By What Are We to Compare Ourselves and Others?

justice-scalesWe men tend to be what is called “left brained.” And I am told that women tend to be “right brained.” Men tend to think logically and comparatively and they love rules and order while women think in terms of relationships and making them work with love and mercy. A man sets his perimeter around his home and looks outward where a woman focuses inside the perimeter and wants peace and love to prevail there. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule. Somebody pointed out that a man will say, “I think thus and so…” But a woman will say, “I feel thus and so…” One is calculated and the other is emotional. Is God one or the other or both? In Genesis we read that He created man in His own image, male and female made He them. So on the one hand we see the God of Truth and on the other He is the God of mercy. He is both!

Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusts in you: yea, in the shadow of your wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities have passed. I will cry unto God most high; unto God who performs all things for me. He shall send from heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up. Selah. God shall send forth his mercy and his truth. (Psalms 57:1-3 KJ2000 – emphasis added)

Surely his salvation is near those that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. (Psalms 85:9-10 KJ2000 – emphasis added)

But with men and women it seems to be one or the other. All mercy or all truth. One old sage told me that the mercy and truth of God only meet in Christ, so when we are one or the other in our thinking, we lack Christ’s life in us. Remember that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and no man can come to the Father but by Him.

Here we have been making comparisons of men to women. What I want to point out is the folly of making comparisons in our relationships. I remember how shocked I was when my dear wife, Dorothy, reacted to a “compliment” from me in our first year of marriage. I simply said, “You sure look pretty… for a change.” She informed me that I gave her a nice compliment and then I took it away in the same sentence by qualifying it. My mother did that all the time. Her love was always conditional. “Michael, do (this or that) so we can be proud of you.” I have learned the hard way over the years (fifty with the same woman) that no woman likes her man to compare her to herself or to other women. Men, to be safe, just don’t do it because they will hear it wrong no matter how you butter it up.

Paul had something to say about making comparisons among ourselves, as well,

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. (2 Corinthians 10:12 NIV)

In Hebrews it is clear that there is only one measuring stick that we are to compare ourselves to–God’s own Son.

Therefore seeing we also are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest you be wearied and faint in your minds. You have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. (Hebrews 12:1-4 KJVCNT – emphasis added)

When we think we are really doing quite well by comparing ourselves to another human or even to the way we used to be, what have we accomplished? The Bible says that Jesus is the First Born of many brethren, and when He appears we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is. We are to be looking to Jesus who is the Author and the Finisher of our faith, not our fellow man. Yet in our pride, we choose a lower standard so we look good in our own eyes and the eyes of others.

Another failing in us is the tendency to make another person our idol. Oswald Chambers wrote,

Refusing to be disillusioned is the cause of much of the suffering of human life. And this is how that suffering happens— if we love someone, but do not love God, we demand total perfection and righteousness from that person, and when we do not get it we become cruel and vindictive; yet we are demanding of a human being something which he or she cannot possibly give. There is only one Being who can completely satisfy to the absolute depth of the hurting human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.

(http://utmost.org/the-teaching-of-disillusionment/)

Does the love of God in us compare ourselves with others or their conduct with ours? I was thinking about what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13.

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends… (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 RSVA)

So, to put it in the negative form for contrast — a lack of God’s love (actually a lack of Christ) in us makes us impatient, cruel, jealous, boastful, arrogant and rude when we are with others. We insist on getting our way and are irritable and resentful. We can’t wait until those we don’t like get theirs and rejoice when bad things happen to them. We find things that don’t go our way unbearable, we are filled with doubts and have little endurance in us. Our love for others fails as soon as they cross us.

In the verses above, we do not see a lot comparing going on in the love of God, but in the negative, more human form of it, we see lots of comparisons that have no grace or love toward others. That is the nature of the old man, Adam, that is in us. But with God there is hope because God is love.

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, has made us alive together with Christ, (by grace you are saved;) And has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10 KJ2000)

In and of ourselves we are wretched and without hope, but in Christ we have great faith, hope and love. It is all a gift from Him. This transformation is totally by the working of God in us. When we have our eyes fixed on Jesus as the Author and the Finisher of our faith, we will not be looking at the failings of others or even at our own. Instead, we will be looking at “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8 RSVA)

Great advice! (I want to thank Susanne Schuberth for her valuable input on this subject)

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Are We to Apprehend God by Gaining Knowledge or Revelation?

