Growing into the Fullness of Christ

Photo by Yoal Desurmont on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

T. Austin-Sparks wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She wrote somethings in that article that got my attention.

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

I commented the following on her blog,

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

In Hebrews we read:

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

In That Day You Will Ask In My Name…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Growing IN Christ As We Learn of Him

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

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

From Where Comes This Emptiness in the Human Heart?

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Thor’s Well – photo by Eric Muhr on Unsplash.com

 

There is an emptiness in the human heart that drives us to try all kinds of things to fill it. This leads to all manner of addictions–drugs, alcohol, illicit sex, money, fame, and yes, even religion as we try and get back what Adam and Eve lost in the Garden of Eden. I believe that the void in the human heart started with their caving to the temptation of Satan in the garden. He tempted them to be “wise” and “like God” under his twisted knowledge instead of the law of love and unity with their Creator. Just knowing God as their loving Father was not enough.

The first manifestation of this void came immediately after they ate of the forbidden fruit when their eyes were opened, seeing for the first time that they were naked. This illicit and condemning knowledge of the devil (deciding what is good and what is evil apart from God) came into them as the serpent promised it would (see Genesis 3:5). As a result they hid from God, but He found them. Adam said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself” (Gen 3:10, ESV2011). God then asked, “Who told you that you were naked?” God created them naked and unashamed and pronounced it was good. Satan seduced them under his twisted authority and they became ashamed, believed his lie that nakendness was bad, feared their Father and became subject to the father of Lies. Jesus said Satan was a liar and a murder from the beginning (see John 8:44).

The second recorded manifestation of the devil in man came in Adam and Eve’s offspring. Cain killed his brother, Abel, out of pure jealousy because God favored Abel’s sacrifice over Cain’s. Lying, rebellion and murder has continued in the hearts of men since that day. Man had “become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” That “one” was the devil himself.

There is a terrible void in fallen man that cries out for a return of what was lost, perfect communion with our Creator, and He longs for that with us as well. God sent His only begotten Son to earth that He would not only live a perfect sinless life and then die as a spotless sacrifice for the sins of mankind, but that He would also be the first born of many brethren, sons and daughters of God in perfect sinless unity with His Father. Jesus addressed this in His final prayer, His “last will and testament.”

“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,  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. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.  O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.  I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:21-26, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

God showed me the above passage about seven years ago and has been opening its meaning to me little by little as I have grown by experiencing more and more of unity with Him in the Spirit. Do you see the perfect unity that Jesus has made available to us who are His? Christ is IN us and the Father is in Him! The very God of the universe abides IN those of us who believe in the Son of God and have opened our hearts that He might dwell in them. The perfect unity with our Father that was once lost in the garden  has now been restored.  Jesus prayed, “Father, I desire that they also… may be with me where I am.” Where is Jesus? He is in the Father and the Father is in Him (see verse 21).

Jesus has and is making known to us the “name” of the Father. He was sent to earth to model just who His Father in heaven is and that is His name; Himself, his nature, his perfections, especially of grace and mercy, his mind and will, his Gospel” – (John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible). Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father and Jesus replied, Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip?  Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Just as Adam and Eve saw the Father God walking in the garden, so are we restored through the Son to what they once had and even more.

In the Book of Hebrews we read:

Free stock photos – Pexels

For every one that uses milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Heb 5:13-14, KJ2000)

 

God’s idea of what is “good” and what is “evil” is not found in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That was Satan’s delusion. No, to our Father what is good is when we humbly walk in unity with Him. This is the very definition of righteousness. Unity is obedience that is motivated by love for Him, not the fear of punishment for breaking some law.

“He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic 6:8, KJ2000)

 

“Evil” in the mind of God is when there is discord and disunity in our relationship with Him. Adam and Eve knew evil in their hearts once they ate of the forbidden fruit. They were separated from God in that moment and hid themselves because they no longer had that intimate relationship with Him. They ceased to know Him as their Father. Mere religion will not save us, but Him giving us a NEW heart filled with love for our Father and Christ will. Jesus warned,

“In ‘that day’ many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we preach in your name, didn’t we cast out devils in your name, and do many great things in your name?’ Then I shall tell them plainly, ‘I have never known [Grk. gnosis – intimate knowing] you. Go away from me, you have worked on the side of evil!'”  (Matt 7:22-23, Phillips NT)

What a surprise the Day of Judgment will be for many. Religion is a vast deception when it takes the place of an intimate relationship with our Father and His Son. In the eyes of God all its works are evil!

