We Have the Answer of Death that We Might LIVE!

Newborn bunnies with their mother- photo by Michael Clark

You haven’t heard from me on this blog in quite a while. Sometimes God is silent while He digs deeper into us that we might know His ways more perfectly and during these “dry times” it’s best to be silent. But just lately He has prompted me to share the following about what has been going on in my life. Paul wrote the following…

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20, KJ2000)

[We are] always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2Cor 4:10-11, ESV2011)

Yes, we ourselves have had the answer of death in ourselves, so that our hope might not be in ourselves, but in God who is able to give life to the dead: Who gave us salvation from so great a death: on whom we have put our hope that he will still go on to give us salvation; (2Cor 1:8-10, BBE – emphasis added)

In the above verse many translations read, “we had the sentence of death in ourselves.” The answer to all our struggles with our flesh that wars against the Spirit of God within us is the death of our carnal minds so that the mind of Christ may prevail (see Philippians 2:5-8). It’s not the will of God that we should die in our sinful ways, but rather that we are crucified IN Christ. By this act of crucifixion with Christ on the cross we are saved from that old adamic mind within us.

For many months, now, I’ve had no brother locally in Christ to fellowship with. George Davis with whom I have written many articles and books over the last 22 years has moved out of the area and he often has no cell service. Another brother, Bob N. with whom we had fellowship in Christ for the last few years, recently died of cancer and most other Christian men I have met lack the ability to meet IN the mind of Christ together. I know that many of you are going through the same experiences these days.

A few weeks ago I stumbled onto a group of men in this area who have coffee together at the local supermarket deli. Some of them are Vietnam War vets and we have that in common. It has been interesting to watch and listen for any hint of the Spirit speaking through any of them and even myself. One of them, Rodney, is an “ex-pastor” who sneaks in a phrase out of the Bible once in a while. He seems to be quite outgoing and inclusive in his attitude towards others which is refreshing. I found the following quote from him on his church’s website that is most interesting.“I enjoy being a part of a fellowship that sees every person as valuable. If one person matters then everybody matters.” Excellent!

George Davis once had a conversations with a pastor who was trying to exalt his position over George. The man said, “George, how will I ever be your pastor (unless you yield to me)?” George said, “If you want this kind of relationship with me it will be with great difficulty. But if you are willing to be my brother we will get along famously.” This all reminds me of what Paul wrote,

So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Rom 12:5, ESV2011)

So, what does all this have to do with where I started in this missive? The temptation I have faced for many years it to “be one of the boys” and to be accepted and make friends. But when I join in their worldly conversations if I feel this check in my spirit, so I have learned to not do so and seek His grace to listen for the voice of the Lord before I speak. The Lord spoke through Isaiah:

And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. (Isa 30:20-21, ESV2011)

Jesus said, “But you are not to be called rabbi [teacher], for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.” (Matt 23:8, ESV2011)

Ezekiel heard this same voice behind him!

Then the spirit took me up, and I heard behind me a voice of a great rushing, saying, Blessed be the glory of the LORD from his place. (Ezek 3:12, KJV)

I, like many of you, have known a lot of adversity and affliction during my 77 plus years (not to mention being in constant physical pain) on this earth so the tendency is to avoid anything that makes for conflict or rejection. In short we tend to seek to “save” our lives by mingling with people just like us. The problem is that we cannot obey the Spirit if we are constantly listening to the wrong voice within us telling us to “just get along” and “be accepted as one of boys.”

I have been made aware lately of the nature of these two voices, the one within and the one who speaks from behind me say, “This is the way of the Lord, walk ye in it” and to quit looking to the left and the right. You see, a lot of the conversations I have been drawn into become political; Left – liberal, and Right, conservative. Yet, Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world…” You would think that I would have overcome this temptation to be accepted in this world by now! Meeting with these guys has taught me to discern which voice I am listening to and to obey the Spirit before I speak.

God helps us by giving us the “answer of death in ourselves, so that our hope might not be in ourselves, but in God who is able to give life to the dead.” Taking up our crosses and following Him daily, as Jesus said, involves a lot of crucifying of that old man within us so that we might walk in HIS life and not our own. May we all become more than overcomers IN Christ Jesus as we learn to walk after the voice of the Spirit and not after that old Adam within.

But the LORD God called to the man [Adam] and said to him, “Where are you?”And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid… and I hid myself.” (Gen 3:9-10, ESV2011)

Instead, let us learn the lesson given to young Samuel in a time when in Israel the word of the Lord was rare.

Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the LORD came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” (1Sam 3:6-10, ESV2011)

The Simplicity of Being in One Mind with Christ

Susanne Schuberth’s new blog post “The Simplicity that is Ours in Christ” [1] spoke clearly to me about the struggle I have been going through. She wrote, “If our Christian life does not always appear to be that easy or simple, maybe, there is a reason why we sometimes struggle so much. This Bible verse… [2 Corinthians 11:3] suggests that our focus might turn out to be the root cause of our conflicts.” She went on to speak about the simplicity with which a baby sees the world when they are discovering the things around them for the first time. They look upon everything and every person in wide eyed wonder and if we look back into their eyes they will soon smile at us. It is so refreshing to see such innocence in this corrupted world. Infants are fascinated by little things. They can play with their toes for hours, a simple mobile hanging over them in their crib can keep them entertained, especially if they can reach it and make it twirl. The simpler their toys are the better. Little kids can spend hours in a cardboard box, pretending it is a house, a car or a boat and they will drag their favorite “banky” into it with them and happily fall asleep.

Three of our grand daughters when they were young.

So in light of this truth about the simplicity that is born in a child, Susanne quoted the following words of warning that Paul wrote to the church in Corinth that had lost its innocence in Christ.

“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. (2Cor 11:3, AKJV)

And after taking a little child into his lap Jesus said,

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 18:2-4, ESV2011)

I was drawn to the word “simplicity” in the above verse and looked up its meaning in the Greek.

haplotes (ha-plo’-tees) n.

1. singleness.

2. (subjectively) sincerity (without dissimulation or self-seeking).

3. (objectively) generosity (copious bestowal).

This verse speaks of the battles we go through when we walk by our own wills. Satan tempts us in his subtle ways to do his will and not rest in the will and timing of the Lord. If we submit to his ways we lose the simplicity of our relationship IN Christ. Oh, how the flesh wants to run out ahead of God’s leading. In so doing we lose the singleness of mind that is ours with the mind of Christ.

Simplicity! When God is leading us everything is simple. Everything falls into place in our lives, but not necessarily the way we would have planned it according to our fleshly thinking, but according to His wonderful foreknowledge and guidance of the Holy Spirit. In Psalms and Proverbs we read:

The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in His way; ​though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand. (Psalm 37:23-24, ESV2011)

The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. (Proverbs 4:18, NIV)

While we walk in His simplicity, He gives us that peace that surpasses all understanding because we are walking in God’s rest.

Photo by Michael Clark

Recently a thought came into my mind that we should move down to Texas to be near two of our grown children and their families who live there. I reasoned, “I am so tired of these cold winters and battling with all this snow, trying to keep us plowed and shoveled out. Those grandkids of ours down there in Texas are rapidly growing up without us really knowing them and having a relationship with them, and we are running out of time. They are starting to establish their own lives without us (three of them have already married and had babies of their own)!” I went on to reason that our youngest and only daughter lives down there with her husband and we have a lot in common with them both, so why not move so we can have more time with them as well as the others?

So, I set out to make it happen without asking God first. When will I ever learn? For the past three weeks we tried to get lined up with a bank loan and what a battle that has been! The more we gave into their demands for more information the more forms that had to be filled. The more we gave, the more they wanted. It was crazy! Then there were all the forms that the realty agency wanted filled out… all this being done by remote over the internet with their broken websites and broken lines of communication. Around in circles we went! Arg!

Then came the house hunting. The prices down there in Texas were lower than here in Idaho so everything seemed right to make the switch. BUT we soon found out that “all that glittered was not gold.” Finding fault with the places we were interested in, the banks would not loan on the ones in our price range, even with a large down on our part. It was an uphill grind for the last three weeks, and I finally threw in the towel. What we wanted might have been God’s plan, but it sure was not HIS timing. The more time went on, the more the interest rates were going up… daily! The more they went up, the less we could afford because the monthly payments also went up to cover the increase in interest. Also a lot of people from richer states were moving to Texas with their large wads of cash from selling their real estate and they were willing to pay more. This was driving the prices of housing up rapidly in Texas just as it has in Idaho. In short, it just was not falling together as I thought it would. And I know from experience when God is in something, it REALLY comes together and it doesn’t require a lot of struggling on our part. In short it became evident that, GOD WAS NOT IN IT!

In this three week battle with me determined to make it happen, I quit walking in singleness of mind toward God and in His will. I was not walking in “sincerity without self-seeking and abundant generosity.” The simplicity of my walk had ceased.

I finally laid it all down and stopped trying to make happen what I had reasoned was a good thing sanctioned by God. Something might be God’s will, but it also has to be done God’s way and in His timing. As it turned out, down deep inside I was running from something He wanted me to take care of right here in northern Idaho… my relationship with our oldest son and his dear wife.

I’ve had a stingy heart toward our oldest boy and he has been a lot like Jacob of old, always wanting his birthright and he seemed to know inwardly that it was his right to ask for it. He always wanted me to bless him as his father and affirm him in whatever he was doing. We would move away from where he was living and soon he and his wife would move to be close to us once again. This happened numerous times. It was like Jacob wrestling with that angel and saying, “I will not let go of you until you bless me!”

I had a hard time with what should have been a natural thing between a father and his son, because my father never blessed me and rarely showed me that what I did in my life pleased him, though I followed in his footsteps in so many ways, both good and bad. I just wanted to be like my Dad and have his approval. I think that this must be a common thing between boys (girls, too) and their fathers. This is exactly what our oldest son was doing with me, and I was unable to give him a blessing just as my father was unable to give it to me. It has been like a generational curse because my grandfather was the same way with my dad.

This week after I quit trying to escape to Texas and my eyes were opened to what God wanted me to take care of and I obeyed, the curse was broken. God prompted us to sign over the house we owned in a nearby town in which our son and wife were living. So we invited them over and gave them a “Quit Claim Deed” to the place. And not only that, I was able to hug our son and tell him how proud I was of all that he had become. God had opened my eyes to see him as He and his dear wife sees him, a generous and loving man who was a success in life as he went on to grow proficient in the electrical trade, just as I had before him. Now that gulf between us is well on its way to being healed, thanks to the working of God’s Holy Spirit in our two lives as well as in our spouses. We are looking forward to seeing more of them in the days ahead and fellowshipping with them in the Spirit as God leads. After seeing the tears that were shed by them two nights ago, it is obvious that an open door has been placed before us that was not there before.

