Growing into the Fullness of Christ

Photo by Yoal Desurmont on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

T. Austin-Sparks wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Does it Mean to Be Living “IN That Day”

In the last few days my heart was disturbed by news reports coming from the middle-east where people are dying as they try to leave Afghanistan. Why did the American administration pull the army and marines out first? I am a veteran of the Vietnam war and I see so many similarities to how that war ended with millions who were loyal to the American cause, “to save the world from communism,” were trapped in a ruthless communist takeover facing death or imprisonment. When this happened back then, all I could think of was “All those millions of lives wasted for nothing!” It was personal for me because I knew some of the men who died over there. After the fall of Saigon and months of being depressed, I finally came into my Father’s rest, believing that this was all part of what had to take place so that I would quit seeking the political answers the kingdoms of this world provide and turn to Christ for everything needed in my life.

This time around, after being pulled down into that mess in the middle-east and feeling anger and depression set in, through the prayer of myself and others I was set free before that crisis was over. It is here in this victory that I am able to see what Isaiah was prophesying about in a personal way.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. (Isa 60:1-2, ESV2011)

Susanne Schuberth recently posted a blog article [1] that focused on the following verses,

In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (John 14:20 ESV)

In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16: 23-24 ESV)

In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (John 16:26-27 ESV)

She wrote somethings in that article that got my attention.

Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” Can it be that simple? You and I ask God something, whether it is a prayer or a question that bothered us for a long time already, we receive an answer, our prayer is answered shortly and therefore our joy increases with every additional request answered. While our joy is increasing, we somehow automatically turn away from our old ways of thinking and reasoning since we realize that in God’s person alone ALL questions that could ever be asked are answered. Furthermore, He provides everything we might ever need because He is a loving Father! His presence is so breathtaking to our own spirit that our whole life on earth turns into a shadow of sorts, compared with His wonderful light, life, and love that keep drawing us further and further upward…

I commented the following on her blog,

Susanne, thank you for sharing those wonderful verses from Jesus’ words [and what you learned from them]. I had to read them again and again for they are deep. I was reading T. A. Sparks and He was pointing out that the Father is ours to have a personal relationship with if we are IN Christ as the Father is in Him. We who are living and walking in the Spirit are one with Him in all that we ask and do. His will is our will. It is no longer living like we are earthly orphans left behind to be alone because Jesus went to be with the Father. This is why Jesus called the Holy Spirit our Comforter. To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to live lives inside the Holy of Holies in Heaven [which is Christ Himself].

In Hebrews we read:

Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus ,by the way which he dedicated for us, a new and living way, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having a great priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our body washed with pure water: (Heb 10:19-22, ERV)

In That Day You Will Ask In My Name…

Jesus said in the verses above that we should ask anything of the Father in His name. What does this mean? Some teach that we can ask for anything we want and it will be ours?. This reminds me of the story of Aladdin who found a magic lamp with a genie inside. All he had to do was rub the lamp and out popped the genie saying, “Yes, Master, what can I do for you?” I’m sorry, but James had something to say about this kind of carnal thinking in the church.

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? … You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you… (Jas 4:1-8, ESV2011)

God does not feed our flesh with all its worldly desires. To do so would be to inhibit our spiritual growth IN Christ. So often I have heard church people add on to the end of their requests from God, “And we ask all these thing in Jesus’ mighty name, Amen!” To ask anything in His name, J-E-S-U-S, is not some kind of magic incantation that God has to obey! He is not our private genie! To pray this way is all so shallow and worldly, bordering on superstition. I continued to comment the following on Susanne’s blog:

As I meditated on this I could see that we first have to be IN Christ in all that that relationship means. To be “IN Jesus’ name” is to be in His very person-hood and thus in ALL that HE is in our relationship with the Father. Here all that the Father wishes for Him and for us is the same for we are one with them. It is not to use “magic” words that get God to move according to our own fleshly desires. All three of the verses [from John’s gospel] you shared are speaking of a believer’s relationship with the Father IN Christ in which we are “keeping that channel open” by being quick to listen to the Spirit and obey the will of the Father and confessing our faults when we miss it. Jesus’ words in this verse come to mind and they say it all,

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [the needs of our lives as human beings] will be added to you.” (Matt 6:33, ESV2011)

It is a matter having the mind of Christ operating within us and our lives and wants redirected accordingly. With God it is all about us living according to HIS good pleasure (living in HIS kingdom and HIS righteousness), not the pleasures of our old natures. This is the very attitude of Jesus Himself (both here on earth and in heaven) the one who lives IN HIS name.

Speaking of what the phrase “in that day” means, someone pointed out that God does not tell time with a clock or calendar in view, but rather He goes so by eras. The previous spiritual era was the era of Moses, Israel and the Law. Some say that the era of His grace came in with the advent of Jesus Christ.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines Era – a fixed point in time from which a series of years is reckoned.

When Jesus said “In that day…” The day He is speaking of is the one in God’s time table we are living in at present. It started when the Holy Spirit was sent to dwell in those who believed in Him on the day of Pentecost. Before that day the Spirit would move on different vessels of God, but up until that time He never llved in them and this makes all the difference with the level of intimacy we enjoy with our Father and Jesus today. We who believe in Christ and have His Spirit within us we are IN that day.

Growing IN Christ As We Learn of Him

As I thought on this issue of the Father answering all our questions as they come up, it occurred to me that the He could not answer all that is entailed in each of our questions in one fell swoop. Even answering one question about His kingdom spread over time would take longer than our time here on earth. He sees from His infinite perspective and we have to grow into each portion He shows us before the next facet of the answer can be given us. That growth requires experience and sometimes trials and suffering. Paul wrote:

…But we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Rom 5:3-5, ESV2011)

The natural man learns by accumulating knowledge and so often pride wells up with it, but when God teaches us, it requires a change in our hearts. This is why it is such a delusion to think that we can get a degree in theology and a title to go with it so we can have it all figured out and go out and teach others. As Paul said, “If any man thinks he knows something let him know this, he knows nothing at all as he should.” We have all known teenagers that we have tried to talk with and no matter what the subject is they think they already know all about it. When we think we know all about things, we quit learning and become unteachable.

As we grow in Christ we come to understand that the call of God is an upward call and that growth in the Spirit requires not only spiritual knowledge, but being released from the downward pull of this world. Until that release has been worked in us, we will never know what it means to dwell in heavenly places in Christ (see Ephesians 2:4-7). Being lead into all truth is a life changing process that should start in our lifetimes. What we may have learned from reading a verse in the Bible ten years ago is not what He is showing us from the same verse today. As we grow into a thing He shows us, we are no longer the same person with the same perspective of God because His truths take hold in us and change us and we grow to know Him more perfectly. I believe Isiah prophesied of this very thing.

