What Does it Mean to Be In This World, Yet Not Of This World?

What is the “world”? Is this word kosmos in the New Testament Greek speaking of the earth? Not most of the time; rather it is speaking of the systems on this orb that are ruled over by “the prince of this world” and Jesus said this about it:

“…for the prince of this world comes, and has nothing in me. But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go from here.” (John 14:30-31, KJ2000)

Oh yes, dear Christian, “let us rise up and go” from this world system, its emotions, its drives and its ways of thinking and acting! A brother sent me this quote recently,

“Christianity began in Palestine as an experience, it moved to Greece and became a philosophy, it moved to Italy and became an institution, it moved to Europe and became a culture, and it moved to America and became a business! We’ve left the experience [of Holy Spirit guided lives] long behind.” [1]

So true! Speaking for the opposite of this in a positive light, T. Austin- Sparks wrote:

You only need to read John to see how unattached everything is, how everything is lifted clean out of this world, and everything is bound up with the fact that Christ is in heaven, and that the Lord’s people are here, but not here; here, but not known; in the world, but not of it; a mystery people in this world so far as the world is concerned… unrecognized, unknown. And yet by that very means and for that very reason, the most potent force that this universe knows: the spiritual, hidden, secret people of God in this earth. To take hold of Christianity and mold it, and shape it, and systematize it, and crystallize it, and make it some mighty movement here; with its roots here, with all its associations such as man can see, appreciate and approve; to register itself upon the ordinary consciousness of this world as being something; all of that is contrary to the Word of God and is contrary to spiritual life and spiritual power. Christ is in heaven, and we are lifted out, translated, seated together with Him in the heavenlies. Our present purpose in this world is testimony only, by which others will be taken out of the nations, a people for His name. – T. Austin-Sparks [2]

It seems that every attack of the enemy is an effort to bring our focus and thoughts away from God and HIS kingdom and down to this world and the system that rules over it. Think about our daily existence. Aren’t we consumed with the cares and pleasures of this life? How much of our thoughts are focused on Jesus who sits at the right hand of God and His Spirit who abides in us? Even if we have thoughts and works that are by Him, how long until the enemy redirects those thoughts and works down to this worldly level?  Isn’t that what Satan was trying to do when Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness?

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread. ”But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him,  “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. (Matt 4:1-11, ESV2011)

Jesus had just been Baptized by John the baptizer and empowered with the Holy Spirit, symbolized by the dove at His baptism that had just taken place, and the Spirit lead Him into the wilderness. The same thing happened to Paul after His encounter with the Living Christ on the road to Damascus. He spent the following three years in the Damascus wilderness. In our new found zeal and excitement after becoming Spirit filled, we want to run right out and do exploits “for God.” Yet the most important thing Jesus (yes even He had to learn obedience through the things He suffered) and Paul learned was that there is no good thing in our flesh, and as Jesus said, “apart from Me you can do NOTHING!”

In Christ’s temptation Satan was trying to get Him to do anything, absolutely ANYTHING apart from hearing it from His Father, but He was not moved from His place IN the Father. This temptation was constantly put before Him all through the gospel accounts, even by His disciples. Satan knows that if we are bent on doing God’s work, he must pull that work down to an earthly level. So what happens? We are first tempted to ask men for the support of “our ministry” so we can do the work and still eat and have a roof over our heads, right? Young aspiring people who want to go out and preach for God are encouraged to go around to the churches and get pledges from people to support their work as missionaries or find a pulpit to preach from where the people will support them. “And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” How many of us seek First the kingdom of God and HIS righteousness and [let] all these other things be added unto us?

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Oh yes! We must go to the holy city and do our works there! The people of that city cry out, “So you are a Christian? What church are you going to? Who is your pastor? Who is your covering?” The city of Christendom is there waiting with its embrace that squeezes the life of the Spirit out of you until you are conformed into their image and not the image of Christ. There is room for lives ruled by the Spirit there.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

I remember a “holy man” of renown in our area whom I met with one time in my spiritual youth. After I told Him what God put on my heart he said, “You have a good message, but if you would just tone it down and soften it a bit you would find more Christian platforms from which to get your message out.” Yes, the devil took me to that high mountain, the mountain of Christendom, and tempted me to tailor what God had put in me so that I could have all their kingdoms open to me. I refused and as a result it is like Sparks wrote.

