Put on Eternity    


If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth… seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (Colossians 3:1–2, 9–10)

Those of you in the Northeast might be familiar with the radio ministry of Wayne Monbleau (Loving Grace Ministries); perhaps not. In any case, he ministered heavily to my wife and me twenty-plus years ago, and he’s still going. He’s also written his share of worship songs, and one in particular sticks with me—the epic acoustic hootenanny “Let Heaven Fill Your Thoughts.” Seriously, it’s an eight-minute song that gets more rollicking as it goes along, as it depicts the “family reunion” that awaits us in heaven. But it’s the lines that close out the minor-keyed introduction that still resonate with me:

Let heaven fill up all of your thoughts; keep your mind upon the Lord
Your life right now will seem so small when you think what you will behold
When you’re a thousand—years—old
When you’re a million—years—old
When you’re ten million—years—old.

Obviously it’s a great way of gaining perspective on our lives right now. But I’m beginning to view it even more in terms of what awaits us. An eternity with Jesus awaits us. As we begin to gain a broader and deeper perspective on that, we don’t have to consciously adjust our vision to make our lives “seem so small”—they are that small.

And yet our small lives are seeds that contain this far greater eternal life. By reaching for what lies beyond this life—and bringing it to those around us—we begin to sprout and grow into the life God has intended for us all along.

To be human is to die. Everything around us . . . ends. That’s why Christ had to become a man, and had to die a human death, in order to reach us and impart eternal life to us. He calls us to do the same. To follow Jesus is to follow him through death and into eternal life. If God allows, we will have the privilege of helping others walk that same ever-beginning path. Indeed, serving others now prepares us to serve God throughout eternity, and softens our hearts so that Jesus himself may continue to serve and guide us. Because that’s what’s in store for us:

Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. . . . For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (Revelation 7:15–17)

When all is said and done, what will I have to show at the day of judgment? I watered some seeds, helped plant a few trees, and did a whole lot more not worth discussing. Millions, probably billions, will have more to show, and go on to greater rewards. And I should rejoice in that, because God’s work was accomplished. More importantly, I will rejoice that one day I will no longer be unknowingly in God’s presence, buried under my own sins and those of the world around me—or often at best, mentally acknowledging a presence I cannot quite feel. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Our natural “old” experience is life and death, and that experience extends to everything else in this life. The new resurrection life is life and life only. We are just passing through—

. . . not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13–16)

Gaining this perspective on our lives on earth changes everything, and frees us to become more like the Savior we profess to follow. Remember, we “know the way to where [Jesus] is going” (John 14:4). Eternal life starts now. So let’s get ready to walk it out. . . .

Lay It Down Today

Let’s begin practicing our ministry to God right now. For the next twenty-four hours, commit to praying every half-hour. If you need a reminder, set an alarm or create an Outlook event, and keep putting it to sleep. It doesn’t need to be a long or complex prayer—in fact, it could be a one-sentence prayer such as, “Lord, help me to desire what you desire, and to meet those needs in your strength.” Just pray faithfully and repeatedly throughout your day. See what God brings to your attention as a result—and ask him what he wants you to do about it.

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Renovating Your Mind


The renewing of one’s mind, through one person’s process. . . .

Renovating Your Mind CoverPatrick Egle. Renovating Your Mind: 365 Devotions for Everyday Life. 400p., $15.99, Deep River Books.

Motivated by a desire to strengthen his family’s faith, Patrick Egle decided to share with the members of his family what he had learned from the Bible that day. It was nothing extensive or theologically profound—just a one-paragraph account of how the Lord had spoken to Patrick through His Word. It was from sharing that initial paragraph that Renovating Your Mind came to be.

