the embarrassment that matters

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“…we cannot escape the embarrassment of standing stark naked before God. It is of no use for us to try and cover up like Adam and Eve in the garden. Our attempts at self-justification are as ineffectual as their fig leaves. We have to acknowledge our nakedness, see the divine substitute wearing our filthy rags instead of us, and allow him to clothe us with his own righteousness.” (John Stott, The Cross of Christ, commenting on Rev. 3:17-18)

“For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen…” (Revelation 3:14-19)

He has provided the way: Acknowledge your nakedness, gaze upon Jesus wearing your rags, and come to Him. Allow Him to clothe you, today, with His white garments, with His own righteousness.

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strength for weary pilgrims

“Look at the starry sky—Jesus strewed it with its jewelry…

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Look at that enchanting landscape—Jesus enamelled it with its loveliness…

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Look at that cloud-capped mountain—Jesus reared it…

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Look at that beauteous lily—Jesus painted it…

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Look at that soaring bird—Jesus feeds it…

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He, with whom is all this strength and beauty, is your Brother! Are you not better and dearer to Him than these? He has loved and chosen you from all eternity, ransomed you with His blood, and inhabited you by His Spirit.

Why, then, these fears? Why this distrust? All He requires of you is to bring to His fullness your emptiness—to His sympathy your grief—to His unerring wisdom your confusion—and to His sheltering wing your temptations and trials.

Spread your case before Him in the humble confidence of a child. Listen to His words—”I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt: open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” (Christ’s Sympathy to Weary Pilgrims, by Octavius Winslow (1808-1878))

Father, today I feel myself a weary pilgrim. Please hold and keep me. Give me the ability to spread my grief before your sympathy; my emptiness before your fullness; my confusion before your wisdom. This trial tempts me toward hiding and despair; toward fear. Draw me to you! Give me a heart that runs to your sheltering wing, that comes as a trusting child pouring out my all before you. Jesus, dearest Brother, I need to hide in your comfort and find strength in your care. In my weariness, O Lord, show me you.

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not exceeding our capacity to receive it

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“The Lord did not come to make a display…For one who wanted to make a display the thing would have been just to appear and dazzle the beholders. But He who came to heal and to teach the way was not merely to dwell here, but to put Himself at the disposal of those who needed Him, and to be manifested according as they could bear it, not vitiating (blemishing or spoiling) the value of the Divine appearing by exceeding their capacity to receive it.” (On the Incarnation by Athanasius of Alexandria (296-373))

Athanasius’s 4th century sentences keep running through my mind. My modern interpretation of his long-ago phrases goes like this: The Lord didn’t arrive to dazzle and then disappear, leaving us blown through and blown over and bewildered. He sure could have. Instead, He lived among us, and revealed and explained Himself as we could bear it. He even put Himself at our disposal.

If I dazzle and then disappear, I’m all about me; but if I put myself at your disposal, I’m all about you.

When I think on these beautiful thoughts — on God’s kindness in His appearing, and on His choosing, for our good, to not exceed our capacity to receive it — my heart leaps. How good and kind is our Lord! For He could have squashed us with His power and otherness. Instead, He didn’t overpower. He disclosed what we could bear.

Athanasius’s words also remind me of another set of words — of Mary’s words, which she speaks as she arrives at Elizabeth’s home. Elizabeth exclaims that Jesus, within Mary’s womb, is the Lord, and with humility and joy, Mary responds:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

Luke 1:46-47, 49

When I think of the Lord choosing not to exceed our ability to receive his appearing, and in so doing, not spoiling the value of His Divine appearing, one thing happens: My heart leaps with the same awe Mary’s, Elizabeth’s, John’s, and Athanasius’s did. My spirit rejoices in God our Savior! He who is mighty has done great things for us, and holy is His name. Oh, the goodness and the kindness of our God!

17 centuries later

And one last thought: Today, if I feel blown through and blown over and bewildered by circumstances beyond my control, I’m to lean into my Lord. He will not squash me with His power. He will disclose what I can bear, and will not exceed my capacity to receive it.

