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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christ Our Temple – Where true worship begins

The Thinker by Rodin – source : Pixabay.com CC0

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before His death Jesus cried out:

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

And Micah prophesied:

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

In Hebrews we read this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Nature of the New Order

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Does God Allow Christians to Suffer?

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

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

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

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

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

Paul wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the book of James we read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Even in Deep Darkness Thou Art with Me

Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. (Isa 9:2, ESV2011)

Dear precious saints of God,

Our Father has a process that He puts many of us through of which the above verse speaks. It is here that all dependence on our natural abilities is stripped away and all we can do is throw ourselves on the mercy and grace of God, even when He seems far away. It is the “afterwards” that He is after (see Hebrews 12:11) even though this dark time in our lives seems to never end. There is a day when the Refiner of Silver and Gold (see Malachi 3:3) looks into the crucible of our afflictions and sees only His own reflection instead of all that soulish dross that is mixed in with it, because our God is a consuming fire.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1John 3:2-3, ESV2011)

We start out as God’s children, but what He is after is sons who are like Christ, the Pattern Son.

For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to perfect the Author of their salvation by sufferings. For both he that sanctifies, and they who are sanctified, are all of one. For which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, (Heb 2:10-11, Haweis)

So we submit ourselves under His mighty hand with this blessed hope of being conformed into the image of Christ.

There are those of us who have passed through the valley of the shadow of death in one way or another, have come out the other side, and fully believe by experience that the flesh (our soul life, that old Adam we were born into) profits nothing. The result is a deeper relationship with our Lord in heavenly places IN Christ Jesus. Isn’t that what we are after, no matter what the cost?

I’ve felt led to post this excerpt from T. Austin-Sparks for those who feel cut-off from God and cry out in the depths of your darkness as Jesus did on the cross, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?!” Remember, rather, His final words in that dark hour, “Into your hands, Father, I commend my spirit.” This is the victory on the other side of this test, the release of our spirit IN Christ Jesus.

We close by referring to this one point. We must seek always to believe in the fact that this Divine life, with all its tremendous potencies, is far deeper down than surrounding conditions and circumstances, than our own physical life, and than our own soul-life. Unless we grasp that, hold that firmly, we have not the ground of victory. When we feel that death is working with such tremendous force in the realm of our bodies or our souls, and everything in this sentient life of ours speaks of death, we are too often in danger of surrendering the whole position. I believe that this thing which is of God is deeper than our mortal being. I believe that it is possible even for children of God, being truly born again and possessing eternal life, to lose their reason and go into an asylum, and yet to have no change made in the deepest fact and reality of the being in relation to the Lord. We touch that point to indicate what we mean – that if our rational life is the sum total of our life, then it is a poor look-out for us. If our sanity, our natural mental balance, is the ground of our being children of God, then some from time to time would have real reason to doubt whether they were born again. And if that is true in the mental, it is true in the physical. This life of the Lord is far deeper than this mortal life of ours.

I am going to say something which may, to some, sound very terrible. It may perplex some, but it may help others. It is this: it is possible for a true child or servant of God, living in true fellowship with Him and walking in the light as far as they have it, to pass through a time of deep and terrible darkness. At such a time it may seem as though the Lord has left them and that Satan has taken His place of government. Prayer seems impossible or useless, and the Bible closed. Evil seems triumphant. The promises of God never to leave nor in anywise to forsake seem to have failed. Things may seem to be even worse than that, and one’s salvation may be brought into question. Such has been the experience of some of the most saintly, devoted, and God-used servants of the Lord. Abraham had it (Genesis 15:12). Jeremiah knew it (Jeremiah 20:7). David knew it (Psalm 22). Job knew it. Our Lord Jesus knew it (Matthew 27:46). Dr. A. B. Simpson had this experience near the end of his wonderful life for God. And so it has been with others.

