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)

In Spirit and in Truth on Easter Morning?

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Image by Debby McDaniel.com

It’s Easter morning here in Houston where thousands of people are putting on their “Sunday best” and going to their favorite church building, temple, cathedral, etc. Many of them are convinced that their “church” is the right one to worship in and that they are doing exactly what God requires of them. Here in the Bible Belt of southern USA, it’s considered a sin to miss church on Sundays and a sacrilege to miss on Easter and Christmas! It was this mindset that Jesus was confronted with by that Samaritan woman He met by the well outside her village that day.

The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” (John 4:19-20, ESV)

As usual, Jesus did not answer people’s questions from their earthbound mindsets, but from the viewpoint of His Father in heaven.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:19-24, ESV)

 What? Her head must have been spinning! You mean that real worship in the eyes of the Father has nothing to do with going to sacred buildings and temples on “holy days of obligation?” Nope! True worship comes from the Spirit of God in hearts that live IN His truth, not in an outward pretense of the religious norms and traditions of men. Even David of old had that figured out (read Psalm 51). It is interesting that today’s Open Windows (1) daily reading that I receive is addressing this very thing on the day when an outward show or piety is at its max.

You desire truth in the inner being. (Psalm 51:6)

In the course of our spiritual history God deals with us in ever-deepening ways. Down, down, down, He goes, until He touches bottom to have things true at our very depth. He undercuts all our professions, doctrines, assumptions, pretensions, illusions, and customs…. There is no mere formalism about this; no mere Jewish ritual in this; no mere outward observance of rites and ceremonies in this! No! This has got to go right into the inmost being, in the inward parts. God works toward that. God is ever working toward the most inward parts. Do you recognize that? Do you understand what He is doing with us? Oh, He will meet us with blessing on a certain level, as we walk before Him, like the man in Psalm 1. He will meet us with His gracious provision when we transgress and trespass and fail, and do wrong – He will meet us there in grace. But God is going to pursue this matter to the most inward place of our being, and register there His work of grace and redemption.

The Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are characterized by this one feature – truth! And God desires and has set His heart upon having people who are partakers of the Divine nature, and so He is working ever more deeply toward this end: what is true of Himself shall be true of His children – those begotten of Him – that they should be true sons of God in this sense. (2)

Oh yes, He deals with us in ever deepening ways. Most of us Christians feel His probing gaze into our hearts and it makes us uncomfortable to say the least. So, what do we do? We run off to a church, Bible school or seminary (our Samaritan “holy mountains”) and offer the sacrifice of our lips to try and appease Him so that our soulish discomfort will go away. It’s this holding to the traditions of men (which are not supported by the New Testament) that keeps us going to these places while the piercing gaze of the Father goes ever deeper into our souls. So what’s next? We give more money, more time to those systems and more effort to make them work while we try to appease our inward discomfort. Eventually, we get the picture that all this institutionalism is not getting the job done, so we try meeting in homes on a regular basis, not understanding that our Father is not going to let up until He finds truth, His Son, freely living in our inward parts.

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. (Ps 51:6, ESV2011)

I thank God that He never lets-up until He sees His divine truth in our inner most being where He desires to dwell. With David I pray,

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

Not by Willpower, But by Personal Revelation

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

I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:12 ESV)

Please forgive me, but once again in the following two paragraphs T. Austin Sparks sums up what has taken me a lifetime to discover. My comments on my own journey follow.

Those of us who have tasted of this world’s springs have recognized the kinship between what is there and what is in religion so far as that soul-nature is concerned. It is only a matter of difference of realm, not of nature. What the music and drama of the world produce in one way – the soul-stirring, rousing, craving: the pathos, tears, contempt, hatred, anger, melancholy, pleasure, etc. – are all the same, only under different auspices and in a different setting, and the fact is that it passes and we are really no further on. A little better music, a change of preacher, a less familiar place, a few more thrills, will perhaps stimulate our souls, but where are we, after all? How Satan must laugh behind his mask! Oh, for reality, the reality of the eternal! Oh, that men might see that, while a highly cultured soul with a keen sense of the beautiful and sublime is immeasurably preferable to a sordid one so far as this world is concerned, it is not necessarily a criterion that such has a personal living knowledge of God – of God as a Person – and has really been born anew! (1)

Exactly! It took me a while to discern the difference between the spiritual Church and the soulish one because, like the foolish Galatians (see Galatians 3:1-3), I started out in the Spirit, being born from above, only to be siphoned-off into the works of Christian City (for a very eye opening booklet that speaks of this journey many of us have been on, see Escape from Christendom by Robert Burnell on our website).

