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

Why Pastoral Abuse Continues Unabated in America

Then came his disciples, and said unto him, “Know you that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?” But he answered and said, “Every plant, which my heavenly Father has not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” (Matt 15:12-14, KJ2000)

Recently in her blog “A Voice Reclaimed,” Anna Waldherr wrote two articles about pastoral abuse in both Catholic (1) and Protestant churches (2) that seems to be running rampant here in America today. She quoted this astute observation by a New York Times writer who did an investigative report on one such church, Willow Creek in Barrington, IL, and its pastor Bill Hybels.

In many evangelical churches, a magnetic pastor like Mr. Hybels is the superstar on whom everything else rests, making accusations of harassment particularly difficult to confront. Such a pastor is seen as a conduit to Christ, giving sermons so mesmerizing that congregants rush to buy tapes of them after services.

In the evangelical world, Mr. Hybels is considered a giant, revered as a leadership guru who discovered the formula for bringing to church people who were skeptical of Christianity. His books and speeches have crossed over into the business world.

Mr. Hybels built a church independent of any denomination. In such churches, there is no larger hierarchy to set policies and keep the pastor accountable. Boards of elders are usually volunteers recommended, and often approved, by the pastor.

But the most significant reason sexual harassment can go unchecked is that victims do not want to hurt the mission of their churches. (3)

There is a principle that never fails to be true whether it be in secular governments, corporations, Catholic or Protestant churches. Lord Acton of England said it well in about 1904 while talking with an Anglican bishop.

“It is not a question of who has the right rule [over others]. No one has the right to rule. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely!”

Below the sentences in bold are from the above N.Y. Times quote.

  • “a magnetic pastor like Mr. Hybels is the superstar on whom everything else rests”

People flock to charismatic and powerful personalities whether it be in sports, Hollywood, politics, or even in the churches. It is a form of idolatry. They are looking for a flesh and blood god to stand before them. Even in Christian circles, Jesus who they cannot see is not enough, because believing in Him requires faith (see Hebrews 11:1). Most “Christians” lack a faith that trusts in Christ alone without being fortified by highly visible men telling them what they want to hear. At best these are “carnal Christians” or at worst pagans with a religion. They even fall down before their gods and worship. When these church leaders have an “altar call,” the faithful go forward and kneel before them and pray, awaiting a touch or a word from their holy man to let them know that they got “saved.” This tradition is not scriptural, neither is the “altar call,” nor kneeling before a man (a tradition popularized by Charles Finney, not Jesus or the Apostles). For instance, look at the way that Apostle Paul dealt with this kind of idolatry when it was aimed at him and Barnabas.

While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was listening as Paul preached, and Paul noticed him and realized he had faith to be healed. So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking. When the listening crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in their local dialect, “These men are gods in human bodies!” They decided that Barnabas was the Greek god Zeus and that Paul, because he was the chief speaker, was Hermes. The temple of Zeus was located on the outskirts of the city. The priest of the temple and the crowd brought oxen and wreaths of flowers, and they prepared to sacrifice to the apostles at the city gates. But when Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening, they tore their clothing in dismay and ran out among the people, shouting, “Friends, why are you doing this? We are merely human beings like yourselves! We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. In earlier days he permitted all the nations to go their own ways, but he never left himself without a witness. There were always his reminders, such as sending you rain and good crops and giving you food and joyful hearts.” But even so, Paul and Barnabas could scarcely restrain the people from sacrificing to them. (Acts 14:8-18, NLT)

Today, we don’t offer animal sacrifices to these men, but we gladly dig deep into our pockets and purses to bless them as the offering plate goes by. (This practice was initiated by Queen Elizabeth I in 1662 in the Church of England and it has stuck ever since). Paul did not encourage this practice either (see below).

Paul did not rely on his speaking ability or personal charisma to sway men into believing in Christ.

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1Cor 2:1-5, ESV2011).

