Missing Jesus?

Lord from heaven book.

‘Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,
look upon this little child.
Pity my simplicity,
and suffer me to come to Thee.’

My mother taught me this prayer when I was old enough to repeat it after her, and, with some basic explanation of terms, to accept it as true. Imagine me thinking, then, that I understood who Jesus is! Imagine it, even now, when Jesus has turned out to be so much more besides! This first of three brief posts on the theme of the power of Jesus’ personality comes from Dr. Leon Morris…

Leon Morris writes… “We can quite easily miss the impact of the personality of Jesus, taken up as we are with traditions of the ‘Gentle Jesus, meek and mild’ variety. It is true that Jesus manifested gentleness and meekness, but this is the compassion of the strong, and not the impotence of the weak.

“I think that many people have the impression that Jesus was rather negative, a quiet, withdrawing type of person, who told beautiful stories and did not retaliate when he was ill-treated. This is true in a way, but it gives a false impression. Jesus was dynamic. His was a personality that gripped men.

“…. Yes, Jesus was gigantic. There was nothing trite or commonplace about His words, and there was nothing colourless about His deeds. Consider the forcefulness of the personality of One who made a whip of small cords and single-handed drove the greedy traders out of the temple precincts (John 2:13 ff.) Or of One who so awed a crowd of excited Galileans, thirsting for His blood and about to hurl Him over a precipice, that He simply walked through the middle of the crowd and went on His way.”

From Leon Morris in The Lord From Heaven

Overcome by love?

Utmost

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”
Revelation 2:7 NKJV

Jesus’ message (Revelation 2:1) to the weary, struggling, patiently enduring Christians in the city of Ephesus, both comforted and confronted them. To know that Jesus knows when we are ‘bearing up’ for His name’s sake is comforting. To hear Him say that we have ‘forgotten (our) first love’ for Him, and must repent and set to work again, is confronting. But only in a close, committed relationship with Jesus will it be possible for us to overcome all the opposition we meet in living for Him. This last of three brief posts on the theme of Overcoming Life also comes from Oswald Chambers…

“To him who overcomes …” Revelation 2:7

Oswald Chambers writes… “Life without war is impossible either in nature or in grace. The basis of physical, mental, moral, and spiritual life is antagonism. This is the open fact of life.

“Health is the balance between physical life and external nature, and it is maintained only by sufficient vitality on the inside against things on the outside. Everything outside my physical life is designed to put me to death. Things which keep me going when I am alive, disintegrate me when I am dead. If I have enough fighting power, I produce the balance of health. The same is true of the mental life. If I want to maintain a vigorous mental life, I have to fight, and in that way the mental balance called thought is produced.

“Morally it is the same. Everything that does not partake of the nature of virtue is the enemy of virtue in me, and it depends on what moral caliber I have whether I overcome and produce virtue. Immediately I fight, I am moral in that particular. No man is virtuous because he cannot help it; virtue is acquired.

“And spiritually it is the same. Jesus said – In the world you shall have tribulation,’ i.e., everything that is not spiritual makes for my undoing, but – ‘be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’ (John 16:33)

“I have to learn to score off the things that come against me, and in that way produce the balance of holiness; then it becomes a delight to meet opposition. Holiness is the balance between my disposition and the law of God as expressed in Jesus Christ.”

From Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest.

No strain, no strength?

Utmost

I have said these things to you,
that in me you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation.
But take heart; I have overcome the world.
John 16:33 ESV

 

After thanking Jesus for ‘speaking plainly’ at last about his mission (John 16:28) the disciples affirmed their faith in him; so I wonder how they felt when Jesus added, plainly, ‘Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone.’ (16:32). Plainly, it would take some time yet (and the gift of the Holy Spirit) for the disciples to grasp the truth that, even in Jesus, peace comes with tribulation. This second of three brief posts on the theme of Overcoming Life also comes from Oswald Chambers…

Oswald Chambers wrote… “God does not give us overcoming life; He gives us life as we overcome. The strain is the strength. If there is no strain, there is no strength. Are you asking God to give you life and liberty and joy? He cannot, unless you will accept the strain. Immediately you face the strain, you will get the strength. Overcome your own timidity and take the step, and God will give you to eat of the tree of life and you will get nourishment. If you spend yourself out physically, you become exhausted; but spend yourself spiritually, and you get more strength. God never gives strength for tomorrow, or for the next hour, but only for the strain of the minute. The temptation is to face difficulties from a commonsense standpoint. The saint is hilarious when he is crushed with difficulties because the thing is so ludicrously impossible to anyone but God.”

From Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest.

Rise and Shine?

