A little section of Colossians 3, with some notes:
But now, put [your former sinful life] behind you. Okay, Paul, but how? No more evil temper or furious rage: no more evil thoughts or words about others, no more evil thoughts or words about God, and no more filthy conversation. That's fine, Paul, but some specifics on how to have 'no more' of those would be super helpful! Don’t tell each other lies any more... Okay. But how, Paul?! ...for you have finished with the old man and all he did and have begun life as the new man, who is out to learn what he ought to be, according to the plan of God. In this new man of God’s design there is no distinction between Greek and Hebrew, Jew or Gentile, foreigner or savage, slave or free man. Christ is all that matters for Christ lives in them all. Imagine life through the eyes of Paul. One day, you're on your way to Damascus filled with a (you think!) righteous indignation and a plan to attack and arrest. Suddenly, at noonday, a light so thick that it feels tangible hits you and you hear a voice from the sky. The voice is that of the One you're trying to stamp out. And now you're blind. Three days later, a man walks in and lays hands on you - one of the men whose name had been on your arrest list. Suddenly you can see. But with completely new eyes. (Consider again: "for you have finished with the old man and all he did and have begun life as the new man, who is out to learn what he ought to be, according to the plan of God") I love that picture! After Ananias, Paul's whole life was given to the study of "learning what he ought to be" as this "new man." Is that how you spend your Quiet Times? "Lord Jesus, you've made me brand new; now please teach me what that means for your purposes." That will certainly change the way you read and think! (Consider again: "In this new man of God’s design there is no distinction between Greek and Hebrew, Jew or Gentile, foreigner or savage, slave or free man.") Imagine Paul's surprise in then learning this! Not only has Jesus made all men one, but he's calling Paul to reach out to the unreachable and to love the unloveable - and the same call is ours! But with what mindset and in what reality can we do that? (Consider again: "Christ is all that matters for Christ lives in them all.") A-ha! Only by the power of an indwelling Jesus. And why? Because He's actually all that matters.
As, therefore, God’s picked representatives of the new humanity, purified and beloved of God himself... Stop there! How glorious is that self-identity that's given to us by God Himself?! Are you kidding! He has chosen each one of you to, each day, all throughout your life, show the rest of the world just how good it is to belong to this Jesus! No identity can, or should ever be allowed to try to, compete with that identity that's been granted us.
Thank you, Jesus, for the graciousness of your Plan!
Return to your rest, my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.
Part of our ability to "rest" in our Union with Jesus is our ability to command our souls to Believe. And a substantial aspect of our ability to Believe is in our awareness of, and remembrance for, the Lord's great goodness to us.
Today, let's choose the way of the restful soul by remembering and celebrating that wondrous goodness. As a practical tool, why don't we pause, reflect, remember and record some of those instances right here?
To hear our latest walkthrough with Paul, head to The Sounds and scroll down to Colossians 2. What an amazing chapter!
Attempting to "reason our way to God," the basis for Christian apologetics, is really asking the immensity of the Godhead to squeeze Himself into the narrow, uncomfortable housing of our mind and its processes.
An honest and more reasonable reasoning has to be prepared to allow ones mind to open out into His Immensity. A kernel of Belief is a greater gateway than all the wise logic any apologist can muster.
Listen to Jesus: “O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, I thank you for hiding these things from the clever and intelligent and for showing them to mere children. Yes, I thank you, Father, that this was your will.” (Matthew 11:25)
Let's be "mere children" today, giddily excited to explore and to dwell in the glorious cloud of His mysteries. Let's not ever try to house Him. Let's let His Immensity draw us out, engage us, enwrap us and absolutely enrapture our hearts and minds all day, each day.
From Colossians 2, with some notes:
You, who were spiritually dead because of your sins and your uncircumcision (that is, 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... to which we might reply, 'Yes, we know that. We've certainly covered that doctrine well enough; it's an established fact." To which I might respond to you, 'Yes, but do you know how fully Jesus has done that work for you?'
Christ has utterly wiped out the damning evidence of broken laws and commandments which always hung over our heads..." Again, you could read that statement and say you already know it. But listen to the power of the original language -- Jesus "having blotted and wiped away the handwriting in the judgments which were set against us." Do you see that in your mind's eye? There was a handwritten charge that the evil one had prepared against us because of the sin within us. But Jesus, by His blood, dabbed the handwriting and then, in going to the cross, wiped away the smeared inkblots until there was nothing legible there. And then what did He do with that mess of a document?
