Fear not: for I am with you: I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west; I will say to the north, ‘Give up’; and to the south, ‘Keep not back’: bring my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; Even everyone that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him. Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears. Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled… let them hear, and say, ‘It is truth.’ (Isa 43:5-9, KJ2000)
Since I have been sharing what God has put on my heart to write on the internet over the last 18 years, I’ve always marveled at how His spiritual people are so scattered across the face of the earth. In my idealistic way of thinking, I’ve wished that more of them were located closer to me so we could have face to face fellowship, but that has rarely happened. It seems as if He has seen fit to place His candles throughout the world so that His whole house might have light by which to see by.
God is gathering to Himself a spiritual people who have spiritual eyes and ears. They are His sons and daughters and they come to Him from far distances around the earth. T. Austin-Sparks wrote:
“But it may be that in these hours of our fellowship together a little more of the light of that story will break upon our hearts. There is a phrase in the Word: “Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty; they shall behold the land of far distances”, and that two-fold statement can quite truly, and rightly, be applied to Him. He is the King in His beauty; and He is also the Land of Far Distances.” (1)
“The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” He is both our King and His is the Land of Far Distances making up the Kingdom of God. His are a people having spiritual eyes to see and spiritual ears to hear who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.
I believe that there is another reason He has us so far apart before He assembles us together into His Holy temple in Heaven. We read in Proverbs, “Iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another.” As we communicate and share what the Lord has been showing us there is a spiritual sharpening that is going on. But what do we read about iron in the making of Solomon’s temple?
And the house, when it was being built, was built of stone made ready before it was brought there: so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was being built. (1Kgs 6:7, KJ2000)
There is a spiritual lesson in the building of Solomon’s temple just as all those holy things in the Old Covenant were types of spiritual things in the New Covenant. God is doing a deep work in our hearts while we are in isolation from one another. We are being prepared to fit together perfectly once He assembles us together.
The problem with most “church assemblies” these days is that few of the stones fit together as they should and a lot of friction and straining happens as we try to force ourselves to come together in that system. Then we have the men at the top who get out their hammers and axes and try and do what only God can do. The result is that many of His people go away wounded and disillusioned with the whole church process leading to the further scattering of His “living stones.” Today, more and more people have left institutional Christianity, seeking something that is of our Father’s design, a relational family centered on Christ. But we have a promise given us in all this.
Fear not: for I am with you: I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west; I will say to the north, ‘Give up;’ and to the south, ‘Keep not back: bring my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; Even everyone that is called by my name.’
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:2, KJV- emphasis added)
Be encouraged. Jesus will finish what He has started in our hearts. Only Father knows when His living stones are ready to be assembled. Only He knows when the Bride has made herself ready for the marriage feast of the Lamb. With Paul I pray,
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calls you, who also will do it. (1Thess 5:23-24, KJ2000- emphasis added)
Earth-rise Christmas Eve 1968 (as seen from Apollo 8 lunar orbiter)
Fifty years ago tonight, Apollo eight orbited the moon. The crew was awestruck as they came around from the back side of the moon and saw the contrast of the drab gray orb that they had been behind in radio silence, suddenly to see the beauty of the earth as it rose above the surface of the moon. The result was the following message they sent from the lunar module.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.”
And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you — all of you on the good Earth.
And Merry Christmas to all from the Clark family in Idaho, USA
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2Cor 5:16-17, ESV2011- emphasis added)
As I write my thoughts on this verse once again, the slogan “What would Jesus do?” comes to mind. This somehow seems shallow to me. I know that many Christians try to become “Christ-like” by studying their New Testaments and this is good, but is there more? How does that fit with what Paul wrote?
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2Cor 5:17, KJ2000)
In our old creation state, in that old Adam, we can read and copy and imitate the Christ in the Bible, but this still falls way short of being made a NEW creation with our new lives IN Christ with HIM doing the work of manifesting Himself in us. Without Him doing the work, are at best a cheap knock-off of the real thing and have no more authenticity in His kingdom than our plastic Jesus sitting on the dashboard of our cars. We are knowing Him after our flesh and not after the Spirit. I am sorry, but that book, “The Imitation of Christ,” infers something that is still short of what our heavenly Father is after.
