Take your stand then with truth as your belt, righteousness your breastplate, the Gospel of peace firmly on your feet, salvation as your helmet and in your hand the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Above all be sure you take faith as your shield, for it can quench every burning missile the enemy hurls at you. Pray at all times with every kind of spiritual prayer, keeping alert and persistent as you pray for all Christ’s men and women. (Ephesians 6:14-18)
Let me make this stupidly simple for our hearts today.
The “truth” is Jesus; Jesus has already made us “righteous”; the “Gospel” is the Good News of Heaven about Jesus; our “salvation” is the free gift of Jesus; the “Word” is Jesus Himself; our “faith” is belief and trust in Jesus; we talk to the Father through the Way that Jesus made.
Paul, in his letter to the Roman believers, actually said this famous section better, more succinctly, when he simply wrote: “Put on THE LORD JESUS…” (Rom. 13:14)
So, our everyday work is what? Abiding in Jesus.
Because, abiding is what? Going inside; living; “putting on.”
“...the man who is not afraid to admit everything that he sees to be wrong with himself, and yet recognizes that he may be the object of God's love precisely because of his shortcomings, can begin to be sincere. His sincerity is based on confidence, not in his own illusions about himself, but in the endless, unfailing mercy of God.”
No Man Is An Island
* * * *
If we refuse to admit that we are sinners, then we live in a world of illusion and truth becomes a stranger to us. But if we freely admit that we have sinned, we find God utterly reliable and straightforward—he forgives our sins and makes us thoroughly clean from all that is evil. (1 John 1:8,9)
"...since our nature has God as its requisite author, it is certain that we must have Him for our teacher that we may be wise; Him, too, to dispense to us spiritual sweetness that we may be blessed."
Augustine of Hippo
The City of God
* * * *
"Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. 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 3:16b,17, ESV)
Today’s openness to the speaking Voice of Jesus (His Holy Spirit) is the guarantee of tomorrow’s leading; too, its potentiality: its adventure.
We will be going then as far as we are willing to listen now.
You have been adopted into the very family circle of God and you can say with a full heart, “Father, my Father”. The Spirit himself endorses our inward conviction that we really are the children of God. Think what that means. If we are his children we share his treasures, and all that Christ claims as his will belong to all of us as well! Yes, if we share in his suffering we shall certainly share in his glory.
In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us. The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own. The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but because in God’s purpose it has been so limited—yet it has been given hope. And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God! (Romans 8:15b-21, Phillips)
“It is absolutely necessary for us to recapture the sense that this limited human life is surrounded and interpenetrated by a timeless spiritual dimension. Christ spoke unequivocally about ‘coming from’ the Father, and ‘going to’ the Father. It was said of him that ‘he went about doing good and healing all manner of sickness and disease among the people.’ He claimed that the work which he did, whether it was the healing of body, mind or soul was the work of God himself. Yet at the same time he stated quite definitely that his ‘Kingdom is not of this world.’ In other words, while he operated within the time-and-space situation, and neither despised nor detached himself from actual human living, he lived in continual awareness of what, for want of a better word, we call ‘eternity.’…
“It is those who know God to be eternal who most satisfactorily prove that God is their contemporary.”
God Our Contemporary
Then Jesus came to Nazareth where he had been brought up and, according to his custom, went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He stood up to read the scriptures and the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. He opened the book and found the place where these words are written—‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord’.
Then he shut the book, handed it back to the attendant and resumed his seat. Every eye in the synagogue was fixed upon him and he began to tell them, “This very day this scripture has been fulfilled, while you were listening to it!” (Luke 4:16-21, Phillips)
* * *
A couple months ago, it struck me that this may be one of the most instructive moments we ever witness in the life of Jesus. At the very beginning of what we would call His “ministry years,” He is essentially saying He’s already finished: His personal presence is the eternal answer to our hearts’ every question. Yes, we still require to know Him better, to hear His teaching, to watch the miracles in all they reveal to us of the heart of God. Yes, the Cross will represent the required atonement for our sin; the Resurrection the needful freeing we require from death.
