Our Fellowship Is Like a Wheel

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Dear brothers and sisters in Christ. For some time the Lord has been teaching me about the nature of true Christian fellowship. Ever since I was born of the Spirit in 1970, I have loved my time with the saints of God and have made it a priority in my life. I was rewarded openly at first because I was seeking Jesus as He abode in other believers I knew. We were all young believers with our wonderful new found love for Christ bubbling out. Our fellowship with each other and with Jesus was filled with His love.  It was like living the Book of Acts as His love freely flowed between us.

But then one day after many months, Jesus said to me, “Michael, I have someone I want you to meet.” I thought, “Who could this be?” He then said, “I want you to meet my Father.” I about freaked out. I was raised Catholic, and in my mind God was like “The Great and Mighty Oz,” greatly to be feared.  I said, “Jesus, if I were to have a relationship directly with your Father, what happens to You?”  He then said, “Don’t you understand? This is why I came and dwelt among men, that they might be restored to my Father.”

This dialogue was a turning point in my relationship with God. Shortly after that I started experiencing Him not only as a loving Father in Christ, but one who rebukes and chastens those who are His sons. Many trials and hardships were to follow. The honeymoon time with Jesus that lasted for months seemed to be over. My flesh rebelled against this new phase of my relationship with Daddy. He was now taking me from spiritual childhood into sonship, and it was not fun (see Proverbs 29:17, Acts 14:21-22, and Hebrews 12: 7-11).

After that, heartfelt fellowship with other saints, grew very thin, for the most part. I so loved those early days of such sweet times with His saints that I went on searching for it everywhere I went, but it has often been disheartening. If I found fellowship with others in the churches, it never seemed to last. Today, I can see the depths of what was prophesied in the following passage, because this is what Father was doing with me.

And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? for you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore come out from among them, and be you separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. (2Cor 6:16-18, KJ2000)

He was weaning me from my dependence on church going! Not all that goes by the name “church” is THE Church. There is a great unclean mixture and many conflicting voices out there in Christendom and God was pulling me away from the confusion unto Himself.  Brethren, I am not the only one He has done this with. This is not an exclusive thing that has happening only to me. This is God’s way with His elect. He has separated to Himself a called-out people all through the scriptures (Enoch, Abraham, Moses, the children of Israel, David, the prophets, Jesus, the disciples, Paul and finally the ekklesia of called-out ones — His Church). Many of us have been called outside the camp unto Him and it is a great reproach to those who are still inside the camps of Christendom (see Heb. 13:11-14).

More Fine Tuning

gods-fine-tuning

Recently God has been fine-tuning me regarding this thing called “fellowship.” He has had First John 1:7 on my mind almost continually. John connects fellowship with walking in the Light as Jesus is in the Light.  During this time I have learned much by watching the example of a dear saint who I have come to know in the last few years. This person has put fellowship with the Father and the Son first before fellowship with other believers. This was so strange to me that I didn’t know how to take it. It almost felt like rejection, because at times that devotion to Christ seemed to come between us. He had become this dear saint’s first priority. All my Christian life I have rarely found such devotion to the Father and the Son as with this person.

One other time I came up against this kind of devotion to God and His calling when I asked a dear older saint to please pray for me. Their answer stunned me. They said, “No! I do not take on a prayer burden for anyone unless God puts it on my heart. I have to hear it from Him.” Well, that gave me a lot to think about! We so glibly say, “I will pray for you, brother,” without giving it much thought. For the mature in Christ, obedience becomes a matter of spiritual survival because the enemy can load us up with all manner of “good things” we should do!

We all seem to put something else first before God, even “good” things like our well being, careers, family, friendships, even our churches. He has been showing me that looking for fellowship with other believers first is a near miss if we are to truly come into real fellowship with one another. John shed light on how spiritual fellowship works when He wrote about the priority that God demands before it can happen.

