What I Have Become/What I Am
“I am no more than a child, but my Father lives for ever and I have a Protector great enough to save me. For he who begot me and he who watches over me are one and the same, and for me there is no good but you, the Almighty, who are with me even before I am with you. So to such as you command me to serve I will reveal, not what I have been, but what I have become and what I am.”
Augustine of Hippo
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Consider the incredible love that the Father has shown us in allowing us to be called “children of God”—and that is not just what we are called, but what we are. Our heredity on the Godward side is no mere figure of speech—which explains why the world will no more recognise us than it recognised Christ. Oh, dear children of mine (forgive the affection of an old man!), have you realised it? Here and now we are God’s children. We don’t know what we shall become in the future. We only know that, if reality were to break through, we should reflect his likeness, for we should see him as he really is! (1 John 3:1,2, Phillips)
A Man They Knew
Salvation comes not by “accepting the finished work” or “deciding for Christ.” It comes by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, the whole, living, victorious Lord who, as God and man, fought our fight and won it, accepted our debt as His own and paid it, took our sins and died under them and rose again to set us free. This is the true Christ, and nothing less will do…
The argument of the apostles is that the Man Jesus has been made higher than angels, higher than Moses and Aaron, higher than any creature in earth or heaven. And this exalted position He attained as a man. As God He already stood infinitely above all other beings. No argument was needed to prove the transcendence of the Godhead. The apostles were not declaring the preeminence of God, which would have been superfluous, but of a man, which was necessary.
Those first Christians believed that Jesus of Nazareth, a man they knew, had been raised to a position of Lordship over the universe. He was still their friend, still one of them, but had left them for a while to appear in the presence of God on their behalf. And the proof of this was the presence of the Holy Spirit among them.
One cause of our moral weakness today is an inadequate Christology. We think of Christ as God but fail to conceive of Him as a man glorified. To recapture the power of the Early Church we must believe what they believed. And they believed they had a God-approved man representing them in heaven.
Man: The Dwelling Place of God
"I Must Hear Again Today"
“There is no such thing as mature and assured possession of faith: regarded psychologically, it is always a leap into the darkness of the unknown, a flight into empty air. Faith is not revealed to us by flesh and blood (Matt. xvi. 17): no one can communicate it to himself or to any one else. What I heard yesterday I must hear again to-day; and if I am to hear it afresh to-morrow, it must be revealed by the Father of Jesus, who is in heaven, and by Him only.”
The Epistle to the Romans
Inverse-Ecclesiastes, Chapter 11
11 Cast your cares upon the One who is the Bread of Life,
for He is the meaning of our days.
Give yourself to Him every day of every week,
for you know not their meaning; and He does.
He “sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous,”
and empties His mercy even upon the unmerciful;
He took the curse for all by hanging upon a tree--
in that place where the tree stood, all is already finished.
Let us listen for the winding winds of the Spirit,
and regard well the ways of the Way of Jesus.
Since we know that the Spirit comes from Jesus and the Father, so we know the way to know the work He means us to do.
Each morning meet Him; every evening consider your day together; for you know that what is in Him will prosper, no matter what, and that a day with Him is always for your good.
His light is life, and it pleasant for the eyes of our heart to regard the Son.
No matter the length of your life, “this is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” And remember: each day is suited to the experience of His presence; every day may find its meaning and purpose in pursuit of Him.
Brothers and sisters, let us rejoice! May our hearts be full of His joy today! Let us walk in His ways with our eyes firmly fixed on Him! For we know that we’ve been set free of judgment: you and I are free!
Today, I set aside all anxiety, distrust and unbelief; I take up your joy and peace; I embrace your plans and purposes. All in you, Jesus, is wonder and glory. Amen.
Inverse-Ecclesiastes, Chapter 8
8 Who looks like Jesus?
He who interprets all his existence through Him.
Daily experience of Jesus alters the outward countenance,
and His wondrous joy becomes our inner and outer life.