For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed— God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ” (1Thess 2:5-6, ESV2011).

The problem today is that very few men who share the gospel rely in the power of God, but rather their own powers of human persuasion. The result is millions of people who think they are born again, but instead they are spiritual stillbirths. Salvation has to be the result of God personally gifting us with saving faith IN Jesus Christ and in no other.

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13, RSV)

  • Such a pastor is seen as a conduit to Christ

The apostles pointed all men to Christ and away from themselves (who were mere servants of Jesus). When the Corinthians were putting Christ’s messengers in the place of Christ, Paul told them they were “carnal” and not spiritual at all. I am afraid that the churches in America more resemble the believers in Corinth than those in Ephesus whom Jesus commended.

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each” (1Cor 3:1-5, ESV2011).

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, (1Tim 2:5, RSV- emphasis added)

  • “giving sermons so mesmerizing that congregants rush to buy tapes of them after services.”
  • “In the evangelical world, Mr. Hybels is considered a giant, revered as a leadership guru… His books and speeches have crossed over into the business world.”

Oh, yes, the true sign of a “powerhouse for God”–MONEY! And what did Jesus have to say about this?

“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matt 6:24, NLT)

And  Paul wrote,

“I have never coveted anyone’s money or fine clothing. You know that these hands of mine have worked to pay my own way, and I have even supplied the needs of those who were with me. And I have been a constant example of how you can help the poor by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: `It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” (Acts 20:33-35, NLT)

Did the apostles retail their messages as is so common today with the sales of seminars, books and tapes? Here is what Paul and Peter had to say about that.

What then is my reward? Just this: that in my preaching I may make the gospel free of charge, not making full use of my right in the gospel. (1Cor 9:18, RSV)

For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, we did not eat any one’s bread without paying, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not burden any of you. It was not because we have not that right, but to give you in our conduct an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If any one will not work, let him not eat. (2Thess 3:7-10, RSV)

But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach their destructive heresies about God and even turn against their Master who bought them. Theirs will be a swift and terrible end. Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. And because of them, Christ and his true way will be slandered. In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money. But God condemned them long ago, and their destruction is on the way. (2Pet 2:1-3, NLT- emphasis added)

  • “In such churches, there is no larger hierarchy to set policies and keep the pastor accountable. Boards of elders are usually volunteers recommended, and often approved, by the pastor.”

Even when there is a hierarchy, elders or a denominational board of directors in these churches, they are likely to rubber stamp the wishes of their cash-cow man in the limelight. When he is asked to step down because he caused them so much embarrassment, it is with the mindset of laundering him as quickly as possible so that he can get back on center stage once again and cut their losses. Bill Hybels might have stepped away from the pulpit, but he is still active behind the scenes at Willow Creek Church.

  • “But the most significant reason sexual harassment can go unchecked is that victims do not want to hurt the mission of their churches.”

Oh yes. The “No Speak” rule. This is how it works: cover for the one caught in sin and cast blame on the ones he has enticed and seduced. We have seen in recent years the fruit of this rule being carried out “in spades” in the Catholic church where pedophile priests have abused thousands of children and been covered for by the hierarchy. But it is often the same in Protestant churches. The higher the profile (and the more money they bring into the denomination), the more they cover up the abuses of these men and keep the machine going.

I typed in “pastoral abuse of authority” on Google and got 3,070,000 hits! Do you think that this problem might be completely out of control? If we had only followed Jesus’ command to His disciples…

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men 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 the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45, RSV)

A few years back, George Davis and I wrote an article, “Apostles, True or False.”

