The Old vs. the New Covenant (the natural vs. the spiritual) – revised 8/11/18

 

New Birth – photo by Michael Clark

Looking around Christendom as I often do, I have concluded that we Christians really don’t see just how spiritual our New Covenant with the Father really is. If we did, we would not be serving so many Old Testament models, worldly paradigms and traditions in our institutions or praying so often for our worldly comforts instead of seeking first HIS kingdom. As Paul warned the Corinthians, we are yet carnal. Don’t we know that we are no longer of this world, engrossed in its temporal things and methods, but have been born of the Spirit of God? Paul wrote:

And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a life-giving spirit. But that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, made of dust: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. (1Cor 15:45-49, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

How often have you been accused of “being so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good”? I know I have been. I used to hand out tracks, “buttonhole” people on street corners for Jesus, go door to door and make myself miserable, because it was put on me by men and not energized by the Holy Spirit within me. I did not know back then that Jesus told His disciples, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Paul wrote to the Ephesians and Colossians:

For you were once darkness, but now are you light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. (Eph 5:8-11, KJ2000)

If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with him in glory. (Col 3:1-4, KJ2000)

What are the “unfruitful works of darkness” if they aren’t dead works void of the Spirit? Zechariah (see Zech. 4) was shown the difference between Old Covenant works of the Law and walking by the Spirit when he saw seven golden lamps (symbolizing the seven churches and seven spirits of God that John saw in Revelation). These were oil lamps (not candlesticks) that were fed their supply of oil (a symbol of the Holy Spirit) by tubes that came down from the throne of God. When asked by God if he knew what he was being shown, he heard these words, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord of Hosts.” This vision was contrary to the Old Testament system he was part of where the menorah (golden lampstand) in the Holy Place got its supply of olive oil in a different way! In that system it was up to the temple priests to service these lamps with new wicks and keep them filled with pure olive oil. In the eyes of God and the NEW Covenant, this was by human might and power, but NOT by His Spirit. The prophet was given a vision of what it means to walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh (See also Galatians 5:16-18). As we grow up in the Spirit of God we will find that His Spirit is sufficient in teaching us all that God has for us and we will become less dependent on men to teach us (see Hebrews 5:12-14).

All too many of us come into the church thinking we have something to offer God because of our own soulish and natural talents that have served us well in the world. God has no place in HIS kingdom for the works of the old uncrucified Adam within us. Dietrich Bonheoffer was a man who died for his faith in Christ in Nazi Germany. He once said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” As we abide in Christ our old man is crucified and we who are His are given the Holy Spirit to walk by and nothing less. “For you were once darkness, but now are you light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Eph 5:8, KJ2000). We are light only as we walk IN the Lord. If we walk the deeds and talents of our flesh we are still “darkness” in the eyes of God (see also 1 John 1:5-7).

One person pointed out that as Christians we are supposed to be spiritual beings having an earthly experience, not worldly beings having spiritual experiences. Paul spoke of this when he wrote:

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2Cor 5:17, KJ2000)

For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:8-10, KJ2000)

Jesus only did the works he saw the Father doing. When we walk by the Spirit, we do as Jesus did—we follow God’s master plan for us, not presupposing what He wants. All too many Christians walk in the vanity of their minds saying, “Now in this instance, what would Jesus do?” as if we in our carnal minds could imagine or find out by reading the Bible what works HE has foreordained for us to walk in!

Paul was in Corinth and while there we read, When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled [KJV, “pressed”] by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 18:5, NKJV). Have you ever felt convicted by the Spirit to make right something that you said or did that was wrong or from a wrong spirit within you? I have and it is like a heavy weight pressing on my chest until I go to that person and make it right. I have been constrained by the Spirit to take a course of action that I could never have found by searching the gospels to find out “what Jesus would have done.” In His kingdom it is not “What would Jesus do,” but rather, “What is Jesus doing through me?”

The table below shows some of the differences between the Old Covenant God made with the Jews and the New Covenant that those who are Christ’s are to walk in. It would do many of us well to read all the scripture references in this table so we could begin to have an idea just how vastly different our New Covenant with Christ really is from the Old.

