Abiding in the Love of the Father and the Son

Twin fawns in our back yard – photo by Michael Clark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why We Have the Discipline of the Lord in Our Lives

Photo by Maria Krasnova on Unsplash

I have spent a great deal of my life trying to become self-sufficient. In my youth I found that I could not depend on my family for love and support and even so-called “friends” were often self-centered and often cruel with no compassion toward me in my social awkwardness (I grew up in a completely dysfunctional family). So my answer to that was to seek a place where I could show my worth by what I could do. I became quite proficient in many fields, at least proficient enough that I was of value to employers even though I tried some of them with my social ineptitude.

I said all this to say that once I came to a saving faith in Christ, meeting Him was a most wonderful experience. I was on a spiritual honeymoon with Jesus that lasted for many months. He was my constant companion. Because of His great love, the day came that I wanted to become all that He had for me. That was when the trials started in earnest. I had to find out that God was not interested in all my soulish abilities, gifts and self-sufficiency. The Bible says that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. How little did I know!

One day Jesus and the disciples were walking along and they came across a blind man and the story goes like this:

And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man who was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Teacher, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. (John 9:1-3, KJ2000)

Did you get that? He did not say, “… so that the works of God might be manifest TO him,” but rather he was born blind so that the works of God might be manifest IN him! This man’s blindness was a gift from God to humble him and prepare him to meet and accept Christ. God knows exactly what we need to bring us into the fullness of Christ. This is the only case where Jesus put His spit on a person and the man did not protest one iota. In his lack of reaction Jesus knew that his blindness had done its work. Truly the working of God was manifest that day in a blind man while he was still blind. He had spit and mud in his eyes, yet he did not curse Jesus and wipe it away. He went by himself and washed in the pool of Siloam as commanded and in his humble obedience he received his sight. Yes, he was healed, but truly the working of God was manifest by his humility and obedience to such a foolish command. Jesus often spoke humiliating things to people to prove their hearts before He healed them. Maybe that is what He is waiting for in us. “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.”

We have heard that old quote from Benjamin Franklin, “God helps those who help themselves.” Sorry, but it’s a lie! Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1, ESV2011). Then He said a most curious thing, “…In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, ESV2011).

You see troubles and tribulation “go with the territory” when we get serious about our place as God’s children. He wants us to mature into full sonship and not remain as self-focused children. Jeremiah called out to God in his troubles, “Why do the wicked prosper?” How many times have we asked that and how can Jesus say, “Blessed are the poor?” God replied to Jeremiah saying, “If you have tired running with men, how will you make it with horsemen?” In other words, “Quit your complaining, Jeremiah.” Paul wrote:

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2Tim 3:12-13, ESV2011)

As His children, God puts us into a place where we can no longer trust in our natural abilities, intellect, beauty or any other thing that the world sees as valuable. Jesus said, “Believe in God, believe also in Me.” Herein is the key. The amplified Bible translates the word “believe” as that place where we “cling to, trust in and totally rely upon” Christ. Yes, in this world we who desire truly godly lives in Christ are going to suffer rejection and suffering as He did. Why? So that we will quit trusting in the world, its ways, its people, and our own abilities. Those things that got us ahead in the world system are in conflict with the kingdom of God. You might say that when we come to Christ our “Midas touch” starts working in reverse! I have met men who made themselves millionaires only to see it all vaporize when they surrendered to Christ. Some became bitter and others surrendered to His working, believing that God was in it all. He was making their “camel” fit through the eye of God’s needle (see Luke 18:25-28).

All that we suffer as His saints has an eternal purpose as He conforms us into the image of Christ. Some of us come under severe persecution and some come under physical suffering through diseases or bodily degradation (the effects of Covid 19 has become all too familiar with many of His saints). Some have their riches stripped from them when they come to Christ. One way or another our loving Father brings us to a place in His maturing process where we put our whole trust in Him and removes those things we once took pride in. In my case I had taken pride in being taller than most men, my ability to get things done with my own strength, and not asking others for help when I needed it. That has all changed. In my old age my back is suffering from scoliosis and deteriorating disk disease as well as compression fractures in my spine. Back pain is my constant companion and my height is shrinking. I have to call upon others for help in lifting and moving things and it is totally against my nature to do so. Even technical things I once knew evade my aging mind. I am reminded of what Jesus told that old self-sufficient Peter.

Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:18-19, ESV2011)

This death He spoke of is also dying to self-sufficiency and all other forms of self as we totally surrender to Christ. It is a death in which He alone is glorified. So how do we overcome tribulation and suffering in this world? By escaping it? No! We mature to the place in life through our Father’s discipline where we overcome completely by abiding IN Christ who said, “take heart; I have overcome the world.” Or as Paul put it, “We are more than overcomers IN Christ Jesus.” Jesus told the disciples, “If you abide in Me and I abide in you, you will bring forth much fruit.” The key word in these verses is IN. The Christian walk is not a religion or a belief system, nor is it an organization. It is totally dependent on a moment by moment relationship with and IN Jesus Christ (see John 17:20-21).

Jesus was and is the ultimate obedient Son. He is the forerunner of many sons and daughters unto the glory of the Father. Early in my Christian walk, I prayed what my church friends called “dangerous prayers.” They learned not to pray such prayers in hopes of avoiding suffering. As it is written “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a Living God.” But I wanted all that God had in mind for me so that like Paul, “I might apprehend ALL that I had been apprehended for.” I prayed, “Father make me like your Son, so that I would only speak the words you give me to speak and only do those things you want me to do.” I also prayed as Paul saying, “That I may know Him, the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings and be conformed unto His death.” Most Christians I knew wanted the power of God at their disposal and their prayers ended right there. But in the economy of God it is a “full meal deal.” You can’t have the one without the others. We must mature to the place where we find fellowship with Christ not only in the good times but in our suffering instead of moldering in our self-pity when it happens. We must mature to the place where we are conformed into the image of Christ by dying to our old nature and being raised in His newness of life. Remember Jesus’ final prayer before He suffered on the cross, “Father, I would that this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not my will by yours be done.” Few of us ever dreamed that taking up our crosses and following Him would be so literal.

One time I heard a story of a traveling evangelist who spoke at a small church gathering about the power of God. Afterward he had an “altar call” where he said, “All of you who want God’s power line up on the left side of the church and all you who want suffering line up over here on the right side.” Well, the majority lined up on the left side with only two on the right. He then pointed to those two and said, “I will now pray for them. These will experience the power of God.” As Paul wrote, “In my weakness is Christ made perfect within me.”

I would encourage you to read an article by T. Austin-Sparks that I found this morning,

“Maturity- the Lord’s Desire for His People.” http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/003680.html

Love to all of you who desire ALL that Christ has for you. You are my brethren and I look forward to the day we can meet face to face. “When He appears we shall be like Him for we shall see Him [and one another] as He is.”

Bearing in Our Bodies His Death, But Oh the Glory!

Photo from https://unsplash.com/@jae462

For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him… (Romans 6:5-6, KJV)

“We have been planted together in the likeness of His death.” Have you ever given much thought to what that means? Lately, with all the suffering of the saints I have encountered, including the pains of my own aging process, Christ’s death has, by His mercy, been brought more into focus than ever.

As I contemplated the above passage, all of a sudden I saw myself literally inside of Christ’s body on the cross and it was even in color! There was light in there! There was a glow and warmth and even a since of love, forgiveness, acceptance and peace. Yes, all hell had broken loose on Him outside, but it was a glorious experience as I was tucked safely inside Him through it all. Amazing! I had often tried to imagine what it meant to be “crucified with Christ” with no luck… just a blank. But with this experience a whole raft of scriptures opened up to me. Paul wrote:

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

Those hours on the cross were the focal point of all of God’s creation and His purpose for it! We were literally placed IN Him with all our sins and sufferings. In that moment we were made pure and complete IN Him so that Christ could live in us by the power of His resurrection life.

