Does His End Justify OUR Means with God?

In Genesis we read about God’s plan for the creation of man:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:26-27, ESV2011)

Here we see there was a council in heaven when it comes to the creation of man, “Let us make man…” When He created all other things He simply said, “let there be… and there was…” Why did God consult the Son and the Spirit at this point? It was because He knew that it was one thing to make man in His own image, that is, designed and shaped after His own form, but that it would take an ongoing process and great sacrifice to make man in His likeness, that is, like Him in His character and personage, sharing His outlook, goals and values. It was at this point that Jesus agreed with the Father about His role in bringing forth man into the image of the Son. We read about it in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us IN HIM before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. IN HIM we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace… (Eph 1:3-6, ESV2011- emphasis added)

This is why the Father brought Jesus and the Holy Spirit into His council at this point. Christ is the exact expression of the Father, “He [Christ] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint [image] of his nature…” (Heb 1:3, ESV2011), and God desires many sons and daughters after His own glory. It was one thing to make man after His image, but a whole other thing to make man so that he lives out the very nature of God in His Son. Here entered the mystery of the cross.
The Father also knew that unless His Spirit was the life source of man, he would only be two dimensional in nature, lacking any way to connect and communicate with God, spirit to spirit. God is Spirit and man would have to be born of the Spirit or there would be no connection for man to intuitively know the will of God for him (See John chapter three).

There is knowledge and then there is Knowledge!
At this point in the creation story of man, a wrench was thrown into the works. Satan stepped in and convinced man that he could speed up the process. Man no longer had to listen to and obey God, but he could take a “short-cut to holiness” by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to become “like God” (See Genesis 3:5).

Beware, dear saints for right here is where Satan desires to catch us all in his subterfuge of lies. Aren’t we to become “godlike?” Aren’t we to strive to obtain “the imitation of Christ”? Aren’t we to constantly ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do,” and then just do it? Man loves to try to do the works of God, accumulate knowledge, know with his own mind, and imitate God instead of knowing God intimately with his heart and allowing God to conform him into the image of Christ by the plan and design of the Father. The fleshly state of fallen man still loves to eat the fruit of that same forbidden tree instead of Jesus, the Tree of Life (See John 6:51).

Religious man loves to collect Bible knowledge and knowledge of doctrines so he can decide for himself what is good and what is evil. He loves to heap to himself teachers that tickle his religious ears and to garner to himself degrees in theology. Yet, when the New Testament speaks of “knowing the Lord,” it speaks of an intimate knowing that goes much deeper than a mere accumulation of facts. W. E. Vine gives the most concise meaning of this Greek word translated know and knew in the New Testament.

In the NT ginosko frequently indicates a relation between the person “knowing” and the object known; in this respect, what is “known” is of value or importance to the one who knows, and hence the establishment of the relationship…

Without a viable relationship in Jesus Christ there is no knowing and being known by the Father. Peter put it this way:

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2Pet 1:5-8, ESV2011- emphasis added)

Here Peter is speaking spiritual fruitfulness by what Paul calls the “fruit of the Spirit,” which is an integral part of us if we truly know the Lord and if He knows us. Without it we will be unfruitful in our relationship with Him. This is why Jesus spoke of those who did many works and miraculous things “in His name” as those He never knew (see Matthew 7:22-23). There was no intimacy in their “knowing” Him and in His “knowing” them. This same word ginosko was used in the most intimate way when speaking of Joseph and Mary’s relationship after Christ was born (see Matthew 1:25). Without intimacy with Christ, there is no knowing in the kingdom of God.

Back to my opening question, Does the end justify the means when it comes to our serving in the purposes of God? Jesus told Nicodemus, “That which is born of [out from] the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of [out from] the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6). You see, if we are to produce fruit unto the Father and the Son, that fruit must be born out from the Spirit of God in us and never out from ourselves. His children must be born “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God,” and so must our works be if they are to be works unto eternal life (See Jude 1:21).