I remind you: Follow our King’s words and Way, because of the New Covenant He has set with our Father. Be ever in His presence; never outside. Take the positions He Himself took in this world; never others. For the Way of our King is magnificent and unassailable, and none are those who can honestly say of it, “This is not the highest.” Each of us who keeps upon it, walking its straight narrowness, finds it daily to be life, and its footfalls to be the path unto wisdom and righteousness. For it is sweeping in its breadth of experience, because it is the living Way of a Man who Himself lived through all earthly trials. For He tasted every part of our existence; who can say that Jesus doesn’t understand us? No other has ever perfectly walked in obedience, guided perfectly by the Spirit of God, all the way to the point of dying a willed death. There was no shirking it: He died to free all people of their wickedness; to deliver mankind from the “vicious circle of sin and death.” (All this we know, of course, but what I’m endeavoring to do is draw these truths a little lower: all the way down from your head to your heart. I want to see you knowing these things, not knowing about them.)
Too, the Righteous One was buried for us. He who’d freely walked the earth, going in and out of towns, villages, synagogues, homes, was truly dead and gone. This was part of His most glorious glory. Because the sentence hanging over our heads—the penalty due for all who’d engaged in sin—involved our dying, He both died for us and was dead for us. And though a world of sinners continues on with their lives, we know the truth: it may be instantly well if they will only hear, turn, repent and believe. Yes, all mankind—from the saintliest earthly saint to the vilest wicked man or woman—is only a repentant half-turn away from the face of salvation. The Cross and Tomb are both right here: available.
This is the meaning of our heavenly-earthly lives upon this earth, that each of us is meant to live out His righteousness, in His love and mercy, so that all people, everywhere, can sense the goodness of His righteousness, love and mercy. I tell you, this is a wondrous purpose! And He has given us His own peace and joy, for all people need to see His heavenly attributes lived in regular human lives, just like ours. These attributes will always linger long after we leave them; His Way with them begins as they see Heaven’s ways right in their midst.
And as we give ourselves to knowing Jesus, and to carrying out His work upon the earth—hindered by nothing because He is limitlessly powerful—we will get to see the wonders of God in our day, and that there are no things impossible because of the Son and His Spirit. Indeed, the more we seek Him out, the more we find of Him. Even the simplest person can find untold riches of wisdom by simply seeking Jesus.
Inverse-Ecclesiastes, Chapter 6
6 There is a joyous good that I have seen because of the Son, and it may be enjoyed by everyone: any man or woman to whom God gives Himself, so that they lack nothing, either spiritually or temporally, is also given the calling, and opportunity, to pass it on, even to a complete stranger. This is a marvelous thing for any disciple of His to do; it is a great miracle. If that man or woman lives seventy or eighty years, and continually shares the joy of Christ with others, just think of the brothers and sisters they will escort into the Kingdom of Heaven! What a joy! What purpose! For he or she “did not choose Jesus, but He chose them, and appointed them, that they might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” And here they are: knowing the Son themselves, finding rest in Him, and then extending the realm of the Kingdom during the span of their days. Even if their own life should be cut short, they may enjoy this glory today—changing the eternal life of another!
Every deed done for Jesus is of eternity; we may abide in Him, seek His Way, and always find our daily meaning. Every spiritual and earthly joy is already ours in Him! Whether rich or poor, the rule of life—the Way—is the same. So, how much better to fix our eyes upon the things that interested Him, to follow in His footsteps, than to give ourselves to the passing fancies of a dying age. We know the One on the other side of reality!
Indeed, He knows our every breath, He has numbered the hairs on our head, He has counted the course of our days; He knows exactly what we are—and loves us yet. The more of Him we receive, the greater glory; the higher advantage. For He knows precisely what is good for each one of us, having Himself lived this human life: He will teach us to live our lives like He did. Under the Son, we may rise to each new day and live it to the full.
Inverse-Ecclesiastes, Chapter 4
4 We have seen the way the Son bore all the embarrassments, indignities, and sufferings which are common to mankind. And look! He even shed tears with us in our pain, and was the comforter of all who mourned. Then He put Himself between the powerful oppressor of humanity, and defeated that one who’d robbed us of all comfort. And when that evil one thought that Jesus was dead—slinking off in his diabolical sense of cosmic triumph—he was in for the rudest sort of surprise, wasn’t he? For better than a martyr who’d die to set us free, leaving us orphans yet under the power of the evil one, is this One who’d die and return to us. That is the glory of this deed done by the perfect Son!