But… here with Jesus, here at the beginning of His ministry, here with some of His first hearers hearing His teachings, He is telling them and us--what?
That He Himself is the place of the Spirit’s presence; that He Himself is the Good News of the Kingdom; that He Himself is the place of perpetual, once-for-all-time freedom; that He Himself is the experience of finally receiving sight; that He Himself is deliverance—both for each of us and for others; that He Himself is the Jubilee, the final freeing, the heart’s release; that He Himself is the beginning, means and end of everything intended for humankind since the moment of our Creation.
Is that how you understand the totality of the Person of Jesus? Is He Himself--for you—everything that He truly is?
“The Spirit took his own means to found and to spread Christendom before a single apostolic step had left Jerusalem. It prepared the way before itself. Yet this was but a demonstration, as it were; the real work was now to begin, and the burden of the work was accepted by the group [of disciples] in the city. That work was the regeneration of mankind. That word has, too often, lost its force; it should be recovered. The apostles set out to generate mankind anew.
“They had not the language; they had not the ideas; they had to discover everything. They had only one fact, and that was that it had happened. Messiah had come, and been killed, and risen; and they had been dead ‘in trespasses and sin,’ and now they were not. They were regenerate; so might everyone be.”
The Descent of the Dove
Last week, I asked a circle of friends from all over the world to send me the "latest, freshest" experiences they were having with the Lord. What a week of constant delights in reading their replies!
Here are some of my favorite lines and thoughts from their return emails:
A quote from an interview with Tim Keller (who passed away just a few days before) - "There is a famous short story by J.R.R. Tolkien called “Leaf by Niggle.” Niggle is a painter who spends his entire life trying to paint a mural of a tree. By the end of his life, he has only gotten one leaf completed. Then he dies. But when he gets to heaven, he sees the tree that was always there in his mind. That is the way of the Christian."
"I have been struck in a fresh way by the accessibility that Jesus offers me - that I don’t have to muster up or do anything to earn access to Him. I can come just as I am with nothing to offer but myself."
"No matter what I am facing, which some days feels like a lot, to know and trust and believe and rely on this amazing truth. JESUS IS WITH ME. Right here. With me. Thank you Jesus. Truly."
"Jesus shows up in everyone, if our eyes are open. The bummer is that sometimes it takes [really difficult times] to…open my eyes…..to see all of what he has for us……this is the Kingdom of God come down."
"[During a meeting this week,] I found my mind wandering to a walk with Jesus. Mind you: this never happens to me. But it was just enough cacophony of the world that I wished that I could leave. I pictured a quiet walk with Jesus and the peace & gratitude for all that I have. And that... that moment is enough."
"Psalms 3:5- (modified into my own language for myself and those who I’m mourning for) - When I sweep my sin under the door, my body wastes away. As long as I pretend I’m fine without God, I will face one disappointment after another. Even my wins will be blunted and fall short of full satisfaction. My vitality gets drained just as the earth is when scorched by fire. But when I acknowledge my need for help and stop ignoring my shortcomings, you are there waiting calmly and peacefully ready to forgive me and bring true life back into my mind and body. You sprout new growth in my life and nourish and strengthen me."
"I have just been thinking about and so grateful for Jesus’ kindness this week. He’s so kind and really does not need to be or owe it to us. There are a couple of places in my life that he is making such a clear “way” where I thought there was no way. What’s been getting me this week is that He always does it with His loving kindness. It’s often (not always) so gentle that I don’t even realize He’s doing it or correcting me or guiding me until I am through it."
In pondering on the Ascension of Jesus: "It feels impossible to rise from that place of utter love, full of tears and sorrow and confusion - to a place in my brain that processes language."
Friends, isn't it amazing to think that, anywhere anyone opens their heart to our Savior, by the power of the Holy Spirit, He still speaks like this!
Remember, this day: He is alive!
