You Don’t Need More Faith

Faith. It is a deep part of my journey that I haven’t shared much about, but that has really been just below the surface all along. You see my journey began with asking the questions, “How can love be greater than faith?” and, “How can a self-professed Bible-living religion speak more emphatically about faith than love?”

And when I took the plunge into grace there were three camps; the first of course cried hysterically from behind me that I could not possibly leave the safety of the foundations upon which I had been raised and not end up in hell. The second informed me that my grace was good and all, but the church still expects you to strive toward perfection. And the third said come as you are–as long as you utilize your faith to accomplish the perfection we expect.

I chose what was seemingly the lesser of the three evils, because the idea that we must believe to receive is a classic in the church. But my dilemma has always been this: I don’t have nearly enough faith for salvation, let alone what I want to receive beyond that. I don’t have enough faith to live right or to entrust my righteousness to; I don’t have enough faith to pray with power; I don’t have even enough faith to speak in a group of people. The Bible states that we are made righteous by faith, but my faith falls short every time.

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20 KJV

I’ve read this verse before – I’ve read all of Galatians clear through many times. But the King James makes a seemingly minor difference in wording that totally changes the meaning of this verse – ‘by the faith of the Son of God’ 

Can someone say ‘Boom.

Now there is faith in Jesus and there is faith of Jesus:

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”

Romans 10:8‭-‬15 NKJV

Which is as much as to say, you can’t really make a meaningful agreement with something or someone you don’t believe–or, have faith–in.

And suddenly Jesus’ statement next to a withered fig tree about mustard-seed-sized faith begins to make sense–‘if you just have faith the size of a mustard seed you can say to that mountain, go throw yourself in the sea’. Because you’ll have to believe the truth–and if there is one thing Father will not do it is to make you believe the truth–but the only truth you need your own faith to believe….is that the rest is on His faith–He’s got this one.

Let’s go back to the context of Galatians (and as always, please – read the chapter. Read the book. Devour the context)

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.  But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.  For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.  For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.  I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.  I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

Galatians 2:16‭-‬21 KJV

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my life in my physical body. I haven’t really put it to myself that directly until now–I’d always just let there be a vagueness there and I know I’ve been pondering things that directly relate to me, me being someone in this world who lives in a physical body. But I’ve always struggled with the tension of faith, and good works, and sin, and rest… And that might be a surprise for some people because in the beginning of all this I was all about the grace and the rest and the not having to do anything anymore. But the reality has always been this tension because my heart says ‘Yes, I rest in the finished work of Jesus,’ but my mind goes, ‘But what about…’

Because I still live in a physical body and I’m learning more and more that this body is exterior to who I am but it is so flawed and I am still so in it, and what do you do when your spirit wants to live one reality but your body wants to live another? Do you just keep repenting and asking forgiveness every day for the things your body does like the church has taught for time immemorial?

And if I’m honest I can say I know I don’t have enough faith for the trouble my body gets me into in this world.

And I know Father doesn’t expect me to keep repenting–as if I had turned away in the first place. And that’s the thing about a person being made holy and righteous and perfect because that happened 2000-some-odd years ago but if we don’t see exactly what we think is good and right and perfect in a person we deem them unsaved, unrepentant, sinners destined for the wrath of God (and well-deserving of punishment)–or perhaps more often we say they are living a licentious life based on ‘greasy grace’. Yeah, it’s dawning on me now where that concept comes from.

And Church I’ve had a lot to say to you lately and I want you to know that I’m saying this as much into my own heart as to yours, but repenting and ‘having more faith‘ are not the answers to the people you are disqualifying. The solution to greasy grace is not a realization that ‘oh yeah, you actually do have to do something, and actually it’s all the same stuff as before but now Jesus’ power will help you do it,’ no Church… The solution is living dead to your body.

Because listen, go back and look at Galatians 2 again: the law doesn’t justify anybody, and sorry but a new-covenant-esque take on the law is still not going to justify. Anybody. Ten commandments? Not a chance, and that’s an easy enough pill to swallow maybe, but repentance and faith-works? No. You can’t prime the Presence-pumpBut what then justifies? Your faith in what Jesus did for you? No. Jesusfaith in what Jesus did for you.

Because the real issue here Church, is not about stopping people from living sinful, worldly, licentious lives. It isn’t about giving them the twenty steps to right living. If the only solution you can give them is that they need to work harder and have more faith–faith harder–you’ve missed the gospel. And you’ve missed the meaning of the death of Jesus, because that is the moment where humanity was spiritually circumcised, cut away from our sin-riddled bodies for the rest of eternity.

And I finally totally get this whole concept of a death being required before a covenant can come to an end; I always thought the law was supposed to die with Jesus, but it was we who died with Jesus. Now if we resurrect our old selves, Mr. Law is still alive–guess what; you’re back together under that old covenant, a slave to sin and death, rebuilding what died with Jesus on the cross. But if we are alive by the life and faith of Jesus? 

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I liveyet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

…The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God…

Do you want to know, Church, why you are experiencing so little victory over sin in your members? Because you’ve been teaching them that the life they life in the flesh they live by their own faith. It is all up to them and if they aren’t experiencing victory and favor it must be because they aren’t believing hard enough, or maybe it is because they have believed in ‘greasy grace’.  I’ll tell you right now Church, you’ve hurt and confused a lot of people because their faith was not strong enough for you.

You don’t need more faith. You don’t. You don’t need more faith. But I know, religion says ‘Be careful of greasy grace, some of this has got to be on you,’ but it doesn’t because it’s already on Jesus.

A weight lifts off my shoulders when I realize that it isn’t up to me believing hard enough anymore.

