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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
"...this is one of the most crucial definitions for the whole of Christianity; that the opposite of sin is not virtue but faith."
The Sickness Unto Death
* * *
"We, who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, know that a man is justified not by performing what the Law commands but by faith in Jesus Christ. We ourselves are justified by our faith and not by our obedience to the Law, for we have recognised that no one can achieve justification by doing the 'works of the Law.' Now if, as we seek the real truth about justification, we find we are as much sinners as the Gentiles, does that mean that Christ makes us sinners? Of course not! But if I attempt to build again the whole structure of justification by the Law then I do, in earnest, make myself a sinner. For under the Law I 'died,' and now I am dead to the Law’s demands so that I may live for God. As far as the Law is concerned I may consider that I died on the cross with Christ. And my present life is not that of the old 'I,' but the living Christ within me. The bodily life I now live, I live believing in the Son of God, who loved me and sacrificed himself for me. Consequently I refuse to stultify the grace of God by reverting to the Law. For if righteousness were possible under the Law then Christ died for nothing!" (Galatians 2:15-21, Phillips)
“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
“St. John lived to about the age of a hundred. He was at last so weak that he could not walk into the church; so he was carried in, and used to say continually to his people, 'Little children, love one another.' Some of them, after a time, began to be tired of hearing this, and asked him why he repeated the words so often, and said nothing else to them. The Apostle answered, 'Because it is the Lord's commandment, and if this be done it is enough.'”
Sketches of Church History
“The mystery of His incarnation is forever unfathomable. Christ did not only work miracles, He was himself a miracle, He is the miracle of all miracles, the original archetypical miracle. We must recognize the truth of His humanity and the truth of His deity. In Christ we have a man on this earth who perfectly carried out the will of God. In Him it became clear what God meant when He said: 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness' (Gen. 1:26). Christ’s life on earth is the perfect explanation of the meaning of the creation of man.
“How encouraging and refreshing it is to know that this perfect Man has given us the proof that it is possible to live in faith here on earth, in our present circumstances, in such a way as perfectly to glorify God. When we look at His heavenly priesthood from this point of view, how effective and vital it becomes. 'For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin' (Heb. 4:15).
“For this reason meditation on the humanity of the Incarnate One is not a speculative problem of Christian theological philosophy, but a subject for serious contemplative thought for the believing heart, so that it may be encouraged to go on in the way of practical sanctification. Our Lord’s example is given to form and educate us. The picture of Jesus given us in the Gospels should not be used exclusively for evangelistic purposes, that is, chiefly for those who are 'without' in order to win their souls; it should be used just as much for ourselves to teach us practical faith in life and sanctification. This applies both for the regular devotional Scripture readings of the individual and for public ministry in the church.”
In the Arena of Faith
"...attainment of the kingdom is possible."
The Compendium of Theology
(These are the last words he ever wrote.)
“The true understanding of Jesus is the understanding of will acting on will. The true relation to Him is to be taken possession of by Him. Christian piety of any and every sort is valuable only so far as it means the surrender of our will to His…
“What Christianity needs is that it shall be filled to overflowing with the spirit of Jesus, and in the strength of that shall spiritualize itself into a living religion of inwardness and love, such as its destined purpose should make it. Only as such can it become the leaven in the spiritual life of mankind. What has been passing for Christianity during these nineteen centuries is merely a beginning, full of weaknesses and mistakes, not a full-grown Christianity springing from the spirit of Jesus.
“Because I am devoted to Christianity in deep affection, I am trying to serve it with loyalty and sincerity. In no wise do I undertake to enter the lists on its behalf with the crooked and fragile thinking of Christian apologetic, but I call on it to set itself right in the spirit of sincerity with its past and with thought in order that it may thereby become conscious of its true nature.”
