Fullness IN Christ or Fullness of Iniquity?

Smokey Sunrise over Fernan Lake

Smokey Sunrise Over Fernan Lake, Idaho ~ by Michael Clark

There seems to be no end to the terror, murder and civil unrest that is going on around the world these days we live in. We are watching Syria destroy itself in a civil war, North Korea threaten the United States with nuclear attack and the U.S. government reacting with counter threats. We see thousands of Christians and others being killed and maimed by Islamic terrorists around the world. The murder and crime rate in our American cities is appalling. And just in the last couple days we have seen the civil unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia end in many injuries and even murder.  How does this measure up to the prophesies about Jesus? For example:

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

This might seem confusing if Christ did not point out that His kingdom would not come with outward manifestations, but would rise within the hearts of those who love Him (See Luke 17:20-21). And what about Jesus’ own prophesy regarding the end?

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and you shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (Matt 24:9-13, KJ2000)

Many, even many would be Christians, are offended with one another, betraying one another and even killing one another as they are coming under the spirit of this age–murder and lawlessness. What is amazing to me is that even so-called preachers are helping to spread this disease with their words. It is easy to see how radical Islamic clerics are fulminating terror and murder using the Koran in the name of Allah against the infidels, but aren’t some of these Christian preachers and teachers doing the same in the name of Christ? As Jesus warned, “many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.”

With great insight into the workings of God Paul wrote:

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation waits for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creation was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who has subjected the same in hope, Because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, that is, the redemption of our body. (Rom 8:18-23, KJ2000)

There is much groaning in the pain of childbirth in our hearts as we await the full manifestation of the children of God — those who will be set free from their bondage to their own fleshly corruption and obtain the freedom and glory of the children of God. Father is bringing forth many sons and daughters in the likeness his own glorious Son to manifest His glory. As for the increase of Christ’s kingdom I spoke of earlier, T. Austin- Sparks seems to have summed up what I have been trying to say.

It is a glorious prospect to know that the universe will be filled with Christ, and God is going to have His end. When the Lord gets hold of a life utterly, and when the Cross has really entered into that life, so that that life can say: “I have been crucified with Christ”, nothing passes, nothing gets through that is not Christ. God keeps intensely short accounts with that life. God is alive to everything concerning the first Adam. That is the meaning of: “He that hath the seven spirits of God”. That phrase means the perfection of spiritual vision. Go back to the prophecies of Zechariah and you remember it speaks of “seven eyes”. That means that the Lord Jesus, who has the seven spirits of God, is alive to everything, takes in everything, comprehends everything. Nothing escapes Him. Especially is that perfection of perception related to the things that would be a menace to His ultimate purpose, and in all that we do He knows exactly where the point is which marks the end of what is of Himself and the beginning of us. We do not know, but He does, just where these things overlap, and He is letting nothing pass.

That represents a challenge to us! We have been seeing that God, for His own satisfaction in relation to His own ultimate purpose, must have a candlestick all of gold, a vessel which represents what Christ is in an utter sense, that means a deep cost, a great measure of suffering. That is the challenge which comes to us. Until the Lord reveals it with a heavenly light we do not see how big the difference is between self and Christ. When the Lord does a thing, it is eternal.

Are our hearts set upon God having that which is wholly of Himself? That means ‘I’ crucified! No longer I, but Christ! And that means that Christ in us is the basis of our conformity to His image, until we partake with Him of His own nature – pure gold. It is something to face seriously before Him. It brings to us a challenge, but surely it also brings to us a glorious possibility! What Christ is can be made good in us!

…This is what God is doing in the groaning creation. It does not appear to be so, for to all appearances the ‘fullness’ seems to be evil. Do you remember a very illuminating phrase in Genesis 15:16: “The iniquity of the Amorite is not yet full”? The context shows that Israel’s exodus and occupation of the Promised Land waited upon the Amorite’s full cup of iniquity. “Amorite” is a representative name for all the nations then occupying the land. When that cup of iniquity was full God emancipated Israel. The exodus synchronized with a condition in the world. The filling of the land with what was of God required the enemy’s extension of his evil nature to its limit; then God acted.