The Old Covenant… The New Covenant…
Was done away with by God (Romans Romans 7:4, 10:4; Hebrews 8:7-13, 10:18-19) Is a NEW and Lasting Covenant that replaces the old (John 14:6; Hebrews 10:20, 13:20)
Was an earthly covenant (Hebrews 9:23-28) Is a spiritual, heavenly covenant (Hebrews 11:13-16, 13:14)
Was overseen by a special priest cast, the Levites (Deut. 10:8, Ezekiel 44:15) Is a kingdom of royal priests (all believers in Christ) unto God (1 Peter 2:9, Rev. 1:6)
Had earthly high priests who continually offered up sacrificial animals for their sins ( Exodus 39:38, Hebrews 5:1-3;10:11) Has a High Priest (Jesus) who made Himself an offering once for all our sins and is in heaven before God making intercession for us (Hebrews 7:24-25, 10:10-14),
Had a fixed physical temple (which was done away with) at its center that was necessary for conducting animal sacrifices (1 Kings ch. 8, Luke 13:34-35, Hebrews 8:8-13,) Has a vast temple spanning the world with Christ as its Foundation and Cornerstone and is made with living stones (Isaiah 28:16, 1 Cor. 3:11, 1 Peter 2:4-6, Isaiah 66:1, John 4:21-24)
Had an earthly kingdom, Israel, who failed to keep the law of the covenant (Exodus 12:25) Is a heavenly kingdom wherein dwells righteousness (Luke 17:20-21, John 18:36, 2 Peter 3:13)
Included  a law that forced people to rest one day (the Sabbath) each week (Exodus 31:13-17) Is where we have entered into God’s eternal rest knowing that His works were finished from the foundation of the world (Hebrews 4:1-9, 6:1; Eph. 2:8-10)
Was broken by sinful men who were brought under a curse (Leviticus 26:14-39; Jeremiah 11:7-10, 31:31-32; Matt. 23:37-39; Galatians 3:10-12) Is not dependent on the righteousness of man, but on Christ’s righteousness alone where we are free from the curse of sin (Romans 5:18, 2 Peter 1:1)
Was dependant on the works of the law (Romans 2:10-13, 10:5) Is dependent on faith in the works of Jesus Christ bringing an end to law keeping for all who believe (Romans 8:3-4,10:4; Galatians 2:16)
(The Law) Was a strict schoolmaster meant to keep us in check by the threat of punishment (Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Galatians 3:23-24) Sets us free from Old Covenant law keeping as we walk by faith and abide in His love (Galatians 3:25-26, 5:1-6)
Was based on human effort to be righteous, “Thou shalt…” and “Thou shalt not…” (Exodus 20:1-17) Is dependent on God creating His righteousness within us as His new creations by HIS will (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:25-27, 2 Corinthians 5:17-19, Hebrew ch. 8)
Was founded by a human law giver, Moses (Deut. 4:44-45, John 1:17) Is founded by the very Son of God with grace for grace (John 1:16-17, Eph. 2:8)
Had its laws written on tablets of stone for stony hearts (Exodus 24:12, Ezekiel 11:19) Has His laws internalized, written on our hearts and motivated to do them by His Spirit (Jeremiah 31:31-33, 2 Corinthians 3:3)
Was weak because of sinful flesh (Acts 13:39, Romans 8:3a) Is spiritually powerful as we abide IN Christ’s grace (Acts 1:8, Romans 8:1-3b, 4,15-16, 37)
Was dependant on the soul (mind, will and emotions) of man to keep it (Exodus 19:7-9, Nehemiah 10:9) Is dependent on our spirits being unified with His Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17, Ephesians 1:22-23, 5:30-32)
Was based on man’s obedience to the whole law (Deut:11:26-28, 28:15; Galatians 3:10-11) Is based on Christ’s obedience who took the curse upon Himself for us (Romans 5:17-19, Galatians 3:11-14),
Was made with one nation, Israel, as “God’s people” (Jeremiah 11:4) Is made up of all people who believe in Christ who are His New Creation (Isaiah 49:5-6, John 3:16, Galatians 6:14-16)

Paul thus sums up the message of the Good News (gospel) when he said,

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:4-6, ESV2011)

Though we are still on this earth, we who are Christ’s are to walk before Him by the Spirit because we now dwell in heavenly places IN Christ Jesus and have been given spiritual sight.

Loaves and Fishes Christians or Broken Vessels unto God’s Glory?

The Jews who followed Jesus were totally focused on their temporal needs. At one point they were even going to take Him by force and make Him their King because He fed them. Then He told them something very spiritual that made many of them stop following Him. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whosoever eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.  For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him.” Have you ever thought that by dwelling in Him and He in us, we are actually partaking of His body and blood because we are one with Him? He later told the twelve disciples, Does this offend you? …It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (see John chapter six).

