"Set your minds, then, on endorsing by your conduct the fact that God has called and chosen you. If you go along the lines I have indicated above, there is no reason why you should stumble, and if you have lived the sort of life I have recommended God will open wide to you the gates of the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I shall not fail to remind you of things like this although you know them and are already established in the truth. I consider it my duty, as long as I live in the temporary dwelling of this body, to stimulate you by these reminders. I know that I shall have to leave this body at very short notice, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me." 2 Peter 1:10-14
Those last words are so rich with real life, with real living, and with the power of memory! Here is a man, Simon Peter, writing to men and women scattered all over the Roman Empire, brothers and sisters in the Way of Jesus the Christ, and all this man wants is that his friends should live their lives fully in that Way. That's the import of verses 10-13.
But then verse 14 - "I know that I shall have to leave this body at very short notice, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me" - is Peter leaning back in his chair and remembering a particular moment. In it, he was standing facing the Risen Jesus. It was early morning on the Sea of Galilee. The breeze was blowing fresh off the water. The sun was only just coming up over the Golan Heights. And Jesus said to him:
“I tell you truly, Peter, that when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you liked, but when you are an old man, you are going to stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and take you where you do not want to go... You must follow me."
That memory, that moment, is precisely what Peter thinks of as he writes these words in 2 Peter 1. And the moment described, that death Jesus foretold for him, is not very far off now...
Friends, what are the memories with Jesus that are animating our lives today? How quickly do we hearken back to our shared history with our Savior, our Lord, our Friend, as we go about our days?
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
“The unique thing about the early Christians was their radiant relation to a Person. ‘The Lord,’ they called Him tenderly, and when they used the term they gave it its own New Testament meaning. It meant Jesus Christ, who a short while before had been among them but was now gone into the heavens as their High Priest and Advocate. It was this engrossment with a victorious Person that gave verve and vibrancy to their lives and conviction to their testimony. They bore witness joyously to the One who had lived as a true Man among men. Their testimony was not weakened by the pale cast of metaphysical thought. They knew that Jesus was very Man and very God, and He had died, had been raised from the dead and had ascended into heaven. They accepted literally His claim to be invested with authority over everything in heaven, earth and hell. How it could be they never stopped to inquire. They trusted Him absolutely and left the details to their triumphant Lord.”
A.W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous
Because Jesus has come, because He has taken on flesh to set us free, because there is now no condemnation for those who are in Him, and because He now sits at the right hand of the Father to dispense all His grace and glory upon those who would believe and ask, our present life in Him is as rich as we would have it be. Any sense of lack is simply you and I not living up to our heavenly privileges.
There is more for us. And it's all to be found in Him. Right now. Today.
“For Christians the beginning of the day should not be burdened and oppressed with besetting concerns for the day’s work. At the threshold of the new day stands the Lord who made it. All the darkness and distraction of the dreams of night retreat before the clear light of Jesus Christ and his wakening Word. All unrest, all impurity, all care and anxiety flee before him. Therefore, at the beginning of the day let all distraction and empty talk be silenced and let the first thought and the first word belong to him to whom our whole life belongs. ‘Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light’ (Eph. 5:14).”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
God’s Spirit specifically tells us that in later days there will be men who abandon the true faith and allow themselves to be spiritually seduced by teachings of the devil, teachings given by men who are lying hypocrites, whose consciences are as dead as seared flesh. These men forbid marriage, command abstinence from food — good things which, in fact, God intends to be thankfully enjoyed by those who believe in him and know the truth. Everything God made is good, and is meant to be gratefully used, not despised. The holiness or otherwise of a certain food, for instance, depends not on its nature but on whether it is eaten thankfully or not. It is consecrated by the man who has accepted the message, and thanks God for food.
You will be doing your duty as Christ’s minister if you remind your church members of these things, and you will show yourself as one who owes his strength to the truth of the faith he has absorbed and the sound teaching he has followed. But steer clear of all these stupid Godless fictions... (1 Timothy 4:1-7a)
In actuality, either our life with Jesus is a matter of Union-with-Him (in His Life, Way, Death, Resurrection and an Experience-of-His-alive-Life-within-us) or it all becomes external observances, things measurable, rules followable, ie. a state of disunion. I highly doubt that the people trying to foist these ideas upon Timothy’s fellowship were “bad people”; more likely, they were just trying to be careful: “Timothy, this stuff you and Paul are talking about is pretty out there; let's rein it in a little, shall we?”
