Jesus, speaking instruction to the Twelve: "Be on your guard against men. For they will take you to the court and flog you in their synagogues. You will be brought into the presence of governors and kings because of me—to give your witness to them and to the heathen. But when they do arrest you, never worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be told at the time what you are to say. For it will not be really you who are speaking but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." Matthew 10:17-20
Isn't that the most miraculous promise? Jesus is saying that the external world, with all its pressures and threats and anxieties and trials, is secondary to our internal life. If we are able to meet with the Spirit of the Father in our heart and mind, we have nothing to fear in the whole world outside ourselves.
Do we live that way?
Do we value that inner dialogue above all else?
Are we living situationally - meaning, in every single situation - where our first recourse is to listen for His voice from within?
I can't stop thinking of just how free He was making His friends... just... to truly live!
May the Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father (who has loved us and given us unending encouragement and unfailing hope by his grace) inspire you with courage and confidence in every good thing you say or do. (2 Thessalonians 2:16,17)
Today, if you're ever feeling like your courage is running out, turn immediately to Jesus and ask Him for His encouragement that is “unending.”
Likewise, if your hope feels like it's failing you, lift your eyes to Him and ask Him for His hope that can never, ever, ever fail.
And thank you, Jesus, for the promise of your instantaneously transferable spiritual attributes! What a blessed gift is our life in you today! We belong to you and You belong to us!
Ananias set out and went to the house, and there he laid his hands upon Saul, and said, “Saul, brother, the Lord has sent me—Jesus who appeared to you on your journey here—so that you may recover your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got to his feet and was baptized. Then he took some food and regained his strength.
Saul stayed with the disciples in Damascus for some time. Without delay he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues declaring that he is the Son of God. All his hearers were staggered and kept saying, “Isn’t this the man who so bitterly persecuted those who called on the name in Jerusalem, and came down here with the sole object of taking back all such people as prisoners before the chief priests?” Acts 9:17-21
The word Luke uses to describe how “staggered” the crowds were when they heard the heart of Saul’s new message – ἐξίσταντο: 'to be displaced, changed, altered, driven mad, deranged' – is also used thrice to describe people’s amazement with Jesus, twice on the day of Pentecost and, finally, here in this passage. The alive life of Jesus, the never-ending work of the Holy Spirit, and the confluence of those two elements in the lives of men and women like us, are supposed to be, meant to be, cannot help being “staggering” when men and women like us let Him fully have His way.
Remember: Subscribing to a set of beliefs about Jesus will not stagger people.
Don't forget: Being against the ways of this world will not amaze them.
But, rising to each new day, setting your heart upon the Savior who is the truest thing about you, aligning your spirit so as to be a wide-open channel of the Holy Spirit, and then walking out the door with Belief, and open eyes and ears: NOW you are living out your day like Saul learned to do: with the life of Jesus on display, the power of the Holy Spirit always at the ready; full belief in the promises; and eyes of love upon the world’s great need.
Now yes, that will “stagger” the world around you!
“Some of you are fathers, and if your son asks you for some fish, would you give him a snake instead, or if he asks you for an egg, would you make him a present of a scorpion? So, if you, for all your evil, know how to give good things to your children, how much more likely is it that your Heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:11-13
This wording is nearly identical to Matthew 7 – “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him” – except for that ending! You and I are actually allowed to, meant to, called to pray for more and more and more of the Holy Spirit, all the time, everyday! In fact, He Himself, the glorious Holy Spirit, is almost certainly the highest prayer we can ever pray for.
How often do you ask for, desire for, hope for more and more of a portion of the Holy Spirit in your life? We can daily be like Elisha back in 2 Kings 2: “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit.”
Friends, may we never content ourselves with living half-measures in the Spirit when the whole is being offered to us - and by Jesus Himself! Ask today. And expect to receive today. Let your attitude be: more, MORE, MORE!
