In Our Weakness Is Christ Made Perfect

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1Pet 5:5, ESV2011)

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations [given to me], a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2Cor 12:7-10, ESV2011)

Recently I received a communication from a brother in Kenya, Africa in which he was concerned about a younger relative who was “prophesying” over and trying to lord over the members of his family and telling them what they needed to do “for God.” This young woman considers herself a “prophetess” and has been using her “words of knowledge” and prophetic insight to exercise authority over his family. She has caused much confusion and heartache among them to the point that his young daughter doesn’t want to see her aunt any longer.

When I was in my thirties, I was influenced by a prophet in our non-denominational Pentecostal church to seek such a gift. Soon I was doing many of the things that this young woman was doing and drawing a lot of attention to myself (all “in the name of the Lord,” of course). The problem was that I could not discern between what was from Him and what was from one of Satan’s minions working through my flesh. I was a mixture and God hates mixtures.

Finally, after praying that He would show me how He saw me, He showed me that it was my pride working in me that made way for the devil to work there as well. I prayed that He would purge me of that terrible pride and I soon found how God uses spiritual wildernesses in our lives to strip us of everything we are in that old Adamic nature we are all born with. How I hated being put on “the back burner” for all those years! I kicked against it for 12 years until I finally acknowledged that HE is God and that all His ways are perfect and good in our lives. As it was with Moses and Israel, He had to strip me of all that was of “Egypt” that still remained in me through a 14 year spiritual famine. But the outcome of it was as Ezekiel prophesied over Israel.

I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord GOD; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel. (Ezek 36:30-32, ESV2011- emphasis added)

I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (Isa 43:6-7, ESV2011- emphasis added)

Isaiah also prophesied of this process.

He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isa 40:29-31, KJ2000- emphasis added)

In our youth, spiritually speaking, we have to come to the end of ourselves and “utterly fall.” It is in this state that all we can do is wait upon the Lord. The meaning of the word “renew” in this passage is that you will be given a whole new source of strength. In the Pulpit commentary regarding this verse, it reads:

We are thus “changed men,” for the Hebrew word here, “to renew,” means “to change.” Experiences like these alter alike [both] character and countenance. (1)

If God is going to use us to effectively speak by His Spirit to others whether through prophesy, teaching, writing or preaching, it will take more than any seminary or Bible school can provide. After all, the danger with these institutions is that upon completion they give us a degree and we believe that we have become “something.” The problem is that “knowledge puffs up” and we become as proud as any worldly college grad or young corporate head.  T. Austin-Sparks wrote,

Do you desire to signify something for God, to be, after all, of a right kind of significance, accountability [and] meaning? [If so] you see the need of getting Christ’s Holy constitution in us. The most powerful thing, we have… is meekness. Power is spiritual. That is the point. You see the place of weakness in the New Testament. “When I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). “Most gladly… will I… glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9). There is a lot said about human weakness. It is just the opposite of the devil; it is just the opposite of what the devil made man [see Gen. 3:1-5]…

What is your idea of power? What is your mentality concerning power? Are you clamouring for power, wanting power? Well, it all works out this way; true power from God’s standpoint is Calvary power. Christ crucified is the power of God. What is Calvary power? Well, it is emptiness of self, you and I being emptied of self – and truly, that is easier said than endured! Oh, how very much there is of this self about us still! How we hate… being emptied of ourselves! What a terrible thing it is to feel our inability… Oh, to be ABLE! And yet have we not proved, again and again, that our times of greatest emptiness and weakness have been the times when God has done most, and got glory by what He has done? Yes, it has been true. We have learnt it along various lines and different ways, but God has been working right into the very inside of us, so that the thing is done – it becomes a part of us. He does not have to maintain it by external conditions. But He frequently uses such – very often physical – conditions, to bring us to that place of utter dependence upon Himself… That is God’s way of education, but it would be very much better for us to be fit and well and as dependent upon God as ever.

“Power belongeth unto God.” Power is a spiritual thing. The true nature of power is of a totally different order from our natural idea and conception of it. The Lord is so different. Power is not a temporal matter, it is not a physical matter, it is not an intellectual matter, it is not a social, a positional, or a possessional matter, at all. Power is essentially spiritual: I say again, it is what we are… “The prince of this world cometh: and he hath nothing in me” (John 14:30), said the Lord. So, in the hour of the power of darkness, He could say, “Now shall the prince of this world be cast out” (John 12:31). I say again, that was not objectively and officially done. It was done by what He was. Satan had no ground, and so no power. This Man defeated every contemplation of Satan as he walked round Him. “How can I get in? I have been trying all these years to find some little gap; I cannot find it, I am beaten, I can do nothing with Him, He does not give me a chance. I offer Him prizes – He snaps His fingers at them; I threaten Him with the direst consequences of the course He is taking – it does not make any difference! I cannot get this Man.” That is how the prince of this world is cast out.

