The Sovereign Grace of God – Walking by Faith

(The "God's Eye" helix nebula -  pic taken by by the European Southern Observatory's VISTA telescope  http://www.space.com/14282-helix-nebula-eye-amazing-photo.html )

(The “God’s Eye” helix nebula – pic taken by by the European Southern Observatory’s VISTA telescope
http://www.space.com/14282-helix-nebula-eye-amazing-photo.html )

…the God who makes the dead alive and summons the things that do not yet exist as though they already do. (Romans 4:17, NET)

Oh, how Jesus knew and knows His Father! Our God calls those things that do not yet exist in our temporal realm as though they do. Jesus walked in this same knowledge when it came to the death of His friend Lazarus. He had received news that Lazarus was about to die, and yet He waited another two days before He started to Bethany. By the time He got there, the man had been dead four days. When He finally arrived, Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ two sisters, started to berate Him. “If you had only come when we bid you, he need not to have died.” Have you ever complained to God when He did not do what you wanted when you thought you had to have it? Only God knows what we need and He will often make us wait to prove our faith. To these two women Jesus replied,

“I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26, KJ2000)

Those things that do not exist God treats as though they do. This is what faith does–it sees things from God’s perspective. A few days earlier, after Lazarus had died, Jesus told the disciples, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.” Why did Jesus tell them that this dead man was only asleep? It is because the grave has no victory in the Kingdom of God (See 1 Corinthians 15:55). Paul wrote later to the Corinthians, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8, KJ2000). We who believe in Christ will never die. Do YOU believe this? This mortal must put on immortality. There is no limbo state in between this life and next. Paul makes it clear in I Corinthians chapter 15 that we put off this mortal body and then put on our immortal heavenly bodies. Some people have died and found themselves in those perfected bodies and then were called back into this corruptible world. It was a great disappointment to have to come back.

Yes, in the mind of God, He calls those things that are not yet in this world as if they already are. Time and space are of this earthly creation and He is not bound by His own creation. If He were, creation would be god. So we see Jesus by faith in His Father (doing only what He saw His Father doing), defying the laws of nature with power over disease and weather, feeding thousands of hungry people with almost nothing, walking on water, and moving through a murderous crowd that tried to kill Him without a finger being laid on Him. Later we see the resurrected Christ walking through walls and Philip being transported over a great distance miraculously by the power of the Spirit.

Our God is the God of the impossible. Only we who are earthbound and lack the “magic” of faith are bound by our pragmatic view of creation. Faith is spiritual sight. It is seeing things as God sees them and believing in and doing what He shows us in our hearts.

Since God is outside the time-space continuum, He calls a people that are not His people as though they are. He called the Hebrew people to be His people and worked with them as His chosen wife for over a thousand years, yet they revolted against Him and His desires over and over. So what did He do? He chose the Gentiles to be His own, a people with whom He had no history. God loves to color outside our religious lines. Paul wrote about this.

And what if he is willing to make known the wealth of his glory on the objects of mercy that he has prepared beforehand for glory – even us, whom he has called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? As he also says in Hosea: “I will call those who were not my people, ‘My people,’ and I will call her who was unloved, ‘My beloved.’ And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” (Romans 9:23-26, NET)

Have you, like me, been one of the “not chosen” people of this world–the wall flower at the high school dance, the kid that was chosen last in a sand lot ball game, the one thought least likely to succeed by the class of your peers? Most of us who have come to Christ are of this category. Why? Paul explained:

For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29, KJ2000)

He chose those things that are not to bring to nothing the things that are. “God… summons the things that do not yet exist as though they already do.” Do not be dismayed because the wicked prosper in this world and you have to endure hardships. In fact, rejoice because this world system is rejecting you. You are marked by the Spirit of God as one of His, and because of this the world that is under the devil will hate you! A comfortable life in this world is not our goal, but eternity in Father’s heavenly kingdom is. The world does not know us because it does not know the very God who created it. God knew each one of us from the foundation of the world and claimed us for His own. We are not only called out (the ecclesia of God) of the world (the kosmos under Satan), but we are called into a very high calling as the sons and daughters of God. As such, our Father has done everything to make sure that we obtain what He has called us into. Paul wrote:

And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes on behalf of the saints according to God’s will. And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:27-29, NET)

Our salvation and perfection is all about His mighty working in our lives! Paul continued with this thought.

And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified. What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:30-31, NET)

Peter wrote along this same line.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. You once were not a people, but now you are God’s people. You were shown no mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10, NET)

Oh, Father, please open our spiritual eyes of faith that we might see everything in our lives and the lives around us as you do and live according in your great hope with lives that reflect your glory. Amen.

