Have You Ever Felt Hung Out to Dry?

But who will survive the day when he comes? Or who can stand when he appears? For he’s like a refiner’s fire and a launderer’s soap. He will sit refining and purifying silver, purifying the descendants of Levi, refining them like gold and silver. Then they’ll bring a righteous offering to the Lord. (Mal 3:2-3, ISV)

Yes, who shall survive the day of His coming? How many of you have been going through times of deep trials and even spiritual dryness, when  all of a sudden the night is over and the morning sun arises in your hearts?  It seems that in the ongoing process of God’s purification of our hearts, He takes us through dark nights, but eventually there is a glorious sunrise. We want the sunshine to last with no more periods of darkness and trials, yet another night comes all too soon! Will this process ever end? You start to feel like you are in the hands of a launderer who is scrubbing you up and down on a washboard with lye soap!

I was looking at Psalm 30 and noticed the ups and downs that David spoke of in his own walk.

“Sing unto the LORD, O you saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness [up]. For his anger endures but for a moment [down]; in his favor is life [up]: weeping may endure for a night [down], but joy comes in the morning. And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved. LORD, by your favor you have made my mountain to stand strong [up]: you did hide your face, and I was troubled [down].” (Ps 30:4-7, KJ2000)

Does this look familiar? He blesses us and we rejoice and praise His name and are feeling pretty good about our place in His kingdom. Then we feel His displeasure and we are troubled and sad and another trial begins. We know His favor to be our life. We weep again and are sad for a season as He goes deeper into our souls, but when we see the reason for our suffering, we once again take courage that God’s hand is in it for our good. We eventually start to feel like we have arrived and are prosperous in the Spirit and say, “Finally, I shall never be moved! The Lord has made me to stand like a strong mountain in His presence!” Then He hides his face from our exalted pride and we are once again brought low. Poor David was going through this same process that has become so familiar to many of us as we seek to be made whole IN Christ.

John of the Cross wrote about this very process in his book, The Dark Night of the Soul.

…the soul that desires to consider it will be able to see how on this road… it has to suffer many ups and downs, and how the prosperity which it enjoys is followed immediately by certain storms and trials; so much so, that it appears to have been given that period of calm in order that it might be forewarned and strengthened against the poverty which has followed; just as after misery and torment there come abundance and calm… This is the ordinary course and proceeding of the state of contemplation until the soul arrives at the state of quietness; it never remains in the same state for long together, but is ascending and descending continually.

The reason for this is that, as the state of perfection, which consists in the perfect love of God and contempt for self, cannot exist unless it have these two parts, which are the knowledge of God and of oneself, the soul has of necessity to be practised first in the one and then in the other, now being given to taste of the one—that is, exaltation—and now being made to experience the other—that is, humiliation…*

David finally ends his observation by saying this:

Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be my helper. You have turned for me my mourning into dancing: you have put off my sackcloth, and [you have] girded me with gladness; To the end that my glory may sing praise to you, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto you forever. (Ps 30:10-12, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

In these last two verses David, is no longer strong in himself. He pleads to God for mercy and to be His help. There is no mention of never being moved, of prosperity, or of being strong like a mountain; now he is weak and pleads for God to be his strength. It is God who turns his mourning into dancing. It is God who girds him with gladness that he might sing His praises and give Him thanks forever. There is a subtle difference between verses 4-7 and verses 10-12, but that difference is true brokenness and humility. Jesus said this to Nathanial:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter you shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. (John 1:51, KJ2000)

Jesus was referring to Himself as the ladder that Jacob saw in his dream. John of the Cross wrote that this process of exaltation and humiliation continues

…until it has acquired perfect habits; and then this ascending and descending will cease, since the soul will have attained to God and become united with Him, which comes to pass at the summit of this ladder, for the ladder [Christ] rests and leans upon Him… All this, says Divine Scripture, took place by night, when Jacob slept, in order to express how secret is this road and ascent to God [and few be they who find it], and how different from that of man’s knowledge. This is very evident, since ordinarily that which is of the greatest profit in it—namely, to be ever losing oneself and becoming as nothing—is considered the worst thing possible; and that which is of least worth, which is for a soul to find consolation and sweetness (wherein it ordinarily loses rather than gains), is considered best. *

I am reminded of Ezekiel chapter 37 when God sets the prophet in the middle of a valley littered with dry human bones and asked the prophet if the bones could live again.