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Painting: Pool of Siloam by James Tissot

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throwing ourselves into His arms

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On days when you waken and can’t shake a sense of despondency; when you’re disheartened, or sad, or crestfallen — throw yourself into His arms:

“We please God most, not by frantically trying to make ourselves good, but by throwing ourselves into His arms with all our imperfections and believing that He understands everything — and still loves us.” (A.W. Tozer, 1897-1963)

He has not moved or changed. You are still loved. Loved with an everlasting, open-armed love. An invincible love. Today, in your heart and mind and spirit, throw yourself there.

“There is no one like the God of Israel. He rides across the heavens to help you, across the skies in majestic splendor. The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you.”

Deuteronomy 33:26-27

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spiritual pathways and the call to submission

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There’s an uncomfortable situation you’ll have to face when you desire to be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom. 12:1-2). When pathways of spiritual change begin to be cut into your being because you’re more and more seeing Jesus as beautiful, and you’re choosing to turn from your old ways, and your mind is being transformed through the Word by the Spirit, and you’re choosing the way of the cross — it’s then that the ways you’re choosing will seem foolish to those who don’t know the Lord. They’ll call your decisions foolish. They’ll call you foolish. Don’t be surprised. Understand what God tells you ahead of time:

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.””

Your choices as you follow the way of the cross will be seen as foolish. God set it up that way.

“…Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (I Corinthians 1:18-25)

Know this, though: God’s words to us in I Corinthians aren’t meant to explain why He’s set it up that way. He’s not even necessarily meaning to help us feel better when we’re called foolish because we want to follow the path of a crucified Savior. His words in I Corinthians are meant to awaken within us something better:

“Instead of a persuasive explanation, this passage is a call to submission. Paul says, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men.” In order for us to be saved we have to give up on the idea that we are wise. We have to give up on the idea that we know what is best…Jesus Christ, dying on the cross, and then giving the message of the Gospel to a bunch of fishermen, is the wisdom of God. Sending out men and women all across the world to places where they do not even speak the same language, is the wisdom of God. And God specifically chose this way of salvation, in part, because he knew that it would look foolish. He knew that our proud hearts would want to reject it. And therefore, the only way to accept it is to be humbled. The only way to be saved is to trust God, to believe that he knows what he is doing, and to believe that he knows better than us. And if you resist this idea of submission, and do not find yourself drawing closer to God, do not be surprised. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).” (full quote at http://haretranslation.blogspot.com)

In uncomfortable situations, we tend toward defensiveness. We fight back (in our hearts and minds if not out loud). Or we become angry — at God. “God, I’m trying to be renewed by the transforming of my mind; I’m trying to not conform to this world; and now, though, I’m being called foolish. Your ways make me feel so uncomfortable!”

But Christianity is not a call to comfortable.

Christianity is a call to submission: a call to believe that God knows what he is doing, and that he knows better than us. Christianity is a call to something better than the comfort our old pathways would call us toward.

We’re called to the place of dependence in all things — in those that make sense, and in those that don’t. For He is completely good. His ways are always perfect. So foolishness? Yes. But we submit. Discomfort? Sure. But we submit.

We submit and we trust.

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May the mind of Christ, my Savior

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May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
live in me from day to day,
by his love and power controlling
all I do and say.

May the word of God dwell richly
in my heart from hour to hour,
so that all may see I triumph
only through his power.

May the peace of God, my Father,
rule my life in everything,
that I may be calm to comfort
sick and sorrowing.

May the love of Jesus fill me
as the waters fill the sea.
Him exalting, self abasing:
this is victory.

May I run the race before me,
strong and brave to face the foe,
looking only unto Jesus
as I onward go.

May His beauty rest upon me
as I seek the lost to win,
and may they forget the channel,
seeing only Him.