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1-2, RSV)

Unto Us a Son is Given… Many Sons

jesus-and-child-1For 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. (Isaiah 9:6, KJ2000)

In this familiar verse prophesying the Christ and His attributes, I would like to focus on the first one mentioned, “Unto us a Son is given.” When the Father sent Christ to walk among us, He did not come in the form of a prince or king, born in a palace. Neither did he come as a candidate for the position of High Priest in the temple. In fact, He was not even born a Levite, but rather of the tribe of Juda. Though it was prophesied that an eternal scepter would rise in the tribe of Juda (see Genesis 49:10), Christ had to first come as a lowly carpenter’s son in a back water town called Nazareth in downtrodden Israel, a nation that had been continuously conquered and oppressed for hundreds of years.

Yes, a Son has been given us. Why did Jesus take the lowly title of “Son of man?” He came to lead the way as the prototype of what the Father wants. He was the First Born of the many sons (and daughters) of God! Paul wrote in the book of Romans saying,

We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. (Romans 8:28-29, RSV)

The sonship of man as sons of God has been in the mind of our Father from the beginning. When we read the genealogy of Christ in Luke’s gospel we read, Kenan was the son of Enosh. Enosh was the son of Seth. Seth was the son of Adam. Adam was the son of God. (Luke 3:38, NLT)

T. Austin-Sparks wrote,

But in the same eternal counsels which determined that Christ should be the center and sphere of universal fullness, by divine appointment and undertaking the church, His body, was linked with Him to be “the fullness of Him that filleth all in all“; those are the closing words of Ephesians chapter one.

That means that unto that sonship the church is brought, and so we have a parallel revelation in the New Testament concerning the sonship of believers as God’s full thought, and you have this remarkable word at the beginning of this letter, in verse [Ephesians 1:] 5: “Having foreordained us unto the adoption as sons by Jesus Christ unto himself.” *

What a high calling! We who belong to the Father in heaven are all called to be His sons (and daughters). All the workings of God in our lives are for one reason, to bring us into full sonship after the image of Christ. One important thing we must realize is that just as we are born to our mothers as infants, we are born into the kingdom of God as spiritual infants. There is a growing-up process that God requires each of us to go through. Christ had to learn obedience through the things that He suffered, and so it is with us (See Hebrews 12:5-8).

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” In the economy of God, children are born (“you must be born again”), but sons are given by the outworking of our loving Father in us.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. (Ephesians 1:3,4 NLT)

Austin-Sparks continued:

That which has been chosen before the foundation of the world and which has been foreordained unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, has been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies. That is the fullness of God’s thought for His own, as a full, comprehensive, utter thought. We have not yet come into all those blessings, not because God has not given them, but because we have not grown up into them. We have not grown up into Him in all things. That is the point of our word, the urge to come to God’s thought, the measure of Christ. What is God’s thought? The full measure of Christ, the fullness of the stature of Christ. *

There is the principle of life and death in spiritual growth. You cannot have one without the other. Paul wrote, If, because of one man’s [Adam’s] trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17, RSV)

Jesus was even more specific saying,

He who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his [soul] life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:38-39, rsv)

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone: but if it dies, it brings forth much fruit. He that loves his life shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. (John 12:24-25, KJ2000)

Finally, let me conclude by quoting once more from brother Sparks.

It means that death has continually to work in the realm of that which is rejected of God, in order to make room for that which is accepted of God. In other words, it is a case of death operating continually to get us out of the way in order to bring Christ in. The increase, the fullness, whether it be in life or in ministry, must ever and always be by the operation of death to all that is of the old creation about us, and resurrection in which only Christ appears. Resurrection implies Christ. God has never raised the old creation. He has, in the death of Christ, crucified it, buried it, and He has never raised it. What He has raised is that which is wholly acceptable to Him.

So it proves. We go into experiences of deep, dark and painful suffering, in which some more of the self-life is slain; some more of our own natural strength of mind and will is brought to the grave; some more of the “I” is put out, and we come up out of that deep experience each time with something more of the Lord, an increase of Christ. So we grow by the law of death and resurrection, the law of the grain of wheat.

Ministry is on that basis. Those who have the greatest measure of Christ and His riches to give are those who have suffered most, because in their suffering, that which was in the way of Christ has been removed; and all suffering is to that end. What a shame that so often we do not allow the suffering to do its work. We either revolt and rebel against it and become bitter, or resist the thought of what it is unto and take the martyr attitude of self-pity. No, God’s dealings with us in all suffering are unto an increase of Christ, firstly for our own enlargement, our coming to a greater measure of His fullness, the stature of Christ, and then that we may have more of Christ to give. For ministry this law operates – death and resurrection. It is the way of divine increase.

