The Shadow of Christ

Jesus taught that all of the Scripture points to Him (see Luke 24:25-27 and John 5:37-40). I picture the words of the text as a great spotlight, shining a brilliant beam of illumination on the Lord, the Holy One from Father God. They serve to remind us over and over again where we should keep our eyes and attention focused.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

But there are some passages of Scripture that are difficult to understand. Some are simply mysteries that we cannot understand and on which there is much disagreement. Wherever I encounter these passages, I see the shadow of the Lord. He is illuminated by the Scripture, which testifies about Him as a whole. That bright light upon Him casts a shadow, and in this shadow dwell all the things about Him that we do not fully understand.

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.

1 Corinthians 13:12

When I encounter these “shadows” in Scripture, instead of peering into the darkness and trying to figure out what is there, I am learning instead to ask “What is casting this shadow?” and then turning to see the Lord. And when I see His face, I am reminded that I am fully known and am coming to know Him more and more as time goes by, I am awakening to more and more of who He is and who I am in Him and who He is in me, and I am confident that some day I will know fully.

But for today, it is enough simply to know Christ, my Lord — even on those days when all I can see of Him is His shadow.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:7-14

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Learning to Walk

This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.

– 1 John 1:5 – 1 John 2:2 (NLT)

Step, step, step. Left foot forward, then right foot. Walking is such a simple process once mastered, but such a challenge to the little ones who are learning it! Here in 1 John is this image of a child learning to walk in the Spirit of Christ, teetering back and forth — “if we…go on living in spiritual darkness”, “if we are living in the light” — trying to find his balance in this new way of walking — “if we claim we have no sin”, “if we confess our sins” — occasionally stumbling and falling — “so that you will not sin”, “if anyone does sin” — but always getting back up and trying again in the strength of Christ — “the one who is truly righteous”.

About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water.When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

“Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

– Matthew 14:25-33 (NLT)

Peter also had a new way of walking to learn. Like a child learning to walk for the first time, he stumbled and tottered. Like the good big brother He is, Jesus “immediately reached out and grabbed him” when he faltered.

Each of us at one point or another sees Jesus out walking on the waves. We may not recognize Him at first, because He is neither what nor where we expected him to be. But once we hear His voice and know it is truly Him out there doing these amazing things, we are presented with a choice. It is a choice we often miss because we do not think we actually have any choice at all. But we do, and we should be challenged by it every time we hear His voice calling out to us: Will we join Him on the waves or stay put in the relative safety of our boats?

Most of us stay in the boat most of the time. We know the boat and are comfortable in it. It gives us the illusion of having some control (never mind the waves and storms all around us that threaten to capsize us at any moment!). However, the boats we are in are relatively small and cramped. They do allow for some mobility in the storms of life, but we cannot really get where we want to go and it is next to impossible to walk around in them.

But there is another option available to us. We see what Jesus is doing and we can embrace His life extended to us and follow Him to the places where He is and in doing the things we see Him doing. Just as He walks by faith and in the Spirit, we can do the same. All we need to do is ask, “Lord, if that’s really you out there, tell me to come to you and do the things I see you doing.” If He bids us come to Him, we know He will provide us with the ability to do so!

Walking is so easy once mastered that we do it without even thinking about it. It is like breathing — second-nature, performed unconsciously. But to the toddler, walking appears to be a miracle. Nonetheless, every child desires to walk and so looks to her elder for guidance and encouragement and takes a step. As long as her eyes remain focused on her elder, her walking seems easy and light, almost effortless. But as soon as her eyes look downward and she concentrates on the act of the walking itself and all of the things that could go wrong and all of the obstacles that lie in her way, she stumbles and would fall if not for the helping hand extended to catch her.

As we learn to walk in the Spirit, we will falter. The secret to walking confidently is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ. And when we stumble, we can count on His hand to be extended to us to save us from a fall. He will always save us from ourselves. Then, we block out the cares of the world (Matthew 6:25-34) and the things of the world (1 John 2:15-17), and refocus our whole selves on Him (Romans 12:2).

Sooner or later, in our own strength, we will wear out. We will be inundated and overwhelmed. We will give up. We will return to our boats. But we can be greatly encouraged by this truth — Jesus will come back to the boat with us! (Matthew 14:32) He will never leave us or forsake us. And with Him with us, the storms of life subside. We know His peace and have His life in us, smoothing all of life’s waves.

It won’t be long, though, before Jesus is back out of the boat doing amazing things in ways we could never predict. And we will have the choice before us again: Will we join Him where He is? May you be encouraged to do so — real life is in Him and real living is being where He is and doing the things He is doing. May we each long for the day when we are so full of His life that we leave the boats behind for good!

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