The thing that flung me into all of this was this story that I’ve never had an easy time understanding. It’s the story of a demon-possessed boy who met Jesus:

And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes disputing with them. Immediately, when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him. And He asked the scribes, “What are you discussing with them?”

Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.”

He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.”  Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth.

So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?”

And he said, “From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!”  Then the  spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

Mark 9:14‭-‬27 NKJV

Mark is the only author who records the depth of Jesus’ discord with the father of the boy. And notice something; Jesus saw a a faithless people, but all he expected from that boy’s father was belief. But belief in what? Because Jesus didn’t even say ‘Believe that all things are possible,’ no, he said ‘Just believe. All things are possible to people who believe.’ And the father cries out ‘Lord I believe; help my unbelief.’

And I recall several occasions that I prayed and I said “God I know it’s your desire to heal so bring healing now!” And I saw broken bodies mended. But more often I think of all the times I said to myself “No… it won’t work this time, I can’t believe enough for that,”

But Jesus has faith. And he knows that his faith is enough for an entire generation–an entire human race–if they will just let His faith do the acting for just a moment. Help my unbelief in Your belief.

I hate the term ‘greasy grace’. I really do with a passion. I hate that Father’s character has had such a demeaning caricature drawn of it. And I hate the abuse that church leaders have been responsible for in disqualifying people because of so-called greasy grace or licentiousness. And I’m not saying licentiousness isn’t a thing somewhere, but when I hear ‘greasy grace’ being tossed around I see people being bombarded by insecure Christians who seem so afraid that Father’s goodness is not enough. I see leaders requiring more than a simple recognition that Jesus died on the cross and spiritually circumcised our old natures making every person perfect in the sight of God. I see churches afraid of losing their monopoly on self-faith-based goodness and the control they hold over their members by it, and I begin to understand the sort of people Jesus must have been looking toward when he declared, ‘o faithless generation…’

You don’t need more faith; Jesus has enough.

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When I Think of You…

I think of shame. And embarrassment.

I think of the hurdles of transitioning from an extremely intimidated introvert into a socially semi-functional…still intimidated…introvert.

I think of seeing you for the first time and wishing you would be my friend but knowing the social norms of our little clique wouldn’t allow for that–and the overarching reality that I was far too shy to ever dream of approaching you. I think of seeing you blossoming into one of the most beautiful people I had ever before seen or known the name of. And I think of our first timid words.

And I think that I was such a fool. I was such a fool not to have made the most–or more than I did–of that time. I think of long drawn-out silences that maybe you understood but probably you didn’t because in written word they didn’t exist.

I think of love, because I did love you–what you would let me see of you–and ‘love’ had only recently become to me something that makes your heart pound so strongly it seems as though the whole world can hear it. Maybe they could hear it, and looked on in silence as I blundered around you. I was so very clumsy then–physically, emotionally–

I think of hate. Because I hate that a decade later there is still a construction zone where my heart collided with yours, and most of that decade I have spent regretting the day I met you because you brought out the bumbling idiot in me. I hate the fact that even though now I understand exactly what happened back then, I’ve already played too many of my cards trying to explain to you what I did wrong, and you will never hear this, and I don’t want you to because if you did you would disregard it the same way you did every other time I tried to find a little peace of mind. I’m angry.

I’m angry because you used me. I don’t know how much of what you did was done consciously, or when it became conscious for you, but the entire time I was blaming myself for everything that went wrong, too innocent and too gullible to see that I was all in it for you, and you were all in it for you, so no one was actually in it for me and I got burned. But I’m most angry because even though I know what happened wasn’t completely my fault and that it was a learning curve neither of us had experienced before, I still to this day beat myself up for destroying the friendship I was so lucky to have.

But when I think of you…

I think forgiveness. Because forgiveness was always something I asked–sometimes begged–of you. I was so sure if I had your forgiveness I would have peace of mind–but lo and behold here I am still ranting about it. And I never realized until recently that maybe I was not the only one who needed forgiveness, and maybe you were not the one to give any.

I have no blame for you–I never have. But I have a bitterness that none of my words have ever been able to express. It’s only a shame this came so late, but I forgive you. And I forgive me. I forgive you for being an earthborn human raised with a comsciousness for a broken world and imperfect relationships. I forgive myself for being a late bloomer and for the time you spent expecting me to be a fully opened blossom when all I had to offer were the smallest buds. I forgive myself my awkward introvertedness, I forgive myself my passivity. And I forgive myself for being unable all these years to lay this one burden at the wayside and truly live beyond its regret.

So there you have it. I rarely think of you anymore, but it is all there and every now and then I revisit that painful spot in my heart and rebruise the edges. But I won’t do that anymore, for both of us.

When I think of you, I think of grace. I see that there was so much room for it between us and I wish I had understood it and been able to relate more graciously with you then. I wish you knew what I know now. Maybe you do, probably you don’t–but maybe you do. You could be free.

I’m Already Perfect

then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.”

I ran across something the other day that totally revitalized my confidence in the journey I’ve been on and an endeavor I’ve recently set out on. It was this little passage in the book of Hebrews:

12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

                                                                                                –Hebrews 10:12-14 [NKJV]

Why does that resound so deeply in me? Because it is the one thing that gives.

For several weeks now I’ve been writing a lot–albeit not anything for this blog. I’ve undertaken the task of doing some research into the early history of the Millerite movement and Adventist church pioneers, and putting together a fairly brief (10000-word-and-counting) paper on my findings, and let me tell you…it’s been tough slugging. Although I’ve wanted to undertake something like this for several years, going back to the dispute has raised such a flounder on my mind–not that I don’t still believe in my decisions, but that the things I’ve been researching are so fog-inducing. Indeed, it is probably the thing I’ve been most enthusiastic about working on over the last few weeks, but at the same time it is tiresome work because Father has been so misunderstood and misrepresented.

