Words, Words, Words or Will We be One?

 

Words, Words, Words

In the musical “My Fair Lady,” Eliza Doolittle (a woman taken off the streets of London by Professor Henry Higgins, a linguist who has been teaching her proper English), says to her would be suitor, “Words, words, words. I’m so sick of words! I get words all day through, first from him, now from you! Is that all you blighters can do?” Good question, Eliza. In this day of desktop publishing the problem of an abundance of words with little Holy Spirit content has become epidemic. T. Austin-Sparks, another Englishman, observed the same problem among Christian ministries where words are cheap and plentiful.

 A striking feature of our time is that so few of the voices have a distinctive message. There is a painful lack of a clear word of authority for the times…. Why is it so? May it not be that so many who might have this ministry have become so much a part of a system? A system which puts preachers so much upon a professional basis, the effect of which is to make preaching a matter of demand and supply; of providing for the established religious order and program? Not only in the matter of preaching, but in the whole organization and activity of “Christianity” as we have it in the systematized form today. There is not the freedom and detachment for speaking ONLY when “the burden of the word of the Lord” is upon the prophet, or when he could say, “The hand of the Lord was upon me.” The present order requires a man [or woman] to speak every so often; hence he must get something, and this necessity means either that God must be offered our program and asked to meet it (which He will not do) or the preacher must make something for the constantly recurring occasion. This is a pernicious system and it opens the door to any number of dangerous and baneful intrusions of what is of man and not of God. The most serious aspect of this way of things is that it results in voices, voices, voices, a confusion of voices, but not the specific voice with the specific utterance of God for the time…. (1)

Frankly, I also am tired of all the “words, words, words” with so little or no anointing behind them. I have had to whittle down my “Following” list to a handful of bloggers. I, also, have grown suspicious of the spiritual content of the ones that put out a periodical posting on a regular basis, whether it is daily or even weekly. Sometimes I go for weeks without Him giving me any inspiration to write and then, “Bang!” I might get three messages in a row only a day or two apart. Can you see Isaiah, Peter or John saying to themselves, “Oops, it is Sunday morning at 10AM and I need to get down to the temple and prophesy a chapter or two. The faithful are counting on me. I need to keep up my presence before the people or I will lose them”?

Amos prophesied this exact problem would be coming upon us saying, “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11, ESV2011). Today there are thousands of Christian websites, blogs, podcasts, books, sermons, YouTube videos, Sunday services, and conferences where would-be authors and “ministers for Christ” spew out their cacophony of words, even laced with Bible verses, but how many of these messages have come out from the heart of God? When He finally does manage to get a word in edgewise, who in the land of Christendom has an ear to hear and distinguish it from the rest? Yes, Amos, there is a famine of hearing the words of the Lord, either because our minds are numb from all the words we bombard them with or we have never had spiritual hearing in the first place.

In 1980, God heard my cry to hear what He wanted me to do while the church we were members of went through a very destructive split. He answered my prayers by unplugging me from going to regular church meetings and reading almost all things by Christian authors so that I would learn to distinguish His voice from the all the other voices speaking in His name. The hardest to distinguish form His were the ones that preached with a lot of Bible verses to back up their points. Satan knows the Bible better than any of us and he knows how to use it to his advantage. It took years for me to get to the place where I could tell the difference and recognize when God was speaking to me and the further I go, the more quietly He whispers forcing me to draw ever closer to Him with greater attentiveness.

Austin-Sparks continues,

Here we have the necessity for an awakening to what God has to say. In the Revelation, this is “He that hath an ear, let him hear,” and in the case of Laodicea – which represents the end – it is “I counsel thee to buy of Me eye salve that thou mayest see.” “And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me,” said John. God is speaking, He has something to say, but there must be “a Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your heart being enlightened.” (1)

Jesus is the Word of God! He speaks to those who are His sheep. They know His voice and will not follow the voices of strangers (read John Ch. 10). Yet, so many Christians have said to me, “How can I know when Jesus is speaking to me?” To many of them the answer is, “Unplug! You are listening to and reading too many teachers. Break this habit of heaping to yourself teachers who tickle your ears. Get alone with God for a few months until you start hearing His whispered voice. Talk with Him and let Him be your friend above all friends.”

I find that few follow my advice. We go to church and read to be entertained and are information addicts. The more He gives me a word that puts the finger on where the spiritual problems are in Christendom, the smaller the audience becomes. Only a few have ears to hear what the Spirit IS saying to the church. If I want to see the stat counter on my blog jump up, all I have to do is speak words of comfort that do not challenge the status quo in Christendom. I completely understand the problem that Isaiah had with the people of Israel when God told him,

Now go, write it before them on a tablet, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come, forever and ever: That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: Who say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us. (Isa 30:8-11, KJ2000)

The moment Christianity became acceptable, popular and condoned by the Roman Empire in the fourth century, it started to die. The Christian faith is not a popularity contest, but rather a threat to this world and the prince that controls it. Didn’t Jesus say that few would find the straight path and narrow gate to eternal life? I think that the following quotation points out why.

