Beware of False Prophets and Lying Spirits

(Micaiah and Zedekiah in front of Ahab, king of Israel, and Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. Jan Luyken, 1708. Rijksmuseum.nl)

There is an evil that happens to many a young Christian that I have observed. And there is a warning in the New Testament that pertains to it.

The saying is true and irrefutable: If any man [eagerly] seeks the [an] office… He must not be a new convert, or he may [develop a beclouded and stupid state of mind] as the result of pride [be blinded by conceit, and] fall into the condemnation that the devil [once] did. (1Tim 3:1-6, AMP)

When we are born again it is the beginning not only of our walk in the Spirit, but of many trials, temptations and testings. When Jesus came into me in 1970 I was thrilled with having Him as my new Companion and His Spirit opened the Bible to me in a new and exciting way. All things were new… well almost. I soon found out that a whole lot of my old human desires and drives still needed to be put to death. At first I had a zeal for Jesus that caused problems for those around me. I didn’t know that an emotional high is not the same as having an anointing. The emotional gospel I heard was fixed on signs and wonders and things that titillate my old nature and did little to set me on the right course. I soon found out that Jesus accepted me the way I was when He came into me, but He loved me too much to let me continue on under the influence of what Paul called the “old man.”

If so be that you have heard him [Christ], and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That you put off concerning the former way of life the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; (Eph 4:21-23, KJ2000)

So, here is where the plot thickens dear saints. It is at this point that the enemy comes in and tells you that you have a gift, God wants to use it and you will become a great: evangelist, prophet, preacher, Bible teacher, healer, gospel musician… whatever is thrilling to your un-crucified “beclouded and stupid state of mind.” And “as the result of pride we will “[be blinded by conceit, and] fall into the condemnation that the devil did.” [see Ezekiel 16:14-15] Here, my fellow saints, is where the false prophet comes in. Satan will send one of his messengers along to prophesy over you or to give you a “word” that will feed your un-crucified ego. He will come cloaked as a “great man of God” or a “spiritual person” you trust. Peter warned us it would be so.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (2Pet 2:1-3, ESV2011)

Once novices lock-in on one of these “words,” they cannot contemplate any other course in their lives. Their whole focus and energy is put into making this prophesy come true. In the meantime, the Spirit is trying to warn them saying, “THIS is the way of the Lord. WALK YE IN IT! Look neither to the left of the right,” but in their inflated perception of themselves fed by that false prophesy and carnal ministers that want to use them, they can’t hear anything else. In the end if they don’t repent and embrace the cross of Christ they will become just as deluded and evil as the one who spoke the false prophesy over them in the first place… and the beat goes on, satanic reproduction. Jesus spoke of this very thing.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. (Matt 23:15, ESV2011)

Dear saints, we can become so blinded by our own visions of grandeur that at some point we cease to hear the voice of the Lord no matter who it comes through. In the Old Testament there is a story that demonstrates this quite clearly. It is the story of King Ahab and his demise.

For three years Syria and Israel continued without war. But in the third year Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel. And the king of Israel said to his servants, “Do you know that Ramoth-gilead belongs to us, and we keep quiet and do not take it out of the hand of the king of Syria?” And he said to Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to battle at Ramoth-gilead?” And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Inquire first for the word of the LORD.”

Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall I go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?” And they said, “Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.” But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not here another prophet of the LORD of whom we may inquire?” And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.”

Then the king of Israel summoned an officer and said, “Bring quickly Micaiah the son of Imlah.” Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah were sitting on their thrones, arrayed in their robes, at the threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria, and all the prophets were prophesying before them. And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made for himself horns of iron and said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘With these you shall push the Syrians until they are destroyed.’” And all the prophets prophesied so and said, “Go up to Ramoth-gilead and triumph; the LORD will give it into the hand of the king.”

And the messenger who went to summon Micaiah said to him, “Behold, the words of the prophets with one accord are favorable to the king. Let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably. ”But Micaiah said, “As the LORD lives, what the LORD says to me, that I will speak.” And when he had come to the king, the king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we refrain?” And he answered him, “Go up and triumph; the LORD will give it into the hand of the king.” But the king said to him, “How many times shall I make you swear that you speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?” And he said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the LORD said, ‘These have no master; let each return to his home in peace.’” And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?” (1Kgs 22:1-18, ESV2011)

Ahab was so deluded with his own power and position that he could not discern the voice of God through Micaiah from that of the lying spirit and false prophets. The end of it was that he was killed in that battle he picked with the Syrians. in God’s mercy Jehoshaphat and the rest of the people escaped.

