“How do I know anything about the sun? Because the sun shines, and in its light I see what the sun is. The sun is its own evidence. No philosopher could have told me about the sun if the sun did not shine. No power of meditation and thought can grasp the presence of God. Be quiet, and trusting, and resting, and the everlasting God will shine into your heart, and will reveal Himself. And then, just as naturally as I enjoy the light of the sun, and as naturally as I look upon the pages of a book knowing that I can see the letters because the light shines; just as naturally will God reveal Himself to the waiting soul, and make His presence a reality.”
Andrew Murray, The Believer's Secret of the Master's Indwelling
Then Jesus said, “I shall be with you only a little while longer and then I am going to him who sent me. You will look for me then but you will never find me. You cannot come where I shall be.”
This made the Jews say to each other, “Where is he going to hide himself so that we cannot find him? Surely he’s not going to our refugees among the Greeks to teach Greeks? What does he mean when he says, ‘You will look for me and you will never find me’ and ‘You cannot come where I shall be’?” John 7:33-36
Six chapters from now, sitting at the Last Suppertable after standing up from washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus will reflect back upon these words – “Where I am going, you cannot follow” – but in the context of the Cross – what He then calls “the glory of the Son of Man.” Here, however, He is speaking of the Ascension – “then I am going to him who sent me.” As He will then be sitting back on His throne at the right hand of the Father, “[they] will look for [Him] but [they] will never find [Him]. [They] cannot come where [He] will be…”
But the greatest glory of the Ascension isn’t just Jesus sitting in remote celestial thronerooms, it’s His supernatural ability, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to actually make His dwelling in us. He’s bodily living in you right now: do you know it? Imagine the crowd’s surprise if, in light of His coming indwelling, He had honestly answered these questions they were posing to each other…
1) “Where is going to hide himself so that we cannot find him?” – I picture Jesus, with a grin, pointing over at Peter, James, John and the rest of the disciples and saying, “Oh, I’m thinking right inside them seems like a pretty good plan...”
2) “Surely he’s not going to our refugees among the Greeks to teach Greeks?” – To which Jesus might’ve replied, “Just wait till you see next Pentecost!” From Acts 2: “Then those who welcomed his message were baptized, and on that day alone about three thousand souls were added to the number of disciples.” And where were they from? “There [were] Parthians, Medes and Elamites; there [were] men whose homes [were] in Mesopotamia, in Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the parts of Africa near Cyrene, as well as visitors from Rome! There [were] Jews and proselytes, men from Crete and men from Arabia, yet [they could] all hear [the Apostles] speaking of the magnificence of God in their native language.”
3) “What does he mean when he says, ‘You will look for me and you will never find me’ and ‘You cannot come where I shall be’?” – To which He might’ve said, “Are you even remotely prepared for what I'm about to say? ‘When that day comes, [my followers] will realize that I am in my Father, that [they] are in me, and I am in [them]’ (John 14). ‘It is the man who shares my life and whose life I share who proves fruitful’ (John 15). You see, ‘the Christ [they’ll] have to deal with is not a weak person outside [them], but a tremendous power inside [them]’ (2 Corinthians 13). ‘And [their] life [will] not [be] that of the old “I,” but the living Christ within [them]’ (Galatians 2). [They will be] ‘ready for anything through the strength of the one who lives within [them]’ (Philippians 4). ‘So [their] love for [me will grow] more and more, filling [them] with complete confidence for the day when [I] shall judge all men – for [they will] realize that [their] life in this world is actually [my] life lived in [them] (1 John 4).’”
An investor's greatest desire might be to build up enough capital to where they can live off their investment's income without even having to touch the principal. But, my friends, we have already been given a Kingdom! Our "returns," our overflowing riches in Him, aren't just for us anymore. Let's rejoice today in what we have and let's let it flow over into the lives of everyone around us!
"To sum up, you should all be of one mind living like brothers with true love and sympathy for each other, generous and courteous at all times. Never pay back a bad turn with a bad turn or an insult with another insult, but on the contrary pay back with good. For this is your calling—to do good and one day to inherit all the goodness of God. For: ‘He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking guile: let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.'" 1 Peter 3:8-12
Okay, let's parse our way backward through these verses to get to their purpose - their actual practical purpose - for our lives. What is constantly trained upon the ways of mankind? The face of the Lord, His ears, and the eyes of the Lord. And for what sort of men and women does His heart yearn? Those who would seek peace and pursue it… Those who would turn away from evil and actively do good… Those whose lips speak no guile; whose tongues hold back from evil… These are the ones who truly love life and do, in truth, see good days… And why do they live this way? Because it is their calling - to do good and one day to inherit all the goodness of God. But what is good; what does the "goodness of God" look like? It looks like avenging ourselves by doing good, never evil; being courteous, generous, sympathetic, truly-loving brothers and sisters of everyone we meet.