For “the crowd” is untruth. Eternally, godly, christian-ly what Paul says is valid: “only one receives the prize,” [I Corinthians. 9:24] not by way of comparison, for in the comparison “the others” are still present. That is to say, everyone can be that one, with God’s help – but only one receives the prize; again, that is to say, everyone should cautiously have dealings with “the others,” and essentially only talk with God and with himself – for only one receives the prize; again, that is to say, the human being [singular] is in kinship with… the divinity. (2)

This is exactly what Jesus prayed just before He went to the cross,

Sanctify them [purify, consecrate, separate them for Yourself, make them holy] by the Truth; Your Word is Truth… That they all may be one, [just] as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be one in Us, so that the world may believe and be convinced that You have sent Me. (John 17:17 & 21, AMP)

This gives me a whole new light on what Jesus was praying, “Sanctify and set them apart to yourself, Father, that they might be ONE even as we are one…” God desires of us a singleness of eye, not focused on the world or even our fellow Christians, but on our heavenly Father. “Only ONE receives the prize.”

(1) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/001541.html

(2) The Single Individual, by Søren Kierkegaard

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These Are They Who Follow the Lamb Wherever He Goes

following-jesus-aloneAll my Christian walk I have run into church leaders and high profile people with various titles in the body of Christ who wanted me to submit to them and their teachings and giv  e them carte blanche authority over my life. “Submit! Submit!” they said. “You need to be under the covering of a pastor and listen to him.” At first this sounded like a reasonable request and I submitted to many different pastors who had many different views and agendas. One by one they either, were squeezed out by a political coup, were found to be in an adulterous relationship, exposed as an alcoholic, or were so incessant about fleecing the flock under them that they ignored the gospel of Christ and the welfare of their people in favor of the love of Mammon in their teachings. After a while I started understanding why Jesus said we would know what manner of tree we are under by its fruit, not by its title, position or lofty words. I have found that godly leadership who are actually led by the Spirit of God and obedient to the voice of Christ exist, but in America at least, they are hard to come by.
In the book of Judges there is a very revealing story that we can learn from today.

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Now there was a young man of Bethlehem in Judah, of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there. And the man departed from the town of Bethlehem in Judah to sojourn where he could find a place. And as he journeyed, he came to the hill country of Ephraim to the house of Micah. And Micah said to him, “Where do you come from?” And he said to him, “I am a Levite of Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to sojourn where I may find a place.” And Micah said to him, “Stay with me, and be to me a father and a priest, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year and a suit of clothes and your living.” And the Levite went in. (Judges 17:6-10, ESV2011)

Does this sound familiar? It should! Every year we have thousands of young men graduating from seminary and going out to find a church that they can be pastor over, that will provide them with a living (“ten shekels and a shirt”). So, the above passage probably goes by unnoticed as many Christians read it, because this is the norm in the church today. But notice that the passage starts out with, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Answer me this: Is Jesus our King, or do we hire a man to be Lord over us who agrees with what we expect from him? If he continues to do what is right in our own eyes, we pay him to keep the status quo. If he preaches a message that steps on too many toes, down the road he goes! Do we hire a man to “do the God stuff” so we can do the world’s stuff in our daily lives and live vicariously through his spirituality on Sundays? When we shop around for a church, what do we look for? Do we look for leadership that can hear the voice of our Lord and guide us until we can hear Him and submit to Him as our King or do we look for those who tickle the ears of our flesh?
Remember Paul’s words,

Become imitators of me, according as I also am of Christ. (1Cor 11:1, CLV – emphasis added)

Paul did not say, “Submit to me and do as I say.” Or, “I am in authority here, I am the Pastor (or apostle or whatever)!” Or like one pastor said from the pulpit one Sunday, “If you can’t get behind me and my vision (agenda) for this church, then go find a pastor who’s vision you CAN get behind.” We are so used to this kind of leadership in our churches that we see it as totally acceptable, but what about Jesus? You know, that Man that died on the cross and affirmed to us that HE is building HIS Church (see Matthew 16:18)? Is He really our Lord and King? To “build the Church” it is not about buying some land and putting up a building. It is not even about gathering great numbers of people in to fill a building one day a week. No, it is about bringing people who have come out of the world by the call of the gospel and maturing them and raising them up into the fullness of Christ!

