Bondservants of God… to be Led by the Holy Spirit

by Michael Clark and Susanne Schuberth*

Bondservants of the Lord pic

Austin-Sparks rightfully observed,

Many things are being constructed to which the Name of the Lord is being affixed – things which appear fine and great and like “the Church,” but which are destined to collapse when God’s hurricane and fire test every man’s work. Good works – philanthropy, hospitality, reform, education, religion, relief, etc. – may be the products, or byproducts, of what is called “Christian civilization” …and things for which to be profoundly grateful… but let us not confuse these with “a new creation,” regeneration, a being “born from above.” (1)

Today the highly visible church systems of men have become something that has a life of its own with the leading of Christ’s Spirit among them a rare thing. There is no resemblance of what calls itself “church life” today and what happened when the Holy Spirit was poured out on those who believed in Christ which we read about in the Book of Acts. All of our best attempts to even duplicate what they had back then will fail for one reason, they are our best attempts! Either Christ builds the household of God upon Himself, The Rock, as its foundation and enlivens what He builds or it is a sham subject to the eroding winds of time and the whims of presumptuous men (See Ephesians 4:14), doomed to live without His blessing on it and subject to the wiles of the devil and his delusions.

Jesus left the Holy Spirit in His place to give life, instruction, direction and power to His body (the ekklesia of God) and His presence was so powerful in those early days that those who lied to Him dropped dead and no one dared to add themselves to those who were called and empowered by Him for fear! The body with its many God-gifted members moved in the unity of a normally functioning human body. In fact the human body is a parable of what our Creator meant the body of Christ on this earth to be… unified, coordinated, obedient to the Head as it builds itself up in the love of God. No amount of human organization can cause this to happen.

T. A. Sparks continues,

The Church is nothing which man can build by any resource in himself personally or collectively. The Church is an organism, not an organization: “Behold, I show you a mystery – we are members of His flesh and of His bones.” Build that, if you can! Launch that; organize that; “run” that! It cannot be done. It is the spontaneous outworking of spiritual forces released… in the acceptance by faith of tremendous facts concerning Christ – facts which are proclaimed out of experience in the power of the Holy Ghost. Not the theological Christ; not the doctrinal Christ; not the Christ of the letter; much less the Jesus of history; but the Christ of Eternity in all the meaning of His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into the Throne of God revealed in the heart by the Holy Spirit – this alone is authority to preach, to serve, to occupy position, to “build” in relation to the House of God. It is folly to spend time and strength otherwise. It is wisdom to labor on this foundation. (1)

Paul wrote,

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good… individually as he wills. (1Cor 12:4-11, ESV2011)

 Today, few who believe in Christ wait on the Holy Spirit to empower us as HE wills, rather we put our eyes on something that titillates our flesh and makes us feel important as we answer our own call. Or if we yield to the will of God in our initial calling, how soon is it until we cast our eyes on something that is more pleasing and appealing to our natural man who wants to maintain his own preeminence and wars against the Spirit within us? We get away with this in today’s church because even church leadership to whom we look to as an example has often fallen victim to such things.

In my own case, I started out with what some called a “ministry of helps.” I was with a street ministry in the early ‘70’s that had many homes and facilities for those being saved off the streets and it was my gifting to rejuvenate, repair and maintain them. I spent many an hour re-plumbing and unclogging sewer pipes in basements and such, out of the sight of those who had the more glorious positions in that ministry. You might say that I was the guy behind the scenes who kept it all going with my mechanical, electrical and plumbing skills. After leaving that group I was often the church janitor and handy man that kept “things” unplugged the sound system, etc. going.

God did not anoint me to write for him for 22 years after He filled me with His Spirit and even then my writings were not allowed to go public for another eight years. It was then a brother found me and put what I shared with him on the web. I did not call myself to this more visible ministry of blogging book writing and website publishing and to this day I am quite content to remain in obscurity in the back woods of northern Idaho, unknown by others even in my own small town.