Both Jews and Gentiles wanted Him to heal their bodies (or the bodies of their servants and children) and He did, but he was more interested in healing their eternal souls. He said to them, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’?” (see Matthew 9:1-8) On another occasion Jesus said, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”  Some of us have had physical afflictions, as did Paul and Timothy, and God has refused to heal them. He has done this that we might discover that “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” to this Paul observed, “When I am weak, then am I strong.”

The Jews also wanted Him to lead a rebellion, cast the Romans out and set up an earthly kingdom for them to rule. They ignored the fact that God is Spirit, as is His kingdom is, so should His children be. Today we who focus on politics to get what we want are doing the same thing. Jesus said to Pilate during His trial, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, but now is my kingdom not from here.” Do we know what spirit we are of? Then why do we fight as the world does? When the disciples wanted to call down fire on a Samaritan village because they refuse to let them pass through it, He rebuked them, and said, You know not what manner of spirit you are of, for the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”

On another occasion He told His disciples, “The kingdom of God comes not with outward observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” The kingdom of God is not temporal nor is it like the world systems of men based on hierarchy, but we are a kingdom of servants bound to one another by His love (See Mark 10:42-45). As Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another… God so loved the world…!”

Dear saints, I join with Paul and pray.

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might. (Eph 1:16-19, ESV2011)

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. (Rev 21:22-23, ESV2011)

 

 

Saved by the Life of the Word of God

man in yellow field

Since I wrote my last blog entry where I talked about my longing for a local manifestation of the body of Christ, the Lord led me to a gathering of older men in our area that have a Bible study once a week. The leader is younger than most of us, but he leads from weakness and allows each man in the group to speak, one at a time, as they feel led. According to 1 Corinthians chapter 14, this is how a gathering of the ekklesia (translated in KJV as “church”) is supposed to be conducted. The leader is there to keep the discussion moving along in an orderly way (1 Cor. 14:26). I was amazed at how often the Spirit speaks through one of these men in the group as they functioned in the freedom of the Spirit.

As we were going over chapter one of Revelation this week we read this:

In his [the ascended Christ’s] right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. (Rev 1:16, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

I was intrigued by this one verse more than the others. We know that in John chapter one Jesus is referred to as the Word of God and “in the beginning was the Word.” This same Word said, “Let there be light and there was light” for “without Him nothing was made that was made.” We also have heard the Bible referred to as “the word of God.” This is true as long as the meaning of the scriptures is being taught us by the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sent to lead us into all truth (See John 16:13 and Luke 24:32). The Spirit does use teachers who speak by the power of the Spirit as well.

When I first started reading the scriptures without the enlightenment of the Spirit, it was a collection of thoughts and stories that had no depth of meaning to me. It wasn’t until two years later that the Spirit of Christ came into me and what a difference that made! The Word of God became alive in me and not just something external. His Spirit was bearing witness with my spirit as I read it.

So as I contemplated why in this verse in Revelation Jesus is depicted as having a two-edged sword coming from His mouth? I was led to these verses,

…The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. (Rev 2:12b, ESV2011)

… the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, (Eph 6:17b, ESV2011)

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. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Heb 4:12-13, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

The Word of God is living and it is He by His Spirit that gives us spiritual light and sight. Like the man who was born blind who Jesus healed, we are born into this world spiritually blind. But when He makes our spirits alive and shines His light into us, we finally begin to see as God sees. Just as it was with the two disciples that walked with Jesus along the road to Emmaus, He still opens our understanding to see how all the scriptures point to and speak of Him, and when He does this our hearts truly burn within us (see Luke 24:13-32).

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness overcame it not. (John 1:3-5, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

Thank God that our spiritual darkness is overcome as He shines His light into our hearts! He came that we might have life and that more abundantly.

That [Jesus Christ] was the true Light, that lights every man that comes into the world… as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the children of God, even to them that believe on his name: Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:9-13, KJ2000 )

The Word of God, through His Spirit working in and speaking to us, often does so as we prayerfully read the scriptures. He knows that I have a concordance so He often gives me a few words from the Bible to get me to go there and look it up and see the context of what He is saying. I thank God that He also speaks through our fellow believers in Christ.

This LIVING Word is that same two-edged sword that comes forth from the mouth of the ascended Christ John saw. It is HE that discerns the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. It is He that divides our soulish inclinations (also spoken of in Paul’s letters as our “old man,” “the flesh” or “the outer man”) from ruling over our spirits (the “new man,” “the spiritual man,” or the “inner man”) within us. I am so glad that He has come into us and that “greater is He that is in us than he (our old Adamic nature) that is in the world.”

