Are We to Seek Wisdom, Power and Authority, or Christ?

As a child.jpg
Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account. (Isa 53:1-3, NRS)

Thus Isaiah introduced the Jews to their Messiah. Not a very pretty picture, is it? He came to earth in a form that no one would want to follow or admire and was born in a stable in poverty, totally despised by the establishment and all the “beautiful people.” Yet Christ is held up as what the Church was to become. Contrary to what many believe, “the servant is not greater than his Master.”
Susanne Schuberth recently wrote on her blog, “Growth in Christ and His authority happens as we have come to grips that we have nothing in ourselves to help God out in any way. A complete surrender of every area of our life is needed before Christ finally lives in us and works through us as He sees fit.” (https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/).

This is so true! We need ears that hear these words. Too many think they already have everything they need just because they “believe” in Christ or have studied the Bible, without coming to a complete end of themselves. The church is flooded with this kind of false authority. Paul knew the need to die daily to his old self-willed, scripture touting, human authority because it was that Saul of Tarsus that persecuted the Church. The problem with Christians today is that many of us have grown up in church surroundings and we are steeped in religion that has cloaked the fact that in our hearts we are all the grossest of sinners.

There is a seemingly wise teaching that we as Christians should get Biblical knowledge, that God would make us wise and give us power to do His work on this earth. This might sound like a good thing to most Christians so we can do the work of the Church “for Jesus.” Thus we have the myriad of Bible schools, seminaries and the never ending desire to sit under men at Christian conferences and Sunday sermons. Yet, is this what Jesus did, or is it what Paul did to gain the effectiveness that they had in spreading the gospel? Jesus never sat under Jewish teachers to get to the place where He could say that He only spoke the words He heard His Father saying or only did the works that He saw His Father doing. Neither did Paul! Let us look at what Paul did say about such things.

…though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— (Phil 3:4-9, ESV2011)

Paul had all the credentials to be a “somebody” among the Jews. He sat at the feet of their best scholars and teachers (see Acts 22:3). He was of the bloodline of Benjamin an elite among the Jews. He was an enforcer and keeper of the Jewish law, respected among his peers. He was a rising star in Judaism. Yet, he threw all this away and counted it as rubbish (dung) once he met the risen Christ! He came to know Christ Who was abiding in him in a most personal way. He never learned at the feet of the apostles who actually walked with Jesus in His human body. Of these he said, “they added nothing to me.” No, Christ was his Life and His all. He had a moment by moment relationship with Jesus just as Jesus did (and does) with the Father. This is why he said to the Corinthians:

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. (1Cor 2:1-3, NRS)

No, Paul did not even come to them teaching from his previous experiences with Christ, but rather he approached these people in all weakness, emptied of everything he could have confidence in, waiting on the Spirit of Christ to speak and act through him. Paul was Christ crucified and Jesus had full reign. It was Jesus who taught, spoke and worked through him, not Paul. Paul was so weakened by the working of the cross in him that all he could do was tremble in weakness while Jesus did the rest.
And if this soulish weakness was not enough, God gave him a thorn in his flesh (his body), a messenger from Satan to buffet him and keep him physically weak as well. He prayed to be healed and here is what happened:

But he [Jesus] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. (2Cor 12:9-10, NRS)

Paul did not have power in himself. He only had debilitating weaknesses. He was totally thrown upon the mercy and grace of God and he knew that Jesus wouldn’t have it any other way. He didn’t have power or wisdom or knowledge, all the things that men seek after, but rather Christ. All that Jesus is and all the treasures of God were manifest in a broken clay vessel Paul was nothing and he was determined to be nothing because of his love for Jesus Christ as his all (see 1 Corinthians 1:30-31). This is why this little man of no physical stature and Christ who had no form of beauty about Himself could be used by God to turn the most powerful kingdom on earth upside down and send ripples down through history to this day. We Christians should learn this simple lesson–God does not need our knowledge, wisdom, oratory powers, strength, health or wit to do His work. Quite the opposite. Only Christ in us is the hope of glory as we yield all to Him and He makes us into manifest sons and daughters of God.