​For to us a child is born, to us a son is given… and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor… of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end… (Isa 9:6-7, ESV2011)

To grow into our heavenly place IN Christ is to welcome the increase of His governing influence in our lives. And living in His perfect will for us is to know His wonderful peace within. When He answers a question, especially when the answer involves the increase of HIS kingdom, it becomes a seed that keeps growing inside us. This is why Paul, after many years of being taught by Jesus Christ was able to write from his heart, “Not that I have yet attained or were already perfected, but I press on for the HIGH calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Yes, Paul was given a “high calling” right from his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road. In fact, after many years he met with the other apostles who were still in Jerusalem and he as able to say afterwards, “…they added nothing to me.” Nobody knew Jesus after the Spirit like Paul. He knew that the Jesus who had confronted him was so big that in his lifetime he would never be able to encompass that Infinite Being and all that it means to be IN Christ.

Susanne Schuberth wrote in the comment section of her blog article:

“I [have] asked God things about my personal life, about trials, and similar things about which I was not so sure I had heard from Him rightly before. When He allows these questions to be raised in His presence, then He answers them as it was the Holy Spirit who nudged us to ask. Moreover, God’s presence is so calming that our questions seem to disappear most of the time. That reminds me of the following Scripture, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Ps 46:10 ESV)

This is a profound discovery. I think that these two states of being–“in His presence” and “In His name,”– are referring to the same thing. When we are abiding in His rest, our panicky, restless and questioning natures are calmed to the point we can hear our Father’s heart for us. It is here we commune with Him in the quietness of our souls, Spirit to spirit. David wrote of this very thing.

Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child. (Ps 131:1-2, AKJV)

Years ago a pastor asked me how I was doing and I answered, “Not too bad under the circumstances.” To this he replied, “What are you doing under there?” We spend way too much of our lives living under what is being thrown at us by Satan and the world. Imagine the spiritual reality that Paul and Barnabas must have been dwelling in. After being flogged and chained to a prison wall in total darkness, they were able to sing praises to the living God. In that moment of heart felt love for Jesus, their praise literally brought the house down and broke the chains that bound them! Now, THAT is living above one’s circumstances! When Paul was imprisoned by the Emperor Nero in Rome, he was able to write, “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ…” He might have been a prisoner of Nero as the world saw it, but he was in heavenly places IN Christ Jesus. It is in this place of resting in His loving presence that all those things that were so important in our daily lives seem to melt away and by faith they are placed under HIS authority. It is here that we find perfect faith, joy, peace and perfect love that casts out all our fears. It is here that we can arise and shine and have the glory of the Lord rising upon us.

Dear Father, please do whatever it takes in our lives to bring us into your heavenly reality IN Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2021/08/18/in-that-day/

He is not here, HE IS Risen!

We are familiar with the saying, “It is the darkest just before the dawn.” This is also a spiritual truth. Look at the account of creation.

And the earth was without form [chaos], and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light:” and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. (Gen 1:2-5, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

The above passage is rich with spiritual meaning. God is all about light because He is the Father of it. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (Jas 1:17, KJ2000). The story of creation begins with darkness but ends with light. Notice how it starts with spiritual darkness, but ends with His spiritual light shining forth from His people.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. (Isa 60:1-2, ESV2011)

One might read the above verses about creation and think that it is talking about an absence of photons that made all this darkness. Yet, the sources of light as we know them–the sun, moon and stars–were not created until the fourth day! The darkness we read about here is caused by a lack of spiritual light, the presence of God’s Spirit, yet the earth begins in darkness. (I believe that this darkness and chaos on the earth was the result of the battle between the archangel Michael and his angels and Lucifer and those seduced by him when Satan was cast down to the earth [see Revelation 12:7-9]). Into this situation God said, “Let there be light” and there was light and God saw that it was good.” The word good in a spiritual context is always descriptive of God and His will. When Jesus was called “Good Master” by a Pharisee, He stopped him in his tracks by saying, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” So you see when God calls something “good,” it is because He is in it. He is our source of Light, and without His light we dwell in darkness. Also notice that God counts time differently than we do. He starts out with the evening and darkness. Our days start at midnight. They start in darkness and end in darkness. Not so with God. So we read in the creation account, “And the evening and the morning were the first day.” His Light always “gets the final word” with God. He and those who are His are always victorious in anything He does. Darkness never prevails if we abide in Him instead of getting sucked in by the Prince of Darkness.

When we come to Christ, it’s because our Father has said, “Let there be Light” It’s the life of Christ that gives us light. John wrote about Jesus saying,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4, KJV – emphasis added)

Paul wrote,

But all things, when their true nature is seen, are made manifest by His light: because everything which is made clear is light. For this reason he says, “Be awake, you who are sleeping, and come up from among the dead, and Christ will be your light.” (Eph 5:13-14, BBE)

We were once dead in our sins, but now we have been made alive IN Christ. We started out our lives in spiritual darkness and God set out to reclaim us from the domain of the devil. He is the father of darkness and Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God by following the incitements of Satan against God’s command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The serpent said to Eve, “For God knows that if you eat of this tree you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” He was offering them a short cut to be gods without being in submission to their Creator. But Eve saw that the tree was pleasant to look upon, that it was good to eat and it would make her wise, so she ate of its fruit and gave it to Adam and he did eat and immediately they saw that they were naked. Guilt entered into their lives for the first time. This was the first fruit of this new knowledge that they acquired. So they hid themselves from God and mankind has been in darkness ever since.

But God had a plan in mind to circumvent Satan’s ploy from the beginning. He would send His Son in the form of a man to die for our sins in our place. And not only that, He would put His Spirit within us and write His laws upon our new hearts (See Jerimiah 31:32 and Ezekiel 11:19). Paul wrote,

Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. (Rom 5:18-19, KJ2000)

At some point in our life’s journey we discover that we are bankrupt and can’t live our life without making mess of it and we call out to Him for help. And by His grace we become born again and His Spirit is placed within us. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, but that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

This “evening and morning” in our lives is our first day in His Spirit realm. But His creation process continues on in us. The light of God within us is forever taking new ground and the increase of His government within us never ends. God said in the beginning, “Let us make man in our image and after our likeness.” He created Adam and Eve in His own image, but the likeness part is a process and needs our cooperation if we are to be made like Christ. The Apostle John wrote,

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)

And how do we go about purifying ourselves when we are so helpless? Paul gave us the answer.

Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. (Rom 6:13, ESV2011)

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. (2Thess 2:16-17, ESV2011)

It is all done by Jesus Christ Himself and our Father. All we can do is yield to them while they do the work, This is what it means to walk by faith and to enter into His seventh day rest.

Why Must We Go Through a Spiritual Wilderness?