Like Jesus told Nicodemus, we must be born of the Spirit if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven. Salvation means more than just having our sins taken way by the death of Christ on the cross. Way more! A dear old saint in this men’s group pointed out the following verse to me:

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Rom 5:10, KJ2000)

MUCH MORE, we are saved by His Life! There is so much more to our salvation than the simple blotting out of our sins and being reconciled to the Father. It is Christ’s life in us that is our guiding light and saves us from ourselves. His life becomes our life. We go from living on the negative side of the ledger over to the positive side when HE is our Life. Having our sins removed only brings up to the “zero line.”

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

We are called not just to be saved, but to become sons and daughters of God to shine forth with His glorious life within us (Romans 8:14-18). Wow! What shall we say if we neglect so great a salvation?

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon you, and his glory shall be seen upon you. And the Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. (Isa 60:1-3, KJ2000)

Knowing One Another by the Spirit

Jesus baptism

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)

How often we have heard it said, “Oh, how wonderful it would have been to be with Jesus as He walked the earth 2000 years ago!” There is one thing to remember here, though. We would not have been given the Holy Spirit by which to know Him and, like the Jews of that time, would only know Him and regard Him according to our natural man and not with spiritual eyes to see Him as His Father does. Isaiah prophesied about Him saying, “For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” Even his own disciple, Nathaniel, said of Jesus, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”

Jesus was born into a poor family and grew up in a backwater town in Israel. He was a lowly carpenter’s son, so in the natural He was not highly regarded. It was by the power of the Spirit that people could recognize Him for who He was,  and now we can see Him as He is by the power of His Spirit in us. Many of us have studied the Bible hoping to come to know Jesus in a closer way. Yet without divine revelation we can never know Him after the Spirit. Isaiah prophesied:

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. (Isa 57:15, ESV2011)

Jesus prayed:

“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” (Luke 10:21, ESV2011)

Jesus said that we must become as a child in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. We who have the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us know Christ after the Spirit, not by our fleshly desires for Him to be what we want Him to be for us. We often hear Him speak to us and some of us have even had Him appear to us in a personal way. Yet, Paul writes that we should have this same spiritual interaction (after the spirit and not after the flesh) when it comes to knowing our fellow saints.

One time some elders in a church I was attending were putting me down to the pastor. This man was different from most pastors I had encountered in my Christian walk. He said to them, “You don’t know Michael as I do, because God has shown me his heart.” Most of us are still a “work in progress” in the hands of the Lord and it is easy for us to be critical of our fellow believers if we only know one another “according to the flesh.” But God knows our final end from the beginning (see Isaiah 46:10). That thing that He has started in us, He has promised to finish! He invites us to pray and ask Him how HE sees and regards those around us who we encounter in our daily lives.

Little David was about to be overlooked by Samuel when the prophet was sent by God to the house of Jessie to choose a new king over Israel. Samuel was about to choose one of David’s big handsome brothers instead of him. David was the youngest son but he had a heart after God that none of His big brothers had. So God said to Samuel:

“Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature… For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1Sam 16:7, ESV2011)

In our natural humanity we are drawn to “the beautiful people.” We tend to shun people who are dwarfed or overweight or deformed or socially inept, but God looks on their hearts and invites us to know them as HE does. How quickly we judge and shun someone for their outward appearance or their awkward personality. Or worse, we look on the outward beauty of a person and desire it instead of getting to know them after the Spirit.

Once I was on a church “worship team.” I got to be up front of everyone as we performed. We would often practice a bit before the service and one Sunday morning as I walked into the auditorium, the Lord drew my attention to a deformed young man in a wheelchair who was severely handicapped. The Lord said to me, “What you have done to the LEAST of these you have done unto me.” Right then He was giving me an opportunity to really worship Him by spending time with and showing this person His love. He got so excited when I knelt down by him and sang a simple song to him about the love of Jesus. From then on I have remembered Jesus’ words, “Verily I say unto you, Since you have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto me… Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

Standing on God’s Vast Heavenly Shore

pexels-photo-103889

T. Austin-Sparks, wrote:

And what is true at the beginning is true all the way along. There is no end to Divine revelation; there is no end to our seeing. Oh, how little we have seen, how little we know, of the vast stores of Divine intention and thought and purpose and meaning. We stand and paddle on the shores of this vast ocean of God and of His purposes and meanings in our creation. How little we know about it! – and we are not going to know until we have deep heart exercise. But it is there, and it is there for us, and oh, we have got to come in this way – “so much the more.” (1)

In the above excerpt Sparks was using the story of blind Bartimeaus, who upon hearing that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, he cried out to Him for help. The surrounding crowd tried to silence him, “but he cried the more a great deal, ‘You son of David, have mercy on me.'” His persistence was rewarded and he received his sight. God rewards those who cry out for spiritual sight, too.