Trees of Righteousness that Bear Fruit

And seeing a fig tree by the wayside he [Jesus] went to it, and found nothing on it but leaves only. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. (Matt 21:19, RSV)

To provide for them that… that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. (Isa 61:3, KJ2000)

So many Christians are worried about doing “good works,” “bearing good fruit” and “saving people.” To bring forth good fruit to God we must first be the planting of the Lord that He might be glorified. We must be born of the Spirit of God or we will never be able to bear spiritual fruit. Jesus said, “Every plant my Father has not planted will be rooted up.” We cannot come to Christ unless the Father draws us. All we can do is believe and even saving faith is a gift from God. So, once again, just as God said, “Let there be light,” nothing happens without it coming out from Him!

When we find that we are His planting and have saving faith and have His Spirit in us, what is next? What works must we do to please God? Here is where many of us go wrong. All our lives up until salvation we “Dressed ourselves, stretched forth our hands and went where we want to go,” but in the kingdom of God that old Adam in us is totally useless to Him. Like Jesus said, “The flesh profits nothing.” But how many, for instance, read in their Bible what is called, “The Great Commission,” and then set out to get people to say a “sinner’s prayer” and get them to go to their “church” as if that is the will of God in the life of every believer–to go out and save people.

One time my wife’s mother told a story about when she was working in her husband’s lock shop that was located on the “skid row” part of a town in western Washington. It seems that this old drunk named Charlie knew she was a Christian and he came into their shop one day and boasted, “I am a born again believer! Why I even got saved by Billy Graham.” To this she said, “That is the problem, Charlie. You were saved by Billy Graham instead of by Jesus Christ.” We can go out and get people to repeat a prayer for salvation, but if the Father has not moved on them to repent and come to Christ, all we end up with is a bunch of still births that require constant maintenance to “keep them saved.”

Recently a brother wrote to me saying, “I know in the bible there is a passage that says ‘I never knew you’. I know I have friends who only take the part of that passage that talks about sinning and forget about the “I never knew you” part…”

The passage he referred to reads as follows. Jesus said:

“Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you shall know them. Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out demons? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.” (Matt 7:19-23, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

Where does this put our oft used evangelizing question, “Do you know the Lord?” It seems that salvation hinges on Christ knowing us! Obviously, our all knowing God knows every hair on the head of every person ever born, so this word “knew” in the above passage has to have a deeper meaning. In reality Jesus, longs to know you and for you to know Him in the most intimate way as His eternal bride.

The full meaning of the Greek word translated “knew” and “know” is missed by most Christians. They think that it is up to them to “know” Jesus, so they study their Bibles in a shallow way using only their intellects and miss the whole meaning of any of it. The Spirit of Christ has to be our teacher. All true life-changing knowledge comes through Him by revelation. Those two who walked and talked with our risen Lord along the road to Emmaus did not understand all that the prophets had spoken of regarding Christ, even though they knew their Bibles. Until Jesus opened their eyes it meant nothing! Once He did it took on life and their hearts burned within them. Jesus spoke to the Pharisees who knew the Bible saying, “You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:38-39, RSV). It was Bible teachers and searchers that missed who Christ is and had Him crucified. Salvation requires an intimate life changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

Here is what the Enhanced Strong’s Dictionary says about this word translated “knew.”

G1097 γινώσκω ginosko (ǰiy-nō’-skō) v.
1. to know (in a concrete manner, and not merely from a personal perspective or experience).
2. (emphatically) to absolutely know, to know without exception (i.e. knowing, but not merely to know based on personal observation or perception, but also based on actual rational truth; not merely that which is based on or bound only by sight and experience; such knowing comes from Yahweh to completely grasp and have the comprehension of, as well as why and how, and to have the astuteness to apply it freely without error).
3. (by ancient Hebraic euphemism) to have intimate knowledge of (that is to say, to have carnal knowledge of; explicitly, to have had sexual intercourse with).

