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

Only That Which is Spiritual Shall Remain

Photo by Harry Smith on Pexels

The following is a letter by T. Austin-Sparks written in the early 1950’s. If what he wrote about back then was true, how much truer it must be 70 years later as we watch society crumble, the church turn into a business instead of the relational family of God with Jesus as its only Head and evil arise all around us filling the void caused by its internal decay? The salt has lost its saltiness and is being trodden under the feet of men because it is so earth bound and without a heavenly vision or ability to stem the tide of Satan’s cohorts. What Sparks wrote below that happened to Judaism in Israel is surely coming down the pike for Christendom. It already has in many parts of the world with the onslaught of Islam and Communism. Remember, what is seen is temporary and will be shaken so that those things that are not seen and eternal will be all that remains – the true spiritual house of God IN Christ made of living stones.

BELOVED OF GOD,

With this last issue of the paper for this year (and it will not reach many of you until very near the end of the year) I feel a strong desire and urge to look back and on with you. For myself, it has been a very full year. So far as movements are concerned, the fullest year of my life. I have travelled by air alone twenty-six thousand miles, and quite a bit in other ways. This has involved many conferences, meetings, etc. so that there has been a very great deal given out. To this must be added all the ministries and labours of my colleagues and fellow-workers. This is not mentioned just as news or information, although it will show that “a great and effectual door” is opened to us. But I mention this because it will indicate that we are not spending our time up in some corner, imagining things, and ministering to hypothetical situations. We are in immediate and direct touch with the spiritual and actual situation as represented by a very large area. We have no hesitation, though much sorrow, in saying that the situation spiritually is very, very sad and deplorable. It is our well-considered and deeply-rooted conviction that some great and drastic judgment from heaven of Christendom is absolutely imperative. We are equally convinced that it has commenced and is moving obdurately and inflexibly across the world. Just as the Assyrians were the instrument under the sovereignty of God to sift Israel in the last dispensation, so it is most likely that the power moving over the earth today – a combination of Satanic forces with human instruments – is going to test the whole of Christendom as to its real spiritual measure. This may very well be the counterpart of what took place is the year 70 A.D. when Judaism was shaken to its foundations and fell. The Scriptures quite definitely foretell a tribulation coming upon “the whole world to try them that are upon the earth”. This is something much more than Jewry.

The words quoted from the prophet seem yet to be capable of a fuller-ranged fulfilment than even the above-mentioned ‘shaking’. “Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also the heavens”. (Hebrews 12:26,27).

There is no doubt that the Letter to the Hebrews was a supreme effort to get Christian believers detached from an earthly form of Christianity, and attached to Christ in heaven. That effort had as one of its strong reasons the fact that a great shaking was foretold, foreseen, and imminent. That shaking was to be in two parts, an earlier and a latter; an entirely earthly, and later an earthly and heavenly combined. The effect of the shaking, and, indeed, the purpose of it, would be to test everything as to abiding values. The former and earthly shaking was Jewish, but it had all the elements in principle and type of the latter.

In the destruction of Jerusalem – toward which the Letter pointed – the whole earth was shaken so far as Jewry was concerned. The Temple, as the focal point of that whole world, crashed even with the ground. The priesthood, as gathered up in the high-priestly order, passed away. The temple service ended, and the nation ceased to be an integrated and unified people.

These were things capable of being removed. And yet how long they had stood! What forces they had withstood! What confidence there was that they could never cease to be! How assured they were that God was so bound up with it all that it could never be destroyed and cease to be! How they fought and clung to it to the last terrible extremity! But it was of no avail. God was no longer wanting the framework and earthly system, which had taken so much room, and energy, and expenditure, before the really spiritual was reached. The percentage of spiritual value was so small after all, and spiritual interests lay so far along the labyrinthine ways of religious machinery and tradition, that it was not worth while. The means to the end was not immediate, that is, there was far too big a distance between the means and the end. There was no immediate touch with the real Divine requirement, and there was far too much that was intermediate. And so it had to go, and, rather than preserve it, God Himself shook it.

What remained after the shaking was just that, and that only, which was Christ in a spiritual and heavenly way: Christ in heaven, and here by His Spirit, the gathering point, or occasion of assembling; Christ in heaven the High Priest and Sacrifice; the order of God’s house here a purely spiritual and heavenly one – not formal, arranged, imposed, imitated, or material. Order grows out of life, and if that life is Divine, and unchecked, Divine order will be spontaneous.

