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. (Galatians 2:19,20)
Good gracious! Now this is the glory our lives are meant to be!
Take those last three sentences in steps:
1) You and I are dead to the Law; there is no damnable, damning evidence of sin even available to condemn us anymore. Jesus “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 now. 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 me! And in you too, my friend! Oh, that you and I 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 once! – oh, won’t we let Him do it all over again in us?
So what’s left for us to do?
4) To simply “live believing in the Son of God, who loved me and sacrificed himself for me.” 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.”
So, to sum up thoughts 1-4 in one contiguous sentence, here we go: To Believe in Jesus is to walk in a Union-with-Him that creates the “new I,” causing us to be dead to the Law and sin! Thank you, Jesus, that it's all your work!
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Matthew 6:34
* * * * *
“A good soldier does not worry. He knows that nothing happens until it actually happens and you live your life up to then.”
Ernest Hemingway, Men at War
During this period some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them by the name of Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there was to be a great famine throughout the world. (This actually happened in the days of Claudius) The disciples determined to send relief to the brothers in Judea, each contributing as he was able. This they did, sending their contribution to the elders there personally through Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 11:27-30)
To me, these verses are just delightful because of the way they show us the real-time vitality of the ways of the Holy Spirit in Antioch and in His people. Let’s reread them and let me point out what I mean:
During this period some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch, pulled, undoubtedly, by the rumors of Holy Spirit happenings happening there; drawn as prophets to the Flame; wanting to see everything that was spiritually possible in their lifetimes. One of them by the name of Agabus – and we can only guess what a guy named Agabus must’ve looked like! – stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there was to be a great famine throughout the world. (This actually happened in the days of Claudius) – a parenthetic aside, written in the future, that tells us what they did not know when they took the following course of action: The disciples determined to send relief to the brothers in Judea, each contributing as he was able: sacrificial giving based entirely on a prophetic word given by one man in one church on one day. This they did, sending their contribution to the elders there personally through Barnabas and Saul. The former persecutor of the Way, along with the man who’d first welcomed him into the Jerusalem gathering, now travel to the headquarters of this movement with supplies demanded by the Holy Spirit through one of His prophets.
Let's be honest: Is this the kind of action we’re after? To worship in places and ways that draw the worldwide attention of other believers; to listen to the voice of the prophets; to act in quick accordance to the voice of the Spirit? To, yes, run the risk of looking strange for the intensity of our gatherings’ adherence to a Way of life that begins in the spiritual and then, and only from there, extends out through the natural? Is this description of their lives stirring your heart, causing you to crave what they possessed, especially when you consider it as an echo of the living life of Jesus?
Is this what we want?
“There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not philosophers. Yet it is admirable to profess because it was once admirable to live. To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust. It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically.”
Henry David Thoreau, Walden
"But you, dear friends of mine, build yourselves up on the foundation of your most holy faith and by praying through the Holy Spirit keep yourselves within the love of God. Wait patiently for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ which will bring you to the life eternal." Jude 1:20,21
One Greek note here. When you take into full account the full potential meaning of the word for "wait patiently" here, both in the common and classical Greek contexts, that last sentence could more robustly read:
"Receiving favorably the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ which will bring you to eternal life" (ie. kind of a picture of our spirits being arms-wide-open for more of His mercy.)
"Admitting to citizenship the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ which will bring you to eternal life" (ie. allowing His mercy to come live in us and take full residence in our hearts.)
"Undertaking the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ which will bring you to eternal life" (ie. committing to the full-spectrum experience of what this mercy would like to do in us and through us.)
"Guaranteeing the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ which will bring you to eternal life" (ie. having our lives stand as guarantor of how good the promises of this mercy are.)
"Expecting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ which will bring you to eternal life" (ie. eyes watching the horizon, always ready for a fuller personal experience of His arrival and His mercy.)
In other words, if you and I read the second half of verse 21 as only the eventual promise of Heaven, we are selling the wonders of His mercy far short. There is so much more for us to learn of, and experience, now, today!
“For you, man, there awaits a great and beautiful future. And the more the world has of men like you the nearer will this future be brought. Without you, ministers to the highest principles, living freely and consciously, humanity would be nothing; developing in the natural order it must wait the end of its earthly history. But you, by some thousands of years, hasten it into the kingdom of eternal truth – and in this is your high service. You embody in yourself the blessing of God which rested upon the people.”
Anton Chekhov, "The Black Monk"
“I assure you that the man who believes in me will do the same things that I have done, yes, and he will do even greater things than these, for I am going away to the Father. Whatever you ask the Father in my name, I will do — that the Son may bring glory to the Father. And if you ask me anything in my name, I will grant it.” John 14:12-14
Let me ask you a question: Where’s all this going? I mean, sitting in church, going to Bible studies, joining accountability groups, reading Tim Keller, having quiet times – what exactly are you doing? Do you ever stop to think about why you’re spending your time the way you’re spending your time?
