Reading Reflection:

Counsel from the Cross, Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Dennis E. Johnson (Crossway, 2009) This is a book that I keep drinking from. I have already used it for another Reflection and an article. And yet, I found myself turning back to it this weekend for comfort. Here’s an excerpt I had tabbed:
Our Savior’s love-driven obedience was envisaged in Psalm 40:8: “I delight to do thy will, O my God” (KJV). Like Jacob before him, Jesus’ work to obtain his bride was a delight to him because of the great love he had for her. The One who created the sun languished under its scorching rays and struggled to keep warm when the cold penetrated his cloak at night. The One who multiplied loaves was hungry; he who sustained the universe by his word was tired. He perfectly completed the years of work his Father had given him to do, and his reward was given to others who joined in at the last moment. His inheritance was bestowed upon people, such as us, who had gleefully deserted him and spent their days in riotous living. The payment he earned was granted to proud, self-righteous ones like us, who had disdained him. But he called it all his delight because he loved. He gladly laid down his life for his bride… Do you find obedience a burden or a delight? Is loving your neighbor, whoever that may be, a source of joy or a grinding drudgery? Let us suggest that obligations of the gospel become a burdensome duty simply because we do not spend enough time remembering what Jesus has already done for us. We have divided the love-inspiring declarations of the gospel from the obligations of the gospel so that obedience is simply a struggle, a discipline, a duty (104-105).
These are great questions. Interestingly, I felt both burdened and delighted in loving my neighbor this week. But thankfully, because of a remembrance of these declarations, even what first seemed like a burden turned into such a blessing. This little excerpt fits so well with the sermon I sat under yesterday on 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13. The title was, “A Continuing Concern.” In the introduction, Jerry taught us that “our continuing Christian concern for one another reflects God’s ongoing concern for us.” This is what motivates our service for one another. It’s a joy to be persistent when obstacles occur when we look at the obstacles that Christ overcame for our salvation. Not only that, he is now sitting at the right hand of the Father interceding as our Great High Priest. Satan was hindering Paul from returning to Thessalonica. There will be obstacles in our path. But Paul didn’t just sit around and pray about it. Sure, his actions were covered in prayer. As my pastor pointed out, we are to openly communicate our desires, asking God to continue working in and through us all. But Paul’s continuing concern still had practical expression. He sent Timothy, which was a great sacrifice to himself. This was a costly decision for Paul because Timothy was his own cherished co-worker in Christ. That really spoke to me. Here is where I might want to start grumbling. Sure, this kind of obedience to the gospel was certainly a struggle. But Paul acted on behalf of the joy of the Lord. And knowing what our great Lord had done for him, How could he not? And that’s just it. We need to point all of our “situations” to Christ. This is how we counsel one another: we give each other the good news. The best way to be an instrument of God’s grace, exiting one another to spiritual growth, is to remind one another what Christ has done. Not only that, but excite each other on what is to come. We will see Christ’s face! I was privileged to hear Elyse Fitzpatrick speak on this topic of counseling from the cross while at the Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference. She said something that struck a chord after reading 1 John 3:1-3: “You’ve spent your entire life digging through the dumpsters of the world looking for that face!” She also said, “There is no ‘real action’ outside of the gospel.” Since it is for Christ’s sake that we are acceptable to God, Fitzpatrick reminded us not to pull out the declarations of the gospel when counseling friends. This is what gives us that joyful obedience that expresses itself in practical ways. This is how we excite one another to spiritual growth. She reminded us that God turned his back on his Son, forsaking him, so that he wouldn’t turn his back on us. And it was a delight for the Savior to do God's will! For that reason, there is nothing that he cannot ask of me that I should not joyfully comply.