What a Beautiful Name – Hillsong

You were the Word at the beginning
One with God the Lord Most High
Your hidden glory in creation
Now revealed in You our Christ

What a beautiful Name it is
What a beautiful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King
What a beautiful Name it is
Nothing compares to this
What a beautiful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

You didn’t want heaven without us
So Jesus You brought heaven down
My sin was great Your love was greater
What could separate us now?

What a wonderful Name it is
What a wonderful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King
What a wonderful Name it is
Nothing compares to this
What a wonderful Name it is
The Name of Jesus
What a wonderful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

Death could not hold You
The veil tore before You
You silence the boast of sin and grave
The heavens are roaring the praise of Your glory
For You are raised to life again

You have no rival, You have no equal
Now and forever God You reign
Yours is the kingdom, Yours is the glory
Yours is the Name above all Names

What a powerful Name it is
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King
What a powerful Name it is
Nothing can stand against
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

Just remember who you are

As a Dad to two girls, I have watched the latest live-action version of Disney’s Cinderella a time or ten! The last time it was playing in our house, the final showdown between Cinderella and her wicked stepmother caught my attention. Having done her utmost to trample over Cinderella’s happy ending, the stepmother is surprised to find that the King himself has come to seek his bride, and there seems to be nothing she can do about it.

She first tries to forbid Cinderella from descending the staircase where the King awaits to return the glass slipper that would prove her identity. An officer of the King rebuffed this attempt, and so the stepmother wields her final weapons: intimidation and scorn. Her words reveal the contempt that filled her heart: “Just remember who you are, you wretch!” Driven by jealousy and spite, the stepmother seeks to put Cinderella in her place. With all the venom she can muster, she tells Cinderella that she is nothing; a worthless wretch, who is only fit to serve her and her daughters.

Here is the dramatic climax of the story. Will Cinderella believe her stepmother’s lies? Has she been broken enough by the abuse she has received? Can she believe that there is a happily ever after if she can muster the courage to go down the stairs and meet her date with destiny?

Those of us who follow Jesus have a similar enemy. He comes against us breathing out lies about who we are and what we are worth. Where there are sins and temptations, he takes delight in reminding us of them, always suggesting that we are a lost cause. Where we have been hurt, he tells us that this is what we deserved all along. In the midst of fear and tribulation, he breathes out words of despair and doubt – “How could God possibly love you? You’re a wretch; a worm. You are just not worth bothering with!” In this way, the enemy intimidates and denigrates those whom God loves.

All-too-often, he doesn’t actually need to say anything at all. When we sin, we wallow in self-condemnation until we feel we have suffered enough. When things go wrong, we rarely rise up and fight against the situations we find ourselves in. We simply accept the opposition and go on believing that it’s our lot in life. Beaten down, we kneel in the dust and let the thief come to kill, steal, and destroy, living far below the abundant life that Jesus came to bring (John 10:10). Our own conscience, doubts, fears, and worries suffocate the good news of Jesus Christ – that we are forgiven, loved, accepted, and included in Him.

Like Cinderella, we have a choice before us. We can continue to believe the lies, and remain holed up in the dusty attic that has become our prison. We can live out our lives in glumness and misery, and console ourselves with the thought that at least we’ll get to go to heaven one day.

Or we can do what Cinderella did. We can refuse to believe the lies, and choose to meet with our King. Cinderella’s Kit left no stone unturned in the search for his bride, even joining the search party personally. In the same way, Jesus, our King, has moved heaven and earth to seek us out. He left His home, became just like us, and died our death that we might live. He then rose again so that He may claim His bride and be with us forever.

Our King longs for us to know Him in closeness and intimacy. The desire of His heart is that we would accept His view of us, and live in daily fellowship with Him. He is willing us to step out of the prisons we find ourselves in, descend the staircase, and find out the truth – that we are truly loved by the King!

Today, shut out the voice that condemns – whether it be demonic or your own self-condemnation and pride. Turn your ear to heaven, and hear your King speak:

“Just remember who you are, my beloved!”

Jesus-centred spiritual formation – Dallas Willard and Don Simpson

I have just started reading a book that has been on my shelf for several years: Revolution of Character, by Don Simpson and Dallas Willard. The book is an abridgement and distillation by Simpson of Willard’s book Renovation of the Heart. Recent sin in my life has made me hunger again for robust and deep spiritual formation, yet I’m still wary of legalistic effort-driven approaches to personal holiness because I know they don’t work.

This summary of spiritual formation from Revolution of Character gives me hope that there really is a grace-empowered, Jesus-centred way of spiritual formation that can bring true life transformation (emphasis mine):

Christian spiritual formation is focused entirely on Jesus. Its goal is conformity to Christ, a process that arises out of purposeful interaction with the grace of God in Christ. Obedience is an essential outcome (see John 13:34-35; 14:21).

However, we cannot manifest Christlikeness through a primary focus on external behavior. When externals are the main emphasis, spiritual formation doesn’t really happen. The process falls into deadening legalisms. This is what has happened so often in the past. Peculiar modes of dress, behavior, and organization don’t change the heart.

Externalism was a danger even in New Testament times. But “that Christ be formed within you” has always been the true watchword of Christian spiritual formation (Galatians 4:19). This watchword is fortified by the deep moral and spiritual insight that while “the letter of the law kills, the spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).

