Dead End, the Way of the Churches

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Dead End Church Street by Piano on Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a Matter of Life and Death… the Love of God

Solitude and LightThis year has been a blessing as Father continues to draw us closer to Him even though the trials have often been severe. As His love has grown in me, so has the scope of suffering and joy grown as my heart has been opened to feel what is going on in the lives of those He has placed me with in His kingdom. They have been a great encouragement to me as we have prayed for one another and seen Him move in our lives. I would like to thank my wife, Dorothy, for her steadfast encouragement and proof reading and editing skills in these articles I write. I would also like to give a special thanks to Susanne Schuberth and her blog* and the many times God has used her to inspire the things that I have shared as we both have grown in Christ and have encouraged one another.

 The events of this year so remind me of this stanza from “Amazing Grace,”

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I [we] have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me [us] safe thus far,
And grace will lead me [us] home.

I was recently reading something by T. Austin Sparks that really spoke to me about the nature of our Father’s working in our lives and the pattern of terrible lows, followed by His wonderful heavenly highs.

We can have many times of glory in our Christian lives. It is progressive, progressive in this sense: that it is an increasing matter. The Christian finds that from time to time he or she is taken into a deeper, deeper experience of trial, affliction, sorrow… something deeper and more difficult than anything before, and it’s a time when there does not seem to be very much glory; the glory seems to be veiled. There is nothing necessarily wrong about that, dear friends… That is the common experience and that is recognised as being true to Christian experience. But, you see, God is the God of glory and we are called unto His eternal glory and what the Lord means by this is more glory. The deeper the trial, the greater the suffering, the greater the glory, presently. It is only to bring about the glory in fuller measure. It is progressive, like that. And so there seems to be no end to these going-down experiences, but equally there is no end to the coming-up experiences. If there seems to be no end to the dark experiences, be assured that there is no end to the light [enlightening] ones. (http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/004310.html)

As I read this, something that Paul wrote took on greater meaning.

For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:11 RSVA)

For we are like a sweet-smelling incense offered by Christ to God, which spreads among those who are being saved and those who are being lost. For those who are being lost, it is a deadly stench that kills; but for those who are being saved, it is a fragrance that brings life. Who, then, is capable for such a task? (2 Corinthians 2:15-16 GNB)

Who can survive a life such as this, and who is sufficient to understand God’s ways with us? We can only endure such dying in Christ by faith, because it is designed to kill that old Adam in us with whom we have so closely identified, so that only the life of Christ remains in us and is manifest to all who know us. To those who perish we smell like death and they despise us for it, but to those who are being saved, we are the smell of His Life that brings life. Mary broke that alabaster box of perfume and poured it all out on Jesus and totally blessed Him with her act of love, and the smell of that perfume filled the whole house and blessed everyone in it. This is the nature of our own sacrifice in the plan of God… our being broken and poured out on and for Him.

Death and glory go hand in hand, but for those who belong to Jesus, death never has the final word, but rather the glory of God manifest in us through Christ. Just before He went to the cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son, that your Son also may glorify you” (John 17:1 KJ2000). Jesus glorified the Father by the sweet smelling sacrifice of His own life in obedience. What love for the Father that He would not only lay down His own life, but that He might redeem all of God’s precious creation from sin and death. I love the fragrance of Christ in His saints!

Jesus went on to pray:

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:22-23 ESV)

So we not only see that death is a prerequisite to glory in the economy of God, but is also needed to fully live in the love of the Father and the Son. Oh, what manner of love the Father has given unto us that we should be called the children of God and made one with the Father, the Son and one another in perfect agape love!

Thank you all for your kind and loving comments on our blog this year. May He continue to conform us into the image of Christ as we go from death to death and life to life and may He also draw us ever closer together in His great love.

* https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/

Will We Choose Jesus Christ or a System?