The amazing thing is how blind and unbelieving Christian people are, and therefore how unwilling to seek to know the way of the ‘unshakable’. In a very small part of our lifetime the phrase ‘world evangelization’ (from one part to another) has been rendered unusable, and all that mighty machine is having to be revised. Countries which were until quite recently the greatest spheres of ‘missionary’ activity are now closed as such. There is a feverish race to try to move ahead of the flood in other countries which are already encircled and undermined. In those overrun countries nothing but a true and living knowledge of the Lord is stemming the tide. The framework and organized structure of Christianity is gone. Deeply, stealthily, and irresistibly this sinister work is paving the way for swift and paralysing movements in all the rest of the world, as much in the West as in the East. The result will be the same everywhere, little as it may seem possible because of long traditions and strong establishments. It seems a terrible thing, even to think, but as we have touched so very much of what is called ‘Christianity’ we are bound to believe that, because vast numbers who call themselves Christian are in an utterly false position, and the system itself has become so largely an earthly, traditional, formal, and unspiritual thing, this world-wide shaking is quite necessary and will be eventually justified. If we were writing a treatise, we could show that what is called ‘Christianity’ is really the greatest enemy of Christ.

It will be seen that it is not a matter of substituting another and better system for an old and poor or bad one. Some people seem to think that it is all or largely a matter of the order, technique, and form, and if we returned to the ‘New Testament’ form or order of churches all would be well. The fact is that, while certain things characterized the New Testament churches, the New Testament does not give us a complete pattern according to which churches are to be set up or formed! There is no blue-print for churches in the New Testament, and to try to form New Testament churches is only to create another system which may be as legal, sectarian and dead as others. Churches, like the Church, are organisms which spring out of life, which life itself springs out of the Cross of Christ wrought into the very being of believers. Unless believers are crucified people, there can be no true expression of the Church.

This brings us to our particular point. What is the pressing imperative in view of this oncoming flood of testing, which has already carried away very many of those who were called Christian, and even evangelical Christians?

Surely there is only one answer:- On the one hand, a ministry which has as its substance and object the “rooting and grounding”, the establishing, the building up, of believers, the real increase of “the measure of Christ”. This must get behind evangelism, so that the work is deep, not superficial; enduring, not transient; intrinsic, not general! On the other hand, believers must really take stock of their Christianity. Is it just a tradition, an assumption, an external system, the thing which is common acceptance – more or less? Or is it really “by revelation of Jesus Christ” in the heart? A real walk with God, and a growing knowledge of Christ, a life in the Spirit? God has said it: the things which can be shaken will be. What have we got that, being unshakable, will remain? [1]

 

Then this message from the Lord came to Solomon:“Concerning this Temple that you’re building, if you live your life according to my statutes, carry out my ordinances, and keep all of my commands, and live according to them, then I will do what I promised to your father David. I will reside among the Israelis and will never abandon my people Israel.” (1Kgs 6:11-13, ISV – emphasis added)

Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; my covenant which they broke, although I was a husband unto them, says the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, says the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jer 31:31-34, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

[1] https://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002091.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)

Christ Our Temple – Where true worship begins

The Thinker by Rodin – source : Pixabay.com CC0

Philosophers past and present have made it their quest to seek the truth of their existence on this earth. Some said that this visible world is only a figment of our imagination. The famous French philosopher Rene Descartes, surrounded by these doubts of existence, concluded, “I think, therefore I am.” Man’s quest for higher education in all the institutions of learning around the world, secular and religious, is based on this. To modern man, his existence is all about the mind. The importance of a “formal” education is drummed into our heads from an early age. Yet, to this kind of knowledge Paul wrote, “If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.” (1Cor 8:2, ESV2011). Relying on Bible and theological knowledge can and often does get in the way of our knowing Jesus in an intimate and relational way. We are made up of body, soul and spirit. The mind is part of our souls, but Jesus said, “They who worship God must worship in Spirit and in truth. God is Spirit and He has sent His Spirit into us to lead us into all truth.” (See John 16:13-15).

Two thousand years ago this man, Jesus Christ, came to the center of Jewish learning in Jerusalem, and challenged those scholars and priests who knew that their system of truth was the whole truth and the only way man can please God. To this Jesus said, “I AM the way, the truth and the life, no man can come to the Father but by me.” Needless to say, He became a target of their ire and consternation from the moment He began to present the New Covenant. He did not come to rule and reign in their temple, but to displace their whole religious system, dispensation and all its physical manifestations with a Spiritual man that we might all become “One new man in Christ.” Those who believe into Him become part of the temple of God with Jesus as it only foundation and cornerstone. Isaiah prophesied this event.

