The more I know of the Lord Jesus, the more I come to understand how surpassingly lovely He is. He is kind and gracious, patient and gentle, strong and mighty, meek and glorious. To catch a glimpse of His perfection is to be transfixed for eternity; He is living water that satisfies yet makes me thirsty for more. What will it be like in the New Jerusalem when earnest longing for more of Him undergoes a metamorphosis into complete and utter satisfaction?
This week, as I was finishing the vestiges of my fall study of 2 Corinthians, I was confronted with this unsettling truth: Christ Jesus, who fed the multitudes and healed the sick, called His listeners to take up their cross and follow Him. I think of all the goodness with which the Lord daily feeds me, not only with physical needs like food, clothing, and shelter, but with His constant presence, His light-giving Word, and His soul-filling peace. His guidance over the circumstances of my life (while not always understood by me) has been without compare as He roots out toxins, lifts heavy weights, and leads me to still waters and continuous restoration. Just as He once showed His ancient followers, He has today proved to me His storehouses of bread and His power to heal.
So now the cross comes. It is heavy, foreboding, and torturous. How can I bear it? Will I walk in stride with the Savior, or will I step back, horrified and despondent at the stripes in His flesh He now calls me to imitate?
The faith required to believe that God could save me is perhaps surpassed by the faith needed to believe He can keep me, that He can cause me to follow Him to the end. My strength is not adequate to carry that cross. I will run at the first thought of discomfort, and even if I am able to stomach the idea of it, I collapse under the weight of ostracization and pain. How can God keep me from turning back, as so many others seem to have done under this difficult saying?
It is only through the love of Christ that I can endure. While most hide their faces from the Man of sorrows, I must recall within my soul this most handsome of the sons of men, from whose lips grace is poured out like honey. Only as I behold His glorious beauty can my love grow deep enough to be rooted through drought, tempest, and shaking. Only in His love can my love be made strong enough to go to Him outside the camp and bear His reproach.
Even still, my love for Him may falter, but His love for me never fails; it is sure, steadfast, and boundless. Yet very often, I forget His love for me. His kindness toward me has been a decided fact in my mind for so long, and has become such a staple of my spiritual diet, that somehow it has grown bland in my reckoning. Without consciously uttering such an idea, I have made God’s love for me out to be, at worst, a distasteful obligation, and at best, the kind of love I use to describe my affection for, say, a favorite pair of shoes. Utilitarian, unremarkable, forgettable. I’ve let a lie enter my mind that sells God short. Satan hasn’t changed His playbook much since the Garden.
The Lord’s love is so much more. It is a love wide enough for the world, yet unique from all others when placed on me because He loves me as me. It is a chosen, perfect, all-consuming love. “By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us” (1 John 3:16). His love goes beyond all that could be imagined. It is an impossible love which only a righteous Creator could possess, for His love loves the unlovable and, in doing so, makes them lovely.
I look back on the miry pit where I began and marvel at all the Lord has done for me. So many people want to become a better person in their own estimation, and yet God is working in me to make me perfect and complete in His holy and righteous sight. Even now, I am sure of the change in me from glory to glory. Where I see the rough stone, He sees the cut and polished jewel; what a joy to know that the refining of the present time is even now bringing a flash of light here, a deeper hue there, until one day I will know myself as the workmanship He designed from the beginning. From formless rock to priceless treasure – this is the power of God in me.
Therefore, when I ponder the future and feel my knees tremble, I’m going to seek the Lord who will sustain me to the end, and I will find strength of heart in His love for me. Do I not trust His promises? Are I so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, am I now being perfected by the flesh?
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
With the Lord’s help, I’m going to take up the sword of the Spirit and destroy the stronghold the enemy has built in my mind that bears false witness, declaring my defeat. The Mighty God is my God, and this Creator and Sustainer of all dwells in me. It is impossible for Him to lie, and He has already shouted in victory and led me in triumphal procession. By His power at work within me, He will do far more abundantly than all that I can ask or think. He will make me to know the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, and as I am transformed into His likeness, my love too will become unshakeable. All that I desire to become in Him – all that ways I desire to be like Him – will soon be my everlasting truth.
I am so fed up with the sin in my life. I am so done with it. Yet I hold onto it so dearly, unwilling to relinquish the thing that both inebriates and emaciates. When my decisions side me with the world rather than with God, when I deny Him by my works or unsaid words, when I see the double-mindedness that clings so closely, I am disgusted and mourn that I am not what I should be for the One who is everything to me. But rather than climbing down into the pit of despair, I’m going to challenge the prognosis of never-ending shame and turn to the oath which swears that He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. I will hope in Him who is able to keep me from stumbling and to present me blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, the only God, my Savior, through Jesus Christ my Lord. For it is He who works in me, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
As Spurgeon says,
“If the Lord has given you light, dear reader, He looks on that light with peculiar interest; for not only is it dear to Him as His own handiwork, but because it is like Himself, for ‘He is light.’ Pleasant it is to the believer to know that God’s eye is thus tenderly observant of that work of grace which He has begun. He never loses sight of the treasure which He has placed in our earthen vessels. Sometimes we cannot see the light, but God always sees the light, and that is much better than our seeing it. Better for the Judge to see my innocence than for me to think I see it. It is very comfortable for me to know that I am one of God’s people–but whether I know it or not, if the Lord knows it, I am still safe. This is the foundation, ‘The Lord knoweth them that are His.’ You may be sighing and groaning because of inbred sin, and mourning over your darkness, yet the Lord sees ‘light’ in your heart, for He has put it there, and all the cloudiness and gloom of your soul cannot conceal your light from His gracious eye. You may have sunk low in despondency, and even despair; but if your soul has any longing towards Christ, and if you are seeking to rest in His finished work, God sees the ‘light.’ He not only sees it, but He also preserves it in you. ‘I, the Lord, do keep it.’ This is a precious thought to those who, after anxious watching and guarding of themselves, feel their own powerlessness to do so. The light thus preserved by His grace, He will one day develop into the splendour of noonday, and the fulness of glory. The light within is the dawn of the eternal day.”