Blessed Is He Who Is Not Offended in Me

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

As it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” (Rom 9:33, ESV2011)

John the Baptist was in King Herod’s prison because he dared to preach against that man’s sinful ways. Herod and his mistress (his brother’s wife) were greatly offended with him, so John was looking at a death sentence. John had been preaching in the wilderness as the forerunner of Jesus the Messiah, telling all who heard him to repent and prepare their hearts to receive the Christ who was about to come. But what does the scripture say about this Messiah? What would He be like (See Isaiah ch. 53)?

The Spirit of God was upon John and his preaching offended many, but had he forgotten that even Jesus and His ways would be a stone of stumbling? We go on to read that while he was in prison, John sent messengers to Jesus to ask Him a question.

“John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” …And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Luke 7:19-23, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

In our immaturity as new Christians, we have often received a gospel that if we just accept Jesus into our hearts everything will be wonderful from then on. After the Spirit comes into us, things do seem to be all new and blessings abound. Having the love of Christ in us is a real heartwarming experience. But our Father is not raising up “hot house Christians.” At first we may be protected from the elements like plants in a greenhouse, but eventually those plants have to be set out to face the real world of cold nights and biting insects.

So here we have John, who had been looked up to by thousands as the incarnation of “Elijah the prophet who would come before the great and terrible day of the Lord (See Malachi 4:5-6).” But now he was in prison and his only hope was that Jesus would do something about it as a conquering Messiah. “If you are really the One, then get me out of here!” And what was Jesus’ reply? He enumerated the many things that marked Him as the Messiah and then said, “Blessed is he who is not offended with me.” What? What does that have to do with anything?

You see, my dear Christian friends, if we are to be conformed into the image of Christ, something is necessary. We must see Him as HE is with spiritual eyes, not how we want Him to be in our immaturity. Oh, How we love to be healed, how we love to have everything we need provided by Him. Remember the crowds that wanted to make Him King because He fed them? But they were soon offended with Him because He preached hard things. The offense that day was so great that not only the large crowd of thousands left Him but even His 70 disciples ceased to follow Him (see John ch. 6). It is one thing to feast on free loaves and fishes, but another thing to eat His flesh and drink His blood.

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. (John 6:52-56, ESV2011)

What did He mean by this saying? Many were offended with Him that day for He put them to the test. In effect He was saying, “You followed me because I fed you, but will you follow me to the cross? Will you partake in my cup of sufferings or will a suffering and dying Messiah be too much for you? Didn’t Jesus say, “If any man will be my disciple let him take up HIS cross and follow me.” THIS is what it means to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Christ in us will be persecuted. Suffering will come into our lives. We loved Jesus as our provider who made “everything come up roses,” but will we take up our own cross and continue to follow Him even unto death? He was talking about something much deeper than eating a cracker and drinking a thimble of grape juice in a religious ritual on “communion Sunday” when it comes to eating His flesh and drinking His blood. He was talking about “the fellowship of His sufferings.” John had entered into the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings in Herod’s prison. Just as he was the forerunner of the gospel, he was soon to become the forerunner in type of Christ’s death.

We are now living in a time where people are acting out of great offense which Jesus foretold. saying,

And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures [Grk. hupomeno – to bear up courageously] to the end will be saved. (Matt 24:12-13, ESV2011)

Lawlessness is the byword of this hour. Everywhere we look in this world people are rising up and protesting, rioting, looting and even killing one another. All authority has become their target, even literally as we see policemen killed in the streets for trying to enforce the law and officials homes being attacked at night terrifying their families. Men are casting off all restraint. Is this something strange? Job described what we are seeing in our streets around the world.

But God has loosened his cord and afflicted me; so they’ve cast off all restraints in my presence. A wretched crowd ambushes me to my right; they trip my feet; they build up their path of calamity for me. They tear up my pathways; they profit from my destruction [looting], and they need no help to do this! They come like those who breach through a wall; as everything crashes around me they’ll roll on and on! (Job 30:11-14, ISV)

Need I say more? The question is, will we who are Christians let the love of Christ leave our hearts as we become offended and react in kind or will we endure in His love unto the end? Yes, the true gospel of Christ will bring with it an offense into our lives. Our natural man, our old natures, will be offended.