So, why all this suffering that we must go through? Think of it. If we have been “planted in the likeness of His death,” what was that like? All hell was going on outside of Him. He was not only made to suffer physically, but emotionally as well, so much so that He cried out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” Not only had all men forsaken Him, but He couldn’t even feel His Father’s loving care and pleasure any longer. And the demons! They were mocking and spitting on Him for His faithfulness to the Father. They even tried to make Him doubt who He was, “If you are truly the Son of God, come down off that cross. Spare yourself!” Yet, He did not cave. He was bearing our sins on that cross, not His own. We and all that we are were IN Him as God’s chosen ones (See Galatians 2:20). Isaiah saw this focal point in the eternity of time and wrote,

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. (Isa 53:10-11, ESV2011)

In Satan’s hate and jealousy Jesus was being attacked for never having sinned and being the perfect obedient Son of His Father, but it was God who was in control to fulfill His will for us all. Satan had given the temptation of Christ his best shot and failed. Oh, the wrath of hell! Here was his chance to get even with Jesus for all He had done to upset his worldly kingdom, but God won the battle by what seemed the weakness of Christ. For in this final blow against Christ he lost the keys to hell’s prison and enabled our release into God’s kingdom. This why Paul who walked in Christ could say, “When am weak, then I am strong.”

Don’t you think that our being IN Christ in this life also stirs up Satan’s anger? Most of us as worldly people had never known the suffering that we have gone through since we were born from above in Christ. The enemy hates Christ and he hates those He lives and manifests Himself in. T. Austin-Sparks wrote about this fact so well.

May I remind you that the nature of this planting is just that with which we are so familiar. “Planted together in the likeness of His death.” That is the word of the Apostle, “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.” The enemy is the instrument so often, of planting us more deeply into the death of Christ. His assaults, his attacks, his accusations, everything – yes. The Lord is not the source of evil, but the Lord allows it. So often our hearts cry out: “Why did the Lord ever allow that in our lives?” That thing which has meant such a deep, dark passage. Why did the Lord allow it? He could have prevented it. Well, we were planted by it into the death of the Lord Jesus. We were brought more than ever to an end of ourselves. Yes, and therefore, to know the Lord in a larger measure than we have ever known Him, and to be brought to a place where it will not be so easy for the Devil to shake us next time.

That is the sovereign way of God in deeper death experiences. “Planted together in the likeness of His death.” Have you been planted there initially? Have you been planted in Christ crucified? Or are you one of those attachments to something? Are you planted? And when a deeper planting comes, remember it is the roots being driven downwards, and the issue is going to be most surely endurance, stability, and ability to stand; but, oh, there is going to be greater fruitfulness. [1]

Yes, most of our suffering since we were planted in Christ has been at the hands of the demons of hell. But it is also true that God said, “Those whom I love, I rebuke and chasten…” and He does this to get us back on the right path again when we wander. Yet, we often suffer when we have not sinned or done anything to deserve it. As in Christ, in all this suffering God has a purpose–that we might live “also in the likeness of his resurrection.” Have you ever met dear older saint who has a sweetness about them that draws you? They seem to radiate God’s love no matter what comes their way. When you do you just want to sit there in silence and hold their hand and soak it up, especially if you have been going through a time of suffering yourself. Words in a moment like this can only take away from what God is doing. True fellowship in the Spirit goes so much deeper than words. When God makes it happen it is like experiencing heaven itself. Oh, the glory that is our in the unity of the Father and the Son!

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

Our lives on this earth as God’s children are all about death and resurrection and every moment is in His hands as He conforms us into the image of His Son. Satan never has the authority to do anything to us that is not in our Father’s designed outcome–that He might have many sons and daughters who manifest HIS glory and the glory of His Son. My dear brothers and sisters it is all worth it!

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Heb 12:11, ESV2011)

Remember, dear brothers and sisters,

…Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, (2Cor 4:16-17, ESV2011)

Dear Daddy, please give these dear saints who suffer a brief moment of experiencing that glory that they might be strengthened and push on for the goal that they might share the glory of your Son. Amen.

[1] http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/002932.html

We Are Individually Members One of Another

biblepic.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are We Supposed to Fit?

Two of our grand daughters walking together when we took them to the zoo in Seattle

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. (Heb 11:13, ESV2011)

How many of us really relate to the above verse? The more this world system rots from within the more isolated we feel… cut off from anything that we once found comfort in. Our streets have been taken over by rioters and demonstrators who use filthy language, our government is at war with what was once considered good and acceptable and even church services we once enjoyed seem distant and far away.