Somebody high in Christian circles observed a few years back with pride that in the sixties men were pastors. In the seventies they became teachers. In the eighties they became evangelists and in the nineties they became prophets and finally in the beginning of this century they became apostles. It is as if church leadership is a military or corporate machine in which we are entitled to go up the ladder and achieve higher ranks and titles regardless of our original callings. Far from the minds of leadership today is the downward calling of God regarding our flesh ever descending until we, as Paul, we see ourselves rightfully as “the chief of sinners” not the chief of the apostles. Truly, Paul called it right when he said, “The flesh wars against the Spirit…”

T.A. Sparks continues,

When one called of God to do the work of an evangelist assumes the role of a teacher, or vice-versa, or anyone marked out for this particular functioning attempts to do that, or when one goes beyond their scope and assumes any prerogative which is not theirs by Divine ordering, they are in the way of an arrested ministry, and more, they will be landed into serious confusion. People and things – otherwise occupying a vital position in the Divine plan – put into their wrong places have the Divine unction withdrawn from them… The Holy Spirit’s method is to set His seal upon us as we move according to His leading; not according to our fancy, choice, aptitude, predilection or ambition. (2)

 

Bondservants of the Lord

The apostle Paul wrote,

“For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.” (1 Cor 9:16-19 ESV)

How many bondservants of the Lord do we have leading in the churches today? How many men will do the work that God called them to without pay or remuneration from those they serve? How many find presenting the gospel free of charge out of obedience to Christ enough reward in itself as Paul (see also 2 Thes. 3:7-12)? How many leaders seek reward for their efforts because they have not been called by God and have not been entrusted by Him with their stewardship? Today, men in our pulpits shamelessly beg for money and support. If God calls a man to be His servant He meets their needs and as David observed, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” (Ps 37:25, KJV). It is not righteous for men and women to approach the service of the Lord as if it is a worldly profession, using worldly methods to ascend and succeed.

T. A. Sparks continues,

“Christian service” has come to be a realm in which all the acquisitive, ambitious, obtrusive, assertive, self-seeking, and numerous other elements of the natural man have been vented and taken hold. It has created a system in which human distinctions are the order of the day. Yes, and much more which it is too painful to mention.

We need an adjustment of our minds by a true spiritual perception of the real nature of service, and it will be well for us ever to remember that all work for Christ is not service to Christ (emphasis mine). A child may be very well-meaning and industrious in its “helping [out] mother”, but poor mother may find rather more work created than done.

Now let us say right away… with emphasis… that the indispensable and basic thing to real service is THE SERVANT-SPIRIT AND THE SERVANT-MIND. The matter of service is infinitely more than busy-ness in religious causes, earthly activities in Christian interests; it is the accomplishment of a heavenly will and Divine purpose which registers its impact in the breaking of another foreign will and destroying the works of the devil. This is the force of “obedience” and the “not my will” …and this is the servant-mind and servant-spirit. (1)

Paul wrote,

“For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men.” (1 Cor 7:22-23 ESV)

We are called to be the bondservants of Christ not of soulish, self-promoting men. We have been bought by Him as His own with His precious blood. No man has the right to rule over us in the place of Christ’s Spirit. Yes, we are to obey the laws of the land in which we live (see 1 Peter 2:13-17), but we are always to obey the leading of the Spirit and when these two are in conflict it is better to obey God than man.

For a while I was a part of a church that was founded in California by a charismatic leader from the Hollywood area, in fact he was involved in the music industry there before God called him. He was highly respected in the ranks of the church, but he often taught things that were not scriptural and his will and writings were respected by the church leadership under him without question. Our pastor would quote him before he would quote the Bible and was constantly reading his books and often attended seminars taught by him. He was definitely a “company man.” Finally, when I showed him how what he was teaching was contrary to the scriptures the pastor got offended and I told him that this man did not own me. I knew that I was already purchased with the blood of Christ and that I was to obey His Spirit and not the whims of men with their winds of doctrine. We were finally forced to leave that church and since then that pastor was forced to step down in shame and the denomination’s founder and his son (the heir apparent) both died not long after we left. Jesus said, “Every plant that my Father has not planted shall be rooted up.” We are called to be the bond-servants of Christ and obey the leading of His Spirit for He alone is our Savior and Lord. Sparks continues,

The Lord’s need is to have bond-servants… even though the extreme pressure at some time might make them say that they would “no more speak in this Name” … they find that they cannot forbear for long; but cost what it may, they must be in it and at it – the fire is in their bones and zeal of His House eats them up. May we be such, and may the true ground and motive of this fellowship in service be:

“I love, I love my Master,
I will not go out free!
For He is my Redeemer,
He paid the price for me.
I would not leave His service,
It is so sweet and blest;
And in the weariest moments
He gives the truest rest.