Jesus said, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27, ESV2011) Yet, how many people rise up in a ministry who have never been purified with the cross in their lives or the cleansing fires of God? I venture to say, far too many. The one mark of a true minister of God is humility and I have seen very little of that from today’s ministry platforms, be it from a pulpit, TV show or a web site. For that matter, I have seen few who walk in God’s rest as they work to build their kingdoms.Jesus also said, “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.” (Matt 11:29, KJ2000). When we try to do the work of God by the power of our own might and intellects, the Spirit leaves and we end up striving to get support money and help to fulfill our “vision.” But when we rest in His Spirit as we do His calling, God provides all our needs without us having to constantly beg for support money from the ones we minister to. When the support ends, it is time to seek Him as to what He wants or where we missed His leading, not shake down those we minister to as if it’s their fault. Paul, one of the greatest ministers of the New Covenant, depended on the Lord for everything. He wrote,

Keep on rejoicing in the Lord at all times. I will say it again: Keep on rejoicing! Let your forbearing spirit be known to all people. The Lord is near: Never worry about anything, but in every situation let your petitions be made known to God in prayers and requests, with thanksgiving. Then God’s peace, which goes far beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your hearts and minds in the Messiah Jesus. (Phil 4:4-7, ISV144)

Dear saints, we are in the last time and the devil is being released to test the whole earth. But even he is being used by God for His purposes. This is not a time to be catering to our flesh or trying to do God’s work by our human resources, but rather it is a time to humble ourselves under our Father’s mighty hand.

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

Foreordained in His Love

The LORD of hosts has sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand: (Isa 14:24, KJ2000)

Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: (Isa 46:9-10, KJV)

We have also a more sure word of prophecy; to which you do well that you take heed, as unto a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: (2Pet 1:19, KJ2000)

From Darkness to Light – photo by Michael Clark

T. A. Sparks has pointed out that what God does and wills in the beginning He continues to see through in all His workings to the very end, even in us! We who belong to Christ had our spiritual destiny called out by God from the foundations of the world. Wow! Paul put it this way:

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (Rom 8:29-32, KJ2000)

And Peter wrote:

And we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (2Pet 1:18-19, ESV2011)

Jesus is our Morning Star who is rising in our hearts as we mature spiritually and He casts out all spiritual darkness that still has a hold on us. This rising brings with it perfect love that casts out all fear and sustains us through our purifying trials. I am reminded of the stories of the martyrs down through the centuries who stood boldly in the face of death with no fear of what the devil was about to unleash on them. They also expressed love for their captors in the face of all this. Often their very executioners begged for their forgiveness before they had to carry out their orders. God’s love and forgiveness overwhelmed them. Amazing!

In Genesis we read of God’s creation where He started out with an earth that was without form, a world in chaos filled with darkness. This is how we were before God caused the Daystar to shine into our hearts and His Spirit brooded over us.

In the beginning God (prepared, formed, fashioned, and) created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and an empty waste [chaos], and darkness was upon the face of the very great deep. The Spirit of God was moving (hovering, brooding) over the face of the waters. (Gen 1:1-2, AMP)

In the first day of creation God said, “Let there be Light” and there WAS Light! What kind of Light was this? Could it have been the light of a sun and the moon? I think not because the sun, moon and stars were not created until the fourth day. That light in the first day was spiritual light that ruled over the whole of His creation, Jesus Christ, casting out darkness as He continues to do today. John in his gospel spoke of Jesus being there in the very beginning.

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the LIFE was the LIGHT of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:3-5, ESV2011)

Later he quotes Jesus:

“Now the judgment (crisis) of this world [world system] is coming on [sentence is now being passed on this world]. Now the ruler (evil genius, prince) of this world shall be cast out (expelled). And I, if and when I am lifted up from the earth [on the cross], will draw and attract all men [Gentiles as well as Jews] to Myself.” (John 12:31-32, AMP)

So what is the “darkness” that God separated from that Light in the first day? It was spiritual darkness, the prince of darkness and his minions. As in the beginning of creation, darkness does not prevail (See Isaiah 14:12-17).