A couple of days ago, I was reading an article by T. Austin-Sparks titled, “Jealousy for God,” and as I read, it became an overlay of my experiences in organized Christianity. In his article he started out with the life of Elijah, how he was jealous for God and His rightful place among the people of Israel. His very presence in the land made him a hated target because he was the opposite of all that Ahab and Jezebel stood for. Elijah stood with God in His Spirit and Ahab, Jezebel, 450 false prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the groves who ate at Jezebel’s table were all under the influence of the devil. Most of the people of Israel were completely under their influence as well. As a result he felt all alone while they had lots of company as they worshiped in their temples under the blessings of the king and queen and all the false prophets. The apostle Paul quoted Elijah,

“Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. (Rom 11:3-5, ESV2011)

Many hundreds of years later, we see a member of this “remnant chosen by grace” standing alone against the apostate Jewish system that killed their Messiah out of pure jealousy. A young man named Stephen stood before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. He was all alone as he spoke up for God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Stephen’s words struck at the heart of all that was wrong with the Jews and their temple worship and they hated him for it!

But it was Solomon who built a house for him.Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?’ “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” (Acts 7:47-53, ESV2011)

The more things change, the more they remain the same. False prophets, false religious systems, and false worship. Where in the New Testament did Jesus or the apostles command the early Christians to go out and build church buildings and cathedrals to worship in? No, Jesus told the woman at the well that true worship did not require religions and building, “They who worship God must worship Him in Spirit and in truth.” Peter made it clear that the true church of God was not a system of buildings.

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

It is this spiritual house built by God, those who walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh that is the Church and they are a threat to the very system that draws attention and worship away from Christ unto itself. This is why they killed Stephen! His face shone like that of an angel and theirs was the face of the devil. Darkness cannot stand in the presence of God’s Light.

Sparks points out that in this apostate system that focuses on buildings and human hierarchy, anyone who dares to speak the truth and tries to bring Christians back into worshiping in spirit and in truth is considered a “trouble maker.” Human nature in its fleshly ways takes those things that are holy and pulls them down onto this earthly plane, and anyone who dares to point this out is a threat to the status quo. If you dare to speak to these things in today’s churches, you will get the same reception that Stephen got when he spoke out in one of their synagogues long ago. Anyone who lifts up Christ in His body and draws attention to Him is a threat and the jealousy of false prophets, false pastors, and false apostles, etc., will rise up in a foaming rage.

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him…” (Acts 7:54-58, ESV2011)

T. Austin-Sparks describes what we can expect when we walk in the Light as Stephen did.

Now that touches a principle. You and I, on the broadest basis of the Christian life, are here in this world in this very capacity, to straddle the path of iniquity, of sin – of the very course of man – and to represent a check; and because we are here for that, we shall be called ‘trouble makers’. In a very real sense we shall BE trouble makers. The trouble will focus itself upon us, and we shall have to suffer for it. The very fact that you are jealous for the Lord will bring you into conflict with that trend that there is in this world, in man. It is going to be a really gruelling business for any testimony for God in this world, because, in the very nature of things, it counters the whole course of this world, which is downhill.

That is, as I have said, the broad line of the principle. Let us get nearer to the heart of things, so far as what is represented by this chapter is concerned. When the SPIRITUAL stands to confront the merely formal, traditional, nominal and ‘natural’, then there is going to be trouble. This is not now merely the reaction from the world: it is the reaction from religion. I would go further, and say it may be the reaction from Christianity. There is a very great difference between formal, traditional, nominal, ‘natural’ Christianity, on the one side, and spiritual Christianity, on the other; a great deal of difference. So much so, that this also becomes a battlefield – the battlefield of a lot of trouble.

Leave formalism alone, and everything will go on quite quietly. Leave traditionalism alone – that is, the set order of things as it has always been; that framework of things as it has been constituted and set up and established by man; that Christianity which is the fixed, accepted system of things – and you will escape a great deal of trouble. But seek to bring in a truly spiritual order of things, and trouble arises at once. And YOU are the trouble maker! The truth is that the trouble lies in the existing condition, the situation, the state; but it is only brought out by your action. And so spiritual men and women, and spiritual ministry, are called ‘trouble makers’, because the two things cannot go on together.

That is where Israel was. They had the traditions, they had the oracles, they had the ordinances, they had the testimonies; they had the forms, they had the system – they had it all; BUT, in the days of the prophets, there was ever this vast gap between the ‘externals’ and ‘internals’ of life in relation with God. The heart is far removed from the lips. The spiritual reality is not found in the formal. You may have it all – but then bring in the truly spiritual meaning of things, and trouble begins in that very realm. It is the trouble which arises when what is external and traditional comes into conflict with something which is truly spiritual….

