Understanding (The Tenets of Jesus part 4)

“And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven. And He said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?” (Mark 8:20-21, emphasis mine)

Almost a rhetorical-sounding question. Think about it though. Unless you were looking hard enough, you would have missed Jesus and all He stood for. The same goes for now, I might add. But think about the singularity of His life, walking around, the fulfillment of every prophecy up till then and… He just passed by you and had no idea who it was. Of course He could ask of His disciples what He did, because they’d never seen anything like it.

“Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?”

“And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me?” (Acts 8:29-31) Or the Holy Spirit, you know.

I can imagine that much of Jesus’ life was a complete mystery to onlookers. Think about it. How could you know all you do now of the Lord, merely having grown up with Him or by seeing Him preach by the seashore? All the ways and means of the Christian life as it pertains to the things you encounter? Granted, I might be synopsizing His thirty-three earthly years with an ad hoc sound bite in retrospect. Jesus did everything correctly and everywhere He went and every individual He was led to interact with (by the same Holy Spirit that “said unto Philip…”) was exactly what His Father would have Him do at that moment. And then He died. And rose again. And now what? I find it amazing to have this collection of letters, penned (dictated at least) by one man–Paul–that, when taken together form an exceptional backbone for living the Christian life. It’s the backbone. The finer points of Paul’s writings just happen to flow with God’s will and as you meditate and walk in what he wrote, you find God is still happy with you (yes). It’s so simple. We have Jesus. We have Paul. “We also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses…” (Hebrews 12:1) In other words, the Gospel has spread into the hearts and minds of billions of people the world over for thousands of years. But until you delve into these words and ideas and give your heart up to the Lord, it’s all an impenetrable mystery. Except! We have the Holy Spirit:

“These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26)

There are layers of depth I can’t begin to fathom around why Jesus had to leave and in doing so was able to give us the Holy Spirit. Granted, these layers are graspable but only with Him. And so it would seem it’s a complete circuit. Life isn’t just about accruing knowledge or learning all you can about all you can. It’s about knowing Jesus. And until you receive the Holy Spirit, He will remain an enigma.

“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7)

Understand first that He loves you. And everything else will slowly interlock and fall into place.

 

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Self-reflection (The Tenets of Jesus part 3)

Another “tenet”, if I may, is that of self-reflection. If you believe in Jesus, i.e. that He was more than just human, or just a human (they sounded like two different things prior to being typed out). And if you believe on Jesus (in/on, the preposition doesn’t really matter) as the Saviour of your spirit, enabling you to become once again right with God–because He always was and therefore endured the wrath of His Father for us–where do you or I even enter the picture? Where does the concept of free will or personality or any of the beautiful, simple and childlike things that make us who we are, come in to play? For me, there has always been this gnawing to become more than what I was before, because I’ve always had a hard time being satisfied with myself. I suppose it was because I wasn’t vaulting from a true place. And so, any dispassionate self-reflection produced despair or confusion or despondency, until I then realized I wasn’t seeing myself as He (Jesus) saw me. Two things before I go any further: Firstly, I apologize for talking down to you in introducing this tenet. Because, if I may, you yourself have most likely touched upon yourself as an entity at some point in your life. Someone (as opposed to some thing) in and amongst a bunch of others, similar to you yet radically different. And you’d have it no other way, right? Whenever I find I’m akin to someone more than I originally thought, it was after the fact and if it’s true, it wasn’t what I was looking out for, it that makes sense. The second thing is that I’m most likely not going to introduce anything God hasn’t already made known to you in some way, for yourself. One of the things I’ve long fought with is this idea I should (and therefore could) receive any and everything I wanted and needed from God Himself.

Self-reflection is necessary, vital even. I see the word(s) in my mind’s eye (self-reflection) and I just know I have something to say on it. As a writer, I’m finding it difficult to extend my mind out to whatever sounding board I feel needs to hear this in order to make a valid point and speak to them (you). That’s what a writer does by the way. They have something to say to someone–even themself (not a word)–and they talk or write longhand or type. How many authors made it after they’d passed away, by the way? They thought no one wanted to hear what they had to say thereby substantiating that gift. Offering the writer, by way of attention, a form of validation. But if I class myself as a writer first and foremost and receive all the accolades along those lines only, I will end in missing the substrate fact that I’m a human, a spirit, with a gift of writing. Jesus comes first. This is why any self-reflection must begin with Him (That’s really all I have to say on the matter.). This is why I was never satisfied with myself, always wanting more. One must realize what He has done for them before any self-reflection can tell and form and build up from the bottom. Your gifts, whatever they may be, aren’t who you are. You are the righteousness of God in Him (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). If I may.

