Knowing Christ and His Body after the Spirit – Part 1

 

Two trees-one trunk

And the Two shall become ONE!  Photo by Michael Clark

 

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2Cor 5:16-17, ESV2011)

Have you ever thought that while walking on this earth with Christ, the disciples knew Him after the flesh instead after the Spirit? He had to deal with their myopic vision constantly. When they were out in a boat on a stormy lake, and He came walking toward them on the water, they were afraid and thought He was a ghost. Yet He had proven to them that He had spiritual power over the elements time and again. How about the time He was asleep in the bottom of their storm-tossed boat. The last thing He heard the Father say was, “Go to the other side of the lake,” and it was a done deal as far as He was concerned, so he slept while they battled the elements after the flesh. They finally woke Him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that we perish?” What an insult– and it was all because they did not have the Spirit abiding in them yet, so they could see things the way Jesus saw them. They were still fleshly believers.

How much of the way we relate to Him and one another is “after the flesh”? We are affected way too much by the outward appearances of events and one another. How often have we prayed, “Lord, why don’t you do something? Don’t you know that we perish?” Or how often do we also know one another after the flesh? Our speech betrays us. “That brother ought to get his front teeth fixed!” “That sister sure has poor taste in how she dresses!” Or, “That sister is sure beautiful! We need to put her up front on the worship team.”  Or, “Wow! Do you know how much money that guy has? He needs to be on the board of elders.” These are all examples of knowing people after the flesh.

The disciples, like most of the Jews, believed that He had come to set up a physical kingdom among them and did not see just how spiritual His kingdom is. To them He said, “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). His kingdom is found wherever two or three are gathered together IN His name (in His very personhood), and these spirit led gatherings do not garner the attention of this world and its people. You can’t advertise them because you do not know when or where they are going to happen.  Jesus does not have a mega-church mentality with all its Hollywood glitter and Madison Avenue advertising methods. He is after spiritual quality among us, many sons and daughters born unto the Father, not mediocre crowds in the thousands (read John chapter six).

Yet, are we any different than those Jews who He spoke with back then? The majority of Christians I know think that everything spiritual must either take place in their church buildings or under the direction of their pastor or priest. When someone who understands where Christ and His kingdom dwells comes in among them the first thing they ask is, “Where do you go to church, if not, why not?” or “Who is your pastor?” And if you do not fit into the expectations of their club membership, you are rejected and not seen as one who belongs to Jesus. How carnal! The Jews rejected Jesus in the same way.

And when he came into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, From where has this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brothers, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? from where then has this man all these things? And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and in his own house.” (Matt 13:54-57, KJ2000)

They only knew Jesus after the flesh. How often has He appeared to us in a form we did not expect–in a homely sister or a handicapped brother and we rejected Him (see James 2:1-7). Jesus said, “What you have done to the least of these, my brethren, you have done unto me.”

When we insist that He must be worshiped in this or that physical place or we must be under the authority of this man or that, we are yet carnal. This is all an Old Covenant mindset. We will have a New Covenant way of thinking when we truly are His New Creation and all these “old things pass away and all things become new.”

  Jesus told that Samaritan woman who was making the same mistake that so many Christians make today about worshiping in special locations,

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father… 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 4:21-24, ESV2011)

And Paul told the Corinthians who were all about their spiritual gifts, manifestations and their favorite human teachers:

…For where there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly and walking according to man? For whenever anyone may be saying, “I, indeed, am of Paul,” yet another, “I, of Apollos,” will he not be fleshly? What, then, is Apollos? Now what is Paul? Servants are they, through whom you believe, and as the Lord gives to each. I plant, Apollos irrigates, but God makes it grow up. (1Cor 3:3-6, CLV)

Yet, most of today’s Christians think they have to be under the covering of a man and the ministry if they are to grow. No wonder they are still in need of milk-toast sermons Sunday after Sunday and cannot receive strong meat (see 1 Cor. 3:1-2). It is also strange that many Christians today think that Paul’s teachings in First Corinthians are “strong meat.” Dear saints, he is addressing fleshly people all through this letter who have pulled down heavenly things and made them into works of the flesh!