Jesus said, “…you tried those pretending to be apostles, and are not, and have found them liars” (Revelation 2:2). The trial of those who pretended to be apostles is listed among the positive actions of the Ephesian Church, which pleased the Lord. We are fully aware that we are living in a day when many of God’s children fail to understand the difference between testing and judgment, discernment and criticism, and view all speech and writing of a negative nature as critical and destructive. This has led to a general no-speak climate enforced by those in control that resists reform and allows unchecked deception. We are commanded to prove (dokimazo – to test, examine, scrutinize) the genuineness of all things and hold fast to what is good. (See 1Thessalonians 5:21). (4)

The more things change in the churches, the more that the root problem in them remains–abuse of authority that was never supposed to be in the hands of church men, but rather only in hands of Christ. This is part of the reason why instead of only ONE Church throughout the whole world (see John 17:21), there are over 41,000 Christian denominations and sects that only give lip-service to Him as the Head and Builder of His Church. God’s judgment is on this system called “The Christian Church.”

Then this message came to me from the LORD: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds, the leaders of Israel. Give them this message from the Sovereign LORD: Destruction is certain for you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep? You drink the milk, wear the wool, and butcher the best animals, but you let your flocks starve. You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the broken bones. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with force and cruelty. So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd… Though you were my shepherds, you didn’t search for my sheep when they were lost. You took care of yourselves and left the sheep to starve. Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD. This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I now consider these shepherds my enemies, and I will hold them responsible for what has happened to my flock. I will take away their right to feed the flock, along with their right to feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths; the sheep will no longer be their prey. “For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search and find my sheep. I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places to which they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day. (Ezek 34:1-12, NLT)

He judged the Shepherds of Israel and His heavy hand will come down on this Christian system that is abusing His people as well. Dear saints, this last days religious system is called “Babylon the Great” in Revelations and the warning to us is clear. Do all pastors abuse their place as shepherds? No, but the larger a congregation gets and the larger their church building, the greater is the propensity for corruption for Satan still knows that if he can smite the shepherd with sin, his sheep will be scattered. Jesus called this system Babylon the Great the mother of harlots in Revelation and to those who in its grip He calls today,

“Come away from her, my people. Do not take part in her sins, or you will be punished with her. For her sins are piled as high as heaven, and God is ready to judge her for her evil deeds.” (Rev 18:4-5, NLT)

After he [Jesus] has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they recognize his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t recognize his voice.” (John 10:4-5, NLT)

Dear saints of God, learn the different between the voices of strangers and the voice of Christ’s Spirit and no matter what they say follow HIM.

(1) https://avoicereclaimed.com/2018/08/19/predator-priests-part-1/

(2) https://avoicereclaimed.com/2018/08/26/predator-priests-part-2/

(3) https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/05/us/bill-hybels-willow-creek-pat-baranowski.html

(4) http://awildernessvoice.com/ApostlesTorF.html

The Old vs. the New Covenant (the natural vs. the spiritual) – revised 8/11/18

 

New Birth – photo by Michael Clark

Looking around Christendom as I often do, I have concluded that we Christians really don’t see just how spiritual our New Covenant with the Father really is. If we did, we would not be serving so many Old Testament models, worldly paradigms and traditions in our institutions or praying so often for our worldly comforts instead of seeking first HIS kingdom. As Paul warned the Corinthians, we are yet carnal. Don’t we know that we are no longer of this world, engrossed in its temporal things and methods, but have been born of the Spirit of God? Paul wrote:

And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a life-giving spirit. But that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, made of dust: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. (1Cor 15:45-49, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

How often have you been accused of “being so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good”? I know I have been. I used to hand out tracks, “buttonhole” people on street corners for Jesus, go door to door and make myself miserable, because it was put on me by men and not energized by the Holy Spirit within me. I did not know back then that Jesus told His disciples, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Paul wrote to the Ephesians and Colossians:

For you were once darkness, but now are you light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. (Eph 5:8-11, KJ2000)

If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with him in glory. (Col 3:1-4, KJ2000)

