Jesus Was Cool About Breaking The Rules

Illustration depicting a roadsign with a rules concept. Sky background.

So there I was, frantically squeezing my feet into my brown school shoes, eyeing the wall clock with alarm and breathlessly leaping onto the back of the school bus as it pulled away from the bus stop.

My heart was pounding as I rehearsed suitable excuses for missing roll call. My throat tightened with a familiar anxiety. I’ve always hated running late. Teachers and principals get upset when you’re late, and the last thing I wanted to do was upset anyone.

If only the bus would go faster, if only I had been ready on time, if only I didn’t mess up so often, if only my head would stop aching. These were the inward thoughts of my fifteen year old school girl self as I rode uncomfortably to school in the too-slow bus.

Except….I am not a fifteen year old school girl; I am a middle aged woman who finished school over forty years ago. I can’t remember the last time I ran for a bus and brown mary janes are definitely not my current choice of footwear.

I was caught in a rather stressful dream.

Rules! There are natural rule breakers among us, those born rebels who delight in upending every rule they come across because…..well, who really knows? And then there are the rule keepers, those of us who for various reasons figured out at an early age that the safest way to navigate this unpredictable life is to keep all the rules.

For over half my life I was an avid rule keeper. As my recent dream reminded me, rule breaking was just not in my DNA. And for a very long time church life rigidly reinforced in me a certain inalienable belief: keeping rules was essential to Christian living and pleasing God.

Turns out that was bad information. Who’d have guessed?

Jesus was an unrepentant rule breaker. Seriously. If you find that hard to believe consider just a few examples:

*Twelve year old Jewish boys didn’t usually lecture theologians on the meaning of scripture while their parents combed the city streets searching for them; Jesus did (Luke 2:42-46)

*Jewish teachers did not converse with, or offer to enter the houses, of Gentiles – ever. Jesus did both (Mark 8:5-13)

*Jewish rabbis were expected to uphold the law. The law said an adulterous woman must be stoned. Jesus refused to cast the first stone (John 8:2-11)

*Jews in general did not socialise with Samaritans and rabbis in particular did not acknowledge or even speak with women….period. Jesus failed on both counts (John 4:5-30)

*Misleading your relatives by telling them you’re not going to the festival, only to secretly attend without them was not family-friendly. Jesus had no qualms about it (John 7:2-10)

*In Jesus’ day it was considered highly improper to disrupt an important religious festival by shouting at the crowd; Jesus did anyway (John 7:37-38).

*Under no circumstances was it socially acceptable to overturn tables, scatter money and merchandise and chase people with whips in the Temple forecourt.  Jesus did all of these things and never came back to apologise (Mark 11:15-17)

We could go on.

I wish I’d understood earlier in my Christian journey that rule following is not proof of Christ following. I wish someone had told me my salvation didn’t depend on how compliant I am. But no one in my field of reference could tell me, because they didn’t know either.

Now I know. That’s why I’m here to tell anyone who’ll listen: breaking rules won’t cause the sky to fall in on you, the oceans to run dry or the earth to swallow you up. I found out God is bigger than that, and some people have been keeping it a secret.

What rules am I talking about? Well, not the commandments or any other part of the Old Testament law. Jesus fulfils those in us, so let’s just get out of His way and let Him do so. The rules I’m talking about are Christian culture rules. Here are a few examples:

  • The rule of perpetual niceness – we find it hard to genuinely love one another so we substitute a sickly sweet niceness to camouflage our lack of true sacrificial care. We are masters at being polite while we fail at genuine empathy;
  • The rule of positivity – this often unspoken rule says you’re not a real Christian unless you keep smiling, never complain, and are always praising God, Who of course is “good, all the time, amen?” Any hint of anxiety, or worse, actual depression, must be banned from the assembly of the righteous as they are evidence that someone, somewhere, must be sinning. God forbid! Brokenness not allowed.
  • The rule of commitment: the religious system runs on voluntary, unquestioning service. If you are not getting ‘involved’ in serving, whether it is cleaning the church toilets, preparing the communion elements, or visiting the sick, you are not really pulling your weight. You are uncommitted….to the system that is; and according to the rulebook that means you’re uncommitted to Christ.
  • The rule of witness: under no circumstances must your ‘witness’ be compromised. You must not act, speak, or associate in such a way that would negatively impact on your Christian niceness (see Rule One). Subtle (or not so subtle) expressions of disapproval will soon bring you back into the uniformity of the majority. There are ways and means, after all.
  • The ‘touch not my anointed’ rule: in some Christian circles breaking this rule is the quickest way to find yourself being shown the left foot of fellowship with the doors locked firmly behind you. Under no circumstances must leadership be expected to be accountable to ordinary pew sitters. Be warned: breaking this one will put a blot on your Christian resume that will follow you from church to church for years……and I mean y – e – a –r – s.

These are just a few Christian culture rules among many; I’ve no doubt you could add more. Those who imply, teach and impose them are usually able to quote chapter and verse for every rule on their very long list. The problem is they’re attempting to apply a carnal mindset to spiritual principles. Can’t be done.

I still struggle with being a rule keeper, but not nearly as much as I used to. Jesus steadily continues to untangle the chains of man-made religion that entwined themselves around me for so long. Every so often I have a dream nightmare like the one in the opening paragraph and wake up freshly grateful for the knowledge that nothing can separate me from the love of God or hinder the completed work of the Cross.

We have made an idol of our Christianity, an idol in our own image we call ‘Christian’ who looks, sounds and acts just like us in our Sunday best. Outwardly Christian is a very nice, morally upright, rule abiding person, but Christian is not the image of the living Christ. Christian will insist on us being ‘good’ but the fruit he/she offers us is from the wrong tree. One thing Christian can never give us is freedom. Yet Christ has called us to freedom (Gal. 5:13).

What about you? Which Christian culture rules are you struggling to offload? I’m planning to follow up this post with a series on some of these Christian culture rules we commonly wrestle to be free from. Are there Christian culture rules you’d like to see discussed on Bread for the Bride? If so, drop me a line, using the comments section or the contact form.

In the meantime, go ahead, live dangerously.

Break.Some.Rules.

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2015 and beyond.   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

Watch This Space

emptytomb

“Foolishness” mumbled the soldier

Casting lots for the rabbi’s garment

“An utter waste of a good man’s life”

 

“Serves him right” spat the Pharisee

Nodding to himself self righteously

Stroking his beard with smug delight

 

“It cannot be!” uttered the disciple

Tears streaming from bloodshot eyes

“It wasn’t meant to end this way!”

 

“Unbearable!” sobbed the women

Holding tight to one another

“We never thought we’d see this day”

 

“How will I bear it?” wept the mother

Recalling a long ago prophecy

“A sword will also pierce your heart”

 

“Remember me!” gasped the dying thief

“Though I don’t deserve mercy,

I know You are Who You say You are!”

 

“Have we won?” speculated the demons

Confused and unsettled

At the apparent ease of victory

 

“Holy!” whispered creation

Silently waiting and watching

Bowing before bleeding divinity

 

“Mystery!” shouted the angels

Trembling at the impossible scene

Unfolding before their puzzled eyes

 

“It is FINISHED!” cried the crucified One

Offering His sinless humanity

Once, for all, the perfect sacrifice

 

Nooooo!” screamed Death

Power already slipping from his grip

With horrible realisation

 

“OH YES!” the Father thundered

Echoing through earth and Heaven

Violently shaking hell’s foundations

 

Now for Act Two

Heralded the Spirit

Dancing deftly through time unfazed,

Alighting triumphantly on a garden tomb

Formidable, unstoppable,

WATCH THIS SPACE!”

 

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2012 and beyond.   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

Silent Encounter

crosssunsetWhat can I say about that infamous night?