The Bride of ChristDear saints, how many of us are still clinging to the traditions of men in our hearts instead of being stripped of all that and clinging to Jesus Christ and being adorned only in the wedding garment HE has provided? God will have His heavenly temple made from living stones purified in the fire and Jesus Christ will have his perfect bride who only has a heart for Him and no other. There HAS to be a terrible shaking to get us to let go of all that is not of His heavenly order and I believe it has begun.

I used to think that church splits, abusive church leadership, ministers who fall into sin and delusion, and ministries that go off after obvious heresy were something terrible, but now I can see that all these things are part of God’s purifying process that drives the true believer out of that whorish system and into the arms of the One who loves them, Jesus Christ. On the one hand people are being seduced by those who appeal to their flesh and on the other we are being offered a path of rejection and suffering in this world as we seek the One who can not be shaken who is our Rock. This is the dividing of soul from spirit spoken of in Hebrews ch. 4:12.

The following was written by T. Austin-Sparks in 1952 and how much more is it a warning for we who serve Christ in this late hour?

 

The words quoted from the prophet seem yet to be capable of a fuller-ranged fulfillment than even the above-mentioned ‘shaking’. “Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also the heavens”. (Hebrews 12:26,27).

There is no doubt that the Letter to the Hebrews was a supreme effort to get Christian believers detached from an earthly form of Christianity, and attached to Christ in heaven. That effort had as one of its strong reasons the fact that a great shaking was foretold, foreseen, and imminent. That shaking was to be in two parts, an earlier and a latter; an entirely earthly, and later an earthly and heavenly combined. The effect of the shaking, and, indeed, the purpose of it, would be to test everything as to abiding values. The former and earthly shaking was Jewish, but it had all the elements in principle and type of the latter.

In the destruction of Jerusalem – toward which the Letter pointed – the whole earth was shaken so far as Jewry was concerned. The Temple, as the focal point of that whole world, crashed even with the ground. The priesthood, as gathered up in the high-priestly order, passed away. The temple service ended, and the nation ceased to be an integrated and unified people.

These were things capable of being removed. And yet how long they had stood! What forces they had withstood! What confidence there was that they could never cease to be! How assured they were that God was so bound up with it all that it could never be destroyed and cease to be! How they fought and clung to it to the last terrible extremity! But it was of no avail. God was no longer wanting the framework and earthly system, which had taken so much room, and energy, and expenditure, before the really spiritual was reached. The percentage of spiritual value was so small after all, and spiritual interests lay so far along the labyrinthine ways of religious machinery and tradition, that it was not worth while. The means to the end was not immediate, that is, there was far too big a distance between the means and the end. There was no immediate touch with the real Divine requirement, and there was far too much that was intermediate. And so it had to go, and, rather than preserve it, God Himself shook it.

What remained after the shaking was just that, and that only, which was Christ in a spiritual and heavenly way: Christ in heaven, and here by His Spirit, the gathering point, or occasion of assembling; Christ in heaven the High Priest and Sacrifice; the order of God’s house here a purely spiritual and heavenly one – not formal, arranged, imposed, imitated, or material. Order grows out of life, and if that life is Divine, and unchecked, Divine order will be spontaneous.

The amazing thing is how blind and unbelieving Christian people are, and therefore how unwilling to seek to know the way of the ‘unshakable’. In a very small part of our lifetime the phrase ‘world evangelization’ (from one part to another) has been rendered unusable, and all that mighty machine is having to be revised. Countries which were until quite recently the greatest spheres of ‘missionary’ activity are now closed as such. There is a feverish race to try to move ahead of the flood in other countries which are already encircled and undermined. In those overrun countries nothing but a true and living knowledge of the Lord is stemming the tide. The framework and organized structure of Christianity is gone. Deeply, stealthily, and irresistibly this sinister work is paving the way for swift and paralysing movements in all the rest of the world, as much in the West as in the East. The result will be the same everywhere, little as it may seem possible because of long traditions and strong establishments. It seems a terrible thing, even to think, but as we have touched so very much of what is called ‘Christianity’ we are bound to believe that, because vast numbers who call themselves Christian are in an utterly false position, and the system itself has become so largely an earthly, traditional, formal, and unspiritual thing, this world-wide shaking is quite necessary and will be eventually justified. If we were writing a treatise, we could show that what is called ‘Christianity’ is really the greatest enemy of Christ.