At some point by His grace, God has to do a deeper work in us than was done at the point when we became born again. We start out thinking (or are told), now that we are born again, that we need to join a church. Never mind that according to the scriptures all who are born from above and have the Spirit within them ARE the Church of God! Soon, we find one and as we attend that church the teachings of the pastor become our all. But the scripture says that Christ is our All in all. The problem with all this is knowledge puffs us up and makes us proud (see 1 Corinthians 8:1). Then pride starts to grow within us and God has to resist the proud, even as He gives grace to the humble. Darkness starts to cast its shadow over us once again because Jesus warned,

But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. (Matt 23:8-10, ESV2011)

David knew that God was His all when he wrote, “The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” But our church leaders insist that we need human shepherds and teachers even though God has put His Spirit within us. Men can be a help in our walk as long as they don’t take the place of Jesus in our lives, but all too often this is what happens. In our immaturity we sit in our padded nests with mouths open, expecting the holy man up front to give us all we need. Yet, Jesus told us that the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, would lead us into all truth not man. About this usurping of the Holy Spirit in our lives, Apostle John warned,

I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing [the Holy Spirit] that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. (1John 2:26-27, ESV2011)

In order to do this deeper work in us He has to dislodge our need for human teachers and all that we have learned that was not from Him. These things block His light from going deeper within our hearts. I think it was A. W. Tozer that said, “God seems to be more interested in un-teaching us than filling our minds with new information.”

It is here that our Father has to take drastic action. Dislodging false teachings of men from our souls is especially difficult when we think they were put there by God. He has to put us back in a time of darkness where no new input comes into our souls from the outside. During this time we are cut off from all Christian fellowship. Even reading the Bible seems blah to us. Our soul is starved of any new input that could puff us up. But during this time He teaches us in a way that our flesh cannot capitalize on it. He subliminally gives us His spiritual food that we can draw from later. If He were to do anything overt in us, our flesh would seize it, get puffed up and try to minister to others once again The flesh would even try and package up what He is teaching us so it can be sold! All that old self centered motivation has to die. He cuts us off from all external support and we find ourselves in what has been called a wilderness experience or the dark night of the soul. As we try to search out what has happened to us, we soon find that the Bible is full of God’s people who had to dwell in a time of wilderness and being a prisoner in their lives; Moses, David, Elijah, John the Baptist, many of the prophets, Paul of Tarsus, the Apostle John and even Jesus had to suffer being cut off from the land of the living and their own people for a season. I never heard this truth from any pulpit ministry because it is strange to most of them. Like Jesus said, “Your time is always, but my time is not yet come.” No, God has to teach each of us these things by His Spirit if we are to go on in Christ and not just spend our lives in a lukewarm Laodicean church. Isaiah spoke of this spiritual condition among those who fear the Lord,

Who is among you that fears the LORD, that obeys the voice of his servant, that walks in darkness, and has no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay on his God. (Isa 50:10, AKJV)

There are many “evenings and mornings” in our spiritual lives in Christ because our God is like a refiner’s fire. His gold (the righteousness of Christ) within us is heated and let cool seven times in the fire to remove all the soulish human dross that mingles with it. But the first firing we go through is the worst because it is totally strange to us and we think that Father has cast us out and forsaken us. Like David and Jesus on the cross, we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” But somehow the faith of Christ within us sustains us through this terrible time of testing. T. Austin-Sparks wrote,

“And when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives. Then said Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended in me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But after I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee” (Matt. 26:30-32).

Here the Mount is the place of the eclipse of all the earthly. It is rather remarkable and impressive how one thing moves into another like this. It is as though you are in one continuous, unbroken movement; the Mount of Olives bringing out in clear revelation this thing which has to go [Jesus had just spoken the words found in Matthew ch. 24 and told them that the whole temple system would be destroyed and eventually much of the earth and its people before the end comes], and the Mount of Olives again showing how it is going [to be], and bringing them right into the eclipse of all that. They were still clinging, still holding on for something here. Now it is shown that that is going into midnight, going to be blotted out, and so far as they are tied up with it, they are going to be blotted out, they will go with it if they are bound up with it, and their only hope is that they come out on to other ground altogether.

What a terrific thing is the breaking of the earthly and the natural things! Just look at these men when this word was fulfilled – all made to stumble, offended because of Him, scattered abroad, disintegrated in every way; personally in themselves, broken to pieces, shattered; among themselves, scattered, no one trusting the other’s report. Nobody is being trusted. Yes, a real scattering in every way. What a shattering thing it is to be delivered from the old, earthly attachment, even in the things of God. Your world goes to pieces. When God brings you into view of His real spiritual order of things, the real nature of His work in this dispensation, your world eclipses, disintegrates, and you go into the dark, you do not know where you are. You have lost one world and so far you are not [gone] right through into the other. It is midnight. [1]

This pretty well describes what I had to go through starting in May of 1980 when Mount Saint Helens blew up and we were downwind and covered with ash. But that was only the start of Him blowing away all that I thought was of Him in my life, because my wonderful church fellowship disintegrated shortly thereafter and I was soon cut off on every side, even financially.

Just a few hours earlier before Jesus let them know that all they related to as the kingdom of God would be done away with, these disciples wanted to take Jesus on a tour of the temple buildings to show Him their wonders, but to this Jesus replied, “You see all these things? I tell you not one stone will be left upon another until it is all thrown down.” Before the last one of them would die, Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed and raised to the ground by the Roman army. Their religious beliefs still had a hold on them. They were still enamored with the things of this world, earthy things like “my ministry” in His new earthly government arguing over who would sit on His right and who would sit on His left. And on top of all that Jesus, their Messiah, told them He was leaving them and not setting up an earthly kingdom at all, but that God’s kingdom was spiritual and was within them and it would not come with outward observation. In fact He prophesied against that bloody city that they worshiped in saying,

“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. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Matt 23:37-39, ESV2011)

It was no different for me. After some time He made it clear to me that I would never be a platform speaker in front of the masses in Christendom as I had envisioned. Like Jesus said about a seed, unless it falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone, but if it does it will bring forth much fruit. That which falls into the ground and dies is not the same thing that springs forth. I never dreamed that He would have me write what He had been showing me since 1980. In the natural, writing and the English language were my weakest subject in school and He would not have it any other way. All that book learning and any degrees I had accumulated were worthless in His sight along with most of what I had learned sitting at the feet of Christian teachers. It only got in the way. Not one stone would be left upon another in my life. It all had to go so there could be a NEW Easter rising in me. If you want to read my testimony about this period of my life it can be found here.[2]

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom 6:4, ESV2011)

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 5:16-18, ESV2011)

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new…” (Rev 21:5, ESV2011)

HE IS RISEN and so are we. HALLALUJAH!