What are the “unfruitful works of darkness” if they aren’t dead works void of the Spirit? Zechariah (see Zech. 4) was shown the difference between Old Covenant works of the Law and walking by the Spirit when he saw seven golden lamps (symbolizing the seven churches and seven spirits of God that John saw in Revelation). These were oil lamps (not candlesticks) that were fed their supply of oil (a symbol of the Holy Spirit) by tubes that came down from the throne of God. When asked by God if he knew what he was being shown, he heard these words, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord of Hosts.” This vision was contrary to the Old Testament system he was part of where the menorah (golden lampstand) in the Holy Place got its supply of olive oil in a different way! In that system it was up to the temple priests to service these lamps with new wicks and keep them filled with pure olive oil. In the eyes of God and the NEW Covenant, this was by human might and power, but NOT by His Spirit. The prophet was given a vision of what it means to walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh (See also Galatians 5:16-18). As we grow up in the Spirit of God we will find that His Spirit is sufficient in teaching us all that God has for us and we will become less dependent on men to teach us (see Hebrews 5:12-14).

All too many of us come into the church thinking we have something to offer God because of our own soulish and natural talents that have served us well in the world. God has no place in HIS kingdom for the works of the old uncrucified Adam within us. Dietrich Bonheoffer was a man who died for his faith in Christ in Nazi Germany. He once said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” As we abide in Christ our old man is crucified and we who are His are given the Holy Spirit to walk by and nothing less. “For you were once darkness, but now are you light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Eph 5:8, KJ2000). We are light only as we walk IN the Lord. If we walk the deeds and talents of our flesh we are still “darkness” in the eyes of God (see also 1 John 1:5-7).

One person pointed out that as Christians we are supposed to be spiritual beings having an earthly experience, not worldly beings having spiritual experiences. Paul spoke of this when he wrote:

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2Cor 5:17, KJ2000)

For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:8-10, KJ2000)

Jesus only did the works he saw the Father doing. When we walk by the Spirit, we do as Jesus did—we follow God’s master plan for us, not presupposing what He wants. All too many Christians walk in the vanity of their minds saying, “Now in this instance, what would Jesus do?” as if we in our carnal minds could imagine or find out by reading the Bible what works HE has foreordained for us to walk in!

Paul was in Corinth and while there we read, When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled [KJV, “pressed”] by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 18:5, NKJV). Have you ever felt convicted by the Spirit to make right something that you said or did that was wrong or from a wrong spirit within you? I have and it is like a heavy weight pressing on my chest until I go to that person and make it right. I have been constrained by the Spirit to take a course of action that I could never have found by searching the gospels to find out “what Jesus would have done.” In His kingdom it is not “What would Jesus do,” but rather, “What is Jesus doing through me?”

The table below shows some of the differences between the Old Covenant God made with the Jews and the New Covenant that those who are Christ’s are to walk in. It would do many of us well to read all the scripture references in this table so we could begin to have an idea just how vastly different our New Covenant with Christ really is from the Old.