We have to be born from above to know Jesus Christ after the Spirit and for Him to know us as a members of His body here on earth. Anything less and we can only manifest the tree from which we came. Jesus put it this way:
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (Matt 12:33-34, ESV2011)
We must be, “trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.” (Isa 61:3, KJ2000)
When I was a Catholic (I was baptized into it as an infant and even went to Catholic schools), I didn’t know the Bible at all. I might have tried to read that “family Bible” that collected dust on our coffee table, but it did not speak to me. So, the only Christ that I knew was that Jesus in the flesh on all our Catholic crucifixes. I knew Jesus “after the flesh.” When out of desperation and spiritual starvation I left the Catholic church, I started going to a “Bible church.” That was a step in the right direction, but it was still a baby step at best. But I loved to hear our pastor preach from the Bible and he led me in a “sinner’s prayer” in our living room after my first Sunday in His church. Yet my reading of the scriptures was still dry and a struggle at best. Something was still missing.
Two years after that fate-filled prayer in 1968, I was still hungry for what was missing. That denomination believed in the Spirit, but they did not teach much about it. Those who had received this “second act of grace” were considered few and far between and had “the very seed of sin” removed from them. I met one man in that denomination who supposedly was of this class and he was “holier than thou” at best and out of reach of someone like me.
I thank God He finally led me to someone that had the Spirit of Christ in them and could speak into my heart and tell me about the Holy Spirit and His desire to live in me. He told me that I needed to pray for Jesus to come in and dump me out of all that was of my old life and come in and fill me with His Spirit in its place. This required an unconditional surrender on my part and that all made sense for the first time in my life. John chapter three finally had deep meaning to me. I was born from above by His Spirit. Wow! What a difference it made to be able to walk after the Spirit in me and no longer be stuck with walking after my flesh. Then the Bible came alive with every word jumping off its pages right into my heart for the first time. I was literally on a honeymoon with Jesus as my closest friend ever. I truly knew Him after the Spirit in me instead of having to settle with knowing Him as some historic figure in the Bible.
Walking in the Spirit Is Not an Option
Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Rom 8:8-11, ESV2011- emphasis added)
Once I read this passage with His help, I understood where I had been and what God had done in my life in this long process. Try as I would, I just could not please God in my natural state. My flesh could not please God no matter what. I needed His Spirit in me and that was NOT an option! I still remember all those poor souls in church going through the motions Sunday after Sunday. Some of them used each other for their own worldly gain as well, and there were divisions and infighting in that “Bible church” where my search for Jesus started. That poor pastor. He was doing the best that he could because he did not believe in being filled with the Spirit, either.
Having the Spirit abiding in us is only the starting point as members of God’s kingdom. This is where He starts to call us in our upward journey into the fullness of Christ. Every step is an eye opener because all things become new as the old things pass away. How we relate to Christ in our lives as well as how we relate to one another is constantly being perfected and changed. He is making us members of HIS body with Him as its only Head. And we grow into a fuller meaning of what it means to be members of one another as well. This is not “church membership” as the term is used in institutional Christianity. It is so far above that way of thinking. We are now members of a spiritual body that are joined together by Him, not by us. Paul wrote,
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Rom 12:3-5, ESV2011)
He wrote much about the body of Christ we are born into by the Spirit. Just as our human bodies have many members and each one has a different function, so it is IN Christ’s body. But these differences do not mean that one is greater than another. As we walk with Christ as our Head, He will grace us with any spiritual abilities that we need to edify the whole body we are members of. These abilities are not given to puff us up and cause pride and division. That was what was going on in the church at Corinth and most of 1 Corinthians was addressing their carnality and immaturity. We are to grow-up into Christ and function in our edifying His body, not just warm a pew.
