"We know and, to some extent realize, 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. But as for the well-to-do man who sees his brothers in want but shuts his eyes—and his heart—how could anyone believe that the love of God lives in him? My children, let us not love merely in theory or in words—let us love in sincerity and in practice!" 1 John 3:16-18
The actual Greek words there in that last sentence are "word and tongue" and "work and truth," ie. the love of Jesus requires more than our mouth; it requires our entirety. And perhaps you've heard this quote before, but it kept coming to me as I was reading these words - it's from Elie Wiesel:
“The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.”
Jesus of Nazareth was the least indifferent Man who ever lived, and it is our job to carry His spirit into this generation of humanity. And His spirit, His ethos, is literally included within His Holy Spirit, who has been given to us, and who is daily trying to teach us to love in "work and truth," no longer just in indifferent "word and tongue."
That nature of Jesus, living inside you this day, is attempting to teach you to love in His Way. Will you listen? Will you obey?
“The System gnashed on them with its teeth, struck out at them and broke its own arm in the striking. The disciples smiled their way through threats, rejoiced their way through stripes, sang their way through prisons, and triumphed their way through death. And the multitudes watching found themselves wanting the very thing the disciples had. This freedom! This poise! This moral power! Here religion, while on the offensive, was not offensive; it was winsome, compelling. Their weapons were strange indeed – they turned other cheeks, went the second mile, gave the cloak also, refused to do anything but love their persecutors. And they won! Of course they did. What can you do with a thing like that? It never knows when it is defeated, for it turns its defeats into victories and it turns its Calvaries into Easter mornings.”
E. Stanley Jones, The Christ of Every Road
Remember today: A heart that loves and seeks to serves others has the potential to touch the whole world. But a heart that loves and serves only the Self immediately has no impact; the beginning of that love is its end.
On three Sabbath days Paul argued with them from the scriptures, explaining and quoting passages to prove the necessity for the death of Christ and his rising again from the dead. “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you,” he concluded, “is God’s Christ!” Some of them were convinced and threw in their lot with Paul and Silas, and they were joined by a great many believing Greeks and a considerable number of influential women.
But the Jews, in a fury of jealousy, got hold of some of the unprincipled loungers of the market-place gathered a crowd together and set the city in an uproar. Then they attacked Jason’s house in an attempt to bring Paul and Silas out before the people. When they could not find them they hustled Jason and some of the brothers before the civic authorities, shouting, “These are the men who have turned the world upside down and have now come here…” Acts 17:2b-6
Which is certainly my favorite accusation against the Early Church that we ever get to hear of. ἀναστατώσαντες: these men have "unsettled" the world; have shifted the ground beneath the world’s feet; have upset the established way of doing things, doing normalcy, doing life…
Yet before we start thinking in the wrong direction – how we need to start being more “outspoken,” more “visible,” more “radical” – let’s remind ourselves of how, to date in Acts, Paul and his companions have gone about “unsettling” everything. They have proclaimed Jesus in Jewish synagogues and, when asked to, before whole cities of people interested to hear of this Gospel. They have, at times, persevered in cities where they weren’t wanted and, at others, simply gone with the flow and left. They have performed physical healings; encouraged people; shown tremendous spiritual courage; endured hardship; and seen people the world around them chooses not to see. When you read all that – the content of the first two Missionary Journeys – who does it start to sound like?
Paul and Silas, Luke and Timothy, Barnabas and John Mark – The whole Early Church – “unsettled” the world because they were a direct living extension of the actual life of Jesus. There were no other tricks up their sleeve; only His alive life. And coming up against that, the world had no answers.
Since you probably know that I don't particularly admire "apologetics," here’s a thought to consider: Rather than trying to “defend our faith,” what if we just got down to living it, living HIM, so that all the world’s counterpoints become indefensible? Because what unsettled the Thessalonian populace was not really “these men,” it was the shining contrast of Jesus standing back of them. It was like experiencing the Mount of Transfiguration after a lifetime of darkness.