How weary we were

As we followed Him to the garden

He prayed, we slept,

He woke us, again we slept

While we dreamed, He wept

Then came torches, voices, soldiers,

Armour gleaming in the moonlight

The betrayer moving in close

With his cold, calculated kiss

Before we knew or understood

His quiet intent

 

In fear and anger

I drew my sword from its sheath

He had to know I would fight for Him

To the death

I would rally the others, lead them,

We would not allow them to spoil the dream!

Lashing out wildly in the darkness

I heard a man scream

Warm blood trickled through my fingers

Chilling me, exciting me,

All at once

 

Strangely it was His rebuke

That pulled me up

I remember clearly His words,

“Put away your sword, Peter!

Shall I not drink My Father’s Cup?”

Amid the frenzied shouting

And chaos all around me

His Voice, subdued but firm,

Appeasing my agitated flesh

Just as it had been

That day we’d battled the storm

Out on Galilee

 

“You can’t mean You’re going to submit to this?

Does nothing ever take you by surprise?”

How badly I wanted to bellow at Him,

Grab Him, shake Him violently

Back to this reality

All evening His mood had been downcast:

Had He known they were coming for Him?

Too late, they already had Him bound!

Panic rising, I looked around

But the others had gone

Except, as always, for John

 

We followed at a distance,

John and I,

As they led Him away like a common criminal,

His hands tied

I waited, trembling,

In the courtyard,

While John went inside

Warming myself by the fire

Struggling to hide the turmoil raging within

Desperately contriving ways

I might rescue Him

 

A voice, too loud, broke my introspection

“You’re one of His followers?”

A servant girl,

Barely more than a child,

Firelight flickering

Around her loaded question

“No, you are mistaken, I don’t know Him”

The words slipped out

With surprising ease

I can’t help Him if I too am taken,

I reasoned

 

But soon another voice,

Startling me again,

“You are one of His friends”,

“Man I am not!” I spat out angrily

Cursing my thick Galilean drawl

Raised voices from within the house

Suddenly distracted us

The thud of blows on flesh I knew was His

From where I stood I could have seen

But kept my eyes to the ground

Lest my interest endanger me

 

Others were gathering round the fire now

Whispering,

Waiting out the drama playing out inside

Each one with an idea, a theory, an opinion

About what should be the outcome

Of this endless night

One rose from his seat and moved toward me

“Surely this man is one of them,

For he is a Galilean”

A dozen pair of eyes awaited my reply

 

Swearing, I turned on him

Furiously, raging,

“Man I do not know what you’re saying!”

He backed away

And all went still and silent

Except, that is, for a rooster’s eerie crowing

Resurrecting unwanted memories

Of words not long ago spoken

Trapped between fear and self-loathing

I lifted frightened eyes, at last,

Toward the house

 

He turned, His Face bloodied,

Our eyes meeting

In wordless, aching agony

No words can humanly express

The sorrow I saw in His Eyes

In that dread moment

It seemed like time fled away

And all creation ceased to be,

And there was only Him….

And only me

I lived a thousand years in that moment

And died a thousand deaths

 

Words rolled like thunderous waves now

Flooding my mind with the bravado of an earlier time

“Ready am I to go with You, Lord,

To prison or to death!”

“Though I die with You, I will not deny You!”

The truth of my own desperate state

Crushed unrestrained down upon me

Ruthlessly stripping away

All illusion of strength

I had believed I could save my Lord from wicked men

But who would save me….from my wicked self?

 

How bitterly I wept then

Hating the man I had discovered I was

Never a man tasted grief like I did that hour

It wasn’t His anger or condemnation,

For none of those did He know

Nor disappointment that I had let Him down,

No! None of those!

It was His love I could not bear

It slew me like a sword!

It was unbound Love in His Eyes that night,

And not reproach, that cut me to the core

 

What can I say about that infamous night?