But, hmmmm... who does all that sound like? Jesus. The One whose face, whose ears, whose eyes are lovingly, always, trained upon us.
But how do we live in the manner of 1 Peter 3:8-12? Well, Peter actually led off the whole section with the answer: "you should all be of one mind." And does that mean we all just try really hard to be united, to have similar nice thoughts? No. It means what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2: "But we have the mind of Christ."
Friends, what if a single line of thinking exists for us? What if that single thought, that single mind, caused people to be brothers and sisters, produced true love, sympathy, generosity, courteousness, a gentle spirit; taught its thinkers real goodness, leading them in the way of everlasting goodness; showed them how to love life and see good days, to control their tongues, to pursue the right, to make peace, so that the GIVER of that single thought, that single mind, that LOGOS, could SEE, HEAR and EXPERIENCE His own sons and daughters living as He Himself once lived upon this earth for 33 years?
Would it be of interest to give all our thoughts to that Thought? By the Holy Spirit, that's our actual daily invitation!
May your energy flow into the places of my exhaustion.
May your courage overwhelm the heart of my discouragement.
May your Spirit take over every inch of my fleshly life.
I trust you.
“…there is only one vocation… you are called to a deep interior life, perhaps even to mystical prayer, and to pass the fruits of your contemplation on to others. And if you cannot do so by word, then by example.”
Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain
"Be wise in your behavior towards non-Christians, and make the best possible use of your time. Speak pleasantly to them, but never sentimentally, and learn to give a proper answer to every questioner." Colossians 4:5,6
While that last part of verse 6 might be a more oft-quoted thought than what comes before it, I think the real key to both verses is tucked back in verse 5. The Phillips’ translation says, “make the best possible use of your time,” while the NIV says, “make the most of every opportunity.” But both of those are weak when compared to the original Greek! The real language is “redeeming the time,” nearly the same word used as in Galatians 3:13 when it says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law…”
Isn’t that an absolutely wonderful thought? The idea of waking to any day of our life and actively, by the power of Jesus, working to redeem even the time we’re allotted? To even testify to the world about His goodness by the way a day passes through our hands?
Do you actually believe He can “redeem” your time today? Do you believe He can make great use of whatever particular day you happen to be reading this sentence?
How much of our time do we spend praying because we want something...
...wanting something because we've been praying?
What if our prayer became more and more about perfect alignment rather than just constant appealings?
Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it..." Matthew 16:24,25
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During the 1812 Battle of Ostrovno: “To messengers of doom requesting permission to retreat or warning that more and more Russian guns were being put out of action, General Ostermann-Tolstoy responded by his own example of calm and by orders to ‘stand and die.’ Radozhitsky commented that ‘this unshakeable strength of our commander at a time when everyone around him was being struck down was truly part of the character of a Russian infuriated by the sufferings being inflicted on his country. Looking at him, we ourselves grew strong and went to our posts to die.’”
Dominic Lieven, Russia Against Napoleon
From Joshua 3's preparations for crossing the Jordan, with some notes in italics -
After three days, the officers went through the middle of the camp; and they commanded the people, saying, “When you see the ark of Yahweh your God’s covenant, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then leave your place, and follow it.” As many as 2 million people will then rise suddenly, grab their personal belongings, assemble their families, and physically follow the representatives and the representation of the way of the (Old) Covenant. You and I are called to rise each day, abandon our belongings and Self, lead the way for our families, and physically follow the One who is Himself the Way of the New Covenant.
“Yet there shall be a space between you and the ark, about two thousand cubits by measure. Don’t come near it, that you may know the way by which you must go; for you have not passed this way before.” And, here, it’s impossible for me to overstate how much there’s NOT a “space between” you and Jesus as you’ll follow Him with your day today! Perhaps that perception is the greatest pitfall in the Modern Church. We individually exist as if we’re following a distant external deity named Jesus; we try to “walk with Him” as if we’re separated by more than 2,000 cubits – in fact, by 2,000 years.