So let us take God’s thought again, the fullness of Christ, and see that His thought is made to govern all His dealings with us. And surely we shall consent, and yield to Him if we truly see that God is working. It may be though haply by the difficult, painful, breaking, grinding way in order to save us from that of ourselves which occupies the place that Christ should occupy. This is so that He in all things might have the preeminence, be all and in all, fill all things, and then that others should come into the increase of that ministry, where the members are able to minister Christ. It is a very blessed thing, and this is the way. *

Paul wrote, “For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death works in us, but life in you.” (2 Corinthians 4:11-12, KJ2000)

* http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/003331.html

Spirit Birthed Relationships in Christ

Many members, one Christ

I have displayed thy name among those whom you have chosen out of the world for me: thine they were, and you gave them me; and they have kept thy word. (John 17:6 Mace)

Jay Ferris was a friend of mine that died of cancer a little over two years ago and he is missed by hundreds of people. Why? Because he knew and lived in relationships with people and if they were not believers, after getting to know Jay (or should I say, Christ in Jay), many soon came to Christ. What made Jay different than most Christian leaders was that he believed that Christ came to establish the kingdom of God as a family, not an institution. In one of his blogs Jay wrote,

“Suppose this is not about generic relationships, but about very specific relationships and purposes in God having their origins in and by Him. These are relationships so full of the passion and purposes of Christ, and not some kind of human decisions. Relationships in Christ are not generic, they are born of Him for His purposes, and not as mere religious toys.”(http://lovinglikegod.com/2013/04/10/things-that-cant-be-told/)

I have come to believe that most of what we see in Christendom is composed of “generic relationships.” You know, the “meet, eat and retreat” kind where God hears from us and we see each other once a week and we call it good. The kind of relationships that God wants are the ones in which we become totally ONE with the Father and the Son. Then we through this same level of intimacy as members of Christ’s body can come to know one another with the same level of intimacy (see John 17:20-26). You cannot contemplate a human body without seeing the intimacy and relationships that each individual member of that body has with the others. If a limb or organ is missing then the whole body goes out of whack. Christ is our Head and there is no other intermediary between the members of His body and Himself. It is interesting to me that the pituitary or “master” gland is located in our heads at the base of the brain. In like manner Christ is the one that brings the rest of the body into harmony as it answers to Him (See 1 Cor. Ch. 12).

It is because of this intimate relationship to the Head that we also can have intimate relationships with each other and the kind of relationships I am speaking of are not maintained only on one hour a week in a crowded hall in which everything is orchestrated by a man and his idea of what should happen. Professional clergy need not apply, but if they want to come down in the trenches and get real with the rest of His body, they are welcome and can become a viable member of Christ’s body once again. As Jesus put it, “Now you may not be called ‘Rabbi,’ for One is your Teacher, yet you all are brethren” (Matthew 23:8 CLV – emphsis added).

As members of Christ’s body, I believe that God puts us with certain individuals in Christ by His design and not our own and He does this for HIS purposes. He is using those to whom He has given His Spirit to paint a wonderful mosaic of His Son… Jesus Christ living and breathing here on earth. As in a mosaic, some pieces touch other pieces and some don’t. God puts our piece next to the one that will compliment the whole image He is making. We all have tried to put ourselves together with other saints at times and have seen it end as a dismal failure. But when GOD assembles us as HE wills, something special and lasting happens.

I think of Jonathan and David who had a love for one another that was better than that of a woman (see 1 Sam. 1:26). Paul and Timothy had a special father-son type relationship in Christ. Then there was John and Jesus where we find John in the gospels so in love with Jesus that he reclined at the last supper with his head on Jesus’ breast. He was “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” the one that stayed with Him throughout His ordeal on the cross and was the one who went on to write about the love of God over and over in His gospel and letters and He knew this love first hand with God’s Son and the members of His body.

You see, to have special relationships with other members of Christ’s body it requires intimacy, the very thing that most church people fear. Yes, love is risky and being cold and distant to others is “safe.” But the love of God compels those who have pressed into Christ to become close to the ones He puts us with regardless of the personal cost.

Jay also wrote in another blog about what he called “foxhole love.”

Today, I want to address the matter of Spiritual intimacy in another place and with another word picture, a “Foxhole.” I am not speaking of a fox hole in the way that Jesus referred to it, but spiritual intimacy surrounded by warfare.

A pond suggests a tranquil place where the war is over, and a foxhole suggests the reality of the war in and around intimate spiritual relationship. On the one hand we are surrounded by the war around the foxhole, and on the other, we become more and more aware of the inner war going on inside of each another. In the foxhole of intimate relationship there is a war going on against our staying in that place of intimacy. The war gets more intense the deeper into the hole we go.

The only way for the intimacy of relationship to survive in such an environment is to know God’s kind of love, the kind that is good for enemies, both perceived and real. The lovers in a foxhole have to rest in the knowledge that they are secure in one another’s love… The intimacy we are talking about is not delusional. It is made possible and energized by a Love that is so great it covers a multitude of sins.

This post has to do with sharing the lessons of Life, (He is The Life.) especially with those who are in the foxhole of love with us. Perhaps this is what Paul was thinking about when he prayed “… that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19 (http://lovinglikegod.com/2012/12/27/the-truth-hurts-at-least-in-the-beginning/)

“Father, do what you have to do to strip us of our self-centered mindsets and agendas and fill us with your love for you and for one another. Let us then be placed with the members of Christ’s body you have destined us to be joined to and let your love flow between us as a sign that it is your doing, and out of that love let us bring forth YOUR eternal fruit. Amen.”

