Embraced by the Living Christ

Ikuro Teshima in Kumamoto

According to chapter three of the epistle to the Philippians, the apostle Paul left behind all valuable things, including his status, education, and even his previous religion, because he came to know Christ.

He said, “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him” (Philippians 3:8-9).

 Christ Still Lives

To know Christ is to be embraced by His Spirit, to be held by His great personality inside Christ Himself. Many people think that to know Christ is to believe in the doctrines of Christianity and to know Him conceptually. However, from my experience, to know Christ is to be directly held and embraced by Him, just as Paul said, “I may… be found in Him.”

I follow Christ, who lives even now, because I feel His presence. I do not believe in Jesus of the past only. I vividly feel that Jesus Christ of two thousand years ago is still alive and with me. When we live in His presence, as if sensing His breath, we will share the same sentiment of Paul who was willing to leave everything for Christ.

 A Religion That Offers Eternal Life

What does it mean to “know Christ?” To me it means to receive eternal life by being touched by Christ then embraced by Him. Our minds may accept doctrines, yet no matter how many books we may read, eternal life comes only by faith in Christ, not from the letters of the Bible or any other religious book.

Only those who possess eternal life can transmit it. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Just as children receive life from their parents, eternal life is poured into our souls from Christ. This life redeems us.

We are given a transient biological life on earth for seventy or eighty years. But what Christ gives us is eternal life—a life that never perishes even when our physical bodies decay. The life that rules the spiritual and heavenly world flows down to earth. What sets Christianity apart from other religions is that the Bible conveys to us a religion that offers eternal life.

In a true Christian faith, Christ gives us spiritual life. One who has not received eternal life is a Christian only in name and has not yet attained Christian faith in a real sense.

 The Holy Spirit Gives Us Hope

Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). He proclaimed that He will grant overflowing life to those who believe. We can understand how water overflows, but not how life overflows. Yet, there surely exists transcendental life that overflows. When man receives this life he completely changes.

First of all, we ought to receive this life. Only then will we become worthy of Christ. Many people try to imitate Christ outwardly; yet, mere outward imitation will not make us true believers. A flower blooms by virtue of its inner life; we cannot make it bloom from the outside. Likewise, a flower of faith will bloom from inside us when God’s life is poured into us.

Jesus Christ was filled with God’s Holy Spirit and power. God accompanied Christ and made Him do good works wherever He went. We are not able to do good works through our own efforts. Paul said, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). Even insignificant people like us are given abundant hope when we receive the Holy Spirit—the life Jesus had. Therefore, we are able to live with great hope. Truly, our whole life will overflow with hope.

 Seek First the Lord’s Presence

In my ministry, I do not seek signs or miracles, but I seek Christ’s presence. Many people seek miracles, saying if they see one they will believe. However, I seek the presence of the Lord Jesus. If God’s Spirit is here now, He will work in response to our calls.

One day, a college professor and a biblical scholar persistently asked me, “Why do miracles happen when you pray, but not when we pray?”

I replied, “Nothing will happen with your contrived prayers. When I pray for someone, I rely on Christ to the point that I say, ‘If You do not save him there is no other help.'”

Then they questioned, “But what if Christ does not work?”

I said, “I willingly accept disgrace. However, because you have distinguished academic backgrounds and careers, you pray cautiously to avoid embarrassing yourselves. You say, ‘Lord, if it is Your will, please heal this person.’ But if you were the mother of a crippled boy, you would pray, ‘Please, God, heal my son! Otherwise, my love could not bear to see him unhealed!'”

 A Faith of Emotion

This is ultimately a matter of love. Love enables us to suffer and groan together with a person in trouble. Intellectuals first think, will this person be healed or not? Because their emotions are inactive, they do not suffer as much as the sick. My faith is different. Mine is a faith through which I touch Christ’s personality and emotions. This means that I share the same emotions with Christ.

Had I not known the passionate and very human Christ Jesus as depicted in the Gospels, I would have believed in the same Christianity as some of today’s churches. However, I learned everything from Jesus, including how to eat and drink, heal the sick, make miracles happen, and how to love someone deeply.

The lifeless doctrines of the crucifixion cannot work. It is the living Christ who saves us.

That is why I believe in Christ Himself, not in Christianity. Once I started to believe in the living Christ, I learned how to make my faith work to its fullest. Had I believed in the Christianity arbitrarily conceived by scholars and theologians, I would not have been able to properly activate the faith latent within me.

 Even Through Anger and Compassion

Christ Driving the Moneychangers from the Temple by Rembrandt

People often criticize me for being hot-tempered, but this is another trait I learned from Jesus. There was no other revolutionary like Jesus Christ, who aggressively cleansed the temple. The description of Jesus in the Bible is quite different from the effeminate image of Jesus visualized by modern people.

According to the gospel of Mark, chapter three, there was a man with a withered hand in the synagogue when Jesus entered on the Sabbath. Those who wanted to accuse Jesus were watching Him closely to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill” (Mark 3:4)?

He looked around at them with anger, then He told the man, “Stretch out your hand” (Mark 3:5), and his hand was restored. When Christ became angry, the man was healed. Christians today do not know the power of anger, which is why no miracles happen. Nothing happens because they do not condemn unbelief, but instead keep allowing it. I like this verse, “He had looked around at them with anger” (Mark 3:5) very much.

Jesus Christ saved people through anger, or righteous indignation, and also through deep sorrow. When He passed through the town of Nain, He came across the funeral procession of a widow’s only son. Her grief moved Jesus so deeply that He touched the coffin and said, “Young man, I say to you, arise” (Luke 7:14). The son was remarkably revived. Jesus’ deep compassion brought about the healing.

Such a compassionate personality causes miracles. Personality always bears emotion, and emotions with faith trigger miracles. Doctrines cannot bring about a miracle.

 With Heavenly Joy

I am proud to be a disciple of the living Christ. The faith of the gospel never leads us to live inhumanly by suppressing our emotions, including compassion.

Some Christians picture Jesus as a gloomy and sad figure, but that is a one-sided image of Him. He actually lived amid great joy. He was so dearly loved by God that He heard a voice echo from heaven, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). He was able to pour into His disciples the joy that no one could take away, saying, “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:12). This is the joy one feels in the Holy Spirit.

 Come to Me, All You Who Labor and Are Heavy Laden!

Christ abides with those who weep over sins, suffer from poverty, distress, and illnesses, and cry out to God. He works in our daily lives.

Recently, I received a letter from a woman who used to be bedridden for many years with severe spinal caries from tuberculosis. She was healed through our ministry, and today she can freely walk to our meetings.

She is now full of hope because the Holy Spirit infuses her with hope. When Christ is present and pours His Spirit into us, the impossible becomes possible and hope wells up from within. I was overjoyed to receive her letter.

Christ said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). He never told us to study doctrines and believe them. If we come near to Christ whose Spirit is invisible to our eyes, His life will be poured into us and our salvation will be fulfilled. This is true faith.

We would like to touch Christ more closely than anyone else. Let us be embraced by Him. This is my faith.

Ikuro Teshima

(1961)