In particular, I’ve been studying a doctrine called Investigative Judgment which tends to take the focal point in the early history of the Adventist movement’s birth out of Millerism. (it’s alright if you don’t know what any of this actually is, by the way) To put it in brief, investigative judgment takes every assurance of salvation away from believers and replaces it with an assurance of judgment, the nature of which calls up every secret word, thought and deed you ever did–or will do–and measures your fitness for salvation based upon these deeds. It is a doctrine which would have Christ’s death on the cross powerless, instead pointing you toward a future atoning for sin only after you have been found deserving under the most detailed scrutiny of all your conscious and unconscious action and thought.

Rough, right?

But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

It’s not that I didn’t already know that–I’ve read this passage before, probably multiple times over. But the reality just crashed over me like a tsunami, totally obliterating the fog and the obstructions; I’m perfect. I was made completely perfect forever the moment Christ made that offering. How could that possibly be based on anything I could ever do? The thing about sanctification then, is that it does not bring us up to a future perfection; sanctification brings us up to experience the already-present-reality that we are perfect already. Forever.

“Well,” I’m sure you say, “Where does that leave me? I KNOW I’m not perfect; this just can’t be true.”

Ditto. Me too. But you are perfect. You are perfect. YOU! Perfect! That is the gospel! That is the good news! To the first believers the gospel was this: ‘Sin has so depraved you that you killed Jesus–the very messiah you’ve been looking for–but by his offering he made you perfect anyways, and now he reigns Eternal Risen King.’ (or something along that line – find it in the book of Acts) But now the gospel is ‘You are no longer born inherently evil in spite of the depravity sin once worked on the human race because Christ redeemed and perfected you!’ It is finished! There is no more to do! You are perfect! You are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus! The only thing left to do to experience this reality is to start believing the reality of Christ-in-you the hope of glory! The eternal mystery has been completed and revealed in the sacrifice of Jesus to make you perfect. Eternal not because we will never know what it is, but eternal because your perfection is for forever.

I don’t mind telling you, it is so refreshing to remember that. And to learn that. Because to be honest, I did learn something when I read those verses again. I’ve spent my life glossing over the reality of the gospel. I’ve spent my life believing in the ‘one day,’ a distant future hope in becoming complete and perfect in who I was made to be. Even as I’ve begun to understand grace and love, I know now I’ve never believed I could be already perfect. I always believed there was still some inherent evil lurking in the roots of me, some mystical flesh character that I must struggle and fight against to maintain and further my growing perfection. And sure, ‘the flesh’ whatever that actually is exactly, it’s a thing. Something in my physical body that urges me to do things that I know I–the true me–don’t really want to do.

But the reality is I’ve already been perfected. Forever. You’ve already been perfected forever. You can take that ‘flesh’ monster and you can make that an external thing to you because you are now perfect in Jesus; there is no sin problem between me and Father–between you and Father. Sanctification is just the journey we take to fully realize that reality in our bodies, to the ultimate sanctification of physically new bodies. Now that is good news. Are you ready to believe it with me?

Lessons From the Heathen

Have you ever heard the story of Jonah? Probably. Have you ever read the story of Jonah?

Look it up, it’s a pretty short book.

So there’s this guy named Jonah, God meets him and goes ‘I want you to go to Nineveh and give them my message.’

And Jonah runs the other way.

He goes to Joppa and gets on a boat bound for Tarshish. I don’t know if you know anything about middle-eastern geography (I wasn’t always too clear) but Tarshish was basically on the other side of Jonah’s known world from Nineveh, on the other end of the ocean. And bear in mind, this isn’t a Sunday-afternoon drive or a day-cruise or an airplane trip over the ocean, this is a walk–or a pony-ride–and a sailboat trip across the ocean in the opposite direction away from home. When was the last time you made a trip like that to avoid something God told you to do?

jonah_map

The post I borrowed this picture from is title ‘Jonah – The Reluctant Prophet’ But reluctant? I’m reluctant and I stay home. Jonah took a cruise to Tarshish. And why? 

 

We’ll get to that.

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.  – Jonah 1:1-3

He fled to Tarshish, and it seems to me that he left home with the place in mind; this was a pre-meditated venture, not some whim that he decided on when he got to port and found the closest ship to him. He was thinking, ‘What’s the furthest place I can get from Nineveh?’

But the Lord sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up.

Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load.[a] But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep.

So the captain came to him, and said to him, “What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish.”

Boom, hurricane. Maybe thunder, lightning, mountainous waves, fury. I’m just guessing here, but a ship’s crew willing to go on a voyage this far, was probably well-seasoned. They were ready for the perils of a trip across the open ocean, and they were getting scared.

And these guys are heathens. They worship man-imagined gods, they all have their own set, and none of them are listening. And where’s Jonah? He’s sleeping in the hold. Sleeping. He’s running away from God’s command and he’s sleeping in the bottom of the boat in the middle of a hurricane. The captain goes down and wakes him up, probably angry and definitely scared because none of the other gods are answering, he demands that Jonah call on his god to try and save them.

And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this trouble has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, “Please tell us! For whose cause is this trouble upon us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?”

So he said to them, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.

So they cast lots. They’re heathens, of course they do, right? Let me ask you something; are you superstitious? They believe in that stuff. But something that has really been catching my attention is God answers their heathenish culture. As with Abraham coming out of a culture where child sacrifice was normal, it wasn’t an unusual request for Abraham to hear from God, but it wasn’t just about God testing Abraham’s faith, it was about God meeting Abraham in his heathen culture and turning it inside out because here is a God who provides instead of demands.

