Walking by the Spirit Regardless of the World Around Us

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“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. (1John 1:3-4, ESV)

As we watch the effect that this current corona virus epidemic is having on the world, we also see it affecting the visible church systems. There is a controversy over pastors who are holding services regardless of the orders by governments that ban all public meetings where the virus could be transmitted person to person. A well-known mega-church pastor in Florida was even jailed and fined for breaking this ban and holding public meetings. Why is it so important for Christian institutions to hold their church meetings? It is because this is the way that the modern church “does church.”

Zachariah chapter four describes the vision that this prophet and priest saw. There was a lampstand with seven golden oil lamps with a central golden bowl and seven golden pipes feeding each of the lamps with their supply of oil. This bowl was filled from heaven with the oil of the Spirit from the “two witnesses” that stand beside the God of heaven. The poor prophet didn’t understand this vision because there was no such thing to be found in their temple system where it was up to the priests to keep the individual lamps full and their wicks trimmed. When he asked the angel that spoke with him what this all meant the angel replied,

“This is the word of the LORD… ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’  says the LORD of hosts.” (Zech 4:6, NKJV)

We see such a vast difference between the temple system of the Old Testament and what Zachariah saw in this vision. This difference is vast between the Old Covenant and the new as well. I have found that few Christians today realize just how different these two covenants are. A prayerful reading of the Book of Hebrews should be a wake-up call to anyone who has eyes to see. The difference is demonstrated by this current debate about how we should meet during this epidemic.

Zachariah’s vision says it all, dear saints! The true ecclesia (Church) of God is not dependent on buildings, or on the close proximity gatherings that are so important today to keep the business of “church” functioning. We are a spiritual temple made of living stones and supplied by the Spirit of God, not by the might and power of tithes and offerings, intellectually appealing sermons, or even music and mood lighting that moves our souls. The mammon of men and the power and might that goes into “Christian” organizations, the building of church buildings and all that goes on in them are not what the prophet was shown in this vision. Neither did he see the power and might of Solomon, who built the first temple. That temple was a type of what was to come and it was fulfilled by the very Son of God, Jesus Christ and His spiritual Church. When Jesus died on the cross the veil of the temple that separated the Holy of Holies from men was torn from top to bottom, thus signifying the way into the very presence of God through Christ’s torn flesh. We who believe in Him are God’s holy priesthood and Jesus is our High Priest.

When we are walking in His Spirit, our supply is from heaven alone. When we are spirit to spirit, we share that supply with one another. This is what the early Church demonstrated so well in the Book of Acts where none of the said what they had was their own and as a result none of them were lacking. They did not set out to build church buildings in every town where the gospel was preached so they could meet as is the common practice today. Neither did they collect tithes and special offerings for physical church buildings, organizations its salaries. This is the way the world and its corporations operate.

Those who walk according to the Spirit are His lamps that shine forth in this dark world, not by our might or power, but by His Spirit. This whole system built up by men since the Roman Emperor Constantine took control of the early church in 312 AD is a confusing delusion. It takes the eyes and ears of those who believe in Christ away from Him and His Spirit and places them on men and their institutions. This is why this downtime of not meeting in churches is such a controversy and crisis for many. But those of us who walk be the Spirit haven’t been effected by it at all for our supply of the Spirit is in Christ.

If we are truly the temple of God as the New Testament makes so clear, all that goes on in the physical world around us can never touch what we share as we abide IN Christ. When we rest IN Him, our spirits are together in His Spirit and our communications and fellowship are in and by Him. We might be thousands of miles apart from one another, yet our hearts are still one and our fellowship is still very uplifting and our prayers for one another are no less powerful as we abide in the Spirit together. We are still living stones that are one in His spiritual temple, being supplied by the oil of His Spirit that comes down from the throne of God. This is what makes our fellowship so alive and real no matter what happens around us in the physical world.