Utmost

 

Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.
Ephesians 5:14 ESV

‘Apart from me you can do nothing,’ Jesus said. ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,’ said Paul. Jesus was reminding sinners, like us, that, apart from Himself, we would be forever unfruitful. Paul was reminding sinners, like himself, but in whom Christ Himself now lived, that anything God willed, they could do, overcoming every obstacle and bearing much fruit. This first of three brief posts on the theme of Overcoming Life comes from Oswald Chambers…

Oswald Chambers writes…  “All initiative is not inspired. A man may say to you – ‘Buck up, take your disinclination by the throat, throw it overboard, and walk out into the thing!’ That is ordinary human initiative. But when the Spirit of God comes in and says, in effect, ‘Buck up,’ we find that the initiative is inspired. We all have any number of visions and ideals when we are young, but sooner or later we find that we have no power to make them real. We cannot do the things we long to do, and we are apt to settle down to the visions and ideals as dead, and God has to come and say – ‘Arise from the dead.’

When the inspiration of God does come, it comes with such miraculous power that we are able to arise from the dead and do the impossible thing. The remarkable thing about spiritual initiative is that the life comes after we do the ‘bucking up.’

God does not give us overcoming life; He gives us life as we overcome.

When the inspiration of God comes, and He says, ‘Arise from the dead,’ we have to get up; God does not lift us up. Our Lord said to the man with the withered hand – ‘Stretch forth thy hand,’ and as soon as the man did so, his hand was healed, but he had to take the initiative. If we will do the overcoming, we shall find we are inspired of God because He gives life immediately.”

From Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest.

What we shout when the devil whispers?

John Stott
15 
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 
Romans 6:15-16 ESV

 

Paul was criticized for emphasizing the Grace of God in Christ for the forgiveness of sin. Some attempted to discredit him (and the Gospel) asking, that if Grace is free, then why not continue in sin, and receive more grace? This third of three brief posts on the theme Slaves of God also comes from Dr. John Stott…

John Stott writes… … (this is) a question that is often whispered in our ears by the greatest enemy of the gospel, Satan himself, who seeks to entice us into sin. As he asked Eve in the garden, ‘Did God say…?’, so he whispers in our ear, ‘Why not continue in sin? Go on! You are under grace. God will forgive you.’

“When this happens, how do we answer the devil? We must begin with an outraged negative, ‘God forbid’, ‘By no means!’ But then we need to go further and confirm this negative with a reason. And there is a reason, a solid, logical, irrefutable reason, why the subtle insinuations of the devil must be repudiated. It is most important, because it brings all this great theology down to the level of our practical everyday experience.

“What is the reason we must give in rebutting the devil’s enticements? It is based on what we are, namely that we are one with Christ (Romans 6:1-14) and slaves of God (verses 15-23). We became united to Christ by baptism (at least outwardly and visibly). We became enslaved to God by the self-surrender of faith. But whether we emphasize the outward baptism or the inward faith, the point is the same. It is that our Christian conversion has had this result: it has united us to Christ, and it has enslaved us to God. This is what we are, every one of us: one with Christ, and a slave of God.”

From John R.W. Stott in Men Made New.

Remember to blush today?

 

John Stott20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:20-23 ESV

J.B. Phillips translates verse 21a as: ‘Yet what sort of harvest did you reap from those things that today you blush to remember?’ If we have forgotten how to blush over even the memory of our sins, that may not be so much a sign of our growing maturity as it may be a sign of our more cold-blooded rebellion. This second of three brief posts on the theme Slaves of God also comes from Dr. John Stott…

John Stott writes… “Here then are two completely different lives, lives totally opposed to one another – the life of the old self, and the life of the new. They are what Jesus termed the broad road that leads to destruction, and the narrow road that leads to life. Paul calls them two slaveries. By birth we are slaves to sin; by grace and faith we have become slaves of God. The slavery of sin yields no return, except a steady, moral deterioration and finally death. The slavery of God yields the precious return of sanctification and finally eternal life. The argument of this section, then, is that our conversion – this act of yielding or surrender to God – leads to a status of slavery, and slavery involves obedience.”

From John R.W. Stott in Men Made New.

Do you not know?

John Stott

15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 
Romans 6:15-16 ESV

Christy Nockles 2009 song, My Master, (still a welcome regular on my play list during morning walks) recalls the experience of the slave in Exodus 21:4-6 who, when he said, ‘plainly’, ‘I love my master…I will not go free…’ confirmed his slavery ‘forever’ by allowing his master to bore an awl through his ear into the doorpost of his house. Are we not unpopular enough in the world today, as Christians, that we would dare to suggest that slavery to God is something to be desired, for Love’s sake? This first of three brief posts on the theme of Slaves of God comes from Dr. John Stott…

John Stott writes… “First comes a question: ‘What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?’ (6:15). This is the same question as in verse 1, ‘What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?’ This question is followed in verses 2 and 15 by the same answer, an emphatic negative, ‘By no means!’ or ‘God forbid!’ (AV).

“Then comes another question explaining this negative, and beginning, Do you not know? Verse 3:Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?’ Similarly, verse 16:Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey?’

“… In verses 15-23 what we are to know is that through self-surrender, through yielding ourselves, we are slaves of God and therefore committed to obedience. This is what the beginning of verse 16 says: Once you have chosen your master, you have no more choice but to obey. This is true as a principle, whether you yield to sin, ending in ‘death’, or to obedience, ending in ‘righteousness’, acceptance with God.”

From John R.W. Stott in Men Made New.