"...attainment of the kingdom is possible."
The Compendium of Theology
(These are the last words he ever wrote.)
“The true understanding of Jesus is the understanding of will acting on will. The true relation to Him is to be taken possession of by Him. Christian piety of any and every sort is valuable only so far as it means the surrender of our will to His…
“What Christianity needs is that it shall be filled to overflowing with the spirit of Jesus, and in the strength of that shall spiritualize itself into a living religion of inwardness and love, such as its destined purpose should make it. Only as such can it become the leaven in the spiritual life of mankind. What has been passing for Christianity during these nineteen centuries is merely a beginning, full of weaknesses and mistakes, not a full-grown Christianity springing from the spirit of Jesus.
“Because I am devoted to Christianity in deep affection, I am trying to serve it with loyalty and sincerity. In no wise do I undertake to enter the lists on its behalf with the crooked and fragile thinking of Christian apologetic, but I call on it to set itself right in the spirit of sincerity with its past and with thought in order that it may thereby become conscious of its true nature.”
Out of My Life and Thought
“A rule I have had for years is to treat the Lord Jesus Christ as a personal friend. His is not a creed, a mere empty doctrine, but it is He Himself we have. The moment we have received Christ we should receive Him as a friend. ”
Anecdotes & Illustrations
"'Jesus Christ yesterday, to-day, and for ever' (Heb. xiii, 8), says the Apostle. From the beginning of the world He was, as God, the first cause of the existence of souls. He has participated as man from the first instant of His incarnation, in this prerogative of His divinity. During the whole course of our life He acts within our souls. The time that will elapse till the end of the world is but as a day; and this day abounds with His action. Jesus Christ has lived and lives still. He began from Himself and will continue in His Saints a life that will never end. O life of Jesus! comprehending and extending beyond all the centuries of time, life effecting new operations of grace at every moment; if no one is capable of understanding all that could be written of the actual life of Jesus, all that He did and said while He was on earth; if the Gospel merely outlines a few of its features; how many Gospels would have to be written to record the history of all the moments of this mystical life of Jesus Christ in which miracles are multiplied to infinity and eternity. If the beginning of His natural life is so hidden yet so fruitful, what can be said of the divine action of that life of which every age of the world is the history?...
"I will now become Your disciple, and will frequent no other school than Yours. Like the Prodigal Son I return hungering for Your bread. I relinquish the ideas which tend only to the satisfaction of mental curiosity; I will no longer run after masters and books but will only make use of them as of other things that present themselves, not for my own satisfaction, but in dependence on the divine action and in obedience to You. For love of You and to discharge my debts I will confine myself to the one essential business, that of the present moment, and thus enable You to act..."
Jean-Pierre de Caussade
Abandonment to Divine Providence
He appears to His disciples—Thomas is gone
Luke 24:36-49 & John 20:24-25
AND WHILE THE TWO from Emmaus were still talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said, “Peace be to you all!”
But they shrank back in terror for they thought they were seeing a ghost.
“Why are you so worried?” said Jesus, “and why do doubts arise in your minds? Look at my hands and feet—it is really I myself! Feel me and see; ghosts have no flesh or bones as you can see that I have.”
But while they still could not believe it through sheer joy and were quite bewildered, Jesus said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of broiled fish and part of a honeycomb which he took and ate before their eyes. Then he said, “Here and now are fulfilled the words that I told you when I was with you: that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must come true.”
Then he opened their minds so that they could understand the scriptures, and added, “That is how it was written, and that is why it was inevitable that Christ should suffer, and rise from the dead on the third day. So must the change of heart which leads to the forgiveness of sins be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
“You are eye-witnesses of these things. Now I hand over to you the command of my Father. Stay in the city, then, until you are clothed with power from on high.” …
…But one of the twelve, Thomas (called the Twin), was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples kept on telling him, “We have seen the Lord”, but he replied, “Unless I see in his own hands the mark of the nails, and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe!”
In the moment…
A MAN IS WALKING the narrow alleyway that ends at the base of an outside flight of stairs; he is arms-full with a load of food, bread, wine. His inner biceps strain near the elbow with the weight of it all. He begins climbing the stairs, unseeing of each step: the breadloaves blocking his view: up he goes. At the landing he knocks the door with the top of his forehead, awkwardly. The door swings open, inwardly.
