. May we be repentant resters reveling in a mighty quietness and trust!
From Hebrews 1: "But about the Son he says, 'Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.'"
Imagine - RIGHT NOW - the place that Jesus occupies as He sits beside His Heavenly Father, at His right hand. His throne is everlasting and glorious. In His mighty hand, He holds the "scepter of justice" - a justice He has fully earned and proven at the cost of His own blood. He has, by that very sacrifice, allowed that we might know righteousness and be set free from the wickedness He hates. In the Heavenlies, He has been seated firmly forever and His head has been anointed with the kingly oil of joy.
And what does He pour out upon His sons and daughters?
From Acts 2: "God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear…"
Brothers and sisters, may His "oil of joy" - His poured-out Holy Spirit - be the truest thing about our day today! He, our Savior, rules and reigns in order that we might know Him and make Him known; that is all this day is about!
A further thought on Abiding and Obedience:
It's our Abiding, our intimacy with Jesus, that creates an allegiance and love out of which properly flows obedience. We can obey without Abiding, yet we'll miss Him in the process. But we can't continue to Abide without beginning to obey.
1 John 2:6's "he who says he abides in him ought also to walk in the same way in which he walked" can well be reversed as "he who walks in the same way in which he walked ought also to abide in him." Our Christ-obedience is part of our experience of Christ-intimacy. This is borne out in Ephesians 2 beautifully: Our having been "raised up and seated in the heavenly realms" - ie. our Abiding - is directly tied to our being "his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which he prepared beforehand" - ie. our Walking like Him.
And what is the crux of these two statements? Verses 8 and 9. That it is "not by works"; it is "by grace"; that, all along, whether we're Abiding or Walking-like, it is ALL HIM, ALL THE TIME, DOING ALL THE WORK FOR US.
Glory to you, Jesus. You're just too good.
In some of his sweetest-ever tone, Paul, in Philippians 1, writes: "I thank God for you Christians at Philippi whenever I think of you. My constant prayers for you are a real joy, for they bring back to my mind how we have worked together for the Gospel from the earliest days until now. I feel sure that the one who has begun his good work in you will go on developing it until the day of Jesus Christ. It is only natural that I should feel like this about you all—you are very dear to me. For during the time I was in prison as well as when I was out defending and demonstrating the power of the Gospel we shared together the grace of God."
While all of this is so good, there's something about that last sentence that feels over-the-top. The wording "sharing together the grace of God" calls to mind wine connoisseurs remarking over flavor notes as they sample in the grace of Jesus. "Mmmm, can you believe His incalculable riches?" ... "Yes, but how about the glory of His presence; it's available all the time?"
May we become those ones who share together the flavorful, overwhelming vintage of His ever-present abundant grace! May we be less concerned with "defending" our Belief than with "demonstrating" its power by the might of He who lives in us! The power of Jesus is its own best apologetic! His grace is sufficient for you...and all you meet!
"...abiding in Christ is meant for the weak and is beautifully suited to their frailty. It is not the doing of some great thing and does not demand that we first lead a very holy and devoted life. No, it is simply weakness entrusting itself to a Mighty One to be kept, the unfaithful one casting itself on One who is altogether trustworthy and true. Abiding in Him is not a work that we have to do as the condition for enjoying His salvation, but rather
a consenting to let Him do all for us, in us, and through us. It is a work that He does for us as the fruit and the power of His redeeming love
Our part is simply to yield, to trust, and to wait for what He has promised to perform."
- Andrew Murray, Abiding in Christ
From Galatians 4 (with a couple thoughts):
"But when the proper time came God sent his son, born of a human mother and born under the jurisdiction of the Law, that he might redeem those who were under the authority of the Law and lead us into becoming, by adoption, true sons of God." What a wonderful truth is the Incarnation! Up to that day, God had had no personal experience of either the frailty of our flesh or the Law’s steep demands, but, at the “proper time,” He chose to take on both. And in day-by-day walking perfectly under the Law’s “jurisdiction,” He has shown that His Way defeats sin, fulfills the Law and makes us son and daughters who are fully approved. And how do we know that we’re His children? "It is because you really are his sons that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts to cry 'Father, dear Father.'" The presence of the Holy Spirit proves our son- and daughtership! The Holy Spirit is the stamp of our acceptability in the royal household! You often hear “conservative evangelical” types who say they’re “becoming more comfortable with all this Holy Spirit stuff…” What?! That’s like becoming more comfortable with breathing oxygen! The Holy Spirit is literally LIFE to us!
