The ABCs of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

One of the cool things about working in downtown Chicago is that I’m so close to many of the seasonal and ethnic festivals that take place. The big one that took place recently in Daley Plaza was the Christkindlmarket, a Chicago-fied version of the traditional holiday festival in Nuremberg, Germany. I went twice and spent way too much money.

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There I am with my brother Ben and his roommate
eating bratwurst covered in sauerkraut and mustard.

Because the festival is of a holiday nature (there was a huge Christmas tree on display), a number of other religious symbols and signs were put up by other groups outside the festival gate.  One of the groups that put up signs was Atheist. They had placed two signs. One exhorted people to realize the real reason for the season, the winter solstice, and the other explained a bit about the Atheist platform.

I have no problem with the first sign. The winter solstice is indeed the real reason for the season. I am not a traditional Christmas-observer as are many other Christians. I’m well aware of the folly of the holiday with its well-documented roots in Roman paganism and 20th Century commercialism.

The second sign, however, bothered me a little. What bothered me was not the fact that they explained their beliefs and encouraged others to join them. I surely recognize their right to do that, this being the United States of America. What bothered me was that the top of the sign read in bold letters: ““A” is for Atheist“.

I’m not exactly sure why they brought the Latin alphabet into it. Perhaps there is a reference to something of which I’m unaware. Whatever the reason, it irked me a little. The alphabet does not belong to you, Atheists. It is within the public domain, I suppose; but (again, this being the United States of America) if you can claim possession of a letter for your interests,  I can surely claim it right back.

After passing this sign many a morning on my way to work, I was moved to employ the entire Latin alphabet as used by modern English speakers to turn the whole thing around and convey (to the best of my ability and the ensuing limitations this project produced) the gospel of Jesus Christ. Is it lengthy? Indeed.  I hope many people read it.

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“A” is for All.
As in,

“Come to Me ALL who toil and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Jesus in Matt. 11:28-30).”

Another similar verse:

“But AS MANY as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become children of God, to those who believe into His name (Jn. 1:12).”

Jesus is the only one who truly accepts ALL. Atheism, for example, is a culture primarily composed of educated persons who seem content to worship their own intellect rather than God. However, there are those in varying cultures across the world for whom the idea of intellectual idolatry simply does not work. Their own mind does not satisfy them – they NEED God. The need for and belief in God is one of the few things that really separates humans from animals. Everyone across the world has different needs and is in some kind of suffering. Jesus is the only one that is able to receive them ALL, and also the only one that is truly willing to receive them ALL. Atheist, agnostic, freethinker, Buddhist, Muslim, dark-skinned, fair-skinned, beautiful, ugly, smart, slow, rich, poor, female, male, nice person, terrible human being; none of that matters. God is not a respecter of persons (Rom. 2:11). ALL can come to Him at any time in any situation, and can do so just as they are ( http://lethimsingpraise.com/2014/02/01/hymn-focus-just-as-i-am/ ).

“B” is for Born Again.
What does that really mean? Everyone’s heard it. It’s a well-known term affiliated with Christianity. But it’s not a matter of merely changing your previous association with a certain demographic to a new one, or even exchanging your previous belief(s) for that of Christian doctrine. It’s an entirely spiritual matter. It means that you receive a new life in addition to the biological and psychological life you received from your parents. When Jesus told Nicodemus that he had to be born anew, He also said,

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (Jn. 3:6).”

We received the flesh from our parents. It, along with our natural mind, cannot comprehend the things of the Spirit. Do the contents of the gospel or even the whole concept of God make no sense to you? It’s because you are trying to comprehend it or realize Him with the wrong organ. In addition to a body and a soul, humans have a third part, the human spirit (1 Thess. 5:23). It corresponds to the Spirit of God (you’ll notice that in Jn 3:6 above, the first Spirit [God] is capitalized and the second spirit [man] is not). Only the spirit can comprehend and contact the Spirit. That is what makes humans unique among the biological creatures on the earth; the ability to contact, receive, enjoy and be one with God. This all takes place within the human spirit (Rom. 8:10; 2 Tim. 4:22). So again, being born again is to receive the life of God into your human spirit. The apostle Peter calls this phenomenon regeneration (1 Pet. 1:3, 23).
For more on the life of God which we receive, see “Z”.
For more on the human spirit, click the following link: ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlvOrTq4Bes )

“C” is for Calling.
Want to be born again? How do you do it? Simple:

“That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;
For with the heart there is believing unto righteousness, and with the mouth there is confession unto salvation.
For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes on Him shall not be put to shame.”For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all and rich to all who call upon Him;
For “whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Rom. 10:9-13).”

Calling actually goes both ways. Before a person ever calls on God, God has already called them (2 Tim 1:9-10; 1 Pet 2:9, 20; 1 Cor 1:9; 1 Thess. 2:12). The verses in “A” show Jesus calling all those who toil and are burdened to come to Him. Even the word we translate “church” in the New Testament (Gk. ἐκκλησία or ekklesia) shows God’s calling. It means “those who have been called out.”

“D” is for Death.
Christ suffered death on our behalf and took our offenses upon Himself. He was the only one ever qualified to do it, and He was the only one ever in a position to do it. AND HE DID IT. Amazing! Christ was also the only man to ever live who did not deserve death. Now, upon receiving the Lord, we must declare like the apostle Paul, “I am crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20).” And in order to know the ensuing power of His resurrection, we must be conformed to His death (Phil. 3:10).
For more on the Lord’s death and resurrection, see “Q”.

“E” is for Economy.
“God’s economy” is a term coined by the apostle Paul (1 Tim. 3:4; Eph 3:9; Eph 1:10) and literally means “household administration”. It is an over-reaching and all-encompassing term; all of the steps God has taken in His salvation and building (according to the good pleasure of His will [Eph. 1:5]) fall within the category of “God’s economy”. It is also the means by which God dispenses Himself as the Spirit to His believers. Some Bible versions translate the term “God’s dispensation”. As even an astute and educated person as Paul had to admit, it is indeed a great mystery (Eph. 5:32)!

“F” is for Forgiveness.
So many religious or spiritual beliefs/faiths encourage good behavior, obedience to God, or reaching a state of enlightenment. Atheist beliefs encourage enlightenment through education and profound thought and/or consideration. But no camps out there address the matter of sin head on. We have sin. We’re fallen. It’s the reason we seek betterment in the first place. What about our transgressions? What happens to the bad things we do? Can we annul them by doing more good works than bad? The answer is no, we cannot. There is no way but to come to God for forgiveness. And that is through the blood of Jesus His son (Matt. 26:28; 1 John 1:9).

“G” is for Grace.
This is a very mysterious and even misunderstood term. But it’s everywhere in the Bible – especially in the New Testament. What is grace? The word is sometimes used interchangeably with God’s mercy, but the two are not the same. The apostle John told us that while the law was given through Moses, grace and reality came through Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:17). Mercy and unmerited favor existed with the children of Israel in the Old Testament in an external way. However, in the New Testament age, we have the reality of every blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3). And since Paul prayed that the grace of the Lord Jesus would be with our spirit (2 Tim. 4:22), which is internal, grace is therefore something internal. What is it, then? It is the experience and enjoyment of God Himself. Grace is what enables us to carry out anything the Lord has planned for us (1 Cor. 15:10). The experience of God as grace is what was sufficient for Paul during all his hardships (2 Cor. 12:9) It is a crucial part of the Christian life. Want to experience grace? May I recommend “C”.

“H” is for Holy.
I went to Merriam-Webster for a definition on this one:

“Exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness.”