We need say no more. The end time will be marked by ‘iniquity abounding’. The rapture of the Church will take place – as its exodus – when “the man of sin is revealed”, when the cup of iniquity is full. We are living at a time when there is a positive landslide of moral iniquity…

God is taking account of this. He is causing the simple facts of His salvation to be made known on a scale unprecedented in the world’s history, and when the whole world has had its opportunity “then shall the end come”. Two things are UNMISTAKABLY evident: the world-encircling by the simple gospel of salvation as never before, and the headlong rush of iniquity to ‘fill up the cup’. There is a third feature: it is the ripening of saints by suffering unto the grape-harvest. These three things are the “work in the groaning creation”. (http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/001617.html)

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.

The Problem with “Instant” Perfection

false-holiness

When I was a newly born believer, I was so shocked that God did not instantly make me a perfect Christian. There was still this albatross around my neck called “the flesh,” even after experiencing the love and closeness of Christ in my life and even His healing miracles. Why didn’t He just do the “Tinker Bell” thing with His magic wand and make me an instant “super Christian’? I soon learned that the Christian life is a life chastened by trials and that God’s work of bringing forth His Son in us is a lifelong process.

Over the years I have asked Him why He chose this slow agonizing way to bring forth Christ in us. He has shown me that because of our Adamic roots, we have to learn obedience to the Father by the things that we suffer, often the consequences of doing it wrong. Even Christ chose to come in the form of a lowly servant.  We reason, “but wouldn’t God have made Him more useful for His purposes if He had come with the power of a Roman Emperor or High Priest?” No, He forsook that kind of power to show us that a man born of a woman in the lowest social position can overcome everything that is of Adam and learn obedience to the Father through suffering.

So why is it that God does not make us like the angels, perfectly obedient to Him? The answer can be found here in this description of Satan:

You are the anointed cherub that covers; and I have set you so: you were upon the holy mountain of God… You were perfect in your ways from the day that you were created, till iniquity was found in you… you have sinned: therefore I will cast you as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy you, O covering cherub… Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty, you have corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor: I will cast you to the ground, I will lay you before kings, that they may behold you. (Ezek 28:14-17, KJ2000)

How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how are you cut down to the ground, who did weaken the nations! For you have said in your heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the farthest sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet you shall be brought down to sheol, to the sides of the pit. (Isa 14:12-15, KJ2000)

If one of God’s perfectly created beings could be corrupted by his own beauty and wisdom, how much more we who have been born in the likeness of sinful Adam?

God has chosen to bring forth upon the earth–the very domain of Satan–a Son who was first a helpless baby and then a man who had “no form or beauty that any man should desire Him” (see Isaiah 53:2-3). He was the proto-type of many sons and daughters He would bring into full glory by overcoming trials and weakness through faith in His Son.

This life of weakness and living death, dear saints, is for one purpose—so we learn that except for the grace and mercy of God working in us, we would be our own worst devil, capable of the worst sins and pride. God has already lost a third of the angels to this delusion of worshiping their own greatness and perfection and He is making sure that we have the mind of Christ and not Lucifer in His kingdom. He is working by making us weak, humbling us so that we rightly assess our old natures, despise them, and call on Him to do whatever it takes to bring forth the spiritual maturity of His very own Son in us. He wants an unconditional surrender to His perfect will and for us to abide in His wonderful love. We love Him because He first loved us and gave everything He had to save us from ourselves.

So What Is “Perfect” for Us When it Comes to Fellowship?

As I was mulling this over this morning, it became evident that our idea of perfection and God’s idea of perfection are not be the same. Jesus was made perfectly obedient through the things that He suffered. He was also made perfect in love while surrounded by doubters, sinners and twelve disciples who often didn’t get what He was teaching them. To one of them He had to say, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” In all honesty, they ALL desired the things of the typical Jewish male — for Messiah to come and set up a worldly kingdom with them in charge — not so different from another one who said, “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God [the angels and the people of God]: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation”? Some of us have come across that delusion, first in bad church leadership, and finally having to admit that it was in us!

No, dear saints, God uses our imperfection and humanity so that our “iron” sharpens another saint’s “iron” and we call out for Him to form His perfectly forbearing love in our hearts. God puts us with other people (even in marriage) who are not perfect, but that have been made “perfect” in their imperfections to be used by His power to change us! Even Jesus cried out, “Oh you of such little faith. How long must I suffer you?”