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom for man to comfort his neighbour. ‘He who believes in me,’ says Jesus Christ himself in another Scripture passage, ‘out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ This happens when we look up to him. No one has ever looked up to him without this miracle happening. No one who gets slowly used to looking up to him has failed to glimpse light around him. The dark earth on which we live has always become bright whenever man looked up to him, and believed in him.
“‘Look up to him, your face will shine, and you shall never be ashamed.’ I just mentioned the ‘dark’ earth. Reading the newspapers, looking around at the world and into our own hearts and lives, we can’t possibly deny that the earth is really dark, that we live in a world to be afraid in. Why afraid? Because we all live under the threat of being put to shame, and rightly so. This would not only imply that we have blundered here and there, but that our whole life, with all our thoughts, desires and accomplishments, might be in truth, in God’s judgment and verdict, a failure, an infamy, a total loss. This is the great threat. This is why the ground shakes under our feet, the sky is covered with clouds, and the earth, so beautifully created, darkens. Indeed we should be put to shame.
“But now we hear the very opposite. ‘You shall never be ashamed.’ What I would like to do, dear brothers and sisters, is to ask you, each and all, to get up together and like a choir repeat: ‘We must never be ashamed!’ Each one would have to repeat it for himself and lastly I would repeat it for myself : ‘I must never be ashamed!’ This is what counts. We shall not be, I shall not be, ashamed, not when looking up to him. Not because we deserve to be spared the shame! Not even because our faces shine when raised to him. Our radiance will be and must be a sign that we will not be put to shame. It is an evidence of the relationship established between God and ourselves. And this is the power of the relationship: what is true and valid in heaven, what Jesus Christ has done for us, what has been accomplished by him, man’s redemption, justification and preservation, is true and valid on earth also. The Father does not put us, his children, to shame when we look up to Jesus. In consequence we, his children, may never be ashamed. This we may know, this may be our strength, this may be our life, if only we look up to him, fearlessly and brightly. May each one repeat in his heart: ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.’”
from a sermon in 1956
"Lord, grant thine unworthy one his desire, for I am thine, and thou hast bought me with thy blood. Thou hast opened mine eye to see thee, and the sight has saved me. Lord, open thou mine ear. I have read thy heart, now let me hear thy lips."
Charles H. Spurgeon
Morning & Evening
“It was as a Bridegroom Christ came, anointed with all the perfumes of a dedicated love, and until the last bitter hour of His rejection, He moved with such lyric joyousness across the earth, that life became festive in His presence. It is as a Bride the church exists on earth, and if no festive smiles are awakened by its presence, and no gracious unsealing of the founts of love in human hearts, then is it not Christ’s Church, for He has passed elsewhere with another company to the marriage-feast, and His Church stands without, before a barred and darkened door.”
The Empire of Love
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
“When the Sanhedrin saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)
Our lives will be remarkable to the degree we have been with Jesus; to the measure with which we’re filled up with the Holy Spirit. It does tend to astonish when the hand of a Man, thought to be long-dead, reaches out through us; when His Spirit animates an unconquerable twinkling in our eyes.
The Holy Spirit knows what Jesus wants you to do next. Listening to the voice of the Spirit, within you, is the same thing as sitting next to Jesus, upon the Throne, and asking Him: “What should I do?”
The Holy Spirit is His voice; His answer.
“The gospel is not the presentation of an idea but the operation of a power. When the gospel is preached, it is not merely an utterance; it is something that occurs.”
Commentary on Romans
Others’ experience of the atmosphere of the life and love of Jesus will almost always begin with an experience of our undivided attention. Jesus was where He was; now He is where we are: today is the scene and setting for His usage of us to get to others.
Remember: These other people matter to Him.
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.
10 Abundant joy makes the human heart open outward;
so a little of His joy in us must lead the way, always.
The wisdom of Jesus leads us along His Way;
the wisdom of man is nothing.
When we walk His Way in wisdom, we gain more,
and then may say to ourselves, “We lack for nothing.”
If the pleasure of the King is upon us, let us abide in Him,
for He promises to add blessing unto blessing.
