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Tag Archives: life with Jesus

I have been living in Jesus’ words, spoken to his friends while they were in the “upper room” together, for some time now. In John 14-16, Jesus is explaining to these friends how they are to do life after he is no longer physically present with them. He was not going to be physically present with them any longer (after his resurrection and ascension) but he wanted them to understand how they would continue to have life with him and continue to participate with him in his ongoing ministry. That means that what he said to them really should have bearing on our lives–seeing as we are doing life with him when he is not physically present with us and seeing as we really long to participate with him in what he is continuing to do in the world.

One of the “ah-ha’s” that broke in on me in a fresh way just this week was nudged along by a phrase Jesus repeated in that short explanation. In this section, three times he says “Truly, truly” (literally, “Amen, amen;” a Hebraic expression that calls attention to what is about to be said as particularly significant; it’s like putting spoken words in bold face).

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me, the works I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to the Father.” (John 14:12)

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned to joy.” (John 16:20)

“Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in my name, he will give it to you.” (John 16:23)

I’m a bit hesitant to post my thoughts about these three verses because: 1) it will be easy to take what I say out of context–both out of the context of Jesus’ words because I am only citing three sentences from the whole discussion in the upper room and out of the context of my way of thinking about life with Jesus because I get to only say a little in a post like this; 2) it will be easy for some to push back against what I think because the way these words are read and understood by many followers of Jesus; and 3) because these verses have been used to advocate some weird teachings over the years and I risk being identified with such weirdness even in calling attention to these things. However, with those caveats, a few thoughts.

Jesus wanted his followers to get these three ideas–among the other things he was sharing with them. These three were particularly important to grasp. Specifically:

From John 14:12: “I want you to actually participate in the kinds of things that I have been doing.”

From John 16:20: “Although you will grieve over the crucifixion, I want you to experience real and deep joy in this life with me.”

From John 16:23: “I want you to be confident in asking the Father for things consistent with what you know of me and my intentions.”

Participating in the kinds of things he himself was doing, living in the rich joy that radiates out from the reality of the resurrection, and experiencing a prayers-being-answered kind of living anchored in our relationship with Jesus. He wanted his followers to be sure about those things. He wanted them to understand that, at least in part, this was going to be their experience in life when he was no longer physically with them, although still present and active in their lives.

What struck me was if Jesus was underscoring these three things as significant facets off their post-resurrection/ascension lives with him, then seeing as we are living as followers of Jesus post-resurrection/ascension, this is likely the kind of life he wants for us.

Am I actually participating in the kind of things that Jesus was doing? Am I living in a real and vibrant joy because of his resurrection? Am I experiencing a life of prayer, rooted in my relationship with Jesus and anchored in what he wants, where I am seeing the Father answer prayers?

I tend to think we answer that with a qualified, “Well, maybe, kinda, sort of . . . at times, perhaps . . . I think.” It doesn’t always seem to me that we are living as sure of these things as Jesus wants for us.

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Little children pretend. They are not yet what they want to be, and as they think about what they might be, they are glad to pretend. In children, that is delightful and a wonderful way for them to explore their longings, interests, and imagination. It is not so delightful or wonderful in adults . . . when we pretend.

This life we live as followers of Jesus is one of spiritual reality. When someone comes to faith in Christ, something really does happen. When someone calls on Jesus for saving grace, his or her life is actually altered. But, unfortunately,  we sometimes still pretend.

To not live a life of “pretending,” all that is needed is to live what is real. Genuine life in Jesus Christ is experienced by those who live out what is true and real about them because of what God has done for us through Christ Jesus.

Paul put it this way:

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. (Colossians 3:1-5)

When Paul writes “if you have been raised with Christ” he is not speaking about something that may or may not be true. His “if you have been” language conveys the idea of “if–and seeing it is the case that–you have been raised with Christ.” He is drawing an inference from what is known to be true.

The reality is that through faith in Christ Jesus and because of what God has done through Jesus for us, all who believe have been “raised up” into new life with Christ Jesus. Our world, our life, has been forever altered because of our having been united to Christ Jesus.

