"For the Lord to whom they could turn is the Spirit of the new agreement, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, men's souls are set free. But all of us have no veils on our faces, but reflect like mirrors the glory of the Lord. We are transfigured by the Spirit of the Lord in ever-increasing splendor into his own image." 2 Corinthians 3
"We want our transitory life to be absorbed into the life that is eternal." 2 Corinthians 5
Today, may we turn and truly look into the Face of the One who brought the "new agreement," the agreement that was made between God and Himself by the sacrifice of Jesus. We are set free. Let's once and for all time remove the veil of indifference and doubt, and begin, by His Holy Spirit, not to just reflect His glory, but to be transfigured into His very image, from glory to glory.
Our life is fleeting before us as the days pass by, one after the other, ceaselessly, ceaselessly. And yet we lift our eyes up to the life that is eternal; absorbed until we cease to be ourselves at all.
Only you, Jesus.
1 Timothy 3 & 4 are brimming with admonitions that push us into greater Union with Jesus! To listen, click on the button below and scroll down to the bottom of The Sounds.
In Matthew 12, Jesus is confronted by the scribes and Pharisees (again!) as they ask Him to prove Himself with a fresh miracle. No matter that, just before this exchange, He'd only just finished healing a blind man who couldn't speak. But what they get instead is a direct confrontation with Jesus where He points, for the first time in Matthew's Gospel, to His eventual Resurrection. He then tucks in two historical references - "the men of Ninevah" and "the Queen of the South" - to highlight their present unbelief.
This second one is really interesting: "The Queen of the South will stand up in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it. For she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and you have more than the wisdom of Solomon with you now..."
With that statement, Jesus unlocks so much potential for revisiting the personified "wisdom" found in Solomon's Proverbs. Consider a passage like this one (from Proverbs 4), reimagined through the lens of a Jesus who trumps even Wisdom herself:
"Lay hold of the Word with all your heart; keep His commands and you will live.
Get Jesus, get belief; do not forget the Word or swerve from Him.
Do not forsake Jesus, and He will protect you; love Him, and He will watch over you.
Jesus is supreme; therefore get Jesus. Though it cost all you have, get belief.
Esteem Him, and He will exalt you; embrace Him, and He will honor you.
He will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor.
"Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be eternal.
I will guide you in the way of Jesus and lead you along straight paths.
When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.
Hold on to belief, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life..."
"The path of those-made-righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day..."
"My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to the Word.
Do not let Him out of your sight, keep Him within your heart;
for He is life to those who find Him and health to a man's whole body.
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of Life Himself..."
"Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.
Make level paths for your feet and take only the Way that is firm.
Do not swerve to the right or the left..."
"When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter
And our tongue with joyful shouting;
Then they said among the nations,
'The Lord has done great things for them.'
The Lord has done great things for us;
We are glad."
Since the Lord has bought back the ones captive to sin, let us now be the ones who dream His dreams. Oh, may we be the ones whose mouths are filled with laughter; whose tongues shout joyfully above the din of the world. May all the nations say, "This Jesus has done great things for them; something supernatural has happened in these people." Brothers and sisters, the Lord Jesus has already done the great thing for us. Oh, may we be glad with His joy today.
From 1 Timothy 3 with notes:
"No one can deny how great is the mystery of our reverence toward our God, resting as it does on the one who showed himself as a human being, and met, as such, every demand of the Spirit in the sight of angels as well as of men. Then, after his restoration to the Heaven from whence he came, he has been proclaimed among men of different nationalities and believed in all parts of the world..."
You and I must so personally interact with all aspects of Jesus' life that He's no longer outside - something to be known about - but, in reality, inside - the Life of our lives. Do you actually know that instant right before He stepped off the throne and became a fetus in the womb of a poor teenage girl? Do you know His steps up the mountainside to sit down on a dusty rock and teach a crowd of the "poor in spirit"? Do you know His eyes, blurred with blood trickling down from the thorn-crown, as they search across the faces of the scoffers at Calvary? Do you know the grin on His face as He steps out of the tomb, stretches, and greets the pinkish face of the sunrise?