What is the explanation? With all my heart I do not believe that this seeming forsakenness is true, however real it may seem. In many cases it is because those concerned have done so much damage to the kingdom of Satan that he has rallied all his forces to quench their life and testimony. Or it may be that the enemy has discerned the potential value of a life which will be a menace to his interests. But, whether either of these explanations be true or not so, the fact remains that, where the Lord Jesus truly is, the battle for life often assumes most serious forms. Sometimes it is a devastating and desolating experience.

We need to remember that these are spiritual forces, and spiritual forces stand at no physical barriers. We have a soul, a great nervous system. Children of God for many reasons, and very often after a time of pouring out spiritually, will find their nerves are all a jangle, and they feel anything but good and holy. But are you going to say that that means that after all they are not children of God, and that it is all a myth? Do you mean to say that Elijah was no longer the prophet of the Most High when he cast himself under the juniper tree and asked the Lord to take away his life? He was still the servant of God, still as true to God as ever. We are not trying to excuse our weaknesses, but trying to get to the heart of a situation. That does not argue that the Lord has forsaken, that the Lord is not there, and that such are not the Lord’s children or His servants. It indicates that the enemy has made them marked men or women because of something he is trying to destroy in the life. If you get into that realm, do not accept the suggestions of the enemy or seek to interpret things in the light of circumstances.

If you do not understand this that we are saying, do not strive after an explanation, and please do not put your own construction upon it. There are some who know what it is to have such an assault upon their being, their physical and nervous life as to make them feel that they are lost. I do not believe that it means that they are lost, and it is because some people accept that suggestion from the tempter that they sink into darkness. Oh, that many of these people who feel this thing upon them could know what we are trying to say, that it is for the spirit to rise up in faith and refuse the argument of the seeming! The seeming is sometimes so terribly real. People who have not suffered sometimes say to us: ‘It only seems to be so; it is not really so!’ And we reply: ‘You do not know what you are talking about! It is more real than anything else to those concerned.’ But the Lord will teach us as we go on not to accept that as the final thing. There is something deeper than that. The Lord is deeper than our physical feelings. The Lord is deeper than our soul.

Let me say here what I have said elsewhere. There are times and situations when ordinary lines of communication with a child of God are suspended. They are in a state of unconsciousness. It is useless to speak to them, for they can make no response. But if you pray, so often there is a response, not in words, but deeper than natural consciousness. You touch something deeper; it is the spirit, and spirit responds to spirit. We have known this to happen, even to the point of a hand-squeeze, or a facial glow. It is the mystery of Divine life.

https://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/000706.html
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

On a personal note:

Sparks in the above paragraph wrote, “There are times and situations when ordinary lines of communication with a child of God are suspended. They are in a state of unconsciousness. It is useless to speak to them, for they can make no response. But if you pray, so often there is a response, not in words, but deeper than natural consciousness. You touch something deeper; it is the spirit, and spirit responds to spirit. We have known this to happen, even to the point of a hand-squeeze, or a facial glow. It is the mystery of Divine life.”

This is very personal to me. I spent 14 years in His wilderness (the dark night of the soul) and I was in this state of “spiritual suspended animation,” during the whole time. It was here that all the things that used to speak to me of the presence of God were gone; fellowship with the saints, inspired reading of the Bible and Christian books, prayer, and even inward feelings of His love, etc. It was like He truly was not there. This was necessary to weaken my soul nature that always wanted to “surf” on what God was doing. My soul would always add its “two bits” to what God was saying and was always seeking to be recognized by others. “I, I, me, me, my!” “Look at me, I’m one of the boys, too!”

But at one point during this time of isolation I met a dear old saint, sat at a table with him, held his hand and felt something deeper. No words were spoken for to do so would have been to defile what God was doing. When I felt I could go on no longer, God would give me enough assurance to hang in there and seek His face. When my wife, Dorothy, felt she could not handle my depression any longer He would give her a promise and encouragement as well. I found out after the end of this long dark tunnel when I came out again into His Light, that He had been teaching me subliminally the whole time in a way that my soul could not feel, relate or find pleasure in. As one brother said to me near the end, “I can see this vast resource God has put within you. When are you going to speak?” I just said, “Only when He tells me to.” So, to this day I try to only write a blog when He gives it to me. I hope some of you can relate and are blessed.

