God’s Beginnings Govern the End

let their be light“Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he has promised us, eternal life.” (1 John 2:24-25 RSVA)

There is a spiritual principle that determines whether something is of God and therefore eternal, or whether it is under His judgment and cast out. Did He originate it and is it still following this original pattern? In Genesis we read:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:1-4 RSVA)

Light was the result of the Spirit of God moving over the face of the waters and He saw that the Light was good. He separated the Light from the darkness. Jesus is the Light of the World (see John 8:12), and we know who the Prince of Darkness is. This passage in Genesis is not talking about physical light and darkness because the sun, moon and stars were not created until the fourth day (see Gen. 1:14-19).

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 RSVA)

God has established His Son as the Light that enlightens all those who follow Him. In the beginning He gave Light to the world, and He is the light of heaven in the end (see Rev. 21:23 and 24). In heaven there is no darkness since darkness was the result of Satan trying to overthrow God and deceiving mankind. He will not be in heaven (See Rev. 20:10). John wrote about Christ being the Light.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5 RSVA)

T. Austin-Sparks wrote:

The Beginning Remains the Governing Standard to the End. God never departs from His initial and original position. God never accepts anything less. He does not deviate, He does not abandon, He does not forfeit or sacrifice one iota of His original position and intention. It remains the standard by which God governs everything right on to the end, and in the end God will sovereignly work in relation to His beginning.

If we had spiritual perception enough we should see that that law is being applied today in a most impressive way. Everything today is coming up for testing; everything that goes by the name of the Lord, everything that has an association with Him; His people, that which is called the Lord’s work; everything is coming into a place of testing. There will be testing in the nations, testing by the fires of national and international and world conditions; testing by the instrumentality of the forces of evil. Everything is coming up now in a new and perhaps more intensive way than for a long time, to be tested: and God’s testings, by whatever means He tests, are all in the light of His original position, in the light of “that which was from the beginning”. He is, in effect, saying: We will see by testing how this stands in the light of the original standard. That means that God is intent upon having at the end what He had at the beginning, and He is working sovereignly in that connection. –T. Austin-Sparks, “That Which Was from the Beginning”

This morning when I was at a local coffee shop, there was a group of about six men at one of the large tables. They all had a copy of the same slick bound book on the table in front of them as they bowed their heads and prayed. I recognized one of them as the man who owns the condo next door and went over to say “Hi.” They invited me to sit down and join them, so I did, but warned them it would be brief since I had other things to do. Sure enough, they started watching the pastor of a local mega-church on a laptop give them a presentation on why they all needed to get behind his latest church program and get the others they knew in the church to do the same. They also all needed to attend the weekly training sessions, “so everyone would be on the same page.” They were assured that if they could just get enough people involved, the church would have a great impact on the community, grow and be a success. I felt like I had just been at an Amway meeting!

I have seen this over and over. Somebody comes up with a program, writes a book about it and the church leader buys into it. With much fanfare, they all wear themselves out trying to make it work. Eventually it collapses as a dismal failure because God was not the originator and thus He was not in it. No matter how hard Abraham pleaded with God to accept his son Ishmael, God insisted that He was only interested in Isaac. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, not Ishmael and Esau. Abraham was accepted by God because he believed in God, but his fleshly works were not acceptable. The flesh cannot do the works of God. “Flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven.” The measure in the end will always be, “Was Christ in it? Were they walking in His Light or in the artificial lights of men?”

Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled! This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment. (Isaiah 50:11 ESV)

The Church was birthed by the infilling of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. All through the Book of Acts we see men listening to and following the leading of the Spirit. Soon they were accused of turning the world upside down. They did not write and publish books, start evangelism campaigns, hold pay-at-the-door seminars, build church buildings, ask for tithes and offerings to keep it going, nor did its leaders lord over the people of God. Instead they taught that they had no need that any man teach them, but rather that Christ and His Spirit were everything they needed. Once spiritually uncircumcised men took control of the church, that was the end of its spiritual power and the beginning of man made institutions in Christ’s name without His Life or Light.