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)

Isaiah also foretold of this collision between the New Covenant in Christ and the keepers of the Old one founded on Moses’ Law.

And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.” (Isa 8:14-15, ESV2011- emphasis added)

The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, under the command of Titus, AD 70- by David Roberts

Before His death Jesus cried out:

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

And Micah prophesied:

Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height. (Mic 3:12, ESV2011- emphasis added)

In Hebrews we read this:

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near… For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God… He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Heb 10:1-10, ESV2011)

Often the most important things that Jesus had to say about the New Covenant came from His conversations with individuals, not the crowds. So it is in our lives. After all, He is our Personal Savior. In John chapter four we read the personal exchange that Jesus had with a woman of Samaria.

The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain [at the Samaritan temple on mount Gerizim], but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 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 4:19-24, ESV2011)

About the importance to us of this divine encounter with a lowly woman T. Austin-Sparks wrote:

I want to focus your attention upon these contrasting words: “Neither… nor… but”. “Neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem… but in spirit and truth.” Not this, nor that, but… Not here, nor there, but… That is the heart of things here. Now let us analyze this whole statement. “The hour cometh, and now is.” The hour? …All this is very much in keeping with the way in which the Lord used this phrase: “In that day”, when He was speaking about the coming of the Holy Spirit. The ‘hour’ and ‘day’ are identical in the Lord’s meaning.

Now, what is this day that had come with the Lord Jesus but the coming of the Lord Jesus Himself? He says it quite emphatically: a new day, or a new hour, has come. We have now entered upon a new period in this world’s history. What is it? Of course, as to the actual period, it is undoubtedly from the first advent of the Lord Jesus to His coming again…

Dear friends, most of the errors, the confusions, the contradictions that abound in Christianity are due largely to the failure to recognize and accept the essential change which has come with this particular dispensation [see Hebrews chapter eight]. It is not necessary for me to dwell upon the errors and confusions and contradictions that abound in Christianity. The state of things! Sometimes it appalls us, sometimes it perplexes us, and sometimes it makes us ashamed, this thing called ‘Christianity’ in general, as we know it. And I repeat: A very large proportion of all that which is a contradiction to Christ is due to the failure to recognize and accept the immense change in dispensation that has come about with the advent of the Lord Jesus. That is a statement which we must follow up.

We used the word ‘dispensation’. It is a New Testament word, and is, in itself, illuminating. The Apostle Paul used it four times. It is a Greek word, ‘oikos’, which means ‘the house’, and ‘oikonomia’ is the order of the house, that is, the regime that exists in the house…

That is the meaning of this word ‘dispensation’, or ‘oikonomia’: the order of the house. With the coming of the Lord Jesus, and of the Holy Spirit, which two things are one in effect and meaning, as we shall see, the order of the house has been changed. The order in the Old Testament was one order, and the order in the New Testament is an entirely different order. The house order, or regime, has been completely changed. I have said that if somebody comes in and begins to change the order in your home there is usually trouble, and that is exactly what happened in the New Testament. Tremendous battles and troubles arose because the Old Testament order was being upset and put aside. Look at it – again and again! Paul’s whole life was a battle on this matter. He was the man who used this word ‘house order’, or ‘dispensation’ and because he was now recognizing and accepting the setting aside of the whole Mosaic order, the order of the law, and was pointing to the new order that had come in with the Holy Spirit, what a time he had everywhere! His battle for Galatia, for instance, focused upon this very thing – the change in the order from the old to the new. That wonderful Letter to the Hebrews was written on this very thing. There is an order in the Old Testament of angel messengers, of priests, of sacrifices, of covenants, and so on. The writer says: ‘That order is finished. A new order has come in with Christ’ – “God… hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son” (Hebrews 1:1,2), and this is the new order that has been introduced. A heavenly order, not an earthly one. The old one was earthly, but the new is a heavenly one.

May I repeat, at the risk of tiring you, that it is failure to recognize and accept that that lies right at the root of most of our troubles. There are many people who are still living on a pre-Pentecost basis, trying to live an Old Testament kind of order in a New Testament day, and it does not fit with the Holy Spirit. There are many people who are living on a sub-New Testament basis, altogether below this, and not coming up to the high standard and level of this new order that has come in. There are some people who are trying to combine both, and the result is terrible confusion.