So Jesus re-embarked on the boat, crossed the lake, and came to his own town. Immediately some people arrived bringing him a paralytic lying flat on his bed. When Jesus saw the faith of those who brought him he said to the paralytic, “Cheer up, my son! Your sins are forgiven.” Matthew 9:1,2
We could talk about the fact that Jesus goes after sin here before going after this man's paralysis; we could go into a little discussion of the actual nature of what "sin" is; but what I want to talk about is the fact that it's his friends' faith - not his own - his friends' faith in Jesus that gets this man set free of his nature of sin. This is just so wonderful to me.
Think about how it must've played out. His friends arrive to his little shack in the rough part of town; help him get dressed; then get him onto a pallet that they can carry through the streets of Capernaum to where they've heard Jesus will be. Along the way they're giddy with hope, not for themselves, but for their friend: "Oh, Jesus," they say to him, "He's a wonder-worker. He looks after people like us, like you. He sees us. What a delight He is! When you get near Him, you'll see. He'll do it. We just know it."
My friends, if these friends' call is also our call - to bring everyone to Jesus of Nazareth - is that the way we're walking them to Him? Do we know Him? Can we tell them what He's like? Can we point to His miraculous power, His heart for the lost, His eyes for the hopeless, His delightful personal presence? And, probably most importantly, do we know what to expect when we arrive with them to Him: is our expectancy formed by our own experience of Him?
Because that's what people truly need to see in us. Expectancy built from personal experience.
"I have written like this to you who already believe in the name of God’s Son so that you may be quite sure that, here and now, you possess eternal life. We have such confidence in him that we are certain that he hears every request that is made in accord with his own plan. And since we know that he invariably gives his attention to our prayers, whatever they are about, we can be quite sure that our prayers will be answered." 1 John 5:13-15
Now having read that, I want to describe a particular person to you and then, based upon what I tell you, to have you imagine exactly what that person would be like; how you would describe them in your own words; what it would be like to have that person in your life.
This person I'm thinking of wakes in the morning with no anxiety at all because they are perfectly provided for; they have peace and full-hearted joy; and there's nothing in the day ahead that is stronger or scarier than their peace and joy. All day long, everyday, they are accompanied everywhere by their closest friend, who is the perfect confidante, the ultimate encourager, a friend who cannot fail in any way. There is no fear in this person: life and death hold nothing that brings the slightest palpitation. They take life as it comes, one day at a time, knowing that all of this is moving - both today and everyday - toward an eminent, wondrous, beautiful good.
How would you feel about that person? What is their life and outlook like? What do they look like? How would it be to live your life in the orbit of their life?
Well, friends, that person is you. That reality is your New-Birthright reality. Any sense of deficiency you feel between what I just described and your actual experience of life-in-Jesus is where He would love to have you surrender further. He would love to inhabit the full width and breadth of your heart today. It's His plan to so fill you that the whole world may see Him. Would you let Him?
At the end of the book of Joshua, Joshua gathers the people of Israel to give them his last words before he's parted from them forever. Both the final two chapters are his words to them: very poignant and pointed. But it struck me last summer that, if you only changed the context a little, changing some phrasing and the background of which Covenant we're under, his words are amazingly like something Jesus could've said.
So, as a start to our workweek, consider Joshua 23 in that new, New Covenant way:
Once the forty days after the Resurrection had passed, after Jesus had given 'life and life to the full' to His believers, and He was ready to return to the Father, He called for His disciples, for their hearers and eventual spiritual descendants, for you and for me, and said to all of us, “I have completed the days of my earthly ministry; I have died and, in your sight, lived again. You have seen all that the Father can do through my Name; for it is the Father who has lived His life in me, and I in Him. Behold, I have allotted to you the very same interrelationship – we call it 'Abiding' – to be an inheritance for you, starting in Jerusalem with my disciples, into Judaea, into Samaria and, eventually, to the ends of the earth. By living our heavenly life within you, I, the Father, and our dear friend, the Holy Spirit, will thrust Satan from before you, and drive him from out of your sight. You shall possess my Kingdom, as I have spoken to you.