Perhaps one of the things which you and I and the Lord’s people everywhere need to recognize more than anything else at an end time is the fact of our heavenliness. There is going to be a testing of everything which bears the Lord’s name by the law of the beginning governing the end. In the beginning they were a heavenly people, with everything for them in heaven, in Christ, and being drawn from Christ in heaven. All their government, direction, resource came from Him and was in Him as in heaven. The Lord comes back again and again to test things by that beginning, and in the end the test is going to be applied very stringently. We are going to see the outward form of things, which is earthly, man-made, man-constituted, an imitation or a representation of spiritual things, breaking down, shaking at its very foundations. All the organizations of our work are going to be shattered. In the nations all that framework will be broken up. That which alone will be left will be the people themselves, and they will probably be scattered. Then the test will be as to how much of this is Christ here. If there has been dependence upon orders, churches, systems, even meetings and conferences, the many things which in themselves are looked to as the means of support of the Christian life, when they are gone, broken, the question will be, How much of Christ is here? What is the measure of Christ, the heavenly Christ? ~ T. Austin-Sparks “That Which Was From the Beginning” http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002953.html

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The Friend of the Bridegroom

JohnBapThey [John’s disciples] came to John, and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, the same baptizes, and everyone is coming to him.” John answered, “A man can receive nothing, unless it has been given him from heaven. You yourselves testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. This, my joy, therefore is made full. He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all.” (John 3:25-36

John the Baptist was the ideal messenger and forerunner of Jesus Christ as his words in this passage reveal. John was not all about John, but he was  a man devoted to pointing to Jesus Christ. His faithfulness is nothing short of inspirational. His famous words, “He [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease” were descriptive of his single passion, the spirit in which he came. Do we really know what these words mean? Do we know it on the level that John did? This is John’s mission statement. It was his goal from the outset. It never entered his mind to establish and maintain a high-profile ministry or following. When asked by the religious Jews who he was he simply answered “[I am] the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of the Lord…” He found his identity in Christ, not in his calling and ministry. He didn’t even call himself, “Prophet John.” From the shores of the Jordan, where he first saw the One whose shoelaces he was not worthy to unloose, John never stopped heralding, he never stopped pointing; he never stopped directing the eyes and hearts of the hearers to Jesus. He never stopped saying, “Behold the Lamb of God!”

But the time came for John to decrease even further. His job was done and he saw the need to disappear. He had prepared the way for Jesus and now it was time for him to make way for the Bridegroom. He knew that if he stayed he would find himself in competition with Jesus. How many of us are willing to decrease? Isn’t it the carnal will of every man to leave a legacy?

John’s followers had not yet left him and gone after Jesus, and now they were tempting him. Their words were filled with jealousy against Christ. “He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!” They wanted John to get with the program; to compete with the very one he was called to serve. Couldn’t John see that his ministry was failing? That people were no longer coming to him? Perhaps they were attempting to get John to hold more meetings, to do what had worked for him in the past. Get up! Do something! Can’t you see that all are coming to Him?

Today in the blogosphere we would say, “Post more blog articles and keep your name in front of the people and the search engines alerted to your presence!” Oh, how aware many of us are about how many followers we have. Many bloggers will go out and click “likes” on hundreds of other blog articles without even reading them in order to get others to come to their sites and boost their stats. If we are about pointing God’s people to Christ and not to ourselves, should our stats be a motivation for our actions and our writing? Shouldn’t we be waiting on the Lord and the voice of His Spirit to tell us what He wants written? I can tell you that if you do, you can count on being led down a path where you decrease and Christ increases.

John’s reply to his followers is teeming with significance. He reminded his disciples that “a man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.” John did acknowledge that he had (past tense) been sent before Christ, but that time was over. John reminded his disciples what his ministry was all about when he said, “He who has the bride is the bridegroom.” In the context of the traditional Hebrew wedding ceremony, John saw himself as the friend of the bridegroom, who helped in any way he could to present the bride unmolested, as a chaste virgin, to the Groom.

The final act of the friend of the bridegroom was on that long awaited night when the groom came to steal the bride away. When she heard the cry, “The bridegroom comes, go out to meet him,” she was swept away to the house that the Groom had been long preparing.

