If our life is anything like the Apostle Paul’s, it is sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. Dane Ortlund draws our attention to a few dozen reasons God gives us to fuel this joy:
1. His forgiveness gets down underneath not just our conscious, willful sins, but everything that is broken within us.
2. He ate lunch with hookers and crooked businessmen, not the conservative seminary professors.
3. Discipleship to him does not involve attaining a minimum bar of competency. No resume is needed. Discipleship to him involves humbling ourselves, putting ourselves low, not high, and anyone can do that, if they will simply let Self die and be swallowed up by light and beauty and joy.
4. Those in union with him are promised that all the haunted brokenness that infects everything—every relationship, every conversation, every family, every email, every wakening to consciousness in the morning, every job, every vacation—everything—will one day be rewound and reversed.
5. Those in union with him are promised that the more darkness and hell we experience in this life, to that degree we will enjoy resplendence and radiance in the next (Rom. 8:17–18).
6. He never, ever asks his friends to walk through a trial that he, as the Pioneer-Author-Founder-Trailblazer (archegos: Heb 2:10; 12:2) has not himself, in an even more profound way, gone through himself.
7. His sinlessness does not encourage him to be aloof from us, holding us at arms length, but a substitute for us.
8. Unlike the laws of ritual cleanliness in Leviticus, Jesus’ touch of messy humans like me does not contaminate him. It cleanses me. In the OT, clean + unclean = unclean. With Jesus, clean + unclean = clean (Mark 1:41).
9. His mercy to sinners is not calculating, scale-weighing, careful. It is lavish, outrageous, unfettered.
10. His atoning death means he is free not to scrutinize. He needs not. All has been wiped clean. Faults remain, not just in our past but in our present. But the whole atmosphere in which we live has been transformed from one of scrutiny, both toward us by God and by us toward others, into one of welcome, both toward us by God and therefore by us toward others.
11. He no longer calls us servants, but friends, and he is the friend of sinners. Of sinners. Many of us are born again, serving the Lord with faithfulness, and have never really swallowed that.
12. He is not an idea or a philosophy or a theory or a framework or even a doctrine. He’s a Person. His blazing wrath upon the impenitent is matched by his gentle embrace of the penitent. He has nothing to say to the righteous (Mark 2:17).
13. He doesn’t resent me, as I do others, though I have given him many reasons to.
14. In all my stumbling and failing, he has not yet said, ‘Enough is enough. I’m out.’ Where sin abounds, grace hyper-abounds (Rom. 5:20).
15. He is incapable of disgust over his children, even his sinning children.
16. He gives rest. He is that of which the sabbath is a shadow; Jesus is the shadow-caster. He doesn’t just forgive our sins; he lets the frenetic RPMs of the heart slow down into calm sanity. And no external circumstance can threaten that rest, as we look to him.
17. The one place in all four Gospels where he opens up to tell us about his own heart—the only place—he says he is ‘gentle and lowly in heart’ (Matt 11:29). Burrow down into the very core of what makes the God-Man tick, the one who wove his own whip to drive the enterprising capitalists from the temple, and you find: gentleness.
18. He is not a tame lion. He is not domesticate-able, predictable, boring. He cannot be caged. Who would want to?
19. He does not give us grace. He gives us himself. He is grace. He is the life, the vibrancy, the flourishing, the shalom, that we desperately, hauntingly, long for.
20. His brilliant resplendence will, one day soon, make every Hollywood superhero look small and silly.
21. He is both a lamb and a lion. He is the tenderness of which all that is tender is an echo, and also the fierceness to which all that is fierce alludes.
22. His grace is both outside me and inside me. Freely accounted righteousness-grace, through the Son, is credited to me from the outside; freely given godliness-grace, through the Spirit, is worked in me on the inside.
23. He is not averse to dirty, complex, self-justifying jerks. He is averse to dirty, complex, self-justifying jerks who deny they are dirty, complex, self-justifying jerks.
24. He found me. I have already been discovered. I do not need to maneuver and manipulate my life to wriggle my way into the spotlight.
25. His coming into this diseased world means that, as Gandalf told Sam, everything sad is going to come untrue.
26. There was nothing physically attractive about him (Isa. 53:2). He would never have appeared on the cover of Men’s Health. He came as a normal man to both comfort and supernaturalize normal people, not sexy people.
27. He came as a sinless man, not a sinless Superman. He woke up with bed-head. He had zits at 14. He went through puberty. He is not Zeus.
28. He didn’t come mainly to give a pep talk. He came to do what every pep talk is trying to get us impossibly unmotivated people to do.
29. He lost every earthly friend he had while he lived, so that we can have him whatever earthly friends we lose. Even when it’s our fault.
30. He knows what it is to be thirsty, hungry, hated, rejected, taunted, shamed, abandoned, suffocated, tortured, killed.
31. I cannot get underneath his mercy. I can dig and dig and dig with my shovel of sin. But no matter how deep I go, I never hit rock bottom on his mercy.
32. I can never outrun his love. No matter how fast Wily Coyote ran, the Roadrunner just ran faster. My failures never outrun his patience; as fast as they run, his love runs faster.