Jesus came to show us what a life in unity with the Father looks like and then offered Himself up as a perfect sacrifice for sin (man’s disunity with our Father) and fill us with His Spirit so we could once again come into alignment with God in all things. How about going to a “Bible church,” will that save you? So many Christians have fallen short of what God desires for them by never getting beyond the milk of the scriptures. Jesus spoke of this very sin to the Bible scholars of 2000 years ago.

Search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And you will not come to me, that you might have life. (John 5:39-40, KJ2000)

The writer of Hebrews wrote this warning in chapter five because he wanted to go on and teach them the deeper things that are ours IN Christ, but they were mere spiritual infants desiring milk. He continues in the next chapter.

Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto maturity; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. (Heb 6:1-2, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

The sad thing is that most Bible teaching in the churches never goes beyond these first principles, thus adding to the perpetual babyhood of their members (see Hebrews 5:11-13).

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Photo by “Life is Fantastic” on Unsplash.com

Life in the Son is all about our relationship with the Father as it was with Him. As we grow into “full age” by experiencing His joy in our hearts when we are in unity with His will for us and His displeasure when we are not, this is “discerning both good and evil.” The “strong meat” of the knowledge and wisdom that is in Christ becomes ours as well because of our unity with Him. We need to look far beyond our religious preconceived mental list of do’s and don’ts into the very heart of our Father and seek total unity with Him. He leads us by His Spirit to walk just as Jesus walked, doing only the works HE shows us to do and speaking only the words that our Father gives us to speak. Let us go on to maturity, dear saints, seeking our Father’s pleasure in all things.

 

Knowing Christ and His Body after the Spirit – Part 1

 

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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.

 

What Is True Friendship?

By Michael Clark and Susanne Schuberth

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Picture taken by Susanne Schuberth

What is true friendship? With most people I have met, “friendship” is very conditional. If I do or say something that offends them or don’t meet their “needs,” they turn off and distance themselves immediately. It is a form of conditional love. “I will be your friend as long as you live up to my expectations.” Sad to say, this is the kind of “friendship” that most Christians endure in that system known as the “Institutional Church.” But was this the kind of friendship that Jesus had with the eleven disciples who loved Him for who He is?

We know that Judas loved mammon. He was the one who held the money bag in the group and finally betrayed Christ at the end for thirty pieces of silver. We also know that the seventy other disciples that Jesus sent out with power to preach the gospel turned away from Him as well (see John 6:66-71). But to those faithful eleven He said:

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another. (John 15:13-17, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

Jesus told us that we were His friends if we did what He commanded. Love is, of course, the greatest commandment. But we need to love God before we can share His love with our neighbors. We may love our enemies with this God-given love (see Romans 5:5), but we won’t be that ‘loving’ when we take part in their lawless living. From hence, we might see why this world is at enmity with us. As soon as we share the gospel by doing what God commands us to do, NOW, they will reject us. However, the good news is that He gives us His peace for having been obedient to Him and then we can pray for those who do not know our Lord yet.

We know that Jesus’ disciples were often fearful even when He was with them, yet He was always patient with them. He was their friend to the very end, even unto dying for them and their sins alone on the cross. What kind of love lays down one’s own life for a friend? It is one thing for a soldier to dive on a live grenade to save the life of his fellow soldiers. But there is another more practical and sacrificial way of laying down one’s life. That is laying down your own will daily for the good of another because you love them more than you love yourself.  THIS is true friendship! Following the leading of Christ’s Spirit in our daily lives is laying down our life for our Friend just as He laid down His live for us. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “But he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” There is a wonderful dynamic that kicks in when we have this kind of friendship with another who reciprocates in kind.