Jesus made it clear that it is an evil and adulterous generation that seeks after signs. Why is it evil? Because demons can manifest all these “spiritual gifts” that people long after. Why is it adulterous to seek them in us or another man? Because our carnal affections are fixed upon other things or people besides our husband, Jesus Christ. This is spiritual adultery. Paul wrote:

“So, with yourselves, since you are so eager to possess spiritual gifts, concentrate your ambition upon receiving those which make for the real growth…” (1Cor 14:12, Phillips NT).

Now, Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus was addressed to people who walked after the Spirit.

But speaking the truth in love, [you] may grow up into him in all things, who is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body being fitly joined together and knit together by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Eph 4:15-16, KJ2000- emphasis added)

Notice in contrast to how churches function today. Hear he speaks of “the whole body” doing the works of ministry and not just a few. Notice, also, that their only motivation is not self-aggrandizement or human idolatry, but rather selfless love working among them by the grace of God as they build one another up in His love.

The goal of the Gospel is not for us to go out, put up great buildings and fill them with immature converts! What we see working in most of these institutions is “the perpetual babyhood of the believer.” No, the goal of the Gospel is to build up the saints of God in His love and bring them into a full relationship with the Father and the Son just as just as Jesus prayed in His final prayer,

“I do not ask for these only [the eleven], but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.” (John 17:20-22, ESV2011)

Are you ONE in the Father and the Son? Are you even ONE with another fellow saint of God? I mean really one as Jesus is one with the Father? Until we are one with one another as Christ is with the Father, there is no witness of the kingdom of God among men and this world will continue to slide into what men call “the post Christian era.” It is all so sad.

Oh, Father, please enlighten the eyes of our hearts with spiritual understanding to see ourselves as we really are, “poor, miserable, blind and naked,” and then to repent from our carnal ways so that we might build up one another in Christ’s body, the ecclesia of God, through your love for Christ as we are made one you both. Amen.

 

In Our Weakness Is Christ Made Perfect

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1Pet 5:5, ESV2011)

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations [given to me], a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he 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 12:7-10, ESV2011)

Recently I received a communication from a brother in Kenya, Africa in which he was concerned about a younger relative who was “prophesying” over and trying to lord over the members of his family and telling them what they needed to do “for God.” This young woman considers herself a “prophetess” and has been using her “words of knowledge” and prophetic insight to exercise authority over his family. She has caused much confusion and heartache among them to the point that his young daughter doesn’t want to see her aunt any longer.

When I was in my thirties, I was influenced by a prophet in our non-denominational Pentecostal church to seek such a gift. Soon I was doing many of the things that this young woman was doing and drawing a lot of attention to myself (all “in the name of the Lord,” of course). The problem was that I could not discern between what was from Him and what was from one of Satan’s minions working through my flesh. I was a mixture and God hates mixtures.

Finally, after praying that He would show me how He saw me, He showed me that it was my pride working in me that made way for the devil to work there as well. I prayed that He would purge me of that terrible pride and I soon found how God uses spiritual wildernesses in our lives to strip us of everything we are in that old Adamic nature we are all born with. How I hated being put on “the back burner” for all those years! I kicked against it for 12 years until I finally acknowledged that HE is God and that all His ways are perfect and good in our lives. As it was with Moses and Israel, He had to strip me of all that was of “Egypt” that still remained in me through a 14 year spiritual famine. But the outcome of it was as Ezekiel prophesied over Israel.

I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord GOD; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel. (Ezek 36:30-32, ESV2011- emphasis added)

I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (Isa 43:6-7, ESV2011- emphasis added)

Isaiah also prophesied of this process.