So it all resolves itself into the need, in the first place, for what is meant by being born from above: an entirely new nature and disposition, to begin with, and then a letting God do His work of conforming us to the image of His Son. I am not saying that works and words do not come in, but it is a heartbreaking business to be working and speaking with no power, no registration of heaven. (2)

(1) The Pulpit Commentary (1880-1919)

(2) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/000840.html

 

Standing on God’s Vast Heavenly Shore

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T. Austin-Sparks, wrote:

And what is true at the beginning is true all the way along. There is no end to Divine revelation; there is no end to our seeing. Oh, how little we have seen, how little we know, of the vast stores of Divine intention and thought and purpose and meaning. We stand and paddle on the shores of this vast ocean of God and of His purposes and meanings in our creation. How little we know about it! – and we are not going to know until we have deep heart exercise. But it is there, and it is there for us, and oh, we have got to come in this way – “so much the more.” (1)

In the above excerpt Sparks was using the story of blind Bartimeaus, who upon hearing that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, he cried out to Him for help. The surrounding crowd tried to silence him, “but he cried the more a great deal, ‘You son of David, have mercy on me.'” His persistence was rewarded and he received his sight. God rewards those who cry out for spiritual sight, too.

Just a few days ago the Lord showed me (call it a vision or whatever) a picture of myself. I had been contemplating what Jesus said to Nathaniel about Him being the stairway to heaven upon which the angels (Grk. Angelos– messengers) were ascending and descending. Jesus later told them that He would come again in the form of His Holy Spirit who would lead them into all truth.  Divine vision and insight is a gift from God, not a product of intellectual pursuit.

In this vision I was standing under a transparent pipe that was almost the size of my head that was filled with light coming down from heaven and He told me that it was mine if I would stand still under it instead of running around doing the things that were not being done by HIS leading. Honestly, I have been living the “retired life” without seeking Him each day as to what His will for me for that day and each moment is.

Many years ago, not long after I was filled with His Spirit he gave me a dream. In that dream I was on a darkened stage and all of a sudden a spotlight from the back of the auditorium came on and there was a round spot of light in front of me that was large enough for me to step into, which I did. Soon that light went out and as I waited another spot lit up on the stage not far from me so I stepped into it. This went on until I had gone most of the way around that dark stage and finally I was in the back corner. Then it shined onto a small flight of stairs that led down to an exit door and as I pushed through it was a bright sunny day outside… no more darkness!

My life has been like that. There have been times when God’s light and presence was very pronounced and seasons (more often than not) that I was groping in spiritual darkness, waiting for Him to turn the light on again. One of those dark periods was 14 years long. It was my “dark night of the soul” or “wilderness period.” God used that to tear down many of my former suppositions (the traditions of men) of what Christianity has become and replace it with the design intent of Christ and His Father. He also got to the root of a lot of pride in me that was masking itself as “spirituality.”

Putting this all together with what I shared from brother Sparks in the above quote, I can say that he is right. “Oh how little we have seen.” How little we know about the purposes of God because we often get a little insight and we settle down and camp right there. He shines His light, but are we faithful to step into it and leave our comparative spiritual darkness behind? Apostle Paul wrote,

“If any man thinks he knows something, let him know this; he knows nothing as he ought to know.”

Dear saints, may we have a “deep heart exercise” to explore the depths and the riches that are ours in Christ Jesus and grow in our personal knowledge of Him and the Father. Amen.

(1) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/000843.html

Do We Seek Christ as Our Teacher?

Image result for jesus teaching children

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hears my word, and believes on him that sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24, KJ2000)

And the Father himself, who has sent me, has borne witness of me. You have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his form. And you have not his word abiding in you: for whom he has sent, him you believe not. Search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And you will not come to me, that you might have life. (John 5:37-40, KJ2000)

“And the Father himself, who has sent me, has borne witness of me. You have neither [not] heard his voice at any time.” What an indictment! Jesus was saying to these devout Jews that as far as God was concerned, they were stone deaf! Have you ever thought that these words of Jesus could apply to us who believe in Him?

Recently, I had a conversation over breakfast with a dear brother who loves God and is quite knowledgeable in the scriptures. Over the years God has used him to lead others to Christ and he has become a prolific writer about scriptural things. I have not personally known anyone like him for having insight into the deeper meanings of scriptural teachings. Yet, he confessed to me that he was having to be purged of all the interpretations of his former Bible teachers and things about the scriptures he has read so he can hear what the Spirit wishes to say to him as he reads the Bible. He found that as he reads a verse he hears the voice of these human teachers and their spin on each verse. I have not had any formal Bible school training as this brother has, but I still know what he means. As I read certain passages in the Bible, what my own teachers said about those scriptures either in their writings or personally, pops up in my mind.