The Old Covenant… The New Covenant…
Was done away with by God (Romans Romans 7:4, 10:4; Hebrews 8:7-13, 10:18-19) Is a NEW and Lasting Covenant that replaces the old (John 14:6; Hebrews 10:20, 13:20)
Was an earthly covenant (Hebrews 9:23-28) Is a spiritual, heavenly covenant (Hebrews 11:13-16, 13:14)
Was overseen by a special priest cast, the Levites (Deut. 10:8, Ezekiel 44:15) Is a kingdom of royal priests (all believers in Christ) unto God (1 Peter 2:9, Rev. 1:6)
Had earthly high priests who continually offered up sacrificial animals for their sins ( Exodus 39:38, Hebrews 5:1-3;10:11) Has a High Priest (Jesus) who made Himself an offering once for all our sins and is in heaven before God making intercession for us (Hebrews 7:24-25, 10:10-14),
Had a fixed physical temple (which was done away with) at its center that was necessary for conducting animal sacrifices (1 Kings ch. 8, Luke 13:34-35, Hebrews 8:8-13,) Has a vast temple spanning the world with Christ as its Foundation and Cornerstone and is made with living stones (Isaiah 28:16, 1 Cor. 3:11, 1 Peter 2:4-6, Isaiah 66:1, John 4:21-24)
Had an earthly kingdom, Israel, who failed to keep the law of the covenant (Exodus 12:25) Is a heavenly kingdom wherein dwells righteousness (Luke 17:20-21, John 18:36, 2 Peter 3:13)
Included  a law that forced people to rest one day (the Sabbath) each week (Exodus 31:13-17) Is where we have entered into God’s eternal rest knowing that His works were finished from the foundation of the world (Hebrews 4:1-9, 6:1; Eph. 2:8-10)
Was broken by sinful men who were brought under a curse (Leviticus 26:14-39; Jeremiah 11:7-10, 31:31-32; Matt. 23:37-39; Galatians 3:10-12) Is not dependent on the righteousness of man, but on Christ’s righteousness alone where we are free from the curse of sin (Romans 5:18, 2 Peter 1:1)
Was dependant on the works of the law (Romans 2:10-13, 10:5) Is dependent on faith in the works of Jesus Christ bringing an end to law keeping for all who believe (Romans 8:3-4,10:4; Galatians 2:16)
(The Law) Was a strict schoolmaster meant to keep us in check by the threat of punishment (Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Galatians 3:23-24) Sets us free from Old Covenant law keeping as we walk by faith and abide in His love (Galatians 3:25-26, 5:1-6)
Was based on human effort to be righteous, “Thou shalt…” and “Thou shalt not…” (Exodus 20:1-17) Is dependent on God creating His righteousness within us as His new creations by HIS will (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:25-27, 2 Corinthians 5:17-19, Hebrew ch. 8)
Was founded by a human law giver, Moses (Deut. 4:44-45, John 1:17) Is founded by the very Son of God with grace for grace (John 1:16-17, Eph. 2:8)
Had its laws written on tablets of stone for stony hearts (Exodus 24:12, Ezekiel 11:19) Has His laws internalized, written on our hearts and motivated to do them by His Spirit (Jeremiah 31:31-33, 2 Corinthians 3:3)
Was weak because of sinful flesh (Acts 13:39, Romans 8:3a) Is spiritually powerful as we abide IN Christ’s grace (Acts 1:8, Romans 8:1-3b, 4,15-16, 37)
Was dependant on the soul (mind, will and emotions) of man to keep it (Exodus 19:7-9, Nehemiah 10:9) Is dependent on our spirits being unified with His Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17, Ephesians 1:22-23, 5:30-32)
Was based on man’s obedience to the whole law (Deut:11:26-28, 28:15; Galatians 3:10-11) Is based on Christ’s obedience who took the curse upon Himself for us (Romans 5:17-19, Galatians 3:11-14),
Was made with one nation, Israel, as “God’s people” (Jeremiah 11:4) Is made up of all people who believe in Christ who are His New Creation (Isaiah 49:5-6, John 3:16, Galatians 6:14-16)

Paul thus sums up the message of the Good News (gospel) when he said,

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:4-6, ESV2011)

Though we are still on this earth, we who are Christ’s are to walk before Him by the Spirit because we now dwell in heavenly places IN Christ Jesus and have been given spiritual sight.

Loaves and Fishes Christians or Broken Vessels unto God’s Glory?

The Jews who followed Jesus were totally focused on their temporal needs. At one point they were even going to take Him by force and make Him their King because He fed them. Then He told them something very spiritual that made many of them stop following Him. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whosoever eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.  For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him.” Have you ever thought that by dwelling in Him and He in us, we are actually partaking of His body and blood because we are one with Him? He later told the twelve disciples, Does this offend you? …It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (see John chapter six).

Both Jews and Gentiles wanted Him to heal their bodies (or the bodies of their servants and children) and He did, but he was more interested in healing their eternal souls. He said to them, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’?” (see Matthew 9:1-8) On another occasion Jesus said, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”  Some of us have had physical afflictions, as did Paul and Timothy, and God has refused to heal them. He has done this that we might discover that “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” to this Paul observed, “When I am weak, then am I strong.”