Seminary GraduationBroken cistern2

Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:12-13 RSVA)

One time I tried to engage a pastor in a heart to heart conversation. I said to him, “God has been giving me this revelation lately…” Upon hearing this, he interrupted me and said, “God no longer gives revelation! All revelation ceased with the closing of the canon of the Bible.” I didn’t ask him which of the eight plus canons he was referring to and on which date it was closed. Well, needless to say, that was the end of my attempt to speak from my heart with this man. After all, he had the degree hanging on his office wall to show he was right!

Austin Sparks wrote:

After the Cross, all the fullness of the Divine power was released upon the world through those who had been brought into absolute oneness with the Lord by that Cross… First, let us remember that this knowledge of God is by revelation. We can never get this knowledge of God merely by reading, by listening, by attending meetings…. You may understand it all by mental apprehension, know the terms and the verses, and use them – but what about the dynamic of this thing? What does our personal presence in a situation mean?… It is a most important question. Is this thing alive, or have we merely got a little more mental apprehension of it through conferences [and book learning]? Do we know God in this thing by reason of a personal inward revelation on the subject?

Secondly, it comes by the way of pain. You get a thing revealed to you as truth, perhaps something about the Cross of Christ, or victory over Satan, and you think you know it, and you say, “This is beautiful!” And you begin to talk about it, and it is not very long before something happens –- your circumstances are touched. Now you go down with this truth, down into the vortex of awful agony, right down to the gates of hell, your being is upheaved right from the very bottom, and all the time there is the question – “Will that truth hold good?” Is it going to work? And when you have got down as far as you can go, the flesh elements and the self elements have been dealt with, and you grimly hold on to the Lord in this matter of victory – then it comes out, you have tested it right to the very bottom of your being – that thing has become you, and then you can go to others in their grim conflict and their darkness, and say, “I know – I know this thing, and I know God is faithful, I know the victory.” You have got a mighty emphasis on your knowledge, it is a thing about which you have no doubt, because you have gone down into the depths with it, and proved it down there, and by the very pain the thing has been proved.

Gaining knowledge about something can be fun and stimulating. The thought of having a degree that says you are accomplished and have expertise in a subject and the monetary rewards that go with it keep a multi-billion industry called “education” going in western culture. But is this the education of the saints of God that is important to Him? When Jesus chose His disciples, He did not go to Jerusalem and seek graduates from the best rabbinical schools. Instead He chose His disciples from the unlearned of that nation.

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ordinary men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13 KJ2000)

What a pregnant verse this is! These men were not educated by other men, but they had spent time with Jesus. Just how much of what we write and speak to others is from hearts that have spent time with Jesus? With the advent of desktop publishing, websites and blogs, knowledge has been on the increase, but we can be “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the Truth.” The knowledge of the Truth only comes through an intimate relationship with the Truth, Jesus Christ. A man or woman can go off to Bible college or seminary and pass all the exams, parrot back what they were taught in the classes, receive a degree and be turned loose to rule over church congregations around the world and never have spent one minute being taught by the Spirit of Christ! In fact, they can take advanced training on how to “grow churches” and look like a total success by the numbers that they gather around them and not even have a relationship with the Father.

Is this the “rock” that Jesus was talking about building His church upon? No! It was the fact that Peter could hear the Father and give witness from his heart to what He heard without having received it from flesh and blood: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”(See Matt. 16:16-17). The called-out ones of God (Greek – ekklesia – mistranslated “church”) are enlivened by the Spirit of God Who leads them into all truth or they are none of His (See John 3:3-7, John 16:13 and Romans 8:9).

I believe that these educational institutions that the church system relies upon for its leaders is what Jesus was warning about:

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep… This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. (John 10:1-7 RSVA – emphasis added)

Thieves! Robbers! Hirelings! The church systems are overrun with them and the people are clueless and unable to discern the voice of the Good Shepherd. Why? Because the whole system is based on scholarship instead of personal life-changing revelation from God. Are there pastors and church leaders that are born of the Spirit? Absolutely, but more and more we see men behind the pulpits that are more concerned with their wages (hirelings) and gaining a following than they are with pointing the people under them to the one Good Shepherd as their All in all. Knowledge puffs up, but the love of God edifies and that love comes from being in a close relationship with Jesus Christ.