The same word, ginosko was used in this text which speaks of the sexual relationship that Joseph had with Mary, “Now, being roused from sleep, Joseph [did] as the messenger of the Lord bids him. And he accepted his wife, and he knew her not till she brought forth a Son, and he calls His name Jesus.” (Matt 1:24-25, CLV – emphasis added). Jesus desires such deep intimacy with us and the fruit of that intimacy is found in the works that we do. We become trees that bring forth good fruit. First the Father plants us and then He is the one who pollinates us by the Spirit so we can bring forth His fruit. Bad fruit and the works of iniquity mentioned in the above text come from those who try to do the spiritual works of God from their flesh without those works being born from Christ’s intimacy working in them.“Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out demons? and in your name done many wonderful works?” All our works are iniquity without His doing those works in and through us. We must be born of the Spirit and so must our works be.

The works (spiritual fruit) that we are to do are mentioned by Paul, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:10, KJV – emphasis added). First, we are being re-worked as His workmanship, not the workmanship of Adam. What is born of the flesh is still flesh. We cannot fix ourselves! We are placed in Christ and He in us and this is where the life changing power of God takes place.

This is the place that the good works and heavenly fruit come from as well. Can we read the Bible, mimic what we read, or guess what His fruit will look like? No! All we can do is rest in Him. Couples who try too hard to have a baby often can’t have one. Fruit requires intimacy and rest. In the same way, the works that we are to do and the fruit of our oneness in Christ has been “ordained that we should walk in them.” It all has to come from Him. The Father plants us, the Spirit gives us life, and Jesus pollinates us. As Christ’s bride all we can do to please God is to lie back and let Him do the work in and through us. This is what real faith is about! “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord.”

And Two Shall Become One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unto Us a Son is Given… Many Sons

jesus-and-child-1For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6, KJ2000)

In this familiar verse prophesying the Christ and His attributes, I would like to focus on the first one mentioned, “Unto us a Son is given.” When the Father sent Christ to walk among us, He did not come in the form of a prince or king, born in a palace. Neither did he come as a candidate for the position of High Priest in the temple. In fact, He was not even born a Levite, but rather of the tribe of Juda. Though it was prophesied that an eternal scepter would rise in the tribe of Juda (see Genesis 49:10), Christ had to first come as a lowly carpenter’s son in a back water town called Nazareth in downtrodden Israel, a nation that had been continuously conquered and oppressed for hundreds of years.

Yes, a Son has been given us. Why did Jesus take the lowly title of “Son of man?” He came to lead the way as the prototype of what the Father wants. He was the First Born of the many sons (and daughters) of God! Paul wrote in the book of Romans saying,

We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. (Romans 8:28-29, RSV)

The sonship of man as sons of God has been in the mind of our Father from the beginning. When we read the genealogy of Christ in Luke’s gospel we read, Kenan was the son of Enosh. Enosh was the son of Seth. Seth was the son of Adam. Adam was the son of God. (Luke 3:38, NLT)

T. Austin-Sparks wrote,

But in the same eternal counsels which determined that Christ should be the center and sphere of universal fullness, by divine appointment and undertaking the church, His body, was linked with Him to be “the fullness of Him that filleth all in all“; those are the closing words of Ephesians chapter one.

That means that unto that sonship the church is brought, and so we have a parallel revelation in the New Testament concerning the sonship of believers as God’s full thought, and you have this remarkable word at the beginning of this letter, in verse [Ephesians 1:] 5: “Having foreordained us unto the adoption as sons by Jesus Christ unto himself.” *

What a high calling! We who belong to the Father in heaven are all called to be His sons (and daughters). All the workings of God in our lives are for one reason, to bring us into full sonship after the image of Christ. One important thing we must realize is that just as we are born to our mothers as infants, we are born into the kingdom of God as spiritual infants. There is a growing-up process that God requires each of us to go through. Christ had to learn obedience through the things that He suffered, and so it is with us (See Hebrews 12:5-8).