“Everything is lifted clean out of this world, and everything is bound up with the fact that Christ is in heaven, and that the Lord’s people are here, but not here; here, but not known; in the world, but not of it; a mystery people in this world so far as the world is concerned… unrecognized, unknown. And yet by that very means and for that very reason, the most potent force that this universe knows: the spiritual, hidden, secret people of God in this earth.”

This is why Jesus said even of Himself, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.” (Luke 4:24, ESV2011)

In Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, a town filled with churches and church Christians, I am totally unknown, especially among all the pastors and potentates of these churches or their people. Yet, as I wait on the leading of the Lord it is His “little ones” that He puts me in touch with at a restaurant here or a grocery store there in my daily life, even on the street in front of my house as when I talked to a young man working on the sewer line one day. God shows up with His divine appointments as we keep our eyes upon HIS kingdom more often that we realize. God is not about pulpits. Jesus didn’t spent all His time in synagogues or in the temple. In fact, more than once the leaders and the mob wanted to kill Him because He spoke the truth.

No, if we really do seek HIS kingdom and not the kingdoms of men or try to establish our own “ministry” kingdom, we will be “known, yet unknown” just as Paul said. In America everything is about grandeur-ism! Bigger is better. “I want it now and I want it biggy sized!” It’s all about “the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life.” And that is the mindset we come into the kingdom of God with. This is why the flesh has to be nailed to the cross of Christ. The way of the cross is all about decrease that He might increase in and through us.The carnal man seeks after a sign, something tangible to the five senses. He wants something he can see and put his hands on and possess, and so did the leaders of the Jews. They wanted Him to establish a worldly kingdom that they could be part of and rule over.

Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “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)

Dear saints, the kingdom of God is not found in bricks and mortar or in Christian City. It is being built in seclusion in the midst of us, in our hearts as we seek FIRST HIS Kingdom. Peter wrote,

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

Dear readers, may you be found standing IN Him alone in all your lives then you will have done all to stand against the temptations of the devil.

[1] https://quotefancy.com/paul-smith-quotes

]2] https://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002953.html

Unto Us a Son Is Given… the Son of God

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” (Isa 9:6-7, KJ2000)

These wonderful words came forth by the Spirit of God long after David and Solomon died and their throne and kingdom came to an end. It is obvious to those who walk by faith that it is Jesus Christ and His kingdom that Isaiah was speaking of because HE is the Prince of Peace, the Mighty God, and the Everlasting Father. There has been no end to the increase of His government and peace since the foundations of the world.

Many of the Jews and their leaders knew this passage and saw by the signs and miracles Jesus did that He was not just a prophet or just a good teacher, but if He was really the promised Messiah, when was He going to flex His real power on this earth and make the kingdoms of men into the kingdoms of God? And of course to them it meant that He would set the Jewish leaders as the heads of His world-wide government! But God and Jesus was and is Spirit and their kingdom is a spiritual kingdom. Jesus said that God’s kingdom 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, KJ2000). Yes, His kingdom is wherever Jesus is King, in our hearts, and not in this physical world or among its leaders with all their hidden agendas.

Samuel prophesied this to King David:

And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son… (2Sam 7:12-14, KJV)

Samuel was speaking of the Son of God, not Solomon. The kingdom of Israel was unified under David’s son, Solomon, but was divided upon his death between one of his sons and one of his generals. Israel has been divided and conquered ever since. Even today’s Israel is not that kingdom that was once ruled over by Solomon, which was ten times larger but is now is overrun by Gentile nations. So what could this prophesy of a kingdom that will last forever be speaking of other than the kingdom of God? Only Jesus Christ will sit upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.” The increase of Israel’s government came to an abrupt end in 68AD when the Roman soldiers sacked Jerusalem and the temple, not leaving one of its stones upon another, and killed and scattered the people of Israel all over the Roman Empire. Even now those who rule in modern Israel are divided against one another. The only thing that unifies that country is the fact that they are surrounded by enemies and come together in a common defense with their carnal weapons.