Our interaction with the Good News of the four Gospels teaches us to know - and FOLLOW - the ways of the Jesus who's living in us. We'll spend less and less time with the thoughts, "Is that Him? Was that thought from Him?" and more time walking with Him by faith.
Consider this thought from our old friend, Andrew Murray: "How much clearer and more glorious does the truth [of His keeping and maintaining His life in us] become when the Spirit [teaches us] that Christ is in us; and [in] that, not only as a tenant in a house, or water in a glass, in such a [way] that they continue quite distinct, but rather as the soul is in the body animating and moving every part of it, and never to be separated from each other except by a violent death… Yes: it is thus that Christ dwells in us, penetrating our whole nature with His nature. The Holy Spirit came for the purpose of making Him thus deeply present within us. As the sun is high in the firmament above me, and yet by [its] heat penetrates my bones and marrow and quickens my whole life, so the Lord Jesus, who is exalted high in heaven, penetrates my whole nature by His Spirit in such a way, that all my willing, and thinking, and feeling are animated by Him. Once this fact is fully grasped, we no longer think of an external keeping through a person outside of us in heaven, but rather become convinced that our whole individual life is itself quickened and possessed by One who, not in a human but in a divine, all-penetrating manner, occupies and fills the heart. Then we see how natural, how certain, how blessed it is that the indwelling Jesus keeps the blessing and always maintains the fulness of the Spirit."
Yes, Jesus; more of you, more of your Spirit, more of your indwelling Life superseding our lives and personalities!
In Luke 13 and 14, along with so many other places, Jesus points to the impossibility of our fleshly selves following after Him. Here's just two sections:
So he went on his way through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way towards Jerusalem. Someone remarked, “Lord, are only a few men to be saved?” And Jesus told them, “You must do your utmost to get in through the narrow door, for many, I assure you, will try to do so and will not succeed, once the master of the house has got up and shut the door. Then you may find yourselves standing outside and knocking at the door crying, ‘Lord, please open the door for us.’ He will reply to you, ‘I don’t know who you are or where you come from.’ ‘But ...’ you will protest, ‘we have had meals with you, and you taught in our streets!’ Yet he will say to you, ‘I tell you I do not know where you have come from. Be off, you scoundrels!’ At that time there will be tears and bitter regret—to see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets inside the kingdom of God, and you yourselves excluded, outside! Yes, and people will come from the east and the west, and from the north and the south, and take their seats in the kingdom of God. There are some at the back now who will be in the front then, and there are some in front now who will then be far behind.” From Luke 13
Now as Jesus proceeded on his journey, great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and spoke to them, “If anyone comes to me without ‘hating’ his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be a disciple of mine. The man who will not take up his cross and follow in my footsteps cannot be my disciple. If any of you wanted to build a tower, wouldn’t he first sit down and work out the cost of it, to see if he can afford to finish it? Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation and found himself unable to complete the building, everyone who sees it will begin to jeer at him, saying, ‘This is the man who started to build a tower but couldn’t finish it!’ Or, suppose there is a king who is going to war with another king, doesn’t he sit down first and consider whether he can engage the twenty thousand of the other king with his own ten thousand? And if he decides he can’t, then, while the other king is still a long way off, he sends messengers to him to ask for conditions of peace. So it is with you; only the man who says goodbye to all his possessions can be my disciple." From Luke 14
The Way is literally contrary to the flesh. You and I so often want to "have our way" but that will never, ever be the Way. The only way to "have His Way" is to be a daily, observant, nimble, quick-to-listen, lightning-quick-to-obey follower of the Indwelling Jesus. His Holy Spirit is always able to defeat the whims of the flesh, but it's a battle that must be attended to by attentive followers-of-Jesus!
He is able to keep us on His Way! May we never cease to walk it!
From Galatians 5's admonitions, with notes...and some artwork:
"For it is by faith that we await in his Spirit the righteousness we hope to see. In Jesus Christ there is no validity in either circumcision or uncircumcision; it is a matter of faith, faith which expresses itself in love."