Austin-Sparks wrote:

It is indeed a very wonderful and beautiful thing that the Son of God called such as the disciples were, and such as we are, His friends. I do not think there is a greater or more beautiful word in all our language than that word ‘friend’. It is the most intimate title in all human relationships. Every other relationship that we can think of may exist without this. Perhaps we think that the marriage relationship is the most intimate, but it is possible for that relationship to exist without friendship. Happy indeed is the man whose wife is his friend, and happy is the wife whose husband is her friend. It is a very close relationship between children and parents and parents and children, but it is a great thing when the father can call his son his friend, and when he can say, not ‘my son’, but ‘my friend’. And, again, it is a great thing when a child can say, not only ‘my father’, but ‘my friend’: ‘my father is my friend’ – ‘my mother is my friend’. It is something extra in relationship. We may admire a person and have a lot of association with them: we may think that we know them and could say: ‘Well, I know so-and-so very well’, but, even so, there may not be friendship. Friendship is always just that bit extra.

When Jesus said: “Ye are my friends”. He was going beyond ‘Ye are My disciples’ and ‘Ye are My followers’. He could have called them by many other names, but when He said: “Ye are my friends” He went beyond anything else. And I think that the Lord Jesus found the most complete satisfaction of His heart in this word. To say “Ye are my friends” was as far as anybody could possibly go. Really, there is nothing beyond it. You reach the end of all relationships when you really come to friendship. How rich and how precious, then, is this title! (1)

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A true friend is one that you can share everything in your life with. Not only can you tell them about your joys and successes, but you can share with them what makes you sad, even your worst failures. When you need someone to stand with you in prayer, knowing that it will not be used to separate themselves from you for your failings nor will they use these precious things as a tidbit of gossip as soon as you part. A true friend hopes all things for the other and hardly notice when his friend does him wrong. As Solomon wrote, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Prov 18:24, ESV2011)

You see, there are “friends” and then there are FRIENDS, just as there are “believers” then there are BELIEVERS! In John chapter two we read,

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man. (John 2:23-25, KJ2000)

Jesus could not commit Himself to this kind of follower. He dared not open His heart up to them. They “believed in His name” because He did miracles for them. But they were “loaves and fishes” Christians and would soon turn against Him when their temporal needs were no longer being met (see John ch. 6). They were not His friends.

Friends do not use friends. That is a feigned relationship at best. But how many times do we hear Christians say, “I just want to be used by Jesus!” This is an institutional mindset at best. The devil uses people to fulfill his agenda of destruction. But Christ walks with us as our friend and as we rest in Him, His will is carried out in our lives by the love and friendship we share. The kingdom of God is a family of close friends, not an institution!

In our Christian walks we will have many occasions where we will prove ourselves as to whether we are HIS friend or not. It is one thing to be a “follower of Christ,” but it is a far greater thing to be His friend. For in this kind of relationship is where He starts revealing to us all things (see and He can say to us, “I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” Do you want spiritual revelation from Christ? This is where it starts, walking with Him day by day and moment by moment as His friend.

Consider how Christ handled this kind of situation with one of His own disciples:

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.” 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 16:21-23, ESV2011)

When we insist on knowing Christ or each other after the flesh, seeking our own desires to be fulfilled instead of knowing one another after the Spirit, we will find ourselves acting contrary to His will. Paul wrote,

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)

Toward the end of my 14 years in the wilderness (where He had been stripping me of all that I once thought of myself as a “Christian”) I, Michael, was invited to go to a worship conference, so I went. There were many speakers and workshop teachers at this conference but Father spoke to me through the words in a song that we were singing. It went,

 “I will change your name. You shall no longer be called Wounded, outcast, lonely or afraid.”

I thought, “Yes, that is me; a wounded, outcast, lonely and afraid in this world.” Then the Lord started to speak to me in the verses that followed…

“I will change your name. Your new name shall be confidence, joyfulness, overcoming one, faithfulness, friend of God…”

At that moment I thought, “Oh God, who am I that you would call me your friend?!” He replied to me in the last phrase of this song, because you are

“one who seeks My face.” (2)

This was a life changing moment for me, because He told me how much He loves me and counted me as His friend. When we really love someone, we will not ever be totally happy until we can share our love with them face to face. God is no different. As His friends we will always seek His face. David prayed,

Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” (Ps 27:7-8, ESV2011)

Dear saints, We pray that we may all come to know this kind of friendship with Jesus and His Father and find others who walk in this same intimate knowledge of Him so that we might truly have Friends in Christ’s love. True followers of Jesus Christ are true friends and we thank the Father for the ones we have known.

