"But you, O man of God, keep clear of such things. Set your heart not on riches, but on goodness, Christ-likeness, faith, love, patience and humility. Fight the worthwhile battle of the faith, keep your grip on that life eternal to which you have been called, and to which you boldly professed your loyalty before many witnesses. I charge you in the sight of God who gives us life, and Jesus Christ who fearlessly witnessed to the truth before Pontius Pilate, to keep your commission clean and above reproach until the final coming of Christ. This will be, in his own time, the final revelation of God, who is the blessed controller of all things, the king over all kings and the master of all masters, the only source of immortality, the one who lives in unapproachable light, the one whom no mortal eye has ever seen or ever can see. To him be acknowledged all honor and power for ever, amen!" 1 Timothy 6:11-16
The language used here, plus the direction of that language, actually teaches this paragraph better than anything I could ever muster. Imagine the first part as if Paul is looking Timothy in the eye: “But you, O man of God, keep clear of such things. Set your heart not on riches, but on goodness, Christ-likeness, faith, love, patience and humility. Fight the worthwhile battle of the faith…”
And then it’s as if Paul’s eyes start to lift as he keeps writing: “...keep your grip on that life eternal to which you have been called, and to which you boldly professed your loyalty before many witnesses…”
And now he’s looking skyward, up to the heavenly places, as he continues on: “I charge you in the sight of God who gives us life, and Jesus Christ who fearlessly witnessed to the truth before Pontius Pilate, to keep your commission clean and above reproach until the final coming of Christ. This will be, in his own time, the final revelation of God, who is the blessed controller of all things…”
Then Paul begins to grin uncontrollably: “...the king over all kings and the master of all masters, the only source of immortality, the one who lives in unapproachable light, the one whom no mortal eye has ever seen or ever can see. To him be acknowledged all honor and power for ever, amen!”
Paul had begun by trying to give Timothy some good quality injunctions for his life and then got lost along the way and ended up with… Jesus! And this should be us too. We should be the people whose heads are so up in the clouds of His glory and goodness that, almost unthinkingly, we just follow His ways. Look at how Paul said it in 2 Corinthians 5: “We want our transitory life to be absorbed into the life that is eternal.” That’s the whole deal, my friends! To wed the living of our little human lives with the eternal purposes of the all-knowing, all-powerful God; to cease to be ourselves in the presence of the One who indwells our hearts and is capable of eternally overtaking our lives!
Yes, YES, YES!
Large crowds followed him and he healed them all, with the strict injunction that they should not make him conspicuous by their talk, thus fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy: ‘Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom my soul is well pleased; I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will declare justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and smoking flax he will not quench, till he sends forth justice to victory. And in his name Gentiles will trust.' (Matthew 12:16-21)
What's so unbelievably wonderful about this Savior, this Man, this Jesus, what's so incredibly lovely about His plans for His Kingdom, is that He's handed all of this, every attribute, act and activity, directly to us: we are the heirs, inheritors and agents of this age-old prophecy. Read again, phrase by phrase, through Isaiah's words and then through Jesus' direct words to us, as He hands off the New Covenant Kingdom-baton:
‘Behold, my servant whom I have chosen: “For you did not choose me, but I have chosen you and appointed you…” (Jn. 15:16)
My beloved in whom my soul is well pleased; “your Father has chosen gladly to give you the Kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)
I will put my Spirit upon him, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” (Acts 1:8a)
And he shall declare justice to the Gentiles. “…and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judaea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8b)
He shall not quarrel nor cry aloud, “and whoever wants to be great among you must be a servant, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Matt. 20:27,28a)
Neither shall anyone hear his voice in the streets. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (Jn. 14:26)
A bruised reed shall he not break, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)
And smoking flax shall he not quench, “…for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:29)
Till he sends forth justice unto victory. “As for the victorious, I will give you the honor of sitting beside me on my throne, just as I myself have won the victory and have taken my seat beside my Father on his throne.” (Rev. 3:21)
And in his name Gentiles will hope. “Go you therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matt. 28:19)
"For we are not separate units but intimately related to each other in Christ." Ephesians 4:25b
* * * *
“Paul’s conception of a Christian community is a body of which the Spirit of Christ is the soul. The individual members are all full of the Spirit, and their individual powers and capacities are laid hold of, vivified, and strengthened by the indwelling Spirit in such a way that each is ‘gifted’ and enabled to do some special service for Christ and for His Church in the society in which he is placed. Every true Christian is ‘gifted’ in this way. In this respect all are equal and of the same spiritual rank. The equality, however, is neither monotonous nor mechanical. Men have different natural endowments, and these lead to a diversity of ‘gifts,’ all of which are serviceable in their places, and enable the separate members to perform different services, useful and necessary, for the spiritual life of the whole community and for the growth in sanctification of every member.”