In God’s wonderful plan He has been able to turn the tables on Satan by using our flesh to humble us and work forgiveness in our hearts for others just like us. Like Joseph said to his brothers when they came before him in Egypt, “But as for you, you thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good.”

Body life in the body of Christ is not something perfect in our way of thinking, but it is perfect in His if we live in close enough proximity to one another and dwell together in transparency. Fellowship is designed to bring us into His perfection as we work through our own imperfections and those of our fellow saints. John wrote:

“But 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. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1John 1:7-9, ESV2011)

Dear saints, may we look upon the imperfections in one another and see the hand of God working. It is easy to find fault with one another, but it is best to look for those things that are “…true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things… and the God of peace shall be with you.” (Phil 4:8-9, KJ2000)

Pressed Beyond Measure Into Christ

By Michael Clark and Susanne  Schuberth

Pressed Into ChristFor we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence [Grk, apokrima – an answer] of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead: (2Cor 1:8-9, KJ2000)

Susanne Schuberth recently took this picture on one of her prayer walks and sent it to me (Michael) and I cropped it to fit.

I (Susanne) thought about the biblical meaning of the number four. These four arrows represent the world system that puts those under pressure who eagerly want to follow the Lord. The two people with arrows coming at them from all directions seems to portray what we have been going through for some time with many attacks from the enemy causing afflictions in our bodies and our hearts. This sign depicts what it is like when two walk together in the unity of the Spirit and how the adversary presses in on them from every side. As we looked at the picture of the sign we noticed that these two are not alone, there is a third Person behind them as if He is looking over them with His arms around them. We are being pressed in from every side, but the enemy is actually pressing us into Christ! In the above verse Paul actually said, “we have the answer of death.” Death of our old self-natures is the answer to our prayers that we be conformed into the image of God’s Son.

As I (Michael) thought about what this sign depicts, many scriptures came flooding into my mind. Here are a few of them.

 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. (Isa 30:20-21, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

When we experience adversity and are afflicted with bodily pains, our adversary does all he can to get our eyes off Christ who has not left us, and onto our pains and attacks. But in all this we have the promise that our Teacher, the Holy Spirit, will continue to teach us in and through all these things. He teaches us and fine-tunes us to hear His gentle whisper and follow His leading in the most adverse circumstances.

 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Ps 23:5-6, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

Even after we have passed through the valley of the shadow of death, we are not free of our enemies. Rather, God prepares us a banquet table of spiritual food in the midst of them and their attacks. It is here that we experience the anointing of the Holy Spirit on us and the goodness and mercy of the Lord in spite of what our enemy attempts to do. We start to dwell in the house of the Lord and His covering in all situations.

 Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. (Isa 59:15-16, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

Yes, it seems like a very lonely walk in which we are made a prey of our enemy. As the sign shows, he comes at us from all sides in his attempt to overthrow our faith. We can’t expect any help from men and the world around us. The Lord alone will uphold us and vindicate us because He is with us.

Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind! In the cover of your presence you hide them from the plots of men; you store them in your shelter from the strife of tongues. (Ps 31:19-20, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

Even in the midst of verbal attacks by others, we find that we can take shelter in Christ in heaven and He foils the evil plots against us. It is here that we discover the abundance of our Father’s goodness towards us.

 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. — Selah God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness! (Ps 57:1-3, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

Yes, we can take refuge in the shadow of His wings! As Jesus said, “How often I would have gathered you together unto me as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” God lets adversity come upon us so that we will cry out to Him and fulfill His purposes in us. He shows His great love and faithfulness to us through it all.

 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. (Ps 34:19, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

Jesus said:

 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome (Grk. Nikao – to conquer) the world.” (John 16:33, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

Have you ever wondered how the fact that Jesus has overcome the world is supposed to make us take heart in tribulation? We sure have. Just yesterday I (Susanne) was mulling over the frustration I have had with that verse above which tells us that Jesus had overcome the world. How disappointing for us miserable human beings to have to live in this world until we die and to not be able to overcome the world just as Jesus did! But wait a moment… Thinking about ‘death’… Jesus was still alive on this earth and told us that he had overcome the world already. How so? Because He was IN the Father where there is no death any longer. IN God and IN Christ there is only LIFE, and PEACE, and LOVE, and JOY etc., even in tribulation and suffering (Rom 5:3 ESV). If Jesus conquered the kosmos, the “world” system that is under the rule of Satan, why then are we still under his attacks? The key is found in the following verse where Paul wrote:

 Now thanks be unto God, who always causes us to triumph in Christ, and makes manifest the fragrance of his knowledge by us in every place. (2Cor 2:14, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors (Grk. HuperNikao – to totally conquer or totally overcome) through him who loved us. (Rom 8:35-37, ESV2011 – emphasis added).