Out of My Life and Thought
“A rule I have had for years is to treat the Lord Jesus Christ as a personal friend. His is not a creed, a mere empty doctrine, but it is He Himself we have. The moment we have received Christ we should receive Him as a friend. ”
Anecdotes & Illustrations
"'Jesus Christ yesterday, to-day, and for ever' (Heb. xiii, 8), says the Apostle. From the beginning of the world He was, as God, the first cause of the existence of souls. He has participated as man from the first instant of His incarnation, in this prerogative of His divinity. During the whole course of our life He acts within our souls. The time that will elapse till the end of the world is but as a day; and this day abounds with His action. Jesus Christ has lived and lives still. He began from Himself and will continue in His Saints a life that will never end. O life of Jesus! comprehending and extending beyond all the centuries of time, life effecting new operations of grace at every moment; if no one is capable of understanding all that could be written of the actual life of Jesus, all that He did and said while He was on earth; if the Gospel merely outlines a few of its features; how many Gospels would have to be written to record the history of all the moments of this mystical life of Jesus Christ in which miracles are multiplied to infinity and eternity. If the beginning of His natural life is so hidden yet so fruitful, what can be said of the divine action of that life of which every age of the world is the history?...
"I will now become Your disciple, and will frequent no other school than Yours. Like the Prodigal Son I return hungering for Your bread. I relinquish the ideas which tend only to the satisfaction of mental curiosity; I will no longer run after masters and books but will only make use of them as of other things that present themselves, not for my own satisfaction, but in dependence on the divine action and in obedience to You. For love of You and to discharge my debts I will confine myself to the one essential business, that of the present moment, and thus enable You to act..."
Jean-Pierre de Caussade
Abandonment to Divine Providence
He appears to His disciples—Thomas is gone
Luke 24:36-49 & John 20:24-25
AND WHILE THE TWO from Emmaus were still talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said, “Peace be to you all!”
But they shrank back in terror for they thought they were seeing a ghost.
“Why are you so worried?” said Jesus, “and why do doubts arise in your minds? Look at my hands and feet—it is really I myself! Feel me and see; ghosts have no flesh or bones as you can see that I have.”
But while they still could not believe it through sheer joy and were quite bewildered, Jesus said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of broiled fish and part of a honeycomb which he took and ate before their eyes. Then he said, “Here and now are fulfilled the words that I told you when I was with you: that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must come true.”
Then he opened their minds so that they could understand the scriptures, and added, “That is how it was written, and that is why it was inevitable that Christ should suffer, and rise from the dead on the third day. So must the change of heart which leads to the forgiveness of sins be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
“You are eye-witnesses of these things. Now I hand over to you the command of my Father. Stay in the city, then, until you are clothed with power from on high.” …
…But one of the twelve, Thomas (called the Twin), was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples kept on telling him, “We have seen the Lord”, but he replied, “Unless I see in his own hands the mark of the nails, and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe!”
In the moment…
A MAN IS WALKING the narrow alleyway that ends at the base of an outside flight of stairs; he is arms-full with a load of food, bread, wine. His inner biceps strain near the elbow with the weight of it all. He begins climbing the stairs, unseeing of each step: the breadloaves blocking his view: up he goes. At the landing he knocks the door with the top of his forehead, awkwardly. The door swings open, inwardly.
The man is absolutely unprepared for what he sees in this upper room.
Faces full of shock.
Eyes weeping happy tears.
Men, women and children all embracing.
A familiar personal scent seeming to hang in the air.
The man sets his load on the table at the center of the room.
“Well,” he says, “—what is it that I’ve missed?”
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He appears to Thomas & the other disciples
JUST OVER A WEEK LATER, the disciples were indoors again and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood in the middle of them and said, “Peace be with you!”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your fingers here—look, here are my hands. Take my hand and put it in my side. You must not doubt, but believe.”
“My Lord and my God!” cried Thomas.
“Is it because you have seen me that you believe?” Jesus said to him. “Happy are those who have never seen me and yet have believed!”
Forty years later…
HE CAN FEEL THAT THE END is drawing near. The crowds breathe it. They press closer and closer; their eyes lit with growing rage. Some have spears and short daggers in hand. The tips of the spears and blades of the knives flash with sunlight. Their robes are peculiar and multicolored. They flap like butterfly wings, snapping loudly, whenever they raise their arms.