So the question came to me as I was pondering this problem, “Do I hear HIS words to me when I read the ‘Word of God’ or do I hear the words of human teachers and preachers and what they said about these scriptures?” Jesus made it clear that after He was to die on the cross, we would not be left alone but that He would come again. The Holy Spirit would be our Teacher and lead us into all truth (See John 14: 18-20 & 26). Yet, how many of us have filled our minds with the teachings of men and their traditions that make the commandments and leadings of God of no effect (see Matt. 15:6)? Even our adherence to the Bible itself can get in the way of obeying God as it did with Peter (See Acts 10:9-16). Isn’t this what Jesus was telling the Jews who wanted to kill Him because He healed a lame man on the Sabbath?

He that HEARS my words and believes shall have everlasting life. We search the scriptures as did these learned Jews, but do we come to Him in the process and listen for His voice?  Or do we look for and unconsciously hear the voices of our Christian teachers as their teachings bounce around between our ears with each verse?

When the Spirit teaches us, there is life in His words. When we do not hear His voice, even as we study the Bible, it is nothing but a dead letter. The letter of the Bible kills, but the Spirit who desires to teach us gives life! Like Peter said after most of the disciples had turned away from Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…” (John 6:68, ESV2011).

Paul the Pharisee had been taught by the best Jewish scholars in Jerusalem, but when the living Christ confronted Him for the first time in his life he had to ask, “Who are you, Lord?” He knew the words of God, but he still had not met THE Word of God or heard Him as his Teacher! His life would be radically changed as Christ went on to teach him by His Spirit. When we wait on the Spirit to teach us, we have His words of life taking up an abode in our hearts. When we read the scriptures and hear the words of our human teachers or rely on them to tickle our ears with new things, death remains in us. We are no better than Paul who persecuted Christ by killing those who believed in Him thinking he was doing God a service. This radically changed Paul would go on to write,

For who has known the mind of the Lord? or who has been his counselor?… For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Rom 11:34-36, KJ2000)

God desires to un-teach us so that we can once again become as children desiring to hear our Father’s voice or as Peter put it,

As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby: If so be you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. (1Pet 2:2-3, KJ2000)

This process of His stripping might take us out into a dark season of wilderness where we are even removed from Bible reading and teaching until we can hear HIS voice once again. Oswald Chambers wrote,

“At times God puts us through the discipline of darkness to teach us to heed Him. Song birds are taught to sing in the dark, and we are put into the shadow of God’s hand until we learn to hear Him…Watch where God puts you into darkness, and when you are there keep your mouth shut. Are you in the dark just now in your circumstances, or in your life with God? Then remain quiet…” (February 14th– My Utmost for His Highest)

Dear Father, help us to see our need to hear your Spirit as we read the scriptures and blot out of our minds all the voices of our human teachers that we have heaped upon ourselves over the years so we can hear Your voice clearly once again, Amen.

 

What Is Spiritual Seeing and Hearing?

Blind man receives his sight – Artist unknown

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet… And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me… (Rev 1:10-12, KJ2000)

In the above quote from John’s Revelation there is much to be learned if we have spiritual eyes to see and spiritual ears to hear. Its one thing to read the scriptures and gain knowledge the way we gain knowledge from any textbook or course of study, but it is a whole other thing to gain the depth of spiritual knowing that can be ours if we abide in the Spirit of Christ. First of all, John was “in the Spirit” when He heard this voice, yet that was not enough. Most often it takes us entering into the rest of our Father and blocking out the noisy din of this world before we can be in the Spirit while we read the Bible or try to hear His voice. Sometimes He withholds deeper fellowship from us until we deal with some sin that has come between us and Him, and these things often come to our attention as we wait before Him.

Secondly, John turned to see this great Voice which was speaking with him. Spiritual hearing requires that we turn away from where we have been looking or going. Some of us have learned that when God speaks to us or shows us something, it is to get us to grow up spiritually beyond where we have been, and so a “turning” is required. All too often people hear His voice and then set out to put what was heard on everyone else without doing the necessary turning about in their own lives. Jeremiah wrote,

Surely after I was turned, I repented; and after I was instructed, I struck myself upon the thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth. (Jer 31:19, KJ2000)

“I turned to see the voice that spoke with me…”  One might ask, “How do you ever see a voice?” Let me use this word see in another way, “Do you SEE what John means here?” There is hearing and then there is HEARING. There is seeing and then there is SEEING! When what is spoken comes from the Word, Jesus Christ, there is no end to what we can see. For instance we find out that a single Bible verse can, over the years, says many different things to us as we grow in Christ. If we are to get anything from the Spirit of God beyond normal seeing and hearing, “some say it thundered,” we must be IN the Spirit (see John 12:29-31).