Today, church planters and church builders are a dime a dozen. But where is the pastor who will do as John did and encourage the people to listen to and obey the Holy Spirit and grow in Christ to where they no longer need human teachers (see 1 John 2:26-27)? My experience in the churches is that the leadership is more interested in their own job security than they are in seeing the saints of God to grow up so that THEY can do the works of service (ministry) in the body of Christ. Instead, men like this try and keep people in their churches as long as possible so that a “Failure to Launch” becomes the norm. True Spirit inspired leaders rejoice instead of feeling threatened when the saints grow up INTO the fullness of Christ and move on to follow their upward call wherever that might take them. Paul wrote about this kind of maturing process,

He [Jesus Christ] who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry [service], for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the [intimate] knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph 4:10-16, ESV2011)

We hear a lot of teaching about the importance of the so-called “five-fold ministries” in verse eleven (yanked out of its context), but do we hear the rest of this passage preached? Do we see the maturing of Christians who are no longer influenced by every wind of doctrine and cunning teachers with their humanly devised church programs and schemes? To avoid these kinds of pitfalls the saints need to be able to hear the guiding voice of the Holy Spirit for themselves.

Jesus ascended into heaven that He might fill ALL things! Christ is the head of the body, the ekklesia – the Church. He did not give these five gifts of service (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher) to men so that they could be the heads of His body. A body with more that one head is in constant chaos and division and this is why there are over 41,000 different denominations and Christian sects today! So, why did Jesus give these five gifts? To bring us all into maturity, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge [an intimate knowing] of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Look around your congregations. Do you see anyone who has come into an intimate knowing relationship with Jesus Christ, so much so that they measure up to the stature of His fullness? If not, why not? I can tell you why, the system today in which we “go to church” is broken! We have leaders who have not come into the fullness of Christ themselves and you cannot teach and demonstrate spiritual maturity to a congregation when you do not have it yourself. As a result we have…

The Perpetual Babyhood of the Believer

We read about this spiritual babyhood in Hebrews. The apostle was quite upset with the status quo and came to a full stop in what he was wanting to teach them saying,

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:11-14, ESV2011)

Just like today, the Hebrews to whom this letter was written, were dull of spiritual hearing and constantly needed men to teach them the most rudimentary things over and over. They were still on the breasts (sorry, there were no bottle fed babies in those days) of men! They had not been weaned and taught to feed themselves from the bounty of the Spirit. The maturing process spoken of in Ephesians chapter four had not happened and he was exhorting these believers to grow up and “go on to maturity” (see Heb. 6:1). These believers where constantly going to their teachers and saying, “Pastor, is it right or wrong if a person does …” or “What do you think I should do, Pastor?” They were not mature enough to “have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” To have this kind of discernment, your teacher must encourage you to have a hearing ear to the voice of the Holy Spirit instead of the voices of men! Of course you have to have the Holy Spirit abiding IN you, first and this is not true of many who call themselves, “Christian.”

In Christ Is ALL Wisdom and Knowledge

Finally, I would like to add this quote from our brother, T. Austin-Sparks,

You see, it is this other thing all the time that is robbing so many of the light that the Lord would give them. The Lord would lead them into the greater fullness of the knowledge of His Son, of the enlargement of their spiritual understanding, but they are neglecting the gift that is in them. They are neglecting the Holy Spirit as their illuminator and teacher and instructor and guide and arbiter, and they are going to this one and that one, to this authority and that, and saying, What do you think about it? If you think it is wrong, then I will not touch it! It is fatal to spiritual knowledge to do that. That is going on to natural ground.
Now the Lord wants us off that ground. This matter of occupying resurrection ground, of living a life in the Spirit, is all-important in coming to the full knowledge of God’s Son. How much more we could say about that! Let us be careful as to who our authorities are. So many dear children of God, individually and collectively, have come into dire and grievous bondage, limitation, and confusion by all the time going back to human authorities, to this great leader and that, to this man who was greatly used of God, this man who had a great deal of spiritual light.
”The Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth from His Word” than even this or that servant of His possessed. Do you see what I mean? We get all the benefit of the light given to godly people and seek to profit by true light, but we will never come into bondage and say, “That is the end of that matter!” That must never be. We must maintain our resurrection ground. And who can exhaust that? In other words, who can exhaust the meaning of Christ risen? He is a boundless store, the land of far distances. No man yet has ever done more than begun to know the meaning of Christ risen. If there has been one man who has that meaning more than another, I suppose it was Paul. But to the last from his prison he still cries, ”That I may know Him!” “I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things and do count them but refuse” (Phil. 3:8). Right at the end of a life like his, he is still saying, “That I may know Him!” (1)

Father, please let this message go into the hearts of those who belong to Jesus that they might hear HIS voice and keep pressing into your kingdom as they follow Him. Amen.

These are they who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb. (Rev 14:4, KJ2000- emphasis added)

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what, the Spirit, IS SAYING unto the assemblies.”~ Jesus Christ

(1) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/000660.html

Heavenly Enlargement, the Upward Call

johns-vision

All along my walk with Christ, He has demanded that if I were to continue growing in Him I must let go of where I was and move into what He had for me to walk in next. If I did not, His blessing that was once so prevalent would decrease until it was only a dead thing, a mere shadow of what it once was. Why? Because God is always bidding us to walk in a higher calling in Christ than we have so far.