“My Master shed His life-blood
My vassal life to win,
And save me from the bondage
Of tyrant self and sin.
He chose me for His service,
And gave me power to choose
That blessed, perfect freedom
Which I shall never lose.” (1)

(1) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/001520.html

(2) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/003697.html

* I want to give a special thanks to Susanne Schuberth who sent me these quotes from T. Austin-Sparks and the quotes from Paul that inspired me to write this blog. Once again she and I are hearing the Lord say the same things. What a blessing to walk together in the unity of the Spirit.

It’s a Matter of Life and Death… the Love of God

Solitude and LightThis year has been a blessing as Father continues to draw us closer to Him even though the trials have often been severe. As His love has grown in me, so has the scope of suffering and joy grown as my heart has been opened to feel what is going on in the lives of those He has placed me with in His kingdom. They have been a great encouragement to me as we have prayed for one another and seen Him move in our lives. I would like to thank my wife, Dorothy, for her steadfast encouragement and proof reading and editing skills in these articles I write. I would also like to give a special thanks to Susanne Schuberth and her blog* and the many times God has used her to inspire the things that I have shared as we both have grown in Christ and have encouraged one another.

 The events of this year so remind me of this stanza from “Amazing Grace,”

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

I was recently reading something by T. Austin Sparks that really spoke to me about the nature of our Father’s working in our lives and the pattern of terrible lows, followed by His wonderful heavenly highs.

We can have many times of glory in our Christian lives. It is progressive, progressive in this sense: that it is an increasing matter. The Christian finds that from time to time he or she is taken into a deeper, deeper experience of trial, affliction, sorrow… something deeper and more difficult than anything before, and it’s a time when there does not seem to be very much glory; the glory seems to be veiled. There is nothing necessarily wrong about that, dear friends… That is the common experience and that is recognised as being true to Christian experience. But, you see, God is the God of glory and we are called unto His eternal glory and what the Lord means by this is more glory. The deeper the trial, the greater the suffering, the greater the glory, presently. It is only to bring about the glory in fuller measure. It is progressive, like that. And so there seems to be no end to these going-down experiences, but equally there is no end to the coming-up experiences. If there seems to be no end to the dark experiences, be assured that there is no end to the light [enlightening] ones. (http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/004310.html)

As I read this, something that Paul wrote took on greater meaning.

For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:11 RSVA)

For we are like a sweet-smelling incense offered by Christ to God, which spreads among those who are being saved and those who are being lost. For those who are being lost, it is a deadly stench that kills; but for those who are being saved, it is a fragrance that brings life. Who, then, is capable for such a task? (2 Corinthians 2:15-16 GNB)

Who can survive a life such as this, and who is sufficient to understand God’s ways with us? We can only endure such dying in Christ by faith, because it is designed to kill that old Adam in us with whom we have so closely identified, so that only the life of Christ remains in us and is manifest to all who know us. To those who perish we smell like death and they despise us for it, but to those who are being saved, we are the smell of His Life that brings life. Mary broke that alabaster box of perfume and poured it all out on Jesus and totally blessed Him with her act of love, and the smell of that perfume filled the whole house and blessed everyone in it. This is the nature of our own sacrifice in the plan of God… our being broken and poured out on and for Him.

Death and glory go hand in hand, but for those who belong to Jesus, death never has the final word, but rather the glory of God manifest in us through Christ. Just before He went to the cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son, that your Son also may glorify you” (John 17:1 KJ2000). Jesus glorified the Father by the sweet smelling sacrifice of His own life in obedience. What love for the Father that He would not only lay down His own life, but that He might redeem all of God’s precious creation from sin and death. I love the fragrance of Christ in His saints!

Jesus went on to pray:

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:22-23 ESV)

So we not only see that death is a prerequisite to glory in the economy of God, but is also needed to fully live in the love of the Father and the Son. Oh, what manner of love the Father has given unto us that we should be called the children of God and made one with the Father, the Son and one another in perfect agape love!