The carnal mind and its five senses will never do. We can sit in Sunday school and sit through Sunday sermons all our lives or graduate from the finest Christian seminaries and institutions without the gift of spiritual sight or hearing and die just as clueless as the day we were born as to who God is or the nature of His Kingdom. When the learned Paul, the Pharisee, was met by the living Christ on the Road to Damascus, he asked the right thing, “WHO ARE you, Lord?” and his real spiritual education started that moment, overshadowing all he once thought he knew about God. As with Paul, it takes a crisis for many of us to blast through our accumulated suppositions and to start to let the Spirit teach us.

Job had a collision with God over this very thing. He thought he was wise, righteous and filled with knowledge about God, but let us read about God’s assessment of Job!

“Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge  Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” (Job 38:1-3, NIV)

“Words without knowledge.” This is how God sees our learning that has not come through the Light of the Spirit which opens our understanding to what HE wants us to know. “Brace yourself like a man and I will question you,” “Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute me?” To which Paul replied with that all important lifelong question with its ever growing reply, “Who are you, Lord?”

Then Job replied to the LORD : “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge [Heb. Da’ath from root word yada – to ascertain by seeing]?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6, NIV)

Adam Clarke shed light on this passage.

I have heard of thee] I have now such a discovery of thee as I have never had before. I have only heard of thee by tradition, or from imperfect information; now the eye of my mind clearly perceives thee, and in seeing thee, I see myself; for the light that discovers thy glory and excellence, discovers my meanness and vileness. (Adam Clarke’s Bible Commentary)

Paul spoke by personal experience of the meanness and vile nature of the natural mind with its unenlightened knowing.

… we know that all of us possess knowledge. This “knowledge [Grk, eido]” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known [Grk. ginosko] by God. (1Cor 8:1-3, ESV2011)

Ever since the fall, man has been in love with knowledge and the Serpent still hangs out in that forbidden tree. The problem is that this kind of “knowledge” puffs us up and makes us proud. We end up thinking we really “know” something and as a result that we are somebody because of our knowledge and degrees. In the eyes of God, this kind of “knowing” is totally empty, and if anything, it gets in the way of true spiritual growth that is ours IN Christ. God resists the proud and gives His grace to the humble. Real knowledge in the economy of God has to do with a love relationship with Him and Jesus Christ His Son. W. E. Vine shed light on this meaningful Greek word, ginosko.

In the NT ginosko frequently indicates a relation between the person “knowing” and the object known; in this respect, what is “known” is of value or importance to the one who knows, and hence the establishment of the relationship, e.g., especially of God’s “knowledge,” 1Co 8:3, “if any man love God, the same is known of Him;”

To have this kind of knowledge requires that we have a deep relationship with the One who is known. This same Greek word was used in the following passage.

Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife [Mary]: And knew [ginosko] her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS. (Matt 1:24-25, KJ2000)

Here we see ginosko speaks of the consummation of a marriage in the most intimate act that can be had between a man and his wife. Consider Paul’s words once again, But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” Jesus spoke of such intimacy between us and the Father and the Son when He prayed for us, 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” (John 17:21, KJ2000- emphasis added). When we come into Jesus and the Father and they come into us, the doors of heaven are opened and they start sharing their mysteries and their very lives with us. It is in this same knowing that the Church can also become one, but never by belonging to the same denomination or ascribing to the same doctrines. When two people are IN the Father and the Son and they are IN them, a spiritual intimacy without fear begins because “perfect love casts out all fear.” It takes much more than a casual Sunday acquaintance to come into such a relationship with His saints. Intimate spiritual relationships require us dying to our old carnal natures and what we have once clung to and becoming one IN the Father and the Son.

Paul also wrote about such intimacy with God saying, “’Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Eph 5:31-32, ESV2011– emphasis added)

If we are to know such intimacy with the Father and the Son we must leave all that has fathered and mothered us in this life. That includes any relationships we have had in church with spiritual mothers and spiritual fathers. There might be a season for these types of relationships, but eventually they get in the way of a deeper intimacy with Jesus and His Father. When we say, “I am of Paul or I am of Peter or I am of Apollos or whoever,” we are yet carnal. This is why Jesus said, “Who is my mother…He who does the will of my Father is my mother…” He also said, “Call no man ‘father’ for only One is your Father and He is in heaven.” Jesus was quite adamant about our earthly family ties when they get between us and Him,

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matt 10:34-37, KJ2000)

Our God is a jealous God (see Exodus 34:14). No man or woman is allowed to come between us and Him. We can come along side one another as we walk out this journey together, but others cannot become our total focus and desire.

