A Kind of Death

Yeshua 

wants me to 

love the brOTHER 

Loving the brOTHER hurts 

it is a kind of death 

Something is dying to truly love 

the bitter things and the fearful 

jealousy 

envy 

resentment 

entitlement 

unforgiveness 

greed 

fear 

bigotry 

prejudice 

suspicion 

arrogance and disdain 

the self-seeking things and the defensive 

For love  

self lies down surrendered 

naked and vulnerable 

In love 

love executes self 

joyfully  

leaves self  

hanging there 

exposed and 

bleeding out  

Only then the brOTHER can be loved 

only then the brOTHER can be 

my brother 

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12

Image shared under Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 4.0, Stations of the Cross, William Mitchell – Jesus is nailed to the cross

To This You Were Called

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 1 Peter 3:9 

Did you see that? You were called to this! That jumped out at me as I read the verse this time. Repaying or returning blessing is not one – though maybe the best – of many possible reactions. Returning blessing is not a suggestion or a nice bumper-sticker inspiration. Rather, to bless is why we were called in the first place. In this day of the celebration of karma pay-back, does this kind of thinking even compute anymore? Yet, to this you were called

Do not repay (pay back, pay off, discharge as a debt, pay wages, what is due, requite, give back, recompense)  

evil with evil (inner malice, what is worthless, depraved, injurious, bad, evil, harmful, ill, foul, rotten, poisoned)  

or insult with insult (abuse, railing, reviling, reproach).  

On the contrary (but, now),  

repay evil with blessing (speak well of, praise, confer what is beneficial, thank or invoke a benediction upon),  

because to this you were called (selected, roused, summoned, called by name)  

so that you may inherit a blessing (benefit).  

1 Peter 3:9 

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 

But to you who are listening I say: 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 

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Romans 12:14 

But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:20-23 

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. Isaiah 43:1 (ESV) 

Photo by Jack Bair

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 

All the Parts are Present

Can I do that? Can I give all the shattered pieces of my heart?

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” Matthew 22:36-37 

“with all … with all … with all…”  

Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 6:5. He said this is the greatest commandment. The Greek word here translated “all” 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.” 

All the parts present and working as a whole means holding nothing back. Jesus came and showed us how to love with all. 

“… whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:27-28 

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 

He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds. Titus 2:14 (NLT) 

Jesus gave all, the whole. As Tozer wrote, His very self.  

“That eternal life which was with the Father is now the possession of believing men, and that life is not God’s gift only, but His very self.”  
― A.W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man 

All. Can I do that? Can I give all the shattered pieces of my heart, scattered, distracted, resisting, all the carefully separated and locked up memories. Or, will I keep holding back in entitlement to rage, unforgiveness; holding back in fear of the complete destruction of the remaining fragile ego; holding back the needed surgery on the bleeding, infected, pus-filled, putrid, putrescent wounds?  

All, the whole, entire, complete. My voluntary will binding it all together, like Abraham binding Isaac and laying him on the altar. The sacrifice total, greater than the mere sum of fragmented, dismembered, mangled, defective parts. Am I loving Him with all my mind, or am I holding back, reserving a little doubt, a little reinterpretation to justify some sin, unforgiveness, some command I don’t want to obey. “Did God really say?” Am I clutching some precious part of my life, unable to lay it on the altar? 

But Jesus said I have to give up everything. 

Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. Luke 14:31-33 

“If we shrink from the thought of fighting against God, we had better accept His conditions of peace. The worst folly of all is to enter into the conflict with a wavering will, not caring to know what “the things belonging to our peace” actually are, or to endeavour to stand apart in an impossible neutrality.” — Eliott’s Commentary for English Readers 

“An impossible neutrality.” Yes, being neutral before God is impossible. But that’s what we want – a truce. I will just keep going my own way and God will do His thing and let me be. I will keep back just this one thing and God will blink. But it doesn’t work that way. The King is on His way. He may be still a long way off, but He is on His way. And His terms of peace are all. All is what God wants of us. All or nothing.  

