December 28th, 2010 by Bryan Anthony

“…. thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” -2 Cor. 3.14

The greatest triumph is not in the establishment of an impressive organization, the saving of my reputation, or the performance of some great spiritual feat before men. The greatest triumph is led by God Himself, and it has to do with wringing out my personality and aura until I am a broken vessel through whom He shows forth “the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.”

Though I have adapted to the niceties and expected behaviors of Christian culture, though I know how to act around the right people, though I have “stopped doing what I used to do, because now I’m a Christian,” I may yet be bound by self-conscious spirituality. The life of faith does not have to do with conforming to external expectations in relation to the Christian subculture that I’ve been inducted into. It has to do with an ultimate inward surrender to the Lord of history, “who always leads us in triumph in Christ,” over every earthly influence and power. When we are so conscious of the Lord that we are able to love our enemies, resist the lusts of the flesh, and we are no longer moved inwardly to seek glory from men, only then is it evident that we are following the Lamb of God in His holy triumph.

If I am not emanating the fragrance of Jesus Christ, I must still be bound by self-consciousness in some way or another. When the light of heaven shines upon me, it may yet be seen that I am still concerned for my own glorification. The evidence of this is that I am not yet “broken bread and poured out wine”; I am failing to emit the “sweet aroma” of Jesus Christ. When “the least of these” come into contact with me, are they coming into contact with the vitality of the Son of God, or something that smells too much like the work of man?

When we have soulish ties to men, to this earth, or to our own religious ideals and presumptions, rather than a total jealousy for God’s glory, it becomes impossible for us to “triumph in Christ,” and we are incapable of manifesting His “sweet aroma,” which is His very character and nature. His fragrance is always antithetical to our self-conscious attempts at spirituality. I may need to ask myself some questions along these lines.

When challenging or rebuking another saint, am I abiding in the kindness of Jesus Christ? Would the Lamb of God deal as abrasively as I have when addressing that child or that struggling brother? When complimenting or encouraging someone, am I using flattery to gain some end myself, or am I actually expressing His own encouragement? When correcting some faulty doctrine in another brother, am I exhibiting my own knowledge and correctness, or am I speaking out of a true jealousy for the glory of God and the good of that soul?

I may claim to be radical for the Lord, carrying the cross and going against the tide of this age, but am I emitting the very fragrance of Jesus Christ in the process? If I am not, it may well be that the “tide of this age” is still sweeping me away, except that I am blanketed in Christian phraseologies and ideas. The only solution to self-conscious spirituality is God-conscious living, and Jesus has rent the veil that we might abide with Him in that holy place. From there we triumph in Christ, and manifest the sweet aroma of the knowledge of God “in every place.”

You are not required to pass through a religious maze to “manifest” the fragrance of the Lord. There is no puzzle involved, no trick up His sleeve, no riddle to unpack. To experience the depths of Christ, you need only to go down into death, taking up your cross and following the Lamb wheresoever He goes. He will inevitably lead you on paths that will wring out your personality and press His glorious image into your person. You will still be unique as an individual, but you will exhibit the wisdom and power of the age to come, which is “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

We do not triumph in Christ by boasting in a meeting, seeking favor from men, or finding our way onto some platform of religious fame. We triumph in Christ when the power of self is broken from our lives, and the very fragrance of Jesus flows from our being. When He leads us in triumph, we will bring to bear the knowledge of God Himself upon a world that is perishing for want of that great Light.

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February 16th, 2009 by Bryan Anthony

carl-bloch-healing-the-sick-at-bethesda“Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom…” -Mt. 4.23a

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…” -1 Tim. 2.5

The Gospel of God is the most marvelous thing in the universe. It confronts us in our sin and unbelief. It heals and restores our minds and hearts. It dispels the lies we’ve been told and obliterates the lies that we’ve lived.

As His mercy shocks and transforms us, we begin to see the majesty of Jesus the Christ, and beholding Him, we are changed. We are not inducted into a new religion and handed a bag of truths. Instead, we are introduced to the Man who is the Truth in and of Himself. He is abiding, dependable, unwavering. When we see Him as He is, we are compelled to turn from sin, put down our “nets,” and follow His voice.

The Gospel has the power to reverse natural circumstances. In the Gospel, blind men are made to behold the colors of the rainbow and the beauty of a child’s face. A child who could not walk can be seen “leaping and praising God.” The insane or anxiety-stricken can walk in transcendent peace and soundness of mind. Hell’s strongest and best crafted chains are shattered in a word. This Gospel jolts us with the reality of the heavenly government. There is a Man at the right hand of God who has “all authority,” and He delights in doing good.