When, therefore, there is the purest testimony, the fullest expression of what is of God, the heavenly over against the earthly, the spiritual over against the carnal or the natural, the enemy gives a turn to things, a twist to things, and lays the responsibility at the door of a spiritual and a heavenly ministry. He says: ‘You are the cause of all the trouble – you are the troubler!’ But no. The trouble lies deeper than that, and in another realm. The truth is, there is something here that, in its very nature, MUST create trouble, MUST be a source of trouble, so long as God’s known will, His revealed mind, is being violated; while the full expression of God’s purpose is being withstood. To bring in something that stands for that, there is going to be trouble.

http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/001248.html

This spiritual principle will probably seem strange to many Christians who read this article, but I know that some of you who have had a spiritual walk similar to my own where no matter how hard you tried to fit-in and “be one of the boys” in that church system, the more you were rejected and persecuted. You might have thought, “Well, maybe if I just kept my mouth shut and smiled they would welcome me,” but that didn’t work for long either. It is not the words alone that offend, it is the Who that is in YOU that bothers them! “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship,” but only then. It is a heart thing. Out of many frustrating attempts to be part of that system, I cried out to God, “Lord, I DON’T FIT! I just DON’T FIT!” To this He replied, “YOU are not supposed to FIT!” Some of us like Stephen or Elijah have a “prophetic gifting” that makes us a target no matter what. If we walk into a room full of religious people they immediately know we aren’t one of them. I have written this article to you, hoping that you might find some comfort in knowing it is alright not to FIT, but rather as John did, find your  place at the breast of Jesus Christ instead of nursing at the breasts of men.

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2Cor 3:4-6, ESV2011)

Walking by the Spirit Regardless of the World Around Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Process of Christ Being Manifest in Us, the Way of the Cross

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways” (Jer 17:9-10, ESV)

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2Cor 4:6-11, ESV)

No matter how sweet we might have been as infants, we eventually show that there is something broken within us, something that wants to lie, cheat, manifest anger, steal, and do everything that the ten commandments tell us not to do. The heart within us is desperately sick! No matter how hard we try to be “good people,” we find ourselves doing the things that we would not and not doing the things that we would. In short, God knows we need help!

I thank our Father that He commanded His light to shine in our hearts and expose the darkness that He sees there, but not only that, He has chosen to replace our darkness with “the light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Jesus Christ.” What a gift! How does this happen? Is it an instant bit of magic that our Father does in us when we get saved? I remember when I first started to experiencing trials after coming to Christ that I wanted Him to be like Tinkerbell and use His magic wand and, “Chwing!” instant super Christian! I was soon to find out that this is not His way.

As we read further down in the above quote from Paul we see that we still have this treasure of Christ in clay vessels which are weak by their very natures. God has chosen to let us see that we have no power in ourselves to live godly lives in Christ. By making us live with the weakness in us, He gets us to cry out to Him to do something about it. We soon discover that we are helpless in and of ourselves and that all power belongs to Him. We go through a process in which we are afflicted in every way only to find out that we have no strength in us to change. He allows us to be pressed upon, but not crushed; afflicted with all manner of suffering and pain and be rejected by this world and its people to the point of despair, only to find out that He has not forsaken us and is very much in it all. Paul wrote that we are “always carrying in our bodies the death of Jesus Christ so that the Life of Jesus might be what is manifest in us.” Little did we know that when we “asked Jesus into our hearts,” we also asked His suffering and death to come in to deal with that old Adam within us that Christ’s resurrection and Life might also be made manifest in us.

As this body of mine gets older, I am discovering how fragile this clay vessel really is! Where once I was healthy and self-asserting, I seem to come in contact with one affliction after another that keeps me weak. Did you notice that word “always” in what Paul wrote above? Always carrying in the body the death of Jesus.” Yikes! I seem to go from one source of pain to another. I go to the doctor with each new symptom and he sends me from one “specialist” and another! What it comes down to is that you can’t fix what God fixes to fix you. Is it any wonder that for every “miracle drug” they prescribe for us, there are even more nasty “side effects” that take the place of the “cure”? He seems to be teaching me to leave it all in the hands of the Great Physician to deal with me as HE wills.

