Blessing & Security

The following article is an excerpt from the book Jesus Now by Frank Viola Author

Blessing

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life …

This is a great promise. Almost too good to be true. Romans 8:28 contains echoes of it:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (KJV)

No matter what is thrown at you in this life, “surely”—which means “of a certainty”—goodness and lovingkindnness will follow you all the days of your life.

Your shepherd’s love will never leave you. And He will see to it that all things in your life—whether pleasant or unpleasant—will work for your good. I’ll never forget after one particularly dark period in my life. When the smoke cleared, I came out on the other side with a sense that God’s goodness and love had not only followed me, but they hounded me. It was as though I couldn’t escape it even if I wanted to. Like Jonah attempting to sneak away from God’s will, only to find himself being accompanied by the Almighty in the belly of the whale—we often discover that our bleakest hour is lined with God’s companionship. His goodness and mercy hunt and chase us down.

A wonderful promise, indeed, especially during the dark seasons. Our good shepherd will eventually bring beauty out of the chaos.

Interestingly, if sheep are mishandled and poorly managed, as we mentioned earlier, they can destroy a piece of land in no time. On the other hand, if they are managed properly by a good and wise shepherd, they can be some of the most beneficial animals for the land. They can clean up and repair a piece of wrecked turf in a short period of time.

It all depends on the kind of shepherd who is managing the sheep.

So too, those who follow the chief shepherd don’t have goodness and lovingkindness simply coming to them. Rather, goodness and lovingkindness follow them wherever they go, benefitting and blessing others.

Security

And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever …

This is where the twenty-third psalm is lifted from being simply a meditation on sheep to a direct commentary on the daily love-life between a believer and their Lord. It is the shepherd’s presence that makes all of things previously listed (green pastures, refreshing waters, anointing oil, etc.) a possibility. That presence isn’t found everywhere. It’s located in one very specific location—His House. In the New Testament we discover that we, collectively as believers, are God’s house. By holding onto Christ, we are transformed from individuals into the solidified household of God. In this Psalm we read a similar reality—that by being in relationship with the chief shepherd, we are brought into connection with His House.

The psalm ends by promising that the presence of the great shepherd will always be with His sheep. The Lord’s sheep will remain in His house forever. Over the years, I’ve had many people express skepticism about the experience of Christian community that I have often described in my earlier books. (See Reimagining Church and From Eternity to Here for details.)

I have a friend who calls my view and practice of church “dormitory-style-Christianity.” This is pretty close to the mark. But keep in mind, if it’s uncomfortable to imagine being in close relationship to believers today, some of us may be disappointed in eternity—as we will dwell in His House, His body, forever. There is an eternal connectedness among those who follow the Lord that extends endlessly in every direction.

This is not only a promise of being part of God’s flock—the ekklesia, His house. But also a promise that His presence will never leave us, in this life or in the life after.

When hard times come our way, the Lord may sometimes appear to have quit His job. But although He may not seem present, our good shepherd is never absent. The guardian of our souls never sleeps. He never forgets to watch over us. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. His ear is always attuned to our cries.

In John 10, Jesus made clear that because we are His sheep, we know His voice. Jesus is not our shepherd because we believe. We believe because He is our shepherd and we are His sheep.

Insofar as we follow the voice of the chief shepherd, we will remain safe, secure, and pleasing to His heart.

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What Is Jesus Doing Now?

There’s a lovely little story about a skydiver who drifted over a hundred miles off course and landed in a dense forest. Strung up in the tree, tangled, and terrified that the night was fast approaching, he began to yell out for help. After a few minutes, a man who was out for a walk chanced upon the skydiver.

“Hello! I need help! Where am I?” called the man in the tree.

“You’re stuck in a tree, with no way out. You’re surrounded by a forest, and it’s getting dark,” the other man replied.

“Of all my luck,” said the skydiver to him, “I get stuck with a minister as a rescuer!”

Hearing this, the passerby wondered aloud how the distressed man knew his occupation as a religious teacher. “Well—I just assumed you must be a minister, as what you’ve said is both utterly true, and absolutely useless in helping me.”

When this story is told to professional ministers, they usually get a chuckle out of it—in part because they can detect the grain of truth it holds. So much of our conversations about spiritual things, while perhaps good and even spot on, are nearly devoid of relevant impact. It’s not only Christianity that gets targeted by this critique—most academic or philosophical movements struggle to reach us where we really live.

One of the greatest concerns I have for the “good news” today is that we often present a gospel that is more “true” than “useful.” This is never more true than when we’re considering the subject and actor of our entire faith: Jesus Christ.

Think about it: The story is familiar to all Christians. The Gospels introduce us to the earthly ministry of Jesus. He was born in Bethlehem. He grew up in the ill-starred town of Nazareth, where He labored as an artisan. Around age thirty He was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, and He began His ministry.

Interestingly, Jesus’ ministry lasted less than four years. He was crucified outside the city of Jerusalem, rose again from the dead three days later, and spent forty days on earth in His resurrected state. He then ascended into heaven, taking His seat at the right hand of God the Father.

In our book Jesus: A Theography, Leonard Sweet and I retold the incredible story of Jesus’ earthly ministry, using all the biblical material from Genesis to Revelation. We also discussed in some detail His preexistent state before creation and His promised second coming at the end of the age.

To my knowledge, few books have been dedicated to exploring the present-day ministry of Jesus. By “present-day ministry,” I’m referring to what Jesus has been doing from His ascension until His second coming.

Herein lies the aim of this book. It’s an exploration into the present-day ministry of Christ. And it seeks to answer the question, what is Jesus Christ doing right now, and how is His present-day ministry useful to me?

As we reflect back on the Lord’s earthly ministry, the following aspects stand out:

He preached the gospel of the kingdom.

He revealed His Father.

He healed the sick.

He performed miracles.

He cast out demons.

He fed the poor.

He befriended sinners.

He rebuked the religious.

He trained and sent disciples.

He went to the cross and dealt with the effects of the fall.

He rose again from the dead, ushering in the new creation and becoming Lord of the world.

The Lord then ascended into heaven to take His place of authority and power. Yet Jesus Christ isn’t sitting at the Father’s right hand passively waiting to return to planet Earth. No, He is still active today. And “the Man in the glory” has a very specific ministry.

Concerning His personality, plan, and purpose, Jesus is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). Concerning His ministry, however, it has changed somewhat from “the days of His flesh” (Heb. 5:7).

In this book we will explore the different aspects of the present-day ministry of Christ. We will find out what Jesus is doing now and its relevance to you and me.

Yesterday in Hebrews 13:8 has in view Christ’s ministry before creation as well as His earthly ministry. Today has in view His present-day ministry. Forever has in view His ministry that moves into eternity.

Our focus in this book will be upon Jesus Christ’s ministry today. Or to put it succinctly, Jesus now.

Let’s begin …

From Jesus Now by Frank Viola Author