Striking Root

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly (copiously, abundantly, much in quantity), teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16 (ESV) 

The Greek word translated “dwell” in the above verse is enoikeó (ἐνοικέω). The word is only used five times in the New Testament. Three of those verses underscore that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit dwells in me.  

… God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” 2 Corinthians 6:16 

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly … Colossians 3:16 

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:11 (ESV) 

According to HELPS Word-studies enoikeó means to dwell at home, in one’s personal residence. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon adds that it means to dwell in one and influence him for good. That is an amazing thing. The word of Christ, which is Christ himself, dwelling in me as his personal residence, at home here in me, influencing me for good.  

But what really captured my attention was what Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers said about this verse:  

“The word of Christ … It is to ‘dwell in their hearts.’ Hence it is the ‘engrafted word’ (James 1:21)–the truth of Christ conceived in the heart, striking root into it, and making it its dwelling-place.” 

I love that picture – the Word of Christ striking root into my heart! It reminds me of the parable Jesus told about the farmer sowing seed on different types of ground. He told of seed that “fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. But when the sun rose, the seedlings were scorched, and they withered because they had no root (Matthew 13:6). Later Jesus explained it this way: 

The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he remains for only a season. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. Matthew 13:20-21 

Trouble in this life is ubiquitous and persecution will come if we continue on, walking in his footsteps. Trouble tends to do one of two things – harden us, or plow up the stony ground of our hearts. In other words, we can either turn a deaf ear, turn our backs to the Word of God revealed and confronting us (especially hard words we don’t want to hear), or respond and receive the Word.   

Roots cannot sink deep into stony ground. The plowing is part of the process of sanctification. Little by little, God puts his finger on things that need to change in us, and little by little we surrender. J.D. Walt calls this response to the revealed Word “true worship: You have revealed yourself to me and I have responded.” 1 

Let’s allow the Word made flesh to influence for good. He dwells within us and walks along with us. Let’s invite him to be at home in our hearts. Let’s allow his Word to strike root there, sinking deep. Let’s actively pursue this by proclaiming the Word, by owning it for our lives. 

“Speak [God’s Word], pray it, or sing it, repeat it several times. Let it sink into your soul and lift you; the angels will rejoice with you, and your Father God hears your every word. He will provide for and guide you by your faithfulness.” — Alan Kearns https://devotionaltreasure.wordpress.com/2022/08/08/a-proclamation/  

Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 
James 1:21-22 

1J.D. Walt https://seedbed.com/and-then-this-happens/  

Photo, Roots by Broderick https://flic.kr/p/8dTTt  

… the least of these

I’m beginning to see I have a different standard to follow, a different way to walk. 

Coming home from another exhausting day caring for my widowed mom, I was pondering a popular idea right now of “no contact.”1 See, my mom is a very broken and wounded person, and wounded people wound. She has always been what some call a narcissist. A narcissist is a supremely wounded soul. So, this idea of abandoning her, cancelling her, in order to protect myself, is sometimes, on bad days, fleetingly attractive. But then God, out of the blue, put this verse in my mind: 

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40 

Wow, I was stunned because I don’t think I have ever thought of my own family in this way. It’s always “people out there” who are the least of these. But actually, I realized that I have begun seeing a “least of these” in my mom. There is a broken, hurting little girl in there who is being uncovered as dementia ravages her brain. A hurting little “least of these.” She is telling me terrible and brutal things that happened to her that she has always kept hidden from us.  

But my mom has been and continues to be, with even less restraint now because of the disease, hurtful and cutting at times. The idea of turning away is sometimes very inviting. Ah, but then another word comes:  

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:27-28 

OK, I’m beginning to see I have a different standard to follow, a different way to walk. 

If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. 1 Timothy 5:16 (ESV) 

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27 

Jesus replied, “‘… honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 19:18-19 

Honoring and caring for your father and mother appears to be very important to God. In Ephesians 6:2 Paul writes, “Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise—”so that it may go well with you … One of the last things that Jesus did, hanging on the cross dying, was to ensure the care of his mother: 

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. John 19:26-27 

Jesus was obeying the commandment, he was pleasing God, he was loving and being Love. There are times, I know, where “no contact” is warranted, physical or sexual abuse in particular. And everyone must hear from God for themselves. But, for me anyway, God is saying to keep loving her, to let Him love her through me. And as he gives me the grace to do it, I am able to see her as God sees her, a sweet, wounded little girl. I am finding that in the face of this God-love, Christ-in-me love, just unconditional-because-it-pleases-God love, she softens, and her real self is exposed. And I see “the least of these” emerge more and more. 