Hey, not bad! GOD IS THAT. He is holy. That so many people aspire toward greatness, enlightenment, holiness, righteousness or whatever you want to call it is a testament to the fact that it CAN exist. It just can’t exist within us; apart from being reconstituted with God, that is. Sorry, Star Trek. Humans won’t evolve beyond the point of greed, murder, envy, war, etc. As a matter of fact, the further along humanity progresses, the more problems surface. Only God is holy. The Lord Jesus was the only completely holy man to ever live. Sin was not found in Him (1 Pet 2:22).
For more on the Lord’s being without sin, see “X”.

“I” is for Incarnation.
God’s being or existence are not limited by any means to the confines of space or time. However, He chose, according to His will, to come in time as a man on earth. This was His incarnation. God sent His son Jesus Christ to be conceived of the Spirit in the virgin Mary, be born of her in a normal human way, and live a normal human life before He started and completed His ministry. This was to prepare Him for His vicarious death on our behalf and then His resurrection, ascension and enthronement. God’s incarnation was a major step in His economy (see “E”). Every one of the gospels touches in some detail on God’s incarnation. My favorite is John chapter 1.

“J” is for JESUS.
Obvious one, right? This is the greatest name in the universe. This is the name by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12; Romans 10:13). This is the name under which all things in the universe have been submitted (Matt. 28:18; Eph 1:21). This is the name to which every knee will bow and every tongue openly confess that He is Lord (Phil 2:9-11). This is also the name on which we can call, just like so many believers have over the centuries (http://online.recoveryversion.org/FootNotes.asp?FNtsID=2905 ).

“K” is for Kyriakon (Gk. κυριακὸν) .
This word is rich in etymological history and appears in some form in a number of Western languages. It means “of the Lord”. Although this word is not used in the Bible itself to refer to the Church (rather, ἐκκλησία or ekklesia is), this word came to be used by Christians around A.D. 300 to refer to the Church. The Germans have kirche, the Scottish have kirk, the English speakers have church. What is the source of the church? It is the Lord. The Church is of the Lord. It is even the Lord Himself (Acts 9:4-5). It is the organic expression of the Lord through man; even His own Body (1 Cor. 12:12). Contrary to the understanding and application of the term “church” by many today, the church not religious, political, commercial or even physical in nature. It is entirely spiritual. Yes, it is composed of people. But without the Lord’s living, active presence and enthronement within that group of people, all you have is a human assembly.
Note: “Kyriakon” does appear in the Bible to refer to things like the Lord’s supper (1 Cor. 11:20) and the Lord’s day (Rev. 1:10).
“K” is also for Kingdom.
God’s kingdom had two aspects. For the governmental aspect of His kingdom, see “L”. The other aspect is the organic aspect. In the same way that there is a plant kingdom, an animal kingdom, etc., there is also a divine kingdom. Humans were made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) with the purpose of containing Him, even being filled with Him (Acts 13:9; Eph. 3:19). When we believe into and receive the Lord, our spirit is filled with His life (Rom. 8:10) and He continues to spread throughout our soul (Eph. 3:17); and eventually even into our body (Phil. 3:21). This dispensing and spreading is how He fulfills His intention of bring many redeemed sons into glory (Heb. 2:10)! According to the apostle Paul’s rhetoric, this process is called sanctification (Rom. 6:22) and transformation (Rom. 12:2).

“L” is for LORD.
The many nations on earth are governed by various types of political bodies, but no group or no person can claim the title “Lord”; as in, the ONE Lord. The Bible calls Jesus the “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords” (Rev. 19:16). His kingdom is on the earth today in a hidden way, manifested as a shining testimony in His Church as a shining lamp(Matt. 5:14-16). [Side note: don’t confuse church with religion – The Lord’s shining testimony is not found within religion.] The Lord will be returning to earth according to His timing, at which time He will crush the totality of corrupt human government as a stone cut out without hands (Dan. 2:31-35), and will establish His kingdom in an open and visible way on the earth (Rev. 11:15). This will bring in all the things humanity is longing for: peace, justice, righteousness, healing, etc. For this, the Lord is referred to as the “Desire of the Nations” (Haggai 2:7).

“M” is for Marriage of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7).
The relationship between God and His people is one of love. The totality of the believers constitute the church, which, on one hand, is His Body; but on the other hand is His bride. Once a person believes, he or she enters into a sweet, loving relationship with the unique husband in the universe, our dear Lord Jesus. This love will consummate in a marriage between Christ and His bride at His return.
The Lord’s desire for a loving counterpart is seen in the very beginning of the Bible. In Genesis 2:18, when the Lord said that it was not good for Adam to be alone, He was also revealing His own heart’s desire. Adam and Eve were the type of Christ and the Church. Ephesians 5 and Ezekiel 16 are great chapters on the subject of Christ being our loving, caring husband, regardless of our ill treatment of Him. So many believers throughout the ages have codified their love for the Lord in hymns. Here’s an excerpt from one of my favorite:

“Dear Lord Jesus, precious Jesus,
Thou hast won each love from me;
Who like Thee—so fair and comely?
Who like Thee—so sweet and lovely?
Matchless One, unrivaled beauty,
None can e’er compete with Thee!”  -Watchman Nee

“N” is for New Testament Reality.
This is one of my favorite! The Old Testament is full of history and stories, but it functions to us today in the way of types, pictures, allegories, symbols, etc. We don’t have to go through arduous or tedious religious rituals to appease God; we have access directly to the throne! Through His crucifixion, Jesus brought us nigh unto God. We don’t need a mediator anymore (actually Christ Himself IS our mediator [1 Tim. 2:5]). The fact that Christ is the reality to us is called:

“The mystery which has been hidden from the ages, but has now been manifested through His saints (Col. 1:26).”

The apostle Paul (among others) was key in unveiling to us all the types and shadows in the Old Testament which, by reading and digesting them, we can better understand the inexhaustible riches of God’s full salvation. I’d love to give just a few verses, but the entire New Testament (as well as prayer and revelation from God) are needed to see this matter in full. Galatians, Colossians, Hebrews all have strong emphasis on Christ being the reality. The Life Studies by Witness Lee are also unrivaled in showing New Testament application of the Old Testament. I’m in the Life Study of Leviticus myself.

“O” is for Oneness.
God is one. He’s the Holy Trinity, yes, but in essence He is totally one. Oneness is another thing that everyone seems to want in some way or another. But strife and division are synonymous with humanity. Families want to be one. Corporations want to be one. Married couples want to be one. I’m a US Army veteran. During the larger part of my service, our slogan was “An Army of One”. Was it really one? No. Someone pointed out to me once that we can’t even be one with ourselves. The more I live, the truer I find that to be. But GOD IS ONE. He is uniquely one. And we who are organically united with Him through the Spirit share in His oneness. The best chapters in the Bible on both God’s oneness and the believers’ oneness with Him (and with each other) are Deuteronomy 12, Psalm 133, John 17, and Ephesians 4.