How weary we were

As we followed Him to the garden

How little we knew

Of how He loved us

How little we understood

About life, death, eternity,

Or ourselves

Nothing I say can tell you how it was,

Except this perhaps:

It was the night Love pierced me through

And, finding me wanting,

 

Poured Itself 

Freely

Unreservedly

Scandalously

Into my gaping wounds

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2012 and beyond.   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

 

Into The Stillness

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.  Psalm 46:10,11

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!  the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Psalm 46:10,11

Forever drawing me back

You watch

as I run frantically

from one chaos to the next

seeking to arrive, but never arriving

living the lie:

if I just do this, that, the next thing

then stillness will come

and I will find You

 

So I sit, exhausted,

in the cool of Your Presence

expectantly

needfully

trustfully

mind swirling dizzily with a thousand different stories

words held dormant

only now, in hindsight, truly heard

thoughts, prayers, questions, tears,

wounds, hopes, regrets and fears

past and present converging

in a weary, disordered mass

 

My body tense, on edge

aching with the madness

of this life’s demands

every muscle tort

every sinew straining to hear You

restlessly resisting the ringing of the phone

the traffic outside the window

the children on the way to school

the random, relentless tyranny

of things and sounds and

stifling banality

 

Undeterred You wordlessly gather me

into the Stillness of I AM

prying my fingers loose

from all I would so rigidly cling to

wrapping me softly in Your All-ness

kissing open my eyes

to a different, truer reality

truth and mercy,

in welcoming familiarity,

washing over my open wounds

 

You teach me again how to sink into You

as if it was something we’ve never done before

as if it wasn’t something I’ve learned and

forgotten in rapid repetition

only to run back thirsting for more

and finding the way back

along this old familiar road

through this gate that never closes

has become my only way home

 

And in the Stillness there is the Knowing

and in the Knowing there is renewal

and surrender

and in the surrender there is grace

to re-enter the fray

to live and fight another day

and in the grace

the sweet remembrance of our communion

and the promise of Your keeping

until I come hurtling

desperate again

into the Stillness

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2015 and beyond.   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

Photo Credit: Wallaroo Images

A Tale of Two Adams

cupThe Garden

Stay here and watch with Me. My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death.’ Matt. 26:38

It was not by coincidence that Jesus chose a garden as the setting for the greatest battle of His earthly life. Wasn’t it in a garden that His ancestor, First Adam, had rejected Life and condemned all his descendants to eternal Death?

And so here He was, Last Adam, with the stench of Death already assaulting his nostrils and circling His soul greedily. He who is Life knew that stench. He had encountered it more than once: lurking in the house where the little girl had lain pale and motionless; clinging to the open coffin of the widow’s son; and not many days ago permeating the rocky cave where Lazarus’ body had been laid.

He had seen enough of Death to recognize his sinister, menacing presence now hovering over His own soul like a vulture anticipating a long awaited feast. So this was what it felt like! This futile sense of inevitability, this hopelessness, this terrible aloneness! The very atmosphere seemed saturated with a creeping darkness, crushing heavily down on Him, flooding His soul with an ancient and irresistible grief.

The decisive hour of battle had come, an hour He had known would arrive since the Beginning. Did they understand what He had meant when He requested they watch with Him? The entire garden had been transformed into a field of intense battle, a battle that would determine their fate and the fate of all humankind. But even now He sensed the same sorrow that sought to crush Him was descending upon them also. Rather than watch, they would sleep, for sleep was humanity’s only respite for things beyond human control.

Burdened in spirit beyond anything He’d previously experienced, Last Adam fell on His face before Abba, releasing the tears that stung His eyes and burned His throat. Now would They enter the conversation They had so long planned. Now, depleted of all bodily strength, He would draw solely upon Abba’s steadfast love for Him. In no other way could He endure the imminent battle.


The Cup

‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me…..’ Mark 14:36

First Adam had rejected God’s fellowship by eating the fruit from the forbidden tree in the midst of a garden. The bittersweet fruit had given great knowledge to humanity: the sweetness of the knowledge of goodness, the bitterness of the knowledge of evil. Humanity now knew how to sin and sin introduced humanity to Death. Death was both the essence and the harvest of the enticing fruit. The soul-destroying seed of Death now dominated the descendants of first Adam, from one generation to the next, until……

Not a fruit this time, but a cup, was presented to Last Adam. No sweetness wafted deceptively from this putrid cup, no promise of false righteousness or god-likeness. Such enticements would have been wasted on this Last Adam. This cup was bitter with a bitterness never before tasted by any of First Adam’s descendants.

