Today after a visit to the Wright County Jail I was wondering if I ought to make the trek from Buffalo to St. Cloud to see someone who is in rehab there. I did go and afterward I was glad I had done both, but what I want to say here is that there was a process that I went through as I (1) first had the idea of seeing [name] today, (2) considered it and checked on details, and (3) paused to make the decision before starting the drive.
That "process" included quiet time with God--in fact--it was all "quiet time with God..." even though that "quiet time" involved conversation, communication and a certain amount of research. (I didn't know if visiting today would be allowed.) In my experience, "quiet time listening" for God's will often involves conversation and communication with others--even including time writing things like this.
We've scheduled some of this "quiet time" into tomorrow's worship gathering at Crossroads. I wonder how it will go. I expect God to speak. I expect we will hear him as we listen.
We're in the second week of a series that is following the outline of Graeme Sellers' book The Dangerous Kind. Its second chapter begins with a look at Jesus' mission statement (proclaiming good news to the poor, liberty to the captives etc. from Luke 4:18-19) and Jesus' promise that we who believe in him will "also do the works" that he does and even "greater works" (John 14:12).
Then the question "How can this be?," that is "How can we live like Jesus?" is answered like this:
"Jesus models the naturally supernatural life that his friends will live because, just as he is in the Father and they are one, so his followers will enjoy the same intimate communion with the Father." (p. 21).The "quiet time with God" that I paused for today before driving from Buffalo to St. Cloud was a "tip of the iceberg" example of the "intimate communion with the Father" that Jesus makes available to us when we trust Him.
The visit in St. Cloud turned out to be interesting and helpful. I'm sure that it was only one tiny part of what is going on in [name]'s life right now. I believe God is at work in [name] and in the life of the other man I visited today, and also in me as I am privileged to come alongside them a bit. There's deep pleasure and satisfaction in it even though I do not know, in the natural, how things will turn out for these guys. Please pray for them even if you don't know their names.
Spending time with God--studying, praying, and then acting on what God calls me to do--that's what pushes us to step out to do Jesus' works. Graeme calls it "A Dangerous Kindness" (the title of his next chapter and what's planned for our Jan. 18th message). The "Dangerous Kindness" is a willingness--no, more--a deep desire, a yearning to be with those who are often forgotten, to come alongside them--and to stay there. And, as we will see in coming weeks, there is great power in that -- power that comes straight from the heart of God.
The power for the work of God comes from God's heart. It comes as we put on the "breastplate of righteousness," as we understand the deep, abiding, strong, stubborn love that God has for us when we do not deserve it. It does not come from checking ourselves to see if we have the strength or the motivation to do what God desires us to do. There's a sense that the "breastplate of righteousness" keeps us from examining our own hearts or our own strength. Instead of seeing ourselves and our abilities--we look down and we see JESUS!
It's God's own love that moves us. It's not "our" love in any sense of the word. As we know Jesus and his forgiveness, we experience and recognize God's love for us, personally. From God's Word we learn that love of God is for ALL--for the world and for all of the world's people. Because of that love, because of that love that comes from outside of ourselves and pours from God into our hearts, we are then moved and empowered to do God's good work. We act out of the heart of God and out of His purposes. Neither what we might imagine as "natural" nor the "supernatural" acts of God come from us. They spring from only our relationship with God.
Remarkably, the same was true for Jesus during his human life on earth. Like we cannot act alone, neither did Jesus! Jesus did what he did because of his relationship with God the Father and Holy Spirit. In this--and in other ways too--we are like him--we are like Jesus.
When you read the gospels, you'll see that he, Jesus, took moments apart for quiet times with the Father. And those "quiet times" were just the tip of the iceberg when it came to his relationship with God the Father and Holy Spirit as he was doing his work as a human being on earth. That relationship was solid and dangerous for God and against evil! It was his relationship with the Father that powered him up to do his mission. His ability to do good came from God the Father. It did not come from anything he carried in his own self alone.
The Gospel of John reveals a bit of this truth. Read it when you can. For example, in a conversation with one of his disciples Jesus says:
"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 authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works." (John 14:10)And we have these words:
"The Son [Jesus] can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel." (John 5:19-20)You and I are invited into that power packed relationship. That's how it is that we will be able to do the works of our Lord--and, according to what he promises--even greater works! The full extent of what that I do not yet know, but I do know that we who have a personal relationship with Jesus are stronger than we know when are deeply connected with God. We are not pansies. We are not weaklings!
On the evening before he died on the cross for us, Jesus prayed for us, that we will be in the relationship that HE has with God:
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me." (John 17:20-21)And Jesus continues to pray for us (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25)! Jesus is our dearest friend now. He is with us still. He is with us in Spirit--in the full partnership with God that we share in the Holy Spirit.
Jesus says: "I will not leave you as orphans" (John 14:18). "I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20). Jesus has asked the Father, and He has given us the "Spirit of truth" who Jesus says is "in us" (and among us) now (John 14:16-17). We share in the life of Jesus today! And that's why we can live like Jesus, doing what he did.
The one thing we will not do as we are in relationship with our Lord is what Jesus did in his death. We do not need to suffer and die for human sin. Jesus has done that once and for all. He has opened the way, not only for salvation, but also for the full empowering of God in what we do.
It all begins with Jesus' love relationship with us. As we believe in what Jesus has done for us and as we believe so that we step out in obedience to DO Jesus' works, we become more and more "dangerous" for the kingdom of God and against the enemy of everything good -- bringing good news to the poor, freedom to captives etc. -- those lives are the fruit of deep and personal intimacy with God. They come out of quiet times and every part of lives that are lived in dependence on God.
As Graeme Sellers says:
"The dangerous life [comes out of] giving and receiving the love of God, for this is how the world will be shaken from its dark sleep and awakened to the glorious light of eternal life in Jesus Christ." (p. 28)As I finish writing this as best I can for now, I am praying that all of God's people will receive and live in this truth. We are made for more than what we have experienced so far. On Sunday, and every day, in our quiet times with God, we will soak in this and trust God's Word--and believe.
This post written Saturday, slightly revised & corrected on Sunday.