It will be seen that it is not a matter of substituting another and better system for an old and poor or bad one. Some people seem to think that it is all or largely a matter of the order, technique, and form, and if we returned to the ‘New Testament’ form or order of churches all would be well. The fact is that, while certain things characterized the New Testament churches, the New Testament does not give us a complete pattern according to which churches are to be set up or formed! There is no blue-print for churches in the New Testament, and to try to form New Testament churches is only to create another system which may be as legal, sectarian and dead as others. Churches, like the Church, are organisms which spring out of life, which life itself springs out of the Cross of Christ wrought into the very being of believers. Unless believers are crucified people, there can be no true expression of the Church.

This brings us to our particular point. What is the pressing imperative in view of this oncoming flood of testing, which has already carried away very many of those who were called Christian, and even evangelical Christians?

Surely there is only one answer:- On the one hand, a ministry which has as its substance and object the “rooting and grounding”, the establishing, the building up, of believers, the real increase of “the measure of Christ”. This must get behind evangelism, so that the work is deep, not superficial; enduring, not transient; intrinsic, not general! On the other hand, believers must really take stock of their Christianity. Is it just a tradition, an assumption, an external system, the thing which is common acceptance – more or less? Or is it really “by revelation of Jesus Christ” in the heart? A real walk with God, and a growing knowledge of Christ, a life in the Spirit? God has said it: the things which can be shaken will be. What have we got that, being unshakable, will remain?

http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002091.html

 

Unshakeable Ground in Christ

ChristChurch cathedral during a media tour
As some of you know, I have been pondering this passage for some time, the more so as we watch this world coming unraveled more and more…
See that you refuse not him that speaks. For if they escaped not who refused him that spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape, if we turn away from him that speaks from heaven: Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he has promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:25-29 KJ2000)
This is a picture of the quake damage at Cathedral Square in Christchurch, N.Z  in 2011. What is it that is Unshakable? Surely it is NOT temples made by men to “house God.” As it was with the temple in Jerusalem almost 2000 years ago, so will it be with the last vestiges of Christendom, that artificial thing that is NOT made from LIVING stones who have only Christ as their true Foundation.  So our salvation is to abide where HE is our king, in His kingdom and not the kingdoms of men.
I got a better picture of this principle as I read the following from T. Austin-Sparks this morning…

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people both now and forevermore. (Psalm 125:1,2 NIV)

Mountains? And the Lord like the mountains? What is that? It is fortification, it is strength, it is protection. And what is the point of fortification if there is nothing against which to be fortified? Away back in Old Testament times, when the people came into the land, the remarkable thing is that they occupied the higher places more than the lower. You will find that their towns, cities and villages are almost all of them upon some high place; the reason being that their enemies, who had chariots and horses, had their strength on the level, in the plain, but they could do nothing with chariots and horses against mountains. And therefore the safety, security and fortification of the Lord’s people was by being on high places.

That is a parable. If the enemy can get you on to his level he has beaten you. So he must pull you down, he must get you down, he must get you to accept something less than God’s full place and mind for you, and then he will undo you. That is what he has done with the church, speaking of the church now in very general terms. He has pulled it down to this world level; he has reduced it to the level of things here, and he has absolutely disintegrated it, broken it up and divided it and robbed it of its power. The church which is revealed to us in the New Testament is always on high ground…. In Ephesians, it is “in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.” It is a great power to be on high ground, it is a great defensive, protective factor; the enemy can do little with you if you keep up there and refuse to come down. Nehemiah found that to be so, when they said, “Come down and let us confer”; and he said, “I am doing a great work so that I cannot come down” (Neh. 6:3). It is a principle operating.
http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/003266.html