“There is nothing eerie, nothing strange, nothing contrary to the normal operations of the human heart about the Holy Ghost. He is only the essence of Jesus imparted to believers. You read the four Gospels and see for yourself how wonderfully calm, pure, sane, simple, sweet, natural, and lovable Jesus was. Even philosophers who don’t believe in His deity have to admit the lovableness of His character.”
A.W. Tozer, How to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit
"Yet I know that the touch of his Spirit never leaves you, and you don’t really need a human teacher. You know that his Spirit teaches you about all things, always telling you the truth and never telling you a lie. So, as he has taught you, live continually in Christ. Yes, now, little children remember to live continually in him." 1 John 2:27,28a
There is truly nothing I can add, no write-up that needs to supplement, the power of what you just read. So let's reread together - maybe just a little more clearly and emphatically - what John has just been trying to get across to you and me:
THE TOUCH OF HIS SPIRIT NEVER LEAVES YOU.
YOU DON'T REALLY NEED A HUMAN TEACHER.
HIS SPIRIT TEACHES YOU ABOUT ALL THINGS.
HE TEACHES YOU TO LIVE CONTINUALLY IN CHRIST.
Are we beginning to grasp the level of this glory? Jesus came that you might have life, and, that you might have His life, He gave you His very own Spirit. There is nothing higher for you than spending the whole rest of your life learning what that means and how to live it.
From Psalm 33: "But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations."
It strikes me that we, most of the time, seem to perceive the Lord's plan as constantly changing and thus that we need to "find His will," almost as if we're chasing it down. But David talks here of its essential unchangingness. Perhaps we need to better understand - and align ourselves with - its firm, forevermore steadiness before we do much else.
“To think of what Christ is ready and willing to do in us and for us would frighten some of us into apoplexy, and to actually realize it would snap the frail thread of life itself. Christ’s heart is bursting with resources that the world needs and that He is ready to use if only He could find vessels ready and willing to use them. Oh, for the courage to see the power which He is waiting to place at the service of all who are consecrated enough to use it for His glory and close enough to receive the heavenly baptism! He has for us the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of prayer, the power that will conquer circumstances and control all events for His will, and the power that will make us the trophies of His grace and the monuments of His indwelling presence and victory.”
A.B. Simpson, The Christ of the 40 Days
The human body cannot live without blood and water. Just as truly, the Body of Christ, the Church, cannot live without blood (His) and water (His Holy Spirit.)
Are you and I learning to be such quick confessors when we sin that we are living more and more under the power and awareness-of-forgiveness provided by the blood?
Are you and I remembering the already-present presence of the Holy Spirit to such a degree that we are daily only asking for more and more of Him, all the time?
Both are required. Both are readily given. May this day be doubly bathed in both.
“How wonderful, and precious and lovely it is that our highest and best treasure, the kingdom of God, is not something exterior, but is an indwelling good that we always have with us, hidden from the whole world and from the devil himself so that neither the world nor the devil can take it from us. For it, we need no great skill, speech, or many books, but rather a heart released and surrendered to God. For this purpose let us diligently turn within to this inner, hidden, heavenly, and eternal goodness and kingdom. What should we seek for externally in the world, we who have everything within us, the whole kingdom of God and all its goods? In our hearts and souls is the true school of the Holy Spirit, the true workshop of the Holy Trinity, the true temple of God, ‘the true house of prayer in spirit and in truth’ (Jn 4:23). Although God is in all things through his general presence, not contained within them, but in an incomprehensible way filling heaven and earth, he is still in a special and singular sense in the enlightened souls of those people in whom he dwells and has his resting place (1 Cor 6:19; Is 66:2), as in his own image and likeness. There he performs the works that he himself is. There in our heart he always answers our sighs. How is it possible for him to deny those in whom he has his dwelling, whom he himself moves and draws? Nothing is more delightful and pleasant to him than to give himself to all those who seek him.”
Then the Lord said to Ananias, “Get up and go down to the street called Straight, and enquire at the house of Judas for a man named Saul from Tarsus. At this moment he is praying and he sees in his mind’s eye a man by the name of Ananias coming into the house, and placing his hands upon him to restore his sight.” Acts 9:11,12
The Book of Acts comes back to this time and again, both in Chapter 10 and across Paul’s missionary journeys throughout the rest of Acts, but here we get to see one amazing instance of an amazing facet of God's will. It’s the fact that, in our embracing the full mystery of the mission we’ve been given by Jesus, you and I get to transcend the three dimensions of our physical reality; that we are invited into the space-time construct that lives within the mind of God; that our lives grow fluid with the Holy Spirit’s fluidity. (Does that sound crazy enough for you?) Well, here what I mean:
In this particular Chapter 9 moment, there are two three-dimensional men – with height, width, and depth – living in the midst of normal human time, going about their two independent respective days. And yet – AND YET! – into those two realities comes an outside spiritual force, One who dwells outside the movement of what we call time, and He paints for both of them – one verbally, one visually – AT THE SAME TIME – a picture that is not-yet-real in time- and physical-space, and yet which is the EXACT, PERFECT will of God for both these two lives and the historical movement of the Gospel.
Ananias’ visit to Saul exists already in the timeless, four-dimensional (or more?) mind of God even before he takes a step toward the street called Straight…
THIS, my friends, is how we’re meant to be living, making plans, doing ministry and missions, raising our families: in a posture of three-dimensional waiting and listening and watching for the moments when the supernatural reality breaks in. Had you asked Ananias how to reach into the life and heart of Saul of Tarsus, he would’ve had his own best guesses... bounded by all normal human constraints. The Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit, know no such constraints; their imagination should form the basis of all that we dream of doing.