Into this cup Death had poured himself in full measure. The One who is Life, from whom all created life had originated, looked deep into the cup of Death being presented before Him with no illusions. We cannot, in this life, know or understand the fullness of what He saw. But what He saw was the exact opposite of Himself. Every misery humanity has endured and continues to endure (for a limited time) since First Adam walked pitifully out of the first garden – pain, betrayal, hatred, war, sickness, despair – was contained in that cup. And permeating all was Death.

Life looked into the darkest recesses of Death, and with an enmity born before the foundation of the world, Life utterly abhorred what He saw.

So offensive, so thoroughly repulsive, were the contents of the cup to Last Adam, even His body of flesh convulsed at the thought of drinking it, as sweat and blood formed in great droplets that fell heavily on the ground where He lay before Abba. “Let it pass, let it pass, there must be another way!” He wept in anguish and distress. But even as He uttered such words, He and Abba both knew there was no other way.

The battle of all eternity now raged unconstrained, there in a garden called Gethsemane – ‘the olive press’ – on a mountain near a city – a city full of people unknowingly awaiting the outcome. Life and Death wrestled one another for victory. The prize was the future of humankind.


The Victory

‘…..nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.’ Mark 14:36

First Adam had received Death on behalf of all humanity and consigned all humanity to Death. Defeated and unable to face its self-imposed catastrophe, humanity had removed itself from the holy Presence of God. The garden became a distant memory, a legend, a sad and incomprehensible tragedy whispered of softly around campfires and told to children at bedtime.

Angels gathered reverently to witness the unfolding drama on the garden battlefield, just as they had witnessed the departure of First Adam from that other garden at the dawn of time. One of them followed Abba’s directive to minister spiritual strength to this Last Adam as He wrestled with Death. It was the only angelic service permissible. All the host of Heaven understood that this excruciating battle was about humanity, and only the One who had willingly become human flesh could contest it.

Within Last Adam, human will struggled to surrender without reservation to what had been agreed in the Threefold Counsel of Elohim in eternity past. He knew this decision was ultimately His. Love does not force its will upon Another’s will. But equally, Love seeks the will of the Other.

He knew Death would waste no time in assuring His removal if He should drink the cup. Plans for his execution were already being put in place, but could not be carried through UNTIL and UNLESS He drank that cup. For what even His disciples did not understand, but all Heaven and Hell knew, was that He could not die as other men would inevitably die.

He had told them, but as so often happened, they missed His meaning. ‘I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.’  Satan had been consigned to the sidelines, waiting for the outcome of the dramatic event in this garden-battlefield. Yes, the evil one had come, having left Him for a season after that momentous encounter in the wilderness. Now he too was watching the crucial battle impatiently, unable to intervene, as his servant Death wrestled for supremacy.

Because Satan had nothing in Last Adam. Last Adam, unlike First Adam, did not know sin. And sin was the only entry point for Death, Satan’s great weapon of mass destruction.   Satan understood all too well this sinless Last Adam could never die, unless He Himself surrendered His own fleshly body to Death.

And then it was over. With one final, terrifying groan, with unspeakable anguish carved on His face and chilling resolve blazing from His eyes, Last Adam laid a formidable grip on the cup and drank it down……every last drop. Angels gasped. Hell erupted into grotesque celebration. Death gloated and licked his lips lasciviously.

But Abba smiled a brokenhearted, tear-stained smile.


The Conquest

The battle over, Last Adam arose to embrace His victory. He knew exactly the cruel nature of the execution Death had planned for Him. But fear of the coming suffering had never been the focus of the battle. The suffering of Calvary would arrive swiftly in the coming hours, but the battle for Calvary had already been fought, here in the olive press garden. The battle had not been about facing Calvary’s suffering; the battle had been about Life tasting Death …. willingly and sovereignly.