The more we mature IN Christ the less we think about ourselves as His love pours through us. “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.” Paul wrote about spiritual “gifts,” but punctuated 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 with a chapter between them that is all about the love of God and how it functions in Christ’s body in chapter 13. At the end of this chapter He wrote,
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1Cor 13:8-12, ESV2011- emphasis added)
I used to think of all these gifts as something important to me because they had become my identity (especially prophecy), but as I grew in Christ and Father began to strip me of my childish ways through much chastisement, His love took the place of my self-centered desires. I began to put away childish things and my prayer was to know Jesus face to face and to be fully conformed by the Father as HE destined me to be IN Christ. Paul wrote, “Then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” This is not “pie in the sky, by and by,” Our Father is calling us to grow-up in this lifetime. Just as we wish for our own children to grow up and mature, so it is with Him. Way too many of the scriptures are thought of as applying to another time or another people or persons, letting us slide on by without the convicting power of the Spirit to bring us into spiritual maturity.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2Tim 3:16-17, ESV2011)
Is there still room for the Spirit to speak prophetically through us, yes, but it does not remain our identity. Neither should speaking in tongues, interpretation. giving words of knowledge, etc. Always remember,
And now abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1Cor 13:13, KJ2000)
This article by Susanne Schuberth touched me in an area where I needed it, the importance of prayer and why we go through dry spells in our lives in Christ. I hope it blesses you as well.
Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray…” (Luke 11:1, ESV2011)
Spiritual wildernesses do exist. Dry spells where you are tempted to believe you pray to a wall as nobody seems to hear your requests, they are real to the one who gets closer and closer to God. As illogical as it might seem, people who do not really seek more from God have less problems with prayer as they do not really expect God to answer them, either, when they keep clinging to pre-formulated prayers and hymns. However, can our relationship with our Creator ever be business as usual…? 🙄 In fact, if we truly want to feed on the living God, we must quit our comfort zone and cherished traditions because seeking God is always an adventure! An adventure that can be both exhausting and rewarding, unnerving and intriguing. Or as T. Austin Sparks put it so well,
(Reading: 2 Corinthians chapter three)
A year or two ago, some Christian friends invited me to attend a church service with them at a “Bible church.” As I sat there looking around the auditorium, I saw many faces that had no life in them and that included the pastor. There was no life in his preaching–or in the whole service for that matter. It was just a bunch of people going through the motions as they kept the law of church attendance on Sunday. Sad to say, I have seen this same lifelessness in some house church meetings as well.
In 2 Corinthians chapter three Paul makes it clear that when the Bible becomes a letter of legalism (so many commandments that we must keep) it kills us. In this chapter he speaks of the glory of Christ that is ours in His NEW Covenant that should shine from our faces as we follow the Spirit in fellowship with Him. If the New Testament becomes a system of rule keeping, we will entirely miss what the New Covenant is (read Hebrews chapter 8)! Here in chapter three, Paul refers to what happened to Moses as he ministered the Old Covenant Law. Moses’ face shone brightly when he came back down from the mountain after receiving the law in a personal encounter with God, but that glory faded as the letter of the law he ministered worked death within him. As time went on the shining on his face faded because the letter of the law kills, but it is the Spirit that gives life (vs. 6).
This whole chapter is about there being no need for written letters if we are walking in the Spirit of Christ. If we are abiding in the Spirit we are the letters from God. We are the only letters that are needed to minister the gospel as our faces shine with His glory and His Spirit is speaking through us. It is sad that legalism (you must attend church on Sunday, you must tithe, you must not do this or that, etc.) has so taken over in our churches that few Christians today have faces that shine with the glory of the abiding Christ.
Paul wrote, “But their minds were hardened; for to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.” I remember my first two years of trying to be a “born again” Christian. It began when I was led in a “sinner’s prayer” by a well-meaning pastor in my living room one evening. But soon it was evident that something was missing. I was encouraged to read the Bible, but it was all so many words with no life in them. I might as well have been reading a phone-book with so many names and numbers with no coherent flow. I attended church on Sunday and Wednesday evening every week and went to Sunday school class and even taught one, all to no avail. That empty hole inside prevailed. It was not until I finally surrendered my whole life to Christ unconditionally that the Spirit of God came into me for the first time. In my first attempt to become a Christian I had made a mental decision at the encouragement of a man, but after a spiritual crisis two years later, I surrendered all that I was (a confused mess at best) to Him as He drew me to Himself and filled me with His Spirit. It was then that His glory began to shine from my life and the words of the Bible began to leap off its pages into my heart.
