John the Baptist, speaking: "For the one whom God sent speaks the authentic words of God — and there can be no measuring of the Spirit given to him! The Father loves the Son and has put everything into his hand. The man who believes in the Son has eternal life. The man who refuses to believe in the Son will not see life; he lives under the anger of God." (John 3:34-36)
While John the Baptist lands with a THUD on that position of non-acceptance, let’s go back and consider all the glories he first attributes to Jesus:
1) He “speaks the authentic words of God” – The Incarnate God, the “Word,” cannot fail, every time He opens His mouth, to speak the authentic, fresh, original words of God. In other words, Jesus letting out a sigh is Scripture!
2) “there can be no measuring of the Spirit given to him” – And, actually, because the Greek in this phrase is fairly porous, it can also mean that there’s no measuring of the Holy Spirit Jesus can give. Glory!
3) “The Father loves the Son…” – John the Baptist is the first Christ-follower who understands the Father-Son relationship going on in front of him; he’s the first to speak of the Father-God as Father.
4) “and [the Father] has put everything into his hand” – It’s difficult to put this concept into other words. It’s almost like the exact polar opposite to the power of the U.S. President as he carries around with him the nuclear launch-codes. That power, in the negative, is the power of universal catastrophic death. Instead, Jesus carried with Him the fullness of all the heavenly things; He, a Man, walked along holding universal supernatural LIFE.
5) So, INDEED “the man who believes in the Son has eternal life” – And that’s not just “someday in Heaven” sort of language. The word for “has” here is in the 3rd Person, Present Indicative Active; the one “believing” today “HAS life eternal," ALREADY, TODAY. Are you presently experiencing that verb-tensing as your inheritance-in-Him?
And how do all these descriptions hit your heart today?
Then Jesus took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee and began to be in terrible distress and misery. “My heart is nearly breaking,” he told them, “stay here and keep watch with me.” Then he walked on a little way and fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from me—yet it must not be what I want, but what you want.” (Matthew 26:37-39)
Words with which we're intimately familiar. We've all heard all the talks and sermons about this passage before.
But: did you know that, in Matthew's account, that's not actually what He says? Read it in the original:
"Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you."
Out of His own experience of being human, Jesus has learned the inner reality of what it means to have a will and to express - to act upon - that will. Like us, He had a mind that perceived, pondered and made decisions; like us, He had a will that operated at His soul/spirit level. But read it again:
"Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you."
What if Jesus is telling us here that what we think of as "the will of God" is inseparable from the very nature of God: "but as you"? What if the seat of the so-called "will" in God is actually only His soul/spirit, ie. the Holy Spirit? Thus, what if to know the Spirit is to know all the mysteries of God? What if to release our own will is the first step into a complete absorption into His very being: "but as you"?
I think we think of our lives as this balancing act between "my will" and "God's will"; what if it's actually a question of your will vs. the I AM? Your little drop in the bucket vs. THE WHOLE OCEAN?
In Luke's Gospel, we get to witness an interesting little scene between Jesus and His disciples, regarding prayer and "how to pray." The text from Luke 11 is below in bold italics with some thoughts to follow each stanza:
One day it happened that Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said, “Lord, teach us how to pray, as John used to teach his disciples.”
"When you pray,” returned Jesus, and you can picture the Twelve piously closing their eyes…
“you should say, ‘Father… All their eyes must’ve immediately opened. “No, Jesus! We want you to teach us how to pray, not just hear how you do it! Something like, ‘O Eternal Smiter of the Amalekites, Jebusites, Hittites etc…’” But Jesus actually meant this opener, didn't He? He wants you and I to draw near to the Creator and Sustainer of all things, lifting up our hands and hearts to Him, and begin with…"Dad!" Doesn’t that thought make your heart leap with joy?
may your name be honored… By which we’re expressing both our desire and our personal intent. Do we want to see His name honored? Well then, let’s honor it ourselves...
may your kingdom come! When we pray these words, we’re doing three concurrent things: 1) We’re drawing a demarcation between this world and the Heavenly Kingdom of Jesus 2) We’re expressing our desire that His Kingdom’s “otherness” would actually show up 3) Hopefully we’re aligning our lives and hearts with the doings that actually cause that Kingdom to arrive on the scene.
