A Friend in Heaven

Here are a few lovely thoughts from the inspirational Bishop of Liverpool, John Charles Ryle based upon John 11 where Jesus raises his friend Lazarus from the grave:

• You have a friend in heaven of almighty power and boundless love who weeps with those who weep.
• You are thought of, cared for, provided for, and defended by God’s eternal Son. You have an unfailing Protector, who never slumbers or sleeps, and watches continually over you.
• You are a “friend of Jesus Christ” even after you die! The friendships of this world are often fair-weather friendships and fail us like summer-dried fountains, when our need is the greatest; but the friendship of the Son of God is stronger than death and goes beyond the grave. The Friend of sinners is a Friend who sticks closer than any brother or sister ever can.
– Adapted from J.C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of John

Hungry Hearts

Like Bruce Springsteen said, all of us have hungry hearts.

We have a hunger to experience the transcendent.
We have a hunger to love and be loved.
We have a hunger for purpose and meaning in life.

Left to ourselves, we generally look to satisfy our hungry hearts
with the treasures and pleasures of this world.
In his Confessions, Augustine explains where this approach ends:
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord,
and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

In a world where people are crushed by pessimism and despair,
Jesus promises us life . . .abundant, spiritual, and eternal.
Blaise Pascal, the French philosopher and scientist asserts:
“It is good to be weary and frustrated
with the fruitless search for the good (life),
so that one can reach out one’s arms instead to the Redeemer.”

Worship involves us reaching out to our Redeemer.
Joseph Hart sets forth this joyful privilege:
“Come ye needy, come, and welcome, God’s free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance, every grace that brings you nigh.
Without money, without money, come to Jesus Christ and buy.”

Reflections on the Exclusive Claim of Jesus

In John 14:6, Jesus says to Thomas, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The exclusivity of this claim is completely offensive in our age of tolerance. Here are a few musings on this claim that have proven helpful to me.

In a world of religious pluralism, anyone making an exclusive truth claim will find opponents who will object not necessarily to the religious system offered, but to the exclusivity of any such claim. In general our age views all religious systems as offering variations on the same theme…to stand in one of these traditions and affirm that there is something ultimate, something unrepeatable, something unparalleled is offensive to the reasoning of our day.

But this is precisely the truth claim we have in Christianity. Jesus does not merely point the way, he is the Way. Jesus does not just teach us truth, he is the Truth. He does not represent one avenue to life, he is the Life. In a word, the human quest for God ends in Jesus Christ.
– Gary Burge

Our substitute, then, who took our place and died our death on the cross, was neither Christ alone (since that would make him a third party thrust in between God and us), nor God alone (since that would undermine the historical incarnation), but God in Christ, who was truly and fully both God and man, and who on that account was uniquely qualified to represent both God and man and to mediate between them.
– John Stott

If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.
 – John Piper

Follow Me. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Without the Way, there is no going.
Without the Truth, there is no knowing.
Without the Life, there is no living.
I am the Way which you must follow,
the Truth which you must believe, the Life for which you must hope.
I am the inviolable Way, the infallible Truth, the unending Life.
I am the Way that is straight, the supreme Truth,
the Life that is true,
the blessed, the uncreated Life.
If you abide in My Way you shall know the Truth,
and the Truth shall set you free,
and you shall have life everlasting.
– Thomas A. Kempis

Even in death the righteous have a refuge

Proverbs 14:32 reads: “When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down, but even in death the righteous have a refuge.”

“The wise man of Proverbs saw beyond this dying world; and caught the sunbeams of glory brought to light by the Gospel!’ — Charles Bridges

2 Timothy 1:10b – “Our Savior, Christ Jesus, has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

The Influence of Jesus Christ

Kenneth Latourette in his seven-volume work on the history of the expansion of Christianity summaries the influence of Jesus Christ:

No life ever lived on this planet has been so influential in the affairs of men like the life of Jesus Christ. From that brief life and its apparent frustration has flowed a more powerful force for the triumphant waging of man’s long battle than any other ever known by the human race.

By it millions have been lifted from illiteracy and ignorance and have been placed upon the road of growing intellectual freedom and control over the physical environment. It has done more to allay the physical ills of disease and famine than any other impulse known to man. It’s emancipated millions from chattel slavery and millions of others from addiction to vice. It has protected tens of millions in exploitation by their fellows. It’s been the most fruitful source of movement to lessen the horrors of war and to put the relations of men and nations on the basis of justice and of peace.

Life and Health and Peace

In the public domain by age

Charles Wesley

The first to link these precious words together was Charles Wesley, in a classic celebration of the impact of Jesus Christ. This coming Lord’s Day we begin our worship service with his great hymn:

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!
Jesus — the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears;
‘Tis life and health and peace.

J.I. Packer writes in his book Truth & Power: The Place of Scripture in the Christian Life:

These are three of the weightiest and richest words that Scripture uses for the renewed existence of those who know God’s sovereign grace. Each of these words has an everyday meaning — life and health referring to one’s physical condition and peace signifying inner and outer calm — but here what they express is the spiritual well-being of the born again.

Life — eternal life, as the New Testament regularly calls it — is the state in which one recognizes, receives and responsively relates to God in Jesus Christ: in other words, Jesus Christ the Lord in his identity as God the Redeemer, who now calls us into fellowship with himself and with God the Father through God the Holy Spirit.

Health is a concept focused by the New Testament adjective healthy, which has traditionally been translated “sound” (as when we describe horses as sound in wind and limb); it is the state of well-being in which our spiritual system functions steadily and strongly the way it should, in faith, hope and love Godward.

Peace is a word of wide meaning that covers the state of being divinely pardoned and accepted; of knowing that this acceptance, based on Christ’s cross, is solid and lasting fact; of accepting and loving oneself as the person God made in his image and loves and has redeemed and is restoring; of accepting one’s circumstances, whatever they are, as divinely ordered for one’s good; of facing the unknown future in calm reliance on God’s promises; and of refusing to respond in kind to any violence and hostility shown to one by others. Life, health and peace are three words that together sum up the essence of Christian life.

The point becomes more vivid by contrast. The reality of life is opposed to the state of unresponsiveness to God, which is called death in Ephesians 2:1, 5, and Colossians 2:13 on the analogy of a corpse, which is totally unresponsive to any stimulus of any kind.

The reality of health is opposed to the inner sickness of unloving, self-serving, God-defying lifestyles, which exhibit human nature out of sorts and indeed wasting away, for these are the degenerative diseases of the soul.

The reality of peace is opposed to the stress and strain, the anxious, fearful, troubled, resentful, bitter, vengeful, addictive, adversarial way of living that so many moderns and postmoderns are anchored in nowadays. By contrast with these wretched alternatives life, health and peace appear as words of deliverance and delight.