We cannot rise in the morning and say, “I wonder how many people I can lead to Christ today?” or, “I think I will cast out some demons today ”or “I think I will pray for so and so to be healed today,” or not even “I think I will write a blog article today.” This is all being done by the will of the flesh, dear saints, not by the will of God! Jesus said quite bluntly, “Apart from me you can do nothing!” If our works are not born from above in the council of the heaven and He has foreordained that we should walk in them (see Ephesians 2:10), they are dead works at best. Yup! They are D. O. A., dead on arrival. Our ends do not justify His means and His ends are not justified by our means. We Christians must learn what Jesus meant when He told the disciples, “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63, KJ2000).

Are we as Christians living by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God?” I think not. And until our flesh and all its self-motivated drives have been crucified, we will not know the abundant life flow of God through us to others. Like Jesus said:

You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you. (John 15:16, KJ2000)

Dear saints, by now you are wondering where I am coming from to write such an article. Almost 37 years ago, I was doing all manner of “good works and prophesying in Christ’s name.” After watching me for a while, an old saint came up to me on Sunday morning and said, “Have you ever asked God to show you how He sees you, instead of how you think He sees you?” In my pride, I told him that I would take him up on his challenge and I did just that. That night I asked God, and He showed me in a dream just how I looked to Him, using my spiritual talents and gifts to do His work. The pride and arrogance that was behind all my works was so ugly that I cried out, “God! Kill it! Show it no mercy!” That was the beginning of Him stripping me of all that I was and ever hoped to be “in His name.” At some point in your life you will be brought to this crisis if you are to follow on with the Lord and you will be shocked at what God shows you about your own heart.

Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth. (Hos 6:3, KJV)

There is knowing and then there is “following on to know.” Will we keep listening and following on to know the Lord in an ever growing intimacy with Him or just be content with what we already know? Remember, knowledge puffs us up, but His love edifies.

The Life Is in the Blood

There is a lot of talk in some circles about being in the army of God. Remember that before God could form His army from that valley of dry bones in Ezekiel chapter 37 there was a requirement. In verse two the prophet said, “and lo, they [the bones] were very dry. Dry was not good enough. When God strips us of all the life of the flesh in us, our outside appearance might be dry, but that is not dead enough. Even the marrow inside our “bones” (our natural Adamic life) must be dry and void of all life. Why? “The life is in the blood” and the blood in us comes from the marrow in the depths of our bones. Our very Life Source must be the blood of Jesus Christ and nothing else. In John chapter six we read about His blood and His words that are necessary if we are to have eternal life within us.

Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me… Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? …This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” (John 6:56-68, ESV2011)

Finally, let me quote once more from T. Austin-Sparks,

A living Heavenly Man is not made by mere words, even though they be words of Scripture. That is what people have tried to do. They have tried to make the Church by words of Scripture, constitute the Church by what is here as written, and so you have half a dozen different kinds of churches, all standing on what they call the Word of God, and the thing does not live. It is a living, Heavenly Man that God has in view, and to produce that, the Spirit must operate through the Word. “The words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life,” said the Lord to His disciples. “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” On the part of Peter, the spokesman of these latter words, this was a word of discrimination. The scribes and Pharisees had the Scriptures. They claimed that everything they had and held was in the Word of God. Ah yes, but they knew them not as the words of eternal life. There is a difference. This life is in His Son. It has to be in a living relationship to the Lord Jesus that the Scriptures are made effective.
http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/001387.html

What It Means to Be Captivated by Christ

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For three and a half years people were captivated by the words that Jesus spoke. Crowds seemed to follow Him everywhere He went. When I first started following Jesus, this was all the deeper the meaning went in my mind of what it meant to be captivated by Him. After I was saved, I went to every Christian meeting I could. I couldn’t get enough of hearing about Jesus. But as time went by a greater revelation came to me. I started to see a deeper meaning of what it means to be His captive. Jesus spoke to Peter about this process.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, When you were young, you dressed yourself, and walked where you would: but when you shall be old, you shall stretch forth your hands, and another shall dress you, and carry you where you would not.” This spoke he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he said unto him, “Follow me. (John 21:18-19, KJ2000)

Death? Yes, the price we must pay if we dare to follow Him! After the newness of my experience wore off, I started to go to Christian meetings just because that was the thing to do on that day of the week. Then the time came when I had to ask God for permission before I went to a meeting. Slowly over time, going to meetings became less and less important to me and a deeper personal and obedient walk with Christ came to mean more, even when He had me stay home.