“Therefore be very courageous to daily approach my Throne with confidence, to Abide in me as I Abide in you, in order that you may keep and do all that I have spoken to my disciples and will speak to your spirit, that you do not turn aside from me to the right hand or to the left; that you do not continue on anymore as a slave to sin, or to the world that remains around you; neither make mention of the name of their cultural gods, nor cause to swear by their seeming power or intrigue, neither serve their idolatrous needs, nor bow down yourselves to the world’s fleeting pleasures and experiences; but Abide in me, and I in you, as I invite you to do everyday.
“For I have driven out the evil one from before you forever. But as for you, no plan of his can prosper against you now that you are part of my Kingdom. One man of you shall stand against a thousand of his temptations; for it is I, Jesus, your Savior who fights for you, as I am speaking to you now. Take good heed therefore to yourselves, that you Abide in me, even as I Abide in you.
“But if you do at all go back, if you forget that you are now a slave to righteousness, no longer to sin, if you fall under the sway of the world, of Self, of sin, and make mistakes among them, and go in their ways, and they take over yours; know for a certainty that I, Jesus, will forgive you in my sight; and that I shall take ahold of you, chasten you as a good Father, looking you in the eyes, until you learn to love my good land, my wondrous Kingdom, my Way, which I, Jesus, have given to you personally.
“Behold, today I am going to ascend back to my Father. You know in all your hearts and souls that not one thing has failed to be revealed in Me of all the good things which the Father spoke concerning Me. All has happened so that you may believe. Not one good and glorious promise has failed to be fulfilled in Me. It shall happen that as all the good things of your Heavenly inheritance come to you of which the Father spoke through Me, so the Father will bring on you even more good things, until he has built up in you the fullness of the Kingdom which He has already given you, while you obey the New Covenant, sworn between Myself and My Father, which I have sealed for you in My blood, and then go into all the world to serve Me, and bow your hearts before Me. Then the Father’s delight will be kindled towards you, and you will live forever in the heavenly reality which He has given to you.”
Let's follow Him into this week, Brothers and Sisters!
Large crowds followed Jesus when he came down from the hillside [after delivering the Sermon on the Mount]. There was a leper who came and knelt in front of him. “Sir,” he said, “if you want to, you can make me clean.” (Matthew 8:1,2)
We can really just stop right there with the impossible loveliness of that statement: the fact that the least person in that whole countryside, a lonely leper, so understands Jesus' reputation and heart that he immediately addresses Him in such a tender way: "Sir, if you want to, you can make me clean."
"If you want to..." He places this whole exchange at the level of Jesus' desire, Jesus' heart, Jesus' plan, Jesus' will. I think we often pray the words "If it's your will" like we're shooting prayer-arrows into some unknown darkness; this man spoke the word "will" while looking directly into Jesus' eyes. He would know the heart and mind and will and want of Jesus right now: "If you want to..."
"...you can make me clean." It's right there inside You, Jesus. All the wondrous power of the Godhead, every ounce of the creative energy that formed the heavens and the earth, is native to Your human frame. If You want to, this is easy for You. I don't have to strain to improve Your will or Your power. Here I am and here You are: "Sir, if you want to, you can make me clean."
Friends, I think this leprous man's life is the perfect model for how our own prayer-life should go. What a combination of boldness, belief, familiarity and expectancy!
Every Sabbath Paul used to speak in the synagogue trying to persuade both Jews and Greeks. By the time Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was completely absorbed in preaching the message, showing the Jews as clearly as he could that Jesus is Christ. (Acts 18:4,5)
I think we often think of Paul as “a man obsessed,” but in that last sentence we get to see what his obsession actually looked like. This translation reads: “Paul was completely absorbed in preaching”; the NIV says, “Paul devoted himself exclusively”; the ESV says, “Paul was occupied with the word”; and the King James reads, “Paul was pressed in the spirit.” That last one is really closest to the best Greek meaning. Paul was συνείχετο – his “shoulders were bent in or contracted upon his chest”; he was “held together” with the Word, we’re told.
When you imagine that physical posture – something "upon your shoulders" that's "holding you together" – what image does it draw up for you? To me, it sounds like a yoke. It sounds like Jesus saying across the years to Paul, across the centuries to us: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest! Put on my yoke and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30) And, indeed, just five verses later in Acts 18, see what Jesus says to Paul: "Then one night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision. “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and let no one silence you, for I myself am with you..."
