My prayer for you is that you may have still more love — a love that is full of knowledge and wise insight. I want you to be able always to recognize the highest and the best, and to live sincere and blameless lives until the day of Jesus Christ. I want to see your lives full of true goodness, produced by the power that Jesus Christ gives you to the praise and glory of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)
What were Paul’s great hopes for his friends in Philippi?
1) that they “may have still more love”…and of what kind? “full of knowledge and wise insight”
2) that they’d “recognize the highest and the best”
3) that they’d “live sincere and blameless lives” that were “full of true goodness, produced by the power” of Jesus.
In essence, he wants their thoughts and activities to be on a plane of heavenly, Christ-likeness: no longer worldly and earth-bound. And so, how were they – how are we – to achieve that goal? By more earnest striving? By more and more rigorous study? No! It’s Jesus Himself who has “more love” – is love! – “full of knowledge and wise insight” that’s ours for the taking. It’s Jesus Himself who always recognizes “the highest and the best” and is “sincere and blameless” Himself.
So, along those lines, let me tell you my favorite “Chapter 2 realities” - the two greatest “newnesses” we’re given by Jesus that just so happen to land in the second chapters of their respective books: In Acts 2, we receive the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit of God supplants our formerly human spirit forever! And, in 1 Corinthians 2, we’re told we possess the “mind of Christ”; our wayward human mind is superseded by the very thoughts of Jesus! Mind and spirit, my friends, we’ve been granted complete newness! All of Paul’s best hopes for his friends in Philippi are only possible in their personal life of abiding in the Living Jesus. And the same is so for us today.
“The living center round which all the perfections of God cluster, the living energy through which they all do their work, is the will of God. The will of God is the life of the universe; it is what it is because God wills it; His will is the living energy which maintains it in existence. The creature can have no more of God than he has of God's will working in him. He that would meet and find God must seek Him in His will; union with God's will is union with Himself. Therefore it was that the Lord Jesus, when He came to this world, always spoke of His having come to do one thing—the will of His Father. This alone could work our salvation.”
Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All
A little section from Luke 15, with notes in italics -
Now all the tax-collectors and “outsiders” were crowding around to hear what Jesus had to say. When we read those words, especially if you take the time to read this chapter in context, it causes us to cast our attentions both backward and forward. Looking back, isn’t it amazing that, given His most-recent teaching on “counting the cost,” and “giving up all your possessions,” that these tax-collectors and outsiders still crowded to Him?! And, looking ahead, and trying to understand the nature of that crowd's "crowding," what is the atmosphere of being around the person of Jesus?
Celebration, celebration, celebration!
If we’re to be the "Body of Christ" in this present day, just as He Himself was the visible-tangible-literal Body back in His day, are “outsiders” and rejects clinging to us, right now? Are they flying through the doors of our modern churches? What exactly are we inviting people into? A Sunday “service” or a party-like atmosphere of Heaven?
The Pharisees and the scribes complained of this, remarking, “This man accepts sinners and even eats his meals with them.” Remember: Our words and lives tend to tell people what we think Jesus is like. His name and renown are utterly unchanging; but His day-to-day reputation is in our hands everywhere we'll go this week.
“There is often danger, as we listen to the teaching of Scripture about Christ as our High Priest, of regarding Him as an outward person, and His work as something that is done outwardly for us in heaven. This precious word reminds us that our salvation consists in the possession of Himself, in the being one life with Him, in having Himself as our own. Christ can do nothing for us but as an inward Savior, Himself being our life, personally dwelling and working in us. As truly and fully as Christ, when He became partaker of flesh and blood, was entirely and eternally identified with man and His nature, so that He and it were inseparably united in one life, so surely, when we become partakers of Christ, do we become indissolubly identified with Him.”
Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All
After a number of the disciples are arrested, from Acts 5:
Then Peter and the apostles answered the High Priest, “It is our duty to obey the orders of God rather than the orders of men. It was the God of our fathers who raised up Jesus, whom you murdered by hanging him on a cross of wood. God has raised this man to his own right hand as prince and savior, to bring repentance and the forgiveness of sins to Israel. What is more, we are witnesses to these matters, and so is the Holy Spirit which God gives to those who obey his commands.”
Such bold and courageous words. Such trust in the realities of the Gospel. And while these words read like an amalgam of the messages given in Acts 2, 3 and 4, it’s the opening words Peter uses that capture my heart: “It is our duty to obey the orders of God rather than the orders of men.” As I read and reread those words in thinking through this section, a snippet of scripture kept coming into my mind – “I am under vows to you” – even though I couldn’t remember where exactly that was from. Turns out it’s Psalm 56, when David himself had also been arrested.