That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light… if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1John 1:3-7, ESV2011 -emphasis added)

Let me be more concise and paraphrase John. “Indeed our fellowship is with the Father and the Son… God is light, if we walk in that light as HE is in the light we have fellowship first with Him and then with those who are also walking in His light.” John’s fellowship with the Father and the Son is what gave him the Light of Life because God is Light. John wrote to the saints from this same Light.  No one wrote about the love of God like John did. His priority was His fellowship with the Father and the Son, and that made all the difference between walking after the Spirit and walking in the flesh.

When we find a brother or sister who walks in God’s Light, what a find they are! We want to be around them all the time, but therein is the danger. We soon can put another person or persons in the place that our Father wants with us. We rejoice when we hear God speaking into our hearts by one of His servants, but the message we should be hearing from a true servant of God is to seek God FIRST (read 1 Cor. Ch. 3).

When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” As a dear saint pointed out to me recently, here we see the priority our love and devotion should have–first for God, then others and finally ourselves. It is so easy to get this all turned around.

We Are Like Individual Spokes in a Wheel

About two weeks ago as I contemplated and prayed about where true Christian fellowship can be found, God showed me a picture of a bicycle wheel with its many spokes, all attached to one central hub. The hub contains the axel that every other part revolves around. He showed me that we who belong to Him are like the spokes on that wheel. We are further apart from one another out by the rim of the wheel than we are when we are closer to the Hub. Jesus Christ is our Hub we must all be attached to, just as He is the Vine and we are His branches! If we are not attached to Him, we wither up and die.  If our attachment is to one another alone instead of Him, our fellowship soon falls apart! What a parable this was for me. It explains why so many of my attempts at having fellowship with other Christians, even mature Christians, has failed. We do serve a jealous God.

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The above is a telling picture of our fellowship with one another with Christ as our Hub. The rim may be the body of Christ as the caption says, but it is also the part that is closest to the world. It is attached only to the spokes and not the Hub. No, the true body of Christ is attached directly to Him and the rim is their outreach to the world. We are to be in the world, but not of the world. Our attempts to relate to worldly people and their ways can also draw us away from Christ if we make that our priority instead of our fellowship with Him. Jesus prayed, “That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me.  And the glory which you gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:23-22 – emphasis added). Our witness to the world that Jesus is the Christ all hinges on our individual unity and fellowship with the Father and the Son, not the world. Ezekiel prophesied about the working of this unity.

Wherever the spirit wanted to go, they went, and the wheels rose along with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those rose from the earth, the wheels rose along with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. (Ezek 1:20-21, ESV2011)

Wow, what a picture of our fellowship with the Father and the Son, the Wheel inside the Wheel and the Spirit in and among us as we follow Him. May we forever live our lives within them and do their will.

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

Can These Bones Live?

Can these bones live

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me round among them; and behold, there were very many upon the valley; and lo, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, thou knowest.” Again he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.” So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And as I looked, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great host. (Ezekiel 37:1-10 RSVA)

Our brother Hosea Fwangmun from Nigeria wrote recently,

“I come to the conclusion that ONLY the Father can reveal the Son in me and vice-versa. And since then I resist the temptation of trying to create what I call ‘mechanical fellowship.’  Yes, we need the gifts in others to come to the full measure and the statue of the son of God, but not in a mechanical way. We have to learn to discern His Body. I remember one of the favorite quotes of our brother Watchman Nee. ‘…you don’t organize for fellowship, rather, fellowship is spontaneous.’ May God give us true discernment in other to be truly build up into Christ. Amen.”

In the American church mindset, which has defiled the Church (the true body of Christ) throughout the world, there is a “can do” mentality that has not been to the cross. We think in terms of “by my might and by my power we can get this done! We can build God’s kingdom. We can make body life happen! Spirit? What Spirit?” To quote my brother Philip in Vermont, who stepped down from being a pastor for this very reason, “What a crock!”