One time years ago after a couple sessions with a Christian counselor he told me, “You are a runner, aren’t you?” At first I wasn’t sure what he meant, because I hated running track in high school. But he told me that running was the way I dealt with my problems, and he got me to see it. Then he said, “YOU ARE THROUGH RUNNING!” There are many instance of people who were runners in the Bible. Elijah ran from Ahab and Jezebel. Moses ran from Pharaoh and his calling to deliver the Hebrew people from their slavery, but he had to go back after hiding out for 40 years. Jacob ran from Esau after he stole the birthright from his older brother, but he had to go back and “face the music.” The night before they met again Jacob wrestled with an angel, the result was the angel touched him in his thigh so that he could not run any longer! And when day dawned, he limped toward his brother and his band of rough looking men expecting to die, but God had changed Esau’s heart to not only forgive Jacob but to love him and embrace him when they finally met. God had done a miracle in both of their lives.

Free Pexels-photo-258045

God will not let us run away from our problems or any open wounds with members of our families or other believers. He will make us deal with them so we can move on in Christ. He has “held my feet to the fire” regarding this so many times. I have run away from broken relationships and He has arranged it so I had to go back and try to be restored with them in each case. Each time I obeyed Him in these matters it was like a big weight was severed from a hot air balloon and afterward I went through a season of rising ever higher in the Lord. We might want to flush the offenders from the “bathroom of our hearts,” but God doesn’t.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:17, AKJV)

We are His instruments to bring His love and healing to this dying world, not to run from it.

Dear Father, once again I agree with your will in my life and ALL your ways. Thank you for not letting me run any longer especially from my own family. Amen.

[1] https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2022/01/22/the-simplicity-that-is-ours-in-christ/#more-7247

What Does it Mean to Be In This World, Yet Not Of This World?

What is the “world”? Is this word kosmos in the New Testament Greek speaking of the earth? Not most of the time; rather it is speaking of the systems on this orb that are ruled over by “the prince of this world” and Jesus said this about it:

“…for the prince of this world comes, and has nothing in me. But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go from here.” (John 14:30-31, KJ2000)

Oh yes, dear Christian, “let us rise up and go” from this world system, its emotions, its drives and its ways of thinking and acting! A brother sent me this quote recently,

“Christianity began in Palestine as an experience, it moved to Greece and became a philosophy, it moved to Italy and became an institution, it moved to Europe and became a culture, and it moved to America and became a business! We’ve left the experience [of Holy Spirit guided lives] long behind.” [1]

So true! Speaking for the opposite of this in a positive light, T. Austin- Sparks wrote:

You only need to read John to see how unattached everything is, how everything is lifted clean out of this world, and everything is bound up with the fact that Christ is in heaven, and that the Lord’s people are here, but not here; here, but not known; in the world, but not of it; a mystery people in this world so far as the world is concerned… unrecognized, unknown. And yet by that very means and for that very reason, the most potent force that this universe knows: the spiritual, hidden, secret people of God in this earth. To take hold of Christianity and mold it, and shape it, and systematize it, and crystallize it, and make it some mighty movement here; with its roots here, with all its associations such as man can see, appreciate and approve; to register itself upon the ordinary consciousness of this world as being something; all of that is contrary to the Word of God and is contrary to spiritual life and spiritual power. Christ is in heaven, and we are lifted out, translated, seated together with Him in the heavenlies. Our present purpose in this world is testimony only, by which others will be taken out of the nations, a people for His name. – T. Austin-Sparks [2]

It seems that every attack of the enemy is an effort to bring our focus and thoughts away from God and HIS kingdom and down to this world and the system that rules over it. Think about our daily existence. Aren’t we consumed with the cares and pleasures of this life? How much of our thoughts are focused on Jesus who sits at the right hand of God and His Spirit who abides in us? Even if we have thoughts and works that are by Him, how long until the enemy redirects those thoughts and works down to this worldly level?  Isn’t that what Satan was trying to do when Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness?

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread. ”But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him,  “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. (Matt 4:1-11, ESV2011)

Jesus had just been Baptized by John the baptizer and empowered with the Holy Spirit, symbolized by the dove at His baptism that had just taken place, and the Spirit lead Him into the wilderness. The same thing happened to Paul after His encounter with the Living Christ on the road to Damascus. He spent the following three years in the Damascus wilderness. In our new found zeal and excitement after becoming Spirit filled, we want to run right out and do exploits “for God.” Yet the most important thing Jesus (yes even He had to learn obedience through the things He suffered) and Paul learned was that there is no good thing in our flesh, and as Jesus said, “apart from Me you can do NOTHING!”

In Christ’s temptation Satan was trying to get Him to do anything, absolutely ANYTHING apart from hearing it from His Father, but He was not moved from His place IN the Father. This temptation was constantly put before Him all through the gospel accounts, even by His disciples. Satan knows that if we are bent on doing God’s work, he must pull that work down to an earthly level. So what happens? We are first tempted to ask men for the support of “our ministry” so we can do the work and still eat and have a roof over our heads, right? Young aspiring people who want to go out and preach for God are encouraged to go around to the churches and get pledges from people to support their work as missionaries or find a pulpit to preach from where the people will support them. “And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” How many of us seek First the kingdom of God and HIS righteousness and [let] all these other things be added unto us?

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Oh yes! We must go to the holy city and do our works there! The people of that city cry out, “So you are a Christian? What church are you going to? Who is your pastor? Who is your covering?” The city of Christendom is there waiting with its embrace that squeezes the life of the Spirit out of you until you are conformed into their image and not the image of Christ. There is room for lives ruled by the Spirit there.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

I remember a “holy man” of renown in our area whom I met with one time in my spiritual youth. After I told Him what God put on my heart he said, “You have a good message, but if you would just tone it down and soften it a bit you would find more Christian platforms from which to get your message out.” Yes, the devil took me to that high mountain, the mountain of Christendom, and tempted me to tailor what God had put in me so that I could have all their kingdoms open to me. I refused and as a result it is like Sparks wrote.

“Everything is lifted clean out of this world, and everything is bound up with the fact that Christ is in heaven, and that the Lord’s people are here, but not here; here, but not known; in the world, but not of it; a mystery people in this world so far as the world is concerned… unrecognized, unknown. And yet by that very means and for that very reason, the most potent force that this universe knows: the spiritual, hidden, secret people of God in this earth.”

This is why Jesus said even of Himself, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.” (Luke 4:24, ESV2011)

In Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, a town filled with churches and church Christians, I am totally unknown, especially among all the pastors and potentates of these churches or their people. Yet, as I wait on the leading of the Lord it is His “little ones” that He puts me in touch with at a restaurant here or a grocery store there in my daily life, even on the street in front of my house as when I talked to a young man working on the sewer line one day. God shows up with His divine appointments as we keep our eyes upon HIS kingdom more often that we realize. God is not about pulpits. Jesus didn’t spent all His time in synagogues or in the temple. In fact, more than once the leaders and the mob wanted to kill Him because He spoke the truth.

No, if we really do seek HIS kingdom and not the kingdoms of men or try to establish our own “ministry” kingdom, we will be “known, yet unknown” just as Paul said. In America everything is about grandeur-ism! Bigger is better. “I want it now and I want it biggy sized!” It’s all about “the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life.” And that is the mindset we come into the kingdom of God with. This is why the flesh has to be nailed to the cross of Christ. The way of the cross is all about decrease that He might increase in and through us.The carnal man seeks after a sign, something tangible to the five senses. He wants something he can see and put his hands on and possess, and so did the leaders of the Jews. They wanted Him to establish a worldly kingdom that they could be part of and rule over.

Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (Luke 17:20-21, ESV2011)

Dear saints, the kingdom of God is not found in bricks and mortar or in Christian City. It is being built in seclusion in the midst of us, in our hearts as we seek FIRST HIS Kingdom. Peter wrote,

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1Pet 2:4-5, ESV2011)

Dear readers, may you be found standing IN Him alone in all your lives then you will have done all to stand against the temptations of the devil.

[1] https://quotefancy.com/paul-smith-quotes

]2] https://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002953.html

Only That Which is Spiritual Shall Remain

Photo by Harry Smith on Pexels

The following is a letter by T. Austin-Sparks written in the early 1950’s. If what he wrote about back then was true, how much truer it must be 70 years later as we watch society crumble, the church turn into a business instead of the relational family of God with Jesus as its only Head and evil arise all around us filling the void caused by its internal decay? The salt has lost its saltiness and is being trodden under the feet of men because it is so earth bound and without a heavenly vision or ability to stem the tide of Satan’s cohorts. What Sparks wrote below that happened to Judaism in Israel is surely coming down the pike for Christendom. It already has in many parts of the world with the onslaught of Islam and Communism. Remember, what is seen is temporary and will be shaken so that those things that are not seen and eternal will be all that remains – the true spiritual house of God IN Christ made of living stones.

BELOVED OF GOD,

With this last issue of the paper for this year (and it will not reach many of you until very near the end of the year) I feel a strong desire and urge to look back and on with you. For myself, it has been a very full year. So far as movements are concerned, the fullest year of my life. I have travelled by air alone twenty-six thousand miles, and quite a bit in other ways. This has involved many conferences, meetings, etc. so that there has been a very great deal given out. To this must be added all the ministries and labours of my colleagues and fellow-workers. This is not mentioned just as news or information, although it will show that “a great and effectual door” is opened to us. But I mention this because it will indicate that we are not spending our time up in some corner, imagining things, and ministering to hypothetical situations. We are in immediate and direct touch with the spiritual and actual situation as represented by a very large area. We have no hesitation, though much sorrow, in saying that the situation spiritually is very, very sad and deplorable. It is our well-considered and deeply-rooted conviction that some great and drastic judgment from heaven of Christendom is absolutely imperative. We are equally convinced that it has commenced and is moving obdurately and inflexibly across the world. Just as the Assyrians were the instrument under the sovereignty of God to sift Israel in the last dispensation, so it is most likely that the power moving over the earth today – a combination of Satanic forces with human instruments – is going to test the whole of Christendom as to its real spiritual measure. This may very well be the counterpart of what took place is the year 70 A.D. when Judaism was shaken to its foundations and fell. The Scriptures quite definitely foretell a tribulation coming upon “the whole world to try them that are upon the earth”. This is something much more than Jewry.

The words quoted from the prophet seem yet to be capable of a fuller-ranged fulfilment than even the above-mentioned ‘shaking’. “Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also the heavens”. (Hebrews 12:26,27).

