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 

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

Something Missing

I don’t hear the echo of Joshua or Ruth or Esther or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

“Now LORD, God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father the promises you made to him when you said, ‘You shall never fail to have a man to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your sons are careful in all they do to walk before me as you have done.’” 1 Kings 8:25 

The above verse is part of the long prayer that Solomon gave at the dedication of the new Temple. It is the prayer that God responded to with the famous “if my people who are called by my Name” promise. 

As I was reading Solomon’s prayer this time, I realized that something was missing. God promised David that He would be with his descendants IF they were careful to walk before God as David had done. I was expecting a response to that. But the heartfelt response to God didn’t come. You know what was missing? Something like this: 

“… choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15 

What I see instead is Solomon basically saying to God, “We are going to sin. But if we turn back and repent when that happens, please forgive us and bless us.” Yes, absolutely, we sin and we will sin and we need God’s mercy and strength to be victorious, and only the blood of the Lamb can save us. But what I don’t see here, in this prayer, is the I-will-follow-no-matter-what determination, the even-if-he-slay-me trust, the tenacious “nevertheless” decision to obey, the our-eyes-are-on-you commitment. I don’t hear the “yet.” I don’t hear the echo of Joshua or Ruth or Esther or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Ruth 1:16 

“Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:16 

“If we [Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego] are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18 

How did God reply to Solomon’s prayer? “You must serve me as your father David did” (1 Kings 9:4). And David certainly messed up many times. But David served God wholeheartedly. He did not leave room in his heart for idols, presuming that God would forgive him in the end.  

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous (idolatrous) way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:23-24 (ESV) 

It seems to me that Solomon said the words, “May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep the commands, decrees and regulations he gave our fathers” (1 Kings 8:58), but didn’t follow through. He talked the talk, but didn’t walk the walk. He actually broke a lot of God’s decrees and regulations (see Deuteronomy 17:14-20). And he never fully committed to walk with God. 

Solomon showed his love for the LORD by walking according to the statutes of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places. 1 Kings 3:3 

I know that everyone admires Solomon’s prayer and often repeats God’s answer to “hear from heaven,” but without the wholehearted part, without the complete commitment, the no-matter-what part, it seems presumptuous to me. “If I keep saying I’m sorry, surely you will keep forgiving, right? Even though I don’t submit, even though I don’t change, even though I don’t obey, even though I don’t follow.” 

And without that commitment to be careful in what he did and to walk before God as David had walked, what happened to Solomon? He kept his religious obligations to the Temple, sacrificing three times a year (1 Kings 9:25), but he ended up worshiping horrible idols associated with human sacrifice.i 

For when Solomon was old … his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.  For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem.etestable god of the Ammonites. 1 Kings 11:7 (ESV)

What a fall from grace! Lord, help me to pray David’s prayer. Show me the things in my heart that grieve you and give me grace to turn away from them. Give me grace and strength to follow after you wholeheartedly. Nothing missing. 

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. Luke 9:51 

i New World Encyclopedia https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/chemosh 

Image in the Public Domain 

Niagara Falls in a Teacup

“His demand for righteousness is insistent, and it is always at the maximum intensity.”

Cheap grace and costly grace. The gift and the “shift.” Transformation deep as the roots of human life. Uncontainable love.

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship  

“The gift element in the gospel is held to be its exclusive content, and the shift element is accordingly ignored. Theological assent is all that is required to make Christians. This assent is called faith and is thought to be the only difference between the saved and the lost. Faith is thus conceived as a kind of religious magic, bringing to the Lord great delight and possessing mysterious power to open the Kingdom of heaven. I want to be fair to everyone and to find all the good I can in every man’s religious beliefs, but the harmful effects of this faith-as-magic creed are greater than could be imagined by anyone who has not come face-to-face with them … 

I think the truth of the matter is not too deep nor too difficult to discover. Self-righteousness is an effective bar to God’s favor because it throws the sinner back upon his own merits and shuts him out from the imputed righteousness of Christ. And to be a sinner confessed and consciously lost is necessary to the act of receiving salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. This we joyously admit and constantly assert, but here is the truth that has been overlooked in our day: A sinner cannot enter the Kingdom of God. The Bible passages that declare this are too many and too familiar to need repeating here, but the skeptical might look at Galatians 5:19-21 and Revelation 2:18.  