In Chapter 37 of Ezekiel there is a very important lesson that needs to be learned if we are to be used of God. The prophet had a vision of a valley of dry, dismembered bones that had once been a mighty army. Thus we have the state of the Church today! The individual members of the body of Christ have been torn apart by ravenous wolves who have come in and not spared the flock of Christ, and false shepherds have risen up over them who teach perverse things to keep them divided (See Acts 20:29-31).

So today we are trying to have fellowship with a valley of dry bones. What a desperate state of affairs. It will take a miracle of God if these bones will ever become the functioning body of Christ again.

Notice in our opening passage that the bones were “very dry.” There are bones, dry to the touch, that still have the marrow in them rotting away and stinking, and then there are very dry bones that have been brought to such a death that not even Satan can find a niche in them to work his defilement! Many of us have been in this drying-out process. God has taken us outside the various camps of man-made religion, but has He dried us out to the point that we have no life left in us to try to do anything for God or make anything happen by our strength and will? All too many of us have come out of Egypt, but only far enough so that we can still look back. We design our new house church systems using the great Pyramid of Giza as our blueprint. Thus we are building another top down system, men lording over other men and pushing our will on them as “our vision” for the restoration of the Church.

Before God can assemble the true Church by His design, all our individual lives and good ideas have to totally die and become very dry. As Jesus put it, “Unless God builds the house, they who build it labor in vain.”

The next thing the Spirit showed me in this passage was this, “And he said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ And I answered, ‘O Lord GOD, thou knowest.’” Notice that Ezekiel was clueless when faced with the wisdom and will of the Lord. How many of those who call themselves visionaries or church leaders today recognize that they are totally clueless as to what God is doing? They all seem to have a plan as to how to build the church or get numbers of people into their buildings, under their authority, and filling their coffers with money “for the work of the Lord.” What God is looking for today in true leadership is men who have been “undone,” because they have seen the Lord as high and lifted up with His train filling His temple! Again, the wilderness has not yet killed the last vestiges of Egypt in them. Unlike Moses, they have not figured out that what they learned in the house of Pharaoh is useless to God.

Next we read, “Again he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.’” True prophetic voices for God have no preconceived idea of what God wants to say through them. A true prophetic voice for God waits until He hears what God is saying to the churches and does not speak until he is told to! He does not add his own flavor (or stench) to what is being said, either, because he is very dry. Then he will have God’s word to speak to these other very dry bones!

Then we read in our passage, “Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

You see, everything that has any eternal value is done by Him!

“I will cause breather to enter you and you shall live.”

“I will lay sinews upon you.”

“I will cause flesh to come upon you and cover you with skin.”

“[I will] put breath in you and you shall live.”

“And then “you shall know that I AM THE LORD.”

(Compare Hebrews 8:8-11).

Everything that happens in this universe of God’s that is done for any eternal purpose is done by HIM. This whole exercise we are seeing is so we will know Jesus as Lord and that He is building His Church. That Church is the one that the gates of hell will not stand a chance against! What a far cry from this pathetic thing we see today that has lost its saltiness and is being trodden under the feet of men.

“So I prophesied as I was commanded….” In Acts we read about Peter and the apostles being locked up in prison. “But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out and said, ‘Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.’” (Acts 5:19-20 RSVA). Today many of us feel like we are in prison, waiting for the Lord to release us. Our self-wills are being broken and we wait for God to make the next move. Jesus told Peter, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.” (John 21:18 RSVA). Jesus is our “Another” who has bound us and carries us where we would not go. In this state alone can He trust us to speak as He commands instead dressing ourselves in religious garments and titles of authority and walking where we would, “in Jesus’ name.”

