Collective & Individual
For the world is becoming full of impostors—men who will not admit that Jesus the Christ really became man. Now this is the very spirit of deceit and is anti-Christ. Take care of yourselves; don’t throw away all the labour that has been spent on you, but persevere till God gives you your reward. (2 John 1:7,8)
In the Greek, that last sentence is interesting because, right in the middle, John changes the voice from 1st Person Plural - "The things we have accomplished" - to the 2nd Person Plural - "a full reward you all might receive." And that's one of the things that I find so remarkable about being part of the Family of God: that we together are accomplishing the work of the Kingdom in this generation, and yet that I, that you, are each individually getting to personally soak up all the rewards on offer.
And why does this matter? Because our collective-yet-individual, subjective, personal experience of Him turns the words of verse 7 on their head:
“For the world will become full of truth-tellers – men and women who will prove that Jesus the Christ really became man. Now this is the very spirit of truth and is pro-Christ.”
How absolutely wonderful that our lives may prove the truth of His life!
"A man ought to know that it is not easy for him to have a fixed principle, if he does not daily say the same things, and hear the same things, and at the same time apply them to life."
Holding Forth the Word of Life
Philippians 2:12-18 with some notes in italics -
So then, my dearest friends, as you have always followed my advice — and that not only when I was present to give it — so now that I am far away be keener than ever to work out the salvation that God has given you with a proper sense of awe and responsibility. For it is God who is at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve his purpose. I can’t begin to guess how many times I’ve heard that “work out your salvation” without the proper and unignorable ending of Paul’s thought: “For it is God who is at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve his purpose.” And what’s that 'purpose' for which He’s living in us and making use of us?
Do all you have to do without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be God’s children, blameless, sincere and wholesome, living in a warped and diseased world, and shining there like lights in a dark place. For you hold in your hands the very word of life. Thus can you give me something to be proud of in the day of Christ, for I shall know then that I did not spend my energy in vain. Yes, and if it should happen that my life-blood is, so to speak, poured out upon the sacrifice and offering which your faith means to God, then I can still be very happy, and I can share my happiness with you all. I should like to feel that you could be glad about this too, and could share with me the happiness I speak of. As Paul evaluates the worth of his life – and as we are exhorted to: “Do all [we] have to do without grumbling or arguing, so that [we] may be God’s children, blameless, sincere and wholesome, living in a warped and diseased world, and shining there like lights in a dark place” – what is the crux of this whole paragraph for our daily lives? These words: λόγον ζωῆς ἐπέχοντες – “holding forth the word of life (“logos” – The Word – Jesus!)” Our lives must bring forth LIFE, not just some metaphorical 'idea' of life; we must bring Jesus, the Word Incarnate, who is Himself Life!
The Experience Gap
The hope, the joy, the peace, the adventure, the overcoming, the LIFE that we see in the Early Church are all actually the exact terms of your own new-birthright reality in Jesus. Any perceived deficiency between what you read on the pages of the Book of Acts and your own actual experience of life-in-Christ is where He would love to have you simply surrender. He would love to inhabit that "experience gap," to do again - in you - what He once did in Peter, or John, or Paul.
What do you say?
Comradeship through Union
"Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction. There is no comradeship except through union in the same high effort."
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Wind, Sand and Stars
Pentecost, Jean Restout II, 1732
Activities & Reality
Among the large number who had become believers there was complete agreement of heart and soul. Not one of them claimed any of his possessions as his own but everything was common property to all... (Acts 4:32)
When we read those words, even though they sound like an echoing of the spirit of Acts 2:42-47, they probably frighten us a little, as modern western believers. In this translation, the all-and-nothing character of the Fellowship really comes across in the language: “there was complete agreement”; “Not one of them claimed any of his possessions; “everything was common property to all.” Yet before we become afraid of what we see here, or self-conscious of what we’re not yet willing to part with, or, even, get carried away into thoughts of some sort of Soviet-style collectivization, it’s the language of Luke’s original words that should actually form our view for what’s happening here.