In the days to come those who could not perceive it yet, including Satan and his servant Death, would come to realise that which now looked like Hell’s grand victory was actually Hell’s resounding defeat. It had been here in an inconspicuous, lowly garden Endless Life defeated Endless Death and Heaven grasped victory over Hell….for all eternity hereafter. Calvary with its brutality, blood and ugliness would be the victorious demonstration of what had taken place here, in this garden, when Last Adam reversed the actions of First Adam.

Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given me? asked Jesus of Peter in the aftermath of the battle. The question had already been answered. First Adam, born to live, had tasted Death and sentenced all humanity to die with him.  Last Adam, born to die, had tasted Death so all humanity might live through Him. No one, human or demonic, had power to take His sinless Life, so He willingly laid it down (Jn. 10:18).

It happened in a garden. In yet another garden He would very soon demonstrate His absolute conquest over Death – by taking up again His Endless Life.

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2015 and beyond   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

If you would like to use this post as a Bible study, here is a list of some relevant Bible passages:

The Garden: 1 Cor. 15: 12-58; Matthew 26:37-45, Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:40-46

The Cup: John 1:4; Romans 5:12: Heb. 2:9; Heb. 5:7,8;

The Victory: Luke 4:13; Jn. 14:30;Heb. 2:14,15; 2 Tim. 1:10;

The Conquest: Acts 2:24; Rom. 6:9; Jn. 10:18; Rev. 1:18

Beholding The Glory

Sunset Serenade

Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me….. Jn. 17:24

We who follow Christ have been invited to be with Him, where He is, that we may behold His glory. We are conditioned by religious speaking and thinking to view the scenario presented in this passage as a future prospect, something that will take place after this present earthly life is over and we join Christ in a future glorious eternity.

But we have already entered the Kingdom of God. It is the Father’s good pleasure not to withhold the Kingdom from us. The Kingdom is not locked into a chronological order of events. It is outside time and freely available to all those who, through Christ, enter it. The Kingdom is now, here, present within us. (Matt. 13:11; Mark 1:14,15; Luke 12:32; Luke 17:20,21; Luke 22:29)

What if Jesus’ prayer to His Father that we might be with Him ‘where I AM’, beholding His glory, is not something to look forward to, but something to seize upon right now, this hour, this minute? What if that glory we long to behold is before our faces this very moment? What if, having had our faces unveiled, we are still seeing through veiled eyes and missing the splendor of Christ gazing right back at us? (2 Cor. 3:18)

Peter, James and John saw His glory with their earthly eyes. Many years later both John and Peter remembered every detail and wrote about what they had witnessed on the mountaintop with Jesus:

….we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. (2 Peter 1:16-18)

Could it be that the glory of Christ is manifesting among us right now? Might we be with Him, where He is, beholding His glory always, just as He asked of His Father? I believe so.

I believe that even as we work through the familiar routines of daily earthly life, our spiritual selves can be beholding the glory of Christ, drinking in His beauty and basking in His majesty.

His glory is not confined to another time and realm. His glory is ours to behold now and forever, when we choose to walk in and by the Spirit of God.

So impacted were the three disciples by the sight of Jesus, their rabbi, their teacher, in all the brilliant glory that was His as the Son of God, they did not speak of the experience until many days and events later (Luke 9:36). But there was something else Peter, James and John beheld on that mountaintop.

They witnessed Jesus walk away from the glory and back down the mountain.

Let’s take a selah pause to consider that for a moment. Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, the One whose Name is above all and whose glory is without end, walked out of His divine glory and back down the mountain into the sordid environment of a humanity that was plotting to murder Him. And He chose to do so willingly and determinedly.