This seeming obsession of Paul’s, this compulsion to preach Jesus that just won’t quit, is actually born out of his shared experience with, his wondrous sense of always co-laboring in everything with, Jesus Himself. And it's absolutely beautiful, if you ask me. And it's the experience we're all meant to be having, everyday.
Then Jesus got up and went straight from the synagogue to the house of Simon and Andrew, accompanied by James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a high fever, and they lost no time in telling Jesus about her. He went up to her, took her hand and helped her to her feet. The fever left her, and she began to see to their needs.
Late that evening, after sunset, they kept bringing to him all who were sick or troubled by evil spirits. The whole population of the town gathered round the doorway. (Mark 1:29-33)
From their relatively brief glimpse of Jesus down at the synagogue, from only one experience of His teaching and healing, this entire town believes that this one solitary man, sitting in the half-darkness on a humble doorstep, has the power to deal with the individual needs of everyone. Can't you imagine them coming up the footpath: limping, on makeshift crutches, blind and being led, others who scream out under the bondage of demon-possession? And at the end of their journey sits Jesus, smiling, waving them to come nearer, hearing their needs, asking questions, delighted that they'd be so bold as to come...
Let me ask you a question: Which is more difficult for you to believe - that Jesus has time for absolutely everyone, or that Jesus has time for you personally? Think about it before you answer too quickly. Because in all my many meetings with believers at various points of their journeys, I find that more people are more comfortable with generic ideas of Jesus' love for everyone, for His broad desire for intimacy with all people, than they are with the idea of, by themselves, walking up to Him alone. There's something reassuring to us about standing in a room, or standing in a church, or walking up the path toward Him, surrounded by people all thinking something similar... even if that something's a bit vague.
But He wants you - only you. He wants to watch you leave your house, light your lantern, and wind your way out toward Him, knowing that it'll only be you and Him at the end. That's what He wants with you everyday. Yes, others may happen to come to Him too; but, even if they don't, all He really wanted was to see you.
Do you come?
Will you come?
At the wedding in Cana -
Then Jesus said to the servants, “Now draw some water out and take it to the master of ceremonies,” which they did. When this man tasted the water, which had now become wine, without knowing where it came from (though naturally the servants who had drawn the water knew), he called out to the bridegroom and said to him, “Everybody I know puts his good wine on first and then when men have had plenty to drink, he brings out the poor stuff. But you have kept back your good wine till now!” Jesus gave this, the first of his signs, at Cana in Galilee. He demonstrated his power and his disciples believed in him. (John 2:8-11)
Does this actually accord with the Jesus you actually know? (Oh yes, I know: you’ve heard this account countless times and know it backwards and forwards: “Ah yes, His first miracle – water into wine – ahem.”) What I mean is: Do you personally know the Jesus who’s invited to a fairly raucous party, goes, mixes in with those who’ve had a little too much to drink, and, seeing the wine gone, the party ruined, the bride and groom potentially shamed, ramps it up to levels never seen before or since? Is that the kind of unexpectedly-acting, edgy-doing, mischievous-twinkle-in-His-eye sort of Savior you’re daily walking with?
I think most Christians, and certainly the world around us, most of the time view Jesus like water: fine for quenching your thirst when He’s needed, but flavorless, flat, nothing to write home about. Some might see Him as – to use the master of ceremonies’ words – the “poor stuff”: there’s a hint of something there, but He’s more of a last resort than anything else…
Jesus Himself is the party; Jesus is the “good wine”; He is the joy, the flavor, the savor, the atmosphere of life that is really Life. And how wonderful that in the midst of a party whose level is never forced to drop, His disciples saw this miracle, looked at each other and “believed in him.” What a way for belief to begin!
Remember, my friends: This Man's inner life is a vast sea of the New Wine: the "Oil of Joy." Let's not forget that fact today, or this whole week!