“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in Him not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” (Philippians 3:8-11)

 

Gentleness (The Tenets of Jesus part 2)

The phrase comes back to me often. I suppose it happens when a lot of the grit and grime are washed out and God lets me see a substrate and pure means of Christian expression. I feel I’m doing something “that Jesus would do”. And just because we don’t have the good feelings we think should accompany every act, doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t smiling looking on. Really, it’s the motive and attitude of our heart that tells in those times. And so, without further ado, here we go again: “The Tenets of Jesus”. What should the second tenet be? I’m just going to pluck out gentleness as one worth elucidating. I should like to describe it in light of the space between someone, anyone who has a go-getting, type-A personality and not necessarily inclined to slow down one whit, and someone crawling along for God knows what reason. Be gentle.

“He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench: He shall bring forth judgment unto truth.” (Isaiah 42:2-3)

I know of no better scripture to describe the gentleness of Jesus. He is so gentle that He’s imperceptible if we are in pride and not looking for Him. But how does this play out with those we meet? When Jesus says “If any [one] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24), one of the best ways I can do this is to not overpower someone with my personality. It doesn’t mean that you’re not the strong, confident and assertive person you always are–you just don’t need to show people. Because Jesus is the same. And He will validate that about you. He’s had to do it for me. I find that if I act in ways that aren’t in keeping with His gentleness throughout my day, I tend to turn people off. And why? If I’m representing Him and yet not acting as He would, I’m not doing Him any favors. Then again, it’s something that the Holy Spirit has slowly (and gently) intimated to me. And “gentleness” is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23). He’s got all you need.

“God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. The woman saith unto Him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when He is come He will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.” (John 4:24-26)

Firm but gentle. Jesus, in His conversation with the woman at the well of Samaria gives her everything she needs: validation, conviction, purpose and peace. She’s smart. Not just anyone could convince her of some better way. And so, Jesus filled that space between where she was and he, with gentleness.

“Thou hast also given me the shield of Thy salvation: and Thy right hand hath holden me up, and Thy gentleness hath made me great.” (Psalm 18:35) Don’t forget to be a servant (see part 1).

Servanthood (The Tenets of Jesus part 1)

It sounds so squishy. Er, gimmicky. Same thing. It just sounds fake. Say it: “The tenets of Jesus.” It sounds like something so removed from His actual person and personality as to be sterile and of little-to-no-use in the everyday world. As, like, some sort of antiquarian guidelines that anyone, regardless of age or gender can take and supersede with the first step. I’m talking about things like this:

“For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Corinthians 4:5, emphasis mine)

I should like to touch on the concept of servanthood as exemplified by Jesus. And rotate around it all your world and all your life (yes) to where just about the only thing God wants you to do–understand that everything you want is in view and you could just reach out and touch it–is serve somebody.

The act of washing another’s feet whether figurative (praying for and forgiving them) or literal is one of the basest (in a good way) ways that Jesus came to serve. He lives it out in the thirteenth chapter of John. He had led His disciples through the lanes of His ministry (who knows how long it had been since their feet were last cleaned) and He deigned clean up the dirt they accrued from their journey. How fitting a parallel that even though you’re following Jesus, you are bound to get your feet dirty on the way and that He is faithful to stoop down and wipe it all away. And as He leads us to do the same, know that the dignity you bestow upon those whom you bless (you have that ability) will come back to you. All has been evened under Christ. “Though the Lord be high…” (Psalm 138:6a)

“The Lord looketh from Heaven; He beholdeth all the sons of men. From the place of His habitation He looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth.” (Psalm 33:13-14)

This is Jesus. And that He would lay aside those garments, of resplendence and majesty and power and might, and come to serve. It’s heartbreaking and mindblowing. Because we can either serve ourselves and get what we need at the expense of others. Or serve others as unto Him and stand by while He rewards us with joy and peace and contentment. And even if your attitude isn’t where it should be (mine isn’t many times…) He’s faithful to bring that in line with the aforementioned “all your world and all your life”. Yes. But what does it look like? God knows. Realize that with the sweetness of your heart, you are serving Him at all times. Anything spontaneous the Holy Spirit intimates to you on your way, is service enough. Don’t complicate it.

“And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

This kind of rubric is why I can’t dismiss something corny-sounding like “the tenets of Jesus”. They’re more than we know. They are the ways and means that we walk in as Christians. Dirt notwithstanding.