My friend, I don’t where today finds you – whether happy or feeling harassed – but, in light of the example of the apostles, their stoutheartedness for the sake of this Gospel we share with them, consider with full heart and ready spirit all of Psalm 56:
Be merciful to me, my God,
for my enemies are in hot pursuit;
all day long they press their attack.
My adversaries pursue me all day long;
in their pride many are attacking me.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise--
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
All day long they twist my words;
all their schemes are for my ruin.
They conspire, they lurk,
they watch my steps,
hoping to take my life.
Because of their wickedness do not let them escape;
in your anger, God, bring the nations down.
Record my misery;
list my tears on your scroll--
are they not in your record?
Then my enemies will turn back
when I call for help.
By this I will know that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise--
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can man do to me?
I am under vows to you, my God;
I will present my thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered me from death
and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.
Yes, Jesus, teach us to follow you like the saints of old! Teach us to live the bold spirit of your Early Church, your first friends!
“The powers of sin and Satan, of the world and the flesh, are so great, only he who is bold and glories in his hope upon what God will do will have strength to resist them. And he only can be bold to face the enemy who has learnt to be bold with God, and to glory in Him. It is when faith becomes a joy, and hope is a glorying in God, that we can be more than conquerors.”
Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All
“It was by His union with us in our life in the flesh, by His identifying Himself with our nature, that Jesus was able to claim and to work out and enter into possession of the glory God had promised to man. It is by our receiving His nature, and identifying ourselves with Him in this life on earth and in heaven, that what He has achieved for us can really become ours.”
Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All
From the Lazarus account in John 11 -
“I myself am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus told [Martha]. “The man who believes in me will live even though he dies, and anyone who is alive and believes in me will never die at all. Can you believe that?”
It would be difficult to rate or order the “I AM” statements in terms of their incomprehensibility – they are all impossibly glorious and mysterious in their own way – and yet, given the grieving woman standing in front of Him, and the clouded Jewish understanding of the concept of resurrection, this statement almost has to take the cake.
Isn’t it striking? The Resurrection is not an event, He is a person. Who yet lives, even today! And that’s because, of His own volition, out of that part of His "Resurrection-personality" with the power to do so, He Himself was resurrected from the dead for our sake.
And did you notice our point of access for both partaking in, and enjoying the benefits of, His being the Resurrection? “The man who believes in me will live even though he dies, and anyone who is alive and believes in me will never die at all. Can you believe that?” Belief is the only currency that holds open the door of death for life to come walking through; Belief is the only human possession that grants fearlessness in the face of death. To know and believe in the One who is the Resurrection and the Life grants us full understanding and experience of Peter’s words in 1 Peter 1: “For you are the sons of God now; the live, permanent Word of the living God has given you his own indestructible heredity.”
As Jesus just asked Martha, “Can you believe that?”
After Achan stole some consecrated items and Israel's defeat by Ai, in Joshua 7, with some notes in italics -
Joshua tore his clothes, and fell to the earth on his face before Yahweh’s ark until the evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. Joshua said, “Alas, Lord Yahweh, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to cause us to perish? I wish that we had been content and lived beyond the Jordan! Oh, Lord, what shall I say, after Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and will surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. What will you do for your great name?” I don’t know about you, but I can completely hear myself praying this kind of prayer after I’ve failed to take into account the Lord’s voice and then, on my own strength, failed completely. Here would be my own scene – perhaps you can relate:
Eugene threw himself on the couch, covered his face with hands, pulled out his hair, over the kind of day he’d had that day. He said, “Alas, Lord God, why have you chosen me at all, if you’re going to let be delivered into a day like this; a day so miserable? I wish I could be like everyone else whose life just works out! Oh, Lord, what can I say, after I’ve made such a mess of today! For the people all around me, my family, my friends, my acquaintances, will hear of it, because they surround me, and point at my ‘faith’ and laugh. What will you do for your great name – to rescue my good name?”
At no point in such a scene do I ever remember that – at the start of that day – I’d launched right in without an ounce of sense of what He was saying about the day. And no wonder Yahweh answers Joshua as He does!
Yahweh said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face like that? Israel has sinned. Yes, they have even transgressed my covenant which I commanded them. Yes, they have even taken some of the devoted things, and have also stolen, and also deceived. They have even put it among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel can’t stand before their enemies.” To continue my previous parallel, when I lament the way a particular day of my life has gone, I think these words of Yahweh to Joshua are similar – accounting, of course, for our New Covenant context – to what I myself might hear from Him:
The Lord then says to me, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face like that? You have been set free of sin. You have forgotten the truth of the New Covenant which my Son has given you. You have forgotten that you’re one of my devoted things, and you have neglected my voice, and been deceived. You have mixed yourself up with the world’s stuff. Without me, without my assurance of your limitless freedom, you can’t stand before the Enemy.”
