These Are They Who Follow the Lamb Wherever He Goes

following-jesus-aloneAll my Christian walk I have run into church leaders and high profile people with various titles in the body of Christ who wanted me to submit to them and their teachings and giv  e them carte blanche authority over my life. “Submit! Submit!” they said. “You need to be under the covering of a pastor and listen to him.” At first this sounded like a reasonable request and I submitted to many different pastors who had many different views and agendas. One by one they either, were squeezed out by a political coup, were found to be in an adulterous relationship, exposed as an alcoholic, or were so incessant about fleecing the flock under them that they ignored the gospel of Christ and the welfare of their people in favor of the love of Mammon in their teachings. After a while I started understanding why Jesus said we would know what manner of tree we are under by its fruit, not by its title, position or lofty words. I have found that godly leadership who are actually led by the Spirit of God and obedient to the voice of Christ exist, but in America at least, they are hard to come by.
In the book of Judges there is a very revealing story that we can learn from today.

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Now there was a young man of Bethlehem in Judah, of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there. And the man departed from the town of Bethlehem in Judah to sojourn where he could find a place. And as he journeyed, he came to the hill country of Ephraim to the house of Micah. And Micah said to him, “Where do you come from?” And he said to him, “I am a Levite of Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to sojourn where I may find a place.” And Micah said to him, “Stay with me, and be to me a father and a priest, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year and a suit of clothes and your living.” And the Levite went in. (Judges 17:6-10, ESV2011)

Does this sound familiar? It should! Every year we have thousands of young men graduating from seminary and going out to find a church that they can be pastor over, that will provide them with a living (“ten shekels and a shirt”). So, the above passage probably goes by unnoticed as many Christians read it, because this is the norm in the church today. But notice that the passage starts out with, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Answer me this: Is Jesus our King, or do we hire a man to be Lord over us who agrees with what we expect from him? If he continues to do what is right in our own eyes, we pay him to keep the status quo. If he preaches a message that steps on too many toes, down the road he goes! Do we hire a man to “do the God stuff” so we can do the world’s stuff in our daily lives and live vicariously through his spirituality on Sundays? When we shop around for a church, what do we look for? Do we look for leadership that can hear the voice of our Lord and guide us until we can hear Him and submit to Him as our King or do we look for those who tickle the ears of our flesh?
Remember Paul’s words,

Become imitators of me, according as I also am of Christ. (1Cor 11:1, CLV – emphasis added)

Paul did not say, “Submit to me and do as I say.” Or, “I am in authority here, I am the Pastor (or apostle or whatever)!” Or like one pastor said from the pulpit one Sunday, “If you can’t get behind me and my vision (agenda) for this church, then go find a pastor who’s vision you CAN get behind.” We are so used to this kind of leadership in our churches that we see it as totally acceptable, but what about Jesus? You know, that Man that died on the cross and affirmed to us that HE is building HIS Church (see Matthew 16:18)? Is He really our Lord and King? To “build the Church” it is not about buying some land and putting up a building. It is not even about gathering great numbers of people in to fill a building one day a week. No, it is about bringing people who have come out of the world by the call of the gospel and maturing them and raising them up into the fullness of Christ!

Today, church planters and church builders are a dime a dozen. But where is the pastor who will do as John did and encourage the people to listen to and obey the Holy Spirit and grow in Christ to where they no longer need human teachers (see 1 John 2:26-27)? My experience in the churches is that the leadership is more interested in their own job security than they are in seeing the saints of God to grow up so that THEY can do the works of service (ministry) in the body of Christ. Instead, men like this try and keep people in their churches as long as possible so that a “Failure to Launch” becomes the norm. True Spirit inspired leaders rejoice instead of feeling threatened when the saints grow up INTO the fullness of Christ and move on to follow their upward call wherever that might take them. Paul wrote about this kind of maturing process,

He [Jesus Christ] who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry [service], for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the [intimate] knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph 4:10-16, ESV2011)

We hear a lot of teaching about the importance of the so-called “five-fold ministries” in verse eleven (yanked out of its context), but do we hear the rest of this passage preached? Do we see the maturing of Christians who are no longer influenced by every wind of doctrine and cunning teachers with their humanly devised church programs and schemes? To avoid these kinds of pitfalls the saints need to be able to hear the guiding voice of the Holy Spirit for themselves.