Our daily “by-faith lifestyle” puts the whole thing squarely upon Jesus’ righteousness, the “righteousness we hope to see.” And that’s not a righteousness that’s “out there somewhere.” For He is in us right now! He is personally “expressing himself in love” that pours forth from us; His love that He’s re-creating in and through us!
"You were making splendid progress; who put you off the course you had set for the truth? That sort of 'persuasion' does not come from the one who is calling you. Alas, it takes only a little leaven to affect the whole lump! I feel confident in the Lord that you will not take any fatal step. But whoever it is who is worrying you will have a serious charge to answer one day..."
Paul paints the picture of the Galatians running a race and yet being sidetracked from the course by this subtlest of voices. Isn’t that so often how it feels to us? Yet, along that same line, listen to the classic beginning of Hebrews 12: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” It is only this fixing our eyes on Jesus Himself, Jesus Alone, that keeps us on the race-course. There are not a multiplicity of ways or exit-ramps or twists-and-turns in life; there is only the Way, the Life – Jesus!
Artwork by Marvin Harrell
Not one but two chapters of Paul's personal writings! Just click on the button below and scroll down on The Sounds page.
From Ephesians 2, with notes:
"So you are no longer outsiders or aliens, but fellow-citizens with every other Christian — you belong now to the household of God. Firmly beneath you in the foundation, God’s messengers and prophets, the actual foundation-stone being Jesus Christ himself. In him each separate piece of building, properly fitting into its neighbor, grows together into a temple consecrated to God. You are all part of this building in which God himself lives by his spirit."
Isn’t that a wonderful picture? We aren’t part of a household where we’re hidden away, or willfully choosing to hide ourselves, in some safe inner sanctums. We’re actually part of the Heavenly Temple that’s being built to proclaim Him for all time; each of us is playing our part. Oh, and the tie-ins here are really fun!
Do you remember David’s passionate desire that he might be the Israelite king to finally build God a fitting Temple? Yet, due to his battle-scarred history, God makes clear that it’s actually his son, Solomon, who’s the Temple’s chosen architect. So, true to form, Solomon will only utilize the best workers and the best supplies and processes. For instance, here’s the story of his block preparations: “In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built.” (1 Kings 6:7) Imagine the soundlessness of this holy Temple worksite; the blocks being slid into their perfectly-fitting locations.
Charles Spurgeon beautifully tied that setting to our lives: “Each individual believer is being prepared, and polished, and made ready for his place in the temple; but Christ’s own hand performs the preparation-work. Afflictions cannot sanctify, excepting as they are used by him to this end. Our prayers and efforts cannot make us ready for heaven, apart from the hand of Jesus, who fashioneth our hearts aright… As in the building of Solomon’s temple, ‘there was neither hammer, nor axe, nor any tool of iron, heard in the house,’ because all was brought perfectly ready for the exact spot it was to occupy – so is it with the temple which Jesus builds; the making ready is all done on earth. When we reach heaven, there will be no sanctifying us there, no squaring us with affliction, no planing us with suffering. No, we must be made meet here – all that Christ will do beforehand; and when he has done it, we shall be ferried by a loving hand across the stream of death, and brought to the heavenly Jerusalem, to abide as eternal pillars in the temple of our Lord.”
Brothers and Sisters, He is doing that work in us today! How joyous the thought that He wastes not a moment in preparing us for our place in the Eternal Temple that’s for His glory! Jesus, you're just too good!
"Six people went into the house of a sick man to pray for him. He was an Episcopalian vicar, and lay in his bed utterly helpless, without even strength to help himself. He had read a little tract about healing and had heard about people praying for the sick, and sent for these friends, who, he thought, could pray the prayer of faith. He was anointed according to James 5:14, but, because he had no immediate manifestation of healing, he wept bitterly. The six people walked out of the room, somewhat crestfallen to see the man lying there in an unchanged condition.
