Recently a couple of separate things have come together in my thinking and I’d like to share them with you if I may.
Last year we were delighted and blessed to have David and Nina, Con and Olive, all from Ireland, visit us here in New Zealand. As I was sitting alone on the last afternoon they were here I asked Father, “Is there anything else you would like me to share with these precious friends before they leave?” Immediately a scripture leapt into my mind. It was John 21.22 “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” The initial emphasis to me was in the command “follow Me” which seemed a very simple thought to share with these folk who have been following the Lord Jesus for many years.
The context really hit me. Was this the first command Jesus gave after Calvary and His resurrection? It was a resurrection command that had nothing to do walking around Palestine as He had. So the question was, “Follow Him where, and how?”
A PERSONAL CALVARY
It seems to me the emphasis should be on following the Lord Jesus through a personal Calvary to resurrection living in the here and now. Soon after saying this Jesus would return to be seated at Father’s right hand. So is “follow Me” a call to take up our position of being seated with Him in heavenly realms?
Well, I enjoyed precious moments pondering that Scripture and then, in the evening, sharing it with these dear friends.
[May I interject with this: If the value of friendship can be measured by quality rather than quantity, as I believe it should be, then I am convinced that nobody on earth is more favoured than Mary and I are in the friendships the Holy Spirit has drawn us into. What a blessing!]
Now here is the separate thing that I now see links up with the above thoughts. Some months ago I printed off some postcards with a picture on it, plus the words, “I’ll be with you . . day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” – Jesus.
We often hear, and even sing about the nail prints in Jesus’ hands.
Can you see that linking the nail prints in His hands and those in His feet we have a picture of self-crucified living?
Let me share a few verses about the cross and each of us, and then add a few final thoughts.
Luke 9.23 Then He said to them all: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
1 Corinthians 2.2 “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
Galatians 2.20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Galatians 5.24 “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.”
Galatians 6.14 “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
I recently wrote to a friend that if believers from the early church could visit us today they could possibly think that even the most dedicated of us are quite worldly, not understanding what is meant by taking up our cross and following Christ. This is not because of what we do or do not possess, but because of where most of our thoughts and activities are focused. We have no right to live to please ourselves, nor even to please others, but solely to please our glorious Master. Without walking a self-crucified life we cannot know the fullness of resurrection living and the joy of being seated with Jesus in heavenly realms.
The challenge is: how can we live that life while living this one? This is something each of us needs to find an answer for ourselves.
Over the years I’ve loved reading about Billy Bray, a converted illiterate coal miner “back in Wesley’s day, I believe.” One of the quaint things about him that has stuck in my mind was that he named one of his feet hallelujah and the other praise the Lord. Consequently he often repeated those words joyfully to the Lord as he walked along.
That brings me back to the nail prints in Jesus’ feet. Perhaps each step we take in life needs the thought linked to it, “dead to self” or “dead to the world.” Each thing we put our hands to may need the same thoughts linked to it.
As we live a crucified life our thoughts and joys are to be centred on the Lord Himself, as with deep gratitude we marvel at the delights and blessings we experience in and through Him. It is all positive, privileged and precious.
I am raising my hands to the Lord, declaring, “I am alive in Christ. He reigns in me!”
This way resurrection life, and this way glory!
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1.3