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up.” (Matt 15:12-13, ESV2011)

The times we are in will test us as to whether our Father has really planted us IN Christ or we are simply “hot house Christians” who bought into a false prosperity gospel or some other convenient lie. Yes, “blessed is he who is not offended in me.”

Oh Father, give us your grace and change our hearts so that we are not offended in all that you are allowing to come upon us. Open the eyes of our hearts so that we truly see that “ALL things work together for those who love God and are called according to Your purpose.” Amen.

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

Today, If You Will Hear His Voice…

Photo by David Straight on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Letter of the Law vs. The Leading of the Spirit (part 2)

Photo by Fuu J on Unsplash

We might not have given it much thought, but each of us are under one form of law or another. Law is an absolute in God’s universe. For instance, no matter where we go, the law of gravity is there. Even the tiny planet Pluto is under the law of gravity, held in orbit around the sun though it is over 3.6 trillion miles away! One might think that they are free of the law of gravity because they feel weightless after bailing out of an airplane at 35,000 feet, but in short order they will find out that they did not succeed in breaking the law of gravity, it broke them. The same is true about anarchists who think they can live free of all laws and live happily ever after in their new version of utopia.

Recently a five block area in downtown Seattle was declared an “autonomous zone,” free of any legal jurisdiction or its enforcement. The mayor was all for it and told the police to abandon their precinct enclosed in that area and said all was wonderful and peaceful and it would be a “summer of love” in its confines. But right away people were stealing one another’s food. There were rapes, burglaries and a couple nights ago two people were shot. One died while they used private vehicles to transport the victims instead of allowing an ambulance to come into their lawless zone to give medical help and retrieve the victims for hospitalization. The one thing that they have proven with their little experiment in social engineering is that without Christ, there is no freedom from sin.

Spiritually speaking there are two types of law. There is the law of sin and its consequence, death. Then there is the law of the Spirit of Life IN Christ Jesus in which we live in true freedom and peace as we walk by the Spirit and not by the dictates of our fleshly desires. Where the Spirit prevails, there is freedom and peace, but where the law of sin prevails, there is captivity and warfare because our fallen nature is Satan’s fertile ground. He was a liar and a murder from the beginning and without the Holy Spirit within we are fair game to his devices. Paul wrote:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Rom 8:1-4, ESV)

The nation of Israel agreed to walk under the laws of Moses (see Exodus 24:6-7) and they were a miserable failure. As a result of their rebellion, they were no longer under the protecting hand of God and had to walk in captivity of the nations who conquered and enslaved them. They would eventually repent and be given their freedom once again only to fall right back into their old sinful ways and repeat the cycle all over again. Why did this happen? It was because their real enemy was within them, a fifth column undermining their best efforts. Without the Spirit of God dwelling within us we cannot please God, much less keep His commandments. Paul wrote,

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (Gal 5:16-17, ESV)

Paul understood that the law is spiritual (See Romans 7:14) and can only be fulfilled by the life of the Spirit within us, but the people of Israel did not have the Spirit. If the whole of the Old Covenant proved anything, it proved that in the flesh of man dwells no good thing. Yes, the Spirit would come upon one of them from time to time to accomplish the will of God for the nation, but He never dwelt IN them. As the Son of God, the Spirit dwelt in Jesus Christ and He came to make the way for the Holy Spirit to dwell in whosoever would truly believe in Him. Just before Jesus went to the cross He prayed,

Neither for these alone [His disciples] do I pray [it is not for their sake only that I make this request], but also for all those who will ever come to believe in (trust in, cling to, rely on) Me through their word and teaching, That they all may be one, [just] as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be one in Us, so that the world may believe and be convinced that You have sent Me. (John 17:20-21, AMP)

With all these principles in mind, I conclude with this short excerpt from T. Austin Sparks regarding the difference between law, lawlessness and being led by the Spirit.

Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. (Galatians 5:25 NLT)

Satan is a great master of strategy, and one of his favourite lines is that of pushing things to extremes. Among the Galatian believers, he had sought to push legalism to an extreme. But now he is thwarted along that line; Paul wins the battle – there is no doubt about it. What is the enemy’s next line of attack? “Very well then,” he says, “if you won’t have the law, then don’t have any law; discard all law. You are no longer under law, you are under grace – you can do as you like! Just behave as you like; just carry on as you like; you must know no limitations, no restrictions. Any kind of restriction is law – repudiate it! Go to the other extreme – licence instead of law!” I believe that, if Paul were alive today, he would be just as vehement against this as he was against the other: for here is a work of Satan indeed. If Satan cannot bind by the law, and change the whole nature of things in that way, he will seek to dismiss all law and make us wholly lawless.