This is the first part of Acts 4:32 directly from the Greek: “And the multitude, having believed, were in heart and soul one…”
The miracle of this verse is not the outward action of sharing between the believers; the miracle is that a multitude of people, by believing in the Risen Jesus, are, by Him, made one. A M U L T I T U D E become one. That is Jesus’ work, as the only Head of this one Body. The activities of unity are a natural outflow of the reality of unity. It’s not terribly difficult – is it? – to share with yourself? And that’s how this Body was learning to view itself, as one very heterogeneous fellowship that found its one life in the one Savior, Jesus. And isn’t that what we want to see in our day too?
"We know that the true child of God does not sin, he is in the charge of God’s own Son and the evil one must keep his distance. We know that we ourselves are children of God, and we also know that the world around us is under the power of the evil one. We know too that the Son of God has actually come to this world, and has shown us the way to know the one who is true. We know that our real life is in the true one, and in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the real God and this is real, eternal life. But be on your guard, my dear children, against every false god!" 1 John 5:18-21
I've been really moved this week in how, concluding this letter, John wants so clearly to form some final conclusions in his friends' hearts and minds. It's not quite as clear in the English here, but, in the Greek, he keeps using the same strong word, a verb in the Perfect Indicative Active - οἴδαμεν, "we know" - to get everyone on the same strong page of knowing... and affirming.
So, friends, I'll put this passage to you this way:
Do we know that the true child of God does not sin, for he is in the charge of God’s own Son and the evil one must keep his distance?
Do we know that we ourselves are children of God, and that the world around us is under the power of the evil one?
Do we know that the Son of God has actually come to this world, and has shown us the way to know the one who is true?
Do we know that our real life is in the true one, and in His Son Jesus Christ; and that this is the real God and that this is real, eternal life?
Well then – John must’ve smiled in writing out that last sentence – of course you wouldn’t want any false god, would you? For we’ve got the true, the real, the One who is life, forevermore, eternally - YES! - thank you, Jesus!
As is clear from the title of this post, pay special attention to the level of "newness" that's on offer as we follow Jesus:
“The new revelation of God in Jesus Christ, the new way of approach to the Infinite Father manifested in the appearance of the Son, had created for the primitive Christians a new life and had illumined them with a new light. It gave them a new insight into the relations between God and man, and a fresh manifestation of the bonds uniting our Father in Heaven with His children on earth. It made them see with new vividness the way of God’s salvation and the duties which God required of man.”
Thomas M. Lindsay, The Church and the Ministry in the Early Centuries
Set our Will & Surrender
"The test of the genuineness of our love for God's family lies in this question - do we love God himself and do we obey his commands? For loving God means obeying his commands, and these commands of his are not burdensome, for God's 'heredity' within us will always conquer the world outside us." 1 John 5:2-4
I'm sure you've noticed this before, but it seems to me that we tend to have a negative, uncomprehending view of "obedience" - negative, because we think of it as legalistic, and uncomprehending, because we understand obedience only in the context of the Old Covenant, not the New. Let me make it as simple as possible, and echoing of John.
Under the Old Covenant, the entirety of the message from God to His people was, "You must obey," and they failed at every turn.
Under the New Covenant, and because of the glorious work of Jesus, both by His life and His now living inside us, the new message is, "Now you can obey."
Philippians 2:13 - "For it is God who is at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve his purpose." Like John said, "God's 'heredity' within us will always conquer the world outside us" - the work of obedience, under this New Covenant, is Jesus' work. Our work is to set our will on His... and surrender.
Conviction unto Relationship
How wondrous is the fact that the indwelling Holy Spirit's convictions never lead to guilt, but, instead, always, direct to the Father's heart? Where, formerly, our conscience attacked us with shame and a sense of separation, what the Holy Spirit is trying to do in you will always lead toward direct relationship.