There is a great glory that I have seen because of the Son, another triumph arising from this King of Kings: advancement is set in low, humble hearts, and the poor in spirit inherit the Kingdom alongside Him. Truly, I have seen the lowest raised up in Him, and the rulers of the ways of man quickly forgotten.
He who descended to us has also ascended,
and the serpent has been crushed under His feet forever.
He is shaping us as stones to be set in His Temple,
this glorious Cornerstone who holds all things together.
If we are weak, it is He Himself who strengthens us,
arming us with His own strength,
and the wisdom to carry it aright.
If the evil one attacks one of His chosen,
He gives every advantage, by His Spirit, to that chosen one.
The whisper of His lips is there within our inner ear;
we may cease to trust our own ruminations.
Today, we may begin—and end—with His words alone,
for His mercies are new; His words, fresh and alive.
Our wise King is clear of speech,
and though we oft’ are slow to hear, slow to understand,
He is forever faithful, speaking to us from the Throne of Heaven.
Our work for Him exalts our life’s meaning,
for it leads others, upward, toward the City of God.
Blessed are we, brothers and sisters, for our King is the Son of God,
and He has made us sons and daughters of God too!
Happy are we, brothers and sisters, because this King is our Friend,
and He invites us to the Family Table,
for daily communion: union with Himself!
Through abiding in Him the union ever grows;
each day may play its part in the growth.
He is the Bread of Life: our joy;
the New Wine: our Spirit,
our greatest riches: the Kingdom Himself.
Even as you fall asleep, bless the King of Kings;
in your rising, lift up His name;
for the Spirit that is in you is also in Him;
no blessing you speak of Him is ever lost, ever forgotten.
9 May we take all this to heart, appropriating what is ours, and thus show the world His righteousness and wisdom, and the wonder of His works. Whether we are loved or hated, it doesn’t matter; all must see Jesus. And our hope is the same for everyone, especially since it already happened with us: that every man and woman, whether good or evil, interested or disinterested, spiritual or not-seeking, would see Him; that His goodness to the sinner—His covenant with the lost—would become known. This is the glory of all the Son has already done: anyone may hear, repent and believe. So, our call is to show the difference in our hearts, and the joy and peace He brings, and to live once again His earthly life. For we who know the Living One have an everlasting hope; a Resurrected Savior is everything in the midst of a dying world. For all men and women are clearly destined to die, all life is tinged with death, and what a strange experience it is to live forever within its shadow. Is death the only outcome of our destiny? Can there be anything else? For to watch the course of history is only to see the stories of our loves, hates, passions and sinfulnesses, all eventually disappearing into the darkness of death. This was always the way of man before the Son.
But, now, there is joy and peace, the New Wine of His Spirit, the ever-present experience of the ever-present God!
Now there is holy blamelessness as our portion! And the oil of joy, poured over our heads!
Now there is love never-ending, every single day of the remainder of our earthly lives, all because of who Jesus is, what He has said, what He has done, and what is forever “finished!” And what He has given us to do, working with His strength, is the very work and words and signs and wonders that He Himself did, while walking the earth!
Again, I say to you that, because of the Son, we have already won “an overwhelming victory,” not due to our strength, or intelligence, or spirituality, or goodness, but all due to He Himself. It is He who holds our lives in His hands. He came to sweep us up in His arms, to hold us close to Himself, so that the sons of men might become the sons of God. And all this is already accomplished.
I would also repeat that He Himself is our wisdom, and there is no end to Him. He is our refuge: a place where we may run and always find His comfort. Whether rich or poor, wise or foolish, He calls us ever nearer to be delivered of our every trouble. Brothers and sisters, let us remember His living, alive presence! For I remind you that His “love is better than life,” and that His steady wisdom, joy and peace are our eternal inheritance.
Too, He never stops speaking to His children. How much better to walk with One who is ever ready to whisper to our hearts than to constantly listen to the shouts and clamorings of this world. His wisdom is better than anything it offers, and one word from Him is worth anything it costs us to hear it; to take it to heart.