The man is absolutely unprepared for what he sees in this upper room.
Faces full of shock.
Eyes weeping happy tears.
Men, women and children all embracing.
A familiar personal scent seeming to hang in the air.
The man sets his load on the table at the center of the room.
“Well,” he says, “—what is it that I’ve missed?”
* * * *
He appears to Thomas & the other disciples
JUST OVER A WEEK LATER, the disciples were indoors again and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood in the middle of them and said, “Peace be with you!”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your fingers here—look, here are my hands. Take my hand and put it in my side. You must not doubt, but believe.”
“My Lord and my God!” cried Thomas.
“Is it because you have seen me that you believe?” Jesus said to him. “Happy are those who have never seen me and yet have believed!”
Forty years later…
HE CAN FEEL THAT THE END is drawing near. The crowds breathe it. They press closer and closer; their eyes lit with growing rage. Some have spears and short daggers in hand. The tips of the spears and blades of the knives flash with sunlight. Their robes are peculiar and multicolored. They flap like butterfly wings, snapping loudly, whenever they raise their arms.
The man begins to pray in his spirit:
“Lord, I am prepared today to come to you—receive me. Let these, my killers, see the grace of a death died in you. Forgive them. May they all come to know you; to receive you. Let them know your face without seeing. May their faith trump mine.”
As he prays, he is looking past the crowds at the waters of the Kalinga Sagar: turquoise blue, with low white-topped waves coming in, row on row. It is an infinite sea compared to the little one where this all started…
He feels the crowd drawing closer…
He raises his hands, as if to bless, as they begin to strike him…
"When at last the disciples awakened the sleeping Christ, He asked them a question. You remember it well! It was, 'Where is your faith?' Where was it? Had it dropped into the depths of the sea on which they sailed? Had it fled on the shoulders of the storm? Had it been dissolved in the spray that washed their boat? Their Faith was with them all the time. The mistake they made was in forgetting the fact of His presence, while discerning the fact of the storm! Their Faith was not far away. Remember the words of our Lord, 'Without me ye can do nothing.'
"Then Jesus advanced to the bow of the boat. He looked into the face of the tempest and hurled His command into the teeth of the storm. The waves obeyed. The wind halted in its tracks. Jesus had spoken, and the disciples stood awed in the presence of His power. Where was their faith? Do you not know? Can you not see? It was just as near to them as it is to you and me; for let me assure you that the fact of the storm does not mean that He has gone! To be needy is no proof that you have been deserted. It may be the door that leads to a miracle! It may be God’s method of making you say, 'What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the seas obey Him?' ...
"Roll on, blue waves of Galilee! Blow and moan, ye winds that rage, and ye tempests that blow. You laugh at my seeming helplessness. You ridicule my endeavors to stand in the midst of the rocking of the boat. You ask me where my faith is. You taunt me about my condition. My Faith is not far away! He sleeps awhile, to teach me to rely upon Him. He sleeps, that confidence in self might be turned to trust in His promise and in the power of His presence. No, my Faith is not far away. I look at Him and smile; for His voice whispers to this poor heart of mine, and tells me that if He can rest in the midst of the tempest and the storm, then I can sweetly rest in Him."
Charles S. Price, The Real Faith
"How good it would be if we could learn that God is easy to live with. He remembers our frame and knows that we are dust. He may sometimes chasten us, it is true, but even this He does with a smile, the proud, tender smile of a Father who is bursting with pleasure over an imperfect but promising son who is coming every day to look more and more like the One whose child he is.
"Some of us are religiously jumpy and self-conscious because we know that God sees our every thought and is acquainted with all our ways. We need not be. God is the sum of all patience and the essence of kindly good will. We please Him most, not by frantically trying to make ourselves good but by throwing ourselves into His arms with all our imperfections, and believing that He understands everything and loves us still."
A.W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous
"Do not confound work and fruit. There may be a good deal of work for Christ that is not the fruit of the heavenly Vine. Do not seek for work only. Oh! study this question of fruit-bearing. It means the very life and the very power and the very spirit and the very love within the heart of the Son of God—it means the heavenly Vine Himself coming into your heart and mine.