[1] http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/003271.html

[2] http://www.awildernessvoice.com/ThirtyYears.html

They Who Wait Upon the Lord…

Photo by Kelly Lacy from Pexels

In our modern industrial culture, we seldom have to wait for much of anything. Everything is about speed and efficiency. If we want carrots we don’t need to go out and plant carrot seeds and wait two or more months to pick them. We just go down to the corner market and buy some carrots. When we want our prepared meal done fast, we go to a fast food restaurant and order it. Five minutes later we are eating! Years ago we would turn on our TV sets and then have to wait for a minute or more for the tubes to warm up before we had a picture and sound, but now with flat screens the picture comes on in less than four seconds. In the past a couple who wanted to get married waited a minimum of six months during what was called the “engagement period,” while they got to know one another better before they married. Here in my town, two people can meet in a tavern, go down to the city hall the next morning, fill out the papers, plop down a filing fee, walk across the street to the Hitching Post with two witnesses and the deed is done. They will even provide the two witnesses! But there is a saying, “The best things in life come to those who wait.” There is more wisdom to that than we might know.

In Isaiah there is a verse about waiting that most of us have read many times. We would all like to soar like an eagle, run and not become weary, etc… but waiting… not so much.

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isa 40:31, KJV)

Several years ago I was seeking the Lord about what it means to “wait upon” Him. It turned out to be much deeper than the KJV translators revealed. I understood that it is dangerous to get an idea or read something in the Bible, claim it, and run out and try to make it happen on my own. I have known Christians in the so-called “Faith Movement” that post pictures of material possessions on their refrigerator doors and pray to get them every time they walk by. You know that teaching, “Name it and claim it.” “Blab it and grab it.” I soon learned that praying and waiting on God to make things happen could be a test to see if He would do what He had promised. Or I could be like Abraham, the “father of faith,” who got tired of waiting for his wife to get pregnant, went to bed with Sarah’s slave girl, and got a son. This Ishmael was born 13 years before God moved to finally heal Sarah’s womb and Isaac, the child of promise, was born. During this time the slave girl mocked Sarah, and when Isaac was still a baby Ishmael persecuted him. We know how all that ended up. As my dear wife has often said, “Act in haste, repent at leisure.”

As I was looking up Isaiah 40:31, knowing that there was more here than meets the eye, I was amazed at what I found. The Hebrew word translated “wait” meant so much more than it does in our English language.

H6960 קָוָהqavah (kaw-vaw’) v.

  1. to bind together (perhaps by twisting)

In the above photo we see shocks of grain bound together with ropes made of twisted stalks the way grain was harvested in biblical times.

So what is happening to us while we wait on God? He makes us wait so we will grow up spiritually until we are bound together with Him in His will in the matter we pray about. More importantly, that we are bound together in the love of the Father and the Son that we might be one in them even as they are one (see John 17:20-23). Only those who are bound together in His love are truly free, because Satan is constantly tempting us to be bound to his will. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36, KJ2000)

The Father and Jesus not only want to bind us together with them, but the same is true of two of His dear saints that are bound together in the love of Christ. Why? In Ecclesiastes we read, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their work. And if one has a fall, the other will give him a hand; but unhappy is the man who is by himself, because he has no helper” (Eccl 4:9-10, BBE). And this, “And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Eccl 4:12, ESV2011). It’s no wonder Jesus sent out the disciples by twos with His authority to heal, cast out demons, do miracles and announce, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This “threefold cord” is not easily assailed by the devil.

Almost eight years ago Susanne Schuberth [1] shared the following quote from T. Austin-Sparks on our blog and its truth is more evident to me today than ever.

Two saints, simple, humble and unimportant in this world, but really meeting together in the Spirit, can be a functioning instrument of Him to whom has been committed all authority in heaven and on earth. With them all these old limitations can be dismissed and they can at one moment touch all the ends of the earth. Do you believe that? That is really the meaning of our glorying in Christ risen. It has to be something more than emotion, and more than glorious doctrine; yes, more than a truth to which we give some assent…. If it is true that we are one with a risen, enthroned Lord, it ought to have tremendous repercussions. May it be so! [2]

Our enemy loves to pick-off those in ministry who think they have everything in themselves that is needed to minister to God’s people. We see those who have unquestioned authority in the churches fall one after another, because in their own minds they are above listening to the council of others. Once I had seen the danger of being alone I started praying that He would send another believer that I could walk together with in His light. He has been progressively answering this prayer. When we are joined together by Jesus the other person often sees a pitfall that we can’t and when it comes to spiritual revelation, they often have another piece of the picture that we haven’t seen. When both parts are allowed to be joined we see the whole. I have found that God had been working in both lives to bring them to a place where He could fit them together. Once again we see His timing at work. These things cannot be rushed because it is a spiritual house He is building, not one made with human hands.

Another thing I discovered about Isaiah 40:31 was the meaning of the word “renew” in “shall renew their strength.” With a superficial reading of this, one might conclude that if we wait on Him, God will renew our existing strength and make us stronger. Not! This word in the Hebrew is:

H2498 חָלַף chalaph (chaw-laf’) v. Often translated to change or be changed.

God is not interested in renewing our old natural strength that is often demonstrated by our strong self-will. He is after a NEW creation IN Christ! Paul understood this. He wrote that when he was weak that Christ was made perfect within him. Consider this verse:

Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come! (2Cor 5:17, AMP)

If we wait for the entwining of ourselves by the Spirit with the Father and the Son, we will truly be made into NEW creations. If we get ahead of His leading and try to accomplish His work by our own might and abilities (that of our natural man; the emotions, will and intellect), He will let us run ourselves into the ground by exhaustion trying to get things done. Remember Jesus’ words, “The flesh profits nothing” and “Apart from me you can do nothing.

So, dear saints, it is in His will that we mount up with wings as eagles and walk and not faint from that of trying to do His work without Him, but this will only happens if our old nature of relying on self is broken and we have come to rely totally on Him. Our Father wants many sons and daughters who exist by His strength for His glory just as Jesus did here on earth for He only did the works He saw His Father doing (see John 10:37&38). We can only do His works from a position of spiritual rest, believing that He will accomplish what HE wills once we get out of the way.

