Living with a Heavenly Perspective

Montana Sunset.JPG

Montana Sunset – photo by Michael Clark

And the Lord said to Moses, Come up to me on the mountain, and take your place there… (Exod 24:12, BBE – emphasis added)

My beloved spoke, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. (Song 2:10, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

Come with me … look from the top [of the mountain]… (Song 4:8, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. (Song 2:13, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

For you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore come out from among them, and be you separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. (2Cor 6:16-18, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will eat with him, and he with me. To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne. He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches. After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up here, and I will show you things which must be hereafter. (Rev 3:20-4:1, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up here. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. (Rev 11:12, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

All through the scriptures we see this common thread, God is calling a people unto Himself so He can have a loving relationship with them as His living temple. The Son is calling to Himself His bride that He can have an intimate relationship with her. Our call is emphatic. “Come to me!” “Rise up my love!” “Arise my love and come away!” “Come out from among them and I will receive you!” “Come up here and I will show you things.” The very meaning of the Greek word so glibly translated “church” (ecclesia) means “a called-out assembly.” We start out our Christian walk as His called-out ones and that call continues to grow in our hearts as we obey His voice.

Most of what is called “church” is composed of institutions focused on the things of this earth and not on the One who has called them into an intimate relationship with Him. It is concerned with buildings, organization, programs, mind tickling sermons, salaries, insurance policies, retirement programs, hierarchy, etc.

 

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Christchurch Cathedral – Photo by andrewprice001 on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

 

T. Austin Sparks points out:

The Lord has not called upon us to form churches. That is not our business. Would to God men had recognized the fact! A very different situation would obtain today from what exists, if that had been recognized. It is the Lord Who expands His Church, Who governs its growth. What we have to do is to live in the place of His appointment in the power of His resurrection. If, in the midst of others, the Lord can get but two of His children, in whom His Life is full and free, to live on the basis of that Life, and not to seek to gather others to themselves or to get them to congregate together on the basis of their acceptance of certain truths or teaching, but simply to witness to what Christ means and is to them, then He has an open way…[emphasis added] (1)

Learning that we do not gather together after the manner of this world and its corporations and then living accordingly by HIS life in us is a life-long lesson. We who are Christ’s are His body. We are an organism with Him as our Head and the source of our very life. It is He who builds HIS church… never by might or by power, but always by His Spirit are we birthed and then knit together into His heavenly body as He wills. We have an upward call both as individuals and as members one of another, not of a “church.”

And [God] has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (Eph 2:6, KJ2000)

In another treatise, “Looking from the Heavenly Places,” W. C. Saunders wrote:

We are to live in the good of this [heavenly life]. He calls us to come with Him and look from the top. Here is a new realm for the exercise of faith, we are to reckon ourselves to be seated with Christ in His position of being far above all. Many Christians are too earthbound. They fail to realise and enter into the values of their true position in Christ. He wants His people to get on to higher ground, ever calling to us “Come with me … look from the top”. Our position ‘in Christ’ brings a new elevation into our lives. We can see things — even earthly things — from heavenly heights.

How different everything in life appears if we see it from Christ’s level rather than our own. Here is the secret of spiritual ascendancy, to stand with Christ on high and view your life “from the top”. I believe that whenever the way is hard and we are prone to be cast down, the Lord Jesus would whisper in our ears this invitation to rise up to Him and view the situation as He sees it. When Elijah was so depressed and sat under his juniper tree wanting to die, God sent the message to him: “Go forth and stand upon the Mount before the Lord”. The prophet found that from that position everything took on a different face… He reminds us that our true position is to be one with Him, even now. By His Word He calls us into those heavenly places that, with His help and encouragement we may look from the top. This is surely the true significance of the promise that we shall mount up with wings as eagles (Isaiah 40:31)… It is of supreme importance that we learn to look on things as He sees them. (2)

Paul wrote about this heavenly viewpoint in light of how we relate to Jesus and to one another.