Now we see that all our lives and all the work intended for us is to acquaint mankind, all our “neighbors,” with the finished work of Jesus. This is our purpose and a work we do in tandem with the Holy Spirit.
The wise man gets to work on this, and abides in Christ.
What a joy it is to walk in perfect peace with the One who formed us by His hand, and now fills us with His own Spirit!
Again, I get glimpses of this great purpose of ours: one person may always help another, whether they be close acquaintances or strangers, for there is never any end to the people we’ll meet, and our eyes are almost always upon another who needs Him, so that we need never ask, “What is your will, Lord Jesus?” For there they are: people are the direction of God’s love: what a joy to partner with Him to reach everyone, everywhere, everyday.
And remember: We are never alone. We are forearmed with the power of the One who’s already lived this life. If we stumble, He is there to lift us up. Always. How foolish of us to forget He is ever with us or to neglect to call upon Him for the help that He so delightedly gives! Whether we are lying down, or rising up, or sitting at work, He is there beside us, and within us. And if we ever forget the nearness of His presence, He has given us an internal witness—His own heartbeat, the Holy Spirit, now lives inside us.
How much better to be “poor in spirit,” possessing the Kingdom of Heaven today, than to live like the king of a land whose boundary-lines are ever encroaching; diminishing. For it is a form of imprisonment to try to found a life upon this world; it is a poverty-existence to found your hope upon this kingdom of sand. You and I may rise and live—we may follow after the Son with our everything today: He is the only King who stooped to save His every subject. And there’s no end of Him: He is infinite in His love and loveliness. Those who’ll follow after us will know Him by how we know Him today. Surely this, too, is our purpose and a joyous pursuit of His glory.
Inverse-Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3
3 Under the new economy of Heaven, there is a new season and a new Way for every matter upon the earth:
an opportunity to be reborn, and a chance never to die;
a call to plant seed, and a sending-out to reap the harvest;
a cheek to learn to turn; and His touch, through us, to heal;
an enemy already vanquished, and a Kingdom to upbuild;
a heart to weep with those who mourn; joy to laugh an honest laughter;
a comfort, within, everyday; a dance prepared for the Wedding Feast;
a freedom from judgment, and freedom from the need, ever, to judge;
a love that embraces all, and arms to be His own embrace;
a seeking that always finds, a losing-all that wills to gain all;
an eternal invitation, never to be lost, and no time to be lost in its enjoyment;
a Voice that calls away, and the same Voice who sends out;
the joy of His quiet presence, and the ecstasy of His alive life:
ever loved, freed from all hate and hatefulness;
sent to a cosmic battle that is only to be won through His peace.
What an unbelievable gain has the disciple in what he does for Jesus! I myself have experienced the joy that He has given to His sons and daughters, when consumed with that wondrous work. From within, He makes each of our days a journey with Himself. Yet, even still, He has made this Way an eternal pursuit: the day-by-day of life is swallowed up in the everlasting; the infinite. And I have learned that there is nothing higher, nothing better, than for us to live out His joy, His peace, so long as we live; also that we should learn, in quiet trust, simply to wait upon His provision—it is His promise unto us.
I have found that everything Jesus has done is “finished,” accomplished; the reconciliation of God and man is complete in Him. Every man, woman and child stands at the precipice of salvation; that which is done for them abides: God seeks to save all--through us.
And under the reign of the Son, there is eternal justice by bestowal of His righteousness, even where there was only wickedness before. He says in our hearts, “I came, not to judge the world, but to save it”—this was the purpose of His time, His ministry, His work. Too, He tells us that as sons and daughters of His, He will use all of our circumstances to train us and to purify our hearts. What happens to us is never in vain; as tragedy strikes, or uplift comes, He is working out His will in us. All we’ll ever know will come to us through His hand; there will be nothing in our journey that lacks His purpose and meaning. For all of it leads us back to Him. We are His work, and we walk His Way in His direction. We know where His Spirit within us tends: following after Him is leading us ever Heavenward. Thus I know that there is nothing higher, nothing better, than that we should rejoice in Him today, for that is the true heart of abiding.