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his [own] works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. (see Heb 4:9-11, ESV2011)

Yes, if we do not abide in His rest but run ahead of Him or do His work by our own strength, it is considered by Him as disobedience. As Paul wrote, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

[1] https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/

[2] http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/openwindows/003503.html

Abiding in the Love of the Father and the Son

Twin fawns in our back yard – photo by Michael Clark

And having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God is coming, He responded to them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with observation, nor will they say, ‘Behold— here it is’, or, ‘There it is’. For behold— the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21, DLNT)

All of Israel was waiting for a Messiah who would come and set up an earthly kingdom on Mount Zion, the city of the Great King, and the Pharisees and Saducees were expecting to be made His heads of state and rule with Him. When Jesus made it clear that His Father’s kingdom was not going to fulfill their desires, they had no use for Him and looked on Him as an impostor. Even until the very end He was trying to get His disciples to see that the Kingdom of God was not a government setup like those of men on this earth. Even two of them who were brothers were hoping to sit at His right hand and the other on His left. Imagine what the others felt when they made this request? Is our motivation any different today as we vie for positions on the pastor’s staff or seats of power in our denominations? Jesus told His disciples, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt 10:39, ESV2011). We spend way too much time trying to establish our earthly lives instead of our lives in the Kingdom of God. He went on to say, “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt 23:11-12, ESV2011).

The Kingdom of God is a family not an organization and He is our Father, the Son of God is our brother and who believe in Christ are all the Father’s children. In light of this consider the following verses.

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:1-3, ESV2011)

Notice that He said, “I will take you to myself, that where I AM there you will be also.” Where was Jesus in that moment? Yes, He was in Jerusalem, but He was IN the Father and His Father was in Him. It was God’s design for us to have the same relationship that Jesus has with the Father for He is the Firstborn of many brethren (see Romans 8:29). In His final prayer for those who would believe into Him He said, “That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21, KJ2000). The sickness of organized religion is manifest in the fact that there are over 41,000 different Christian denominations and sects. Our hope for heavenly unity has to be outside that system if we are to love one another in the unity of Jesus and His Father. The disunity of the Christian religion has destroyed any unity in heavenly love that could be a witness that Jesus is the Son of God.

Jesus was going to the cross in a few short hours from the time He said these words. By dying for our sins and releasing the Holy Spirit to be poured out within us, He was preparing a place in the Father’s “house” for us. The Greek word translated as “mansions” or “rooms” in chapter 14 simply means abode. With that in mind consider His following words:

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:18-21, ESV2011)

We who abide in His love are each the abode of the Father and the Son and it is here that we abide in one another. We do not have to wait until we die to abide with them in their love. All too much of Christian thought and doctrine is all about “pie in the sky, by and by.” The deep truths of the Kingdom of God are always put off in our thinking for another time after we are dead and another place. His kingdom is not on the other side of the universe. It is in the middle of us, in our hearts if we abide in their love.

So many Christians read, “In my Father’s house are many mansions” as I once did and all they can see is their garish mansion they will live in for eternity that is waiting for them. The kingdom of Heaven is a Spirit kingdom, not one made of bricks and boards. We are all members of Christ’s body. The Christian life is all about a loving relationship with the Father and the Son as they abide in us and as such our relationships with one another are filled with their love. Love is our whole motivation when it comes to sharing the Gospel of His kingdom.

Jesus said, “If a man loves me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23, KJV). Here the word translated “abode” is the same one that was translated “mansions” in verse two. We who love Jesus are the house of God and this experience is totally life changing. He is constantly drawing us ever higher into the reality of heaven here on earth.

Jesus also said, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:21, ESV2011). Once again we see that in His kingdom ours is a love centered relationship with the Father and the Son. Love is the one unifying force that streams out from the Father for all His creation. Without His love for us and in us, there is no family of God and there is no unity among us as their abode. And how does Jesus manifest Himself to us? It is by His love abiding in us, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35, ESV2011). Yet, there are many cases where Jesus has appeared in visions and dreams and in person to those who love Him and are seeking Him. He is the Light of the World and He is also the Son of Man and in most of these cases, He appears as a bright and shining light in the form of a man who radiates the love of God. One time in the beginning of my Christian walk when my life was being threatened by Satan, Jesus appeared this way to me and immediately that demon was gone. I was most impressed by the tender love I felt radiating from Him for me as He manifest Himself to me. All I had prayed was, “Jesus, HELP!” and Satan was gone.

You might be asking how we keep the commands of Jesus when so much hinges on this? He explained:

As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love. If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:9-12, HCSB – emphasis added)

I know of no greater joy than to be in a relationship with the saints of God who love Him and walk in His love for one another. Yes, it is a rare thing in our culture, but it is truly heavenly when we experience it. I hope you have also known this love and that you are complete in the Father and the Son. Dear saints,

May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. (1Thess 3:12-13, ESV2011)

We Are Individually Members One of Another

biblepic.com

As I was reading my daily devotional by T. Austin-Sparks [1] something jumped off the page and into my heart. The lead verse in this missive read,

For as in one body we have many members… so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Rom 12:4-5, ESV2011)

It was the word, “individually” that got my attention. God places us not only in Christ’s body in a general way, but in an individual way. Yes, we are part of what is called “the Church,” but this has been way over-emphasized, so much so that we can’t see the trees for the forest. When we think of “church” we think of a mass of people coming together on Sunday (Catholics even call this “the mass”) in a very impersonal way. We are arranged in rows facing forward so we can see the face of the pastor and hear his words, only being allowed to see the backs of hundreds of heads which we call “church members.” And they call this fellowship? Is this really what Paul had in mind when he referred to us as being ONE in Christ’s body and members one of another?

In this system we call “doing church,” how much individual interconnection in Christ’s Spirit do we really have? Think about it–this system even divides families, God’s building block of humanity. Under its rule we have little time to be together as a family. As soon as we hit the door the children are ushered off to the nursery or “children’s church.” Then there is “teen church,” the “adult Sunday school class” and during the week there is “men’s fellowship,” the “women’s Bible study,” “Wednesday night prayer meeting,” etc. Everything is about division under the rigid control of an appointed leader. Let’s face it, most of the involvement we have in that system is controlled by a human head and is anything but an organic connection where we are “individually members one of another” with Christ’s Spirit leading and inspiring our fellowship.

So, as I was reading the above passage from Romans, the Spirit was making it clear that there is an inner-working of the individual members of Christ’s body where we, as in the case of a human body, are interconnected in an interdependent way, INDIVIDUALLY members of one another. Elsewhere, Paul wrote, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” (1Cor 12:21, ESV2011), yet do we live that way with one another? Isn’t there a cold indifference in our church membership outside of our organized meetings?

Sparks went on to write about an even greater intimacy between members of the body of Christ where one member is suffering and we feel it in a personal way.

We are a part of a Body. Many of our sufferings are not on our own account at all. Many of the sufferings of the children of God have nothing whatever to do with their own faults or their own failing. They are suffering in a related way, they are suffering for the Body’s sake, they are entering into the battle; the conflict of this one great testimony. Sometimes it is almost uncanny when the Lord has something in view in relation to His testimony of Life, how for no reason whatever, on no account at all, we discover that we are involved and ours is not an isolated experience. All sorts of people all over the place are having the same kind of experience – a terrific sense of pressure, upset, annoyance, anything to frustrate – it is happening all round, testifying that in the spiritual realm, in the realm of the Spirit, there is a fine, sensitive oneness which matters to the Lord, and therefore matters to the enemy.