Thank you all for your kind and loving comments on our blog this year. May He continue to conform us into the image of Christ as we go from death to death and life to life and may He also draw us ever closer together in His great love.

* https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/

And Two Shall Become One

Two on Road to EmmausAnd that he died for all, that they who live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again. Therefore from now on know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet from now on know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:15-17 KJ2000)

For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28 RSVA)

If all the forces of hell are arrayed against any one thing that has to do with the Kingdom of Heaven and the Gospel of Christ, it is to keep the saints of God divided. Everywhere, even in the churches the lines of division are clearly to be seen–male against female, clergy against laity, teens against adults, blacks against whites, conservatives against liberals, Fundamentalists against Pentecostals, organized religion against house churches. On and on the list goes.

For about four years the Spirit has been teaching me the depths of what Jesus spoke just before He went to the cross. You could say it was His last will and testament, so we should give close attention to it. He prayed,

[I pray] that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:21-26 ESV)

Unity, love, perfection, glory and witness are all interwoven together in His prayer. These are part of a whole for the people of God to live and walk in. They cannot be divided and were in the plan of God for His creation from the foundation of the world.

Jesus describes His unity with the Father as God in Him and He in God. When I get up in the morning, I pour myself a cup of coffee and add a flavored creamer. With the help of a spoon, they are soon one, and as such, the creamer may not be extracted from the coffee and put back in its jug and the coffee can’t be poured back into the pot. The creamer is in the coffee and the coffee is in the creamer. They have become a whole new creation with an identity of its own that is the best of both parts. This is what it means for us to be one even as the Father is one with the Son and He with the Father. Only as we are one with the Father and the Son can we become truly one with each other. This was the witness that the church had as we read the opening chapters of the Book of Acts. They were all of one heart and one mind, no one said what he had was his own, and no one was lacking because they all cared for one another. Soon the world was saying, “Behold how they love one another!”

Paul wrote about this very same unity using the example of a godly marriage between a man and a wife to demonstrate a deeper truth.

For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church; (Ephesians 5:29-32 RSVA)

Here we see tender care, love and unity between a man and a woman as they become one in marriage. Although this is something many take for granted, Paul goes on to tell us that this a profound mystery because it portrays Christ and the Church. “I in thee and thou in me that they may be one in us even as we are one.” Dear saints of God, there is a unity that can be ours in Christ and the Father. In this unity we are enfolded into one another and truly become one in the Father and the Son, just as they are enfolded into one another. “Herein God commands a blessing” (see Psalm 133).

This unity of Jesus and His Father was so profound that He could say to Philip, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” So as Jesus prayed for our unity as His body and bride (the true ekklesia of God), He prayed that she would be just as He is in this world, “That the world might know that you have sent me.” If you have seen that beautifully perfected bride that dwells in unity as members of His body, you have seen Jesus. To this fact John wrote:

Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1-2 RSVA)

We become what we behold. John wrote that it would happen when Christ appears! He appears because we are like Him in the unity He has with the Father. He becomes evident because we are in the unity, love, perfection and glory of God as a witness of Christ to the world. We have to let Him crucify anything in us that stands in the way of this divine gift of unity in His love. The scripture makes it clear that He will not physically return until He has a perfect bride to return for! “Behold the bride has made herself ready.” “The Spirit and the Bride say, Come!” She is one in the Spirit of Christ.

Dear saints, I have been in many Christian groups and churches and any time that even two people started to come together in the unity of the Spirit, all the forces of hell have risen up against them to divide and conquer. Jesus warned us that Satan was a liar and a murder from the beginning, and all too often we as Christians are ignorant of his ways. We let him make us instruments of his will and become part of the problem, adding to that division. We quickly finding fault with one another and speak against one another. If this happens when only two Christians start to come into agreement in the unity of God’s love, is it any wonder that today’s 41,000 different Christian denominations and sects are so divided when the New Testament says that there is only one church and one body? We can come together in some kind of ecumenical conclave and round-off the corners of our doctrines to make them compatible with the other groups, but unless we are joined in the life and love of Christ with HIM as our Head, it profits nothing.