Paul and Silas, experiencing this sweet heavenly fellowship in that dank and dark Philippian prison after being flogged and put in chains, literally “brought the house down” by an earthquake and gained not only their freedom, but the salvation of their jailer and his household by the Spirit (see Acts 16:22-36)! Paul was able to be with the Church in Corinth and Colossi in spirit in a very real way, yet not be physically with them (See 1 Cor. 5:3 and Col. 2:5). John knew what was happening in the seven churches mentioned in Revelation by the power of the Spirit and ministered to them even though he was exiled on a remote island in the Mediterranean Sea. True witnessing of God’s kingdom and ministry always happens by the power of the Spirit and not by human might and power. This is why Paul wrote,

But he [Jesus] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2Cor 12:9-10, ESV)

Christ’s Church is made up of those God has set apart for Himself and we are safe in Him even in the worst calamities. Our fellowship in the Spirit continues and cannot be shaken no matter what happens here on earth because it is heavenly in nature. Paul was making this very clear in his letter to the Ephesian Church when he wrote:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: (Eph 1:3, AKJV)

And has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (Eph 2:6-7, AKJV)

Oh, dear saints, I encourage you to look beyond all the distractions that are being pushed in upon us by this world and fellowship with one another in HIS Spirit just as Paul and Silas did. We are all one in HIS lampstand as we experience the supply of His Spirit together. Set your minds on those things that are above, not these fleeting things that are happening beneath. It is as we abide in the joy of the Father and the Son that we will be witnesses to the world around us.

[What would have become of me] had I not believed that I would see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living! Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord. (Ps 27:13-14, AMP)

Abiding in His Perfect Peace in Times Like These

The Coeur d Alene River near the Cataldo Mission

 

In Susanne Schuberth’s recent blog article (1) she quoted the whole of Isaiah chapter twenty-eight and spoke of how it applies to the world we are in and our place in it as the saints of God.  I would like to quote the first few verses…

In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: “We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, that the righteous nation which keeps faith may enter in. Thou dost keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusts in thee. Trust in the LORD for ever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. For he has brought low the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city. He lays it low, lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.” The way of the righteous is level; thou dost make smooth the path of the righteous. In the path of thy judgments, O LORD, we wait for thee; thy memorial name is the desire of our soul. My soul yearns for thee in the night, my spirit within me earnestly seeks thee. For when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. (Isa 26:1-9, RSV)

There is so much panic around the world as we see people coming down with and dying of Covid-19. Most of the world has put its faith in what powerful men and governments can do along with their scientists and medical professionals. Their disillusionment and anger with these people when they do not come through with a fix makes this all too obvious. People have gathered together in huge cities seeking protection and employment, only to see these same cities become a threat as those who are bunched together come down with the disease through social transmission and their incomes  are threatened as businesses close down out of fear.  It seems this thing is made to overwhelm all things of this world system, even when our governments throw trillions of dollars at it! In Hebrews we read,

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 shall we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. His voice then shook the earth; but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what is shaken, as of what has been made, in order that what 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. (Heb 12:25-29, RSV)

Through all these calamities that are upon us, God IS SPEAKING! Jesus called it “birth pangs.” His salvation has been made known through His Son, Jesus Christ, and God uses these things to cause men and women to draw close to Him and the Son of His salvation.

In the beginning of the Book of Hebrews we read, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” (Heb 1:1-2, ESV)

Jesus died for our sins that whosoever would believe in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life. He sits at the right hand of the Father and HE STILL SPEAKS to those who have spiritual ears to hear. Mankind and all its leaders are running to and fro doing all they can to stem the effects of this virus, yet hundreds of thousands are still infected and thousands are still dying. All who are not founded on faith in the Son of God and who are not abiding in His love and obeying His voice are being shaken. This includes today’s Christianity! Churches are shut down and even the Vatican and the pope’s Sunday public message in that vast square that normally holds thousands is vacant. The visible church is being shaken. Even earthquakes and fires seem to be aimed at Christianity’s monolithic church buildings and cathedrals all over the world.  But the ecclesia of God, the true Church is not a building made with hands (see Acts 7: 48-51). It is not a building or a place which can be shaken, but it is composed of all who believe in, trust in and rely totally on Jesus Christ and who have the heart and mind of Christ abiding in them. THESE people cannot be shaken because they do not put their trust in doctors or governments, but in the One who sits at the right hand of God making intercession for them. Recently I have had a bout of premature ventricle contractions in my heart which caused me some alarm at first, because at one point I had chest pains to go with it. The doctors I went to see really had no cure other than some pills to try to keep it under control. God is in all this that I might draw closer to Him and not the things of this world that can be shaken.