There is no doubt that the Letter to the Hebrews was a supreme effort to get Christian believers detached from an earthly form of Christianity, and attached to Christ in heaven. That effort had as one of its strong reasons the fact that a great shaking was foretold, foreseen, and imminent. That shaking was to be in two parts, an earlier and a latter; an entirely earthly, and later an earthly and heavenly combined. The effect of the shaking, and, indeed, the purpose of it, would be to test everything as to abiding values. The former and earthly shaking was Jewish, but it had all the elements in principle and type of the latter.

In the destruction of Jerusalem – toward which the Letter pointed – the whole earth was shaken so far as Jewry was concerned. The Temple, as the focal point of that whole world, crashed even with the ground. The priesthood, as gathered up in the high-priestly order, passed away. The temple service ended, and the nation ceased to be an integrated and unified people.

These were things capable of being removed. And yet how long they had stood! What forces they had withstood! What confidence there was that they could never cease to be! How assured they were that God was so bound up with it all that it could never be destroyed and cease to be! How they fought and clung to it to the last terrible extremity! But it was of no avail. God was no longer wanting the framework and earthly system, which had taken so much room, and energy, and expenditure, before the really spiritual was reached. The percentage of spiritual value was so small after all, and spiritual interests lay so far along the labyrinthine ways of religious machinery and tradition, that it was not worth while. The means to the end was not immediate, that is, there was far too big a distance between the means and the end. There was no immediate touch with the real Divine requirement, and there was far too much that was intermediate. And so it had to go, and, rather than preserve it, God Himself shook it.

What remained after the shaking was just that, and that only, which was Christ in a spiritual and heavenly way: Christ in heaven, and here by His Spirit, the gathering point, or occasion of assembling; Christ in heaven the High Priest and Sacrifice; the order of God’s house here a purely spiritual and heavenly one – not formal, arranged, imposed, imitated, or material. Order grows out of life, and if that life is Divine, and unchecked, Divine order will be spontaneous.

The amazing thing is how blind and unbelieving Christian people are, and therefore how unwilling to seek to know the way of the ‘unshakable’. In a very small part of our lifetime the phrase ‘world evangelization’ (from one part to another) has been rendered unusable, and all that mighty machine is having to be revised. Countries which were until quite recently the greatest spheres of ‘missionary’ activity are now closed as such. There is a feverish race to try to move ahead of the flood in other countries which are already encircled and undermined. In those overrun countries nothing but a true and living knowledge of the Lord is stemming the tide. The framework and organized structure of Christianity is gone. Deeply, stealthily, and irresistibly this sinister work is paving the way for swift and paralysing movements in all the rest of the world, as much in the West as in the East. The result will be the same everywhere, little as it may seem possible because of long traditions and strong establishments. It seems a terrible thing, even to think, but as we have touched so very much of what is called ‘Christianity’ we are bound to believe that, because vast numbers who call themselves Christian are in an utterly false position, and the system itself has become so largely an earthly, traditional, formal, and unspiritual thing, this world-wide shaking is quite necessary and will be eventually justified. If we were writing a treatise, we could show that what is called ‘Christianity’ is really the greatest enemy of Christ.

It will be seen that it is not a matter of substituting another and better system for an old and poor or bad one. Some people seem to think that it is all or largely a matter of the order, technique, and form, and if we returned to the ‘New Testament’ form or order of churches all would be well. The fact is that, while certain things characterized the New Testament churches, the New Testament does not give us a complete pattern according to which churches are to be set up or formed! There is no blue-print for churches in the New Testament, and to try to form New Testament churches is only to create another system which may be as legal, sectarian and dead as others. Churches, like the Church, are organisms which spring out of life, which life itself springs out of the Cross of Christ wrought into the very being of believers. Unless believers are crucified people, there can be no true expression of the Church.

This brings us to our particular point. What is the pressing imperative in view of this oncoming flood of testing, which has already carried away very many of those who were called Christian, and even evangelical Christians?

Surely there is only one answer:- On the one hand, a ministry which has as its substance and object the “rooting and grounding”, the establishing, the building up, of believers, the real increase of “the measure of Christ”. This must get behind evangelism, so that the work is deep, not superficial; enduring, not transient; intrinsic, not general! On the other hand, believers must really take stock of their Christianity. Is it just a tradition, an assumption, an external system, the thing which is common acceptance – more or less? Or is it really “by revelation of Jesus Christ” in the heart? A real walk with God, and a growing knowledge of Christ, a life in the Spirit? God has said it: the things which can be shaken will be. What have we got that, being unshakable, will remain? [1]

 

Then this message from the Lord came to Solomon:“Concerning this Temple that you’re building, if you live your life according to my statutes, carry out my ordinances, and keep all of my commands, and live according to them, then I will do what I promised to your father David. I will reside among the Israelis and will never abandon my people Israel.” (1Kgs 6:11-13, ISV – emphasis added)

Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; my covenant which they broke, although I was a husband unto them, says the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, says the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jer 31:31-34, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

[1] https://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002091.html

Unto Us a Son Is Given… the Son of God

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” (Isa 9:6-7, KJ2000)

These wonderful words came forth by the Spirit of God long after David and Solomon died and their throne and kingdom came to an end. It is obvious to those who walk by faith that it is Jesus Christ and His kingdom that Isaiah was speaking of because HE is the Prince of Peace, the Mighty God, and the Everlasting Father. There has been no end to the increase of His government and peace since the foundations of the world.

Many of the Jews and their leaders knew this passage and saw by the signs and miracles Jesus did that He was not just a prophet or just a good teacher, but if He was really the promised Messiah, when was He going to flex His real power on this earth and make the kingdoms of men into the kingdoms of God? And of course to them it meant that He would set the Jewish leaders as the heads of His world-wide government! But God and Jesus was and is Spirit and their kingdom is a spiritual kingdom. Jesus said that God’s kingdom is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you. (Luke 17:20-21, KJ2000). Yes, His kingdom is wherever Jesus is King, in our hearts, and not in this physical world or among its leaders with all their hidden agendas.

Samuel prophesied this to King David:

And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son… (2Sam 7:12-14, KJV)

Samuel was speaking of the Son of God, not Solomon. The kingdom of Israel was unified under David’s son, Solomon, but was divided upon his death between one of his sons and one of his generals. Israel has been divided and conquered ever since. Even today’s Israel is not that kingdom that was once ruled over by Solomon, which was ten times larger but is now is overrun by Gentile nations. So what could this prophesy of a kingdom that will last forever be speaking of other than the kingdom of God? Only Jesus Christ will sit upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.” The increase of Israel’s government came to an abrupt end in 68AD when the Roman soldiers sacked Jerusalem and the temple, not leaving one of its stones upon another, and killed and scattered the people of Israel all over the Roman Empire. Even now those who rule in modern Israel are divided against one another. The only thing that unifies that country is the fact that they are surrounded by enemies and come together in a common defense with their carnal weapons.

Where is this house that David’s seed was to build after him? Solomon’s temple? This too was only an earthly manifestation of what God has been building with living stones from the foundation of the world. It is sad how many Christians are as blind today as the Jews were during Christ’s first coming as they speak of Israel as “God’s chosen people” and are blind to their own birthright as the household of faith. Part of the problem is that as Jesus said, “Not everyone who says unto me, “Lord, Lord” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of my Father.” These do greatly err because they look to the place occupied by the Dome of the Rock as if it were God’s “Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the Great King,” expecting a new temple to be built there when the New Testament says so clearly that the temple of God is one made of living stones. Peter wrote:

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1Pet 2:4-5, ESV2011)

Jesus is the cornerstone of that house, since Isaiah prophesied:

Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’ (Isa 28:16, ESV2011)

Jesus is the Cornerstone and Foundation of that house. Men are always trying to pull down what is heavenly and spiritual into the natural where they can manipulate it and control people. Today there is an “apostles and prophets movement” that claims to be the foundation the church and I have never seen such a display of carnality in my life as what I have seen in their writings, websites and meetings! Paul wrote:

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1Cor 3:10-11, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

Yes, let each one of these so-called “apostles and prophets” take care!

God spoke to Abraham and said, “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Gen 22:18, KJV). This is the promise that Paul wrote about.

Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. (Gal 3:16, KJV)

The people of God are not a people of a common blood line, religion, nationality, political leaning or set of doctrines, but are those who walk in the faith of Abraham, faith in Jesus Christ alone. Jesus told the Jews, “Abraham saw my day and he rejoiced.” Jesus spoke to Abraham even back then and he believed. “For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb 11:10, ESV2011). These Jewish leaders thought they had that city and the temple system under their control in an unholy alliance with Rome, and they were not about to give that up to the Son of the Vineyard Owner. Prophesying His own death, Jesus said, “But when the tenants [or the vineyard] saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize his inheritance” (see Matt. 21:33-41).

So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” (John 11:47-48, ESV2011)

It was here that they started plotting Christ’s death. When the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah and King, they rejected their place in God’s kingdom and it resulted in their own demise because this passage out of Matthew goes on…

“And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” (Matt 21:39-44, ESV2011)

Yes, “the kingdom of God will be [and was] taken away from you [them] and given to a people producing its fruits.” The gospel took root among the Gentile believers and those Jews who rejected that old temple system and produced fruit for the Master who is in heaven. But when the Jews repent and “look upon Him whom they have pierced” and weep and mourn, “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.” (Zech 13:1, ESV2011. See also Zech 12:10-14).

With God His promises have always been given to those who walk by faith, just as it’s written…

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Heb 11:6, KJ2000)

For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter [of the law]. His praise is not from man but from God. (Rom 2:28-29, ESV2011)

For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3:27-29, KJV)

And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. (Heb 3:5-6, KJV)

Dear saints, we need to quit looking to the kingdoms of this world and even church systems for our help and salvation. Political systems are not the answer. The kingdom of God does not come with things that are seen, but is in the hearts of those who walk by faith, listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit. The warning in Revelation is clear.

Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. (Rev 18:4-5, ESV2011)

Unto us and INTO us a Child has been born and a Son has been given. The government of God’s kingdom rests upon the shoulders of Jesus Christ and His kingdom is increasing day by day as His people listen to and follow His Spirit, not religious and political men who usurp His place in their lives. There is no end to the increase of His kingdom in our hearts as we obey the leading of the Spirit. Let us search our hearts and forsake all that is of this world system, dear brothers and sisters, and watch how the Holy Spirit comes alive and Christ’s kingdom increases within us for He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star. ”The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Rev 22:16-17, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

The Battle of Light Against Darkness

It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. (Ps 118:8-9, ESV2011)

Not long ago most Americans had “faith” in many things: faith in their 401k savings accounts and the stock market, faith in the medical professionals, faith in science to come up with all the answers we need to deal with whatever threatens us, faith in our military to save us, faith in a strong dollar, even faith in our politicians. But it is interesting how all these things we once had “faith in” are failing us on every front. The dollar is rapidly shrinking, inflation is soaring and eating up our savings (if we have any), our COVID jabs don’t prevent us from getting the disease as vaccines once did, our enemies’ military might is rapidly growing greater than our own, and politicians are proving themselves liars over and over again. Even faith we once had in our church leaders is waning as they are caught in illicit affairs, stealing from the church treasuries, and being proven as false teachers. I believe this all is the hand of God at work, allowing these things so that we would no longer put our trust in men or the things of this world, but put our trust in Jesus Christ alone.

Recently Susanne Schuberth had a series of visions that she has been sharing on her blog [1] and how they might apply to current events and what we should put our hope as believers in Christ. In the process of reading her blog, different Bible verses came to mind that speak of the many things that the world is facing in these troublesome times we live in. The question facing those who believe in Christ is, “Are we going to put our total trust in Him, or in today’s technological, financial and political leaders and even those who make themselves out to be our religious leaders?” It seems that everyone is looking to men to do something to save us from what is coming upon the earth. It is becoming a perfect setup for a one world Beast system and Great False Prophet to take control. You might be thinking, “Oh boy, here it comes. He is going to tell us who he thinks these the Beast and the Great False Prophet are.” Sorry, but you can go running after the plethora of false teachers in the church system if that’s what you are looking for. I am here to focus on Jesus Christ and none other.

One of the things that Susanne saw in a vision was a high, chocolate brown, cone shaped mountain. She and Jesus were walking around the base of this mountain on a circular path with the mountain on their left. The mountain was oily and slick so that it could not be climbed. Here is what she wrote,

“It was only yesterday on Thursday in the morning that I found myself walking in the Spirit (in another vision, so to say) with Jesus along a well-trodden path that closely surrounded a high and steep mountain on our left. Jesus was on my right side as we kept walking this ocher-colored footpath. I did not focus on Jesus as I usually know I have to in order to not get side-tracked by the enemy. Instead, I looked up this high and slick mountain that was shaped like a huge brown cone. There was no rock, no tree, only a greasy soil texture which allowed no uphill climbs. Alas, I could not discern any way up nor down and no other path elsewhere, either, than this tedious one we were on.

Over time it began to dawn on me that we were walking on an endless circuit around this cone-shaped mountain. That was not only boring. I also felt more and more pressured to keep walking in this prison of sorts. My feelings turned from boredom over irritation to outright anger. After walking approximately one third of the whole ‘circle’ that surrounded the mountain, I really felt like a prisoner who wanted to break free! I turned to Jesus and beseeched Him, “Can we not go elsewhere??” To this He answered, “Yes, we can,” and soon I found myself with Him on a higher elevation on the other side of the mountain. Phew, much better there! Relaxing at Jesus’ left side, I looked down on the earth and on this whole mountain, its rounded off peak, and on the path that was thin like a thread, but somehow stuck to the mountain itself.

“What is this mountain?” I wondered. “This is the pandemic,” Jesus answered. “Oh…” I was surprised…  🙄 At that moment I saw many people who were walking on this path around the mountain. They were small like ants although I could discern the clothes they wore, the color of their hair and so on. They kept walking… and kept walking…and …you know the rest. At that moment it got as clear as crystal to me that we have to continually focus on Jesus if we do not want to remain part of the crowd which, being focused on the mountain and its path around it, never looked up to the heights.” (1)

Where do we who believe in Christ really put our trust? Do we get so focused on our problems that we can’t see the answer God has given us? Do we trust Him to take us through COVID and the other evil things that Satan is concocting for these end times we face, or do we, like ancient Israel, trust in the “chariots and horses of Egypt” to save us?

It is amazing how contradictory our medical science professionals have been about what must be done to protect us against COVID 19. First it was “don’t wear masks, but stay six feet apart.” Then it was “stay indoors for two weeks and this will all be over.” Then it was “you must wear masks and stay six feet apart.” Then it was, “you must wear two masks!” Next it was you must get a “COVID vaccine shot and you will be protected.” Then it was “you must get a booster injection and then a third one, etc.” And don’t forget the lock-downs, closing small businesses, even shutting down large sports venues and putting cardboard fans in the bleachers with artificial crowd noise over the PA system. On and on it goes, around and around the mountain they go, a mountain that can’t be climbed because they do not put their faith in Jesus Christ alone. Insanity!

Yet, COVID 19 is not the only curse on this world that reveals the futility of “the best laid plans of mice and men.” First there was the rush to make a vaccine for the first version of the virus, but they are not as effective against the alpha, beta, delta and now the omicron variants. How many more man-made diseases are yet to be unleashed as Satan rules over the hearts evil men?

There are many more of these “mountains.” COVID isn’t the only thing we are facing in this crazy world with its insane rulers as we turn to man for answers and only get more confusion and division as a result. There is the threat of China invading Taiwan, the Russians invading Ukraine, hurricanes, tornadoes, erupting volcanoes, earthquakes, tidal waves, floods, nuclear disasters, famines, food and energy shortages…on and on it goes. Jesus foretold these things before He went to the cross (read Luke ch. 21). Why all this futility as men deal with these things? When will we ever learn that the minds of men have no answers but only cause more confusion, chaos and destruction as they try to fix it? David prophesied:

Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The LORD shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, And distress them in His deep displeasure:” (Ps 2:1-5, NKJV)

It is not “what” is God’s answer to all this confusion, but Who!

“Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.” “I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession.” (Ps 2:6-8, NKJV)

Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Ps 2:10-12 ESV)

Jesus the Christ will prevail and those who have believed into Him (the correct translation of John 3:16) and have their hope and trust as they abide IN Him and put no trust or hope in this world system to save them, these will overcome whatever Satan throws at them for they walk in the faith of Jesus Christ not their own (see Romans 3:22). This faith is a gift from our Father in heaven (see Ephesians 2:8) and He has promised to give good gifts to those who ask for them.

For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest… But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:18-29, ESV2011)

Dear saints, this is indeed a dark hour coming on the earth. But we have many great promises in the scriptures for this time as well. The darker it gets the more we should be turning away from the world, its rulers and its wise men for our hope and put our hope where it belongs.

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were [and are] darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” (Rom 1:21-22, ESV2011).

Yes “darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you” (Isa 60:2, ESV2011). Spiritual darkness and even death are not to be feared if we have made our abode IN Jesus Christ.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,”​even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. (Ps 139:11-12, ESV2011)

The key here, dear saints, is that darkness is turned into light as we walk with Him. The apostle John wrote this:

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5, ESV2011)

The life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (1John 1:2-5, ESV2011)

No matter how dark this world and its people become, if we are IN HIM there is no darkness at all. Neither should any darkness be found in those who have believed into Him, just as John wrote to those who believe.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1John 1:5-7, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

 

All photos in this article were taken by Michael Clark

  [1] https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2021/12/03/hinds-feet-on-high-places-or-the-only-way-out-is-up/

Christ Our Temple – Where true worship begins

The Thinker by Rodin – source : Pixabay.com CC0

Philosophers past and present have made it their quest to seek the truth of their existence on this earth. Some said that this visible world is only a figment of our imagination. The famous French philosopher Rene Descartes, surrounded by these doubts of existence, concluded, “I think, therefore I am.” Man’s quest for higher education in all the institutions of learning around the world, secular and religious, is based on this. To modern man, his existence is all about the mind. The importance of a “formal” education is drummed into our heads from an early age. Yet, to this kind of knowledge Paul wrote, “If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.” (1Cor 8:2, ESV2011). Relying on Bible and theological knowledge can and often does get in the way of our knowing Jesus in an intimate and relational way. We are made up of body, soul and spirit. The mind is part of our souls, but Jesus said, “They who worship God must worship in Spirit and in truth. God is Spirit and He has sent His Spirit into us to lead us into all truth.” (See John 16:13-15).

Two thousand years ago this man, Jesus Christ, came to the center of Jewish learning in Jerusalem, and challenged those scholars and priests who knew that their system of truth was the whole truth and the only way man can please God. To this Jesus said, “I AM the way, the truth and the life, no man can come to the Father but by me.” Needless to say, He became a target of their ire and consternation from the moment He began to present the New Covenant. He did not come to rule and reign in their temple, but to displace their whole religious system, dispensation and all its physical manifestations with a Spiritual man that we might all become “One new man in Christ.” Those who believe into Him become part of the temple of God with Jesus as it only foundation and cornerstone. Isaiah prophesied this event.

Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’ (Isa 28:16, ESV2011)

Isaiah also foretold of this collision between the New Covenant in Christ and the keepers of the Old one founded on Moses’ Law.

And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.” (Isa 8:14-15, ESV2011- emphasis added)

The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, under the command of Titus, AD 70- by David Roberts

Before His death Jesus cried out:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. (Matt 23:37-38, ESV2011-emphasis added)

And Micah prophesied:

Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height. (Mic 3:12, ESV2011- emphasis added)

In Hebrews we read this:

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near… For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God… He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Heb 10:1-10, ESV2011)

Often the most important things that Jesus had to say about the New Covenant came from His conversations with individuals, not the crowds. So it is in our lives. After all, He is our Personal Savior. In John chapter four we read the personal exchange that Jesus had with a woman of Samaria.

The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain [at the Samaritan temple on mount Gerizim], but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:19-24, ESV2011)

About the importance to us of this divine encounter with a lowly woman T. Austin-Sparks wrote:

I want to focus your attention upon these contrasting words: “Neither… nor… but”. “Neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem… but in spirit and truth.” Not this, nor that, but… Not here, nor there, but… That is the heart of things here. Now let us analyze this whole statement. “The hour cometh, and now is.” The hour? …All this is very much in keeping with the way in which the Lord used this phrase: “In that day”, when He was speaking about the coming of the Holy Spirit. The ‘hour’ and ‘day’ are identical in the Lord’s meaning.

Now, what is this day that had come with the Lord Jesus but the coming of the Lord Jesus Himself? He says it quite emphatically: a new day, or a new hour, has come. We have now entered upon a new period in this world’s history. What is it? Of course, as to the actual period, it is undoubtedly from the first advent of the Lord Jesus to His coming again…

Dear friends, most of the errors, the confusions, the contradictions that abound in Christianity are due largely to the failure to recognize and accept the essential change which has come with this particular dispensation [see Hebrews chapter eight]. It is not necessary for me to dwell upon the errors and confusions and contradictions that abound in Christianity. The state of things! Sometimes it appalls us, sometimes it perplexes us, and sometimes it makes us ashamed, this thing called ‘Christianity’ in general, as we know it. And I repeat: A very large proportion of all that which is a contradiction to Christ is due to the failure to recognize and accept the immense change in dispensation that has come about with the advent of the Lord Jesus. That is a statement which we must follow up.