Those three pairs of eyes that had beheld their Master’s face unforgettably transformed and bathed in glorious light on the mountaintop, who had entered the Cloud of glory with Him, would soon behold His face bloodied and battered from the blows of human fists. One of them would see His brow torn by thorns, His hands and feet pierced by cruel and heavy nails, and watch as He was executed as a common criminal on a Roman stake. And each of them would know and struggle to understand that Jesus, whose rightful, eternal glory had been revealed to them, had knowingly chosen this path.

We in the Body of Christ like to speak of glory in vague, ethereal terms. We have this idea it’s some mystical feeling that God chooses to let us into when we’ve been behaving ourselves. We rarely speak about or even consider the idea that true glory is somehow linked to suffering. But Jesus did. “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” He pointed out to two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:26 NASB).

And to be perfectly clear about it I am not in any way suggesting there’s glory in suffering for suffering’s sake. Some Christians throughout history have tried to get closer to God by putting their bodies through various kinds of self-inflicted suffering, mistakenly in my view. They have whipped themselves, starved themselves and even had themselves crucified in an effort to become holier. Punishing our bodies is not God glorifying – it is self-glorifying.

The scriptures do not teach us to deliberately seek out suffering for Christ’s sake. What they do teach us is that in whatever suffering God allows to come our way, we have the privilege of entering into the sacred fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, because He suffered in our place. We can add nothing to the suffering of Christ on our behalf.

The quest for personal glory is deeply embedded in every one of us. It goes to the heart of the human condition, having been deceptively planted in us in the Garden: “For God knows that in the day you eat of it, you will be like God…..” (Gen. 3:5)

Jesus, as the last Adam, actively and purposefully walked away from His legitimate claim to glory, in order to identify with us in our suffering, saying:

He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him. (Jn. 7:18)

The glory He sought was His Father’s, not His own. He reversed the ancient downward spiral of self-glory-seeking established by the first humans, a pathway that has caused countless wars, claimed unknown numbers of human lives and caused untold misery for all humanity.

We are living in an hour when Christ followers are enduring suffering and martyrdom on an unprecedented scale. It is not for us, relatively safe in our Western style Christianity, to pontificate about who are the ‘real Christians’ and who are not, based on our own doctrinal views and opinions. Christ knows who are His, and draws them into His fellowship of sufferings in a holy place that is hidden from all those who prefer to embrace a Crossless Christianity.

There is no glory without the Cross. If we are to behold Him in His glory, now, not as some future promise but as a present reality, it will be through spiritual eyes that have not turned away from His Cross, and through lives that have tasted the fellowship of His sufferings.

His glory can be known and beheld by us, we can be with Him where He is, for He is the great I AM, Lord of time and space. He has opened up a new pathway back into His divine glory and invited us to join Him there, where He is.

The glory is His, but we may freely partake. It’s our destiny. Glory!!

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Rev. 21:11

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2015 and beyond.  Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

From the Archives: The Gift

thegiftFor the third time, the ageing Pharisee circled the strangely shaped object lying at his feet.  No one could tell him who had left it unsolicited outside his door, or even when it had appeared.  Wrapped in the skin of a lamb and crudely labelled with just one handwritten Hebrew word, “chen”, its appearance was a total mystery to him.

Suspiciously he pushed against it with his sandalled foot, at which the object shifted effortlessly across his floor.  “It can’t be heavy then”, he mused.  “Whatever its contents, they are obviously of little weight and therefore of minimum value.”  Cautiously he reached forth his right hand, prodding roughly, but the lambskin cover gave no hint of what might be hidden inside the parcel. 

“It doesn’t look like anything I’ve seen before” said the old man to no one but himself.  “It’s very shape and form are completely unfamiliar.”   Unfamiliarity was not something the Pharisee was comfortable with, in any form.  “It is not an occasion for gift giving, so why should someone bestow a gift on me?” he reasoned.  “Furthermore, I am a highly respected member of this community.  Everyone acquainted with me knows I am a learned and upright man well versed in the law, and of excellent reputation.   It is evident that all I could possibly need God has richly bestowed on me.  Who would dare, therefore, to assume I have need of this unwanted gift, whatever it is?” 

