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

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Being Faithful to Our Call

Camus Prairie Sunset-1

Camas Prairie Sunset – taken by Michael Clark

 

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: And.. I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee…” (Gen 12:1-3, KJV)

The call of God contains both grace and truth. Truth is the separating instrument. “Get thee out.” Grace is the promise. “I will bless and make a blessing.” Man often grasps at the grace, the “I will bless” of God, and fails to comply with the demand thereof – “Get thee out.” Now this does not only apply in the matter of our salvation in its first steps, but it comes in new revelations and calls at different times in the Christian life. ~ T. Austin-Sparks [1]

The call of God on our lives demands change. When He calls us, he calls us out. First there is the initial call to come out from the world system and its ways among its people. When His Spirit comes into us, we quickly find that we no longer want to do the things that we once allowed. We no longer enjoy the things we once found entertaining or laughed at things we once thought were funny. We have changed, not because we have rigidly adopted a new set of religious laws to keep, but because we have found ourselves immersed in His love for us, God’s ways are what we long for.

Many of us at this point, like Abram, leave our country (our nationalism) and its ways and our worldly families (and their desires) behind as we seek that kingdom which has foundations whose Builder and Maker is God, the kingdom of heaven. But also like Abram’s father, Terah, we often settle for a habitation that falls short of what God has in mind for us–a land called Christendom. As Abram did, we head out with Terah, our old man (our old human nature), and find a place where it will be appeased as we try to please God. We get sucked into the religious ways of man which are less demanding than the ways of God. Just how long we abide in the ways of Christendom varies. Many of us go from one religious camp to another seeking the truth of our original call, but always something is just not quite right, so we move on, hoping the next church or fellowship will be the right one. Even when Abraham entered Canaan he looked for the city of God, but never found it because he was a pilgrim and sojourner in a strange land.

Therefore sprang there even of one [Abraham], and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. (Heb 11:12-16, KJV)

For us who refuse to settle for a worldly counterfeit, the call from God will continue to be “get thee out,” and “keep seeking my face.” We would like to find a place and a family here on earth we could settle down and be in a comfortable fellowship with, but He puts a desire in us to find a heavenly abode with a heavenly people and not settle for anything less.

Many of us want to be blessed by God and be a blessing to those around us, but the promise was clear–we must first get out of our former comfort zones. We must leave those who have settled there and seek not only God’s grace, but God’s truth in our lives as well. In John’s gospel we read:

For from his [Christ’s] fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:15-17, ESV2011)

Grace upon grace, yes, we all want the grace of God to abound in our lives and to not live under the law, but both grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ. God desires not only to bless us, but He also wants us to live lives true to Him. He desires truth to dwell in our inward parts (Psalm 51:6) — in our hearts. Both grace and Truth are ours only as we live our lives in Christ and not in our own fleshly ways or the fleshly desires of those who want to pull us down to their level. T.A. Sparks continues:

The call of God to some fuller and higher acceptance of truth and ministry; of testimony and witness; of surrender and experience, will undoubtedly come by one or another of the Divine forms of visitation to such as the Lord wishes to lead in grace. This will be timed, definite, and challenging. A messenger may come as out from nowhere; the nowhere of [no] reputation, recognition, worldly fame or honour. He will deliver a message, only staying long enough to leave its essential implications with those who hear. Then, having passed on, things can never be the same for them again.

The “call” has sounded. The crisis has been precipitated. The issue is between the life which has been with its limitations known or unrecognised, and that which God offers. But, as usually is the case, this truth is going to call for a “getting out.” Getting out, it may be, [out] of a certain popularity, a comparative easy going. There may be a risking of reputation, a loss of prestige, a disfavour among men, a being labelled “singular,” “peculiar,” “extreme,” “unsafe.” It may mean a head-on impact of all the prejudice, tradition, and disfavour of the religious world. It may involve exclusion, ostracism, and suspicion. These are the accompaniments of all calls of God to advance with Him beyond accepted standards. This is the cost of path-finding for souls. This is the price to be paid for the higher serviceableness to God and men…

“These shall war against the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them, for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings; and they also shall overcome that are with him, called and chosen and faithful.” (Revelation 17:14)

Oh, beloved of God, let us go all the way and whatever it may involve – it will never be in advance of the apostolic suffering – aspire to be of “the called, chosen, and faithful.”  [1]

[1] http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/002783.html

~ A Special thanks to Susanne Schuberth for bringing this article by T.A. Sparks to my attention ~

 

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

 

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.