We used the word ‘dispensation’. It is a New Testament word, and is, in itself, illuminating. The Apostle Paul used it four times. It is a Greek word, ‘oikos’, which means ‘the house’, and ‘oikonomia’ is the order of the house, that is, the regime that exists in the house…

That is the meaning of this word ‘dispensation’, or ‘oikonomia’: the order of the house. With the coming of the Lord Jesus, and of the Holy Spirit, which two things are one in effect and meaning, as we shall see, the order of the house has been changed. The order in the Old Testament was one order, and the order in the New Testament is an entirely different order. The house order, or regime, has been completely changed. I have said that if somebody comes in and begins to change the order in your home there is usually trouble, and that is exactly what happened in the New Testament. Tremendous battles and troubles arose because the Old Testament order was being upset and put aside. Look at it – again and again! Paul’s whole life was a battle on this matter. He was the man who used this word ‘house order’, or ‘dispensation’ and because he was now recognizing and accepting the setting aside of the whole Mosaic order, the order of the law, and was pointing to the new order that had come in with the Holy Spirit, what a time he had everywhere! His battle for Galatia, for instance, focused upon this very thing – the change in the order from the old to the new. That wonderful Letter to the Hebrews was written on this very thing. There is an order in the Old Testament of angel messengers, of priests, of sacrifices, of covenants, and so on. The writer says: ‘That order is finished. A new order has come in with Christ’ – “God… hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son” (Hebrews 1:1,2), and this is the new order that has been introduced. A heavenly order, not an earthly one. The old one was earthly, but the new is a heavenly one.

May I repeat, at the risk of tiring you, that it is failure to recognize and accept that that lies right at the root of most of our troubles. There are many people who are still living on a pre-Pentecost basis, trying to live an Old Testament kind of order in a New Testament day, and it does not fit with the Holy Spirit. There are many people who are living on a sub-New Testament basis, altogether below this, and not coming up to the high standard and level of this new order that has come in. There are some people who are trying to combine both, and the result is terrible confusion.

You can leave that if you don’t understand and cannot follow what I mean, but it is all an emphasis upon this: the necessity for a recognizing and accepting of this tremendous change that has taken place in the dispensation, in the house order, by the coming of the Lord Jesus and of the Holy Spirit.

The Nature of the New Order

There is no doubt, to come back to this fourth chapter of John, that Jesus was speaking to this woman of Samaria about the day or the hour of this new order. He spoke to her about the water which He would give, about the well which would be opened, and the stream within, about the life which He would give – but it is always with a forward glance and a forward look. He is thinking of that hour when the Holy Spirit would come, and this really did take place [on the day of Pentecost]…

But let us note – and this, dear friends, is the foundation of it all – that this new dispensation, this new order of things, is a spiritual dispensation. That is the thing the Lord has been trying to emphasize. That is what He meant with Nathanael. It was a figurative way of speaking: “Hereafter” – that is, when this hour is come – “ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man” (John 1:51). What is meant by that? Are we to take it literally? We know what it means – that Jesus Christ is the way of communication between heaven and earth, between us and God. That it is by Him, through Him and in Him that heaven and earth are united. We here are united with heaven, and all the communications of God, by the Holy Spirit, with us are in Christ. We understand something of that, don’t we? But that requires this new order.

Nicodemus: Is this a new spiritual dispensation? Yes, Nicodemus could not understand it. “How can a man be born when he is old? …That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” That is the new order. It is a new spiritual regime that is introduced in this hour, this dispensation. It is the dispensation of the Spirit, and, therefore, it is a spiritual dispensation.

And that is what He is saying to this woman. This hour, this dispensational hour, lasting all these centuries, is a spiritual order of things.

You focus, you see, right down on this: ‘The hourneithernorbut’. ‘Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and they have always said that if you want to meet God you have to come to Mount Gerizim and our Samaritan temple, for that is where you will meet Him. You Jews say: If you want to meet God you must come to the temple in Jerusalem and that is where you will meet Him.’ Jesus said: ‘Neither… nor’ – just wiping out the whole thing. By one sweep of the hand dismissing the whole old order and bringing in an entirely new one and telling you what it is. Yes, it is the new order of the Spirit. And it is not focused locally at all, in the way that you are going to be bound by any localization of this thing, but “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”. That is the new order. In John 3:16 it is: “whosoever believeth”, wiping out all racial distinctions, all geographical limitations, all differences here on this earth, with a great ‘whosoever’: throwing that at Nicodemus, who said: ‘No. Israel are the chosen people, the elect, the special people, the spiritual aristocracy. No, no!’ … “Whosoever, Nicodemus!”

That is what came out in Acts 15: “All the nations, upon whom my name is called” – “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name” – “Gathered together in my name”. That is John 3:16 – “Whosoever”.

And in Matthew 18:20 it is ‘wheresoever’. This is not a matter of geography, of certain structures, edifices, places, kinds of meeting-places, or anything temporal at all. It is nothing of this earth. ‘Neither… nor… but in the Spirit.’ This is a spiritual dispensation, and everything that belongs to this dispensation is a spiritual thing.

In the Old Testament it was the old house order. If you are going to have a tabernacle it is going to be a temporal, earthly thing, made with hands. If you are going to have priests with their vestments, their beautiful garments, and Levites, and all the system of sacrifices and feasts and orders down here – well; that has gone forever with the coming of the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit. What is the new house order? Are there going to be people in the Lord’s house who minister, serve? Be very careful of how you use that word ‘office’ – ‘holding office’ [1] – for in this new order there is nothing official. Everything is spiritual, and everyone who ministers, everyone who serves and everyone who has any place and does anything, does so because they are spiritual men and women, and on no other ground at all… [Note; there is no special priest cast in the New Covenant. We who are in Christ are His holy priesthood – see 1Peter 2:5-9]

That is very important, dear friends. What is the Church, and what are the churches? It is just this – nothing less and nothing more than this: the aggregate of those upon whom the Name has been called whether it be two, or three, or more… ‘Where I put My Name, there will I meet you’… “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”. That is the Church: nothing less than that and nothing more than that. ‘Neither… nor… but in the Spirit’, and wheresoever that happens, there the Church is, in essence, in principle.

There is nothing legal about this at all. It is a spiritual matter entirely. And so everything else to do with this new order is spiritual. That is what the Lord is saying to this woman. [2]

[1] The word “office” in almost every case was added by the KJV translators in the New Testament and there is no Greek word in the original to justify this. The two exceptions are where it tells of function of the priests in the temple under the old dispensation. The Church is not ruled over by officers in their offices, but by Jesus Christ who is alive in our hearts.

[2] https://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/001836.html

Let Us Go On! – Lessons Learned While Searching for the City of God

Dear friends, this article is the testimony of my life and things I have learned over the last 55 years of pursuing God in my life, but most of it has been Him pursuing me! So please bear with me if it is a bit long. I pray that some of the things I share here speak to that longing deep within your hearts placed there by our heavenly Father. My body and eyes are starting to fail, but the eyes of my heart that is in Christ are brighter than ever.

Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house, unto a land that I will show you: And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing: (Gen 12:1-2, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:13-14, KJ2000)

When God puts His call on our lives, like Abram [Abraham], we are called on a journey away from all that the world has used to hold us captive and unto everything God has for us as His sons and daughters. Oh, what a grip that loyalty to country and family traditions can have on us and it gets in the way of obeying His still small voice at every turn. Like Peter said to the Sanhedrin, “Where it is better to obey God or obey man, you be the judge.” As we obey Him even the wills of our close family members will seek preeminence over His will for us.

God uses many things in our lives to teach us and keep us moving on the path He has set before us. For many years I was oblivious to the fact that He was moving in my life or was even interested in me as a person. I figured He was much too busy with more important things to spend time thinking about me. I saw religion as a fixed institution and God was “fixed” in it as well. I was born into Catholicism, spent years in Catholic schools, became an altar boy while in grade school, and got more attention from nuns and priests than I wanted.

My Father came home from WW2 with his lower left leg missing because he stepped on a land mine. He was a Sargent in the army in France and he ran the house like a military boot camp. Showing emotion was not acceptable; my mom was an emotional wreck and so was one of my sisters. Children were to be seen and not heard and his belt was always at the ready. Positive affirmations from him were rare.

I never fit in well with most of my classmates and was often singled out for rejection and even mocked from time to time by my teachers. Does any of this sound familiar? I left home as soon as I graduated from high school (dropping out before I got my diploma was NOT acceptable since my dad was a school teacher). After high school ended I spent four years in the US Navy. I was put on the first aircraft carrier heading to the South China Sea right after “The Gulf of Tonkin Incident” in 1964, the real beginning of the war against North Vietnam though we had a military presence there years before that. I did a record three cruises in the next three years when most men I knew only had one or two. I was totally burned-out by the end from working numerous shifts around the clock because of a lack of people with the technical skills I was trained for. Like many Vietnam War vets, I came home totally disillusioned with the US government and my country as a whole.

Photo of the USS Hancock CVA-19, my home for many months off of North Vietnam

Between cruises I met my dear wife, Dorothy. We figured out that we had three months together in our first year of marriage, and those were interrupted by many separations by the dictates of my service. This is not a good way to start a marriage. When I joined the navy I was all “God and country,” but by the time I got out I was angry at the way that war was being mishandled by politicians back home, bitter about all the misuse of power, and disillusioned with American society at almost every level.

It was in this state of mind that God started to draw me so that I would eventually come to know Him as my Father and Jesus as my Savior. Soon the Holy Spirit was after me like the “Hound of Heaven” that He has often been called. I found out after I surrendered that my wife, her mother and my paternal grandparents were all praying I would come to Christ. I got pretty miserable until I finally released control of my life to God and surrendered to Jesus as my Lord. He just let me stew in my own juices until I was sick and tired of being ME! A year and a half after I got out of the navy, I invited the pastor of a small Bible church in the neighborhood to come over and he explained what the scriptures say about salvation and our status as sinners until we repent and say “the sinner’s prayer.”