O Timothy, guard most carefully your divine commission. Avoid the Godless mixture of contradictory notions which is falsely known as “knowledge” — some have followed it and lost their faith. Grace be with you. (1 Timothy 6:20,21)
In verse 20, J.B. Phillips translates the text as “guard most carefully your divine commission,” while the NIV has it, “guard what has been entrusted to your care.” The actual Greek is better than both: “guard the deposit committed to you”; the picture of treasure hidden away in some strong vault somewhere. Yet you and I know that we’re not supposed to be vaults and we certainly know we’re not meant to be hidden away! So what’s the best picture of what we hold and who we’re meant to be?
Consider 2 Corinthians 4:7 – “This priceless treasure we hold, so to speak, in a common earthenware jar — to show that the splendid power of it belongs to God and not to us.”
That’s my prayer for you as you approach this day: that your eyes would be entirely on His “splendid power” and “priceless treasure” and that you would allow His Life to supersede your “common earthenware jar” life. What a joy it is to watch His Life pour forth from us!
“Draw a line through the New Testament and on one side is spiritual fumbling, hesitancy, inadequacy, defeat, and on the other side is certainty, courage, adequacy, victory. That line runs straight through Pentecost. When we read the Acts of the Apostles, which is taken up with the doings of the apostles after Pentecost, we are struck with the incongruity between the apostles and their acts. Here were very ordinary men doing extraordinary things, thinking in an extraordinary way, leaving an extraordinary effect in the changed lives of men and society. The very temper and spirit of their lives was extraordinary. They seemed to have found power by which to live. And far from being rampant emotionalism the striking thing is their amazing balance and sanity. They burned with zeal, but they met issues and crises of the most far-reaching consequences and met them with poise and insight. They picked their way through intellectual and moral bogs and quagmires and marked out paths which we today tread with safety and salvation. And, more than that, they brought to bear upon life a power that redeemed men and made them immediately God-conscious; that changed the moral and spiritual climate; that turned dull, drab life into the spiritually delightful and taught a sad world to sing..."
E. Stanley Jones, The Christ of Every Road
“The living center round which all the perfections of God cluster, the living energy through which they all do their work, is the will of God. The will of God is the life of the universe; it is what it is because God wills it; His will is the living energy which maintains it in existence. The creature can have no more of God than he has of God's will working in him. He that would meet and find God must seek Him in His will; union with God's will is union with Himself. Therefore it was that the Lord Jesus, when He came to this world, always spoke of His having come to do one thing—the will of His Father. This alone could work our salvation.”
Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All
A little section from Luke 15, with notes in italics -
Now all the tax-collectors and “outsiders” were crowding around to hear what Jesus had to say. When we read those words, especially if you take the time to read this chapter in context, it causes us to cast our attentions both backward and forward. Looking back, isn’t it amazing that, given His most-recent teaching on “counting the cost,” and “giving up all your possessions,” that these tax-collectors and outsiders still crowded to Him?! And, looking ahead, and trying to understand the nature of that crowd's "crowding," what is the atmosphere of being around the person of Jesus?
Celebration, celebration, celebration!
If we’re to be the "Body of Christ" in this present day, just as He Himself was the visible-tangible-literal Body back in His day, are “outsiders” and rejects clinging to us, right now? Are they flying through the doors of our modern churches? What exactly are we inviting people into? A Sunday “service” or a party-like atmosphere of Heaven?
The Pharisees and the scribes complained of this, remarking, “This man accepts sinners and even eats his meals with them.” Remember: Our words and lives tend to tell people what we think Jesus is like. His name and renown are utterly unchanging; but His day-to-day reputation is in our hands everywhere we'll go this week.
After a number of the disciples are arrested, from Acts 5:
Then Peter and the apostles answered the High Priest, “It is our duty to obey the orders of God rather than the orders of men. It was the God of our fathers who raised up Jesus, whom you murdered by hanging him on a cross of wood. God has raised this man to his own right hand as prince and savior, to bring repentance and the forgiveness of sins to Israel. What is more, we are witnesses to these matters, and so is the Holy Spirit which God gives to those who obey his commands.”