He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isa 40:29-31, KJ2000- emphasis added)

In our youth, spiritually speaking, we have to come to the end of ourselves and “utterly fall.” It is in this state that all we can do is wait upon the Lord. The meaning of the word “renew” in this passage is that you will be given a whole new source of strength. In the Pulpit commentary regarding this verse, it reads:

We are thus “changed men,” for the Hebrew word here, “to renew,” means “to change.” Experiences like these alter alike [both] character and countenance. (1)

If God is going to use us to effectively speak by His Spirit to others whether through prophesy, teaching, writing or preaching, it will take more than any seminary or Bible school can provide. After all, the danger with these institutions is that upon completion they give us a degree and we believe that we have become “something.” The problem is that “knowledge puffs up” and we become as proud as any worldly college grad or young corporate head.  T. Austin-Sparks wrote,

Do you desire to signify something for God, to be, after all, of a right kind of significance, accountability [and] meaning? [If so] you see the need of getting Christ’s Holy constitution in us. The most powerful thing, we have… is meekness. Power is spiritual. That is the point. You see the place of weakness in the New Testament. “When I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). “Most gladly… will I… glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9). There is a lot said about human weakness. It is just the opposite of the devil; it is just the opposite of what the devil made man [see Gen. 3:1-5]…

What is your idea of power? What is your mentality concerning power? Are you clamouring for power, wanting power? Well, it all works out this way; true power from God’s standpoint is Calvary power. Christ crucified is the power of God. What is Calvary power? Well, it is emptiness of self, you and I being emptied of self – and truly, that is easier said than endured! Oh, how very much there is of this self about us still! How we hate… being emptied of ourselves! What a terrible thing it is to feel our inability… Oh, to be ABLE! And yet have we not proved, again and again, that our times of greatest emptiness and weakness have been the times when God has done most, and got glory by what He has done? Yes, it has been true. We have learnt it along various lines and different ways, but God has been working right into the very inside of us, so that the thing is done – it becomes a part of us. He does not have to maintain it by external conditions. But He frequently uses such – very often physical – conditions, to bring us to that place of utter dependence upon Himself… That is God’s way of education, but it would be very much better for us to be fit and well and as dependent upon God as ever.

“Power belongeth unto God.” Power is a spiritual thing. The true nature of power is of a totally different order from our natural idea and conception of it. The Lord is so different. Power is not a temporal matter, it is not a physical matter, it is not an intellectual matter, it is not a social, a positional, or a possessional matter, at all. Power is essentially spiritual: I say again, it is what we are… “The prince of this world cometh: and he hath nothing in me” (John 14:30), said the Lord. So, in the hour of the power of darkness, He could say, “Now shall the prince of this world be cast out” (John 12:31). I say again, that was not objectively and officially done. It was done by what He was. Satan had no ground, and so no power. This Man defeated every contemplation of Satan as he walked round Him. “How can I get in? I have been trying all these years to find some little gap; I cannot find it, I am beaten, I can do nothing with Him, He does not give me a chance. I offer Him prizes – He snaps His fingers at them; I threaten Him with the direst consequences of the course He is taking – it does not make any difference! I cannot get this Man.” That is how the prince of this world is cast out.

So it all resolves itself into the need, in the first place, for what is meant by being born from above: an entirely new nature and disposition, to begin with, and then a letting God do His work of conforming us to the image of His Son. I am not saying that works and words do not come in, but it is a heartbreaking business to be working and speaking with no power, no registration of heaven. (2)

(1) The Pulpit Commentary (1880-1919)

(2) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/000840.html

 

What Is True Friendship?

By Michael Clark and Susanne Schuberth

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Picture taken by Susanne Schuberth

What is true friendship? With most people I have met, “friendship” is very conditional. If I do or say something that offends them or don’t meet their “needs,” they turn off and distance themselves immediately. It is a form of conditional love. “I will be your friend as long as you live up to my expectations.” Sad to say, this is the kind of “friendship” that most Christians endure in that system known as the “Institutional Church.” But was this the kind of friendship that Jesus had with the eleven disciples who loved Him for who He is?