God ticks Jonah’s lot. And those heathen sailors immediately demand to know what he did that they are now suffering a storm for. Who are you?

10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, “Why have you done this?” For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. 11 Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?”—for the sea was growing more tempestuous.

12 And he said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.”

They knew he was running from God, I can just hear their exasperated question, ‘WHY did you do that? Are you crazy? Don’t you know you can’t run away from a god?’ 

And Jonah… he’s just done. And he’s so dramatic; ‘It’s all my fault,’ he says, ‘Just throw me into the ocean.’ The sailors are a little more realistic, but it’s no avail.

 13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to return to land, but they could not, for the sea continued to grow more tempestuous against them. 14 Therefore they cried out to the Lord and said, “We pray, O Lord, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O Lord, have done as it pleased You.” 15 So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and took vows.

And you know something? I’m really amazed by these guys. Not like it’s really surprising but kind of just an ‘Oh yeah that really makes sense,’ kind of moment. Because these guys are heathens, they’ve each got their own set of gods that they probably carry in their pocket; god is not a foreign idea to them, so they have no problem praying to his God. But as soon as Jonah went overboard the storm stopped. Result. And their fear goes viral because here is a God more powerful and more real than any they’ve yet seen. And here’s the thing: Jonah wasn’t there to see this. The only way we know what happens is that as soon as the boat hit the Tarshish port these guys were talking to everyone in the local pub about what had happened to them out there. Or maybe they turned around an went back to Joppa and spread the story there, seeing as they had thrown much of their cargo overboard anyway. But they were changed, and even though they only saw Jonah’s God from their heathen culture, He suddenly became a reality to them, and I’ll bet you they wanted to find out all they could about this God who had spared them.

So Jonah goes into the water, and he sinks down into the depths. Maybe he’s almost out of breath when the fish comes, he’s probably starting to panic and think ‘Well maybe this wasn’t such a good idea…’ 

17 Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

[2] 1 Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish’s belly. And he said:

“I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction,
And He answered me.

“Out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
And You heard my voice.
For You cast me into the deep,
Into the heart of the seas,
And the floods surrounded me;
All Your billows and Your waves passed over me.
Then I said, ‘I have been cast out of Your sight;
Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’
The waters surrounded me, even to my soul;
The deep closed around me;
Weeds were wrapped around my head.
I went down to the moorings of the mountains;
The earth with its bars closed behind me forever;
Yet You have brought up my life from the pit,
O Lord, my God.

“When my soul fainted within me,
I remembered the Lord;
And my prayer went up to You,
Into Your holy temple.

“Those who regard worthless idols
Forsake their own Mercy.
But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay what I have vowed.
Salvation is of the Lord.”

10 So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

He’s repentant–that is, he’s changed his mind. And why? Because he saw God’s mercy for him in the midst of his disobedience. He knew he was done for–but God saved him by a fish. And there’s something worth noting in the last few lines of his prayer. He says, ‘Those who regard worthless idols forsake their own Mercy. But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.” He saw first-hand the worthlessness of the heathen gods displayed before him, there wasn’t a one that could calm his God’s tempest. He’s gotten a fresh revelation of the raw awesome power and the Mercy of his God, and after three days in the belly of the fish he’s ready to do what God asked.

[3] 1 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey[a] in extent. And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

Now, we’re going to get to this real quick but Jonah knows that the Ninevites are bad people; they have a reputation, and the fact that they aren’t Jews but they’re Assyrians (and Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, what’s more) is already a tick against them because hey, these are gentiles. So Jonah is probably coming into this city expectant. He’s probably heard stories from his childhood about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, considering how such stories had always been passed down through the generations. Maybe he was imagining the fire and brimstone already because hey, these guys are heathens and Jonah wants retribution because he’s a faithful Israelite.

So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying,

Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?

10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

There’s a common theme you can begin to see in the story of Jonah; heathens believing God and repenting–changing their minds and their ways.

And growing up in a performance-based church my temptation was always to say ‘Well, this is what God responded to, so this is what I have to do to get God to respond to me,’ but you have got to realize again that these people were heathen. If they believed in any god it was a radically different god than Jonah’s God, and even if they didn’t believe in any gods, the widely available examples were still radically different. So they responded in a way that was familiar to them culturally. 

And God responded. He didn’t respond because they fasted, sat in ashes and dressed up in old potato bags. He didn’t respond because they had the idea to make the animals fast with them. He responded because he was longing to respond to them already. He sent Jonah to point to their inherent evil problem not because he wanted to destroy them–they were already destroying themselves inevitably–but because he was longing to redeem their city and be their God and Father them.

And Jonah got mad. He gave God an ‘I told you so!’ speech, and we see the real motivation behind him fleeing:

[4] 1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”

And still as dramatic as ever; ‘it is better for me to die than to live!’ But it just blows me away the knowledge Jonah had of the immensity of God’s goodness! Jonah’s God was so good, and Jonah inversely was so intent on retribution on Nineveh…

But he knew that this message of wrath was going to transform into a message of mercy. He knew a slow-to-anger God wasn’t going to destroy a city which repented; he knew his God was abounding in loving kindness and he knew he was going to have to be that guy, that Israelite who screwed up his nation’s chance at getting their enemy’s capitol burned to a crisp with Sodom-and-Gomorrah-reminiscent retribution. And he was angry about it.

But God, in his infinite merciful loving kindness and endless patience… Oh I love that guy.