Wrong and wrong.
The purpose of Jesus’ Ascension was that, by taking the throne at the right hand of the Father, He might bestow on us – within us – the promised Holy Spirit and, by that Spirit, He Himself. Our opportunity now – that glorious truth we call “Abiding in Him” (John 15) – is well described if we’ll only slightly change Joshua’s officers’ words to the assembled Israelites:
“Yet there shall be no space between you and Me; I will actually live within you. Come near to Me; that you may know the way of the One who is the Way; for I have already passed this way before.”
“We should never think of God as being spatially near or remote, for He is not here or there but carries here and there in His heart. Space is not infinite, as some have thought; only God is infinite and in His infinitude He swallows up all space. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.’ He fills heaven and earth as the ocean fills the bucket that is submerged in it, and as the ocean surrounds the bucket so does God in the universe He fills. ‘The heaven of heavens cannot contain thee.’ God is not contained: He contains.”
A.W. Tozer, Born After Midnight
"I beg you, as those whom I love, to live in this world as strangers and “temporary residents”, to keep clear of the desires of your lower natures, for they are always at war with your souls. Your conduct among the surrounding peoples in your different countries should always be good and right, so that although they may in the usual way slander you as evil-doers yet when disasters come, they may glorify God when they see how well you conduct yourselves." 1 Peter 2:11,12
To get to the crux of these two verses, we have to go back to one word in the first sentence - in the Greek, ὡς: "as" - "Beloved, I exhort you as strangers and exiles..."
I think we think that, as followers of Jesus, we have to actively withdraw from the world, ie. make ourselves as if strangers and exiles. But Peter is saying, no, as followers of Jesus, you are already strangers and exiles: you already don't quite belong.
But where do we not belong?
Well, obviously, amidst the broken ways of the world, amidst its "slanders" and absurdities. But where else? Amidst "the desires of your lower natures," ie. in the way of the flesh within: we are exiled from even part of ourselves.
That is at the heart of what Jesus meant when He said to His friends: "It is the Spirit which gives life. The flesh will not help you." (John 6:63) And that's why we must give our greatest attentions to the ways of the Holy Spirit; otherwise we'll always be sitting on the sidelines of every battle, both in and around us.
Remember today: No words will ever speak louder than your joy in Him.
“[This] was the answer of God to the world which nailed Christ to the cross: blessing. God does not repay like with like, and neither should the righteous person. No condemning, no railing, but blessing. The world would have not hope if this were not so. The world lives and has its future by means of the blessing of God and of the righteous person. Blessing means laying one’s hands upon something and saying: You belong to God in spite of all. It is in this way that we respond to the world which causes us such suffering. We do not forsake it, cast it out, despise or condemn it. Instead, we recall it to God, we give it hope, we lay our hands upon it and say: God’s blessing come upon you; may God renew you; be blessed, you dear God-created world, for you belong to your creator and redeemer.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Meditating on the Word
"So brace up your minds, and, as those who know what they are doing, rest the full weight of your hopes on the grace that will be yours when Jesus Christ reveals himself. Live as obedient children before God. Don’t let your character be molded by the desires of your ignorant days, but be holy in every department of your lives, for the one who has called you is himself holy. The scripture says: ‘Be holy, for I am holy.'" 1 Peter 1:13-16
Which, with those last words, we can begin to register as another of those scriptural impossibilities unless we consider, here, the context of what's just been said. In the third sentence, what are we told not to do? "Don't let your character be molded by the desires of your ignorant days..." Which, if it sounds familiar, almost perfectly echoes Romans 12:2 - "Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold..."
So how are we to avoid these "wrong moldings" of our lives and character? Well, let's read the remainder of Romans 12:2 - "...but let God re-mold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.” Which accords perfectly with the ending of our section in 1 Peter: "...but be holy in every department of your lives, for the one who has called you is himself holy. The scripture says: ‘Be holy, for I am holy.'"
So, since the One who lives within us is righteous and holy, the writer of a plan for our lives that is good, it is daily submission to Him that defeats the cookie-cutter moldings that this world is after for each of us. Or to put it another way: Our lives will be molded, one way or the other: but the choice is, really, truly, in our hands and hearts which way that goes...
Just a little reminder of your position and inheritance:
Your past is swallowed up by what Jesus did in the past on the Cross; your present is lived in His presence because He rose - He's alive!; and your future is to spend all eternity with the One who's presently sitting on the throne, loving you, empowering you, being your living hope.