We know that Judas loved mammon. He was the one who held the money bag in the group and finally betrayed Christ at the end for thirty pieces of silver. We also know that the seventy other disciples that Jesus sent out with power to preach the gospel turned away from Him as well (see John 6:66-71). But to those faithful eleven He said:

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another. (John 15:13-17, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

Jesus told us that we were His friends if we did what He commanded. Love is, of course, the greatest commandment. But we need to love God before we can share His love with our neighbors. We may love our enemies with this God-given love (see Romans 5:5), but we won’t be that ‘loving’ when we take part in their lawless living. From hence, we might see why this world is at enmity with us. As soon as we share the gospel by doing what God commands us to do, NOW, they will reject us. However, the good news is that He gives us His peace for having been obedient to Him and then we can pray for those who do not know our Lord yet.

We know that Jesus’ disciples were often fearful even when He was with them, yet He was always patient with them. He was their friend to the very end, even unto dying for them and their sins alone on the cross. What kind of love lays down one’s own life for a friend? It is one thing for a soldier to dive on a live grenade to save the life of his fellow soldiers. But there is another more practical and sacrificial way of laying down one’s life. That is laying down your own will daily for the good of another because you love them more than you love yourself.  THIS is true friendship! Following the leading of Christ’s Spirit in our daily lives is laying down our life for our Friend just as He laid down His live for us. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “But he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” There is a wonderful dynamic that kicks in when we have this kind of friendship with another who reciprocates in kind.

Austin-Sparks wrote:

It is indeed a very wonderful and beautiful thing that the Son of God called such as the disciples were, and such as we are, His friends. I do not think there is a greater or more beautiful word in all our language than that word ‘friend’. It is the most intimate title in all human relationships. Every other relationship that we can think of may exist without this. Perhaps we think that the marriage relationship is the most intimate, but it is possible for that relationship to exist without friendship. Happy indeed is the man whose wife is his friend, and happy is the wife whose husband is her friend. It is a very close relationship between children and parents and parents and children, but it is a great thing when the father can call his son his friend, and when he can say, not ‘my son’, but ‘my friend’. And, again, it is a great thing when a child can say, not only ‘my father’, but ‘my friend’: ‘my father is my friend’ – ‘my mother is my friend’. It is something extra in relationship. We may admire a person and have a lot of association with them: we may think that we know them and could say: ‘Well, I know so-and-so very well’, but, even so, there may not be friendship. Friendship is always just that bit extra.

When Jesus said: “Ye are my friends”. He was going beyond ‘Ye are My disciples’ and ‘Ye are My followers’. He could have called them by many other names, but when He said: “Ye are my friends” He went beyond anything else. And I think that the Lord Jesus found the most complete satisfaction of His heart in this word. To say “Ye are my friends” was as far as anybody could possibly go. Really, there is nothing beyond it. You reach the end of all relationships when you really come to friendship. How rich and how precious, then, is this title! (1)

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A true friend is one that you can share everything in your life with. Not only can you tell them about your joys and successes, but you can share with them what makes you sad, even your worst failures. When you need someone to stand with you in prayer, knowing that it will not be used to separate themselves from you for your failings nor will they use these precious things as a tidbit of gossip as soon as you part. A true friend hopes all things for the other and hardly notice when his friend does him wrong. As Solomon wrote, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Prov 18:24, ESV2011)

You see, there are “friends” and then there are FRIENDS, just as there are “believers” then there are BELIEVERS! In John chapter two we read,

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man. (John 2:23-25, KJ2000)

Jesus could not commit Himself to this kind of follower. He dared not open His heart up to them. They “believed in His name” because He did miracles for them. But they were “loaves and fishes” Christians and would soon turn against Him when their temporal needs were no longer being met (see John ch. 6). They were not His friends.

Friends do not use friends. That is a feigned relationship at best. But how many times do we hear Christians say, “I just want to be used by Jesus!” This is an institutional mindset at best. The devil uses people to fulfill his agenda of destruction. But Christ walks with us as our friend and as we rest in Him, His will is carried out in our lives by the love and friendship we share. The kingdom of God is a family of close friends, not an institution!

In our Christian walks we will have many occasions where we will prove ourselves as to whether we are HIS friend or not. It is one thing to be a “follower of Christ,” but it is a far greater thing to be His friend. For in this kind of relationship is where He starts revealing to us all things (see and He can say to us, “I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” Do you want spiritual revelation from Christ? This is where it starts, walking with Him day by day and moment by moment as His friend.