Michael

This Is My Beloved Son, Hear Ye Him!

Photo of the Idaho Sawtooth Mountains by Michael Clark

As I was praying and seeking the Lord this morning, I was lead to the following passages about the time when Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus on the holy mount. First we have Peter’s account.

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2Pet 1:16-21, ESV2011)

And Matthew gives the following account of what happened on that day,

And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. (Matt 17:3-8, ESV2011)

Prophesy from the mouth of God was spoken from heaven in their presence. It was so powerful that they fell on their faces and were terrified.

True prophesy comes when “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” To the extent that we are “carried along by the Holy Spirit” when we write or speaks determines whether it is “prophesy.” No it is not on the level which is recorded in the Bible, but it should always agree with what is there. Peter wrote,

If any man speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man ministers, let him do it as of the ability which God gives: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1Pet 4:11, KJ2000)

Upon seeing Moses and Elijah speaking with Jesus, Peter felt compelled to say something religious. In effect he was saying, “Oh wow, Jesus! This is really great. How about I build three tabernacles, one for each of you so we can capture the moment!” Here we have the flesh of Peter speaking out from his carnal mind when he should have been listening in silence to what was being said. As Jesus said, “The flesh profits nothing. My words they are Spirit and they are Life.”

Part of the reason God rebuked Peter was for him putting Jesus on the same plain as Moses and Elijah by building three tabernacles. In the first place, the Father was not interested in enshrining and bringing down to an earthly level what was going on in His heavenly realm. Rather, He was wanting to bring the thoughts, minds and hearts of those men up into His heavenly viewpoint. Men love to build shrines around God’s special spiritual moments. They want to capture what God is doing and bring it down to earth under their control. I was raised in the Catholic church and they, along with their Protestant counterparts, have built a shrine around everything they can think of that could be construed as a spiritual event here on earth. In Israel there are churches built over where they think Jesus was born, where they He died on the cross, and where He was buried for three days. There is even a monastery build on Mount Sinai where Moses received the Ten Commandments, and another where they figure Elijah was fed by the ravens! There is no end to religious man’s efforts to pull what is heavenly down to an earthly level. It’s all about control, men trying to control and package up what is of God and make a profit while they are at it. I have seen it happen time and again. It sickens me to see on the opening page of a Christian blog or website a “Donate” or a “PayPal” button. Peter warned us about this.

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privately shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingers not, and their damnation slumbers not. (2Pet 2:1-3, AKJV)

Another thing I have observed on the internet is when Christian blog writers go around and steal what other inspired writers share. The other day a man with a very large following put an article I wrote about my testimony on his website without including the web address where he got it. [1] Even worldly writers know that leaving this information out when quoting others is considered plagiarism. And even worse, people have put our books for sale on Amazon and it distinctly says on the back covers of each of them, “This book is not for sale.” We have never sold or asked for donations for anything we have written. We have freely given what God has freely given to us. Peter was right, “many shall follow their pernicious ways… and make merchandise of you.” When man puts his hand on or tries to make a profit on what God is doing, the Holy Spirit leaves and that move of God and prophetic word dies.

The other lesson I see in God’s rebuke of Peter that day is that he was putting Jesus on the same level of importance as the law and the prophets. Moses represented the law and Elijah represented the prophets. But look what God has to say about their purpose and place:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Heb 1:1-3, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

The writings of Moses and the prophets have one purpose – to testify about Jesus Christ (see Luke 24:25-27). Yet, today there are churches who totally focus on the law, and others focus on prophets and prophesy to the point that they exclude the words of Christ. Yet how many are totally given to listening to the Spirit of Christ and obeying His leading?

Peter wrote, “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts…” The Holy Spirit is that lamp shining in dark places in our hearts and Jesus is the Morning Star who is rising in our hearts as we grow in Christ by listening to His voice and obeying Him.

Dear saints, we would do well to heed the warning from God in this age when lying spirits abound “This is my beloved Son, HEAR YE HIM!”

[1] http://www.awildernessvoice.com/wilderness.html