In reality we cannot do much about the divisive mess the churches have become. The visible church took the wrong fork in the road many years ago and was already dividing along the lines of ethnicity, doctrinal differences, and a party spirit by the end of the first century.

But if just two of us would pray and humble ourselves and ask that our Father would make us one no matter what the personal cost–if being one with the Father and the Son was more important to us than being “right” or being “over” the other person. If serving one another in the self-denying agape love of God becomes most significant, He will command a blessing to spring out of that love and unity and His great grace will go out from us unto a dying world.

One person cannot do this alone. It takes two, always a minimum of two who become one. First we have the Father and the Son becoming one as our example. Jesus sent out the disciples in twos. The idea of “one man band” ministries ended with the Old Covenant, yet what do we have today? Ministries that come from and focus on a single individual. This is travesty and a terrible sin against the heart of Christ! He told us that if two or more would agree as touching any one thing, it would be granted to us. This cannot happen by the flesh when one person is imposing his will on everyone else under him. When God made Adam, He said that it was not good that man should be alone; He made Eve so they could become one flesh. This has always been God’s requirement. The unifying of two people in one heart, one mind and one spirit is where the world sees who Christ really is, “I in thee and thou in me.” May we pray for and allow Him to put us with that other saint He has for us to grow with in Christ and knit us together in His love that the world might know that He has sent us in His Son. This is God’s synergism.

And you shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand; and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. And I will have regard for you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and will confirm my covenant with you. (Leviticus 26:7-9 RSVA)

If this was true of the Old Covenant how much more is it true of the New and Lasting Covenant with Christ as our Head? I would like to end with this quote from T. Austin Sparks,

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore, as you go, disciple people in all nations. (Matthew 28:18,19 ISV)

But who is to go? It is the Church, and His irreducible nucleus of the Church is two. It is a corporate thing, the bringing of the significance of the Body into view. When there is a functioning in the Spirit, it is nothing less than Christ risen, ascended and exalted, going on with His work through His Body, with all those limitations dismissed. That is tremendous! It is either true, or it is not true. If it is true, it is an immense thing. If it is not, well, what fools we are! But here it is, and, oh! that the Church might learn more of what it means to be in living union with a risen Christ! That there should be a company, two or three or more, though limited physically here on this earth by time and space, yet really functioning in the Holy Spirit, so that the universal Christ – all that it means that He is there at God’s right hand – is having some expression! I would to God that this could come home to you by the Spirit and that you could grasp it, for what differences it would make! We have a long way to go yet before this is appreciated adequately. But it is true.

When you touch these things, human language is a vain instrument for expression. “The exceeding greatness of His power” – the superlatives in this realm! Oh, for this enlargement by a new apprehension of the greatness of Christ in His Person, in His death, in His resurrection! Well, then, the supreme thing the New Testament shows is that the Church on its true, spiritual basis corresponds to Christ risen. Not “the Church” that we know here on earth, for it does not. But God’s thought about the Church is not an impossible and merely idealistic one. It is a practical thing. Two saints, simple, humble and unimportant in this world, but really meeting together in the Spirit, can be a functioning instrument of Him to whom has been committed all authority in heaven and on earth. With them all these old limitations can be dismissed and they can at one moment touch all the ends of the earth. Do you believe that? That is really the meaning of our glorying in Christ risen. It has to be something more than emotion, and more than glorious doctrine; yes, more than a truth to which we give some assent…. If it is true that we are one with a risen, enthroned Lord, it ought to have tremendous repercussions. May it be so! ~ http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002021.html

“Male and Female Made He Them”… the Gospel

boy and girl and benchSteadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. (Psalms 85:10 RSVA)

So God created humans in his image. In the image of God he created them. He created them male and female. (Genesis 1:27 GW)

Many of us have grown up in a misogynistic culture that was promulgated by the churches we attended where only men could do the “God stuff” at the altar and gave out, under certain conditions, the sacraments that made the difference in one’s life between heaven and hell as our final destination. Women need not apply!

The problem with a culture dominated by men is that half of the image of God is missing! He made mankind in His image, both male and female. As a youth when I thought of warriors, judges, law makers, law enforcers and even pastors and priests, I thought of men clad in special uniforms that set them apart from and above the crowd. These men were aloof, stern faced and cold, so that was the image of God I grew up with.