Give us each day the bread we need… This phrase reminds our minds and hearts that only He provides for our needs. And that our need/desire/gratitude should only look to this particular day, not to the future. For He gives no frame of reference for weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual consumption of bread, does He? He is the provider of the manna, after all...
and forgive us our sins, for we forgive anyone who owes anything to us… This is the only phrase He prays with a qualifying clause: “Please do this for us because we’re already doing it ourselves…” And I love how casually He seems to throw that last part in! Imagine Him looking at His friends with twinkling eyes and a hint of a smile, as He prayed these words. That clause calls up - or it should call up - hearts of true forgiveness in us everyday: Our forgiveness by Him must elicit forgiveness of others for Him...
and keep us clear of temptation.’” Remember: Our greatest weapon against sin – in fact, our only weapon against sin – is the hand and presence of our God, leading us along. Truly, we have nothing else but Him!
"…Yes, and the Father will show the Son even greater things than these to fill you with wonder. For just as the Father raises the dead and makes them live, so does the Son give life to any man he chooses…" John 5:20b,21
These two sentences are so unbelievable that I need to take a moment to type out – to get out – all my potential language of hyperbole: magnificent! marvelous! overwhelming! grandiose! transcendent! awesome! utterly stupefying! (Thank you.) But, in all seriousness, as you read through Jesus' words, did you catch the echo of a wording of another of His greatest promises? Go back and reread them and see if you can catch it…
So gloriously preposterous is the conclusion to which I’m about to drive that its foundational truth – foundational! – is the statement: “For just as the Father raises the dead and makes them live…” You know about that, right? How the Heavenly Father, in the presence of death, may simply snap His fingers and – BOOM! – you’re back to life?
To Jesus, this spoken half-sentence seems almost a casual reference; for His First Century Jewish listeners, they’ve only ever heard of three such cases in all recorded human history: Elijah and the widow’s son; Elisha and the son of the Shunammite woman; and that guy whose body got thrown into Elisha’s tomb, touched his bones and came back to life. Yes - Jesus says - “For just as the Father raises the dead… so does the Son give life to any man He chooses.”
For me, in preparing to teach through this chapter, I’ve often just stared into space at the wonder of that thought! Do you grasp the equivalency that Jesus is purposely setting up here: “For just as…so…”? How would you react if you were at a funeral and the dead person suddenly sat up in their coffin and came back to life? You would jump out of your skin. Yet, according to Jesus, your natural reaction to that should mirror the way people are consistently reacting to the New Life expressing itself in and through you...
Which brings me to my point: “Yes, and the Father will show the Son even greater things than these to fill you with wonder.” The very next time that that phrasing “even greater things” is used – μείζονα in the Greek – here is what Jesus is saying: “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.” (John 14:12)
Do you understand? According to John 5:20, the Father is planning to show the Son “even greater things” that will fill the world the whole world with wonder; and where, according to John 14:12, will those “even greater things” occur? In our lives!
May it be so today!
