The Bible – a remarkable fountain

“For the Bible is a remarkable fountain: the more one draws and drinks of it, the more it stimulates thirst.”- Martin Luther

As Jared Wilson continues Chapter 4 of The Imperfect Disciple, he focuses on the first of two vital spiritual rhythms in discipleship.  That rhythm? – listening.  Specifically, Jared means reading, or more technically, studying the Bible.  In addition, Pastor Wilson refers to this rhythm as “feeling Scripture.”

However, Jared advises not to let the word feel throw you off.  The word feel doesn’t connote a particular emotional reaction or “a certain act of godly goose bumps.”  Hence, the author explains what “feeling Scripture” means in this context.  Pastor Wilson defines his term:

” . . . a deeper familiarity with the message of the Bible, a sense of its big story line and a comfort with the diversity of its storytellers.”

Jared continues:

“Feeling Scripture entails regular inhabitance in the Bible — Jesus likes the word abide — so that we have a practically instinctual sense of its threads and contours. . . . but over time the effort we put into this practice . . . begins to feel more natural and reflexive.”

In contrast, as we study the Bible, we must avoid treating it as an object of utility.  Rather, the Bible is life-giving and active.  Therefore, we shouldn’t ask ourselves how we might use the Bible.  The better question centers on how the Bible might use us.  Most importantly, Jared asserts, the word transformation defines the prime reason the Word of God exists.

Finally, to abide in Christ means we must dwell in God’s Word.  And it all begins with simple listening.  As Jared concludes, “once we acquire a taste, we can’t get enough of it.”

Today’s question: How is the Bible a remarkable fountain in your faith life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Hearing is believing – not seeing”

God owns all of life – abide in Him

“God owns all of life, and worshiping God means that we must revolve around him, not he us.  So God shouldn’t be confined to his own compartment in our schedule.  Jesus does not abide in his assigned time slot; we abide in him.”- Jared C. Wilson

Jared Wilson continues Chapter 4 of The Imperfect Disciple as he notes how easy it is for Christians to love convenience and embrace consumerism.  As a result, Jared notes, “where we live, and how we live there, shapes us (emphasis author’s).”  Hence, Jesus followers find it exceedingly difficult to engage in worship of Him beyond a weekend church service.  Extending worship further invades the space and time of what remains of our “real life.”

Yet, even making time for God creates a problem, because God owns all of life.  We must not schedule God, but abide in Him.  Thus, we need to consider the process of formation.  In other words, allowing ourselves to be formed in a certain way.  This means more than sticking a Jesus fish on our car’s bumper.  Therefore, Pastor Wilson defines cultivating Spiritual (as in Holy Spirit) formation:

“To cultivate Spiritual formation, then, means to find ways to immerse ourselves in the work of the Spirit — to re-sync ourselves to the rhythms of the kingdom of God (emphasis Jared’s).”

In conclusion, Jared cautions against creating holy homework for the Christian life.  As a result, Jared notes a difference between religious burdens and relational rhythms on our Christian journey.  At times we’ll struggle with, and even against, the spiritual disciplines.  However, Pastor Wilson describes how to overcome this struggle:

“But if we center on the gospel, the essential duties of maintaining a relationship with God begin to seem less like duty and more life delight.  They seem less like rules and more like rhythms.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses enable you to abide in Him?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The Bible – a remarkable fountain”

Spiritual disciplines – religious duties or relational delights?

“But what if we approached these behaviors [the spiritual disciplines] less as religious duties — they are that obviously, but they are more than that — and more as relational delights?”- Jared C. Wilson

“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”- John 15:5

In Chapter 4 (“The Rhythm of Listening”) of The Imperfect Disciple, Jared Wilson begins with a discussion of the spiritual disciplines.  The author asks what would happen if we approached spiritual disciplines less as religious duties and more as relational delights.  Hence, with this approach, the work we put into our relationship with Christ more directly flows from your already-secured position in Him.  As a result, there’s less emphasis on the idea that we’ve got to maintain our spiritual state.