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

As I was growing up in the Catholic church, everything about their buildings was focused in knowing Jesus after the flesh. There was the statue of Mary holding the baby Jesus or He was hanging on a cross above the altar.  But the living Christ was somewhere way out in space with the Father, far out of reach of mere mortals. Yet, Paul makes it clear that it is our privilege to know Him after the Spirit and abide with Him and the Father in heavenly places. And not only that, we are to know our brothers and sisters as His NEW creations and not after the flesh. But do we afford one another the grace to see them with spiritual eyes? How quick we are to find fault and judge one another after the flesh (especially in Protestant Bible, fundamental and charismatic churches) instead of seeing each other as a work of the Spirit in progress.  Or how quick we look upon the outward beauty, intelligence or wealth or lack thereof instead of looking upon our hearts (see 1 Samuel 16:7). Yes, we Christians are still way too earthbound and the whole structure of our churches teach us to be so. Christ’s call is still the same since John heard it on the island of Patmos two thousand years ago.

“Come up here and I will show you things [from My perspective].”

“Dear Father, please do what it takes to raise us up into your heavenly point of view so that we may see all things the way you do and have your divine hope and confidence that all things do work together for the good of we who love you and are called according to your divine plan. Amen.”

(1) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002226.html

(2) https://www.austin-sparks.net/mags/ttm09-5.html#91

Religious Cults, How to Find Out if You Are in One

1984 big brother

The mesmerized crowd scene from the movie “1984”

“The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence. He inspires self-distrust. He guides their eyes from himself to the spirit that quickens him. He will have no disciple.” — Amos Bronson Alcott, The Dial (1840)

In 1970 I had an encounter with Jesus Christ that changed my life forever. There were many young people at that same time that were touched by Him in a life changing way. Most of them had been into the hippie scene of free love, drugs, and other forms of hedonism.  Because America seemed to have no meaning for them with its constant wars, materialism and empty, cold religious systems, they went the other way. Some of them had even turned to Eastern mysticism trying to find some kind of reality in their lives.

Most of these young people, like myself, had a genuine conversion experience and this phenomenon became known as “The Jesus Revolution.” But as it is in most cases, when one turns to the Lord from this evil world, Satan is out to get us back any way he can and as soon as possible. Satan is a judo expert. He takes our fleshly forward motion adds his power to it and throws us off course. That is what happened to our group as well. Because we had a hunger to grow in Christ and become “mature Christians,” we soon found ourselves following a man who knew the Bible. We wanted to know what it had to say about Jesus, so we submitted to this man and his teachings. This happened all over the USA and anywhere God was working in the lives of these young people with their new found love for Jesus. Soon, Bible wielding leaders rose up wherever God had moved and subjugated many of these people under their absolute control, often isolating them from the rest of society. Our group soon pooled its resources under our new leadership and bought a ranch about thirty miles from town. It was a hippie’s dream come true. We were out of the city and back to nature. The trouble is that isolation is another tactic of cult leaders. Our teacher held himself up as having special knowledge of the scriptures that nobody else had and as a result we became isolated from other Christians. This way he didn’t have to constantly contend with teachings that were adverse to his and there were many older Christians that tried to warn us of what we were getting into. Many Christian cults like this still exist today that were started by these abhorrent leaders. Though they are sectarian by nature, some of them are even counted as “main line denominations” to this present day and no one in the dare stray from the teachings of “the Founder.”

Recently Susanne Schuberth wrote an article about religious cults that quoted a woman who grew up in an Indian cult under a guru who had settled in the northeastern USA. This man had total control over her life from her birth until she was twenty five when Jayanti Tamm got set free of his control. In her blog article, Susanne quoted a list of fifteen things Jayanti wrote that most cults, Christian or otherwise, have in common (1). I found that they fit my own experience, but are not complete. In my hunger to do the will of God in my life, I also stumbled into two Christian cult situations in the first ten years of my walk. The first lasted for six years and the second had control of us for less than six months. It seems that I had learned something from the first one that helped me see more clearly into what the second one was rapidly becoming. I must say here that one of those things I learned was to listen to my dear wife’s warnings instead of subjugating her under my “authority” and that of the cult as I had done the first time around. To this day she reads and proof reads all that I write and often has helpful comments to share before I publish a blog.

