Simple. Profound. Transforming. Maybe these words reveal a little of what launched this journey for him: “And down there at the bottom, I prayed in ways I’d never prayed before. I had reached the end of myself and had become desperate for God. I wanted to know if his grace was just for the well-adjusted people up on the surface. I wanted to know if his grace might actually go all the way down to me.”
A few favorite passages:
I take a look at my messed-up soul every day. I feel completely overwhelmed and underequipped. And so I hold on to the gospel. I pour some gospel into my soul. I am good to go another day. I might be crawling through that day or I might be balled up in my bed, unwilling to charge the Valley of Elah that is my life, but the smile of God is over me continually. Day and night his steadfast love sustains me. By God’s grace, then, disciples of Jesus look for the places we have yet to surrender to him, the places where we’ve given up ground, the tender spots we want to hide, the stubborn spaces we want to protect, and we ask him humbly to help us. He will never say no to that. Bit by bit, day by day, turning and returning, we reorient the engine of our life around Jesus. The problem is the same every day but the mercies are new, and the disciples of Jesus will plunder them with abandon. He wants us to! You’ve got to maintain your soul this way or you will not maintain it at all. You’ve got to hook your soul on this anchor called Christ or you will lose it, I assure you.
The problem is that many Christians have stifled their ability to behold the glory of Christ without realizing it. They have stunted their capacity to see some measure of his all-encompassing excellencies, not because they are generally disinterested in him but because all of their other interests have dulled their spiritual senses. All of the other things they look at dull their vision. They struggle to behold Christ’s glory because they have a generally decreased capacity for bigness in the first place. But we can work against this. We can do some simple things that help us behold better. What efforts can you make to help yourself behold the glory of Jesus?
When our vision is constantly occupied by small things, we are tempted to yawn more at the glory of God. We have to look at big things in order to increase our capacity to see big things.
Do you want to see glory? “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps. 19:1). Resting from the spaces, then, where you are an acting sovereign and instead getting out into the spaces where God’s sovereignty is more palpable, believe it not, will help you see Christ as bigger. See, what you’re focused on will shape you, lead you.
We think we know what will do the job of making us holy: us doing the job of making us holy. And seeking holiness is integral to discipleship. But more central to our discipleship is the news that actually makes Christianity Christianity: we are holy not because of what we’ve done but because of what Jesus has done. This is why the good news is so good! The essential message of Christianity isn’t “do” but “done.” The good news is news, not instruction, and it announces to us not “get to work” but “it is finished.” And so it turns out that the direct route to God-honoring behavior is born not of good behavior but of good beholding.
The more we dwell in Scripture, developing a greater taste and feel for it, the less sweet and less comforting the things of the world will taste and feel.
This is the whole point of reading and studying the Bible—to encounter the glory of Jesus—and if we aren’t reading and studying to encounter the glory of Jesus, we are missing the whole point. In fact, I suspect the struggles so many of us have in sticking with Bible study are directly related to our failure to listen and look for the glory of Christ there.
Jesus cannot be boring.
The point of the Christian life is not self-improvement or more Bible knowledge but Christlikeness.
To put it bluntly: if there is a God of the universe (and there is), and this God of the universe loved you and wanted to be in relationship with you (and he does), wouldn’t it be stupid not to talk to him? To put it more nicely, if the God of the universe is in control of our days and loves us enough to provide comfort and power for those who seek him, wouldn’t prayer be the most important part of our day?
Prayer is spilling your guts. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It doesn’t have to be tidy. It doesn’t have to be particularly eloquent or even particularly intelligent. But the Bible is how God speaks to us and prayer is how we speak to God. These two rhythms form the dynamic of our friendship with the God of the universe.
The doctrine of grace when administered with a spirit of grace gradually becomes a culture of grace. A message of grace will attract people but a culture of grace will keep them. See, the gospel cannot make us into little judges of each other’s ministerial output. It cannot make us people who keep sizing each other up, measuring each other, rehearsing each other’s failings. It’s not tuned to the frequency of accusation. We instead become advocates for our brothers and sisters.
We don’t have to be experts, just converts pointing each other to Jesus.
Over time, as we walk with Jesus, we begin to see more and more of the ways he is loving us and more and more of the ways he is working in the world, and the cross looms more largely over our sin and the empty tomb looms more largely over the mess and dysfunction of the world. And the impulse to rest in him becomes more immediate. The heart’s “muscle memory” toward the gospel gets quicker and stronger.
Our faith could even be as small as a mustard seed, but so long as it’s genuine it will still afford us the totality of Christ’s eternal riches.
Gentleness is inextricably connected to restfulness. So long as we are restless, so long as we are bucking against Christ’s sovereignty, tugging at and stifling under his kindly yoke, we will not be shaped by his gentleness. But the more we rest in our salvation, in the security of our position in him for all eternity, the more gentle we will become. He is gentle with us. And his gentleness is conferred to us, transferred to us as we find him gentle in the face of our own stubbornness and failure to get our act together.
Sinners who trust in Jesus, since we are presently united to the risen, ascended, enthroned Jesus Christ, are recipients of and sharers in his perfect righteousness. So God never has to look for your holiness. You may see yourself as worthless and faithless, but God never has to look for your righteousness, because since you have been raised with Christ and since Christ is seated at God’s right hand, your holiness is also seated at his right hand. And if you are hidden with Christ in God, then you have nothing left to hide. You are free to be you. The real you.
In and through the gospel we know that all of the things we actually long for can only be found in God. His Son, Jesus, is the apex and sum of all that is good and lovely and wonderful. To get lost in him is to finally find one’s true self. You can’t find yourself anywhere else or in anyone else.