Jesus is the Pattern Son! The Spirit of God continues moving in our lives until the Father’s desire, many sons and daughters who will glorify Him with their lives are recreated in the image and Light of His Son.

Isaiah prophesied about Jesus and those who walk by His Spirit.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” (Isa 60:1-3, ESV2011)

Jesus appeared to Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road as he and his men were searching out those who believed in Christ to imprison and execute them. In Christ’s light, in a flash, he was converted from his darkened heart into a man who believed in Christ as the Messiah, who told him that he would be part of this rising that Isaiah prophesied.

And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” And I said, “Who are you, Lord?” And the Lord said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles— to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:14-18, ESV2011)

This spiritual darkness which still holds men and women captive started before the seven days of God’s creation. That creation was a reaction by God to the rising up of Satan in an attempt to overthrow heaven and be the “lord of all” himself, seeking to usurp the place of the Son of God. He and the angels that followed him were the third of the “stars” of heaven that were cast down to the earth. He has been filled with wrath against Jesus and God’s creation ever since, especially those in whom His Son abides and manifests.

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, who deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (Rev 12:7-9, KJ2000)

“[My adversary Satan] has torn [me] in his wrath and hated and persecuted me; he has gnashed upon me with his teeth; my adversary sharpens his eyes against me. [The forces of evil] have gaped at me with their mouths; they have struck me upon the cheek insolently; they massed themselves together and conspired unanimously against me.” (Job 16:9-10, AMP)

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your blameless uprightness? Renounce God and die!” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the impious and foolish women would speak. What? Shall we accept [only] good at the hand of God and shall we not accept [also] misfortune and what is of a bad nature?” In [spite of] all this, Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:9-10, AMP)

As it was in the life of Job, Satan had limitations placed on him from the beginning, and so has he today as he and his minions attack those of us who are born from above. We are like gold and silver being tried in the fire, and through it all we come out pure and fit for God’s own crown. As it was with Job, the end of his life was more glorious than it was before the enemy started testing him, so shall it be with us as we continue to cling to our Lord by faith in Christ alone.

Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors and gain a surpassing victory through Him Who loved us. (Rom 8:37, AMP)

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness overcame it not. (John 1:4-5, KJ2000)

Dear saints, we are in a time of great trials upon this earth–plagues, disease, famine, warfare, earthquakes, volcanoes erupting, tidal waves, people are dying by the thousands. But His light overcomes all darkness in and around us.

For whoever is born of God overcomes the world [Grk. kosmos – Satan’s realm of spiritual darkness]: and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcomes the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1John 5:4-5, KJ2000)

And he that sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And he said unto me, “Write: for these words are true and faithful.” And he said unto me, “It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is thirsty of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” (Rev 21:5-7, KJ2000)

Idaho waterfall- photo by Michael Clark

Jesus, the Christ, not only was there in the beginning of creation, but He has the power and will to bring it to all that God had in mind, the saints of God abiding in His love and glory before His throne in that magnificent city four square which Ezekiel saw called heaven. Remember, Jesus foretold this heavenly abode when He said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms and I go there to prepare a place for you.” Wow! The very thought of living in Daddy’s house together as His much loved children for eternity overwhelms me!

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’” (Matt. 25: 31-34, ESV2011)

What a welcome that will be! As John Newton in his hymn, “Amazing Grace” wrote,

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come,
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

Note: I often get my inspiration from fellowship with the saints of God. This blog post originally started out as a comment on Susanne Schuberth’s blog, “Entering the Promised Land”  article,

Overcoming the World as the Requirement of Christian Authority

The Common Misconception of Christian Authority

In this blog Susanne brings out the difference between doing things FOR God as opposed to only what HE gives you to do by HIS power and covering. As a Christian there is much to take to heart here in the article as well as the comments.

Entering the Promised Land

Have you ever heard about Christians having been given a special kind of authority on the grounds of calling themselves a Christian? You know this kind of supernatural ‘power’ that is to enable us to share our testimony wherever and whenever or to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything” (Mt 28:19-20 NIV) that Jesus has said? Others might have been taught that as soon as the devil attacks us, we should put on the whole armor of God (Eph 6:11-18) so that we can resist him. Hmm…  🙄 If you ever tried this and that and you failed, I am afraid you were not the only one. Me too!  🙂 In fact, I thank God for letting us know that simply following the written…

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A National day of Prayer and Fasting

I was prompted to read and share this proclamation by a leader that understood God and what He wanted of a nation that was going through what America is about to face as the unrest builds in our country. Remember, “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” and this applies to nations as well as individuals. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” mdc

Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day Washington, D.C.
March 30, 1863
Senator James Harlan of Iowa, whose daughter later married President Lincoln’s son Robert, introduced this Resolution in the Senate on March 2, 1863. The Resolution asked President Lincoln to proclaim a national day of prayer and fasting. The Resolution was adopted on March 3, and signed by Lincoln on March 30, one month before the fast day was observed.
http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/fast.htm

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.