And he said unto me, “Son of man, can these bones live”? And I answered, “O Lord GOD, [only] you know.” (Ezek 37:3, KJ2000)

When He has made our bones not just dry to outward appearances, but very dry so that even the marrow inside the bones of our souls is dried up. Then there is progress (remember, “the life is in the blood” and the blood is made in the marrow. Our natural soulish life is what He is drying up in us). Finally after many trials, we are done trying to out-guess Him and find a way out of our miseries. We even quit hoping that things will change under His mighty hand.  We resign ourselves to the will of God alone with no reservations saying, “Oh Lord God, only YOU know. Your will be done with me according to YOUR good pleasure.” This is when we enter into the glory of the Father and the Son, immersed in their love. That glory sings praises to them forevermore.  Finally, John of the Cross describes God’s goal in putting us through this process.

…we shall observe that the principal characteristic of [this] contemplation, on account of which it is here called a ladder, is that it is the science of love. This, as we have said, is an infused and loving knowledge of God, which enlightens the soul and at the same time enkindles it with love, until it is raised up step by step, even unto God its Creator. For it is love alone that unites and joins the soul with God. *

The Apostle John wrote:

And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him. In this is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has to do with punishment. He that fears is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. (1John 4:16-19, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

*http://www.ccel.org/ccel/john_cross/dark_night.viii.xviii.html?highlight=secret%20wisdom#highlight

(A special thanks to Susanne Schuberth for finding this writing in “The Dark Night of the Soul” for me. She and I have been going through this process for years, and are starting to see our Father’s purpose it all. Though the heart pains during the downward cycle can really be painful, the glorious joy afterwards is heavenly.)

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The Fear of the Lord vs. Pride

Fear of God

“As I made my journey and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, `Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ And I answered, `Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, `I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.'” (Acts 22:6-8, RSV)

Susanne Schuberth has recently brought to my attention this subject of the fear of the Lord on her blog.(1) I knew that we who are His saints do not need to walk in paranoia of God because He is our Father who loves us. Yet, I also knew that there was something more to it that I had not yet fully apprehended in my life. I had already seen how He can take rather drastic action against me when I have been walking in my own pride while supposedly “serving Him” and garnering attention to myself with His gifts of the Spirit.

Power among men is a very seducing thing. As Lord Acton of England once said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Sad to say that this has become most evident in the hierarchy of today’s churches. When I started to be puffed up by His power in my life (exercising spiritual gifts), He showed me how I looked to Him and it was ugly! I cried out to Him to kill that ugly pride in me and take out of my life everything that was not a manifestation of His Son. I soon found out just what it means that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God. He shut me down cold for 14 years with no gifts and no sense of His presence in my life whatsoever. He also took me to task in every area of my life that I once took pleasure in.

Since all this took place, God has kept me aware of my own propensity to fall, and as soon as any pride starts to raise its head, He lets me know about it. More recently He has been letting me feel His displeasure when I have not shown kindness and respect to those who walk in the humility of Christ. Sad to say, I spent a good part of my life clamoring after higher positions in the churches of men. What a folly. Like Proverbs says,

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud. (Prov 16:18-19, RSV)

God hates pride! He hates pride in me and he hates pride in those who use their positions and titles to lord over the people of God. The opposite of pride is humility. In the face of rebellion from his own family members, we read in Numbers 12:3 that Moses was more humble than any man on the face of the earth. To come against humble Moses was to raise the ire of God who loved him. On the other side of the coin, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. The story of Dathan and Abiram trying in their pride to put themselves on equal standing with Moses before the people is a perfect example of this in action. It did not go well for them (see Numbers 16).

We might gather that Moses got special treatment because God appointed him to be leader of the Hebrew people. That was so as long as he stayed humble before God and remained their intercessor and priest as God called him to be. But as special as Moses was, when he rose up in his pride at the waters of Meribah and made himself equal with God and chastised the people saying, “Hear now, you rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?”(Numbers 20:10), God rebuked and resisted him and it was his pride that kept him out of the Promised Land (See Due. 32:51-52). It is not so much about our positions or titles among the saints of God whom He calls His anointed (see Psalm 105:12-15), for all of us who have His Spirit in us are his anointed (see 1 John 2:26-27). No, it is about pride and God will have nothing to do with it, but resists it while Satan uses our pride as his fertile ground to raise up all manner of evil. If Satan can get us to act in pride (even while speaking God’s words) he knows that God has to take us down for this was the very root of what took him down (see Isa. 14:12-16). “Take heed when you think you stand, least you should fall.”