33. He never misunderstands me. Never interrupts me. Never misjudges my motives.
34. He likes me. Not just loves. Likes. Whatever else ‘friend’ means, doesn’t it at least mean that?
35. Adam was supposed to multiply physical children throughout the nations and finally to overcome the world (Gen. 1:28). He failed. Jesus came, to multiply spiritual children throughout the nations and overcome the world. He succeeded (Matt 28:19; John 16:33). I was born in Adam. By grace I have been placed in Christ.
36. His death means my death is a beginning, not an end. A door, not a wall. An entrance, not an exit.
37. He makes me human again. He didn’t come to make me superhuman, a superspiritual being who only ever lives and prays and praises in a disembodied state. He has angels for that. He came to give me back my humanity.
38. He does not hold over me his deliverance of my helplessness. He delights to deliver. It is who he is.
39. He does not bring pain into my life to coldly punish but to gently help. He brings pain to clear away the static in my communion with him. He was punished so that all my pain is not punitive but paternal.
40. My union with him means that even self-inflicted pain can only ultimately work out my glory and beauty.
41. When I am prayerless, he is not. He intercedes for me. And because in Gethsemane his prayer was unanswered, every prayer he makes now on my behalf is answered.
42. He understands and delights in the fact that I am a human being. He is not disappointed that I need sleep, food, and the bathroom. Through him I was made this way (Col. 1:16). He himself experienced all the same things.
43. I cannot experience a temptation he has not (Heb. 2:18).
44. Every heart-stabbing poem, every story of redemption, every novel that evokes longings, every reading of Tolkien and Wendell Berry and John Donne and a thousand others who make the tears flow—it all points to and terminates on him. He is the only one in the universe that is not a pointer to something else. Everything else points to him.
45. His death means my body will one day be restored to me and this time will not run down. Cells will replace cells, I suppose, as God created us—but without resulting in wrinkles and balding and stiffness and aches.
46. His promised second coming means that I need not secure perfect justice now against those who have wronged me. All will be put right. One day all resentment will evaporate.
47. He was born in Bethlehem. Out of the way, backwoods Bethlehem. I am freed to live and serve in an unknown place. Significance is not sacrificed; worldly significance is sacrificed.
48. He withdrew to pray and be alone at times. Flawless ministry does not mean being perpetually available to people.
49. ‘And they all left him and fled’ (Mark 14:50). Had he lived today, every last Twitter follower would have un-friended him. So that he could be my ever-present friend. They all left him, so that he could say: ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Heb. 13:5).
50. Had he blogged today, no one would have blogged more wisely and no one would have received nastier anonymous blog comments. And he would be as patient with them as he is with me.
51. He loves weakness. He works with weakness. He is repelled by strength. That qualifies me for his help.
52. His grace is sufficient. It needs no Dane-generated supplement. All he requires is need. Nothing more, nothing less. Desperation. The bar of divine favor is low, so low that the proud cannot get under it.
53. David said Yahweh is the Shepherd who makes him lie down in green pastures (Psalm 23). Jesus said he is the Good Shepherd (John 10). It is supremely in Jesus that God makes me lie down in green pastures. Jesus leads me beside still waters. Jesus restores my soul. My weary, depleted soul.
54. Jesus gathers up all the various and seemingly disparate threads of promise and hope and rescue and longing that dot the landscape of the Old Testament and snowball down through the centuries. The virtue of every OT saint is filled out in him, and the failure of every OT saint heightens the longing for, and is paid for by, him.
55. He is the perfect prophet who not only speaks God’s word to the people, but is God’s final Word. He is the perfect Priest, who represents the people to God. He is the perfect King, who represents God to the people.
56. The whole Bible is his, and about him (Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39, 46). The Bible is not a manual for life, not a guidebook, not a rulebook, not sage suggestions, not even a doctrinal repository. Not mainly. At its heart, and cover to cover, the Bible is the Word of God about the grace of God in the Son of God for the people of God to the glory of God. When I open the Book, I get him.
57. If he is the firstfruits, then when I look at his raised invincible body eating fish and able to appear in locked rooms, I am looking at my future. I am a part of the one single harvest of resurrected embodied invincibility of which he is the firstfruits, the first ingathering (1 Cor. 15:20-22). The resurrection of the dead has already begun. The first instance is already among us.
58. When he walked out of the grave, Eden 2.0 dawned. Against OT expectation, the old age continued steamrolling right alongside the dawning new age. This is why this world can feel like heaven one day and hell the next. But the overlap of the two ages also means there is still time, still a chance, for any who recognizes he has been born into the old, hellish age to lay down his arms and be swept up into the dawning sunrise of the new age.
59. And one day, even the horrors of the old age will die away. We will pass through the wardrobe into Narnia. Middle-earth will be cleansed and the Ring destroyed. We will be home at last. ‘I will bring them home,’ God said (Zech. 10:10). We will weep with relief. We will see him face to face (Rev 22:4).
60. All because he refused the glory he rightly deserved to enter the hell and mud of our world to grab us and drag us, kicking and screaming if need be, into the new order, the new world of shalom and floruishing and light and wine and non-frivolous laughs. All of sheer grace. All to be simply received. Available to anyone who refuses to pay for it.
… “If one could only believe just as it is written, then one’s heart would explode for joy” (Martin Luther)