The Jews also wanted Him to lead a rebellion, cast the Romans out and set up an earthly kingdom for them to rule. They ignored the fact that God is Spirit, as is His kingdom is, so should His children be. Today we who focus on politics to get what we want are doing the same thing. Jesus said to Pilate during His trial, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, but now is my kingdom not from here.” Do we know what spirit we are of? Then why do we fight as the world does? When the disciples wanted to call down fire on a Samaritan village because they refuse to let them pass through it, He rebuked them, and said, You know not what manner of spirit you are of, for the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”

On another occasion He told His disciples, “The kingdom of God comes not with outward observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” The kingdom of God is not temporal nor is it like the world systems of men based on hierarchy, but we are a kingdom of servants bound to one another by His love (See Mark 10:42-45). As Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another… God so loved the world…!”

Dear saints, I join with Paul and pray.

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might. (Eph 1:16-19, ESV2011)

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. (Rev 21:22-23, ESV2011)

 

 

“If I Were You…”

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world— to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37, ESV2011)

As I was speaking with a dear saint recently, the subject of hearing and obeying Jesus’ voice came up. We were talking about living in the truth. As we fellowshipped in the Spirit it was evident that Jesus is the Truth and to live in the truth is to live in Christ. Many of us who call ourselves “Christians” consult many sources to find the truth of how we should live or what course of action we should take. Some of us go running to our pastor or a Christian counselor for advice. Some of us research on the web, read self-improvement books, or even watch TV shows like Dr. Phil to find out what we should do. Yet again, many search the Bible and believe that in it we will find all that we need to do what is right in this life, but is that what Jesus said (see John 5:39-40)?

In the opening verse above we see that Jesus proclaimed Himself as our King. Why? So that He could show us the truth and that we would obey Him. So, many of us turn to not only the Bible, but to His words in the Bible to know the truth. Yet is that what He told Pilate? To find the truth we must listen to the One who IS the Truth! Jesus said, “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Do we really take the time to pray and listen to His voice and let Him direct our thoughts and actions? Do we invite Him into our family relationships and fellowship with others that He might direct our conversations and our hearts?

Susanne Schuberth wrote on her blog about a breaking point in her life.

I had begun to struggle with bipolar depression beginning in summer 2000 after our family had left the Christian cult we had attended for more than 5 years. There were a few reasons why that mental disease could put a stranglehold on me several times until 2008 and one of them was that our marriage seemed to have come to its very end which was one of the most painful situations I/we had to deal with. One day as I had been pondering on the pros and cons of divorce in detail, I eventually asked the Lord what to do. Knowing the legalistic approach both of the RCC and the cult we had joined, I was very surprised to come to know a side of God which had been unknown to me before. At that time I was so insecure about what to do that I dared to ask God how He would deal with me if I really got divorced. I could not have been more amazed as Jesus said, “I will be with you whatever you do.”

Wow!!! Knowing the Scriptures regarding divorce rather well, I was overwhelmed by His answer. That it was really God who spoke to me became immediately clear because I suddenly knew that I trusted Him, esp. in these matters, without any reservation. Such a great love of God…..indeed, only having read the Bible, I would have never thought that God really IS love. From that point on as I was convinced that I could fully trust Him, I even dared to ask Jesus earnestly, “What would You do if you were in my place?” His simple answer was, “If I were you, I would stay.” (1)

In a time of desperation, this sister really dared to trust Jesus with her life and her marriage! She could have read the Old Testament and concluded that divorce was okay. Even the New Testament gives place for divorce in some cases. But she bothered to ask God what HE thought about her case and Jesus gave her an answer that a true lover of Christ could understand, “If I were you, I would stay,” and she did just that. As a result of her listening to His voice on a daily basis and following Him, Jesus has been making Himself manifest in their marriage and healing all the old wounds in their family. God has been proving to her the depth of what Paul said to that Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved and your household.”