“So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-33). Jesus said a lot in those simple illustrations. He quickly put an end to the idea that He offered some kind of welfare program. Although the gift of eternal life is free to anyone who asks (John 3:16), the asking requires a transfer of ownership (Luke 9:23; Galatians 5:24). “Counting the cost” means recognizing and agreeing to some terms first. In following Christ, we cannot simply follow our own inclinations. We cannot follow Him and the world’s way at the same time (Matthew 7:13-14). Following Him may mean we lose relationships, dreams, material things, or even our lives.” — Got Questions https://www.gotquestions.org/count-the-cost.html 

Give me grace Lord to accept your terms of peace: Everything. 

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Genesis 22:9 

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32 

The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar! Psalm 118:27 (ESV) 

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13 

Photo, “Broken Pot” by Silly Little Man https://flic.kr/p/8PtRAa  

The Dirty Work

(As part of the “sandwich generation” I have been called recently to a lot of caregiving. While I love deeply those I am called to serve, I am not always very willing and cheerful about it. That is why I am eternally grateful to my fellow bloggers this week for faithfulness to share their encouraging words.) 

“When you love someone you will do anything they ask; such is the case in relationships amongst young couples and even in old couples where the flame of love still burns strong. I have no problem admitting I love my wife and would do anything for her, to help her or make her happy. But sometimes our loved ones or those we respect will ask us for something which is difficult, something we would prefer not to do. Sometimes that loved one asking something of us that is difficult is God our Father.” — (blogged by Alan Kearns, Devotional Treasures https://devotionaltreasure.wordpress.com/2022/01/22/when-obedience-is-hard/

“You know, being a caregiver of any sort can be exhausting.  Being a mom…a homemaker…the one responsible for the needs of whomever is under our care…has its many moments of humbling work. Special needs or other health issues certainly add to the mix a new level of care. And a new level of seemingly lowly service … Even as Christ followers, we envision that the far-away mission field is more glorious and honoring than the dirty work we often do within the walls of our own home.” — (blogged by Patty hesaidwhatks https://hesaidwhatks.blog/2022/01/21/glamorless-glory/#like-6593

(Ah, yes, the dirty work!) 

“When Mary was not nursing her son, she placed Him in an unused feeding trough (of wood or stone) right next to her…But a feeding trough! Let us never be surprised at the humility of God. The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks (Question 27) Wherein did Christ’s humiliation consist? Its answer begins: ‘Christ’s humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition…’ Its scriptural proof text for that ‘low condition’ is Luke 2:7. In a feeding trough, needing a mother’s breast and a change of diaper. How very incarnate the incarnation is! And yet what encouragement is here. For if Christ stoops so low, to such a ‘common’ level, does this not sanctify all that seems common and ordinary and unimpressive in the lives of His people? To be quaint and go back a few years–the weaver laboring at his loom, the farmer putting up hay, the mother cleaning her oven, or the teacher tutoring her ‘slower’ student in reading, the accountant preparing tax returns, the pastor reading in his study, the doctor diagnosing a perplexed patient. Jesus’ feeding trough suffuses all the glamorlessness of our callings with a touch of His humble glory.” (Dale Ralph Davis, “Luke 1-13: The Year of the Lord’s Favor”, pp. 46-47, blogged by Patty hesaidwhatks, same as above) 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4 — (blogged by Beholding Him Ministries https://beholdinghimministries.org/2022/01/21/hope-for-today-faith-produces-perseverance/

(I love this one by Tozer!) 

The cross is rough, and it is deadly, but it is effective. It does not keep its victim hanging there forever. There comes a moment when its work is finished and the suffering victim dies. After that is resurrection glory and power, and the pain is forgotten for joy that the veil is taken away and we have entered in actual spiritual experience the Presence of the living God.” — A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (blogged by beingcreatedinhisimage https://deepcallstpdeep.wordpress.com/2022/01/21/removing-the-veil/

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (blogged by Beholding Him Ministries https://beholdinghimministries.org/2022/01/22/leaning-on-the-everlasting-arms-2/

(Thank you Lord for your grace, your grace, your amazing grace!) 

Image copyright by Derek Bair

He Will Fulfill

The Father is intent on fulfilling his purpose in our lives, on completing us and making us like his Son.