The man begins to pray in his spirit:
“Lord, I am prepared today to come to you—receive me. Let these, my killers, see the grace of a death died in you. Forgive them. May they all come to know you; to receive you. Let them know your face without seeing. May their faith trump mine.”
As he prays, he is looking past the crowds at the waters of the Kalinga Sagar: turquoise blue, with low white-topped waves coming in, row on row. It is an infinite sea compared to the little one where this all started…
He feels the crowd drawing closer…
He raises his hands, as if to bless, as they begin to strike him…
You are walking through a narrow, winding slot canyon in the western Galilee; the walls of the canyon rise sharply upward on either side of you. There is just enough room for you and Jesus to walk through shoulder to shoulder. You have been walking along and talking. You are asking Him a particular question. “What exactly is repentance?” you ask of Him.
He stops in the pathway; faces toward you; takes you by both shoulders; manually turns your body in the opposite direction, back from whence you’ve just come. “Now stay there for a moment,” He says to you.
Then He takes a few steps westward, walking away. (You don’t see Him going: you are obeying His command to stay put upon that spot.)
Then He says, “Turn. Follow Me.”
He is smiling as you approach Him. “That,” He says, “was the whole thing.”
"Do not confound work and fruit. There may be a good deal of work for Christ that is not the fruit of the heavenly Vine. Do not seek for work only. Oh! study this question of fruit-bearing. It means the very life and the very power and the very spirit and the very love within the heart of the Son of God—it means the heavenly Vine Himself coming into your heart and mine.
"You know there are different sorts of grapes, each with a different name, and every vine provides exactly that peculiar aroma and juice which gives the grape its particular flavor and taste. Just so, there is in the heart of Christ Jesus a life, and a love, and a Spirit, and a blessing, and a power for men, that are entirely heavenly and divine, and that will come down into our hearts. Stand in close connection with the heavenly Vine and say:
"Lord Jesus, nothing less than the sap that flows through Thyself, nothing less than the Spirit of Thy divine life is what we ask. Lord Jesus, I pray Thee let Thy Spirit flow through me in all my work for Thee.
"I tell you again that the sap of the heavenly Vine is nothing but the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the life of the heavenly Vine, and what you must get from Christ is nothing less than a strong inflow of the Holy Spirit. You need it exceedingly, and you want nothing more than that. Remember that."
Andrew Murray, Absolute Surrender
“To be conformed to the image of Christ is not an ideal to be striven after. It is not as though we had to imitate him as well as we could. We cannot transform ourselves into his image; it is rather the form of Christ which seeks to be formed in us (Gal. 4.19), and to be manifested in us. Christ’s work in us is not finished until he has perfected his own form in us...
“His life on earth is not finished yet, for he continues to live in the lives of his followers. Indeed it is wrong to speak of the Christian life: we should speak rather of Christ living in us. ‘I live, and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me’ (Gal. 2.20). Jesus Christ, incarnate, crucified and glorified, has entered my life and taken charge. ‘To me to live is Christ’ (Phil. 1.21). And where Christ lives, there the Father also lives, and both Father and Son through the Holy Ghost. The Holy Trinity himself has made his dwelling in the Christian heart, filling his whole being, and transforming him into the divine image.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
“If thou art a writer, write as if thy time were short, for it is indeed short at the longest. Improve each occasion when thy soul is reached. Drain the cup of inspiration to its last dregs. Fear no intemperance in that, for the years will come when otherwise thou wilt regret opportunities unimproved. The spring will not last forever. These fertile and expanding seasons of thy life, when the rain reaches thy root, when thy vigor shoots, when thy flower is budding, shall be fewer and farther between. Again I say, Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth. Use and commit to life what you cannot commit to memory.”
Henry David Thoreau, from his journals
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I read those words a couple weeks back and was stirred by how readily they might be shifted—changed in their context—so that they ring with an even higher truth. Try this on for size:
If you are a follower of Jesus, live today as if your time is short, for it is indeed short—even at the longest. Improve each occasion, for His living presence dwells in your soul. Be the vessel of His direct inspiration to everyone you meet. Fear nothing but to be temperate when it comes to His Spirit, for each day of each year of your life is an improvable opportunity for His divine purposes. Your earthly life will not last forever. His presence and nearness in your life, when His Spirit reaches low inside you, when He is a wellspring, when you are bearing His fruit, is as available today as it’s ever been. Again I say to you, Abide in Him and He in you. Use and commit this day not to memories of Him, but to His alive life actually dwelling inside you.
