How have we learned Christ? It ought to be a startling thought, that we may have learned him wrong. That must be far worse than not to have learned him at all: his place is occupied by a false Christ, hard to exorcise! The point is, whether we have learned Christ as he taught himself, or as men have taught him who thought they understood, but did not understand him. ...The Christian religion, throughout its history, has been open to more corrupt misrepresentation. Have we learned Christ in false statements and corrupted lessons about him, or have we learned himself? (George MacDonald, The Truth in Jesus)
It is very helpful to realize that words and phrases carry a certain meaning and spirit to us, because certain phrases open up our hearts to the meaning God intended, and other words and phrases close our hearts to his meaning. I noticed during my years of counseling how a simple turn of a phrase or different word choices would suddenly open up someone’s heart, and they would begin weeping over an issue we had spent months talking about. With the right choice of words, the truth would finally strike home. Sink in. Reach them where it mattered.
Peter said of Jesus that he had the words of eternal life (John 6:68). This is a good test. Ask, Does what I have heard in fact bring life? If not, perhaps you have not yet found the meaning of Jesus, not yet found the words that convey the spirit of his teaching to your heart in particular. I am not saying that we are always going to like what Jesus said, or is saying, to us. Surely his words sometimes bring conviction and cut to the quick. But even then, when the conviction of God comes, is there not life in it? To be known, to be found out, is in some sense a great relief — if the spirit in which it comes also offers to us, as God is constantly offering, a way out through repentance and forgiveness.
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