Jesus ascended into heaven that He might fill ALL things! Christ is the head of the body, the ekklesia – the Church. He did not give these five gifts of service (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher) to men so that they could be the heads of His body. A body with more that one head is in constant chaos and division and this is why there are over 41,000 different denominations and Christian sects today! So, why did Jesus give these five gifts? To bring us all into maturity, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge [an intimate knowing] of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Look around your congregations. Do you see anyone who has come into an intimate knowing relationship with Jesus Christ, so much so that they measure up to the stature of His fullness? If not, why not? I can tell you why, the system today in which we “go to church” is broken! We have leaders who have not come into the fullness of Christ themselves and you cannot teach and demonstrate spiritual maturity to a congregation when you do not have it yourself. As a result we have…

The Perpetual Babyhood of the Believer

We read about this spiritual babyhood in Hebrews. The apostle was quite upset with the status quo and came to a full stop in what he was wanting to teach them saying,

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:11-14, ESV2011)

Just like today, the Hebrews to whom this letter was written, were dull of spiritual hearing and constantly needed men to teach them the most rudimentary things over and over. They were still on the breasts (sorry, there were no bottle fed babies in those days) of men! They had not been weaned and taught to feed themselves from the bounty of the Spirit. The maturing process spoken of in Ephesians chapter four had not happened and he was exhorting these believers to grow up and “go on to maturity” (see Heb. 6:1). These believers where constantly going to their teachers and saying, “Pastor, is it right or wrong if a person does …” or “What do you think I should do, Pastor?” They were not mature enough to “have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” To have this kind of discernment, your teacher must encourage you to have a hearing ear to the voice of the Holy Spirit instead of the voices of men! Of course you have to have the Holy Spirit abiding IN you, first and this is not true of many who call themselves, “Christian.”

In Christ Is ALL Wisdom and Knowledge

Finally, I would like to add this quote from our brother, T. Austin-Sparks,

You see, it is this other thing all the time that is robbing so many of the light that the Lord would give them. The Lord would lead them into the greater fullness of the knowledge of His Son, of the enlargement of their spiritual understanding, but they are neglecting the gift that is in them. They are neglecting the Holy Spirit as their illuminator and teacher and instructor and guide and arbiter, and they are going to this one and that one, to this authority and that, and saying, What do you think about it? If you think it is wrong, then I will not touch it! It is fatal to spiritual knowledge to do that. That is going on to natural ground.
Now the Lord wants us off that ground. This matter of occupying resurrection ground, of living a life in the Spirit, is all-important in coming to the full knowledge of God’s Son. How much more we could say about that! Let us be careful as to who our authorities are. So many dear children of God, individually and collectively, have come into dire and grievous bondage, limitation, and confusion by all the time going back to human authorities, to this great leader and that, to this man who was greatly used of God, this man who had a great deal of spiritual light.
”The Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth from His Word” than even this or that servant of His possessed. Do you see what I mean? We get all the benefit of the light given to godly people and seek to profit by true light, but we will never come into bondage and say, “That is the end of that matter!” That must never be. We must maintain our resurrection ground. And who can exhaust that? In other words, who can exhaust the meaning of Christ risen? He is a boundless store, the land of far distances. No man yet has ever done more than begun to know the meaning of Christ risen. If there has been one man who has that meaning more than another, I suppose it was Paul. But to the last from his prison he still cries, ”That I may know Him!” “I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things and do count them but refuse” (Phil. 3:8). Right at the end of a life like his, he is still saying, “That I may know Him!” (1)

Father, please let this message go into the hearts of those who belong to Jesus that they might hear HIS voice and keep pressing into your kingdom as they follow Him. Amen.

These are they who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb. (Rev 14:4, KJ2000- emphasis added)

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what, the Spirit, IS SAYING unto the assemblies.”~ Jesus Christ

(1) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/000660.html

Our Ever Expanding Spiritual Universe

Big bang.jpg

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (Isa 9:7, KJ2000)

A strange thing has been discovered in the last decade or so. Creation is defying the laws of physics. After many centuries, scientists finally discovered that the universe is expanding  after starting in a flash of light they call “The Big Bang.” They tell us that all matter started from one highly compressed and very small object that exploded, going outward in all directions, creating the universe as we know it. But then a problem was found in their theory. Not only is the universe expanding, but it is continuing to accelerate away from that central starting point. According to the second law of thermodynamics, matter can’t do that unless there is a continuing force applied to cause that acceleration. An influence greater than the first “big bang” seems to rule over the universe! So, the scientists just call it “Dark Energy” and “Dark Matter” because they can’t see it. The real darkness is in them because they refuse to acknowledge God as the Creator and Energizer of all things.

Susanne Schuberth recently wrote about three women she knows in Germany that are so steeped in their religions that they are always judging her for not going to their churches and believing in their doctrines. As a result, they never give her an opening for her to share what God has been doing in her life outside their religious institutions and traditions. She started out where these women are, going to churches in similar denominations, but Susanne has learned that continuing to grow in Christ soon causes those old wineskins to burst if we try to stay in them. In her story about these three ladies is a warning to us to not become fixed in our ways of thinking about the kingdom of God. Denominational teachings and thinking can be the worst enemy of growing in Christ. Even worse, we can be blessed by God in a “ministry” of our own that grows into something we become emotionally attached to more than our obedience to the upward leading of the Lord. We become fixed, not wanting to let go of what has grown into our Ishmael as Abraham found out. And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!”