The more time I spent in obedience to His leading, the more He showed me the deeper meaning of the scriptures that I never heard come from a pulpit or conference podium. At the end of an isolation of many years in His spiritual wilderness, He had me start writing these things down. Eventually the wilderness and isolation ended and I was encouraged by others to put the things I had written into articles on a website and books so the saints of God could have access to them. (Did you know that Paul spent many years in isolation between His Damascus road experience with Jesus and when he was sent by the Spirit on his first “missionary journey”?) God eventually put me together with another brother on a similar journey, and we fellowshipped and wrote together and even took in some meetings for a season. Then he started showing us the depths of another scripture:

He must increase, but I must decrease. He that comes from above is above all… (John 3:30-31, KJ2000)

It seems that those glorious days of writing with that brother have come to an end. He has also been coming into a deeper meaning of what it means to be the Lord’s captive, learning the depths of what Jesus said, “you shall stretch forth your hands, and another shall dress you, and carry you where you would not.”

Yes, I have been writing this blog for the last three or four years, but slowly even that seems to be winding down as He increases in my life and I decrease. “He that comes from above is above all.” Christ and the will of Christ and the Father must be above all. His life must become our only life. Paul had a highly visible ministry among the Gentiles in Asia Minor, yet that was coming to a close as he wrote to the Ephesians about this same process in His life and called himself “the prisoner of Jesus Christ.” It is oh so easy for our flesh to ride the wave of what the Spirit is doing through us and get some of the glory for ourselves along the way, but all glory belongs to the One who died and rose again and sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven. He must increase and we (that old Adam in man) must decrease. We can only share His glory to the extent that Christ is our ALL in all. All the rest, the adulation and attention that comes to us from men–even the saints of God–only provides a temptation for us to think we are something without Him.

The life of Paul, how he decreased as a mere human, and how God increased His effectiveness in life (and death) is a spiritual principle that must work in any true disciple of Jesus.  He said, “If any man would be my disciple let him take up his cross and follow me.” T. Austin-Sparks wrote about this very thing from his own experience.

I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you…. (Ephesians 3:1)

The measure of approximation to the fullness of the revelation has always been accompanied by a relative cost. Every instrument of the testimony has been laid under suspicion and reproach in a measure commensurate with the degree of value to the Lord, and this has meant that, humanly, they were limited to that extent. Many have withdrawn, fallen away, held aloof, doubted, feared, and questioned. But as Paul could say “My tribulations for you, which are your glory” (Eph. 3:13), or “The prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles” (Eph. 3:1), so the measure of limitation in the Lord is the measure of enrichment in His people. The fuller the revelation, the fewer those who apprehend, or the greater the number of those who stand aloof. Revelation only comes through suffering and limitation, and to have it experimentally means sharing the cost in some way. But this is God’s way of securing for Himself a spiritual seed plot….

All this may apply to individual lives in relation to the Lord’s testimony. There may often be a chafing against limitation, confinement, and a restless hankering after what we would call something wider or less restricted. If the Lord has willed us to the place where we are, our acceptance of it in faith may prove that it becomes a far bigger thing than any human reckoning can judge. I wonder if Paul had any idea that his prison meant his continuous expansion of value to the Lord Jesus through nineteen hundred years? What applies to individuals also applies to corporate bodies, assemblies, or companies of the Lord’s people scattered in the earth but one in their fellowship in relation to the Lord’s full testimony. May the Lord be graciously pleased to cause the merely human aspect of prison walls to fall away, and give the realization that, far from being limited by men and circumstances, it is imprisonment in the Lord, and this means that all ages and all realms are entered through that prison. (http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/000689.html)

Dear saints, may we each look beyond the limitations of our natural lives and situations to see that God is doing something far greater for HIS glory that is beyond our sight and our reach at this present time. Love to you all.