Revelation from God has a price attached to it, a very personal price that will cost you everything and not very many want to pay it. As Sparks put it, “And when you have got down as far as you can go, the flesh elements and the self elements have been dealt with, and you grimly hold on to the Lord in this matter of victory – then it comes out, you have tested it right to the very bottom of your being – that thing has become you, and then you can go to others in their grim conflict and their darkness, and say, ‘I know – I know this thing, and I know God is faithful, I know the victory.’”

Dear Father, don’t let us settle for broken cisterns that can hold no water and forsake the Fountain of Living Water. Amen.

“Whoever is not with me is against me”

I find that this article by Susanne Schuberth to be a very timely warning and it explains a lot about how the enemy comes at us the more we seek to love as Jesus loves.

Entering the Promised Land

“And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Mt 7:26-17 ESV)
(Photo by Susanne Schuberth)

Truth unites and truth divides. If we think we can make a compromise between following Jesus and seeking to live in (false) harmony with everyone else around us, we will make a big mistake. Our Lord clearly said,

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Being Made Perfect in Love – By Michael Clark and Susanne Schuberth

"Be still and know that I am God." Coeur d Alene River at Cataldo

“Be still and know that I am God.”

Oswald Chambers wrote,

The true character of the loveliness that speaks for God is always unnoticed by the one possessing that quality. Conscious influence is prideful and unchristian. If I wonder if I am being of any use to God, I instantly lose the beauty and the freshness of the touch of the Lord. “He who believes in Me…out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). And if I examine the outflow, I lose the touch of the Lord.

Who are the people who have influenced us most? Certainly not the ones who thought they did, but those who did not have even the slightest idea that they were influencing us. In the Christian life, godly influence is never conscious of itself. If we are conscious of our influence, it ceases to have the genuine loveliness which is characteristic of the touch of Jesus. We always know when Jesus is at work because He produces in the commonplace something that is inspiring. (http://utmost.org/the-ministry-of-the-unnoticed/)

This is so true. We have found over the years that God best used us to impact others when we had no clue He was doing so. As soon as we put our mind to “doing great things for God,” He is not interested for as Jesus told the disciples, “Apart from me you can co nothing.” He taught them that if they simply rest and abide in Him, that they would eventually bring forth much fruit. But if we seek to make spiritual fruit for Him, all we will make is rotten apples. Likewise, those who think they are wise or beautiful are not! Conceit is ugly, but humility is something beautiful to behold and God takes notice. “Humble yourself in the eyes of the Lord and He will lift you up.” In Psalms we read,

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth. (Psalms 50:2 RSVA)

True beauty is found in those from whom our Father shines forth, not by our fleshly human efforts.

Imagine if fallen man and woman said about those things they had done that they were “very good.” What would we think about such “proud” people? 😉 We who have eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, alas, are no longer able to see the truly good things which God has made or is doing because we are so impressed with our own doing and are suspect of those who do not do as we do. Looking at others, we have the fatal tendency to automatically search for the evil behind everything. This is so sad! Paul wrote,

Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. (Titus 1:15 KJ2000)

You have heard the saying, “Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.” Someone who really loves sees the beauty in the one who is loved, not their flaws. God who is the only one who is truly good (cf. Mt 19:17) can see the beauty in all that He has created. God who is love created what He loves and whom He loves. LOVE both changes the lover and the loved one from the inside out unless that LOVER is God who is already perfect in love and thus never changes. John wrote,

No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:12 RSVA)

We are perfected as we abide in His love for one another and we will see His beauty in those whom we love with His love.

And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also. (1 John 4:21 RSVA)

T. Austin-Sparks wrote,

“…glory is God’s nature. And a state of glory is a state which corresponds to God’s nature. Glory, therefore, is the Divine nature in expression. If you have Divine love in perfection, you have glory. If there is a state of love, Divine love, among the Lord’s people, then it’s glory. Not necessarily something like a blaze of light which you see, but which you sense. You sense it.“ (http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/004310.html)

Dear saints, we are only made perfect in God’s love. If we are to show forth His glory we must be conduits of His love for those around us. When you meet a person filled with His love you can sense it and they are a sweet smelling savor to Him.