What a difference exists once our eyes are opened. We are much like newborn puppies, rooting around for a teat to latch onto that has milk (there are plenty to choose from), until we are ready for the “sincere milk of the Word,” the voice of the Spirit of Christ, leading us in all our ways and not feeding any longer at the breasts of men, a.k.a. religion.  Oh, what dainties Christendom supplies us to draw us by our flesh under its spell! But what a wonderful life it is to walk by spiritual sight (Christ revealed in us as a LIVING person in a moment by moment heavenly journey).

Sparks continues,

When we pray for “Revival” let us be careful as to what we are after and as to what means we use to promote it, or carry it on…. The Apostle Paul makes it very clear that the secret of everything in his life and service was the fact that he received his gospel “by revelation.” We may even know the Bible most perfectly as a book, and yet be spiritually dead and ineffective. When the Scriptures say so much about the knowledge of God and of the truth as the basis of eternal life, resulting in being set free, doing exploits, etc., they also affirm that man cannot by searching find out God, and they make it abundantly clear that it is knowledge in the spirit, not in the natural mind. Thus, a rich knowledge of the Scriptures, an accurate technical grasp of Christian doctrine, a doing of Christian work by all the resources of men’s natural wisdom or ability, a clever manipulation and interesting presentation of Bible content and themes, may get not one whit beyond the natural life of men, and still remain within the realm of spiritual death. Men cannot be argued, reasoned, fascinated, interested, “emotioned,” willed, enthused, impassioned, into the kingdom of the heavens; they can only be born; and that is by spiritual quickening. (1)

I was born again during a revival of the Spirit that swept across the United States and Canada (and eventually to Europe) during the early 1970’s. This revival seemed initially to be one that was primarily outside the churches, so we received a lot of bad-mouthing from them out of pure jealousy. Nonetheless, we who were born of the Spirit had such sweet fellowship with each other and Jesus until men rose up and started to harness what God was doing (many denominations exist today that got their start during this time as they recruited these gullible youth). Feeling the Spirit leave and not knowing why was a sad experience for many of us.

I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. (Acts 20:29-31, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

One time out of desperation a few years ago, I started praying for another Spirit led revival to happen in my lifetime. In short order I heard the Father say, “Do you think that I want to give birth to a mass of spiritual infants just so the whores can hack and split them up for their own soulish gain (See 1 Kings 3:16-28)?” That was the end of my prayers for this. I have since seen that God is still giving spiritual life to thousands of saints, one at a time, here and there all over the world and I am so thankful for each of them.

Needless to say, as men rose-up this revival I experienced died. All these years I have longed for such sweet fellowship in the Spirit we had back then, but have only experience an occasional spiritual oasis on my journey to the City of God that has Foundations. When we find another saint who walks by the Spirit and has broken out of Christendom (or was never entangled in it), what a find they are! Thanks to all of you who have shared the love of Christ with me and those other priceless pilgrims that frequent this blog.