Do not always take your sufferings as some controversy that the Lord has with you. That is the twist the enemy often gives. Be open to the Lord to be checked up on anything, but do not always take it that the things which are happening to you and causing you trouble and suffering are due to your own failure or wrong. You are involved in something very much more than that. [2]

One time my wife and I were at a “couples weekend retreat” and the opening meeting was on a Friday night at a lodge on a scenic lake in north Idaho. As the meeting started, the leader of this function said he was feeling a heaviness in his spirit for some reason and asked us all to start by praying for the Lord’s direction as to what it could be. I also was feeling this heaviness and as I prayed, I heard the following words, “Rachel weeping for her children because they were not.” When we were through praying, he asked what we might have heard and I shared that verse. I sensed there had been a massacre somewhere, just as this passage was speaking of all those babies who were killed by Herod in Bethlehem that day (see Matthew 2:16-18). We were all puzzled until we got home and heard the news. That very day the massacre at Jonestown had taken place and we were feeling the tragedy of so many innocent people being killed by that maniacal cult’s leadership.

Yes, we who are members of Christ’s body ARE members one of another corporately as well as individually. Have you ever been so knit together with another member that you could feel their sorrow and their joy without even physically being with them or hearing from them to find out about it? You see, Paul spoke of us being individually members one of another. The members of Christ’s body that He has knit us together with in His Spirit have this happen quite often. If we have offended one of them, we can’t stand it until we make it right. We feel the heart-rending separation. We also feel their joy and rejoice. This is true most often with husbands and wives, but it can happen with others who He has brought together as “members one of another.” We can be so knit together that we often have the same thoughts or even find ourselves speaking the same words at the same time. This is where it gets exciting, being made one even as the Son is one with the Father. Jesus said, “I only speak the words that I hear my Father saying.” Isn’t this what Jesus was praying for us to experience as His last will and testament before He died?

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:22-23, ESV2011)

That we who are members of His body may become perfectly ONE in His love, this is His will for us. You see, dear saints, anything less than this is not normal Christianity. We who are Christians have settled for so much less in today’s Laodicean church system. Lukewarmness involves much more that a lackadaisical on again off again church attendance. Lukewarmness is being content with anything less than the unity among us of the Father and the Son. God is not satisfied with the status of today’s church and neither should we be content with it in our own lives. Some of us are driven to walk in the unity of the Father and the Son with other members of the body of Christ because we have tasted it. I pray that you all may experience this in the Spirit as well.

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Ps 34:8, ESV2011)

[1] http://austin-sparks.net/subscribe.html

[2] http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002986.html

I Have Not Come to Bring Peace, but the Sword

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

The first thing this morning I got up and prayed that the Lord would speak to me regarding the struggle I have been having as I watch the upheaval in the American government. I know I’m not alone. It seems that all over the internet on Christian sites, people both liberal and conservative are writing and preaching about how their side is “God’s side.” If we have eyes to see, this should show us how much the flesh is still in control of our hearts. Dear saints, our only salvation and hope is in the deep working of the cross within each one of us. Jesus prophesied of these times we are in that are splitting governments, churches and yes, even families.

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matt 10:34-39, ESV2011)

This has been quite literal for many of us, sons against fathers, daughters against mothers, daughters-in-law against mothers-in-law. Even our worst enemies being of our own households? Why is this so? Is it because of ethnic or political divisions or is it something much deeper? Have you ever considered that the deeper Christ calls us into HIS kingdom and out of this world by the work of His cross in us, it would put an ever increasing barrier between us and those we love who aren’t there yet?

Many of us just want to live in peace with our families and neighbors. But if that peace is a result of being of the same worldly or even religious mindset, is it the peace that God gives or something so shallow that the slightest assault of the enemy can blow it all apart? Jesus said:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27, ESV2011)

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, ESV2011)

Yes, in this world we will have tribulation, so we must quit looking to the world and what its leaders can and are doing. It is all of the kosmos, the world system controlled by Satan that is against Christ and wants to displace Him from being our Lord of all. So where will we find that peace? It is only to be found IN Him. As we abide IN Him, we also overcome the world and all its upheaval. The in-working of the cross is our doorway to heavenly peace as it separates us from the world. Once again T. Austin Sparks wrote something that cleared the air for me and I want to share it.

As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. (Galatians 6:14 NLT)

A truly crucified people are never in danger of the world. It is only when the Cross has not done its work that the world has a place. The world has no place with a crucified man or woman, or a crucified company of believers. The Cross is a great defensive against the world. If you want to keep the world out, put the Cross in its place. If the Cross is truly in its place in fullness, then everything else will come into order. The Cross is the great defensive against the world. The Cross is the great defensive against evil powers. The Cross makes everything safe; it makes everything safe for the Lord.

You see, the Lord wants to commit Himself. He wants to trust Himself to His people, but if the Cross is not there at work, the Lord cannot trust Himself to them. The Lord says, “It is not safe for Me to give Myself there, or I should be involved in their un-crucified condition.” The Cross makes everything safe for the Lord, and the Cross makes everything safe for the Church. If the Cross is really at work in all of us, we can trust one another. It is quite safe to trust yourself to a crucified man or woman. [1]

Another thing happens as we yield to the cross of Christ working in our lives. The deeper it goes, the more unpopular we become with worldly Christians. As Sparks wrote, “It is only when the Cross has not done its work that the world has a place.” Or as Paul wrote, “Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.” The closer Jesus got to taking up His cross and laying down His life in obedience to the will of His Father, the thinner the crowds that followed Him. He went from being followed by thousands of people singing His praises as their Messiah (who they thought would deliver them from the Romans) down to the twelve disciples, and one of them betrayed Him while the others ran away in total disillusionment.

Sparks wrote, “You see, the Lord wants to commit Himself. He wants to trust Himself to His people, but if the Cross is not there at work, the Lord cannot trust Himself to them.” We read of Jesus dealing with this very thing in the Gospel of John. “But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” (John 2:24-25, KJ2000). Oh, what is in man! Today we hear all around us of men testifying of men, Trump this and Biden that! Yes, Jesus wants to commit Himself to us and trust us, but that can only be done as much as the cross has done its soul killing work in us. Our soulish political and familial desires keep Him from revealing to us the deep things of His Father’s kingdom and they keep us from walking in the light as He is in the light. Dear saints, may we all learn to embrace the working of His cross in our daily lives and look to Him in all things instead of men as this world unravels.

And he [Saul] said, Who are you, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom you persecute: it is hard for you to kick against the goads. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what will you have me to do? … (Acts 9:5-6, KJ2000)

[1] http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/000434.html

Could it Be What We Consider “Normal Christianity” Is Not of Christ?