“P” is for Pneumatic.
Πνεῦμα, or “pneuma” in Greek means spirit or breath. As has been alluded to, God is triune. He is three-one. We simply cannot explain it – it is inexplicable. All three of the Holy Trinity have existed in eternity; they are without beginning and without ending. As was stated in “O”, God is one in essence. He is the unique, self-existing, ever-existing, immutable God. Again, this is with regard to His essence. But let’s bring it back to “E”, which covered God’s economy in brief. God’s essence and His economy are two sides of one coin. His essence is who He is intrinsically, His economy is the steps He takes to carry out the good pleasure of His will (Eph 1:5; Rev. 4:11). God is sovereign; He can do whatever He wants. In His economy, He put on humanity by becoming the man Jesus Christ, lived a normal human life, was crucified, resurrected, and in resurrection became the Life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45). His becoming the Life-giving Spirit was the fulfillment of Jesus’ word in John 7:37-39. Now, as the Life-giving Spirit, He has poured Himself out upon the earth (Acts 10:45) that man may receive Him. All the rich attributes of God are contained in the Spirit.
Electricity provides a good example for the function of the Triune God in His economy: The Father is the power plant, the source, where all the electricity is stored, the Son is the wires or cables used to transmit the electricity, and the Spirit is the electrical current itself which comes to us and fulfills our need. All three are one and function as one. Everything we need is in the Pneumatic Christ, the “Spirit” Christ. This has led to Him being called “The all-inclusive Life-giving Spirit” ( http://online.recoveryversion.org/FootNotes.asp?FNtsID=3908 ).

“Q” is for Quell.
This was a tough one. I went with “Quell” because of the following hymn lyrics:

“Till then we would Thy love proclaim
With every fleeting breath;
And triumph in that blessed Name
Which QUELLS the pow’r of death.” -based on lyrics by John Newton, editor unkown

This gives me opportunity to speak about the Lord’s resurrection life. It is the most powerful force in the universe! The ultimate phenomenon that puts fear into the heart of everyone is death – and the assumed power thereof. Death is the result of sin. Sin is the nature of God’s enemy, Satan. Death is its consummation. As was stated in “D”, Christ willingly went to the cross on our behalf. He even suffered the most horrible and fearsome death. First of all, the manner in which He was killed was horrific. It’s a well-known account, so I won’t expound upon it (if you wish, read Matthew 26-27).  Secondly, he took the sum total of all humanity’s transgressions and offenses and offered Himself as the substitute. That’s why it was a vicarious death. That’s right. You, atheist! You have sin like everyone else! And Christ knowingly and willingly took your sin upon Himself! The Father economically withdrew from Him and judged His dear, beloved Son, the only One in the Universe that pleases Him (Matt. 12:18), because of His love for us, His desire to carry out His economy, and to make a way for us to be saved from sin.
Unfortunately for death and Satan, however, it was not possible for Jesus to be held by them (Acts 2:24). Not only did Jesus have the resurrection life, He IS resurrection (Jn. 11:25)! When His appointed three days were finished, Jesus simply stripped off those who were attempting to hold Him in death (Col. 2:15) and resurrected.
Ok what does this have to do with us? Well, a verse and another hymn:

“Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes into Me, even if he should die, shall live (Jn 11:25).”

Here’s the hymn:  http://www.witness-lee-hymns.org/hymns/H0639.html

“R” is for RE.
God is the “RE” God. He REstores to us the years eaten by the locusts (Joel 2:25). He REstores our souls (Psa. 23:3). He REgenerates our spirit after it fell into a dead condition through His living and abiding word (1 Pet. 1:23). He REleases the captives of sin and those who are oppressed (Luke 4:18), He REcovers sight to the blind (also Luke 4:18), He REvives us in our damaged condition (Hosea 6:1-2). So, as the Lord Jesus Himself exhorted us in Mark.1:15, why not REpent and believe in the gospel ?! 

“S” is for Shining.
The Word of God says it best:

“God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 Jn. 1:5).”
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it (Jn. 1:4-5).”
“Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall by no means walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life (Jn. 8:12).”
“Because the God who said, Out of darkness light shall shine, is the One who shined in our hearts to illuminate the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6).”

This world is full of darkness. Whether or not you believe in the existence of God’s enemy, Satan, you can agree that the world is full of darkness. The Lord Jesus is the light of life and the light of the world. He is the way out of darkness.

“T” is for Truth.
Another verse (often misapplied):

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free (Jn. 8:32).”

I’ll pull footnote 1 from this verse (from the Recovery version of the Bible). I can’t think of a way to say it better.

“In Greek (the word for truth is) the same as reality in Jn. 1:14, 17. The truth is not the so-called truth of doctrine but the reality of the divine things, which is the Lord Himself. This verse says that “the truth shall set you free,” whereas (Jn. 8:36)  says that “the Son sets you free.” This proves that the Son, the Lord Himself, is the truth. Since the Lord is the embodiment of God (Col. 2:9), He is the reality of what God is. Hence, reality is the very divine element of God realized by us. When the Lord as the great I Am comes into us as life, He shines within us as light, bringing the divine element as reality into us. This reality, which is the divine element imparted into us and realized by us, sets us free from the bondage of sin by the divine life as the light of man. When the Lord as the Word of God became flesh (Jn. 1:14), He brought God to us as this reality, that God might be the grace for our enjoyment (Jn. 1:17).”

“U” is for Uttermost.
Uttermost refers to the extent to which we are saved in God’s full salvation. Sin has corrupted man to the fullest extent. We are walking offenses to God’s holiness and righteousness. I’m not a “hellfire and brimstone” gospel preacher. I don’t like to overly focus on man’t pitiful condition. But if we’re going to see how much God saves us, our condition before Him needs to be exposed to us. As a faithful brother once said, we’ve been saved from the “guttermost” to the “uttermost”!
Hebrews 7:25 says: 
“Hence also He (Jesus as our High Priest before God) is able to save to the uttermost those who come forward to God through Him, since He lives always to intercede for them.”
We see in this verse both the extent to which we are saved and also our dear Lord’s heart for us. He lives always to pray intercessory prayers to His Father on our behalf.

“V” is for Victor.
There is a spiritual warfare going on in the universe (Dan 10-12). On one hand, it is already won. Christ is victor! If He wasn’t victor, how could He have defeated death in resurrection? Christ defeated Satan on the cross (Heb 2:14) and is waiting, according to His timing, to carry out His judgement upon Satan (Rev. 20:10). In the meantime, God implores us to “war the good warfare (1 Tim. 1:18)” by “taking up the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:10-20).” This does not involve any kind of conflict against man, but rather against the satanic powers in the universe (Eph 6:12) through prayer and praising!

“W” is for Wheat.
As a grain of wheat, Christ went into the ground and died for us (Jn. 12:24). This was for the purpose of bearing fruit, i.e. propagating His life throughout Humanity.
For more on the propagation of Christ’s life, see “K”.
For more on the life which Christ gives to us, see “Z”. 
 
“X” is for Examined.
So I obviously had to cheat a little on this one – sorry. X-Ray and Xylophone don’t have much to do with the gospel 😀

Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the type of the Passover lamb in the Old Testament. The Passover lamb in Exodus 12 was to be examined for four days. If any blemish or spot on it was found, it would be unacceptable as a sacrifice. Christ fulfilled this type when he was captured and brought before the Sanhedrin (Matthew 26). Over a period of exactly four days, Christ was tried, tested and examined by the Sanhedrin (Jewish court) and the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. The Sanhedrin was seeking a reason to put Him to death, being filled with envy (Matt. 27:18). Pontius Pilate concluded the Lord’s examination by declaring to the Sanhedrin, 
You have brought this man to me as one who turns the people away, and behold, I have examined Him before you and found no fault in this man regarding the accusations you bring against Him (Luke 23:14).”
Since the Lord Jesus was without sin, how could Pilate have found fault in Him? Ultimately, however, the priests and scribes demanded Jesus’ crucifixion and Pilate gave into their demands (Jn. 19:6). This was all to fulfill the Father’s will in having Christ become the real Passover lamb to take away our sin (Jn. 1:29; 2 Cor. 5:21). 
 
