Last week we had a look at how Jesus is the exact, mirror image of the Father. Today I want to tell you something amazing! You, too, reflect the Father. As love changes us we are transformed in order to reflect his glory. Ok, maybe our mirror image is not as perfect as Jesus' but nonetheless we can reveal the nature, personality and character of the Father to the world.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NASB)
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV)
You become what you look at! The more we gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, the more we shall become like him. Sometimes it feels as if change is either slow or non-existant but that doesn't mean it's not happening. As we find our home in love we will be transformed by its invisible power. We are being changed from one level of glory to another and all that simply means is we are reflecting the nature and personality of God in a greater way. Daily we are being changed to look more like Jesus (Romans 8:29).
If that is happening then what, or who, will people see when they look at us? Yes, they'll still see us, however they will also see Christ in us. They will see the God of love reflected in our lives. They will see that God is neither distant nor angry with them but he is the one who is LOVE. They will see love in our eyes, not our love but the love of the perfect Father, the One who wants to be a Father to them. That's amazing!
And something equally as amazing. You don't have to be perfect before you start to reflect love.
A mirror is a reflection of reality. It shows what something is like in all its detail, it is an exact replica without being the original. We have a love/hate relationship with mirrors - it shows us how good we look yet it also reveals the spots and wrinkles (often more clearly than we would like).
Throughout our history God has spoken to our ancestors by his prophets in many different ways. The revelation he gave them was only a fragment at a time, building one truth upon another. But to us living in these last days, God now speaks to us openly in the language of a Son, the appointed Heir of everything, for through him God created the panorama of all things and all time. The Son is the dazzling radiance of God’s splendor, the exact expression of God’s true nature—his mirror image! (Hebrews 1:1-3 TPT)
The ministry of prophets is vital to the church, they bring clarity and insight and reveal the hidden purposes of God to his people. However, their words can be a mystery at times; as Paul says, we can only ever prophesy in part and that can leave a question. It is incomplete and therefore open to interpretation. That's how God spoke to his people. He still speaks to us today through prophets and that is important for us. A change has taken place and we are fortunate as we have been given something greater, we have the Word of God itself, the person of Jesus who became a man in order to show us the true personality, nature and character of God (John 1:1-5).
At the end of Jesus' life he prays to his Father, in that conversation he starts of by saying that he has done everything he was sent to do. He has made the Father known to mankind (John 17:6). Some translations say "I have made your name known" and others say "I have reveealed you". It's the same thing! Jesus has shown us who God really is. He has fulfilled the prophetic cry of Jeremiah 3:19 - "I thought you would call me 'Father'". Why did God say that through Jeremiah? He said it because that's who he is.
God, the Father, has always wanted to be known. He has been and still is misunderstood. People don't know what he is like. They create all sorts of impressions of what they think God is like. They (we) miss the detail.
When we start to look at Jesus, at what he did, what he said, how he behaved or reacted we see something very different to our perceptions. We see the fulness of God revealed in a man. We see the nature, personality and character of God revealed. We see who God is. We see the Father. We see the perfect image of God through his son.
When the eyes of our heart see, our perceptions are destroyed in a moment. Instead of our made up view of God, we see the Father of Jesus who the apostle John can describe in one word - "LOVE". That's what we see when we look in the mirror of Jesus.
Philippians is a very upbeat letter as Paul is full of joy for his friends. His overwhelming joy exudes through the chapters and verses and it becomes contagious. You feel good as you read Paul's exhortations.
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now... (Philippians 1:3-5 NIV)
Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. (3:1 NIV)
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! (4:1 NIV)
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (4:4 NIV)
Today's encouragement is simple.
Over the past few weeks we have discovered our home is in Christ and that we are with him where he is. That leads us to the place of contentment where we experience a peace which goes beyond all our understanding. It's no wonder Paul could rejoice even in the midst of suffering. When we have a simple, childlike trust on our Father we become aware that our security is in him and not in our own strength.
This gives us something to rejoice about. The joy of the Lord can indeed be our strength.
Absolute trust will lead us to the place of contentment. Contentment: to know (and live in) the peace that goes beyond all of our understanding. What a gift!
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7 ESV)
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. (Philippians 4:10-11 NIV)
That's a challenge! To be content whatever the circumstances!
We spend a lot of time, money and energy seeking to have more, to be more or to do more. A new phone comes out: better camera, more data, more storage, faster processor etc - we have to have it. Why? Because we're told we won't be content unless we do. We work harder at work in order to be noticed - we want to be seen to be someone. Frankly, we're not content and as a result we lose our peace and become caught up in the never-ending cycle of seeking more.