He did all that, but it didn’t take because I was still holding back for myself those things in my life that I saw as “good.” I remember telling him I didn’t want to end up in a stew pot on a mission field and I wasn’t sure I could trust God with control of my life, but I prayed with him anyway. During the next 26 months things went from bad to worse. I later found out that God is not satisfied with a partial surrender because He knows that HIS will for us is perfect. During this time I didn’t make life easy for my wife and kids while I “kicked against the goad” of God. He was not about to be bought-off with a half way surrender from me. As my brother George Davis has said many times, “Our heavenly Father has this problem–He thinks HE is God!” Like most war vets, I came home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Yet, God was using all these events in my life to get me to let go and to grow me up into one of His sons.

Trying to be a “good Christian” without the Holy Spirit only brought more failure in my life. In the spring of 1970 I came home from work mad, as was normal for me. Each night I sat alone in the living room and stared at the wall as I moldered over what my life had become. One night after I ate alone, Dorothy came in and said, “Michael, I don’t know how much longer I can live with you like this. This hate inside you is killing me and killing the kids.” That got me feeling totally hopeless and helpless. The following three months were the closest I came to committing suicide as the devil whispered in my ear, “Why don’t you do your family and the whole world a favor and just end it!” I wanted to change, but how? Hadn’t I already given God a chance by being a Catholic and trying Protestantism? I tried different things of this world and nothing brought any lasting happiness. God was what I was still missing.

Romans chapter eight says, “If any man has not the Spirit of God he is none of His.” That old pastor that took me through the salvation passages in the New Testament but forgot to tell me that my initial salvation wouldn’t be complete until I was filled with the Spirit of God. We all know John 3:16 but we often miss its meaning for before this Jesus said to Nicodemus,

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”(John 3:5&6, KJ2000)

Trying to keep the laws in the Bible and do everything required to be a good church member without the Holy Spirit was futile and so was trying to be a good husband and father! This was no different than when I was trying to be “good Catholic!” It was like running around in my car on an empty tank, never knowing when my car would fail me. But I soon found out that life in the Spirit is like a car with the tank topped off every day. He is the power in our life of salvation (see Acts 1:8 and1 Peter 1:5). Before Jesus was only my “co-pilot.” Now HE is the Driver and His Spirit is like the GPS app on our smart phone giving the directions. This way we can rest in what they are doing and be along for the ride. This is what it means to enter into God’s rest. Yes, we are given certain things to do as obedient His servants and even these are to be done as we rest in Him. Like Jesus told the disciples, “The flesh (that which comes from our minds, self wills and emotions) profits nothing.”

The Law and sin consciousness have their place in the plan of God for our lives, but things change after we are born of the Spirit of God. Paul wrote,

Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture has consigned all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Therefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:21-26, KJ2000)

I can now see that all the things in my life, both good and evil, were there to bring me to faith in Jesus Christ and no longer depend on my ability to run it without His leading.

Copenhagen Denmark with its many church steeples – Unsplash

Once I gave Jesus authority to lead me, my search for what pleases Him began in earnest. I attended many different churches and Christian groups in that search, always looking for true fellowship with other believers. It’s not that any of them were lacking in what God was trying to teach me during that time, but they could each only go so far. Each of them became a steppingstone along the way on the path into the Kingdom of God. Many of the exits I had to make were not cordial. Institutions don’t like it when you leave. They all like to think that everything you need is under their roof in their system, so people that you once thought were your friends cut you off when you move on. Sad to say, shunning seems to be one of “sacraments” of Christendom.

After many years in this process, I cried out, “God! I don’t fit! I just don’t FIT!” He replied “YOU aren’t supposed to fit!” I then said, “But God, am I not a Christian?” and He assured me that I was. I then said, “Then what are all these people that I’ve had to leave behind?” SILENCE. The following passage kind of explains the answer to my question. Jesus was talking to Peter about the call of Christ in his life when He said,

Verily, verily, I say unto you, When you were young, you dressed yourself, and walked where you would: but when you shall be old, you shall stretch forth your hands, and another shall dress you, and carry you where you would not.” This spoke he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he said unto him, “Follow me.” Then Peter, turning about, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved [the apostle John] following… Peter seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what shall this man do?” Jesus said unto him, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to you? you follow me.” (John 21:18-22, KJ2000)

Jesus is our Shepherd and HE leads us. As He told Peter in the above passage, there are places and circumstances in our lives we wouldn’t have chosen on our own. When we were young we made our own choices. But we learn that even our best laid plans can blow up in our faces. He lets this happen to get us to the place where we no longer trust our choices without Him leading. He even binds up our natural strengths and abilities so that His Spirit can take us to places in life we would never have gone. This happened to Peter when he saw a vision of a sheet coming down from heaven with all manner of non-kosher animals on it. He heard God say, “Kill and eat,” but He answered “Not so, Lord.” This conflict was because of his Jewish idea of what God would never ask Him to do, but God wanted him to lead a Gentile to Christ and even eat with him! Sooner or later, God will do the same with us if our preconceived religious ideas get in the way. The question is, will we be like the Jews and make the commands of God in our lives of no effect by the keeping of our traditional religious ideas? If we walk by the Spirit, we are no longer under the law. Peter was known even later for “fleeing the very appearance of evil” when it came to eating with the Gentile believes and Paul had to rebuke him to his face, but he finally caught on.

For from his [Jesus’] fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:16-17, ESV2011)

Discipleship in the “school of Christ” is not like a cheap ball cap where “one size fits all.” We all have our own walk designed by our Father who knows exactly what we need and what He requires of us. In Romans we read,

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. (Rom 14:4, ESV2011)

Stage Light CGI Lighting Equipment – Unsplash

I had a dream that foretold what God was doing in my life without me always knowing what it was. He never gives us the full picture ahead of time because we are called to walk by faith not knowledge. This way we have to depend on Him and not run out ahead of Him to try and make it happen in our own strength. In this dream I found myself alone on a darkened stage. Suddenly a spotlight came on and lit up a spot on the floor in front of me. So, not knowing what else to do, I stepped into the light. Then the light went out and it was totally dark again. In a few moments another spot lit up in front of me, so I stepped into it. This went on time and again until I had gone all over ending with me at the back corner of the stage where there was a short flight of stairs down to a big exit door. I pushed on the panic bar that was across the door and it opened to the outside where there was a beautiful golden field of wheat that glowed in the sun and stretched off into the distance as far as I could see. That is where the dream ended.

Faith requires obedience to God and it requires us to follow by taking one step at at a time. There is no “fast track” to becoming His mature sons and daughters. What is He really after? In John chapter 17 we can read Jesus’ final “will and testament” before He laid down His life on the cross. While with the disciples that final night He prayed:

And now come I to you [Father]; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through your truth: your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified [set apart from the world] through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also who shall believe on [Grk. eis – into] me through their word; That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me. And the glory which you gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them, as you have loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which you have given me: for you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world has not known you: but I have known you, and these have known that you have sent me. And I have declared unto them your name, and will declare it: that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:13-26, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

Jesus wants us to be where He was then and always IS, in perfect unity with our Father in heaven, so we can enjoy the fellowship He has with our Father. In so doing, we can also have perfect fellowship with others, all of us living as one body in harmony with Christ as its Head.

Which name of God did Jesus give us? “FATHER.” He referred to God as His and our Father constantly! This kind of familiarity with God is rarely found in the Old Testament. Jesus told us to pray, “Our Father…” just as He did while with them. God is His Father and in Christ, He is ours. We are His offspring (see Acts 17:28), and that happens when His Spirit comes into us. The scriptures say that Jesus is the Firstborn of many sons and daughters who are called forth into His glory.

It is in this unity with the Father and the Son that the world can see that Jesus Christ is the Messiah sent down from God to lead the way. We are called into this unity with the Father and the Son as the Holy Spirit draws us out of the world and teaches and everything we need to know for our complete salvation (see John 16-13). We are saved from ourselves and from subjection to the evil in this world. God is not through with that process until we are shining lights in this spiritually dark world as His sons and daughters. We are not called to be candles hiding under a basket, but to me set in strategic places in the house to be lights for all men to see. Without that divine Light in us, no matter how much doctrine and Bible we preach and teach, we are still darkness. Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” And He said, “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light within you is darkness — how deep is that darkness!” (Matt 6:23, HCSB). John wrote, “In Him was Life and the Life was the light of men.” And so it is with us as His lights.

Where does Jesus lead us after we initially receive Him? The Letter to the Hebrews was written to Jews who believed in Jesus and claimed Him as their Messiah. They had started their journey following Him, but they became stagnate in their faith. They were falling back under Sabbath and law keeping instead of the freedom purchased for them on the cross. The common theme throughout this letter that they should keep going on into a greater spiritual maturity in Christ and so it is with us. Consider these verses:

Let us therefore fear, lest, although a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. (Heb 4:1, KJ2000)

Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief [Law keeping instead of depending totally on the righteousness of Christ who abides in us is not abiding in God’s rest called “faith”] (Heb 4:11, KJ2000)

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. [We are saved by His grace, not our works] (Heb 4:16, KJ2000)

Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto maturity; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, (Heb 6:1, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

And having a high priest [Jesus] over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…(Heb 10:21-22, KJ2000)

Therefore seeing we also are surrounded with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily ensnare us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith… (Heb 12:1-2, KJ2000)

Let us go forth therefore unto him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. (Heb 13:13-14, KJ2000)

These all are exhortations to keep moving toward that perfect will that God has for us! We are to keep pressing in, following Jesus wherever His Spirit is leading us! It speaks of this oneness in the Book of Revelation. “…These are they who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb.”(Rev 14:4, KJ2000). This can’t happen unless we allow God to pour us out from one “vessel” to another until all that dead yeast we collect along the way is removed. Jesus said, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees…” This is what the Feast of the Unleavened Bread is all about! The Jews were instructed to search the whole house and make sure no yeast was to be found.

Dear saints, let us beware of becoming like ancient Moab in our Christian complacency. I know many Christians that are content with being “in the right denomination” instead of all that God has for them.

Moab has been at ease from his youth and has settled on his dregs [that sludge at the bottom of bottle of cheap wine much of which is dead yeast]; he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, nor has he gone into exile; so his taste remains in him, and his scent is not changed. “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I shall send to him pourers who will pour him, and empty his vessels and break his jars in pieces.” (Jer 48:11-12, ESV2011)

Winery workers treading red wine – Unsplash

After the yeast has done its job on the grape juice and converted the sugars into alcohol the wine maker lets the wine settle out so that the dead yeast and impurities settle to the bottom of the container. Then he pours the clear wine off into another container. This is done two or three times until he can see clearly through it. God does this with us if we are content to “settle on our dregs.” If we refuse to be poured from vessel to vessel, God will brake our old containers that we might get on track again with Him.