This book is a collection of those same morning devotions, journaling an average man’s walk with a supernatural God through everyday life situations. These devotions were not written while sitting behind a desk, detached from the realities and struggles of this life. In Renovating Your Mind, experiences are chronicled in detail, challenging readers to alter their thinking that they might be transformed more into the image of Christ by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2). These devotions encourage readers to change their perspective from perception to truth. Through the lens of truth, readers will find the freedom and joy that God has abundantly given us through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Renovating Your Mind is written by a simple, yet divinely inspired layman; easy to understand for every level and denomination of believer. Resisting the temptation towards elegant theological verbiage meant to impress scholars and dumbfound readers, this devotional instead is approachable yet profound. Whether a brand-new Christian, or a seasoned follower of Christ, Renovating Your Mind is sure to challenge its readers to deeply consider its contents, and to develop further their fellowship with Christ.

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Put on Your New Self      


Whatever we truly do for God, it is Christ in us. Whatever holiness we have is not ours to take credit for, but Christ’s to be glorified with. Even then, it is not what Christ does, but who Christ is—and how he is being formed in us.

Slowly, we are becoming the people God created us to be. Slowly, the new life Christ has in us is growing outward. However, it’s not all about waiting for things to happen. We can begin, even now, to put on our new identities in Christ, even as we wait to mature enough to “fill out the suit.”

In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going. (John 14:2–4)

When we look to Jesus, we “know the way to where [he] is going,” and consciously turn ourselves in that direction. As we look to Jesus, we see One who “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7), but who nonetheless was in constant communion with God. It is simultaneously putting the flesh to death and living entirely for the Father. This can become our increasing reality—not perfectly, but intentionally, and progressively better. We position ourselves, we put on the new self that’s already ours—and as we do, the Spirit empowers us.

Because he is the New Man, Jesus looks at even the most common things in godly terms, and by doing so transforms them into lessons, parables, teaching instruments . . . temporal things capable of conveying eternal life. In doing so—and because we remain connected with him—he continually shows us how to follow him as human beings. We become people capable of conveying eternal life.

We are no longer—check that: never were—self-appointed experts, no matter what the world tells us. We are God’s children, whom God increasingly entrusts with the fullness of his life so that the other kids can see it. In the words of Thomas Merton, “We do not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything else but beginners, all our life!”

There is so much God has for us next, and our perspective and our actions need to change to reflect that. We must take those steps of faith that allow the Spirit to change our perceptions and our actions—so that we can faithfully and intentionally put ourselves in places where only God can work.

We have not been left alone to figure out how to follow him. “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26–27).

It’s a common misconception that walking in the Spirit invites abuse. The fact is: It’s the counterfeits of walking in the Spirit that invite the abuse, not the real thing. If we are truly in Christ, it will be impossible to go out into left field. Christ takes care of us, and the Spirit “will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). When in doubt, give yourself this test: Is what I’m experiencing helping me love God more, and love others more—or just helping me to love myself and my experiences more?

One more thing: our new lives in Christ bear fruit by abiding, not merely by doing (John 15:4–10). We are to pass along the life God’s given us, in the ways he’s given it to us, not manufacture something “to please God”—which doesn’t. It’s possible that God will honor our intent, and yet the works themselves will be “wood, hay, straw . . . and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done” (1 Corinthians 3:12–13). Isn’t it better to pass on the things you know God’s given you?

Receive the new identity you’ve been given in Christ, and cover yourself in it like it’s armor (because it is; Ephesians 6:11). Then, get ready to walk forward.

Lay It Down Today

Take as long as you need for this one—it could be a minute; it could be an hour. But get somewhere quiet and repeat the following to yourself: “I am in Christ, and Christ is in me.” Allow some silence between each repetition, but keep repeating this truth until it sinks in.

Then, once you’re “there,” ask yourself: “If Christ is in me, what does Christ want to do through me?” This is not asking, “What would Jesus do?” This is discovering how we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). If you settled on an answer during your activity in Day 1, dwell and pray more on it now. If not, dwell and pray anyway; earnestly seek an answer from God, and discover your first steps in making that answer a reality.

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Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts


And for those of you who have the Greek (and financial) wherewithal to go to the original sources. . . .

The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts, Volume 1Philip Wesley Comfort and David P. Barrett, eds. The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts. Volume 1: Papyri 1–72, Volume 2, Papyri 75–139 & Uncials,; each 528p., $39.99. Kregel Academic.