Contentment is deeper than possessions, ministry, titles or function. Contentment is the state of our heart so we, like Paul, can say whether we're in need or have plenty, that we are content. We find the secret of being in Christ. We can trust our Heavenly Father because he will meet all our needs according to the riches of his glory (Phil 4:19).
Trust sounds simple, yet for many of us it is the complex process of letting go. It's recognising that we can't do it on our own, all of our striving will lead to frustration and us being robbed of our peace. Trust says that our Father is bigger and more able, he knows what is best for us and our only response is to have a childlike heart of rest and dependency on him.
If we are to fully trust the Lord, then we have to let go. Letting go is not easy, nor is it always our natural inclination. It's taking the step of believing that our Father knows what is best for us and that he knows this better than we do. For many that can be quite a challenge.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. (Philippians 3:7-9 NIV)
I'm always inspired by the life of Paul, who, despite his natural abilities and background, chose the path of humility. He trusted completely in the eternal goodness and faithfulness of the Lord. Not only did he let go of everything but he also considered it to be rubbish. He had seen the better and the best which was to know Christ and to be found in him.
To us, it seems that Paul was a long way into this personal journey. Despite that, he knew that he had not arrived. He did not pursue ministry or function or gifting but he pursued a greater intimacy and depth of relationship with Christ. He had discovered that his citizenship was in Heaven, his home was in Christ seated at the right hand of the Father. He knew he was loved as Jesus is loved - that is what it means to be "in Christ".
I pray, today, that we will all discover a greater revelation of this truth and, as we do, it will cause us to let go and trust.
Today we continue our theme of trust as we look at the book of Philippians. Trust, our trust in God, will expand our horizons beyond ourselves and will help us look outward.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 1:1-4 NIV)
Being like-minded - what does Paul mean? I think he is referring back to what he has been talking about in chapter one which was finding the power and security of knowing that we are "in Christ" - a recurring theme throughout all of Paul's letters. We are in Christ and therefore our home is where he is (John 14:3). We are encouraged to imitate Paul and make our home in Christ. We are drawn into that intimacy through the comfort of his love and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
When the focus of our love is on him we will be drawn into a greater intimacy with the Trinity. Not only do we become secure in our relationship with Him but we are secure enough to begin to turn outward. We can trust God enough to start considering others. We have the mind of Christ which is not selfish but takes the path of humility. We stop prioritising our own needs because we know and trust that our Father will take care of them for us.
As sons and daughters, we know that we have a Father who cares for us and who provides all we need (Matthew 6:25-34). Walking as Jesus walked, trusting the Father's goodness, will cause us to channel that goodness to a world that is in desperate need. The outworking of us being loved is that we love and care for others.
The book of Philippians is about trust. Do we trust the Father enough to allow ourselves to come to a place of rest where we can rely on the peace that passes all understanding? Do we trust enough to believe that he will work his purpose out for us, rather than us having to try and make it happen?
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. (Psalms 138:8 ESV)
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6 ESV)
At the end of Philippians, Paul talks about being content (and we'll look at that in a few weeks time). That contentment can only flow from us receiving and living in the assurance of these promises. He has started something in our lives and he will make it happen. His purpose is not so much the journey we might take but it is the end result, it is the destination. Proverbs tells us that we make plans but God has a purpose that will stand forever (Prov 19:21).
Sometimes our journey is not linear. We make mistakes, we take diversions, we wonder where we are going and what is happening. The twists and turns of life's journey can sometimes be confusing and maybe we begin to doubt. We doubt ourselves, we doubt God.
He is not bothered about our diversions because his purpose is bigger and goes beyond our plans. His purpose for us is rooted in eternity and he has promised to accomplish it. That's where trust comes in - can we trust him enough to lay aside our plans and allow him to lead us? He will complete what he has started. That's my prayer today.
Truth: Hard to find and sometimes even harder to define. Yet Jesus makes it much more simple than we have made it.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7 ESV)
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 ESV)
We are bombarded with opinions: social media, news broadcasts, what other people think and all presented as being the 'gospel truth', yet deep down we know are being sold a lie. How do we shift through all of this to discover the truth. Our definition of truth is skewed because it's influenced by a series of filters we create, the desire to please other people, our belief or bahviour patterns our struggle with an orphan world. Jesus strips all that away; he is the Truth. Truth is not so much found in a collection of facts but in a person.