But remember, if this Letter to the Galatians is the letter of the liberty of the Spirit, it is also the letter of the government of the Spirit. We are only free when we are governed. In George Matheson’s well-known words, that we sometimes sing: “Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free.” A paradox – but how true. We are not free when we are giving way to licence, when we take liberty that far. No: this Letter, and the Letters to the Romans and to the Hebrews, are not documents of lawlessness. Even if they do set aside the whole of the Jewish system, they do not introduce a regime of lawlessness. But they do most clearly bring in the life and government of the Holy Spirit. Remember – no child of God who is governed by the Holy Spirit, who is really living a life in the Spirit, will infringe any Divine principle. Indeed, a life governed by the Holy Spirit will be the more meticulously careful about spiritual principles.

http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002047.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.”

 

 

The Need for an Epiphany

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

 

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

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines the word epiphany as:

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

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

(3)  an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Should We Pray?

Man in Prayer

“Grace” – by Eric Enstrom (1918)

“If ye be risen with Christ seek those things which are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your affections upon the things which are above, not on the things which are on the earth, for ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1-3)

My brothers and sisters, when God put me out in my spiritual wilderness in 1980 (about the time that Mount St. Helens blew one cubic mile of earth and ash across the states of Washington and Idaho), He shut down any sense in me that He was listening to my prayers. I prayed everything I could think of to get that nil-state to end in me. I would eventually find out after thrashing around over those many years which followed that He was not going to answer any prayers that were against what He put in my life to fix what HE was fixing in me. Or, as Bob Mumford put it, “If you fix the fix that God fixes to fix you, he will just fix another fix to fix you.” It wasn’t until many years of me trying fix His fix in my life that I finally gave up and He finally heard from me what He was waiting for. “Lord, I belong to you and if you want to leave me in this perpetual death and nothingness, that is your business. Once again I surrender “my life,” for what its worth, to YOU!” The purpose of this long lesson was to cause a heart change in me. I was to learn in my heart what Paul spoke of when he wrote,

Alone in the wilderness- web

Photo by David Marcu on Unsplash

… for I have learned how to be content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am. I know how to be abased and live humbly in straitened circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance. I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare or going without and being in want. I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency]. (Phil 4:11-13, AMP – emphasis added)

This is the secret to a happy and confident life IN Christ where we are focused and occupied with what is happening in heavenly places IN Him. I would like to include the following quote from T. Austin-Sparks that gets right down to where our real need is. Here he is using the type of Old Testament temple which speaks of our eternal lives in the NEW Covenant.

…[The] blood is always in the Scripture a witness against what is of the old creation, to cut it off, and to bring in a new creation; a witness against the earthly, the worldly and the fleshly, and therefore the satanic; a witness unto the heavenly, the spiritual, and that which is of the Lord. It means here that the blood of the sin offering being sprinkled on the horns and on the altar makes everything heavenly. Our prayer life has got to be on a heavenly basis. It is not enough just to be praying for our earthly affairs. It is so easy to get up in the morning and hurry through a few words asking the Lord to bless us and ours, and our earthly things for the day, as though these things of this life were all. Oh, no! The Lord would have prayer touching things heavenly, things spiritual, related to that which is not of time but of eternity, not of this world but in relation to His eternal, heavenly intentions. He would have us separated from the merely temporal. There is a place for bringing those before the Lord, but they have got to be lifted in relation to the heavenly and not be dealt with as things in themselves. The blood makes everything heavenly, separating from the old creation. There is a very great deal of the old creation in our prayers; it is [about] our convenience, our deliverance from inconvenience and discomfort, our salvation from what would bring us a great deal of trouble and sorrow. That is the motive behind a good deal of our praying. “Lord, don’t let anything bad happen today, because it would spoil our life today!”