And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State.

We Have ONE Mediator Not Many

Picture taken at a rest stop along the highway in central Idaho

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all… (1Tim 2:5-6, ESV2011)

The Lord drew my attention today to this word mediator. He wanted me to see just what a great and thorough salvation we have been given to us in Jesus Christ. So I looked up the definition of mediator in Vine’s Dictionary of New Testament Words and found the following:

<Grk. mesites>

lit., “a go-between” (from mesos, “middle,” and eimi, “to go”), is used in two ways in the NT, (a) “one who mediates” between two parties with a view to producing peace, as in 1Ti 2:5, though more than mere “mediatorship” is in view, for the salvation of men necessitated that the Mediator should Himself possess the nature and attributes of Him towards whom He acts, and should likewise participate in the nature of those for whom He acts (sin apart); only by being possessed both of deity and humanity could He comprehend the claims of the one and the needs of the other; further, the claims and the needs could be met only by One who, Himself being proved sinless, would offer Himself an expiatory sacrifice on behalf of men; (b) “one who acts as a guarantee” so as to secure something which otherwise would not be obtained. Thus in Heb 8:6; Heb 9:15; Heb 12:24 Christ is the Surety of “the better covenant,” “the new covenant,” guaranteeing its terms for His people.

Mesites not only means “to go and stand in the middle,” but to accomplish the task for whom He was sent. God sent Jesus to the earth with not only His own attributes and mind, but he was given the attributes and understanding of mere men, yet without sin. Or as it says in the letter to the Hebrews:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb 4:14-16, ESV2011)

What can be added to that? Our salvation has been made complete as we abide by faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. This is why the writer of Hebrews goes on to emphasize that there remains a rest for the people of God and warns us not miss that place of rest like the Hebrew people did in the wilderness. How do we miss it? By not resting, but rather choosing to do works, the works of the law, and the works of religion as we try to justify our existence as Christians. Yet the scriptures tell us, “The just shall live by faith.”

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:8-9, ESV2011)

Even our faith is a free gift from God and not something we conjure up by positive thinking. Our salvation and faith is not of works! We rest in Christ as sons and daughters of God.

As I thought on this it became clear to me just how many “mediators” we who call ourselves “Christians” cling to in our constant state of un-rest, even though Paul makes it clear that there is only ONE Mediator between us and God. These can all be summed up as works, dead works!

For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Heb 9:13-14, KJV)

The writer of Hebrews was addressing the works of religion. We can serve our dead works or we can walk by the Spirit and serve God. In this same chapter about entering into God’s rest we read,

…Today, after so long a time; as it is said, Today if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. (Heb 4:7, KJ2000)

“While it is yet today” we are to enter into His rest. Today means moment by moment, living in the now. When we are bound by sin and our self-centered ways we are driven by thoughts of the past, by guilt or by worries of what tomorrow may bring. God’s voice is in the now. He calls Himself, the I AM, not the I Was or the I Will Be. We must leave our old ways of doing things and stop listening to our own thoughts long enough to hear HIS voice moment by moment while it is still called “Today.” We don’t listen to His voice because we habitually listen to our own inner voice and the confusion of our own thoughts. God calls this state of affairs a hardened heart. Yes, today after so long a time we must start listening to His voice, and when we obey that voice we start doing live works instead of dead works.

These dead works were being done by Jewish Christians, Hebrews who were still clinging to the Old Covenant. For them it was all about what the voice of God said Yesterday! All their religious activities were separating them from the perfect work of Christ as their ONE Mediator. They were still loyal to that other mediator of the Old Covenant, the Law of Moses, instead of the New Covenant of the Living Christ (See Jeremiah 31-31-34). They failed to enter into the Promised Land because of unbelief. They had works, but no faith and rebellion against God was the result.