Consider how Christ handled this kind of situation with one of His own disciples:

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matt 16:21-23, ESV2011)

When we insist on knowing Christ or each other after the flesh, seeking our own desires to be fulfilled instead of knowing one another after the Spirit, we will find ourselves acting contrary to His will. Paul wrote,

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2Cor 5:16-17, ESV2011)

Toward the end of my 14 years in the wilderness (where He had been stripping me of all that I once thought of myself as a “Christian”) I, Michael, was invited to go to a worship conference, so I went. There were many speakers and workshop teachers at this conference but Father spoke to me through the words in a song that we were singing. It went,

 “I will change your name. You shall no longer be called Wounded, outcast, lonely or afraid.”

I thought, “Yes, that is me; a wounded, outcast, lonely and afraid in this world.” Then the Lord started to speak to me in the verses that followed…

“I will change your name. Your new name shall be confidence, joyfulness, overcoming one, faithfulness, friend of God…”

At that moment I thought, “Oh God, who am I that you would call me your friend?!” He replied to me in the last phrase of this song, because you are

“one who seeks My face.” (2)

This was a life changing moment for me, because He told me how much He loves me and counted me as His friend. When we really love someone, we will not ever be totally happy until we can share our love with them face to face. God is no different. As His friends we will always seek His face. David prayed,

Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” (Ps 27:7-8, ESV2011)

Dear saints, We pray that we may all come to know this kind of friendship with Jesus and His Father and find others who walk in this same intimate knowledge of Him so that we might truly have Friends in Christ’s love. True followers of Jesus Christ are true friends and we thank the Father for the ones we have known.

(1) https://www.austin-sparks.net/english/000419.html

(2) “I Will Change Your Name,” by D.J. Butler

Obeying God’s Voice for He is Your Life

All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” (Exod 17:1-4, ESV2011)

And he called the name of the place Massah [testing] and Meribah [quarrelling], because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the LORD by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” (Exod 17:7, ESV2011)

And Jesus answering said unto him, “It is said, ‘You shall not test the Lord your God.’” (Luke 4:12, KJ2000)

In the preceding passages there is much to be learned when it comes to following the Lord and hearing the voice of His Spirit. The people of Israel in the wilderness were always complaining to Moses about one thing or another. As far as I know there is no record of them taking their petitions to God in prayer. They had no faith in Him as their God, but wanted a mere man to provide them with all their creature comforts. They looked to Moses as their king instead of to God as their Provider. Is it any different today among most professing Christians? Samuel had the same problem with the people of Israel, even after they had entered into the Promised Land.

Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, And said unto him, Behold, you are old, and your sons walk not in your ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. (1Sam 8:4-5, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

As it was with their ancestors in the wilderness, so it was with this generation. They still had not entered into His rest. They put their trust in men instead of in God. So God gave them Saul to be their king and they languished under his rule. It is one thing to be asking God to act according to the needs and ways of our flesh, but it is a whole different matter to know Him after His ways.

But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD. And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto you: for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. (1Sam 8:6-7, KJ2000- emphasis added)

He made known his ways [his course of life] to Moses, his acts [his doings] to the people of Israel. (Ps 103:7, ESV2011)

We can know God as our provider of worldly things and never know His heart’s desire to know us as His spiritual sons and daughters in Christ. To know His life in us and to hear the voice of His Spirit speaking to us as a friend as Abraham and Moses did (see James 2:23 and Exodus 33:11) is what He really desires for us to walk in. Carnal Christians today, even when they pray, most often seek things from Him to make their natural, temporal lives more comfortable instead of those things which are eternal like a new heart with His laws and desires written upon them. God desires to hear us pray as David did,

​Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. ​Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Ps 51:10-12, ESV2011)

When we have hearts that are longing after the things of this world, we know no rest. Our lives consist of the next pleasure, the next possession, the next lofty position, etc. How often we see a pop music legend end their lives in suicide or from an overdose of drugs. They spend their lives climbing to the top only to find out that there is no happiness in there. How different this is from the Apostle Paul who knew God’s rest in Christ who wrote, “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 12:10, ESV2011). How opposite this is from our human natures.