Let's live our lives FULLY, as sons and daughters, by FULLY engaging with His Holy Spirit. The truest thing about us is the truest thing in us - the indwelling Spirit of Christ!
Religion is the human effort to take all the vast intricacies and mysteries of God, and make them practicable for human understanding and practice. But the reason there's no need for religiosity around Jesus is that God Himself took all the intricacies and mysteries of Himself and made those into one of us, a man named Jesus. A man who was Himself God.
He Himself is the Way to Himself. The lens for the Lens. The faith in the direction of the ever Faithful One.
Psalm 116:12,13 - "How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord."
Hudson Taylor - "In the study of that divine Word, I learned that to obtain successful workers, not elaborate appeals for help, but first earnest prayers to God to thrust forth laborers, and second the deepening of the spiritual life of the Church, so that men should be unable to stay at home, were what was needed..."
The more and more we dive down deep into the goodness of the Lord, the more our hearts will yearn to "lift up the cup of salvation" to the lost. As you and I "call on the name of the Lord," may we become men and women "unable to stay at home," unable to not speak of His sweet, glorious goodness to everyone we meet.
I'm sure we've all heard the expression: "When you've got nothing, you've got nothing to lose." The image is of a recklessness borne out of extreme poverty or chosen renunciation. But wouldn't it be wonderful if more people were preaching the reality we already have in Jesus: "When you've got everything, you've got nothing left to gain"?
The Apostles didn't walk in a self-perception of poverty or lack; they transacted with each day's circumstances out of the awareness that the Kingdom was already theirs. After all, Jesus had been clear: "Do not be afraid, little flock. The Father has chosen gladly to give you the Kingdom." (Luke 12:32)
What do you actually possess in Jesus? (Not what do you think you possess in Jesus; what do you actually hold in your hands?) With what do you wake up each morning and enter the day? With His incalculable riches? With His glorious joy? With His peace overflowing? With Faith that is the tangible, palpable substance of your Hope in Him?
My friends, let's lack for nothing, in this day, as we set our minds on the Kingdom of Heaven. Our Friend is on the throne there. He never ceases to pour out His heavenly goodness into the hearts of those who are looking to Him.
Another thought on the Resurrection: It's not so much that we need to wake up each day and "accept" the power of His resurrection. That would put the onus on us and might allow room for defeat. No, He actually is alive. We need to wake up each day, fully align with that fact and then live out of the giddy overabundance of Life that's offered by a Living (as in, currently, right now, ever-presently Living!) Jesus.
Toward the end of his Holiest of All, Andrew Murray boldly states: "We have studied the Epistle [to the Hebrews] in vain, and we shall in vain attempt to live the true Christian life, if we have not learnt that our salvation is not in the death of Jesus but in His life - in His death only as the gate to the risen life. And so the God of peace, whom we are now invited to trust in, is spoken of as He who raised Jesus, the Shepherd of the sheep, who gave His live for them, from the dead. Scripture ever points to the resurrection as the mightiest part of God's mighty power; the God of the resurrection is to be the God in whom we trust for the work to be done in us. He has raised Christ, as the Shepherd, who watches and tends His sheep, through whom He will do His work."
Is that how highly you prize the power and work of the Resurrection? Do you believe that the One who could accomplish that feat is the One who's sitting in your chest, working to make you like Himself today?
Oh, that we would submit to that Power above all others!
His choosing to unite Himself with our humanity was the beginning of our freedom. It is as we now accept and abide in Union with His now-Heavenliness that He teaches us to become like Him, both as He was (while incarnate) and as He is now (at the right hand of the Father.)
When Jesus first sent the Twelve to minister in His Name (Matthew 10), He gave a memorable outline for the kind of precarious life they'd lead. But, tucked in among the directions He gives, one little sentence stands out for its possibilities for us: "What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops."
Is that the way you live your life? Are you waiting in the dark upon His Voice; are you listening most intently for His Whispers? Are your best efforts aimed wherever the subtle sounds of His Spirit are pointing you; can you hear that voice at all?