God is myopic! He has a singular focus on one thing, the perfect manifestation of His Son in us. Early on in my Christian walk I prayed as Paul did, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection. It has taken years for me to pray the rest of that verse with sincerity–the fellowship of His suffering and be made conformed unto His death. To be conformed unto Christ’s death by suffering is also to be transformed into His resurrection life! You cannot have one without the other.

In Pentecostal circles I often heard people quoting this verse hoping that they would become great in the eyes of others, “A man’s gift makes room for him, And brings him before great men (Prov 18:16, NKJV). We all love the way that God called Paul to go forth with the gospel with resurrection power and even appear before kings, but let’s read the rest of that call…

But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he [Paul] is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” (Acts 9:15-16, NKJV)

For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” Giving our lives to Christ is a “full meal deal.” We don’t get to pick and choose which part of that life we get to have manifest within us. In the gospel of Matthew we read this:

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” (Matt 16:21-22, ESV)

It is the very nature of the carnal man to reject suffering. Jesus embraced the will of His Father and the cross that was set before Him. Notice how the flesh in Peter reacted to this “bad news.” “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” The fleshly man has no place for suffering in his life or the lives of his loved ones. Now look at how Jesus responded to Peter’s outburst:

But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matt 16:23, ESV)

He spoke to Satan that was manifesting in Peter’s fleshly mind trying to get Jesus to disobey the will of His Father. If He had turned away from the cross and become the new earthly King of Israel as they all wanted, none of us would have ever been redeemed! The flesh is an ally of Satan and to embrace our suffering that our Father has willed is to reject the devil in our lives. The will of God is just the opposite of the wills of many of my Pentecostal friends who want to rebuke demons anytime someone is suffering.

Dear saints, don’t be robbed of the fellowship that is ours as we embrace His sufferings. There is more to fellowship than to meet, eat and retreat one day a week in a warm and fuzzy church meeting. Paul wrote, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. (1Cor 12:24-26, NKJV). How often do we see this depth of fellowship within our “seeker friendly” and easy believe-ism churches of today?

You see, dear saints, suffering is very much a part of the plan of God as He conforms us into the image of Christ. Embrace the fellowship of His suffering as Paul did for it is part of His resurrection power working in us.

Father, open our the eyes of our understanding that we might see the depths of our salvation and fully embrace all that you have for us to walk in together as we follow Christ in our lives. Amen.

 

We Are Not of this World

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“…when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a [smoky] mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1Cor 13:10-12, ESV2011)

Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we from now on be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, by which they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, who is the head, even Christ: (Eph 4:13-15, KJ2000)

Recently, I found out why a brother that I had communicated with often had dropped out of sight. He had been taken captive by the teachings of some “Torah observant Christians.” What an oxymoron! Anyone with spiritual light who has read the New Testament, especially Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews should see the contradiction here. He finally met a brother who had been set free of this teaching who was able to set him free once again.

(Please pause for a moment and meditate on these two passages quoted above.)

We come into our belief in Christ as spiritual infants, but we are not called to remain that way. The New Testament refers to us as infant children (Grk. nepios – not yet able to speak), as adolescent children (Grk. teknon )  and  as mature sons (Grk. huios). Our maturity begins when we receive the Holy Spirit, but too many Christians today have not yet received the Holy Spirit, much like the believers in Ephesus (see Acts 19:1-7). This is why they can sit every Sunday feeding on the milk of a salvation message over and over from the pulpit with no hunger to go any further.

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The writer of Hebrews addressed this saying,

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, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:11-14, ESV2011)

The more we grow IN Christ, the easier it is to see with our developing spiritual sight. And the more we see from a heavenly perspective, the more obvious it becomes that the things that many Christians believe are either incomplete or are bound by deception. Humans, for the most part, are blinded by the Prince of this world. Even when they set out to see and understand the things of God, there is still a double vision problem–one eye is set on heavenly things and the other on the world and its concerns. At best there is a seeing like looking into a smoke covered mirror. The worst smoke screen of all is the one that comes closest to being the truth… man made religion.