The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts, Volume 2The manuscripts that form the Greek New Testament are scattered throughout the world and are usually only accessible to scholars and professionals. These were the manuscripts read by the earliest Christians, which comprised their “New Testament.” In his volumes, Philip Wesley Comfort bridges the gap between these extant copies and today’s critical text by providing accurate transcriptions of the earliest New Testament manuscripts, with photographs on the facing pages so readers can see the works for themselves.

Comfort also provides an introduction to each manuscript that summarizes the contents, date, current location, provenance, and other essential information, including the latest findings. This allows students and scholars to make well-informed decisions about the translation and interpretation of the New Testament.  . . . In addition, Volume 2 features a special section on determining the date of a manuscript.

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Pick Up Your New Life   


I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Galatians 2:20–21)

Transformation comes by taking Jesus’ yoke—by saying, and believing, “I am yours.” We can hear it, and say, “Yeah, that sounds right,” but we need to learn to see it—really see it—as the reality of our lives.

Some of this can sound pretty abstract. But we need it to become as real to us as our salvation has become to us . . . just as God himself has become real to us, and continues to become more real to us. It’s OK to nod your head in agreement right now, but pursue it with God, and don’t stop. Be able to say with Paul, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8), and mean it.

There is no question as to whether God wants to see revival. Every word here backs that up—God wants us to draw closer to him, and more often than not that’s going to require our hard hearts to be re-broken so that they might also be reopened to him.

The question is: Are we committed to seeing the Spirit bring this? Are we willing to be obedient to what God has called us to, and to who God has called us to be? Are we willing set aside our own self-image, good or bad, and believe that God has something better for us, no matter what package it might initially come in? Most of all, are we willing to obey this command of Jesus, given to us as new creations in him, “that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34–35)?

I believe Jesus is talking directly to the church here. Literally, he’s talking to the first apostles, but with the knowledge of what the Spirit would create in their midst only weeks later. Of course this commandment also applies outside the walls of the church, but I fear many of us treat the church (at least in its current state) as a bad idea to be given up on. I get that. Boy, do I get that. But Jesus has not given us that option. We not only have been given new life, but are part of a bigger new life—the body of Christ.

Given how we’ve done with this commandment inside the church, it’s painfully apparent that we’ll never get it right outside the church until we take off the polite faces and begin truly relating to our fellow Christians in love. Besides: Who’d want to come inside the church until we do?

Those within the church have the same problems as those outside the church. We have the same temptations, and the same sins—a fact the world has no trouble pointing out to us. You’ve read this, probably as a believer, and I’ll bet you’ve identified with a lot of what I’ve talked about here. Well, guess what? Nonbelievers struggle with (or, go on blissfully unaware of) all the same things we do.

The only difference between “us” and “them” . . . is Jesus. That’s it, but that’s everything. Jesus is the only reason we have a new life to talk about. It’s literally all the difference in the world, and beyond.

One way other people will begin seeing that difference is when we actually love those other annoying, flawed—and yes, sinful—Christians. In other words: those people who are like us. If we can pull that one off, how will we fail to love someone with the same problems who doesn’t know Jesus? We want those people to know Jesus, after all. But without love, they’ll never see Jesus in us or through us, let alone beyond us.

Just as we’re here because we’ve recognized Christ as our eternal Savior, we need to recognize him as our Savior, and our life, from moment to moment. Paul David Tripp, in Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, observes, “[I]t is impossible to celebrate God’s work of transformation without confessing your need for more. No one is more ready to communicate God’s grace that someone who has faced his own desperate need for it.”

Let God’s work of transformation begin here. And let it spread to the ends of the earth. We have a job to finish. Let’s begin living our new lives in full and get it done.

Lay It Down Today

Look inside your church today—or at least at the Christians you’re still in relation with. How can you serve them in love today, or in the coming week? I’m not asking for a long-term commitment here (although that’d be great); just come up with one thing that breaks your routine, gets you outside your own life, and gets your sharing your new life in Jesus with someone else who has that new life—especially if it’s someone you don’t normally do it with. And watch what the Spirit does with it.