God has given and taken away wonderful Godly things in my life, even wonderful fellowship with individuals from time to time. These wonderful God-given things served a purpose for a season, but once He wanted to take me further in His upward call than they allowed, He had to remove them or remove me from them. The Bible is full of stories of great people of faith where this has happened to them: Enoch, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, David, Ruth, Esther, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Isaiah, etc. In Hebrews they are called God’s people of faith. The early Church in the New Testament was blessed with the Spirit of God in wonderful fellowship in Jerusalem. Then after a couple of years, God scattered them to the four corners of the earth, and they took the gospel of Christ with them. Sometimes we are just like these early believers. We know that Jesus told the disciples to take the gospel first to Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria and unto the utter most ends of the earth, but what happens? We become settlers and happy campers and what Jesus said becomes, “first Jerusalem, then Jerusalem and finally to the uttermost parts of Jerusalem!”

In today’s devotional, T. Austin-Sparks expands on God’s desire for us to continue to grow. As I read it I saw a picture of a crab. Crabs constantly shed their outer shell and make a larger one as they grow. During this time they are quite vulnerable with little protection, but it has to happen or they will die. When our comfortable shell, our “house,” becomes rigid and inflexible, God has to take us through a molting period where the outward things pass away and all things become new.

“Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” This verse and many others take on scope if we are willing to be stretched by God’s work in our hearts. Even if God has blessed us so far as we have obeyed His voice, the vision He has given us will not always be the same tomorrow. As the Spirit pushed me to grow in Christ, I had to leave many churches and fellowships behind. He even gave me a dream where He destroyed my comfortable house and rooted up the old foundation because it was not sufficient for what He wanted to build on my “site.” He had to go deeper and wider with a new Foundation that would support the “building” He wanted to place on it. This is God’s way in our lives if we continue to follow His Son and let HIS government and peace continue to increase in us. To resist this stretching and His increase in us is to lose our heavenly peace.

Paul was first a Pharisee of Pharisees with great scriptural knowledge, but counted it all as dung in a flash once he saw and heard the resurrected Christ. He then spent years in isolation being taught by Jesus. Then one day Barnabas came to Paul’s home town of Tarsus where he was making tents, and took him to be in fellowship with the saints in Antioch. After a year or so he was separated from that wonderful fellowship he had in the Spirit and was sent off on what was the beginnings of his missionary journeys. That did not last forever, either. God finally confined him in prison and then under house arrest for years in Rome. It is from this season in his life that we have so many of his wonderful letters in our New Testaments. Finally, after he finished the course that God had for him, he was martyred by Nero. Yet, Paul was obedient to his upward call at each stage along the way, even unto death. What a lesson lies in all this for us. Those who hate Paul and his teachings today, like those rebellious Jews of old, refuse to follow the Spirit of God as they cling to a covenant that has been replace by a New and Living Covenant IN Christ. Zion is our heavenly habitation, not an “ism” or a war-torn country in the Middle East (See Hebrews 12:22-24 and 1 Peter 2:4-9). Now back to what I read by Sparks this morning that said it so well.

The implications of any movement of God are not always recognized at the beginning, but if we go on with Him we shall find that much that is done here and is of time is – and has to be – left behind. The spiritual and the heavenly is pressing for a larger place and becoming absolutely imperative to the very life of the instrumentality and those concerned. It is spontaneous, and just happens. We wake up to realize that we have moved into a new realm or position, and no amount of additional earthly resource can meet the need. It is not only something more that is demanded, but something different. This is a crisis, and it will only be safely passed if there is vision of God’s ultimate object. This demands spiritual mindedness, capacity for grasping heavenly things. One world may be tumbling to pieces, but the full and final is the explanation.

The great pity is that so many just will cling to the old framework or partial vision. God presents His heavenly pattern in greater fulness and demands adjustment. He does it with foreknowledge, knowing of a day which is imminent when this vision alone will save. But, because it is ‘revolutionary’ or not ‘what has been in the blessing of God’ etc., etc., it is rejected and put aside. Then the foreseen day comes and all sorts of expedients have to be resorted to to save the ship. Paul warned out of his intuitive vision that such would be the case on the journey to Rome, and it proved true, the ship eventually foundered and much was lost.

Abraham had a vision of “the city which hath foundations” and he “looked for” it, but never found it on earth. He found it at last in heaven, but it was the climax of a walk which was ever upward. Ezekiel saw “in the visions of God” the glory lifting from the earthly scene, and moving up and on; and this vision related to all his other visions, culminating in a spiritual house and river which have their counterpart alone in the revelation given to Paul and John particularly: heavenly, spiritual, universal. What a significant phrase that is about the house seen by Ezekiel – “there was an enlarging upward” (Ezek. 41:7). God-given vision is always “the heavenly vision”, and always moves away from the merely temporal and sentient. If this were apprehended there would be much more vital fruit, and many fewer ‘white elephants’.

God is never on the line of reduction, limitation. It may look like that, but it is not so. If we really had His vision, that which looks like trimming and reduction is His way of enlargement, but spiritual and heavenly enlargement.

It was “the God of glory” who appeared to Abraham (Acts 7:2). It was the pattern in the heavenlies that was “shewn” to Moses (Heb. 8:5). It was “…above the firmament… a throne… and upon… the throne… a man above upon it” that Ezekiel saw. It was “that the heavens do rule” that Daniel apprehended. These are not only sovereign factors in government, but heavenly conceptions in the nature of things.