Revelation, Love and Intimacy

Circle-1  It is hard to envision what the Garden of Eden was like before the fall of man. Can you imagine an existence on this earth where there are no laws to break except one, and no conscience to violate, but only love and acceptance? Man dwelt there with his Creator in love and all his livelihood was provided for him with no fear of death or sickness. There were no animals or men to fear, and no weeds or briars to fight. It was a place where there was total peace and fellowship with all God’s creatures. Even the animals communicated with man in love, using a common language that was heard from heart to heart instead of head to head. This is the world that God made for man to enjoy. Adam and Eve ran around like little naked kids with no sense of shame whatsoever and felt such love and intimacy together that their relationship was only driven by God’s agape love for and in them, not by self-centered lust. God was loving and communing with them as their Daddy.

After thousands of years of suffering the consequences of the fall, it is hard for us to imagine such a world. Yet the image of the garden gives us a glimpse of heaven. Man ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and unleashed evil upon the earth, but God has had a plan to fully restore man to Himself and so we can walk in love with Him and one another once again and that plan was summed up with the words, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…”[1] Paul wrote of this saying, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren.”[2]

God so loved the world that He actually sent His own Son into this vile and dangerous place to restore man. Jesus not only consented to come here to the earth, but to be rejected, falsely accused by His own people and then tortured and killed in the most gruesome way possible, hanging on a cross. He did this so He could blot out the offence of our transgressions once and for all by taking our sin on Himself so we might be justified.[3]

The Hebrew word translated “restore” in the Old Testament is shub (shoob) and is found 1339 times in that ancient text. One of the most familiar verses is in David’s prayer, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me [with thy] free spirit.”[4] Restoration of mankind is high on God’s list of priorities.

The drawing above in my mind pictures what God has been showing many of us in one form or another as He calls us out of ourselves and into Him as His sons and daughters. The tangle of weeds and briars along the bottom represents the curse that man has been under for thousands of years. A concern over good and evil is an endless tangle and a trap that pitches one man against another through sin and the rigidity of laws and regulations. Much of Christianity is trapped there today. The first fruit of this wrong tree was Adam and Eve seeing their God-given state of nakedness as evil and making garments of fig leaves to cover themselves and hide from God. It is interesting that God said to them, “Who told you that you were naked?”[5] It was the serpent who filled them with guilt and shame as they submitted to him in order to become wise. On that day they lost their child-like faith and trust in God.

But God had a plan to pull us up out of the muck and mire of sin, law and death through the death and resurrection of His Son[6], the spotless Lamb Who takes away the sins of the world.[7] We all know His plan to bring about the salvation (the saving) of man by Christ’s death on the cross, but there is so much more to it than just getting us out of the miry clay and setting our feet on the Rock.[8]

God has wanted an intimate, loving relationship with man from the beginning. He identified Himself as a husband to both Jews and Gentiles in both the Old and New Testaments.[9] And finally in the New Testament, Jesus is identified as the Bridegroom and those who truly love Him as His Bride.[10] This brings up the subject of intimacy.

As depicted in the drawing above, Revelation, Love and Intimacy flow between and out from the Father, Son and Spirit. In this relationship, the Spirit reaches down into our lives with what the scriptures and is called the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ.[11] Jesus said that He would send the Spirit to us to lead us into all truth.[12]

With this revelation from Him we realized that God loves us and we in turn love God because He first loved us.[13] We come into a relationship with Christ because He calls us and reveals Himself in us.[14] We are also called into the intimacy of the Father and the Son, and from this intimacy comes and ever growing revelation of who They are.[15] With this growing revelation grows an ever greater love for Them in us as well. We are caught up into this circle of love with them as well.

In all this, we who are His elect grow together in our love for one another as we are made perfect in love. The perfect love of God casts out all fear.[16] This freedom allows us to walk in the transparency and the Light (spiritual intimacy) of Christ[17] with one another in true fellowship[18]. We pray for each other and work toward each other’s wholeness as members of Christ’s body[19] where all things are done unto edification.[20] As God unites us together in His love for one another, all our walls of separation come down, because in Christ there is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave or free, or male nor female, but a new creation allowing real intimacy and fellowship between us.[21] As our love grows for one another, our relationships take on a depth we never knew possible in the world. “Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. Love never fails!”[22] Jesus said:

A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (John 13:34 KJVCNT)

You might say that we are being sucked-up into this tornado of love where the Father, the Son and the Spirit live for us because they love us so much. The closer we are drawn to Them, the more we become like Them and the more the world rejects us because we are no longer of this world.[23] Soon, His love is so strong for and in us that we gladly loose ourselves from our earthly moorings like houses torn from their foundations in a tornado, and are totally caught up into the love of the Father and the Son. All the things of this world that were once near and dear to us lose their grip on our hearts.[24] In my own case I used to live to fish and hunt and have a place of my own in the country that made it easier to do so. I even built my own hunting lodge that was on 20 acres of forest near lakes and mountains, but before I was done, God’s love so changed me that it was all I could do to finish this lodge so we could sell it and move into town where Father wanted me.