Others May, You Cannot

Have You Ever Felt Hung Out to Dry?

But who will survive the day when he comes? Or who can stand when he appears? For he’s like a refiner’s fire and a launderer’s soap. He will sit refining and purifying silver, purifying the descendants of Levi, refining them like gold and silver. Then they’ll bring a righteous offering to the Lord. (Mal 3:2-3, ISV)

Yes, who shall survive the day of His coming? How many of you have been going through times of deep trials and even spiritual dryness, when  all of a sudden the night is over and the morning sun arises in your hearts?  It seems that in the ongoing process of God’s purification of our hearts, He takes us through dark nights, but eventually there is a glorious sunrise. We want the sunshine to last with no more periods of darkness and trials, yet another night comes all too soon! Will this process ever end? You start to feel like you are in the hands of a launderer who is scrubbing you up and down on a washboard with lye soap!

I was looking at Psalm 30 and noticed the ups and downs that David spoke of in his own walk.

“Sing unto the LORD, O you saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness [up]. For his anger endures but for a moment [down]; in his favor is life [up]: weeping may endure for a night [down], but joy comes in the morning. And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved. LORD, by your favor you have made my mountain to stand strong [up]: you did hide your face, and I was troubled [down].” (Ps 30:4-7, KJ2000)

Does this look familiar? He blesses us and we rejoice and praise His name and are feeling pretty good about our place in His kingdom. Then we feel His displeasure and we are troubled and sad and another trial begins. We know His favor to be our life. We weep again and are sad for a season as He goes deeper into our souls, but when we see the reason for our suffering, we once again take courage that God’s hand is in it for our good. We eventually start to feel like we have arrived and are prosperous in the Spirit and say, “Finally, I shall never be moved! The Lord has made me to stand like a strong mountain in His presence!” Then He hides his face from our exalted pride and we are once again brought low. Poor David was going through this same process that has become so familiar to many of us as we seek to be made whole IN Christ.

John of the Cross wrote about this very process in his book, The Dark Night of the Soul.

…the soul that desires to consider it will be able to see how on this road… it has to suffer many ups and downs, and how the prosperity which it enjoys is followed immediately by certain storms and trials; so much so, that it appears to have been given that period of calm in order that it might be forewarned and strengthened against the poverty which has followed; just as after misery and torment there come abundance and calm… This is the ordinary course and proceeding of the state of contemplation until the soul arrives at the state of quietness; it never remains in the same state for long together, but is ascending and descending continually.

The reason for this is that, as the state of perfection, which consists in the perfect love of God and contempt for self, cannot exist unless it have these two parts, which are the knowledge of God and of oneself, the soul has of necessity to be practised first in the one and then in the other, now being given to taste of the one—that is, exaltation—and now being made to experience the other—that is, humiliation…*

David finally ends his observation by saying this:

Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be my helper. You have turned for me my mourning into dancing: you have put off my sackcloth, and [you have] girded me with gladness; To the end that my glory may sing praise to you, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto you forever. (Ps 30:10-12, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

In these last two verses David, is no longer strong in himself. He pleads to God for mercy and to be His help. There is no mention of never being moved, of prosperity, or of being strong like a mountain; now he is weak and pleads for God to be his strength. It is God who turns his mourning into dancing. It is God who girds him with gladness that he might sing His praises and give Him thanks forever. There is a subtle difference between verses 4-7 and verses 10-12, but that difference is true brokenness and humility. Jesus said this to Nathanial:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter you shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. (John 1:51, KJ2000)

Jesus was referring to Himself as the ladder that Jacob saw in his dream. John of the Cross wrote that this process of exaltation and humiliation continues

…until it has acquired perfect habits; and then this ascending and descending will cease, since the soul will have attained to God and become united with Him, which comes to pass at the summit of this ladder, for the ladder [Christ] rests and leans upon Him… All this, says Divine Scripture, took place by night, when Jacob slept, in order to express how secret is this road and ascent to God [and few be they who find it], and how different from that of man’s knowledge. This is very evident, since ordinarily that which is of the greatest profit in it—namely, to be ever losing oneself and becoming as nothing—is considered the worst thing possible; and that which is of least worth, which is for a soul to find consolation and sweetness (wherein it ordinarily loses rather than gains), is considered best. *

I am reminded of Ezekiel chapter 37 when God sets the prophet in the middle of a valley littered with dry human bones and asked the prophet if the bones could live again.