Have you ever looked around what calls itself “church” today, then looked for it in the New Testament and wondered what happened to that simple faith the saints of old once practiced? For instance, nowhere in the sacred writings will you find a paid clergy. Those who ministered in Christ did so as humble servants among the faithful and did so without begging for or demanding a salary in order to perform. In fact, in his final words to the elders of the church of Ephesus, Paul described his work among them as something quite opposite of what is the accepted norm today.

And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:32-35, ESV2011)

Yes, there were those who donated to the work of Christ from time to time, but that was not his focus. If anything Paul worked not only to support himself, but those who ministered with him and those who dear saints who were poor or too weak to support themselves. In this he was an example to those who were leaders, the elders of the church. And, no, there was no such thing as “the chief elder” in these churches. Jesus made it clear to the disciples what leadership in the churches should be… it should be just like Him.

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45, ESV2011)

No, there was no mandatory tithing because that was of the Old Testament law. They were of the New Covenant, where the Holy Spirit led those who had been given a NEW heart and a NEW mind, the mind of Christ (see Hebrews ch. 8). You will also note that Paul in the above quote from Acts commended them over “to God and the word of His grace,” not some well educated pastor to expound his knowledge to them each Sunday (this is why Jesus said he would send the Spirit after He arose and that He would lead us into all truth). It is from this heart and inspiration that Paul was speaking to these Ephesian elders in his final farewell. The sign of true leadership in the church is unbound generosity, doing whatever the love of Christ compels.

Another thing we do not see in the New Testament Church is “churches!” Yes, there were no church buildings to be found in the New Testament. That came much later, after those who knew the teachings of the apostles had died off. These early saints met together in their homes after persecution forbade them to do so in a public forum like Solomon’s Porch. The fact that they had no temples like the pagan worshipers made them suspect among the populous. These non-believers even called them “pagans” because of this! How can a person worship their god without a temple or building and a priest system to lead their worship? Sound familiar?

No, there were no churches, no tithing, and no paid professional clergy, those things so foundational to Christianity today. You might be wondering where the system we see today known as “the churches” came from and why Christianity as we know it is so weak and ineffective compared to the early church who were accused of “turning the world upside down” (see Acts 17:6). We can thank Emperor Constantine for that as he took power over the the Roman Empire and every aspect of leadership in it. This week I got a new laptop, and while moving all my files and apps over to it, I had to reinstall my favorite Bible program, The Word. While doing so, I found an extensive book on this subject titled, Miller’s Church History from which I quote the following:

The reign of Constantine the Great forms a most important epoch in the history of the church. Both his father Constantius and his mother Helena were religiously inclined, and always favourable to the Christians. Some years of Constantine’s youth were spent at the court of Diocletian and Galerius in the character of a hostage. He witnessed the publication of the persecuting edict at Nicomedia in 303, and the horrors which followed. Having effected his escape, he joined his father in Britain. In 306 Constantius died at York. He had nominated as his successor his son Constantine, who was accordingly saluted Augustus by the army. He continued and extended the toleration which his father had bestowed on the Christians.

There were now six pretenders to the sovereignty of the empire — Galerius, Licinius, Maximian, Maxentius, Maximin and Constantine. A scene of contention followed, scarcely paralleled in the annals of Rome. Among these rivals, Constantine possessed a decided superiority in prudence and abilities, both military and political. In the year 312 Constantine entered Rome victorious. In 313 a new edict was issued, by which the persecuting edicts of Diocletian were repealed, the Christians encouraged, their teachers honoured, and the professors of Christianity advanced to places of trust and influence in the state. This [brought about a] great change in the history of the church… 1

What was this great change? This is where “the wheels fell of the wagon.” The church under Constantine’s favor soon went from being a persecuted, worldly weak, but spiritually effective entity, to being spiritually weak and preeminent part of the Roman Empire. Quoting from Jesus’ corrective word to the seven churches in Revelation Miller continues:

epa04173136 Russian Orthodox Church bishop Panteleimon (R) spreads incense during a cross procession, while celebrating Easter Day at the Church of Christ’s Resurrection in Moscow, Russia, early 20 April 2014. EPA/SERGEI CHIRIKOV

In Ephesus we see the first point of departure, leaving their “first love” — the heart slipping away from Christ, and from the enjoyment of His love. In Smyrna the Lord allowed the saints to be cast into the furnace, that the progress of declension might be stayed. They were persecuted by the heathen. By means of these trials Christianity revived, the gold was purified, the saints held fast the name and the faith of Christ. Thus was Satan defeated; and the Lord so ruled that the emperors, one after the other, in the most humiliating and mortifying circumstances, publicly confessed their defeat. But in Pergamos the enemy changes his tactics. In place of persecution from without, there is seduction from within. Under Diocletian he was the roaring lion, under Constantine he is the deceiving serpent. Pergamos is the scene of Satan’s flattering power; he is within the church. Nicolaitanism is the corruption of grace — the flesh acting in the church of God. In Smyrna he is outside as an adversary, in Pergamos he is inside as a seducer. This was exactly what took place under Constantine.

Historically, it was when the violence of persecution had spent itself — when men had grown weary of their own rage, and when they saw that their efforts were to no purpose that the sufferers ceased to care for the things of the world, and became more devoted to Christianity; while even the numbers of the Christians seemed to increase; Satan tries another and an old artifice, once so successful against Israel. (Num. 25) When he could not obtain the Lord’s permission to curse His people Israel, he allured them to their ruin, by unlawful alliances with the daughters of Moab. As a false prophet he was now in the church at Pergamos, seducing the saints into unlawful alliance with the world — the place of his throne and authority. The world ceases to persecute; great advantages are held out to Christians by the civil establishment of Christianity; Constantine professes to be converted, and ascribes his triumphs to the virtues of the cross. The snare alas! is successful, the church is flattered by his patronage, shakes hands with the world, and sinks into its position — “even where Satan’s seat is.” All was now lost as to her corporate and proper testimony, and the way to popery laid open. Every worldly advantage was no doubt gained; but alas! alas! it was at the cost of the honour and glory of her heavenly Lord and Saviour. 1

Miller tells of the changes in great detail this “benevolent” dictator made in the church itself. To save time and text, I would like to quote from a booklet that George Davis and I wrote, “Falling Away from the Simple Faith,” that sums up what happened to the church under the reign of Constantine.