I increasingly believe that our faithfulness will depend on our willingness to go where there is brokenness, loneliness, and human need . . . to stay close to the small, vulnerable child that lives in our hearts and in every other human being. Often we do not know that the Christ child is within us. — Henri J. M. Nouwen

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 

1A definition of “No Contact” in this context can be found here: https://psychcentral.com/health/does-going-no-contact-with-a-parent-heal-you-the-answer-isnt-what-you-think 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-legacy-distorted-love/201105/narcissistic-parents-contact-or-not

Image in the Public Domain 

Ever-Present (Psalm 46)

God is my refuge, my strength 

He is my ever-present help in trouble 

He is the Ever-Present one 

I am the holy place where He dwells 

where the Most High dwells 

God is within me, I will not fall 

God will help me 

The Lord Almighty is with me 

Ever-Present 

here 

with  

me 

On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. John 14:20 

Photo by Jack Bair

Kind and Good

Paul lists being understanding, patient, and kind along with enduring troubles, hardships and distresses. I think both may need equal amounts of endurance.  

The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. Psalm 145:17 (ESV) 

This verse in Psalm 145 caught my attention as it brings righteousness and kindness together. The word translated “kind” is chasid or hasid (חָסִיד ). As an adjective it means kind, pious, godly, holy, merciful. As a noun it means a godly person. The Brown-Driver-Briggs commentary notes that it means both “because kindness, as prominent in the godly, comes to imply other attributes, and to be a designation of the godly character, piety.”  

So, in this Hebrew word, kindness implies godliness. Interestingly, the corresponding Greek word also combines the two attributes. 

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 

The Greek word translated “kind” is xrēstós (an adjective, derived from xráomai, “to furnish what is suitable, useful”). It means “properly, useful (serviceable, productive); well-fitted (well-resourced); useful (beneficial, benevolent) … On the spiritual plane, xrēstós (“suitable, usefully kind”) describes what God defines is kind – and therefore also eternally useful!”1  

“Usefully kind” reminds me that “faith apart from works is useless” (James 2:20 ESV). God doesn’t just have kind thoughts toward us, He does kindness. And so must we. Marvin R. Vincent noted that “We have no adjective in English that conveys this blend of being kind and good at the same time.”2   

Kind and good, or kind and godly, at the same time. In his letter to the Corinthians, recounting some hard experiences, Paul also talks about kindness. 

… as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love … 2 Corinthians 6:4-6 

It is enlightening that he includes being understanding, patient, and kind along with enduring troubles, hardships and distresses. I think both may need equal amounts of endurance.  

And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Matthew 24:12-13 (ESV) 

Yes, it takes endurance, it takes trusting completely in God, to continue loving, continue being kind and doing kindness, in the face of personal suffering and the lawlessness of this present age. It takes abiding in Jesus too. I know that I can’t do it in my own strength. He said we can do nothing apart from Him. But I cling to the promise implied in that statement: if we abide in him we can do anything. Including be kind and good. 

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (ESV) 

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (ESV)

By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:5-6 (ESV) 

Help us walk with You, in You Lord, and be kind and good to the end. 
 

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35 

1HELPS Word Studies by Discovery Bible 

2Word Studies in the New Testament by Marvin R. Vincent 

Born for to Die

What if I am not here to live my “best life” but to give it all up?

I wonder as I wander out under the sky that Jesus my Savior did come for to die … 1

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. Hebrews 2:14–15 (NLT) 

Jesus, born for to die. The Son of God becoming flesh and blood, born a human being so He could die for all us human beings. I absolutely believe and am forever grateful for that. 

But recently I have been wrestling with something – maybe the hardest thing of all to wrestle with. What if I was “born for to die” too? What if that is the whole reason I am here – to die – so others might live? What if I am not here to live my “best life” but to give it all up? To live His life, the life He gave up for me? 

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 

But living His life means me dying. Jesus calls us to be His witnesses. Did you know that the Greek word means “martyr”? 

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  

“Not my workers. Not my worshipers. Not my weekend warriors. My witnesses. It means those who will cease to live for themselves and learn to live with me and from me and through me and to me and for me.” — J.D. Walt, I Speak Jesus 

“[T]hose who will cease to live for themselves.” The Greek word is martus (μάρτυς ) – witness, martyr. You will be my martyrs. Rarely the way we usually think of a martyr, being killed for his or her faith gloriously in some foreign country. And, definitely not the modern psychological dysfunction self-glorification, self-pitying definition of the word. But through, what Elisabeth Elliot called, “little ‘deaths’.” 