...and has completely annulled it by nailing it over his own head on the cross. Let's make something crystal clear here: Jesus absolutely knew what He was dying for. Your sin? He knew it. That's why it's so desperately offensive when we act as if our sin is the truest thing about us. He's sitting at the right hand of the Father on the Mercy Seat, saying, "Listen, that's done now. I shed my blood while hanging under the judgment of your sin. Now you be done with it too." To which you might reply, "Yes, but the evil one still accuses us constantly! He's still constantly point to that 'handwritten judgment' against us all the time."
Listen to Jesus' endgame at the Cross: Satan, standing off to the side of the crowd at Calvary, is thinking he's surely won the day and the whole game. But Jesus, having disarmed the rulers and authorities (meaning that He'd taken away that prized condemnation of humanity that Satan had held since the Fall), made a show of them in public, having triumphed over them in himself. Ha! How amazing! Satan had begun slinking away from the field of battle when Jesus, from the Cross, called him to the center. "You see this? (He nods with His head to the smeared charge against us, above Himself) Well, I've blotted it out and now I'm taking it upon Myself. You are disarmed now. You have nothing left with which to confront these people."
Thank you, Jesus! Oh the boundlessness of your love, your grace, your goodness to us!
Psalm 81 has a beautiful ending:
“If my people would only listen to me,
if Israel would only follow my ways,
how quickly I would subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes!
Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him,
and their punishment would last forever.
But you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”
Now consider a version through the lens of Union, from the lips of Jesus:
"If my people would only listen to my voice from within,
if Believers would only follow my Way,
how quickly I would remind them of My victory over the enemy,
for I have dealt already with their foe!
Those people who hate the Lord would learn to know Him,
and their salvation would last forever.
For you are being fed with the choicest from my table;
with honey from the Rock I am satisfying you."
May our day today draw honey from the Rock who is our Savior; may His presence in us be the light upon the Way! We are the ones set free from ceaseless striving; our place is found in Him; the world is watching to see if His Life in us is true and real.
"Let loyalty to Christ, full, unflinching, wholehearted loyalty, become the keynote of [our] praying and [our] preaching. Let a few band themselves together to ask God for this one thing — the full insight into the terrible condition of a Church in which so few members are won to Christ by the preaching of the Word. Let them offer themselves to God for a new baptism of His Spirit, and a new power to preach the day of the Lord and His presence in the midst of His people. Let them not rest until they begin to gather together, however few they be, the souls who are willing to be the living witnesses that Jesus Christ does indeed save from the power of selfishness and the world. He does indeed enable men and women in the ordinary walk of life to live with His life so in their heart that the conquest of the world for Him shall be the greatest reality, the all-absorbing object of their life and their love."
A.M. from The State of the Church
From 2 Thessalonians 1:
"In view of this great prospect, we pray for you constantly, that God will think you worthy of this calling, and that he will effect in you all his goodness desires to do, and that your faith makes possible. We pray that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may become more glorious through you, and that you may share something of his glory—all through the grace of our God and Jesus Christ the Lord..."
This is one of those very “Paul paragraphs” that’s so packed with phrasing and power that we’ll oftentimes take nothing from it; something like, “Ah yes, hmmm, that’s quite deep…” But, through the lens of Jesus, consider the full reality of what’s being said here:
1. “worthy of this calling” – We read the word “worthy” and think: “Uh, oh. Me? Worthy?” But the word Paul uses is the exact same word as the one spoken by the Prodigal Son to his father, “I’m not worthy to be called your son.” And the father, really Jesus’, response to that self-assertion? “‘Hurry!’ called out his father to the servants, ‘fetch the best clothes and put them on him! Put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet, and get that calf we’ve fattened and kill it, and we will have a feast and a celebration! For this is my son—I thought he was dead, and he’s alive again. I thought I had lost him, and he’s found!’ And they began to get the festivities going.” (Luke 15:22-24) That's how "worthy" He thinks we are!
2. “his goodness desires to do” – HE will effect what HE desires in your life. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10)
3. “faith makes possible” – YES! That’s the kind of faith you can't get away from in the Gospels! The statements of Jesus that “It is your faith that has made you well,” cf. Luke 5:20, 7:50, 8:48, 8:50, 17:19, 18:42.
