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)

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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)

How Does God Define Sin?

Walking with God...  (Photo credit https://revlisad.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/walking-with-god.jpg)

This is another joint article Susanne Schuberth* and I wrote together with the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus was without sin because He only did what He saw His Father doing and He only spoke His words. This is why Paul could say that nothing of itself is sin, but only that which is done without faith… which is not doing what our Daddy in Heaven shows us to do and say. Faith is not law keeping. Faith is obeying the Spirit and the wind of the Spirit blows where no man expects it to. We must be free to follow the leading of the Spirit if we are to walk by faith. This is why Peter was sinning when he refused to eat with Gentiles, though the law forbade him to do so, but the Spirit of the NEW covenant often surpasses the law. The apostle Paul told us the following,

“I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.” (Rom 14:14 ESV)

“To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.” (Titus 1:15 ESV)

So, we see in the New Testament that nothing of itself is unclean. We need to only follow the leading of the Spirit in ALL things we do and say. But herein lies the danger as well… If we are not walking in faith and are not in tune with the Spirit, we can fall into delusions for our adversary is good at getting us to believe a lie. It is not by law keeping that we are made safe, but rather by living by EVERY word that proceeds from the mouth of God and not living by our fleshly desires and the lies of the serpent. Remember that the devil used scripture to tempt Jesus to sin!
We also know that if we are acting out of unselfish love in whatever we do, we are fulfilling the O.T. law AND the law of Christ.

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Galatians 5:14, KJ2000)

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4, KJ2000)

But how do we know if we just now are walking by faith – or not? The Bible tells us,

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3 ESV)

We can be sure if we are enwrapped in His peace right now, we are in His will, we are walking by faith and there is no sin so that there would be an open door for Satan to make us fear, worry, or a possibility to deceive or delude us. This was summed up in what Paul wrote to the Philippians…

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:4-8, KJ2000)

So, back to our question, “How does God define sin?” Paul wrote “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23, KJ2000) Any time we are falling short of the glory of God we are in sin… That is any time our lives and our words are not glorifying God and His will for us, we are sinning. We are called to walk as Jesus walked on this earth in total obedience to the Father with lives that glorify Him. “Father, continue to mature us in your Spirit so that we might live lives that only glorify you. Amen.”

*Susanne’s blog page can be found here https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2015/11/21/how-do-we-define-sin/

Making Room for the Spirit to Mature Others in Christ

By Michael Clark and George Davis

Church

“My brethren, be not many teachers, knowing that we shall receive the severer judgment. For in many things we all offend. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man…” (James 3:1-2 KJ2000)

Lately the Lord has drawn our attention to a problem that exists among many of us “more mature” saints of God who have a lot of Bible knowledge and have had many decades of experience following the Lord. That problem is that many of us are not making room for the saints who are more timid or who are still learning to experience first hand the Living Christ and assure them that they can hear the voice of the Spirit speaking to and leading them. Paul wrote,

“Let us have fond affection for one another with brotherly fondness, in honor deeming one another first” (Romans 12:10 CLV)

“Deeming one another first”…How often I (Michael) have listened to a brother or sister tell about their latest insight they got from the Lord only to jump right in with a couple of scriptures and assure them that I also knew all about this truth before they did. You see, this is not demonstrating fond affection and deeming the other saint first before myself. In fact when I have done this or seen it done, the more timid of God’s little ones will often just shut down, feeling that their little offering is only “one talent” compared to ours and go away and bury it out of intimidation because of the glaring neon lights of our own “giftedness” compared to their “pocket flashlight.” Is it any wonder that churches are filled with silent observers that do not personally know the voice of THE Good Shepherd?

When Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am,” it was not so that He could lord over them with His great knowledge as the Son of God. He was the consummate Teacher and often taught by asking questions to draw people to engage with what He taught and to hear God Himself speak to them. When Peter answered Him and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus did not say, “Well, it is about time you guys figured that out! I have known that from the foundation of the world!” No, He commended Peter that he himself could hear the Father speak to him and said that it was upon this foundation that God would build His house! How often do we look for or make opportunities that we might show other saints more honor and commend them in their faith to walk and listen to the Spirit for themselves and move with His wind? We cannot expect to grow the kingdom of God by making people perpetually dependent on professional clerics and teachers. Real maturity takes place when His followers are doing as He did, only speaking what they hear the Spirit saying and doing the works that the Father foreordained them to do.