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands. Psalm 138:8 

I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. Psalm 57:2 (ESV) 

The Lord will fulfill. What a glorious comfort in these falling-apart days! Sometimes we don’t know what is going on, what’s the point, why are we here? The Psalmist proclaims, God will fulfill his purpose for us. This is a comfort. There is a purpose for my life. God will fulfill that purpose. There is an echo of this promise in the New Testament. 

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 (ESV) 

The word translated “fulfill” in the Hebrew (gamar גָּמַר), and the word translated “bring it to completion” in the Greek (epiteleó ἐπιτελέω) both mean the same thing: to complete, accomplish, perform, perfect or make perfect, do, finish. God will do it.  

This reminded me of the great promise in Isaiah. 

LORD, you establish (shapath) peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us. Isaiah 26:12 

The word translated “establish” means, at its root, “to set on the fire.” It is only used five times in the Old Testament – three times referring to setting a pot on the fire to cook (2 Kings 4:38, Ezekiel 24: 3), once here in Isaiah, and once in the great Messianic Psalm prophesying the crucifixion, Psalm 22:15.  

My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay (shapath) me in the dust of death

When looking at the root meaning “to set on the fire,” the first thing I thought of was laying the offering on the altar. The Lamb of God slain for the sins of the world. Jesus, who is our peace (Ephesians 2:14-18), was set on the fire as a sacrifice that we might have peace and fellowship with God. Jesus did it; he accomplished it, brought it to completion. 

It is finished! [completed, the debt discharged, accomplished, finished, performed] John 19:30 

And we were crucified with him (Romans 6:6). Set on the fire with him. 

When I latched on to these promises that God would fulfill his purpose, I grabbed on to them both for me in my struggle and for those whom I love who have fallen away (temporarily – Yes! Yet! But God … !). I never thought, but I should have realized, that the completion of God’s purpose in my life (and theirs) would lead me back around to overcoming, to “make every effort” to sanctification, to being crucified with Christ, to “count it all joy.” To being set on the fire. 

“There is a great difference which lies between this thing of doing and this thing of suffering and dying. Doing is delightful. It belongs to beginners in Christ. Suffering belongs to those who are seeking. Dying – dying to the self – belongs to those who are being completed in Christ.” — Miguel de Molinos, 1675 (emphasis mine)

The Father is intent on fulfilling his purpose in our lives, on completing us and making us like his Son. It all goes back to Jesus. It all goes back to the Cross. He has done it and he is doing his work in us. He will fulfill his purpose in our lives. He is faithful. He will keep his promise. Cling to that and keep praying, keep persevering. 

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:4 

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works (does it) in you to will (desire) and to act (do it) in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:12-13 

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11 

They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it! Psalm 22:31 

Snuggled In

God, through Jesus, gives us this overcoming victory, but we have a part in it – the “make every effort” part.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 2 Peter 1: 3-7 

I have been thinking the last two weeks about overcoming (see Overcoming and He Who Overcomes ). God, through Jesus, gives us this overcoming victory, but we have a part in it – the “make every effort” part. Sometimes that is confusing, as there appears to be a conflict between justification by faith and working out our own salvation. Which is it? Just believe or make every effort? I like how Charles Spurgeon explained it: 

“It is not man’s effort that saves him; but, on the other hand, grace saves no man to make him like a log of wood or a block of stone; grace makes man active. God has been diligently at work with you; now you must diligently work together with him.” — Charles Spurgeon 

Peter admonishes “make every effort to add.” Adding things like self-control and perseverance, and even mutual affection and love requires, in the “making every effort,” a dying to self. Jesus said that the dying must be a daily thing. A continual effort to die, which in itself seems like a mysterious paradox. 

Before I go on, you may be wondering about the title, Snuggled In. This whole blog came about because of a misreading on my part. In the Bible Hub Strong’s Concordance definition for the word (pareispheró) translated “effort” (where it says “make every effort” in the above verse) there is this under Usage: “contribute besides, bring in besides, smuggle in.” (Apparently, this word was used in ancient Greek for smuggling). Well, instead of “smuggle in,” I read “snuggle in.” 

At first, I laughed at myself, but, actually, when you look at the definition of pareispheró, “snuggle in” makes perfect sense – and provides the key, at least for me, to “making every effort.” 