These two things proceed as one. God in sovereignty will run the risk of shattering, or allow the shattering, of so much that He has used of scaffolding or framework in order to realize the fuller purpose. It is not that it was wrong, but now He wants something more. We thank God for ever that He took Paul away from his travelling ministry and let him be shut up in prison. It was then that the full glorious vision and revelation of the “heavenlies” and the “eternal” was given to eclipse all the earthly and temporal. It was worth it, and was no tragedy! The Holy Spirit is the custodian of the full purpose of God, and under His government the Church and the individual believer will move ever on and up.  (http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/002082.html)

The Body Is Christ’s Not Man’s

one-body-in-christ

…Christ when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly regions, far above all principality, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; and hath put all things under his feet, and hath appointed him head over all to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Eph 1:20-23, Haweis)

Wow! Did you get that? Jesus has been placed by the Father over all authority in this world and in the eons to come. But how many of us read this and really believe it or have minds that can comprehend the meaning of this passage? How many of us allow men to come between us and the will of Christ for our lives as He seeks to lead us by His Spirit?

God has appointed Christ to be Head over all the church. Yet we have millions of heads in the churches who claim final authority over the body of Christ! Because of this we now have 41,000 (and counting) separate Christian denominations and sects in the world today. What confusion!

Paul was careful not to take the place of Christ as the head of the body. He wrote:

Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. (1Cor 7:17, ESV2011)

And Peter didn’t either.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1Pet 4:10-11, ESV2011)

All glory and dominion belongs to Jesus Christ forever, not to Paul, Peter or even Pastor Wonderful! We have each been given gifts by the Spirit to serve one another in love by His leading, not by the totalitarian leadership of some church organization.

church-bondage

This morning I got an email from a brother that was sitting in a Sunday school class where the teacher told them that they “cannot leave a church until the pastor lets them go”! If we really understood that we are members of Christ’s body and that HE is our Head, would we even give such rubbish a second thought? Yet, this twisting of scripture to make mere carnal men the absolute authorities in the lives of the saints seems to permeate the thinking of today’s Christians.

What part of body life do we not understand? Imagine your own human body that is functioning quite well as it was created. Now imagine some outside force, some Dr. Frankenstein, taking you captive, strapping you down on his operating table and grafting on another head. This new head now has power to send confusing messages to the members of your body according to its own will. THIS is what is going on in churches where a man or woman rises up and demands that you submit to their will in all things. This is not the body of Christ. You already have One Head and it is Christ! As His member in His body, you should never be part of a grotesque two headed monster. It is a cult.

When the leaders of the Jews demanded that the apostles in the early church obey them and not Christ’s Spirit they gave a firm reply,

“We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Acts 5:29-32, ESV2011)

God speaks to us through Christ and His Spirit. We are members of His body and He, as our Head, directs us through the Spirit God has given to those who obey HIM! I would like to share the following by T. Austin-Sparks.

There must be the liberty of the Spirit in us in order to realize the Body and its ministry. I am coming down to practical questions. There must be absolute freedom from human organization, ecclesiastical government, man’s control AS SUCH if there is going to be a full functioning of the Holy Spirit. To get into a hide-bound religious system, ecclesiastical control, a human organization of the Church… is not the principle of the Holy Spirit, and we must be absolutely free from all such things if the Spirit is going to function freely and we are going to have ministry in the Holy Spirit.

That is the principle of the Spirit. It was that that the Jews, the Jewish leaders, were so set against in the case of the Apostle Paul. He said, “certain came in to spy out our liberty” (Gal. 2:4). What was it? That he had thrown off the yoke of the law and the Jewish system [church systems, too, for the leaders of the church in Jerusalem added nothing to him {see Gal. 2:6}- mdc] and now he was exercising himself in the universal realm of the Body of Christ… He was free from all yokes of tradition, system, and organization religiously on the earth, in order to fulfil his ministry of revelation as the Holy Spirit led him. That is essential to the Body of Christ. By which I mean that to try to organize the Body of Christ, the Church, and to try to set a program for it and hand it to the Holy Spirit and say, “will you kindly take the chair and carry out our programme” …is so utterly contrary to the principle here revealed.

The Body of Christ is a thing emancipated from the earthly systems; it must be to function. It is not our forsaking the earthly system because we have taken hold of certain truths, but our being emancipated. (1)

What an important difference Sparks brings out in that last sentence. Reading the Bible and grasping truths that feed our rebellious hearts is not good, but reading it and having the Spirit confirm that we are hearing His voice and obeying Christ is the way it should be. If our freedom is used to bring us back into bondage it is no longer freedom, but slavery. Living in true freedom takes the leading of the Holy Spirit at all times.

God bless you all as you follow the leading of the Spirit in the freedom that Christ died to give you.

(1) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/000755.html

Do We Desire the Kingdom of God or the Kingdoms of Men?