You can leave that if you don’t understand and cannot follow what I mean, but it is all an emphasis upon this: the necessity for a recognizing and accepting of this tremendous change that has taken place in the dispensation, in the house order, by the coming of the Lord Jesus and of the Holy Spirit.

The Nature of the New Order

There is no doubt, to come back to this fourth chapter of John, that Jesus was speaking to this woman of Samaria about the day or the hour of this new order. He spoke to her about the water which He would give, about the well which would be opened, and the stream within, about the life which He would give – but it is always with a forward glance and a forward look. He is thinking of that hour when the Holy Spirit would come, and this really did take place [on the day of Pentecost]…

But let us note – and this, dear friends, is the foundation of it all – that this new dispensation, this new order of things, is a spiritual dispensation. That is the thing the Lord has been trying to emphasize. That is what He meant with Nathanael. It was a figurative way of speaking: “Hereafter” – that is, when this hour is come – “ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man” (John 1:51). What is meant by that? Are we to take it literally? We know what it means – that Jesus Christ is the way of communication between heaven and earth, between us and God. That it is by Him, through Him and in Him that heaven and earth are united. We here are united with heaven, and all the communications of God, by the Holy Spirit, with us are in Christ. We understand something of that, don’t we? But that requires this new order.

Nicodemus: Is this a new spiritual dispensation? Yes, Nicodemus could not understand it. “How can a man be born when he is old? …That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” That is the new order. It is a new spiritual regime that is introduced in this hour, this dispensation. It is the dispensation of the Spirit, and, therefore, it is a spiritual dispensation.

And that is what He is saying to this woman. This hour, this dispensational hour, lasting all these centuries, is a spiritual order of things.

You focus, you see, right down on this: ‘The hourneithernorbut’. ‘Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and they have always said that if you want to meet God you have to come to Mount Gerizim and our Samaritan temple, for that is where you will meet Him. You Jews say: If you want to meet God you must come to the temple in Jerusalem and that is where you will meet Him.’ Jesus said: ‘Neither… nor’ – just wiping out the whole thing. By one sweep of the hand dismissing the whole old order and bringing in an entirely new one and telling you what it is. Yes, it is the new order of the Spirit. And it is not focused locally at all, in the way that you are going to be bound by any localization of this thing, but “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”. That is the new order. In John 3:16 it is: “whosoever believeth”, wiping out all racial distinctions, all geographical limitations, all differences here on this earth, with a great ‘whosoever’: throwing that at Nicodemus, who said: ‘No. Israel are the chosen people, the elect, the special people, the spiritual aristocracy. No, no!’ … “Whosoever, Nicodemus!”

That is what came out in Acts 15: “All the nations, upon whom my name is called” – “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name” – “Gathered together in my name”. That is John 3:16 – “Whosoever”.

And in Matthew 18:20 it is ‘wheresoever’. This is not a matter of geography, of certain structures, edifices, places, kinds of meeting-places, or anything temporal at all. It is nothing of this earth. ‘Neither… nor… but in the Spirit.’ This is a spiritual dispensation, and everything that belongs to this dispensation is a spiritual thing.

In the Old Testament it was the old house order. If you are going to have a tabernacle it is going to be a temporal, earthly thing, made with hands. If you are going to have priests with their vestments, their beautiful garments, and Levites, and all the system of sacrifices and feasts and orders down here – well; that has gone forever with the coming of the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit. What is the new house order? Are there going to be people in the Lord’s house who minister, serve? Be very careful of how you use that word ‘office’ – ‘holding office’ [1] – for in this new order there is nothing official. Everything is spiritual, and everyone who ministers, everyone who serves and everyone who has any place and does anything, does so because they are spiritual men and women, and on no other ground at all… [Note; there is no special priest cast in the New Covenant. We who are in Christ are His holy priesthood – see 1Peter 2:5-9]

That is very important, dear friends. What is the Church, and what are the churches? It is just this – nothing less and nothing more than this: the aggregate of those upon whom the Name has been called whether it be two, or three, or more… ‘Where I put My Name, there will I meet you’… “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”. That is the Church: nothing less than that and nothing more than that. ‘Neither… nor… but in the Spirit’, and wheresoever that happens, there the Church is, in essence, in principle.

There is nothing legal about this at all. It is a spiritual matter entirely. And so everything else to do with this new order is spiritual. That is what the Lord is saying to this woman. [2]

[1] The word “office” in almost every case was added by the KJV translators in the New Testament and there is no Greek word in the original to justify this. The two exceptions are where it tells of function of the priests in the temple under the old dispensation. The Church is not ruled over by officers in their offices, but by Jesus Christ who is alive in our hearts.