Christianity has many traditions that we as Christians rigidly cling to that are not to be found in the New Testament writings. These traditions stand between us and God and displace Christ as our Mediator. We use them as a shield in our unbelief, just like Adam and Eve who made themselves garments of fig leaves to cover their nakedness after they sinned. Some of our traditions are regular church attendance, tithing, Sunday school, church hierarchy, the need for “all things spiritual” to take place in a special religious building, fellowship based on believing in and adhering to the same doctrines, outward appearances rather than being adorned by the hidden beauty of a heart that is resting in God, or receiving one another only to get into “doubtful disputations.” etc. There is no end to this list. Each of these things we judge as necessary to please God. They are MEDIATORS! They stand “in the middle (mesos)” between us and God and displace Christ as our All, the ONE Mediator between God and man, the Living Logos of God. Jesus told the law keeping Jews, “So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.” (Matt 15:6, ESV2011) This condition contributes to us failing to enter into our Father’s rest because they are all of works and not of faith alone in Jesus Christ. There is no “Jesus And.” He is either our All in all or He is nothing at all. Paul wrote,

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Eph 1:17-23, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

Christ is our Head, not men. He is our fullness. All we can do is walk by faith and abide in God’s perfect rest as we abide in Jesus. Man was created at the end of the sixth day for a reason, that we might walk with God in His seventh day of rest and abide in heavenly places IN Christ. We must labor therefore to enter into that rest (see Hebrews 4:10) and cease from all our (religious) works as God ceased from His works and rested. The origins of religion (the offerings of Cain and Abel) were the direct result of sin consciousness. By faith in Christ we are set free of sin consciousness. Christ is the fulfillment not only of the Old Covenant law, but also of any laws that we might construe from reading the New Testament. There is nothing we can do or adhere to that can add to what Jesus has already done. Are all works dead works? No, if we do not harden our hearts and obey His voice within, the resulting works will be enlivened by His Spirit and will bring forth good fruit. If we are truly IN Christ as our Life, what can we add to that? As John put it, “In Him was Life and the Life was the light of men,” and it still is!

“…for you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (2Cor 6:16, KJ2000)

Suffering and the Path to Sonship

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For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:15-17, ESV)

We in America and many in the western world have a society that is built around ease and the avoidance of suffering. We have insurance policies to cover almost any calamity that might head our way. We have labor saving machines that simplify our lives and make them more enjoyable and it seems that we have a pill for every physical ailment we might encounter. When an ailment comes upon us, we who call ourselves “Christians” rarely ask God what it is for in His eyes, or if He wants it to be cured before we head for the medicine cabinet or the phone to make an appointment with our doctors. Some of us take the time to pray, but what do we do when He is silent or the answer is “No!”? The following quote about suffering is from T. Austin-Sparks:

Take the problem of suffering. That may include many things; physical, circumstantial, spiritual. It may relate to ourselves or to others. Almost countless are the ways of God’s dealings with us, which are most trying and hard to bear. The most acute form of suffering is that which relates to God Himself: His silence; hiding Himself; seeming to have neither knowledge nor care. Prayers seem to be unheard, and are, apparently (we would say positively) unanswered.

What is the explanation? Well, the Word of God has made very clear that such an explanation exists.

There is one all-comprehending, all-embracing, all-governing purpose to which God has committed Himself, by creation, by redemption, and by union. That purpose is the conformity of a race to the image of His Son. This is man’s chief end and chief good. What more satisfied and ‘happy’ person is there – even amidst suffering and sorrow – than he or she who is most perfect in patience, love, faith, and the other ‘fruits of the Spirit’? If our requests regarding things were granted, while we were left the same people, unchanged in disposition and nature, it would not be long before we should be in the same unhappy condition over other things. There is possible for us some inherent quality that wears out circumstances and reigns above them. Some of the most radiant people have been the greatest sufferers in infirmity, poverty, or other forms of adversity; whilst the most ‘privileged’ are often the most discontented.

The solution to the problem of suffering does not lie in being philosophical; it is not in fatalistic resignation – ‘This is my lot; I suppose I must accept it’. It is not in passive or active suppression of desire. It is far removed from self-pity, bitterness, cynicism, or envy, and the rest of their wretched family of wilderness-makers and wanderers.