Who can separate us from the love of Christ?
Inverse-Ecclesiastes, Chapter 2
2 He says in my heart now, “Come to Me; I will be your enjoyment; find your whole life in Me.” And look! I have found it to be true. He says of joy, “It is I Myself,” and of delight, “It is yours—come and take it.” I looked inside my heart to find the joy of His life—my heart the place of His personal residence—and I found His Spirit there, showing me what is good for His sons and daughters to be, and to do, during the fleeting days of their earthly lives. We are His great work. He is building us up as houses, temples, branches in the vineyard, of His own creation. He is making us into fruitful places, works of art, planting in us the virtues and beauties of His own virtue and beauty. He has filled us with “the oil of joy”—His Holy Spirit—so that our inner lives are ever watered; ever vibrant. We, His servants, are no longer slaves: we have been born a second time into sharing a place at the Family Table. All He has is ours: “the cattle on a thousand hills” belong to Him: now they belong to us. He will give us what we need—our daily bread—from the infinite storehouses of the same One who made manna. He will sing over us, we brothers and sister of His, and He will provide for us: He delights in His sons and daughters.
He is great, and He is beyond everything and everyone who has ever walked the face of the earth. And His Way and wisdom abide with us. And whatever we ask in His name He will not keep from us. He holds nothing back that is for our good, for His heart finds joy in our enjoyment of Him: this is our experience of the life of Heaven. Let us consider all that He has done for us, all the sacrifice and love He has already shown us, and remember! He is our meaning and our purpose within this life, and there is everything to be gained in the Son.
So let us turn to consider His wisdom and Way and righteousness. For what else can the man do who follows after the King of Kings? Only what he sees the Son doing—who thus watched the Father. And thus we see that there is infinitely more to know and gain of Him; there is no end to One who is both light and life. It is our wisdom to watch Him; we walk His Way by following Him. Abiding in Jesus is the heart’s highest sense of perception. Then He may say to our hearts, “What I have done, you may do. I will be your wisdom, and I will make you wise.” And I have found this to be true in my own heart. For if I remember and encounter Jesus, both historically and contemporaneously, I see that the days are rich and robust with His presence. His life and death become wisdom and joy to me! Oh, I love Him, because what the Son is doing in me is glorious beyond all telling, for it is His life and death and resurrection all over again--in me.
Too, I love the work He’s calling me to, seeing the way it spreads His Way to the generations who’ll come after me—who knows how far my life’s work may go? Those to come, the ones to whom I’ll carry the Gospel, may come to know the Son even better than I. Isn’t that wonderful? And it is for that reason that I rise to each new day and give my heart to Him who is the purpose of each new day, for in this way another who is struggling to find wisdom and a way to life may find them—through me—by observing my own pursuit. Isn’t that the highest version of my human life? In the end, what will any man or woman hold in their hands but those strivings and pursuits that have followed in the Way of the Son? Our days with Him are joy; our work for Him is life. Even in the midst of the darkest night, He is with us. For this too He promises.
There is nothing finer for a man or woman than that they should eat of Jesus, drink of Jesus, abide in Jesus, and follow Jesus. His is the hand of God, and, of Him, we may eat and drink and abide and find our full enjoyment. And from this One who perfectly pleases His Father—who has fulfilled all righteousness—we receive all wisdom and knowledge and joy, and this to sinners like us! Yes, to “those who needed a doctor,” He has given the business of knowing Him, following Him, coming into the full pleasure of God. This is our life’s meaning and purpose—and God’s plan.
Strength & Lovingkindness
“Thy God hath sent forth strength for thee.”
“The day lies before us. It will bring us things that in ourselves we have no strength to meet. That does not matter. Our God has already sent forth strength for us. It is like that other word, My God with His lovingkindness shall come to meet me. Strength and lovingkindness—what more do we need? That duty, that difficulty, which we see coming to meet us, what of it? Our God hath already sent forth strength for us, and before the thing we fear can meet us on the road, our God with His lovingkindness shall meet us there.”