Take time and trouble to keep yourself spiritually fit. Bodily fitness has a certain value, but spiritual fitness is essential both for this present life and for the life to come. There is no doubt about this at all, and Christians should remember it. It is because we realize the paramount importance of the spiritual that we labor and struggle. We place our whole confidence in the living God, the savior of all men, and particularly of those who believe in him. These convictions should be the basis of your instruction and teaching. (1 Timothy 4:6b-11)
As you and I daily consider the “paramount importance of the spiritual,” how are each of us to stay “spiritually fit,” as Paul says? Well, how does one stay physically fit?
Utilizing that wondrous concordance known as the World Wide Web, you can find all kinds of helps and theories on the topic of a "great workout." One website I found was especially fun, listing these five attributes:
1. Rate of Perceived Exertion
2. Actual Heart Rate
3. Quality over Quantity
4. Muscle Fatigue
5. Increased Hunger
How perfect are those descriptions for what we’re after in Jesus!
As we daily spend time with Him, may our own “rate of perceived exertion” go down in stepping under His yoke in His strength! May we never leave our time with Him without a marked uptick in heart-rate: pay attention to your emotions: don’t ignore them! May our quantities be overwhelmed by an experience of His quality, His goodness, His palpable Presence within us! May we exhaust our spiritual energy, letting our spiritual muscles get pulled, worn and fatigued, doing His sort of daily work! And, above all else, may our life-in-Him create a hunger that is unending; may more Jesus lead to hunger for only more Jesus!
Thank you, Savior and Friend, that all the hard work is really actually yours... and "it is finished!"
“The Holy Spirit is the great gift of the [New] Covenant. His coming from heaven was the proof that the Mediator of the Covenant was on the throne in glory, and could now make us partakers of the heavenly life.
"He is the only teacher of what the Covenant means: dwelling in our heart, He wakens there the thought and the desire for what God has prepared for us.
"He is the Spirit of faith, who enables us to believe the otherwise incomprehensible blessing and power in which the New Covenant works, and to claim it as our own.
"He is the Spirit of grace and of power, by whom the obedience of the Covenant and the fellowship with God can be maintained without interruption.
"He Himself is the Possessor and the Bearer and the Communicator of all the Covenant promises, the Revealer and the Glorifier of Jesus, its Mediator and Surety.
"To believe fully in the Holy Spirit, as the present and abiding and all-comprehending gift of the New Covenant, has been to many a one an entrance into its fullness of blessing.”
Andrew Murray, The Two Covenants
About eight days after these sayings, Jesus took Peter, James and John and went off to the hill-side to pray. And then, while he was praying, the whole appearance of his face changed and his clothes became white and dazzling. And two men were talking with Jesus. They were Moses and Elijah—revealed in heavenly splendor, and their talk was about the way he must take and the end he must fulfill in Jerusalem.
But Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep and it was as they struggled into wakefulness that they saw the glory of Jesus and the two men standing with him. Just as they were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is wonderful for us to be here! Let us put up three shelters — one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying. While he was still talking, a cloud overshadowed them and awe swept over them as it enveloped them. A voice came out of the cloud, saying “This is my Son, my chosen! Listen to him!”
And while the voice was speaking, they found there was no one there at all but Jesus. The disciples were reduced to silence, and in those days never breathed a word to anyone of what they had seen. (Luke 9:28-36)
Now let’s go back and reexamine this whole scene, putting ourselves there - here are the main elements:
You see, the truth of the matter is that we’re actually in a better vantage than Peter, James and John: we have the ability to know Jesus' attributes through their writings of Him plus He’s now glorified all the time with the Father plus He now chooses to dwell right here within us. On this side of the Risen Jesus, there’s no such thing as “valleys,” only new “Mounts of Transfiguration” alongside Him.
The question is: Will we stay awake in His glorious presence and experience consistent ongoing revelation of His Glory? They are available. Today.
"We know and, to some extent realize, the love of God for us because Christ expressed it in laying down his life for us. We must in turn express our love by laying down our lives for those who are our brothers. But as for the well-to-do man who sees his brothers in want but shuts his eyes—and his heart—how could anyone believe that the love of God lives in him? My children, let us not love merely in theory or in words—let us love in sincerity and in practice!" 1 John 3:16-18
The actual Greek words there in that last sentence are "word and tongue" and "work and truth," ie. the love of Jesus requires more than our mouth; it requires our entirety. And perhaps you've heard this quote before, but it kept coming to me as I was reading these words - it's from Elie Wiesel:
“The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.”