"When they were outside, one of the six said, 'There is one thing we might have done. I wish you would all go back with me and try it.' They went back and all got together in a group. This brother said, 'Let us whisper the name of Jesus.' At first when they whispered this worthy name nothing seemed to happen. But as they continued to whisper, 'Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!' the power began to fall. As they saw that God was beginning to work, their faith and joy increased; and they whispered the name louder and louder. As they did so the man arose from his bed and dressed himself. The secret was just thus, those six people had gotten their eyes off the sick man, and they were just taken up with the Lord Jesus Himself, and their faith grasped the power that there is in His name. O, if people would only appreciate the power that there is in this name, there is no telling what would happen."
Smith Wigglesworth, from a sermon entitled "The Power of the Name"
Many times throughout his Epistles, Paul references his own story and, through it, the goodness of Jesus. However, in 1 Timothy 1:12-17, it's so much more personal and spoken as if only between the two of them. Have you ever been at an event and watched two grown men, tears in their eyes, one toasting emotionally, the other being toasted? That's the feeling of this passage; listen to Paul's words:
I am deeply grateful to our Lord Jesus Christ (to whom I owe all that I have accomplished) for trusting me enough to appoint me his minister, despite the fact that I had previously blasphemed his name, persecuted his Church and damaged his cause. I believe he was merciful to me because what I did was done in the ignorance of a man without faith, and then he poured out his grace upon me, giving me tremendous faith in, and love for, himself. This statement is completely reliable and should be universally accepted: “Christ Jesus entered the world to rescue sinners”. I realize that I was the worst of them all, and that because of this very fact God was particularly merciful to me. It was a kind of demonstration of the extent of Christ’s patience towards the worst of men, to serve as an example to all who in the future should trust him for eternal life. So to the king of all ages, the immortal, invisible, and only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever!
Cheers, Paul! Cheers to you, Jesus!
Now consider it again from our own perspective:
My friends, are we deeply grateful to Jesus Christ (to whom we owe all that we are) for trusting us enough to appoint us his ministers? For we have all blasphemed his name at times, underrepresented his Church and damaged his cause. He has been so merciful to us because what we often do is done in the ignorance of nice people living in unbelief. But - OH! - do you know how He pours out is grace upon you, and makes available to you tremendous faith in, and love for, himself? Do you daily take to heart this statement that is completely reliable and must be universally accepted: "Christ Jesus entered the world to rescue sinners"? Do you know that we all were the worst of them all, and that because of this very fact God was particularly merciful to you? Your life is a kind of demonstration of the extent of Christ’s patience toward the worst of people, and is now meant to serve as an example to all who in the future, but most importantly in the Present, should trust him for eternal life! So to our King, the king of all the ages, the immortal, invisible-who-made-Himself-visible, and only God, be honor and glory through our lives for ever and ever!
May our glasses be held high today in a constant adoration and joyous thanksgiving; He has done it all for us and in us!
It's interesting how often Christians self-identify with the phrase, "I'm just a sinner saved by grace." In that estimate, sin is usually voiced with a present-tensed quality - as if sin is still the highest marker of the individual.
Yet consider Paul's language in Ephesians 1: "For consider what he has done — before the foundation of the world he chose us to become, in Christ, his holy and blameless children living within his constant care."
Our "holy and blameless"-ness has been imputed to us by the Holy and Blameless One Himself; the transfer came at the cost of His life, His blood. He now lives in us to make that "holy and blameless" Way available to us by translating Himself right through our daily life.
May we, today, not self-define according to the former condition of sin; may the Holy Spirit be our spirit and the "mind of Christ" our mind. We must begin to grasp that the truest thing about our present life is what He's already accomplished eternally for us, in us, and, so gloriously, for the sake of the lost world, through us!
Psalm 109:26,27 - "Help me, O Lord my God; save me in accordance with your love. Let them know that it is your hand, that you, O Lord, have done it."
It is our relationship to the "He's-done-it-all"-ness of Jesus that will define the weight of our days, our lives. Our help and salvation, all that He's already done in our hearts, all that's to come - all of it! - is from His hand alone.
Are you prepared to die to your self-confidence? Is it God-confidence that makes your heart "bold and stouthearted"? (Ps. 138:3)
May it be so in us today, O Body of Christ!