“Y” is for Yahweh.
Yahweh is the great I AM. His name means “I AM WHO I AM”. The anglicized version of this is of course 
Jehovah. This name first appears in the Bible when Moses saw the burning bush in Exodus 3. Moses was commissioned by God to go before Pharaoh and demand the release of the children of Israel. Moses, who did not have much of a personal history with God up to that point, asked this mysterious and undoubtedly frightening flame coming out of the bush,
Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you (Exo. 3:13-14).”
God simply is. Trying to understand it, comprehend it, compartmentalize it will not necessarily result in satisfying logic. But believing it will bring peace. And it will bring salvation.
The name Jesus is of course an anglicized version of Yeshua which means “The salvation of Yahweh”. Jesus came to us as the great I AM. He even claimed this in person. When he spoke of Abraham in John 8, the unbelieving Jews who were present exclaimed, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?!” Jesus responded to them,
Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham came into being, I AM (Jn. 8:57-58).
The unbelieving Jews knew exactly what He was claiming and picked up stones to throw at Him because of it.
We are weak, fragile, ephemeral beings. The Bible calls the pursuits of the life we live a “chasing after the wind (Ecc. 1:14)”. In the large scope of things, we really ARE NOT. This is why we need the great I AM.
 
“Z” is for Zoe.
ζωὴ or Zoe is the Greek word used by the writers of the New Testament to describe the divine, uncreated life of God (Jn. 20:31; 1 Jn. 5:12; Gal. 3:21; Rom. 8:10; 2 Pet. 1:3; Jude 1:21; James 1:12). It is the life that exists in eternity. It is the life which possesses all of the divine attributes, such as love, light, holiness and righteousness. Only God is Zoe. According to His will revealed in the Bible, however, He is not content to merely possess Zoe by Himself, but He wants to share it with us! This is why He created us in His image (Gen. 1:27) and gave us, in addition to a body and a soul, the third part – the human spirit (mentioned in “B”). I was recently quite impressed that the matter of humans’ ability to receive God’s life is, when you get down to it, the main item which separates the Christian faith from any other faith. Other faiths/camps may stress being a good person, having an open mind, obedience to God, achieving a state of enlightenment, etc., but the Bible is the only text where you will find that God wants to give Himself to us, even incorporate and mingle Himself with us (Rom. 8:10-11; Rom. 5:17; Jn. 17:22-23). Humanity is paramount to God’s purpose. The giving of Zoe life to man is also paramount to God’s purpose. The Lord Jesus Himself even said that this is why He came to earth (Jn. 10:10).
The Christians in Colossae had been defrauded of the proper teaching and practice concerning our enjoyment of Christ and our participation in the divine life. This motivated the apostle Paul to exhort them thus: 
Let no one defraud you by judging you unworthy of your prize (Col. 2:18)…!”  
Through Christ’s blood, we have access to God and the dispensing and experience of His Zoe life (Mk. 15:38; Heb. 4:16; Eph 1:7;)! We receive God’s Zoe life by means of the Holy Spirit, not coincidentally called the Zoe-giving Spirit in 1 Cor. 15:45. How do we receive Zoe? May I again recommend “C”.

The Progression of the Revelation of God the Spirit in the Bible

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There is an increasing attempt by Satan today to discredit the Bible. He uses anything and everything to try and prevent seeking persons from finding solace and nourishment in the word of God, and to jeopardize, belittle or subvert the experience of those who are already Bible readers. Among the numerous lies being propagated today by God’s enemy, the one I’ll bring out for the purpose of this blog post is the following: “The Bible was written by so many different people and over such a long period of time. This somehow discredits its authenticity as being divinely inspired.”

Actually, when a dedicated and seeking reader really devours the word, strikes the Spirit of the Scripture with their spirit and pursues understanding in the ministry, they will find countless instances of the divine thought being presented in awesome progression – despite the changes in author throughout the sequence of biblical canon. An example of this that I came across recently while reading a footnote for Philippians 1:19 (RcV) is the matter of how the revelation of the Spirit of God is presented throughout the course of the Bible – starting in Genesis and consummating in Revelation. This revelation is a progression:

  • Genesis 1:2 – “But the earth became waste and emptiness, and darkness was on the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was brooding upon the surface of the waters.”
    This title of the Spirit is in relation to creation.
  • Judges 3:10 – “And the Spirit of Jehovah came upon him (Othniel), and he judged Israel. And he went out to battle, and Jehovah delivered Cushan-rishathaim the king of Aram into his hand; and his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim.”
    This title of the Spirit is in the context of God’s relationship with man.
  • Matthew 1:20 – “But while he pondered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife, for that which has been begotten in her is of the Holy Spirit.”
    This title of the Spirit is in relation to the conception and birth of Christ.
  • Acts 16:7 – “And when they (Paul and Timothy) had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, yet the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.”
    This title of the Spirit is in relation to the Lord’s human living.
  • Romans 8:9 – “But you are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Yet if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not of Him.”
    This title of the Spirit is in relation to the Lord’s resurrection.
  • Philippians 1:19 – “For I know that for me (Paul) this will turn out to salvation through your petition and the bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
    This title of the Spirit is the consummation/realization of what the Lord spoke of in John 7:39 (“the Spirit was not yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified”).
  • Revelation 4:5 – “And out of the throne come forth lightnings and voices and thunders. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.”
    To quote a corresponding footnote from the RcV, “The seven Spirits are undoubtedly the Spirit of God because They are ranked among the Triune God in vv. 4 and 5. As seven is the number for completion in God’s operation, so the seven Spirits must be for God’s move on the earth. In essence and existence, God’s Spirit is one; in the intensified function and work of God’s operation, God’s Spirit is sevenfold.”

Seven different titles of God the Spirit in this progression – and only one author of the Bible, the apostle Paul, penned more than one (Rom. 8:9 and Phil 1:19). When we see this matter and how applicable it is to us, we can’t help but praise the Lord for His marvelous design in the Bible!

Ok. So how is this a progression and how is it applicable to us?

I can’t say it any better than the editors of the RcV already have. Here’s part of the original footnote I mentioned:

Phil. 1:19, note 4:
“The Spirit of Jesus Christ is “the Spirit” mentioned in John 7:39. This is not merely the Spirit of God before the Lord’s incarnation but the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit with divinity, after the Lord’s resurrection, compounded with the Lord’s incarnation (humanity), human living under the cross, crucifixion, and resurrection. The holy anointing ointment in Exo. 30:23-25, a compound of olive oil and four kinds of spices, is a full type of this compound Spirit of God, who is now the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Here it is not the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7) or the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9) but the Spirit of Jesus Christ. The Spirit of Jesus is related mainly to the Lord’s humanity and human living; the Spirit of Christ is related mainly to the Lord’s resurrection. To experience the Lord’s humanity, as illustrated in 2:5-8, we need the Spirit of Jesus. To experience the power of the Lord’s resurrection, as mentioned in 3:10, we need the Spirit of Christ. In his suffering the apostle experienced both the Lord’s suffering in His humanity and the Lord’s resurrection. Hence, the Spirit to him was the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the compound, all-inclusive, life-giving Spirit of the Triune God. Such a Spirit has, and even is, the bountiful supply for a person like the apostle, who was experiencing and enjoying Christ in His human living and resurrection. Eventually, this compound Spirit of Jesus Christ becomes the seven Spirits of God, who are the seven lamps of fire before God’s throne to carry out His administration on earth for the accomplishing of His economy concerning the church, and who are the seven eyes of the Lamb for the transfusing of all that He is into the church (Rev. 1:4; 4:5; 5:6).”

Prayer:

Thank You, Lord, for this marvelous revelation of Yourself in Your word! Continue to open our eyes to this matter. Make us those that not only see the revelation of the Spirit, but experience it in a daily and practical way like Paul. Amen.