Since therefore it remains for some to enter it [His rest], and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb 4:6-12, ESV2011)

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Notice that He says, “Today!” How much of our lives are governed by minds that are worried about tomorrow or what happened yesterday? To live in God’s rest is to live by faith in the here and now, one day at a time. And part of living in today is to live by hearing and obeying His voice moment by moment. The one thing that keeps us from hearing and obeying His voice is our hardness of heart. As with Israel we turn a stony heart toward Him as we prefer our own will to His. We live as if we are our own gods. Is it any wonder that our lives are filled with UN-rest? We fail to enter into His rest because we do not believe that He desires what is eternally best for us and choose our own way. “There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end thereof is death.”

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life… (Deut 30:19-20, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

To choose God’s way for us moment by moment is to choose life even if it seems uncomfortable and inconvenient at the time.

Hindrances to Walking in True Fellowship

Photo taken by Michael Clark

Yesterday my wife and I went to Texas to attend a wedding and reception. Our grandson married a lovely girl whose family are not of the Baptist traditions he was raised in (those traditions are very strong down here in what is called “The Bible Belt” of America).  We found the less formal reception put on by the bride’s family quite fun and we all had a good time. They had country music, line dancing, and even served real wine and beer. In some of the more hard-line Baptist and fundamentalist circles this would be considered a scandal. Not everyone danced or drank alcoholic beverages, but it was good to see most of my family down here “get loose” and have a great time.

This morning I woke up and prayed and read my latest T. Austin-Sparks “Open Windows” devotional and there it was. He wrote about how religious people are so quick to judge others when they dare to do anything outside of their religious traditions and what they consider “acceptable.” In this article I read about many cases where God’s men in the Bible were called to do that very thing. Imagine the scandal it would cause if Jesus was invited to a traditional fundamentalist or “Bible church” fellowship gathering and He went into the church kitchen, turned 150 gallons of water into wine and had it served to all the guests! Or what a scandal it would have been if He took up residence with a Gentile widow for three years just as Elijah had done. God commanded Peter to kill and eat all manner of “unclean” animals and birds in a vision, so signifying that if He had sanctified these new Gentile believers in Christ, who was Peter to say otherwise and isolate himself from having true fellowship with them in their homes? Sparks wrote,

If the children of God will only make Christ their ground of fellowship, so much that hinders spiritual fullness and accounts for the present weakness, limitation, and defeat will be ruled out, and the great hinderer will be despoiled of his ground.

Then there is another direction in which this law of fullness operates and in which some serious adjustment is necessary. It is that of leaving room for the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit. It was on this very matter that the book of “The Acts” was founded. The Lord Jesus enunciated the [this] law when He said to Nicodemus, “The wind bloweth where it listeth… so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” On the day of Pentecost there was “a sound as of a mighty rushing wind.” Have you ever been in a really mighty rushing wind? The thing about a real windstorm is that it takes the government out of all other hands and proceeds to do as it chooses without reference or deference to conventions, traditions, common acceptances, inclinations, or fixed ideas. While it lasts, it is sovereign. That is how it was then; but there were those who were offended, shocked, scandalized, and who said in effect that such a way could never be of God. (1)

Anyone who walks in the Light as Jesus is in the Light will soon find themselves challenged by Him to break free of preconceived ideas of what is acceptable to God and pulled out of the traditions of men and family into His marvelous fellowship with the true saints of God. Growing in Christ truly is a stretching process. Look at the context of this passage:

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 1:7, ESV2011)

To walk in the light of God is a progressive thing. The light we start out with is not the same amount of light we receive later on as we progress in that walk.