Then the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Does this make sense, Jonah? You know this is who I Am. So God creates another scenario:

So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city. And the Lord God prepared a plant[a] and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

Jonah goes outside the city–because, you know. Maybe it’s fake. Maybe the repentance won’t last and God will destroy the whole place after all. He builds himself a shelter somewhere just far enough east to keep his toe-hair from being singed but still close enough to toast his gelatin-free marsh-mellows and he waits. And God sweetens the deal with a plant that grows up over his shelter and shades him from the growing sun.

But the next day God sent a worm, it kills the plant. To top it off, the wind starts to blow, and this isn’t a cool, playful breeze, this is a harsh–vehement even–east wind blowing across miles of desert heating up with the morning sun.

And I just want to say go home, Jonah. Just go home.

But he doesn’t, he gets angry again–again to the point of suicide. And he’s just burning up with rage.

Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!”

This is one of those stories where the moral is pretty clear, but it blows me away because we’ve all heard the story but have we ever really understood what it meant? I never did.

Here’s Jonah. First he’s running because he doesn’t want to go to Nineveh to begin with. And he has his repentant moment in the fish but he still came out hungry for retribution, and bitter because he knows he’s going to have to go deliver this message and God is probably going to have mercy on the people because Jonah’s got enough hostility and wrath behind the message to scare them all straight. And he’s right, God takes pity. Jonah’s still hopeful and he goes outside to wait and watch (because he doesn’t want to get caught up in the brimstone and maybe God’s holding back because he’s still in the city). But God has a plant up his sleeve and he actually gets Jonah deliberately angry to give Jonah His perspective on Nineveh:

Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!”

10 But the Lord said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?”

Jonah knew it wasn’t just to destroy that plant, there was nothing that plant had done to deserve being destroyed. But in His immense mercy and love and compassion God looked far beyond what was ‘just’ for the people of Nineveh – He knew they didn’t know any better; they didn’t even know their left hand from their right. A hundred and twenty thousand people, plus livestock.

…gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.

One who relents from doing harm.

And the result? An entire city turned to the mercy of the true God, and not only a city,  but the capitol of an entire nation. 120,000 people testifying in the heart of a heathen nation of the mercy of the God of Heaven? Culture-shaking. Gracious and merciful. Slow to anger. Abundant in lovingkindness. One who relents from doing harm.

An Unlawful God

Christianity is not about law.

This post is going to collate a few things that have been running through my head lately which culminated a while back for me over the course of Baxter Kruger’s book Jesus and The Undoing of Adam (which is a wordy-but-wonderful short book that sums up the gospel as believed by the early church, and following through with Saints in the Arms of a Happy God by Jeff Turner (a much longer but also very good book as far as I have read).

One of Kruger’s main focuses is, of course, that Christianity is not about legality – the plan of salvation was not a court room drama. And he speaks so brazenly about the fact that today’s Christianity has got God so wrong. 

(It’s a good book, you should check it out)

And it only continued to confirm what I’ve come to believe – that Father is not really all that interested in law and retribution, that the gospel message was not about Jesus taking our punishment primarily and sin didn’t put us out of legal standing with God that we had to be atoned for before God could have an interest in us again, but that the gospel message is about a God who met us where we were, made himself vulnerable to the weight of the wrath of our sin, buried it in the grave and took his life back up to lift us up with himself to Father’s right hand.

The heart of the Father has always been relationship. The primary goal of the Father has always been to adopt us in to the relationship He shares with Jesus and Holy Spirit, through what Jesus did at the cross. It was planned from the beginning, before the beginning, before Adam was even a twinkle in Father’s eye, Father said ‘Let’s make man…and let’s invite him into our relationship.’

And then Adam fell.

Which means sin was only ever a side-note on Father’s already-eternal plan to adopt us, and Jesus’ primary goal has always been to raise us up to the Father’s side with him. That happened when he himself ascended to Father’s right hand – and he rewrote Adam’s history to bring us back from our anguished separation and into the family. There was no holy standard standing in our way, no wrath or vengeance, no anger, no; Jesus didn’t come to set our legal record straight or change Father’s attitude about us, he came (indeed, Father himself came in Jesus) to change our situation as Adam’s sons so that we could be adopted–so that our hearts would once more cry out “Abba! Daddy!” And maybe you don’t think that’s such a big deal but you’re living post-cross post-Adamic nature and Holy Spirit is poured out on all flesh which means your heart has already been turned toward Father; imagine having only total animosity in your heart and inherently believing you are an enemy of God and God is an enemy of you. It’s always been about restoring relationship by restoring the heart for Father we were created with–a heart which sees only the eternal proclamation, “It is Good!” over all creation. It is good, there is no evil but that which we created in our perceptions as soon as we ate the fruit that told us there was such a thing as ‘not good’.

And you know, I grew up with a legal-based view of God. I always had some kind of idea that when the prodigal son spent his inheritance, that was it, there was nothing else for him–I mean, how could there be, really? Legally it would’ve been a mess, everything left should have gone to the older brother. (Maybe that’s part of why he was so ticked when little brother came home – you mean now I have to share what’s left with this boy?) And who really knows, I mean it was a hypothetical story, after all. But it wasn’t really about the physical inheritance, was it. It was about the inheritance of the Father’s love for his children. It was about his deepest desire being to have his boys with him, to give them everything he had. There simply wasn’t any place for a legal reconciliation when that boy appeared on the horizon because Father’s attitude toward his son had always been for him, and for relationship, and for his son’s homecoming. And so the son was reconciled to his father; he was welcomed with open arms back into his place within Father’s household.