Listen for His voice in the conduct of your day today. If/When He convicts you, "No, that's not like Him, like your Savior," take it as an opportunity to approach Jesus for His forgiveness and for fresh intimacy.
What a joy is this New Covenant!
Believing Simply & Directly
“It really wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this faith, this direct reaching out to touch the reality of God, and to depend upon it, is an absolute essential for the Christian life. 'Without faith it is impossible to please him,' said the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. I don’t think that is meant to be a threat so much as a plain statement of fact. We don’t really begin to live our lives with God until we exercise this faculty which God has implanted in all of us, which the New Testament calls 'faith.' Have we got the courage to break through our habitual ways of thinking and believe like the centurion, simply and directly, in the power of God?”
J.B. Phillips, Good News
Cross, Resurrection, Ascension
Before the festival of the Passover began, Jesus realized that the time had come for him to leave this world and return to the Father... (John 13:1a)
You often hear statements like, “Jesus was born to die,” and “Jesus’ one mission was the Cross,” and yet here, and also in Luke 9, we are told that Jesus Himself marked time by His impending ascension, not by the Cross or Resurrection.
Here’s how Luke writes it: “Now as the days before he should be taken back into Heaven were running out, he resolved to go to Jerusalem…” (Luke 9:51)
It was out of His own love for the Father, with His eyes on their reunion, that He dared to approach the Cross. It was out of His love for us, with His eyes on our reunion with the Father through Himself, that He carried through the plan of the Cross. And yet it’s only as the ascended Heavenly High Priest that Jesus can administer the gifts that are ours because of the Cross and Resurrection. If He were not there, we’re not here. Let us meditate today on His Ascension and place at the right hand of the Father.
The Exact Test
"Yes, we love him because he first loved us. If a man says, 'I love God' and hates his brother, he is a liar. For if he does not love the brother before his eyes how can he love the one beyond his sight?" 1 John 4:19,20
I love how explicit John is in the end of verse 20. In essence, the person standing in front of you - who you can see - is the exact test for your love for God - who you can't see. And this is not some dress-rehearsal; every day is the real thing.
Friends, shall we love with a reckless abandon this day? Remember: It's all aimed at Him!
The Essence of Jesus
“There is nothing eerie, nothing strange, nothing contrary to the normal operations of the human heart about the Holy Ghost. He is only the essence of Jesus imparted to believers. You read the four Gospels and see for yourself how wonderfully calm, pure, sane, simple, sweet, natural, and lovable Jesus was. Even philosophers who don’t believe in His deity have to admit the lovableness of His character.”
A.W. Tozer, How to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit
On Holy Ground, Always
When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man stood in front of him with his sword drawn in his hand. Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our enemies?”
He said, “No; but I have come now as commander of Yahweh’s army.”
Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and worshiped, and asked him, “What does my lord say to his servant?”
The prince of Yahweh’s army said to Joshua, “Take your shoes off of your feet; for the place on which you stand is holy.” Joshua did so. (Joshua 5:13-15)
As you finish reading those words, and picturing that moment, may I give you a direct challenge? (I’m going to assume you said ‘yes,’ and go ahead and give it.)
If the presence of the Commander of Yahweh’s army, the Prince of Heaven, is sufficient to sanctify the ground around Him, how are you meant to be living as one who’s indwelt with His very life? Do you really think that your schedule, your busy life, your current challenge at work, your social life, can in any way compete with His power and glory? Do you really believe that the fullness of the “life, and life to the full” life that He proclaims in John 10:10 is properly captured by a single hour of “worship” each week?
I’m beginning to think there may be more for you and me!
Today, you must worship Him. You must worship Him with delight and abandon. As you go to work, to school, to meetings, to hangouts with friends, you are one who goes in the Way and Presence of the Prince and Commander of Yahweh’s army. Your whole life is spent on the holy ground of Jesus. Let’s make our whole lives a joyous act of worshipping Him... today.