And it is because of that reality that Paul calls us to a particular way of living: “Keep seeking the things above . . . set your mind on the things above.” We live with the eyes of our mind on all that is wrapped up in Christ Jesus and the life he is currently living out from the heavens. Why? Because that reality is really what defines us.

When Paul writes “when Christ who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory” he is not referring to something that may or may not happen. When he writes about Christ Jesus being our life, he is talking about spiritual reality. That those who know Christ are to be revealed in glory with him is only a “natural” outflow of that reality. He is drawing an inference from what is known to be true.

For Christ Jesus to be our life, we have been united by faith to him in a real way. Because of that, we have died with him, we now share life with him, and we will be revealed in glory with him. Our world, our life, has been forever altered because of our having been united to Christ Jesus.

And it is because of that reality that Paul calls us to particular way of living: “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” We live as those who are dead to merely a “normal,” human-kind of life as it is lived out here on the earth by so many. Why? Because of the reality that defines us.

Whether we are looking to Christ Jesus and embracing our life with him or whether we are turning from a merely “earthly” way of doing life and jettisoning old habits, we are not doing such things in order to become something we are not. We are merely living what is real.

Alive in Christ Jesus. Sharing in his life. Dead to the old way of life. Having already been severed from that. Paul is calling us to live what is real. No more pretending.

I’ve started to read a book by Malcolm Gladwell entitled Outliers: The Story of Success. Kind of fascinating as he explores what contributes to one person’s success as opposed to someone else. He writes about success not from the “make a lot of money” perspective, but from the perspective of achieving a recognizable level of competency in one’s field.

For starters, the early chapters suggest that “personal success” may not be simply about one’s personal success after all. There could well be a large number of factors–related to one’s setting in life and the impact of others and the surrounding culture–that contribute greatly. Quite fascinating!

In one of the chapters he talks about “10,000 hours.” He makes a good case for competency and success being tied to practice, the investment of time, “giving yourself” to what it is that matters. Looking at violinists and computer geeks and sports figures and the Beatles and others who have had an impact in their fields, he comes up with the idea that, in round numbers, those who succeed have put in somewhere around 10,000 hours of “practice” to get to where they are. A level of “good” is attained by those who put in 6,000-8,000; minimal competency is reached by those who total under 5,000 hours; real success is somewhere around the 10,000 hour threshold.

I would not argue that this is a hard and fast rule. I do not want to insist that the way forward is to “put in the time.” And, clearly, this book doesn’t take into consideration what Jesus can and does do in the soul of people through the power of the Spirit. But I was intrigued by the idea. Intrigued enough that while talking about it with a friend we decided to do a little simple math.

Jesus invited 12 men to be “with him” (Mark 3:13-15). For approximately the next three and a half years, those men spent their waking hours learning from him, watching him, walking with him.

So . . . let’s say that’s 8 hours a day (not counting sleeping and time apart), 7 days a week, 51 weeks a year (with one week a year that they are with others), for 3 and a half years.

8 times 7 times 51 times 3 1/2. And that totals . . . 9996 hours. They got their 10,000 hours with Jesus!

All this simply prodded me to think . . .

If my life with Jesus is just not what I hoped it would be . . . if I am not satisfied with the intimacy I do (or do not) have with Him . . . if I am disappointed that I have not traveled deeper and farther into this rich life of discipleship . . . I wonder what I have done with my hours.

We were sitting around the table on Thanksgiving and my wife asked each of us what was that one most-special Thanksgiving dish. What was it that made the meal so special? Each of us had a different special item. What that meant is that for everyone there, there was one special something that was essential, that would make that meal what it was intended to be.

There is something that makes chocolate chip cookies essentially what they are. (For some it is milk chocolate chips, for others it has to be dark chocolate chips . . . and maybe nuts!) There is something that makes the wedding wonderful, the vacation memorable, the gathering inviting, the meal marvelous. There are things that we can do without, but those special times and special places and special things all have what is deemed “essential” that make them special.