Christians today love to find a place where God is blessing and settle down to making it something permanent. They camp right there, building up things that can be seen and decorating with things that titillate the five senses. We, like Peter upon the Mount of Transfiguration, want to build three tabernacles so we can seize the moment and capture the blessing. God always has one thing to say to this, “This is my beloved Son, HEAR YE HIM!” Not, “Hear ye Moses,” or “Hear ye Elijah.” The law and the prophets served their intended purpose in pointing to the Son so that the Jews would not miss Him when He came, but most of them proved to have eyes that could not see and hear that could not hear just as Isaiah prophesied about them. The question is, after 2000 years is Christendom any different?

Down through the last two centuries, high profile people with great vision and persuasive intellects have been made the focus of the faithful and from them came many denominations as people clung to what they taught. Behind every denomination you will find such men and women. Today many who have even heard His voice make this one event their all consuming vision for life. The Word of God, Jesus Christ, spoke all things into existence and has never quit speaking. He is calling us to abide with Him in heavenly places saying with the voice of a trumpet, “Come up here and I will show you things to come.” The question is, do WE have ears to hear Him? John wrote,

After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. (Rev 4:1-2, ESV2011)

“After this…” after what? In the previous two chapters, John had seen the seven churches of Asia in a declining state, following many false teachers. Finally, he saw the church of Laodicea with all its riches, self-sufficiency and smugness with its door closed and Jesus left standing outside. Like the church in Laodicea, we build our own prisons with walls made of spiritual ignorance. Our hallowed traditions and lust for material things hold us captive and make us blind and deaf to the voice of God. The wind of the Spirit does not blow in tabernacles made of wood and stone, but rather in the open hearts of those who follow Him.

John did not let Laodicea or the other six churches capture his thinking. He kept his ear tuned to the Spirit and moved on. The Spirit then calls him upward and he sees an open door in heaven! Men build and try to capture every move of God. Early on there were the Judaizers, the Gnostics, the followers of the Nicholaitan heresy, the mysterious and seductive Jezebel-ian influence with many more to come. History and geography are littered with these dead monoliths to the bygone days of Christendom and all its delusions as men tried to pull down to earth what is essentially heavenly and IN Christ. The Spirit always calls to us to, “Come up here!” We are called to be a heavenly people and in the world, but not of the world, those who, like Abraham, seek a city whose Builder and Maker is God with its foundation in heaven not here on earth. Paul wrote,

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. (1Cor 13:9-10, ESV2011)

“I will show you what must take place after this.” If we continue to follow the voice of the Spirit, we will be drawn away from those things that are “in part” in the present into a fuller vision. Love will always be the utmost thing in our lives if we continue to follow God. No matter how visionary a leader might be, he still only knows and prophesies in part. The human tendency is to make the current move of God into something fixed and permanent with creeds and articles of faith. Here we fail to understanding that our God makes all things new and the old things pass away (see Rev. 21:5).

Each day we should rise as children longing to see a new day in heavenly places in Christ. God is the Creator and He is very creative in His love for His creation. Lately He has been expanding my heart with His great love and has required me to cast my eyes upward to see what is next for me. I have to be open to what He wants me to do or who He wants me to manifest His love to. This has required me to discard my old prejudices toward whole groups of people. I have to quit looking at men as “trees walking” and see all men (and women) clearly as HE sees them, in their hearts. When we see with His eyes, some who have cloaked themselves with religious garments may appear quite naked and some who have appeared naked to us before may appear according to His will, covered by the blood of the Lamb. The key is to obey His voice and, “come up here,” and view things from His heavenly perspective with the eyes of our hearts. Austin- Sparks understood this divine principle of our dynamic, continuous upward call. It is mandatory that we abandon our static earthbound mindsets and hear His voice if we are to remain alive IN Christ. Sparks wrote:

The means employed by God at one time may – and very likely will – pass or be changed. In the sovereign ordering of God one particular phase, method, or means will pass out, though greatly used and blessed so far. This does not involve a change of vision (unless it is ours and not God’s) but an enlargement of vision. With God all that He uses and blesses, however wonderfully, is only relative and not final or ultimate. Therefore we must not cling to what has been and regard that as the form for all time. So often this has been a most disastrous attitude of mind, and has resulted in God having to go on with His full purpose in other directions and by other means, and leave that fixed thing behind to serve a much lesser purpose than He wanted with it. Eventually it has spiritually died, although perhaps carried on by human effort and organization. It just lives on its past and tradition.