Dead End, the Way of the Churches

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Dead End Church Street by Piano on Fire

My friend and sister in Christ, Susanne Schuberth, is often taught by the Lord by dreams and things she sees in her daily prayer walks and bike rides as well as hearing His voice from time to time and feeling His gentle nudges. She was recently on a bike ride and felt drawn by the Lord to turn down this lane called Kirchenweg. Kirchenweg in German literally means “Churches Way.” Well, she had not pedaled far when she saw a second sign that said, “Sackgasse” which is German for “Dead End.” It did not take Susanne long to get what Jesus was trying to tell her. The way of the churches is a dead end road. She wrote in her blog, “Honestly, who would ever tread on a path, beautiful or not, and follow a road if they knew it was as dead-end street?” Yet, she did so this time because the Lord led her to do it that He might show her a lesson.I hope you read her blog article. (*)

Sad to say that going down this dead end road of church attendance is done by millions who still seek after God in the highly visible, beautiful kingdoms of men called “churches.” Yet, if Jesus said, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo, here! or, There! for lo, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21, ASV), why do we seek Him in buildings made by the hands of men? Don’t we say, “Lo, Here!” when we say, “What church do you go to? You are welcome to come to mine”?  God spoke through Isaiah the prophet 2,700 years ago saying, “The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that you build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?” (Isa 66:1, KJ2000). Yes, where is the place of His rest?

For many years I followed that dead-end way of the churches. Each attempt at making a new church my home ended in failure as I attempted to fit into their mold and follow all their rules. Somehow it just did not work and I went away sad and kept looking for a church in which I fit. I felt like Cinderella’s ugly sister trying to cram my size 13 foot (yes, hard to believe, isn’t it?) into that size 7 glass slipper. Finally, one day after another failed attempt, out of desperation I cried out to God, “Lord, I don’t fit! I just don’t fit!” To this He replied in an almost audible voice, “YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO FIT!” You see, what I learned through all my bad church experiences was that none of them were THE Church which Jesus said He would build (including Catholicism which I grew up in) and all of them were and are spiritual dead-end streets. It wasn’t until I gave up on them and sought the Lord alone, that God started teaching me from some very important scriptures that had been right there in front of me all along. For instance that this one,

Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. (Heb 13:12-14, NRS)

It is of the fallen nature of Adam to go forth with a curse upon the earth and try and build cities just as Cain did on sinking sand, to leave our mark and to build a visible legacy that will last long after our miserable carnal lives are over. Yet, we have this promise which the builders have ignored. In Hebrews we read,

“See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven! At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.’ This phrase, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of what is shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb 12:25-29, NRS)

Only the kingdom that God has built within us by His Spirit will remain and survive this final shaking that is upon us. We are faced every day with a new terrorist attack, a new contagious disease, a new pestilence, a new famine or a new super storm, a fatal earthquake or a new financial disaster. All our attempts to hold our outward worldly lives and institutions together will be for not. The more we hang onto them and seek to save them, the greater will be our loss, “for our God is a consuming fire.” Paul wrote,

“Now if any man build upon this foundation [Jesus Christ] gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall test every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1Cor 3:12-15, KJ2000)

Why do we keep pursuing the fallen ways of Cain of building lasting habitations when our example is so clearly the faith walk of Abraham?

“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should later receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Heb 11:8-10, KJ2000)

Yes, Abraham sought a city, but it was a city that was made by God, not men. They were sojourners and remained so while on this earth living in tents and building nothing! What we who have our hearts fixed on our Creator are looking for is outside the gates of Christendom City and the mindset that goes with these institutions. Remember the Stone which the builders have rejected, has become the Head of the corner (See Matt. 21:42-43). God’s temple is made of living stone, not timbers, bricks and mortar (See 1 Peter 2:5).