He is Faithful

Today we see well-meaning men and women building their kingdoms and pushing their agendas all in the name of Christ all through Christendom. Some put their hopes in who gets elected in the world’s political systems. Some are so bold (and blind) as to name their ministries after themselves, yet we take this all to be perfectly normal. Can you see a huge sign above the banks of the Jordan 2000 years ago reading, “John the Baptist Ministries”?  Can you see ushers seating all the people that went out to observe him in action, handing out baptism request cards, and taking up a collection (or two) at every “service”? Of course, all had to be done “decently and in order.” No, none of this nonsense was how the Spirit wind moved through John the Baptist. He upset the whole religious and political establishment and told everyone they needed to repent as he prepared the way for Christ to appear. The religious establishment didn’t take too kindly to him either.

How easy it is for us who call ourselves “Christian” to hold on to our worldly mindsets, values, earthly ambitions and views on what the Father’s kingdom should look like and how it should operate. Such was the case with the disciples of Christ. They all knew that when Messiah came, He would set up a new world order with the Jews at the top of the heap and themselves as its administrators. How wrong they were! He made it clear to Pilate at His trial that HIS kingdom is not of this world! Jesus finally told the disciples that He had to go up to Jerusalem, be rejected by the leaders of the Jews, be tormented by them and die the death of the cross. Their minds went “tilt”! Peter even took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him saying, “Be it far from you, Lord: this shall not be unto you.” (Matthew 16:22, KJ2000).

Do you remember where it is written that Satan stopped tempting Jesus for a season after His temptation in the wilderness? That season was now over. Satan was back in His face in the form of a beloved disciple who Jesus loved, trying to get Him to go against the will of His Father and save Himself. Until then, Jesus had always said regarding going up to Jerusalem, “My time is not yet come.” What was Peter thinking? Jesus answered Peter’s challenge by saying, “Get you behind me, Satan: you are an offense unto me: for you consider not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” Yes, Satan wants us to spare ourselves and save our lives by finding our niche here on earth. To this mindset Jesus went on to say to the disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” After this Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not: and when you are converted, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32, AKJV).

Even though we might confess–as Peter did–that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that is not enough. Down deep inside we have to ask ourselves, “Have I truly been converted?” Or do we, like Peter, still desire and consider the things of men and operate in the ways of men–ways like seeking popularity, fame and wanting worldly safety and comfort more than the plan that God has for our lives? When Jesus bids us to take up our flesh-killing cross and follow Him, will we deny ourselves all these temptations of Satan and His world system and do the “unreasonable thing” even in the eyes of our fellow Christians? When God allows him to sift us, will our faith in Christ survive? It will if we submit to Christ’s preparatory work of the cross in us. We know for sure that when God calls us to walk in His kingdom way, we will hear those who are still in the world and not truly converted calling us to be “reasonable” and spare ourselves as Peter did with Christ. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it well:

“…the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” (1)

God has no use for our flesh and its talents (see Romans 7:18). They are useless to Him. The more talented we are, the larger obstacle these talents become and the greater temptation to “do something great for Christ” without His Spirit leading us.

How many of us American Christians have heard the lie of Satan that we as Christians are called to live a happy, successful life in the eyes of the world as a living advertisement on why they should also be Christians? This is not the gospel of God’s kingdom, but rather a false gospel designed by Satan to keep us under his control in his kingdom. If we have bought into this, we are no different than Peter under the influence of Satan, desiring the things of men instead of the things of God. Yes, Satan desires the things that carnal men desire! The flesh of man wars against the Spirit of God and His Spirit wars against our flesh. Which side will our hearts come down on? That is the question.

If the cross has not yet met us in a real way and become a life changing crisis in our daily lives, we are still like Peter was. We have not yet been converted and we have not yet turned from the ways of the world in our hearts. T. Austin-Sparks wrote:

 You see it is a matter, in the first place, of the ground which is taken and occupied by the one concerned. When Peter took heavenly ground – “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” – he was in a very strong position. The keys of the kingdom of heaven, binding on earth and binding in heaven, were his. He was weak, and in a very weak position, when he took earthly ground, the ground of men, the ground of his own judgment and of his own selfhood. The ground taken decided whether he was spiritually strong or weak, and whether Satan had power over him or not. (2)

The flesh in man loves religion because religion gives him an opportunity to have the best of both worlds. With religion we can claim Christ as our Lord, yet remain the one in control of our lives, seeing His cross as a thing of the past and go after “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” After all, isn’t this our God-given “inalienable right”? This phrase from the Declaration of Independence is the opposite of desiring the things of our Father in heaven, yet you would think it came from the very mouth of Jesus Christ if you observe the lives and goals of American Christians. There is no life, liberty and true happiness outside of living IN Christ in obedience to and unity with the Father. We might think we are independent of Satan as we pursue the things of this world, but we are deluded and have not yet been converted in the eyes of God. We are still not seeking to find our lives in God’s kingdom nor His desires for us. Finally Sparks wrote,

 Then, if we are really going to come through to the place of spiritual power as did Peter, that ground of the enemy must continually be forsaken and refused. The enemy has to be robbed of that which will destroy us and give him power to destroy us, and we have to be very ruthless with anything that arises to give him that position and defeat God’s intention where we are concerned. This battle of heaven and hell, God and Satan, goes on in our souls, but there is for us this consolation, that we have a High Priest ever living to make intercession. We have a great asset in the continual intercession of the Lord Jesus for us. Let us close on that note of encouragement and assurance. (2)

May God continue to draw us ever deeper into Christ and out of Satan’s delusions in this world. Only then can we know the love and unity that is ours in Christ, the abundant life of which He spoke.