"We did not want any of you to lose heart at the troubles you were going through, but to realize that we Christians must expect such things. Actually we did warn you what to expect, when we were with you, and our words have come true, as you know. You will understand that, when the suspense became unbearable, I sent someone to find out how your faith was standing the strain, and to make sure that the tempter’s activities had not destroyed our work." 1 Thessalonians 3:3-5
Hear Jesus Himself along these same lines: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own. But because you do not belong to the world and I have chosen you out of it, the world will hate you. Do you remember what I said to you, ‘The servant is not greater than his master’? If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you as well, but if they have followed my teaching, they will also follow yours. They will do all these things to you as my disciples because they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. The man who hates me, hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them things that no other man has ever done, they would not have been guilty of sin, but as it is they have seen and they have hated both me and my Father. Yet this only fulfills what is written in their Law — ‘They hated me without a cause.’ But when the helper comes, that is, the Spirit of truth, who comes from the Father and whom I myself will send to you from the Father, he will speak plainly about me. And you yourselves will also speak plainly about me for you have been with me from the first.” (John 15)
Certainly Paul had sat with Peter and John and the others, and been told of these very words from Jesus. He knew plain-speaking about Him would invariably result in trouble… and so must we! But if we learn to receive our life, good and bad, as if from the Lord’s hand, we’ll learn to look to Him at all times, even in hardship. The pains we bear we’ll learn to bear for this exalted reason:
“Your fight against sin has not yet meant the shedding of blood, and you have perhaps lost sight of that piece of advice which reminds you of our sonship in God: ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by him; for whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives’. Bear what you have to bear as ‘chastening’ — as God’s dealing with you as sons. No true son ever grows up uncorrected by his father. For if you had no experience of the correction which all sons have to bear you might well doubt the legitimacy of your sonship. After all, when we were children we had fathers who corrected us, and we respected them for it. Can we not much more readily submit to a heavenly Father’s discipline, and learn how to live?” (Hebrews 12:4-9)
"To you whom I love I say, let us go on loving one another, for love comes from God. Every man who truly loves is God’s son and has some knowledge of him. But the man who does not love cannot know him at all, for God is love. To us, the greatest demonstration of God’s love for us has been his sending his only Son into the world to give us life through him. We see real love, not in that fact that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to make personal atonement for our sins. If God loved us as much as that, surely we, in our turn, should love each other!" 1 John 4:7-11
When you look up the word "love" in the dictionary, here are the first four definitions given:
(1) : strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties
(2) : attraction based on sexual desire
(3) : affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests
b : an assurance of affection
Okay. Very nice. Thank you, Merriam-Webster.
But what the apostle John wants you and I to realize, and to walk into this day living, is that, in reality, these are the only true definitions of real love:
(1) : Jesus Himself
(2) : His life that, living among us, gives life
(3) : Literal self-sacrificial, blood-soaked, complete personal atonement that is not only unconditional in scope but, maybe more impressively, without pre-condition: “not in the fact that we loved God, but that He loved us…”
Or, to put it another way:
“Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind. Jesus does not envy, Jesus does not boast, Jesus is not proud. Jesus does not dishonor others, Jesus is not self-seeking, Jesus is not easily angered, Jesus keeps no record of wrongs. Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Jesus always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Jesus never fails.”
What a wonder to be loved first by this Man!
"Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And by common consent they all used to meet in Solomon’s Porch..." Acts 5:12
This was the place in the Temple environs where, two chapters before, they'd preached the message after healing the man that caused 2,000 to believe... and themselves to be arrested for the first time. But, for the original disciples, this place had more meaning than just that. The year before this, during the Festival of Dedication, what is today called Hanukkah, Jesus Himself had gone on a walk through Solomon’s Porch. So for Peter and James and John, to meet in this place was instantly to remember His presence, the way He walked, the way He talked, the way – on that day – He’d spoken these words in this place:
“My sheep recognize my voice and I know who they are. They follow me and I give them eternal life. They will never die and no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. And no one can tear anything out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are One.” … “If I fail to do what my Father does, then do not believe me. But if I do, even though you have no faith in me personally, then believe in the things that I do. Then you may come to know and realize that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (John 10)
Now, on the very same stones, standing under that same Jerusalem sky, these men and women, His “sheep,” are living their lives as “one” with Him, “He in they and they in Him,” and the life they live in Him is, without a doubt, “eternal.” Their presence together there on these days is the visible proof of the power of His words on that earlier day, walking around Himself, at Hanukkah.
May He be so present, and visibly noticeable, in us this week, my friends!
Jesus, speaking instruction to the Twelve: "Be on your guard against men. For they will take you to the court and flog you in their synagogues. You will be brought into the presence of governors and kings because of me—to give your witness to them and to the heathen. But when they do arrest you, never worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be told at the time what you are to say. For it will not be really you who are speaking but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." Matthew 10:17-20
Isn't that the most miraculous promise? Jesus is saying that the external world, with all its pressures and threats and anxieties and trials, is secondary to our internal life. If we are able to meet with the Spirit of the Father in our heart and mind, we have nothing to fear in the whole world outside ourselves.