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Interpreting the Gospels and Acts


Another one for all you exegetes in the audience. . . .

Interpreting the Gospels and ActsDavid. L. Turner. Interpreting the Gospels and Acts. Handbooks for New Testament Exegesis. 368p., $36.99, Kregel Academic.

In this final volume of the Handbooks for New Testament Exegesis series, David Turner provides a comprehensive guide for interpreting and conveying the lives of Jesus and his early followers. Key background information such as literary genres, historical setting, and theological themes lay the groundwork for properly reading these five books. This is followed by practical guidance on textual issues and original-language exegesis passages from the Gospels and Acts. The final chapter offers an extensive bibliography of books and digital resources useful for instructors, students, and church leaders alike. Interpreting the Gospels and Acts is an essential resource for anyone teaching and preaching these foundational books.

 

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Pick Up Your Cross          


Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. . . . For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” (Matthew 16:24–25, 27)

We’ve spent a lot of time in this study laying our lives down, and rightfully so. Our hearts need to be prepared to receive what God has for us, and that means loosening up the soil of our hearts so that we can bear good fruit. After all, as you read repeatedly last week, “A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:18).

So finally, we move on to the “what he has done” (Matthew 16:27) part—the good fruitPick_up_your_Cross our lives have always been meant to bear in Christ. This isn’t about being “missional”—as if that idea were some breakthrough unique to the twenty-first-century church. This is about walking in the realization that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

There’s a prayer I’ve started putting before the Lord recently, and it while it sounds a bit odd to our modern ears, I’m betting something like it was a lot more popular even 150 years ago: “Lord, help me to take joy in your commandments.” Because let’s face it: We don’t. We don’t really believe Jesus when he says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29). Instead, we scramble to find ways to serve visibly; without any sense of rest whatsoever. I’m no exception.

If we could just believe that God truly wants our best, then all the fear, all the striving, all the shame—everything we’ve dealt with in these first seven weeks’ worth of devotionals—would be a moot point.

Let’s circle back to where we left off in Romans 6—only this time let’s focus on the section we skipped over:

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:8–11)

We—are—dead in Christ. Dead to sin. Dead to ambition. Dead to our past. Dead to anxiety.

And yet, we are alive to God in Christ Jesus. Alive to obey. Alive to rejoice in his good work through us. Alive to walk wherever he calls us to, because his calling is sure.

By submitting every piece of our lives to Christ—and at the same time realizing who we truly are in Christ—we’re being prepared to live in the way Jesus has always wanted. Thus, we don’t do works for ourselves, or to show the world how great Christianity is, but solely to give glory to God. If no-one sees our good works but “[our] Father who sees in secret” (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18), that is enough. And should “[our] light shine before others, so that [others see our] good works and give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16) it is God’s glory, and it is our joy to see it.

Your life is no longer yours. Stop behaving as if it is. You cannot force God to lead you into the next phase of your life. You can renounce all you have and entrust it to him, move when he tells you to move, and rejoice that he considered you worthy to be trusted with anything. Pick up your cross. Consider yourself dead to sin and alive in Jesus. And truly begin to follow the One who carried your cross before you were even born.

Lay It Down Today

Another way we’ve been preparing to bear good fruit throughout this study has been these daily assignments. Other assignments this week will be smaller, but because this one’s long-term—again, there is life beyond this study—I want you to start thinking about it today.

I’ve asked some form of this question repeatedly. Now I’m going to ask it again: What has God been impressing on your heart—and you’ve been doing nothing about—for way too long? This week, it’s time to start doing something about it.

Get out a piece of paper, and begin writing down ideas. Who do you need to talk to, or what other actions do you need to take, to begin making this happen? You don’t have to know everything—or maybe even anything—except that God’s given you this burden and that it’s time to start dealing with it. Do expect that as you move forward, God will honor your steps of faith and guide you in the ways you need to go.

If this isn’t where you’re at—or you know you’re already where God wants you—spend your time today thanking God for that. Give him the glory for what he’s already doing, and ask him to keep your heart open so that you can continue to respond as he wants, when he wants.

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