And he said unto me, “Son of man, can these bones live”? And I answered, “O Lord GOD, [only] you know.” (Ezek 37:3, KJ2000)

When He has made our bones not just dry to outward appearances, but very dry so that even the marrow inside the bones of our souls is dried up. Then there is progress (remember, “the life is in the blood” and the blood is made in the marrow. Our natural soulish life is what He is drying up in us). Finally after many trials, we are done trying to out-guess Him and find a way out of our miseries. We even quit hoping that things will change under His mighty hand.  We resign ourselves to the will of God alone with no reservations saying, “Oh Lord God, only YOU know. Your will be done with me according to YOUR good pleasure.” This is when we enter into the glory of the Father and the Son, immersed in their love. That glory sings praises to them forevermore.  Finally, John of the Cross describes God’s goal in putting us through this process.

…we shall observe that the principal characteristic of [this] contemplation, on account of which it is here called a ladder, is that it is the science of love. This, as we have said, is an infused and loving knowledge of God, which enlightens the soul and at the same time enkindles it with love, until it is raised up step by step, even unto God its Creator. For it is love alone that unites and joins the soul with God. *

The Apostle John wrote:

And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him. In this is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has to do with punishment. He that fears is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. (1John 4:16-19, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

*http://www.ccel.org/ccel/john_cross/dark_night.viii.xviii.html?highlight=secret%20wisdom#highlight

(A special thanks to Susanne Schuberth for finding this writing in “The Dark Night of the Soul” for me. She and I have been going through this process for years, and are starting to see our Father’s purpose it all. Though the heart pains during the downward cycle can really be painful, the glorious joy afterwards is heavenly.)

For Our God Is a Consuming Fire!

Consuming Fire

Susanne Schuberth recently wrote on her inspiring blog in the comments,

“I think everyone inside or outside the [church] system needs to go through God’s cleansing and purifying fire so that God can use us for HIS purposes.” (1)

Yes! This is the way of the Lord and He has always required His offerings to pass through the fire. Everything and every work we propose to give must pass through His fires of purification, including our own hearts. Oswald Chambers wrote of this process,

Whenever God gives a vision to a saint, He puts him, as it were, in the shadow of His hand, and the saint’s duty is to be still and listen. There is a darkness which comes from excess of light, and then is the time to listen. Genesis 16 is an illustration of listening to good advice when it is dark instead of waiting for God to send the light. When God gives a vision and darkness follows, wait. God will make you in accordance with the vision He has given if you will wait His time. Never try and help God fulfil His word. Abraham went through thirteen years of silence, but in those years all self-sufficiency was destroyed; there was no possibility left of relying on common-sense ways. Those years of silence were a time of discipline, not of displeasure. Never pump up joy and confidence, but stay upon God (cf. Isaiah 50:10,11). (2)

In the Book of Numbers we read a very telling commandment that the Jews who had come back from war had to strictly follow.

“Only the gold, and the silver, the bronze, the iron, the tin, and the lead, everything that can endure the fire, you shall make it go through the fire, and it shall be clean: nevertheless it shall be purified with the water of purification: and all that cannot endure the fire you shall make go through the water. And you shall wash your clothes on the seventh day, and you shall be clean, and afterward you shall come into the camp.” (Num 31:22-24, KJ2000)

So many Christians come to Christ and have a vision early on of what God wants for them to do in His kingdom. But they are either unaware that they have nothing in them that God can use without it all passing through His fires of purification (the dark night of the soul and the wilderness), or they are willfully ignorant and use the powers of their flesh and their personal charisma to try doing His work for Him. The trouble is that soon the stinking smell of the flesh and pride is all over it. Just like Cane’s sacrifice, God rejects it and they have to spend more and more human effort to prop it up and keep it going or worse yet, those who get involved in their efforts also become defiled.