What a journey we who believe in Jesus are on! As the saying goes, “The sky is the limit!” We are called to the very throne of God to rule and reign with Christ. Yes, it is an uphill battle. The Spirit keeps drawing us forth in our spirits, showing us the next step in our journey toward full son-ship IN Christ. Like the tribes of Rubin and Gad, the flesh in us wants to settle down, camp and be happy with what is still on the east side of the Jordan, the world and all it has to offer. But we must cross over the Jordan in full flood stage with the help of God to possess all that Father has for us. HE will make a way for that happen if only we obey.

Lot and his family leaving Sodom

Jesus said, “As it was in the days of Lot, so shall it be in the coming of the Son of Man.” Some of us are like Lot and want to turn aside to that little city on our way out of Sodom as the fire falls on our old lifestyle. We escape the judgment, but never go on to that higher ground that Abraham chose as he looked for that city that has its foundations in heaven, whose Builder and Maker is God. It is so sad to see Christians sell God short in their lives. But this is the nature of the “on high calling” in the lives of so many. “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.”

If Satan can’t keep us from taking the first step in our calling to forsake this world system in which he rules, then he tries to get us to settle on some other step along the way instead of going on as Jesus leads. He wants us to “fall short of the glory of God” and in the economy of God this is called sin (see Romans 3:23). Our salvation is not complete until we share in the glory of God as His spiritual sons and daughters IN Christ. Yes, the place we are now may have been given us by God, but not to be our permanent dwelling place. It is only a step along the way in the eyes of our Father. If we decide to camp and build ourselves a new habitation around a doctrine or teaching or experience, we still have fallen short of the glory of the Father that is ours IN Jesus Christ. Like Moab our taste will remain in us instead of the taste of our Savior.

Have you ever wondered why, after finding a fellowship or church that God uses to teach and grow you closer to Him, for a season there’s suddenly a “church split” or the people become disillusioned with the leadership that is taken captive by some sin? We have had it happened time and again over the last fifty years. Or have you thought you found the right place for you, only to discover that you have matured beyond those leading and teaching the same old stuff that you experienced long ago (see Hebrews 6:1-3)? Dear saints, we are not called to be “happy campers!” We are called to be pilgrims and sojourners like Abraham, who we call “the father of faith.”

In that great “faith chapter,” Hebrews chapter eleven we read this:

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Heb 11:13-16, ESV2011)

It’s a heavenly city and throne we are called to, “the city of the great King,” not those made by the hands of religious men.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. (Heb 11:8-10, ESV2011)

So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. (Heb 13:12-14, ESV2011)

If you keep following Jesus, don’t be surprised that you become a reproach, just as Jesus was to those who presided over that Jewish system 2000 years ago. Jesus was a reproach to the leaders of the Jews because He didn’t point to them and their system as having “arrived.” In fact He said that one stone would not be left upon another until it was all torn down! Instead He said, “You Follow Me!” The Old Covenant of Moses had its purpose. All the writings of Moses and the prophets pointed to Jesus as their coming Messiah, the spotless Lamb of God that would be offered up to take away the sins of the world so that they might trust in Him when that day came. In the economy of God “when that which is perfect has come, that which is imperfect is done away with.” The New and lasting Covenant has taken the place of the Old Covenant, because all things required in the law are fulfilled in Christ (read Hebrews chapter eight).

Jesus spent most of His earthly ministry outside the city of Jerusalem in obedience to the Father, healing and ministering to the people. He went to those who were counted unworthy to worship in that temple hierarchic system. He was a friend of harlots, sinners and the tax collectors and, horror of horrors, He actually went into their homes and ate with them! This was totally forbidden under the Jewish law. Judaism had ceased to be a shining light. That city on a hill that had once been called to be a light to the Gentile world and the temple, God’s house of prayer, had become a den of thieves. The week before He was killed, Jesus went into the temple and turned over the tables of those who sold doves and livestock and those who changed Roman coins for the temple currency so it could be put in their “holy coffers.” He rebuked all of them before the people and this was the last straw! He had to go, so they plotted to have Him killed. As Jesus said, those who love Mammon cannot serve God. All this led up to Jesus’ trial and execution which Jesus foretold in the following parable.

And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not! ”But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? (Luke 20:9-17, ESV2011)

Religious men can be very treacherous, especially when they take possession of God’s vineyard as if it is their own. Jesus said that as these religious zealots did to Him, so they would do to those who followed in His footsteps.

Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. (John 15:20, ESV2011)

What it comes down to is, “who are we making our shepherd?” David, who was surrounded by temple priests and often conversed with the high priest and God’s prophets, said, “The LORD is my Shepherd.” He got it! He prophesied about Jesus over and over in the Psalms he wrote, showing that He knew Jesus as His Shepherd. Never forget that Jesus is your Shepherd and the rest of them who preach for a living are only hirelings at best. He does allow men to be His “under-shepherds” when we are so spiritually weak that we can’t hear His voice, but the good ones soon teach themselves out of any need for their services as they strengthen the flock of God. As John the Baptist said,

He must increase, but I must decrease. [He must grow more prominent; I must grow less so.]” (John 3:30, AMP)

Dear saints, LET US GO ON! Let us follow Jesus, even outside the camp if need be to that City whose Builder and Maker is God and its only Foundation is Jesus Christ. Amen

Therefore thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am laying in Zion for a foundation a Stone, a tested Stone, a precious Cornerstone of sure foundation; he who believes (trusts in, relies on, and adheres to that Stone) will not be ashamed or give way… (Isa 28:16, AMP)

In His love for you all,

Michael

Why Does God Allow Christians to Suffer?

Have you ever wondered why those who are called into the family of God have to suffer so much? We have a dear brother in Christ who came to the Lord about ten years ago and George Davis and I got to baptize him in the local river after he knew he was ready to fully surrender all to Jesus. After that his life was constantly under attack by the enemy, even in his own home. Yet, in all this he drew ever closer to Christ. The Spirit would speak to him about a certain thing in the Bible and he would lock onto it until taught him what He wanted him to do in that matter. The last on of these was prayer. Bob became a “prayer warrior.” He would call me daily wanting to know what he could pray with me for. About two years ago he came down with non-hodgkin’s lymphoma and went through much chemo-therapy and lost all his hair and was often in weakness and pain. The chemo stripped his body of being able fight of sickness and he ended up in a long term care hospital where he caught Covid 19 and recently died. We miss you, Bob, and will see you again on the other side, my brother. ❤

We have another friend who has gone through a few misfortunes in his life. He came from a broken home and his mother had to work to support the family, so he about raised himself, yet this made him stronger in that he also had to work as a child to help support the family. Even the recent loss of his dear wife he took in stride. He is like a cat, always landing on his feet. Most of these “misfortunes” (except the loss of his dear wife) have made him richer and more prosperous in the long run. He says he believes the Ten Commandments and has done a pretty good job of keeping them all and gives credit to that being part of why God has prospered him. This is interesting, but that is not how God has shown His love to me and of thousands of other suffering saints (see Hebrews 12:5-11). It is also interesting that this man cannot understand “how a loving Father could allow his Son to be tortured and die in such a bloody way as Jesus did.” The message of the gospel is foolish and offensive to him. This man is intellectual and spends hours each day reading scientific magazines and such, seeking the truth, but will not read the Bible “because it was written by fallible men and has many flaws in it,” as if scientific journals weren’t written by fallible men! Science is constantly having to go “back to the drawing board” when new discoveries prove their older theories false. The one thing lacking in our friend’s life is life changing faith in Jesus Christ, which is a gift that comes from the Father. This is what we are praying will happen, and he seems to be more and more open when the Spirit speaks through me as we visit.

As Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44, AKJV)

Paul stood before King Agrippa and laid out his whole story about his encounter with the living Christ, how the law and the prophets foretold of Him as the Savior of the world and all that He suffered and did. Paul knew that this king had a knowledge of the Hebrew scriptures. But what was Agrippa’s reply? “Almost you convinced me to be a Christian.” The God-given gift of faith was still missing in him and no intellectual argument could save him. In Hebrews we read:

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6, AKJV)

Paul wrote:

For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, AKJV)

My wife once told me after we met that I was different from all the Christian boys she had met (She was raised in a Bible church atmosphere and even graduated from a Christian college). When we met I had a hunger for God but knew nothing about the Bible. My wife and her mother and my father’s parents were praying for me to come to Christ. Things got totally miserable for me and I later found out why. The “hound of heaven,” the Holy Spirit, was after me! I know exactly when this life changing gift of faith came in. It was the evening of June 12, 1970 after I heard the full plan of salvation and that God required an unconditional surrender if there was to be any change in my life. That night I went through a deep repentance and gave Him total authority over my life. What made me this desperate to do such a thing with this God that I didn’t know? Unlike our friend, when I got dropped I never “landed on my feet.” Everything in my life was a struggle and everything that I touched got worse, not better, and this included what I was doing in the lives of my wife and children. I was full of bitterness and self. You see, I grew up in a totally dysfunctional family. So after I graduated from high school I joined the Navy and ended up in the Vietnam War. I came home from the war to a lot of rejection and also had what was later called “post traumatic stress disorder.” These things affected everything in my life in a negative way. Yet, our Father had a plan in all this, and I came to see that this world is not my home, but God’s spiritual house is. Through all this He got me to look elsewhere and to seek the one that is to come. The love that my earthly father did no show me came through my heavenly Father instead. The forsaking of the one for the other brought about not only my salvation, but an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus said:

He that loves his life shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honor. (John 12:25-26, AKJV)

From the very moment of my salvation I wanted nothing more of what this world had to offer and that is how it should be if we are followers of Jesus Christ. You see, I lost nothing by the time I came to Christ and counted all that I once had as so much refuse. From that night when I surrendered onward, I wanted to be wherever Jesus was. If He was where two or three were gathered in His name, I wanted to be one of them. I had a honeymoon time with Jesus that lasted for months because I could feel His presence all day long. I soon found out, though, that following Jesus was not going to be all “puppy dogs and roses.” The world–and even worldly Christians–reject those who are no longer of this world. And Jesus said that if we are to be one of His disciples, we have to take up our own crosses and follow Him. Hmmm.

We know that Jesus learned obedience through the things that He suffered, and in that suffering, He purchased our salvation. The scripture even says He was made perfect through suffering and we share in His perfection.

For it was fitting that he [Jesus], for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, (Heb 2:10-11, ESV2011)

Satan tried to get Him to bolt out of the Father’s plan (see Matthew 16:21-23). But Jesus knew that there was a lot more at stake than His popularity among the Jews. In Romans we read, “…by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Rom 5:19, AKJV) and Jesus was obedient to the Father even to the suffering of the cross.