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” In the economy of God, children are born (“you must be born again”), but sons are given by the outworking of our loving Father in us.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. (Ephesians 1:3,4 NLT)

Austin-Sparks continued:

That which has been chosen before the foundation of the world and which has been foreordained unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, has been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies. That is the fullness of God’s thought for His own, as a full, comprehensive, utter thought. We have not yet come into all those blessings, not because God has not given them, but because we have not grown up into them. We have not grown up into Him in all things. That is the point of our word, the urge to come to God’s thought, the measure of Christ. What is God’s thought? The full measure of Christ, the fullness of the stature of Christ. *

There is the principle of life and death in spiritual growth. You cannot have one without the other. Paul wrote, If, because of one man’s [Adam’s] trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17, RSV)

Jesus was even more specific saying,

He who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his [soul] life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:38-39, rsv)

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone: but if it dies, it brings forth much fruit. He that loves his life shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. (John 12:24-25, KJ2000)

Finally, let me conclude by quoting once more from brother Sparks.

It means that death has continually to work in the realm of that which is rejected of God, in order to make room for that which is accepted of God. In other words, it is a case of death operating continually to get us out of the way in order to bring Christ in. The increase, the fullness, whether it be in life or in ministry, must ever and always be by the operation of death to all that is of the old creation about us, and resurrection in which only Christ appears. Resurrection implies Christ. God has never raised the old creation. He has, in the death of Christ, crucified it, buried it, and He has never raised it. What He has raised is that which is wholly acceptable to Him.

So it proves. We go into experiences of deep, dark and painful suffering, in which some more of the self-life is slain; some more of our own natural strength of mind and will is brought to the grave; some more of the “I” is put out, and we come up out of that deep experience each time with something more of the Lord, an increase of Christ. So we grow by the law of death and resurrection, the law of the grain of wheat.

Ministry is on that basis. Those who have the greatest measure of Christ and His riches to give are those who have suffered most, because in their suffering, that which was in the way of Christ has been removed; and all suffering is to that end. What a shame that so often we do not allow the suffering to do its work. We either revolt and rebel against it and become bitter, or resist the thought of what it is unto and take the martyr attitude of self-pity. No, God’s dealings with us in all suffering are unto an increase of Christ, firstly for our own enlargement, our coming to a greater measure of His fullness, the stature of Christ, and then that we may have more of Christ to give. For ministry this law operates – death and resurrection. It is the way of divine increase.

So let us take God’s thought again, the fullness of Christ, and see that His thought is made to govern all His dealings with us. And surely we shall consent, and yield to Him if we truly see that God is working. It may be though haply by the difficult, painful, breaking, grinding way in order to save us from that of ourselves which occupies the place that Christ should occupy. This is so that He in all things might have the preeminence, be all and in all, fill all things, and then that others should come into the increase of that ministry, where the members are able to minister Christ. It is a very blessed thing, and this is the way. *

Paul wrote, “For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death works in us, but life in you.” (2 Corinthians 4:11-12, KJ2000)

* http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/003331.html

Of HIM, by Him and In Him Do All Things Consist – do we believe it?

Milkyway pic

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. (John 1:3-4 RSVA)

The apostle Paul spoke to the Greeks on Mars Hill and said,

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwells not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshiped with men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he gives to all life, and breath, and all things; And has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if perhaps they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. (Acts 17:24-28 KJ2000)

“He gives to ALL life, and breath, and all things… though he be not far from every one of us: For IN HIM we live, and move, and have our being.” So much for the God I was taught about in Catholic school that is way up in heaven and can not be bothered with us little peons down here on earth! God is very much involved with all of His creation and did not put it all in motion and then go on vacation, leaving the rest to us to deal with as some agnostics teach today.

No, the scriptures make it clear that our Father and His Son and the Holy Spirit are and have been very involved with His creation right from the beginning. The Spirit of God brooded over the waters, God said, “Let there be Light and there was Light” when darkness was upon the face of the deep. And John in the first chapter of his gospel records that without the Word, Jesus Christ, was nothing made that was made.