These Things WE Say We Believe
Remember: It does us no earthly or heavenly good to disbelieve, or only half-believe, these things we say we believe.
Each Day its value
"And even as the Father, with each new morning, meets you with the promise of just sufficient manna for the day for yourself and those who have to partake with you, meet Him with the bright and loving renewal of your acceptance of the position He has given you in His beloved Son. Accustom yourself to look upon this as one of the reasons for the appointment of day and night. God thought of our weakness, and sought to provide for it. Let each day have its value from your calling to abide in Christ. As its light opens on your waking eyes, accept it on these terms: A day, just one day only, but still a day, given to abide and grow up in Jesus Christ. Whether it be a day of health or sickness, joy or sorrow, rest or work, of struggle or victory, let the chief thought with which you receive it in the morning thanksgiving be this: 'A day that the Father gave; in it I may, I must, become more closely united to Jesus.' As the Father asks, 'Can you trust me just for this one day to keep you abiding in Jesus, and Jesus to keep you fruitful?' you cannot but give the joyful response: 'I will trust and not be afraid.'"
Andrew Murray, Abide in Christ
Armored with Him
From Ephesians 6 with some notes in italics -
Therefore you must wear the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground. Take your stand then…
And here’s a point that matters deeply to me: What is the purpose of our putting on the “whole armor of God”? To take lots of ground and fight on to the next town? To make a name for ourselves because of how dashing our battleplans are?
In the Greek, Paul says, “that you might be able to make a stand in the evil day and, having done all things, to stand. Therefore stand…” In the name of Jesus, will you be where you are; stand firm; be utterly immoveable in His present purposes? The ground He’s given you today is the exact ground you’re presently to be standing on until He tells you to move from it.
Take your stand then with truth as your belt, righteousness your breastplate, the Gospel of peace firmly on your feet, [and] salvation as your helmet… And, honestly, I actually think Paul says this better when he simply says, in Romans 13:14, “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ…”
If you desire the “belt of truth,” Jesus is the “way, the truth, the life, no one comes to the Father except through [Him]” (John 14)
If you’re looking for “righteousness our breastplate,” remember that “we have no superhuman High Priest to whom our weaknesses are unintelligible — he himself has shared fully in all our experience of temptation, except that he never sinned.” (Hebrews 4)
If you need to be shod with “the Gospel of peace firmly on our feet,” it is Jesus “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel…”(2 Timothy 1)
And “salvation as our helmet”? “In no one else can salvation be found (Peter said of Jesus). For in all the world no other name has been given to men but this, and it is by this name that we must be saved.” (Acts 4)
To daily abide in Union with Jesus is to be clothed with Him and in His personal Armor from head to foot. The attributes found here are His attributes and our inheritance!
His Spirit is His Life
"Yet I know that the touch of his Spirit never leaves you, and you don’t really need a human teacher. You know that his Spirit teaches you about all things, always telling you the truth and never telling you a lie. So, as he has taught you, live continually in Christ. Yes, now, little children remember to live continually in him." 1 John 2:27,28a
There is truly nothing I can add, no write-up that needs to supplement, the power of what you just read. So let's reread together - maybe just a little more clearly and emphatically - what John has just been trying to get across to you and me:
THE TOUCH OF HIS SPIRIT NEVER LEAVES YOU.
YOU DON'T REALLY NEED A HUMAN TEACHER.
HIS SPIRIT TEACHES YOU ABOUT ALL THINGS.
HE TEACHES YOU TO LIVE CONTINUALLY IN CHRIST.
Are we beginning to grasp the level of this glory? Jesus came that you might have life, and, that you might have His life, He gave you His very own Spirit. There is nothing higher for you than spending the whole rest of your life learning what that means and how to live it.
Plans, Purposes & Will
From Psalm 33: "But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations."
It strikes me that we, most of the time, seem to perceive the Lord's plan as constantly changing and thus that we need to "find His will," almost as if we're chasing it down. But David talks here of its essential unchangingness. Perhaps we need to better understand - and align ourselves with - its firm, forevermore steadiness before we do much else.