Bone to His Bone

Ezekiel went on to report, “…as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone.” There was not just some willy-nilly assembling of these bones. Every bone had to first find the body it belonged to and then find its place in that body. The body of Christ has been so dismembered and dysfunctional for so long, we don’t have a clue what body we belong to, where we fit or what our function really is! Many of us have experienced other bones trying to plug themselves into our bones and they just don’t fit! Believe me, when God puts two of us together according to His will, we will know it! It will be an instant fit and the anointing that goes with that joining will soon be manifest. Paul wrote,

But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, who is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body being fitly joined together and knit together by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16 KJ2000)

“Christ: From whom the whole body being fitly joined together and knit together by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part.” It is Christ who fitly joins us together as HE wills. Imagine how it would feel for your forearm to be attached below your knee or your lower leg to be attached to your shoulder. Nothing would line up! The sockets would not fit, the blood vessels would not connect and the nerves would not be joined. In this situation, every joint would not be able to supply the nourishment from the Head to the lower parts and there would be no effectual working in the God given measure of each part. Brothers and sisters, we need to be very careful to listen to God as to who HE desires us to be connected to and how (See Acts 5:13).

The only thing that will make this happen is for each of us individual dry bones to yield to the wind of the Spirit and let CHRIST build HIS Church. He must show each of us what body we belong in and where our place is in that body. All to many of us have preconceived idea of who we are in Christ and what “our ministry” is. Only very dry bones will be worthy to be assembled in the Church He is building in this final hour.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great host.

“Prophesy to the Breath.” What breath? Did you know that the word in the Greek translated “spirit” is “breath”? Strong’s dictionary defines it thus,

pneuma

pnyoo’-mah

From G4154; a current of air, that is, breath (blast) or a breeze; by analogy or figuratively a spirit,

Without the breath of God blowing upon us and assembling us, we will remain individual dry bones bleaching in the sun. Jesus told Nicode’mus, “The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit (the Breath of God).” (John 3:8 RSVA). So, dear saints, don’t get in a big fleshly hurry to make these dry bones come together or assemble yourselves to anyone who claims Christ as His Lord. Nothing is going to happen in God’s kingdom without HIS breath blowing on it and IN it. But be assured, that it is they who wait upon the Lord that will mount up as HIS exceeding great host, the body of Christ.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.” Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence they have come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night within his temple; and he who sits upon the throne will shelter them with his presence. (Revelation 7:9-15 RSVA)

It’s a Great Life IF You Weaken!

jesus_calms_stormHow often have we heard the saying, “It is a great life if you don’t weaken”? It sounds great at first, but is that the gospel of the cross of Christ?

I was comparing the following two passages written by James and by Paul…

James wrote:

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4 KJ2000)

Paul wrote,

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us. (Romans 5:3-5 KJ2000)

Here we read that trials and tribulation work patience, and patience works experience, and experience works hope, and hope works the love of God in our hearts because of the Holy Spirit whom God has given everyone who puts their trust in Christ alone.

T. Austin-Sparks wrote:

Experience with God is much more than knowledge. We may be very greatly informed, and have a great deal of knowledge, but, lacking experience, our knowledge will remain purely technical information. Experience is more than knowledge. It is also far more than human cleverness. Clever people may be able to do a lot of things and seem to be successful. The absence of this quality of experience will find that their structures will sooner or later come crashing down, for there is no body there. Experience is something that we can never inherit, nor can it be transferred from one to another in any other way; it has to be bought. It is therefore the sole possession and property of the individual who has it. It is something very personal. If it had been possible for the Father to bring His own Son, the Lord Jesus, to the designed and determined end in any other way, He would have done it. The only way was experience: “…yet learned (he) obedience by the things which he suffered” (Heb.5:8); He was made “perfect through sufferings” (Heb. 2:10). Even Jesus Christ (and I speak in a certain sense) had to buy His experience. He had to come to the full end, or the end of fulness, to be made perfect, made complete, by the way of experience.
http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/001978.html

It seems that God puts a high premium on seeing us gain experience in overcoming our trials and temptations. He wants us to quit looking to ourselves and other things and start casting all our cares on Jesus, Who is the Author and the Finisher of our faith. We, like Jesus, must learn obedience through the things that we suffer. According to James, it is our faith that is being tried. Peter also spoke of our faith being tried.