We read in Hebrews about our Great High Priest in heaven,

The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb 7:23-25, ESV)

Drawing near to and gathering around a priest or a pastor will not save us because they can be shaken just like everything else of the worldly systems of men. But we have a Priest who has overcome death for us to put our trust in if we draw near to our Father through Him. Jesus is our Great Intercessor who ever stands before the Father to deflect the attacks of the accuser of the brethren that we might know that ALL things come to us from the Father. If we abide in Jesus we have no reason to fear no matter what may come upon us in this physical world.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:35-39, ESV)

Be at peace as you abide in the Son and put your faith in Him especially during this time of shaking, dear saints.

In His love for you all,

Michael.

(1) https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2020/03/17/the-coronavirus-causing-chaos-or-you-keep-him-in-perfect-peace-whose-mind-is-stayed-on-you/

Jesus, the Son of Man

…Unto Us A Son Is Given.”

This is about as close to a “Christmas message” I have ever given. I feel the Lord has been speaking to me about why Jesus called Himself the Son of Man and showing me why it is so significant. Have you ever wondered why Jesus referred to Himself by this name 85 times in the four gospels and rarely as the Son of God? It has to do with the very nature of the gospel itself. There is a curious verse in the Psalms that gives us a clue…

What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Ps 8:4, ESV)

The writer of Hebrews picked up on the significance of this verse and wrote:

It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:6-9, ESV)

He went on to write:

For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:16-18, ESV)

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16, ESV)

Isn’t He also the Son of God in the New Testament? Yes, just as this great truth was revealed to Peter by divine revelation, He is both and we see both titles used to refer to Him in the following passage:

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. (Matt 16:13-17, ESV)

He came into this world conceived by the Spirit of God and born of a woman, but He did so that He might be one with us and enable us to become one with Him and His Father. Jesus is the Son of God in His position as the Father’s representative before men, but He is the Son of Man in His role as our advocate before the Father. He is the Great High Priest in heavenly places and here on earth.

None of the righteous men of old could undo what the devil did in Adam and his offspring. All the laws and commandments of the Old Covenant could not save man no matter how hard he tried to obey. As the Son of God, Jesus came to earth in human form and identified with us so we could identify with Him not only as a son of man, but also as the very Son of God. Jesus was saying this very thing to that old Pharisee, Nicodemus, who was all about law keeping.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17, ESV)

He didn’t come in the form of a powerful angelic being (for everyone who has seen angels was very afraid), but rather He took the form of a humble, lowly human, born in a stable of poor and lowly parents. He was not born in Herod’s palace as the wise men from the east assumed. No, He was born in a stable and spent most of His life in a back-water town in Galilee of the Gentiles known as Nazareth. Here He was rejected even by His own earthly kin. He was hunted down by the religious and governmental establishment that wanted to kill him. In short, Jesus came to identify with the majority of mankind, even those of the lowest estate possible (see Philippians 2:5-9).

As Isaiah prophesied, in the eyes of men He was a mere root out of dry ground with no form or comeliness, and there was nothing about Him that men should desire Him. He became THE Son of Man that we might be able to identify with Him so much that we would also want to be the restored sons and daughters of God. An angel couldn’t have done this. As Isaiah prophesied over 700 years before His birth:

​For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on 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 zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (Isa 9:6-7, ESV)

What is man that God is mindful of him? The answer is in “the Son of Man.” Have you ever wondered why God has chosen you to be saved from your former life of sin and given a whole new source of life IN Christ? It wasn’t because we did anything worthy of it, that’s for sure. “Unto us a Son is given.” What a marvellous revelation! This new life IN Christ is a free gift from our Father in heaven. There is nothing we can do to earn it or deserve it, nor is there anything we can do by ourselves to pay Him back or improve on it. The very life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has been given us to abide in for now and all eternity. All we can do is LIVE in Christ like we never have lived before and leave all our spiritual darkness behind as we abide in His light. Jesus said, “I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” Paul wrote, “What shall we say if we neglect so great a salvation?”