Hymn Focus – In Tenderness He Sought Me

I was very impressed with this hymn recently. The author, W. Spencer Walton, subtly unfolds the experience of full salvation in a wonderfully poetic, yet biblically grounded narrative. Some of the points this brother, who served as a missionary in South Africa, makes show that he had a clear vision on certain parables in the gospels and other important matters. I’ll break the hymn down by subject and verse.

INITIAL SALVATION

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Verse 1:
In tenderness He sought me,
Weary and sick with sin;
And on His shoulders brought me
Back to His fold again.
While angels in His presence sang
Until the courts of Heaven rang.

Walton references Luke chapter 15 in this verse of the hymn. The Lord told three successive parables in Luke 15 to show how the Triune God works together to diligently seek His chosen people and brings them to Himself. The three parables are:
1.) A man who has a hundred sheep, loses one, and leaves the ninety-nine in the wilderness in order to seek after the one which was lost. This shows how God the Son went out of his way to find us and brings us back home. The Lord concluded this parable by saying,

“In the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner repenting than over ninety-nine righteous persons who have no need of repentance (Luke 15:7).”

This is why Walton refers to angels singing so that the courts of heaven ring!

2.) A woman who loses a silver coin – something very valuable to her- and diligently sweeps her house until she finds it. This is the Spirits seeking and “sweeping” our innermost being until we’re inwardly led back to God.
3.) The parable of the prodigal son, the most well-known of the three. This shows that God the Father is eagerly awaiting a person’s “return” to him. Although a person may be coming to God for the first time, this initial experience is still a kind of returning. Every person has God as their origin. He is a vastly wealthy Father, and has untold riches in Christ prepared for us (1 Corinthians 2:9). No amount of sinning or debauchery we engage in could ever turn back His love for us!
(Another wonderful, enlightened hymn on the subject of Luke 15 can be found here: http://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/ns/111)

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Refrain:
Oh, the love that sought me!
Oh, the blood that bought me!
Oh, the grace that brought me to the fold,
Wondrous grace that brought me to the fold.

Going back to Luke 15, the footnote for Luke 15:3 in the RcV says. 

“…All three parables stress the love of the Divine Trinity more than the fallen condition and repentance of the penitent sinner. The divine love is fully expressed in the Son’s tender care as the good shepherd, in the Spirit’s fine seeking as the treasure-lover, and in the Father’s warm receiving as a loving father.”

W. Spencer Walton’s acute awareness of this love can be seen above in the refrain of the hymn.

Leather Wine Skin

Verse 2:
He washed the bleeding sin wounds,
And poured in oil and wine;
He whispered to assure me,
“I’ve found thee, thou art Mine”;
I never heard a sweeter voice;
It made my aching heart rejoice!

I really like Walton’s hidden reference here to the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke chapter 10. His application of it is very enlightened. The parable of the Good Samaritan might be the most famous of all Jesus’ parables. Even unbelievers in the world are familiar with the term “Good Samaritan.” Yet too many peoples’ understanding of the meaning of this parable falls very short. When a person does a good work for someone else without receiving any monetary or visible profit, society might deem that person a “Good Samaritan.” This understanding in not totally incorrect, but it has no revelation of Christ in it. When Jesus told this parable, He was telling the lawyer (who asked a question regarding eternal life) that He (Jesus) was the Good Samaritan! In order to inherit eternal life, the lawyer needed Jesus to heal him from the wounds of the law and bring him to the Church Look at the passage:

Luke 10:30-35 “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who having both stripped him and beaten him, went away, leaving him half dead. And by coincidence a certain priest was going down on that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. And likewise also a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the opposite side. But a certain Samaritan, who was journeying, came upon him; and when he saw him, he was moved with compassion; And he came to him and bound up his wounds and poured oil and wine on them. And placing him on his own beast, he brought him to an inn and took care of him. And on the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, Take care of him; and whatever you spend in addition to this, when I return, I will repay you.”

The Lord Jesus, as the real Good Samaritan, was One who came as a despised and unesteemed person (Isaiah 53:2-3) – Jews viewed Samaritans as unclean and usually wouldn’t even speak to them (John 4:9) – as opposed to those who might appear esteemed or holy like a Levite or priest. He saw and pitied us in our wounded, dying condition and poured oil and wine (the Holy Spirit and the divine life) on them. Then he brought us to an inn (the Church) and charged the innkeeper (the caretakers of the Church; i.e. all believers) to care for us until He returns. Then, at His return, He will reward those who faithfully cared for us.

TRANSFORMATION

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Verse 3:
He pointed to the nail prints,
For me His blood was shed,
A mocking crown so thorny
Was placed upon His head;
I wondered what He saw in me,
To suffer such deep agony.

The last two lines of verse 3 seem to point to two brief parables in Matthew chapter 13. They’re quite short, so I’ll just post the text:

Matthew 13:44-46
The kingdom of the heavens is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid, and in his joy goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of the heavens is like a merchant seeking fine pearls; And finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Footnote 3 for v. 44, RcV

“The man here is Christ, who found the kingdom of the heavens in 4:12–12:23, hid it in 12:24–13:43, and in His joy went to the cross in 16:2117:22-2320:18-19; and 26:1–27:52 to sell all that He had and to buy the field, i.e., redeem the created and lost earth, for the kingdom.”

Christ suffered such agony on the cross (throughout his whole human life on the earth, actually) because he saw such great value in us as the material to build up the kingdom of God.

It is very significant that a pearl, among all the precious things that Jesus could have listed, is used vv. 45-46. A pearl starts out as a grain of sand that enters an oyster and wounds it. To deal with this, the oyster secretes a unique substance around it. This process continues until something very beautiful and valuable is produced. If you look at the description on the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21, you see that the city (the consummation of the church today) is built of pearls. The Lord is transforming our ugliness into preciousness in this age by dispensing Himself as the life-giving Spirit into us (Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 15:45; John 7:37-39). We will not ultimately be a cache of pretty, individual pearls, but we will be built together into the New Jerusalem, His glorious bride!

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Verse 4:
I’m sitting in His presence,
The sunshine of His face,
While with adoring wonder
His blessings I retrace.
It seems as if eternal days
Are far too short to sound His praise.

This is a somewhat more direct reference to the process of transformation by Walton. Walton refers to sitting in the Lord’s presence and beholding Him as sunshine. See how this compares to the apostle Paul’s word on transformation:

2 Corinthians 3:18
“But we all with unveiled face, beholding and reflecting like a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord Spirit”.

The “unveiled face” part in the above verse is a reference to Exodus chapter 34. Moses beheld the Lord face to face for FORTY DAYS STRAIGHT on Mount Sinai. When he returned to the children of Israel, he had to wear a veil because the Israelites could see his face shining. As opposed to being attracted by and seeking the glory of God, they were scared. Paul explained to the Corinthians that we should not wear such a veil over our face (a metaphor for our heart). Rather, we should behold the Lord face to face (just as W. Spencer Walton recounted) and be infused with God Himself, thus being transformed into His image. This is the second stage of salvation, and takes the rest of our lives after initial salvation.

GLORIFICATION
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Verse 5:
So while the hours are passing,
All now is perfect rest,
I’m waiting for the morning,
The brightest and the best,
When He will call us to His side,
To be with Him, His spotless bride.

While many hymns, even some of the more enlightened and substantial ones, end with a vague (and often inacurate) passage about the day when all the believers get to heaven, Walton ends this hymn in the same way the Holy Spirit ended the Bible through the apostle John: with a glorious marriage! We the church are not destined to live in some mysterious place in the sky where some want material mansions, some want golf, etc. Our destiny is to marry our glorious bridegroom, the wonderful and lovely Lord Jesus!