Here is the Strong’s definition: “[Strong’s] 3923 pareisphérō (from 3844 /pará, “from close-beside” and eispherō, “bring into”) – properly, “bring deeply into,” i.e. from very close beside). 3923 /pareisphérō (“personally carry-through“) is only used in 2 Pet 1:5 referring to carrying through with real personal involvement (energy). This strongly stresses the need of the believer’s deep, personal involvement in the faith-life.”i 

Deep personal involvement, from very close beside. This, to me, assumes relationship, humility, and dependence. There is a contribution we have to make to our sanctification. Jesus said “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door.”ii Paul admonishes us to work out our salvation. But it is not an effort made, struggling alone, under the eyes of a critical God holding an impossible checklist, shaking his head in disappointment over our many failures. Rather, it is an effort made close beside Him. Snuggled in. Close beside a God who loves us and works in us everything we need, a God who has already granted us all things that pertain to life and godliness. A God who comes along beside us to help. A God who even lifts us up and carries us.

Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms. Psalm 68:19 (NLT) 

The Sovereign Lord is my strength. Habakkuk 3:19 

“We talked about duty. We talked about picking up your cross and following Jesus down a road of suffering and pain. We talked about denying yourself, putting off the deeds of the flesh, and fighting the fight of faith. We talked much about labor, and little about grace. We quoted, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” but didn’t finish the sentence: “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13).” — Steven Lee (emphasis mine) iii  

God is my strength in this making-every-effort journey. If I stay snuggled in. Yes, I have to make an effort. We are not blocks of wood (though we are living stones!). But I make the effort to die to self snuggled in beside the One who died for me, who knows the way – who actually is the Way – who has gone before, who gives me the grace and the strength and the soul-penetrating Word that changes me, who works in us all what we need to stand victorious with him in the end. 

Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely. Psalm 63:7-8 (NLT) 

i Bible Hub, HELPS Word-studies Copyright © 2021 by Discovery Bible

ii Luke 13:24

iii From Chore to Treasure https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/from-chore-to-treasure

Image free download from Pixabay 

He Who Overcomes

It seems to me that overcoming must be a daily effort so that we will be ready in the end. 

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:4-5 (ESV) 

Last time I started looking at the concept of overcoming or conquering (Greek = nikaó) and what it means. This week I decided to take a look at the verses in the Bible where the word is used. I found there are a lot of them in Revelation, and they are all accompanied there with promises. 

The one who conquers (nikaó) and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. Revelation 2:26-27 (ESV) 

The one who conquers (nikaó) will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. Revelation 3:5 (ESV) 

The one who conquers (nikaó), I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Revelation 3:12 (ESV) 

The one who conquers (nikaó), I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Revelation 3:21 (ESV) 

To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers (nikaó) will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. Revelation 21:16-17 (ESV) 

What struck me about these verses in Revelation was the similarity in outcome and promise to the parables that Jesus told in Matthew 25: 

The Parable of the Ten Virgins: But while they were on their way to buy it, the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut. Later the other virgins arrived and said, ‘Lord, lord, open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. Matthew 25:10-13 

The Parable of the Talents: His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Matthew 25:21 

The Final Judgement: Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’ Matthew 25:34-36 

Two things stand out to me in all this. First, the readiness and the faithfulness and the true serving of Jesus by loving others must be related to this overcoming thing. For they both have the same reward: to be admitted into the Kingdom and to the family, to sit on the throne and have authority. The second thing is that it seems to me that overcoming must be a daily effort so that we will be ready in the end. 

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23 

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Jude 1:20-21 

And how does that happen? John says it is by faith, by believing. But, how does that work in everyday life? In Proverbs there is a verse about a disciplined servant that helped me to see it. 

By mere words a servant is not disciplined, for though he understands, he will not respond. Proverbs 29:19 

If the Bible is “mere words” to me, by it I cannot/will not be disciplined – chastened, admonished, corrected. It must be more than words, more even than mere understanding of the words. Mere words won’t change the servant. He must be in love with the Master. 