At every point in such a word to me does He know that – all day, every minute – He’d already been speaking to me, breaking through, and communicating His presence. What a joy that we follow such a One who actually speaks!
“What the Hebrews needed is what we need. Not in ourselves or our efforts is salvation, but in Christ Jesus. To see Him, to consider Him, to look to Him, as He lives in heaven, that will bring the healing. As little as the Hebrews with the Old Testament, its God-given law, its temple service, and its prophecy, could withstand the temptation to 'wax weary and grow faint,' can the New Testament, with a sound Church and Church doctrine, and its religious services, give us the true life and power of godliness. It is Jesus Christ we must know better. It is He who lives today in heaven, who can lead us into the heavenly sanctuary, and keep us there, who can give heaven into our heart and life. The knowledge of Jesus in His heavenly glory and His saving power; it is this our Churches and our Christians need.”
Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All
As far as the Law is concerned I may consider that I died on the cross with Christ. And my present life is not that of the old “I,” but the living Christ within me. The bodily life I now live, I live believing in the Son of God, who loved me and sacrificed himself for me. (Galatians 2:19,20)
Good gracious! Now this is the glory our lives are meant to be!
Take those last three sentences in steps:
1) You and I are dead to the Law; there is no damnable, damning evidence of sin even available to condemn us anymore. Jesus “did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it,” and, in fulfilling it, He put to death its demands upon us.
2) The “old I” is gone now. The sinful, self-aware, self-obsessed old Self lives no longer – and what has replaced it?
3) “The living Christ within me.” What?! The God of the universe, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, the Savior of the world has chosen to take up residence…in me?! yes! He’s alive and He’s living in me! And in you too, my friend! Oh, that you and I would learn to submit our minds and spirits and personalities to allowing Him to supersede our minds and spirits and personalities! He knows how to walk out His Way – He’s already done it once! – oh, won’t we let Him do it all over again in us?
So what’s left for us to do?
4) To simply “live believing in the Son of God, who loved me and sacrificed himself for me.” This is the essence of what Jesus meant when he answered the crowd in John 6: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
So, to sum up thoughts 1-4 in one contiguous sentence, here we go: To Believe in Jesus is to walk in a Union-with-Him that creates the “new I,” causing us to be dead to the Law and sin! Thank you, Jesus, that it's all your work!
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Matthew 6:34
* * * * *
“A good soldier does not worry. He knows that nothing happens until it actually happens and you live your life up to then.”
Ernest Hemingway, Men at War
During this period some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them by the name of Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there was to be a great famine throughout the world. (This actually happened in the days of Claudius) The disciples determined to send relief to the brothers in Judea, each contributing as he was able. This they did, sending their contribution to the elders there personally through Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 11:27-30)
To me, these verses are just delightful because of the way they show us the real-time vitality of the ways of the Holy Spirit in Antioch and in His people. Let’s reread them and let me point out what I mean:
During this period some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch, pulled, undoubtedly, by the rumors of Holy Spirit happenings happening there; drawn as prophets to the Flame; wanting to see everything that was spiritually possible in their lifetimes. One of them by the name of Agabus – and we can only guess what a guy named Agabus must’ve looked like! – stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there was to be a great famine throughout the world. (This actually happened in the days of Claudius) – a parenthetic aside, written in the future, that tells us what they did not know when they took the following course of action: The disciples determined to send relief to the brothers in Judea, each contributing as he was able: sacrificial giving based entirely on a prophetic word given by one man in one church on one day. This they did, sending their contribution to the elders there personally through Barnabas and Saul. The former persecutor of the Way, along with the man who’d first welcomed him into the Jerusalem gathering, now travel to the headquarters of this movement with supplies demanded by the Holy Spirit through one of His prophets.
Let's be honest: Is this the kind of action we’re after? To worship in places and ways that draw the worldwide attention of other believers; to listen to the voice of the prophets; to act in quick accordance to the voice of the Spirit? To, yes, run the risk of looking strange for the intensity of our gatherings’ adherence to a Way of life that begins in the spiritual and then, and only from there, extends out through the natural? Is this description of their lives stirring your heart, causing you to crave what they possessed, especially when you consider it as an echo of the living life of Jesus?
Is this what we want?