“If I were you…” Isn’t that what Jesus is after in each of our lives? Paul put it this way, “For me to live is Christ…” Daily and moment by moment we face this choice when we abide in Christ. It is not just “What would Jesus do,” in a generic (one size fits all) sense, but “What is Jesus seeking to do in me in a moment by moment personal way?” May we all take the time to seek Him out as we surrender to His rule in our lives.

(1) https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/christ-in-us-the-hope-of-glory/

Let No Man Usurp the Place of Christ, Part 1

Preacher

 

But you are not to be called rabbi (teacher), for you have one Teacher and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone [in the church] on earth father, for you have one Father, Who is in heaven. And you must not be called masters (leaders), for you have one Master (Leader), the Christ. (Matt 23:8-10, AMP)

Now why did Jesus say this? Aren’t we to have human teachers and leaders in the church? Dear saints, as I pointed out in my last blog the Holy Spirit is our Teacher and here we see that only Christ is our Leader for HE alone is THE Good Shepard.

It really disturbs my heart when people write or come to me as if I was “The Bible Answer Man,” especially when they are old enough in Christ to hear His voice for themselves as their Teacher. When this happens I feel like I am usurping His place in their lives. Yet, this is the accepted norm in today’s Christendom. Men get degrees and clamor to be in this place of authority in the lives of Christ’s sheep. Not only that, but some of His sheep, like ancient Israel, desire to have a human king to rule over them (see 1 Samuel 8:4-7). It offended God then and it offends Him now.

I just read the March 24th “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers and he put his finger right on where the problem lies and why this accepted norm among Christians bothers me so much…

Decreasing for His Purpose

He must increase, but I must decrease.John 3:30

If you become a necessity to someone else’s life, you are out of God’s will. As a servant, your primary responsibility is to be a “friend of the bridegroom” [never the Bridegroom Himself] (John 3:29). When you see a person who is close to grasping the claims of Jesus Christ, you know that your influence has been used in the right direction. And when you begin to see that person in the middle of a difficult and painful struggle, don’t try to prevent it, but pray that his difficulty will grow even ten times stronger, until no power on earth or in hell could hold him away from Jesus Christ. Over and over again, we try to be amateur providences in someone’s life. We are indeed amateurs, coming in and actually preventing God’s will and saying, “This person should not have to experience this difficulty.” Instead of being friends of the Bridegroom, our sympathy gets in the way. One day that person will say to us, “You are a thief; you stole my desire to follow Jesus, and because of you I lost sight of Him.”

Beware of rejoicing with someone over the wrong thing, but always look to rejoice over the right thing. “…the friend of the bridegroom…rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:29-30). This was spoken with joy, not with sadness— at last they were to see the Bridegroom! And John said this was his joy. It represents a stepping aside, an absolute removal of the servant, never to be thought of again.

Listen intently with your entire being until you hear the Bridegroom’s voice in the life of another person. And never give any thought to what devastation, difficulties, or sickness it will bring. Just rejoice with godly excitement that His voice has been heard. You may often have to watch Jesus Christ wreck a life before He saves it (see Matthew 10:34).

One time I was with a small home fellowship and we were talking about listening to the Lord’s voice when this older sister spoke up and said that she had never heard Him speak to her. I asked her what she listened to all day and she replied, “I get up in the morning and watch TBN on my TV and then in the afternoon I listen to radio preachers or sermon tapes.” I said to her, “See here! This is your problem. God can’t get a word in edgewise! Turn all that stuff off and practice listening to His quiet small voice.”

She came back the next week and reported that where she would have had the car radio on and listen to a “Christian station” she decided to pray and listen to Him. On her way home on a dark night on a country road that week He brought her attention to a sign that said, “Beware of Moose!” so she slowed down and right around the next corner was a big dark colored moose right in her lane. If she had not slowed down she would not have seen it in time and hit it and totaled her car and injured herself. We all “rejoiced with godly excitement that His voice has been heard.”