We may have to let go the particular occasion of our trouble, and first recognise, and then embrace with our heart, the fact that in the affliction there resides the immense eternal potentiality of an increase of the image of God’s Son, which is to be the one and the only character and nature of the eternal kingdom. We have too much visualised the ‘Heaven’ that is to be, as geographical and pleasurable, without giving sufficient weight to the fact of a [heavenly] nature to be inculcated and perfected [in us]. (1)

I know that when I was young in my walk with the Lord, I didn’t like His chastening nor did I clearly see what He was after in me. The evangelical mindset I was familiar with was that if we would just get saved we could have the best of both worlds, prosperity (if we were good tithers) and healing as we needed it in this life and perpetual happiness in the hereafter.

The word “sonship” and its significance didn’t get my attention until many years later when it was pointed out to me in the scriptures that the goal of the gospel was not just to take away my sins and get me into heaven, but that God had a much higher purpose in mind for those who are His. He desires many sons and daughters to be conformed into the image of His obedient and loving Son, Jesus Christ, and that conformity includes (and necessitates) suffering. Consider this passage,

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. (Heb 2:9-11, NIV)

We are of the same family as the Son of God and also are of the same perfecting process that He had to suffer through by the will of His Father. We see Jesus being tempted by the devil, rejected by His own earthly family and nation, misunderstood by His own followers and disciples and finally left alone by them to suffer and die. Paul understood this process belonged to Christ’s followers as well when he wrote to the Philippian believers.

That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:10-11, ESV)

Just as Christ’s Father did not leave Him to suffer and be alone forever, but raised Him from the dead, so He will do for all His children who have been purchased from the grip of the devil with His Son’s precious blood. Are you a member of God’s family? If so, dear saint, it is a “full meal deal.” We don’t get to pick and choose what parts of this life we are willing to accept because God knows that it is all necessary. Life is not all ice cream. We have to eat our vegetables, too. Paul wrote,

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Rom 8:14-18, ESV – emphasis added)

Paul, if anyone, knew about suffering and rejection as he followed Christ…

Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. (2Cor 11:23-28, ESV)

Then after all that and more he had to suffer being deserted by those whom he invested his life in at the end. To Timothy he wrote,

Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me… At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2Tim 4:9-18, ESV)

But, he was not deserted by Jesus. Trying to find true fellowship among the saints of God can be a lonely business the further we go on this journey. It seems that we must all learn to find Christ alone as our sufficiency, but what a joy when we do.

Father, please bring us into a mature spiritual understanding that we can accept and embrace the sufferings of this life and that they are not worthy to be compared with the fullness of the sonship and glory you have in store for us as we are conformed into the image of your Son. Amen.

(1) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/002930.html

Suffering and His Amazing Grace

“I’m not sure God wants us to be happy. I think he wants us to love, and be loved. But we are like children, thinking our toys will make us happy and the whole world is our nursery. Something must drive us out of that nursery and into the lives of others, and that something is suffering.”

–C. S. Lewis

I look back on my times when I “was on top of my game” doing “ministry,” and I cringe–I was abrasive, rude and self-willed at best. There was so much flesh! I have recently started to see the value of suffering in my life and how God has used it (and does use it) to keep that old Adam in me in check so that Jesus can be seen. With greater depth, by the light of the Spirit, I have been understanding more clearly what Peter was talking about when he wrote:

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer by human passions but by the will of God. (1Pet 4:1-2, RSV – emphasis added)

It seems that sin is never far away when everything is going our way. In Hebrews we read:

In 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; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, (Hebrews 5:7-9, RSV – emphasis added)

God uses suffering to deal with our carnal natures and to bring us into the perfection of His obedient Son. If Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered, what makes us think that we will learn it some easier way? Is the servant greater than His Master? “He learned obedience through what he sufferedbeing made perfect…” God is after perfection in His sons and daughters and He uses our suffering and grief to get us there.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. (Heb 12:11-13, RSV)

Ouch! Since I wrote the above yesterday morning, I was working in our yard and with some help from a friend we moved our little greenhouse. Well, all of a sudden my back got worse, as if I might have received another compression fracture in a vertebrae. Now I can hardly move without sharp pains and back spasms.

Lord, give me your grace and strengthen my weak back so that the lame (physically and spiritually) I encounter, may be healed. Like Paul said:

Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. 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. (2Cor 4:10-12, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

“Always.” So the lesson from my Master continues. Praise His name forever!

Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

“Amazing Grace”~ by John Newton