Yet, Paul takes it one step further when He wrote about Jesus Christ saying,

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:17-20 ESV – emphasis added)

Paul tells us that IN Christ all things are held together and that through Christ, God has reconciled to himself ALL things. How? Because God has placed ALL things IN Him. With this in mind, I would like to add this excerpt by Abraham Kuyper on how the very Spirit of Christ has been involved from the very beginning of creation and in the affairs of men, not just in our regeneration and New Covenant anointings as some teach.

Creation and Re-Creation

(from “Work of the Holy Spirit” by Abraham Kuyper – http://www.ccel.org/ccel/kuyper/holy_spirit)

“Behold, I will pour out My Spirit unto you.”—Prov. i. 23.

We approach the special work of the Holy Spirit in Re-creation. We have seen that the Holy Spirit had a part in the creation of all things, particularly in creating man, and most particularly in endowing him with gifts and talents; also that His creative work affects the upholding of “things,” of “man,” and of “talents,” through the providence of God; and that in this double series of threefold activity the Spirit’s work is intimately connected with that of the Father and that of the Son, so that every thing, every man, every talent springs from the Father, is given disposition in their respective natures and being through the Son, and receives the spark of life by the Holy Spirit.

The old church hymn, “Veni, Creator Spiritus,” and the ancient confession of the Holy Spirit as the “Vivificans” agree with this perfectly. For the latter signifies that Person in the Trinity who imparts the spark of life; and the former means, “Seeing that the things which are to live and shall live are ready, come Holy Spirit and quicken them.”

There is always the same deep thought: the Father remains outside of the creature; the Son touches him outwardly; by the Holy Spirit the divine life touches him directly in his inward being.

However, let us not be understood to say that God comes into contact with the creature only in the regeneration of His children, which would be untrue. To the Gentiles at Athens, St. Paul says “In Him we live and move and have our being.” And again “For of His offspring we are.” (Acts xvii. 28) To say nothing of plant or animal, there is on earth no life, energy, law, atom, or element but the Almighty and Omnipresent God quickens and supports that life from moment to moment, causes that energy to work, and enforces that law. Suppose that for an instant God should cease to sustain and animate this life, these forces, and that law; in that same instant they would cease to be. The energy that proceeds from God must therefore touch the creature in the very center of its being, whence, its whole existence must spring. Hence there is no sun, moon, nor star, no material, plant, or animal, and, in much higher sense, no man, skill, gift, or talent unless God touch and support them all.

It is this act of coming into immediate contact with every creature, animate or inanimate, organic or inorganic, rational or irrational, that, according to the profound conception of the Word of God, is performed not by the Father, nor by the Son, but by the Holy Spirit…

Hence we have spared no pain, and omitted no detail, in order, by the grace of God, to place before the Church two distinct thoughts, viz.:

First, The work of the Holy Spirit is not confined to the elect, and does not begin with their regeneration; but it touches every creature, animate and inanimate, and begins its operations in the elect at the very moment of their origin.

Second, The proper work of the Holy Spirit in every creature consists in the quickening and sustaining of life with reference to his being and talents, and, in its highest sense, with reference to eternal life, which is his salvation.

Thus we have regained the true standpoint requisite for considering the work of the Holy Spirit in the re-creation. For thus it appears:

First, that this work of re-creation is not performed in fallen man independently of his original creation; but that the Holy Spirit, who in regeneration kindles the spark of eternal life, has already kindled and sustained the spark of natural life. And, again, that the Holy Spirit, who imparts unto man born from above gifts necessary to sanctification and to his calling in the new sphere of life, has in the first creation endowed him with natural gifts and talents…

Second, it is evident that the work of the Holy Spirit bears the same character in creation and re-creation. If we admit that He quickens life in that which is created by the Father and by the Son, what does He do in the re-creation but once more quicken life in him that is called of the Father and redeemed by the Son? Again, if the Spirit’s work is God’s touching the creature’s being by Him, what is re-creation but the Spirit entering man’s heart, making it His temple, comforting, animating, and sanctifying it?