Put differently, Jared wonders, what if we saw Jesus as our friend more than our boss?  Of course, Jesus is our master, commander, and sovereign Lord.  But, even though Jesus no longer calls us servants, that doesn’t negate our need to obey.  As Pastor Wilson stresses, Jesus only changed the relational context for doing what He says.

Therefore, Jesus’ commands come from a position of love.  Also, they’re positioned for our good.  In addition, the author adds, this relationship, born of the gospel, helps us see that “our obedience is not the grounds of our relationship, but the overflow of it.”

In conclusion, Jared believes, in a way spiritual disciplines involve getting active about being passive.  However, the author notes, this kind of passivity doesn’t equate with laziness or inactivity.  Rather, it’s about receptivity.  Stated another way, it’s really about working without striving.

Today’s question: What spiritual disciplines do you employ in your daily life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “God owns all of life – abide in Him”

Stare at the glory of God – good beholding

“Stare at the glory of God until you see it.”- Ray Ortlund

“Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?”- 2 Corinthians 3:7 (NIV)

Jared C. Wilson concludes Chapter 3 of The Imperfect Disciple as he states Christ’s glory far exceeds the glory of the law.  In fact, Jonathan Edwards once compared Christ’s glory to the sun rising in its strength and eclipsing the stars.

Thus, Jared asserts, Christianity’s essential message isn’t “do” but “done.”  As a result, the author adds, the direct route to God-honoring behavior consists not of good behavior, but of good beholding.

True release, then, comes when God changes who you are.  That change comes through Christ’s cross becoming your cross.  Jared exhorts:

“Don’t believe the lie that always struggling to obey God is a lot worse than disobeying him with peace.  God did not make us to ‘feel good inside’ (or outside) all the time this side of heaven; he made us to share in the suffering of Christ, that we might also share in his resurrection.”

In conclusion, as long as we live in what Jared refers to as the bittersweet limbo of simul justus en peccator (Latin – righteous and at the same time a sinner), we’ll struggle to see the glory.  We’ll always fight that battle this side of heaven.

However, we must not get so busy trying to do great things for God that we forget to look at His glory.  Then we’ll never quite behold it.

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you stare at the glory of God?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Spiritual disciplines – religious duties or relational delights?”

Every day when you encounter God

“Every day when you encounter God . . . you face the choice of simply looking at Jesus or actually trying to see him (emphasis author’s).”- Jared C. Wilson

As Jared Wilson continues Chapter 3 of The Imperfect Disciple, he advises not to “believe the portraits of Jesus you got in your sweet little Sunday school classes.”  Jared sees Jesus portrayed as kind of shy and unassuming.  Also, that view portrays Jesus as totally loving to save you- if it’s not too much of a bother to you.  Thus, Jared summarizes:

“You and I come to Jesus looking for some kind of pick-me-up, and Jesus offers his flesh.  We come looking for Jesus the life coach when what we really need is his glory.  We need to behold him.”

Therefore, in John 4 the real Jesus shows up.  He shows up uninvited.  In addition, He starts out giving commands.  And in his conversation with the woman at Jacob’s well, He exposes her greatest vulnerability.   But Jesus brings her shame to the surface to cover it, not embarrass her.

When Adam and Ever hid from God in the Garden of Eden, they used fig leaves to cover their shame.  A superficial attempt.  However, God wanted to cover their shame with a sacrifice.  A costly covering.  As Jared adds, ” to cover them rightly, something had to bleed.”

Yet, Jesus’ glory often is right in front of us, like His face-to-face encounter with the woman at the well.  and like her, we’re parched, starving, thirsty, and hungry for the glory of God.

As a result, when you encounter God in your daily devotional time or time of worship, you face a choice.  Do you simply look at Jesus or actually try to see Him?