“Goodwill Shews Christian the Way” from “Pilgrim’s Progress”

Then said Evangelist, If this be thy condition, why standest thou still? He answered, Because I know not whither to go. Then he gave him a parchment roll, and there was written within, “Fly from the wrath to come”. The man therefore, read it, and looking upon Evangelist very carefully, said, Whither must I fly? Then said Evangelist, pointing with his finger over a very wide field, Do you see yonder wicket gate [see John 10:9-10]? The man said, No. Then said the other, Do you see yonder shining light [see John 8:12]? He said, I think I do. Then said Evangelist, Keep that light in your eye, and go up directly thereto, so shalt thou see the gate; at which, when thou knockest, it shall be told thee what thou shalt do. ~ “Pilgrims Progress” by John Bunyon (2)

Your brother IN the Son (who has been ruined by Jesus for “playing church”),

Michael

(1) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002776.html

(2) https://www.ccel.org/ccel/bunyan/pilgrim.pdf

Be Careful Lest the Light in You Be Darkness

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I remember as a young boy watching my grandmother go up to the front left corner of her Catholic church, put a quarter in the money slot and light a votive candle. It was one of about a hundred small candles in little glass containers that looked like an oversized red shot glass. She would then kneel down and pray for a few moments in front of this rack of candles, then return to her seat. We were told that as long as the candle was burning, our prayer request would be before God.  This is just one of thousands of superstitions that we were taught in Catholic school.

Jesus said, “If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matt 6:22-23, ESV2011).

How great indeed. We all thought that spiritual light was to be found in the doctrines of the church. If we submitted to its teachings without question and faithfully received the sacraments, we would be saved from hell. Never mind if what the Bible teaches was contrary to all that. As one priest told me when I was starting to question church doctrine in light of the scriptures, “When it comes to a conflict of the teachings of the church and what the Bible says, church doctrine is always preeminent.” Somehow, deep inside, I knew this was wrong and it started me on a quest to find out the truth about God and Jesus Christ.

A couple years after this I finally overcame my fear of going to hell and walked out of the Catholic church for that last time. My next step along the path that God would put me on was to start going to a “Bible church.” The first time I heard the gospel of Jesus Christ was in that church. After that first Sunday we attended, I invited the pastor to meet with me in my home. That night he led me down the “gospel road” in the Book of Romans and I prayed with him to receive Jesus as my Savior.

We attended that church faithfully for about two years and were faithful to work in the nursery, the “junior boys” class, mow the church lawn and whatever was asked of us. Yet, by the end of that time I still had this terrible spiritual hunger inside. You see, this denomination taught us nothing about being filled with the Spirit of God as part of salvation. Truly, the light that was within me had become darkness because I still had no power over sin in my life. The author of the Book of Hebrews wrote:

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food… Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance… (Heb 5:11 to 6:1, ESV2011)

If we are to grow up and be teachers of Christ and His kingdom we need to abide in THEE Teacher, the Holy Spirit. One of the church elders even told me that seeking the Holy Spirit was “dangerous.” Yes, He is dangerous if you have a vested interest in your own carnality! As God would have it, I finally heard about the Holy Spirit from someone in whom He dwelt where before I was told that the Holy Spirit was optional. Romans chapter eight makes it clear that if we do not have the Spirit of God in us, we are none of His.

My search finally brought me to an unconditional surrender of my life to the Lord. I not only gave him my sins, but my whole life. I repented not just of my sins in the past, but of who I was and all that I ever selfishly wanted to be. The problem was that sin was dwelling in my members and that was what made me a captive sinner and an ineffective Christian. Or like the cartoon Pogo put it, “We have found the enemy and HE IS US!” Once I totally surrendered and asked God to kill everything in me that was not of Him, God did a life changing miracle and made the light of His Spirit shine within me. T. Austin-Sparks wrote:

The first thing for us to remember is that there is an essential ground upon which we are led to the greater fulnesses of the Lord. The Lord’s will for us is these greater fulnesses of Christ. And there is something necessary from our side, which is undoubtedly a spirit of utterness for the Lord. (1)

I will not go into all the other stages that made up my spiritual path after 1970, but after being filled with His Spirit I was flat-out for God! I can look back now and see the meaning of this verse quite clearly,

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

Austin-Sparks continues:

There is one thing made perfectly clear in the Word of the Lord, and which to many has become quite clear in experience, that there is a graduation in the life of fellowship with the Lord – it is an ever growing thing – and that the course of our union with the Lord is marked by stages. These are upward stages, representing different levels and different expanses. As we go on, we are led from one degree to another, from one level to another, and with each successive level there is a wider view and very often a changing view. (1)