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. (Prov 4:18, ESV2011)

God is all about growing us up into the fullness of His Son and this requires that we break free of the traditions that bind religious minds from following His Spirit in obedience and accepting those whom He has sanctified by the blood of His Son. T. A. Sparks continued,

For instance, there is the matter of our relationship to, and fellowship with, all other children of God. Fellowship with the Lord’s people is an established law of spiritual fullness, and there can be no fullness apart from it. This question of Christian fellowship will have to be taken in both hands and settled finally. We shall – if we are going to have an “open heaven” – have to sit right down with this matter and do some honest and energetic thinking and deciding. What is the Lord’s ground in this matter? It is absolutely nothing other, more, nor less, than Christ Himself and our common sharing of His life through new birth and utter yieldedness to Him as our Sovereign Head and Lord! Get down on to any other ground and we forsake the place of fullness. If we get on to the ground of a teaching, an interpretation, a particular and specific doctrine, or even emphasis, as something in itself, we at once set up standards or draw lines between ourselves and others, and even unconsciously we divide and give out an implication of division.

Or again; if we get on the ground of a denomination, a sect, a mission, a society, a “movement”, or anything crystallized as to an association of the Lord’s people, with an enterprise binding together those concerned – though it may be for the Lord – we open the door to every divisive thing, and we close it to fulness. On the one hand we very soon become governed by false and unsound judgments. Jealousies and rivalries can never see the light of day if the one concern is the Lord. (1)

Regarding the verse in 1st John above, notice that “walking in the light as HE is in the light” is progressive. The verse ends with “…we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” When we set out to have fellowship, when it is God who has made us members of one another, there has been given us the provision of Christ’s blood which cleanses us of all sin, including those which may occur during our God given walks together.

We have a great-grandson who will be one year old today. He can only take a few steps before he falls. He still finds crawling faster and his speech is not well developed yet. But for a one year old child he is perfect. If he still fell a lot while walking and grunted and yelled loudly without words when wanting something at the age of five he would be considered handicapped. In the same way, the perfection of walking in the light as Christ is in the light includes life which is given us by God and as such it grows. If we judge one another for not being fully perfect in our walk and being fully Christ-like, we do one another a great disservice and will hinder and harm the fellowship we could be having with the saints of God. Rather, we should be praying for one another and not receiving each other “unto doubtful disputations.”(2)  Self-righteousness is a poison that kills true fellowship IN Christ. Remember Paul’s warning,

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)

Thank you Father that you are able and willing by the blood of Christ and your Spirit to make us stand in your Son and thank you for the sweet fellowship you have given us as we abide together in Him. Amen.

 

(1) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/000521.html

(2) Romans 14:1

Where Is True Spirituality Found?

But he 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. (2Cor 12:9, ESV2011)

When we read about David in the Old Testament, we see a “mighty man of valor.” As a boy, David killed a lion and a bear, then went out to battle and killed a giant with his sling and a stone! God appointed him to be king over Israel in the place of Saul, where he continued to do exploits against the enemies of God in that land. Finally, we see him becoming quite sure of himself in his exalted place there in Jerusalem, the city of David. It is as if God exalted him ever higher until David’s pride finally brought him down. He became a man of leisure. Instead of going out to battle with his troops against the Ammonites, he stayed home and lusted after his general’s wife, Bathsheba. You know the rest of the story how he started living a lie. Bathsheba became pregnant so he called for Uriah, her husband, to come back home to be with her so that it will look like he made her pregnant while there. Uriah refused to go into his house and slept on the door step. So David in his wrath sent him back to the war front and gave orders for the other warriors to pull back from him in the heat of battle so that the enemy could kill him. Once again we see that Lord Acton of England identified the problem dead on, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

God loved David and He made sure that David would not get away with his folly. He deflated his ego through a confrontation with Nathan the prophet and convicted him out of the words of his own mouth.

And the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.’” (2Sam 12:1-9, ESV2011- emphasis added)

 

The prophet went on to say that the sword would never depart from the house of David and we know this to be true, but David finally repented and the words of Psalm 51 are his confession and contrition.

