We are never too old to learn. As I walk along life’s highway, I am still learning to lean on the everlasting arms of Jesus when life throws a curveball.
I am still learning to love those that are unlovely along the way. I think God isn’t finished with them (or me either for that matter), so I need to accept everyone for who they are and for what they will become in God’s timing. My job is to pray for them on the way to their transformation.
I am still learning to laugh, not at others, but at myself and sometimes with others. We are all still robed in these earthly bodies, yet we are trying to let heaven fill our souls each day. It can get comical in some of those moments.
I am still learning to be led by the Spirit. God’s Word tells me if I do so, I won’t fulfill the lusts of the flesh. I want to live my life walking daily in the Spirit, recognizing that my life is hidden “in Christ” and the life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God.
I am still learning to live one day at a time, which is so much easier than worrying or fretting about tomorrow, which we are not promised. The Lord says: His grace is sufficient for today!
The list is endless of what I am learning as I grow older, both naturally and spiritually. I find that learning can be fun, especially when I put myself in a position to be teachable. That’s when I am reachable for the Holy Spirit to lead and guide me in every step I take.
I pray I will learn something new at all times. Then, I will know I am growing “In Christ” as I live my life out here on earth. Most of all, I pray I will learn to tell others how good God is and how much He loves them so that in turn we will all learn about what life is really about!
Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance. (Proverbs 1:5 NIV, emphasis mine)
Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning. (Proverbs 9:9 NIV, emphasis mine)
My Beloved Toviel,
Praise be to God for your man’s continued progress in grace. We marvel at the mercies that daily attend him; what he has become (and is becoming) makes demons sneer and seraphs praise. What a privilege — through such a world of dangers, devils, and delusions — to see him safely home.
Regarding this task, your question ending your letter is a fitting one, Why doesn’t your man see himself as we angels do? Why does he, an object of steadfast love and faithfulness, saunter about life as though he were a mere beast of the field? Why do birds sing more cheerfully when he is worth much more than many sparrows? While he feels proper contrition over his sin, why does it seem he misses the obvious: he is a walking miracle, a spoil of heavenly warfare, a future judge of us angels, a soon-to-be ruler of the cosmos, a son of God, a man truly alive?
We, of course, gaze over the precipice, waiting eagerly with all of creation to watch the revealing of the sons of God. Heaven shakes with violent joy every time one sinner repents and becomes new. Why do some vessels of mercy then possess such little celebration, joy, wonder? Are not such realities too bright to stare at: “created in Christ Jesus”? “His workmanship”? “Born again”? “Raised with Christ”? How can they think such small thoughts of great things?
Lucifer, that slanderer of the saints, lives to distort their identity in Christ (if he cannot rob them of it completely). This isn’t surprising as he even rode this temptation into battle against our Master himself. The Father’s declaration “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22) hardly fell from heaven before his fork-tongue sought to steal it: “If you are the Son of God . . .” (Luke 4:3).
Uncreative, he still strikes at their identity today — old devils don’t learn new devices. Toviel, we must remind them — from the Book — of the wonder God has wrought of them.
First, help him locate himself in the great story. He tends to feel so small and insignificant. He reads about heroes of old and feels like he lives in a different world of faith than theirs. But would Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Ruth, David, Joseph, Elijah, Esther, Jeremiah, Ezekiel even recognize the glory he possesses? They heard but whispers and saw but shadows — he possesses what was always to come.
Your man is a walking fulfillment of what they saw by prophesy — if only he could weigh it. Jeremiah and Ezekiel spoke of the regenerate saint in foretelling the new covenant, his covenant (Ezekiel 36; Jeremiah 31–32). Oh, to be a member of the church, the people of “I will” . . .
- I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and idolatry.
- I will remove the heart of stone and I will give you a heart of flesh.
- I will put my Spirit within you and I will cause you to obey me.
- I will forgive your iniquity and I will remember your sins no more.
- I will put the fear of me in your hearts so you will not turn from me.
- I will not turn away from doing you good.
- I will rejoice to do you good.
- I will plant you in the land with all my heart and all my soul.
- I will be your God.
New thoughts. New affections. New hearts. New obedience. New certainty. A new Spirit. A new fear. A new covenant. A new life. Our Master’s blood triggered the ancient prophesies, at Pentecost he ignited them, and at his second coming he will consummate them. “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20).
Help your man understand that it was better for Christ to be here in heaven, so that the Spirit of heaven might come and live within him.
What was this new life foretold but a life of resurrection — spiritually now, and later, physically.