We are more than overcomers in Christ because that is where our Father places us as His sons and daughters. As soon as we have died to our old Adam natures, this will become obvious. So it is truly a new life after ‘death,’ although we are still in this world when this happens by God’s grace. In Romans we read, “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom 5:2, ESV2011). We stand in Christ. We also stand in faith because we stand in His grace. Here and there is no room for doubt. The enemy always gets us to sell short what is ours in Christ by getting us to doubt. T. Austin-Sparks wrote:

To prevent assurance of faith is the devil’s own work, it is his aim to get the Lord’s people unsettled; and doubt is one of his most subtle means of working. It was so in the beginning, “hath God said?” (Gen. 3:1), and it is still his method. The way, and the only way, to frustrate this is by being established in the faith (Acts 16:5; Col. 2:7). “Stand fast in the faith” (1 Cor. 16)…

The great need of God’s people is to be established in the faith, not just established in doctrine, in an orthodox gospel, or by acquiring knowledge of fundamental truth, but established by an inward knowledge of our standing in the Lord Jesus on the ground of His finished work and complete triumph over the devil and all his works. So many of the Lord’s children lack this assurance of their position in the Lord; yet it is written: “God chose us in Him before the foundation of the world… in love having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto Himself.” (Eph. 1:4,5)…

Stand on God’s facts and not on the quicksands of your own feelings. Some are doubting simply because of feelings! Salvation is not a matter of feeling, it is God’s fact – “It is written” – God hath said. The word of God is “no condemnation“. “There is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.” – Rom. 8:1. We are perfect in Christ the day we are born anew, that is as to our standing, we have good reason to be sorry for our state; but the word is “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” – 2 Peter 3:18. “My little children of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you” – Gal. 4:19 A.R.V. Yes it is to be a day by day growing in grace…

Here we are passing through trial, adversity, sorrow, suffering, and we are tempted to think the Lord has given us up; the enemy presses in on every side with accusation, condemnation, question, doubts, fears. “Be ye steadfast, unmovable,” for beloved, this is the establishing principle at work, our faith is being exercised. We know anguish, travail. Remember the establishing work is done while our eyes are unto Him; when things are against us, seeking to press us down, then we look off unto Jesus now in the presence of God for us, having all authority in heaven and on earth, and a NAME that is above every other name, a title of Sovereignty above every other title of sovereignty…

This is the ONE unto whom our eyes are. Faith is thus exercised and enables us in the very midst of pressure and contradictory circumstances to rise upward and stand in Christ Jesus in the position He has given us, “seated together with Him in the heavenlies.” “Ye are made full in Him in Whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead in bodily form.” – Col. 2:9.

So through trial, the establishing work is done; it is the manifestation of His Victory over all the power and pressure of the enemy, “God who giveth us The Victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Cor. 15:57. Yes, it is HIS victory, a life that has conquered death – 1 Cor. 15:54. ~ http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002923.html

Wow! Did you get that? God has chosen us in Christ from before the foundation of the world. In His love, He foreordained us in our adoption as His sons and daughters into Himself (the Greek is clear that we are chosen in Christ and that as we have believed into Him and it is here that we have all the grace and love and faith we need – see 1 Cor. 3:22-23). It is all a matter of the faith of Christ working in us. The enemy does all he can to get us to doubt and live as if we are subject to this world instead of seeing that we abide in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, which is our inheritance now in Him. We are overcomers because we are in Him who has overcome the world. Everything that the enemy does to us only presses us further into our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (1John 3:1-2, KJ2000)

“Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” – the American Dream

Happy money womanIt is simple as this, “What is it that we find happiness and pleasure in?” The answer shows us the issues of our hearts. God is concerned with our hearts because their condition determines our final destination. Most Americans take the preamble of the Declaration of Independence as their God-given right. This determines the desires of their hearts and sad to say, our American thinking has permeated the world. Wikipedia explains.