Just a few days ago the Lord showed me (call it a vision or whatever) a picture of myself. I had been contemplating what Jesus said to Nathaniel about Him being the stairway to heaven upon which the angels (Grk. Angelos– messengers) were ascending and descending. Jesus later told them that He would come again in the form of His Holy Spirit who would lead them into all truth.  Divine vision and insight is a gift from God, not a product of intellectual pursuit.

In this vision I was standing under a transparent pipe that was almost the size of my head that was filled with light coming down from heaven and He told me that it was mine if I would stand still under it instead of running around doing the things that were not being done by HIS leading. Honestly, I have been living the “retired life” without seeking Him each day as to what His will for me for that day and each moment is.

Many years ago, not long after I was filled with His Spirit he gave me a dream. In that dream I was on a darkened stage and all of a sudden a spotlight from the back of the auditorium came on and there was a round spot of light in front of me that was large enough for me to step into, which I did. Soon that light went out and as I waited another spot lit up on the stage not far from me so I stepped into it. This went on until I had gone most of the way around that dark stage and finally I was in the back corner. Then it shined onto a small flight of stairs that led down to an exit door and as I pushed through it was a bright sunny day outside… no more darkness!

My life has been like that. There have been times when God’s light and presence was very pronounced and seasons (more often than not) that I was groping in spiritual darkness, waiting for Him to turn the light on again. One of those dark periods was 14 years long. It was my “dark night of the soul” or “wilderness period.” God used that to tear down many of my former suppositions (the traditions of men) of what Christianity has become and replace it with the design intent of Christ and His Father. He also got to the root of a lot of pride in me that was masking itself as “spirituality.”

Putting this all together with what I shared from brother Sparks in the above quote, I can say that he is right. “Oh how little we have seen.” How little we know about the purposes of God because we often get a little insight and we settle down and camp right there. He shines His light, but are we faithful to step into it and leave our comparative spiritual darkness behind? Apostle Paul wrote,

“If any man thinks he knows something, let him know this; he knows nothing as he ought to know.”

Dear saints, may we have a “deep heart exercise” to explore the depths and the riches that are ours in Christ Jesus and grow in our personal knowledge of Him and the Father. Amen.

(1) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/000843.html

“If I Were You…”

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world— to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37, ESV2011)

As I was speaking with a dear saint recently, the subject of hearing and obeying Jesus’ voice came up. We were talking about living in the truth. As we fellowshipped in the Spirit it was evident that Jesus is the Truth and to live in the truth is to live in Christ. Many of us who call ourselves “Christians” consult many sources to find the truth of how we should live or what course of action we should take. Some of us go running to our pastor or a Christian counselor for advice. Some of us research on the web, read self-improvement books, or even watch TV shows like Dr. Phil to find out what we should do. Yet again, many search the Bible and believe that in it we will find all that we need to do what is right in this life, but is that what Jesus said (see John 5:39-40)?

In the opening verse above we see that Jesus proclaimed Himself as our King. Why? So that He could show us the truth and that we would obey Him. So, many of us turn to not only the Bible, but to His words in the Bible to know the truth. Yet is that what He told Pilate? To find the truth we must listen to the One who IS the Truth! Jesus said, “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Do we really take the time to pray and listen to His voice and let Him direct our thoughts and actions? Do we invite Him into our family relationships and fellowship with others that He might direct our conversations and our hearts?

Susanne Schuberth wrote on her blog about a breaking point in her life.

I had begun to struggle with bipolar depression beginning in summer 2000 after our family had left the Christian cult we had attended for more than 5 years. There were a few reasons why that mental disease could put a stranglehold on me several times until 2008 and one of them was that our marriage seemed to have come to its very end which was one of the most painful situations I/we had to deal with. One day as I had been pondering on the pros and cons of divorce in detail, I eventually asked the Lord what to do. Knowing the legalistic approach both of the RCC and the cult we had joined, I was very surprised to come to know a side of God which had been unknown to me before. At that time I was so insecure about what to do that I dared to ask God how He would deal with me if I really got divorced. I could not have been more amazed as Jesus said, “I will be with you whatever you do.”