“[We who believe]…are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In which you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold trials: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” (1 Peter 1:5-7 KJ2000)

First, we are kept by the power of God, not our power. Even our faith is not ours, but Christ’s (see Gal. 2:16). It seems we get an infusion of His faith to get us started, and it grows until we have our own faith based on experiences we have overcome through Him. From these verses, I picture my faith in Christ being put in a refiner’s crucible with the heat turned up. That heat is trials and tribulations that determine if I will call out to Christ to be my strength and sufficiency in all things, or if I will just “gut it out” by my own strength. Paul said it best for me when he wrote:

“And he [Jesus] said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather boast in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.’” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 KJ2000)

Paul, like James, counted it all joy when he found himself weak in a trial. That meant he had to throw himself on Christ, and see Jesus come through for him every time. He saw that his own human strengths were his biggest enemy. He expounded on this in telling about how he despaired even of life itself:

“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Why, we felt that we had received the sentence of death; but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9 RSVA)

Paul’s faith was tested to the point of death, yet he believed that even if he were killed, Christ would raise him up again. It seems that Jesus might have done this earlier in His life (see Acts 14:19). This man had a strong faith in Christ because he lived on the ragged edge of walking by faith. Like a muscle, faith has to be exercised or it atrophies and dies.

In the American church, we hedge all our bets and do all we can to keep from having to walk by faith. We have insurance policies for everything imaginable. We have our 401k and IRA to cover us in retirement. We join unions to give us power and job security. If we get some kind of pain or infirmity, we run for the medicine cabinet or doctor’s office (for more pills – there seems to be a pill for everything) without even giving Jesus a chance to heal us. We avoid trials at all cost. We even avoid being tempted by cloistering ourselves in our churches and homes away from the real world where we might be seen with the wrong kind of people. We are inoculated against walking by faith in Christ alone. Our faith is not being tried! Is it any wonder that the American church is so feeble and powerless against the rise of evil that is closing in around us as a nation? We are a nation of weak Christians being led by weak church leaders who fall for every kind of temptation that comes their way. If you think I’m exaggerating, just type in “church corruption” on a Google search!

All that is missing is for us to totally put our trust in Jesus alone and walk wherever the Spirit leads us that we might know HIM as our sufficiency and strength in adversity. During my years in churches, whenever I felt God calling me out of my comfort zone and to get out in the trenches among the people of the world and do something that would make a difference in their lives, I was told the same thing by the pastors I submitted to, “You are not ready yet!” Nobody I knew was ever “ready yet” in the minds of these church leaders, if God was calling them to go out into the fray of the world and take a chance outside the daycare center called “Sunday church.” As one man from Argentina put it, “The church as we know today is designed to preserve the perpetual babyhood of the believer.”

So, dear saints, it is a great life in Christ if we allow Him to make us weak through trials and testings so that nothing comes out from ourselves. We are not to walk by might or by power, but by His Spirit. All we have to do is abide in the Vine and He will abide in us, and then He will bring forth the fruit of His kingdom, not ours. Amen.

It’s a NEW Covenant!

A New Day

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
(Revelation 21:5 ESV)

I was on the phone with a brother in eastern Montana, USA, a while back and the Lord had me key-in on one statement he had made, “Most Christians don’t know what the New Covenant REALLY IS!” I immediately asked myself, “Just WHAT IS the New Covenant anyway?” I know that I had gone to many churches and sat through years in time of accumulated sermons and Sunday school classes, but had I ever heard about the nature of the New Covenant and just what makes it NEW??? So, I admitted to my friend and brother in Montana that I did not know what the New Covenant was! I new that what we see, calling itself “the church” was NOT it for sure, for it in its present day form is not found in the Bible! I wanted to KNOW!