Today’s question: How do you encounter God in your daily activities?  Please share.

tomorrow’s blog: “Stare at the glory of God”

A generally decreased capacity for bigness

“Many Christians . . . struggle to behold Christ’s glory because they have a generally decreased capacity for bigness in the first place.”- Jared C. Wilson

Jared Wilson continues Chapter 3 of The Imperfect Disciple as he discusses what we can do to help us behold better.  First, we must overcome our preoccupation with small things.  In fact, this leads to an inverted sense of measurement.  Therefore, big things seem to us small or familiar.  In contrast, small things become big to us in terms of time, attention, and energy.

Furthermore, our consumer-oriented culture, inundates us with all kinds of media.  As a result, the gospel seems quite one-note and familiar.  Thus, Jared advises, “don’t just do something, sit there.”  The author continues:

” . . . until we learn to simply sit there, to be still, to be settled, to look at the great big world around us, to consider with wonder all those incredible humans made in God’s image, to look at his endlessly fascinating creation in long steady concentration, we will continue in spiritual myopia and spiritual boredom.  When our vision is constantly occupied by small things, we are tempted to yawn more at the glory of God.”

Therefore, looking at big things increases our capacity to see big things.  This means you rest from the spaces over which you “rule” as acting sovereign.  Instead, you get out into spaces that palpably reflect Christ’s sovereignty.  As G. K. Beale says: “What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration.”

In conclusion, Jared asserts, all this indicates one core issue – a worship problem (emphasis author’s).

Today’s question: What worldly things and messages created a decreased capacity for bigness in your faith life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Every day when you encounter God”

 

You can’t behold without first looking

“While you can look without beholding — you can look at Jesus and not really see him — you can’t behold without first looking.”- Jared C. Wilson

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”- John 1:29

In Chapter 3 (“Staring at the Glory until You See It”) of The Imperfect Disciple, Jared Wilson contrasts looking with beholding.  As Jared observes, we don’t study the familiar or really look at things we think we already know.  In fact, familiarity tends to stifle any impulse to study those things.

Therefore, Jared cautions, this leads to a subtle danger of the way many Christians live out their discipleship.   As the author explains, many Christians look at Jesus, yet never really see Him.

Yes, Jared knows, behold and look and see are essentially synonyms.  However, the author explains why the word behold best conveys John’s meaning in the above verse from his gospel.  Jared states:

“John does in fact mean that his hearers should see the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, but behold tells what kind of seeing we ought to be doing.  In other words, he’s not merely saying ‘look at him.’  He’s telling us to look with consideration, with appreciation, with fixation and transfixion.  To behold something is to ‘hold’ something in our vision, to let the weight of it rest on your mind and heart.”

And as you behold the glory of Jesus, He enters your personal space.  Jesus overcomes your discomfort of sharing your personal space and initiates a conversation with you.  In the next blog, Jared applies these thoughts to John’s account of the woman visiting Jacob’s well (John 4).

Today’s question: What Bible verses help with beholding Jesus?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “A generally decreased capacity for bigness”

The shame of guilty self-awareness

“Every one of us knows the shame of guilty self-awareness and the fear of exposure.  But we don’t want to life in the isolation of that darkness.  We long for freeing relationships with others, especially God.”- Ray Ortlund

“I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise.”- Zephaniah 3:19

Jared C. Wilson concludes Chapter 2 of The Imperfect Disciple as he tackles the subject of shame.  Although our shame is real, Jared reminds us, Christ bore our shame on the cross.  As a result, Ray Ortlund explains, our shame no longer defines us.  He writes:

“What defines you, what reveals your future forever, is this word: ‘ . . .adorned. . . .’ Not shamed.  Adorned.  Lovely.  Attractive.  And the moment is coming when he will look into your eyes with glad adoration, and you will look into his eyes with confident surrender.  and nothing will ever, ever spoil it again.”