Edges of His Ways
The Old Eden Language of Love
“Jesus is God spelling Himself out in language that man can understand. God and man used to talk together freely. But one day man went away from God. And then he went farther away. He left home. He left his native land, Eden, where he lived with God. He emigrated from God. And through going away he lost his mother-tongue.
“A language always changes away from its native land. Through going away from his native land man lost his native speech. Through not hearing God speak he forgot the sounds of the words. His ears grew dull and then deaf. Through lack of use he lost the power of speaking the old words. His tongue grew thick. It lost its cunning. And so gradually almost all the old meanings were lost.
“God has always been eager to get to talking with man again. The silence is hard on Him. He is hungry to be on intimate terms again with his old friend. Of course he had to use a language that man could understand. Jesus is God spelling Himself out so man can understand. He is the A and the Z, and all between, of the Old Eden language of love.
“Naturally enough man had a good bit of bother in spelling Jesus out. This Jesus was something quite new. When His life spoke the simple language of Eden again, the human heart with selfishness ingrained said, ‘That sounds good, but of course He has some selfish scheme behind it all. This purity and simplicity and gentleness can’t be genuine.’ Nobody yet seems to have spelled Him out fully, though they’re all trying: All on the spelling bench. That is, all that have heard. Great numbers haven’t heard about Him yet. But many, ah! many could get enough, yes, can get enough to bring His purity into their lives and sweet peace into their hearts.
“But there were in His days upon earth some sticklers for the old spelling forms. Not the oldest, mind you. Jesus alone stands for that. This Jesus didn’t observe the idioms that had grown up outside of Eden. These people had decided that these old forms were the only ones acceptable. And so they disliked Him from the beginning, and quarrelled with Him. These idioms were dearer to them than life—that is, than His life. So having quarrelled, they did worse, and then—softly--worst. But even in their worst, Jesus was God spelling Himself out in the old simple language of Eden. His best came out in their worst.
“Some of the great nouns of the Eden tongue—the God tongue—He spelled out big. He spelled out purity, the natural life of Eden; and obedience, the rhythmic harmony of Eden; and peace, the sweet music of Eden; and power, the mastery and dominion of Eden; and love, the throbbing heart of Eden. It was in biggest, brightest letters that love was spelled out. He used the biggest capitals ever known, and traced each in a deep dripping red, with a new spelling--S-A-C-R-I-F-I-C-E.”
Quiet Talks About Jesus
And Loves Us Still
"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
The Form of Christ Formed in Us
“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
The Beginning, Progress, and End
“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
Personal Spiritual Union
'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!
All HE Did & Does
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?
"To Do the Will of Him"
Then Jesus said to them, “I myself am the bread of life. The man who comes to me will never be hungry and the man who believes in me will never again be thirsty. Yet I have told you that you have seen me and do not believe. 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."
John 6:35-38, italics mine
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"Faith is that which, knowing the Lord's will goes and does it; or, not knowing it, stands and waits... But to put God to the question in any other way than by saying, 'What wilt thou have me to do?' is an attempt to compel God to declare Himself, or to hasten His work... The man is therein dissociating himself from God so far that, instead of acting by the divine will from within, he acts in God's face, as it were, to see what He will do. Man's first business is, 'What does God want me to do?', not 'What will God do if I do so and so?'"
George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons
"Habitual Gifts of Grace"
"We ourselves are eye-witnesses able and willing to testify to the fact that the Father did send the Son to save the world. Everyone who acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God lives in him, and he lives in God. So we have come to know and trust the love God has for us. God is love, and the man whose life is lived in love does, in fact, live in God, and God does, in fact, live in him. So our love for him grows more and more, filling us with complete confidence for the day when he shall judge all men—for we realize that our life in this world is actually his life lived in us." (1 John 4:14-17)
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"The closer any creature draws to God, the more it shares in His goodness and the more abundantly it is filled with gifts infused by Him. Thus he who comes closer to a fire shares to a greater extent in its heat. But there can be no way, nor can any be imagined, by which a creature more closely adheres to God than by being united to Him in unity of person. Therefore, in consequence of the very union of His human nature with God in unity of person, Christ’s soul was filled with habitual gifts of grace beyond all other souls. And so habitual grace in Christ is not a disposition for union, but is rather an effect of union."
Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica
A Pair of Augustinian Prayers
In The Confessions, Augustine of Hippo will occasionally break out into spontaneous, lovely, uplifting prayers of personal gratitude. I so appreciate his modeling of how, right in the midst of telling a story, one may turn aside to a separate conversation with Heaven. Isn't that how we want to learn to live?
Here are a couple of my favorites of those:
"You are there to free us from the misery of error which leads us astray, to set us on your own path and to comfort us by saying, ‘Run on, for I shall hold you up. I shall lead you and carry you on to the end.’"
"Come, O Lord, and stir our hearts. Call us back to yourself. Kindle your fire in us and carry us away. Let us scent your fragrance and taste your sweetness. Let us love you and hasten to your side."
This week, for myself and you, I pray we run along His path, letting Him hold us up, being led by Him and carried by Him toward His own ends. And, as we live each day, that He'd personally stir our hearts: drawing us nearer, kindling a heavenly fire, giving us scents and tastes of Himself. Friends, let's use these days - fleeting as they are! - to learn to love Him more and to hasten into more experience of His nearness.
"God Loves You Like That"
"Jeremiah heard God say that he would make a new covenant with the people, not like the covenant that he had once made with their fathers. This would be a covenant, not established by an externally imposed law, but written on their hearts and in their inward parts. It would be a covenant in which all men really and truly knew God. ‘I will forgive their iniquity,’ God said, ‘and I will remember their sin no more’ (Jer. 31.31-35). Two things stand out about this new covenant; it is a covenant based not on law but on the inward devotion of the heart, and there is no mention of sacrifice at all.
"Two things are to be noted in the words of Jesus, as Paul relates them—‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood’ (I Cor. 11.25). Jeremiah also speaks of the new covenant (Jer. 31.31; LXX 38.31). Both in Paul and in the Greek of Jeremiah the word for ‘new’ is kainos. Greek has two words for ‘new.’ There is neos, which is new only in point of time; a thing which is neos may simply be the most recent example or specimen of something which has for long existed and which has for long been produced. But kainos means not only new in point of time, but also new in point of kind or quality. With a thing which is kainos a new quality has entered into life and the world. Since that is so, a new (kainos) covenant is not simply an old covenant which has been renewed or restated; it is a covenant of a new and different kind. Second, Jesus says of this new covenant that it is in his blood. The Greek word for in is en; en can and does translate the Hebrew word be, which means at the price of. It may, therefore, well be that Jesus said that this new and different kind of covenant is made possible only at the cost and at the price of his blood. When we put this together, we see that Jesus said that a new relationship between man and God has become possible through his blood, that is, through his life and death…
"What, then, was Jesus doing in his life and in his death? The answer must be that in his life and in his death Jesus was demonstrating to men the eternal, unchangeable, unconquerable love of God. He was demonstrating to men that God is the Father who loves undefeatably and whose one desire is that the lost son should come home. When Jesus entered the world, when he healed the sick, comforted the sad, fed the hungry, forgave his enemies, he was saying to men: ‘God loves you like that.’ When he died upon the cross, he was saying: ‘Nothing that men can ever do to God will stop God loving them. There is no limit to the love of God. There is no end beyond which that love will not go. God loves you like that.’ That is why nothing less than death on the Cross would do. If Jesus had refused or escaped the Cross, if he had not died, it would have meant that there was some point in suffering and sorrow at which the love of God stopped; there was some point beyond which forgiveness was impossible. But the Cross is God saying in Jesus: ‘There is no limit to which my love will not go and no sin which my love cannot forgive.’"
William Barclay, Crucified and Crowned
"And, while Christ was actually taking upon himself the sins of men, God condemned that sinful nature." Romans 8:3b
Did you know that, from the very beginning of the Church, all the way back to the Early Church days, up till now, there has never been one clear theology of the mechanics of the atonement? There are all kinds of opinions about how it all works - how our sin was covered by His blood, His death - but there has never been one overriding, agreed-upon "THIS IS EXACTLY HOW IT HAPPENED" sort of statement, even all the way back in the writings of the Early Church Fathers.
