"Oh what great thanks am I bound to give Thee, who hast vouchsafed to show me and all faithful people the good and right way to Thine eternal kingdom, for Thy way is our way, and by holy patience we walk to Thee who art our Crown. If Thou hadst not gone before and taught us, who would care to follow? Oh, how far would they have gone backward if they had not beheld Thy glorious example! Behold we are still lukewarm, though we have heard of Thy many signs and discourses; what would become of us if we had not such a light to help us follow Thee?"
Thomas à Kempis
The Imitation of Christ
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
“We have been rescued, ransomed, redeemed out of our old natural life, under the power of sin, utterly and eternally. Sin has not the slightest claim on us, nor the slightest power over us, except as our ignorance or unbelief or half-heartedness allows it to have dominion. Our New Covenant birthright is to stand in the freedom with which Christ has made us free. Until the soul sees, and accepts and desires, and claims the redemption and the liberty which has the blood of the Son of God for its purchase price, and its measure, and its security, it never can fully live the New Covenant life.”
Andrew Murray, The Two Covenants
"Nothing interrupts the normal flow of ordinary life so much as love."
The World of Silence
* * * *
We know and, to some extent realise, the love of God for us because Christ expressed it in laying down his life for us. We must in turn express our love by laying down our lives for those who are our brothers...
And if, dear friends of mine, when we realise this our hearts no longer accuse us, we may have the utmost confidence in God’s presence. We receive whatever we ask for, because we are obeying his orders and following his plans. His orders are that we should put our trust in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another—as we used to hear him say in person. (1 John 3:16, 21-23)
"This fact of the historical Christ brings a high degree of certainty and authority, but not full certainty and authority. For, after all, if Jesus is only historical, it would be authority outside ourselves standing in history. No authority from without can be complete authority for us, unless it can become identified with our very selves, and can speak from within. The Christ of history must become the Christ within. We cannot live upon a remembrance, however beautiful. We can only live upon a realization. But Jesus becomes that. He told his disciples that it was expedient for him to go away, so he went, but ‘he changed his presence for his omnipresence.’ He came back more vital than before. Timid believers became irresistible apostles, for Christ had moved into their inmost souls. Life became merged: ‘I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; and yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,’ cries the transformed Paul. Archimedes, after pondering a mathematical problem, suddenly finds the solution, and in his excitement rushes up the street crying, ‘Eureka, I’ve got it!’ These men, pondering deeper problems, find a deeper solution, and cry from deeper depths: ‘We’ve got it.’ Christ becomes self-evidencing. The historical passes into the experimental. They become witnesses."
E. Stanley Jones
Christ at the Round Table
“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
“I believe that one of the things Christianity says is that [simply ‘holding on to’] sound doctrines are all useless. That you have to change your life. (Or the direction of your life.)…
“The point is that a sound doctrine need not take hold of you; you can follow it as you would a doctor’s prescription. — But here you need something to move you and turn you in a new direction. — Once you have been turned round, you must stay turned round…
“…faith by contrast is what Kierkegaard calls a passion.”
from a notebook
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
Thoughts in Solitude
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!
Then one of the scribes approached Jesus. He had been listening to the discussion [with the Sadducees], and noticing how well Jesus had answered them, he put this question to him, “What are we to consider the greatest commandment of all?”
“The first and most important one is this,” Jesus replied—‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength’. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. No other commandment is greater than these.”
“I am well answered,” replied the scribe. “You are absolutely right when you say that there is one God and no other God exists but him; and to love him with the whole of our hearts, the whole of our intelligence and the whole of our energy, and to love our neighbours as ourselves is infinitely more important than all these burnt-offerings and sacrifices.”
Then Jesus, noting the thoughtfulness of his reply, said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God!
* * *
I've been moved this week that, according to Jesus Himself, entry-into and experience-of the Kingdom of God are both synonymous with love. It is as we actively love God (which He tells us He receives through our obedience to His alive, living voice) and personally love each person whom we meet (extending to them the affection of God we've received) that we have day-by-day experience of the Kingdom. "Knowledge" about the Kingdom is nothing. It is a Kingdom that courses; it never eddies or pools. We must live it. The world must experience it, alive and active, in us.
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 your 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!” (John 20:26-29, Phillips)
* * *
“The answer of Jesus to Thomas is clear. Jesus was saying to him: ‘Thomas, I know that you do not understand what is happening. No one understands. But whatever happens, you have got me. I am the way, the truth, and the life.’ In this world, in the last analysis, what we need is not an argument but a presence. No argument is convincing, and what Jesus offers is not an argument, but himself.”