Speaking lightly of these saints or making jokes about God’s humble and faithful anointed ones is only showing our own pride and sinfulness. I remember one pastor who berated Stephen, the first Christian martyr, for speaking out against the evil that the Jews had done down through their history and for killing the Christ (see Acts ch. 7), because this started a great persecution of the church. The man said, “If Stephen had just kept his mouth shut and waited on tables like he was supposed to, they would have got along just fine in Jerusalem without all that persecution.” The fact of the matter was that the Book of Acts says that Stephen was a man filled with the Holy Spirit, so much so that his face shown like that of an angel (this pastor had no such thing) and God used Stephen’s death to start the spread the gospel throughout the rest of the world. God will resist us in all such foolishness when we speak against His anointed. How much more will He resist us when we dare to speak this way of His Son? The Book of Jude and Second Peter even warn us against railing against demonic principalities! Who do we think we are?

So, more recently in my life God has been putting in me a fear of Him by warning me not to speaking out against or touch His humble saints in any harmful way. He is ready and quick to come to their defense. When I have blown it in my own pride with one of these, I have felt that heavy Rock of Offense settling on my heart and I have to go and apologize to them right away. Jesus said, “What you have done to THE LEAST OF THESE, my brethren, you have done unto me.” This seems to be another way that God has taught me to fear Him as well. For me there is nothing more fearful than a humble child of God, because God watches over them as they cast all their cares upon Him. It is better to have a millstone tied around our neck and to be cast into the depths of the sea than to offend one of His little ones. “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.”

Wherever God appeared to men in Bible times, the results were the same—an overwhelming sense of terror and dismay, a wrenching sensation of sinfulness and guilt. When God spoke, Abram stretched himself upon the ground to listen. When Moses saw the Lord in the burning bush, he hid his face in fear to look upon God. Isaiah’s vision of God wrung from him the cry, “Woe is me!” and the confession, “I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips.”

Daniel’s encounter with God was probably the most dreadful and wonderful of them all. The prophet lifted up his eyes and saw One whose “body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in color to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.” “I Daniel alone saw the vision,” he afterward wrote, “for the men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves. Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength. Yet heard I the voice of his words: and when I heard the voice of his words, then was I in a deep sleep on my face, and my face toward the ground.” – A. W. Tozer (2)

Solomon wisely observed, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the [intimate] knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Prov 9:10, KJ2000). May we all humble ourselves before Him and gain this kind of wisdom and knowledge.

(1) https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2015/11/08/awe-struck-with-the-fear-of-god-leaves-no-room-for-diplomacy/ and https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/what-is-the-fear-of-god/

(2) https://www.cmalliance.org/devotions/tozer?id=1379

The Power in Our Souls to Be Deceived

the_temptation_of_christ_by_armusik-d4x15hc

“The Temptation of Christ” by Armusik

But evil men and seducers shall grow worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. (2Tim 3:13, KJ2000)

What is our real motive for following after the Lord? Is it what Jesus demanded in the Gospels, that if we would be His disciples, we must take up our own flesh-killing crosses and follow Him for the glory of His Father alone? Or do we claim to be His followers, but all the while seek to find our own successful lives and keep them fully under our own control?

There are so many fleshly ways to “serve the Lord” that are really nothing more than a human seeking after pleasure, profit, and notoriety, to further our own grip on the usurping Adamic life in us. This life takes pleasure in control and in ruling over others instead of being a true humble servant IN Christ. One of the most common ways Christians look for illicit power is our pursuit of knowledge and spiritual gifts. The soul loves to be “spiritual” in an outward show of spirituality. This covers our inward sin of rebellion against God. Just like Adam and Eve sewed together fig leaves to cover their nakedness, these so-called “gifts,”scholastic degrees and hierarchic titles can be used to “hide” our spiritual nakedness from others, though God sees right through to our hearts. It is amazing how many high profile people in Christianity have perfected this act and use it to deceive others and themselves. The more people they deceive and garner as followers, the more they deceive themselves into believing what they are doing it “all for the glory of God.” Susanne Schuberth wrote this in her recent blog:

The counterfeit problem arises because we as human beings are usually not that patient by nature. Instead, the old self wants to have ALL of God’s blessings, immediately at that! Normally, we do not want to wait on God. Therefore, Satan who knows about this, sneaks in and offers everything which the old (and seemingly spiritual) self wants to have. He offers spiritual experiences like dreams and visions that are pleasing to the eye and keeps us focused on our imaginary magnificence and our imaginary spiritual virtues. Yes, the devil is a people pleaser. He whispers some pleasant things into our ears until we believe him. It is only later that he begins to discourage and destroy the soul. Yet in the beginning Satan disguises himself as an angel of light and tells us that he is God who loves us. He even appears as “Jesus” at times and leads astray whomever he can by doing so. In fact, Satan also offers a kind of spirit baptism and “bestows” several powerful “spiritual gifts’ on such deceived believers. Actually, as soon as someone has fallen in love with possessing such gifts, it is very difficult to convince them that God was not their author.

One might wonder here about how to discern the difference between true and false spirituality and I admit it is not always easy to recognize it right at the outset. However, we can say if someone is not used to dying daily like the apostle Paul told us he was doing (see 1 Cor 15:31), but (mis)uses his ‘gifts’ in his old and unchanged self, he cannot grow in loving God and his neighbors, either. We do more damage to God’s case and the kingdom of God when we follow our soul’s desires to become someone. If our focus is more on our (old) self and on what God (or not God?) is doing through us instead of enduring those necessary and painful changes in our hearts that always direct us away from our self toward God, we might have been deluded by Satan. Since it is not a rare thing to be deceived by the devil, I thought I needed to point that out, once again. (1)

She went on to quote Paul where he warned:

The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2Thess 2:9-12, RSV)

Most Christians are waiting for Antichrist, the “lawless one,” the “man of sin” to build himself a temple in Jerusalem and sit on a throne there and deceive the whole world. The sooner we discover the antichrist that abides in us already,For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work” (verse 7), that is, in our flesh, the sooner we will start giving God the authority to destroy that ugly thing we have been in league with all our lives. The meaning of that Greek word antichristos is not only “against Christ” but more importantly “instead of Christ.” It is that usurper inside of us, “Who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sits in the temple of God [our hearts], showing himself that he is God.” (2Thess 2:4, KJ2000)

That thing in us wants to be preeminent and take Jesus’ place in ruling our lives. Dear saints, the flesh lusts against the Spirit in us (see Galatians 5:17) and there is a war within us as long as the natural man in us is still in control. As we can see from the verse above, Satan is more than happy to manifest in our flesh with all pretense of signs and wonders to deceive those who do not desire the Truth of Christ where it really counts, in our hearts. David wrote,

“Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” (Ps 51:6, ESV2011)

We are watching the onslaught of Satan being let loose to raise hell upon the earth and all manner of evil is being done today in the name of God. There is no uglier and more treacherous works on earth than those done through fleshly men under the name of a “righteous cause” or a “holy war.” Men and women are being deceived, and because they have no desire for the truth of Christ to dwell in their hearts, God is giving them strong delusions to follow as they take pleasure in unrighteousness. This is all too evident at this time as we watch Muslims, ethnic groups and yes, even Christians taking sides and feeding on anger in the current political, religious and ethnic conflicts around the world. Jesus told us that this would be a sign of the end of days before He returns:

And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity [literally – no way out] — Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking toward those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. (Luke 21:25-26, KJ2000)

I believe we are watching the last great battle for the souls of men. Will we deny our soulish selves and Satan from feeding on this dust within us and cling to Christ alone or will be caught up in his lies and subterfuge that feel so good to our flesh as we ignore the warnings of Christ and let our hearts become hardened for fear of what is coming upon us?

Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence [in Him] firm to the end, (Heb 3:12-14, RSV)

(1) https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/satans-counterfeit-spirituality/

Bondservants of God… to be Led by the Holy Spirit

by Michael Clark and Susanne Schuberth*

Bondservants of the Lord pic

Austin-Sparks rightfully observed,

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

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

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

T. A. Sparks continues,

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

Paul wrote,

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

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

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

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

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

T.A. Sparks continues,

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

 

Bondservants of the Lord

The apostle Paul wrote,

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

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

T. A. Sparks continues,

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

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

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

Paul wrote,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How the Mighty Have Fallen

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Susanne Schuberth recently wrote on her blog, “To begin with, we can say that which is appealing to the natural man is disgusting to the spiritual man. Our flesh is attracted by what we perceive with our senses to be beautiful, by watching nature, a sunset, or human beings, for instance. And what feels good to our bodies is appealing to us as well. This is not wrong in itself since God put a longing for beauty and enjoyment into our very hearts. However, our God is Spirit, not flesh!” (1)