Revelation 21:2
“And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”

This final stage of salvation is glorification, the redemption of our physical bodies. We are made fully like the Lord in life and nature at this point, thus completing our qualification to be his bride.

Philippians 3:21
“Who will transfigure the body of our humiliation to be conformed to the body of His glory, according to His operation by which He is able even to subject all things to Himself.”

Prayer: Lord, Jesus, thank You for everything You went through and everything You’ve done to find us, bring us back to the Father, transform us into precious materials, build up the kingdom of God, and then marry us to be Your loving bride for eternity! We could never ask for or even think of such a high, lovely and sweet calling. We praise You and thank You for the divine will in incorporating us in Your economy! As we’re here on the earth awaiting Your visible and glorious return, we want to be those who cooperate with You in caring for all the lost sinners you bring back to the flock. We also desire to cooperate in the building up of Your kingdom by taking You as our life, love, daily bread, moment by moment grace and everything. Draw us more each day, Lord Jesus! We the bride want to spend our time in this age being prepared for the wedding day!  

The Expression and Glory of God in John 17

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Apparently, the central theme of the Lord’s prayer in John chapter 17 is the oneness of the believers – this is a common understanding. Actually, the central theme is the Lord’s glorification. I always thought the former of those two statements to be true, but I was brought this past weekend at the Chicago mini-conference (recap of the International Chinese-Speaking Conference in Anaheim) to the realization of the latter.

John has a special and mysterious emphasis on the Lord’s glorification in his gospel. Proof? The word glory or derivations of it appear 42 times in the Gospel of John. This is more than all the other gospels combined. I bet you never noticed the recurring theme of the Lord’s glory in John in this way (I never did, at least!). Here are some good examples:

  • When John mentions the Word becoming flesh, he relays the reaction of those believed into Him thus: “We beheld His glory, glory as of the only Begotten from the Father, full of grace and reality.”
  • At the end of the account of the Lord’s changing water into wine, John says, “This beginning of signs Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed into Him.” (Jn 2:11)
  • After the Lord exhorted the thirsty ones at the great feast to come to Him and drink in order that rivers of living water might flow out of them, John says, “But this He said concerning the Spirit, whom those who believed into Him were about to receive; for the Spirit was not yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.” (Jn. 7:39)
  • When He went to Jerusalem to be crucified, Jesus told His disciples, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (Jn. 12:23)

What was all this mention of glory for? Yes, the Lord is glorious and full of glory; we know that. But John had something very specific in mind. He didn’t go out of his way to emphasize the Lord’s glory merely because thought God was so glorious or because he beheld the Lord’s transfiguration on the mount. His idea of/emphasis on glory points to and also issues out of another very significant matter in his gospel:

The Divine-Human Incorporation
This is where the matter of oneness comes in. I can’t really put it into better words than the outline from the conference, so:

D. The issue of Christ’s glorification was the producing of a universal incorporation for the expression of the Triune God, whose unique attribute is oneness, the oneness of coinherence – John 14:10-11, 20; 17:21
1.) The three of the Triune God were incorporated from eternity; this means that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit mutually indwell one another, that is, they coinhere – 14:10-11
2.) The consummated Triune God and the regenerated believers became an incorporation in the resurrection of Christ; this means that the Son is in the Father, we are in the Son, and the Son as the Spirit is in us to make us an enlarged, divine-human incorporation who are coinhering with the coinhering Triune God in His oneness for His glory – vv. 20, 17; 17:11, 21

Because God is one, we are made one by being incorporated in Him. The principal verses that the above points are based on are John 17:21-23:

“That they all may be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that You have sent Me.
And the glory which 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 be perfected into one, that the world may know that You have sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.”

What does the divine-human incorporation look like? What is its manifestation?
The divine-human incorporation is God mingled with his chosen people for his expression and His glory. In John chapters 14-16, there are three concrete expressions of this glory (which correspond to the three of the Trinity). They are:

  • The Father’s House, the church (Jn 14:2)
  • The Son as the Vine with the branches, the constituents of the Body of Christ (Jn 15: 1-5)
  • The newborn corporate man, the new man (Jn: 16:21; see also Eph 2:15)

These three items, all of which point to the church, are the glorious increase of Christ produced through His death and resurrection. The Lord knew that these were the goal of His death; therefore He prayed such a particular prayer in John 17.

Three kinds of glory
There are three kinds of glory seen in the Gospel of John:

  • Glory according to man’s natural concept
    This kind of glory is what the disciples thought of, hoped for, or perceived in the Lord before He as the Spirit was breathed into them in John 20:22. This also must have been what the Greeks were looking for when they came to seek the Lord in John 12:20-21. This kind is superficial and largely based on things seen.
  • The Son’s glory before the foundation of the world
    All three of the divine Trinity have existed in eternity – from past to future. The Triune God always has been and has never changed essentially. The Son had glory in His divinity since eternity past (John 17:24).
  • The glory of the divine-human incorporation
    This is what the Son, who already had glory in His divinity in eternity past, prayed for in John 17:1. It is also what the Church as the Body of Christ, the corporate expression of the Triune God manifests to the whole universe today – currently in a hidden way; ultimately in an open way. This is the highest kind of glory seen in the Gospel of John because it is related to God’s eternal purpose.

We should praise the Lord for the carrying out of His purpose, the producing of the divine-human incorporation for His heart’s desire, His expression and His glory. This isn’t for us to merely behold, this is for us to participate in (Jn 17:22)!

I’ll conclude with a very sweet footnote from John 17:23 in the Recovery Version:

“The Father loved the Son by giving the Son His life, His nature, His fullness, and His glory that the Son might express Him. In the same way, the Father loved the Son’s believers by giving them His life, His nature, His fullness, and His glory that they might express Him in the Son. This is a story of love as well as glory.”

Hymn Focus – It Is Well With My Soul

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When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

One might think that such words were written during a time of happiness.   The author of the hymn, Horatio G. Spafford (1828-1888), starts off by mentioning “peace like a river.”  It is easy for a person’s soul to ‘be well’ when things are sailing smoothly. But Spafford’s situation at the time he wrote this hymn was something that would be unbearable for many of us. To use his own metaphor, the sorrows were indeed rolling like sea billows.
Spafford had been a successful lawyer and businessman in Chicago and had invested a great deal in property. The Great Chicago fire of 1871 destroyed most of his property and nearly ruined him financially. The economic downturn of 1873 was a further blow. Presumably as a way to get reprieve from these unfortunate events, Spafford decided to take a trip to Europe with his family. He couldn’t travel with his family right away, however, as zoning issues in Chicago required his attention. It was decided that his wife and five children would travel ahead of him and that he would join them after he had finished his business. While sailing in the Atlantic, the ship his family was on, the S. S. Ville du Havre, struck another vessel and quickly sank. Only his wife survived.
Spafford soon rejoined his wife and sailed for Europe with her alone. While his ship was passing the site where the Ville du Havre sank, he was moved to write the hymn It Is Well With My Soul.
The hymn has more verses which can be found here:
http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/i/t/i/itiswell.htm

Pretty heavy stuff, right? I have lost immediate family members, but can only imagine the pain of being a parent and having to live through the death of all five of your children. Spafford’s reaction to the situation is quite remarkable. Not only was he able to be well in his soul; he was able to praise the Lord in this situation (he concludes the third verse with “Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”). How could he do this? We’ll explore a few matters to answer this question:

The Secret of Sufficiency
The suffering of the Apostle Paul is well documented in the New Testament. He was persecuted by both the Gentiles and his own people, the Jews. He was beaten, humiliated and thrown into prison multiple times for preaching the gospel. Yet in the worst situations, Paul was not only able to be sustained; he was able to rejoice! How was he able to do this? He had learned a crucial “secret”.