(1) The Cost of Discipleship, pp. 99

(2) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/000476.html

“The Answer of Death” – the Wisdom of the Crucified Life in Christ

By Michael Clark and Susanne Schuberth

mountain-hiking-people

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair… always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. (2Cor 4:7-12, ESV2011)

How can two people walk together in close fellowship as Christians and not fall into the many pitfalls and snares of the devil that are designed to destroy true Spirit unity? The answer is simple, two words: The Cross. Why do so many ministries fall? Because they have not embraced the cross of Christ as their cross and invited it to do a deep cleansing work in them. Most would rather rely on their own fleshly power and wisdom to do God’s work and enjoy the perks of staying in the flesh. (Let’s face it. Sin might be fun — for a while — but its dividends are death). But this is only true if we do not have the Spirit of God abiding in us! To put it bluntly, I (Susanne) know that there are “Christians” out there who feel no conviction from His Spirit because they are not His (see Romans 8:9). They might still think sin is fun and keep up their sinful lifestyle, which means they are not Christians as yet. “What fellowship does Light have with darkness? John wrote, By this we may know that we are in him [Christ]: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1John 2:5-6, ESV2011).

Do not be deceived, dear brothers and sisters. Those who live in sin still need to be saved by Jesus! I (Susanne) will not have fellowship with such people since God gave me a severe warning last year. I had many demons in our flat (apartment) after two people had surprised me with a visit. I could not believe my ears as I heard that they thought that their sinful relationship was God’s gift to them. Oh, what a deception! 😦  Instead, dear saints, if we are truly indwelt by His Spirit and have come to know Him, we will fear and hate sin more and more.

Paul understood the need of the cross working in him and wrote about it all through his letters. For instance, he wrote:

 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it [his debilitating trial] should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2Cor 12:8-10, ESV2011)

So many who write on the Net rely totally on their minds to do God’s work. This is foolishness in the eyes of God. I (Susanne) was just reminded of an article I wrote two years ago titled, “What Is Inspiration, then?”. While writing that entry, God clearly showed me the difference between my own limited mind and His that has no eternal boundaries. (If you would like to read about God’s humorous leading in this particular case, you might check this out  https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/what-is-inspiration-then/).

In Proverbs we read:

 Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered. (Proverbs 28:26, ESV2011)

So what did Paul rely on when he taught and preached? What delivered him from the snares of the flesh? He relied on the wisdom and voice of the Spirit, which was only manifest through him when he was weak, denying himself, though he had been educated by the best teachers of Judaism (see 1 Cor. 2:1-7). Why did he deny the power of his own mind and education?  “So that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” Christ crucified is the power and the wisdom of God (See 1 Cor. 1:24).

Back to our original question, “How can two people walk together in close fellowship as Christians and not fall into the many pitfalls and snares of the devil?” The only way is by weakness and the cross working daily in them to keep them weak. Those who rise up by the power of their fleshly minds and abilities are ripe pickings for the devil. The natural man does not want to be seen as weak in the eyes of others. Natural man struts, postures, flexes and does all it can to blow people’s minds, get their adoration and gain power over them. Yet, it ignores the sober warning of God that “pride comes before a fall and a haughty spirit before destruction.”

God’s ways are not the ways of fallen Adam. He takes no pleasure in the arm of the flesh, especially when that fleshly person claims to represent Him. Paul wrote,

 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; (1Cor 1:26-27, ESV2011)

Thank God that our ability to resist the temptations of the devil does not rely alone on our being “careful.” The Father has given us His answer to the flesh of Adam in us and its natural affections—the death of the cross working in us. We have not liked all this dying we have been going through. Our outer man is perishing in each of our bodies in sickness, pain, and so much weakness and despair over our daily circumstances in life and yes, we have complained a lot. When we have prayed for healing and it has not come or for our circumstances to change and they don’t, it has become evident that God is in it. It has all became clear as to why things are the way they are as we surrender our lives to our Father and we pray from our hearts, “I wish that this cup would pass from me, Father, but nevertheless not my will but yours be done.”  Paul wrote:

 …we were weighed down exceedingly, beyond our power, insomuch that we despaired even of life: yea, we ourselves have had the answer of death within ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God… (2Cor 1:8-10, ERV – emphasis added)

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming [out] from us, but our sufficiency is from God. (2Cor 3:4-5, ESV2011)

Dear saints, we cannot be victorious in Christ if we continue to rely on our flesh, our minds and our abilities to do God’s work or even our own power to stay free of sin. “Take heed when you think you stand, lest you should fall.” We need to be ruthless with our flesh and pray daily that God does the deep work of the cross in us until we can truthfully say with Paul,

 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20, KJ2000)

 

Gleanings from “Into the Heart of God”

Embracing the Son

Recently I felt led to read a book by T. Austin-Sparks called, Into the Heart of God. It is so relevant that I felt it good to quote a great deal of it here in this blog article. I hope you don’t mind and will even read it in its entirety on their website (see below *).