“So my decision to receive Him, although made only once, I must affirm in thousands of ways, through thousands of choices, for the rest of my life—my will or His, my life (the old one) or His (the new one). It is no to myself and yes to Him. This continual affirmation is usually made in small things, inconveniences, unselfish giving up of preferences, yielding gracefully to the wishes of others without playing the martyr, learning to close doors quietly and turn the volume down on the music we’d love to play loudly—sufferings they may be, but only small-sized ones. We may think of them as little ‘deaths’.” — Elisabeth Elliot, A Path through Suffering  

For the joy set before him he endured the cross … Hebrews 12:2 

If I am to be like Jesus, if I can somehow realize that I was “born for to die,” then maybe I can (someday) “consider it all joy” when faced with all the “little deaths.” With the big deaths too. Some seem so very big. 

“The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up your self, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.” — C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity 

“Beware of only saying, ‘Christ was crucified for me’; say, too, ‘I am crucified with Christ.’” — Andrew Murray, Andrew Murray on the Holy Spirit 

Still wrestling … 

1 Lyrics by John Jacob Niles

Image of dead apple blossoms available under CC0 Public Domain 

Fractured

Anxiety, as I’ve experienced lately, can become my default mode. But He cares for you. 

Cast all your anxiety (merimna) on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 

The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries (merimna) of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. Matthew 13:22 

Both of the above verses about worry or anxiety use the Greek word μέριμνα, transliterated merimna. J.D. Walt has this to say about this word: 

“The word is transliterated ‘merimna’ and sounds like it spells. It carries a meaning of dividing and fracturing a person’s being into parts. Anxiety, in a very literal sense, pulls us apart. It dis-integrates our very sense of self by attacking our core sense of security. 

So how do we deal with anxiety?  

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 

Is it as simple as telling God what we are anxious about? It sounds good, but all too often when we are anxious we tend to worry our prayers rather than casting our anxiety on God. Anxiety must actually be displaced within us. The little word, ‘because,’ tells us how this displacement works. It brings us to the four most important words in today’s text: 

He cares for you.  

Did you hear that? 

He cares for you.”

J.D. Walt https://seedbed.com/swing-thought-2/ 

Merimna means care, anxiety, “properly, a part, separated from the whole,” “worry (anxiety), dividing and fracturing a person’s being into parts.” It dawned on me that it is the opposite of the “all” I wrote about recently – loving God with all. When we let our hearts and minds be pulled apart by worry into parts it separates us from God. We need to cast it all unto God and love-worship Him with all. 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:36-37). 

The Greek word that Jesus used in quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, translated “all” three times in the verse, is holos (ὅλος). It is the root of the English term “whole.” It means whole, complete, entire, “properly, wholly, where all the parts are present and working as a whole – i.e. as the total, which is greater than the mere sum of the parts.” 

Worry, then, is the opposite of this “all.” Worry fractures me into parts separated from the whole. Loving the Lord with all – all the parts present and working as a whole – is the opposite of being fractured into parts by anxiety. Anxiety robs God of my all-love. It means I am reserving some of my love – worship – for that which I worry about. Do I really trust God whole-heartedly? Anxiety, as I’ve experienced lately, can become my default mode. But He cares for you.  

The Greek word translated “cares” above is meló (μέλει) and means to be an object of care. I love that! “To be an object of care.” As Louie Giglio says “you’re on Heaven’s radar.” Even when we can’t feel it or see it or hear it. Even when it seems we have been abandoned and forgotten. 

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care (meló) if we drown?” Mark 4:37-38 

“Don’t you care?”  

How many times have I asked this question, roiling in my anguish and doubt? But he said he cares for me, and has demonstrated that love.  

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares (meló) nothing for the sheep. John 10:11-13 

So not being fractured, but being whole, means following the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for me. As Henry Nouwen wrote, it means trusting in God’s love. 

“It’s a question here of trusting in God’s love. The Greek word for faith is pistis, which means, literally, ‘trust.’ Whenever Jesus says to people he has healed: ‘Your faith has saved you,’ he is saying that they have found new life because they have surrendered in complete trust to the love of God revealed in him.” — Henry J.M. Nouwen 

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. 1 John 4:16 (NLT) 

God wants me to be whole. I become whole following the Good Shepherd – trusting – loving with all, complete, entire, as one. Letting Him lead and guide me, bind up my wounds, rescue me, hold me close. Christ in me and I in Him, making it possible. His all, my all. 

Christ is all, and is in all. Colossians 3:11 

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:4-6 

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. John 17:22-23 (ESV) 

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 

“Did you hear that? 

He cares for you.” 

Photo, Fractured, by Brett Jordan https://flic.kr/p/8f8EHy  

Air Plant

The Presence of God. That is where I will truly live, abide, dwell.