Thank God that in the last fifty years things have changed and women have made inroads in all these areas. But if that same hard male-like image prevails in these professions where women exist, have we really gained anything toward seeing who God really is? He is still the law maker, the law enforcer, the judge, the warrior that avenges, and can even be the distant and set aloof priest who is supposed to be touched by all our afflictions, but he doesn’t have the time to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice because the very size of the church he has built is too much for him.

“God so loved the world…” wrote John as he described the gospel (good news) in his gospel narrative. He did not write, “God so judged the world.” Christ was given to us that we might have Life and that more abundantly. The Old covenant was more about judgment and death than it was about life. In other words, you might say that the Old Covenant was primarily about the male side of God, and the New Covenant takes us deeper into the female aspect of God’s nature.

What I am trying to say is that there is in the nature of women (if it has not been distorted by the harsh world of men in which they exist) a tenderness, kindness and nurturing love that is rarely seen in men. This nature is the “feminine side” of God because He is also the God of forgiveness, kindness, love and mercy. God created Adam in His image and His likeness. But He then said it was not good that man should be alone since Adam didn’t find a helper fit for his human companionship among the animals. So, God put Adam to sleep and took a rib out of him and formed Eve. You might say that God removed the female part of Himself from Adam, formed a separate being from it, and called her Woman. For Adam to become one once again, he had to cling to the woman and she to him in the love and unity of God. Intimacy between a man and a woman was born that day and God saw that it was good! We read later this same verse in Genesis about a man and a woman clinging to one another in unity in the New Testament when Paul wrote:

We are parts of his [Christ’s] body. That’s why a man will leave his father and mother and be united with [joined to] his wife, and the two will be one. This is a great mystery. (I’m talking about Christ’s relationship to the church.) (Ephesians 5:30-32 GW)

You see, we must have the unity of both the man and the woman and all that they are meant to be IN Christ if we are to truly be that city set on a hill that God desires the world to see.

You do not have to teach little boys to play with tools, toy trucks and toy guns. It is natural to them. Likewise you do not have to train little girls to play with dolls or play house or “Nancy Nurse.” Their whole makeup is to love and nurture. God made us to be complementary to one another in His image.

King David grew up in a culture that was all about obeying the laws of God or else. He served in the courts of a harsh and spiteful king named Saul. Yet David was chosen to be king in place of Saul because he was a man after God’s own heart (See 1 Sam. 13:14). This same David handed out judgment as the King of Israel, yet he also handed out mercy, even to his enemies! David understood the love and mercy of God where his predecessor only understood law and punishment and showed no mercy. The law demanded sacrifices to be offered up for sin, but Hosea was quoted by Jesus when He said to those who judged His disciples, “But if you had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless.” (Matthew 12:7 KJ2000)

When David was caught in his sin, plotting the death of Uriah so that he could have Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife, He cried out to God for mercy as the God of all mercy and wrote Psalm 51 as his prayer.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalms 51:1-10 ESV)

Here we see even in the Old Testament the good news of the gospel. David appealed to God’s love, mercy and tender washing as a mother does with her child. He cried out to God for a new clean heart and for Him to blot out all his sins and to put a new right spirit in him. Jesus was called “The Son of David” because this is what Father sent Him to do in each one of us (Read Hebrews Ch. 8). All these attributes are what the New Covenant is about.

In the same way that Saul judged, he was judged. He lived by the sword and died by the sword. It is interesting that David lived by love and mercy and died in the arms of love and mercy with a young woman named Abishag, who kept him warm in his old age.

Now King David was old and advanced in years. And although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm. Therefore his servants said to him, “Let a young woman be sought for my lord the king, and let her wait on the king and be in his service. Let her lie in your arms, that my lord the king may be warm. So they sought for a beautiful young woman throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The young woman was very beautiful, and she was of service to the king and attended to him, but the king knew her not. (1 Kings 1:1-4 ESV)

I believe that in these last days, our culture has disdained the feminine nature, even among those who have advocated women’s lib. Women have left their homes for a career in the world so they can compete with men in harsh environment of dog eat dog business or even choose combat in the military. They have left the raising and nurturing of their children to institutions, just as the church today has become a cold institution and a business run primarily by men. The tenderness of God in the image of “male and female made He them” has, for the most part, been lost in a world gone mad. Without this we do not have a demonstration of the Good News and mercy of the love of God.