And I know I said that story wasn’t about salvation–the more I mull it over in my mind the more I’m convinced of that because there was no re-adoption when the son came home, he was already a son – so maybe that isn’t as good an example. But what about the lost sheep, or the lost coin? They were never about anything remotely legal; the good shepherd didn’t bring his lawyer along looking for his lamb. He didn’t bring his little boy along to kick in his anger so he wouldn’t kill that lamb with his wrath. Was there a transformation required after Adam? Absolutely. But it wasn’t about a legal dispute, or Father dishing it out on the Son. I find the idea so twisted that a just God would kill his innocent son to satisfy his anger for us. “Why would a god do that?” Young Piscing Patel asks, “Why would he send his only son to atone for the sins of the whole world?” A just God would put us all on death row and start over, but Father is not only just but he is intimately in love with us–with you–the crown jewel of his affection, and justice is wrought differently out of love.

I mean…read 1 John. It’s all about love. Love. Love… God is love and we know we are his children if we love others because there is no love outside of Father. Do you love? Then you are a child of God, it’s that simple because He did it all so that now our nature is his nature. He is over all and in all and through all. [ephesians 4] Love. That’s why the good news is so good! 

And so Jesus (and Father in him) not only laid his own life down for us, he laid it down before us and let us dish out our wrath on him. Because remember, in our minds, we were enemies. He let us dish out all the animosity and wrath sin had nurtured in us to the point of his brutal death–and in the midst of it all, he forgives us.

If you read my last article, maybe you remember that God took pity on Nineveh, 120,000 people who he said didn’t know their right hand from their left. He opted not to destroy them. Jesus, before he died said ‘Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they are doing.’ The irony of the tree of knowledge of good and evil is that it left us even more clueless. But Father forgave, the last thing we expected.

And all those people, God didn’t throw down his stone tablets on their heads in divine wrath. It is so easy to ignore what Jonah knew all along–that Father is merciful, compassionate, slow to anger, eager to turn away from even a justified wrath, abounding in love for people. In fact, I never once heard that part of the story when I was growing up. No one ever talked about the motive behind God’s unwillingness to destroy Nineveh. And so I was left with a picture of a bi-polar God, angry and vengeful one moment, loving–or perhaps more accurately, tolerating–the next with little a care to the woes of man, merely bent on insuring that evildoers repent or die. But Jonah was sent on a mission of mercy, and he knew it.

And it’s re-emerging. Knowledge–revelation–of who Father truly is, what the gospel is really about, the true values at the heart of Christianity as it was at its birth. A generation is rising up that won’t be satisfied with the inconsistencies of Christian culture both new and old versus the truth. And I can only wait in expectant imagining how this revolution will change the world.

Grace Changes Everything

I’ve been thinking about changing the blog name.

I’ve been thinking about this because I want to convey something I learned some time ago – that grace isn’t really what sources the Father’s heart; love is. It’s not really all about grace, but grace comes out of His love.

But the other day I was thinking about it again and I concluded this: my documented journey is about grace. Yes, it’s about Father’s love for me, but it’s about grace and the confidence that grace gives me to learn, grow and explore without perpetual fear of damnation or of getting too far into one ditch or the other; there is no ditch on the straight-and-narrow, only the loving nudge of a Shepherd’s staff.

So I won’t be shocking my small crowd of followers by changing the blog. But all this got me thinking about what this blog has been about, where it began and where it’s gone since.

I began way back in the fall of 2013 after a couple months of increased hunger; I wanted nothing but scripture – I woke up craving it. I studied covenants and found my faith in a whole new light. And then I began to write about it. At the beginning I just spewed scripture and the glory of Jesus, I couldn’t help writing back what I was learning and re-imagining. And it’s been a long journey since then and since then my direction here hasn’t been quite so clear, particularly in recent months.

In July this summer I began delving into a study I’ve been wanting to get into for some time, that being the minutes of the 1919 Adventist Bible Conference, where foundations were set for the future of the denomination after the death of Ellen White. I’ve been wanting to share about my study through that deplorably massive document but I don’t particularly feel like this blog is particularly the place for that – I’ve been tossing around the idea of starting up a separate blog for that one, but I kind of actually have to finish the document. Frankly, it’s a big endeavor that I’m only a fraction of the way into and it would absolutely be enough for a separate project entirely.

But I’ve taken a step back lately and I’ve been spending some time checking out and getting to know one or two other authors that I really just click with – you know, when you go ‘yes and amen’ at ‘Hi it’s me again’. And it reminds me about what I started looking for earlier this year: Church community–not just the cliche ‘church/christian culture’ (which is fine if that’s your thing–I guess) but real Ephesians 4 stuff, people coming together under one love, one hope, one salvation and one Lord to grow into who He made each individual to be in His Bride. I’ve met some dear friends who remind me of that vision. And that’s not only what I hope to find, but what I hope to bring out and nurture here on this blog, around my friends and family and the people I meet every day. Living Church.

So I know, 500-some odd words later this post doesn’t have much direction – I’m just kind of bouncing thoughts and ideas around my brain because I haven’t had anyone to sit down and bounce thoughts and ideas around with for a long time, so take it with a grain of salt, or sugar, or whatever your grain is!

Secure in Love

Not long back I read a lovely article about grace from a fellow writer. But as I was scrolling down to leave my response I couldn’t help noticing a comment from another reader.With all the respect due (and I’m sure they believed they were doling out nothing but perfect wisdom) but it was full of warning as I understood it, for being too free. Now truthfully, it was a mild comment and I might have been able to agree with it, but it reminded me too much of the spirit I’ve seen all too often in the church against the liberating grace of Jesus.

I’ll pre-warn you; this is a little bit of a rant.

You’ve probably heard it, too – comments such as, ‘Oh you’d better be careful, make sure you’re still in the will of the Lord, you don’t want to go from one ditch to the other–greasy grace will let you slide right into hell,’ and the sentiment that it is the church’s job to frighten people into right living–because frankly, they can’t fathom any other way to do it than fear and the fiery brimstone of excommunication.