Oh, the wonders of the knowledge of God in we who are His! Such intimacy can be ours if we will give up the wrong knowledge and want to know Him above all other relationships, “If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” Oh, the depth of meaning in this verse spoken by Paul. I did not learn these things in seminary. In fact, God firmly forbid me go to one of these. No, He showed these things to me personally as I sought to know Him.

Isaiah prophesied hope to the Jews while they were in captivity and it is true of us today,

Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. (Isa 30:18-21, ESV2011- emphasis added)

God is our Teacher through His Holy Spirit who abides in us and gives us spiritual sight and hearing. He is there to show us every detail of how and what to choose in our daily walks with Him. Nothing is too small or too big in our lives that He does not have His will for us in these matters.

Along with Paul I pray for each of us,

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph 3:14-21, ESV2011)

 

Can God Provide a Table in the Wilderness?

Bench at Castle Quarry Overlook

Photo by Susanne Schuberth

Yea, they spoke against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness? (Ps 78:19, KJ2000)

And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now late; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves food. But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; you give them to eat. (Matt 14:15-16, KJ2000)

In the meanwhile his disciples besought him, saying, Teacher, eat. But he said unto them, I have food to eat that you know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, has any man brought him anything to eat? Jesus said unto them, My food is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. (John 4:31-34, KJ2000)

I met a brother while fishing a while back, and when he found out that I’m a believer in Christ, he invited me to join him on Saturday mornings for a “men’s fellowship” he goes to at a local church. He assured me that I would enjoy it and with my knowledge of the Bible would fit right in and be appreciated. He is still young in the Lord and has much to learn when it comes to following the Spirit vs. following men. After inviting me every time he sees me, I finally assured him that I would pray about his invitation and do what the Lord tells me to do and only that.

So, you might be asking what this has to do with the verses that I quoted in the beginning of this blog. This brother and I met on the bank of a lake where there is little sign of man and his doings. Compared to many fishing places, some would call this a wilderness. There are no docks to fish from, no toilet facilities, no picnic tables, no trash cans, and no benches to sit on. We were able to fellowship in the Spirit’s leading without anyone supervising or interrupting our time together. He was amazed. God had prepared a “table” in the wilderness for us. It was totally outside a church setting and he was blessed, yet unwittingly in his immaturity, he wanted to pull what we shared into a place where he was used to getting his spiritual food under the control of a church official.

How many times have you heard church-minded people say that they go to a certain church because they are getting fed there or they are looking for another church to attend because they are not getting fed? As I grew in the Lord, I found myself in that mindset and became less and less content with the food that was provided by men in their religious institutions. The Spirit started leading me to go out into the wilderness to hear the words of my Lord. Because I grew to where I could hear His voice without all the intellects of men interfering, Church people would say, “What church do you attend?” “Did you go to Bible school somewhere?” Or like the disciples they were asking of Jesus, “Has any MAN brought him something to eat?”  When the lame man at the pool was asked by Jesus if he would be made whole he replied, “I have no man…” We are all too focused on men for our provision and because of this we miss out on what God has for us.

Jesus said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” and this was HIS food. God can and does prepare for us a table in the wilderness where there are no churches, no fellowship meetings, no Bible schools and none of the things that most religious people relate to for “daily bread” for their hungry souls. This is the way that the Israelites thought in the wilderness (Psalm 78:19) – we doubt that He can speak to us and provide food for our spirits with every word that proceeds from HIS mouth through His Spirit within us. It is just as the prophet warned:

Behold, the days come, says the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it. In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst. (Amos 8:11-13, KJ2000)

I am reminded of the visible church systems of today compared to His table set for us in the wilderness in the following account about John the Baptist:

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zachariah in the wilderness. (Luke 3:1-2, KJ2000)

Can you see it? Every person who was considered the world’s authorities in their centers of civilization, the people “in the know” are mentioned here, even the temple high priests in Jerusalem, but the word of God came to John in the wilderness! As we mature in Christ, we will find ourselves being drawn more and more to Him that we might live by every word that proceeds out of His mouth. Our spiritual walk will become more and more isolated from those who “live by bread alone” as He fine-tunes us to hear and obey His voice. Just as John found more than enough “ministry” to do in the wilderness, so did Jesus as the crowds so often followed Him out into the wilderness to hear His words and be healed by Him. As we mature in Christ and obey His leading, we might often find ourselves alone, but God knows how to arrange for us to speak and to do His will when the time is right. Remember, God is more interested in what He wants to put into us than what He stands to get out of us.