God-given vision always moves upward. In its first apprehension it seems to have such immediate, temporal, and earthly significance. The implications of any movement of God are not always recognized at the beginning, but if we go on with Him we shall find that much that is done here and is of time is – and has to be – left behind. The spiritual and the heavenly is pressing for a larger place and becoming absolutely imperative to the very life of the instrumentality and those concerned. It is spontaneous, and just happens. We wake up to realize that we have moved into a new realm or position, and no amount of additional earthly resource can meet the need. It is not only something more that is demanded, but something different. This is a crisis, and it will only be safely passed if there is vision of God’s ultimate object. This demands spiritual mindedness, capacity for grasping heavenly things. One world may be tumbling to pieces, but the full and final is the explanation.

The great pity is that so many just will cling to the old framework or partial vision. God presents His heavenly pattern in greater fullness and demands adjustment. He does it with foreknowledge, knowing of a day which is imminent when this vision alone will save. But, because it is ‘revolutionary’ or not ‘what has been in the blessing of God’ etc., etc., it is rejected and put aside. Then the foreseen day comes and all sorts of expedients have to be resorted to to save the ship. Paul warned out of his intuitive vision that such would be the case on the journey to Rome, and it proved true, the ship eventually foundered and much was lost.

Abraham had a vision of “the city which hath foundations” and he “looked for” it, but never found it on earth. He found it at last in heaven, but it was the climax of a walk which was ever upward. Ezekiel saw “in the visions of God” the glory lifting from the earthly scene, and moving up and on; and this vision related to all his other visions, culminating in a spiritual house and river which have their counterpart alone in the revelation given to Paul and John particularly: heavenly, spiritual, universal. What a significant phrase that is about the house seen by Ezekiel – “there was an enlarging upward” (Ezek. 41:7). God-given vision is always “the heavenly vision”, and always moves away from the merely temporal and sentient. If this were apprehended there would be much more vital fruit, and many fewer ‘white elephants’.

God is never on the line of reduction, limitation. It may look like that, but it is not so. If we really had His vision, that which looks like trimming and reduction is His way of enlargement, but spiritual and heavenly enlargement.

It was “the God of glory” who appeared to Abraham (Acts 7:2). It was the pattern in the heavenlies that was “shewn” to Moses (Heb. 8:5). It was “…above the firmament… a throne… and upon… the throne… a man above upon it” that Ezekiel saw. It was “that the heavens do rule” that Daniel apprehended. These are not only sovereign factors in government, but heavenly conceptions in the nature of things.

These two things proceed as one. God in sovereignty will run the risk of shattering, or allow the shattering, of so much that He has used of scaffolding or framework in order to realize the fuller purpose. It is not that it was wrong, but now He wants something more. We thank God for ever that He took Paul away from his travelling ministry and let him be shut up in prison. It was then that the full glorious vision and revelation of the “heavenlies” and the “eternal” was given to eclipse all the earthly and temporal. It was worth it, and was no tragedy! The Holy Spirit is the custodian of the full purpose of God, and under His government the Church and the individual believer will move ever on and up.  (http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/002082.html)

May the Spirit of God find pliable hearts in us with eyes that seek His will for us daily.

“…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” (Eph 1:17-18, ESV2011)

Let this Mind Be in You

The Mind of Christ

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5, NRS)

What is the nature of the mind of Christ? I think we can safely say that it is a mind that is totally open and obedient to the voice of the Father. There is an old saying, “Some people’s minds are like concrete… all mixed up and permanently set.” Thank God that He knows how to use a jackhammer on those of us that have become fixed in our confusion about Himself and His kingdom. The key to our continuing growth in Christ is found in this verse:

Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives; and he who keeps on seeking finds; and to him who keeps on knocking, [the door] will be opened. (Matt 7:7-8, AMP)

The biggest obstacle to finding God’s truth and His leading in our lives is pride. Many of us become satisfied with our knowledge of God, His kingdom and the Bible (becoming proud of the knowledge we have) and forget the verse that says that the Word of God is LIVING (Hebrews 4:12). It is living and fluid, not static and dead. The Amplified Version rightly translates the above passage by saying, “KEEP ON asking… KEEP ON seeking… and KEEP ON knocking!” God’s word keeps getting deeper and sheds ever greater light if we keep seeking Him and listening to the Spirit!

Austin-Sparks wrote,

One of the most common causes of spiritual stultification is fixedness. It is peculiarly common in the realm where Christian truth has been reduced to a fixed form, order, system, and creed. The doctrines of Christianity are such and such; so many. The accepted and established ideas of Christian service and methods are so-and-so. Peter had his fixed position as to Jews and Gentiles, and, because of it, came perilously near missing the larger purpose of God, and presented the Lord with a real battleground in his Christianity. It has so very largely resolved itself into a finality of position, which results in a closed door to fuller revelation as to what God means by His Word. The fact is, that God only gives us enough light to get us to take the next step, but when that step has been taken, we are in the way of being shown that much more was meant by the Lord than He showed then. The first expectations of many servants of the Lord in the Bible, expectations resultant from something said by the Lord to them, were later seen to have been not all that He really meant, but there was something more, and perhaps other than they thought. [1]