Let me put it another way; the church has been hell-bent on trying to make herself perfect and holy and righteous like it’s the highest calling, and people who embrace grace get the scourging sooner because we’ve stopped trying to be perfect, and it doesn’t compat with the system.

But the thing you have to understand, Church, is it’s all about the love of Christ. It’s all about the love of Father and pursuing him. Here’s how the surety of righteousness and perfection works: we fall in love with Jesus (because he first loves us with an everlasting all-consuming love) and we declare him Lord of our lives (because who wouldn’t let the King of Love be Lord when they realize it’s themselves he loves?) And he begins to transform our lives. The church is there to encourage and build up (and she needs to realize that not everything she says encourages or builds up) but the job of making us clean and pure and a beautiful bride belongs to God. His spirit comes to live in our hearts and from that point on, he holds sway. No, we’re not perfect, but it’s not our job to become perfect anymore.

It’s all based on relationship, you see. I fell in love with Jesus, now his desires become my desires, his perfection my perfection, because I love him and of course I want to live right–my whole body and being was created to do so, and I love him.

‘But how do you expect to stay disciplined? How are you going to stay out of the ditches if your fellow church members don’t tell you where they are?’

The fear-mongering in the church makes me mad–it makes me angry. And truly–Jesus didn’t dig ditches along the straight-and-narrow; the church did that herself. Why are you so afraid of freedom, Church? Stop burdening the children with fear; fear is worship to demons. A love relationship with Jesus leaves room for mistakes, but not fear–perfect love casts out fear. So if you aren’t here to encourage, please;

Butt out. The only counselor I need is named Wonderful.

The state of it is simply this: a relationship with God–with love–means safety; it means freedom to learn, grow and be transformed glorious by Holy Spirit (take it from one who has a growing relationship with him). So the question is, do you trust his love to guide you? Do you trust Holy Spirit’s holiness to transform you? Do you believe Holy Spirit’s holiness is transforming–and if so, why would you even consider yourself great enough to affect His transformation by accident? There is grace; His love and His heart is safe.

To the Ones Who Left [Dear Church]

The other day I read an article by John Pavlovitz over at  To Save a Life. It was another one of those “Dear Church,” letters about how the church is failing everyone, posed from the perspective of someone who has left the church #itsnotmeitsyou. And I know, I’ve read article after article from both perspectives and usually they are so utterly painful – the church is confused and angry, the people are hurt and vengeful, et cetera, it all turns into a blame-game somewhere in the middle no matter how well it turned out. And I mean, before I knock it too much I’ll tell you I found John’s article a fair bit more relatable than others. But it got me thinking, so here (and I never dreamed I would be writing my own but…) is my rebuttal:

Dear Church:

You’re Not Who You Think You Are

You see, Church, you think you’re the wounded martyrs on the outside dying for the revolution, damaged by the dis-compassionate machinery of the institution, the ‘ones who left,’ but you’re wrong – divorcing Jesus isn’t as easy as walking out of a building, and marrying Him wasn’t as complicated as walking into one. You see, you don’t think you belong to the Church any more because of a disconnect with your local body (or maybe a series of local bodies). For whatever reason, you left and now it’s easier to disassociate completely from everything you left behind and get caught up in an ‘us-vs-them’ mentality–I’ve been there.

But whatever the reason you left, regardless of where you place the blame or how you choose to express the emotions we’ve all felt coming away from a broken system that was supposed to work, the truth is you are still part of the Church, and Jesus is still preparing his bride–including you and the congregation(s) you’ve left–spotless and without blemish. So the question is, Church…

Who are you going to look like?

And I’m not trying to invalidate your experience because I know it’s real but Church… hurt, angry letters flying back and forth to at one another? This ought not to be! You won’t bring about transformation that way, only rally more damaged people to your misdirected causes. I feel division and disunity when I see these back and forth articles from one to the other, some new barbed arrow of truth each time, but the revolution isn’t about being right, it’s about experiencing love, grace and compassion for one another so strongly you would be willing to give up your life for those people you left–or the people who left you (because the truth is, you can’t say Church without talking to both sides).

The truth is if you really want to leave the Church then you’re going to have to leave Jesus, because He still connects us even when we’re too disgruntled to attend each others’ “Christianity shows” people like to think of as “church service”. The truth is it isn’t ‘your’ responsibility alone, it isn’t ‘our’ responsibility alone; there’s no ‘them or us’ going on here because Christ is still alive – the Kingdom still stands – and ‘you’ are still a part of it just as much as ‘we’ are.

So Church, you’ve outlined all the problems. You’ve passed the blame further than the offering plate will ever go. But are you prepared to dig deep, to hit the trenches and stand and fight for your brothers and sisters instead of with them? Are you prepared to rise where others have fallen, to bring unity back to the Bride and see the Church like Jesus sees her? Build bridges instead of theses on why ‘church’ isn’t working anymore (or why people leaving her is excusable). Because I’ll tell you one thing: as long as it’s ‘us-vs-them’ between the members of Christ’s very body, the Church at large is missing her mission.

After I left my church I was advised to completely cut off from the people I left behind, and at the time it sounded like good advice, and in most toxic situations it would be–but we’re talking about the Church here; if you can’t handle Christians, how can you seek and save lost people?

Honoring God

I was listening to Romans the other day (okay, over two weeks ago, now) and I’ve read this before but it particularly popped out at me again like I’d never heard it before:

Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. -Romans 14:3-6

Paul’s talking to the Romans about people who eat meat versus people who eat only vegetables, and people who observe special holy days versus those who do not. The Mosaic law included pages and pages of rules about what could and could not be eaten, and what days should be observed (and what you could and could not do on those days, etc.) Many people (particular new gentile believers who didn’t know the Mosaic law by heart as did the Jews) were living a much more free Christianity apart from the old ritual rules which many of the Jews continued to observe. So Paul is coming at these two camps saying “Hey – we’re all doing what we do for God, and he honors all of it.”