(A special thanks to Susanne Schuberth for letting me use her picture of that old hand carved table and benches in the Bavarian woods. Also, thanks to George Davis and the time of sharing we had together this morning when the Spirit made those opening passages from the Bible take on new meaning for me.)

Words, Words, Words or Will We be One?

 

Words, Words, Words

In the musical “My Fair Lady,” Eliza Doolittle (a woman taken off the streets of London by Professor Henry Higgins, a linguist who has been teaching her proper English), says to her would be suitor, “Words, words, words. I’m so sick of words! I get words all day through, first from him, now from you! Is that all you blighters can do?” Good question, Eliza. In this day of desktop publishing the problem of an abundance of words with little Holy Spirit content has become epidemic. T. Austin-Sparks, another Englishman, observed the same problem among Christian ministries where words are cheap and plentiful.

 A striking feature of our time is that so few of the voices have a distinctive message. There is a painful lack of a clear word of authority for the times…. Why is it so? May it not be that so many who might have this ministry have become so much a part of a system? A system which puts preachers so much upon a professional basis, the effect of which is to make preaching a matter of demand and supply; of providing for the established religious order and program? Not only in the matter of preaching, but in the whole organization and activity of “Christianity” as we have it in the systematized form today. There is not the freedom and detachment for speaking ONLY when “the burden of the word of the Lord” is upon the prophet, or when he could say, “The hand of the Lord was upon me.” The present order requires a man [or woman] to speak every so often; hence he must get something, and this necessity means either that God must be offered our program and asked to meet it (which He will not do) or the preacher must make something for the constantly recurring occasion. This is a pernicious system and it opens the door to any number of dangerous and baneful intrusions of what is of man and not of God. The most serious aspect of this way of things is that it results in voices, voices, voices, a confusion of voices, but not the specific voice with the specific utterance of God for the time…. (1)

Frankly, I also am tired of all the “words, words, words” with so little or no anointing behind them. I have had to whittle down my “Following” list to a handful of bloggers. I, also, have grown suspicious of the spiritual content of the ones that put out a periodical posting on a regular basis, whether it is daily or even weekly. Sometimes I go for weeks without Him giving me any inspiration to write and then, “Bang!” I might get three messages in a row only a day or two apart. Can you see Isaiah, Peter or John saying to themselves, “Oops, it is Sunday morning at 10AM and I need to get down to the temple and prophesy a chapter or two. The faithful are counting on me. I need to keep up my presence before the people or I will lose them”?

Amos prophesied this exact problem would be coming upon us saying, “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11, ESV2011). Today there are thousands of Christian websites, blogs, podcasts, books, sermons, YouTube videos, Sunday services, and conferences where would-be authors and “ministers for Christ” spew out their cacophony of words, even laced with Bible verses, but how many of these messages have come out from the heart of God? When He finally does manage to get a word in edgewise, who in the land of Christendom has an ear to hear and distinguish it from the rest? Yes, Amos, there is a famine of hearing the words of the Lord, either because our minds are numb from all the words we bombard them with or we have never had spiritual hearing in the first place.

In 1980, God heard my cry to hear what He wanted me to do while the church we were members of went through a very destructive split. He answered my prayers by unplugging me from going to regular church meetings and reading almost all things by Christian authors so that I would learn to distinguish His voice from the all the other voices speaking in His name. The hardest to distinguish form His were the ones that preached with a lot of Bible verses to back up their points. Satan knows the Bible better than any of us and he knows how to use it to his advantage. It took years for me to get to the place where I could tell the difference and recognize when God was speaking to me and the further I go, the more quietly He whispers forcing me to draw ever closer to Him with greater attentiveness.

Austin-Sparks continues,

Here we have the necessity for an awakening to what God has to say. In the Revelation, this is “He that hath an ear, let him hear,” and in the case of Laodicea – which represents the end – it is “I counsel thee to buy of Me eye salve that thou mayest see.” “And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me,” said John. God is speaking, He has something to say, but there must be “a Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your heart being enlightened.” (1)

Jesus is the Word of God! He speaks to those who are His sheep. They know His voice and will not follow the voices of strangers (read John Ch. 10). Yet, so many Christians have said to me, “How can I know when Jesus is speaking to me?” To many of them the answer is, “Unplug! You are listening to and reading too many teachers. Break this habit of heaping to yourself teachers who tickle your ears. Get alone with God for a few months until you start hearing His whispered voice. Talk with Him and let Him be your friend above all friends.”