All that said, I wish to share my own observations of what cults do to gain and maintain control over those who get sucked into them. I think you will find that even some “mainline churches” use some of these tactics. Here are some of my own observations.

Most cults have a charismatic founder (alive or passed on) who has a magnetic personality that people fall prey to. Have you ever found yourself under the influence of a sales person that gets you to buy something that you really don’t need, want or can’t afford? This is what I am talking about. Not only cult leaders, but many pastors and evangelists today use their personal charisma and charm to get people to do what they want and donate money that they can’t afford to give. Many have lost their homes and even more because of this. Leaders with this kind of soul power can often get others to do their will regardless of their own personal well being and even to the destruction of their own families.

Another practice you run into in these groups is what I call “group think.” Everyone that does not act and think according to the “party line” or the precepts of the cult are castigated and made an example before the rest of the group. They might not be hauled before the Sanhedrin as the Jews did to their disobedient members, but in many cases the pastor or leader just preaches a sermon in such a way that all the members know who it is about and the fallen one knows that they will be shunned or worse if they don’t get back in line again. Peer pressure can be very effective when a person wants to be accepted in a loving family. As a result everyone becomes afraid to do anything that the leader might find fault with. They end up in abject obedience and become more fearful of disappointing the leader than of disobeying the will of God. This is not so hard to do in today’s Christianity where few are encouraged by church leadership to cultivate listening for God’s voice and to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in their lives. It was to this very thing that John warned the early church writing,

I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him [the Holy Spirit] 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 an earlier verse, John was speaking of many antichrists that had already risen-up among them (see 1 John 2:18). The word in the Greek is antichristos and it not only means against Christ, but even worse, it means instead of Christ. These false teachers put themselves ahead of Christ in the lives of believers who submit to them. They “deny Christ” by taking His place in the hearts of His saints, just as a man might try to deny me of my wife by seducing her away from me. Imagine how Jesus feels when His church leaders do this very thing to Him concerning His bride!

This mind control can become very strong in many groups to the point that members must get permission from the leader before they can make any purchases, move from one house to another, decide who they may or may not marry or even get permission to take their own wives out on a date! It is no wonder that every one of the marriages arranged by our first cult leader ended in divorce. It is no wonder that many of their kids grew up hating God.

Another part of this control mechanism is to keep the people busy to the point that they have no time for themselves or their families. Sometimes this even leads to sleep deprivation which makes the person even easier to control. In the first cult I was in we often were working or attending meeting up to 18 hours a day. This tool was perfected during the Korean War by the communists in their concentration camps on the American prisoners of war. Another thing that the guards used was that of giving special favors to prisoners who would spy on the rest and report if anyone said or did a negative thing against their captors. In these cases, such a violator was severely beaten while the rest watched. The enemy finally attained such mind control that a camp with as many as 150 prisoners in it might only need one guard to keep them in line. Sad to say, many of us have seen these same tactics (short of physical beatings) practiced in churches, often with the same results. Some cults actually spanked or whipped errant followers to make them and the others fear anything that might be counted as disobedience.