By Kate Wilkinson, 1859-1928

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footprints and deep mental paths

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When our kids were small, we spent a lot of time in the woods behind our house. We’d tramp along the pathway begun by mostly unseen deer to visit “our” waterfall. We’d place our feet into the narrow groove of the path begun by hundreds of small hoof-prints seeking drink at the waterfall’s stream. Their path, begun by tiny hoof-steps, transformed through the years into a deep and wide pathway as hundreds of footsteps of happy children raced along its route. Now, a decade later, I fondly remember our waterfall treks when I read these words:

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” (Henry David Thoreau)

One footstep doesn’t a path make. Cutting and maintaining a footpath through deep woods only happens with many footsteps. In our woods, grass blades crushed by deer’s small hoof-prints began what my children’s footprints completed.

Mental paths work the same way. As we over and over believe and act on a thought, that thought assumes boss-like dominance, for good or bad, in our lives. Modern neuro-scientists and psychiatrists tells us this. Thoreau observed the same in the 1800s. And God said it all thousands of years before:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” (Rom 12:2)

Physical paths in forests, mental paths in brains, and spiritual paths of supernatural transformation: all are made not by a single footstep, or a single thought, or a single moment of loving and choosing God’s way, but by again and again-ness and over and over-ness.

We’re transformed into a person who knows the will of the Lord, who knows the Lord, as we over and over meditate on His words to us; as He cuts deep spiritual paths into our being by the power of the Holy Spirit. As we then obey, we find Him faithful, and so love Him even more: we’re transformed from the person we were before we knew the Lord into a person who thinks and acts as a new creation.

Cutting pathways with intentionality

A few cursory readings of sections of scripture, or single sermons listened to, won’t a transformative path make. We have to meditate on the verses’ meaning and application. We have to pray to apply, and then work to apply the teaching of the sermon. Daily. Over and over. Intentionally.

And also, beforehand. Proactively. As we face each new instance or concept in life, we cut pathways by questioning ourselves: “In this area, will I act as a follower of Jesus through the way of the cross, or will I actually act and choose the world’s way?”

  • The world’s way self-promotes, self-justifies, self-protects. The world’s way says, “I can and should have glory now.”
  • The way of the cross lives life in light of the rejected Shepherd, Jesus. The way of the cross knows that the way up is to go down. Like Jesus. (Phil. 2:5-8)

But we don’t only discern and question our motives. We must choose. One of my pastors points out that we choose the world’s way without even thinking. So we have to be intentional: We must work to discern the oppositeness of God’s way from our own natural way. Through the Spirit’s enabling, we then submit to God’s way. The way of the cross.

You probably think you do this already. I’d say that about myself, too. But as I listened to my pastor’s sermon, I was convicted that worldly thoughts and aspirations about power, and the purpose of life, and the end-goal of love, still speak into my everyday choices. Here are some of his thoughts on the opposites — the world’s way vs. the way of the cross:

Power.  World’s definition = power makes sure my desires are fulfilled by everyone and everything around me. Through the way of the cross = power is used for self-sacrifice and for the good of others.

Life. World’s definition = the life worth living is experienced by those with the most toys. Through the way of the cross = true life is loyalty to God, even if you die.

Love. World’s definition = love is when you make me feel good; you give me pleasure. Through the way of the cross = to the undeserving and unlovely, I give grace and patience and kindness. I fight my self-justifying tendency toward arrogance, irritability or resentfulness, and I give my life for you.

september-in-the-forestI’m left wondering: How many other areas of life do I need to put under the microscope? What would my default definition of the purpose of marriage be, for instance, versus viewing marriage through the way of the cross? (Something like this: World’s definition = You marry me and make me happy; we gather a lot of toys together, and you fulfill all of my desires. Through the way of the cross = I sacrifice my own desires for your good, even when you are undeserving and unlovely. I give grace and I care for your good more than my own. I do all I can to make your love for the Lord easy. We, as one, give our lives for God, even if we die.)

As I begin to view instances and relationships and concepts through this renewed lens, I’m left with strong need. I pray for me, and for you:

Father, by the power of your Spirit, please do for us what we can’t do for ourselves. Stop us short when we’re conforming to this world. Give us discernment. We want to be aware when we’re not choosing the way of the cross. Then convict us. Soften our hearts! Please cut deep, re-new-ed pathways, transforming, through your Word, our minds and heart’s desires.