Isn’t that what happened with the virgins who ran out of oil, and the servant who buried his talent, and the “goats” on the Lord’s left hand who did many things, but never out of love, never for the love of the Master. They only heard mere words, they only did just enough to get by, to technically obey. They never let the Master correct their wrong thinking. They never had that close relationship that is requisite, walking along side, carried in the Everlasting Arms. 

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven … But I tell you: love … Matthew 5:20, 44

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:22-23 

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13 (ESV) 

To overcome there must be faith and trust in, and love for, the Author of the word, not just head knowledge. Love of the discipliner, love of the Father. And we can’t love Him unless we know Him. We can’t truly respond except through love. And all of this must be a work of the Spirit of God in us. 

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world … Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:4, 7 (ESV) 

Next week, the glorious key.

Image of oil lamp by Bee Collins https://flic.kr/p/bSdftM 

New Year, Ancient Path

This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16

… for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. Ephesians 5:8 (ESV)

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29

And he [Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23 (ESV)

Meanwhile the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is a Monday morning. — C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Photo by Jack Bair

Nothing

Might we dare to become nothing with him to bring his lost loved children home? 

Recently I read a quote by Kierkegaard that took my breath away, until I realized what he really meant: 

“I have only one word to say, but if the power were given me to utter it, that single phrase, so that it would be fixed and unforgettable, then my choice is already made and I know what I would say: ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ was nothing; O Christendom, remember this!’” — Søren Kierkegaard, Papers 

“Our Lord Jesus Christ was nothing!!” This statement was startling, even blasphemous, to me at first. But then I remembered these verses: 

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as (think like, direct your mind, seek for, set your mind, have the mind and thoughts of) Christ Jesus:  

Who, being in very nature God (though he was God), did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage (grasped, asserted, clung to, exploited),  

rather, he made himself nothing (emptied himself, gave up his divine privileges, made himself of no reputation, without recognition, valueless) by taking the very nature of a servant (slave), being made in human likeness.  

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled (assigned himself a lower rank, abased) himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV) 

Kierkegaard, in Denmark, was reacting, as Wilberforce had done earlier in Englandi, to the prevailing Pharisitic mindset that focused on outward appearances, and believed that all it took to be a Christian was to live in a “Christian” nation, attend the State-approved (acceptable) church, give your tithes, and, even better, have your own noticeable pew dedicated to your family. What you did the rest of the week didn’t matter. Individual responsibility for holiness was unknown or ignored. 

Most of these, especially well-to-do, churchgoers wanted to be “something.” They wanted to be “somebody.” But our worth to God does not come from outward appearances, accomplishments or wealth. In fact, these sorts of “something” may be detestable to God if they become our gods. 

He said to them [the Pharisees], “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight. Luke 16:15  

But Jesus chose to be “nothing,” though he, of all humans to ever walk the earth, had the right to be Somebody – King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But he chose to be of no reputation, valueless, and he is our model. The word describing Jesus’ choice to become “nothing” is the Greek verb kenóō, which meansproperly, to empty out, render void; (passive) be emptied – hence, without recognition, perceived as valueless (Phil 2:7).” ii 

This Greek word comes from kenós, which means “empty, void; hence, worthless (“null”), amounting to zero (of no value, profit).”   

Very few of us choose to be a big fat zero. We may feel like one, but we rarely choose it. Most of us crave the approval, the recognition, the respect of the world. You can only choose to be nothing and valueless in the sight of the world if you have a solid-rock certainty that you are of infinite value to God – and that others also have infinite value. 

And Jesus knew his value to God – “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 17:5). And he knew our value to God, for it beat passionately, faithfully, unending, unchanging in his heart, the very heart of God. And so, he came to be a nothing and to be “obedient to death— even death on a cross” for us. You are of great value to your Father. 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16  

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 

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. 1 John 4:9 

Might I dare to become nothing with him to bring his lost loved children home? What would that look like? It would mean to trust utterly, even to the last breath. 

But he has demonstrated his own love for us … 

“God creates out of nothing—wonderful, you say: yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.” — Søren Kierkegaard, Journals 

God keeps bringing this theme back to me in different facets. See also Emptied

i A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Middle and Higher Classes in this Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity. William Wilberforce. Fulltext available at Project Gutenberg https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/25709  

ii Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

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

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