Wow!!! Knowing the Scriptures regarding divorce rather well, I was overwhelmed by His answer. That it was really God who spoke to me became immediately clear because I suddenly knew that I trusted Him, esp. in these matters, without any reservation. Such a great love of God…..indeed, only having read the Bible, I would have never thought that God really IS love. From that point on as I was convinced that I could fully trust Him, I even dared to ask Jesus earnestly, “What would You do if you were in my place?” His simple answer was, “If I were you, I would stay.” (1)

In a time of desperation, this sister really dared to trust Jesus with her life and her marriage! She could have read the Old Testament and concluded that divorce was okay. Even the New Testament gives place for divorce in some cases. But she bothered to ask God what HE thought about her case and Jesus gave her an answer that a true lover of Christ could understand, “If I were you, I would stay,” and she did just that. As a result of her listening to His voice on a daily basis and following Him, Jesus has been making Himself manifest in their marriage and healing all the old wounds in their family. God has been proving to her the depth of what Paul said to that Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved and your household.”

“If I were you…” Isn’t that what Jesus is after in each of our lives? Paul put it this way, “For me to live is Christ…” Daily and moment by moment we face this choice when we abide in Christ. It is not just “What would Jesus do,” in a generic (one size fits all) sense, but “What is Jesus seeking to do in me in a moment by moment personal way?” May we all take the time to seek Him out as we surrender to His rule in our lives.

(1) https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/christ-in-us-the-hope-of-glory/

The Letter Kills, But the Spirit Gives Life

Stephen's Face

(Reading: 2 Corinthians chapter three)

A year or two ago, some Christian friends invited me to attend a church service with them at a “Bible church.” As I sat there looking around the auditorium, I saw many faces that had no life in them and that included the pastor. There was no life in his preaching–or in the whole service for that matter. It was just a bunch of people going through the motions as they kept the law of church attendance on Sunday. Sad to say, I have seen this same lifelessness in some house church meetings as well.

In 2 Corinthians chapter three Paul makes it clear that when the Bible becomes a letter of legalism (so many commandments that we must keep) it kills us. In this chapter he speaks of the glory of Christ that is ours in His NEW Covenant that should shine from our faces as we follow the Spirit in fellowship with Him. If the New Testament becomes a system of rule keeping, we will entirely miss what the New Covenant is (read Hebrews chapter 8)! Here in chapter three, Paul refers to  what happened to Moses as he ministered the Old Covenant Law. Moses’ face shone brightly when he came back down from the mountain after receiving the law in a personal encounter with God, but that glory faded as the letter of the law he ministered worked death within him. As time went on the shining on his face faded because the letter of the law kills, but it is the Spirit that gives life (vs. 6).

This whole chapter is about there being no need for written letters if we are walking in the Spirit of Christ. If we are abiding in the Spirit we are the letters from God. We are the only letters that are needed to minister the gospel as our faces shine with His glory and His Spirit is speaking through us. It is sad that legalism (you must attend church on Sunday, you must tithe, you must not do this or that, etc.) has so taken over in our churches that few Christians today have faces that shine with the glory of the abiding Christ.

Paul wrote, But their minds were hardened; for to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.” I remember my first two years of trying to be a “born again” Christian. It began when I was led in a “sinner’s prayer” by a well-meaning pastor in my living room one evening. But soon it was evident that something was missing. I was encouraged to read the Bible, but it was all so many words with no life in them. I might as well have been reading a phone-book with so many names and numbers with no coherent flow. I attended church on Sunday and Wednesday evening every week and went to Sunday school class and even taught one, all to no avail. That empty hole inside prevailed. It was not until I finally surrendered my whole life to Christ unconditionally that the Spirit of God came into me for the first time. In my first attempt to become a Christian I had made a mental decision at the encouragement of a man, but after a spiritual crisis two years later, I surrendered all that I was (a confused mess at best) to Him as He drew me to Himself and filled me with His Spirit. It was then that His glory began to shine from my life and the words of the Bible began to leap off its pages into my heart.

The spiritual meaning of the entire Bible will be veiled to us just as it is and was to those Jews under the Old Covenant if we do not have the Spirit of Christ abiding in us as our Teacher. It will become a letter of laws that we must keep by our mental gyrations instead of a love letter from our Father in heaven that leads us into a deeper loving relationship with Him through His Spirit. Paul wrote, “You are a letter from Christ written with the Spirit of the living God on tablets of human hearts.”