 

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. ​Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. ​Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. ​Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. ​Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. ​Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. ​For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Ps 51:1-17, ESV2011- emphasis added)

 

In the very beginning of my walk, God prophetically gave me Psalm 51 as if it were a prophesy of how He would be dealing with me during my life. God knows how to save us from our soulish power that so easily corrupts us, He takes us down so that He might raise us up IN Christ and keeps us weak in our own eyes if necessary that He won’t lose us. Oh the pride that was in David when he pronounced judgment on that evil man in His kingdom who Nathan told him about. And oh the pain that must have shot through David’s heart when Nathan said, “You are the man!” God does not need strong, self-assured men in His kingdom. He does not need men who try to cover their sin with religious activities and sacrifices, but what do we see as we look at the leaders in Christendom today? No wonder so many of them are brought down before the eyes of the whole world! What He wants are those saints who know that they are only dust. He wants us to walk in brokenness and a contrite heart before Him, not in an elevated self-confidence about our own spirituality as we live a lie before men.

David wrote, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. ​Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” The longer I live in my Christian experience, the more I see that these words apply to me. What a discovery it is when we can see that when we sin it is against God and Him only. We must be brought to the place where we see that He is justified in all His words and judgments and that our only salvation is walking in the life of Jesus Christ by His great grace.

 

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” (Rom 5:10, ESV2011)

T. A. Sparks in his excellent book, “God’s Reactions Against Man’s Defections,” wrote,

Well, spiritual and natural abilities are in altogether different worlds! And when God reacts to recover, or acts to provide against a threat, a peril, a danger that has the characteristics we have noted, He brings His instrument down to nothingness – He empties it out and makes it more conscious of its weakness and of its dependence than of anything else. In this greatest of all works of God – the maintaining of His testimony in absolute purity and truth – there is no place whatever, amongst those who are involved, for assumption: for assuming that they are something, or assuming that they can do something, or assuming that they are called to this or that. There is no place, either, for presumption – that is, running ahead of God, running ahead of the Spirit. There is no place for self-importance, for self-sufficiency, for self-assertiveness – no place for any of these things. If you and I are going to be used for spiritual purposes, God will take us in hand to drain us of the last drop of anything like that, until we know that of all men we are the most unfit and unsuited to the thing to which God has called us; that from all natural standpoints we have no right to be in that position at all. That is God’s way of making spiritual men and women.

[Paul wrote to Timothy saying], “Be strong” – but it does not stop there. “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:1). That is not self-strength, that is not natural strength of any kind. “The grace that is in Christ Jesus” – be strong in that. So we see what is the strength in the case of Timothy, as the symbol of God’s reactionary method and means in a day of declension [which the church is in today]. The strength is to be spiritual strength.

That works both ways. It is a word of encouragement to those who are conscious of no strength, who only feel their weakness; as though to say: ‘Look here, that is not the criterion, how weak you feel, at all: the criterion is “the grace that is in Christ Jesus”.’ And it works the other way. If any of us should feel that we can do it, and press into the situation or into the position, and take it on, assuming or presuming, then we are in for a bad time under the hand of God – that is, if we are going to be of any use to the Lord. Any such attitude is going to be emptied out. (1)

Dear Father, empty us out of all that is of our natural man and fill us with your Son no matter how great the cost. Amen.

(1) https://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/000856.html

 

How to water dry land spiritually

Picture taken by Susanne Schuberth © 2018

 

via How to water dry land spiritually

This article by Susanne Schuberth touched me in an area where I needed it, the importance of prayer and why we go through dry spells in our lives in Christ. I hope it blesses you as well.

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray…” (Luke 11:1, ESV2011)

Michael


Spiritual wildernesses do exist. Dry spells where you are tempted to believe you pray to a wall as nobody seems to hear your requests, they are real to the one who gets closer and closer to God. As illogical as it might seem, people who do not really seek more from God have less problems with prayer as they do not really expect God to answer them, either, when they keep clinging to pre-formulated prayers and hymns. However, can our relationship with our Creator ever be business as usual…?  🙄 In fact, if we truly want to feed on the living God, we must quit our comfort zone and cherished traditions because seeking God is always an adventure! An adventure that can be both exhausting and rewarding, unnerving and intriguing. Or as T. Austin Sparks put it so well,


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