Such bold and courageous words. Such trust in the realities of the Gospel. And while these words read like an amalgam of the messages given in Acts 2, 3 and 4, it’s the opening words Peter uses that capture my heart: “It is our duty to obey the orders of God rather than the orders of men.” As I read and reread those words in thinking through this section, a snippet of scripture kept coming into my mind – “I am under vows to you” – even though I couldn’t remember where exactly that was from. Turns out it’s Psalm 56, when David himself had also been arrested.
My friend, I don’t where today finds you – whether happy or feeling harassed – but, in light of the example of the apostles, their stoutheartedness for the sake of this Gospel we share with them, consider with full heart and ready spirit all of Psalm 56:
Be merciful to me, my God,
for my enemies are in hot pursuit;
all day long they press their attack.
My adversaries pursue me all day long;
in their pride many are attacking me.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise--
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
All day long they twist my words;
all their schemes are for my ruin.
They conspire, they lurk,
they watch my steps,
hoping to take my life.
Because of their wickedness do not let them escape;
in your anger, God, bring the nations down.
Record my misery;
list my tears on your scroll--
are they not in your record?
Then my enemies will turn back
when I call for help.
By this I will know that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise--
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can man do to me?
I am under vows to you, my God;
I will present my thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered me from death
and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.
Yes, Jesus, teach us to follow you like the saints of old! Teach us to live the bold spirit of your Early Church, your first friends!
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. (Galatians 2:19,20)
Good gracious! Now this is the glory our lives are meant to be!
Take those last three sentences in steps:
1) You and I are dead to the Law; there is no damnable, damning evidence of sin even available to condemn us anymore. Jesus “did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it,” and, in fulfilling it, He put to death its demands upon us.
2) The “old I” is gone now. The sinful, self-aware, self-obsessed old Self lives no longer – and what has replaced it?
3) “The living Christ within me.” What?! The God of the universe, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, the Savior of the world has chosen to take up residence…in me?! yes! He’s alive and He’s living in me! And in you too, my friend! Oh, that you and I would learn to submit our minds and spirits and personalities to allowing Him to supersede our minds and spirits and personalities! He knows how to walk out His Way – He’s already done it once! – oh, won’t we let Him do it all over again in us?
So what’s left for us to do?
4) To simply “live believing in the Son of God, who loved me and sacrificed himself for me.” This is the essence of what Jesus meant when he answered the crowd in John 6: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
So, to sum up thoughts 1-4 in one contiguous sentence, here we go: To Believe in Jesus is to walk in a Union-with-Him that creates the “new I,” causing us to be dead to the Law and sin! Thank you, Jesus, that it's all your work!
During this period some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them by the name of Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there was to be a great famine throughout the world. (This actually happened in the days of Claudius) The disciples determined to send relief to the brothers in Judea, each contributing as he was able. This they did, sending their contribution to the elders there personally through Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 11:27-30)
To me, these verses are just delightful because of the way they show us the real-time vitality of the ways of the Holy Spirit in Antioch and in His people. Let’s reread them and let me point out what I mean:
During this period some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch, pulled, undoubtedly, by the rumors of Holy Spirit happenings happening there; drawn as prophets to the Flame; wanting to see everything that was spiritually possible in their lifetimes. One of them by the name of Agabus – and we can only guess what a guy named Agabus must’ve looked like! – stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there was to be a great famine throughout the world. (This actually happened in the days of Claudius) – a parenthetic aside, written in the future, that tells us what they did not know when they took the following course of action: The disciples determined to send relief to the brothers in Judea, each contributing as he was able: sacrificial giving based entirely on a prophetic word given by one man in one church on one day. This they did, sending their contribution to the elders there personally through Barnabas and Saul. The former persecutor of the Way, along with the man who’d first welcomed him into the Jerusalem gathering, now travel to the headquarters of this movement with supplies demanded by the Holy Spirit through one of His prophets.