Sparks used the life of Abraham to show what it means to answer the call of God on one’s life by walking in true faith. This walk is far more radical than the “bill of goods” that most Christians buy into when they are told to simply “say a sinner’s prayer” and you are “in.” The question is, will we go all the way and become a “friend of God” as Abraham (who is the father of faith) did or just settle to be a casual observer of God’s kingdom from a far off in the comfort of our Sunday pews or some worldly distraction? Sparks wrote,

Now the LORD had said unto Abram, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:” (Gen 12:1, KJV)
…the spiritual life is a pilgrimage, and the Christian is on a journey which begins in the world and ends in the heart of God. God’s verdict on the life of Abraham was: “Abraham, my friend” (Isaiah 41:8), that friendship meaning that Abraham had really entered into the heart of God… the first major step is in these words: “Get thee out”. It is a call of God which allows no compromise. There has to be a point to which we come when we step over a line and are out from the world into the way of God. It is a very clear and unmistakable decision to be separated completely from this world unto God… The first decisive step is oneness with the heart of God in His repudiation of the world. *

How many of us have seen the truth of our being called by God into His Son, as a pilgrimage where we have been called out of this world system and its way of thinking into our heavenly home IN Christ Jesus, even in this life instead of seeing our salvation as some kind of “pie in the sky, by and by?” When God called Abraham (Abram) it was not an easy decision for him to leave his native Ur of Chaldees and go to a country that he knew absolutely nothing about, much less to leave his kindred and his father’s household. Though Abraham left ancient Babylon behind, he did not leave his father (Terah) and his household for they traveled with him. Sparks continues,

You see, in type the natural man had taken hold of the divine purpose. Terah and the family not only went out with Abraham, but they took him out. You are not, therefore, surprised that they did not get very far! They came to Haran and there they stayed, we are not told for how long, but probably quite a time. We are told that Abraham was seventy years old at that time, so quite a lot of time was lost. This was the first delay in the progress of this spiritual pilgrimage. They came to Haran, and there they stayed until Terah died. Terah, it says, was a very old man, and “the old man” does take a long time to die! But it was not until Terah died that they were able to resume their journey. *

How true! Our old man (our old adamic nature) dies hard. We not only have a hard time making a clean break with the world, but we also find it hard to make a clean break with our worldly families and all that they represent in our hearts! Yet, God insists that to be part of His kingdom and not influenced by anything that is still of this world, we must sever the ties that they have on our hearts. Jesus put it this way,

And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that takes not his cross, and follows after me, is not worthy of me. He that finds his life shall lose it: and he that loses his life for my sake shall find it. (Matt 10:36-39, KJ2000)

So, after Terah died Abraham moved on and actually got into the land God promised him, but not without his nephew, Lot, and his family. There was still some of that old life back in Babylon hanging on to him! But as is the case with those who seek “a city whose builder and maker is God” and those who do not, conflict finally arose between them, between Abraham’s herdsmen and Lot’s herdsmen over grazing rights (see Genesis 13:1-13). This reminds me of my own short-stop in my called-out journey where I spent many years in that desirable plain called “Christendom” where spiritual Sodom and Gomorrah are located. Here I found constant “turf wars” of shepherds claiming jurisdiction over the sheep of God, each trying to lure the sheep to their pastures from ones staked-out by other shepherds, each claiming that their fenced-in spot was the best available. TAS continues…

So Lot moved his tent in the direction of the city of Sodom. He pitched it for a time outside the city, and then the attractions of that city drew him inside. He yielded to the call of the city of Sodom. Not satisfied with getting outside, and then getting inside, he had to become an important person in the city, and so we eventually find him sitting in the gate of the city, the gate being the place where all the important people met to discuss the affairs of the city. So Lot is at last an important official, and it was not long before trouble began. *

Oh, how true! At first I was content to be a church “wall flower” staying on the fringe and observing, but soon someone notice my knowledge of the Bible or found out that I had musical talent and it was not long before I was sucked into the “inner circle” and put under the thumb of the Task Master in charge. I traded my freedom in Christ and following the leading of His Spirit for having a position and/or title in a man’s system. Each time this happened the Spirit was pulling me to move on and the church leadership was pulling the other way, calling that tug on my heart “rebellion.” The confusion of Babylon was still with me even though I left my “native Ur” behind!  Sparks continues,

Lot… became so much a part of it that when the angels came down to declare that Sodom and Gomorrah were going to be destroyed by fire, he was so reluctant to leave that the angels had to take him by the hand and pull him out. *

