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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus went on to pray:

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

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

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

* https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/

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Deceiving the Very Elect or “Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid!”

Faith in a manLast night I read an article about a Christian cult that my wife, Dorothy and I started to get entangled with in 1979 and ’80. Just one year earlier on November 18, 1978, over 900 people, mostly Christians died who were loyal to a pastor named Jim Jones. This man was winded and dined as a great man doing a great work for the poor by civic leaders, celebrities, senators, congressman and even President Jimmy Carter. At his prompting after a crisis in their remote compound in Guyana they all drank poisoned Kool Aid in a communion service knowing exactly what they were doing. Now that is mind control!

The Christian cult we were with was located in four different cities in the USA and we lived in one of them in the northwest. A brother in another one of these cult locations was a member for over eight years with his wife and after it was all over he said,

   “No one can consider themselves above the possibility of deception” ~ Tom Murray

After reading this same article, Susanne Schuberth wrote on her blog:

“As soon as we think we have arrived at a certain point of no return in our walk with God, we can be sure that Satan will test our faith by offering us several temptations in order to draw us back into his realm of darkness where all kind of sin lurks at every corner.” https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2015/12/22/beware-of-the-snare-in-the-air/

Some of these satanic temptations seem innocuous and even a “holy desire.” Susanne and her husband were caught up in one in Germany and my wife and I in one in Spokane, Washington. Both started out as bona fide Christian churches. Just because you go to a church the is “main line” does not mean that its leadership cannot be corrupted. You might say, “How could you be so stupid to get involved? Don’t you know your Bibles?” If you ask such a question, you have little knowledge of the power of our adversary who can come as an angel of light.

I have heard many Christians quote the tail end of this verse:

For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. (Matthew 24:24 RSVA)

They then reason, “Well, these are The Elect! Of course it is impossible to deceive them! If so they wouldn’t be the elect!” Jesus didn’t give these warnings to the elect of God just to hear Himself talk! These deceivers are active in the Church and even have ecclesiastical titles! In Matthew chapter 24, Jesus gave many warnings as to what will come upon the earth at the end of this dispensation of grace. The New Testament has many such warnings about false anointings (Christs), false prophets, apostles and teachers sent by Satan to deceive the people of God even “with all power and signs and lying wonders.” There are many antichrists among us and have been since the end of the first century (see 1 John chapter 2).

My wife and I knew the people in our cult group quite well. We had been in the same church with them and I knew some of them from a former Christian cult in the same area that formed out of the Jesus Movement ten years earlier. This new one was called “The No Name Fellowship” by the media because they refused to take a name.

The leadership started out all warm and fuzzy as the pastor of our church invited their speakers in to minister to the congregation on Sundays. There was a lot of preaching about going all the way with God, rooting out all sin in our lives and “being holy.” Soon these cult leaders started drawing away church members by inviting them to “special meetings” for those who “really want to get serious with God.” My wife and I were serious about our faith and wanted to grow in Christ so we started going to these meetings during the week. Even the pastor and his wife were sucked into the preaching of these men and hosted them in their home for many months. During these meetings there was always a time of prayer in which the leaders encouraged the people to pray out loud what was really on their hearts. We noticed that the leader didn’t kneel and close his eyes like everyone else during prayer times, but was looking around and took note who was praying aloud and what they were saying. This sowed the seeds of doubt in us, especially after one of them asked to come to our home for dinner. A couple days after he accepted our hospitality, we were called out in one of these meeting and rebuked for all that he found while in our home that he thought was not up to their standard of “holiness.” Needless to say, the sense of betrayal and vulnerability in us started to grow.

As these leaders got control of this core group of serious saints, the control level started ratcheting up. Women were told they must wear head coverings and dresses. Their husbands were told to take control of their wives so that they did not speak up in the meetings (unless she was a “recognized prophetess.” The pastor’s wife happened to be one!) The poor pastor didn’t know what hit him and soon his wife was approved of by them and he wasn’t! Dorothy had seen the head covering edict before, so being a rebellious type, she went to the local import markets looking for a giant sombrero to wear to meetings, but they were all out! Rats! She could have provide covering for herself and the women on each side of her!