I don’t think I’m off-base in saying that most Christians do all these things in order to become “good Christians,” or, in other words, pretty nice people. But if Jesus, having spoken words like these, heard us stating a goal like that, I think He’d have to chuckle, put His hands on our shoulders, and look us right in the eye: “A good Christian?” He’d ask. “Oh, no. No, what I want is for you to be like ME; actually, what I really want is for you to surpass me. I want you to show the world what a life looks like with the full resources of Heaven behind it. If you’d only believe in me, you’ll become just like me, and you’ll run out ahead and do things I never got to do.”
Brothers and Sisters, is that what we want from these lives? Because that’s exactly what He wants from these lives. He wants, because He’s “gone away to the Father,” because He’s sitting right next to the Father right now, that you would desire higher and more impossible things. He wants to answer prayers that prove our eyes are trained on His face; that we would like our own face to become like His.
Is that what you want?
“Next, Christ prayed that he should be in us, and we in him. This we find in many passages in the Gospel. And this is the union that is without intermediary, for the love of God is not only out-flowing but it is also drawing-in into unity. And those who feel and experience this become interior, enlightened men. Their higher faculties are raised above all practices to the bareness of their essence. There the faculties become simplified above reason in their essence and because of this they are filled and overflowing. For in this simplicity the spirit finds itself united with God without intermediary. And this union, together with the exercise which is proper to it, will endure eternally..."
They burnt [Jericho] with fire, and all that was in it. Only they put the silver, the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron into the treasury of Yahweh’s house. But Rahab the prostitute, her father’s household, and all that she had, Joshua saved alive. She lives in the middle of Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers, whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. (Joshua 6:24,25)
And not only did she live “in the middle of Israel,” she lives forevermore “in the middle” of the family-line of the King of Heaven, Jesus the Christ. It’s actually well worth seeing her name in that vaunted lineup:
Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was RAHAB, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Elihud, Elihud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah. (Matthew 1)
Rahab even merits a mention in the “hall of fame of faith” – alongside others like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses – in Hebrews 11: “By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days. By faith the prostitute RAHAB, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.”
But, for our own purposes, what had Rahab actually done? What can we take to heart from her short narrative within the scriptures? Simply this: That on a particular day of her life, a day like any other, she saw the power of God and believed it was her only salvation to trust herself to His purposes. When those spies showed up, she abandoned her old life and entrusted her entire future life to the hand of a God whose power was amply evident by His actions.
That is also precisely the call on your life today: To abandon everything to the movements of this same God; to His eternal changeless, real-time purposes in your midst. How glorious to be of actual use to the God who once saved Rahab!
“We have no business to be living subnormal, unhealthy, anaemic spiritual lives and call them Christian. They are sub-Christian. Our greatest difficulty is not antichristianity, but this sub-Christianity. It takes the facts of Christ’s life – his life, his death, his resurrection – but not the living fact of Christ. To take the first three and miss this is, I repeat, the supreme tragedy in present-day Christian living.”
E. Stanley Jones, The Christ of Every Road
"We are not meant to remain as children at the mercy of every chance wind of teaching and the jockeying of men who are expert in the crafty presentation of lies. But we are meant to hold firmly to the truth in love, and to grow up in every way into Christ, the head. For it is from the head that the whole body, as a harmonious structure knit together by the joints with which it is provided, grows by the proper functioning of individual parts to its full maturity in love." Ephesians 4:14-16
Now there's a perfect picture of what we’re aiming for! You and I are not meant to be helpless children anymore; we’re meant to mature and grow up…into Jesus. Into Jesus! And this isn’t some generic “grow up” Paul is talking about. No, the Greek word he uses means to “bring up to manhood” (sorry, ladies!) with all the power and weight involved in that wording. And how will we grow up into the fullness of that phrase?
“For it is from the head that the whole body, as a harmonious structure knit together by the joints with which it is provided, grows by the proper functioning of individual parts to its full maturity in love.” Can you see that picture in your mind’s eye? It’s like in so many children’s movies where the characters get a set of grown-up clothes and then, by stacking themselves, working all together, defeat the bad guys by looking like a terrifying giant. But, in the arrangement of the Body of Christ, Jesus is the head of our big unwieldy, put-together, tottering giant! And how’s He working to make it a “harmonious structure”? By teaching us, as Paul writes in the beginning of Ephesians 4, to “make it your aim to be at one in the Spirit, and you will inevitably be at peace with one another”!
Amen and Amen.
“Indeed, it is important for us to realize that words like ‘Catholic,’ ‘Protestant,’ and ‘Evangelical’ have become so ambiguous as to be virtually meaningless. Nor is mere union of the denominations our primary need if we are to have renewal. The movement we need is a movement in depth, and if it is deep enough the problem of unity will take care of itself.”
Elton Trueblood, The Company of the Committed
Paul, to the crowd at Lystra:
"We are here to tell you good news — that you should turn from these meaningless things to the living God! He is the one who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them. In generations gone by he allowed all nations to go on in their own ways — not that he left men without evidence of himself. For he has shown kindnesses to you; he has sent you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, giving you food and happiness to your hearts’ content.” from Acts 14
In thinking about this chapter, and in the midst of reading and rereading this passionate heart-cry from Paul and Barnabas, I was most moved, most grabbed, by one of their initial statements to the people: “We are here to tell you good news — that you should turn from these meaningless things to the living God!” The word that’s used here for “meaningless things” – ματαίων: “vanities” – is the same exact word used for the Greek translation of the book of Ecclesiastes: “Meaningless, meaningless!” or “Vanity of vanities!” Standing amidst a great crowd of people who have built their whole lives around the Roman ways of life and worship, Paul and Barnabas are courageous enough, maybe crazy enough, to say, “All that you know is meaningless; what we are offering is LIFE.”