- Thomas M. Lindsay, The Church and the Ministry in the Early Centuries
* * * *
Specifically, what are your spiritual giftings? Have you been using them this week? Will you be using them today?
Because, don't forget: Those gifts are the way that the Holy Spirit is showing Himself to others; they are where the Lord Jesus is laying hold of you, giving you life, strengthening you; they are for the special service of the whole worldwide Body of Christ; they are useful and absolutely necessary for the spiritual life of the Church and all of its members: for we are not separate from each other but intimately - and always - related to each other in this wonderful Jesus!
Ananias set out and went to the house, and there he laid his hands upon Saul, and said, “Saul, brother, the Lord has sent me—Jesus who appeared to you on your journey here—so that you may recover your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got to his feet and was baptized. Then he took some food and regained his strength.
Saul stayed with the disciples in Damascus for some time. Without delay he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues declaring that he is the Son of God. All his hearers were staggered and kept saying, “Isn’t this the man who so bitterly persecuted those who called on the name in Jerusalem, and came down here with the sole object of taking back all such people as prisoners before the chief priests?” Acts 9:17-21
The word Luke uses to describe how “staggered” the crowds were when they heard the heart of Saul’s new message – ἐξίσταντο: 'to be displaced, changed, altered, driven mad, deranged' – is also used thrice to describe people’s amazement with Jesus, twice on the day of Pentecost and, finally, here in this passage. The alive life of Jesus, the never-ending work of the Holy Spirit, and the confluence of those two elements in the lives of men and women like us, are supposed to be, meant to be, cannot help being “staggering” when men and women like us let Him fully have His way.
Remember: Subscribing to a set of beliefs about Jesus will not stagger people.
Don't forget: Being against the ways of this world will not amaze them.
But, rising to each new day, setting your heart upon the Savior who is the truest thing about you, aligning your spirit so as to be a wide-open channel of the Holy Spirit, and then walking out the door with Belief, and open eyes and ears: NOW you are living out your day like Saul learned to do: with the life of Jesus on display, the power of the Holy Spirit always at the ready; full belief in the promises; and eyes of love upon the world’s great need.
Now yes, that will “stagger” the world around you!
So Jesus re-embarked on the boat, crossed the lake, and came to his own town. Immediately some people arrived bringing him a paralytic lying flat on his bed. When Jesus saw the faith of those who brought him he said to the paralytic, “Cheer up, my son! Your sins are forgiven.” Matthew 9:1,2
We could talk about the fact that Jesus goes after sin here before going after this man's paralysis; we could go into a little discussion of the actual nature of what "sin" is; but what I want to talk about is the fact that it's his friends' faith - not his own - his friends' faith in Jesus that gets this man set free of his nature of sin. This is just so wonderful to me.
Think about how it must've played out. His friends arrive to his little shack in the rough part of town; help him get dressed; then get him onto a pallet that they can carry through the streets of Capernaum to where they've heard Jesus will be. Along the way they're giddy with hope, not for themselves, but for their friend: "Oh, Jesus," they say to him, "He's a wonder-worker. He looks after people like us, like you. He sees us. What a delight He is! When you get near Him, you'll see. He'll do it. We just know it."
My friends, if these friends' call is also our call - to bring everyone to Jesus of Nazareth - is that the way we're walking them to Him? Do we know Him? Can we tell them what He's like? Can we point to His miraculous power, His heart for the lost, His eyes for the hopeless, His delightful personal presence? And, probably most importantly, do we know what to expect when we arrive with them to Him: is our expectancy formed by our own experience of Him?
Because that's what people truly need to see in us. Expectancy built from personal experience.
At the end of the book of Joshua, Joshua gathers the people of Israel to give them his last words before he's parted from them forever. Both the final two chapters are his words to them: very poignant and pointed. But it struck me last summer that, if you only changed the context a little, changing some phrasing and the background of which Covenant we're under, his words are amazingly like something Jesus could've said.
