The Body Is Christ’s Not Man’s

one-body-in-christ

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

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

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

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

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

And Peter didn’t either.

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

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

church-bondage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can These Two Walk Together?

ga5-25

Can two walk together, except they are agreed? (Amos 3:3, KJ2000)

Do not keep company with those who have not faith: for what is there in common between righteousness and evil, or between light and dark? …for we are a house of the living God; even as God has said, I will be living among them, and walking with them; and I will be their God, and they will be my people. (2Cor 6:14-16, BBE)

God has always hated a mixture. According to the law wool could not be woven with linen, meat and dairy products could not be cooked together, they could not intermarry with foreigners and in the New Testament we read that believers are not to be unequally yoke with unbelievers. Oh, the misery that has been caused in the Church and marriages by that!

God feels the same way about the work of the Spirit and the work of the flesh. The work will either be instigated by Him and done by His Spirit as it was with Christ or He will withdraw until we figure out that our flesh profits nothing! As Paul said said, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” We can struggle by our own strength to be righteous, but He backs away until we figure out that apart from Him, we can do nothing. Paul wrote,

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will 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 keep you from doing the things you want to do. (Gal 5:16-17, ESV2011)

Watchmen Nee and some other Christian men were swimming in a river when one of the men got a cramp in his leg and began struggling and was sinking. Mr. Nee motioned to one of the other men, who was an excellent swimmer, about the drowning man. To his astonishment, however, the man did not move. He just stood there and watched the man fight to keep his head above water.

Mr. Nee was angry to say the least, but the swimmer was calm and collected. Meanwhile, the voice of the drowning man grew fainter and more desperate. Mr. Nee hated the good swimmer who just stood and watched him suffer from the shore when he could have jumped into the river and rescued the drowning man. As the drowning man went under for what looked like the last time, the swimmer dove in and was there in a moment, and both were soon safely on shore.

After the rescue, Mr. Nee accused the man of loving his own life too much and being selfish. The response of the swimmer revealed, however, that he knew what he was doing. He told Watchman that if he had gone too soon, the drowning man would have put a death grip on him and they would have both drowned in the river, and he was right. He told Mr. Nee that a drowning man cannot be saved until he is utterly exhausted and ceases to make the slightest effort to save himself.

Such is the case with our salvation. When we stop trying to save ourselves, then the Lord can step in and save us as we fully surrender to Him. The same is true about our efforts to be righteous. He will allow a temptation to beset us that is beyond our strength to resist unless we cry out to Him to deliver us. He leads us not into temptation for as James says, we are drawn away by our own lusts. But God DOES deliver us from evil if we cry out to Him, though we may have to become totally exhausted in the process to reach the level of desperation that He is looking for. You see one of the desired outcomes is to get us to have mercy on all sinners and KNOW that “except for the grace of God, there go I,” by first hand experience.

And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Gal 5:24-25, KJ2000)

Thank you to Susanne Schuberth for her encouragement and inspiration. See her latest blog: https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2016/09/10/death-and-resurrection-or-i-need-a-savior/

Love Personified

By Michael Clark and Susanne Schuberth

woman-at-the-wellSusanne wrote in an earlier blog,

“I was just pondering on the fact why we as human beings are not always the same. I mean, there are people with whom we dare to be more open than with others. People of whom we know that they love us and that they will forgive us whatever we might say or do. But there are other people we do not know that intimately and therefore we are a still bit cautious of how to deal with them.” (https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/be-who-you-are-since-there-is-no-other-you/)

There is something that the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well felt about Jesus that made her dare to be totally open with Him. When we hear the story about her preached, many like to say that Jesus confronted her with her sins. Susanne and I hold that this was not the case, but rather she was confronted with how much Jesus loved and respected her in spite of knowing what her past history was. She was shocked that He was even talking with her and asked her for a drink, knowing that Jews did not have anything to do with Samaritans, much less a Jewish man with a Samaritan woman! She was the dog of dogs in the mind of an orthodox Jewish Rabbi.