If we are not making room for others to interact with the Spirit of God and encouraging them to do so, but instead trying to be their “be all and end all” for everything that has to do with faith, we are putting ourselves in their lives instead of Christ. The very definition of the word “anti-christ” is “instead of Christ!” Real maturity does not happen when we do all the “fishing” for those around us. Real maturity takes place when they also learn how to “fish” and can teach others to do the same (See 2 Timothy 2:2).

Jesus taught the 70 disciples for a few months and then sent them out and said, “Okay, boys, go do it!” It was time to “get tough or die.” He equipped them to fly and pushed them out of the nest and they came back with glowing reports of their success (See Luke 10:1-19). How often we have heard in the last few years about the glories of the “five-fold ministries.” Yet, if we read the context of Ephesians 4:11 where these graces are listed we see that they are not an end unto themselves. These were given to individuals so that they would work themselves out of a job,

“to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the 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,” (Ephesians 4:12-15 ESV)

In our experience the more we have heard men teach the importance of these five gifts they claim to have, the less we have seen the saints under them “all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Rather we have seen these men and women trying to do all ministry (except the nursery, setting up chairs, mowing lawns, and janitorial work, etc.) while the faithful sit there Sunday after Sunday in their pews sucking on their spiritual thumbs. One dear saint referred to this syndrome as “the perpetual babyhood of the believer.”

Dear saints, we cannot count on that system that men have built around themselves, that produces weak Christians at best, to get the gospel out into the highways and byways or teach those who are saved to listen to the Spirit as Jesus did, growing up in every way into Christ who is their Head. We have to point all who believe Christ to Him and His Spirit, not ourselves! Like John the Baptist, we must decrease and Christ must increase. He who is supposed to have the bride is the Bridegroom not the friends of the Bridegroom (See John 3:25-31).

This is the NEW Covenant, Not the Old

Most of the dysfunction in the church today is due to an inadequate comprehension of the New Covenant. In the Old Covenant prophets, priests and kings preformed mediatory functions between God and the people. In the new covenant “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5 RSVA)

In the Old Covenant there were many teachers. In the New there is only one. Christ commanded His disciples not to be called teachers, “. . . for One is your Teacher, the Christ.” (Matthew 23:10). Foreseeing this in the Spirit Jeremiah prophesied,

“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD . “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD ,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD . “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34, NIV)

The Author of Hebrews quoted this passage to emphasize the vast difference between the Old and the New Covenants.

“. . . And they shall not teach every one his fellow or every one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest. (see Hebrews 8:10-11 – emphasis added)

they shall not teach . . .

One of the primary differences between the Old and the New Covenants is teaching. In the old, men taught every one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ but in the New Covenant all are taught of God and all know Him.

Quoting Isaiah Jesus said,

 It is written in the prophets, “‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. (John 6:45, NKJV – emphasis added)

John wrote of the individual believer’s submission to this One Teacher saying, “The anointing you received from him abides in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. Instead, because his anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not a lie, abide in him, as he taught you to do” (1 John 2:27, ISV – emphasis added).

To make one’s self the teacher of God’s children is to become a busybody in the affairs of another. To do so is to attempt to control others through doctrine and to usurp the role of the One Teacher. Jesus said, “But you must not be called Rabbi, for One is your teacher, Christ, and you are all brothers” (Matthew 23:8 MKJV – emphasis added).

Paul addressed this at length in Romans 14. Regarding the then hotly debated matter of what one should eat. Paul wrote, “Who are you to condemn God’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should” (Romans 14:4, NLT – emphasis added).

The Greek word translated condemn here is Krinoto rule, govern, to preside over with the power of giving judicial decisions, to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong. This is the same word translated “judge” and “judged” in this verse that we know so well, “”Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1 NKJV).

Individual believers are accountable directly to the Lord not to each other. And so in addressing this inordinate ambition Paul does not advance special doctrines to enforce uniformity, in doing so he would have been guilty of the very thing he was exhorting the Roman believers not to do. He encouraged them to live their lives in direct accountability to the Lord and to allow their brothers and sisters to do the same. knowing that it is God who teaches each one right and wrong and it is He who keeps them standing as they live before Him alone. Our faith finds its proper place privately before God. “Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. . .” (Romans 14:22). The exhortation here is clear– forcing our opinions on the servants of God is counter to true faith. True faith believes that they are kept by Another. True faith believes that they will be made to stand by their own Master. True faith holds its piece and allows the one Teacher to instruct without constantly interjecting our “superior” knowledge, opinions and will..