Yes, it is the zeal and power of God Himself that is accomplishing this that He might be glorified in all of His creation with many sons and daughters created after the divine pattern of His Son. For unto us a Child was born and into us a Son was given. This very thought completely blows my mind! God’s plan from the beginning was to have a family whose members would share in the glory and grace of Jesus Christ. As Isaiah prophesied,

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. (Isa 9:2, ESV)

Peter expanded on this when he wrote,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1Pet 2:9, ESV)

We were once the sons and daughters of fallen Adam, but God so loved man that He gave all who believe in the Son of Man everlasting life and the power to become the sons and daughters of God. Everlasting life without beginning or end, the very life of Jesus Christ (see John 3:15-17). There was the first Adam, who fell under the power of Satan along with his offspring, and there is the Last Adam who is the be all and end all of LIFE as God sees life. Thus it is written, “’The first man Adam became a living being;’ the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” (1Cor 15:45, ESV) THAT life is what it means to be IN Christ–to be born again–born of the Spirit of God. Under the guidance and leading of the Spirit, we share our new life with others that they can also have life. Without this life from above, they will remain so many walking Zombies, not knowing that they are led about by the devil himself because of that old adamic nature, just as we once were.

The writer of Hebrews went on to write,

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb 7:25, ESV)

For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. (Heb 9:24, ESV)

We are not in this new life alone. Jesus didn’t just save us and turn us lose on our own recognizance and give us the artificial stimulus of church attendance to see us through. Jesus quoted from this passage as referring to Himself,

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me,  Because the LORD has anointed Me  To preach good tidings to the poor;  He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,  To proclaim liberty to the captives,  And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD…  To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion,  To give them beauty for ashes,  The oil of joy for mourning,  The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;  That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” (Isa 61:1-3, NKJV)

As you can see by the above passage, what God had in mind for us is much more than getting saved and going to church. Jesus was not sent to the earth to start a new religion and make millions of converts. He came that HE might be ALL in all. We are ever in fellowship with the Father IN Christ. Jesus is our advocate, our intercessor, our counsellor, our source of heavenly peace and by His Spirit He is our Teacher. He is the veil that was torn from top to bottom making way for us into the very presence of God. We are His trees of righteousness, the very planting of the Lord. We are His heavenly vineyard placed there for His good pleasure that we might also enjoy His presence and be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil 1:11, ESV)

Praise His glorious name forever!

We Are Christ’s Ambassadors and Not Our Own

He who speaks on his own authority seeks to win honor for himself. [He whose teaching originates with himself seeks his own glory.] But He Who seeks the glory and is eager for the honor of Him Who sent Him, He is true; and there is no unrighteousness or falsehood or deception in Him. (John 7:17-18, AMP)

So we are Christ’s ambassadors, God making His appeal as it were through us. We [as Christ’s personal representatives] beg you for His sake to lay hold of the divine favor [now offered you] and be reconciled to God. (2Cor 5:20, AMP)

Some of us here in America have been watching the impeachment hearings of our President. One thing that has struck me is how so many in the U.S. Executive branch, even so-called “ambassadors,” not only do not represent the President, instead, they seem to represent a united force with its own agenda within the government that is against him. It is evident from their own words that they are use to having things go their own way. Congress can do as it will, but Constitutionally the Executive Branch is supposed to represent the will of the Executive, the President of the United States!