Many Roman Emperors heavily persecuted the Christians in the first three centuries and the Church flourished and grew rapidly. After the last ditch efforts of Diocletian to wipe out the Church by force, Satan had to come up with a new idea. He found a willing adherent to this new plan in the emperor Constantine. The story of how this monarch became a “Christian” is quite involved, but the upshot was a new age of tolerance toward both Christians and pagans. This worked well for him; Constantine maintained his title of “pontifex maximus.” He was still the chief priest of the pagan state cult and retained his position as the official Roman god as well as taking control of the Church. He also took to himself the title of “The Thirteenth Apostle,” becoming in effect the first pope.

Under him the Church clergy gained a tax-exempt status that only pagan priests had enjoyed before. Soon there was a flood of rich Romans into the priesthood, taking advantage of this great tax loophole. With all these powerful Romans as leaders, the Church soon gained political power that was only wielded by the Roman government itself up until this time. Soon the “Christian” Sunday and special feast days honoring Christian martyrs were observed along with the pagan holidays. Bishops were given the right to hear and settle lawsuits in their courts. Jews were forbidden to stone Jews who became Christians. Christian clergy and bishops became a regular part of the emperor’s court. Next, Constantine started a massive public works program building churches and cathedrals throughout the area [Rome] for his newfound faith.

He also forbade the repair and construction of pagan temples and Christians were no longer forced to participate in their rituals. Eventually, pagan rituals were totally abolished in Rome and their temples closed. By becoming a Christian, a person could gain official favor of the emperor and even new opportunities for wealth. Anyone who was under the employ of the Roman government was required to be a Christian and to sweeten the pot, Constantine offered a reward of thirteen pieces of gold and a new white garment to anyone who would be baptized into his faith. As you can imagine, the lines were long.

Paganism never was totally wiped out. Many pagan holidays were incorporated into Christian holidays. Pagan priests found their place in this new religion, and they brought their idolatrous ways in with them, instituting Christian ritual. Satan had won a great victory. He drew in his train not only a third of the hosts of heaven, but the very bride of Christ. Authority delegated by the Emperor himself to this new priesthood all but replaced God’s spirit-led authority in His precious bride. 2

So, my dear saints, who no longer feel at home in the church system we see all around us today, there is a reason for this, neither does Jesus or His Spirit. The Kingdom of God is pure and ruled in love by His Spirit in truth, not by worldly minded men. This is why Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst [within] of you.” (Luke 17:20-21, ESV2011) There is a reason why when we are asked, “What church do you go to?” we are counted as pagans by the pagan church when we tell them we don’t go to Sunday services anymore. Jesus told the woman at the well when she asked Him where was the right place to worship God,

“Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain [Jeroboam’s high place and altar] nor in Jerusalem [the temple] will you worship the Father… But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21-24, ESV2011)

There is a reason for what we feel when two of us who walk by the Spirit come together and our hearts are filled with joy… “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matt 18:20, ESV2011). We are not alone, IT’S HIM and no buildings are needed for this.

They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32, ESV2011)

1 https://www.theword.net/index.php?article.download

2 http://awildernessvoice.com/FallingAway.html

Walking by the Spirit Regardless of the World Around Us

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“That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (1John 1:3-4, ESV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Need for an Epiphany

Taken from https://www.bobleesays.com – Artist unknown

 

I cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of his calling, and what is the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, (Eph 1:16-19, KJ2000)

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines the word epiphany as:

(1)  an usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something

(2)  an intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking

(3)  an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure

Oh, how we all need an epiphany on the spiritual reality of our high callings IN Christ Jesus! Many of us, like myself, are familiar with those wonderful scriptures in the New Testament that speak of our being called into a divine relationship with the Father and the Son and some of us think that because we know about it from reading the Bible or have an intellectual grasp of many of these related truths, we have already arrived. What a delusion this is! Can we also say with Paul that it has pleased the Father to reveal His Son not just to us, but IN us? In Christian circles we talk about having a “personal” relationship with Jesus, but just how personal has our discovery of Him been? I have experienced enough of Christ in a personal way to know that I have not arrived and that there is MORE yet to come. On this journey I have often tried to grasp onto something, a knowing or an event (or even a spiritual person), but this has only held me back as long as I refused to let go. Paul put it this way:

that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:10-14, RSV)

I would like to share once again an excerpt from T. Austin-Sparks writings that helps explain what I am seeing. I am not a follower of Sparks, but I have not found any other writer that the Lord uses during this time of my life to confirm in me what He is saying as this dear saint’s writings have.

Spiritual illumination, therefore, is a basic thing to God’s end. We can never come to the fulness of Christ by the mere enquiry and investigation of our own brains into spiritual things. There must of necessity be the Holy Spirit giving revelation concerning Christ. The Testimony of Jesus has as its essential law: spiritual illumination and revelation – through the Word. The Testimony of Jesus can never be something static, something that you take up and say: “This is the Testimony of Jesus” and then put it into a formula. The Testimony of Jesus is something that has been revealed. The Testimony of Jesus is: “I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” Stephen died for that Testimony. “At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them that journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice…” The inner meaning of that is not something apart from the Word, but something that comes by the Holy Ghost through the Word. That is more than the letter; it is life. It is something that makes you say: I have read the Scriptures on that for a long time, but I have really never seen that before.

The Holy Spirit’s illumination concerning the church is a thing so difficult to explain to any who may not have experienced it. But to those who have seen it, it needs no explanation. It makes such a difference on all these matters. You will [may] be able to preach Ephesians, Colossians, Romans; preach all about the church as the Body of Christ; you may read it all in books, and still there may be no real expression of it. Then one day it is as though the heavens opened and the thing broke upon your spirit, and you saw it; and all kinds of adjustments became necessary in life. You can say, “I saw that the church was no denominational or national thing; I believed in the oneness of all believers…” yes, you can say all that! And yet there is something more. That something can only come by revelation. You can have the other, and it will just take you so far. But get that something more, and it will take you a long way ahead. It brings you into the realm of the conflict and cost, but you are out in an altogether new realm. It is necessary to God’s end.

It is one thing to say these things and point them out and emphasise them; you say: “How do you get it? We see what you mean, it is all quite clear, but we have not got it!” Well, if you really are of the undivided heart, if your heart is wholly set upon the Lord and you see as far as you can see these things, and have very definite dealings with the Lord about it; it may not be in a day, it may be slowly, steadily, quietly you begin to move into a new realm of understanding. And you find that your point of view changes; your standard of values changes; your insight changes. It may take months, but at the end of the time you say: “I am changed! Something has happened to me. I can no longer accept what I used to accept!” It may be like that, or it may come in a flash. How it comes does not matter very much, the fact is the importance of this thing – spiritual illumination. The apostle prayed that these to whom he wrote might have it. Let us pray that we might have it, and that all the Lord’s people might come into that (emphasis added). http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002858.html

Dear Father, please shine the light of your Spirit into our hearts and draw us ever deeper into that light as you did with Stephen and Paul that we might not fall short of our high callings in your Son. Amen.