Thus following the Sacred Scripture and the superior theologians, we reach a confession that maintains the unity of the Spirit’s work, and makes it unite organically the natural and the spiritual life, the realm of nature and that of grace.

Of course His work in the latter surpasses that in the former:

First, since it is His work to touch the inward being of the creature, the more tender and natural the contact the more glorious the work. Hence it appears more beautiful in man than in the animal; and more lustrous in the spiritual man than in the natural, since the contact with the former is more intimate, the fellowship sweeter, the union complete.

Secondly, since creation lies so far behind us and re-creation touches us personally and daily, the Word of God directs more attention to the latter, claiming for it more prominence in our confession. But, however different the measures of operation and of energy, the Holy Spirit remains in creation and re-creation the one omnipotent Worker of all life and quickening, and is therefore worthy of all praise and adoration.

Truly IN HIM we live and move and have our being and by Him do ALL things consist. What a great and wonderful God and Father we have who has made ALL things ours IN Christ.

For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, (Ephesians 1:9-11 RSVA)

And he has put all things under his [Christ] feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:22-23 RSVA)

“Male and Female Made He Them”… the Gospel

boy and girl and benchSteadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. (Psalms 85:10 RSVA)

So God created humans in his image. In the image of God he created them. He created them male and female. (Genesis 1:27 GW)

Many of us have grown up in a misogynistic culture that was promulgated by the churches we attended where only men could do the “God stuff” at the altar and gave out, under certain conditions, the sacraments that made the difference in one’s life between heaven and hell as our final destination. Women need not apply!

The problem with a culture dominated by men is that half of the image of God is missing! He made mankind in His image, both male and female. As a youth when I thought of warriors, judges, law makers, law enforcers and even pastors and priests, I thought of men clad in special uniforms that set them apart from and above the crowd. These men were aloof, stern faced and cold, so that was the image of God I grew up with.

Thank God that in the last fifty years things have changed and women have made inroads in all these areas. But if that same hard male-like image prevails in these professions where women exist, have we really gained anything toward seeing who God really is? He is still the law maker, the law enforcer, the judge, the warrior that avenges, and can even be the distant and set aloof priest who is supposed to be touched by all our afflictions, but he doesn’t have the time to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice because the very size of the church he has built is too much for him.

“God so loved the world…” wrote John as he described the gospel (good news) in his gospel narrative. He did not write, “God so judged the world.” Christ was given to us that we might have Life and that more abundantly. The Old covenant was more about judgment and death than it was about life. In other words, you might say that the Old Covenant was primarily about the male side of God, and the New Covenant takes us deeper into the female aspect of God’s nature.

What I am trying to say is that there is in the nature of women (if it has not been distorted by the harsh world of men in which they exist) a tenderness, kindness and nurturing love that is rarely seen in men. This nature is the “feminine side” of God because He is also the God of forgiveness, kindness, love and mercy. God created Adam in His image and His likeness. But He then said it was not good that man should be alone since Adam didn’t find a helper fit for his human companionship among the animals. So, God put Adam to sleep and took a rib out of him and formed Eve. You might say that God removed the female part of Himself from Adam, formed a separate being from it, and called her Woman. For Adam to become one once again, he had to cling to the woman and she to him in the love and unity of God. Intimacy between a man and a woman was born that day and God saw that it was good! We read later this same verse in Genesis about a man and a woman clinging to one another in unity in the New Testament when Paul wrote:

We are parts of his [Christ’s] body. That’s why a man will leave his father and mother and be united with [joined to] his wife, and the two will be one. This is a great mystery. (I’m talking about Christ’s relationship to the church.) (Ephesians 5:30-32 GW)

You see, we must have the unity of both the man and the woman and all that they are meant to be IN Christ if we are to truly be that city set on a hill that God desires the world to see.

You do not have to teach little boys to play with tools, toy trucks and toy guns. It is natural to them. Likewise you do not have to train little girls to play with dolls or play house or “Nancy Nurse.” Their whole makeup is to love and nurture. God made us to be complementary to one another in His image.