Abiding in His Love
“I have loved you just as the Father has loved me. You must abide in my love. If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” (John 15:9,10)
Here, rather than focusing on that conditional phrase – “If you keep my commandments you will abide” – let’s focus on the relationship Jesus provides as the precursor for what’s offered: His with the Father. Do we really think, when we examine what went on between the two of them, that Jesus’ obedience to the Father was an arduous, straining effort to get into Abiding with the Father, or that Jesus’ Abiding in the Father led to eager, joyful obedience that only enriched His abiding in the Father?
I’m placing my bet on the latter.
We will not, with joy, obey a Savior we do not know. We will begrudge every little last thing that’s asked of us. Oh, but this is Jesus, the One who “for the joy set before Him endured the Cross” for us, the One whose words and commands are the paving-stones of the Way of Life! So, yes, let’s obey and abide. And abide and obey. “He has loved us just as the Father had loved Him. We must abide in His love.”
IF only He could find Vessels
“To think of what Christ is ready and willing to do in us and for us would frighten some of us into apoplexy, and to actually realize it would snap the frail thread of life itself. Christ’s heart is bursting with resources that the world needs and that He is ready to use if only He could find vessels ready and willing to use them. Oh, for the courage to see the power which He is waiting to place at the service of all who are consecrated enough to use it for His glory and close enough to receive the heavenly baptism! He has for us the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of prayer, the power that will conquer circumstances and control all events for His will, and the power that will make us the trophies of His grace and the monuments of His indwelling presence and victory.”
A.B. Simpson, The Christ of the 40 Days
Possessing What's OUrs
Their children, whom he raised up in place [of that generation who died in the wilderness], were circumcised by Joshua; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them on the way. When they were done circumcising the whole nation, they stayed in their places in the camp until they were healed.
Yahweh said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt off of you.” Therefore the name of that place was called Gilgal, to this day. (Joshua 5:7-9)
Despite the fact that they had already crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, moved from the old to the new life, this generation was not yet able to possess the fullness of the inheritance. Without this physical act of circumcision, the “rolling away of their reproach,” they would’ve been relegated to camping at the borderland indefinitely. The same is so true for our appropriation of our salvation. Consider how much Paul says we should be grasping of our complete freedom:
“In Christ, you were circumcised, not by any physical act, but by being set free from the sins of the flesh by virtue of Christ’s circumcision. You, so to speak, shared in that, just as in baptism you shared in his death, and in him are sharing the miracle of rising again to new life — and all this because you have faith in the tremendous power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. You, who were spiritually dead because of your sins and your uncircumcision (i.e. the fact that you were outside the Law), God has now made to share in the very life of Christ! He has forgiven you all your sins: Christ has utterly wiped out the damning evidence of broken laws and commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it over his own head on the cross. And then having drawn the sting of all the powers ranged against us, he exposed them, shattered, empty and defeated, in his final glorious triumphant act!” (Colossians 2)
The degree to which most Christians possess their salvation is oftentimes limited to that vague description of “going to Heaven when I die.” But, according to Paul, just in this one short section of one of his many letters, here’s what you should know about your life in Jesus, right now, today:
1. Your life is lived “in Christ”
2. You are presently “free from the sins of the flesh”
3. You have a share in Jesus’ death
4. You are presently meant to be “sharing the miracle of rising again to new life”
5. Your life has been granted a “share in the very life of Christ”
6. “He has forgiven you all your sins”
7. Jesus has erased the evidence against you, annulled it by dying under its weight, and then “exposed and shattered” the enemy on your behalf
Do you begin to see why our possessing the truth of our salvation, the forever “circumcision of our hearts,” is just as important as that physical act was for the Israelites at Gilgal? For how can we begin to really live the fullness of what Jesus has for us – how could the Israelites possess the promised inheritance – unless we are made new by the marks of the Lord?