Eventually there was a church wide meeting in which the cult leaders, after failing to take control of the church facilities from the elders, forced a division among the people and took as many as they could with them. They pronounced curses on the church grounds, the buildings, and the people who wouldn’t follow them, including a curse of barrenness on all the wombs of the women stood against them. It was the ugliest church meeting we had ever attended. Dorothy and I walked out while this would-be “prophet” cult leader was doing his cursing routine. Everyone else just sat there stunned. I was deluded up until that point because I had been saying to myself, “I can’t be deceived again, because I have already escaped form one Christian cult!” In the next couple of days, I was called into a private meeting with the cult leader, the pastor, a brother in Christ that I thought was my friend and a couple of others while they commenced to berate me for walking out. I told them that I had had all this “fun” with Christians in the past ten year that I could stand and we were heading for the back side of the wilderness and would be back in about 40 years. That was the last time I saw any of them until 20 years later.

Thank God we left when we did. Over the next eight years, the lives of those who went with these men were destroyed. Anyone who did not obey the letter of these leader’s laws was publicly ridiculed and even spanked with boards. Disruptive children were beaten. This went on for years! Women who were deemed “in rebellion” were even locked up and held prisoners in a rented home below where the pastor and his wife lived! But it finally came to a head when a ten-year-old boy who was sick with diabetes was prayed over for weeks instead of given medical attention. He went into severe weight loss and was spanked over and over for a sin he didn’t commit that was “blocking his healing.” He finally died after a severe beating by his own father, supervised by the cult leader. That was when the authorities stepped in and investigated. After a long trial the prophet-leader ended up in prison over this boy’s death, as did his father.

I have shared all this because we as God’s saints we need to learn the voice of our Lord as our One Good Shepherd and not be cowed by strong soulish people who presume to speak into our lives for God. The members of this cult were all people we knew and had a sincere faith in Christ! While in prison, the leader, a powerful man who had been a line-backer in the Cleveland Browns football team and knew how to project his soulish power, confessed that he too had been deceived into thinking that what he was doing was under the authority of God. Yes, the very elect can be deceived! I hope you who read this heed Paul’s solemn warning,

“Now these things happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:11-12 RSVA)

And Two Shall Become One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” – the American Dream

Happy money womanIt is simple as this, “What is it that we find happiness and pleasure in?” The answer shows us the issues of our hearts. God is concerned with our hearts because their condition determines our final destination. Most Americans take the preamble of the Declaration of Independence as their God-given right. This determines the desires of their hearts and sad to say, our American thinking has permeated the world. Wikipedia explains.

“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The phrase gives three examples of the “unalienable rights” which the Declaration says has been given to all human beings by their Creator, and for which governments are created to protect.

These words have been used to justify the worldly pursuits of our soul natures and living however we like. Many have adopted a hedonistic lifestyle, “doing our own thing.” The mantra of the hippie generation of the ’60’s and ’70’s was, “If it feels good, do it!” A large part of the western society adheres to this philosophy today.

But is this the gospel of Christ? I think not, yet the gospel we hear preached in churches today has been heavily influenced by this kind of thinking. One of the most seditious things spoken among Christians today is, “After all, we are all sinners.” In parroting this line we make room for sin in our lives as if it is normal. We use it as an excuse to not grow up in Christ. Yet concerning this attitude John wrote, “Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he [Jesus] was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him.” (1John 3:4-6, nrs).

The soul in man, also known in the Bible as the heart, is seen by God as something very contrary to life in His Kingdom. Jeremiah prophesied, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10, KJ2000). Because of its nature, the heart of fallen man cannot be trusted.

Now let us look at the real gospel of Christ and what Jesus actually taught,

 And he who does not take his cross and take the same road with me which I take, is not worthy of me. He who has found his soul-life, shall ruin and render it useless, and he who has passed a sentence of death upon his soul-life for my sake shall find it.  (Matt 10:38-39, Wuest’s)