Do we live that way?
Do we value that inner dialogue above all else?
Are we living situationally - meaning, in every single situation - where our first recourse is to listen for His voice from within?
I can't stop thinking of just how free He was making His friends... just... to truly live!
May the Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father (who has loved us and given us unending encouragement and unfailing hope by his grace) inspire you with courage and confidence in every good thing you say or do. (2 Thessalonians 2:16,17)
Today, if you're ever feeling like your courage is running out, turn immediately to Jesus and ask Him for His encouragement that is “unending.”
Likewise, if your hope feels like it's failing you, lift your eyes to Him and ask Him for His hope that can never, ever, ever fail.
And thank you, Jesus, for the promise of your instantaneously transferable spiritual attributes! What a blessed gift is our life in you today! We belong to you and You belong to us!
At the end of the book of Joshua, Joshua gathers the people of Israel to give them his last words before he's parted from them forever. Both the final two chapters are his words to them: very poignant and pointed. But it struck me last summer that, if you only changed the context a little, changing some phrasing and the background of which Covenant we're under, his words are amazingly like something Jesus could've said.
So, as a start to our workweek, consider Joshua 23 in that new, New Covenant way:
Once the forty days after the Resurrection had passed, after Jesus had given 'life and life to the full' to His believers, and He was ready to return to the Father, He called for His disciples, for their hearers and eventual spiritual descendants, for you and for me, and said to all of us, “I have completed the days of my earthly ministry; I have died and, in your sight, lived again. You have seen all that the Father can do through my Name; for it is the Father who has lived His life in me, and I in Him. Behold, I have allotted to you the very same interrelationship – we call it 'Abiding' – to be an inheritance for you, starting in Jerusalem with my disciples, into Judaea, into Samaria and, eventually, to the ends of the earth. By living our heavenly life within you, I, the Father, and our dear friend, the Holy Spirit, will thrust Satan from before you, and drive him from out of your sight. You shall possess my Kingdom, as I have spoken to you.
“Therefore be very courageous to daily approach my Throne with confidence, to Abide in me as I Abide in you, in order that you may keep and do all that I have spoken to my disciples and will speak to your spirit, that you do not turn aside from me to the right hand or to the left; that you do not continue on anymore as a slave to sin, or to the world that remains around you; neither make mention of the name of their cultural gods, nor cause to swear by their seeming power or intrigue, neither serve their idolatrous needs, nor bow down yourselves to the world’s fleeting pleasures and experiences; but Abide in me, and I in you, as I invite you to do everyday.
“For I have driven out the evil one from before you forever. But as for you, no plan of his can prosper against you now that you are part of my Kingdom. One man of you shall stand against a thousand of his temptations; for it is I, Jesus, your Savior who fights for you, as I am speaking to you now. Take good heed therefore to yourselves, that you Abide in me, even as I Abide in you.
“But if you do at all go back, if you forget that you are now a slave to righteousness, no longer to sin, if you fall under the sway of the world, of Self, of sin, and make mistakes among them, and go in their ways, and they take over yours; know for a certainty that I, Jesus, will forgive you in my sight; and that I shall take ahold of you, chasten you as a good Father, looking you in the eyes, until you learn to love my good land, my wondrous Kingdom, my Way, which I, Jesus, have given to you personally.
“Behold, today I am going to ascend back to my Father. You know in all your hearts and souls that not one thing has failed to be revealed in Me of all the good things which the Father spoke concerning Me. All has happened so that you may believe. Not one good and glorious promise has failed to be fulfilled in Me. It shall happen that as all the good things of your Heavenly inheritance come to you of which the Father spoke through Me, so the Father will bring on you even more good things, until he has built up in you the fullness of the Kingdom which He has already given you, while you obey the New Covenant, sworn between Myself and My Father, which I have sealed for you in My blood, and then go into all the world to serve Me, and bow your hearts before Me. Then the Father’s delight will be kindled towards you, and you will live forever in the heavenly reality which He has given to you.”