If we seek His righteousness in our lives, we will find ourselves on a path that takes us from darkness to the dawn, from the dawn to the sunrise, from the sunrise to the noonday sun that is over our heads and causes all the shadows of our darkness to flee. Salvation is not a onetime reciting of a “sinner’s prayer” nor is it going down to the altar to “recommit your life to Jesus” over and over again. Giving our lives completely over to Christ is just the beginning of the walk He has for us wherein we take up our crosses and follow Him. Like the sun that moves through the sky, Jesus in our life is always on the move. He sets us on a path to righteousness, not on a church pew. If we don’t keep moving with the movement of the Son, we’ll soon find that we are left sitting in the darkness of a dead religious system.

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“The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12, ESV2011- emphasis added).

He is not limited by the doctrines men have composed from the pages of the Bible that we try to follow by human understanding and effort. Doctrines are static and fixed and human effort and understanding will always fall short of hearing the voice of God. But the Word of God, Jesus Christ, is alive and He desires to be very active in our lives by His Spirit leading us into all truth (see John 16:13). His truth in us grows! It is not static. Paul contrasted Moses and the veil that he wore on his face because the glory of God that was once upon it was fading. He contrasted this with the glory that is ours IN Christ,

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image [as His] from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2Cor 3:18, ESV2011)

In spiritual growth we go from glory to glory. What a promise! “For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:16, ESV2011) His grace is given us so we can have the power to move on into a greater fullness with Him where we will find more grace to grow into a greater filling of Christ within us.

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Jesus Christ is not a dead religion. His Spirit does not stand still. “In him we live and move and have our being… For we are indeed his offspring.” (Acts 17:28, ESV2011 – emphasis added). All creation has been designed by God as our teacher if we have eyes to see. God has put us on a planet that rotates. If we are to stay in the light of the sun we must constantly be moving west at the same speed the earth revolves. It is the same if we are to stay in the grace of God. As soon as we become content with our spiritual growth and put down roots in some denomination or movement, we start to die spiritually. In one religious group I was in, the leader addressed our fears that God had moved on without us by saying, “Didn’t God use this movement to reach you and haven’t you grown in it?” We would agree. Then he would say, “Then what makes you think by leaving it you will remain in His blessing?” That line of reasoning worked for a long time, until it became evident to everyone that the leader was abusing us for his own gain. When Christ moves on and His grace is no longer in the organization you are in because the leadership has taken His place, what might have once been used by God in your life has become a cult.

 “Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness.” (Luke 11:35, ESV2011)

We Christians tend to be campers. We find a nice comfortable place where God has bless us and we want to set up camp. This is why the Father rebuked Peter on the mount that day.

And after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and brought them up into a high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his clothing was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elijah talking with him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if you will, let us make here three tabernacles; one for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah. While he yet spoke, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear you him. (Matt 17:1-5, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

These days with a zeal like that, Peter would quickly be put in charge of the “church building committee.” But as soon as we focus on doing something “great for God” instead of on His Son who IS the Greatness of God, the Spirit will move on.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12, ESV2011)

Sparks sums it up by saying,

There never was anybody so completely, so utterly, and so immediately adjusted to the Father as the Lord Jesus was. His adjustments to the Father were instant and complete. At the end there was a conflict lasting for a little while; a bitter, deep conflict: “…if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done“. There is adjustment.

By a perfect adjustment to the revealed will of the Father He has become the perfect example of the perfect embodiment of the will of God done in a Man. Our course is to become one with Christ by the Holy Spirit in what He is. And subjection to Christ simply means that He, in Whom the will of God has been perfectly done, becomes our Lord. That is only another way of saying that the will of God in Christ becomes absolutely sovereign in us. On our part we become subject to the perfect will of God in Christ. It is a matter of the will. “I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision“, said Paul. (1)

(1) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002955.html

What Does Spiritual Church Leadership Look Like?