Where is this house that David’s seed was to build after him? Solomon’s temple? This too was only an earthly manifestation of what God has been building with living stones from the foundation of the world. It is sad how many Christians are as blind today as the Jews were during Christ’s first coming as they speak of Israel as “God’s chosen people” and are blind to their own birthright as the household of faith. Part of the problem is that as Jesus said, “Not everyone who says unto me, “Lord, Lord” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of my Father.” These do greatly err because they look to the place occupied by the Dome of the Rock as if it were God’s “Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the Great King,” expecting a new temple to be built there when the New Testament says so clearly that the temple of God is one made of living stones. Peter wrote:

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

Jesus is the cornerstone of that house, since Isaiah prophesied:

Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’ (Isa 28:16, ESV2011)

Jesus is the Cornerstone and Foundation of that house. Men are always trying to pull down what is heavenly and spiritual into the natural where they can manipulate it and control people. Today there is an “apostles and prophets movement” that claims to be the foundation the church and I have never seen such a display of carnality in my life as what I have seen in their writings, websites and meetings! Paul wrote:

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1Cor 3:10-11, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

Yes, let each one of these so-called “apostles and prophets” take care!

God spoke to Abraham and said, “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Gen 22:18, KJV). This is the promise that Paul wrote about.

Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. (Gal 3:16, KJV)

The people of God are not a people of a common blood line, religion, nationality, political leaning or set of doctrines, but are those who walk in the faith of Abraham, faith in Jesus Christ alone. Jesus told the Jews, “Abraham saw my day and he rejoiced.” Jesus spoke to Abraham even back then and he believed. “For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb 11:10, ESV2011). These Jewish leaders thought they had that city and the temple system under their control in an unholy alliance with Rome, and they were not about to give that up to the Son of the Vineyard Owner. Prophesying His own death, Jesus said, “But when the tenants [or the vineyard] saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize his inheritance” (see Matt. 21:33-41).

So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” (John 11:47-48, ESV2011)

It was here that they started plotting Christ’s death. When the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah and King, they rejected their place in God’s kingdom and it resulted in their own demise because this passage out of Matthew goes on…

“And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” (Matt 21:39-44, ESV2011)

Yes, “the kingdom of God will be [and was] taken away from you [them] and given to a people producing its fruits.” The gospel took root among the Gentile believers and those Jews who rejected that old temple system and produced fruit for the Master who is in heaven. But when the Jews repent and “look upon Him whom they have pierced” and weep and mourn, “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.” (Zech 13:1, ESV2011. See also Zech 12:10-14).

With God His promises have always been given to those who walk by faith, just as it’s written…

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Heb 11:6, KJ2000)

For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter [of the law]. His praise is not from man but from God. (Rom 2:28-29, ESV2011)

For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3:27-29, KJV)

And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. (Heb 3:5-6, KJV)

Dear saints, we need to quit looking to the kingdoms of this world and even church systems for our help and salvation. Political systems are not the answer. The kingdom of God does not come with things that are seen, but is in the hearts of those who walk by faith, listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit. The warning in Revelation is clear.

Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. (Rev 18:4-5, ESV2011)

Unto us and INTO us a Child has been born and a Son has been given. The government of God’s kingdom rests upon the shoulders of Jesus Christ and His kingdom is increasing day by day as His people listen to and follow His Spirit, not religious and political men who usurp His place in their lives. There is no end to the increase of His kingdom in our hearts as we obey the leading of the Spirit. Let us search our hearts and forsake all that is of this world system, dear brothers and sisters, and watch how the Holy Spirit comes alive and Christ’s kingdom increases within us for He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star. ”The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Rev 22:16-17, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

This Is My Beloved Son, Hear Ye Him!

Photo of the Idaho Sawtooth Mountains by Michael Clark

As I was praying and seeking the Lord this morning, I was lead to the following passages about the time when Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus on the holy mount. First we have Peter’s account.

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2Pet 1:16-21, ESV2011)

And Matthew gives the following account of what happened on that day,

And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. (Matt 17:3-8, ESV2011)

Prophesy from the mouth of God was spoken from heaven in their presence. It was so powerful that they fell on their faces and were terrified.

True prophesy comes when “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” To the extent that we are “carried along by the Holy Spirit” when we write or speaks determines whether it is “prophesy.” No it is not on the level which is recorded in the Bible, but it should always agree with what is there. Peter wrote,

If any man speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man ministers, let him do it as of the ability which God gives: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1Pet 4:11, KJ2000)

Upon seeing Moses and Elijah speaking with Jesus, Peter felt compelled to say something religious. In effect he was saying, “Oh wow, Jesus! This is really great. How about I build three tabernacles, one for each of you so we can capture the moment!” Here we have the flesh of Peter speaking out from his carnal mind when he should have been listening in silence to what was being said. As Jesus said, “The flesh profits nothing. My words they are Spirit and they are Life.”