But supposing the Lord would lift us into something altogether new through sorrow, are we then going to pray that prayer? No, our prayer must be: “Today, Lord, I want that which is of greatest account in relation to spiritual values and if that must be by way of trial and adversity, I do not pray to be delivered from it.” I say, “Lord, there is power to carry me through, and by prayer I come into touch with that power to carry me through the trials of every day in relation to the meaning of the trial.” That is heavenly praying. That is praying with your heart in heaven. “If ye be risen with Christ seek those things which are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your affections upon the things which are above, not on the things which are on the earth, for ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1-3). “Our citizenship is in heaven.” Now the life of the believer is to be, therefore, one with heavenly interests always in view, and our prayer life is in relation to those interests.

Where prayer counts most vitally and effectually is in the heavenlies. Ephesians makes that perfectly clear: “Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers… the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.” Then, providing for that warfare, he gathers it all up, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit”. The warfare is in the heavenlies, and the prayer is most effectual there. That is where the power is indeed against the spiritual forces, and that blood brings us out there as our protection for a realm which is spiritual and therefore counts for most. The place of the altar of incense, the holding of it to the end till everything else has been brought in, gives to prayer tremendous significance.

Now one closing thought. There was to be a crown of gold round the top of this altar of incense (verse 3), and that crown speaks of the glorifying of the Lord Jesus as the Victor. “But we behold… Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour” (Heb. 2:9). The crown of the Victor over sin and death and the reason for that victory in this connection is in Isaiah 53: “He made intercession for the transgressors.” The implication is that by His intercession for the transgressors in His cross He won. There were transgressors doomed under judgement, and His cross was a great work of intercession for the transgressors — and we were among them. By intercession in His cross, His great ministry of intercession in giving Himself, He saved us. You and I are today in Christ, saved men and women, because of the intercession of the Lord Jesus. He triumphed in intercession for us, and as High Priest He ever lives to make intercession, and every day we are living in the benefit of His continual intercession. That is the point in the crown of gold, the crown of glory. Now the Lord is calling us into that ministry. It is not only to share the travail, but to share the glory, not only to share the humiliation but to share the crown, and the crown is not just some objective thing given to us but for the Lord to come and crown our lives. That is to be His seal upon us, and He will say, “Well done! As I have overcome so you have overcome; share with Me My throne.” If that can be because my life was a life of prevailing prayer, that is the glory of it; and even now to know what it is to prevail in prayer is glory; it is the crown of glory.

Now you see there is a glory connected with prayer. The Lord calls us, then, to consider our prayer life, because everything depends upon it. It must be the time for trimming the wick, the works of the flesh. It must be the means of keeping the light clear and strong against the darkness and it must be the means of power, the ground of power, and of prevailing. The Lord use His word, then, to bring us back, if needs be, to the strength of a full prayer life. ( emphasis added by me. “The Altar of Incense” http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/003691.html)

(I would like to thank Becky Johnson in Colorado for bringing this fact of our spiritual life IN Christ to my attention once again through her blog article, (https://occupiedwithchrist.wordpress.com/2018/09/21/a-tried-heart-flooded-with-light/ )

 

Spiritual Learning

my sheep hear my voice

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son… (Heb 1:1-2, ESV2011)

The apostle Paul wrote the most concise description of how we mature in Christ if we are truly spiritual people and not just carnal people wanting to appear spiritual or wanting to heap to ourselves teachers who will tickle our ears.

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1Cor 2:9-16, ESV2011)

Let’s look at this passage piece by piece. “’What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.”  What no eye has seen… this includes reading and watching teaching videos, etc.  Nor ear has heard… This includes all human teachers and preachers that stand before us with their words of wisdom. Nor the heart of man imagined… Why can’t the imaginations of our hearts be trusted? Because the heart of man is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things. The carnal man loves to delve into spiritual things, but because of his lack of the Holy Spirit within, these things always come out twisted and bring more bondage because of his ignorance. Peter wrote about this problem regarding Paul’s New Testament teachings.

….our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. (2Pet 3:15-16, ESV2011)

What God has prepared for those who love him. These spiritual things are for a spiritual people. They are not meant for those who approach Him with their carnal minds. God feeds those who love Him with His spiritual food and spiritual gifts both now and in eternity.