King David grew up in a culture that was all about obeying the laws of God or else. He served in the courts of a harsh and spiteful king named Saul. Yet David was chosen to be king in place of Saul because he was a man after God’s own heart (See 1 Sam. 13:14). This same David handed out judgment as the King of Israel, yet he also handed out mercy, even to his enemies! David understood the love and mercy of God where his predecessor only understood law and punishment and showed no mercy. The law demanded sacrifices to be offered up for sin, but Hosea was quoted by Jesus when He said to those who judged His disciples, “But if you had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless.” (Matthew 12:7 KJ2000)

When David was caught in his sin, plotting the death of Uriah so that he could have Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife, He cried out to God for mercy as the God of all mercy and wrote Psalm 51 as his prayer.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalms 51:1-10 ESV)

Here we see even in the Old Testament the good news of the gospel. David appealed to God’s love, mercy and tender washing as a mother does with her child. He cried out to God for a new clean heart and for Him to blot out all his sins and to put a new right spirit in him. Jesus was called “The Son of David” because this is what Father sent Him to do in each one of us (Read Hebrews Ch. 8). All these attributes are what the New Covenant is about.

In the same way that Saul judged, he was judged. He lived by the sword and died by the sword. It is interesting that David lived by love and mercy and died in the arms of love and mercy with a young woman named Abishag, who kept him warm in his old age.

Now King David was old and advanced in years. And although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm. Therefore his servants said to him, “Let a young woman be sought for my lord the king, and let her wait on the king and be in his service. Let her lie in your arms, that my lord the king may be warm. So they sought for a beautiful young woman throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The young woman was very beautiful, and she was of service to the king and attended to him, but the king knew her not. (1 Kings 1:1-4 ESV)

I believe that in these last days, our culture has disdained the feminine nature, even among those who have advocated women’s lib. Women have left their homes for a career in the world so they can compete with men in harsh environment of dog eat dog business or even choose combat in the military. They have left the raising and nurturing of their children to institutions, just as the church today has become a cold institution and a business run primarily by men. The tenderness of God in the image of “male and female made He them” has, for the most part, been lost in a world gone mad. Without this we do not have a demonstration of the Good News and mercy of the love of God.

The older I become, the more God has tenderized my heart. Like David, the more I see “my [own] sin that is ever before me,” the more I want God’s mercy and the more I want to show His love and mercy to others. Jesus said, “For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you measure, it shall be measured to you again.” (Matthew 7:2 KJ2000). I don’t know about you, but these words are enough to scare the judgment of hell out of me (See Revelation 12:10)!

In closing, I encourage the brothers in the body of Christ to yield to the gift that God has put in the sisters in their loving and nurturing natures and open your eyes to see how Christ Himself so often showed His love and mercy to those who needed healing in not only their bodies, but also their broken hearts. And I would encourage the sisters to see that there is also a need at times for firmness and discipline as when Jesus told the woman caught in the act of adultery, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Together both the male and female natures of God are needed if we are to see Him as He is.

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are… Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1-2 RSVA)

Is Our Time Always?

Jesus against the crowdDo you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works… Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. (John 14:10 &12 RSVA)

What could I mean by this by this title, “Is our time always?” When Jesus was with His brothers in Nazareth, one of the big annual feasts came up. Every devout Jew was required to attend it if he could. In the Gospel of John we read:

After this Jesus went about in Galilee; he would not go about in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill him. Now the Jews’ feast of Tabernacles was at hand. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples may see the works you are doing. For no man works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his brothers did not believe in him. Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify of it that its works are evil. (John 7:1-7 RSVA)

Jesus’ very own brothers did not believe in Him. They were tempting Him to do the “reasonable” thing. “Hey, Jesus! Here is your big chance. Your disciples and all who believe in God will be at this feast in Jerusalem. Get on up there and do your miracles and blow their minds with your wisdom and Bible knowledge. Don’t you know that it pays to advertise? Location, location, location! What are you doing hanging around in this back-water town?” Weren’t they being reasonable according to the way most people think today? “Seize the moment! Go for the gusto!” To this Jesus replied, “Your time is always! You can come and go as you will, but I cannot.” T. Austin Sparks wrote,