[2] https://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/001836.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

“These Are Times that Try Men’s Souls”

Painting of Thomas Paine

I am by my human nature a political creature. I speak this as a confession of weakness. Times like these try not only my soul (my mind, will and emotions), but my faith as well, revealing where I place my trust and hope. We Americans (and much of the rest of the world) are watching our bodies and souls being taxed by Covid 19 and all the laws and rules that governments are putting in place to keep both this disease and ourselves contained, regardless of our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. Speaking of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine prophetically wrote in 1776, “These are times that try men’s souls.” It’s our souls that are being tried! I just read the following this morning on a web news site:

Trump campaign fundraiser, Pamela Martin, said at a rally in Washington D.C. on Saturday, there is no doubt that President Trump won the election, but that it was stolen and she wants to take it back, adding that the battle is both spiritual and physical [so far, so good]. She continued,

God is in charge. There are many corrupt judges, all the way up to the top, and that will be turned around by God. God will see that every enemy be turned down. Victory will be here because President Donald Trump is one of our greatest presidents in all of history.”

And I will tell you this, nobody, nobody can come against God and his army and his army is the people, that people and the Constitution of the United States and every single person standing here will stand for Him,” Martin said. [1]

It seems that America is also filled with false prophets these days, all thinking that Christian America is God’s answer to all that the world needs. I used to think that way before Jesus saved me from right-wing politics. He took a heart of stone out of me and replaced it with a heart that could respond to His Spirit with love for all mankind, not just conservatives. Back then, anyone to the left of where I stood was suspect! Before God intervened over 50 years ago, I truly hated everyone I perceived as attacking or trying to pull down my “America the Beautiful.” Yes, for me “God, Jesus and Country” were on equal footing in my religious pantheon. But is this what Jesus taught us 2000 years ago?

In your reading of the Gospels, have you noticed that Jesus was not political? Most Jews back then equated Israel and Jerusalem as God’s seat of government on this earth. The chief priests and Pharisees thought they were God’s gift to mankind and when the Messiah came, He would place them in His seats of power in the new administration. They were “God’s People” and that’s all there was to it! They even had the throne of God right there in their temple – never mind that the Holy of Holies had not had the Arc of the Covenant, where God’s glory once shone, in it for centuries! Let’s look at what the scriptures say.

Yet the most High dwells not in temples made with hands; as says the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will you build me? says the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Has not my hand made all these things? (Acts 7:48-50, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from here… Every one that is of the truth hears my voice.” (John 18:36-37, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

And when the disciples were infatuated with the temple and all its buildings Jesus said,

“As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (Luke 21:6, ESV2011)

With all these things being true, Christianity still is all about putting up great buildings “for the glory of God” until this very day. When I see just how material Christianity is, I wonder if we really know what Covenant we are of? Didn’t Jesus also say, “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.” And, “Wherever two or three of you are gathered together in my name, I am there.”

The Jews wanted to kill Jesus, their Messiah, and their leaders were appealing to Pilate to crucify Him. Why? Because He did not perform according to their political expectations. He didn’t come as a mighty general leading a vast army to deliver them from the Romans. The more things change, the more they remain the same! The leaders of the Jews were totally political, so much so that they no longer wanted the will of God or recognized when God was no longer dealing with them according to the Old Covenant.

For finding fault with them, he says, Behold, the days come, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, says the Lord… In that he says, A new covenant, he has made the first old. Now that which decays and grows old is ready to vanish away. (Heb 8:8-13, KJ2000)

No, they refused the New Covenant of grace given them because, as enforcers of the Old Covenant law, they had stature and power over men. Consider this passage:

So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man [Jesus] 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)

They forgot that God does not take sides with human governments and armies but rather with HIS Son and all who are walking by His Spirit IN Him! Yet, to this day religious zealots insist that God is on their side! To this He still answers, “NO: but I!”