“The Lord would have us to be walking epistles of His word. Jesus is the Word and is the power in us, and it is His desire to work in and through us His own good pleasure. We must believe that He is in us. There are boundless possibilities for us if we dare to act in God and dare to believe that the wonderful virtue of our living Christ shall be made manifest through us as we lay our hands on the sick in His name.
“The exceeding great and precious promises of the Word are given to us that we might be partakers of the divine nature. I feel the Holy Ghost is grieved with us because, when we know these things, we do not do greater exploits for God. Does not the Holy Ghost show us wide-open doors of opportunity? Shall we not let God take us on to greater things? Shall we not believe God to take us on to greater manifestations of His power? His call for us is to forget the things that are behind, and reach forth unto the things which are before and to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Smith Wigglesworth, Ever Increasing Faith
“It is by the sign of the cross and by faith in Christ that death is trampled underfoot, [and] it is clear that it is Christ Himself and none other Who is the Archvictor over death and has robbed it of its power. Death used to be strong and terrible, but now, since the sojourn of the Saviour and the death and resurrection of His body, it is despised; and obviously it is by the very Christ Who mounted on the cross that it has been destroyed and vanquished finally. When the sun rises after the night and the whole world is lit up by it, nobody doubts that it is the sun which has thus shed its light everywhere and driven away the dark. Equally clear is it, since this utter scorning and trampling down of death has ensued upon the Saviour’s manifestation in the body and His death on the cross, that it is He Himself Who brought death to nought and daily raises monuments to His victory in His own disciples. How can you think otherwise, when you see men naturally weak hastening to death, unafraid at the prospect of corruption, fearless of the descent into Hades, even indeed with eager soul provoking it, not shrinking from tortures, but preferring thus to rush on death for Christ’s sake, rather than to remain in this present life? If you see with your own eyes men and women and children, even, thus welcoming death for the sake of Christ’s religion, how can you be so utterly silly and incredulous and maimed in your mind as not to realise that Christ to Whom these all bear witness, Himself gives the victory to each, making death completely powerless for those who hold His faith and bear the sign of the cross? No one in his senses doubts that a snake is dead when he sees it trampled underfoot, especially when he knows how savage it used to be; nor, if he sees boys making fun of a lion, does he doubt that the brute is either dead or completely bereft of strength. These things can be seen with our own eyes, and it is the same with the conquest of death. Doubt no longer, then, when you see death mocked and scorned by those who believe in Christ, that by Christ death was destroyed, and the corruption that goes with it resolved and brought to an end.”
Athanasius of Alexandria
Early 4th Century
“Plato has told you a truth; but Plato is dead. Shakespeare has startled you with an image; but Shakespeare will not startle you with any more. But imagine what it would be to live with such men still living, to know that Plato might break out with an original lecture tomorrow, or that at any moment Shakespeare might shatter everything with a single song. The man who lives in contact with what he believes to be a living Church is a man always expecting to meet Plato and Shakespeare tomorrow at breakfast. He is always expecting to see some truth that he has never seen before.”
G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
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“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son...” (Hebrews 1:1,2a)
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I’ve been thinking about that Chesterton quote for the last couple of weeks. And thinking, in light of Hebrews 1, of how it might most clearly read for us:
“Jesus is the truth; and Jesus is alive. Jesus has startled us by being the image of the invisible God; and Jesus may startle us at any time and in manifold ways. Just imagine that we may live with such a Man living, and know that He is always speaking, always teaching, and that at any moment He can shatter everything with a single word. The man or woman who lives in contact with what we know to be a Living Christ is a man or woman expecting Him today and tomorrow at breakfast. He or she is always expecting to see Him, to hear Him, just as clearly as those disciples did at the beginning.”