(1) https://www.austin-sparks.net/english/000419.html

(2) “I Will Change Your Name,” by D.J. Butler

Hindrances to Walking in True Fellowship

Photo taken by Michael Clark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

(2) Romans 14:1

What Is Spiritual Seeing and Hearing?

Blind man receives his sight – Artist unknown

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet… And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me… (Rev 1:10-12, KJ2000)

In the above quote from John’s Revelation there is much to be learned if we have spiritual eyes to see and spiritual ears to hear. Its one thing to read the scriptures and gain knowledge the way we gain knowledge from any textbook or course of study, but it is a whole other thing to gain the depth of spiritual knowing that can be ours if we abide in the Spirit of Christ. First of all, John was “in the Spirit” when He heard this voice, yet that was not enough. Most often it takes us entering into the rest of our Father and blocking out the noisy din of this world before we can be in the Spirit while we read the Bible or try to hear His voice. Sometimes He withholds deeper fellowship from us until we deal with some sin that has come between us and Him, and these things often come to our attention as we wait before Him.

Secondly, John turned to see this great Voice which was speaking with him. Spiritual hearing requires that we turn away from where we have been looking or going. Some of us have learned that when God speaks to us or shows us something, it is to get us to grow up spiritually beyond where we have been, and so a “turning” is required. All too often people hear His voice and then set out to put what was heard on everyone else without doing the necessary turning about in their own lives. Jeremiah wrote,

Surely after I was turned, I repented; and after I was instructed, I struck myself upon the thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth. (Jer 31:19, KJ2000)

“I turned to see the voice that spoke with me…”  One might ask, “How do you ever see a voice?” Let me use this word see in another way, “Do you SEE what John means here?” There is hearing and then there is HEARING. There is seeing and then there is SEEING! When what is spoken comes from the Word, Jesus Christ, there is no end to what we can see. For instance we find out that a single Bible verse can, over the years, says many different things to us as we grow in Christ. If we are to get anything from the Spirit of God beyond normal seeing and hearing, “some say it thundered,” we must be IN the Spirit (see John 12:29-31).

The carnal mind and its five senses will never do. We can sit in Sunday school and sit through Sunday sermons all our lives or graduate from the finest Christian seminaries and institutions without the gift of spiritual sight or hearing and die just as clueless as the day we were born as to who God is or the nature of His Kingdom. When the learned Paul, the Pharisee, was met by the living Christ on the Road to Damascus, he asked the right thing, “WHO ARE you, Lord?” and his real spiritual education started that moment, overshadowing all he once thought he knew about God. As with Paul, it takes a crisis for many of us to blast through our accumulated suppositions and to start to let the Spirit teach us.

Job had a collision with God over this very thing. He thought he was wise, righteous and filled with knowledge about God, but let us read about God’s assessment of Job!

“Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge  Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” (Job 38:1-3, NIV)

“Words without knowledge.” This is how God sees our learning that has not come through the Light of the Spirit which opens our understanding to what HE wants us to know. “Brace yourself like a man and I will question you,” “Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute me?” To which Paul replied with that all important lifelong question with its ever growing reply, “Who are you, Lord?”

Then Job replied to the LORD : “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge [Heb. Da’ath from root word yada – to ascertain by seeing]?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6, NIV)

Adam Clarke shed light on this passage.

I have heard of thee] I have now such a discovery of thee as I have never had before. I have only heard of thee by tradition, or from imperfect information; now the eye of my mind clearly perceives thee, and in seeing thee, I see myself; for the light that discovers thy glory and excellence, discovers my meanness and vileness. (Adam Clarke’s Bible Commentary)

Paul spoke by personal experience of the meanness and vile nature of the natural mind with its unenlightened knowing.