Suffering is integral to the overall plan of God. Consider this passage from Romans:

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:1-6, AKJV)

Salvation is a process. Yes, we are justified in the eyes of God by our faith in Jesus and the work done for us on the cross, but there is more to the Father’s calling upon us than simple salvation from our sin-filled lives. God is after many sons and daughters who walk not only free from sin, but in the grace and glory of His Son. Jesus is the forerunner for us all in the overall plan of God. His life, death, resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father was to lead the way for everyone God has called into sonship with Him as our Father. The above passage from Romans speaks of our earthly process that brings forth the fruition of what it means to be “saved.”

[1] We are justified by faith in what Christ’s obedience has purchased for us.

[2] Through this gift of faith from the Father we have access to the riches of His grace.

[3] Walking in His grace, we have hope that we might stand upright in the glory of God.

Here is where our part in the purification process begins. God puts a high value on our experience when it comes to salvation that we might grow up into the perfection of Christ.

[1] “We glory in tribulation.” How can this be?

[2] The tribulations we suffer work the patience of God into us just as it did in Job of old.

[3] And as we patiently endure our suffering and overcome by His grace, we gain experience. That experience gives us hope that whatever comes our way in the future, God is there with us to see us through just as He has done before.

In the book of James we read:

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. (Jas 1:2-4, HCSB)

Jesus walked in the perfection of steadfast faith toward God on this earth. Our Father is after that same faith in us that we might “be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” in His eyes.

I would like to share the following excerpt from T. Austin- Sparks regarding Romans 5:1-6 and how important experience is to God:

In the New Testament, not only in statements but in many ways, experience has a very high place indeed in the work of God… The Lord places such great importance upon experience, and shows that there is nothing that can be a substitute for it, and that He Himself is prepared to take very great and serious risks with lives in order to work experience into them.

It does sometimes seem that the Lord is experimenting with us. Whether that is a right way to put it or not, what I mean is right. Because of its very great value and importance, the Lord is prepared to put us into situations in which the most serious consequences may develop, in order to get this one thing; for here is the heart of usefulness and value to Him – experience. [Note: Remember the parable of the four kinds of ground on which the seeds of the Sower fell. Not all took root and were able to deal with the trying times and offenses that came]

Experience with God is much more than knowledge. We may be very greatly informed, and have a great deal of knowledge, but, lacking experience, our knowledge will remain purely technical information. Experience is more than knowledge. It is also far more than human cleverness. Clever people may be able to do a lot of things and seem to be successful. The absence of this quality of experience will find that their structures will sooner or later come crashing down, for there is no body [substance] there. Experience is something that we can never inherit, nor can it be transferred from one to another in any other way; it has to be bought. It is therefore the sole possession and property of the individual who has it. It is something very personal. If it had been possible for the Father to bring His own Son, the Lord Jesus, to the designed and determined end in any other way, He would have done it. The only way was experience: “…yet learned (he) obedience by the things which he suffered” (Heb.5:8); He was made “perfect through sufferings” (Heb. 2:10). Even Jesus Christ (and I speak in a certain sense) had to buy His experience. He had to come to the full end, or the end of fulness, to be made perfect, made complete, by the way of experience.

The Holy Spirit, with all that the gift of the Spirit means of enduement and endowment and instruction and strengthening, is not a substitute for experience. We are very often found asking that certain things shall be done for us by the Holy Spirit which the Holy Spirit will never do. He has to lead us into experience. It is the only way in which He can answer our prayers. Many prayers are answered through experience. You ask the Lord to do something, and He takes you through experience, and you arrive at the answer in that way. You had not meant that, of course: you wanted the Lord to do the thing there and then as a gift, as an act; but that would have been merely objective, something given, whereas He wants to make it a part of yourself, and so He answers prayer by some experience. ‘Stedfastness worketh experience’, and if there is no experience, what is the good of anybody or anything?

So then, experience is of greater importance than being delivered from tribulation. ‘Tribulation worketh experience’. Oh, how often we have asked the Lord why He allowed this and that, or why He did not do this or that. Why did He not hinder Adam from sinning? Why has He not stopped the world in so many things that have had most terrible results? Experience is very largely the answer.

Experience is very important because, after all, it is the very quality of service. When we come to real life, and we are really up against things and the issues are of the greatest consequence, we do not want just information, we want experience, and we go where experience can help us. Is that not so? Thus experience is the very body and quality of service and usefulness to the Lord. [1]

Sparks brings up a good point here. Would you rather have a man fresh out of medical school do open heart surgery on you, or one who has years of practical experience in this field and a long track record of successful operations? This is the meaning of true eldership in the body of Christ–those who have experience in the ways of God and the ways of the devil, and have overcome in their own lives by the grace of God. True elders are not given that position as a reward, because they gave a lot of money to the church, or have worldly influence in the community. EXPERIENCE! Without it there is no eldership. The world is lacking leaders who have experienced and overcome all manner of trials in their own lives by the hand of God, and this is the same lack is in most churches today. Because of this the church and the world is in chaos where men deceive and are being deceived.

Father, do whatever it takes to make us your faithful stewards over all you would give us. Give us life changing experiences that You know we need. Take us through these necessary and trying experiences by your overcoming grace into the full maturity and measure you have for us in your Son. Amen.

[1] https://www.austin-sparks.net/english/001978.html

Note: all these pictorial quotes from T. Austin-Sparks can be found here: https://www.austin-sparks.net/quotes.html

 

 

Growing into the Fullness of Christ

Photo by Yoal Desurmont on Unsplash

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain… (Rev 5:6, ESV2011)

It is interesting to note that Jesus is standing as a sacrificial Lamb among the four living creatures and the elders and not sitting apart in all His glory on the throne. He is our advocate who loves us, and He is our Pattern Son. Just as He laid down His life for us, so are we called to lay down our lives in love for one another. He came to show us the way of eternal life and suffering is all part of it. But oh, how we hate suffering! We have heard the lie, “Jesus suffered and died so that we don’t have to.” Some of us were sold a “bill of goods” that said if we only gave our lives to Jesus all would be better and we would be happy the rest of our lives. I’m sorry, but that is a false gospel.

In order for God to have the preeminence in our lives, He must deal with us as His sons and daughters. We must go through much “child training” to overcome walking in our old, childish, Adamic natures. But when some of us find out that being a Christian is not all that was advertised and our lives are not going to be “all puppy dogs and roses,” we get offended and go back to our old worldly ways. Because of offenses the first love we had for Jesus waxes cold. It should not be this way, dear saints. The culture we live in has set us up to receive this false gospel and as a result we often fall away! The message of the cross does not fill mega-churches, nor does it build a large following on a blog. Someone said that A. W. Tozer was invited to speak from every conference platform in America, never to be invited to do so again. That speaks more of the nature of today’s Christian church than it does the speaker.

Today we are seeing rebellious people running wild in our streets, looting, burning, rioting, shooting police, old people, children and one another. In America we have thousands of unfilled job positions because we have a workforce that refuses to show up for work on time and do what they are hired to do — if they bother to work at all — and our government enables them in all of it!

The fact of the matter is the degeneration of society is all a product of improper child raising. Children who were not raised with fathers who discipline them in a loving way are manifesting their undisciplined hearts as adults. Those who are of this same heart in the seats of government are encouraging it and allowing it to go on without due recompense. Paul wrote,

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Gal 6:7-8, ESV2011)

Satan’s plan for our lives is the total opposite of that of our loving Father. In Hebrews we read:

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. ”It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. (Heb 12:5-8, ESV2011)

The Good News of the Gospel is that we are called to be the sons and daughters of God and share in His glory. Just as Jesus walked in a love relationship with His Father and obeyed Him out of that love, so are we called to do the same. If Jesus learned obedience by His sufferings, how much more must we frail humans who are called into the family of God do the same?

T. Austin-Sparks wrote:

The city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. (Revelation 21:23 NLT)

Light is not a mental thing: that is to say, it is not just a matter of having a store of mental knowledge. That is not light. It is possible to have an enormous amount of doctrine and truth and never be luminaries, that is, never register impact upon darkness. Real light is experimental [experiential]: that is to say, it is the fruit of experience, the experience of suffering. How have you children of God come to know what you do know of the Lord, that real kind of knowledge of the Lord which is so precious to us, which means so much and which makes you in that measure of value to others? It is through suffering, it is through the difficult way the Lord has led you, it is through the work of the Cross that He has wrought in you. “The Lamb is the lamp” – suffering leading to knowledge, to light, to understanding. It is the only way. These people at the end will be in the good of a great and wonderful revelation which has come by their fellowship with Christ in His sufferings. It is very true. It may not be too comforting from one standpoint, but it is true; and it ought to help us to realize this: that the Lord, in the way in which He is dealing with us, in the sufferings which He allows to come upon us, is really seeking our education, that we may have a knowledge of Himself which can only come that way, and which is a peculiar kind of knowledge of tremendous value to us and through us to others. We do not learn in any other way. It is the Lamb, always the Lamb-principle, the way of suffering and sacrifice and self-emptying, that brings us into the knowledge of the Lord. “The Lamb is the lamp thereof”; and, just as it is deeper death unto fuller life, so it may often be deeper darkness unto fuller light.

The Lord seems to lead us in a way where we are less and less able naturally to understand Him. He gets us altogether out of our natural capacity, beyond our capacity for interpreting His ways. We just do not know what the Lord is doing, or why He is doing what He is doing; yet it is the way by which we come to a very real kind of inward knowledge of Himself. It may not be capable of explanation in words to anybody, but we know, somehow or other we know, and that is a mighty thing, a mighty power of knowledge. It is light through the Cross.

https://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/000809.html

Some of us had fathers and mothers that believed that if they were to spare the rod they would spoil the child. My father was the disciplinarian in our family and he did not always do it out of love, but would use his belt out of frustration and anger. For me it was like that verse in Hebrews above goes on to say, “…We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” (Heb 12:9, KJV). I honored my father out of fear, but it enabled me to see that God also wanted me to honor and obey Him. It is growing into a love relationship with Him that has taken much longer, but I thank God that there was discipline in my life for it has made suffering as a born-again believer easier to accept.

Many years ago I had a pastor that had a young son named Danny. When the boy would need some firm correction he would say, “Danny, go get the spoon.” He was referring to a long handled, wooden kitchen spoon he used for a paddle. One day He said, “Danny, go get my spoon.” The boy obeyed when he brought the spoon back he said, “Daddy, it is MY spoon too.” Dear saints, God knows He is getting the fruit in our lives He is after when we love Him for chastising us and see all our suffering as coming from His loving hands that we might share in the glory and love of the Father and the Son as His called-out ones. Love to you all IN Christ.