Paul, who loved Jesus dearly, put it this way:

 Those things were important to me, but now I think they are worth nothing because of Christ. Not only those things, but I think that all things are worth nothing compared with the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him, I have lost all those things, and now I know they are worthless trash. This allows me to have Christ and to belong to him. Now I am right with God, not because I followed the law, but because I believed in Christ. God uses my faith to make me right with him. I want to know Christ and the power that raised him from the dead. I want to share in his sufferings and become like him in his death. (Philippians 3:7-10 NCV)

 How else can we as His bride ever become one unless we have a common depth of love for Jesus and the Father? Soon we become so enraptured with Christ and the Father that we are in total identification and unity with them and with one another in this same love. This is the goal of the gospel!

 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he says unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he says unto me, These are the true sayings of God. (Revelation 19:7-9 KJVCNT)

 Speaking of love and intimacy Oswald Chambers wrote:

After that, He appeared in another form to two of them… —Mark 16:12
Being saved and seeing Jesus are not the same thing. Many people who have never seen Jesus have received and share in God’s grace. But once you have seen Him, you can never be the same. Other things will not have the appeal they did before.
You should always recognize the difference between what you see Jesus to be and what He has done for you. If you see only what He has done for you, your God is not big enough. But if you have had a vision, seeing Jesus as He really is, experiences can come and go, yet you will endure “as seeing Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27).
Jesus must appear to you and to your friend individually; no one can see Jesus with your eyes. And division takes place when one has seen Him and the other has not. You cannot bring your friend to the point of seeing; God must do it. Have you seen Jesus? If so, you will want others to see Him too. “And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either” (Mark 16:13). When you see Him, you must tell, even if they don’t believe. ~ http://utmost.org/have-you-seen-jesus/

(a special thanks to Susanne Schuberth for sharing this and her own experiences on her blog. https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2015/04/25/a-life-redeemed-now-or-later/ )

 Seeing Jesus as He IS makes all the difference in the world. Jesus calls us to be not only His friends, but His bride, intimately connected to Him. As called-out ones, we share a greater intimacy with Him and, as a result with others who have seen him, too. We cast off our earthly moorings and let the Spirit wind take us wherever He sees fit. The perfect love of the Father does a deep work in our hearts and draws us away from the cares, goals and values of this world system. Jesus had a circle of 70 disciples, but the original 12 were closer to Him. Inside this smaller group were the three He took up in mountain where He appeared to them clothed in Light. Finally there was John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

So it is with the called and chosen. He loves everyone the same, but not all are able to receive everything He wants to share with them. John was not afraid to lay his head on Jesus’ breast because he was connected to Jesus by His great love. Of the twelve, only John was there with Him while He died on the cross.[25] The depth of love for Jesus and the ability to cast off our worldly and religious expectations and be caught up in Him alone will eventually make the difference for all of us.

At the last supper, before Jesus was taken captive by His murders, He prayed a very important prayer with His disciples.

 

Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son, that your Son also may glorify you: As you have given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as you have given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know [Grk. ginosko – intimate knowing[26]] you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent… I pray not for the world, but for them that you have given me; for they are yours. And all mine are yours and yours are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to you. Holy Father, keep through your own name those whom you have given me, that they may be one, as we are… That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me. And the glory which you gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them, as you have loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which you have given me: for you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world has not known [ginosko] you: but I have known [ginosko] you, and these have known [ginosko] that you have sent me. And I have declared unto them your name, and will declare it: that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:1-26 KJ2000)

 

Here we see a prayer for revelation, love and intimacyONE. I cannot get away from this phrase, “that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one.” His desire was and is not only for us to join in their unity and love, but for us to know it among ourselves as His people! This vortex of love between the Father, Son and Spirit draws us up into intimate fellowship with Them.

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.., and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7 RSVA)

This precious promise is not in future tense, but in the present. Dear saints, let these words sink into the depths of your heart, for here is the reality of His revelation and love for us in the greatest intimacy imaginable. May we all come to know this intimacy and love as we abide IN Them. Amen.

[1] Gen. 1:26

[2] Romans 8:29 RSVA

[3] Romans 3:23-26, 1 John 2:2 and 4:10

[4] Psalm 51:12 KJV

[5] Gen. 3:11

[6] Rom. 8:2

[7] John 1:29

[8] Psalm 40:2, 1 Cor. 10:4

[9] Jer. 2:2, 3:14, 31:32; Isa. 54:5; Eze. 16:8, 23:4; Hos. 2:2, 3:1 ; John 3:29 and 2Cor. 11:2

[10] Matt. 22:1-14, John 3:29; Rev. 19:7-9, 21:2-9 and 17

[11] Eph. 1:17

[12] John 16:13-15

[13] 1 John 4:19

[14] 1 Cor. 2:7-16, Galatians 1:5 and 3:27, Acts 17:28

[15] Matt. 13:11; Mark 3:11; Luke 10:23; John 15:15; John 17:6-7, 26; Romans 16:25-26;1 Cor. 2:11-12; Col. 1:26