4. “share something of his glory” – If you know the Westminster Shorter Catechism at all, you probably know the first question: “What is the chief end of man?” The answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever.” Yet it’s the Larger Westminster Catechism that adds two additional descriptors that make it even more fun: “What is the chief and highest end of man?” The answer: “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.” Let’s be “Larger” rather than “Shorter” believers in the way we go after the highest, fullest enjoyment of Jesus!
5. “all through the grace” – Yes, it’s ALL through the grace!
Oh Jesus, you've made us worthy, effective, faithfilled, glorious, grace-abounding recipients of your Gospel! Thank you for the immensity of your designs and directives in us!
"He who does not first hide himself in the secret place to be alone with God, is unfit to show himself in the public place to move among men. Mr. Müller afterward used to say to brethren who had 'too much to do' to spend proper time with God, that four hours of work for which one hour of prayer prepares, is better than five hours of work with the praying left out; that our service to our Master is more acceptable and our mission to man more profitable, when saturated with the moisture of God's blessing - the dew of the Spirit.”
From George Müller of Bristol, by Arthur Pierson
In Matthew 28, we read: "When the Sabbath was over, just as the first day of the week was dawning Mary from Magdala and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. At that moment there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from Heaven, went forward and rolled back the stone and took his seat upon it. His appearance was dazzling like lightning and his clothes were white as snow. The guards shook with terror at the sight of him and collapsed like dead men. But the angel spoke to the women, 'Do not be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here—he is risen, just as he said he would. Come and look at the place where he was lying. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead. And, listen, he goes before you into Galilee! You will see him there! Now I have told you my message.'
"Then the women went away quickly from the tomb, their hearts filled with awe and great joy, and ran to give the news to his disciples. But quite suddenly, Jesus stood before them in their path, and said, 'Peace be with you!' And they went forward to meet him and, clasping his feet, worshipped him."
This first touch that the Marys had with the Resurrected Jesus - "clasping his feet" - must have carried them through the remainder of their lives, an ever-present source of courage. To actually have grasped and touched a living Savior is to have the knowledge of a power that is forever unshakeable.
Is that how we know Him? Is that our daily experience of His "aliveness"? Have we so smelled and tasted and touched and grasped His Living Alive Life-in-us that our courage is founded on experience, rather than some sort of wishful thinking?
Sometimes, in Christendom, we act as if our highest strategy is some sort of heavenly hoodwink to draw people in, give them a taste of Jesus and then hope for the best. The ceiling of our expectancy is "Oh Lord, may you make yourself known to a few of those who walk through these doors tonight."
We need to set our sights higher, O Church.
Listen to Paul's perception of his calling in the Kingdom: "For I am a minister of the Church by divine commission, a commission granted to me for your benefit and for a special purpose: that I might fully declare God’s word—that sacred mystery which up to now has been hidden in every age and every generation, but which is now as clear as daylight to those who love God. They are those to whom God has planned to give a vision of the full wonder and splendor of his secret plan for the sons of men. And the secret is simply this: Christ in you! Yes, Christ in you bringing with him the hope of all glorious things to come." (Colossians 1)
Do we even start to realize that, wherever Jesus has placed us, wherever the Holy Spirit is allowed to operate in and through us, we establish a living-breathing-moving-acting-loving cloud of His glory and authority and presence among people. Any city where "two or more are gathered" is a place where it's dangerous for the evil one to enter in and ply his trade. Yet we've become so used to paltry fruit because our expectations and experiences are paltry; we invite others into our lack, not our abundance-of-Jesus. The lost world desperately needs men and women so attuned to their "Christ in me reality" that their doubts, fears, hostilities and unbeliefs get drowned in His glory-cloud.
Oh, that we'd transact each day with Paul's chip on our shoulder! Men and Women of God, that we'd own the cities we're in with the Early Church's confidence of Belief, delight and trust in the Savior-within-us!