I find that few follow my advice. We go to church and read to be entertained and are information addicts. The more He gives me a word that puts the finger on where the spiritual problems are in Christendom, the smaller the audience becomes. Only a few have ears to hear what the Spirit IS saying to the church. If I want to see the stat counter on my blog jump up, all I have to do is speak words of comfort that do not challenge the status quo in Christendom. I completely understand the problem that Isaiah had with the people of Israel when God told him,

Now go, write it before them on a tablet, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come, forever and ever: That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: Who say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us. (Isa 30:8-11, KJ2000)

The moment Christianity became acceptable, popular and condoned by the Roman Empire in the fourth century, it started to die. The Christian faith is not a popularity contest, but rather a threat to this world and the prince that controls it. Didn’t Jesus say that few would find the straight path and narrow gate to eternal life? I think that the following quotation points out why.

For “the crowd” is untruth. Eternally, godly, christian-ly what Paul says is valid: “only one receives the prize,” [I Corinthians. 9:24] not by way of comparison, for in the comparison “the others” are still present. That is to say, everyone can be that one, with God’s help – but only one receives the prize; again, that is to say, everyone should cautiously have dealings with “the others,” and essentially only talk with God and with himself – for only one receives the prize; again, that is to say, the human being [singular] is in kinship with… the divinity. (2)

This is exactly what Jesus prayed just before He went to the cross,

Sanctify them [purify, consecrate, separate them for Yourself, make them holy] by the Truth; Your Word is Truth… That they all may be one, [just] as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be one in Us, so that the world may believe and be convinced that You have sent Me. (John 17:17 & 21, AMP)

This gives me a whole new light on what Jesus was praying, “Sanctify and set them apart to yourself, Father, that they might be ONE even as we are one…” God desires of us a singleness of eye, not focused on the world or even our fellow Christians, but on our heavenly Father. “Only ONE receives the prize.”

(1) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/001541.html

(2) The Single Individual, by Søren Kierkegaard

Does His End Justify OUR Means with God?

In Genesis we read about God’s plan for the creation of man:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:26-27, ESV2011)

Here we see there was a council in heaven when it comes to the creation of man, “Let us make man…” When He created all other things He simply said, “let there be… and there was…” Why did God consult the Son and the Spirit at this point? It was because He knew that it was one thing to make man in His own image, that is, designed and shaped after His own form, but that it would take an ongoing process and great sacrifice to make man in His likeness, that is, like Him in His character and personage, sharing His outlook, goals and values. It was at this point that Jesus agreed with the Father about His role in bringing forth man into the image of the Son. We read about it in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us IN HIM before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. IN HIM we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace… (Eph 1:3-6, ESV2011- emphasis added)

This is why the Father brought Jesus and the Holy Spirit into His council at this point. Christ is the exact expression of the Father, “He [Christ] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint [image] of his nature…” (Heb 1:3, ESV2011), and God desires many sons and daughters after His own glory. It was one thing to make man after His image, but a whole other thing to make man so that he lives out the very nature of God in His Son. Here entered the mystery of the cross.
The Father also knew that unless His Spirit was the life source of man, he would only be two dimensional in nature, lacking any way to connect and communicate with God, spirit to spirit. God is Spirit and man would have to be born of the Spirit or there would be no connection for man to intuitively know the will of God for him (See John chapter three).

There is knowledge and then there is Knowledge!
At this point in the creation story of man, a wrench was thrown into the works. Satan stepped in and convinced man that he could speed up the process. Man no longer had to listen to and obey God, but he could take a “short-cut to holiness” by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to become “like God” (See Genesis 3:5).

Beware, dear saints for right here is where Satan desires to catch us all in his subterfuge of lies. Aren’t we to become “godlike?” Aren’t we to strive to obtain “the imitation of Christ”? Aren’t we to constantly ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do,” and then just do it? Man loves to try to do the works of God, accumulate knowledge, know with his own mind, and imitate God instead of knowing God intimately with his heart and allowing God to conform him into the image of Christ by the plan and design of the Father. The fleshly state of fallen man still loves to eat the fruit of that same forbidden tree instead of Jesus, the Tree of Life (See John 6:51).

Religious man loves to collect Bible knowledge and knowledge of doctrines so he can decide for himself what is good and what is evil. He loves to heap to himself teachers that tickle his religious ears and to garner to himself degrees in theology. Yet, when the New Testament speaks of “knowing the Lord,” it speaks of an intimate knowing that goes much deeper than a mere accumulation of facts. W. E. Vine gives the most concise meaning of this Greek word translated know and knew in the New Testament.