"You know there are different sorts of grapes, each with a different name, and every vine provides exactly that peculiar aroma and juice which gives the grape its particular flavor and taste. Just so, there is in the heart of Christ Jesus a life, and a love, and a Spirit, and a blessing, and a power for men, that are entirely heavenly and divine, and that will come down into our hearts. Stand in close connection with the heavenly Vine and say:
"Lord Jesus, nothing less than the sap that flows through Thyself, nothing less than the Spirit of Thy divine life is what we ask. Lord Jesus, I pray Thee let Thy Spirit flow through me in all my work for Thee.
"I tell you again that the sap of the heavenly Vine is nothing but the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the life of the heavenly Vine, and what you must get from Christ is nothing less than a strong inflow of the Holy Spirit. You need it exceedingly, and you want nothing more than that. Remember that."
Andrew Murray, Absolute Surrender
“To be conformed to the image of Christ is not an ideal to be striven after. It is not as though we had to imitate him as well as we could. We cannot transform ourselves into his image; it is rather the form of Christ which seeks to be formed in us (Gal. 4.19), and to be manifested in us. Christ’s work in us is not finished until he has perfected his own form in us...
“His life on earth is not finished yet, for he continues to live in the lives of his followers. Indeed it is wrong to speak of the Christian life: we should speak rather of Christ living in us. ‘I live, and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me’ (Gal. 2.20). Jesus Christ, incarnate, crucified and glorified, has entered my life and taken charge. ‘To me to live is Christ’ (Phil. 1.21). And where Christ lives, there the Father also lives, and both Father and Son through the Holy Ghost. The Holy Trinity himself has made his dwelling in the Christian heart, filling his whole being, and transforming him into the divine image.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
"Our Gospel belongs to the miraculous. It was projected on the miraculous plane. It cannot be maintained but by the supernatural. Take the supernatural out of our holy religion, and its life and power are gone, and it degenerates into a mere mode of morals. The miraculous is Divine power. Prayer has in it this same power. Prayer brings this Divine power into the ranks of men and puts it to work. Prayer brings into the affairs of earth a supernatural element. Our Gospel when truly presented is the power of God. Never was the Church more in need of those who can and will test (ie. prove) Almighty God. Never did the Church need more than now those who can raise up everywhere memorials of God’s supernatural power, memorials of answers to prayer, memorials of promises fulfilled. These would do more to silence the enemy of souls, the foe of God and the adversary of the Church than any modern scheme or present-day plan for the success of the Gospel. Such memorials reared by praying people would dumbfound God’s foes, strengthen weak saints, and would fill strong saints with triumphant rapture."
E.M. Bounds, The Possibilities of Prayer
“If thou art a writer, write as if thy time were short, for it is indeed short at the longest. Improve each occasion when thy soul is reached. Drain the cup of inspiration to its last dregs. Fear no intemperance in that, for the years will come when otherwise thou wilt regret opportunities unimproved. The spring will not last forever. These fertile and expanding seasons of thy life, when the rain reaches thy root, when thy vigor shoots, when thy flower is budding, shall be fewer and farther between. Again I say, Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth. Use and commit to life what you cannot commit to memory.”
Henry David Thoreau, from his journals
* * *
I read those words a couple weeks back and was stirred by how readily they might be shifted—changed in their context—so that they ring with an even higher truth. Try this on for size:
If you are a follower of Jesus, live today as if your time is short, for it is indeed short—even at the longest. Improve each occasion, for His living presence dwells in your soul. Be the vessel of His direct inspiration to everyone you meet. Fear nothing but to be temperate when it comes to His Spirit, for each day of each year of your life is an improvable opportunity for His divine purposes. Your earthly life will not last forever. His presence and nearness in your life, when His Spirit reaches low inside you, when He is a wellspring, when you are bearing His fruit, is as available today as it’s ever been. Again I say to you, Abide in Him and He in you. Use and commit this day not to memories of Him, but to His alive life actually dwelling inside you.