This is not exactly the “seeker friendly” happy, happy gospel of today’s churches, is it? The word translated soul-life in this passage is psuche (from where we get the word psyche). How often have we heard a person say, “I am trying to find my life” or “I just want to be happy”?  When I started to follow Jesus, I had the idea that I could use all my natural talents and abilities as I saw best to further His kingdom. That’s what all the rest of the Christians I knew were doing. I remember them saying, “Man, if that rock star (football player, etc.) would just get saved, what a witness he would be for the kingdom of God!” No one showed me the words of Jesus where He said, “Apart from me you can do nothing!”  and “The flesh profits nothing.” Our natural abilities and propensities are the very life that Jesus said must be crucified as we take up our own God-given crosses. Christ’s death on the cross dealt with our sins, but the cross He gives each of us to take up as we follow Him, if we truly are His followers, deals with all soulish things in us, both the “good” and the bad. What is the outworking of this cross in our lives?  Paul put it this way, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” This is the real gospel of Christ! We lay down our soul lives and take up His. “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

And what is this higher life that we gain from the working of the cross on our soul lives? It is the very life of Christ in us. Yes, we can “pursue happiness,” but the happiness we are to have comes from pursuing the fullness of God as we deny ourselves:

“Behold, happy is the man whom God reproves; therefore despise not the chastening of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he binds up; he smites, but his hands heal.” (Job 5:17-18, RSV)

“Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God.” (Psalm 146:5, RSV)

“Blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied) is the man who reverently and worshipfully fears [the Lord] at all times [regardless of circumstances], but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.” (Prov 28:14, AMP)

Contrary to popular religious sentiment, all our suffering as the saints of God does not come from the devil. As a good father chastens his children for their own good, God does not spoil His kids. Yes, we are the King’s kids, but the gifts He gives us are not the soulish kind that titillates our flesh, but rather the greatest gift of all, conforming us into the image and likeness of His Son.

“Come, let us return to the Lord; for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us; he has struck down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know, let us press on to know [intimately knowing] the Lord; his appearing is as sure as the dawn; he will come to us like the showers, like the spring rains that water the earth.” (Hos 6:1-3, NRS)

“Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1John 3:2, KJ2000)

The Downward Pull or the Upward Call?

Artist unknown

Artist unknown

In September 26, 1937, The Shadow radio drama premiered with the story “The Deathhouse Rescue,” in which The Shadow was characterized as having “the power to cloud men’s minds so they cannot see him.” As in the magazine stories, The Shadow was not given the literal ability to become invisible [but to cloud their minds]. The introduction from The Shadow radio program was thus, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shadow)

When I was a child, before we had a TV, I remember listening to this radio show. There were many mystery shows that made my mind race with all their sound effects. What a description of epic battle between Satan’s minions and the minds of men in this quote.

Susanne Schuberth, Jack Helser and I recently had an exchange on Susanne’s blog* about a dream she had where she was standing with her back to the ocean, facing a sandstone cliff. She was suddenly lifted up by God to safety on top this cliff. As I read her dream and Jack’s comment, I was struck with how the layers of the ocean represent our lives that are not in submission to Christ. All the underlying layers from the surface on down to the depths pertain to our minds and soul natures that God wants to deal with to set us free so we can walk above all that with Christ.

Our minds are like the ocean. On the surface, the natural mind is churned up by the elements of the world and all that is in it. Men plow through our minds with their mechanizations (institutions, “just causes” and evil doings) and we are tossed to and fro in our thinking as the storms rage. All the political and soulish reactions to these latest terror attacks around the world make this is easy to see. Paul wrote:

We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, (Ephesians 4:14-15, NRS)

We find our salvation as we grow up into Christ and are no longer blown about by the winds of trouble and change in this world or the misleading teachings of men. We need the wisdom of God dwelling in us if we are to make it into our Father’s rest. James wrote:

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord. (Jas 1:5-8, nrs)

If we have faith and do not waver (this is also a gift from God), we can be like Peter when he saw Jesus walking on the water. We can learn a lot from this episode from the gospels.

And immediately Jesus made his disciples get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke unto them, saying, “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.” And Peter answered him and said, “Lord, if it be you, bid me come unto you on the water.” And he said, “Come.” And when Peter came down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. (Matt 14:22-29, KJ2000)

First we see Jesus making time to get away from the crowd and even His disciples who believed in Him. He knew that apart from the Father He could do nothing. What an important lesson for us to learn that when we are apart from Jesus, the cares and storms of this life pull us down and we become spiritually handicapped and drained of heaven’s life in us. One of the worst task masters of all is the “tyranny of necessity.” Beware of things that must be done or else, but always take time to ask God first as Jesus did upon hearing the His friend Lazarus was dying and his family wanted Him to come right away.