The Brother with the More Perfect Word

A friend of ours shared with us a problem that repeatedly stifled mutual sharing in there gatherings. Someone would be telling about what God had been teaching them and then a seemingly well-meaning brother would interrupt them and give them a quick course in one-upmanship. He always completed their thought by adding his fuller revelation. Soon no one was sharing. The only one left standing or speaking was the brother with “the more perfect word.” How often have we seen this? Or rather, how often have we been guilty of this very thing? In our pride we want to flaunt our biblical knowledge, but behind it all the underlying message we communicate is this, “Look at me. See how special I am. I have traveled down the Christian road further than the rest of you. My understanding of spiritual things is vastly superior to yours. Who better then to be the final arbiter of truth? Or does experience count for nothing?”

There is a word for such delusion–pride. And by it we reconstruct the old mediatory system and privately christen ourselves king, prophet and priest. By such arrogance we both disrespect our brothers and sisters and their Teacher. Nothing could be further from the self-forgetfulness of those truly spiritual individuals who think of others as being higher or better than themselves.

Not understanding the New Covenant, many believers have returned to the Old Covenant mediatory system. They have replaced the one heavenly Teacher with many human ones and have garnered to themselves teachers who tickle their ears (2 Timothy 4:3). Some have ambitiously risen up “. . . speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:30). Some are unduly exalted above their calling while other men and women are dishonored and subjugated. A few high profile people assume responsibilities well beyond their appointed measure leading the rest to abdicate their proper function in the body of Christ. What a travesty! We are not rightly discerning the body of Christ and many are spiritually emaciated and sick among us.

Once again we see an Old Testament system using New Covenant terminology. The result is the same–believers are once again relegated to the outer court instead of boldly coming into the throne of grace.

Revelation, Love and Intimacy

Circle-1  It is hard to envision what the Garden of Eden was like before the fall of man. Can you imagine an existence on this earth where there are no laws to break except one, and no conscience to violate, but only love and acceptance? Man dwelt there with his Creator in love and all his livelihood was provided for him with no fear of death or sickness. There were no animals or men to fear, and no weeds or briars to fight. It was a place where there was total peace and fellowship with all God’s creatures. Even the animals communicated with man in love, using a common language that was heard from heart to heart instead of head to head. This is the world that God made for man to enjoy. Adam and Eve ran around like little naked kids with no sense of shame whatsoever and felt such love and intimacy together that their relationship was only driven by God’s agape love for and in them, not by self-centered lust. God was loving and communing with them as their Daddy.

After thousands of years of suffering the consequences of the fall, it is hard for us to imagine such a world. Yet the image of the garden gives us a glimpse of heaven. Man ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and unleashed evil upon the earth, but God has had a plan to fully restore man to Himself and so we can walk in love with Him and one another once again and that plan was summed up with the words, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…”[1] Paul wrote of this saying, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren.”[2]

God so loved the world that He actually sent His own Son into this vile and dangerous place to restore man. Jesus not only consented to come here to the earth, but to be rejected, falsely accused by His own people and then tortured and killed in the most gruesome way possible, hanging on a cross. He did this so He could blot out the offence of our transgressions once and for all by taking our sin on Himself so we might be justified.[3]

The Hebrew word translated “restore” in the Old Testament is shub (shoob) and is found 1339 times in that ancient text. One of the most familiar verses is in David’s prayer, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me [with thy] free spirit.”[4] Restoration of mankind is high on God’s list of priorities.

The drawing above in my mind pictures what God has been showing many of us in one form or another as He calls us out of ourselves and into Him as His sons and daughters. The tangle of weeds and briars along the bottom represents the curse that man has been under for thousands of years. A concern over good and evil is an endless tangle and a trap that pitches one man against another through sin and the rigidity of laws and regulations. Much of Christianity is trapped there today. The first fruit of this wrong tree was Adam and Eve seeing their God-given state of nakedness as evil and making garments of fig leaves to cover themselves and hide from God. It is interesting that God said to them, “Who told you that you were naked?”[5] It was the serpent who filled them with guilt and shame as they submitted to him in order to become wise. On that day they lost their child-like faith and trust in God.

But God had a plan to pull us up out of the muck and mire of sin, law and death through the death and resurrection of His Son[6], the spotless Lamb Who takes away the sins of the world.[7] We all know His plan to bring about the salvation (the saving) of man by Christ’s death on the cross, but there is so much more to it than just getting us out of the miry clay and setting our feet on the Rock.[8]

God has wanted an intimate, loving relationship with man from the beginning. He identified Himself as a husband to both Jews and Gentiles in both the Old and New Testaments.[9] And finally in the New Testament, Jesus is identified as the Bridegroom and those who truly love Him as His Bride.[10] This brings up the subject of intimacy.

As depicted in the drawing above, Revelation, Love and Intimacy flow between and out from the Father, Son and Spirit. In this relationship, the Spirit reaches down into our lives with what the scriptures and is called the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ.[11] Jesus said that He would send the Spirit to us to lead us into all truth.[12]

With this revelation from Him we realized that God loves us and we in turn love God because He first loved us.[13] We come into a relationship with Christ because He calls us and reveals Himself in us.[14] We are also called into the intimacy of the Father and the Son, and from this intimacy comes and ever growing revelation of who They are.[15] With this growing revelation grows an ever greater love for Them in us as well. We are caught up into this circle of love with them as well.

In all this, we who are His elect grow together in our love for one another as we are made perfect in love. The perfect love of God casts out all fear.[16] This freedom allows us to walk in the transparency and the Light (spiritual intimacy) of Christ[17] with one another in true fellowship[18]. We pray for each other and work toward each other’s wholeness as members of Christ’s body[19] where all things are done unto edification.[20] As God unites us together in His love for one another, all our walls of separation come down, because in Christ there is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave or free, or male nor female, but a new creation allowing real intimacy and fellowship between us.[21] As our love grows for one another, our relationships take on a depth we never knew possible in the world. “Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. Love never fails!”[22] Jesus said:

A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (John 13:34 KJVCNT)

You might say that we are being sucked-up into this tornado of love where the Father, the Son and the Spirit live for us because they love us so much. The closer we are drawn to Them, the more we become like Them and the more the world rejects us because we are no longer of this world.[23] Soon, His love is so strong for and in us that we gladly loose ourselves from our earthly moorings like houses torn from their foundations in a tornado, and are totally caught up into the love of the Father and the Son. All the things of this world that were once near and dear to us lose their grip on our hearts.[24] In my own case I used to live to fish and hunt and have a place of my own in the country that made it easier to do so. I even built my own hunting lodge that was on 20 acres of forest near lakes and mountains, but before I was done, God’s love so changed me that it was all I could do to finish this lodge so we could sell it and move into town where Father wanted me.

Paul, who loved Jesus dearly, put it this way:

 Those things were important to me, but now I think they are worth nothing because of Christ. Not only those things, but I think that all things are worth nothing compared with the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him, I have lost all those things, and now I know they are worthless trash. This allows me to have Christ and to belong to him. Now I am right with God, not because I followed the law, but because I believed in Christ. God uses my faith to make me right with him. I want to know Christ and the power that raised him from the dead. I want to share in his sufferings and become like him in his death. (Philippians 3:7-10 NCV)

 How else can we as His bride ever become one unless we have a common depth of love for Jesus and the Father? Soon we become so enraptured with Christ and the Father that we are in total identification and unity with them and with one another in this same love. This is the goal of the gospel!

 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he says unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he says unto me, These are the true sayings of God. (Revelation 19:7-9 KJVCNT)

 Speaking of love and intimacy Oswald Chambers wrote:

After that, He appeared in another form to two of them… —Mark 16:12
Being saved and seeing Jesus are not the same thing. Many people who have never seen Jesus have received and share in God’s grace. But once you have seen Him, you can never be the same. Other things will not have the appeal they did before.
You should always recognize the difference between what you see Jesus to be and what He has done for you. If you see only what He has done for you, your God is not big enough. But if you have had a vision, seeing Jesus as He really is, experiences can come and go, yet you will endure “as seeing Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27).
Jesus must appear to you and to your friend individually; no one can see Jesus with your eyes. And division takes place when one has seen Him and the other has not. You cannot bring your friend to the point of seeing; God must do it. Have you seen Jesus? If so, you will want others to see Him too. “And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either” (Mark 16:13). When you see Him, you must tell, even if they don’t believe. ~ http://utmost.org/have-you-seen-jesus/

(a special thanks to Susanne Schuberth for sharing this and her own experiences on her blog. https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2015/04/25/a-life-redeemed-now-or-later/ )

 Seeing Jesus as He IS makes all the difference in the world. Jesus calls us to be not only His friends, but His bride, intimately connected to Him. As called-out ones, we share a greater intimacy with Him and, as a result with others who have seen him, too. We cast off our earthly moorings and let the Spirit wind take us wherever He sees fit. The perfect love of the Father does a deep work in our hearts and draws us away from the cares, goals and values of this world system. Jesus had a circle of 70 disciples, but the original 12 were closer to Him. Inside this smaller group were the three He took up in mountain where He appeared to them clothed in Light. Finally there was John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

So it is with the called and chosen. He loves everyone the same, but not all are able to receive everything He wants to share with them. John was not afraid to lay his head on Jesus’ breast because he was connected to Jesus by His great love. Of the twelve, only John was there with Him while He died on the cross.[25] The depth of love for Jesus and the ability to cast off our worldly and religious expectations and be caught up in Him alone will eventually make the difference for all of us.

At the last supper, before Jesus was taken captive by His murders, He prayed a very important prayer with His disciples.

 

Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son, that your Son also may glorify you: As you have given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as you have given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know [Grk. ginosko – intimate knowing[26]] you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent… I pray not for the world, but for them that you have given me; for they are yours. And all mine are yours and yours are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to you. Holy Father, keep through your own name those whom you have given me, that they may be one, as we are… That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me. And the glory which you gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them, as you have loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which you have given me: for you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world has not known [ginosko] you: but I have known [ginosko] you, and these have known [ginosko] that you have sent me. And I have declared unto them your name, and will declare it: that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:1-26 KJ2000)

 

Here we see a prayer for revelation, love and intimacyONE. I cannot get away from this phrase, “that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one.” His desire was and is not only for us to join in their unity and love, but for us to know it among ourselves as His people! This vortex of love between the Father, Son and Spirit draws us up into intimate fellowship with Them.

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.., and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7 RSVA)

This precious promise is not in future tense, but in the present. Dear saints, let these words sink into the depths of your heart, for here is the reality of His revelation and love for us in the greatest intimacy imaginable. May we all come to know this intimacy and love as we abide IN Them. Amen.

[1] Gen. 1:26

[2] Romans 8:29 RSVA

[3] Romans 3:23-26, 1 John 2:2 and 4:10

[4] Psalm 51:12 KJV

[5] Gen. 3:11

[6] Rom. 8:2

[7] John 1:29

[8] Psalm 40:2, 1 Cor. 10:4

[9] Jer. 2:2, 3:14, 31:32; Isa. 54:5; Eze. 16:8, 23:4; Hos. 2:2, 3:1 ; John 3:29 and 2Cor. 11:2

[10] Matt. 22:1-14, John 3:29; Rev. 19:7-9, 21:2-9 and 17

[11] Eph. 1:17

[12] John 16:13-15

[13] 1 John 4:19

[14] 1 Cor. 2:7-16, Galatians 1:5 and 3:27, Acts 17:28

[15] Matt. 13:11; Mark 3:11; Luke 10:23; John 15:15; John 17:6-7, 26; Romans 16:25-26;1 Cor. 2:11-12; Col. 1:26

[16] 1 John 4:18

[17] John 1:9

[18] 1 John 1:5-8

[19] James 5:16, Eph. 1:17-18, Eph. 4:21-25

[20] Eph. 4:14-16

[21] Gal. 3:26-28 and 6:15, Eph. 2:13-22, 4:1-6 , 4:15-16, 2 Cor. 5:17

[22] 1 Corinthians 13:7-8a CEV

[23] Matt. 5:10-12, Matt. 10:22, Mark 13:9-13, Luke 6:22-23, Luke 21:17, John 15:18-20, John 17:14

[24] Matt. 10:37, Luke 14:26, 2 Cor. 5:14-15

[25] John 19:26

[26] Matt. 1:25

Who ARE You, Lord?

Hubble Photos“I tell you, although he will not get up and supply him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his shameless persistence and insistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. So I say to you, Ask and keep on asking and it shall be given you; seek and keep on seeking and you shall find; knock and keep on knocking and the door shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks and keeps on asking receives; and he who seeks and keeps on seeking finds; and to him who knocks and keeps on knocking, the door shall be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone; or if he asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, evil as you are, know how to give good gifts [gifts that are to their advantage] to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!” (Luke 11:8-13 AMP – emphasis added)

The human mind tends to be lazy. We want to get an initial understanding of something and “get a handle on it.” From that point, it is fixed and we move on to get another theory neatly under our belt. But the wisdom and knowledge of God is infinite. Just about the time we think we have Him figured out, He does the opposite. And how many times I have had the meaning of a verse opened by Him into a greater depth I never saw before!

Imagine the shock that came upon those faithful Jews who administered the daily sacrifices and guarded the temple of God, knowing that what they were doing was necessary for maintaining their covenant with God. Yet, this same God allowed the Babylonians to come down upon them, take them into captivity, destroy the temple, and put an end to their daily sacrifices! The Ark of the Covenant was lost, never to be seen again. The shekinah glory above the mercy seat was gone! Men built more temples, but the glory of God was lost forever. Every time we think we have God in our nice, neat little doctrinal box, He blows up the box with a new and greater revelation of who He is! In this particular case, He was doing away with the Old Covenant to make room for the next one—a new one not based on law-keeping, but rather the mighty power of His grace.

“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34 RSVA)

Oswald Chambers wrote,

God cannot reveal anything to us if we have not His Spirit. An obstinate outlook will effectually hinder God from revealing anything to us. If we have made up our minds about a doctrine, the light of God will come no more to us on that line, we cannot get it. This obtuse stage will end immediately [when] His resurrection life has its way with us.”

We try to resist God with our puny human minds–minds that have been infected with the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil! For instance, we constantly use our minds to categorize people and things (this is good and that is evil). The way the typical carnal Christian thinking works when we meet another Christian is to start asking questions to find out how they believe and where they go to church. Then we say to ourselves, “Oh, you are one of those,” put that person in a convenient pigeon-hole and don’t listen to them any longer unless they are in the same pigeon-hole with us! Our beliefs are not tried and tested when we pigeon-hole people and shut them off if what they say is a challenge to us.

The Pharisees had a hard time with Jesus. They were constantly trying back Him into a doctrinal blind alley. Nicodemus had his mind blown by Jesus one night when he tired to pigeon-hole Him! So, in typical Pharisaic fashion he said to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him…” Jesus stopped him dead cold in his tracks and told him that he was not even in the game, much less on first base. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Jesus was speaking of a spiritual rebirth of the New Covenant in which the Spirit of God comes into those who keep seeking and are not content with their religious status quo. But that old man could only relate to a spiritual answer with another carnal question, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” As Oswald Chamber rightfully wrote, “If we have made up our minds about a doctrine, the light of God will come no more to us on that line, we cannot get it.”

One of the most important aspects of being led and taught by the Spirit of God is spiritual flexibility. Jesus went on to tell that old Jew,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”(John 3:8 RSVA). You cannot predict the wind. Its very unpredictability is demonstrated in Tornado Alley in the mid-west United States every year. Hundreds die in those storms in spite of their storm cellars and early warning systems. Religious people use their knowledge of the Bible to put God in their doctrinal boxes. They say, “Oh, God would not do that!” Or, “It says this in the Bible so God has to do it!” God laughs at our attempts to control Him with our puny minds so we can be God. Isn’t this the very motive behind so much of our Bible studying? Aren’t we trying to get a handle on God so we can control this unpredictable, wild Lover who swoops into our lives and longs to take us to ever greater heights of intimacy with Him?

Yes, He is a wild Lover. He calls us to follow Him, keep seeking Him, keep asking what His will is for us each moment of each day, and keep knocking on His heavenly door until He lets us into His inner chambers where He dwells. Here we abandon ourselves to Him and say as Mary did, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word.”

Oh, dear saints, our Father has so much more for each of us to discover and experience– who He is and the depths of His great love for us. Don’t be content with your own shallow understanding and stop there, thinking you have arrived. One of the most damaging things men do is give another man a theology degree that tells him He has arrived and knows all about God. Paul had one of those degrees because he sat at the feet of and learned from that highly regarded Jewish scholar, Gamaliel. Then on one fine day when Paul had God all figured out and was going about to kill all those cult followers of Jesus, He had an encounter with the living God. All of a sudden his fine education and training became so much dung. But Paul did ask the right question in his divine encounter, “Who are you, Lord?”

My dear Christian friends, if we are to ever apprehend this God by whom we have been apprehended, this is the question that we all should ask Him every day and then stand by to have our minds blown.

Who ARE you Lord?

“Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no foreign god with him. He made him ride on the high places of the earth, and he ate the produce of the field; and he made him suck honey out of the Rock, and oil out of the flinty rock.” (Deuteronomy 32:11-13 RSVA – emphasis added)

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