For more help: The Renewed Mind and How to Have It, sermon by John Piper.

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your ransom price

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For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.

(I Peter 1:18-19)

Related: REDEEMED RANSOMED ADOPTED

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confident of this very thing

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Dearest one,

He will do it. He will finish what He began.

He redeemed you, and saved you. He called you. He holds you evermore. I am confident, not because of you, but because of Him. He will complete the good work He began. He will work in you that which is pleasing in His sight. He will not let you go; not now, not tomorrow, not on any day until the day when Jesus returns.

Until the day when the sky splits open and the clouds roll back and you see Him face to face. Him, your Lord, your King, your Redeemer. Until the day when all you’ve ever yearned for is answered by His arrival, by His culminating Presence.

He will do it. Start to Finish. First to Last.

 He will.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 1:6

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trampled the waves of the sea

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“…how can a man be in the right before God?
He is wise in heart and mighty in strength…
who alone stretched out the heavens
and trampled the waves of the sea;
…who does great things beyond searching out, and marvelous things beyond number…”

Job 9: 2,4,8,10

Did you notice that Job says God “trampled the waves of the sea”? John Gill, who lived in the 1700s and preached in the same church Charles Spurgeon would preach in 100 years later, gives fascinating details about that exact phrase:

“…when the waves are lifted up as high as they sometimes are, by strong and stormy winds, the Lord on high is mightier than they, he treads upon them and represses them; he rules their raging, stills their noise, and makes them smooth, calm, and quiet (Psalm 65:7); this none but God can do: the Egyptian hieroglyphic of “doing a thing impossible” was a man’s walking upon water; the heathens chose not to describe even their god of the sea, Neptune, by walking on it, as being too great for him, but by swimming…Then, though, think “of Christ’s walking upon the sea…” (John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible)

Had you ever heard of the Egyptian hieroglyphic for “doing something impossible”? I hadn’t. And I’d never heard that the Roman’s thought even mighty Neptune unable to walk on the sea. I now read Matthew’s account of Jesus walking on Galilee’s turbulent waters with enlightened, fascinated eyes:

“…the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”” (Matthew 14:24-27)

Raging seas were dreaded in ancient times. Boats, even those manned by the most seasoned of sailors and fishermen, were tossed about and smashed against rocky shorelines. Both the mighty Egyptians and the world-conquering Romans dared not think that the bravest of humans, or even Neptune, the powerful god of the sea, could walk upon roiling water.

And yet.

The Lord God Almighty, He of the Bible, treads, represses, rules the raging. He tramples the waves of the sea.

Job knew this.

And years later, when He comes to earth, Jesus not only tramples, but walks. He does “a thing impossible.” Where Neptune dared not venture, He succeeds. And as He walks, He, knowing that the sight of His walking toward them terrifies His disciples, cares to calm their fear-filled hearts. He both demonstrates His terrifying power and cares for the men His trampling scares.

Hear again the kindness of your Savior as He speaks to them — the seasoned fishermen, now terrified as they perceive the “impossible” outline of a man walking on the night’s turbulent waves. He immediately says:

“Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

From this, I take away amazement. First: amazement at God’s work through recorded history. The disciples probably had knowledge, stored in their fisherman minds, of the Egyptian’s “impossible” hieroglyphic and of the Roman god’s inabilities, as well as incidents of their own past battles on storm-tossed waves. They knew open waters were not controllable. And then Jesus arrives. Walking toward them. Breaking all rules. Demonstrating all power. All on purpose.

Jesus uses other culture’s ancient, recorded thoughts, the disciple’s own knowledge of scary seas, and his own unexpected display of power — all to strengthen their burgeoning faith. Faith in his dominion over the uncontrollable. And faith in his tender care.