The first thing we need to understand is the depths of what Jesus told Pilate at His trial, “My kingdom is NOT of this world!” All religions of men ARE of this world and are concerned with the things of this world, whether it is “touch not, taste not, handle not,” the observation of feast days and Sabbath ceremonies or tithing so they can support church facilities and the paid staff. Almost everything that church leaders are concerned with and teach has to do with things perceived by five human senses. We start out with His heavenly calling upon us, “come up here and I will show you things,” and are soon dragged down into the rudimentary elements of this world through religion. Jesus was and is other worldly and He calls those who would be His disciples to join Him in His heavenly vision of His Father’s kingdom.

George Davis and I wrote an article about this deception of the enemy and how it works,

In Ephesians 4:13-15, Paul sets forth a contrast of truth and deception. Truth is represented by the following words, “…[that] you may grow up into him in all things.” Deception is described by the words, “…tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, by which they lie in wait to deceive.” The words, “by which they lie in wait to deceive” take on [a deeper meaning in the original Greek]… Ephesians 4:14 would more correctly read, “so that we may no longer be minors, tossed to and fro and being carried about by every wind of teaching, by human caprice, by craftiness with a view to the systematizing of the deception [does ‘systematized theology’ ring a bell?].”

Darby translates this passage similarly.

…in order that we may be no longer babes, tossed and carried about by every wind of *that* teaching which is in the sleight of men, in unprincipled cunning with a view to systematized error. (Ephesians 4:14 Darby) (1)

churchesThe religions of men are not something that just grew willy-nilly into what we have today. Where once there was One Faith, now there are over 41,000 different Christian denominations and sect. Once they got their eyes off of Christ they were destined to deceive (see 2 Tim 3:13)! Paul contrasts these systematized deceptions which men fall into with what it really means to follow Christ saying, “But speaking the truth in love, [you] may grow up into him in all things, who is the head, even Christ.”  We who are Christ’s do not grow up spiritually by becoming adept in some theological teaching or even our adherence to Old Testament law or church dogma. All these things pull our focus away from Christ and our fellowship with Him in heavenly places and down into the things of this world and its deceiving systems (see Ephesians 1:3 and 2:6).  We do not grow up by amassing religious knowledge or even by memorizing the Bible, but by growing up INTO HIM in ALL things! The following quote by T. A. Sparks says it quite well,

John wrote for the last hour, “Little children, it is the last hour…” (1 John 2:18) and he brought the beginning up to the last hour: “That which was from the beginning…” (1 John 1:1). But while John has these time marks, he is concerned with what is timeless: and so we see between the reference to the beginning and the reference to the last hour the mention is made of that which abides for ever: “The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives [abides] for ever” (1 John 2:17). So here we have the beginning, the last hour, and the “forever”.

(…)

You only need to read John [John’s letters] to see how unattached everything is, how everything is lifted clean out of this world, and everything is bound up with the fact that Christ is in heaven, and that the Lord’s people are here, but not here; here, but not known; in the world, but not of it; a mystery people in this world so far as the world is concerned… unrecognized, unknown. And yet by that very means and for that very reason, the most potent force that this universe knows: the spiritual, hidden, secret people of God in this earth.

To take hold of Christianity and mold it, and shape it, and systematize it, and crystallize it, and make it some mighty movement here; with its roots here, with all its associations such as man can see, appreciate and approve; to register itself upon the ordinary consciousness of this world as being something; all of that is contrary to the Word of God and is contrary to spiritual life and spiritual power. Christ is in heaven, and we are lifted out, translated, seated together with Him in the heavenlies. Our present purpose in this world is testimony only, by which others will be taken out of the nations, a people for His name. (2)

As long as we manifest that we are of this world with our church buildings, Christian corporations, offices and worldly mindset, there is no witness of the kingdom of God. This is what Jesus meant when He prayed for us at the end of His earthly sojourn.

That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me. And the glory which you gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them, as you have loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am; (John 17:21-23, KJ2000)

The trouble with carnal church leaders handling a passage like this is they want to apply its deep spiritual reality to life in the hereafter. He did not pray, “that they may be with me where I am going,” but “that they may be where I AM.” Jesus was and is ONE with the Father in His presence even while on earth and so should we be.

“Dear Father, show us what it means to be one with your and Jesus and draw our hearts up into your heavenly kingdom and out of the clutches of this world. Amen.”

(1) http://awildernessvoice.com/SystematizedDeception.html

(2) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002953.html

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

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.