The desire of Jesus is that we would be with him where he is, he has taken us into himself and therefore we are with him where he is: the bosom of the Father. That is the place where discover Truth and it sets us free. The truth we discover is that we are brought into the same relationship with the Father that Jesus has. We are sons. We have a place in the family forever. We are not slaves. We belong.
This very well knnown verse in John 14 is simple , yet profound. We are shown that the way to the Father is through Jesus. As we start that journey, heading towards this amazing destination, we find the truth of who we are and then we find the life that our hearts long for. Jesus is the Life. The Life of the Father, the life of the Trinity is made available to us through Jesus. It is life to the full, abundant life.
Every now and then it's good to remind ourselves of the main thing. The substance of love which is being poured into our heart through and by the Holy Spirit. Not only do we need reminding, we also need to give ourselves the opportunity to receive.
And this hope is not a disappointing fantasy, because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us! (Romans 5:5 TPT)
Jeremiah tells us we are loved with an everlasting love (Jer 31:3). All of the love that was in the Father's heart before the creation of the world, all of the love that runs through time and all of the love that will run through eternity future is being poured into our heart by the Holy Spirit. That's a lot of love. It's very reassuring for us as this means there has never been a time when we've not been loved nor is there anything we can do (or not do) that will take us outside the love of God.
Sometimes we doubt God's love. Sometimes we feel condemned and unworthy of love. Other times we feel that our sin stops the flow of love until we prove ourselves through our works. All of those feelings are real to us and they affect what we think or believe. They don't, however, determine what God thinks or feels. He does not change; he is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Our behaviour may not be in accordance with his will but it does not change the fact that we are loved.
Most translations say the love of God is 'poured' into our heart. I like the Passion Translation's use of the word 'cascade'. It describes a generous and constantly flowing torrent of love. It's similar to John who writes 'see what kind of love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God' (1 John 3:1).
Let's make the main thing the main thing. Why not enjoy being loved today! Let the Father lavish or cascade his love into your heart.
Last week I looked at how comfort helps us to keep an open heart. Today I'm taking this a step further as a comforted heart brings change in us. It enables us to walk as Jesus walked.
Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (2 Corinthians 7:8-10 NIV)
There are two kinds of sorrow. Godly sorrow which leads to life and worldly sorrow that leads to death. How are they separated?
Paul's exhortation does not come from a judgemental or critical heart. He comes to the church in Corinth with an overwhelming desire to encourage them and to lead them back into a right relationship with God. He wants them to know that God is a Father to them and they are sons and daughters. For them to enter into this reality they need to change, they have to allow the sorrow Paul feels to bring them to a place of repentance through which they will have an encounter with the Father.
Too often when we deal with other people we do so from a critical heart and all that does is judge and condemn. That's the worldly sorrow that leads to death, not life. It goes back to the two trees in the garden: one brings life, the other death.
Godly sorrow will lead us to repentance, it will restore relationship and it will bring us to an encounter with the love of God where we know that he is being a Father to us. It brings life! We don't have to fear repentance or change as it takes our heart deeper into love.
I've recently been reading through 2 Corinthians and have seen how the apostle Paul has a soft, tender heart towards the church in Corinth. Despite everything that he's been through he has not allowed his heart to become hard; in fact, his circumstances have not made him rely on his own strength but rather he has discovered the power of comfort and weakness.
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children —open wide your hearts also. (2 Corinthians 6:11-13 NIV)
Paul has had to write to the Corinthians about some pretty major things and, no doubt, it would have been easy for him to be judgemental or critical. That, however, is not his posture. He appeals to them to change, "to come out from them and be separate" (verse 17), he appeals to them to open their hearts in the same way as he and Titus have opened their hearts to them.
I have often wondered how Paul managed to maintain an open heart after he had been through so much hardship. The key is found in the first few verses of chapter 7: he is greatly comforted. Paul had found the power of living from a comforted heart. He receives that comfort once again as Titus visits him and is able to comfort him with the comfort that he himself has received. The fruit of a comforted heart is also seen in Titus - he has been refreshed by being with them.
Comfort is contagious! When we are comforted we are able to comfort others. I believe we receive, first and foremost, because we need to be comforted. We don't principally receive comfort in order to give it out although that is the natural consequence. Comfort restores us, it encourages us, it enables us to face the hardships of life and, importantly, it is the key to us keeping an open, tender heart.
All too often peace seems in short supply. We live busy lives with so much going on, we face the every day challenges of the world (which these days seem pretty immense) and on top of that we have to cope with all the internal stuff going on in our heart and mind. It can all feel very unpeaceful!