I used to love plants, seeing them grow and bloom. I loved having plants inside the house with me too. Our previous home was like the Garden of Eden. We could grow anything because of the rich black dirt outside and a sun room inside for house plants. But, when we moved to our current home, surrounded by trees, nothing seemed to want to grow. The soil is extremely acidic outdoors. A nut tree even makes it toxic. And it is too shady indoors for most houseplants.  

So, I’ve watched one plant after another fail to thrive, or wither and die. Many seeds refused to come up at all. Houseplants, too, valiantly tried, but most were spindly and struggling. After a while I gave up on trying to force things to grow where they were not meant to grow.  

Then I discovered air plants. I love them! They don’t need soil at all and they thrive even in low light. They absorb the water and nutrients they need mostly right from the air. Today when I was looking at one God said, “That’s what you are like. You have been trying to be what you are not, to put down roots where you were not meant to grow. But your life, your roots are in Me, in my Presence.”  

This reminded me of the Michael W. Smith song, “Breathei.” 

This is the air I breathe 

This is the air I breathe 

Your holy presence living in me 

Yes! The Presence of God. That is where I will truly live, abide, dwell. He is my air, life, light, sustenance. Help me Lord not to try and put down roots in the hostile, deadly dirt of this world, looking for something – love, acceptance, meaning, identity, peace – that only you can provide. Help me to remember I am a foreigner here, not meant for this toxic soil. Let your holy Presence be my very breath. Let me be an air plant breathing in You, breathing out your love. 

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 1 Peter 2:11 (ESV) 

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. Psalm 84:5 

I am a stranger on earth … Psalm 119:19 

The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33:4 

i Full lyrics here: https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/michaelwsmith/breathe.html 

Photo by Sheila Bair 

Stop Working For Jesus

“ … Jesus is not looking for employees. He’s on the hunt for friends.”

(This is such a good and important post from J.D. Walt at Seedbed! I am re-blogging it here for your encouragement. This is so true; this is so vital: To be in the world for Jesus implies that I will be doing good things “for” him. To be “in Jesus” for the world, implies that He will be doing God things “through” me.)

Joshua 1:7-9 (NIV)

7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

CONSIDER THIS

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

I will forever remember my first class of my first day of seminary. It was Asbury Theological Seminary and the class was Introduction to the New Testament. The professor was Dr. Robert Mulholland. His first words to the class that year (and every other year I learn all the time from other classes) were these: “The most important decision you must make in your time at seminary is this one: Will you be in the world for Christ, or will you be in Christ for the world? I am here to help you become the latter.”

To be in the world for Jesus implies that I will be doing good things “for” him. To be “in Jesus” for the world, implies that He will be doing God things “through” me. This may seem subtle. It is not. To be “in Christ” for the world means the discipleship journey of becoming a person “in Christ.” This is the second half of the gospel. The first half of the gospel is Jesus with us and Jesus for us. The second half of the gospel is Jesus in us and Jesus through us.

The story of the Christian faith and the church for the past hundred years is all about “Jesus with us,” and “Jesus for us,” but not so much about “Jesus in us,” and “Jesus through us.” I mean, we get it, but not really. In response to Jesus being with us and for us we have done our best to be “for Jesus” which has resulted in an enormous amount of religious activity with very little to show for it. 

Notice the progression of God’s Word to Joshua so far in chapter 1. Joshua, I am with you. Joshua, I am for you. Therefore, be strong and very courageous. Then note the exhortation toward discipleship—becoming the kind of person in whom and through whom God can live and move and have his being: 

Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.

It’s time to stop trying to do things for Jesus. It’s time to become the kind of people in whom Jesus is pleased to dwell and through whom he is delighted to work. It’s why Jesus is not looking for employees. He’s on the hunt for friends. 

THE PRAYER

Father, I think I get it. This is about an exchange of my old life for your new life which is my true self. I am weary of living out of my own ego strength. I want to one who is known by your deep humility and your profound authority and your breathtaking love. Come Holy Spirit and lead me deep into the well of becoming like the God who became like me. Thank you Jesus for becoming like me so I could become like you. In your name I pray, Amen. 

THE QUESTION

Make sense? In the world for Christ vs. In Christ for the world? How would you say it? Highly functioning religious employee vs. transcendent agent of Jesus presence?  