… we know that all of us possess knowledge. This “knowledge [Grk, eido]” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known [Grk. ginosko] by God. (1Cor 8:1-3, ESV2011)

Ever since the fall, man has been in love with knowledge and the Serpent still hangs out in that forbidden tree. The problem is that this kind of “knowledge” puffs us up and makes us proud. We end up thinking we really “know” something and as a result that we are somebody because of our knowledge and degrees. In the eyes of God, this kind of “knowing” is totally empty, and if anything, it gets in the way of true spiritual growth that is ours IN Christ. God resists the proud and gives His grace to the humble. Real knowledge in the economy of God has to do with a love relationship with Him and Jesus Christ His Son. W. E. Vine shed light on this meaningful Greek word, ginosko.

In the NT ginosko frequently indicates a relation between the person “knowing” and the object known; in this respect, what is “known” is of value or importance to the one who knows, and hence the establishment of the relationship, e.g., especially of God’s “knowledge,” 1Co 8:3, “if any man love God, the same is known of Him;”

To have this kind of knowledge requires that we have a deep relationship with the One who is known. This same Greek word was used in the following passage.

Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife [Mary]: And knew [ginosko] her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS. (Matt 1:24-25, KJ2000)

Here we see ginosko speaks of the consummation of a marriage in the most intimate act that can be had between a man and his wife. Consider Paul’s words once again, But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” Jesus spoke of such intimacy between us and the Father and the Son when He prayed for us, 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- emphasis added). When we come into Jesus and the Father and they come into us, the doors of heaven are opened and they start sharing their mysteries and their very lives with us. It is in this same knowing that the Church can also become one, but never by belonging to the same denomination or ascribing to the same doctrines. When two people are IN the Father and the Son and they are IN them, a spiritual intimacy without fear begins because “perfect love casts out all fear.” It takes much more than a casual Sunday acquaintance to come into such a relationship with His saints. Intimate spiritual relationships require us dying to our old carnal natures and what we have once clung to and becoming one IN the Father and the Son.

Paul also wrote about such intimacy with God saying, “’Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Eph 5:31-32, ESV2011– emphasis added)

If we are to know such intimacy with the Father and the Son we must leave all that has fathered and mothered us in this life. That includes any relationships we have had in church with spiritual mothers and spiritual fathers. There might be a season for these types of relationships, but eventually they get in the way of a deeper intimacy with Jesus and His Father. When we say, “I am of Paul or I am of Peter or I am of Apollos or whoever,” we are yet carnal. This is why Jesus said, “Who is my mother…He who does the will of my Father is my mother…” He also said, “Call no man ‘father’ for only One is your Father and He is in heaven.” Jesus was quite adamant about our earthly family ties when they get between us and Him,

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matt 10:34-37, KJ2000)

Our God is a jealous God (see Exodus 34:14). No man or woman is allowed to come between us and Him. We can come along side one another as we walk out this journey together, but others cannot become our total focus and desire.

Oh, the wonders of the knowledge of God in we who are His! Such intimacy can be ours if we will give up the wrong knowledge and want to know Him above all other relationships, “If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” Oh, the depth of meaning in this verse spoken by Paul. I did not learn these things in seminary. In fact, God firmly forbid me go to one of these. No, He showed these things to me personally as I sought to know Him.

Isaiah prophesied hope to the Jews while they were in captivity and it is true of us today,

Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. (Isa 30:18-21, ESV2011- emphasis added)

God is our Teacher through His Holy Spirit who abides in us and gives us spiritual sight and hearing. He is there to show us every detail of how and what to choose in our daily walks with Him. Nothing is too small or too big in our lives that He does not have His will for us in these matters.

Along with Paul I pray for each of us,

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph 3:14-21, ESV2011)

 

Freedom from Fear as We Abide IN Christ — Let US Go On!