Let's be honest: Is this the kind of action we’re after? To worship in places and ways that draw the worldwide attention of other believers; to listen to the voice of the prophets; to act in quick accordance to the voice of the Spirit? To, yes, run the risk of looking strange for the intensity of our gatherings’ adherence to a Way of life that begins in the spiritual and then, and only from there, extends out through the natural? Is this description of their lives stirring your heart, causing you to crave what they possessed, especially when you consider it as an echo of the living life of Jesus?
Is this what we want?
“There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not philosophers. Yet it is admirable to profess because it was once admirable to live. To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust. It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically.”
Henry David Thoreau, Walden
“For you, man, there awaits a great and beautiful future. And the more the world has of men like you the nearer will this future be brought. Without you, ministers to the highest principles, living freely and consciously, humanity would be nothing; developing in the natural order it must wait the end of its earthly history. But you, by some thousands of years, hasten it into the kingdom of eternal truth – and in this is your high service. You embody in yourself the blessing of God which rested upon the people.”
Anton Chekhov, "The Black Monk"
“I assure you that the man who believes in me will do the same things that I have done, yes, and he will do even greater things than these, for I am going away to the Father. Whatever you ask the Father in my name, I will do — that the Son may bring glory to the Father. And if you ask me anything in my name, I will grant it.” John 14:12-14
Let me ask you a question: Where’s all this going? I mean, sitting in church, going to Bible studies, joining accountability groups, reading Tim Keller, having quiet times – what exactly are you doing? Do you ever stop to think about why you’re spending your time the way you’re spending your time?
I don’t think I’m off-base in saying that most Christians do all these things in order to become “good Christians,” or, in other words, pretty nice people. But if Jesus, having spoken words like these, heard us stating a goal like that, I think He’d have to chuckle, put His hands on our shoulders, and look us right in the eye: “A good Christian?” He’d ask. “Oh, no. No, what I want is for you to be like ME; actually, what I really want is for you to surpass me. I want you to show the world what a life looks like with the full resources of Heaven behind it. If you’d only believe in me, you’ll become just like me, and you’ll run out ahead and do things I never got to do.”
Brothers and Sisters, is that what we want from these lives? Because that’s exactly what He wants from these lives. He wants, because He’s “gone away to the Father,” because He’s sitting right next to the Father right now, that you would desire higher and more impossible things. He wants to answer prayers that prove our eyes are trained on His face; that we would like our own face to become like His.
Is that what you want?
They burnt [Jericho] with fire, and all that was in it. Only they put the silver, the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron into the treasury of Yahweh’s house. But Rahab the prostitute, her father’s household, and all that she had, Joshua saved alive. She lives in the middle of Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers, whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. (Joshua 6:24,25)
And not only did she live “in the middle of Israel,” she lives forevermore “in the middle” of the family-line of the King of Heaven, Jesus the Christ. It’s actually well worth seeing her name in that vaunted lineup:
Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was RAHAB, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Elihud, Elihud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah. (Matthew 1)
Rahab even merits a mention in the “hall of fame of faith” – alongside others like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses – in Hebrews 11: “By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days. By faith the prostitute RAHAB, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.”
But, for our own purposes, what had Rahab actually done? What can we take to heart from her short narrative within the scriptures? Simply this: That on a particular day of her life, a day like any other, she saw the power of God and believed it was her only salvation to trust herself to His purposes. When those spies showed up, she abandoned her old life and entrusted her entire future life to the hand of a God whose power was amply evident by His actions.
That is also precisely the call on your life today: To abandon everything to the movements of this same God; to His eternal changeless, real-time purposes in your midst. How glorious to be of actual use to the God who once saved Rahab!
Remember: He asks for nothing for which He doesn't Himself provide. If we sense any sort of lack today, we need only ask.