As we can see from the above verse in 2 Corinthians, we who are Christ’s are to be HIS ambassadors. As Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees above, we are to represent Him in all that we say (and write) just as He represented the Father by His words and actions. If we write or speak from ourselves, we seek our own glory and not that of the one who has sent us into this world as members of HIS body and kingdom. All too much of the “Christian” preaching and teaching we hear today is out of the minds and intellects of carnal men and women who seek their own glory and advancement.

In “the parable of the talents,” Jesus warned what would happen to His earthly kingdom after He left. He knew that very few in His kingdom would represent His will even though He gave many of them the power and resources to carry it out.

As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten pounds, and said to them, `Trade with these till I come.’ But his citizens hated him and sent an embassy after him, saying, `We do not want this man to reign over us.’ When he returned, having received the kingdom, he commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by trading. The first came before him, saying, `Lord, your pound has made ten pounds more.’ And he said to him, `Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, `Lord, your pound has made five pounds.’ And he said to him, `And you are to be over five cities.’ Then another came, saying, `Lord, here is your pound, which I kept laid away in a napkin; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man; you take up what you did not lay down, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, `I will condemn you out of your own mouth, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money into the bank, and at my coming I should have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, `Take the pound from him, and give it to him who has the ten pounds.’ (And they said to him, `Lord, he has ten pounds!’) `I tell you, that to every one who has will more be given; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them before me.'” (Luke 19:11-27, RSV)

Most of the preaching I’ve heard regarding this passage has emphasized the need for human talents to be used for God. That is not at all what Jesus was saying! Human gifts and talents that have not been crucified are of no use to Him. First we see Him warning them that He would be going away for a long time. Then we see the treachery of His own so-called followers. But his citizens hated him and sent an embassy after him, saying, `We do not want this man to reign over us.’ (Luke 19:14, RSV) What treachery! We might not say those words to Jesus, but don’t we enact them when we constantly do our own wills in this life? We can choose to be His ambassadors here on earth or we can prove by our hearts and actions that we really do not want Christ ruling over us as His devout followers and representatives. This is truly demonstrated when we follow false teachers, prophets and apostles instead of the leading of HIS Spirit! Paul wrote:

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2Cor 5:20-21, NIV)

Dear saints, it is as we abide IN Him as His ambassadors on earth and not in and out-from ourselves, we prove our true motivation is of the Spirit, not by doing our own wills for our own glory. He gives each of us the spiritual gifts we need to give back what belongs to Him. As we can see from the above parable, anything less in the eyes of God is rebellion. Finally, let us be encouraged by what Paul wrote to the Corinthians.

I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way–in all your speaking and in all your knowledge– because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. (1Cor 1:4-10, NIV)

If we are all abiding in HIS Spirit, doing His will, we will manifest that we are all ONE in the Spirit. May all our knowledge and all our speaking and teaching be a confirmation that we are abiding IN Him. As Paul put it, “You are not your own, you have been bought with a price.”

If You Have Seen Jesus, You Have Seen the Father

Photo by David Peters on Unsplash

God in all His fullness was pleased to live in Christ. (Colossians 1:19 NLT)

Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. But now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son... The Son reflects God’s own glory, and everything about him represents God exactly. (Heb 1:1-3a, NLT)

 

For most of my life (soon to be 74 years) I have struggled with what it means to have a relationship with our heavenly Father. Jesus told the disciples to pray after this manner… “Our Father…” As a young Catholic I was taught by the nuns to pray the rosary and the “The Lord’s Prayer” the “Our Father” was part of that. But this noun “father” had all the wrong connotations for me. My earthly father was a stern and austere man. There was very little funny business allowed in his presence. He was like a military drill Sargent and if I ever needed anything, I had to earn it. He did everything he could to make sure that I was not “spoiled.” I even had to sit next to him in church and if I squirmed because my buns were hurting from sitting on those hard pews, he would grab my knee and squeeze the nerve until it was like an intense electric shock. But the worst part of growing up with my father was that he was never there! During those years I was an only child and he spent many of those years working in remote areas of this world without us. When he was home, HE WASN’T HOME! He saw combat in WW2 and he was emotionally distant and resented any show of emotions in his presence. So, you see, for me to pray to “Our Father” had no connection to the reality of who God desires to be in our lives.