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come”… (Josh 5:13-14, ESV2011)

At the time of the above passage, Israel had finally fallen in line with the will of God after forty years of rebellion in the wilderness with Him finally forsaking that generation. The one thing that I find troubling about President Trump (not that I like Joe Biden any better) is his pride and the pride in Christians who stand behind him as if they are “God’s Army.” Many of us want to see America turn to Christ and be healed, but God has made a requirement before this can happen. He “resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Solomon had just finished his palace and the temple as a place of sacrifice in Jerusalem when God said to him,

When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence [Heb. Loimos – a pestilence, any deadly infectious malady] among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2Chr 7:13-14, ESV2011)

I would say that Covid 19 is one of the most “deadly infectious maladies” that the world has had to deal with in modern times. We can build up our mighty armies and concoct our medical cures to deal with enemies and diseases, but as Bob Mumford once said, “If you fix the fix that God fixes to fix you, then He will fix another fix to fix you!” Yes, until we humble ourselves and pray in brokenness and truly start walking in the Spirit as HIS people, we can expect our enemies to continue to gain power over us and Covid 19 will not be the last plague that we will have to deal with in this world.

It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes. (Ps 118:8-9, KJ2000)

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded… Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (Jas 4:8-10, ESV2011)

Thomas Paine concluded his treatise, “The American Crisis,” by saying something even more profound,

“Yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

Or as Paul put it, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Rom 8:37, KJ2000)

[1] https://www.theepochtimes.com/trump-campaign-fundraiser-this-is-a-spiritual-battle_3616489.html

Are We Supposed to Fit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Letter of the Law vs. The Leading of the Spirit (part 1)

Recently the Spirit taught me a very graphic lesson through a conversation with a Christian who seemed to be using his mind to find ways to justify his course of life with the scriptures. He even was using the traditions of the Pharisees! By the time Jesus ministered on this earth almost 2000 years ago, the writings of the Jewish elders had to a great extent clouded the meaning of five Books of Moses, commonly known as “The Law.” Seeking to explain the law with their carnal minds, according to Jesus,  they had made it of no effect. Even today in Christendom we have many Bible teachers and preachers who do the same thing with the New Testament.

Jesus told the Scribes and the Pharisees,

And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. (John 5:37-40, ESV)

The scriptures, The Holy Bible, in the hands of carnal men and women can be a most deadly thing. Their traditional teachings drown out the voice of the Holy Spirit and give those under them ears that cannot hear and eyes that cannot see. When they read the Bible for themselves, they hear the words of “Pastor Wonderful” or some scholarly teacher and in so doing they unwittingly filter out the voice of the Holy Spirit. When they do hear the Spirit, it causes them great confusion because He contradicts the traditions of men. In effect such leaders cut off those who have come to Christ from His Holy Spirit that He has sent to lead us into all truth. In Jesus final hours as a man on this earth He said,

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 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.” (John 16:12-14, ESV)

By the end of the first century there were many carnal men teaching and leading in the churches. John was the last of the original apostles. As you read his letters to the seven churches in Asia written near the end of the first century, you see that they all had gone off track because of these false teachers. Finally, in 1 John chapter two, he wrote that there were many antichrists already among them who were teaching false doctrines. There was only one antidote to false teachers that John prescribed. Was it more human teachers as it has been with the Church in the last 1900 years? No! He told them to turn to the Spirit of Truth and listen to and abide in Him.

 “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, ESV)

nathan-dumlao-K-8mZxJneHA-unsplash

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Yes, the anointing of the indwelling Spirit of Christ is our only hope if we are to avoid being drawn away from Christ after many antichrists. I know from experience how easy a hungry baby Christian can be deceived. Paul warned the elders of the Ephesian church saying,

For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. (Acts 20:29-31, NKJV)

John wrote earlier in the above letter,

Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. (1John 2:18-19, NKJV)

They rise up and teach and speak perverse things that they might draw away disciples after them. After them where? “They went out from us” because they were not of those who listen to the Spirit in the flock of Christ just as John said. These types seek want to be preeminent over the people of God. Dear saints, is it any wonder that the Christian church of today is made up of more than 41,000 different denominations and sects, all claiming Christ? More and “better” teachers, even highly educated ones, is not the solution… IT IS THE PROBLEM because they have taken the place of the Holy Spirit in the lives of most Christians and have done so for centuries. Jesus is the Head of most churches in name only.

Dear saints, the meaning of antichrist, antichristos in the Greek means more than just “against Christ. According to W. E Vine’s Dictionary of New Testament Words,

 <1,,500,antichristos>

can mean either “against Christ” or “instead of Christ”

Yes, few Christian preachers and teachers speak against Christ, but hundreds of thousands have come out from among the faithful and risen up over them and taken the place of His Spirit… INSTEAD OF CHRIST in the lives of His body. “Little children, it is the last hour.”