Hear Paul's courage in this One who lived and worked through him: "The spirit of this world has blinded the minds of those who do not believe, and prevents the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, the image of God, from shining on them. For it is Christ Jesus the Lord whom we preach, not ourselves; we are your servants for his sake. God, who first ordered ‘light to shine in darkness,' has flooded our hearts with his light. We now can enlighten men only because we can give them knowledge of the glory of God, as we see it in the face of Jesus Christ... This priceless treasure we hold, so to speak, in a common earthenware jar — to show that the splendid power of it belongs to God and not to us. We are handicapped on all sides, but we are never frustrated; we are puzzled, but never in despair. We are persecuted, but we never have to stand it alone: we may be knocked down but we are never knocked out! Every day we experience something of the death of the Lord Jesus, so that we may also know the power of the life of Jesus in these bodies of ours. Yes, we who are living are always being exposed to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be plainly seen in our mortal lives. We are always facing death, but this means that you know more and more of life." (2 Corinthians 4)
O Church, unity in the Body guarantees zones of Christly authority where His fragrance, glory and love are made manifest. May we come together, members of a Body filled with Him; may there be no place in our fellowships, in our cities, in this world, where He is not.
A thought from the Anchor fellowship:
We tend to interpret Jesus through our present circumstances. The Early Church interpreted their circumstances through Jesus. Hence men who sat in dank dungeons awaiting probable death, yet, around midnight, "were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening..." (Acts 16)
For you, regardless of today's situational probabilities or possibilities, is He truly Good?
Your day will supply your answer to that question.
Our concern shouldn't be that people aren't doing enough for the Kingdom, for the Gospel. The real concern is that their not doing anything simply isn't possible if they know this Savior; that inaction is actually the same thing as not knowing Jesus at all.
To press more intimately into Jesus, to teach others to Abide in this Jesus, is the only answer. He will provide both the call and the desire-to-go to everyone whose life is joined to His.
Consider a potential correlation:
In Matthew 13, Jesus says to His disciples: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
In Matthew 17, again speaking to His friends, He says: "You don't have enough faith. I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible."
In the mustard seed, we have a Kingdom of Heaven picture of something that starts tiny and sprouts enormously and a measure of faith whereby one can move mountains. So is faith (Belief) the whole essence of the Kingdom of Heaven? Is it the only currency with which to transact in the Heavenly economy?
"Hearts that are 'fit to break' with love for the Godhead are those who have been in the Presence and have looked with opened eye upon the majesty of Deity. Men of the breaking hearts had a quality about them not known to or understood by common men. They habitually spoke with spiritual authority. They had been in the Presence of God and they reported what they saw there. They were prophets, not scribes, for the scribe tells us what he has read, and the prophet tells what he has seen."
A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God
From Luke 8, with some notes: Then his disciples asked him the meaning of the parable [of the sower]. To which Jesus replied, “You have been given the chance to understand the secrets of the kingdom of God, but the others are given parables so that they may go through life with their eyes open and ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.'"
“This is what the parable means. The seed is the message of God. The seed sown by the roadside represents those who hear the message, and then the devil comes and takes it away from their hearts so that they cannot believe it and be saved. (Yet, because of the incarnation and death and resurrection of Jesus, here’s our new reality with respect to the evil one: “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has he power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage” (Heb. 2). What a glory that, in Jesus, we’re never the “first seed!”) That sown on the rock represents those who accept the message with great delight when they hear it, but have no real root. They believe for a little while but when the time of temptation comes, they lose faith. (And yet, because of our life in Abiding in Him, here’s our new reality with respect to “rootedness”: “Just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so go on living in him – in simple faith. Grow out of him as a plant grows out the soil it is planted in, becoming more and more sure of the faith as you were taught it…” (Col. 2) What a blessing that, in Jesus, we have the right soil and root system!) And the seed sown among the thorns represents the people who hear the message and go on their way, and with the worries and riches and pleasures of living, the life is choked out of them, and in the end they produce nothing. (And yet, because of how He gave up all heavenly splendor for us, here’s our new reality of wealth immeasurable: “He was rich beyond our telling, yet he became poor for your sakes so that his poverty might make you rich” (2 Cor. 8). What a bounty that, in Jesus, we inherit!) But the seed sown on good soil means the men who hear the message and accept it with good and honest heart, and go on steadily producing a good crop.”
Isn't it wonderful that, in Jesus, by the power of His Inhabitation, you and I are made "seed sown on good soil" that is "steadily producing a good crop!" Our lives, the message of God, the seed, the soil, our hearts, the final crop - all of it! - are gifts that only He provides for, sustains and makes fruitful!
All glory to you, Jesus!