Part of the reason God rebuked Peter was for him putting Jesus on the same plain as Moses and Elijah by building three tabernacles. In the first place, the Father was not interested in enshrining and bringing down to an earthly level what was going on in His heavenly realm. Rather, He was wanting to bring the thoughts, minds and hearts of those men up into His heavenly viewpoint. Men love to build shrines around God’s special spiritual moments. They want to capture what God is doing and bring it down to earth under their control. I was raised in the Catholic church and they, along with their Protestant counterparts, have built a shrine around everything they can think of that could be construed as a spiritual event here on earth. In Israel there are churches built over where they think Jesus was born, where they He died on the cross, and where He was buried for three days. There is even a monastery build on Mount Sinai where Moses received the Ten Commandments, and another where they figure Elijah was fed by the ravens! There is no end to religious man’s efforts to pull what is heavenly down to an earthly level. It’s all about control, men trying to control and package up what is of God and make a profit while they are at it. I have seen it happen time and again. It sickens me to see on the opening page of a Christian blog or website a “Donate” or a “PayPal” button. Peter warned us about this.

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privately shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingers not, and their damnation slumbers not. (2Pet 2:1-3, AKJV)

Another thing I have observed on the internet is when Christian blog writers go around and steal what other inspired writers share. The other day a man with a very large following put an article I wrote about my testimony on his website without including the web address where he got it. [1] Even worldly writers know that leaving this information out when quoting others is considered plagiarism. And even worse, people have put our books for sale on Amazon and it distinctly says on the back covers of each of them, “This book is not for sale.” We have never sold or asked for donations for anything we have written. We have freely given what God has freely given to us. Peter was right, “many shall follow their pernicious ways… and make merchandise of you.” When man puts his hand on or tries to make a profit on what God is doing, the Holy Spirit leaves and that move of God and prophetic word dies.

The other lesson I see in God’s rebuke of Peter that day is that he was putting Jesus on the same level of importance as the law and the prophets. Moses represented the law and Elijah represented the prophets. But look what God has to say about their purpose and place:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Heb 1:1-3, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

The writings of Moses and the prophets have one purpose – to testify about Jesus Christ (see Luke 24:25-27). Yet, today there are churches who totally focus on the law, and others focus on prophets and prophesy to the point that they exclude the words of Christ. Yet how many are totally given to listening to the Spirit of Christ and obeying His leading?

Peter wrote, “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts…” The Holy Spirit is that lamp shining in dark places in our hearts and Jesus is the Morning Star who is rising in our hearts as we grow in Christ by listening to His voice and obeying Him.

Dear saints, we would do well to heed the warning from God in this age when lying spirits abound “This is my beloved Son, HEAR YE HIM!”

[1] http://www.awildernessvoice.com/wilderness.html

Into His Eternal Truth

I have met many Christians who have grown just so far in Christ and have stop growing in their spiritual walk. In most cases they have found a denomination, doctrine or teacher on which they have settled and the adherence to them become an idol. Quite often they have found a teaching that allows a comfortable compromise with the kingdoms men in this world. They become familiar with the truth they found and stop seeking the Holy Spirit as their Teacher. Some have only known other humans as their teachers and have been counseled by them to not listen to God for themselves because “that is too dangerous.” Yet, this teaching in itself is where the danger lies. There are over 41,000 different Christian denominations and sects on earth today with each of them claiming they have “the truth” while they disagree with one another. Talk about deception! In the three opening chapters of the Book of Revelation Jesus repeats the same phrase to the seven churches, He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.” It seems that by the end of the first century when this was recorded, the Church had already becoming spiritually deaf. Jesus is the Word of God and His Spirit is still speaking, but are we listening?