 

1909 painting The Worship of Mammon by Evelyn De Morgan.

There is evidence that the word translated mammon in the New Testament was the name of a pagan god and means much more than just “money.” In John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible he wrote:

The word “mammon” is a Syriac word, and signifies money, wealth, riches, substance, and everything that comes under the name of worldly goods.

In Wikipedia under the word Mammon we read:

The spelling μαμμωνᾷ refers to “a Syrian deity, god of riches; Hence riches, wealth”

Susanne Schuberth had a great observation of how mammon works in her comment on her latest blog.

“As soon as [church] tradition comes in and money is needed for the building, [also] money for those clerical ‘workers’ who believe they need to be paid (as ‘god’ speaks and acts through them), then the Holy Spirit withdraws. Thus [due to His absence] God makes room for other spirits to take over.” (1)

Jesus saw the seductive power of this mammon spirit warning:

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Matt 6:24, KJ2000)

Adam Clarke wrote about this verse in his commentary saying,

Our blessed Lord shows here the utter impossibility of loving the world and loving God at the same time; or, in other words, that a man of the world cannot be a truly religious character.  He who gives his heart to the world robs God of it, and, in snatching at the shadow of earthly good, loses substantial and eternal blessedness.  How dangerous is it to set our hearts upon riches, seeing it is so easy to make them our God!

Ever since “church growth” became the new focus, the god of Mammon has always trumped the Holy Spirit in today’s worldly churches.

There was no such thing as a “church building” for the followers of Christ to meet in for the first 290 years of Church history (The pagan Emperor Constantine took control of the church in about 311 AD and changed it into worldly organization. He made Christianity the official bureau of religion in the Roman Empire and appointed his own bishops over it). The early saints knew that the true temple of God was not made of bricks and mortar or wood, but rather it was one made from living stones.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Eph 2:19-22, ESV2011)

Those who trusted in Christ alone met in homes or underground because of persecution so the only “offerings” that were taken up were for the poor and needy among them. There were no “paid Christians,” and no salaried professionals, either. The apostle Paul made that the norm in his teachings.

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Phil 3:17-20, ESV2011)

Jesus was so taken by the need for money to support “His ministry” that He put a known thief in charge of the communal purse. When money was demanded of them to pay the temple tax, He sent Peter to catch a fish with which God miraculously provided a coin in its mouth!

According to Paul, we are NOT to keep our eyes on those who do not follow his example, supporting himself by manual labor. But what we have today are churches with people who can’t wait to get a position on the paid staff. THAT is their only example of what “church leadership” does. How sick! Paul calls the paid professional Christians, “enemies of the cross” whose minds are set on earthly things, and not on their citizenship in heaven.

And again he wrote:

 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (2Thess 3:6-12, ESV2011- emphasis added)

To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; (1Cor 4:11-12, ESV2011- emphasis added)

The early church leadership suffered much. Church leadership was not a “profession” that worldly men sought after as it is today. They often went without, laboring with their own hands as they provided for themselves, and they did not mooch off other believers. Paul not only supported himself, as an example to all, but he often supported others who were in need among them (see Acts 20:34-35). He had no lust for the things of this world! “The ministry” in churches today is a paid profession just like any other worldly profession. You get a college degree, apply for work in a corporation and settle in, looking for ways to climb higher in the organization (or build up your own organization) as you keep the wheels of the machine turning and the money coming in. If you rise high enough, you get paid vacations, medical benefits, a company car, a corporate jet and even a good retirement.

We have friends who attended one of the local mega-churches here in town while they were barely making it on his wages and she is medically disabled and can’t work. She got very sick for a few weeks and nobody from that church called, came to visit or even cared, even though she was the chairman of a church “ministry.” The final straw for them as members of that church was a collection the officials took up so the pastor could have a bigger and better boat than the expensive one he already had (one that our friends could never dream of owning). They have not attended a church since. A sad thing these days is how many people there are outside the church because they rightfully have observed, “All those people want is your money!”