Jesus of Nazareth was the least indifferent Man who ever lived, and it is our job to carry His spirit into this generation of humanity. And His spirit, His ethos, is literally included within His Holy Spirit, who has been given to us, and who is daily trying to teach us to love in "work and truth," no longer just in indifferent "word and tongue."
That nature of Jesus, living inside you this day, is attempting to teach you to love in His Way. Will you listen? Will you obey?
The whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled themselves together at Shiloh, and set up the Tent of Meeting there. The land was subdued before them. Seven tribes remained among the children of Israel, which had not yet divided their inheritance. Joshua said to the children of Israel, “How long will you neglect to go in to possess the land, which Yahweh, the God of your fathers, has given you? Appoint for yourselves three men from each tribe. I will send them, and they shall arise, walk through the land, and describe it according to their inheritance; and they shall come to me.” Joshua 18:1-4
May I speak boldly to you right now? May I, in fact, proclaim a piece of identity that you need to lay hold of?
You are meant to be one of these surveyors of the inheritance. You are meant to rise up each morning – a citizen of Heaven – and go walking through the splendors of what the blood of Jesus has bought you. You are meant to learn to describe what you have seen so that it’s of value for the teaching, admonition and encouragement of all the Body.
In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul writes: “When you come together, each one of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has another language, has an interpretation. Let all things be done to build each other up.” His words begin with the phrase “when you come together,” meaning that all of what he then says is meant to precede that physical gathering-together. Meaning that – on your own – you are tasked with receiving – directly from the hand and heart of Jesus – “a psalm, teaching, revelation, another language, an interpretation” that will “build up” the whole Body. Meaning that your “quiet time” isn’t meant to be so quiet – or only for you. In truth, your personal meditations upon Jesus – even the way you’re reading this post – are probably just as much for the Body as they are for your own “walk.”
What’s the most recent piece of your inheritance that He’s teaching you about? And who have you given that away to, already? You and I must remember: We only truly possess those heavenly things by which our own lives have been seized and possessed.
"God has given you all a certain amount of spiritual insight..." 1 John 2:20a, Phillips translation
If you were reading along through 1 John 2 and came across this clause, you'd probably keep on reading without giving it much additional attention. But I want us to stop and check on the translation given here and, really, the translation given to this verse in almost every major English Bible translation. If you went and grabbed your own Bible, it'd probably read close to what the ESV says: "You have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth."
But what that last part of that phrase really says in the Greek is far more thrilling, far more in line with a promise that Jesus made to us Himself: "and you know all things." Do you see the difference?
"All of you know the truth" v. "You know all things"
When Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit "will teach you all things" (Jn. 14:26), when the Apostle Paul wrote that we "have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16), do you think that we were supposed to receive those promises as "all having some of the truth," like a scratching at the surface, or, as John appears to be hinting at here, and by the glorious power of the Holy Spirit, that all of us are meant to be learning to know all of Jesus?
What Jesus promised, and what Paul later wrote and proclaimed, are both part of the New Birth experience; we are actually called to hear, to learn and to know - as both Jesus and John say it - "all things."
Hear me: There's more for you. Today. Now feel free to go and get what's yours!
On the very night that Herod was planning to bring him out, Peter was asleep between two soldiers, chained with double chains, while guards maintained a strict watch in the doorway of the prison. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared, and light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side. His chains fell away from his hands and the angel said to him, “Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.”