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)

 

“I Have Seen the Lord!”

Coeur d Alene Sunrise – Photo by Michael Clark

Though the LORD is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar. (Ps 138:6, NIV)

In chapter twenty of John’s gospel we read about Jesus making first contact with a human after He rose again from the dead on the third day. We might expect that He would have chosen to manifest Himself to one of the more prominent disciples like Peter or even John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. He did not choose either of them, although they were among the three followers that came to the His tomb the morning of the third day. No, Jesus chose to make Himself known to Mary Magdalene.

Mary was a woman that had been possessed by seven demons and had been ravaged by many men in her lifetime and suffered much rejection as a result. But Jesus saw something to be treasured in Mary. He delivered her and healed her of everything  Satan had done to her. She was looked down upon by her own people and rejected, but Jesus chose this weak woman to confound Simon the Pharisee and His very own disciples in their self-righteousness as they judged her and Him (See Luke 7:36-50 and Matthew 26:6-13). Mary loved Jesus very much because she had been forgiven much. I know hundreds of Christians who, in their own minds, are not all that bad compared to people in this world. I have found that their love is very thin as a result. I once thought I was pretty good as well (and judgmental) until I was prompted to ask God how HE saw me instead of how I thought He saw me. What He showed me was a self-righteous hypocrite. It didn’t take me long to cry out to Him to change me. The purging of my heart is what has taken so much time.

So it was Mary who had been a harlot that Jesus chose to appear to first and to spread the good news that He had risen. There is a very touching scene that John captured in his gospel about their miraculous meeting.

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” (John 20:1-2, ESV2011)

She rose up early while it was still dark so that she could be with Jesus, though she knew He was dead. Finding the tomb empty, she was distraught. She got Peter and John to go back with her and these two went inside and saw that the tomb was empty except for the grave clothes that Jesus had been wrapped in. Then these two men did something strange… they went home! John records, “for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” Not to be so easily deterred, Mary stayed, hoping to find out what happened to His body so she could take care of it herself.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. (John 20:11-18, ESV2011)

Through her tears Mary spoke with angels and with her risen Lord, but still did not understand it was Him until He called her by her name, “Mary.” When I go to a restaurant, I always look for a name tag on the server so I can call them by name. There is something about being called by our name that makes us feel closer to someone when we meet them. This intimate touch of hearing Him speak her name once more was all that was needed to awaken Mary to who He was. She answered in her native tongue, “Rabboni.” At this moment, she must have rushed to Him and hugged Him with overflowing love, because He warned her that He had not ascended to the Father, yet. He then said to her, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” This story is no cold liturgy that was carefully scripted by the intellects of religious men. This was an outpouring of love between Christ and a lowly woman who counted for nothing in human society. He told her that His God was her God, and His Father was also her Father. Jesus came to restore all men and women to His Father that we can know Him as OUR Father, too. What joy can also be ours if we will only give up our dead religious routines as well as our sin and seek intimacy with Him

All through the Bible God chose the lowly to manifest Himself to and many of them were women. Jesus’ very blood line came down through numerous rejected, barren women God did a miracle for and gave them hope. His own mother, Mary, was lowly in a no account town named Nazareth, but the angel that appeared to her told her that she was highly esteemed in the mind of God saying, “Hail, you that are highly favored, the Lord is with you: blessed are you among women.” She was to become the mother of the Messiah.  We may think of ourselves as nothing in the eyes of God and men, but God chooses the lives of the lowly and the abased to fulfill His will.

For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the LORD. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope. When you call out to me and come to me in prayer, I will hear your prayers. (Jer 29:11-12, NET)

Dear Father, give us hearts like that of Mary, hearts that will not give up until we are one with you and your Son. Amen.