The spiritual meaning of the entire Bible will be veiled to us just as it is and was to those Jews under the Old Covenant if we do not have the Spirit of Christ abiding in us as our Teacher. It will become a letter of laws that we must keep by our mental gyrations instead of a love letter from our Father in heaven that leads us into a deeper loving relationship with Him through His Spirit. Paul wrote, “You are a letter from Christ written with the Spirit of the living God on tablets of human hearts.”
Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent [sufficient] of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence [sufficiency] is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2Cor 3:4-6, RSV – emphasis added)
“All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men to do nothing.” ~ attributed to Edmond Burke
How many times have we heard this quoted that we might be stirred into political or social action without giving the will of God for us (as individuals) a second thought? Now contrast this quote with the following one,
“Why do you call me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.” ~ Jesus Christ
If Jesus, the Son of God, would not let men call Him “good” as if He was separate from His Father, what makes us think that any of us are good as individual Christians? As Jeremiah put it, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” You see, ALL goodness in the universe comes from our heavenly Father. We should never call one another good; “Oh, she (or He) is such a good Christian!”
With this in mind, along the theme of usurping the place of Christ, I would like to share today’s post (March 25th) from “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers.”
Maintaining the Proper Relationship
the friend of the bridegroom…John 3:29
Goodness and purity should never be traits that draw attention to themselves, but should simply be magnets that draw people to Jesus Christ. If my holiness is not drawing others to Him, it is not the right kind of holiness; it is only an influence which awakens undue emotions and evil desires in people and diverts them from heading in the right direction. A person who is a beautiful saint can be a hindrance in leading people to the Lord by presenting only what Christ has done for him, instead of presenting Jesus Christ Himself. Others will be left with this thought— “What a fine person that man is!” That is not being a true “friend of the bridegroom”— I am increasing all the time; He is not.
To maintain this friendship and faithfulness to the Bridegroom, we have to be more careful to have the moral and vital relationship to Him above everything else, including obedience. Sometimes there is nothing to obey and our only task is to maintain a vital connection with Jesus Christ, seeing that nothing interferes with it. Only occasionally is it a matter of obedience. At those times when a crisis arises, we have to find out what God’s will is. Yet most of our life is not spent in trying to be consciously obedient, but in maintaining this relationship— being the “friend of the bridegroom.” Christian work can actually be a means of diverting a person’s focus away from Jesus Christ. Instead of being friends “of the bridegroom,” we may become amateur providences of God to someone else, working against Him while we use His weapons.
Wow! Does that get right down to the deepest motivation in the hearts of many who walk in “holiness” (“Touch me not for I am holier than thou”) or that just want to be thought well of remember by other people? I have found that his whole principle of decreasing while Jesus increases is foreign to most Christians. I was at a small home meeting once and told the group that I wanted to be like John the Baptist and be found by God as a true “friend of the bridegroom,” to so decrease for His sake that I would not leave a mark on this earth, no website, no published books, not even a grave marker, but only leave people behind me that were looking to Jesus as their only desire. There was a man in the room that spoke up and said, “It doesn’t have to be that extreme does it?” I am sorry, but if we are to be HIS disciples, it does.
One time I was in a men’s meeting at my church and we were in a small room where there was a florescent light fixture that was giving off poor light, but was making a loud buzzing sound. The Lord said to me, “That is how most Christians are, a lot of noise and not much light.” Well, that gave me much to contemplate in my own life and finally repent of (sometimes daily).
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” We are not the Light of Life, but we can have it abiding in us as we surrender to the One who IS the Light of the world and let His cross deal with our carnal natures (that buzzing light fixture that gives off poor light).
For more on what it means to decrease while He increases and what it means to be a “friend of the Bridegroom” as John the Baptist was, follow this link http://awildernessvoice.com/ElijahCompany.pdf