Yet, Jesus personally shared the gospel with her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10 RSVA). Jesus told her that He was the Gift of God and that as such He could give her the water of life that flows freely. “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14 RSVA). What is amazing is that she did not for one moment doubt His offer that He could give her living water and eternal life! She responded, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” (John 4:15 RSVA). She wanted all that He had for her because she realized that she had met the lover of her soul, the first man in her life who was not interested in what she had to offer him, but who wanted to give her what she really needed. We know that this man was God, too. A human being can never fill the void in our hearts which were created by God to only be filled with His Spirit. His love is the only love that can make us whole again.

Jesus, after offering her eternal life and she wanting it, pointed out to her that she was living with a man who was not her husband. Yet, where was the condemnation? It was not there! Rather He commended her for telling the truth, “I have no husband.” This woman felt no shame or condemnation from Him, only love and respect. And what was her response to this divine encounter? She said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he. ” …So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’” (John 4:25-29 RSVA). Jesus had shown her in a few words the very inner thoughts and longings of her heart. Messiah had come and showed her all things including that men would no longer worship God in special buildings or in special places, but that true worship would be done by God’s Spirit within them from lives filled with and demonstrating His truth.

“Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did!” I don’t know about you, but we believe that if this woman had been shamed by what Jesus said to her, would she be telling everyone she knows that there is a man down by the well that knows every sin she ever committed? No, she would be hiding out in her house, hoping He would go away and keep silent! But she ran into her village and rejoiced for having met the Christ. THAT IS THE GOSPEL. She met LOVE personified. He showed her compassion and understood WHY she had sought love in men and had been married five times before. But He did not condemn her in the slightest, but rather told her about where to find eternal life and what real worship of our heavenly Father is all about; therefore she trusted in Him.

All too often the gospel today is presented to people in one of two extremes. On the one hand people get the idea that they have to “clean up their act” before they can come to Christ. The other extreme is that we can be a Christian without ever having to change a thing, we can just go on living in sin with impunity. Neither is true. But we finally see that the love our Father has for us is not contingent on our performance, for He makes the sun to shine and the rain to fall of both the bad and the good. We love Him because He first loves us. What follows from that love relationship is a longing to please the One who loves us so much. We are given the Spirit of God who speaks in our hearts when He wants us to change and what it is that pleases Him and it is because of our love relationship with our Father that we are empowered to change. Love is the most powerful motivator known to man and GOD IS LOVE.

He Gives Beauty for Our Ashes

Beauty for ashes

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound… to comfort all that mourn… to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. (Isaiah 61:1-3 KJ2000)

Jesus read from this passage in His home town synagogue in Nazareth and after reading them he closed the scroll and said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus came to bind up the brokenhearted, to set us free, open our prison doors, unbind and comfort us, but we also have a part in this.

It is hard to love someone when the things they say or do trigger bad memories of former abusive situations we have been through. Some of these offenses include child abuse, sexual assaults, trauma from wars, physical assaults, divorces, and abuse by authorities in the church. Sometimes someone close keeps rubbing salt in the wound that they may have caused and we become more and more reactive and closed off to them and others as a result.

God has had to go deep into my heart and show me areas in my life that were not healed and why each of them made it impossible for me to love certain kinds of people. He took on one offense at a time, showed me the past event in my life that caused it and how it formed a “trigger” in me that was reactive to that thing or type of person. Jesus also told me that He would never be able to use me in their lives until I was healed of those offenses (this, by the way, included over half the world’s population for I had a bitterness in my heart against women). I then had a choice to make–to let the Lord heal me or continue on in my bitterness, striking out at everyone that tripped my triggers. I had to face my own hardened heart and unforgiveness in each of these areas and call out for Him to heal me of all the baggage I was carrying from those old offenses.