John wrote,

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1John 2:15-17, RSV)

What appealed to Eve in her natural person was what Satan targeted and he has gone on to do the same with every human since. Regarding the nature of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and her reaction to it we read:

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.”(Gen 3:6, RSV)

She saw that it was good for food — “the lust of the flesh.” She saw that it was a delight for her eyes to look upon — “the lust of the eyes.” She saw that was desirable to make her wise — “the pride of life.” This is the root of all sin and how Satan tempts us. He has perfected this method of luring mankind to fall into his traps and taking them captive. This is exactly how Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness. He tempted Jesus to use His God given ability to turn stones into bread so He could eat after fasting 40 days — “the lust of the flesh.”

But Jesus answered, “It is written, `Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'”

Then Satan tried another piece of his arsenal, tempting Jesus with a show of the glories of the kingdoms of the world to appeal to the lust of the eyes. If Jesus caved to that temptation, they would all be His because they were Satan’s to give. All He had to do was bow down and worship the devil.

But Jesus answered him, “Be gone, Satan! for it is written, `You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”

Then there is the pride of life. What form would that temptation come in?

Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, `He will give his angels charge of you,’ and `On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'”

Ah, yes! If Satan can’t get a man to fall to the lusts of the eyes and the flesh (and he does quote scripture), he pulls out the old standby–tempt him with holy things — tempt him to use his spiritual powers to make a show if it before all the righteous ones that they might follow him and give him the honor that belongs to God.

This is the sneakiest temptation of them all. Aren’t we who are born of the Spirit of God the children of the King? Aren’t the gifts of the Spirit He has given us subject to us and given “without repentance.”? Shouldn’t we use them to show all men what God does for those who are His chosen ones? Won’t they see this and bow down before us in tremendous altar calls at our feet, all for “the glory of God”? What a near miss! Yet, this is done every day in the name of “bringing men and women to Christ” for the sake of building up the kingdoms of men. What a difference we see in the attitude of the first apostles in the early church!

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…” With these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them. (Acts 14:11-18, RSV)

Yes, we can gain the admiration and riches of the whole world in the business of God and lose our souls. Jesus made it clear that if we lift Him up before all men, and not ourselves, He will draw all men to Him and not to us! The idolatry that exists today in the name of the Living God is nothing more than Satan feeding the pride of life!

Austin-Sparks wrote,

Man is by nature now a deceived creature. Deception is deception, and the deceived never know it until they are enlightened or delivered. It is like a disease. There are forms of mental sickness which cause those who are so suffering to believe certain things which to the healthy mind are ridiculous and impossible. It is useless to argue with them, and futile to try to convince them of the untruth of their beliefs. Indeed, it is cruel at times to oppose them. If you are to live with them in any measure of peace and be at all helpful you have to take the attitude of agreeing with them and deal with the situation along some other line. Otherwise it is going to be continual clash. The only way to change their convictions is to heal their sickness.

So it is with man. He believes many things as to himself, his ability, potentialities, destiny, about God and about the world, which are not true. He mistakes certain things for other things, but he cannot see that he is deceived. It is useless to hold objects before a blind man, and to tell him to see them; and it is foolish to be surprised or annoyed that he does not do so. So the Scriptures say, “The natural (soulical) man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them…” (1 Cor 2:14). And again, “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving” (2 Cor 4:4).

Now, when we go to the source of this deceived condition, we find that it originated in the soul. The Deceiver assailed the soul—desires, reason, will—and drew this out as a basis of life apart from and independent of God. The motive was to have things in the ego, the self, instead of in God by dependence. Having succeeded in getting man to so exalt the ego to independence and superiority, he captured man as now a suited instrument for his purposes. Man ceased to be suited to the purposes of God, for his very nature was changed. This man, changed by complicity with Satan, is a false man, not a true man according to God’s mind; and is now suited to Satan’s false kingdom. The history of man in his natural state is the history of a lie, a false nature, a false expectation, a false hope, a false faith and a false world. (2)

Dear saints, “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, taking his stand on visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head [Jesus Christ]…” (Col 2:18-19, RSV). There is no substitution for the power of the personal flesh killing cross in the life of one who would be a disciple of Christ. “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule…” (Gal 6:14-16, RSV)

(1)  https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2016/03/03/being-blessed-by-god-or-satans-sensual-substitutes-for-the-truth/

(2) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/001342.html