This week I was seeking the Lord and meditating on the following verses:

But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father has are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you. (John 16:13-15, KJ2000)

This guiding us into ALL truth by the Spirit of God is an ongoing process because of the limitations of our own minds and ability to assimilate information. The more we adhere to human teachers, the more cluttered our minds get so that when the Holy Spirit does speak to us we filter it through all we have learned from our human teachers. We tend to latch onto something and quit listening, thinking we have arrived. But when the Spirit teaches us, so many things that we once thought we knew are either done away with or they are expanded and suddenly verses in the scriptures that we are familiar with take on a deeper meaning. Because of this, Isaiah’s prophesy about Jesus took on a deeper meaning for me.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end… from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (Isa 9:6-7, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

“Of the increase of His government there shall be no end… from this time forth and forevermore.” Yes, more and more people will yield to His oversight and leading in their lives, but in God’s kingdom that oversight and dominion continue to grow in each one of us as well. His zeal for His kingdom within us won’t let us be satisfied with a doctrine that teaches that once we’ve said a “sinner’s prayer,” we’re in! Paul wrote,

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:13-14, KJ2000)

If we are spiritually alive in Christ the Kingdom of God is ever expanding within us, taking over areas in our hearts and lives that He has not yet had dominion over. If we think we have found “the truth” and have fulfilled its purpose by giving mental assent and need not grow any further, we deceive ourselves and we become like the nation of Moab, who settled on their dregs.

Moab has been at ease from his youth and has settled on his dregs; he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, nor has he gone into exile; so his taste remains in him, and his scent is not changed. (Jer 48:11, ESV2011)

God’s rule, his government, is ever expanding and He won’t let us just “get saved,” join a church, attend our Sunday services regularly and rock on into His kingdom. No, if we continue to follow Christ we will soon find that He pours us from one vessel to another to remove the dregs that we have settled into. I cycled through many churches and denominations and gleaned a bit in each along the way, but he always had more He wanted to show me and so I had to move on to avoid being trapped in their fixed limitations. Sometimes He even forces us into exile away from all such Christian mediocrity and trains us for a period of time in His spiritual wilderness where our souls are weakened so HE can teach us. John wrote about the need to be taught by the Spirit instead of men saying,

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

God is not satisfied with the smell and taste we pick up as we settle into a Christian system. He only is content with the smell and taste of His own Son, Jesus Christ, thus all the refining we have to go through.

But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. (Mal 3:2-3, ESV2011)

Without all this purifying work being done by Him in us, none will stand before Him in the righteousness and purity of Christ when the end comes. God isn’t Tinkerbell. When we are saved He doesn’t just wave His magic wand over us and “POOF,” instant Christian! No, it is a process. James put it this way:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (Jas 1:2-4, ESV2011, also see John 16:33)

Science has found that God’s universe is ever expanding. Not only that, it is accelerating against the laws of physics. His creation takes after His own nature. He has done this so that we can look at the created things, learn about Him and know what He desires (see Romans 1:19-21). Only the black holes in space defy this expansion. There is a spiritual lesson in all this. If we refuse to grow IN Christ but rather live in our fleshly ways, we will become sucking spiritual black holes no light can escape from. Sad to say, I have known Christian leaders like this. God’s universe is always expanding and so is His life in us… “and of the increase of His government their shall be no end.” Where there is no steady increase of Christ within us, the Father’s governing power won’t be found. “Where there is no vision [no redemptive revelation of God], the people perish…: (Prov 29:18, AMP)). When John saw heaven he saw a multitude of people standing before God’s throne and was told,

“…These are they who came out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sits on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more… .For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (Rev 7:14-17, KJ2000)

In our natural ways, we avoid trials and tribulation at all cost, but we who are Christ’s are purified by being washed in the blood of the Lamb. In His suffering on the cross He led the way saying, “If any man would be my disciple, let HIM take up HIS cross and follow me.” There is a great deal of difference between a personal soul-killing cross and having our ears tickled Sunday after Sunday in our nice, warm, padded pews. As written above, It is my desire to be with Jesus day and night as His servant as He also serves me. If it requires tribulation in my life, so be it! I want to drink from His fountains of Living Water, not from the stagnant pools of Christendom, so I press on toward the high calling of Jesus Christ.

And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accused them before our God day and night.” And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto death. (Rev 12:10-11, KJ2000)

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. (Rom 8:37, KJ2000)

Dear saints, if we continue to abide IN Christ we will never stop growing as His kingdom expands within us. The intensity of His love will continue to enlarge our hearts and our faith in Him will continue to grow in spite of what the enemy throws at us. His hand upholds us through it all and hope in Him becomes greater and greater as a result. As Jesus feeds us spiritual food and as we drink from His fountains of Living water, our spiritual eyes will behold the wonders of His kingdom as it ever enlarges before us.