These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. His Spirit speaks to and teaches us through our spirits. If either one is missing there is no heavenly connection. It is like using two-way radios–they must both be turned on with the volume up and set to the same frequency or we cannot communicate. We must first be “born of the Spirit” if we are to have the transmitter/receiver in us that can hear Him and communicate with Him. This is why Jesus’ words to the Bible-smart Nicodemus fell on deaf ears (see John ch. 3). All he could do was reply, “How can these things be?” When the human mind that has not been renewed by the Spirit (see Romans 12:2) takes hold of the Spirit’s teaching, it always comes out twisted and confused, missing the point of what God has said.

For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God… no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. God has appointed His Holy Spirit to be the one who teaches us. Father sent Him to us as a gift so that we would not be left alone without a Teacher on this earth after Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus spoke of this gift.

These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:25-26, KJ2000)

He will teach us all things because He searches the depths of God’s thoughts. Do we get all of His thoughts at once in a massive download? If we did our pride would rise up and we would become like Satan on this earth. God teaches us the things that we need to understand as we go through experiences in our daily lives. This converts what might have been mere theory into practical life applications that make our spirits grow step by step and not just our natural minds. God is after spiritual sons and daughters, not carnal people with massive intellects

temptation of christ by vasily surikov- 1872Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. Notice that this world has a spirit operating in it as well. The word world is from the Greek word kosmos. It speaks of not only the earth, but Satan who is the god of this world, the spirit that is in it and rules over it. The New Testament uses the Greek word ge when speaking of this earthly planet upon which we live. The earth itself was created by God as good. It is Satan who has defiled it with his influence, power and presence. Notice that there are two realities for those who live on the earth. We are either under the power of the prince of the earth if we live as fleshly souls or we are under the influence of the Holy Spirit as spiritual men and women. Adam and Eve gave Satan an open door when they rebelled against God and this evil presence working on our minds and hearts has been with mankind ever since. Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, but that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Like Nicodemus to whom He was speaking who was born into Judaism, many Christians today have been raise up in the churches or convinced to attend them, but they are still fleshly people without any spiritual understanding. Being born of the Spirit is not optional in the Kingdom of God (see Romans 8:5-17).

And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. This right here is what makes the difference between your average Bible teacher and those who teach spiritual truths by the Spirit. If you are born of the Spirit, you can discern the difference. Even when the Bible is being preached from or taught and the Spirit is not doing it, these words are like chewing on a bone stripped of its meat. You just can’t swallow it because it gets caught sideways in your spirit’s throat and you go away empty and sometimes confused. Learning to discern the spirits that are in church leaders and teachers might take time and a lot of suffering, but once we rely on the Spirit’s gift of discerning of spirits, we will save ourselves a lot of grief and confusion from following the wrong paths.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Once, as a young born again Christian, I submitted to a man who had a strong personal charisma and a working knowledge of the scriptures. But the problem was that he added his own natural thoughts and desires to the words of God and used them to take and keep us captive to his will and intellect. This is called the power of the soul and many people use their souls to influence us to do what they want. Take an encounter with a smooth talking salesperson as an instance. Remember, Satan often cloaks his lies in 99% truth.

We eventually became this man’s personal slaves in a religious cult on a remote piece of land in northwestern United States. Many of us had become born again in a move of the Spirit that swept through America in the early ‘70’s and had a hunger to know more about Jesus, but when we met this man (and others like him) with both our lack spiritual maturity and knowing the ways of God, we fell into his clutches. We thought that we had found a fast track to becoming spiritually mature (be very wary when men offer you a quick and sure way to become “spiritual”). By the end of that decade of being under his influence we were filled with confusion and depression. Finally, God opened our eyes to see that we had taken the wrong fork in the road years earlier by following a man and we had to start all over again. As long as we follow men instead of God we will be in constant “reset mode.” God always does this. He takes us right back to where we made the wrong choice and starts from there once again — teaching us HIS ways and not the ways of carnal men. Spiritual understanding often comes through the school of hard knocks (see Hebrews 5:14).

The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. The Greek word that was translated as judges and judged in this verse does not mean to pass judgment. It is anakrino which means; to scrutinize, investigate, interrogate, discern and to determine. Properly translated this verse says, “The spiritual person scrutinizes all things, but is himself scrutinized (or discerned) by no one.” So the next time you discern that a man is a false teacher, don’t let a shallow Christian tell you, “But brother, we are not to judge!” No, we are not to pass judicial judgment (krino in the Greek) on that person and say to him, “You are going to hell!” Only God is our judge. But we are to scrutinize all things by the Spirit within us whether they are from our Father or not. Remember, Jesus said, “My sheep HEAR my voice and they follow ME.”