“The Lord would have us to be walking epistles of His word. Jesus is the Word and is the power in us, and it is His desire to work in and through us His own good pleasure. We must believe that He is in us. There are boundless possibilities for us if we dare to act in God and dare to believe that the wonderful virtue of our living Christ shall be made manifest through us as we lay our hands on the sick in His name.
“The exceeding great and precious promises of the Word are given to us that we might be partakers of the divine nature. I feel the Holy Ghost is grieved with us because, when we know these things, we do not do greater exploits for God. Does not the Holy Ghost show us wide-open doors of opportunity? Shall we not let God take us on to greater things? Shall we not believe God to take us on to greater manifestations of His power? His call for us is to forget the things that are behind, and reach forth unto the things which are before and to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Smith Wigglesworth, Ever Increasing Faith
“It is a blessed thing for a man, when he has brought his desires into a focus, so that they all centre in one object. When he has fifty different desires, his heart resembles a mire of stagnant water, spread out into a marsh, breeding miasma and pestilence; but when all his desires are brought into one channel, his heart becomes like a river of pure water, running swiftly to fertilize the fields. Happy is he who hath one desire, if that one desire be set on Christ, though it may not yet have been realized. If Jesus be a soul’s desire, it is a blessed sign of divine work within. Such a man will never be content with mere ordinances. He will say, ‘I want Christ; I must have him—mere ordinances are of no use to me; I want himself; do not offer me these; you offer me the empty pitcher, while I am dying of thirst; give me water, or I die. Jesus is my soul’s desire. I would see Jesus!’
“Is this thy condition, my reader, at this moment? Hast thou but one desire, and is that after Christ? Then thou art not far from the kingdom of heaven. Hast thou but one wish in thy heart, and that one wish that thou mayst be washed from all thy sins in Jesus’ blood? Canst thou really say, ‘I would give all I have to be a Christian; I would give up everything I have and hope for, if I might but feel that I have an interest in Christ?’ Then, despite all thy fears, be of good cheer, the Lord loveth thee, and thou shalt come out into daylight soon, and rejoice in the liberty wherewith Christ makes men free.”
Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening
“Plato has told you a truth; but Plato is dead. Shakespeare has startled you with an image; but Shakespeare will not startle you with any more. But imagine what it would be to live with such men still living, to know that Plato might break out with an original lecture tomorrow, or that at any moment Shakespeare might shatter everything with a single song. The man who lives in contact with what he believes to be a living Church is a man always expecting to meet Plato and Shakespeare tomorrow at breakfast. He is always expecting to see some truth that he has never seen before.”
G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
* * *
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son...” (Hebrews 1:1,2a)
* * *
I’ve been thinking about that Chesterton quote for the last couple of weeks. And thinking, in light of Hebrews 1, of how it might most clearly read for us:
“Jesus is the truth; and Jesus is alive. Jesus has startled us by being the image of the invisible God; and Jesus may startle us at any time and in manifold ways. Just imagine that we may live with such a Man living, and know that He is always speaking, always teaching, and that at any moment He can shatter everything with a single word. The man or woman who lives in contact with what we know to be a Living Christ is a man or woman expecting Him today and tomorrow at breakfast. He or she is always expecting to see Him, to hear Him, just as clearly as those disciples did at the beginning.”
“Would Jesus Christ have made [union with Himself] the most perfect and necessary way had there been evil or danger therein? No! all can travel this road to blessedness; and all are called thereto, as to the enjoyment of God, which alone is beatitude, both in this world and the next. I say the enjoyment of God Himself and not His gifts which, as they do not constitute essential beatitude, cannot fully content an immortal spirit: the soul is so noble, so great, that the most exalted gifts of God cannot fill its immense capacity with happiness unless the Giver also bestows Himself. Now the whole desire of the Divine Being is to give Himself to every creature, according to the capacity with which it is endued; and yet, alas! how reluctantly man suffers himself to be drawn to God! how fearful is he to prepare for Divine Union!
“Some say that we should not attempt, by our own ability, to place ourselves in this state. I grant it: but what a poor subterfuge is this? since I have all along asserted and proved that the utmost exertion of the highest created being could never accomplish this of itself: it is God alone must do it. The creature may, indeed, open the window; but it is the sun himself that must give the light...