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief

Re-blogged with permission from Seedbed

Image by Jack Bair

Emptied

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8 (ESV) 

Jesus “emptied himself.” The word means to make empty, to abase (humble, lower oneself), make of no reputation. Isaiah says it even more starkly: 

He [Messiah] was despised (held in contempt, disdained) and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed (valued) him not. Isaiah 53:3 

Did you ever think that, out of his deep love for us, Jesus emptied and abased himself to become of no reputation, a weak human, taking on our sin, enduring the shame of being crucified on a cross – in order that we might be crucified with him, cleansed of our shame, emptied out of our sin, made pure and holy in him, so that we could truly love others? 

Loving others is what it is all about. Loving others is what I wish I could do. Loving others is pretty much what I fail to do continually. But to do that I have to start at the cross. I have to start with being crucified with him. I have to die, be emptied of self, of all the self-stuff, and let him live in me every day – and that is hard.   

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 

Philippians 2:5 says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” And, in fact, 1 Corinthians 2:16 declares that we do have the mind of Christ. We just have to be willing to yield. I want to be willing – will you make me willing Lord? – to forsake reputation and honor and pride and self-reliance and my own thinking and to have this mind that was in Christ Jesus. Work in me, Lord, to be willing to be emptied and abased, a “fool for Christ,” “the scum of the world, the refuse of all things,” to be crucified with Christ, in order that you can love people through me. That they may know “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19).  

We are fools for Christ’s sake …When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. 1 Corinthians 4:10, 12-13 (ESV) 

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  Ephesians 2:4-5 

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him … We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:9, 19 (ESV) 

He was a man of no reputation  

And by the wise, considered a fool  

When He spoke about faith and forgiveness  

In a time when the strongest arms ruled  

But this man of no reputation  

Loves us all with relentless affection  

And He loves all those poor in spirit, come as you are  

To the man of no reputation — Rich Mullins 

Come as you are Salvation  

Image: Ford Maddox Brown, Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet [1852-6], Tate Archive, image  released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

“Come down from the cross!”

Whenever we are insulted and mocked for Christ’s sake it is a provocation to come down from the cross.

Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. Matthew 27:39-42 

Come down from the cross! As Christians, we are to be crucified with Christ, and whenever we are insulted and mocked for Christ’s sake it is a provocation to come down from the cross. This is man’s remedy. It is man’s way to show strength. It is like kids in the schoolyard, “You say you’re so tough? Prove it! Come over here and fight!” It reminds me of this verse: 

And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Luke 9:51-55 

This was not the first time that Jesus had been tempted to prove himself, justify himself – glorify himself – with the words “IF you are the Son of God.” Turn these stones to bread! Throw yourself off the pinnacle of the Temple! Come down from the cross! But Jesus always remained fiercely focused on the will of his Father – the salvation of the world. Love kept him focused. Love kept him nailed to the cross.

Man’s remedy is to come down from the cross. To call down fire from heaven. But what did Jesus command? “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-44). I like how the Message translation puts it. 

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best–the sun to warm and the rain to nourish–to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. Matthew 5:43-45  

Jesus said that this loving-your-enemies thing, this giving like God gives is to be daily. And it can only happen if we deny that self that wants to call down fire. It can only happen If we have been crucified with Christ, if we stay there hanging on the cross with him. Daily. 

Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily (throughout the day) and follow me.” Luke 9:23 

I am to be daily crucified with Jesus. Hidden in him, I am to be his witness. To be a representative of his love and forgiveness and salvation here on this dying earth. Henri Nouwen said it this way: 

“Whenever, contrary to the world’s vindictiveness, we love our enemy, we exhibit something of the perfect love of God, whose will is to bring all human beings together as children of one Father. Whenever we forgive instead of getting angry at one another, bless instead of cursing one another, tend one another’s wounds instead of rubbing salt into them, hearten instead of discouraging one another, give hope instead of driving one another to despair, hug instead of harassing one another, welcome instead of cold-shouldering one another, thank instead of criticizing one another, praise instead of maligning one another . . . in short, whenever we opt for and not against one another, we make God’s unconditional love visible.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen 

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with 

(rendered idle, unemployed, inactivate, inoperative, deprived of force, influence, power, caused to cease, severed, separated, loosed from us, put an end to, annulled, abolished, destroyed, made of no effect, vanish away, made void)

that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Romans 6:6-7 

I love that! The old me is unemployed. The one who wants to come down from cross and curse and hate and malign is inactivated. 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, I encourage you – don’t come down from the cross. In this time of insults and mockery and hatred, don’t respond in kind. Stay there on the cross with your Lord. Take it up daily. Jesus said, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself”(John 12:31). That is our mission. To draw all men to Christ. To make God’s unconditional love visible. To give God’s best. To love and forgive and bless no matter what. To be crucified with Christ. 

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross 

Image, Coventry cathedral father forgive, by David Perry https://flic.kr/p/qfiB6r  

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