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent [sufficient] of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence [sufficiency] is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2Cor 3:4-6, RSV – emphasis added)

Only Those Unshakeable Things Found IN Christ Will Remain

Foggy_Church_Graveyard

See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. (Heb 12:25-27, ESV2011)

In this passage we see the prophecy of a great shaking that will be upon not only the earth, but the very Church “heaven” itself. The word translated “heaven” above is defined in Strong’s Bible Dictionary as:

οὐρανός ouranos (ou-ra-nos’) n.

  1. the sky.
  2. (by extension) heaven (as the abode of God).
  3. (by implication) happiness, power, eternity.
  4. (specially) the Gospel (Christianity).

In the context of this passage in Hebrews it is obvious that God is going to not only shake the earth and the heavens as Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, but all things which have been made. This final shaking will destroy all the material things that Christianity clings to and identifies with so that only that which is of His Spirit in us will “survive the cut.” As much as we are attached to church buildings, liturgy, church hierarchy, Christian tradition and man-made institutions, all that will be done away with so that only the Heavenly Jerusalem, that assembly of the First Born, Jesus Christ, whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will remain (see Hebrews 12:22-24). What is stubble and chaff compared to wheat? God is not gathering stubble and chaff into His heavenly storehouse, but these are gathered into piles to be burned. Those things have done their job and soon will be of no further use.

Have you ever had a time of fellowship with your fellow saints that was so heavenly that you did not want it to end? I don’t mean just a church service or a Christian conference, but being part of a group of believers in an in-depth relationship (that goes beyond those found in most churches) where the love and grace of our Father flowed between you all and built you up in a way that no sermon or mere sacramental-ism can. I am speaking of a time together of the  members of Christ’s body with Him orchestrating all that happened as only HE can. This has become so rare, now at the end of this age, that most of you probably have never experienced heaven coming down and touching the earth with the Light and Life of Christ Himself filling His body. It truly is a gift from our Father. It is such a witness of His “kingdom come upon the earth as it is in heaven” that the hordes of hell are unleashed against it when it happens. In any case, experiencing the real ecclesia of God in the love and unity of the Spirit ruins you for ever again being satisfied with orchestrated Sunday meetings as is the norm today.

Sad to say, Christians today have struck a compromise with the devil that says, “You leave us alone and we will leave you alone,” What we have masquerading as “the church” is no threat to the prince of this world or his kingdom. Instead of preaching Christ and Him crucified, the pulpits are preaching worldly goals and gain and cutesy sermons that tickle the ears of the hearers. They have twisted Paul’s words, “I have become all things to all men that I might win some,” to mean that we should become as likeable and like the world and its people as much as possible. As a result, the “salt of the earth” that the church was meant to be has lost its savor and is being trodden under the feet of men. We must be born of the Spirit to see the kingdom of God. Christianity has become so worldly and self seeking that I really doubt that most “Christians” today have the Spirit of God dwelling in them. If they did, their hearts would not be so focused on material things, the world and the affairs of carnal men, much less content with the status quo in the churches.

Austin-Sparks wrote about the status of church around the world which he observed 60 years ago during world wide ministry (it is much worse now). He could see that the judgment of God was coming on the church as its enemy was rapidly squeezing out any representation of the church in huge areas of the world with the onslaught of atheistic communism, Islam and humanism. But even more than that the church was dying a slow death by becoming more worldly than it was spiritual (see http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002091.html).

Apostle Paul saw this coming upon the church even as early as the first century and he warned:

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That you be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, that the day of the Lord is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come the falling away [Grk – apostasia- apostasy]  first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; (2Thess 2:1-3, KJ2000 – emphasis added – see also Acts 20:29-31 – emphasis added)

Sparks compared the status of the church to the temple system and what Judaism had become at the time of Christ. Rome, not God, had placed Herod as king over Judea and Judaism was influenced by its power more than God. King Herod’s father was an Edomite and not of the linage of David as Israel’s king should have been. When Jesus came as a baby and the rightful heir, “The Son of David” Herod tried to kill Him!  This despot had more to do with who ruled over the temple as High Priest than any spiritual leading from God. This is why there were two “High Priests” during the time of Jesus’ sojourn here on earth. They were both political appointees and one came up out of Egypt. Only those who catered to Herod and his wishes were chosen for this influential priestly position. It was a purely political system.