I would like to end this with an excellent quote from T. Austin-Sparks,

Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens. (Hebrews 12:26 ESV)

Everything is going to be shaken in earth and in heaven, with a view to finding out just how much there is of Christ living in it. These Jewish believers [to whom Hebrews was written] were going to see the temple and the whole temple system wrecked, and then they would discover just how much they had got of Christ, or how much of their life was bound up with earthly things. They would see what was left when that was all gone. God is not only going to shake Judaism, but this heavenly thing. He will shake heaven and earth, and we shall find out by that shaking what we have left when the earthly system passes, when even the representation of heavenly things in Christianity is tested (for Christianity has developed a representation of heavenly things, just as Judaism has). Men have made an earthly representation of the New Testament revelation of the church, and ministry, and priesthood. It is all going to be tested. For many it is now in the melting pot. The issue is the shaking of heaven and earth. What have we got left? The issue is Christ.

Whether you like all that we have said, or agree with it or not, does not worry me; but I am concerned that we have come to Christ, to show that Christ in heaven is our Life, Christ in heaven is our All, and appointed to be so by God, and nothing here can take the place of Christ. God will bring everything to an end that takes the place of Christ. He has determined from eternity that in all things Christ should have the preeminence, and have the fullness, and that nothing shall glory before Him or take His place. The Lord bring us into a larger measure of Christ, and a larger measure of Christ into us. http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002954.html

* https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2016/02/26/the-way-of-the-church-is-a-dead-end-street/

“What is Christianity… about?” by Michael and Susanne

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Photo by Susanne Schuberth)

Good grief, that is a strange question, don’t you think? 🙄
Okay, okay, if someone said Christianity was all about Christ, then we would wholeheartedly agree and could stop writing at this point. Nonetheless, that was not what we wanted to talk about here. Instead, we have often wondered whether we as Christians are more known for what we stand against than for what we stand for.

We could say, for example, that Armenians are against Calvinists and vice versa; fundamentalists are against gifts of the Spirit; Pentecostals tend to depend on what they “feel” regarding divine matters; house-church people are against organized religion and most Christians are against abortion, homosexuality, getting pregnant outside of wedlock…the list goes on and on.
It seems that all too often our identity is not in Christ, but in what we cannot tolerate. It is so easy to be against something. That is human nature! But to be moved by the love of God, THAT is a miracle of God that causes us to transcend our old adamic nature! Jesus told us to love those who hate us and do good to our enemies, yet is that an earmark of Christians today? If our identity is not Christ and His love for all, especially among those of us who believe (cf. Gal 6:10), what witness do we really have as being any different from those in the world without Christ? The Bible tells us that the (unbelieving) world will only believe that God sent Jesus when we are one in God and Jesus, just as our heavenly Father is in Jesus and as Jesus is in His Father (see Jn 17:21).

So, back to our question, “What is Christianity about?” Jesus Christ said, “Don’t you know that I must be about my Father’s business?” Are we as believers in Christ really about our Father’s business? Or have we made a business out of what we believe? When we take a stand against a perceived evil in the world, we as Christians want to organize. We make a business out of the stand. But is that what Jesus did when confronted with the woman caught in adultery or the needs of a hungry people? He just kept it simple and dealt with each need as it arose and did not dehumanize people in their individual needs by turning it into “a ministry.” In fact, our human nature tends to get so focused on the forest that we cannot see the trees any longer. Jesus, instead, never missed out on a chance to reach out to the individual, even when being pressed on by the crowd. While surrounded by a vast number of admirers, he focused on a hated tax collector, Zacchaeus, up in a tree. While being pressed in upon by sick and needy people, He focused on one woman who touched the hem of his garment because she had faith that she could be healed by Him in doing so.

Well, one might argue, aren’t we called as Christians to take a stand for what is right and what is wrong in our world today – by any means? Yes, you are right, but maybe not so much by telling the world what is still wrong, but rather by doing what is right. Or in other words,

Never look for justice in this world, never cease to give it.― Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

God’s Beginnings Govern the End

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

T. Austin-Sparks wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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