“The truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings and His service one of unspeakable pleasure. He is all love, and those who trust Him need never know anything but that love. He is just indeed and He will not condone sin; but through the blood of the everlasting covenant He is able to act toward us exactly as if we had never sinned. Toward the trusting sons of men His mercy will always triumph over justice. The fellowship of God is delightful beyond all telling. He communes with His redeemed ones in an easy, uninhibited fellowship that is restful and healing to the soul. He is not sensitive or selfish nor temperamental. What He is today we shall find Him tomorrow and the next day and the next year. He is not hard to please, though He may be hard to satisfy. He expects of us only what He has Himself first supplied. He is quick to mark every simple effort to please Him, and just as quick to overlook imperfections when He knows we meant to do His will. He loves us for ourselves and values our love more than galaxies of new created worlds.”
A.W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous
“All of your men of war shall march around the city, going around the city once. You shall do this six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day, you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall be that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall go up, every man straight in front of him.” (Joshua 6:3-5)
Imagine if you yourself were an Israelite “man of war” who’d been born in the last forty years of wandering aimlessly around the wilderness. Your whole upbringing has moved toward this very week of days; your training in the arts of war has been honed for this exact laying of siege. Now imagine - from your own individual perspective - exactly what your orders are for the week of battle ahead of you: “Walk around this city one time. Do that for six days. On the seventh, shout. You will then have won...”
How absolutely stunning is the way that Yahweh takes the means and ends out of His people’s hands so that all that’s left is His power and glory. The relative ease with which these people will soon possess this city should be such a wonderful encouragement to us who’ve received some similarly wild commands:
“As you go, preach, saying, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. Freely you received, so freely give. Don’t take any gold, silver, or brass in your money belts. Take no bag for your journey, neither two coats, nor shoes, nor staff: for the laborer is worthy of his food. Into whatever city or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy; and stay there until you go on. As you enter into the household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come on it, but if it isn’t worthy, let your peace return to you. Whoever doesn’t receive you, nor hear your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake off the dust from your feet. Most certainly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.
“Behold, I send you out as sheep among wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to councils, and in their synagogues they will scourge you. Yes, and you will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony to them and to the nations. But when they deliver you up, don’t be anxious how or what you will say, for it will be given you in that hour what you will say. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” (Matthew 10)
If Jesus says to do these things, we are meant to be doing these things. If He says they’re perfectly possible, they are, no doubt, perfectly possible.
For the world is becoming full of impostors—men who will not admit that Jesus the Christ really became man. Now this is the very spirit of deceit and is anti-Christ. Take care of yourselves; don’t throw away all the labour that has been spent on you, but persevere till God gives you your reward. (2 John 1:7,8)
In the Greek, that last sentence is interesting because, right in the middle, John changes the voice from 1st Person Plural - "The things we have accomplished" - to the 2nd Person Plural - "a full reward you all might receive." And that's one of the things that I find so remarkable about being part of the Family of God: that we together are accomplishing the work of the Kingdom in this generation, and yet that I, that you, are each individually getting to personally soak up all the rewards on offer.
And why does this matter? Because our collective-yet-individual, subjective, personal experience of Him turns the words of verse 7 on their head:
“For the world will become full of truth-tellers – men and women who will prove that Jesus the Christ really became man. Now this is the very spirit of truth and is pro-Christ.”
How absolutely wonderful that our lives may prove the truth of His life!
"A man ought to know that it is not easy for him to have a fixed principle, if he does not daily say the same things, and hear the same things, and at the same time apply them to life."
Philippians 2:12-18 with some notes in italics -
So then, my dearest friends, as you have always followed my advice — and that not only when I was present to give it — so now that I am far away be keener than ever to work out the salvation that God has given you with a proper sense of awe and responsibility. For it is God who is at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve his purpose. I can’t begin to guess how many times I’ve heard that “work out your salvation” without the proper and unignorable ending of Paul’s thought: “For it is God who is at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve his purpose.” And what’s that 'purpose' for which He’s living in us and making use of us?