Thus were his thoughts as he circled the object yet again.   Finally he stopped circling long enough to contemplate the word scribbled across the lambskin.  “Grace…” he articulated quietly lest anyone should hear.  “Grace? What under God’s heaven could that possibly mean?  The handwriting is rough and unskilled, like that of a poorly educated person.  I am not even sure the letters are correct.  Obviously this is a hoax being played by someone with a jealous grudge against me.  There may even be something inside that would harm me or my family.  But I am too clever for such foolishness.  This questionable gift is unworthy of me and I have no need of it.” 

Calling decisively to his servant he said: “Take this away from my home and consign it to the rubbish pile.”  “Excuse me, sir”, replied the servant, “but you have not opened it.”  “I have no need to open it”, snapped the Pharisee, “perhaps some fool will open it, but I will not!” And the servant obeyed. 

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The child wandered aimlessly through the household dregs unceremoniously piled at the edge of the village.  He often came here to explore when mother was busy and his absence would go unnoticed for a short time. Looking for nothing in particular and anything in general, his searching eyes came to linger on an unusually shaped object half covered by a pile of worn out wineskins. 

“What could this be?” he exclaimed loudly, his anxious fingers clearing away muck and debris so he could see it more clearly.  Excitedly he extracted the object from its hiding place, lifting it high into the morning sunlight.  His young eyes could not understand the unfamiliar Hebrew lettering scrawled across the lambskin cover.  “No matter”, he thought, “this lambskin will serve me well and I am favoured this day by God to have found it”. 

With unchecked enthusiasm he tore open the package only to find something he had never before seen.  Startled, he considered the nameless, unknown object for the briefest of moments. Then, breaking spontaneously into song he began dancing unselfconsciously, holding his new found possession high above his head.  “Treasure”, I shall call you “treasure”!” he sang.  “This day is like any other day for me.  It is not a feast day, and it is not a day to receive gifts, yet here by God’s providence I have found the most mysterious of gifts.  This day I have done no good deeds, this day I have deserved no reward, yet on this day has God bestowed on me an unknown treasure.  I cannot read its name and I do not yet know its purpose, but one thing I do know, it’s now mine!” 

And the child ran shouting through the village gladly showing all he met the treasure he had found on this day like any other day.

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The greatest thing most of us lose as we grow to ‘adulthood’ is the ability to receive innocently. I came to Christ and was born again in my early teenage years, but even by then the circumstances of my life had robbed me of the ability to receive.  One can embrace the free gift of salvation then spend the rest of life trying to pay for it. 

It was not until many years later the Lord confronted me with the penetrating question:  “Why do you not receive My love freely?”  Why indeed!  Forget about having an answer; I wasn’t even aware the question had existed!  That day my life changed as I asked the Lord to show me how to freely receive His love in childlike innocence.  He hasn’t let me down.

Learning to receive freely is a humbling process.  It entails dying to our former concepts of who we are.  Some believe they have everything they need to handle life.  They are self-assured, strong and opinionated.  Many more believe they are worthless failures at life.  They are self-conscious, ashamed and fearful.  Either way, it doesn’t matter.  Christ has come to change who we think we are into who He says we are.  The Father’s grace is freely given regardless of past history or present circumstances.  But learning how to receive it is a life time journey that some will choose never to embark upon. 

When Jesus said “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” He was referring to the innocence with which a child receives an undeserved gift.  Most healthy children I know when given a gift do not tip toe around it suspiciously.  They do not waste time enquiring what does it look like, they rip off its cover to see for themselves.  They do not agonise over what to do with it, or whether they deserve it.  They grab it with both hands, shake it, rattle it, embrace it and run away to play with it. 

Hidden within each of us there is a Pharisee and there is a child.  Many in the emerging Bride of Christ are simply Pharisees being healed.   I willingly raise my hand to claim that one.   Children know how to receive.  And so do reformed Pharisees.

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2013 and beyond.   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.