Let's follow Him into this week, Brothers and Sisters!
These are the inheritances which the children of Israel took in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the tribes of the children of Israel, distributed to them, by the lot of their inheritance, as Yahweh commanded by Moses, for the nine tribes, and for the half-tribe. For Moses had given the inheritance of the two tribes and the half-tribe beyond the Jordan; but to the Levites he gave no inheritance among them. (Joshua 14:1-4)
As you'd be told if you kept reading till Chapter 18, this was because the Levites' duties as priests, their access to Yahweh Himself, were the inheritances they were meant to enjoy and delight themselves in. What an important reminder for us! Whether you read these words as one with great earthly wealth or as someone struggling to get by, your only real inheritance – the place from which you should derive all your identity and joy – is your access to Jesus and, by Him, His Father. Everything else is as nothing. His love - and the service of that love - is everything.
"But you are God’s 'chosen generation,' his 'royal priesthood,' his 'holy nation,' his 'peculiar people' — all the old titles of God’s people now belong to you..." 1 Peter 2
"Everything that my Father gives me will come to me and I will never refuse anyone who comes to me. For I have come down from Heaven, not to do what I want, but to do the will of him who sent me. The will of him who sent me is that I should not lose anything of what he has given me, but should raise it up when the last day comes. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son and trusts in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up when the last day comes." John 6:37-40
How often we hear people say, and even say ourselves, "Oh, I wish I knew the Lord's will" for some decision we need to make, or crisis, or question we’re presently pondering. But in those last two verses, Jesus tells us the Will of God: 1) that He "should not lose anything of what [the Father] has given [Him]" and 2) "that everyone who sees the Son and trusts Him should have eternal life." THE Will of God is to possess and redeem. How stunning!
But did you notice that each of these will-of-God statements is binary, meaning they’re composed of two parts? The first part in each was different, but the second was the same: He will "raise [them] up when the last day comes." The word John uses there for "raise up" means just that - "to raise up" or "raise from the dead" - but it also has a lesser definition that goes beautifully with what we know to be one of the truest definitions of our lives-in-Him: "to produce a witness."
THE Will of God is to possess and redeem, that we might be raised up - raised from the dead, in fact - and produced as witnesses of what we know and have seen of Him.
“But, Eugene,” you might say, “it would still really help to know His particular will in this one particular decision I’m trying to make.” Well, here’s your decision-making grid: “I have come down from Heaven, not to do what I want, but to do the will of Him who sent me.” The “wants” of Jesus were nothing when compared to His delighted, intimate, listening, waiting-upon expectation of having the will of God daily revealed to Him. Can’t you see Him out in those lonely places in the pre-dawn hours, simply waiting and receiving word of the Father’s particular will for each particular day?
May it be so for us as well!
[The wily Gibeonites said to Joshua] - “Your servants have come from a very far country because of the name of Yahweh your God; for we have heard of his fame, all that he did in Egypt, and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon and to Og king of Bashan, who was at Ashtaroth. Our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spoke to us, saying, ‘Take supplies in your hand for the journey, and go to meet them. Tell them, “We are your servants. Now make a covenant with us.”’ This our bread we took hot for our supplies out of our houses on the day we went out to go to you; but now, behold, it is dry, and has become moldy. These wine skins, which we filled, were new; and behold, they are torn. These our garments and our shoes have become old because of the very long journey.” The men sampled their provisions, and didn’t ask counsel from Yahweh’s mouth. (Joshua 9:9-14)
When we read this account, our temptation may be to scoff at the foolishness of watching Yahweh hold up a river, shatter a city with shouts, turn the tide of battle supernaturally, and yet not pause here for a little prayer. But, really, don’t we do the same thing everyday?