In the NT ginosko frequently indicates a relation between the person “knowing” and the object known; in this respect, what is “known” is of value or importance to the one who knows, and hence the establishment of the relationship…

Without a viable relationship in Jesus Christ there is no knowing and being known by the Father. Peter put it this way:

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2Pet 1:5-8, ESV2011- emphasis added)

Here Peter is speaking spiritual fruitfulness by what Paul calls the “fruit of the Spirit,” which is an integral part of us if we truly know the Lord and if He knows us. Without it we will be unfruitful in our relationship with Him. This is why Jesus spoke of those who did many works and miraculous things “in His name” as those He never knew (see Matthew 7:22-23). There was no intimacy in their “knowing” Him and in His “knowing” them. This same word ginosko was used in the most intimate way when speaking of Joseph and Mary’s relationship after Christ was born (see Matthew 1:25). Without intimacy with Christ, there is no knowing in the kingdom of God.

Back to my opening question, Does the end justify the means when it comes to our serving in the purposes of God? Jesus told Nicodemus, “That which is born of [out from] the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of [out from] the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6). You see, if we are to produce fruit unto the Father and the Son, that fruit must be born out from the Spirit of God in us and never out from ourselves. His children must be born “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God,” and so must our works be if they are to be works unto eternal life (See Jude 1:21).

We cannot rise in the morning and say, “I wonder how many people I can lead to Christ today?” or, “I think I will cast out some demons today ”or “I think I will pray for so and so to be healed today,” or not even “I think I will write a blog article today.” This is all being done by the will of the flesh, dear saints, not by the will of God! Jesus said quite bluntly, “Apart from me you can do nothing!” If our works are not born from above in the council of the heaven and He has foreordained that we should walk in them (see Ephesians 2:10), they are dead works at best. Yup! They are D. O. A., dead on arrival. Our ends do not justify His means and His ends are not justified by our means. We Christians must learn what Jesus meant when He told the disciples, “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63, KJ2000).

Are we as Christians living by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God?” I think not. And until our flesh and all its self-motivated drives have been crucified, we will not know the abundant life flow of God through us to others. Like Jesus said:

You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you. (John 15:16, KJ2000)

Dear saints, by now you are wondering where I am coming from to write such an article. Almost 37 years ago, I was doing all manner of “good works and prophesying in Christ’s name.” After watching me for a while, an old saint came up to me on Sunday morning and said, “Have you ever asked God to show you how He sees you, instead of how you think He sees you?” In my pride, I told him that I would take him up on his challenge and I did just that. That night I asked God, and He showed me in a dream just how I looked to Him, using my spiritual talents and gifts to do His work. The pride and arrogance that was behind all my works was so ugly that I cried out, “God! Kill it! Show it no mercy!” That was the beginning of Him stripping me of all that I was and ever hoped to be “in His name.” At some point in your life you will be brought to this crisis if you are to follow on with the Lord and you will be shocked at what God shows you about your own heart.

Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth. (Hos 6:3, KJV)

There is knowing and then there is “following on to know.” Will we keep listening and following on to know the Lord in an ever growing intimacy with Him or just be content with what we already know? Remember, knowledge puffs us up, but His love edifies.

The Life Is in the Blood

There is a lot of talk in some circles about being in the army of God. Remember that before God could form His army from that valley of dry bones in Ezekiel chapter 37 there was a requirement. In verse two the prophet said, “and lo, they [the bones] were very dry. Dry was not good enough. When God strips us of all the life of the flesh in us, our outside appearance might be dry, but that is not dead enough. Even the marrow inside our “bones” (our natural Adamic life) must be dry and void of all life. Why? “The life is in the blood” and the blood in us comes from the marrow in the depths of our bones. Our very Life Source must be the blood of Jesus Christ and nothing else. In John chapter six we read about His blood and His words that are necessary if we are to have eternal life within us.

Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me… Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? …This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” (John 6:56-68, ESV2011)

Finally, let me quote once more from T. Austin-Sparks,

A living Heavenly Man is not made by mere words, even though they be words of Scripture. That is what people have tried to do. They have tried to make the Church by words of Scripture, constitute the Church by what is here as written, and so you have half a dozen different kinds of churches, all standing on what they call the Word of God, and the thing does not live. It is a living, Heavenly Man that God has in view, and to produce that, the Spirit must operate through the Word. “The words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life,” said the Lord to His disciples. “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” On the part of Peter, the spokesman of these latter words, this was a word of discrimination. The scribes and Pharisees had the Scriptures. They claimed that everything they had and held was in the Word of God. Ah yes, but they knew them not as the words of eternal life. There is a difference. This life is in His Son. It has to be in a living relationship to the Lord Jesus that the Scriptures are made effective.
http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/001387.html