Very few of us can remember all the "important" things we were doing three weeks ago, today, right this minute. All that busyness has been swallowed up by the passing of time and the fresh concerns of the present. Yet if that particular day was bound up with "faith, hope and love," its fruit was eternal and, even if we forget its minutiae, it lasts. That is why our "seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness" must be everything; all else, to Jesus, is a Heavenly afterthought.
Although it's one of the shortest of all the books in the Bible, Philemon has much for us. Click the button below and scroll down to the bottom of the page...
After Napoleon's invasion of Russia and subsequent destruction of Moscow in 1812, the tides quickly turned against him. His retreat, immortalized in Tolstoy's War and Peace, was a time of terrible suffering and devastation for his army. However, some of the Russian tactics (which were fairly revolutionary at the time) speak beautifully to what the Body of Christ could be. Here's a description of how the Russians "escorted" the French from their country:
News of the defeat of the French forces on the Chernishne River hastened Napoleon's decision to withdraw from Moscow. The withdrawal began on the evening of October 6, 1812. Napoleon's attempt to break through to the southern regions of the country ended in failure. Russian forces blocked the enemy's path at Maloiaroslavets on October 12 and forced the enemy to return along the devastated Smolensk road. Recognizing the collapse of his aggressive plans, Napoleon now used every means to avoid the decisive battle which the Russian command was trying to force on him. The retreating Napoleonic forces were continuously attacked by Cossack and partisan flying detachments...
These "flying detachments" were tasked with constant movement and in-and-out guerrilla tactics that were overwhelming for the French army's traditionalist training. They had never seen bands of troops so nimble and terrifyingly omnipresent.
Brothers and sisters, we must be a Flying Church. The evil one has no fear of sitting-in-pew churches. He knows those ones will remain inert forever, but a church that senses its outward calling and constantly flies is one in which the Spirit of Jesus overwhelms his evil resources.
After all, inertia does go both ways. Stagnancy begets ongoing stagnation. But Christly day-to-day movement is the door through which the Holy Spirit walks; it is the never-ending dispersion that began at Stephen's death (Acts 7) and has never stopped as the Church has flown at the daily whims of Jesus.
Let's be that way with every moment of our day today!
The final chapter of Colossians 4 is filled with goodness! To listen, click on the button below and scroll down on The Sounds page.
After the Risen Jesus had walked a stretch with those two men of Emmaus, we read:
So he went indoors to stay with them. Then it happened! While he was sitting at table with them he took the loaf, gave thanks, broke it and passed it to them. Their eyes opened wide and they knew him! But he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts glowing while he was with us on the road, and when he made the scriptures so plain to us?”
And they got to their feet without delay and turned back to Jerusalem. [A seven mile moonlit run back!] There they found the eleven and their friends all together, full of the news—“The Lord is really risen—he has appeared to Simon now!”
Then they told the story of their walk, and how they recognized him when he broke the loaf...
Sisters and brothers, may we be the breathless ones whose experience with the Living Christ informs the rest of the Body! May we be the ones simply goofy with joy because of our experience of His Living Presence!
After all, what were the results?
And while [those two] were still talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said, “Peace be to you all!”
Yes! You are ALIVE, Jesus; you are with us today; your peace is our new-birthright! Thank you, thank you!
An investor's greatest desire is to build up enough capital to where they can live off their interest income without ever having to touch the principal. But you and I have already been given the entirety of the Kingdom! Our overflow, our "income," isn't actually for us anymore; it's to be doled out and spent freely into others for the sake of Jesus.
"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." Colossians 4:5,6
While verse 6 might be a more oft-quoted verse than the one that precedes it, the real key to it all is tucked there in verse 5. The NIV translates it as "make the most of every opportunity," while the Phillips' translation reads "make the best possible use of your time." But both of those readings are weak when compared to the real language!
The Greek actually says, "redeeming the time," which is nearly the same word used in Galatians 3:13 - "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law..." Isn't that wonderful? The idea of waking to a day and actively, by the power of Jesus, working to redeem even the time we're allotted? To even testify to the world about His goodness by the way a day passes through our hands, right here, right now?
Brothers and sisters, do you believe He can redeem even your time? Can a day such as this bear full witness to His glory?