“Since then none can attain this blessed state save those whom God Himself leads and places therein, we do not pretend to introduce any into it, but only to point out the shortest and safest road that leads to it: beseeching you not to be slowed in your progress by any external exercises, not to sit down a resident at the first inn, nor to be satisfied with the sweets which are tasted in the milk for babes. If the Water of Eternal Life is shown to some thirsty souls, how inexpressibly cruel would it be, by confining them to a round of external forms, to prevent their approaching it, so that their longing shall never be satisfied but they shall perish with thirst!
“Let us all agree in the way, as we all agree in the end, which is evident and incontrovertible. The way has its beginning, progress, and end; and the nearer we approach the end, the farther is the beginning behind us: it is only by proceeding from one that we can ever arrive at the other...”
A Method of Prayer
'Holiness is the very nature of God, and that alone is holy which God takes possession of and fills with Himself. God’s answer to the question, How could sinful man become holy? is, “Christ, the Holy One of God.” In Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, God’s holiness was revealed incarnate, and brought within reach of man. “I sanctify myself for them, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” There is no other way of our becoming holy, but by becoming partakers of the holiness of Christ. And there is no other way of this taking place than by our personal spiritual union with Him, so that through His Holy Spirit His holy life flows into us. “Of God are ye in Christ, who is made unto us sanctification.” Abiding by faith in Christ our sanctification is the simple secret of a holy life. The measure of sanctification will depend on the measure of abiding in Him; as the soul learns wholly to abide in Christ, the promise is increasingly fulfilled: “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly.”'
Andrew Murray, Abide in Christ
Later, Jesus spoke to the people again and said, “I am the light of the world. The man who follows me will never walk in the dark but will live his life in the light.”
This made the Pharisees say to him, “You are testifying to yourself — your evidence is not valid.”
Jesus answered, “Even if I am testifying to myself, my evidence is valid, for I know where I have come from and I know where I am going. But as for you, you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. (Note to you, dear reader: Keep that last phrase in mind.) You are judging by human standards, but I am not judging anyone. Yet if I should judge, my decision would be just, for I am not alone — the Father who sent me is with me. In your Law, it is stated that the witness of two persons is valid. I am one testifying to myself and the second witness to me is the Father who sent me.”
“And where is this father of yours?” they replied.
“You do not know my Father,” returned Jesus, “any more than you know me: if you had known me, you would have known him.” (From John 8)
To me, what’s fascinating in these back-and-forth comments is what Jesus’ words imply, rather than directly say. What does He say gives His testimony validity? “I know where I have come from and I know where I am going.” And where did He come from; where is He going? He tells us in verses 16 and 18: “the Father who sent me.” And the reason the Pharisees “have no idea” where He comes from or where He is going? He explains in verse 19: “You do not know my Father…”
Do you see?
For Jesus, the launching-point and destination for His life were one and the same: “the Father.” And, at all times, and in every situation, He was utterly surrounded: “the Father who sent me is with me.” There was never a moment when He was out of touch, out of alignment, out of step with His source, His goal, His climate: the life of the Father was His life.
The same is true – can be true; must be true! – for us: life is only to be found in the life of the Father as expressed to us in Jesus. The same totality of experience is well-expressed in that famous opening of Hebrews 12: “Surrounded then as we are by these serried ranks of witnesses, let us strip off everything that hinders us, as well as the sin which dogs our feet, and let us run the race that we have to run with patience, our eyes fixed on Jesus the source and the goal of our faith.”
What a joy that the goal of our faith is also the source of our faith: Jesus is our climate as the Father was His!
"When Jesus is with us, all is well, and nothing seems hard but when Jesus is absent, everything is difficult. When Jesus does not speak to the heart, all other comfort is unavailing; but if Jesus speaks but a single word, we are greatly comforted. Did not Mary rise at once from the place where she wept, when Martha said, 'The Master is come, and is asking for you'? (John 11:28) Oh, happy the hour when Jesus calls us from tears to joy of spirit! How arid and hard of heart you are without Jesus! How foolish and empty if you desire anything but Jesus! Surely, this is a greater injury to you than the loss of the whole world!