The older I become, the more God has tenderized my heart. Like David, the more I see “my [own] sin that is ever before me,” the more I want God’s mercy and the more I want to show His love and mercy to others. Jesus said, “For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you measure, it shall be measured to you again.” (Matthew 7:2 KJ2000). I don’t know about you, but these words are enough to scare the judgment of hell out of me (See Revelation 12:10)!

In closing, I encourage the brothers in the body of Christ to yield to the gift that God has put in the sisters in their loving and nurturing natures and open your eyes to see how Christ Himself so often showed His love and mercy to those who needed healing in not only their bodies, but also their broken hearts. And I would encourage the sisters to see that there is also a need at times for firmness and discipline as when Jesus told the woman caught in the act of adultery, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Together both the male and female natures of God are needed if we are to see Him as He is.

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

“What is Christianity… about?” by Michael and Susanne

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Photo by Susanne Schuberth)

Good grief, that is a strange question, don’t you think? 🙄
Okay, okay, if someone said Christianity was all about Christ, then we would wholeheartedly agree and could stop writing at this point. Nonetheless, that was not what we wanted to talk about here. Instead, we have often wondered whether we as Christians are more known for what we stand against than for what we stand for.

We could say, for example, that Armenians are against Calvinists and vice versa; fundamentalists are against gifts of the Spirit; Pentecostals tend to depend on what they “feel” regarding divine matters; house-church people are against organized religion and most Christians are against abortion, homosexuality, getting pregnant outside of wedlock…the list goes on and on.
It seems that all too often our identity is not in Christ, but in what we cannot tolerate. It is so easy to be against something. That is human nature! But to be moved by the love of God, THAT is a miracle of God that causes us to transcend our old adamic nature! Jesus told us to love those who hate us and do good to our enemies, yet is that an earmark of Christians today? If our identity is not Christ and His love for all, especially among those of us who believe (cf. Gal 6:10), what witness do we really have as being any different from those in the world without Christ? The Bible tells us that the (unbelieving) world will only believe that God sent Jesus when we are one in God and Jesus, just as our heavenly Father is in Jesus and as Jesus is in His Father (see Jn 17:21).

So, back to our question, “What is Christianity about?” Jesus Christ said, “Don’t you know that I must be about my Father’s business?” Are we as believers in Christ really about our Father’s business? Or have we made a business out of what we believe? When we take a stand against a perceived evil in the world, we as Christians want to organize. We make a business out of the stand. But is that what Jesus did when confronted with the woman caught in adultery or the needs of a hungry people? He just kept it simple and dealt with each need as it arose and did not dehumanize people in their individual needs by turning it into “a ministry.” In fact, our human nature tends to get so focused on the forest that we cannot see the trees any longer. Jesus, instead, never missed out on a chance to reach out to the individual, even when being pressed on by the crowd. While surrounded by a vast number of admirers, he focused on a hated tax collector, Zacchaeus, up in a tree. While being pressed in upon by sick and needy people, He focused on one woman who touched the hem of his garment because she had faith that she could be healed by Him in doing so.

Well, one might argue, aren’t we called as Christians to take a stand for what is right and what is wrong in our world today – by any means? Yes, you are right, but maybe not so much by telling the world what is still wrong, but rather by doing what is right. Or in other words,

Never look for justice in this world, never cease to give it.― Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Let All Things Be Done Unto Edification

Lioness and cub“Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.” (Ephesians 4:29 GNB)

Well, folks, it is confession time again. The other day I was talking with a friend in Christ and she said, “Michael, I am not perfect. Only God is.” Without thinking, I got into my old “fix it” mode and commenced to tell that dear friend about things I had seen in them that needed to be tweaked… of course by me!