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27 NIV)
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)
Jesus recognises that trouble will come our way. He knows how easy it is for us to lose our peace and to be caught up with the turmoil of the world. Trouble, hassle - whatever word you choose to use it's inevitable, we are never going to be immune from it.
Along with the recognition that trouble is heading our way there is the wonderful assurance and promise, that in the midst of it we can find peace. A calmness and rest that is a supernatural gift. Jesus lived in peace despite everything that was going on around him and it's that same peace that he gives to us. Not only does Jesus give us his peace but he reminds us that he has overcome the world; he has done what we're unable to do.
It's a peace that takes our fear away. It's a peace that is not based on worldly qualities or events. It's a peace that goes beyond our understanding.
It's the peace that flows from the heart of the Father, it's part of his nature. Today that gift of peace is available to you.
Picture the scene: the people return home to a broken country, they rebuild their city against a lot of opposition, they may be fearful of the nations around them, they're trying to resettle and are no doubt apprehensive. Then they gather together to be reminded of who they are and, more importantly, who their God is.
Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:9-10 NIV)
They hear about the goodness and faithfulness of God and that must have re-kindled hope and expectancy within their hearts. I think they could begin to believe that it was all worthwhile, that maybe, once again, they could live in peace and prosperity.
There is someone greater than themselves, someone with bigger resources, someone who will get them through. They are not on their own, nor do they have to get through relying on their own strength.
The situation you may be facing might be daunting, it might feel too big for you to cope with. You may not know which way to turn. Like Ezra and Nehemiah's audience you can turn to your Father. You can be reminded of his greatness and faithfulness towards you. And that supernatural joy which is part of his nature can flow into you and become your strength, enabling you to face whatever is in your path today. It's his joy, not your's!
Last week we saw that we have not been left on our own, as orphans in an orphan-hearted world, but that Jesus came to make a way for us to know the Father and that we are truly sons and daughters. This is a great comfort to us. We are not alone; in fact, we have a Helper who is with us every moment of every day. That Helper (also called a Comforter) is the Holy Spirit.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17 NIV)
This is one of the first times in the New Testament that we read of the way the Holy Spirit comes and helps us. It's before any of Paul's teaching on the importance of the Gifts of the Spirit in Corinthians and Romans. Jesus doesn't talk about the gifts of the Spirit but, rather he dwells on the person of the Spirit who is our Comforter, Helper, Guide and the One who enables us to know that we are one with the Father. The gifts follow but the important thing that Jesus is communicating is that the Holy Spirit is like a bridge between us and the heart of the Father. In fact, I see him as an elastic bridge; not only does he bridge the gap but he then draws us right into the heart of the Father.
The Holy Spirit, living in us, is the reality of the continuity of God's presence with us. He reminds us of everything that Jesus has taught, he continues to bring it alive for us and he is the enabling power to help us walk as Jesus walked. Ezekiel saw this when he prophesied that God's own Spirit would live in us and cause (or motivate) us to walk in his ways (Ezekiel 36:27).
Living in the Spirit is the hallmark of our sonship. It is our inner confirmation that we are sons of God and therefore we're enabled to cry "Abba, Father!" "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16). And so, my encouragement today is to go on being filled with the Spirit.
I think we would agree we live in an orphan hearted world. We recognise the symptoms in other people, in our world systems and probably in ourselves. So, what is an orphan?
An orphan is separated from or taken out of a family, it has a lack of identity, it lives a lonely, fear based life leading to performance and striving. An orphan sees God as a master or judge and so everything has to be worked for and becomes a reward. An orphan seeks position, acceptance and validation which, once achieved, will be hung onto, whatever the cost.
Jesus understood all this, which is why he says:
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. (John 14:18-20 NIV)
Even although the disciples had been with Jesus for three years, during which he had taught them, discipled and counselled them, he still sees them as orphans. In essence he sees them as being fatherless. He recognises the longing of each person to find and know a father. This longing has been in each human heart since Adam and Eve walked out of the garden, having chosen independence and separation from God.
Jesus comes to put all this right. He reveals the Father, not only to the disciples but also to us. He tells us that both he and the Father will come and make their home in our heart (John 14:23). We are not left fatherless, he has come to us and will be a Father to us.
Today I encourage you to open your heart to this amazing truth. Not only is God 'a' father but he wants to be a Father to YOU.
A Father to YOU is a signpost to the heart of the Perfect Father. When we became Christians we were given the right to become children of God (John 1:12). Sadly, many of us fail to take up that right and instead continue to live as slaves or orphans. But our true destiny is being sons and daughters who have a permanent place in the Father's family. This blog is an encouragement to help you know who God really is and who you really are.