It is very obvious here in America, at least (and everywhere in the world that the American gospel has been preached), that the example of church leadership is not a heavenly one, but very worldly. The churches here are operated like any other corporation with salaries, perks and bonuses for building ever bigger church buildings and a larger human mechanized force with bigger programs to go with it. It seems that for the most part Paul’s warning to the elders of the Ephesian church has gone unheeded.

“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.” (Acts 20:29-31, ESV2011)

Paul shed tears over what he saw coming on the church, men speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after themselves. Whatever happened to men and women, who led by a godly example with the Spirit of Christ, and were driven by a passion to make disciples connected to Him instead of to themselves?

Father, please break through the fog over Christian minds and give them the mind of Christ in all things. Amen.

(1) https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2019/01/31/seventeen-point-checklist-for-unknown-groups/#comment-19119

 

His Is a Land of Far Distances

Jesus and the bride

Fear not: for I am with you: I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west; I will say to the north, ‘Give up’; and to the south, ‘Keep not back’: bring my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; Even everyone that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him. Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears. Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled… let them hear, and say, ‘It is truth.’ (Isa 43:5-9, KJ2000)

Since I have been sharing what God has put on my heart to write on the internet over the last 18 years, I’ve always marveled at how His spiritual people are so scattered across the face of the earth. In my idealistic way of thinking, I’ve wished that more of them were located closer to me so we could have face to face fellowship, but that has rarely happened. It seems as if He has seen fit to place His candles throughout the world so that His whole house might have light by which to see by.

God is gathering to Himself a spiritual people who have spiritual eyes and ears. They are His sons and daughters and they come to Him from far distances around the earth. T. Austin-Sparks wrote:

“But it may be that in these hours of our fellowship together a little more of the light of that story will break upon our hearts. There is a phrase in the Word: “Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty; they shall behold the land of far distances”, and that two-fold statement can quite truly, and rightly, be applied to Him. He is the King in His beauty; and He is also the Land of Far Distances.” (1)

“The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” He is both our King and His is the Land of Far Distances making up the Kingdom of God. His are a people having spiritual eyes to see and spiritual ears to hear who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.

I believe that there is another reason He has us so far apart before He assembles us together into His Holy temple in Heaven. We read in Proverbs, “Iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another.” As we communicate and share what the Lord has been showing us there is a spiritual sharpening that is going on. But what do we read about iron in the making of Solomon’s temple?

And the house, when it was being built, was built of stone made ready before it was brought there: so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was being built. (1Kgs 6:7, KJ2000)

There is a spiritual lesson in the building of Solomon’s temple just as all those holy things in the Old Covenant were types of spiritual things in the New Covenant. God is doing a deep work in our hearts while we are in isolation from one another. We are being prepared to fit together perfectly once He assembles us together.

Church dissunity

The problem with most “church assemblies” these days is that few of the stones fit together as they should and a lot of friction and straining happens as we try to force ourselves to come together in that system. Then we have the men at the top who get out their hammers and axes and try and do what only God can do. The result is that many of His people go away wounded and disillusioned with the whole church process leading to the further scattering of His “living stones.”  Today, more and more people have left institutional Christianity, seeking something that is of our Father’s design, a relational family centered on Christ. But we have a promise given us in all this.

Fear not: for I am with you: I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west; I will say to the north, ‘Give up;’ and to the south, ‘Keep not back: bring my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; Even everyone that is called by my name.’

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:2, KJV- emphasis added)

Be encouraged. Jesus will finish what He has started in our hearts. Only Father knows when His living stones are ready to be assembled. Only He knows when the Bride has made herself ready for the marriage feast of the Lamb. With Paul I pray,

And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calls you, who also will do it. (1Thess 5:23-24, KJ2000- emphasis added)

Amen!

(1) https://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002835.html

Hindrances to Walking in True Fellowship

Photo taken by Michael Clark

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

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

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

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

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

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1John 1:7, ESV2011)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. (Rom 14:4, ESV2011)

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

 

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

(2) Romans 14:1