When I was younger in the Lord, He gave me many meaningful dreams. In one of them I found myself standing on a darkened stage in a theater. I was afraid to move until a spot light lit up a small round circle on the floor in front of me. Instinctively I stepped into that spot and then the light went out. As I waited another spot lit up in front of me once again and I stepped into it. This process of light and darkness went on as long as I stepped into the next spot that was lit up before me. After being led all over that stage the light shown on a flight of stairs at the back left corner of the platform and I stepped down to find that there was a door awaiting me that led out into a bright sunny day outside. Upon stepping out into daylight, the dream ended. So you see, these words by Sparks have much meaning to me, “The fact is, that God only gives us enough light to get us to take the next step, but when that step has been taken, we are in the way of being shown that much more was meant by the Lord than He showed [back] then.”

Sparks continues:

Can anyone really dispute that full light very often means a shedding of things and ideas that we thought were of God? Is it not true that, as we go on, we find that certain leadings of the Lord were tactical, intended to get us to a certain place where alone we could learn of a greater necessity? There is very much of this kind of thing in relation to both doctrine, practice, and service—its nature and ways, and while Divine principles will never change to all eternity, the clothing of those principles may vary and change with both dispensations and generations and stages of our own lives.

In all this—while Truth remains unalterable—the only way to grow is to be adjustable and not static and fixed. Do your religious traditions bind you in such a way that you are not free to move with God? If He sees this to be so, He may not give you the light necessary to [for] enlargement. But if He sees that, although you may be in a comparatively false position, your heart is really set on His fulness at any cost, He may present you with light which will test your adjustableness severely. See the case of the disciples of John the Baptist transferring their discipleship to Christ. See the case of Peter and what happened in the home of Cornelius. See also the case of Apollos in Acts 18:24–28; as also the disciples mentioned earlier in that chapter. [1]

We make the commandments of the Spirit of no effect as He tries to lead us into new light by hanging on to our current understanding of an old familiar Bible verse or the rigid dogma of a church statute (see Matt. 15:3-6). Like Peter, we can be so blind that we tell God, “Not so!” when He commands us to kill and eat, while we blindly call Him “Lord” (See Acts 10:9-16). We should always be aware that God can sanctify what we once saw as unclean, especially when it comes to pouring out His life changing grace on the lives of others we have judged as being terrible sinners.

After reading this article by Sparks, it was as if God wanted to drive this point about His expanding revelation.  I got a flash of new revelation from an old familiar passage, the very thing that Sparks was pointing out about being open to fresh life changing insight from the Lord. In Romans Paul wrote:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom 12:1-2, ESV2011)

This term “living sacrifice” is what jumped into my mind with new meaning as I read the above quote from Sparks. The light of the Lord cleanses us of all darkness, but first we must allow the cross of Christ to kill that thing within that still clings to spiritual darkness (see John 3:19). This is a process. We wish we could die to that old Adam in us once and for all, but like Peter and the others named above in the TAS article, the dying we must go through is a continuing and progressive process as the Lord shines His light into us. In this process we literally are LIVING SACRIFICES! We must continually present ourselves to Him as He kills our adamic flesh (our strongholds) in stages and brings forth the Light of Jesus Christ within. This is true worship! David wrote:

”For you will not delight in [animal] sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering [our religious service to Him]. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Ps 51:16-17, ESV2011)

We worship God as we make our lives a living sacrifice, letting Him put the knife to everything in us that resists His leading. This is done when we fall down before Him with a broken and contrite heart as He shows us what must go. Our old natures find it easy to be conformed to this world system that is lorded over by the prince of this world. The flesh (soulish-ness of man) is his breeding ground for rebellion against God. We must be transformed into God’s NEW creation and be given the mind of Christ if we are to prove that His will for us is good and acceptable, no matter what our old contrary natures try to convince us of. I thank God that we can be God’s living sacrifices, always coming into greater revelations of His riches in glory IN Christ Jesus.  We must die daily until we can say with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. (Proverbs 4:18, NRS)

[1] http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/001606.html

A special thanks to Susanne Schuberth who read my comment on her blog and encouraged me to seek God about making it into an article on AWV. She also found this article by T. Austin-Sparks and wrote about it on her blog at https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/is-spiritual-growth-a-miracle/

I AM the Resurrection and the Life

Coeur 'd Alene Sunset

Coeur ‘d Alene Sunset – photo taken by Michael Clark

For many of us our thoughts are preoccupied with worries  about our current situation, fearing nothing will ever change or we are worried about what is to come. But there is no need to change anything in the here and now  or try to change our future if we are IN Christ. It does not get better than being in Christ because everything in Christ is already perfect! In fact, everything good is already ours IN Christ. Paul put it this way,

So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. (1Cor 3:21-23, ESV2011)

Christ is in the Father and you who believe are in Christ, therefore all things are yours in Christ in the Father. Paul was chastising them for being carnal, for claiming to be a follower of this teacher or that, as if these men could give them what they were looking for. Paul wanted them to realize that all things were already theirs, if they could only see that they were in the One in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (See Colossians 2:3).