The more that a man rises up and rules over the people of God, the more God’s judgment is on what he is building. Eventually, God blows on it and scatters the people. Church infighting with its splits and church collapses are all too common in Christendom. And the work that was not built on the One Foundation, Jesus Christ, is burned up like so much wood, hay and stubble as God tests every man’s work by fire (see 1 Cor. 3:12-15). In my case, God had to force me out by getting these false shepherds to turn on me over and over. I did not have to do anything to provoke them. They just knew that I was not of that worldly spirit that drove them to become great in the eyes of the people instead of raising-up Christ and letting Him draw all men nigh to Himself. False church leadership cannot stand to have Christ’s Spirit getting the attention. Sparks rightly points out the problem in each of us saying,

Well, we are all ready to condemn Lot. We think that he was a poor sort, and not much good. But really he is only a type of the natural life in all of us. Anyone who really knows himself or herself knows that there is something like that in their natures. It takes the very mercy and power of God to get us separated from ourselves. Yes, this self-life is a terribly strong thing and will always gravitate in the opposite direction to the spirit. It will always work to keep us back from going on with God, and there has to be a very real crisis in this matter. *

In all honesty, the one thing that kept me coming back for more abuse in the churches was a hunger deep inside my soul to be “a somebody” in that system. Pastors saw that I would do my best to jump through all their hoops like a circus dog, even when they set those hoops on fire! They loved to put me in their harnesses and get me pulling on their church programs, seeing my hopes that I would be promoted. Finally, God had to show me the truth about myself in a very graphic way to get me to cry out to Him to do something effective in me to kill that lust for greatness in the eyes of men. Enter from stage left: 14 years of spiritual wilderness.

Once we get out of spiritual Sodom and Babylon and God gets the lust for what they offer out of us we can move on toward the high calling that is ours in Christ Jesus. We still have not arrived, but at least we are moving in the right direction. Paul wrote about the next leg of our journey saying,

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized [literally immersed] into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. (Rom 6:3-8, ESV2011)

Yes, there is no way around it, we must die, for flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.

I would like to end this article with one more long quote from Sparks about what I feel is a very needed clarification of what it means to go on with Christ in the life of those who have answered the call to get out of this world and its enticements and be separated unto God.

The great crisis of separation between what is of the Spirit and what is of the flesh has taken place, and that is the great crisis of the sixth chapter of the Letter to the Romans. You must remember that that chapter was written to Christians, not to people who were still back in Ur of the Chaldees, that is, to people who were still in the world. It was to people who had taken the first great step in decision for the Lord but had evidently not recognized all that that step involved. The Apostle Paul is not saying: ‘You must be baptized as a testimony of the fact that you have come right out for the Lord’, but: ‘We were crucified with Christ. We were buried with Him in baptism.’ That is what is meant when we were baptized. Our old man was crucified with Christ – but we have brought out Terah and Lot and all the rest with us. We have not recognized all that it meant when God said: “Get thee out!” There has to be this new crisis in our lives when we not only say farewell to the world but we say farewell to ourselves: “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live; and yet no longer I” (Galatians 2:20).

It is Lot and Abraham, one of the flesh, the other of the spirit: of faith and not of faith. With God, these two things are fully and utterly separated in the death and resurrection – the Cross – of Christ, but with His people it is a long history of many applications of the principle through a crisis and a process, or a series of minor crises.

Perhaps we have not been sufficiently aware that the New Testament in its teaching books or letters, as well as in its history, stands wholly related to these two aspects, a basic, all-inclusive crisis, and a process marked by many particular applications of that content; progressive illumination and successive challenges.

These crises created by the conflict between the natural man and the spiritual man in us all are represented in the case of Abram by Lot, Egypt (Genesis 12:9-20), Abimelech (Genesis 20), Hagar (Genesis 16…), all of which represent outcroppings of the natural man in his own wisdom, strength, effort and weakness. These will come up again in these studies, but they are recorded for our instruction in what has to be brought back to the initial transition. Abraham was called the Hebrew, and that means: the Man from Beyond, that is – beyond the river (Euphrates). A river lay between his old and his new realm.

The Christian has a river, like the Red Sea or the Jordan, which is a dividing line; and spiritually it declares what does and what does not belong to each side. According to Romans 6, that dividing line is the Cross of Christ, and baptism is there said to be the believer’s spiritual acceptance of that great divide. The point is that the Cross goes with us throughout our lives and challenges the presence and action of everything belonging to the ‘beyond’ as not to be tolerated here. This history of denying our selfhood is the pathway which brings us ever nearer the heart of God. Every fresh expression of Christ’s victory over the world is a further step into the heart of God. As His ‘being made perfect through suffering’ meant a progressive and final repudiation of the world and the self, so that He arrived at last in the heart of His Father, attested and declared “My Beloved Son”, so every believer is called upon to make the same spiritual pilgrimage to the same most blessed destiny. It is the way of the continuous, “Not I, but Christ”, but this way of His Cross leads right on into God’s heart, when and where He will say “My friend.” *

* http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/into_the_heart_of_god.html

 

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