As I though about these things I saw a picture of a hotel lobby from above with a main entrance at one end. All around its perimeter were doors that opened in to the rooms in the hotel. In the middle of the lobby Jesus stood, asking to be let into one of the rooms. The hotel was my heart. Years ago I had let Him in (see Revelations 3:20), but that was as far as He had gotten. The lobby was His but not all the rooms, because I had not given Him permission to enter most of them and take possession of those areas in my life. The New Testament says that we who believe are the house or temple of God (see 2 Cor. 6:16). With this vision and verse in mind, the following passage took on scope for me:

“Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:1-3 RSVA)

Jesus has come to the Father’s house, and we who are His are that house! He is preparing a place for us and Father to dwell. It is a house made of living stones. “You also, as living stones, are built up into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5 KJ2000)

Bitter Roots

In Hebrews we read:

And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; (Hebrews 12:13-15 KJ2000)

Speaking of the coming Messiah John the Baptist prophesied:

And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. (Matthew 3:9-10 KJ2000)

Our bitter roots that spring up from past offenses have to go. Jesus is after them. They are good for nothing in His kingdom or in His Father’s house. They defile everyone they touch. Each of our locked rooms has a bitter root behind the door that is festering, and its tentacles extend under the door and trip up anyone who comes near. Instead of the lame being healed, we trip them up with our open wounds.

This is the process God has been working in me. Jesus asked me to open my heart’s door to Him in 1970, and He came in at that time. In 1978, after dealing with a couple of my festering rooms, He asked if I would be made whole, or would I be content to be like the lame man at the pool, being able to walk. I could go on without my deeper heart issues dealt with and risk falling right back on my pallet by the pool, looking for a man to help me (read John 5:7-14). At that time, I had more faith in my ability to be lame than I had in His grace to cleanse me, make me whole, and keep me that way.

So, for years I continued to carry many bitter root judgments in my heart that defiled those around me and kept Him from using me as part of their healing. I did not strive for peace with all men and women, but subconsciously I often looked for buttons to push in a vindictive way. The wounded became the wound-er instead of an instrument of healing, and many became defiled. In the last eight months the Lord has been going after the other shut doors in my heart and it has been painful, but worth it. People who have come to know me have been praising God for the healing that is going on and the fruit that is coming from it. Praise His name. I know that He is not finished yet for He also showed me that there are more rooms that have yet to be opened and cleaned out, but the more freedom I experience, the more I want Him to leave nothing in me that is not of Him.

So often the abused become the next generation of abusers when we are not healed… and the beat goes on. In Exodus we read,

“… I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me..” (Exodus 20:5-6 RSVA)

With generation after generation, sin begets sin. But wholeness also begets wholeness. It is in our holiness (God’s healed wholeness in us) that men see the Lord and as we are healed we break the cycle of handing on our sin to others.

When Jesus touches the latch on one of our doors asking enter and heal us, all the pain of the wound behind the door comes flooding up to the surface, and we bolt the door against Him as we have bolted it against everyone else in our lives who touched our door. It is up to us to not fail to obtain the grace that God has for each one of us, and to call out to Him like blind Bartimaeus who refused to be silenced, “Jesus, you son of David, have mercy on me!” In short, we have to become sick and tired of being sick and tired and sick and tired of wounding other people.

God has a new heart, a new spirit and even the mind of Christ that He wants us to have in us so we can be extensions of His Son on this earth. Jesus said, “I will not leave you alone. I will come again to you.” He comes to us again and asks to be let in so we can be healed. As Christ has freedom to heal us, He also gains the freedom to act and speak through us, and then we start bearing His fruit instead of our own. As His healthy body, we become a manifestation of who He is on this earth to everyone who wants to be healed. Jesus prayed for this just before went to the cross He prayed saying

“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: I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them, as you have loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which you have given me: for you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:21-24 KJ2000)

How can we be where Jesus is? Where was He when He said these words? He was in unity with the Father and could rightly say, “The prince of this world is come and has found nothing in me.” This is where Jesus also wants us to be. He had no locked rooms that the devil had the key to. We don’t have to live in a house divided against itself. We don’t have to live with all manner of dead things behind the locked doors in our hearts. All He asks is that we open up to Him and let Him come in and heal us. He loves each of us, knows our end from the beginning, and knows that when He appears we shall be like Him for we shall finally be able to see Him as He is without our vision clouded by our former hurts and wounds. He does truly give us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for our mourning and the garment of praise for our spirit of heaviness.