You get to the heart of everything in the case of the Lord Jesus when you recognize that the one question which constituted the testing ground of His life was: “Will this Man act alone, speak alone, choose alone, decide alone, move alone?” And His answer was always, “Not out from Myself!” “The Son can do nothing out from Himself.” “The words that I speak unto you I speak not out from Myself.” Every kind of appeal was made to Him to persuade Him on the impulse of the moment, or in response to an entreaty that seemed to promise success, or by an argument that appeared to be the truest wisdom, to move, act, speak, do something as out from Himself….*

Jesus was tempted in this very same way by the devil during His 40 days of fasting in the wilderness.

Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'” (Matthew 4:5-7 RSVA)

“Yes, Jesus, you are the Son of God, leap off the pinnacle of the temple in front of all the faithful worshipers in Jerusalem and His angels will catch you and you will float down to the ground like a feather. It will blow their minds and you will be able to prove to them and yourself that you are the Messiah! Think of the instant following you will get!” The devil often tempts us to do the “reasonable thing.” Acting on our own for the benefit of others without getting the direction of our Father seems like the reasonable thing to do. “God has given you this gift! Shouldn’t you use it to the max?” But have you asked Jesus what to do? Are not we His disciples? Did not He say to His disciples, “Apart from Me you can do nothing”? T. A. Sparks continues:

That ninety-nine people do a thing is no argument for the hundredth to do it. We are not to be led by the appeals that decide the actions of the many – “It is the popular thing! Everybody else is doing it! It is the recognized thing to do!” No! Does my Father want me to do this thing? That is the question that must ever rule our steps. In the case of the Lord Jesus there was all the time an underworking to get Him to adopt the contrary course, to act without inquiry of His Father, without direct leading from His Father; to act in His individual capacity as though He were His own Master, as though He had not to make appeal elsewhere… *

In the account of Jesus’ temptation by the devil in the wilderness, in Luke we read, “And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him for a season.” (Luke 4:13 KJ2000). Have you ever wondered when the “season” of temptation resumed again? In Matthew we read:

From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from you, Lord: this shall not be unto you. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get you behind me, Satan: you are an offense unto me: for you consider not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. (Matthew 16:21-23 KJ2000)

Peter was appealing to Jesus to do the reasonable thing! “Spare yourself, Lord! Don’t go up to die in Jerusalem. Think of all the good you can still do here in Galilee! You have people here that believe in you and need you!” But once again we see Jesus only doing the works that His Father gave Him to do. He recognized the words of Satan in Peter’s mouth, tempting Him to not go to the cross as His Father had destined Him to do so that He could fulfill all righteousness. Sparks continues,

In Him there was none of that which was personal, [or] independent. We are not speaking merely of such things as are sinfully personal, positively personal, but simply of independent action, action taken for the best ends, for a good motive, with quite a proper intention. Yes, all this may be done, but apart from the positive word from the Father. That creates an independent thought, however good may be the motive.*

And it is our independence from God in our words and our actions that is the devil’s playground. Paul wrote:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. (Galatians 5:16-17 RSVA)

Jesus said that if any one would be His disciple that they would have to take up their cross an follow Him. The cross in each of our lives that He gives us to carry is tailor made to put an end to our childish independence. When we were young in the Lord we ran out and did all kinds of “good works for Jesus.” But was our Father in them or did they come out from us as we tried to outguess God as to what His will for our lives would be? There is a death that must happen to that old foolish Adam in each one of us that seeks to maintain control even when doing “good works.” Old things must pass away and ALL things in us must become new. For this process to occur our Father wants to hear from our hearts just as Jesus prayed before they crucified Him, “Father, I would that this cup pass from me. But none the less, not my will, Father, but thine be done.” The cross He gives us to bare is our doorway into lives filled with His life giving Eternal Life. May we embrace it as an instrument of His Fatherly love for us. Amen.

* http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002218.html