The Gospel also reveals to us that we have no life in and of ourselves. It shows us that our highest wisdom is foolishness and our greatest morality is as pure as polluted water. It shows us that we have avoided God, even in many of our best attempts at serving Him. It shows us that our view of His judgments is too light. It shows us that our view of His love is too shallow. The Living God utterly transcends every fixed category that our finite minds have sought to place Him in. “For now we see in a mirror dimly,” but as we commune with Him “face to face,” we begin to know more fully the fervency of His love and the sanity and soundness of His purposes.

The apostle Paul was smacked with this revelation on the road to Damascus. Running to and fro, thinking he was doing God a service, he came to find out that the seams needed to be busted out on all sides of his theology, thought and mission. God in Christ was so much more than he ever imagined, and his best attempts toward righteousness were not only insufficient, they were entirely incapable of hitting the mark of true justification or redemptive experience. He was feverishly engaged in religious activity, but had failed to behold the Man, Christ Jesus. Missing Him, he was missing everything. Are we failing to behold Him? Are our ministries eye-turning and impressive, groundbreaking and the talk-of-the-town, yet missing everything?

The Gospel shows us the kind of Person that we have never before known: One Who gives Himself completely; One Who doesn’t break His word or exaggerate; One Who possesses all power yet sacrifices Himself in all gentleness; One Who Is exactly what He says He is; One Who, in the very expression of Himself, chose to forsake His own life that we might gain life. The Gospel shows us that even though we’ve been created in His image, we are really not like God at all. We are fallen. Significantly flawed, self-absorbed in motives, easily irritated, moved by ego… the writing is on the wall. Our noses are sticking out. Our little kingdoms are tottering, and we, the self-appointed Emperors, have lost our shiny garments. We are ashamed. We’ve been exposed by the cogency of His truth, laid open by the power of His light. Yes, we are fallen.

Yet, the Gospel turns over the table of man-centered government and humanistic philosophies. While we were obstinate and entirely rebellious toward Him, this message opened up to us the very wisdom and power of God Himself. We have been lavishly offered His perfect righteousness and freedom, a gift from the Father of lights.

He has sent “the apostle and High Priest” of heaven, His only Son, to become the sacrifice that would split the skies open. We have access to God through repentance and faith in the Son. This Man, who is so unlike us, has torn the dividing veil that hung between us. We are not like Him, but the Gospel impacts and stuns our senses. Not only has forgiveness been opened up, but we are invited to come into His nature, to become like Him!

O, the blood of the Son! It opens the gate to the palpable experience of His Spirit, through which we come into intimate fellowship with the Creator of all things. We are gloriously enabled to hear the Voice of the One Who holds time and space in His palm. We are not only made to be His servants, but His friends. The blessing of Abraham rests on us with a blissful weightiness. The window of grace is opened for us to know the Lord in reality. The Gospel is beyond phenomenal. It is the wonder of the ages. It is the unswerving expression of the Father’s kind intentions toward us. What a glory this Gospel is! Have you any wonder or awe for the Gospel anymore? Is the Gospel still to you what it was when you first believed?

No wonder Jesus went preaching. No wonder His heart burned. No wonder He eventually entered a public ministry. He had good news! Very good news! He was announcing the presence of the Kingdom of the only true God. He was revealing the Father to a degree that had never before been seen or known. The Spirit of the Lord was resting upon Him, and so He prayed fervently, rejoiced incessantly, preached and taught openly, displaying the works of the Father for all to see.

Surely a people transformed by that Gospel would give everything to see His Kingdom come. When he said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” they would say, “Yes, Lord. I am compelled by Your beauty and holiness to say, ‘Yes.’”

When He said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men,” they would “immediately” leave everything to follow this wonderful Man.

When He taught regarding the kingdom and the prophets they would yearn to hear Him more. When He preached they would give themselves to His words without reservation. When He demanded the utmost sacrifice and loyalty their response would not dwindle. After all, where else could they go? They had been seized by “words of eternal life.”

How could we turn our hearts away from such a breathtaking Man and such a glorious Kingdom? There will be no price too high to pay and no sacrifice too great when we, in this final season of history, are awakened to the beauty and wonder of the Man, Christ Jesus.

Would you pray with me? Lord, give us a fresh hearing of the Gospel… that foundational word that reveals Jesus to our hearts. Open our eyes again, Father. We want to see Jesus.

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