Philippians 4:12-13
“I know also how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in everything and in all things I have learned the secret both to be filled and to hunger, both to abound and to lack. I am able to do all things in Him who empowers me.”

In this well-known passage, Paul unveiled to the members of the church in Philippi that Christ was the key to thrive in any type of situation. Paul took Christ as his sufficiency at all times – whether they were good or bad. Therefore, he knew how to be content. Whether he was in the comfort of a home meeting in Prisca and Aquila’s house (Romans 16:5) or being stoned to the point of being considered dead (Acts 14:19), Christ was his real supply and enjoyment. Because Paul took Christ during the peaceful times, he was able to take Christ and be at rest during the turbulent times. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The same must have been the case with Horatio G. Spafford. It’s highly unlikely that Spafford was new to deep experiences of the Lord at the time of these tragedies; otherwise the hardship of them might have caused him to be like those described in Matthew 13:6, who got scorched and withered up when hard times or persecution came. Spafford must have had very, very deep roots in the Lord to be able to endure what he did – and to even write such profound and compelling words in the wake of it…which brings me to my next point.

Having Deep Roots in the Lord
In the previously mentioned passage in Matthew 13, different types of “earth” are listed. According to the Lord’s own interpretation of His parable, these types of earth signify different types of people – specifically in how they respond when the gospel of the kingdom is presented to them. Some reject it totally, some receive it with joy but are not able to suffer hardships or persecution inherent to the kingdom life, some receive the word but are eventually won back to the cares of the age rather than the Lord, and some are the “good earth” – those who have a heart “that is not hardened by worldly traffic, that is without hidden sins, and that is without the anxiety of the age and the deceitfulness of riches. Such a heart gives every inch of its ground to receive the word that the word may grow, bear fruit, and produce even a hundredfold.” (note 1 of Matt 13:8, RcV)
Being the “good earth” implies having room in one’s being for the Lord to establish Himself deeply. Paul has some excellent words on this subject in Colossians:

Colossians 2:6-7
“As therefore you have received the Christ, Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, Having been rooted and being built up in Him, and being established in the faith even as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

I’d like to bring out the significance of the three bold phrases:
a) “You Have Received” – As Christians, we know that we have received Christ.  John 1:12 tells us that “As many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become children of God).” Paul’s idea of receiving Christ is a bit more specific in Colossians, though. Throughout the epistle, Paul draws direct comparisons between the Good Land in the Old Testament and Christ as the reality. Most Christians realize that Christ is the reality of the offerings in the Old Testament, but how many know that Christ is also the Good Land? Paul tells us that Christ is our allotted portion (Col. 1:12) – just as the Children of Israel received an allotted portion of physical land when they entered Canaan.

b) “Walk in Him” – “As we have received Christ, we should walk in Him. Here to walk is to live, to act, to behave, and to have our being. We should walk, live, and act in Christ that we may enjoy His riches, just as the children of Israel lived in the good land, enjoying all its rich produce. The good land today is Christ as the all-inclusive Spirit (Gal. 3:14), who dwells in our spirit (2 Tim. 4:22; Rom. 8:16) to be our enjoyment. To walk according to this Spirit (Rom. 8:4; Gal. 5:16) is the central and crucial point in the New Testament.” (note 2 of Col. 2:6, Rcv)

c) “Rooted and being built up in Him” – Just as a plant with deep roots is more likely to survive a storm or even intense heat from the sun, we need to have deep roots in Christ, the reality of the good land. One characteristic of roots: they are not visible; they are not exposed. What does this mean with regard to the Christian life? This means that we need to have, in addition to our corporate relationship with Christ which includes the other believers, a private relationship with Him that no one else knows about. This was certainly what Paul and Horatio Spafford had established in their Christian lives. From there, they could move on to being built up in Him – which is for the Body of Christ.

Prayer: Lord, bring us into a daily practice of walking in You and being built up in You. Teach us in our experience to discover You as the secret to sufficiency. We don’t to be ones that only sing your praises during the peaceful times. We don’t want to be ones that only cry out to You during the turbulent times. We want to cooperate with You to have a balanced, enjoying, living, rejoicing daily Christian life! Amen.

Further Reading:
The All Inclusive Christ by Witness Lee
Life Study of Philippians by Witness Lee
The following blog entry:
http://thelatterdays.blogspot.com/2012/10/it-is-well-with-my-soul.html

Simply Loving Jesus

                                                                      field05_150
A Silly (but relevant) story:

In 2006 I was stationed at Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq with the 76th US Army Band. It was known among soldiers that deployment meant having an unreasonable amount of down time; you could get around to doing  that one thing you had been meaning to. Some soldiers caught up on 10 seasons of a popular TV show, some hit the gym with a renewed commitment, some mastered the craft of dominating Halo 2, some learned a foreign language. One of the things I found opportunity to do was develop basic skills on Adobe Photoshop. My friend Bryan was a masterful photographer/photoshop artist and helped me out in this rudimentary endeavor. For my first project, I took an image of a calf from my grandmother’s farm in Santa Fe, Texas and placed it into a background picture of tents in Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait.
Iraqi Cow
As you can see, I turned the cow blue….likely because I just wanted to see if I could. Whatever the reason, I sent the final doctored image to my youngest brother, Patrick, back home in the States. He was 6 and in first grade at the time. Being the caring older I’ve always been, I told him that all the cows in Iraq were blue because Saddam Hussein’s evil scientists had experimented so much with genetic manipulation.
I didn’t expect him to go for it as hard as he did.
Upon receiving my email, Patrick printed the image out and took it to school. He proceeded to brag to his friends and teachers about his supremely cool older brother and showed them all scientific, documented evidence of Iraqi blue cows. In the end, the amount of fun I had with the prank was outweighed by the humbling task of having to explain to him that it was a lie; I had forged it all with a computer.

I was moved in this instance by Patrick’s childlike innocence and eagerness to believe anything I told him (however incredible). Years later, I realized that God places a special value on this pure and naive mentality. See the following passages:

Matthew 18:1-5
In that hour the disciples came to Jesus, saying, Who then is greatest in the kingdom of the heavens?
And He called a little child to Him and stood him in their midst
And said, Truly I say to you, Unless you turn and become like little children, you shall by no means enter into the kingdom of the heavens.
He therefore who will humble himself like this little child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of the heavens.
And whoever receives one such little child because of My name, receives Me.

Luke 18:15-17
And they were bringing to Him also their babies that He might touch them. But when the disciples saw this they rebuked them.
But Jesus called them to Him, saying, Allow the little children to come to Me, and do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of God.
Truly I say to you, Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child shall by no means enter into it.

One of the most distinguishing characteristics of children is their quality of being a “blank slate.” For the most part, they realize that they don’t know very much and therefore approach you as an active sponge, waiting on and studying your every word or action. Most people experience this kind of innocent faith when they first come the Lord. But as time goes by, perhaps some might accidentally “grow out” of this. We should never graduate from being pure and simple before the Lord.
The phrases “enter into the kingdom of the heavens” and “receive the kingdom of God” can be applied to those who have not yet believed, yes; but they can also be applied to a Christian with many years in the Lord. Childlike simplicity does not end after initial salvation.