“And Abraham said unto God, ‘O that Ishmael might live before you!'”(Gen 17:18, KJ2000) and God’s answer to the works of the flesh is always the same, “But my covenant will I establish with Isaac,” the miraculous child of God’s promise. How often do we see ministries begging for money and help to keep them going? “Oh, God, please bless my Ishmael!”

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the children of God, even to them that believe on his name: Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13, KJ2000)

We are born into His kingdom by the Spirit and all that is done for His kingdom must also be born of the Spirit. Or as Paul put it, “Are you so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal 3:3, KJ2000).

Paul wrote:

“For no other foundation can a man lay than what is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation 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 3:11-15, KJ2000)

The arrogance and pride of church organizations always make men and their works their foundation (they even often name their ministries after themselves). Each of these organizations are founded by a man or a woman with lots of personal charisma  and men blindly follow them. Instead of each follower being founded on Christ and able to follow the wind of His Spirit, they want a following that will give them unquestioned authority, be loyal to their vision, and do what they say!

Well, “the day shall declare” what manner of work each of us have built. We are in that final day of the purifying fire of God and everything that man has done by and of the flesh is going up in smoke. Jesus said, “The flesh profits nothing!” The real question is, what will be left of all our works when we stand before the piercing gaze of God? Those who have been purified by His fire, His sheep who wait for Him to move among them, will hear, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” And the self-motivated and self-promoted goats will hear, “Depart from me you who work inequity, I never knew you.”

Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he has promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb 12:26-29, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

Oh that more of God’s people waited upon His empowering grace before they acted and  had a godly fear of Him before they built themselves a new oxcart to move Him along or stretch forth an unclean hand to steady what He is doing.

(1) https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/is-the-church-age-over/#comment-13551

(2) http://utmost.org/vision-and-darkness/

How God Is Building HIS Temple

Stone quaryWhen the house [Solomon’s Temple] was built, it was with stone prepared at the quarry; so that neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron was heard in the temple, while it was being built. (1 Kings 6:7 RSVA)

Some Pharisees asked Jesus when the Kingdom of God would come. His answer was, “The Kingdom of God does not come in such a way as to be seen. No one will say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’; because the Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21 GNB)

Have you ever wondered why we are so scattered from one another when it comes to fellowship? Those of us who really want to have loving communion together in Christ seem to be scattered all over the globe and it is rare that two saints who seek real depth of relationship in the Spirit live in close proximity with one another. I thank God for the internet! Could it be that we, as Paul said, would come together not for the better, but for the worse? And that the whole thing would be counter-productive if we came together too soon?

In the above verse from First Kings, we see that while Solomon’s great and magnificent temple was being built, the sounds of any iron tools at the temple site was absolutely forbidden. Each stone and timber had to be made to fit with precision many miles away, and once they were brought to the temple site, no pieces could be chipped or sawn off to make them fit. All this work on each stone and timber was done under the supervision of the Master Builder in advance while these pieces were in isolation. Isn’t this a magnificent picture of what God is doing today?

The New Testament tells us that each of us is a living stone being fashioned to fit together in His holy and eternal temple which is not made with hands (See Ephesians 2:20-22 and 1 Peter 2:1-9). We long to finally be “fitly joined together” in heavenly fellowship, but God seems to put a higher value on the preparation of each of us than He does on the final assembly of the temple.

Although we long to be assembled together as God’s house, if we are assembled too soon we will not fit. The house will be divided against itself and it will not stand. Like Herod’s temple that was not built by God’s design, not one stone will be left upon another. God’s judgment will be on it because it was not built according to His eternal design.

David discovered that God is very specific about how things are to be done when he tried to move the ark. When he moved it on an oxcart, just as the Philistines had, the result was the death of Uzza. Finally David asked God why, and when he heard His answer, David told the priests:

For because ye [did it] not at the first [move the ark of God], the LORD our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order. (1 Chronicles 15:13 KJV)

Isaiah prophesied that when God sets out to do something, He will not deviate from that plan. The beginning governs the end.

Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ (Isaiah 46:9-10 RSVA)

God knows our end from the beginning. He knew from the very foundation of the world how each one of us fits in His heavenly temple. He knows what needs to happen in each of our lives to shape us into what is needed and best for us. He has the master blueprint in His mind and there is no deviation permitted from it. It was because of this that Paul prayed,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved… For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:3-12 RSVA – emphasis added)

So, dear saints, though it feels like God is not getting anything done according to our short time span, be assured that He will accomplish all that He has set out to do in perfecting each one of us into the image of His Son. All we can do is yield ourselves “as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to Him.” Our Daddy is doing a perfect work in us and will continue to do so, though it seems that the whole world around us is racing to hell at high speed. Remember one thing–God’s purposes will not be deterred even if our own smaller plans seem to be suffering in the short run. It is not our worldly perspective and design that He is building from, but His eternal plan and we will be far better off in the long run that our immature view points did not prevail. Or as Paul put it,

May the God who gives us peace make you holy in every way and keep your whole being—spirit, soul, and body—free from every fault at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you will do it, because he is faithful. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 GNB – emphasis added)

Alexander MacLaren wrote in his commentary with great insight about our text in 1 Kings 6:7 saying,

Perhaps it was merely for convenience of transport and to save time that the stones were dressed in the quarries, but more probably the silence was due to an instinct of reverence. We may fairly use it as suggesting two thoughts.

I. How God’s house is mostly built in silence. ‘The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation.’

In reference to its advance in the world:

Destructive work is noisy, constructive work is silent. God was in ‘the still small voice,’ not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire. Christ’s own career, how silent it was! Drums are loud and empty. The spread of the kingdom was unnoticed by the world’s great ones-Caesars, philosophers, patricians, and it silently grew underground.

[This is]: {a} An encouragement to those whose work is inconspicuous, {b} A lesson not to mistake noise and notoriety for spiritual progress and, {c} Guidance as to our expectations of the advance of Christ’s kingdom… Sudden changes are short-lived changes. ‘Lightly come, lightly go.’ What matures slowly will last long.

In reference to its growth in our souls, silence is needed for that. There must be much still communion and quiet reflection. The advance in the Christian life is variously likened to a battle, since there are antagonists and struggle is needed to overcome; and [as it is with plant life]… the mysterious indwelling life works without effort and almost without consciousness… the work of building is work that must be done in silence. If we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, we must silently drink in the sunshine and dew, and so prosperously pass from blade to ear, and thence to full corn in the ear.

Surely nothing is more needed in these days of noisy advertisement and measurement of the importance of things by the noise that they can make, than this lesson of the place of silence in Christian progress, both for individuals and for the Christian Church as a whole.

II. How God’s house is built of prepared stones:
That is true, in one view of the matter, in regard to the Church on earth, for there must be the individual act of repentance and faith before a soul is fit to be built into the fabric of the Church. There is providential training of men [and women] for their tasks before these are given to them.

But the highest application of the symbol which we venture to find in our text is to the relation between the earthly and the heavenly life. This world is the quarry where the stones are dressed for the Temple in the heavens;

{a} Life is the chipping and hewing. The unnecessary pieces are struck off with heavy mallet and sharp chisel. Pain and sorrow are thus explained, if not wholly, yet sufficiently to bring about submission and trust, {b} The Builder has His plan clearly before Him, and works accurately to realize it. He perfectly knows what He means to build, and every stroke of the dressing-tool is accurately directed. There are no mistakes made in His quarrying and {c} We may be sure that the prepared stones will be brought to the Temple site and built into it… We may repose on the Apostle’s assurance that ‘He that has begun a good work in you will perform it,’ or rather on the more sure word of Jesus Himself, ‘He that overcometh, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God.’

http://biblehub.com/commentaries/maclaren/1_kings/6.htm

Can These Bones Live?

Can these bones live

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

Our brother Hosea Fwangmun from Nigeria wrote recently,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I will lay sinews upon you.”

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

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

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

(Compare Hebrews 8:8-11).

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

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

Bone to His Bone

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

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

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

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

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

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

pneuma

pnyoo’-mah

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

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

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