[16] 1 John 4:18

[17] John 1:9

[18] 1 John 1:5-8

[19] James 5:16, Eph. 1:17-18, Eph. 4:21-25

[20] Eph. 4:14-16

[21] Gal. 3:26-28 and 6:15, Eph. 2:13-22, 4:1-6 , 4:15-16, 2 Cor. 5:17

[22] 1 Corinthians 13:7-8a CEV

[23] Matt. 5:10-12, Matt. 10:22, Mark 13:9-13, Luke 6:22-23, Luke 21:17, John 15:18-20, John 17:14

[24] Matt. 10:37, Luke 14:26, 2 Cor. 5:14-15

[25] John 19:26

[26] Matt. 1:25

Learning Obedience as Sons and Daughters of God

carrying crossIn the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered (Hebrews 5:7-8 RSVA)

I recently wrote an article on our blog titled, “The Death of a Vision.” I described an ordeal in which I dreamed that I was to pray for the healing of a sister in Christ named Sandy. She was a dear friend with terminal cancer, and according to the dream I was to pray in person while laying my hand on her. I did this in front of the congregation at the leading of the pastor. She later died of that cancer. It was a traumatic time for me for I was still young in the Lord and just knew I had heard God.

Since I posted that article I got an email from long time readers of ours, a couple from Australia who commented and shared from their own experiences on how God trains us as His obedient children. Writing for her husband this sister wrote:

 “God gives us the vision as you had, but often the details are not as the vision actually is and we misinterpret them, as God knows we will. Then we are in the problem phase of the whole process as we try to hold onto our belief in God and our ability to hear His voice despite appearing on the surface of things to having got it all so wrong. Then, eventually comes the provision of the promise, as with your other ladies being healed [many years later after Sandy died. ~ mdc]. It’s not straightforward is it?”

This explanation of hearing God and misinterpreting what we hear because of being emotionally involved or just not understanding and then disillusioned by the outcome was right on. I have gone through these three phases in my life more than once; 1) The Vision for your calling in Christ, 2) The Problem – the vision does not work out the way we had planned, and 3) The Promise – God comes through, but not the way we thought He would. All you have to do is look at the lives of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Elijah and David (to name a few), to see that this is part of the way that God trains His saints for obedience to Him.

After Sandy died, her husband, Dan, sought me out to comfort me. In my dream I saw Sandy in perfect health at the peak of her maturity, and she radiated life. Dan explained that I had seen the heavenly Sandy after the Lord took her home, and that I should not be dismayed, which was very kind of him. I saw Sandy in her perfected body in a room flooded with light, but I chose to believe that it was here on earth and that she was physically healed.

Eventually, my first interpretation of the dream of me stretching out my hand and seeing people healed did come true, but not until I went through a lot of dying. God knows that man is corrupted by power and that old Adam in us must be thoroughly killed before He dares to use us in the lives of others in such a powerful way. I had to go through many years of Him killing everything in me before He used me almost 20 years later to heal those other two women that had terminal cancer.

These successful healings set me up the next temptation, to think that I was a “healer.” One friend, a retired pastor, even suggested that I “exploit my gift.” We all have read about and seen the TV version of people with famous healing ministries and all the hoopla that carnal people make over them as they are elevated to stardom. In effect Satan is right there saying, “All the kingdoms of the world are mine to give if you will obey me and just bow down and worship this image of fame that I have for you.” He is good at what he does and many people fail at this point. Paul wrote that Satan will come “with all power and signs and lying wonders seeking whom he may deceive” and he does.

I overcame the temptation to see fame, because by then the Lord had drilled into me that I was nothing and it was not my place to think otherwise or try to “grab the gold ring” when it is within reach, but rather to rest in Him and let Him do what He wants to do when He wants to do it. But once the word gets out that you have been used to heal terminal cancer, you get a lot of attention just the same and you really don’t want to disappoint others who are dying. That is the real test–will you obey the wishes of others, or will you disappoint them, seem cruel and cold, obey the Lord, and stay put?

Bob Mumford told a story in one of his books or tapes about a neighbor across the street who was training his retriever dog. He would take a stick, throw it and say “Fetch.” After many days the dog would go get the stick, bring it back to him, and he would tell the dog, “Heel.” The dog would sit by his side and wait for the next command. Eventually the dog was doing both these commands well. But then one day the man threw the stick and said, “Heel!” instead of “Fetch.” That that poor dog nearly came unglued. The action said “Fetch,” but the command said, “Heel.” That is what God does with us. He fine tunes us to obey and we can’t always go with our experiences. We have to listen to His voice.

As young Christians, when God does something miraculous or prophetic in our lives, we want to run out and tell everyone about it. What starts out as enthusiasm for the Lord ends up with us believing in our own “press releases” and blowing our own horns to draw attention to ourselves.