These groups also tend to be sectarian in nature. They believe that their leader or founder is the only one that knows the “whole body of truth” by which they may please God. Most of them are subjugated to a legal system that binds them in fear, the fear of being ousted from the group they have grown to love. When the ostracized are forced to leave, curses are often spoken on them and their families, and most of them turn from God and never want Him in their lives again. It is sad that such leadership often presents themselves as being God’s man (or woman) on earth who was sent to rule over their followers through their teachings. In this mindset to displease the leader is to displease God. When I was a young Catholic in parochial school, the nuns taught us that they were married to Jesus and to displease or speak ill of them was to insult Jesus with the accompanying consequences. Even non-Christian cults have their counterparts to most of the things I am writing about here. Former adherents of Scientology went through hell to get loose of that organization and this cult’s enforcers continue to harass them even for years afterwards. We had to finally move out of town to get away from the cults we were in.

There is a practice of meditation that is encouraged in eastern religions where the adherents blank-out their minds and open up to the spirits they worship. There is a form of this being practiced in some “Christian” churches today. We were told at “Toronto Fellowship” type meetings in the mid ‘90’s to let our minds go blank and “just receive the ‘father’s blessing.’” If we questioned what was going on while being prayed for, we were being “cerebral Christians” and were resisting what God wanted in our lives. Many people who followed their advice ended up getting “drunk in the spirit,” roaring like lions and making other animal noises and slithering around on the floor. The more outlandish the manifestation, the more we were considered “under the anointing.” Many of these people came under demonic spirits in these meetings that ruined their lives.

Some churches have even taken up the practice of Eastern mysticism like Yoga meditation and Kundalini with no thought whatsoever about the teachings of Christ against such things. They are told by the such meditation will release their captivity within and bring about greater creativity, sexual power and prosperity… everything a worldly person could want. No wonder Jesus told the Jews that it is an evil and adulterous generation that seeks after a sign. It is spiritual adultery to have encounters with demons and their signs.

Another tool that many cult leaders use is the subjugation of women. When Jim Jones was starting to go in an obviously deluded direction, it was the older women in the group that spoke up and gave warning at their isolated compound in the jungles of Guyana. As a result they were castigated and intimidated into silence and if that didn’t work they were finally imprisoned. Jones finally got his way and over 900 people drank poisonous Kool Aid in a fake communion service.

Remember Christian cult leaders know how to use the Bible [as do other cult leaders with their holy writ] for their own power. The worst of these is radical Islam where they are told that killing non-believers will get them special favor with Allah in heaven and their strict adherence to Sharia law is the worst form of bondage where even the women are sexually mutilated. In most cults the one who knows the holy writ is always the last man standing in any argument. We were in a “holiness cult” where the two leaders used their idea of “holiness” to judge and control the rest of us. They also encourage us in prayer meetings to confess our sins and desires out loud. We were in this group for a short time and were given the “left foot of fellowship” when I finally spoke out against their abusive ways. After we left the group their fear tactics and intimidation continued to increase until certain of the women were imprisoned in a rented house and kept under constant guard to shut them up. These two leaders also encouraged a heavy hand on the children by their parents. This finally ended up with one of the little ones dying from neglect of medical attention.  (The child was being spanked because it was fussing and would not stop crying. He finally slipped into a coma and died at the hospital.) At this point the authorities took notice of the welts on the child and the lack of medical attention and one of the cult leaders ended up in prison, as did the father.

Another thing that cult leaders do is to try and pit husbands against wives and vice versa. They use the old “divide and conquer” method when one has something that the leader wants (sex, money, talent, power, etc.) and the other one is less desirable. Sometimes this occurs when one of them speaks out against their abuses, or are otherwise in the way of them getting what the leaders want. This also happened in the cult mentioned above when the pastor of the church they took control of was made to look like a buffoon and his fair blonde wife was told she was a “prophetess” — of course she prophesied words that the leaders wanted to hear. That marriage ended in divorce and the father was not allowed to see his children until they finally grew up and sought him out many years later.

In short, Satan is more than happy to make leaders like these appear as “an angel of light” through their personal soulish charisma and “giftings.” This is why Jesus said, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.” Demons love to give signs and God gave us One true sign, Jesus dying on the cross and rising again from the grave on the third day (see Matthew 12:39-41).