And then this: Through Egyptian hieroglyphics (no one can walk on water), Neptune’s inability (not even a god can walk on water), and this recorded account in scripture (Jesus can walk on water), God means for us to also know something. We’re to know that when we lose heart and panic arises, we’re also to trust the Doer of the impossible. It’s then that he says to us, as he said to them:

Take heart. I trample the waves of the sea. I walk on them. Toward you.

Do not be afraid.

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Paintings by Andreas Achenbach: Clearing Up–Coast of Sicily, 1847; Storm on the Sea at the Norwegian Coast, 1837

Related: passing through walls like rocks pass through water

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passing through walls like rocks pass through water

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I once heard an explanation that’s stuck with me. We were studying the passage where Jesus, in His glorified body after His resurrection, passes through the walls into the room where the disciples are hiding. Do you remember it?

“That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord!” (John 20:19-20)

Did you notice the phrase “behind locked doors”? The disciples are hiding away in fear, and God records for us that they’d locked the doors. Then Jesus is suddenly among them. How’d he do that? Bodies don’t pass through walls. Not here on earth, anyway.

Remembering science

That’s where the explanation that’s stuck with me comes in: Think back to high school science class and a lesson on density. A physics teacher would have explained that an object that’s more dense than another object will always pass through the less dense object. Every single time. Our teacher would tell us to picture a rock, or an orange. Both rocks and oranges are denser than, say, water.

Rock or orange = more dense than water.

In defining density, our teacher might have used words like firm, solid, weighty. Density means how much stuff there is packed into the object. And because the laws of physics say that the more dense object always passes through the less dense object, the rock or the orange will always pass through water. You can picture that: Drop an orange into a deep bucket of water, and the orange will sink, or pass through the water, on the way to the bottom. The water doesn’t have the ability to “stop” the rock.

So what?

So here’s the so what. With Jesus, the opposite occurred. John records that Jesus, only hours after his resurrection, passed through walls into rooms with dead-bolted doors. He defied density laws.

Something new was afoot. Something opposite. Something other. Jesus’ glorified body, on that Sunday night after His resurrection, was now more dense, more weighty, than what we’d consider the densest of earth’s dense — a wall. He passed straight through into the room where the disciples huddled. The more dense passed through the less dense. The wall didn’t have the ability to “stop” Jesus.

It’s not that He’s now vaporous and passed through. It’s that He’s weightier. Denser. More solid. Our physics laws don’t apply. Jesus is Other.

I bow. I’m stupefied.

And I have a few last questions.

With density laws still in mind, when I remember Jesus walking on the water toward the disciples (in Matthew 14), and compare what happened on the sea that night with what later happened in the room after His resurrection:

  1. Why did Jesus in His resurrected body (which must have now been denser, and not only metaphorically) pass through the room’s walls (which should have been denser) but
  2. not pass through the water (less dense) when He walked on the waves toward the disciples in His earthly body (which should have then been denser)? Why didn’t the laws of physics apply either time?

On the waves, Jesus should have been more dense and sunk into the less dense water. After His resurrection, He should have been less dense than the walls and not been able to pass through. The two times seem to be almost opposites, and yet the laws of physics didn’t apply to Him either time.

I cannot wait to ask about that in heaven.

Today, though, as I try to grasp it all, I’m left feeling small and un-smart compared to God. And that’s a really, really good thing. My inability to comprehend Jesus’ opposite-physics puts me in my proper place. I close the book, acutely aware of His Great Otherness.

I’m humbled. I love Him even more. And I worship:

When I cannot understand anything in the Bible, it seems to me as though God had set a chair there for me, at which to kneel and worship; and that the mysteries are intended to be an altar of devotion. (C.H. Spurgeon)

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God walked again in the garden

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“On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of an evening but the dawn.” (G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, p. 136)

Shame and hiding from God — in the cool of the evening:

“And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed…And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed…God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die…she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (Gen.2:8,  25, 3: 3-4, 6-8)

No more hiding or fear — in the cool of the new dawn:

“But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here, for he has risen, as he said…she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.  Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’”  (Matthew 28: 5, John 20:14-16)

…in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of an evening but the dawn.