Without Jesus, we see these experienced sailors fighting against a contrary wind and losing the battle. Jesus came to them walking above all that because He had been spending time with His Father instead of, like them, battling against the elements with His flesh. In the midst of all this commotion, Peter is given faith and says to Jesus, “Lord, if it be you, bid me come unto you on the water.” So Jesus said to him, “Come,” and Peter was soon walking above the storm just as Jesus was. The key to our survival is not in our own abilities to ride out the storms of life, but rather to put our faith and trust in Christ who cares for us and asks us to come to Him, “casting all your cares upon Him for He cares for you.”

As the Matthew narrative continues, at some point during his walk on the water the storm got worse and Peter got his eyes on the storm and off of Christ. Big mistake! Peter started to sink. His reaction was simple, he cried out, “‘Lord, save me!’ And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him.”  We will come up against severe testing in our pursuit of Christ and inevitably we will waver in our faith. It is what we do after this that is important. Jesus can not save us as long as we are trying to save ourselves with our own strength. He waits for us to cast all our cares upon Him and Him alone.

From about ten feet of depth on down, the ocean is fairly calm and only the currents move through it. Most of the life in the seas is found from the surface down to about 200 meters. The basis of this life is photosynthesis and below 200 meters it is too dark for plant life to grow. This is the level where our subliminal thought life flourishes and takes on a life of its own. It can be healthy if, in Christ, we have learned to take every thought captive in obedience to Him, or it can be like the dead coral reefs that ecologists like to speak about, poisoned by the cast off waste of civilization, or the shipwrecks of our own lives.

As we go deeper in the ocean, the subconscious, all is dark and it is here we find some of the most creepy forms of sea life. Once we dive off the edge of the continental shelves, What is found here either lives off the dead and decaying plant and animal life that filters down from the top 200 meters or it feeds on itself. The dark subconscious of man tends to feed on dead things and is morbid by nature. Some of these creatures even make their own light!

Today we see many young people in our cultures obsessed with death and darkness. They dress in black, play murderous video games, and have an obsession for the demonic and witchcraft. Even the churches have become affected by this. Not long ago some friends invited me to go with them to a church called “The Skull.” All the teenagers were wearing black sweatshirts with white skulls printed on them. The building where they met on Sunday was painted flat black on the inside and they had a loud rock band for “worship music.” Finally, to top it off, the “pastor” preached on hell via satellite hookup from a remote location! And I was assured that all this was being done for the sake of “being relevant.”

This area between 200 meters and 900 meters, called “The Twilight Zone,” is also comparable to where the evil lurks in the hearts of men. Satan has found a home there and the destructive force that influences all the other layers of the heart come from this zone. Man has explored the whole surface of the earth, but the depths of the seas have hardly been found out. This is how Jeremiah put it:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10, KJ2000)

This is why a NEW heart and the work of Christ and His Spirit is so imperative if we are to walk in the kingdom of God and avoid the pitfalls of the devil. God spoke of this supernatural work saying,

“I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.” (Ezekiel 36:25-27, NRS)

We can be drawn up into the arms of our Father in heaven or we can be pulled down into spiritual depths. James spoke of this epic battle saying,

But if you have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, boast not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descends not from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by them that make peace. (Jas 3:14-18, KJ2000)

The wisdom of the devil is first earthly and of this world and then it is sensual and finally as it spirals down and becomes devilish. This is the downward digression of Satan’s pull and we see people follow this path over and over. What a contrast this is to the wisdom which comes down to us from above!

Dear saints, if we are to survive these dark times that are upon us, we must turn our fleshly soul natures over to God for Him to deal with. We must quit feeding on all the world has to offer, since the prince of this world is in control of it all. We all need new hearts that are in tune with our Father and spiritual ears that can hear and obey His voice (see Hebrew 8:7-13). As Jesus put it,

Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matt 11:28-30, KJ2000)

Thank you Jack and Susanne for your insights. You may read what was exchanged on this thread on Susanne’s blog beginning here:

*https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2015/12/07/instead-of-christ-the-social-gospel-spirit/comment-page-1/#comment-13055