Paul wrote a strong warning that applies today:

 “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”(2Thess 2:9-12, ESV2011)

These leaders I have observed and their lieutenants all wanted power, and thus they loved a lie and hated the Truth who manifested Himself as a gentle lamb who laid down His life for us all and loved not His life unto death. Why is seeking power even in the Church a sin? Here is what Jesus warned two of His disciples when they were vying to sit on His right of power and on His left in the kingdom of heaven:

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:41-45, NIV)

It is not just Christian cults that abuse power, all cults do. That is the siren song of the devil. Satan tempted Eve by saying, “For God knows that when you eat of it [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Only Jesus is like God and there is no shortcut to being conformed into the likeness of Christ. The way of the cross that kills our carnal soul nature is the first requirement and it is no easy road. Jesus said, “He who finds his [soul] life will lose it. But he who loses his [soul] life for my sake and the kingdom’s sake will find it.” There is an old country western song that had a line in it that is very poignant, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.”

Dear saints, be aware that our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour and is often manifest in the form of charismatic Christian leadership. As for our Christian growth? It was Jesus who said, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Give your hearts totally to Jesus and pray that He does whatever it takes in your lives that pleases God and He will get you to the goal that the Father has laid out before you in His kingdom. For me it has been learning some very hard lessons in cults and churches. Like my friend George Davis put it, “God rubbed my nose in everything He wanted me to never do.”

(1) https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2019/01/26/what-is-a-cult-recognizing-and-avoiding-unhealthy-groups-by-jayanti-tamm/

For further reading, here is another site that has listed the earmarks of cults:

http://csj.org/infoserv_cult101/checklis.htm

Are We to Judge?

In the New Testament writings the various words the King James translators translated “judge” have different meanings. I would like to address three of these Greek words imageswhich are found in the verses that, due to their poor renderings, have caused Christians much heartache and confusion. They are the nouns “krino,” “anakrino,” and “diakrino.” Their verb forms are “krisis,” “anakrisis,” and “diakrisis.”

 

Christians Are Not Called To Condemn

The first word I will attempt to shed light on is “krino.” According to the Strong’s Concordance:

2919 krino {kree’-no}

  1. to separate, put asunder, to pick out, select, choose
  2. to approve, esteem, to prefer
  3. to be of opinion, deem, think, to be of opinion
  4. to determine, resolve, decree
  5. to judge
    1. to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong
      1. to be judged, i.e. summoned to trial that one’s case may be examined and judgment passed upon it
    2. to pronounce judgment, to subject to censure
      1. of those who act the part of judges or arbiters in matters of common life, or pass judgment on the deeds and words of others
  6. to rule, govern
    1. to preside over with the power of giving judicial decisions, because it was the prerogative of kings and rulers to pass judgment
  7. b1) to go to law, have suit at law

As you can see this word is used to portray a passing of judgment in condemnation. These following verses are some of the ones in the New Testament that use this Greek word.

Mt 7:1-2 Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

Mt 19:28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Luke 19:22 And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, [thou] wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow:

John 3:17-18 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn (2919-krino) the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned (2919-krino): but he that believeth not is condemned (2919-krino) already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 5:30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

John 8:15 Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. John 8:16 And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.

John 8:50 And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.

John 12:47-48 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.

John 18:31 Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death:

I think that you should be getting the picture from these verses. We are not to pass judgment on any man in a judicial sense. Jesus Himself as the savior of the world was not here on the earth to pass judgment, either. Judicial passing of judgment is given to the Father and to the Son as He sits at the Fathers right hand in the final judgment. The Word also says that we who overcome will sit with him on His throne and judge the world. That is why Paul warned us not to “jump the gun” on becoming judgmental of one another when he said:

1Corinthians 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

Romans 2:1 Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.

James wrote with much the same warning:

James 4:11 Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of [his] brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.