That little idea–that there is something essential to what matters most to us–was rattling around in my head. I was reflecting on my days and my life, trying to think about what makes life what it is, what makes it “special.” What is the essential thing that makes our lives what they are? And I recalled Paul’s words to the Colossians. In explaining his longings for their growth, he offers this simple phrase:

Christ, who is our life (Colossians 3:4)

There it is. What is essential is Christ Jesus. Life is found in Christ Jesus, he is our life. We don’t merely live for him, but the richness and substance of our lives are wrapped up in him.

Although it is an imperfect illustration, it seems to me that I get a hint of this as I watch friends who are caught up in their favorite sport. It’s the guy who follows his team, knows all the numbers and names and stats, can tell you about that great game from last year, flies the team colors from his car on game day, and tailgates whenever possible to enjoy the experience with others who are die-hard fans.That team is his life. It’s more than just that he knows the team, it is that his life is wrapped up in the team.

Christ, who is our life. That is how Paul puts it to the Colossians. In Philippians Paul writes, “For to me, to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21). That is a theme that is found woven into the fabric of the New Testament. Life is wrapped up in, caught up in, essentially defined as Jesus!

And that prods me to think. What if someone were watching my life? What if someone hung out with you for a day or a week? Could they tell what is essential to me in life? Would it be evident that Jesus Christ is my life?

We are invited to, called into, a shared life with Jesus. It is hard for me to get away from that as I read the Gospels.

Jesus wants the twelve to be with him so that he can send them out to do the kinds of things that he himself was doing (Mark 3:13-15; 6:7-13). Jesus intended the seventy to go out and minister to others the way that he was ministering, the way they saw Jesus do things (Luke 10:1-9). When Jesus commissioned his followers prior to his ascension, he instructed them to teach others everything he had taught them (Matthew 28:18-20). When the disciples of Jesus went out after his ascension they gave themselves to a ministry much like Jesus’, and he was pleased to confirm their lives with “signs following” (Mark 16: 15-20). They are participants in Jesus’ life and ministry.

Now what is fascinating about this is that Jesus was living the same kind of life. In one sense, he was participating in the life of another. Jesus explained it this way to his followers when he was giving them some final guidance while gathered in the upper room before he was put to death:

Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own initiative, but the Father abiding in me does His works. Believe me that aI am in the Father and the Father is in me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.” (John 14:9-11)

A few things stand out to me as I think about what Jesus is saying here.

Jesus and the Father have a mutual kind of “abiding” relationship. The Father is present and active in Jesus’ life. Jesus is not out there “on his own” but is living out a life in dependence on the Father. Jesus readily affirms this and asks Philip to take him at his word. But then Jesus tells Philip that if he has a hard time believing the truth of what Jesus is saying, that Philip could look at the “works” (that is the things that happen in and through Jesus’ life and ministry) and come to the conclusion that the Father was doing stuff.

In other words, Jesus presses beyond just merely affirming the intimate relationship he has with the Father but asks Philip to take note of the things that happen in and through him that testify to the reality of the Father’s active presence in his life.

So, like Father, like Son. The life of the Father is manifestly evident in the way Jesus lives and the things Jesus does. And Jesus welcomes Philip (and others) to look at his life for evidence of the abiding life.

So, what do we do with Jesus’ call to his followers to abide in him and “bear fruit” that can provide evidence that we are his disciples (John 15:1-8)? It certainly sounds like Jesus is suggesting that in a similar way to how the presence and power of the Father is evident in and through his life in what he does, Jesus intends to make his presence and power evident through the lives of his followers and in what they do. Like Father, like Son. Like Son, like disciples!

Although our abiding with Jesus is not identical to Jesus’ abiding with the Father, there is some fundamental similarity. Rooted in that abiding relationship, Jesus can say: “I and the Father share a real and intimate relationship, and the things that happen in and through me bear witness to the reality of that relationship.” Should the followers of Jesus not be able to come to the point of saying something like this:

I and Jesus share a real and intimate relationship, and the things that happen in and through me bear witness to the reality of that relationship.

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