"What can the world offer you, without Jesus? To be without Jesus is hell most grievous; to be with Jesus is to know the sweetness of Heaven. If Jesus is with you, no enemy can harm you. Whoever finds Jesus finds a rich treasure, and a good above every good. He who loses Jesus, loses much indeed, and more than the whole world. Poorest of all men is he who lives without Jesus, and richest of all is he who stands in favor with Jesus.
"It is a great art to know how to hold converse with Jesus, and to know how to keep Jesus is wisdom indeed. Be humble and a man of peace, and Jesus will abide with you. But if you turn aside to worldly things, you will soon cause Jesus to leave you, and you will lose [the grace of His presence]. And if you drive Him away and lose Him, with whom may you take refuge, and whom will you seek for your friend? Without a friend, you cannot live happily, and if Jesus is not your best friend, you will be exceedingly sad and lonely; so it is foolish to trust or delight in any other. It is better to have the whole world as your enemy, than offend Jesus. Therefore, of all dear friends, let Jesus be loved first and above all.
"Love all men for Jesus' sake, but Jesus for Himself. Jesus Christ alone is to be loved with an especial love, for He alone is the best and most faithful of friends. In Him and for His sake love both friend and foe, and pray to Him for all of them, that all may know and love Him. Do not wish to become the object of especial praise or love, for this belongs to God alone, who has none like Himself. Do not desire that the heart of anyone be given wholly to yourself, and do not yield yourself wholly to the love of anyone; rather, let Jesus abide in you, and in every good person.
"Be pure and free of heart, untrammeled by any created thing. Offer to God a pure and spotless heart, if you wish to be at liberty, and see how gracious the Lord is. Unless His grace draw and guide you, you will never attain this; but once you have cast aside and forsaken all else, you may be united to Him alone."
Thomas à Kempis
Counsels on the Spiritual Life
He speaks The Parable of the Net
“Or the kingdom of Heaven is like a big net thrown into the sea collecting all kinds of fish. When it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore and sit down and pick out the good ones for the barrels, but they throw away the bad. That is how it will be at the end of this world. The angels will go out and pick out the wicked from among the good and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be tears and bitter regret.”
The next day…
Three boats are beached upon the pebbly shoreline. To the east, the faintest light of dawn is just beginning to reveal itself. The sound of the gulls is loud against the morning’s silence. The windtides lap and suck through the sand and pebbles, hissing. The faintest breeze is blowing gently through the fronds of the trees. Their soughing sound is rather soothing.
A group of men—some in the boats, some leaning against the gunwales, others ringed around the prows—are looking over the overnight’s catch. It was a fairly good haul for that particular spot at this particular season. The fishermen in the group look particularly pleased with their work.
Climbing out of the boats, they haul the doubled seines onto the brightening beach and the fishermen show the others how they typically separate their aquatic “wheat from the chaff.”
One of the others turns toward their teacher: “This is exactly what you were talking about yesterday, isn’t it?”
The teacher, grinning, nods.
There is more hid in Christ than we shall ever learn, here or there either; but they that begin first to inquire will soonest be gladdened with revelation; and with them he will be best pleased, for the slowness of his disciples troubled him of old. To say that we must wait for the other world, to know the mind of him who came to this world to give himself to us, seems to me the foolishness of a worldly and lazy spirit. The Son of God is the Teacher of men, giving to them of his Spirit—that Spirit which manifests the deep things of God, being to a man the mind of Christ. The great heresy of the Church of the present day is unbelief in this Spirit. The mass of the Church does not believe that the Spirit has a revelation for every man individually—a revelation as different from the revelation of the Bible, as the food in the moment of passing into living brain and nerve differs from the bread and meat.
George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons
* * *
Now Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God. He existed before creation began, for it was through him that every thing was made, whether spiritual or material, seen or unseen. Through him, and for him, also, were created power and dominion, ownership and authority. In fact, every single thing was created through, and for him. He is both the first principle and the upholding principle of the whole scheme of creation. And now he is the head of the body which is composed of all Christian people. Life from nothing began through him, and life from the dead began through him, and he is, therefore, justly called the Lord of all. It was in him that the full nature of God chose to live, and through him God planned to reconcile in his own person, as it were, everything on earth and everything in Heaven by virtue of the sacrifice of the cross.