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. (Isa 30:20, ESV2011)

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1Cor 13:12-13, ESV2011)

I Have Not Come to Bring Peace, but the Sword

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today, If You Will Hear His Voice…

Photo by David Straight on Unsplash

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness, (Heb 3:7-8, NKJV)

Recently I was speaking with a dear saint about our Lord and how He wants to communicate with us on a daily, moment by moment basis, even about the minutest things we engage in or are concerned with. It was a sweet time of fellowship in which we felt the presence of the Lord. Then the above passage came to light which is in reference to the following passage in the book of Deuteronomy:

“Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God: (Deut 28:1-2, NKJV – emphasis added)

The first thing that we noticed was that it says, TODAY, if we will hear His voice and carefully observe all that He commands. It doesn’t say “yesterday” as if we can extrude verses from the Bible where His words are recorded from long ago and use our religious intellects to apply them to each situation. Satan tried that with Jesus during His temptation in the wilderness.

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” (Matt 4:5-6, ESV- emphasis added)

Yes, Satan knows how to use the Bible to lead us into error and sin. If Satan tried that with the Son of God, don’t you know that he can and will try that with you? The Bible is only useful for today as Jesus brings the scriptures to life and speaks to us about our lives in and through the Spirit, and we obey Him moment by moment. I always thought what Jesus said to the disciples is a contrast to merely reading the Bible out of curiosity or a daily religious regimen.

“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:25-26, ESV)

The key thing here is the need for the Holy Spirit to teach us! Without the Spirit guiding us with His still small voice, all our religious practices and Bible memorization are for naught. He went on to tell them:

“…When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12-15, ESV – emphasis added)

Wow! He said ALL! All that the Spirit of God has is ours as we listen and obey HIS voice as our only Guide.

The Holy Spirit was given to the ecclesia of God, the Church, on the day of Pentecost so that we would not have to wait until the sixteenth century to finally get our own personal Bibles so we could read what God wanted (For all those centuries the Church had no Bibles to read. If there were any that had been hand copied, they were written in a dead language that only scholars could discipher, then locked away in monasteries or chained to a pulpit). No, the Spirit, through whom the very Word of God was still speaking, did not leave them alone, just as Jesus promised. “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” What a wonderful communion we miss with God when we do not take the time to stop what we are doing and listen to HIS voice. What wonderful revelations and guidance we miss and what troubles we bring upon ourselves when we don’t obey that voice.

In Revelation we read the same phrase seven times, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” It seems that by the end of the first century when this book was written, the church had become spiritually deaf, because these seven churches were falling to all manner of spiritual delusions and lying teachers. They had left their First Love and stopped listening to HIS voice. Even today we have no shortage of Bible teachers, but how many of them point us to the Holy Spirit and our need to listen to HIM? All too many of them garner our devotion and attention to themselves. Instead of seeking to suckle on the breast of men, we are told we should be…

 “Like newborn infants, [and] long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him…” (1Pet 2:2-4, ESV- emphasis added)

Dear saints, without pure spiritual milk we will never grow up so that we can handle His spiritual meat, doing the will of God at every turn in our lives just as Jesus did (see John 4:34, KJV).

Father, please impress upon our hearts just how greatly we need spiritual ears to hear and glad hearts that obey your Spirit.

But He answered and said, “It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”‘ (Matt 4:4, NKJV- emphasis added)

Yes, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says [is saying] to the churches.”

 

We Are Christ’s Ambassadors and Not Our Own

He who speaks on his own authority seeks to win honor for himself. [He whose teaching originates with himself seeks his own glory.] But He Who seeks the glory and is eager for the honor of Him Who sent Him, He is true; and there is no unrighteousness or falsehood or deception in Him. (John 7:17-18, AMP)

So we are Christ’s ambassadors, God making His appeal as it were through us. We [as Christ’s personal representatives] beg you for His sake to lay hold of the divine favor [now offered you] and be reconciled to God. (2Cor 5:20, AMP)

Some of us here in America have been watching the impeachment hearings of our President. One thing that has struck me is how so many in the U.S. Executive branch, even so-called “ambassadors,” not only do not represent the President, instead, they seem to represent a united force with its own agenda within the government that is against him. It is evident from their own words that they are use to having things go their own way. Congress can do as it will, but Constitutionally the Executive Branch is supposed to represent the will of the Executive, the President of the United States!