The sister in Australia went on to write in her comment,

“My biggies were thinking I was being told to trust a pastor for three years when he was the most untrustworthy person I have ever known! It took me a year to trust anything other than the Lord is my shepherd and he is worthy. Talk about learning to walk all over again!

“I don’t think I’ll even go into the next biggest challenge I had in trusting in what I believed I was being told by God but it was devastating. For three years I believed that something wasn’t going to happen, that God was reinforcing what I was hearing, and then it happened and I was shattered. Again! Now we hold very lightly to what we believe we are being told and just wait to see if it happens and if it does, then we talk about it to others.”

Being obedient and then having things blowup in your face as a result, as many of us have found out, pops our bubble. We think that if we obey the Lord, everything will turn out great, but in the short haul it doesn’t always do so. In the long run it does, but often not the way we think.

Sometimes obedience makes us do things that cause misunderstandings and rejection from the ones we love and care about. This very fact has gotten many of us bounced out of our churches in the past, just because we obeyed the Lord! Obedience is not about instant gratification as we would like, but about following and obeying His voice. The results to our comfort zones can be disastrous.  Jesus was a classic example of this kind of obedience and so was Paul. It got them into hot water with the religious establishment of that day and eventually killed!

There is often a cost to obeying the Lord as far as our immediate well being in this world is concerned. This cause and effect mindset had to be undone in me. I felt that as long as I obeyed the Lord or his representative (read: pastors) perfectly, everything would come up roses. It did not. Jesus obeyed the Father perfectly and it cost him everything on the cross, but it produced a far greater weight of glory and reward later — the bringing forth of many brethren and the sons to the Father. Jesus learned obedience through the things which He suffered and He is the Son of God. What makes us think that we will have it any easier? He endured the cross because of the joy that was set before Him, not the things that seemed right in His own eyes.

The real lessons in our lives are never about us having the best of both worlds. God is a good Father and He does not spoil us. We read in Hebrews that He rebukes and chastens those who are His children and He scourges those who are His sons (Put that verse in our politically correct ideas of how to raise kids!). If we are one of His, God puts us through all kinds of trails because He is a good Father. He is more concerned with our eternity with Him than He is with our temporal comfort here on earth that lasts for a short time.

T. Austin-Sparks wrote:

What is the purpose of sonship? It is to bring us into a place of spiritual responsibility. God never puts responsibilities upon ‘official people,’ but upon sons. Therefore He has to train us as children in order to develop sonship in us, to bring us there where we can take responsibilities for God. He seeks to bring us to a state of spiritual maturity, to full growth. This cannot be done in some Bible school, or by putting people ‘into the ministry.’ God never works on an official side. Oh yes, God does take us into His school. He can also take us into His school in some training institute. And it is a blessed thing if He does it.

But God’s school is something very different from mere scholarly activity. His Word says: “My son, regard not lightly the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art reproved of Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” Note this word “whom He receives.” The exact meaning in the Greek is not ‘receives,’ but “whom He positions” or places. It is a matter of position. God is seeking to develop a state in us where He can trust us. When God is dealing with us, there is behind it a wonderful assurance that He is going to put His trust in us. He is bringing us into a position of trust. We do not just want to be servants, bits of a machine, but sons who have become one with the Father, and in whose hands He can put spiritual responsibilities. When we truly recognize this, we begin to understand why God is dealing with us as He does. But because God is in it we knows that the end is sure. He will bring His children through.

http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002941.html

So dear saints, if you feel that God has slighted you and rained on your parade, He probably has, but it is for your maturity and for His long-range purposes. God is funny that way–He believes that He is God, not us. God bless you as you submit to Him as your Father who loves you and knows what is best.

May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 RSVA)

Faithful Is He Who Calls You, HE Will Do It!

He is Faithful

Few realize the vast difference between the Old Covenant with its 613 Mosaic laws and the New Covenant which is free of such things. The old one was based on human effort, “Thou shalt and thou shalt not…” There were 365 commands on what NOT to do and 248 commands on what Israel had to do to keep this covenant with God. It was all on man’s shoulders and human abilities to keep them. All of them had to be kept perfectly or “Cursed be he that confirms not all the words of this law to do them” (Deu. 27:26). You cannot pick and chose when it comes to law keeping.

The New covenant is not based on the works of man at all, but on the work that Jesus has done for us.

But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Romans 5:8-10 KJ2000)

We who belong to Jesus were reconciled to God by His death, but we are saved by His life! “Christ in you, the hope of glory!”

Jeremiah and Ezekiel both saw this change coming—the change that is based only on the works of God in our behalf through His Son, not on our own works.