In all these verses the Greek word used for “judge” is “krino.” This type of judgment in the church is driven by self righteousness and not by the heart of God. The very thing that we judge and condemn another of, we are guilty of. When some Samaritans forbid Jesus to enter their village, James and John “The Sons of Thunder” as Jesus called them had an “instant trial, sentence and execution” in mind in their zeal for the Lord, but look at the Lord’s reply and learn.

And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, will you that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elijah did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, You know not what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village. (Luke 9:51-56, KJ2000)

These disciples were guilty of “judging before the time.” They weren’t content to wait “until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts.” They were not acting by the leading of the Holy Spirit, but were of the other spirit and he (Satan) was a murderer from the beginning.

Now that we have seen the council of the scriptures about passing condemning judgment on one another, let’s look at the matter of discernment.

We Who Are Spiritual Are Called To Discern

The second Greek word that was translated “judge” in the King James version is “diakrino.” Its meaning is as follows:

1252 diakrino {dee-ak-ree’-no}

  1. to separate, make a distinction, discriminate, to prefer
  2. to learn by discrimination, to try, decide
  3. to withdraw from one, desert
  4. to separate one’s self in a hostile spirit, to oppose, strive with dispute, contend
  5. to be at variance with one’s self, hesitate, doubt

As you can see this is a weakened form of “krino” that means to discriminate or make a determination but because of the previous verses forbidding the “passing judgment” aspect it is not used this way in the scriptures. The following verses are ones where this word was used:

(Matthew 16:2,3, KJV) 2 He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. 3 And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern(1252- diakrino) the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?

1Corinthians 6:5 I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge (discern, 1252- diakrino) between his brethren?

1Corinthians 11:31 For if we would judge (diakrino- discern) ourselves, we should not be judged (krino- condemned).

1Corinthians 14:29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge (diakrino- discern).

katie&dem

Two of our wonderful granddaughters walking through the zoo together about 20 years ago.

(Jude 1:20-23, KJV) 20 But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, 21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, LOOKING FOR THE MERCY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST UNTO ETERNAL LIFE. 22 And of some have compassion, making a difference (diakrino- discernment): 23 And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.

1 Corinthians 12:10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning (diakrisis) of spirits; to another [divers] kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

As you can see, part of walking in the Spirit of God is to discern all men and all spirits to see “what spirit they are of” so that we can keep the body of Christ pure, edified and free of the false teachers, false shepherds, false prophets, and false Christs (anointings). When we fail to take someone to task and correct them in their delusions, we lose that person to the great counterfeiter and father of lies and we allow others to be deluded by their workings in our midst.

The final word that I would have you consider is the Greek word “anakrino.” The Strong’s concordance defines it as follows:

350 anakrino {an-ak-ree’-no}

  1. examine or judge
    1. to investigate, examine, inquire into, scrutinize, sift, question
      1. specifically in a forensic sense of a judge to hold an investigation
      2. to interrogate, examine the accused or witnesses
    2. to judge of, estimate, determine (the excellence or defects of any person or thing

The following verses use this word.

Luke 23:14 Said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined (anakrino) [him] before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him:

Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched (anakrino- examined) the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

1Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned (anakrino).

1Corinthians 2:15 But he that is spiritual judgeth (anakrino- discerns) all things, yet he himself is judged (anakrino- discerned) of no (natural) man.

1Corinthians 4:4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth (anakrino- examines) me is the Lord.

1Corinthians 14:24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or [one] unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged (anakrino- examined) of all:

As you can see, we who are spiritual and walking in the Spirit are to examine and discern all things and at the same time the worldly don’t have a clue where we are coming from.