“For You to have mercy is the same thing as for You to see. Your mercy follows after each person as long as he lives, and wherever he goes, just as Your seeing never abandons anyone. As long as a person lives, You do not cease to follow after him and to urge him on with a sweet and interior warning to leave error and to be converted to You in order to live happily. Lord, You are the companion of my pilgrimage. Wherever I go, Your eyes are always upon me. Your seeing is also Your moving. Therefore, You move with me and never cease moving as long as I move. If I am at rest, You are with me; if I ascend or descend, so do You; wherever I go, You are there (Ps 138:8). You do not forsake me in time of tribulation. As often as I call on You, You are there, for to call on You is for me to turn myself to You. You cannot fail a person who turns toward You, nor can anyone turn toward You unless you are there first. You are present before I turn myself to You, for unless you were present and invited me, I would be wholly ignorant of You.”
Nicholas of Cusa
“…no one learns to know the Father except the Son, and no one learns to know the Son except the Father and him to whom He chooses to reveal Him (Mt 11:27). These are the Lord’s words. The Father and the Son reveal this to certain persons then, to those to whom they will, to those to whom they make it known, that is, to whom they impart the Holy Spirit, who is the common knowing or the common will of both. Those therefore to whom the Father and the Son reveal themselves recognize them as the Father and the Son recognize themselves, because they have within themselves their mutual knowing, because they have within themselves the unity of both, and their will or love: all that the Holy Spirit is.”
William of Saint-Thierry
Isn't it a fascinating thought that the Holy Spirit would constitute the "common knowing" and "common will" of the Father and the Son; that He is their internal means of recognizing each other fully; their mutual knowing of each other; the spiritual mechanism of their unity, will and love?
I think I'd like a fuller indwelling of that Spirit!
How would it change your interaction with, and your theology about, the Holy Spirit if you began to understand that He can probably best be described, adjectivally, as "reckless?"
Most churches talk about Him as if He's a nice, mysterious figure sitting in a back boardroom, rubberstamping our exciting ministry plans for growth and better giving.
He is the flame whose fire lit ablaze the life of the First Generation, man by man, woman by woman, and, over time, burnt whole empires to ashes. That's the Holy Spirit of God.
How will you personally listen for His voice today?
I was reading an article last week about the direct democracy employed by the provinces ("cantons") of Switzerland, in order to bind the whole country into a solid directly democratic union. The German word they use to describe how this works is "willensnation" - they are a "nation by the will" - they can only be united as they follow the true will of the provinces.
We often wonder how the Body of Christ, the Church, might actually come into the unity prayed for by Jesus in John 17. But doesn't Switzerland's system, and its name, give us a clue? Should we not be the "willenslieb" - the "Body by the Will" - who find true unity only as our individual members follow the Will? And isn't that Will simply the Way of Jesus, as taught by Him, and as recorded throughout the four Gospels, and as lived very clearly by the Early Church?
Your life is your vote; your day today expresses what you believe of Him: may you and I show the Will that will unite the Body to Jesus Himself.
The children of Israel did as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones out of the middle of the Jordan, as Yahweh spoke to Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel. They carried them over with them to the place where they camped, and laid them down there. Joshua set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests who bore the ark of the covenant stood; and they are there to this day. (Joshua 4:8,9)
So, over on the shore, there would be those twelve stones picked up and arranged by the twelve men, while, in the middle of the river-channel, now stand twelve stones picked up and arranged by Joshua himself. In a few moments, the river-waters will hurtle down the dry riverbed and engulf the pile of stones that Joshua set up to commemorate the crossing, but, up above, the other stack will stand.
Can you see these two ebenezers in your mind’s eye? The visible one onshore and the other submerged beneath the green waters?
I love this idea that we should have markers to the majesty of Jesus that others can see and ask about, and also other memorials that are unseen, private to us and Him, swallowed up within an impenetrable flood of our shared intimacy.
Would you say that you have some of both?
We shouldn't be concerned that people aren't "doing anything" for the Kingdom of Heaven. The real concern is that doing nothing isn't possible when we know this Jesus; that perceived inaction is the same as not knowing Him.
For us, pressing further into Jesus - modeling complete intimacy - is the only answer. We must show everyone as much of His goodness and glory as we personally can. He will provide the work of His call every time we ask. So let's ask. And then live as exhibits of heavenly wonder.
I've often noticed that when people are talking about their "quiet times," or the space they make for their "devotions," they will refer to it as "my time with Him." But how much better would it be, how much more likely to lead us into active obedience, if we began to think of it as "His time with me"?
May we each give Him time to move within our hearts, our minds, our spirits, so that our hearts, minds, and spirits are brought into a daily alignment. Such waiting upon Him presumes He is alive and able to be heard from. Anything less verges toward mere religiosity.
Often, it seems, we are trying to show the world how important Jesus is, or how impressive, or, even, how logical; but how much better it would be if, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we simply showed them lives filled with seeming impossibilities.
The Conversion of the Warder (Acts 16), Philips Galle, 1582
There is really no need to "defend our faith." If you and I would only live it - enjoying all the wonders of the splendor of our inheritances in Jesus - the world's counterpoints would become utterly indefensible.
What if we began to measure our confidence, not against our personal strengths, or dreams, or plans, or smarts, but only against His immeasurable promises? For instance:
"And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19
"All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us." 2 Corinthians 1:3,4
“You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon Him, for you are His personal concern.” 1 Peter 5:7
"Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6,7
"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever." 1 Chronicles 16:34
"And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." Romans 8:28
"This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" 2 Corinthians 5:17
"Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do." Psalm 1:1-3
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere — in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
“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
"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
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?
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.”
"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.
"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...