“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I WILL make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. But this is the covenant which I WILL make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I WILL put my law within them, and I WILL write it upon their hearts; and I WILL be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I WILL forgive their iniquity, and I WILL remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34 RSVA – emphasis added)

For I WILL take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I WILL sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I WILL cleanse you. A new heart I WILL give you, and a new spirit I WILL put within you; and I WILL take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I WILL put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. (Ezekiel 36:24-27 RSVA – emphasis added)

God announced even back then, hundreds of years before Christ began His earthly ministry, that Israel broke that covenant and that He was about to replace it with a covenant that cannot be broken because it was no longer based on the obedience of men to a set of laws, but rather on the power and the grace of God Himself. God swears that:

  • He will be our God and we will be His people
  • He will give us new hearts
  • He will put His law within us and write it upon our new hearts
  • We will not need human teachers
  • He will forgive us our sins, cleanse us and remember them no more
  • He will put His Spirit within us
  • He will make us obedient to Him
  • He will gather us from all nations into HIS land, His kingdom and give us a singular common identity, Jesus Christ (see Galatians 3:2-29)

From 613 “thou shalt’s and thou shalt not’s” to eight New Covenant changes that God makes by the power of His might and Spirit for us who believe in the completed work of His Son. These eight acts cover everything we need in Christ to become citizens of God’s eternal kingdom and conformed to the image of His Beloved Son. They are all internalized by the power of our heavenly Father; none are external commands written on stone for stony hearts that are too weak to keep them. This is what Zachariah saw in his vision (see http://awildernessvoice.com/Grace.html) in chapter four and it was summed up with the words, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord.”

Peter said that the law was a yoke and a burden that no man could carry (see Acts 15:10). Paul called it a yoke of bondage (see Galatians 5:1). Paul went on to write in Romans:

For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has freed me from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the Law could not do, [its power] being weakened by the flesh [the entire nature of man without the Holy Spirit]. Sending His own Son in the guise of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, [God] condemned sin in the flesh [subdued, overcame, deprived it of its power over all who accept that sacrifice]. (Romans 8:2-3 AMP)

Jesus said,

“Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 KJ2000).

He described those who enforced the O. T. law this way:

“For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” (Matthew 23:4 KJ2000)

So what is the goal of this New Covenant? Is it so we can live lawless lives? Not at all, but rather that we would be empowered by God to live lives that reflect His Son here on earth. John wrote,

Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3 KJ2000)

Paul wrote, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calls you, who also will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

“The greatest characteristic a Christian can exhibit is this completely unveiled openness before God, which allows that person’s life to become a mirror for others. When the Spirit fills us, we are transformed, and by beholding God we become mirrors. You can always tell when someone has been beholding the glory of the Lord, because your inner spirit senses that he mirrors the Lord’s own character. Beware of anything that would spot or tarnish that mirror in you. It is almost always something good that will stain it— something good, but not what is best.” `~ Oswald Chambers, “My Utmost for His Highest”

Mere religious observations are considered “good” by men, but do not require a changed heart, and often end in pride that isolates us from God. He requires a complete transformation that makes those who are His into new creatures, no longer dependant on the outward observations of religion. Seeing Jesus as He is is the key.

Nevertheless when one shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:16-18 KJ2000)

As we behold Him with all our hearts, the Spirit changes us into the same image. It is a matter of beholding Him and then the Spirit does the rest. When the eye is single the whole body will be filled with His light. The New Covenant is never about outward observations and conformity to rules, but rather an internal change wrought by the power of God as we yield to Him.

Revelation and Spiritual Growth

Doe & Fawn 6-2013

Christians in the western world tend to go at their Christianity like they do everything else they want to excel in, by research, study and attending lectures at “church.” The following two paragraphs are the most concise description I have ever read on how God grows us up in the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. I hope you will read it and take it to heart. ~ Michael

To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. (Revelation 2:17)

God always keeps the revelation of Himself in Christ bound up with practical situations. You and I can never get revelation other than in connection with some necessity. We cannot get it simply as a matter of information. That is information, that is not revelation. We cannot get it by studying. When the Lord gave the manna in the wilderness (a type of Christ as the Bread from heaven), He stipulated very strongly that not one fragment more than the day’s need was to be gathered, and that if they went beyond the measure of immediate need, disease and death would break out and overtake them. The principle, the law, of the manna, is that God keeps revelation of Himself in Christ bound up with practical situations of necessity, and we are not going to have revelation as mere teaching, doctrine, interpretation, theory, or anything as a thing, which means that God is going to put you and me into situations where only the revelation of Christ can help us and save us….

Now then, that is why the Lord would keep us in situations which are acute, real. The Lord is against our getting out on theoretical lines with truth, out on technical lines. Oh, let us shun technique as a thing in itself and recognize this, that, although the New Testament has in it a technique, we cannot merely extract the technique and apply it. We have to come into New Testament situations to get a revelation of Christ to meet that situation. So that the Holy Spirit’s way with us is to bring us into living, actual conditions and situations, and needs, in which only some fresh knowledge of the Lord Jesus can be our deliverance, our salvation, our life, and then to give us, not a revelation of truth, but a revelation of the Person, new knowledge of the Person, that we come to see Christ in some way that just meets our need. We are not drawing upon an “it,” but upon a “Him.”

T. Austin-Sparks – The School of Christ – http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/001035.html