"I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
This may be one of the most used and yet least well-used one-liners in all the New Testament. For me, it brings back memories of growing up in Christian summer camps, where sweaty teenage guys are trying to push through their final bench rep with a dude standing over them, yelling, "You can do ALL things through him who strengthens YOU, bro!"
But the Phillips translation gets closer to the actual dynamism of the Greek used: "I am ready for anything through the strength of the one who lives within me."
And here's a most exact wording: "I am powerful for all things in the One in-strengthening me." And the really fun thing? The "strengthening" in that conjunctive word is the same word from which we get the English word "dynamite."
Friends, you are powerful for all things in the One, Jesus, who, by the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit, is standing over the dynamite box with both hands on the detonator. That was the unconquerableness of Paul, of Peter, of the spirits of those we call the Early Church! And that is the truth of the outlook available to you as you begin this or any day of your life! Oh, may we walk in the dynamite-power that is dangerously ready to ignite within us all day today!
The quickest way to weaken a church is by teaching rote outwardly-expressed obedience to an outsider God. In that scenario, the strength of the flesh is strained to its utmost and any failure creates immediate opportunity for doubt.
The power to obey can only be taught in the context of an insider God, the indwelling Christ. In that scenario, "the flesh counts for nothing" (John 6:63) and any failure creates immediate confession and gratitude for His forgiveness.
We have taught the Incarnation, Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus to generations while almost totally neglecting the equally outrageous idea of His INDWELLING Life within us. Consider Paul's incredulity that we'd ever doubt all that He gives in both dying for and living in us: "Moreover, if he [died] for us while we were sinners, now that we are men justified by the shedding of his blood, what reason have we to fear the wrath of God? If, while we were his enemies, Christ reconciled us to God by dying for us, surely now that we are reconciled we may be perfectly certain of our salvation through his living in us. Nor, I am sure, is this a matter of bare salvation—we may hold our heads high in the light of God’s love because of the reconciliation which Christ has made." (Romans 5)
A New Reformation is what is needed. One where the Inhabitation is both taught and held up as the chief theology through which all other theologies are considered. Nothing less than complete adherence to the Inner Life as the life of the Church can lead to obedience, "right thinking" and fruitful service for the Kingdom of Heaven.
The ending of Galatians 2, with some thoughts:
"As far as the Law is concerned I may consider that I died on the cross with Christ. And my present life is not that of the old 'I,' but the living Christ within me. The bodily life I now live, I live believing in the Son of God, who loved me and sacrificed himself for me."
Good gracious! THIS is the glory our lives can be! Take his statements in steps: 1) We are dead to the Law; there is no damnable, damning evidence of sin even available to condemn us anymore. He “did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it,” and, in fulfilling it, He put to death its demands upon us.
2) The “old I” is gone. The sinful, self-aware, self-obsessed old self lives no longer – and what has replaced it?
3) “The living Christ within me.” What?! The God of the universe, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, the Savior of the world has chosen to take up residence…in me?! YES! He’s ALIVE and He’s LIVING IN YOU! Oh, that we would learn to submit our minds and spirits and personalities to allowing Him to supersede our minds and spirits and personalities! He knows how to walk out His Way – He’s already done it! – oh, won’t we let Him do it all over again?
4) So what’s left for us to do? To simply “live believing in the Son of God.” This is the essence of what Jesus meant when he answered the crowd in John 6: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
And so, to sum up thoughts 1-4 in one contiguous run-on sentence: To Believe in Jesus is to walk in a Union that creates the “new I,” causing us to be dead to the Law and sin!
"Consequently I refuse to stultify the grace of God by reverting to the Law. For if righteousness were possible under the Law then Christ died for nothing!"
Paul raises the whole thing to this level to show that it is not a question of right/wrong, good/bad; it is a question of life/death and, even more importantly, of Union/Disunion.
Oh, may we live today out of THE REALITY available to us IN CHRIST rather than submitting our day, and our week, to the passing stresses, fears and exigencies of our circumstances. O Church, He's ALIVE and He's LIVING IN YOU!
We are very used to praying about the "will of God" and asking Him to "make it clear." Deep down, however, we are most of the time simply wanting Him to bless what we want...
The will of God, personified in the incarnation of Jesus, is to redeem His people. As much as our whole life is wrapped up in work and prayer for the redemption of the lost, we will joyfully and knowingly walk in His perfect will.
"The plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations." (Psalm 33:11)
May we be as immoveable in believing in His plans and purposes as He is in completing them.