7 His Name is higher than any other name,
and the day of His death is our life.
Better is one moment of experiencing His presence,
than a whole human life of earthly pleasures,
for such pleasures fleet, luck fails, riches fade,
and all earthly life will ever end for all.
His love is better than life,
for by His love we enter into life eternal.
That love dwells in our midst by His Spirit,
and the heart of the wise seeks a more complete possession.
Better to hear the whisper of His voice
than to hear the praise of men.
For as the west wind soughs the pine boughs--
lovely, haunting—so He whispers on:
we have heard His voice.
Surely His goodness compels us onward,
and His joy fills our hearts.
Better are His purposes than all of our schemes and plans;
to be poor in spirit is to inherit a Heavenly Kingdom entire.
May you be swift of spirit to run to Him,
for life and love dwell where He dwells.
Say to yourself, “A day with Him is a day of life.”
For it is wisdom to wed your days with His.
His wisdom, too, is part of our inheritance,
a joyous good to those who seek the Son.
Such wisdom is like a rampart around our ways;
its advantages innumerable; for it is a wisdom that walks around with us.
Consider the living work of Jesus:
He can bring us through the straight and narrow--which is Himself.
Whether in riches or want, be joyful with His joy, and always remember: the Lord Jesus is with you on the Way; He is intimately aware of both your circumstances and His plan within them. In His life and death we see everything we need to know. For there was a Righteous Man who died for us to impart to us His righteousness, and wicked men may now come to Him to receive His own everlasting life. We may now walk within His righteousness and perfect wisdom. What more could we ask? Let us learn to walk His Way with Him, never away. Why would we waste our lives walking any other direction? For it is life for us to take hold of Him, and to hold nothing back from Him: the one who walks with Jesus finds life in every step.
Jesus gives wisdom to women and men; He is strength and joy to us.
He is the only Righteous Man who has ever walked the earth: let us be His!
Take to heart His words; let your heart be filled with His voice. Thus will you know the ways of the Way and be blessed in all that you do.
All this is the promise of Jesus. He said, “I will make my home within you,” and He is always that near. That which He has done is ever near to us, right within our hearts; His Spirit within us searches it out.
May we turn our hearts to know Him and to seek and find His ways, His wisdom, and the purpose behind His life in us; for to find out more of Him is to find the life of Heaven within: the purpose behind all things. And there is something even still more sweet: men and women who find Him find the nearest, best Friend. It is His good pleasure to run with us, to delight in us, and to make a sinner a saint is His highest joy. Look! this is what we see in the lives of the disciples during the remainder of course of their days—you can see it in the Gospels and Acts. He had chosen them out of the endless crowds of mankind; they were exactly the ones He needed for His purposes. See the way their lives went with Him, how He worked to make them holy, and you’ll see the way His plan yet works.
5 Pay close attention to your life, for you are the Temple of God now. Others may draw near to Him by drawing near to you: you are the place where they may hear of Him; even hear from His voice. Therefore, be careful with your words, and let Him use your lips to speak of His glories, so that all on earth may be acquainted with His life in Heaven. Let your own words be few. For your best words are those from His Spirit, and your own voice—let’s be honest—has a way of sometimes getting in the way.
Where you’ve received a promise from the Lord, do not hesitate to trust Him, for He is ever faithful to make good on His every promise. He always does what He says He’ll do. Your life will be richer and better if you trust in Him with quiet confidence, and wait upon Him. Don’t doubt the wild ways He works, and don’t give in to that nagging question inside, But what’s taking Him so long? Be honest: His record with you is one of constant care, presence and blessing. Where your trust in Him is given room for increase, consider it a blessing; God is entrusting you with the opportunity to trust Him more.
Where you see examples of struggle, hurt and anxiety in the world around you, anguish amidst the depredations of sin, you are called not to judge but to go to work; for the God of all men has chosen you and I to be His ambassadors: we are the Body of Christ--we are Jesus!--for the men and women of our day, our time. This is our privilege: this is how highly our King thinks of us.