Thus, Mr. Wilson observes, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount  – or any of Jesus’ teachings, for that matter – don’t comprise a “handy compendium of pick-me-ups for spiritual go-getters.”  Hence, Jared defines discipleship in this way:

“What is discipleship, then, but following Jesus not on some religious quest to become bigger, better, or faster, but to become more trusting of his mercy toward our total inability to become those things?”

Therefore, Jared concludes, only those who think themselves above Christ and his gospel wind up losing in the end.

Romans 10:11- “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Today’s question: Following your vocation loss, at what point did the shame of guilty self-awareness rear its ugly head?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the new Short Meditation, “Facing things out of my control”

Turning things upside down – or right side up?

“Jesus wasn’t turning things upside down.  He was turning them right side up.”- Jared C. Wilson

“He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame by triumphing over them in him.”- Colossians 2:15

As Jared Wilson continues Chapter 2 of The Imperfect Disciple, he stresses that Jesus was turning things right side up, rather than upside down.  Thus, Jared views the Beatitudes as a direct shot into the side of worldly and traditional cultural values.  In addition, the author humorously describes the Beatitudes as “a heat-seeking missile into the rusty hull of that worn old battleship, the SS Works Righteousness.”

Therefore, Jared states, the Beatitudes changed, as well as encompassed, the landscape of reality.  Furthermore, it’s essential that the higher reality of Jesus and his gospel speak into this prevailing mode of existence.  Put another way, the Beatitudes go far beyond painted calligraphy on a lacquered cutting board at Grandma’s house.

As a result, our discipleship must deal with the tension between Jesus’ higher reality and earthly life.  Jared explains:

“Our discipleship has to deal with this tension — the tension between the glorious reality we believe in and yearn for and the hard reality we currently live in every day — or else it’s not the real Jesus we’re following.”

In conclusion, Mr. Wilson states that he tends to believe most of us truly treasure Jesus only when we’ve run out of all alternatives to Him.  Yet, Jared asks the following question.  What if Jesus actually brings us to the end of our rope so that we’ll actually, finally trust Him?

Today’s question: How has Jesus turned things right side up , rather than upside down, in your life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The shame of guilty self-awareness”

The dark cave of shame – hold the gospel up to every narrow beam of light

“Too many times we are in the dark cave of shame, crowded out by the stalagmites formed from a thousand years of sin, and we’re holding the gospel up to every narrow beam of light.”- Jared C. Wilson

In Chapter 2 (“Good News for Losers”) of The Imperfect Disciple, Jared Wilson talks about the advantage of being at the bottom.  Yes, the author acknowledges, at times it’s hard to read the pages of the gospel in our dark cave.  We simply use it to wipe our brow or dry our tears.

On the other hand, Jared notes, we frustrate ourselves with the redundancy of our sins.  As the author adds: “We like our ruts, and our ruts like us.”

In addition, it’s not just our sins that never seem to go away.  That goes for our wounds also.  However, Jared cautions us not to equate sins and wounds.  He explains the results of this confusion:

“This needlessly frustrates people’s following of Jesus.  We further traumatize victims when we tell them their wounds are sins, and we demotivate repenters when we tell them their sins are wounds.”

In other words, we need to sort out our responsibilities from our vulnerabilities.  To vanquish our sin, we must expose it.

Next, Mr. Wilson takes a look at Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Specifically, Jared focuses on the Beatitudes.  He contends that many, many people – including lots of church people – think Jesus came to earth to loosen things up.  Jared explains:

” . . . like everything was so boring and traditional and legalistic or whatever, and then God sent Jesus Christ to ‘Keep Jerusalem Weird’ or something, like he’s formed some hippie commune for people with ‘Coexist’ bumper stickers on their cars.”

Yet, it’s a mistake to assume that Jesus shook things up to disrupt other people.  He came to disrupt you and me.

Today’s question: What Bible verses shed light into your dark cave of shame?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the new Short Meditation, “Facing things out of my control”

Tomorrow’s blog: “Turning things upside down- or right side up?”