According to the Jewish tradition, the friend of the bridegroom followed the wedding procession at a distance. When the groom took the bride into the bridal chamber, the friend of the bridegroom drew near. Standing just outside the bridal suite, he listened to the sound of lovemaking and at the first note of joy in the Bridegroom’s voice, the friend of the Bridegroom danced and shouted for joy. His job over, the groom’s friend turned and walked away for the marriage was consummated and his calling was fulfilled.

So we see in John a perfect messenger with a perfect heart. May God help us to be such friends and messengers of the Bridegroom today and walk away from any clamoring after our own gain under the guise of ministry!

(Note: I would like to give credit to my good brother in Christ, George Davis, for having much of the original inspiration for this article. To read all of the original essay we wrote together go to: http://www.awildernessvoice.com/ElijahCompany.html )

“Walking In the Light as He Is In the Light” by Michael and Susanne

Susanne Schuberth and I conspired on this together as God has been speaking to us about the depth of what it means to “walk in the light as HE is in the light.”

Entering the Promised Land

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“And we are writing this that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:4-7 RSVA)

Susanne wrote, “Meanwhile I believe that God only shows us that there is no good thing coming from the old man in order to bring forth those genuinely good things that spring from a new God-given heart. But the process until we are through with all these “ouch-experiences” and our natural tendency to run…

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Spirit Birthed Relationships in Christ

Many members, one Christ

I have displayed thy name among those whom you have chosen out of the world for me: thine they were, and you gave them me; and they have kept thy word. (John 17:6 Mace)

Jay Ferris was a friend of mine that died of cancer a little over two years ago and he is missed by hundreds of people. Why? Because he knew and lived in relationships with people and if they were not believers, after getting to know Jay (or should I say, Christ in Jay), many soon came to Christ. What made Jay different than most Christian leaders was that he believed that Christ came to establish the kingdom of God as a family, not an institution. In one of his blogs Jay wrote,

“Suppose this is not about generic relationships, but about very specific relationships and purposes in God having their origins in and by Him. These are relationships so full of the passion and purposes of Christ, and not some kind of human decisions. Relationships in Christ are not generic, they are born of Him for His purposes, and not as mere religious toys.”(http://lovinglikegod.com/2013/04/10/things-that-cant-be-told/)

I have come to believe that most of what we see in Christendom is composed of “generic relationships.” You know, the “meet, eat and retreat” kind where God hears from us and we see each other once a week and we call it good. The kind of relationships that God wants are the ones in which we become totally ONE with the Father and the Son. Then we through this same level of intimacy as members of Christ’s body can come to know one another with the same level of intimacy (see John 17:20-26). You cannot contemplate a human body without seeing the intimacy and relationships that each individual member of that body has with the others. If a limb or organ is missing then the whole body goes out of whack. Christ is our Head and there is no other intermediary between the members of His body and Himself. It is interesting to me that the pituitary or “master” gland is located in our heads at the base of the brain. In like manner Christ is the one that brings the rest of the body into harmony as it answers to Him (See 1 Cor. Ch. 12).

It is because of this intimate relationship to the Head that we also can have intimate relationships with each other and the kind of relationships I am speaking of are not maintained only on one hour a week in a crowded hall in which everything is orchestrated by a man and his idea of what should happen. Professional clergy need not apply, but if they want to come down in the trenches and get real with the rest of His body, they are welcome and can become a viable member of Christ’s body once again. As Jesus put it, “Now you may not be called ‘Rabbi,’ for One is your Teacher, yet you all are brethren” (Matthew 23:8 CLV – emphsis added).

As members of Christ’s body, I believe that God puts us with certain individuals in Christ by His design and not our own and He does this for HIS purposes. He is using those to whom He has given His Spirit to paint a wonderful mosaic of His Son… Jesus Christ living and breathing here on earth. As in a mosaic, some pieces touch other pieces and some don’t. God puts our piece next to the one that will compliment the whole image He is making. We all have tried to put ourselves together with other saints at times and have seen it end as a dismal failure. But when GOD assembles us as HE wills, something special and lasting happens.