 

Doe & twins 2013-web

Newborn twin fawns and their caring mother – Photo by Michael Clark

Jesus foretold the end of the world saying,

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Luke 21:25-26, ESV2011)

If we watch the news these days we see destructive earthquakes, volcanoes, tidal waves, hurricanes, pestilence, starvation and such in the natural sphere. Then there is the fear of what mankind is doing,–mass shootings, terrorism, wars, rumors of wars (the fear of war) and all sorts of evil and inhumanity being done to the men, women and children of this planet. Lately we even hear that North Korea’s leader has nuclear launch button sitting on his desk to be used at his whim to fire off a barrage of nuclear missiles that can reach anywhere in America. There is no end to the perplexity and feelings of helplessness that distresses the nations. Wherever people are found who have not put their total trust in Jesus Christ there is fear.

Later in this same chapter Jesus says this:

And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be weighed down with carousing, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. (Luke 21:34, KJ2000)

He warns against carousing and getting drunk and then includes with these actions being weighed down with the cares of this life. Those of you who have never tried “hiding in a bottle” might wonder how these three things could be related. I have taken to the bottle to sedate my mind enough in the past and know that once I sobered up my fears and depression were only made worse! My worried mind might have been numbed for a few hours, but my troubles always came crashing down on me afterwards like the bursting of a dam.

When we let the cares of our lives and this world become our focus we are showing that we have more faith in their power over us than we have in our loving Father in heaven. Jesus said to the disciples,  “I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, RSV). We are more than overcomers as we abide in Jesus.

Peter wrote,

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1Pet 5:6-7, ESV2011)

God is mighty, but to be under His care we need to humble ourselves under His hand. All too often we go charging off into the fray in the self-assurance of our own wills, either by focusing on our own strength or on our own weakness in which we are unable to do anything about it. Whether we focus on our supposed might or on our feelings of inadequacy, we still are not humbling ourselves under the covering of our Father’s loving hands. Satan’s greatest ploy with us is to get us to look away from Jesus who loves us and is in constant intercession for us before the Father and focus on our problems as if we had to face them alone. He loves to do this to us that we become totally isolated from God in our fears. Paul wrote:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice… The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:4-7, ESV2011)

The Lord is always at hand! We who place our trust in Him are never alone. Anxiety is a tool of the devil. But when we turn our thoughts to our loving Father with prayer, seeking His solution in these matters, we will finally get our break through. It is in seeing how much He cares for us that we finally well up with rejoicing in our hearts, knowing that He cares for us more even than we do, the enemy is foiled and God’s peace once again comes flowing into our hearts and minds. T. Austin-Sparks wrote about another facet of the obstacle of self-focus causing us weakness in this battle.

The readiness of Paul was constituted by his having settled, once for all, his own personal, spiritual problems. You never find Paul tied up in the knots of personal spiritual problems, going round, and round, and round, and never getting anywhere because his own spiritual problems are all the while bothering him. Paul had that matter settled at the beginning. He got over that fence, and went away into Arabia, and when Paul said he was ready, it meant that he was at leisure from himself spiritually. No man is ready, in this sense, who is not free from himself spiritually. We do not mean that every question that can ever come to us has been answered, and every problem has been solved, but that we are so utterly abandoned to Christ that we know quite well that, if we go on with the Lord, sooner or later all those things will solve themselves. Our business is to GO ON, and get free from ourselves spiritually. Those who are self-occupied in a spiritual way are the unready, the unprepared. Why not relegate your ‘locking-up’ problem to a place where you trust the Lord to deal with it when He pleases, and get on with the business of the Lord and with His interests? Recognize the desperate need that there is spiritually in this world, and give yourself to it? I venture to say you will come back to your pigeon holes and find your problems all solved. You will come back and find that that thing which was laid on the table for the time being has looked after itself and is no longer a problem to you. While you sit there with it all, the Lord’s interests are being suspended, and you, in the meantime, are getting nowhere at all. Abandonment to the Lord in this way in faith is the first essential, the Lord’s interests becoming the predominant thing, the passion of your heart. There is nothing like that abandonment to the Lord for solving personal problems. Christ becomes the Emancipator when we abandon ourselves to Him. That is [spiritual] readiness.

http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002213.html

 

In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because he first loved us. (1John 4:17-19, RSV)

Father draw us with your love and free our hearts from all fear. Open our eyes to see that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. Amen.