How then can any man be saved? The penitent sinner meets Christ, and after that saving encounter he is a sinner no more. The power of the gospel changes him, shifts the basis of his life from self to Christ, faces him about in a new direction, and makes him a new creation. The moral state of the penitent when he comes to Christ does not affect the result, for the work of Christ sweeps away both his good and his evil, and turns him into another man. The returning sinner is not saved by some judicial transaction apart from a corresponding moral change. Salvation must include a judicial change of status, but what is overlooked by most teachers is that it also includes an actual change in the life of the individual. And by this we mean more than a surface change; we mean a transformation as deep as the roots of his human life. If it does not go that deep, it does not go deep enough.” — A.W. Tozer, In Word, Or In Power: The Divine Conquest 

“But this much is clear: when we try to estimate the depth and the persistence of God’s loving-kindness and mercy, we must first remember his passion for righteousness. His passion for righteousness is so strong that he could not be more insistent in his demand for it, but God’s persistent love for his people is more insistent still. The story of God’s people throughout the centuries is that her waywardness has been so persistent that, if even a remnant is to be preserved, God has had to show mercy more than anything else. It is important to realize that though the Hebrew chesed can be translated by loving-kindness and mercy without doing violence to the context, yet we must always beware lest we think that God is content with less than righteousness. There is no reference to any sentimental kindness, and no suggestion of mercy apart from repentance, in any case where the Hebrew original is chesed. His demand for righteousness is insistent, and it is always at the maximum intensity. The loving-kindness of God means that his mercy is greater even than that. The word stands for the wonder of his unfailing love for the people of his choice, and the solving of the problem of the relation between his righteousness and his loving-kindness passes beyond human comprehension.” — Norman H. Snaith, Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament, London (1944) 

“In faith there is movement and development. Each day something is new. To be Christian, faith has to be new – that is, alive and growing. It cannot be static, finished, settled. When Scripture, prayer, worship, ministry become routine, they are dead. When I conclude that I can cope with the awful love of God, I have headed for the shallows to avoid the deeps. I could more easily contain Niagara Falls in a teacup than I can comprehend the wild, uncontainable love of God.” — Brennan Manning, The Ragmuffin Gospel 

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Image, Niagara Falls, by Boris Kasimov  https://flic.kr/p/2g3fgeL  

Mending Our Nets

How can we be fishers of men if our nets are full of the holes of prejudice, self-righteousness, unforgiveness, judgment, and pride?

A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. Luke 6:40 

I realized as I read this verse recently that I have been taking it out of context for a very long time. Actually, kind of skipping over it because of the more dramatic content that is around it. But I realized that it is like the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle that completes the picture. So, what comes before and after this verse? 

Before the verse Jesus asks, “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?” 

And then right afterward there is another saying that I have taken out of context: 

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? Luke 6:41-42 

I have been taking all of these verses as stand-alone and out of context. But what Jesus has given here are two verses about being blind sandwiching a verse about being fully trained to be like the teacher. What does this mean?  

The Greek word translated “fully trained” above is katartizo. It means to render, sound, complete, to mend (what has been broken or rent), to repair, to complete, to fit out, equip, put in order, arrange, adjust, prepare, restore, make perfect. 

According to W.E. Vinei, the Greek word katarizo “is used of mending nets, Matt. 4:21; Mark 1:19.” Wow, did you get that? Jesus is talking to his disciples here. “Looking at his disciples, he said:” (Luke 6:20). He was talking to learners, pupils, some may have thought “rabbis-in-training.” The underlying assumption seems to be that these disciples would go out and be leading – “can a blind man lead a blind man?” They would also become “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17, Luke 5:10) – and they needed their nets mended. Jesus had just finished some hard sayings: 

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you ... Luke 6:27-35 

Be merciful … Luke 6:36 

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37 

I’m pretty sure that, like me, their thinking needed to be adjusted. Their nets needed mending. (Isn’t it amazing and symbolic that when Jesus called James and John, they were mending their nets?) When Jesus asked, “Can a blind man lead?” he was using the word tuphlos, which can mean physical or mental blindness. Significantly, it comes from tuphoo, which means to be enveloped with smoke (so as to render blind), to be puffed up with haughtiness or pride, inflated with self-conceit. 

How can we be fishers of men if our nets are full of the holes of prejudice, self-righteousness, unforgiveness, judgment, and pride? But what did Jesus say?  

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:36 

Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Luke 6:46 

There’s a whole lot of judgment and condemnation going on out there. Let’s allow our Lord to adjust us, to repair and restore us, to mend our nets, so that we can be like Him in mercy and love and light. 

“The Lord is very ready to forgive; it is the church that is unmerciful sometimes, but not the Master. He is always willing to receive us when we come to Him, and to blot out our transgression.” — Charles Spurgeon, God’s Fatherly Pity

Read more about God’s net of everlasting love here (I will throw my net over them

Photo used with gratitude: Fish nets by John Levanen https://flic.kr/p/8yYErh  

Left Vacant

I know that for the right practice of [the Presence of God] the heart must be empty of all other things, because God will possess the heart alone; and as He cannot possess it alone without emptying it of all besides, so neither can He act there, and do in it what He pleases, unless it be left vacant to Him. — Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God, Fifth Letter.

In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:33

 

Image, Open Window by Keith Ellwood https://www.flickr.com/search/?text=open%20window%20keith%20ellwood

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