“The secret of never thirsting is ever thirsting”: he who always wants more of Jesus won’t be satisfied with yesterday’s experience of Him: he will always desire for more. Where encounter with His living presence increases, hunger is both sated and enlarged, and this is nothing but a glorious spiritual advantage. Our rest is only found in Him, whether we know Him a little or a lot, and the greater the experience of Him, the richer our rest in Him.
Here is another wondrous glory that I have experienced for myself: the splendors of the Kingdom of Heaven are meant by Him to be shared with us, and their riches seem to increase as we share them out with others. This is the nature of this Father with His sons and daughters; everything we have comes from His hand. As we were first born of Him, brought along through life through Him, redeemed from death by Him, we now find our whole life in Him. This is our greatest joy: just as He’s always done, He’ll always do. We know He’ll never change in our direction. Moreover, all our days He’s available to us and wants to walk along the way with us.
Look! there is nothing higher or better--or more reasonable—than for you to eat and drink of Him, to abide in Him, to enjoy Him, to find your entire life in Him, for this is the meaning of your whole human life. You have already been given the keys of the Kingdom, all its inheritances, riches and splendors, and you are simply called to humbly accept—this is what’s required of you.
So, today, will you remember this One whose own joy fills your heart?
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.
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.
Last winter, while reading through the book of Ecclesiastes, I became somewhat obsessed with the thought that, in Jesus, everything we read there has already found its inverse in Him. In other words, if all unredeemed human life is a "vanity of vanities," the life of Jesus has already made it possible for us to live a "glorious meaning of all meanings" sort of life in Himself. In essence, He has already rewritten Solomon's words by the perfect living of His divine human life. And is inviting us into the same.
So I decided to extrapolate what that might mean, using Ecclesiastes' words—but in their opposite, their inverse.
For these next twelve posts, I'll be offering a "chapter" each week showing how Jesus has rewired Ecclesiastes into our New Covenant reality. I hope this brings into focus how glorious is His Way, His Kingdom!
1 The words of a follower of Jesus, the Son of God, the King of Kings.
Glorious meaning of all meanings, says this disciple,
glorious meaning of all meanings! All is now worthwhile.
What do men and women gain by following Jesus
in the day by day of life?
Lives made new, generational experience of the Kingdom,
the world of creation seeing “sons of God coming into their own.”
The Son has given His life! And risen!
He has ascended back to the place from which He came--Glory!
His Spirit now flows into our lives
and travels over the face of the earth in us;
through and through us flows the Holy Spirit,
making all things new.
Streams of His joy pour down inside us,
overflowing and then flowing over:
into the lives of others around us,
that they may see Him.
His Way is rich with life—life to the full;
human lips cannot compass it;
our eyes are full of the wonder of His glory,
our ears with the sound of His voice.
“Even greater things” will He do through us,
and what has been in Him is what we shall do:
all is new and real under the aegis of the Son.
Are there impossible things of which it can be said,
“No, this is clearly impossible”?
He has said we can do these things;
we have heard His promise.
We remember how He did it in His day;
we remember, yes—yet remembrance
of earlier things is not His Way:
for He still speaks.
I, by His own choosing, have come to be a disciple of this Jesus from Nazareth. And I have given my heart and mind to seeking and searching out His wisdom, His Way, right in the midst of the ways of the world around us. It is a wondrous business that He has given to His brothers and sisters to be focused upon. We have seen some of what He has done with a life, and look! all in Him is glory and joy and peace: a daily experience of encounter and following after Him.
The way is narrow and straight,
and we shall lack for nothing upon it.
I rejoice in my heart now, “I know Jesus: He is the Way, the truth, the life: He surpasses all who have ever lived: He lives in my heart right now, bringing with Him all wisdom and knowledge.” And I have given my heart and mind to knowing Him—and also my awareness to all that is not Him. All else that is, is not: it is like chaff in the wind.
But knowing Jesus is knowing Life Himself:
he who comes to know Jesus has attained to Life.