And he did so. Then the angel continued, “Wrap your cloak round you and follow me.” So Peter followed him out, not knowing whether what the angel was doing were real—indeed he felt he must be taking part in a vision. So they passed right through the first and second guard-points and came to the iron gate that led out into the city. This opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and had passed along the street when the angel suddenly vanished from Peter’s sight. Then Peter came to himself and said aloud, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent his angel to rescue me from the power of Herod and from all that the Jewish people are expecting.” Acts 12:7-11
This little narrative – from the man sleeping in his cell to now standing outside unchained – is so fun, despite its seriousness, that to me it’s almost silly. This is the wild, whimsical, all-powerful, uncontrollable way of the God we're serving! This, in fact, is actually our story – let me prove it to you:
Under the darkness of this world, it was as if we were asleep between sin and death, chained with double chains, while the Accuser maintained a strict watch in the doorway of our prison. Suddenly the Lord Jesus appeared, and His light shone throughout the world. He took our stripes and woke us from our deathly sleep, saying, “Get up quickly, for I have risen.” Our chains fell away from our hands and then Jesus said to us, “Fasten on the Belt of Truth and put on your sandals fitted with the Gospel of peace.” (Eph. 6)
And we did so. Then Jesus continued, “Wrap the robe of my righteousness (Isa. 61:10) round you and follow me.” So we followed Him out of the old life, not knowing whether all of this was real, it seemed so good — indeed we felt we must be taking part in some heavenly dream. So we passed right through the condemnation of sin and death and came to the curtain that led into the presence of God. This tore of its own accord from top to bottom, and we went through and passed into the Holy of Holies, into the Throneroom of the Father and, at His right hand, Jesus. And there we came to ourselves and said aloud, “Now I know for certain that the Father has sent Jesus to rescue me from the power of sin and from all that the evil one was expecting...”
For just a moment, try to imagine that night alongside Peter. Feel the cold wet stones of the prison floor; smell the filth, the sickness of that place; look out into the unlit darkness of the cell: that sort of darkness that hurts the eyes as they find nothing to focus upon…
And now, moments later, imagine standing in an empty city street, looking up at the twinkling of the stars overhead! Friends, this is how good Jesus is, how fully free He’s set us free; we must learn to relish in our absolute freedom! We are free!
John the Baptist: "It is true that I baptize you with water as a sign of your repentance, but the one who follows me is far stronger than I am — indeed I am not fit to carry his shoes. He will baptize you with the fire of the Holy Spirit..." Matthew 3:11
Isn't it fascinating that the forerunner of the Kingdom, the only one with the microphone, the voice crying in the wilderness to make the Way ready and the path straight, when he describes the intent and scope of Jesus's coming work, says it's what?
"He will baptize you with the fire of the Holy Spirit."
John the Baptist says that Jesus is primarily, too, a baptizer. And why does this matter so much to John, why should it matter so much to us? Romans 7:6 - “…We are free to serve God not in the old obedience to the letter of the Law, but in a new way, in the Spirit.”
John's work, John's life was to prepare for the new Way of the Kingdom of Heaven, which is a Kingdom of the Spirit, not the Law. The old was over, the new had come, and the bringer of this baptism of the Holy Spirit was just coming over the nearest hill, right about now...
Do we know that One for ourselves?
When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought me joy.
Today, I am challenging you to live in the true reality that there's complete uniformity of concrete experience available in the progression of the words in these verses. When your "foot slips" - either your actual foot or you just "feel like you're slipping" - stop and do nothing and wait for an actual, practical experience of His unfailing love to bubble up from within you. When anxiety feels great and overwhelming within you, I personally challenge you to stop what you're doing and talk to Him and wait not only for His peace (which will come, by the way) but even, far more fantastically, for Him to lift your heart unto a joy that conquers the world: His own joy!
These are the offerings He has for you. Unfailing love and Joy.
“Spiritual power is seldom found because it is so often sought. It cannot be found if sought directly. If sought directly for itself, the seeking will be tinged, most likely, with desire for spiritual power for purposes of personal success in religious work, for the acclaim that comes to anyone who spiritually excels. This introduces a fatal element. Spiritual power is a by-product of something deeper. It comes out of inward fellowship with God and abandonment to his purposes. Most of us have no spiritual power because we are not abandoned. ‘Blessed are the pure [literally, the single-minded] in heart: for they shall see God.’ We are not single-minded, hence we do not see God in inner fellowship and in outward power. It is not that we do not love him but that we do not love him completely. We give to him, but do not give up to him.”