Not only are all wisdom and knowledge in Christ, but the keys to life and death, all things present, and the future are in Him as well. Why do we fear death or anything this life on earth can deal to us? Jesus has all these things under His control.

Matthew Henry wrote about 1 Cor 3, verse 22:

“Life is yours, that you may have a season and opportunity to prepare for the life of heaven; and death is yours, that you may go to the possession of it. It is the kind messenger to take you from sin and sorrow, and to guide you to your Father’s house.” – (http://biblehub.com/commentaries/1_corinthians/3-22.htm)

Jesus said,

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:25-26, ESV2011)

Note that He said, “Where I am, there will my servant be also.” He did not say, “where I am going.” Jesus in the Father is the I Am. If we are in Christ we are in the I Am. We cannot love our earthly lives and be where Jesus is. We can only find the abundant life we seek in heavenly places in Christ. Death to our carnal man and its life is the messenger that takes us from our life of sin and sorrow into the presence of our Father. Death, as much as we hate it in our natural man, is our friend so that we may lose our life and find the real eternal life that is outside of time and space (distance) that is ours in Christ. T. Austin-Sparks wrote,

The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. (Luke 18:27)

All hangs upon this one thing (as simple as it may seem) that if Christ is present (which means nothing else than that God is present) anything is possible at any moment. Are you waiting for some day when things will be better? It is not a matter of time at all, it is a matter of Him. He says, “I am time and eternity all in a moment, and you need not accept anything in the matter of time; you accept Me, and you may be well-nigh dead in the morning and be very much alive before the day is over. ‘I am the resurrection and the life.‘” Mary said, “I know that He will rise again in the last day.” For her resurrection was a matter of time. Oh no. Resurrection was right there….

As long as it takes to break a loaf you have gone from seed-time to harvest. “‘Do you not say, There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest?‘ (John 4:35). I am here, and there can be harvest at any moment when I am here.” It is not a matter of time, of circumstance. We are dealing with God, and He is not bound by anything that is known to our human life at all. Eternity dwells in any moment when He is present. All things are bound up with any moment when He is present. The centurion said, “Just say the word and my servant will be healed.” “You need not come. Distance does not matter, time does not matter, just speak the word and it will be done.” The Lord said, “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel.” The word was uttered, and when the enquiry was made as to when it happened it was found to synchronize with the moment when He spoke. He takes everything into His hands, and says “My hour…” and when that comes, there is no postponement. Oh, that we should lay hold of that more, live on that, never surrender to conditions, never surrender to the inevitable from the standpoint of the human, but say, “We have Him; He is our future, He is our circumstance.” Anything can be at any moment with the Lord present. (http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/003125.html)

Yes, Jesus is our Life in the here and now and our future as well. In the Spirit there is no separation by distance. We sense Him and the hearts of those who are His as if they are right next to us because we are all in Him. He is our circumstance, not the world and what it dishes out or its limitations. All things are ours in Christ. He is our Resurrection and Life. To live in Christ is to live in faith. He is our All in all. He who loses his life for Christ’s sake will find all things in Him.

(A special thanks to Susanne Schuberth for the fellowship in Christ that inspired this article)

Dead End, the Way of the Churches

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Dead End Church Street by Piano on Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rightly Discerning the Body of Christ

Aduterous woman and Jesus 2

What right do you have to criticize someone else’s servants? Only their Lord can decide if they are doing right, and the Lord will make sure that they do right. (Romans 14:4 CEV)

What an amazing verse this is! Here Paul wrote that only God has the right to decide whether one of His saints is doing as they should and not only that, He has the power to put them back on the right path. There are many people in the church today who want to take this right into their own hands and speak out against anyone that is not toeing the line as they think should be done.

Another form of judging involves people who judge others in their hearts but do not verbalize it. They think they are okay because of their silence. Yet, the scripture says that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. God hears our thoughts and knows our hearts. Do you still think you are doing just fine when it comes to judging? Well, listen to your thoughts the next time you are driving in heavy traffic. Paul wrote,

“For by the grace given to me I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him.” (Romans 12:3 RSVA)

Thinking of ourselves as God sees us is a rare thing. We usually think of our spiritual estate as better than it is. Not many of us see ourselves according to the measure of faith that God has given us. Satan is the accuser of the brethren of Christ. Often we find our thoughts agreeing with him as if we are the one who has the right to judge, taking the place of God to ourselves! Funny, but this is exactly what Lucifer did (see Isaiah 14:12-15).