“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The phrase gives three examples of the “unalienable rights” which the Declaration says has been given to all human beings by their Creator, and for which governments are created to protect.

These words have been used to justify the worldly pursuits of our soul natures and living however we like. Many have adopted a hedonistic lifestyle, “doing our own thing.” The mantra of the hippie generation of the ’60’s and ’70’s was, “If it feels good, do it!” A large part of the western society adheres to this philosophy today.

But is this the gospel of Christ? I think not, yet the gospel we hear preached in churches today has been heavily influenced by this kind of thinking. One of the most seditious things spoken among Christians today is, “After all, we are all sinners.” In parroting this line we make room for sin in our lives as if it is normal. We use it as an excuse to not grow up in Christ. Yet concerning this attitude John wrote, “Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he [Jesus] was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him.” (1John 3:4-6, nrs).

The soul in man, also known in the Bible as the heart, is seen by God as something very contrary to life in His Kingdom. Jeremiah prophesied, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10, KJ2000). Because of its nature, the heart of fallen man cannot be trusted.

Now let us look at the real gospel of Christ and what Jesus actually taught,

 And he who does not take his cross and take the same road with me which I take, is not worthy of me. He who has found his soul-life, shall ruin and render it useless, and he who has passed a sentence of death upon his soul-life for my sake shall find it.  (Matt 10:38-39, Wuest’s)

This is not exactly the “seeker friendly” happy, happy gospel of today’s churches, is it? The word translated soul-life in this passage is psuche (from where we get the word psyche). How often have we heard a person say, “I am trying to find my life” or “I just want to be happy”?  When I started to follow Jesus, I had the idea that I could use all my natural talents and abilities as I saw best to further His kingdom. That’s what all the rest of the Christians I knew were doing. I remember them saying, “Man, if that rock star (football player, etc.) would just get saved, what a witness he would be for the kingdom of God!” No one showed me the words of Jesus where He said, “Apart from me you can do nothing!”  and “The flesh profits nothing.” Our natural abilities and propensities are the very life that Jesus said must be crucified as we take up our own God-given crosses. Christ’s death on the cross dealt with our sins, but the cross He gives each of us to take up as we follow Him, if we truly are His followers, deals with all soulish things in us, both the “good” and the bad. What is the outworking of this cross in our lives?  Paul put it this way, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” This is the real gospel of Christ! We lay down our soul lives and take up His. “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

And what is this higher life that we gain from the working of the cross on our soul lives? It is the very life of Christ in us. Yes, we can “pursue happiness,” but the happiness we are to have comes from pursuing the fullness of God as we deny ourselves:

“Behold, happy is the man whom God reproves; therefore despise not the chastening of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he binds up; he smites, but his hands heal.” (Job 5:17-18, RSV)

“Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God.” (Psalm 146:5, RSV)

“Blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied) is the man who reverently and worshipfully fears [the Lord] at all times [regardless of circumstances], but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.” (Prov 28:14, AMP)

Contrary to popular religious sentiment, all our suffering as the saints of God does not come from the devil. As a good father chastens his children for their own good, God does not spoil His kids. Yes, we are the King’s kids, but the gifts He gives us are not the soulish kind that titillates our flesh, but rather the greatest gift of all, conforming us into the image and likeness of His Son.

“Come, let us return to the Lord; for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us; he has struck down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know, let us press on to know [intimately knowing] the Lord; his appearing is as sure as the dawn; he will come to us like the showers, like the spring rains that water the earth.” (Hos 6:1-3, NRS)

“Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1John 3:2, KJ2000)

The Sovereign Grace of God – Walking by Faith

(The "God's Eye" helix nebula -  pic taken by by the European Southern Observatory's VISTA telescope  http://www.space.com/14282-helix-nebula-eye-amazing-photo.html )

(The “God’s Eye” helix nebula – pic taken by by the European Southern Observatory’s VISTA telescope
http://www.space.com/14282-helix-nebula-eye-amazing-photo.html )