But, my friends, it’s our personal digging-into-Jesus, our Branch-clinging-to-Vine-ness that’s most imperative for us each playing our proper part in the Body of Christ. Without your Belief and experience of Him, we’re all in danger of descending into “stupid Godless fictions,” into externals disconnected from the Life and Way of Jesus.
So what do you say? Shall we dig in - and delight - this day?
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.
From John 6's preamble to "The Feeding of the 5,000" with notes in italics -
Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, another disciple, put in, “There is a boy here who has five small barley loaves and a couple of fish, but what’s the good of that for such a crowd?”
Oh, how I love Andrew! The first man to ever call Jesus Messiah, the first to call in another disciple to follow Him, he’s always getting this undercard status to his ridiculous brother. And yet faced with the very same view of this impossibly-large crowd as the rest of the disciples, Andrew approaches Jesus with the contents of a little boy’s lunchbox and, evidenced by the fact that he even makes this statement, a little grain, a little mustard-seed, of Belief.
Do you realize that believing a little bit is infinitely better than unbelief? Anything times zero will always be zero, but Jesus can always make use of our beginning, our small portion, our hope-filled, leaning-in, wide-eyed Belief to do unbelievable things.
In fact, do you want to see what a heart of complete Belief looks like?
Then Jesus said, “Get the people to sit down.”
Now that’s good! The trusting-in-His-Father certainty of Belief that says, “Everyone take a seat; order’s about to be up!”
May that be our heart toward Him today!
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
Joshua said to the people [just before the crossing of the Jordan], “Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow Yahweh will do wonders among you.” (Joshua 3:5)
And rather than asking you to imagine the burning look in Joshua’s eyes while saying these words, or the rapt attention of the millions of people listening, I want you to – for a moment – instead imagine just Jesus and yourself, sitting together, tomorrow morning. You’ve only just woken up and brushed your teeth; you now walk out to the kitchen table; He is sitting there, waiting for you. With the warmest smile, He then motions you to sit directly opposite Him, and, for the longest while, He just looks at you – like the proudest father might look on his little boy or girl. Finally He speaks, short and sweet: “I have sanctified you; today I will do wonders in your midst.” Only that. That’s all He says.
If you and I gave our whole “quiet times” everyday to arriving at that reality, we would be the most fruitful, joyous, connected disciples of Jesus that the Modern Era has ever seen. Our acceptance of what He’s done for us, our expectancy of what He’s bound to do today, would define our every moment.
What do you do, personally, when you meet with Him? Is it time for a change to what's become, perhaps, just a routine?
"Bishop Temple says: 'Christ was not a man, but Man, he was not a God, but God.' In him we see what man is and how far we have fallen, in him we see what God is and how far we may rise. He is the universal meeting us personalized. Since I am a person, the universal must meet me personalized… Jesus changes everything he touches. Call him a man, and you will have to change your ideas of what a man is; call him God, and you will have to change your ideas of what God is. You can transfer every quality of Jesus into God without the slightest sense of loss or blasphemy. And when you set him up as man he appeals to universal man."
E. Stanley Jones, Christ at the Round Table
"We are near the end of all things now, and you should therefore be calm, self-controlled men of prayer. Above everything else be sure that you have real deep love for each other, remembering how ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.' Be hospitable to each other without secretly wishing you hadn’t got to be! Serve one another with the particular gifts God has given each of you, as faithful dispensers of the magnificently varied grace of God." 1 Peter 4:7-10
This week, in slowly reading and rereading through these verses, it was like my heart took a deep breath, savored for a moment, and then let it out. Because, I thought: What a wonderful thing it is to know Jesus of Nazareth. What freedom we're given. What simple joy. What purpose.
Think about the admonitions in these four verses. Even if the world should be coming to its close, we're called to be - in fact, we're resourced to be - calm, self-controlled conversationalists with our Savior, our Friend. Our work is love. Our tool for that is hospitality: in the Greek, "acts of friendship." The only talents in us that end up mattering are the "particular gifts God has given us"; we are esteemed as the "faithful dispensers of the magnificently varied grace of God." That's who we are in God's sight.
If you know Jesus at all, then you must realize that we are all neck-deep in the roaring, powerful River of Life that flows from His throne. But I think we think, sometimes, that we shouldn't get too carried away with our identity being too fully in Him. This week, I thought: No, let's get swept away; let's fully be who we're supposed to be in Him!
What do you think? Are you with me?
"Copy me, my brothers, as I copy Christ himself." - Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11:1
* * * * *
Would you want another person to have your own actual, practical, day-by-day experience of Jesus? Is it robust to the degree that you believe it warrants replication?
“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).’”
"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
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
* * * *
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.”
"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.
“[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.