So I delight in the simplicity of Paul's statement - "Christ was actually taking upon himself the sins of men" - and its corollary - "God condemned that sinful nature." To put it in even simpler terms:
Our sin was put upon Jesus.
He died with it.
It died with Him.
You and I stand on the other side of history from the sinful nature; between us and it is Jesus, there, on the Cross.
I was reading this week (and perhaps you've already heard something like this before) where the writer very clearly made the following point: No matter how people explain their theology of the mechanics of the atonement, the important thing is that we all agree with the definition found within the spelling of that word in English:
What Jesus did on the Cross has forever set us free from sin and has given us opportunity to be "AT ONE" - in union - with God. The Cross re-bridges the divide started in Eden. For us, the Cross begins a new existence: a Union-Eden.
The Flawless Guarantor
"God, who gave our forefathers many different glimpses of the truth in the words of the prophets, has now, at the end of the present age, given us the truth in the Son. Through the Son God made the whole universe, and to the Son he has ordained that all creation shall ultimately belong. This Son, radiance of the glory of God, flawless expression of the nature of God, himself the upholding principle of all that is, effected in person the reconciliation between God and man and then took his seat at the right hand of the majesty on high..." Hebrews 1:1-3
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"The new relationship between God and man which Jesus brought is summed up in the word Father. That is to say, the new relationship is based on love and not on law. In such a relationship God is no longer thought of as the judge who must condemn; he is thought of as the Father who cannot be happy until the family circle of his children is complete.
"But the almost necessary reaction to any such message is that it is too good to be true. How can I believe that? What possible guarantee have I that that is true? The guarantor of the new relationship is Jesus. He did not come only to tell in words that this is the case; he came in his own person to demonstrate that this is the case. ‘He who has seen me,’ he said, ‘has seen the Father’ (John 14.9). ‘The word became flesh’ (John 1:14), or, as we might paraphrase it: ‘The mind of God became a person.’ Jesus is the exact demonstration of what God is like, of the mind of God, of the attitude of God to man. In Jesus we see one who fed the hungry, healed the sick, comforted the sorrowing, was the friend of outcasts and sinners. And, because Jesus is one with God, he is the guarantee that God is like that. To put it at its very simplest, Jesus is the guarantor of the love of God. It is through him and him alone that we know what God is like; he lived and he died to show us the heart of God; he is the guarantor of the possibility of the new relationship with God, the relationship in which the old fear has become the new love."
William Barclay, Jesus As They Saw Him
An "Existence Communication"
"Christianity is not a doctrine, but an existence communication. (This is the source of all the nuisances of orthodoxy, its quarrels about one thing and another, while existence remains totally unchanged.) Christianity is an existence communication and can only be presented – by existing..."
Søren Kierkegaard, from his journals
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"We are writing to you about something which has always existed yet which we ourselves actually saw and heard: something which we had an opportunity to observe closely and even to hold in our hands, and yet, as we know now, was something of the very Word of life himself! For it was life which appeared before us: we saw it, we are eye-witnesses of it, and are now writing to you about it. It was the very life of all ages, the life that has always existed with the Father, which actually became visible in person to us mortal men. We repeat, we really saw and heard what we are now writing to you about. We want you to be with us in this—in this fellowship with the Father, and Jesus Christ his Son."
1 John 1:1-3, Phillips
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Thought for this week: Our "witness" for Jesus is exactly equivalent to our experience of His existence. Nothing else - no "doctrine," no "orthodoxy," no "quarrel" - can stand against our first-hand, practical testimony to His living life. We must prove Him by our personal experience of His present existence.
Jesus ministered out of His perfection (ie. His abandoned will; His will, now, to obey; His flawless obedience, moment to moment) and from His personal intimacy with His Father.
Therefore, we are learning to minister out of our discipleship (ie. our self-denial; our adherence, now, to His voice; our obedience to the Way, moment to moment) and from our personal intimacy with Jesus, our Brother.
Discipleship is nothing without intimacy.
And vice versa.