No aspect of your human experience is untouched by His love. No aspect of this particular day is unknown to Him; He is with you.
From Luke 12, with some Unionist notes in italics -
And then, turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them, “Notice that, and be on your guard against covetousness in any shape or form.” Because of the usage of the Greek conjunction δὲ, the Phillips’ translation has chosen to make these next comments an aside “to the disciples.” And I like that. I like how we can see Jesus turning to His friends and saying, “Notice that”; how He is teaching them on the fly to discern between spirit and flesh… "For a man’s real life in no way depends upon the number of his possessions.” Now there’s a statement! Jesus literally takes our biggest societal demarcation off the table: “In no way” is our life defined by this definition we’re most forced to live under! (And just in case we’d think He’s speaking only in the context of the day He inhabited, He then gives this utterly applicable parable to pull out the rug again…)
Then he gave them a parable in these words, “Once upon a time a rich man’s farmland produced heavy crops. So he said to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have no room to store this harvest of mine?’” This is this man’s personal moment of decision. Out of his surplus, now what? He already possesses barns that handled previous crops that already allowed him to become a “rich man,” after all! Then he said, ‘I know what I’ll do. I’ll pull down my barns and build bigger ones where I can store all my grain and my goods and I can say to my soul, Soul, you have plenty of good things stored up there for years to come. Relax! Eat, drink and have a good time!’ So, to recap, this man has had a surplus, pauses to reflect on possible next actions and, lo and behold, lands on actions that are entirely self-directed. Perfect! So let’s see how a long-view self-serving financial mindset is received by His God… But God said to him, ‘You fool (Uh oh!) this very night you will be asked for your soul! (Wow!) Then, who is going to possess all that you have prepared?’” Probably not something our rich barn-building friend was considering when he’d made his plans! And that’s actually what’s so interesting in this parable: The man never did anything but “make plans,” did he? He doesn’t actually “pull down his barns and build bigger ones”; God speaks before he’d even have the chance! It’s the reality of His moment-to-moment use of this particular day that determines how he was viewed in this parable… “That is what happens to the man who hoards things for himself and is not rich where God is concerned.” Jesus puts us on our heels by roundly criticizing so much of our present system of personal financial insulation and bet-hedging against future scenarios. Then, as He loves to do, He’ll give us a heavenly juxtaposition. Now He’ll tell us exactly how He’d have us lives our lives with relation to our money and possessions. The next twelve verses are the totality of His financial principles for His followers:
And then he added to the disciples, “That is why I tell you, don’t worry about life, wondering what you are going to eat. And stop bothering about what clothes you will need. Life is much more important than food, and the body more important than clothes. Think of the ravens. They neither sow nor reap, and they have neither store nor barn, but God feeds them. And how much more valuable do you think you are than birds? Can any of you make himself an inch taller however much he worries about it? And if you can’t manage a little thing like this, why do you worry about anything else? Think of the wild flowers, and how they neither work nor weave. Yet I tell you that Solomon in all his glory was never arrayed like one of these. If God so clothes the grass, which flowers in the field today and is burnt in the stove tomorrow, is he not much more likely to clothe you, you little-faiths? You must not set your heart on what you eat or drink, nor must you live in a state of anxiety. The whole heathen world is busy about getting food and drink, and your Father knows well enough that you need such things. No, set your heart on his kingdom, and your food and drink will come as a matter of course.”
Ah, Jesus. Please teach us to live these words today!
You'll often hear people talking about the "patience" of Jesus during His ministry years, how "approachable" He was by anyone and everyone. But it strikes me that His ministry came not from His own clever plans for each day; that there was no plan; that it happened because of each person's approach.
In essence, other people planned Jesus' days, Jesus' ministry years, by simply coming to Him... and He seemed to have absolutely loved that rhythm. What a reminder - for our own approaches and for our ministering in His name!
“It takes many differing instruments to make up a symphony. We must let the Spirit pull out all the stops and play every key of our personalities. We must be utterly ourselves. We must be natural. But we must also remember that we need other Spirit-played instruments to complement and complete our partial tones. The one who most differs from us may have most to give us. The Spirit comes not to uniform us but to unify us.”
E. Stanley Jones, The Christ of Every Road
"Delight yourselves in God, yes, find your joy in him at all times. Have a reputation for gentleness, and never forget the nearness of your Lord. Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.