And you yourselves, who were strangers to God, and, in fact, through the evil things you had done, his spiritual enemies, he has now reconciled through the death of his body on the cross, so that he might welcome you to his presence clean and pure, without blame or reproach. (Colossians 1:15-22, Phillips)
The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
* * *
[The Father] has by his own action given us everything that is necessary for living the truly good life, in allowing us to know the One who has called us to him, through his own glorious goodness. It is through him that God’s greatest and most precious promises have become available to us men, making it possible for you to escape the inevitable disintegration that lust produces in the world and to share in God’s essential nature. (2 Peter 1:3,4)
* * *
"It is in His presence and through His grace that whatever of fragrance or beauty may be found in us comes forth. Of Him as its source, through Him as its instrument, and to Him as its end, is all that is gracious and divine. But He Himself is better far than all that His grace works in us."
Hudson Taylor, Union and Communion
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 2:13-15, Phillips)
* * *
Our Life Himself came down into this world and took away our death. He slew it with his own abounding life, and with thunder in his voice he called us from this world to return to him in heaven… He did not linger on his way but ran, calling us to return to him, calling us by his words and deeds, by his life and death, by his descent into hell and his ascension into heaven. He departed from our sight, so that we should turn to our hearts and find him there. He departed, but he is here with us. He would not stay long with us, but he did not leave us… Your Life has come down from heaven: will you not now at last rise with him and live?
Augustine of Hippo, The Confessions
(R.S. Pine-Coffin, trans.)
I was reading through Ephesians 1:3-14 this week, and was so transported by the over-and-over-and-over repetition of all that He has accomplished for us! Below is a rendering of the Phillips translation, placing His actions at the head of each sentence/verse. This is what He's done, and who He is, for us:
"HE CHOSE" us to become, in Christ, His holy and blameless children living within His constant care.
"HE PLANNED", in His purpose of love, that we should be adopted as His own children through Jesus Christ...
"HIS GLORIOUS GENEROSITY", so praiseworthy, has made us welcome in the everlasting love He bears toward the Beloved.
"THROUGH HIM", at the cost of His own blood, we are redeemed, freely forgiven through that full and generous grace which has overflowed into our lives and opened our eyes to the truth.
"GOD HAS ALLOWED" us to know the secret of His plan, and it is this:
"HE PURPOSES" in his sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in Christ, that everything that exists in Heaven or earth shall find its perfection and fulfillment in Him. And here is the staggering thing - that in all which will one day belong to Him we have been promised a share...
"SINCE HE DESTINED" us for this long ago, this One who achieves His purposes by His sovereign will, so that we, as the first to put our confidence in Christ, may bring praise to His glory! And you too trusted Him, when you had heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation.
Then "HE STAMPED YOU WITH HIS PROMISED HOLY SPIRIT", after you gave your confidence to Him, as a guarantee of purchase...
And "HE HAS PAID FOR US AS HIS OWN" and will complete the redemption, which will again be to the praise of His glory.
My friends, in view of all that He has done, been, allowed, planned, and carried out for us, what sort of people ought we to be this week? How will the world around us experience His life within us? How will we experience His life within us?
Perhaps the reason we sometimes are embarrassed to speak of Jesus is because we, consciously or unconsciously, realize how little we have to speak of. We're suddenly afraid our rote religious knowledges don't translate. (Which is generally the case.)
But overflowing life—overflowing experience of His life—will always speak for itself. Personal, alive experience of Jesus of Nazareth, day to day, is uncontainable.
We must do everything in our power today, and this week, from our side, to engage with Him directly. He is the Way, the Truth, the Life. He is also the Way to His Truth and His overflowing Life.
Let us abide in Him.
“The very center of the Christian faith is the Incarnation, in which the Divine Word becomes flesh – the Idea becomes Fact. All other faiths are the word become word, the idea projected as an idea. In Jesus the Idea walked. It spoke in human life and manifested Itself in human relationships. It transformed religion from idealism to realism. Where this faith is sincerely tried, it becomes incarnate as fact. It works in human relationships. And where it is tried, it produces something so exquisitely beautiful that we stand ‘lost in wonder, love, and praise.’”
E. Stanley Jones, Growing Spiritually