As we can see from the above verse in 2 Corinthians, we who are Christ’s are to be HIS ambassadors. As Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees above, we are to represent Him in all that we say (and write) just as He represented the Father by His words and actions. If we write or speak from ourselves, we seek our own glory and not that of the one who has sent us into this world as members of HIS body and kingdom. All too much of the “Christian” preaching and teaching we hear today is out of the minds and intellects of carnal men and women who seek their own glory and advancement.

In “the parable of the talents,” Jesus warned what would happen to His earthly kingdom after He left. He knew that very few in His kingdom would represent His will even though He gave many of them the power and resources to carry it out.

As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten pounds, and said to them, `Trade with these till I come.’ But his citizens hated him and sent an embassy after him, saying, `We do not want this man to reign over us.’ When he returned, having received the kingdom, he commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by trading. The first came before him, saying, `Lord, your pound has made ten pounds more.’ And he said to him, `Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, `Lord, your pound has made five pounds.’ And he said to him, `And you are to be over five cities.’ Then another came, saying, `Lord, here is your pound, which I kept laid away in a napkin; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man; you take up what you did not lay down, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, `I will condemn you out of your own mouth, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money into the bank, and at my coming I should have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, `Take the pound from him, and give it to him who has the ten pounds.’ (And they said to him, `Lord, he has ten pounds!’) `I tell you, that to every one who has will more be given; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them before me.'” (Luke 19:11-27, RSV)

Most of the preaching I’ve heard regarding this passage has emphasized the need for human talents to be used for God. That is not at all what Jesus was saying! Human gifts and talents that have not been crucified are of no use to Him. First we see Him warning them that He would be going away for a long time. Then we see the treachery of His own so-called followers. But his citizens hated him and sent an embassy after him, saying, `We do not want this man to reign over us.’ (Luke 19:14, RSV) What treachery! We might not say those words to Jesus, but don’t we enact them when we constantly do our own wills in this life? We can choose to be His ambassadors here on earth or we can prove by our hearts and actions that we really do not want Christ ruling over us as His devout followers and representatives. This is truly demonstrated when we follow false teachers, prophets and apostles instead of the leading of HIS Spirit! Paul wrote:

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2Cor 5:20-21, NIV)

Dear saints, it is as we abide IN Him as His ambassadors on earth and not in and out-from ourselves, we prove our true motivation is of the Spirit, not by doing our own wills for our own glory. He gives each of us the spiritual gifts we need to give back what belongs to Him. As we can see from the above parable, anything less in the eyes of God is rebellion. Finally, let us be encouraged by what Paul wrote to the Corinthians.

I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way–in all your speaking and in all your knowledge– because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. (1Cor 1:4-10, NIV)

If we are all abiding in HIS Spirit, doing His will, we will manifest that we are all ONE in the Spirit. May all our knowledge and all our speaking and teaching be a confirmation that we are abiding IN Him. As Paul put it, “You are not your own, you have been bought with a price.”

The Need for an Epiphany

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

 

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

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines the word epiphany as:

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

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

(3)  an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are We Still Clinging to Our Zoar?

Leaving it all behind

Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash

 

Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. (Luke 17:28-30, KJ2000)

Many Christians who read the Bible compartmentalize its verses. They either make them apply to people they do not approve of, or apply them to another time (dispensationalism), especially if those verses start to make them feel uncomfortable about themselves. But the Holy Spirit won’t let me get away with that any more. He always reminds me of this verse as I contemplate any passage in the Bible:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (2Tim 3:16, ESV2011)

What part of ALL don’t we understand? ALL scripture is breathed out by God not only for teaching, but for reproof and correction as well as training us in HIS righteousness. So, I am used to not only listening to the voice of the Spirit for what He might say to me, but when He gives me a scripture, I have to ask Him, “Where do I fit in what He is saying to me?”

I didn’t start out that way. Like most church folks I knew, I loved to put the warnings of God’s word on everyone else but me. One of the first books that my church going aunt gave to me upon finding out that I was saved was a book on eschatology! I didn’t need to know about Bible prophesy, but rather who is this Jesus that has taken hold of me? So with the latest group of scriptures he had me contemplating, I wondered what His judgment on Sodom in the days of Lot had to do with today and my life in Christ. It is odd in the above text that Jesus did not have one word to say about sodomy or homosexuality, isn’t it? No, they ate, they drank, they bought and sold, they planted and they built. It was business as usual by people who had the focus of their lives on this world until God’s judgment destroyed all their works. Sound familiar?