The thing is, I’ve been in the ‘free’ camp for a while now. Namely, I don’t particularly observe Sabbath, and I eat what I eat, among many other points. But when I heard this I realized something; I’ve been looking down on people–or living down, if you will. While I’ve considered other people ‘weaker’ or ‘misguided’ or ‘deceived’, etc.., the truth is, God is much less petty. Much. The beauty of the new covenant is that it isn’t all wrapped up in what we do, or don’t do. It means that we’re free on an individual basis to decided how we will honor God. By esteeming a day, by doing Church a certain way, whatever. But what God honors God honors.

This has been stored away somewhere in the back of my mind for the last couple weeks, but I got a fresh first-hand glimpse not too long ago of someone (I won’t go in depth on this one) zealously calling out another person for something they ate. Now here’s the thing: I thought it was pretty silly. I mean, come on. But that’s exactly what Paul was talking about. If I could go back now and say something to those two people it would be this:

“Look, you only eat certain things because you believe it honors God and your body–and it does. It’s not about following rules or keeping yourself out of hell, it’s about honoring God and God is honored in so many more ways than you or I can imagine–like giving your life, not just your diet. If you want to honor God by not eating certain things, then by all means do so. But don’t look down on someone else because they choose to honor God in another way, or because your way of honoring God doesn’t mean anything to them.”

Jesus… show me how to honor you, and teach me how to honor others in whatever way they choose to honor you. I want to build bridges between your people, not burn them down. Thank-you for your new covenant that brings all of us together no matter where we come from, or what we believe. 

Unconditionally

I wrote this some time back intentionally as the fourth edition to my series of posts on Ephesians, but it stands alone now more than ever before because over the last couple of weeks I’ve been very strongly convicted. When I originally wrote this, I had no idea what I was saying, the burden that I was implying. And I knew something was missing, it didn’t feel right, so I didn’t post it then. But I’m starting to get the picture, so with present additions included, here you go:

Have you ever noticed how there’s a general tendency for men to jump onto the bandwagon of Ephesians 5 for their God-given right to respect and admiration? Even the ensuing ‘Husbands, love your wives,’ doesn’t always do much to squelch the immediate ego-inflation, if he ever gets down to that portion.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. -Ephesians 5:22-27

But here’s the thing, men. It’s better than that. The role of ‘husband’ is so much more full than a right to have your household in complete submission to you – as I’m only just beginning to learn. Let’s continue through the rest of the chapter:

28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body,[d] of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”[e] 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. -Ephesians 5:28-33

You probably already know marriage is a picture of Jesus’ relationship to the Church – the Bible is full of imagery to this extent. But Paul bold-faces it here; the husband’s relationship to his wife should be as Christ’s to the Church–to you. That means everything we’ve talked to up to this point regarding relationship with Jesus also has a marriage counter-part.

The husband’s role is completely selfless to his wife; all she is directed to do is submit to him. But to him Paul lays the complete responsibility of selfless, life-disregarding care; he is her glory, sanctification and cleansing, and he is to love her as his own body.

But here’s the bigger picture again: the Church is Jesus’ bride. He loves and cherishes her as his own body, and literally she is his body – He and she are one flesh. And you are the Church. Grace takes on a new meaning because yes, the Church submits and respects Jesus (and rightly so) but Jesus takes the far bigger burden on himself of taking care of the Church.

I’m having a difficult time finding the right thing without sounding like I’m just parroting Paul but guys! Your experience of Jesus is meant to flow out from you onto your wives! How can you be bitter or angry with her (I’ve [past] been taking in this implication myself over the last few days) when Jesus has never been bitter or angry with you? There is no way your sacrifice for her will ever be as great as His for His Bride.

I [present] started to get a real revelation of this around a week or a week and a half ago, and it wasn’t a light thing as Father began opening my eyes and heart up to it. He began showing me moment-to-moment that the grace he shows for me I am so very incapable of extending onto my bride; he is continually patient in my anger, gracious to my shortcomings, faithful to all of my hidden, developing future potential, and he loves it. He loves it. I don’t just mean he loves me I mean he loves loving me in that totally 100% for-me way. But me for my wife? Let’s just say dating-to-present we have a shadowed history. To be completely honest for just a minute, I’ve reevaluated my marriage increasingly and particularly over the last two years, particularly in the last six months, we’ve been so close to breaking point. And God through it all just says “Come under the shadow of my wing,” but I’m just up in here saying “What about me?”

Well, what about me? It’s not about me, it’s about her. 

“But Jesus she did this and this and she has this problem and she always brings such-and-such up–“

“Son, my love for you never falters.”

“But she doesn’t deserve unfailing love, how–“

“Neither did you.”

” … But I don’t have that kind of love, Jesus … “ 

It’s not a debate anymore in my heart who’s right or wrong. The debate is, am I going to love like Jesus, or am I going to love like I think? And let me tell you I can make things pretty good if I love like I think I should, for a while, on the surface. But the reality is I just don’t represent love right because there’s still a little bit of dead man trying to take control of me and sometimes [read: most of the time] he wins.

I can’t love my wife like Jesus loves me and the rest of his bride and let that dead man live.

I said I can’t let that dead man live.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never fails. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

So Jesus, fill me with you. Cover me with your love. Don’t let anything come out of me that isn’t your love. I’m saying no to the dead man, and yes to you, the LIVING MAN. 

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.