"Yes, we love him because he first loved us. If a man says, 'I love God' and hates his brother, he is a liar. For if he does not love the brother before his eyes how can he love the one beyond his sight?" 1 John 4:19,20
I love how explicit John is in the end of verse 20. In essence, the person standing in front of you - who you can see - is the exact test for your love for God - who you can't see. And this is not some dress-rehearsal; every day is the real thing.
Friends, shall we love with a reckless abandon this day? Remember: It's all aimed at Him!
From Ephesians 6 with some notes in italics -
Therefore you must wear the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground. Take your stand then…
And here’s a point that matters deeply to me: What is the purpose of our putting on the “whole armor of God”? To take lots of ground and fight on to the next town? To make a name for ourselves because of how dashing our battleplans are?
In the Greek, Paul says, “that you might be able to make a stand in the evil day and, having done all things, to stand. Therefore stand…” In the name of Jesus, will you be where you are; stand firm; be utterly immoveable in His present purposes? The ground He’s given you today is the exact ground you’re presently to be standing on until He tells you to move from it.
Take your stand then with truth as your belt, righteousness your breastplate, the Gospel of peace firmly on your feet, [and] salvation as your helmet… And, honestly, I actually think Paul says this better when he simply says, in Romans 13:14, “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ…”
If you desire the “belt of truth,” Jesus is the “way, the truth, the life, no one comes to the Father except through [Him]” (John 14)
If you’re looking for “righteousness our breastplate,” remember that “we have no superhuman High Priest to whom our weaknesses are unintelligible — he himself has shared fully in all our experience of temptation, except that he never sinned.” (Hebrews 4)
If you need to be shod with “the Gospel of peace firmly on our feet,” it is Jesus “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel…”(2 Timothy 1)
And “salvation as our helmet”? “In no one else can salvation be found (Peter said of Jesus). For in all the world no other name has been given to men but this, and it is by this name that we must be saved.” (Acts 4)
To daily abide in Union with Jesus is to be clothed with Him and in His personal Armor from head to foot. The attributes found here are His attributes and our inheritance!
"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.
“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
Their children, whom he raised up in place [of that generation who died in the wilderness], were circumcised by Joshua; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them on the way. When they were done circumcising the whole nation, they stayed in their places in the camp until they were healed.
Yahweh said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt off of you.” Therefore the name of that place was called Gilgal, to this day. (Joshua 5:7-9)
Despite the fact that they had already crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, moved from the old to the new life, this generation was not yet able to possess the fullness of the inheritance. Without this physical act of circumcision, the “rolling away of their reproach,” they would’ve been relegated to camping at the borderland indefinitely. The same is so true for our appropriation of our salvation. Consider how much Paul says we should be grasping of our complete freedom:
“In Christ, you were circumcised, not by any physical act, but by being set free from the sins of the flesh by virtue of Christ’s circumcision. You, so to speak, shared in that, just as in baptism you shared in his death, and in him are sharing the miracle of rising again to new life — and all this because you have faith in the tremendous power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. You, who were spiritually dead because of your sins and your uncircumcision (i.e. the fact that you were outside the Law), God has now made to share in the very life of Christ! He has forgiven you all your sins: Christ has utterly wiped out the damning evidence of broken laws and commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it over his own head on the cross. And then having drawn the sting of all the powers ranged against us, he exposed them, shattered, empty and defeated, in his final glorious triumphant act!” (Colossians 2)
The degree to which most Christians possess their salvation is oftentimes limited to that vague description of “going to Heaven when I die.” But, according to Paul, just in this one short section of one of his many letters, here’s what you should know about your life in Jesus, right now, today:
1. Your life is lived “in Christ”
2. You are presently “free from the sins of the flesh”
3. You have a share in Jesus’ death
4. You are presently meant to be “sharing the miracle of rising again to new life”
5. Your life has been granted a “share in the very life of Christ”
6. “He has forgiven you all your sins”
7. Jesus has erased the evidence against you, annulled it by dying under its weight, and then “exposed and shattered” the enemy on your behalf
Do you begin to see why our possessing the truth of our salvation, the forever “circumcision of our hearts,” is just as important as that physical act was for the Israelites at Gilgal? For how can we begin to really live the fullness of what Jesus has for us – how could the Israelites possess the promised inheritance – unless we are made new by the marks of the Lord?
"The world and all its passionate desires will one day disappear. But the man who is following God’s will is part of the permanent and cannot die." 1 John 2:17
Isn't it interesting that the gravest human fear - death - and the highest human aspiration - the hope that our lifetime on this earth will have lasting importance: will "live past us" - are both resolved in joining the Kingdom of Heaven? In it, we become solid and permanent; and death holds no fear.
Isn't that beautiful to remember?
“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.
Remember: No one is drawn into the Kingdom by observing what we disapprove of. They are drawn in by the miraculous thought that, through the blood of Jesus, the Father might approve of them. May we never forget this all-important difference in the way we walk, and point to, the Way.
Joshua set up those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, in Gilgal. He spoke to the children of Israel, saying, “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For Yahweh your God dried up the waters of the Jordan from before you, until you had crossed over, as Yahweh your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up from before us, until we had crossed over; that all the peoples of the earth may know that Yahweh’s hand is mighty; that you may fear Yahweh your God forever.’” (Joshua 4:20-24)
In the second chapter of his first letter, Peter has this to say of us:
“You come to him, as living stones to the immensely valuable living stone (which men rejected but God chose), to be built up into a spiritual House of God, in which you, like holy priests, can offer those spiritual sacrifices which are acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. There is a passage to this effect in scripture, and it runs like this: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on him will by no means be put to shame.’”