Bud started me on my search by referring me to a little known (at least in Christendom) passage in one of the prophet’s books in the Old Testament which was quoted again in the Book of Hebrews (a book that is ALL about the difference between the New and Old Covenants, by the way)…

“For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he says, ‘Behold, the days come, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not,’ says the Lord. ‘For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ says the Lord; ‘I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord’: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.’ In that he says, A NEW COVENANT, he has made the first OLD. NOW THAT WHICH DECAYS AND GROWS OLD IS READY TO VANISH AWAY.” (Hebrews 8:7-13 KJ2000- emphasis added)

Ezekiel saw the nature of this NEW thing that God put in place 2000 years ago and said, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27 KJ2000)

The Old Covenant was all hinged on man doing what pleased God, but NOT the New! In this NEW Covenant it is all about what GOD is doing IN US for it is “NOT by might nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord.”

HE takes out of us our stone cold hearts!
HE gives us a NEW heart!
HE writes His law (His will) upon our hearts
HE puts His Spirit in us!
HE removes our sins from us as far as the east is from the west!
HE will be the only Teacher we will need (see also 1 John 2:26-27)!

You see, it is NOT about US any longer (not a single “Thou shalt…” or “Thou shalt not…” to be found here), but it is ALL about HIM and what He is doing in our lives. Jesus said, “Apart from ME you can do NOTHING!” What part of “NOTHING” don’t we understand???

So, what is our part in this NEW and lasting Covenant that Jesus inaugurated with His own death and resurrection and the infilling of His Spirit that took place on the Day of Pentecost 2000 years ago? Our part is to only rest by faith IN HIM! In Hebrews we ALSO read,

“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:9-11 ESV)

Did you get it? There is a rest in the here and now for those who walk by faith where we cease from all our striving, fretting and doubts, but rather we rest confidently in the finished work of Jesus Christ and enjoy HIS presence as we abide TOTALLY IN HIM and no longer in or of ourselves. This IS what grace really is, my friends. You see, once we are resting IN Christ; grace, peace, rest, obedience to God, abiding IN the Vine, following the voice of THE Shepherd… ALL these things become one and the same and part of what it means to be true members of this NEW and LASTING covenant. If you are NOT there, then pray that God kills that old sinful, striving religious nature in you that finds HIS GRACE to be such an insult to that Old Adam that still has possession of your heart.

Pray, “Father, whatever it takes! Do what you must to get your new heart within me which really believes that you love me and have made all provision for me IN your Son. Father, kill this old striving person that I have been and put the faith of your Son in me. Amen”

Then hang on, for NOTHING is going to be the same once He sets out to make you HIS NEW CREATION!

Note: this post was inspired by another blog that I read by a sister in Germany. Check it out:
https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2014/07/07/lets-get-real-friends/

 

Going on Without the Camp

Crowded CampingNow Moses used to take the tent and to pitch it without the camp, afar off from the camp; and he called it, The tent of meeting. And it came to pass, that every one that sought Jehovah went out unto the tent of meeting, which was without the camp.
(Exo 33:7 ASV)

Have you ever gone out on a weekend camping trip to experience God’s undefiled creation only to end up at a camp sight that is soon crowded with other campers, their screaming kids, barking dogs, blaring boom boxes, roaring dirt bikes and ATV’s, etc., and you end up wondering what it means to “get away from it all”? Well, for may of us our first attempts at following Jesus Christ was not much different. In our pursuit of God’s created church there was soon so much noise and confusion among other Christians that we could no longer hear the voice of the One who had drawn us away from the world unto Himself.

The following is from T. Austin-Sparks and I couldn’t have said it better about what it means to go on without the camp…

Let us go out to Him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace He bore. (Hebrews 13:13 NLT)

We can organize our movements, lay our plans, and draft our schemes. We can lay it all out according to the New Testament and it can be dead, ineffective…. You see the difference between a traditional system, whether it be Judaism or Christianity, and a living thing coming all the time in a living way out from the Christ Himself by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit Himself doing it. Well, this is going to cost something. See what it meant for these people. At the end of this letter you come on this: “Wherefore, Christ also… suffered without the camp. Let us therefore go to Him without the camp, bearing His reproach.” The camp was Judaism, and He suffered without the camp because He repudiated Judaism and stood for the realization of all God’s thoughts as in Himself personally. He gathered up everything into His own person, “I am.” It is the Christ who is the full sum and embodiment of all God’s thoughts and ways, and that take s the place of Judaism, and He, therefore, repudiated Judaism and suffered without the camp. “Let us go to Him without the camp.”