Consider all the countless ways you’ve seen the hand of the Lord manifest His miracles across the whole sweep of your life in Him – and even before you knew Him. Think of how He’s personally proven Himself to be so present in your circumstances; how He’s, in fact, given you His Holy Spirit to be your “Counselor.” Yet not a day passes when we don’t forget to ask counsel from Yahweh’s mouth; we’ll consult just about anything and anyone – our friends, our feelings, our first impulse – before we approach Him. And yet, my friends, there is nothing that we can’t approach Him for; He delights to counsel and lead and guide His children – let us come to Him! Yes, let us approach Him for His counsel, right now, today, all day long, and everyday, as He delights to incline His ear to our questions and considerations!
"Let the presence of God be thy one desire; the will of God thy one choice; the help of God thy one trust; the likeness to God thy one hope. Let every day, the most ordinary one, the most difficult one, be a day with God, as one of the days of heaven upon earth, a day of which faith is the beginning and the end."
Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All
“The living center round which all the perfections of God cluster, the living energy through which they all do their work, is the will of God. The will of God is the life of the universe; it is what it is because God wills it; His will is the living energy which maintains it in existence. The creature can have no more of God than he has of God's will working in him. He that would meet and find God must seek Him in His will; union with God's will is union with Himself. Therefore it was that the Lord Jesus, when He came to this world, always spoke of His having come to do one thing—the will of His Father. This alone could work our salvation.”
Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All
“When He ascended to heaven, and sat down on the right hand of the throne, He received from the Father anew and in fullest measure, as the Son of Man, the gift of the Holy Ghost to bestow on His people (Acts ii. 33). That Spirit was to Him the oil of joy, the joy that had been set before Him, the joy of His crowning day when He saw of the travail of His soul. An anointing above His fellows, for there was none like Him; God gave Him the Spirit without measure. And yet for His fellows, His redeemed, whom, as Head, He had made members of His body. They become partakers of His anointing and His joy. As He said, 'The Lord hath anointed Me to give the oil of joy.' Christ, our King, our God, is anointed with the oil of joy, anointed, too, to give the oil of joy: His kingdom is one of everlasting gladness, of joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All
After Achan stole some consecrated items and Israel's defeat by Ai, in Joshua 7, with some notes in italics -
Joshua tore his clothes, and fell to the earth on his face before Yahweh’s ark until the evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. Joshua said, “Alas, Lord Yahweh, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to cause us to perish? I wish that we had been content and lived beyond the Jordan! Oh, Lord, what shall I say, after Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and will surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. What will you do for your great name?” I don’t know about you, but I can completely hear myself praying this kind of prayer after I’ve failed to take into account the Lord’s voice and then, on my own strength, failed completely. Here would be my own scene – perhaps you can relate:
Eugene threw himself on the couch, covered his face with hands, pulled out his hair, over the kind of day he’d had that day. He said, “Alas, Lord God, why have you chosen me at all, if you’re going to let be delivered into a day like this; a day so miserable? I wish I could be like everyone else whose life just works out! Oh, Lord, what can I say, after I’ve made such a mess of today! For the people all around me, my family, my friends, my acquaintances, will hear of it, because they surround me, and point at my ‘faith’ and laugh. What will you do for your great name – to rescue my good name?”
At no point in such a scene do I ever remember that – at the start of that day – I’d launched right in without an ounce of sense of what He was saying about the day. And no wonder Yahweh answers Joshua as He does!
Yahweh said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face like that? Israel has sinned. Yes, they have even transgressed my covenant which I commanded them. Yes, they have even taken some of the devoted things, and have also stolen, and also deceived. They have even put it among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel can’t stand before their enemies.” To continue my previous parallel, when I lament the way a particular day of my life has gone, I think these words of Yahweh to Joshua are similar – accounting, of course, for our New Covenant context – to what I myself might hear from Him:
The Lord then says to me, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face like that? You have been set free of sin. You have forgotten the truth of the New Covenant which my Son has given you. You have forgotten that you’re one of my devoted things, and you have neglected my voice, and been deceived. You have mixed yourself up with the world’s stuff. Without me, without my assurance of your limitless freedom, you can’t stand before the Enemy.”
At every point in such a word to me does He know that – all day, every minute – He’d already been speaking to me, breaking through, and communicating His presence. What a joy that we follow such a One who actually speaks!
“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..."
“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!
“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.
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!
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
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!