 

This week I was reading a daily devotional by T. Austin-Sparks and it started out with, God in all His fullness was pleased to live in Christ (Colossians 1:19 NLT) (1). Upon reading this I had a epiphany! All of a sudden a great controversy was settled in my heart. “Is it right to pray to our Father God or to Jesus?” I had a personal encounter with Jesus in 1970 that changed my life. He was made real to me when I was born again and filled with His Spirit in June of that year. After that I had a honeymoon experience with Him that lasted for many months and He was as close to me as any human could possibly be. But here this verse was saying that in Christ lives all the fullness of our Father. IN Christ I was accepted and loved and it is the Father’s love and acceptance I am feeling and experiencing when I fellowship with Jesus. What a wonderful relief came to me when the Spirit spoke to me through that verse.

 

I have known many Christians who have never had a problem with praying to God as their Father and most of them, as it turns out, had earthly fathers that were kind and loving and not emotionally distant, so the title, “father” had a positive meaning to them, as it should. I am glad that they have not always had this obstacle in their spiritual walk, and am very grateful for the love and understanding they have shown me. But for the other saints who have struggled with what the word “father” represents, I pray that you find comfort in knowing that, “ in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son... The Son reflects God’s own glory, and everything about him represents God exactly.

 

May we all know Jesus as the fullness of the Father in our lives (See John 14:6-10).

Suffering and the Path to Sonship

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For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:15-17, ESV)

We in America and many in the western world have a society that is built around ease and the avoidance of suffering. We have insurance policies to cover almost any calamity that might head our way. We have labor saving machines that simplify our lives and make them more enjoyable and it seems that we have a pill for every physical ailment we might encounter. When an ailment comes upon us, we who call ourselves “Christians” rarely ask God what it is for in His eyes, or if He wants it to be cured before we head for the medicine cabinet or the phone to make an appointment with our doctors. Some of us take the time to pray, but what do we do when He is silent or the answer is “No!”? The following quote about suffering is from T. Austin-Sparks:

Take the problem of suffering. That may include many things; physical, circumstantial, spiritual. It may relate to ourselves or to others. Almost countless are the ways of God’s dealings with us, which are most trying and hard to bear. The most acute form of suffering is that which relates to God Himself: His silence; hiding Himself; seeming to have neither knowledge nor care. Prayers seem to be unheard, and are, apparently (we would say positively) unanswered.

What is the explanation? Well, the Word of God has made very clear that such an explanation exists.

There is one all-comprehending, all-embracing, all-governing purpose to which God has committed Himself, by creation, by redemption, and by union. That purpose is the conformity of a race to the image of His Son. This is man’s chief end and chief good. What more satisfied and ‘happy’ person is there – even amidst suffering and sorrow – than he or she who is most perfect in patience, love, faith, and the other ‘fruits of the Spirit’? If our requests regarding things were granted, while we were left the same people, unchanged in disposition and nature, it would not be long before we should be in the same unhappy condition over other things. There is possible for us some inherent quality that wears out circumstances and reigns above them. Some of the most radiant people have been the greatest sufferers in infirmity, poverty, or other forms of adversity; whilst the most ‘privileged’ are often the most discontented.

The solution to the problem of suffering does not lie in being philosophical; it is not in fatalistic resignation – ‘This is my lot; I suppose I must accept it’. It is not in passive or active suppression of desire. It is far removed from self-pity, bitterness, cynicism, or envy, and the rest of their wretched family of wilderness-makers and wanderers.

We may have to let go the particular occasion of our trouble, and first recognise, and then embrace with our heart, the fact that in the affliction there resides the immense eternal potentiality of an increase of the image of God’s Son, which is to be the one and the only character and nature of the eternal kingdom. We have too much visualised the ‘Heaven’ that is to be, as geographical and pleasurable, without giving sufficient weight to the fact of a [heavenly] nature to be inculcated and perfected [in us]. (1)

I know that when I was young in my walk with the Lord, I didn’t like His chastening nor did I clearly see what He was after in me. The evangelical mindset I was familiar with was that if we would just get saved we could have the best of both worlds, prosperity (if we were good tithers) and healing as we needed it in this life and perpetual happiness in the hereafter.