So, as a start to our workweek, consider Joshua 23 in that new, New Covenant way:
Once the forty days after the Resurrection had passed, after Jesus had given 'life and life to the full' to His believers, and He was ready to return to the Father, He called for His disciples, for their hearers and eventual spiritual descendants, for you and for me, and said to all of us, “I have completed the days of my earthly ministry; I have died and, in your sight, lived again. You have seen all that the Father can do through my Name; for it is the Father who has lived His life in me, and I in Him. Behold, I have allotted to you the very same interrelationship – we call it 'Abiding' – to be an inheritance for you, starting in Jerusalem with my disciples, into Judaea, into Samaria and, eventually, to the ends of the earth. By living our heavenly life within you, I, the Father, and our dear friend, the Holy Spirit, will thrust Satan from before you, and drive him from out of your sight. You shall possess my Kingdom, as I have spoken to you.
“Therefore be very courageous to daily approach my Throne with confidence, to Abide in me as I Abide in you, in order that you may keep and do all that I have spoken to my disciples and will speak to your spirit, that you do not turn aside from me to the right hand or to the left; that you do not continue on anymore as a slave to sin, or to the world that remains around you; neither make mention of the name of their cultural gods, nor cause to swear by their seeming power or intrigue, neither serve their idolatrous needs, nor bow down yourselves to the world’s fleeting pleasures and experiences; but Abide in me, and I in you, as I invite you to do everyday.
“For I have driven out the evil one from before you forever. But as for you, no plan of his can prosper against you now that you are part of my Kingdom. One man of you shall stand against a thousand of his temptations; for it is I, Jesus, your Savior who fights for you, as I am speaking to you now. Take good heed therefore to yourselves, that you Abide in me, even as I Abide in you.
“But if you do at all go back, if you forget that you are now a slave to righteousness, no longer to sin, if you fall under the sway of the world, of Self, of sin, and make mistakes among them, and go in their ways, and they take over yours; know for a certainty that I, Jesus, will forgive you in my sight; and that I shall take ahold of you, chasten you as a good Father, looking you in the eyes, until you learn to love my good land, my wondrous Kingdom, my Way, which I, Jesus, have given to you personally.
“Behold, today I am going to ascend back to my Father. You know in all your hearts and souls that not one thing has failed to be revealed in Me of all the good things which the Father spoke concerning Me. All has happened so that you may believe. Not one good and glorious promise has failed to be fulfilled in Me. It shall happen that as all the good things of your Heavenly inheritance come to you of which the Father spoke through Me, so the Father will bring on you even more good things, until he has built up in you the fullness of the Kingdom which He has already given you, while you obey the New Covenant, sworn between Myself and My Father, which I have sealed for you in My blood, and then go into all the world to serve Me, and bow your hearts before Me. Then the Father’s delight will be kindled towards you, and you will live forever in the heavenly reality which He has given to you.”
Let's follow Him into this week, Brothers and Sisters!
Every Sabbath Paul used to speak in the synagogue trying to persuade both Jews and Greeks. By the time Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was completely absorbed in preaching the message, showing the Jews as clearly as he could that Jesus is Christ. (Acts 18:4,5)
I think we often think of Paul as “a man obsessed,” but in that last sentence we get to see what his obsession actually looked like. This translation reads: “Paul was completely absorbed in preaching”; the NIV says, “Paul devoted himself exclusively”; the ESV says, “Paul was occupied with the word”; and the King James reads, “Paul was pressed in the spirit.” That last one is really closest to the best Greek meaning. Paul was συνείχετο – his “shoulders were bent in or contracted upon his chest”; he was “held together” with the Word, we’re told.
When you imagine that physical posture – something "upon your shoulders" that's "holding you together" – what image does it draw up for you? To me, it sounds like a yoke. It sounds like Jesus saying across the years to Paul, across the centuries to us: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest! Put on my yoke and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30) And, indeed, just five verses later in Acts 18, see what Jesus says to Paul: "Then one night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision. “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and let no one silence you, for I myself am with you..."
This seeming obsession of Paul’s, this compulsion to preach Jesus that just won’t quit, is actually born out of his shared experience with, his wondrous sense of always co-laboring in everything with, Jesus Himself. And it's absolutely beautiful, if you ask me. And it's the experience we're all meant to be having, everyday.
"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.