Saturday, October 20, 2007

Just Jesus, Himself

“I have determined to know nothing . . . except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

Late 19th century preacher A. B. Simpson writes, “It is the person of Jesus Christ we want. Plenty of people get the idea and get nothing out of it. . . [I too previously] thought that the Lord would take me like the old run-down clock, wind me up, and set me going like a machine. It is not thus at all. I found it was Himself coming instead and giving me what I needed at the moment. . . He said, ‘My child, you must come to Me for the next breath. Because I love you so dearly I want you to come all the time. . . [So now] I am like a little bottle in the sea, as full as it will hold. The bottle is in the sea and the sea is in the bottle; so I am in Christ and Christ is in me. . . And the bottle has to be filled over again, every day, evermore.”

I'm encouraged by these words to look first and foremost to the breaking forth of Christ's person in my life before I look to the breaking forth of His kingdom in my world. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul” (Mark 8:36)? It reminds me to fix my eyes not on the world nor even on the faith but rather on the “author and perfecter of faith” – that is, simply Jesus, Himself (Hebrews 12:2).

Jesus demonstrated this in the coolest of ways through the image of bread. (I love food analogies!) In John 6, He multiplies fish and bread to feed thousands, simultaneously explaining the meaning of the manna described in Exodus 16 where God provided bread from heaven for Israel, saying, “gather one day’s portion every day.” Any who gathered more discovered that it would not keep overnight. Manna, they learned, is only good when it's fresh from heaven.

So then Jesus provides all this bread miraculously and begins to teach, saying, “Do not work for food which perishes but for the food which endures to eternal life which the Son of Man gives. . . Truly I say, it's not Moses who gave you bread from heaven but My Father. . . For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world. . . and I am that bread of life. . . I am the bread that came down from heaven. . . I am the living bread from heaven; if anyone eats this bread they will live forever; and the bread which I give for the life of the world is My flesh. . . Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you have no life in yourselves. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day. . . Just as it is the Spirit who gives life, for the flesh profits nothing, the words that I have spoken are spirit and life.”

Breath-taking. "Eat my flesh. Drink my blood." A little metaphorical cannibalism to drive away the hard-hearted. Meanwhile, Christ teaches the life-changing practice of receiving His very person inside ourselves to those "with ears to hear". Not the product of His person... just His very person, moment by moment, day by day. An ongoing, repeated reality of receiving Christ into every aspect of our personhood.

Later Jesus said of the Blessed Sacrament, “This is My body which is for you. . . and this is the cup of the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink, in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25). Again, the symbol describes taking Christ inside of ourselves. It's an intimate internal exercise.

Additionally, I recently recognized the wording here, “as often as you drink.” Not, “as often as you take Communion” or “on the first Sunday of each month,” but rather an open-ended reference to every wine-drinking occasion - which, for ancient Israel, was daily. In other words, Jesus uses the Sacrament of Communion to remind us to receive His personhood into ourselves frequently… even daily. Is it any wonder that 1 Thessalonians 5:17 challenges the Christ-follower to “pray without ceasing”? Or that our inner renewal is described in 2 Corinthians 4:16 as “day by day”?

Pretty sweet. It provides me with new insight into Paul’s words in Philippians 3, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus”! Again... just Jesus, Himself.

Paul goes on to say, “. . . Jesus my Lord for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” Apparently there is a losing and a gaining in this process of "receiving Christ". What’s lost and gained? Jesus says in Mark 10:29-30, “There is no one who has given up houses or brothers or sisters of mother or father or children or farms for My sake . . . but that they will receive a hundred times as much - now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions, and in the age to come, eternal life.” Or again, “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24). Apparently we gain the same things we give up, but with a radical reorientation in our relationship to those things.

Instead of clutching our lives, relating directly to them and ultimately losing them, we clutch just Jesus, Himself, gaining both Him and the life He brings! Instead of grasping for money or food or clothing or family or ministry, turning those fine things into soul-stealing idols, we simply grasp Jesus, Himself, gaining His person as well as all the resources and relationships He brings. (Awesome!)

It should be less surprising to me that by focusing exclusively on Christ we receive all things. After all, He is the “Alpha and Omega, beginning and end” (Revelation 1; 21; 22), He who “fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:23; 4:10). It’s a total reorientation of our relationships. When we attempt to relate directly to self, family, friends, enemies, material things, etc. – we claim those things without surrendering to God and without embracing the redemptive key of Christ’s sacrificed person that breathes life into them… Consequently, those good things become toxic to us. Shadows of the real. But if we embrace just Christ, Himself, who possesses, fills, and redeems all things, then we have, in Him, all things! Just as Paul says, “... all things belong to you. Whether Paul or Apollos or Peter or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you and you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God” (1 Corinthians 3:21-22).

Even Scripture becomes a problem if we fail to approach it with our eyes fixed not on the page but on the person they speak from and of. As Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; but it is these that testify about me” (John 5:39).

Once again... just Jesus, Himself.

I've been learning to practice this thing - prayerfully receiving Christ’s person as my daily, moment-by-moment wisdom and righteousness and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30), my way and truth and life (John 14:6), my daily everything - because I'm learning to see myself as a “partaker of Christ” (Hebrews 3:14). And I'm finding that He truly is becoming, in a super-practical way, my love, joy, peace, humility, power, material provision, relational connector, my future, my impact on the world... my everything!

All because I'm asking less for His power and provision and more of His person with everything He embodies... blessing, suffering, whatever. I sense that in so doing, Christ is changing me and will change my world. In so doing, I am becoming more fertile soil in which Christ can be formed in me (Galatians 4:19).

All this from receiving just Jesus, Himself.


Bryan Riley said...

I enjoyed this immensely and linked to it. Great post.

John Lynch said...

Thanks Bryan!