The word “sonship” and its significance didn’t get my attention until many years later when it was pointed out to me in the scriptures that the goal of the gospel was not just to take away my sins and get me into heaven, but that God had a much higher purpose in mind for those who are His. He desires many sons and daughters to be conformed into the image of His obedient and loving Son, Jesus Christ, and that conformity includes (and necessitates) suffering. Consider this passage,

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. (Heb 2:9-11, NIV)

We are of the same family as the Son of God and also are of the same perfecting process that He had to suffer through by the will of His Father. We see Jesus being tempted by the devil, rejected by His own earthly family and nation, misunderstood by His own followers and disciples and finally left alone by them to suffer and die. Paul understood this process belonged to Christ’s followers as well when he wrote to the Philippian believers.

That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:10-11, ESV)

Just as Christ’s Father did not leave Him to suffer and be alone forever, but raised Him from the dead, so He will do for all His children who have been purchased from the grip of the devil with His Son’s precious blood. Are you a member of God’s family? If so, dear saint, it is a “full meal deal.” We don’t get to pick and choose what parts of this life we are willing to accept because God knows that it is all necessary. Life is not all ice cream. We have to eat our vegetables, too. Paul wrote,

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Rom 8:14-18, ESV – emphasis added)

Paul, if anyone, knew about suffering and rejection as he followed Christ…

Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. (2Cor 11:23-28, ESV)

Then after all that and more he had to suffer being deserted by those whom he invested his life in at the end. To Timothy he wrote,

Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me… At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2Tim 4:9-18, ESV)

But, he was not deserted by Jesus. Trying to find true fellowship among the saints of God can be a lonely business the further we go on this journey. It seems that we must all learn to find Christ alone as our sufficiency, but what a joy when we do.

Father, please bring us into a mature spiritual understanding that we can accept and embrace the sufferings of this life and that they are not worthy to be compared with the fullness of the sonship and glory you have in store for us as we are conformed into the image of your Son. Amen.

(1) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/002930.html

Suffering and His Amazing Grace

“I’m not sure God wants us to be happy. I think he wants us to love, and be loved. But we are like children, thinking our toys will make us happy and the whole world is our nursery. Something must drive us out of that nursery and into the lives of others, and that something is suffering.”

–C. S. Lewis

I look back on my times when I “was on top of my game” doing “ministry,” and I cringe–I was abrasive, rude and self-willed at best. There was so much flesh! I have recently started to see the value of suffering in my life and how God has used it (and does use it) to keep that old Adam in me in check so that Jesus can be seen. With greater depth, by the light of the Spirit, I have been understanding more clearly what Peter was talking about when he wrote:

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer by human passions but by the will of God. (1Pet 4:1-2, RSV – emphasis added)

It seems that sin is never far away when everything is going our way. In Hebrews we read:

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, (Hebrews 5:7-9, RSV – emphasis added)

God uses suffering to deal with our carnal natures and to bring us into the perfection of His obedient Son. If Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered, what makes us think that we will learn it some easier way? Is the servant greater than His Master? “He learned obedience through what he sufferedbeing made perfect…” God is after perfection in His sons and daughters and He uses our suffering and grief to get us there.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. (Heb 12:11-13, RSV)

Ouch! Since I wrote the above yesterday morning, I was working in our yard and with some help from a friend we moved our little greenhouse. Well, all of a sudden my back got worse, as if I might have received another compression fracture in a vertebrae. Now I can hardly move without sharp pains and back spasms.

Lord, give me your grace and strengthen my weak back so that the lame (physically and spiritually) I encounter, may be healed. Like Paul said:

Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death works in us, but life in you. (2Cor 4:10-12, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

“Always.” So the lesson from my Master continues. Praise His name forever!

Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

“Amazing Grace”~ by John Newton