I think of Jonathan and David who had a love for one another that was better than that of a woman (see 1 Sam. 1:26). Paul and Timothy had a special father-son type relationship in Christ. Then there was John and Jesus where we find John in the gospels so in love with Jesus that he reclined at the last supper with his head on Jesus’ breast. He was “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” the one that stayed with Him throughout His ordeal on the cross and was the one who went on to write about the love of God over and over in His gospel and letters and He knew this love first hand with God’s Son and the members of His body.

You see, to have special relationships with other members of Christ’s body it requires intimacy, the very thing that most church people fear. Yes, love is risky and being cold and distant to others is “safe.” But the love of God compels those who have pressed into Christ to become close to the ones He puts us with regardless of the personal cost.

Jay also wrote in another blog about what he called “foxhole love.”

Today, I want to address the matter of Spiritual intimacy in another place and with another word picture, a “Foxhole.” I am not speaking of a fox hole in the way that Jesus referred to it, but spiritual intimacy surrounded by warfare.

A pond suggests a tranquil place where the war is over, and a foxhole suggests the reality of the war in and around intimate spiritual relationship. On the one hand we are surrounded by the war around the foxhole, and on the other, we become more and more aware of the inner war going on inside of each another. In the foxhole of intimate relationship there is a war going on against our staying in that place of intimacy. The war gets more intense the deeper into the hole we go.

The only way for the intimacy of relationship to survive in such an environment is to know God’s kind of love, the kind that is good for enemies, both perceived and real. The lovers in a foxhole have to rest in the knowledge that they are secure in one another’s love… The intimacy we are talking about is not delusional. It is made possible and energized by a Love that is so great it covers a multitude of sins.

This post has to do with sharing the lessons of Life, (He is The Life.) especially with those who are in the foxhole of love with us. Perhaps this is what Paul was thinking about when he prayed “… that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19 (http://lovinglikegod.com/2012/12/27/the-truth-hurts-at-least-in-the-beginning/)

“Father, do what you have to do to strip us of our self-centered mindsets and agendas and fill us with your love for you and for one another. Let us then be placed with the members of Christ’s body you have destined us to be joined to and let your love flow between us as a sign that it is your doing, and out of that love let us bring forth YOUR eternal fruit. Amen.”

Rightly Discerning the Body of Christ

Aduterous woman and Jesus 2

What right do you have to criticize someone else’s servants? Only their Lord can decide if they are doing right, and the Lord will make sure that they do right. (Romans 14:4 CEV)

What an amazing verse this is! Here Paul wrote that only God has the right to decide whether one of His saints is doing as they should and not only that, He has the power to put them back on the right path. There are many people in the church today who want to take this right into their own hands and speak out against anyone that is not toeing the line as they think should be done.

Another form of judging involves people who judge others in their hearts but do not verbalize it. They think they are okay because of their silence. Yet, the scripture says that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. God hears our thoughts and knows our hearts. Do you still think you are doing just fine when it comes to judging? Well, listen to your thoughts the next time you are driving in heavy traffic. Paul wrote,

“For by the grace given to me I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him.” (Romans 12:3 RSVA)

Thinking of ourselves as God sees us is a rare thing. We usually think of our spiritual estate as better than it is. Not many of us see ourselves according to the measure of faith that God has given us. Satan is the accuser of the brethren of Christ. Often we find our thoughts agreeing with him as if we are the one who has the right to judge, taking the place of God to ourselves! Funny, but this is exactly what Lucifer did (see Isaiah 14:12-15).

Have you ever noticed that Jesus never went around claiming that He was the Messiah? Even when pressed by the Jewish leaders to say so, He seemed to avoid taking the title to Himself. Instead He let men tell Him what He was while they observed His actions and words (see Matthew 16:16). The title does not make the man, and neither do his degrees. On the other hand, Jesus did take the title “the son of man.” There was nothing special about being “the son of a man.” We read that when He found Himself in the form of a man, He became a lowly servant, not a Prince in a palace or a High Priest. As he grew in Christ the titles Paul the apostle claimed diminished until finally he called himself, “the offscouring of the world” (1 Corinthians 4:13). When we rightfully compare ourselves to Christ, the Father’s Standard of righteousness, it should humble us as it did Paul.