Jeremiah the prophet said that the Lord’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). We never know what new mercy, grace, revelation, or enjoyment may come out of our contact with the Lord. If, in our love for Him, we come with a mind full of concepts, expectations or other baggage, we could miss something very valuable and sweet. Remember the Lord’s word concerning Mary, who sat at his feet:

Luke 10:38-42
Now as they went, (Jesus) entered into a certain village, and a certain woman named Martha received Him into her home.
And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet and was listening to His word.
But Martha was being drawn about with much serving, and she came up to Him and said, Lord, does it not matter to You that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to do her part with me.
But the Lord answered and said to her, Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things;
But there is need of one thing, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Mary was a wonderful lover of the Lord Jesus. She set an excellent example of loving the Lord with the proper simplicity. This is documented in several cases in the gospels. The Lord repeatedly referenced His impending crucifixion to the disciples, but their heads were too full of concepts, religion and “practical” matters to get the picture. Mary, however, listened and was able to anoint him with the costly ointment for His burial. As a result of her loving the Lord in the proper and simple way, she is mentioned wherever the gospel is proclaimed on the earth (Mark 14:9).

And Finally,
A HYMN ABOUT LOVING THE LORD IN A SIMPLE WAY:

  1. Simply loving everyday;
    Loving through a stormy way,
    Even when my faith is small,
    Loving Jesus, that is all.
    (Chorus)
    Loving as the moments fly,
    Loving as the days go by,
    Loving Him whate’er befall,
    Loving Jesus, that is all.
  2. Brightly does His Spirit shine
    Into this poor heart of mine;
    While He leads I cannot fall,
    Loving Jesus, that is all.
  3. Singing if my way be clear,
    Praying if the path be drear;
    If in danger, for Him call,
    Loving Jesus, that is all.
  4. Loving Him while life shall last,
    Loving Him till earth is past,
    Till His gracious advent call,
    Loving Jesus, that is all.

Source: http://www.hymnal.net/hymn.php/ns/230#ixzz2tPebo2Vo

Hymn Focus – Just As I Am

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Miss Charlotte Elliott was vi­sit­ing some friends in the West End of Lon­don, and there met the em­i­nent min­is­ter, Cé­sar Ma­lan. While seat­ed at sup­per, the min­is­ter said he hoped that she was a Christ­ian. She took of­fense at this, and re­plied that she would ra­ther not dis­cuss that quest­ion. Dr. Ma­lan said that he was sor­ry if had of­fend­ed her, that he al­ways liked to speak a word for his Mas­ter, and that he hoped that the young la­dy would some day be­come a work­er for Christ. When they met again at the home of a mu­tu­al friend, three weeks lat­er, Miss Ell­i­ott told the min­is­ter that ev­er since he had spok­en to her she had been try­ing to find her Sav­iour, and that she now wished him to tell her how to come to Christ. “Just come to him as you are,” Dr. Ma­lan said. This she did, and went away re­joic­ing. Shortly af­ter­ward she wrote this hymn. (Credit: cyberhymnal.org)

Charlotte Elliot’s classic is one of the most well-known and beloved hymns among God’s children. The experience in this hymn is one which every Christian needs to go through at some point – the realization that God doesn’t want us to be perfect. He calls us to Himself and keeps us to Himself just as we are.

It’s easy to get caught up in trying to be a “good person” or even a “good Christian.” At some point, however, we realize that even though we may be saved and have God’s life in us, we are utter failures. This isn’t reason for discouragement, though. Remember, he who has been forgiven much loves much (Luke 7:47). The more we fail, the more opportunities there are for God to show His love, grace and mercy to us. The more we experience these things, the more Christ grows in us. The more Christ grows in us, the less we have to try and exhibit holiness – Christ Himself will be lived out and expressed!

As in every solid, foundational hymn, this one is deeply rooted in the word of God. Every line of Just As I Am is pregnant with meaning from the Bible. I broke it down just that way:

Just as I am, without one plea
“And these things (covetous, drunkards, revilers, rapacious) were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” -1 Corinthians 6:11
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
“Knowing that it was not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, that you were redeemed from your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers, but with precious blood, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot, the blood of Christ. -1 Peter 1:18-19
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
“Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace.” -2 Timothy 1:9
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
“…Behold, the Lamb of God!” –John 1:36; see also 1 Pet. 1:19
“Coming to Him, a living stone, rejected by men but with God chosen and precious.” – 1 Peter 2:4
“Let us therefore come forward with boldness to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace for timely help.” –Hebrews 4:16

Just as I am, and waiting not
“And now, why do you delay? Rise up and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” –Acts 22:16
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
(see Acts 22:19; 1 Cor. 6:11; 1 Pet 1:18-19)
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from every sin.” -1 John 1:7
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
(see previous)

 Just as I am, though tossed about
“That we may be no longer little children tossed by waves and carried about…” –Ephesians 4:14
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
“…He who doubts is like the surge of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed about.” –James 1:6
Fightings and fears within, without,
“For you have not received a spirit of slavery bringing you into fear again, but you have received a spirit of sonship in which we cry, Abba, Father!” –Romans 8:15
“Since therefore the children have shared in blood and flesh, He also Himself in like manner partook of the same, that through death He might destroy him who has the might of death, that is, the devil, And might release those who because of the fear of death through all their life were held in slavery.” –Hebrews 2:14-15
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
“Because you say, I am wealthy and have become rich and have need of nothing, and do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” –Revelation 3:17; see also 1 Corinthians 6:11
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
“The blind receive their sight and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; and the dead are raised and the poor have the gospel announced to them.” – Matthew 11:5
“The eyes of your heart having been enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of His calling, and what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” –Ephesians 1:18
(Hymn – Oh, the Riches of My Savior  http://www.witness-lee-hymns.org/hymns/H0542.html)
“And do not be fashioned according to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and well pleasing and perfect.” –Romans 12:2
Yea, all I need in Thee to find,
“Which are a shadow of the things to come, but the body is of Christ.” –Colossians 2:17
-Footnote from RcV- “Christ is the reality of the gospel. All the good things in the gospel belong to Him and are Him. This book (Colossians) unveils such an all-inclusive Christ as the focus of God’s economy.”
(See also Exodus ch. 13; Deuteronomy 8: 7-10 for Old Testament types of Christ – the reality of the Good Land and everything we need.)
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

 Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
“Therefore receive one another, as Christ also received you to the glory of God” – Rom. 15:7
“And when Jesus heard this, He said to them, Those who are strong have no need of a physician, but those who are ill; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” –Mark 2:17
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
“And Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralytic, Child, your sins are forgiven.” –Mark 2:5
“And behold, a leper, coming near, worshipped Him, saying, Lord, if You are willing, You can cleanse me.” –Matthew 8:2
“Come to Me all who toil and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” –Matthew 11:28-30
Because Thy promise I believe,
“Therefore the inheritance is out of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise may be certain to all the seed, not to that which is of the law only, but also to that which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.” –Romans 4:16
“Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” –Galatians 3:6; see Genesis 15:6
“Through which He has granted to us precious and exceedingly great promises that through these you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption which is in the world by lust. -2 Peter 1:4
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

 Just as I am, Thy love unknown
“He who does not love has not known God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8
“Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and we are. Because of this the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. -1 John 3:1
Hath broken every barrier down;
“But whenever their heart turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” -2 Corinthians 3:16
“For He Himself is our peace, He who has made both one and has broken down the middle wall of partition, the enmity.” –Ephesians 2:14
Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
“And I give to them eternal life, and they shall by no means perish forever, and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” –John 10:28-29
“For I am jealous over you with a jealousy of God; for I betrothed you to one husband to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” -2 Corinthians 11:2
(Hymn – I am the Lord’s  http://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn.php/h/433)
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Trivia note: Billy Graham famously used this hymn during the altar calls of his gospel crusades. He himself was led to the Lord through this hymn in 1934; the effect it had on him can be seen in the title of his autobiography:
Just As I Am.