As Joshua piles up the unexpectedly-acquired stones of the Jordan as a testament to the goodness and power of Yahweh, we are getting a glimpse of one of the highest purposes for our own human lives. Allow me to repurpose the end of the chapter in our New Covenant context:
Jesus set up His living stones, which He’d rescued from sin and death, in this world. He spoke to His Sons and Daughters, saying, “When anyone asks in time to come, saying, ‘What do these living stones mean?’ then you shall let all people know, saying, ‘We have entered into life eternal by the blood of Jesus. For Jesus our God laid down His life everyday before us, so that we might know the ways of the Kingdom, and Jesus our God went to death, poured out His blood upon Skull Hill, until we had crossed over to life; that all the peoples of the earth may know that Jesus’ hand is mighty; that you may fear and be loved by Jesus your God forever.’”
My friends, what a joy it is to be His living-breathing-working-loving-ministering “living stones” and His “holy priests” who walk in His ways within this world! Your everyday life-in-Him and His-in-yours is His chosen Ebenezer so that all people have the chance to know and see Him!
Now it happened that Peter, in the course of travelling about among them all, came to God’s people living at Lydda. There he found a man called Aeneas who had been bed-ridden for eight years through paralysis. Peter said to him “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you! Get up and make your bed.”
He got to his feet at once. And all those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord. (Acts 9:32-35)
In this little vignette, which wastes no time on getting into the action, what’s wonderful to me is what we can see, ie. what’s right there in front of us, and what we can’t see, ie. what’s happening in the heart and mind of Peter, as he follows his Friend, his Teacher, Jesus.
So, first, for us, what is plain here, and can’t be missed? That Simon Peter roves through the world, just like Jesus did, and occasionally comes to rest with particular groups of people; that, there, finding a man constrained by debilitating physical ailment, Peter knows that he may, in the name of Jesus, heal that man; and that that man is healed and, at the preposterous news of such supernatural activity spreading, two whole towns come to believe.
Can we agree on everything I’ve just recapped?
Now here’s what we can’t see and can only wonder about: What was it like for Peter to be led daily by the Presence of his once-bodily Friend? Why and how has he been particularly led to Lydda? What was it like for Peter to simply know that Aeneas was a man who the Lord Jesus wanted to heal on this exact day? Did he pray before or did he just know? In essence, what was it like for Peter to live out a day – any old day of his life – with Jesus?
It was absolutely the same as how it can be for you.
Listen to Peter himself, by now an old man, as he addresses the question of what’s available to us, and how much we might walk as he walked with Jesus:
“Simon Peter, a servant and messenger of Jesus Christ, sends this letter to those who have been given a faith as valuable as ours in the righteousness of our God, and savior Jesus Christ. May you know more and more of grace and peace as your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord grows deeper. He has by his own action given us everything that is necessary for living the truly good life, in allowing us to know the one who has called us to him, through his own glorious goodness. It is through him that God’s greatest and most precious promises have become available to us men, making it possible for you to escape the inevitable disintegration that lust produces in the world and to share in God’s essential nature.” (2 Peter 1:1-4)
That’s Peter, right-hand man of Jesus, telling you that you have everything that you need already. Oh, will we believe it?
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.
“The value of the individual’s story of Christ’s healing power lies largely in the undeniable fact that each human life stands at a unique point in the total web of human experience, and, as a consequence, each one has an approach to others which is not identical with the opportunity of any other human being. If I do not open the door for another, it may never be opened, for it is possible that I may be the only one who holds this particular key. The worker on the production line may have an entree to the life of his fellow worker on the line which can never be matched by any pastor or teacher or professional evangelist. The responsibility of each individual Christian is to do that which no other person can do as well as he can.”
Elton Trueblood, The Company of the Committed
Philippians 3:7-9 with some notes in italics -
"Yet every advantage that I had gained I considered lost for Christ’s sake. Yes, and I look upon everything as loss compared with the overwhelming gain of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord. For his sake I did in actual fact suffer the loss of everything, but I considered it useless rubbish compared with being able to win Christ. For now my place is in him… "
I think a lot of times we read these kind of words, are impressed by them, and yet then chalk them up to a sort of superhumanity that only the Early Church had. Don’t do that! For, in fact, Paul is then so kind as to conclude this series of thoughts with the reason by which they’re humanly possible for us: “For now my place is in him…” Paul interpreted his whole earthly life from his location “in Jesus,” from this locale of Union-with-the-God-of-the-Universe. So, in actuality, as he’s tallying up the “Profit & Loss” for his life in verses 7-8, the gains and losses are crystal clear for him. The whole economy of his life is Heavenly now; it’s easy for him to leave behind so much of what the world claims life is about…
"…and I am not dependent upon any of the self-achieved righteousness of the Law. God has given me that genuine righteousness which comes from faith in Christ."
Do you actually believe the things that Paul is saying here? Do you hear him echoing Ephesians 1’s “in Christ we are holy and blameless children”? Too often, I think we think it’s a form of humility to always point to our sin as if that’s still the truest thing about us. Yet it’s our righteousness in Christ that actually proves the power of His incarnation, life, death, resurrection and inhabitation-of-us. Persistent agreement with our former “fallenness” tends to keep our eyes on ourselves; belief in His indwelling righteousness teaches our eyes to be on Him alone.
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
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
"Faith is not opposed to knowledge; it is opposed to sight. And grace is not opposed to effort; it is opposed to earning. Commitment is not sustained by confusion but by insight."
Dallas Willard, Hearing God
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?
"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?
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!