I hope this helps you to see what we are to do in the body of Christ and what we are forbidden to do. Let all things be done unto spiritual edification, my brothers and sisters. Always ask Jesus to search your heart’s motive first to see if you are walking in faith and then let you who are spiritual search out and discern the motives and spirits of all men so that they might be commended or corrected and placed back on the right path with Jesus as their true Shepherd. One final verse we should consider,

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)

Knowing Christ and His Body after the Spirit – Part 1

 

Two trees-one trunk

And the Two shall become ONE!  Photo by Michael Clark

 

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

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

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

The disciples, like most of the Jews, believed that He had come to set up a physical kingdom among them and did not see just how spiritual His kingdom is. To them He said, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you. (Luke 17:20-21, ESV2011). His kingdom is found wherever two or three are gathered together IN His name (in His very personhood), and these spirit led gatherings do not garner the attention of this world and its people. You can’t advertise them because you do not know when or where they are going to happen.  Jesus does not have a mega-church mentality with all its Hollywood glitter and Madison Avenue advertising methods. He is after spiritual quality among us, many sons and daughters born unto the Father, not mediocre crowds in the thousands (read John chapter six).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Only Those Unshakeable Things Found IN Christ Will Remain

Foggy_Church_Graveyard

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

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

οὐρανός ouranos (ou-ra-nos’) n.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Standing on a Sea of Glass with One Another Before His Throne

RedFishLk1

Red Fish Lake near Stanley, Idaho – Photo by Michael Clark

I recently got a comment on A Wilderness Voice blog from Susanne Schuberth of Germany. She said something that stirred me to consider its truth.

“I love it too [when two saints are of one mind], since it is very encouraging to see when we are on the same spiritual track IN Him.

I believe spiritual fellowship is meant to strengthen each member, but never to rule over them.”

What a joy it is when we hear another member of Christ’s body saying the very thing that His Spirit has been saying to us.

When I first came to Christ many years ago, He filled me with a deep desire to know Him and a hunger to read about Him in the scriptures. When I first met my wife about four years earlier, she remarked that I couldn’t even name the four gospels, much less Paul’s letters. Being raised a Catholic, I was totally ignorant of the Bible. But when the Spirit of God entered me in 1970, things changed rapidly (thank God for a praying wife and mother-in-law).

At first I read the gospels over and over until I found a center reference that pointed to His words and actions in the Old Testament. I found prophecies about Him and His very words all over the Psalms and then Isaiah and other prophets (See Luke 24:44). Eventually I read the whole Bible. It seems God had a plan for this–He often speaks to me with a portion of a verse, and when I look it up, it’s perfect for the situation or the person I am fellowshipping with. This often happens when He has me write an article or a reply on our bog. Over the last four years this has happened between Susanne and me and she has also spoken into my life, humbly showing me where I am weak and need a heart change. This can only work unto edification as we each humble ourselves before Christ. To “minister” to another out of pride destroys all true fellowship in the Spirit (See Gal. 6:1).

Paul had much to say about the unifying and edifying power of the Spirit of God and how He gifts each of us for the profit of the whole body of Christ.  He wrote to the Corinthians on how the Spirit desires to function in the body of Christ.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1Cor 12:4-7, ESV2011 – emphasis added) (See also: 1Cor 12:18-26 and 1Cor 14:12)

We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future. There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and there is only one God and Father, who is over us all and in us all and living through us all. However, he has given each one of us a special gift according to the generosity of Christ. That is why the Scriptures say, “When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.” (Eph 4:4-8, NLT- emphasis added)

God makes sure that each member of Christ’s body is empowered by the Spirit to function according to His eternal plan so that Christ might be manifest throughout the whole earth. But when one member rises up and lords over other members with His gift (see 1Peter 5:1-3 ESV), the rest of the body suffers and, like the parable of Jesus, he causes them to hide their talent [gift] in the dirt. They say to themselves, “I am only a lowly foot covered with dust, what good am I compared to this other brother who is the head with all the talents (seeing, hearing and speaking) this body needs.” Sad to say, this is how most modern churches function today. Yet Paul made it clear if we are members of one another and in Christ’s body, ALL members are equally necessary and gifted to edify one another in the Spirit, giving all glory to our Father. There is nothing more wonderful than a group of the saints of God flowing together in His Spirit. It’s like an angelic choir singing praises to the Lord.