The whole Jewish system had fallen under carnal rulers and been corrupted to the point that even their precious temple built by Herod the Great was not according to the pattern that Moses was given by God, but rather a garish monument to this despotic king’s own greatness. The arc of the covenant was no longer in the Holy of Holies and God’s judgment of “Ichabod” was on the whole thing (see Luke 21:5-6). The Fortress of Antonia that housed the Roman garrison was purposely built right up against the temple walls so the Roman shoulders could have access to the temple grounds and the Court the Gentiles in the temple complex was where the buying and selling of animals was going on under the oversight of Annas, one of the two high priests. This was his business enterprise and became known as “the Bazaar of Annas.” It was into this political mess that Jesus came, overthrowing the tables of the merchants and announcing, “It is written that my house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it a den of thieves.”

Anyone who has been part of organized Christianity for very long can easily see all the parallels in the church today with its preaching of political affiliations, social activism, worldly prosperity, and mercantilism. Its seminaries crank out men that are no longer lowly servants as was Christ, but that want to become famous in this world and make their churches into a cash cow operation. Just as it was back then when God pronounced judgment on that perverted system and it was destroyed by 70 A.D., His judgment is on this worldly church system of today.

Jesus did not come to establish another religion ruled over by men! He came to point all men to His Father’s kingdom and restore each of us to a perfect fellowship with Him. Jesus is its Prince of Peace and its members are transformed into spiritual beings who are not of this world, but rather the sons and daughters of God. Do you doubt that God’s judgment is on this worldly religious system, this whore that prostitutes herself for worldly position and gain? Then you might look closer at these verses that describe the great apostasy that Paul warned us about and is now its final stage.

And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters [peoples]: With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. (Rev 17:1-2, KJV)

And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration [astonishment]. (Rev 17:5-6, KJV)

These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. (Rev 17:14-15, KJV)

And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. (Rev 18:1-5, KJV)

How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her. (Rev 18:7-8, KJV) (emphasis added in all the above verses)

All that said, the church of today is as fallen from what was once spiritual under the direction of the Holy Spirit as the Herodian temple system was fallen from the tabernacle in the wilderness under Moses and Aaron. Jesus proclaimed God’s judgment upon that Jewish system and it was removed from the face of the earth in 70 A. D. (read Matthew ch. 23). That system’s fate was sealed when its followers and leaders murdered the Son of Righteousness the Father sent to redeem them. Jesus told them just before He died,

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

So, dear brothers and sisters, do you find yourself rejected and alone in today’s church systems? Didn’t Jesus warn us that if they hated Him they would hate and abuse His servants also?

Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, who planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into a far country: And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the tenants took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will respect my son. But when the tenants saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. When the lord therefore of the vineyard comes, what will he do unto those tenants? (Matt 21:33-40, KJ2000)

Dear friends, the rightful heirs to the Kingdom of God are those who walk by faith and the leading of the Spirit of God as His servants, not those who claim the name “Christian” and abuse their power and His flock as they seek worldly gain.

Many years ago, as I saw the truth in this, I wanted to do like Moses did, grab them by their ecclesiastical throats and deliver God’s people from these taskmasters one at a time (I speak figuratively). I spent many years focusing on what was wrong with the church and its leadership and wrote volumes about it, but God finally told me that this system is nothing more than blind guides leading the blind and to leave it alone and let them all fall in the ditch (see Matthew 15:14). Sometimes it takes following church leaders into a few spiritual ditches to wake us up and get us to seek true spiritual sight and Truth that is ours alone as we abide IN Jesus Christ.

Paul said, “I did not build upon another man’s foundation.” You cannot build the house of God on the twisted teachings and traditions of Christendom that continue to confuse the minds of its adherents. Only the Holy Spirit can teach these truths and give us the experiences to drive them deep into our hearts. He must purge our minds and hearts of all that is false concerning God’s kingdom and our place in it before He can build HIS temple with us as His living stones.

It took 40 years in the wilderness and a lot of dying to get Egypt out of His people and make them ready to enter His Promised Land, and so it is today. Whether you call it a period in the wilderness or “the dark night of the soul,” these religious souls in us that the Bible calls “the flesh” are not compatible for His kingdom. We must be stripped of all the religious foundations of men and our carnal natures before we can start to comprehend what the Spirit is saying to us, because all that false teaching blocks us from hearing His gentle voice as it resonates in our hearts. Once that false foundation is done away with, He can start building us on the only true Foundation, which is Christ. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians chapter three that every man’s work will be proven by fire for the day shall declare and expose what kind of structure was built. There is a day in each of our lives that God comes to set His house in order. It is better to face His purging now than to face His all-consuming fire in “the Day of the Lord.”

Father, open our eyes that we might see ourselves as YOU see us and repent that we might walk according to the Light of your Spirit. Amen.