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All scripture is inspired, but some of it is electric. The power of the Holy Spirit hums in the lines so thrillingly that you hardly dare to touch them. For me, the first chapters of Ephesians and Colossians spring to mind, especially the verses where Paul shows us Jesus Christ in his supremacy. God gave his one and only Son as "the atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:10). But Paul sets that mighty work inside a mightier one. With trumpets sounding in his soul, he exclaims that through Jesus' sacrifice, God was pleased "to reconcile to himself all things" (Col. 1:20) as part of a still mightier plan for the ages when God will at last "gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth" (Eph. 1:10).

As the Father rescues his people from the powers of darkness and resettles them inside the kingdom of his Son, they revel in his grace and sing about it in church. They take satisfaction in believing right doctrine and teach it in seminary. There they plan on going to heaven by and by and talk about it on tv. And, in the process, they experience some high-quality religious feelings.

Dallas Willard writes to say there's something missing in the last part of this picture. Extending a line of thought that runs through such Christian writers as Teresa of Avila, William Law, Jonathan Edwards, C. S. Lewis, and Richard Foster, Willard calls us to want and to plan for something much more ambitious, namely "thoroughgoing inner transformation through Christ" to "clean the inside of the cup." To rejoice in our forgiveness, teach right doctrine, and yearn for heaven are wonderful things. But, as Willard testifies in his classics The Divine Conspiracy and The ...

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September 2006

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