To illustrate briefly, Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5-7) refer to various wrong behaviors: acting out in anger, looking so as to lust, heartless divorce, verbal manipulation, returning evil for evil, and so forth. But as abundant experience teaches, to strive merely to act in conformity with Jesus’ expressions of what living in the kingdom of God is like is to attempt the impossible. We may work hard at it and keep up a good front for a while, but eventually we fall flat on our faces.

Rediscovering the beauty of Christ – Brian Zahnd

All who have placed their trust in Christ are, by definition, on a journey that requires repentance and rethinking. The Greek word typically translated as ‘repentance’ in English could be translated ‘change your mind’, and is a fundamental practice for disciples of Christ. Thankfully, most of us don’t have to do it as Brian Zahnd has done in recent years and worry about pastoring a mega-church through the change.

Soon after coming to faith, Zahnd was influenced by the Jesus movement. He started Word of Life Church with the desire to share Jesus Christ with those who don’t know Him. As the church grew, it fit comfortably into the independent charismatic/evangelical mould. As time went on, Zahnd found himself hungering for a deeper faith, which he discovered with the help of the early church fathers. As he has radically re-oriented himself around Jesus and His Kingdom, Zahnd has both written books about his journey and managed to lead Word of Life Church in the same direction.

In a recent blog post, Brian Zahnd shared about different metaphors and images that could be used to describe the journey of discovery he has been on. He shares a few metaphors that he finds helpful, and explains why he doesn’t like the motif of deconstruction. The full post is well worth reading, but I found the last few paragraphs particularly inspiring, dovetailing nicely with the name I have given this relaunched blog:

My journey of rediscovering the beauty of Christ was mostly a journey I travelled in prayer. It’s true that I read a ton of good theology, but this only changed my mind. My heart was changed as I learned to sit with Jesus in contemplative prayer.

Don’t deconstruct…pray. Sit with Jesus. Gaze upon his beauty. See the beautiful image of Christ lying under the patina of distortion. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Then wipe away the false varnish with your tears of gratitude. This is restoration, not deconstruction. This is what will save your faith.

Check out the full post:

Deconstruction or Restoration? – Brian Zahnd

Deconstruction or Restoration? Brian Zahnd In describing my journey of rethinking Christianity over the past twelve years I’ve used a couple of metaphors. One I call “End of the Line.” I first used this metaphor when speaking to the staff of Charisma Publishing six years ago.

New blog, new name

RIP Truth on the Way

While this site is currently shiny, clean, and new, it is by no means the first time I have attempted blogging. For the last 8 years or so, I have sporadically written blog posts at a site called Truth on the Way. Sadly, I was affected by the recent administrative snafu by my hosts 123-Reg and that site was killed in one fell swoop. As a professional geek, I know that this situation was entirely avoidable and it would be an understatement to say that I was appalled at what happened. But it has also given me a chance to make a bit of a fresh start and who doesn’t like a clean sheet of paper? You could say it’s Romans 8:28 in action!

A clean start

Having found myself with no easily-restorable backup, I had decided to set up a fresh site under the old name and restore older articles bit by bit alongside writing new posts. Once I had selected a new host, I saw that I had the opportunity to register a new domain name for free and change the site name. As it happens, I had been growing increasingly uncomfortable with the name of the old site – I chose it as a 24-year-old, and spent all of 2 minutes thinking what it should be. It seemed like a good fit back then, but as I’ve grown and (hopefully) matured, it no longer seemed to say everything I wanted it to.

What’s wrong with Truth on the Way?

In many ways, nothing at all. On the one hand, it nicely summarises that all who name Jesus as Lord are on a journey of discovery with Him. However, I decided to move away from the name because it no longer reflects how I see the Christian life working. To 24-year-old Jon, the Christian faith was essentially about knowing what is true from what is false and then living it out. It’s not an uncommon approach to life. After all, didn’t Jesus say “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free”?

As I’ve grown, I’ve increasingly found it an inadequate way to live. It’s not enough to get your doctrine all sorted and lined up. It’s not enough to attempt to put good Christian principles to work in your life. It’s not enough to ponder theology and wonder about what makes God tick. While none of these are unimportant, they can easily become dead-ends that trap us from the true source of life. The same Jesus who spoke in John 8:32 also said:

You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me. And you are not willing to come to Me so that you may have life.
John 5:39-40 (HCSB)

From Glory to Glory

Starting the hunt for a new name, I threw some name ideas down on a piece of paper. I very quickly found myself drawn to names that were inspired by a verse in 2 Corinthians:

We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (HCSB)

After searching for possible domain names, I decided that the name for my blog would be From Glory to Glory. I’ll be posting a bit to share what it was about this verse that drew me, and precisely why I settled on this name. For now, suffice it to say that this best represents how I believe the Christian life is supposed to be – a life lived in Jesus, devoted to Him, beholding His glory, and finding ourselves changed by His Spirit into His likeness day-by-day as we do so.

So welcome to my new blog. I hope you find it interesting. I hope you find it inspiring. I hope you find it useful. But above all, I hope you meet with Jesus and get to know Him a bit better through the things I write and share.