Jesus took the lowest place His whole life. He was born in a barn, and laid in a feed trough in the least of all towns in Judea. He grew up in a town in Galilee that was considered least by the Jewish leaders of that day. Referring to Him they said, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” He spent most of His life in what was called “Galilee of the Gentiles,” disdained by the Jews. He was loved by the common people, but was rejected by the leaders of His own people. Finally, he was tried like a common criminal, crucified between two thieves and His body placed in a borrowed grave. If being born in the right family and having a place of respect in the local community was an asset for gaining power and respectability, somebody forgot to tell God.

We often have this “uppity” attitude toward one another as if we think we are something when we are really nothing. It is a dead give-away when we hear ourselves saying to another saint, “When I was a younger Christian like you I thought that way too.” “I know what you are going through.” “Here is what you need to do…” And the all time classic, “I feel your pain.” We are all too quick to put ourselves in a higher place in our thinking than the one we are “reaching out to in love” or speaking to. We are all too quick to try and do the convicting work of the Spirit of God in each others lives.

One of the subtle ways we elevate ourselves over others is by posturing. We do so by flaunting our experience, our titles, our degrees, even with our attitudes and body language. “Touch me not, for you are unclean!” “I am holier than thou.” We might not say this, but we often act it out and others can sense it. Yet, Jesus, who should be our example as Christians, allowed Himself to be touched by women who were bleeding, and unclean according to the Jewish law. He hung out with sinners and prostitutes and even touched lepers!

Jesus identified with the multitudes (Greek, ochlos by definition – the common people and the rabble) and was often found mingling with them. He was criticized for it by the Jewish leaders. How often we see people who love their titles and respectability keeping the common people at arm’s length or even further, but not our Lord. This attitude is not the Spirit of Christ. He did not have an appointment secretary who acted as if she went to guard dog school. But I am afraid this is all too common today among recognized church leaders. By looking to people such as these as an example, we take on the wrong attitude toward others. Like so many children, we learn more from what we observe in our leaders than by what they say.

In contrast we find Jesus rebuking His disciples for trying to keep women and their children away from Him. He said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” In short, Jesus was a servant to all and always accessible to the “little people,” even saying that they will fill His Father’s kingdom, not the elevated ones.

Saints, there is no substitute for the work of the cross and the excellent knowledge (intimate knowing) of Jesus Christ in our lives. There is no substitute for the unction of the Holy Spirit and the heavenly teaching that comes from Him as we open our hearts to God. Institutions can teach you the history of the church and details about the Bible, but they cannot give you the rhema word and moment by moment guidance of God. No, you must walk by faith in humility if you are to be an effective witness of God’s kingdom and love.

Remember that Paul had the best education the Jewish system could provide and he counted his history, bloodline and education, etc., as less than nothing, except for his intimate relationship (“excellent knowledge of”) with Jesus. Mark his words, “We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:1-2, NKJV). It is not what we know that counts, but whether Jesus knows us and we intimately know Him (see Matthew 7:21-23). We cannot effectively teach what we have not become. As with John, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, NKJV). There is nothing more detracting in us from portraying Christ to the “lost world” than pride. And pride keeps us from becoming truly one with God and with each other as well.

When the Lord’s people get a new spiritual Holy Ghost revelation of the Sovereign Headship of Christ, and begin to hold fast the Head, they let go of everything that is local, and personal, and different, and scattered on the earth. That is the place to which to come for unity. We cannot be at variance with one another as the Lord’s children if Christ is absolute Sovereign Head in our lives. When the Lord Jesus gets the complete mastery as Head in our lives, then all independence of action, and life, and all self-will, self-direction, self-seeking, self-glory and self-vindication will go. These are the things which set us apart from one another. You pass from Isaiah [Isaiah 6:1-8], and as you do, so you remember that you have the results of such a vision seen in this man Isaiah. Such a vision immediately has the effect of humiliating him to the dust. Oh, yes, we lose all our pride, all our importance when once we see the Lord in glory. “Woe is me….” That is humiliation! Then, after humiliation, there is consecration: “Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” And, after humiliation and consecration, there comes vocation: “…who will go for Us?” “Then I said, Here am I; send me.” ~ T. Austin Sparks http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/001461.html