Perhaps a thought from Moses could help us:
"Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days." (Psalm 90:14)
If you and I pursue complete satisfaction-in-the-Lord every morning, our days will be joy and gladness. If the darkness of the early morning is met with His Voice, we will speak His truth by daylight. If our heart is after Union everyday, we will be the ones with whisper-ready ears attuned and listening. His is the morning-time. He is the One who rose by daybreak's light to greet His mourners. Let's never cease to seek Him in the morning's dark. He will use that time to make us useful in the light.
After healing a man at the pool called Bethesda (John 5), Jesus is accosted by a crowd of people irritated by His Sabbath-breaking ways. One of His first rejoinders to them is MONUMENTAL in its significance for us: "I assure you that the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but what he sees the Father doing. What the Son does is always modeled on what the Father does, for the Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he does himself. Yes, and he will show him even greater things than these to fill you with wonder..."
1. "the Son can do nothing of his own accord" - Do you hear the echo in this phrasing? "Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me." (John 15:4)
2. "What the Son does is always modeled on what the Father does" - Do you hear an echo in that phrasing? "As children copy their fathers you, as God's children, are to copy him." (Ephesians 5:1)
3. "he will show him even greater things than these" - Do you hear the echo to those words? "I assure you that the man who believes in me will do the same things that I have done, yes, and he will do even greater things than these, for I am going away to the Father." (John 14:12)
The way Jesus watched and imitated His Father is the exact way we're to watch and imitate Jesus in our everyday. As we daily "abide," "copy" and "believe" for the "greater things," we're in the lineage of Jesus for the work of the Kingdom. Are you able to accept that truth? Are you able to Believe for His purposes in this day?
From Ephesians 1:4a-6 -
"He planned, in his purpose of love, that we should be adopted as his own children through Jesus Christ—that we might learn to praise that glorious generosity of his which has made us welcome in the everlasting love he bears towards the Son."
You and I have been adopted for a heavenly purpose. Imagine if Bill and Melinda Gates scoured over the whole world, looking for one child who’d inherit their wealth and change the world with it. Except, what is our purpose to be? “That we might learn to praise that glorious generosity…” Our personal worship is our inheritance and our purpose; the highest expression of our humanity as adopted children of God.
And where’s Jesus in these verses? Two places! “that we should be adopted as his own children through Jesus Christ…” His incarnation was like potential adoptive parents visiting an orphanage, playing in the play-yard, and yet keeping their eye on the child of their choosing. His life among us was His visit to our orphanage. We’ve been selected and we’re His forevermore.
And where else does He show up in these verses? We are “welcome in the everlasting love [the Father] bears towards the Son.” You and I are allowed “in” because the Father’s eye is perpetually on His beloved Son, not us! Jesus has knocked on the front door of the Holy of Holies and, when the Father answered, said, “Dad, this is my friend; he’s coming in!”
Let's live today from that knowledge.
In John 3, John the Baptist is approached by people curious about this other baptizer, Jesus, who's operating downriver. John gives a beautiful response: "A man can receive nothing at all unless it is given him from Heaven. You yourselves can witness that I said, 'I am not Christ but I have been sent as his forerunner.' It is the bridegroom who possesses the bride, yet the bridegroom's friend who merely stands and listens to him can be overjoyed to hear the bridegroom's voice. That is why my happiness is now complete. He must grow greater and greater and I less and less. The one who comes from above is naturally above everybody. The one who arises from the earth belongs to the earth and speaks from the earth. The one who comes from Heaven is above all others and he bears witness to what he has seen and heard..."
Isn't it wonderful to think of Jesus as a "witness" who simply came to tell us what He'd "seen and heard" of Heaven? After sitting on the throne of Heaven for all time, His coming was to translate those Realities into realities we could hear and understand. Imagine the lead-up to any of His parable as He strives to put all of that into words: "The Kingdom of Heaven is like.... hmmm... let me think... how do I express that... what's the picture... YES! My friends, the Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field..."
Yes, Jesus, may we listen, watch, hear and see the Unseen as you bear witness in our hearts. We want only your voice. We want only your eyes to see. Witness to us of what you're seeing in the Heavenlies today.
From 1 Thessalonians 2: