Fullness IN Christ or Fullness of Iniquity?

Smokey Sunrise over Fernan Lake

Smokey Sunrise Over Fernan Lake, Idaho ~ by Michael Clark

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

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

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

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

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

With great insight into the workings of God Paul wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What Does it Mean to be One IN Christ?

 

unity-in-christFor as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:27-28, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

We are IN Him because we were baptized (Grk. baptizo – immersed or submerged) INTO Christ by the Spirit. Many have been immersed into water in a ceremony without being immersed into Him and they struggle all their lives trying to be “good” Christians. On the other hand we who have believed into Christ (the true meaning of John 3:16) are immersed in Christ! We have put on Christ just as a swimmer “puts on water” when he dives into the pool! Do you want to put on the full armor of God? It is the armor of Christ! Put on Christ and you will be wearing His armor, too. The sooner we quit seeing ourselves as separate from and outside of Him, the sooner we will walk totally by faith in Him.

In this state of being in Christ, we are no longer separated from each other by gender, nationality, religion, distance or even age. All things that were lost by Adam and Eve in their relationship with our Father and each other when they fell have been recovered by the power of Christ’s death and resurrection as we now dwell in heavenly places in Christ just as they dwelt with the Father in the Garden of Eden.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ …and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (Eph 2:4-6, ESV2011)

We might even live on a different continent and many time zones away from another dear saint that we know in Christ, but that doesn’t mean that we live separate lives if we are both in the Son. Paul wrote that in Christ’s body we are members one of another, and when one member suffers all members suffer with them. When one member rejoices, all members rejoice with them. Neither time, distance, gender, nationality nor any other earthly institution or thing can separate us when we are knit together as one in Christ. The only thing that can separate us from one another and our heavenly place with the Father is unbelief, which pulls us back down into the realm where the prince of this world reigns and can torment us.

Do we have to be good enough to be one with and in Christ before the Father? No! The Amplified version makes it even clearer.

But God–so rich is He in His mercy! Because of and in order to satisfy the great and wonderful and intense love with which He loved us, Even when we were dead (slain) by [our own] shortcomings and trespasses, He made us alive together in fellowship and in union with Christ; [He gave us the very life of Christ Himself, the same new life with which He quickened Him, for] it is by grace that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation). (Eph 2:4-5, AMP)

The largest part of our salvation is seeing that we sit together in heavenly places in Christ and that all the “normal” things that once divided us in this world are gone! We have become a new creation, heavenly beings, because we are citizens of our Father’s kingdom (Philippians 3:20) and our fellowship is with the Father and the Son. Paul wrote something that we really need to understand and walk in if we are ever to be one IN Christ,

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2Cor 5:16-17, ESV2011)

When I was a Catholic, we were taught to kneel down and look at earthly things when we prayed. We looked at statues and images of Jesus hanging on the cross or Mary or the saints for our inspiration. The problem was that these were earthly images and we were trying to know Him “after the flesh.” Even today among Protestants we read the Bible and think on Him and His earthly ministry 2000 years ago. We say, “What would Jesus do?” as if we could conjure up an image of what He would have us do in every situation. Isn’t this still trying to know Him after the days of His flesh on earth? If we never get beyond that, we can be every bit as earth bound as those Catholics who look to images of Him. Why do we gaze off into the heavens (see Acts 1:9-11) when we now are already seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus at the right hand of the Father? Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is in our midst. If we have a heavenly walk with Christ who abides in us, we will know what He IS DOING, and walk that out IN Him. We are new creatures in Christ not by our works, but by His mighty grace and the power of His cross in our lives. It is only our lack of faith in His completed work that holds us earthbound in our sins (falling short of the glory of God). We seem to have more faith in our weakness as sinners and humans than we have in His power to lead us with His Spirit. We fail every time when we look to ourselves or to another member of His body in a fleshly way instead of looking off from ourselves unto Him and seeing them as He does. I once had a pastor who told the elders of the church to quit being critical of how I seemed outwardly and look at my heart for God had shown this man who I really was despite all my outward struggles I was going through. We must know one another in Him after the Spirit, not after the flesh.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith… and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1-2, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

Dear saints, let us be heavenly minded IN Christ and not earthly minded in ourselves for this is where we will find victorious living together in the unity of the Spirit.

(T. A. Sparks wrote an excellent chapter on what it means to be beyond all our earthy bounds as we walk in the Spirit and fellowship IN Him, ( Divine Life Unlimited by Time and Space )

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)

Our Ever Expanding Spiritual Universe

Big bang.jpg

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

A strange thing has been discovered in the last decade or so. Creation is defying the laws of physics. After many centuries, scientists finally discovered that the universe is expanding  after starting in a flash of light they call “The Big Bang.” They tell us that all matter started from one highly compressed and very small object that exploded, going outward in all directions, creating the universe as we know it. But then a problem was found in their theory. Not only is the universe expanding, but it is continuing to accelerate away from that central starting point. According to the second law of thermodynamics, matter can’t do that unless there is a continuing force applied to cause that acceleration. An influence greater than the first “big bang” seems to rule over the universe! So, the scientists just call it “Dark Energy” and “Dark Matter” because they can’t see it. The real darkness is in them because they refuse to acknowledge God as the Creator and Energizer of all things.

Susanne Schuberth recently wrote about three women she knows in Germany that are so steeped in their religions that they are always judging her for not going to their churches and believing in their doctrines. As a result, they never give her an opening for her to share what God has been doing in her life outside their religious institutions and traditions. She started out where these women are, going to churches in similar denominations, but Susanne has learned that continuing to grow in Christ soon causes those old wineskins to burst if we try to stay in them. In her story about these three ladies is a warning to us to not become fixed in our ways of thinking about the kingdom of God. Denominational teachings and thinking can be the worst enemy of growing in Christ. Even worse, we can be blessed by God in a “ministry” of our own that grows into something we become emotionally attached to more than our obedience to the upward leading of the Lord. We become fixed, not wanting to let go of what has grown into our Ishmael as Abraham found out. And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!”

God has given and taken away wonderful Godly things in my life, even wonderful fellowship with individuals from time to time. These wonderful God-given things served a purpose for a season, but once He wanted to take me further in His upward call than they allowed, He had to remove them or remove me from them. The Bible is full of stories of great people of faith where this has happened to them: Enoch, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, David, Ruth, Esther, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Isaiah, etc. In Hebrews they are called God’s people of faith. The early Church in the New Testament was blessed with the Spirit of God in wonderful fellowship in Jerusalem. Then after a couple of years, God scattered them to the four corners of the earth, and they took the gospel of Christ with them. Sometimes we are just like these early believers. We know that Jesus told the disciples to take the gospel first to Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria and unto the utter most ends of the earth, but what happens? We become settlers and happy campers and what Jesus said becomes, “first Jerusalem, then Jerusalem and finally to the uttermost parts of Jerusalem!”

In today’s devotional, T. Austin-Sparks expands on God’s desire for us to continue to grow. As I read it I saw a picture of a crab. Crabs constantly shed their outer shell and make a larger one as they grow. During this time they are quite vulnerable with little protection, but it has to happen or they will die. When our comfortable shell, our “house,” becomes rigid and inflexible, God has to take us through a molting period where the outward things pass away and all things become new.

“Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” This verse and many others take on scope if we are willing to be stretched by God’s work in our hearts. Even if God has blessed us so far as we have obeyed His voice, the vision He has given us will not always be the same tomorrow. As the Spirit pushed me to grow in Christ, I had to leave many churches and fellowships behind. He even gave me a dream where He destroyed my comfortable house and rooted up the old foundation because it was not sufficient for what He wanted to build on my “site.” He had to go deeper and wider with a new Foundation that would support the “building” He wanted to place on it. This is God’s way in our lives if we continue to follow His Son and let HIS government and peace continue to increase in us. To resist this stretching and His increase in us is to lose our heavenly peace.

Paul was first a Pharisee of Pharisees with great scriptural knowledge, but counted it all as dung in a flash once he saw and heard the resurrected Christ. He then spent years in isolation being taught by Jesus. Then one day Barnabas came to Paul’s home town of Tarsus where he was making tents, and took him to be in fellowship with the saints in Antioch. After a year or so he was separated from that wonderful fellowship he had in the Spirit and was sent off on what was the beginnings of his missionary journeys. That did not last forever, either. God finally confined him in prison and then under house arrest for years in Rome. It is from this season in his life that we have so many of his wonderful letters in our New Testaments. Finally, after he finished the course that God had for him, he was martyred by Nero. Yet, Paul was obedient to his upward call at each stage along the way, even unto death. What a lesson lies in all this for us. Those who hate Paul and his teachings today, like those rebellious Jews of old, refuse to follow the Spirit of God as they cling to a covenant that has been replace by a New and Living Covenant IN Christ. Zion is our heavenly habitation, not an “ism” or a war-torn country in the Middle East (See Hebrews 12:22-24 and 1 Peter 2:4-9). Now back to what I read by Sparks this morning that said it so well.

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 fulness 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)

Can These Two Walk Together?

ga5-25

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

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

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

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

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (Gal 5:16-17, ESV2011)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do We Desire the Kingdom of God or the Kingdoms of Men?

He is Faithful

Today we see well-meaning men and women building their kingdoms and pushing their agendas all in the name of Christ all through Christendom. Some put their hopes in who gets elected in the world’s political systems. Some are so bold (and blind) as to name their ministries after themselves, yet we take this all to be perfectly normal. Can you see a huge sign above the banks of the Jordan 2000 years ago reading, “John the Baptist Ministries”?  Can you see ushers seating all the people that went out to observe him in action, handing out baptism request cards, and taking up a collection (or two) at every “service”? Of course, all had to be done “decently and in order.” No, none of this nonsense was how the Spirit wind moved through John the Baptist. He upset the whole religious and political establishment and told everyone they needed to repent as he prepared the way for Christ to appear. The religious establishment didn’t take too kindly to him either.

How easy it is for us who call ourselves “Christian” to hold on to our worldly mindsets, values, earthly ambitions and views on what the Father’s kingdom should look like and how it should operate. Such was the case with the disciples of Christ. They all knew that when Messiah came, He would set up a new world order with the Jews at the top of the heap and themselves as its administrators. How wrong they were! He made it clear to Pilate at His trial that HIS kingdom is not of this world! Jesus finally told the disciples that He had to go up to Jerusalem, be rejected by the leaders of the Jews, be tormented by them and die the death of the cross. Their minds went “tilt”! Peter even took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him saying, “Be it far from you, Lord: this shall not be unto you.” (Matthew 16:22, KJ2000).

Do you remember where it is written that Satan stopped tempting Jesus for a season after His temptation in the wilderness? That season was now over. Satan was back in His face in the form of a beloved disciple who Jesus loved, trying to get Him to go against the will of His Father and save Himself. Until then, Jesus had always said regarding going up to Jerusalem, “My time is not yet come.” What was Peter thinking? Jesus answered Peter’s challenge by saying, “Get you behind me, Satan: you are an offense unto me: for you consider not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” Yes, Satan wants us to spare ourselves and save our lives by finding our niche here on earth. To this mindset Jesus went on to say to the disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” After this Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not: and when you are converted, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32, AKJV).

Even though we might confess–as Peter did–that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that is not enough. Down deep inside we have to ask ourselves, “Have I truly been converted?” Or do we, like Peter, still desire and consider the things of men and operate in the ways of men–ways like seeking popularity, fame and wanting worldly safety and comfort more than the plan that God has for our lives? When Jesus bids us to take up our flesh-killing cross and follow Him, will we deny ourselves all these temptations of Satan and His world system and do the “unreasonable thing” even in the eyes of our fellow Christians? When God allows him to sift us, will our faith in Christ survive? It will if we submit to Christ’s preparatory work of the cross in us. We know for sure that when God calls us to walk in His kingdom way, we will hear those who are still in the world and not truly converted calling us to be “reasonable” and spare ourselves as Peter did with Christ. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it well:

“…the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” (1)

God has no use for our flesh and its talents (see Romans 7:18). They are useless to Him. The more talented we are, the larger obstacle these talents become and the greater temptation to “do something great for Christ” without His Spirit leading us.

How many of us American Christians have heard the lie of Satan that we as Christians are called to live a happy, successful life in the eyes of the world as a living advertisement on why they should also be Christians? This is not the gospel of God’s kingdom, but rather a false gospel designed by Satan to keep us under his control in his kingdom. If we have bought into this, we are no different than Peter under the influence of Satan, desiring the things of men instead of the things of God. Yes, Satan desires the things that carnal men desire! The flesh of man wars against the Spirit of God and His Spirit wars against our flesh. Which side will our hearts come down on? That is the question.

If the cross has not yet met us in a real way and become a life changing crisis in our daily lives, we are still like Peter was. We have not yet been converted and we have not yet turned from the ways of the world in our hearts. T. Austin-Sparks wrote:

 You see it is a matter, in the first place, of the ground which is taken and occupied by the one concerned. When Peter took heavenly ground – “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” – he was in a very strong position. The keys of the kingdom of heaven, binding on earth and binding in heaven, were his. He was weak, and in a very weak position, when he took earthly ground, the ground of men, the ground of his own judgment and of his own selfhood. The ground taken decided whether he was spiritually strong or weak, and whether Satan had power over him or not. (2)

The flesh in man loves religion because religion gives him an opportunity to have the best of both worlds. With religion we can claim Christ as our Lord, yet remain the one in control of our lives, seeing His cross as a thing of the past and go after “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” After all, isn’t this our God-given “inalienable right”? This phrase from the Declaration of Independence is the opposite of desiring the things of our Father in heaven, yet you would think it came from the very mouth of Jesus Christ if you observe the lives and goals of American Christians. There is no life, liberty and true happiness outside of living IN Christ in obedience to and unity with the Father. We might think we are independent of Satan as we pursue the things of this world, but we are deluded and have not yet been converted in the eyes of God. We are still not seeking to find our lives in God’s kingdom nor His desires for us. Finally Sparks wrote,

 Then, if we are really going to come through to the place of spiritual power as did Peter, that ground of the enemy must continually be forsaken and refused. The enemy has to be robbed of that which will destroy us and give him power to destroy us, and we have to be very ruthless with anything that arises to give him that position and defeat God’s intention where we are concerned. This battle of heaven and hell, God and Satan, goes on in our souls, but there is for us this consolation, that we have a High Priest ever living to make intercession. We have a great asset in the continual intercession of the Lord Jesus for us. Let us close on that note of encouragement and assurance. (2)

May God continue to draw us ever deeper into Christ and out of Satan’s delusions in this world. Only then can we know the love and unity that is ours in Christ, the abundant life of which He spoke.

(1) The Cost of Discipleship, pp. 99

(2) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/000476.html