What is the issue? If you are going to take this line you are going to repudiate organized Christianity, going to repudiate Christendom as a traditional system, going to repudiate that order of things which is made, and going, therefore, to suffer reproach and be outside of the camp suffering His reproach. In other words, we are immediately going to come up against that force of antagonism to stop what has come in through the death and resurrection and exaltation of the Lord Jesus, the heavenly thing. Is it not sad that these people met it through God’s historic people, the people who claimed to have the oracles, to be the elect, to be the favored of the Lord? It is always like that. “A man’s foes shall be those of his own household.” Do not narrow that down to the limits of a family where one is a Christian and all the rest are not. That is not the point at all. It is his own household, the Christian household. You will meet the antagonism to what has come in from heaven as a heavenly thing; you will meet the antagonism amongst those who are the traditional people of God in this dispensation. That is how it will be. That is going to be the cost of a walk in Life with the Lord and not with man, knowing the Lord for yourself.

By T. Austin-Sparks from: The Kingdom That Cannot be Shaken – Chapter 2 

Relevance and the Gospel

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Writing about the fallen state of the visible church is not my favorite subject, but I was confronted with something this last weekend that I must address. How long has it been since you have heard the good news of the Kingdom of God preached in a church? How long has it been since Jesus was so presented to you in a sermon that all you wanted to do was get alone with Him and press ever deeper into His presence? Do we even know what our high calling IN Jesus Christ is, “In HIM we live and move and have our being”?

How far will we take, “being all things to all men” in the name of “relevance”? I went to visit a brother and his family in a near by state over the weekend and he invited me to “go to church” with them in a nearby large town in the area. It was called “Skull Church.” I kid you not! The “pastor” (a young guy of less than 30 years) wasn’t even in the building but telecasting his sermon live from another location to the satellite churches he had started (so much for a close pastoral touch or home visit… and they call them “shepherds”?).They had a very loud rock band that did the “worship” and the place was painted in dark colors and in the dark during the “worship” and the “sermon.” All this was to attract the youth and appeal to them and their feddish for loud rock music and wearing white skulls on their black clothes and on the back of their vehicles. And get this, the sermon was about Satan. As Satan continues his onslaught on the world and our youth are turning wholesale to homosexuality and start wearing falex symbols on their clothes will the churches follow suit that they might be relative? How far must the testimony of Christ be drug through the dirt in the name of reaching those in the dark?

I finally got up and left after about half way through “the sermon” and felt totally drained. How much lower will churches go under the guise of being “more relative” to the world in its fallen state? Whatever happened to being relative to the kingdom of heaven and giving the lost a choice between the devil’s kingdom of darkness in this world and God’s kingdom that is illuminated by His light? Did Jesus sleep with the halots and collect taxes for the publicans so they could relate to Him? Did He help Annis with his bazar and money changing tables in the temple that He might be more “relevant” to the religious Jews? Not hardly!

Of the apostate church of the last days we are warned:

And he called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! It has become a dwelling place of demons, a haunt of every foul spirit, a haunt of every foul and hateful bird; for all nations have drunk the wine of her impure passion, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich with the wealth of her wantonness.” Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.
(Revelation 18:2-5 RSVA)

Jesus said,

“I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12 KJ2000)

He was a shinning Light in a dark world and was in the world but not OF the world and the true body of Christ is called to carry on in that same Light until He returns, not hide that light under a bushel.

Frankly, I think the salt has lost its savor and that Jesus has left the building and it is time for us to do the same.