Have you ever noticed that Jesus never went around claiming that He was the Messiah? Even when pressed by the Jewish leaders to say so, He seemed to avoid taking the title to Himself. Instead He let men tell Him what He was while they observed His actions and words (see Matthew 16:16). The title does not make the man, and neither do his degrees. On the other hand, Jesus did take the title “the son of man.” There was nothing special about being “the son of a man.” We read that when He found Himself in the form of a man, He became a lowly servant, not a Prince in a palace or a High Priest. As he grew in Christ the titles Paul the apostle claimed diminished until finally he called himself, “the offscouring of the world” (1 Corinthians 4:13). When we rightfully compare ourselves to Christ, the Father’s Standard of righteousness, it should humble us as it did Paul.

Jesus took the lowest place His whole life. He was born in a barn, and laid in a feed trough in the least of all towns in Judea. He grew up in a town in Galilee that was considered least by the Jewish leaders of that day. Referring to Him they said, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” He spent most of His life in what was called “Galilee of the Gentiles,” disdained by the Jews. He was loved by the common people, but was rejected by the leaders of His own people. Finally, he was tried like a common criminal, crucified between two thieves and His body placed in a borrowed grave. If being born in the right family and having a place of respect in the local community was an asset for gaining power and respectability, somebody forgot to tell God.

We often have this “uppity” attitude toward one another as if we think we are something when we are really nothing. It is a dead give-away when we hear ourselves saying to another saint, “When I was a younger Christian like you I thought that way too.” “I know what you are going through.” “Here is what you need to do…” And the all time classic, “I feel your pain.” We are all too quick to put ourselves in a higher place in our thinking than the one we are “reaching out to in love” or speaking to. We are all too quick to try and do the convicting work of the Spirit of God in each others lives.

One of the subtle ways we elevate ourselves over others is by posturing. We do so by flaunting our experience, our titles, our degrees, even with our attitudes and body language. “Touch me not, for you are unclean!” “I am holier than thou.” We might not say this, but we often act it out and others can sense it. Yet, Jesus, who should be our example as Christians, allowed Himself to be touched by women who were bleeding, and unclean according to the Jewish law. He hung out with sinners and prostitutes and even touched lepers!

Jesus identified with the multitudes (Greek, ochlos by definition – the common people and the rabble) and was often found mingling with them. He was criticized for it by the Jewish leaders. How often we see people who love their titles and respectability keeping the common people at arm’s length or even further, but not our Lord. This attitude is not the Spirit of Christ. He did not have an appointment secretary who acted as if she went to guard dog school. But I am afraid this is all too common today among recognized church leaders. By looking to people such as these as an example, we take on the wrong attitude toward others. Like so many children, we learn more from what we observe in our leaders than by what they say.

In contrast we find Jesus rebuking His disciples for trying to keep women and their children away from Him. He said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” In short, Jesus was a servant to all and always accessible to the “little people,” even saying that they will fill His Father’s kingdom, not the elevated ones.

Saints, there is no substitute for the work of the cross and the excellent knowledge (intimate knowing) of Jesus Christ in our lives. There is no substitute for the unction of the Holy Spirit and the heavenly teaching that comes from Him as we open our hearts to God. Institutions can teach you the history of the church and details about the Bible, but they cannot give you the rhema word and moment by moment guidance of God. No, you must walk by faith in humility if you are to be an effective witness of God’s kingdom and love.

Remember that Paul had the best education the Jewish system could provide and he counted his history, bloodline and education, etc., as less than nothing, except for his intimate relationship (“excellent knowledge of”) with Jesus. Mark his words, “We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:1-2, NKJV). It is not what we know that counts, but whether Jesus knows us and we intimately know Him (see Matthew 7:21-23). We cannot effectively teach what we have not become. As with John, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, NKJV). There is nothing more detracting in us from portraying Christ to the “lost world” than pride. And pride keeps us from becoming truly one with God and with each other as well.

When the Lord’s people get a new spiritual Holy Ghost revelation of the Sovereign Headship of Christ, and begin to hold fast the Head, they let go of everything that is local, and personal, and different, and scattered on the earth. That is the place to which to come for unity. We cannot be at variance with one another as the Lord’s children if Christ is absolute Sovereign Head in our lives. When the Lord Jesus gets the complete mastery as Head in our lives, then all independence of action, and life, and all self-will, self-direction, self-seeking, self-glory and self-vindication will go. These are the things which set us apart from one another. You pass from Isaiah [Isaiah 6:1-8], and as you do, so you remember that you have the results of such a vision seen in this man Isaiah. Such a vision immediately has the effect of humiliating him to the dust. Oh, yes, we lose all our pride, all our importance when once we see the Lord in glory. “Woe is me….” That is humiliation! Then, after humiliation, there is consecration: “Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” And, after humiliation and consecration, there comes vocation: “…who will go for Us?” “Then I said, Here am I; send me.” ~ T. Austin Sparks http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/001461.html