Here is a last piece of advice. If you believe in goodness and if you value the approval of God, fix your minds on the things which are holy and right and pure and beautiful and good. Model your conduct on what you have learned from me, on what I have told you and shown you, and you will find the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:4-9
So much of our own personal expression of Jesus’ goodness often uses “outward language,” yet it was Paul’s joyous “inner life” that was belying his circumstances at every turn. Consider this famous set of verses through the lens, not of comfortable American Christianity, but instead as written by a Roman prisoner imprisoned because of adherence to a small and controversial new faith-movement:
1) “Delight yourselves in God, yes, find your joy in him at all times.” With chains clanking on his wrists, Paul is looking out the window of his prison-cell with a goofy grin on his face, writing the Philippians. He writes the words, “Rejoice in the Lord always…” and then laughs out loud. Then continues, “Again I say, Rejoice!” Brothers and sisters, our personal joy – meaning Jesus’ joy pouring forth from us – must be the Church’s great witness to the world. Our lack-of-joy, in the face of all that we already have in Him, may be the greatest problem in the American Church today…
2) “Have a reputation for gentleness, and never forget the nearness of your Lord.” The first phrase of this sentence needs to be read in light of the second. Paul, originally one of the least “gentle” people you ever could meet, now sits in house-arrest absolutely relishing the nearness (both locationally and, according to the Greek used, “the akin-to”-ness) of Jesus. Genuine gentleness is a natural byproduct of proximity to our Savior.
3) “Don’t worry over anything whatever…” Stop right there. Do you even begin to understand that both here and in Matthew 6:25, we are actually commanded not to worry about anything? Commanded. Not to worry. Even without Paul’s wonderful sentences that will follow these five clear words, we should be given pause by the seriousness of the language he utilizes. Then comes the promise: “…tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.” This language is perfect because, presumably, Paul was looking out the window at the Roman guards standing guard over him as he wrote these words. And it’s with that level of personal watchfulness that the peace of God will watch over those hearts determined not ever to worry in His presence! My favorite wording of the privileged position we inhabit? “You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern.” (1 Peter 5:7)
4) “If you believe in goodness and if you value the approval of God, fix your minds on the things which are holy and right and pure and beautiful and good.” Again, don’t forget that Paul is sitting in house-arrest in Rome, calling us – in our relative ease – to mine down deep into the “holy, right, pure, beautiful and good” goodness of Jesus. Just scratching at the surface should never be enough for us; nor should we be barely delving down with any old hand-trowel. No, we should be – by the power of the Holy Spirit – drilling down deeper and deeper until we freefall into the caverns of gold that are to be found in Jesus! We should be swimming in the vats of His glorious grace, spiritual inheritors of a spiritual lifestyle like the cartoon character Scrooge McDuck!
If we struggle or suffer in a general day-to-day way, we may look to Him in the spirit of Hebrews 12: "Bear what you have to bear as 'chastening' — as God’s dealing with you as sons." He is a good Father and He is clearly at work upon us.
If we suffer specifically for the purposes of the Kingdom, we may count ourselves fortunate to "complete in our own bodies the sufferings of Christ" (Col. 1:24). He is a good Brother, a glorious Savior, and to know Him better in that way is to know Life better Himself.
Truly, all our sufferings may end in greater intimacy with this Jesus. Every challenge gives a connection toward His heart.
From John 21's scene on the beach, between Jesus and Peter:
Then Jesus said to him, “You must follow me.”
Then Peter turned round and noticed the disciple whom Jesus loved following behind them. (He was the one who had his head on Jesus’ shoulder at supper and had asked, “Lord, who is the one who is going to betray you?”) So he said, “Yes, Lord, but what about him?”
“If it is my wish,” returned Jesus, “for him to stay until I come, is that your business, Peter? You must follow me.”
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"There is no more subtle temptation than to wait with what God calls us to do till we are first informed what others are to do, or what God is to do with the rest of the world. We may safely leave to Him who is ruler of all, the All-wise, what will come of obedience to His commands. To every question, And what shall this man do? Christ's answer is, What is that to thee? Follow thou Me. If we are disciples of Christ, each one of us must seek to have as much of His Spirit as can be. If we are to be led by Him in the new and living way, to live with Him in the Holiest of All, we must, like Him, live here as pilgrims and strangers."
Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All