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moving heaven and earth

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“…grace means God’s love in action towards men who merited the opposite of love. Grace means God moving heaven and earth to save sinners who could not lift a finger to save themselves…drawing us sinners closer and closer to Himself…Grace means God sending his only Son to the cross to descend into hell so that we guilty ones might be reconciled to God and received into heaven.” (J.I. Packer, Knowing God)

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

Reasons for simultaneous awe, deep mourning, and humbled rejoicing this Easter:

  • God actively moves in love toward me. Toward me who has only earned the opposite of His love.
  • He moves heaven and earth to save me — when I can’t lift a finger to save myself.
  • He purposes to draw me, undeserving-sinner-me, closer and closer to Himself.
  • He sent Jesus to the cross to descend into hell so that I could be made right with Him; so that I could be received into heaven when my earthly body dies.
  • This is life-changing grace. Humbling, heaven-and-earth moving grace. This is marvelous grace!

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin!

Grace Greater than our Sin, by Julia H. Johnston, 1910

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

(II Corinthians 5:22)

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He could not save himself

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So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.” (Matthew 27:41-44)

“‘He saved others, but he can’t save himself!’ Their words, spoken as an insult, were the literal truth. He could not save himself and others simultaneously. He chose to sacrifice himself in order to save the world.” (John Stott, The Cross of Christ)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this John Stott quote. Have you ever stopped to think that the crowd’s barbs — “He saved others; he can’t save himself” — were true? That, in choosing to sacrifice himself on the cross, your sin upon his shoulders, Jesus purposefully fulfilled the mocking crowd’s words? He, the true King of Israel, trusting God as none other, breathed his dying breath for one reason: He chose to sacrifice himself in order to save those the Father had given him. For:

He could not save himself if he wanted to save you.

He chose instead, with his dying breath, to buy life. Life for you. Life for me. Life for those whose sin must be paid for: Yours. Mine.

Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.

As we enter into this week before Easter, more than all the fleeting or worrying or enticing thoughts that daily battle for my mind’s time, I want to think about this astounding truth: it was my sin that held him there.

But not only that.

It was his unimaginable love that held him there. He chose to sacrifice himself. Oh, the mercy!  So immense and so free! And, oh this astounding thought: it found out me!

Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, should choose to die for me?

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Another piece to read this Easter week: the true agony of the cross

Hymn: How Deep the Father’s Love for Us, by Stuart Townend

Painting: Let Him Be Crucified, by James Tissot (1836-1902)

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God is light.

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God is light.

He is spiritual perfection,

moral excellence,

utter transcendence.

And because He is, there is light.

Light for you to see by. Both in your physical and in your spiritual realm. Because He is, there is also light for you: light from His Word. Light to guide you into purity and holiness, into the life-giving relationship you’re meant to know.

Light as nearness. As warmth. As illumination. For the child of God, light which leads you to an all-revealing, yet-without-fear relationship. The relationship you’ve been re-born to know.

So on days when you feel you’re floundering in darkness — unsure, unsafe, alone — call to Him! When you stumble, scared, along a darkened path, sure that no human could understand, or would care, or be able to help in your loneliness, call to your Father! He promises: you are never alone.

He cares. He knows. He helps.

He, Jesus, came so that you could be transferred out of the domain of darkness and be transferred, at His cost, into His kingdom. If He did that, will He not also do much more for you, beloved child of His?

“The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
    on them has light shone.

“… God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” 

“… Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life…I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.'”

He has come to us, He in whom there is no darkness. Because of His work for His people, His face shines upon you. Oh believe in Him, call to Him, trust Him!

And remember this: On days when your fear threatens to smother your trust, tell Him so.

  1. He already knows that about you.
  2. You’re in a no-fear-of-recrimination relationship.
  3. He wants you to freely pour out your heart, your need to Him!  He, who is light, loves you generously. Generously enough to give wisdom (light) specifically to you:

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”

(Isaiah 9:2, I John 1:5, John 8:12, John 12:46, James 1:5-6)

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