"But you, dear friends of mine, build yourselves up on the foundation of your most holy faith and by praying through the Holy Spirit keep yourselves within the love of God. Wait patiently for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ which will bring you to the life eternal." Jude 1:20,21
One Greek note here. When you take into full account the full potential meaning of the word for "wait patiently" here, both in the common and classical Greek contexts, that last sentence could more robustly read:
"Receiving favorably the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ which will bring you to eternal life" (ie. kind of a picture of our spirits being arms-wide-open for more of His mercy.)
"Admitting to citizenship the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ which will bring you to eternal life" (ie. allowing His mercy to come live in us and take full residence in our hearts.)
"Undertaking the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ which will bring you to eternal life" (ie. committing to the full-spectrum experience of what this mercy would like to do in us and through us.)
"Guaranteeing the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ which will bring you to eternal life" (ie. having our lives stand as guarantor of how good the promises of this mercy are.)
"Expecting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ which will bring you to eternal life" (ie. eyes watching the horizon, always ready for a fuller personal experience of His arrival and His mercy.)
In other words, if you and I read the second half of verse 21 as only the eventual promise of Heaven, we are selling the wonders of His mercy far short. There is so much more for us to learn of, and experience, now, today!
“For you, man, there awaits a great and beautiful future. And the more the world has of men like you the nearer will this future be brought. Without you, ministers to the highest principles, living freely and consciously, humanity would be nothing; developing in the natural order it must wait the end of its earthly history. But you, by some thousands of years, hasten it into the kingdom of eternal truth – and in this is your high service. You embody in yourself the blessing of God which rested upon the people.”
Anton Chekhov, "The Black Monk"
“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. Whatever you ask the Father in my name, I will do — that the Son may bring glory to the Father. And if you ask me anything in my name, I will grant it.” John 14:12-14
Let me ask you a question: Where’s all this going? I mean, sitting in church, going to Bible studies, joining accountability groups, reading Tim Keller, having quiet times – what exactly are you doing? Do you ever stop to think about why you’re spending your time the way you’re spending your time?
I don’t think I’m off-base in saying that most Christians do all these things in order to become “good Christians,” or, in other words, pretty nice people. But if Jesus, having spoken words like these, heard us stating a goal like that, I think He’d have to chuckle, put His hands on our shoulders, and look us right in the eye: “A good Christian?” He’d ask. “Oh, no. No, what I want is for you to be like ME; actually, what I really want is for you to surpass me. I want you to show the world what a life looks like with the full resources of Heaven behind it. If you’d only believe in me, you’ll become just like me, and you’ll run out ahead and do things I never got to do.”
Brothers and Sisters, is that what we want from these lives? Because that’s exactly what He wants from these lives. He wants, because He’s “gone away to the Father,” because He’s sitting right next to the Father right now, that you would desire higher and more impossible things. He wants to answer prayers that prove our eyes are trained on His face; that we would like our own face to become like His.
Is that what you want?
“Next, Christ prayed that he should be in us, and we in him. This we find in many passages in the Gospel. And this is the union that is without intermediary, for the love of God is not only out-flowing but it is also drawing-in into unity. And those who feel and experience this become interior, enlightened men. Their higher faculties are raised above all practices to the bareness of their essence. There the faculties become simplified above reason in their essence and because of this they are filled and overflowing. For in this simplicity the spirit finds itself united with God without intermediary. And this union, together with the exercise which is proper to it, will endure eternally..."
"We are not meant to remain as children at the mercy of every chance wind of teaching and the jockeying of men who are expert in the crafty presentation of lies. But we are meant to hold firmly to the truth in love, and to grow up in every way into Christ, the head. For it is from the head that the whole body, as a harmonious structure knit together by the joints with which it is provided, grows by the proper functioning of individual parts to its full maturity in love." Ephesians 4:14-16
Now there's a perfect picture of what we’re aiming for! You and I are not meant to be helpless children anymore; we’re meant to mature and grow up…into Jesus. Into Jesus! And this isn’t some generic “grow up” Paul is talking about. No, the Greek word he uses means to “bring up to manhood” (sorry, ladies!) with all the power and weight involved in that wording. And how will we grow up into the fullness of that phrase?
“For it is from the head that the whole body, as a harmonious structure knit together by the joints with which it is provided, grows by the proper functioning of individual parts to its full maturity in love.” Can you see that picture in your mind’s eye? It’s like in so many children’s movies where the characters get a set of grown-up clothes and then, by stacking themselves, working all together, defeat the bad guys by looking like a terrifying giant. But, in the arrangement of the Body of Christ, Jesus is the head of our big unwieldy, put-together, tottering giant! And how’s He working to make it a “harmonious structure”? By teaching us, as Paul writes in the beginning of Ephesians 4, to “make it your aim to be at one in the Spirit, and you will inevitably be at peace with one another”!