Striving to do “good works” for God will not perfect us in His eyes for only those things done in and by His Son are acceptable to Him. How can we ever hear our Father’s voice if we are so full of our own thoughts? How can we ever do the works we see our Father doing if our whole view of the world is filled with “our vision” and what we can “do for God”?  As His people all we can do is rest in Him and let His love flow through us. If we do, soon His love will compel us to do His will for those in need, not by striving but by loving. Remember, a labor of love is no labor at all.

What is Spiritual Adultery?

I was involved in two different “moves of God” that took place–the Asbury Revival (from which the Jesus Movement came) and the Toronto Movement (from which came the Pensacola “Brownsville Revival,” and many other special meetings that people flocked to around the world.) I learned much from being involved in these two events. In the spring of 1970 the kids in the college chapel in Wilmore, Kentucky (Asbury Theological Seminary) had a special visitation from God. These kids spent hours and hours in prayer and they got filled with the Spirit on a Christian campus that was not Pentecostal! But it did not stay there. They went home on spring break with their fresh infilling and took the gospel to other young people they knew and it spread from there. Church buildings could not contain it. As a result, the Jesus movement took place in parks, on the streets and in coffee houses in the run down parts of towns. God was saving and filling these young people with the Spirit and they were taking the gospel back out into the highways and byways to the Hippy movement many of them came out of. Thousands were saved out of that “tune in, turn on and drop out” culture that was centered on drugs, sex and rock and roll. I was part of this move of the Spirit. It was an exciting time and was propelled by the Spirit of God… until men rose up, became the new “spiritual gurus,” and started building their own followings and denominations out of what God sovereignly started. That was “the day the music died.” As for Toronto, Brownsville, Rodney Howard Brown, Randy Clark, John Arnott, Todd Bentley, Bill Johnson, etc., I was in on the beginnings of that move too in the early 90’s because I did not want to miss “the next move of God.” The important difference between these two moves was that the people saved in the Jesus movement were not seeking after signs and wonders. They only wanted Jesus! But in the Toronto type meetings I went to, people came flocking to special buildings so that they could get a “special touch” from a guru who “had the power” and as a result many got manifestations in their bodies like “holy laughter,” “spiritual drunkenness,” crawling around on the floor while making animal noises, or shaking violently. Some women even made suggestive movements with their bodies as they danced. It was not God! Why? Paul warned us that this would happen before Christ returned.

“And then shall that Wicked One be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the breath of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deception of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” (2 Thessalonians 2:8-10 KJ2000)

Yes, before Christ returns, Satan will be turned lose with “all power and signs.” This is not a time to be seeking signs and power! Many people that I knew who got these “special touches” in these meetings ended up with all kinds of emotional problems and mental disorders. What made the difference was whether they wanted Christ only, or they were looking for manifestations and power in their bodies! Jesus called seeking after signs spiritual adultery (see Matthew 12:38-40). Why? Because we go to mere men to get our signs and wonders preformed! Those Pharisees did not believe that Jesus was the Christ as they looked for a sign from Him. Clamoring after men and women instead of Christ as the Son of God is adultery in the eyes of God. Paul and the early apostles were quite emphatic that people did not do that to them. In Acts we read:

While he [the healed lame man] clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s, astounded. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people, “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? …And his [Jesus Christ] name, by faith in his name, has made this man strong whom you see and know; and the faith which is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. “And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers…” (Acts 3:11-17 RSVA) He listened to Paul speaking; and Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and walked. And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycao’nian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, because he was the chief speaker, they called Hermes. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the people. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out among the multitude, crying, “Men, why are you doing this? We also are men, of like nature with you, and bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. (Acts 14:9-15 RSVA)

“The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” Boy is THAT a pregnant statement as to what is wrong with Christianity today! Paul warned the Corinthians about this very thing…

But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh… For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apol’los,” are you not merely men? What then is Apol’los? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apol’los watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth… So let no one boast of men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apol’los or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; and you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.” (1 Corinthians 3:1-23 RSVA)

All things pertaining to God are ours in Christ, dear saints. Quit looking to men.

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek HIM. (Hebrews 11:6 KJ2000 – emphasis added)