“For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. Do we dare believe we have the mind of Christ in us? Yes, by His Spirit being alive in us, we do! The problem is that when we start out, we are more dependent on our own minds as we have been our whole lives, and that mind wars against the mind of the Spirit within us. Paul wrote about this struggle.

For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Rom 8:5-6, KJ2000)

It is the mind of the Spirit in us that we must let operate without constantly overriding it with what we think is a better idea or the less painful way to go. This is imperative if we are to have His life and peace remain in us. When we feel His peace lift while saying or taking an action prompted by your carnal minds, that is a good indicator for us to stop and seek Him before we go any further. Listening to and acting according to what the Spirit is saying is our salvation from a life filled with grief.

May the Lord bless and keep you all as you are taught by His Spirit. Amen.

 

 

Obeying God’s Voice for He is Your Life

All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” (Exod 17:1-4, ESV2011)

And he called the name of the place Massah [testing] and Meribah [quarrelling], because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the LORD by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” (Exod 17:7, ESV2011)

And Jesus answering said unto him, “It is said, ‘You shall not test the Lord your God.’” (Luke 4:12, KJ2000)

In the preceding passages there is much to be learned when it comes to following the Lord and hearing the voice of His Spirit. The people of Israel in the wilderness were always complaining to Moses about one thing or another. As far as I know there is no record of them taking their petitions to God in prayer. They had no faith in Him as their God, but wanted a mere man to provide them with all their creature comforts. They looked to Moses as their king instead of to God as their Provider. Is it any different today among most professing Christians? Samuel had the same problem with the people of Israel, even after they had entered into the Promised Land.

Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, And said unto him, Behold, you are old, and your sons walk not in your ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. (1Sam 8:4-5, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

As it was with their ancestors in the wilderness, so it was with this generation. They still had not entered into His rest. They put their trust in men instead of in God. So God gave them Saul to be their king and they languished under his rule. It is one thing to be asking God to act according to the needs and ways of our flesh, but it is a whole different matter to know Him after His ways.

But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD. And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto you: for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. (1Sam 8:6-7, KJ2000- emphasis added)

He made known his ways [his course of life] to Moses, his acts [his doings] to the people of Israel. (Ps 103:7, ESV2011)

We can know God as our provider of worldly things and never know His heart’s desire to know us as His spiritual sons and daughters in Christ. To know His life in us and to hear the voice of His Spirit speaking to us as a friend as Abraham and Moses did (see James 2:23 and Exodus 33:11) is what He really desires for us to walk in. Carnal Christians today, even when they pray, most often seek things from Him to make their natural, temporal lives more comfortable instead of those things which are eternal like a new heart with His laws and desires written upon them. God desires to hear us pray as David did,

​Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. ​Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Ps 51:10-12, ESV2011)

When we have hearts that are longing after the things of this world, we know no rest. Our lives consist of the next pleasure, the next possession, the next lofty position, etc. How often we see a pop music legend end their lives in suicide or from an overdose of drugs. They spend their lives climbing to the top only to find out that there is no happiness in there. How different this is from the Apostle Paul who knew God’s rest in Christ who wrote, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2Cor 12:10, ESV2011). How opposite this is from our human natures.

Since therefore it remains for some to enter it [His rest], and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb 4:6-12, ESV2011)

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Notice that He says, “Today!” How much of our lives are governed by minds that are worried about tomorrow or what happened yesterday? To live in God’s rest is to live by faith in the here and now, one day at a time. And part of living in today is to live by hearing and obeying His voice moment by moment. The one thing that keeps us from hearing and obeying His voice is our hardness of heart. As with Israel we turn a stony heart toward Him as we prefer our own will to His. We live as if we are our own gods. Is it any wonder that our lives are filled with UN-rest? We fail to enter into His rest because we do not believe that He desires what is eternally best for us and choose our own way. “There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end thereof is death.”

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life… (Deut 30:19-20, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

To choose God’s way for us moment by moment is to choose life even if it seems uncomfortable and inconvenient at the time.