Do all you have to do without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be God’s children, blameless, sincere and wholesome, living in a warped and diseased world, and shining there like lights in a dark place. For you hold in your hands the very word of life. Thus can you give me something to be proud of in the day of Christ, for I shall know then that I did not spend my energy in vain. Yes, and if it should happen that my life-blood is, so to speak, poured out upon the sacrifice and offering which your faith means to God, then I can still be very happy, and I can share my happiness with you all. I should like to feel that you could be glad about this too, and could share with me the happiness I speak of. As Paul evaluates the worth of his life – and as we are exhorted to: “Do all [we] have to do without grumbling or arguing, so that [we] may be God’s children, blameless, sincere and wholesome, living in a warped and diseased world, and shining there like lights in a dark place” – what is the crux of this whole paragraph for our daily lives? These words: λόγον ζωῆς ἐπέχοντες – “holding forth the word of life (“logos” – The Word – Jesus!)” Our lives must bring forth LIFE, not just some metaphorical 'idea' of life; we must bring Jesus, the Word Incarnate, who is Himself Life!
Among the large number who had become believers there was complete agreement of heart and soul. Not one of them claimed any of his possessions as his own but everything was common property to all... (Acts 4:32)
When we read those words, even though they sound like an echoing of the spirit of Acts 2:42-47, they probably frighten us a little, as modern western believers. In this translation, the all-and-nothing character of the Fellowship really comes across in the language: “there was complete agreement”; “Not one of them claimed any of his possessions; “everything was common property to all.” Yet before we become afraid of what we see here, or self-conscious of what we’re not yet willing to part with, or, even, get carried away into thoughts of some sort of Soviet-style collectivization, it’s the language of Luke’s original words that should actually form our view for what’s happening here.
This is the first part of Acts 4:32 directly from the Greek: “And the multitude, having believed, were in heart and soul one…”
The miracle of this verse is not the outward action of sharing between the believers; the miracle is that a multitude of people, by believing in the Risen Jesus, are, by Him, made one. A M U L T I T U D E become one. That is Jesus’ work, as the only Head of this one Body. The activities of unity are a natural outflow of the reality of unity. It’s not terribly difficult – is it? – to share with yourself? And that’s how this Body was learning to view itself, as one very heterogeneous fellowship that found its one life in the one Savior, Jesus. And isn’t that what we want to see in our day too?
As is clear from the title of this post, pay special attention to the level of "newness" that's on offer as we follow Jesus:
“The new revelation of God in Jesus Christ, the new way of approach to the Infinite Father manifested in the appearance of the Son, had created for the primitive Christians a new life and had illumined them with a new light. It gave them a new insight into the relations between God and man, and a fresh manifestation of the bonds uniting our Father in Heaven with His children on earth. It made them see with new vividness the way of God’s salvation and the duties which God required of man.”
Thomas M. Lindsay, The Church and the Ministry in the Early Centuries
"The test of the genuineness of our love for God's family lies in this question - do we love God himself and do we obey his commands? For loving God means obeying his commands, and these commands of his are not burdensome, for God's 'heredity' within us will always conquer the world outside us." 1 John 5:2-4
I'm sure you've noticed this before, but it seems to me that we tend to have a negative, uncomprehending view of "obedience" - negative, because we think of it as legalistic, and uncomprehending, because we understand obedience only in the context of the Old Covenant, not the New. Let me make it as simple as possible, and echoing of John.
Under the Old Covenant, the entirety of the message from God to His people was, "You must obey," and they failed at every turn.
Under the New Covenant, and because of the glorious work of Jesus, both by His life and His now living inside us, the new message is, "Now you can obey."
Philippians 2:13 - "For it is God who is at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve his purpose." Like John said, "God's 'heredity' within us will always conquer the world outside us" - the work of obedience, under this New Covenant, is Jesus' work. Our work is to set our will on His... and surrender.
"Yes, we love him because he first loved us. If a man says, 'I love God' and hates his brother, he is a liar. For if he does not love the brother before his eyes how can he love the one beyond his sight?" 1 John 4:19,20
I love how explicit John is in the end of verse 20. In essence, the person standing in front of you - who you can see - is the exact test for your love for God - who you can't see. And this is not some dress-rehearsal; every day is the real thing.
Friends, shall we love with a reckless abandon this day? Remember: It's all aimed at Him!