Paul wrote this to the Romans:

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Rom 12:3-8, ESV2011)

The world’s hierarchic mindset of ruling over one another has no place in the body of Christ. Jesus said, If any man would be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.”  (Mark 9:35, ASV- see also Matthew 20:25-28)

If we are ONE IN Christ, the ground where we stand before His throne is perfectly level. John saw this in his heavenly vision in Revelation.

And before the throne [of God] there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. (Rev 4:6, KJ2000)

And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. (Rev 15:2, KJ2000)

Some of the most beautiful photos I have ever taken have been of a body of water that is flat calm like a mirror, reflecting the far shoreline, the mountains behind it and the sky. A sea of glass is like a mirror because it is perfectly flat. We all stand with equal stature on a sea like this before the throne of God, reflecting the beauty of our Lord and His glory, not our own. We can do this only if we have entered into His rest and ceased from our own labors. There is no place for posturing, hierarchy or dead works as we abide together in the love of Christ before our heavenly Father.

May His Spirit drive this truth home in our hearts, Amen.

Picnik Bay Morning

Picnic Bay Morning – Photo by Michael Clark

 

Beware of Vipers!

paul and viper.jpegPaul wrote that we should not be ignorant of Satan’s devices. Many of us who have come out of organized Christianity have had to learn about his divisive ways in the process of sorting out all the false teachings we absorbed in that system from the voice of the Spirit in us. As we know, Satan can quote scripture to accomplish his twisted goals and vipers are of the very nature of the Great Serpent we must deal with. Jesus called the Pharisees (who often quoted scriptures) a “brood of vipers” as they tried to tempt Him with their logic.

You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. (Matt 12:34-35, ESV2011)

There is a very instructive story about how vipers work in what happened to Paul when they were shipwrecked on the island of Malta.

And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Malta. And the native people showed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the natives saw the creature hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice allows not to live. And he shook off the creature into the fire, and felt no harm. However they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god. (Acts 28:1-6, KJ2000)

When we are the weakest and struggling to maintain our lives, as it was with Paul, is when Satan likes to sneak in and fasten himself to us and inject his spirit-life-killing lies into our hearts. During these times, there have been those who have shown us kindness and kindled a fire in our hearts with their words. But there is another creature that often comes in. Evidently Paul had picked up this snake with the sticks he had gathered for the fire and even had clutched them to his breast, but because of the cold, the snake did not act until he felt the warmth of the fire. False Christians who harbor demons in their natures are like that. These demons can be dormant until they feel the warmth of the Spirit and then they spring into action and fasten themselves onto a saint of God in a moment of weakness. What should be our response when this happens? Should we listen to, cajole, and try to save these demons from their folly? No! Jesus didn’t give the Pharisees any quarter when they spoke their venomous words and neither should we. We should do just as Paul did and shake them off into the fire least they continue to inject their poison into us and draw us away from the path of Christ, the way of the cross.

It is interesting to note that part of the effect of a viper’s poison is to make us swell up with pride if we take its words to heart. When the gracious islanders saw this attack they, too, were confused and took Paul for an evil man, but when he didn’t swell up or die they started to idolize him. Carnal Christians are like these Maltese. They are easily moved by every wind of doctrine. On the one hand, they might want to make us their spiritual gurus because of God speaking through us, but on the other hand they turn and walk away when they see that our hearts are fixed on following Jesus even unto death. This is how the crowds treated Christ and it’s what Paul was talking about when he wrote this:

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? (2Cor 2:14-16, ESV2011)

Yes, who is sufficient for these things? Our sufficiency must be in Christ.

(I would like to thank Susanne Schuberth for her latest blog entry from which God used to inspire me for this article. https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/beware-of-jobs-false-friends/ )