The Master’s Men
"Our Lord saith that the Kingdom of God is near us. Yea, the Kingdom of God is within us as St Paul saith 'our salvation is nearer than when we believed.' Now we should know in what manner the Kingdom of God is near us. Therefore let us pay diligent attention to the meaning of the words. If I were a king, and did not know it, I should not really be a king. But, if I were fully convinced that I was a king, and all mankind coincided in my belief, and I knew that they shared my conviction, I should indeed be a king, and all the wealth of the king would be mine. But, if one of these three conditions were lacking, I should not really be a king.
"In similar fashion our salvation depends upon our knowing and recognizing the Chief Good which is God Himself. I have a capacity in my soul for taking in God entirely. I am as sure as I live that nothing is so near to me as God. God is nearer to me than I am to myself; my existence depends on the nearness and presence of God... [Man's] happiness increases and diminishes in proportion to the increase and diminution in his knowledge of this. His happiness does not arise from this that God is near him, and in him, and that He possesses God; but from this, that he knows the nearness of God, and loves Him, and is aware that 'the Kingdom of God is near.' So, when I think on God’s Kingdom, I am compelled to be silent because of its immensity, because God’s Kingdom is none other than God Himself with all His riches. God’s Kingdom is no small thing: we may survey in imagination all the worlds of God’s creation, but they are not God’s Kingdom. In whichever soul God’s Kingdom appeareth, and which knoweth God’s Kingdom, that soul needeth no human preaching or instruction; it is taught from within and assured of eternal life. Whoever knows and recognizes how near God’s Kingdom is to him may say with Jacob, 'God is in this place, and I knew it not.'"
From the sermon "The Nearness of the Kingdom"
“Grant Thy servants, O God, to be set on fire with Thy Spirit, strengthened by Thy power, illuminated by Thy splendour, filled with Thy grace, and to go forward by Thine aid. Give them, O Lord, a right faith, perfect love, true humility. Grant, O Lord, that there may be in us simple affection, brave patience, persevering obedience, perpetual peace, a pure mind, a right and honest heart, a good will, a holy conscience, spiritual strength, a life unspotted and unblamable; and after having manfully finished our course, may we be enabled happily to enter into Thy kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
- A prayer of the Third Century Church
"A Christian is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one."
Concerning Christian Liberty
“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
* * *
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)
“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
“Jesus does not call men to a new religion, but to life.”
Letters and Papers from Prison
* * *
It was after John’s arrest that Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the Gospel of God, saying, “The time has come at last—the kingdom of God has arrived. You must change your hearts and minds and believe the good news.”
As he walked along the shore of the Lake of Galilee, he saw two fishermen, Simon and his brother Andrew, casting their nets into the water. “Come and follow me, and I will teach you to catch men!” he cried.
At once they dropped their nets, and followed him. (Mark 1:14-18)
* * *
Jesus left there and as he passed on he saw a man called Matthew sitting at his desk in the tax-collector’s office. “Follow me!” he said to him—and the man got to his feet and followed him.
Later, as Jesus was in the house sitting at the dinner-table, a good many tax-collectors and other disreputable people came on the scene and joined him and his disciples. The Pharisees noticed this and said to the disciples, “Why does your master have his meals with tax-collectors and sinners?” But Jesus heard this and replied, “It is not the fit and flourishing who need the doctor, but those who are ill! Suppose you go away and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’. In any case I did not come to invite the ‘righteous’ but the ‘sinners’.” (Matthew 9:9-13)
“It is a poor sort of faith that imagines Christ defeated by anything men can do. Make no mistake: he has already survived everything we can do to him. And as for saving the world, we ought to remember that he has done that too by his method, not ours—the method of opening the door to the Kingdom of Heaven…
“That is the other Christianity, the Kingdom that is not of this world. He told us how to come out of [the world’s] thick darkness into that light; it is done by loving God, and the means to that is loving men. So simple a statement, and yet we have found so many ways of misinterpreting it!…
“And perhaps Christianity, if we ever embrace it not for our own worldly advantage but through surrender to God, will not only enable us to obey the Ten Commandments but enable us to enjoy it; not only save this transitory world for the few perplexed years we spend in it, but bring us out of this noise and darkness and helplessness and terror that we call the world into the full Light... We men are all thieves who have stolen the self which was meant as a part of God and tried to keep it for ourselves alone. But if we give it up again, we might hear the words he spoke to a penitent thief once: ‘Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.’”
Smoke On The Mountain
“…think of the dignity and honor which is ours. Sons of God with Him; Heirs of God with Him; one with Him, perfectly identified with the blessed One in God’s presence. Therefore He is not ashamed to call us brethren. To walk worthy of the Lord is our calling; and worthy of the Lord we shall walk if we have the great fact of our fellowship with the Son of God as a reality before our souls. It is a sad state to speak theoretically of our position in Christ, to know all this with our intellects and not to manifest it in our lives and show forth the excellencies of Him, who has called us from darkness into his marvellous light. He is not ashamed to call us brethren.”
The Lord of Glory
"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.