E. Stanley Jones, The Christ of Every Road
Then the devil took Jesus up and showed him all the kingdoms of mankind in a sudden vision, and said to him, “I will give you all this power and magnificence, for it belongs to me and I can give it to anyone I please. It shall all be yours if you will fall down and worship me.” Luke 4:5,6
Satan will show you whatever it takes to sway your heart away from Jesus. Whether it be “the kingdoms of mankind,” wealth, possessions, power, sex or influence, it’s his favorite practice to see which axe will fell the tree of our belief. So what are we to do? How can we steel ourselves against his alluring voice?
Brothers and sisters, we must become so practiced in dwelling in the midst of our Kingdom-inheritance that we’re absolutely ruined for anything less. We must daily walk the hallways of Heaven and know the glories that are actually already ours through Christ, so that nothing else compares!
How's that as a barometer for your "quiet time"?
These are the inheritances which the children of Israel took in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the tribes of the children of Israel, distributed to them, by the lot of their inheritance, as Yahweh commanded by Moses, for the nine tribes, and for the half-tribe. For Moses had given the inheritance of the two tribes and the half-tribe beyond the Jordan; but to the Levites he gave no inheritance among them. (Joshua 14:1-4)
As you'd be told if you kept reading till Chapter 18, this was because the Levites' duties as priests, their access to Yahweh Himself, were the inheritances they were meant to enjoy and delight themselves in. What an important reminder for us! Whether you read these words as one with great earthly wealth or as someone struggling to get by, your only real inheritance – the place from which you should derive all your identity and joy – is your access to Jesus and, by Him, His Father. Everything else is as nothing. His love - and the service of that love - is everything.
"But you are God’s 'chosen generation,' his 'royal priesthood,' his 'holy nation,' his 'peculiar people' — all the old titles of God’s people now belong to you..." 1 Peter 2
“The System gnashed on them with its teeth, struck out at them and broke its own arm in the striking. The disciples smiled their way through threats, rejoiced their way through stripes, sang their way through prisons, and triumphed their way through death. And the multitudes watching found themselves wanting the very thing the disciples had. This freedom! This poise! This moral power! Here religion, while on the offensive, was not offensive; it was winsome, compelling. Their weapons were strange indeed – they turned other cheeks, went the second mile, gave the cloak also, refused to do anything but love their persecutors. And they won! Of course they did. What can you do with a thing like that? It never knows when it is defeated, for it turns its defeats into victories and it turns its Calvaries into Easter mornings.”
E. Stanley Jones, The Christ of Every Road
I've been reading Exodus lately and was struck this week by how the enslavement and discouragement of the Hebrews led them to revolt against Moses's earliest interventions on their behalf. In Chapter 6 especially, Moses hears directly from Yahweh about His plan and His power and His love, and yet, again, because of their circumstances, the people won't hear a word of it.
In some ways, it reminds me of where we can get sometimes. In fact, let me take Yahweh's words from Exodus 6, update them to suit our New Covenant reality from Jesus's lips, and show you what I mean:
"I am the Lord. I appeared to men and women just like you as Jesus of Nazareth, so that by the Name of the Lord I might make myself known to them. I also established my New Covenant with them - and with you - to give you the Kingdom of Heaven, where you are to live as naturalized citizens. Moreover, I always hear your prayers - and the groanings of the Holy Spirit on your behalf - and I always remember my personal covenant with you.
"Therefore, I say to my followers: 'I am the Lord Jesus, and I have brought you out from under the yoke of Satan, sin, death and the world. I have freed you from being slaves to them, and I have redeemed you with an outstretched pair of arms and with mighty acts of love. I have taken you as my own people, and I will be your God. Now you may know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the yoke of Satan, sin, death and the world. And I myself am the Way that will bring you to the Kingdom I swore with uplifted, nail-riven hands to give to my sons and daughters. I am giving it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.'"
Jesus said all this to His disciples, His followers, those called "Christians," but they did not listen to Him because of their discouragement and their bondage to the ways of the world, sin, death and the evil one...
Friends, is this the story we want our lives to be? Don't we want to fully appropriate what's already ours? Today is the day for doing so!