Thank God that she pulled me up short in the midst of my “fix- her- upper” and said, “Why do you do this? This really hurts me when you go at me like this.” I heard the hurt in her voice, stopped and apologized. She asked if I got in that mode because of how my parents treated me. I had to think about that. I grew up with a mother who was constantly finding fault with me. Pick, pick, pick. And my dad could never affirm me no matter how hard I tried to please him. As I thought about it, I concluded that some kind of superiority complex is being fed when I chose to point out the faults of others. This pattern is hard to break after being instilled in me during my formative years, by the military, many bosses I have had and again by some church leadership that I have been under.

Yet, what does the Bible say about such things? How about the above verse? Don’t use harmful words! I am an expert at using words that go in like a knife. It just comes naturally. One of my sons was an expert at verbal put-downs. While in his teens, he walked up to a blond girl, looked closely at her hair and asked, “Tell me, how do you dye your roots brown like that?” He and his buddies got a big laugh out of it, but she did not.

No, this is not what our opening verse is talking about. We are to let only helpful words that build people up come out of our mouths. So many of us find it easier to pull people down. After all, Satan is the accuser of the brethren and all too often he is right there to put words in our mouths so we can damage our fellow members of the body of Christ. I am so thankful that this dear sister showed me my fault. It was the Lord speaking through her and by the time she was through, I had tears in my eyes for what I had done to her with my words. Paul wrote:

 “But now I am happy—not because I made you sad, but because your sadness made you change your ways. That sadness was used by God, and so we caused you no harm. For the sadness that is used by God brings a change of heart that leads to salvation—and there is no regret in that! But sadness that is merely human causes death.” (2 Corinthians 7:9-10 GNB)

Godly sorrow is a good thing. Paul has some hard things to say to the Corinthian church in his first letter, but because he spoke in the Spirit, it brought about a godly sorrow that led to their change of heart.

So what does it mean to speak words of correction under the influence of God? Paul wrote:

My friends, if someone is caught in any kind of wrongdoing, those of you who are spiritual should set him right; but you must do it in a gentle way. And keep an eye on yourselves, so that you will not be tempted, too. Help carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will obey the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2 GNB)

There are four requirements here to set someone on the right course:

  • We must be in the Spirit and led of the Spirit in what we are saying.
  • We must do it with all gentleness.
  • We need to search our own hearts and ask, “Am I correcting this person for their good or just so I can feel superior to them?”
  • Finally, we are to help carry our brother’s and sister’s burdens. Some of them still have things to overcome (God knows we all do), but it might not be God’s timing for us to step in and “adjust” them, especially if we are doing it so we can feel more comfortable being around them. If we are really spiritual, God’s love in us should empower us to not be so hasty. “Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs;” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5 GNB)

I thanked this dear saint for calling me on my error. I had not been moved by the Spirit, but by pride in what I said. At first she didn’t want to say anything, just take it. The problem is that if we do not bring it to the Lord’s light when people wrong us, they are apt to do it again and make the rift between the two of us that much worse. If we are moved by the Spirit and are operating in His love, we can show another their error even when they are offending us. This too will be to their edification in the Spirit as the Lord empowers them to change.

 We who are strong in the faith ought to help the weak to carry their burdens. We should not please ourselves. Instead, we should all please other believers for their own good, in order to build them up in the faith. For Christ did not please himself. Instead, as the scripture says, “The insults which are hurled at you have fallen on me.” (Romans 15:1-3 GNB)

God puts a high premium on unity and edification in the body of Christ. Let us always try to be motivated by God’s love and pray first to get God’s leading before we start correcting one of his precious ones. Let us build up others and provide what is needed, so that what you we say will do good to those who hear us.

Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. (Ephesians 4:22-27 RSVA)

By the way, this sister and I both were blessed by the way that God led us to overcome in this situation and His love still binds us together in Christ as members one of another.

Revelation, Love and Intimacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Speaking of love and intimacy Oswald Chambers wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

[1] Gen. 1:26

[2] Romans 8:29 RSVA

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

[4] Psalm 51:12 KJV

[5] Gen. 3:11

[6] Rom. 8:2

[7] John 1:29

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

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

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

[11] Eph. 1:17

[12] John 16:13-15

[13] 1 John 4:19

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

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

[16] 1 John 4:18

[17] John 1:9

[18] 1 John 1:5-8

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

[20] Eph. 4:14-16

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

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

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

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

[25] John 19:26

[26] Matt. 1:25