As I contemplated this and many other passages about Sodom and let Him apply them to my life, a pattern started to form, and not one that I expected. In Genesis we read about how God forewarned Abraham about the judgment coming on Sodom and Gomorrah. The problem was that Abraham knew that Lot, his wife and his two daughters lived in Sodom and so he did all he could to convince God not to do such a thing. Two angels visited Abraham and told him that Sarah would have a son in her old age and he would be the father of a great nation. The angels then headed off to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because the people there were evil in all their ways. God does that–He destroys a people who have become altogether irredeemable and then raises up a people who will walk with Him by faith.

It is here that I want to quote Abraham’s conversation with God.

Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” And the LORD said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” And the LORD went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place. (Gen 18:23-33, ESV2011)

As the story goes on, the two angels entered Sodom after leaving Abraham and were invited to stay overnight with Lot and his family. As it got dark, the men of that evil city banged on his door and wanted to seduce his guests. While Lot was arguing with them, begging them not to do such an evil thing to his house guests, the angels grabbed him and drew him inside and blinded those men so that they could not find the door. When morning came, the two angels had to take Lot, his wife and two daughters by the hand and drag them out of the city before God’s judgment fell. The story continues:

As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.” But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords. Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life. But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved!” He said to him, “Behold, I grant you this favor also, that I will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. Escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. (Gen 19:15-22, ESV2011)

We don’t know how many years Lot lived there in Sodom. We do know that when Abraham and he parted ways, Lot chose the fertile plain which was much more pleasant for him and his herds, while Abraham chose what was left, the mountains with all their dangers. Abraham walked by faith and Lot walked by sight. Because of Abraham’s faith, God kept him. It was not long until Lot was living in Sodom and nothing more is heard about him being a herdsman. The easy ways of this world are like that. They just keep sucking us into their more comfortable ways that are in league with our flesh. Abraham walked by faith, but Lot lacked such faith that God would keep him and bless him as He had Abraham, and he chose the artificial city life of fallen man.

Now, to get to what the Lord was saying to me out of all this. In the first passage we see Abraham arguing with the Lord about saving those cities for the sake of a few “good people” that might live in them. In the second we see Lot pleading with the angels to let him live in that “little city.” What harm can a little city do, after all? “Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved!” As we read on we see that what Lot thought would save his life soon became dangerous as well. We do that. We put more trust in something that seems “good” to our natural man that we might save our life, but God knows the hidden dangers to our spiritual walk. Jesus said, “He who finds his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for my sake shall find it.” Our lives in the world and its ways are all too precious to us in the eyes of God.

Escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. (Gen 19:22, ESV2011)

Now Lot went up out of Zoar and lived in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to live in Zoar. So he lived in a cave with his two daughters. (Gen 19:30, ESV2011)

“’I can do nothing until you arrive there.’ Therefore the name of the city is Zoar.” Zoar means “little or to be brought low.” God can do nothing with any of us, no matter how gifted we might be, until He has brought us low, and we admit that we have nothing in us that is good. We must become as a little child if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven. As John the Baptist said about Jesus, “He must increase, I must decrease.” God can do nothing with what we think we might have to offer Him, but oh, how we plead for Him to save any perceived “goodness” we have in us. “But Lord, if there be just 50, just 45, just 30, just 20… how about only ten good things in me, can I avoid the destruction that the cross demands in my life?” “Lord, let’s be reasonable. Let me have just a little safe haven, something I can cling to in this life. It all can’t be evil, can it?”  The longer we walk after Christ the more we find out just how uncompromising this walk is.  “None are righteous, no not one.” “All our righteousness is as filthy rags.” “The flesh profits nothing.” And finally in our ever growing weakness by the working of the cross we hear Him say, “Apart from me you can do nothing,” and we believe it.

Escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.” Until we become small in our own sight, so small that we no longer look to our Zoar for safety, but see that even the best hopes in and of ourselves are not safe, God cannot manifest the life of His Son in us. He can do nothing with us but set us aside as so many cave dwellers until we, like Elijah, no longer try to hear His voice in the earthquakes, winds and fires of the fleshly ways of men, but rather hear His slightest whisper saying, “This is the way of the Lord, walk you in it.”

Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot… Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.” In the economy of the Father it is all about his Son being revealed in us. We as individual believers are in the days of Lot, much deeper than we ever thought. But there is hope…

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1Pet 4:12-13, ESV2011)