What gives them the courage and the audacity to speak of this complete contrast: Meaninglessness vs. Life?
The fact that, as human beings like us, they have lived amidst the contrast, been observant of the contrast, formed opinions regarding the contrast, believed one way about one side of the contrast, and then pushed all their chips in on the life found only in the Living God. They are not 50/50, 60/40, 70/30, 80/20 or 90/10. They are “here to tell you good news – that you should turn (literally turn: meaning repent) from these meaningless things to the living God!” Friends, it’s only with our back to the world’s meaningless things that we can meaningfully, wholeheartedly, face Jesus.
Is that us?
Remember: He asks for nothing for which He doesn't Himself provide. If we sense any sort of lack today, we need only ask.
“[The Early Church] realized with a kind of dazed happiness that now that they believed in the focused God, they were reconciled with the purpose and will of God, and the spiritual resources of heaven flowed into their ordinary lives.”
J.B. Phillips, Good News
James Tissot, The Exhortation to the Apostles
“The truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings and His service one of unspeakable pleasure. He is all love, and those who trust Him need never know anything but that love. He is just indeed and He will not condone sin; but through the blood of the everlasting covenant He is able to act toward us exactly as if we had never sinned. Toward the trusting sons of men His mercy will always triumph over justice. The fellowship of God is delightful beyond all telling. He communes with His redeemed ones in an easy, uninhibited fellowship that is restful and healing to the soul. He is not sensitive or selfish nor temperamental. What He is today we shall find Him tomorrow and the next day and the next year. He is not hard to please, though He may be hard to satisfy. He expects of us only what He has Himself first supplied. He is quick to mark every simple effort to please Him, and just as quick to overlook imperfections when He knows we meant to do His will. He loves us for ourselves and values our love more than galaxies of new created worlds.”
A.W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous
"…As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is true because I do not live to please myself but to do the will of the Father who sent me. You may say that I am bearing witness about myself, that therefore what I say about myself has no value, but I would remind you that there is one who witnesses about me and I know that his witness about me is absolutely true…" (John 5:30b-32)
In this translation (Phillips), as well as in the NIV, verse 30 speaks of “seeking the will” as being synonymous with living “to please.” Which I love, by the way! Because not only is the good pleasure of the Father a more attractive target than His big mysterious will, not only is it so much more personal, as it was between Jesus and Him, but I also think it ties beautifully with Jesus’ assertion in verse 31 – that the Father is His “absolutely true” witness. After all, what exactly - two of the three times that the Father testified audibly to Jesus from Heaven - did He say of Him? “This is my beloved Son; in Him I am well-pleased.” Do you see it? For both Jesus and the Father, pleasure is witness and witness is pleasure. How wonderful!
“God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
“All of your men of war shall march around the city, going around the city once. You shall do this six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day, you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall be that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall go up, every man straight in front of him.” (Joshua 6:3-5)
Imagine if you yourself were an Israelite “man of war” who’d been born in the last forty years of wandering aimlessly around the wilderness. Your whole upbringing has moved toward this very week of days; your training in the arts of war has been honed for this exact laying of siege. Now imagine - from your own individual perspective - exactly what your orders are for the week of battle ahead of you: “Walk around this city one time. Do that for six days. On the seventh, shout. You will then have won...”
How absolutely stunning is the way that Yahweh takes the means and ends out of His people’s hands so that all that’s left is His power and glory. The relative ease with which these people will soon possess this city should be such a wonderful encouragement to us who’ve received some similarly wild commands:
“As you go, preach, saying, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. Freely you received, so freely give. Don’t take any gold, silver, or brass in your money belts. Take no bag for your journey, neither two coats, nor shoes, nor staff: for the laborer is worthy of his food. Into whatever city or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy; and stay there until you go on. As you enter into the household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come on it, but if it isn’t worthy, let your peace return to you. Whoever doesn’t receive you, nor hear your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake off the dust from your feet. Most certainly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.
“Behold, I send you out as sheep among wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to councils, and in their synagogues they will scourge you. Yes, and you will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony to them and to the nations. But when they deliver you up, don’t be anxious how or what you will say, for it will be given you in that hour what you will say. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” (Matthew 10)
If Jesus says to do these things, we are meant to be doing these things. If He says they’re perfectly possible, they are, no doubt, perfectly possible.
"Jesus is willing and longing as the Crucified One to keep you in perfect peace. This is a wonderful fact, and it is the secret of joy unspeakable. And this is also the secret of Holiness. Instead of indwelling sin, an indwelling Christ conquering it; instead of indwelling sin, the indwelling life and light and love of the blessed Son of God. He is the secret of holiness."
Andrew Murray, Jesus Himself