You observe his bashfulness to share his testimony with those whose conversions he deems more “exciting” than his own. Since when is the animation of any sinner — called, forgiven, washed, adopted, raised from the dead — not electrifying to behold? His sheer existence exclaims God’s power, confounds hell, and perplexes the world.
To awaken wonder, remind him of that ancient illustration of the dawning of the new covenant. It begins grim, in a graveyard of bones — not even buried — strewn about the ground. Can he see his, lying there, picked at by the birds? The question was asked, can these dry bones live? (I, for one, shook my head in response.) Then the commandment, “Breathe on these slain, that they may live” (Ezekiel 37:9). We stood by, watching. Ezekiel prophesied, and we heard the unforgettable sound of bones rattling, fastening together as “breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army” (Ezekiel 37:10).
O Toviel, your man was one of these, spiritually dead and beyond hope. But God breathed into him by the Spirit. We heard him rattle, stand, and breathe new life. No longer is he a child of wrath, a soldier of Satan, like the rest of mankind. Against all hope, he is alive to God, raised up with Christ — already. He has died and his life is now hidden with Christ — already (Colossians 3:3). He never again can be who he once was — already. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Your man is a resurrected man.
Oh, how the humans gawked when our Master closed his eyes and opened tombs in Jerusalem, and some walked the streets (Matthew 27:51–53). Your man said he wished to have seen it. He says this — oh, for greater eyes of faith! — he says this sitting across from a resurrected one, singing beside resurrected ones, journeying alongside those who “have been raised with Christ” and put on the new man, Christ Jesus himself (Colossians 3:1, 10).
A gulf is already fixed between the truly regenerate and who he once was. I know he doesn’t always feel it — so wonderfully sensitive to deviations from our Master’s will — but the glorious truth remains. From death to life, from lawlessness to righteousness, from darkness to light. From sons of Satan, slaves of sin, foolish, led astray, passing their days hated and hating one another to the grandeur of “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved” (Colossians 3:12), washed, clothed, regenerated, and — can you yet imagine it? — filled with his own Spirit!
Our Master and theirs toppled every Babel of man-made religion with the pronouncement, “You must be born again.” No amount of religious habits, good works, or heartwarming sincerity will substitute. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9). “Neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:15).
But he is alive and spiritual — born from above. He walks with God more intimately than Adam in Paradise or Moses upon Sinai. The Spirit, sent from our Lord after his ascension, now dwells in them, not merely comes upon them. They are the temple of the living God, whose breasts blaze, unthinkably, with God himself (2 Corinthians 6:16–18).
“Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you.” – John 6:27 NKJV
In his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, historian Edward Gibbon told of the splendors of Abd al-Rahman, who ruled Spain in the 8th century AD. “He was attended by a guard of 12,000 horses, dressed in absolute splendor.” He was reported to have 6,300 wives, concubines, and eunuchs.
In terms that rivaled Solomon, this man gathered sculptors and artists from all around the world to design buildings overwhelming in their grandeur. Gibbon noted that Abd al-Rahman’s “magnificence” excited “admiration and envy.”
But, looking back at the end of his life, he recounted how he had reigned fifty years “in victory or peace.” On the surface, his life sounded glorious. He was “beloved by [his] subjects, dreaded by [his] enemies, and respected by [his] allies.” He had no wants, and he accumulated limitless riches, power, and pleasures.
Yet it all seemed empty. Lacking fulfillment, he realized he could point to only fourteen days in which he experienced “pure and genuine happiness.” He even provided his own conclusion: “O man! Place not thy confidence in this present world!”
Like Abd al-Rahman, we can focus on the pleasures of this world. But, as he discovered, we will find none of these last.
Remember not to “labor for the food which perishes.” But seek first God’s kingdom, trusting Him to provide your needs (Matthew 6:33). Make Jesus your Lord. And focus on “the food which endures to everlasting life.”
In the beginning God created Adam and Eve in His image. That likeness, however, was soon marred by sin, and the ripple effect continues in humanity to this day. The Lord was gracious, however, and didn’t wipe out the human race; instead, He set in motion a redemptive plan to rescue anyone willing to repent.
Someday all who have trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation will be fully restored to God’s image. In the meantime, the heavenly Father is molding believers into the likeness of His Son. It’s a process that will continue until we each receive our new eternal body and, like a flawless mirror, reflect a true image of our Lord. But while we remain on earth, we are called to reveal Jesus to those in our sphere of influence.
Like any parent, God the Father is pleased to see His children maturing to look more like Christ, and to that end He continually works in us. Becoming more and more like Him should be our goal as well, because nothing can compare to the joy we will have when we eventually stand before God in heaven, fully restored to resemble Him.