Amen and Amen.
“Indeed, it is important for us to realize that words like ‘Catholic,’ ‘Protestant,’ and ‘Evangelical’ have become so ambiguous as to be virtually meaningless. Nor is mere union of the denominations our primary need if we are to have renewal. The movement we need is a movement in depth, and if it is deep enough the problem of unity will take care of itself.”
Elton Trueblood, The Company of the Committed
Remember: He asks for nothing for which He doesn't Himself provide. If we sense any sort of lack today, we need only ask.
“[The Early Church] realized with a kind of dazed happiness that now that they believed in the focused God, they were reconciled with the purpose and will of God, and the spiritual resources of heaven flowed into their ordinary lives.”
J.B. Phillips, Good News
James Tissot, The Exhortation to the Apostles
“The truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings and His service one of unspeakable pleasure. He is all love, and those who trust Him need never know anything but that love. He is just indeed and He will not condone sin; but through the blood of the everlasting covenant He is able to act toward us exactly as if we had never sinned. Toward the trusting sons of men His mercy will always triumph over justice. The fellowship of God is delightful beyond all telling. He communes with His redeemed ones in an easy, uninhibited fellowship that is restful and healing to the soul. He is not sensitive or selfish nor temperamental. What He is today we shall find Him tomorrow and the next day and the next year. He is not hard to please, though He may be hard to satisfy. He expects of us only what He has Himself first supplied. He is quick to mark every simple effort to please Him, and just as quick to overlook imperfections when He knows we meant to do His will. He loves us for ourselves and values our love more than galaxies of new created worlds.”
A.W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous
"…As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is true because I do not live to please myself but to do the will of the Father who sent me. You may say that I am bearing witness about myself, that therefore what I say about myself has no value, but I would remind you that there is one who witnesses about me and I know that his witness about me is absolutely true…" (John 5:30b-32)
In this translation (Phillips), as well as in the NIV, verse 30 speaks of “seeking the will” as being synonymous with living “to please.” Which I love, by the way! Because not only is the good pleasure of the Father a more attractive target than His big mysterious will, not only is it so much more personal, as it was between Jesus and Him, but I also think it ties beautifully with Jesus’ assertion in verse 31 – that the Father is His “absolutely true” witness. After all, what exactly - two of the three times that the Father testified audibly to Jesus from Heaven - did He say of Him? “This is my beloved Son; in Him I am well-pleased.” Do you see it? For both Jesus and the Father, pleasure is witness and witness is pleasure. How wonderful!
“All of your men of war shall march around the city, going around the city once. You shall do this six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day, you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall be that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall go up, every man straight in front of him.” (Joshua 6:3-5)
Imagine if you yourself were an Israelite “man of war” who’d been born in the last forty years of wandering aimlessly around the wilderness. Your whole upbringing has moved toward this very week of days; your training in the arts of war has been honed for this exact laying of siege. Now imagine - from your own individual perspective - exactly what your orders are for the week of battle ahead of you: “Walk around this city one time. Do that for six days. On the seventh, shout. You will then have won...”
How absolutely stunning is the way that Yahweh takes the means and ends out of His people’s hands so that all that’s left is His power and glory. The relative ease with which these people will soon possess this city should be such a wonderful encouragement to us who’ve received some similarly wild commands:
“As you go, preach, saying, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. Freely you received, so freely give. Don’t take any gold, silver, or brass in your money belts. Take no bag for your journey, neither two coats, nor shoes, nor staff: for the laborer is worthy of his food. Into whatever city or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy; and stay there until you go on. As you enter into the household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come on it, but if it isn’t worthy, let your peace return to you. Whoever doesn’t receive you, nor hear your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake off the dust from your feet. Most certainly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.
“Behold, I send you out as sheep among wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to councils, and in their synagogues they will scourge you. Yes, and you will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony to them and to the nations. But when they deliver you up, don’t be anxious how or what you will say, for it will be given you in that hour what you will say. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” (Matthew 10)
If Jesus says to do these things, we are meant to be doing these things. If He says they’re perfectly possible, they are, no doubt, perfectly possible.
"Jesus is willing and longing as the Crucified One to keep you in perfect peace. This is a wonderful fact, and it is the secret of joy unspeakable. And this is also the secret of Holiness. Instead of indwelling sin, an indwelling Christ conquering it; instead of indwelling sin, the indwelling life and light and love of the blessed Son of God. He is the secret of holiness."
Andrew Murray, Jesus Himself