…the God who makes the dead alive and summons the things that do not yet exist as though they already do. (Romans 4:17, NET)

Oh, how Jesus knew and knows His Father! Our God calls those things that do not yet exist in our temporal realm as though they do. Jesus walked in this same knowledge when it came to the death of His friend Lazarus. He had received news that Lazarus was about to die, and yet He waited another two days before He started to Bethany. By the time He got there, the man had been dead four days. When He finally arrived, Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ two sisters, started to berate Him. “If you had only come when we bid you, he need not to have died.” Have you ever complained to God when He did not do what you wanted when you thought you had to have it? Only God knows what we need and He will often make us wait to prove our faith. To these two women Jesus replied,

“I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26, KJ2000)

Those things that do not exist God treats as though they do. This is what faith does–it sees things from God’s perspective. A few days earlier, after Lazarus had died, Jesus told the disciples, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.” Why did Jesus tell them that this dead man was only asleep? It is because the grave has no victory in the Kingdom of God (See 1 Corinthians 15:55). Paul wrote later to the Corinthians, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8, KJ2000). We who believe in Christ will never die. Do YOU believe this? This mortal must put on immortality. There is no limbo state in between this life and next. Paul makes it clear in I Corinthians chapter 15 that we put off this mortal body and then put on our immortal heavenly bodies. Some people have died and found themselves in those perfected bodies and then were called back into this corruptible world. It was a great disappointment to have to come back.

Yes, in the mind of God, He calls those things that are not yet in this world as if they already are. Time and space are of this earthly creation and He is not bound by His own creation. If He were, creation would be god. So we see Jesus by faith in His Father (doing only what He saw His Father doing), defying the laws of nature with power over disease and weather, feeding thousands of hungry people with almost nothing, walking on water, and moving through a murderous crowd that tried to kill Him without a finger being laid on Him. Later we see the resurrected Christ walking through walls and Philip being transported over a great distance miraculously by the power of the Spirit.

Our God is the God of the impossible. Only we who are earthbound and lack the “magic” of faith are bound by our pragmatic view of creation. Faith is spiritual sight. It is seeing things as God sees them and believing in and doing what He shows us in our hearts.

Since God is outside the time-space continuum, He calls a people that are not His people as though they are. He called the Hebrew people to be His people and worked with them as His chosen wife for over a thousand years, yet they revolted against Him and His desires over and over. So what did He do? He chose the Gentiles to be His own, a people with whom He had no history. God loves to color outside our religious lines. Paul wrote about this.

And what if he is willing to make known the wealth of his glory on the objects of mercy that he has prepared beforehand for glory – even us, whom he has called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? As he also says in Hosea: “I will call those who were not my people, ‘My people,’ and I will call her who was unloved, ‘My beloved.’ And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” (Romans 9:23-26, NET)

Have you, like me, been one of the “not chosen” people of this world–the wall flower at the high school dance, the kid that was chosen last in a sand lot ball game, the one thought least likely to succeed by the class of your peers? Most of us who have come to Christ are of this category. Why? Paul explained:

For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29, KJ2000)

He chose those things that are not to bring to nothing the things that are. “God… summons the things that do not yet exist as though they already do.” Do not be dismayed because the wicked prosper in this world and you have to endure hardships. In fact, rejoice because this world system is rejecting you. You are marked by the Spirit of God as one of His, and because of this the world that is under the devil will hate you! A comfortable life in this world is not our goal, but eternity in Father’s heavenly kingdom is. The world does not know us because it does not know the very God who created it. God knew each one of us from the foundation of the world and claimed us for His own. We are not only called out (the ecclesia of God) of the world (the kosmos under Satan), but we are called into a very high calling as the sons and daughters of God. As such, our Father has done everything to make sure that we obtain what He has called us into. Paul wrote:

And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes on behalf of the saints according to God’s will. And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:27-29, NET)

Our salvation and perfection is all about His mighty working in our lives! Paul continued with this thought.

And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified. What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:30-31, NET)

Peter wrote along this same line.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. You once were not a people, but now you are God’s people. You were shown no mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10, NET)

Oh, Father, please open our spiritual eyes of faith that we might see everything in our lives and the lives around us as you do and live according in your great hope with lives that reflect your glory. Amen.

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 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, RSV)

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