Saturday, January 26, 2008

He that restraineth......restraineth no more!

I believe the Lord has shown us that the restrains are being lifted off the evil one.

(2 Thessalonians 2:6-7) And now ye know that which restraineth, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season. For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way.
We know we have seen evidences of it in the Church. But since this past Sept, we have seen a great increase of evil every where. Seemingly normal people are going off and killing people in hideous crimes. I have never seen so much of it. It seems it is becoming easy for evil spirits to enter anyone who is not totally dedicated to the Lord.

A young Hollywood Actor dies un-expectantly not long after playing a part in a movie of an evil villain. The actor said before his death, the part had gotten “into my head”. He couldn’t sleep and was on medication because of it. Demonic? You can bet it was!

No one is immune these days if we don’t stay close and obedient to the Lord. If truly the restraints are being removed, here are some things the scriptures say will happen and these things will increase worse and worse as the day of the Lord approaches. 2Ti 3:13

The church will be in deception because they did not love the true of the Gospel. (2Th 2:11) This is part of the Great falling away. (2Th 2:3)

2Thess 2:4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

Jesus referred to His body as the temple of God in the book of John. Paul referred to the Christians at Corinth as the temple of God.

Here is wisdom. He that hath understanding, let him count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man: and his number is Six hundred and sixty and six. (Revelation 13:18)

One of the things the anti-Christ spirit will do is exalt man above God; it is so subtle that many do not recognize it. But in view of the scriptures we can see how this spirit is sweeping across the Church in America and the Western world.

Today in Churches we hear a lot about self esteem, succeeding in this life, having the things of this world that we want. Self Help books are the most popular books on the “Christian” book store shelves today. Some even say they are written so the unbeliever can also benefit from them. But the true Gospel says if we do not die to self and if God is not our ONLY goal in this life we will not enter into the Kingdom of God.

Jesus said to lose your life. For we cannot serve two masters, we can not have both our life and Christ’ life, we must choose which one we will follow hard after: David said it beautifully: (Psalms 63:8) My soul followeth hard after thee: Thy right hand upholdeth me. (Psalms 73:25) Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.

Jesus said you couldn’t follow him unless you first went to the cross (your instrument of death) and carry it daily.


(Matthew 10:38-39) And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

(Matthew 6:24a) No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.
In Philippians 3:17 Paul said to follow his example. He gave up everything for Christ, he had no other desires but Christ and to “apprehend” him.


(Philippians 3:7-8) But those things which were profit to me, I gave up for Christ. Yes truly, and I am ready to give up all things for the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, which is more than all: for whom I have undergone the loss of all things, and to me they are less than nothing, so that I may have Christ as my reward,

Then the apostle John said:

Have no love for the world or for the things which are in the world. If any man has love for the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Because everything in the world, the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father but of the world.

And the world and its desires is coming to an end: but he who does God's pleasure is living for ever. (1 John 2:15-17)

In view of these scriptures we can see clearly that there has already been the “great falling away” from the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But wait! It gets scarier! With the restrains out of the way of Satan, he is having a hay day in the world of those “outside” the church to do as he pleases. But the worst is what he is doing “inside” the church.

With the power of Satan we will see false miracles, signs and lying wonders in the church. And again, many will be deceived because “they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved”. 2Th 2:9-10

I believe scripture clearly shows that the anti-christ spirit will imitate the Holy Spirit, just like Pharaoh’s magicians did in Egypt duplicating the signs and wonders God did through Moses and Aaron. He will be “Showing himself that he is God”. 2Thess 2:4 It will take discernment from the Holy Spirit to know the difference.

I’m not just talking about healings, speaking in tongues and other miracles, signs and wonders. But even to things like praise and worship, causing emotions to rise to the point people think they are “feeling” the Holy Spirit. When in reality they are only experiencing what the music worked up in their flesh. And if any doubt that music can do that, go to a rock concert sometime and watch the people and see the emotional state they can be “moved” to. Does it look much different than what we have seen in some churches? This, my friends, is not true worshipping in spirit and in truth; this is of a different spirit!

But there is also good news for those who love the truth more than their very lives! For those who walk in the truth and seek God will get closer to him than ever before! These are the times that Abraham looked for. God is building a Temple out of his people that he will dwell in. He is purifying a people unto himself. While the process of purification can be painful while the things of this world and its sins are cleansed from us, it is also Glorious. In the hands of a Loving father he is molding us as the potter molds the clay into a beautiful vessel worthy of service. His hands are carefully on us, ever guiding, protecting, correcting, changing, growing and caring for his beloved. This knowledge is too wonderful to describe. Some have said, “Don’t be so Heavenly minded, you are no Earthly good”. But, truer statement to the Word would be. “Be so Heavenly minded that you care nothing for Earthly goods”. Again, I have to agree with David as he said: (Psalms 73:25) Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Beauty For Ashes

A Way Through The Wilderness
Beauty For Ashes Part II - George H. Warnock

CHAPTER 4 - THE WILDERNESS OF SINAI

"Be Ye Holy, for I Am Holy"

"And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the Wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the LORD, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink" (Ex. 17:1).

They are still southward-bound... still travelling farther and farther away from Canaan. For God must prove them and prepare their hearts still further, before they are ready to turn northward to Canaan.

Massah And Meribali

No water at Rephidim. God provided them with food from heaven; but now they are again without water, and ready to stone Moses. God has the answer to every physical and spiritual need, and the only reason He keeps us waiting is to prove us and try us, to know whether we will believe Him or not. Moses was told to stand upon a rock in Horeb (which means "a parched place"), to smite the rock with his rod, and God promised the waters would gush forth in refreshing, flowing streams.

"And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the LORD, saying, Is the LORD among us, or not?" (Ex. 17:7).

Why is it that we have to make a Massah and a Meribah out of every place of God's provision, just because God seems to act so slowly, and to be silent when we think we need Him most? Why do we not allow the Lord to call the experiences of life through which we must pass by such names as "Living Waters"... "Peace and Rest"... "Fountain of Living Streams"... Instead, we murmur and complain, and God is faithful to come on the scene in answer to our prayers, but He is compelled to call our place of failure by such names as these: Massah, which means "testing, temptation" or, Meribah, which means "contention, confrontation, strife."

And when God says our place of failure was Massah and Meribah, He is not saying it was the place where He tested us. He is saying rather that in the place where He sought to test us and prove us we turned it about and TESTED GOD AND CONTENDED WITH GOD AND PROVED GOD... and this is what saddens His heart. Massah and Meribah have therefore become a description of their whole way of life throughout their forty year journey in the wilderness. And when the Psalmist lifts his voice to praise and exalt the Rock of his salvation... and then bows his knee in worship before the LORD his Maker... very abruptly his praise and his worship become, in a spirit of prophecy, a very solemn warning to the people of God, who know how to praise and worship, but whose hearts are prone to hardness and rebellion:

"To day if ye will hear His voice,
Harden not your heart,
As in the provocation [as at 'Meribah'],
And as in the day of temptation
In the wilderness [as at 'Massab']:
When your fathers tempted Me,
Proved Me, and saw My work"
(Ps. 95:7-9).

This is a day when the congregations of the Lord have a know-how approach to God; and worship and praise has in many, many cases become a system, a "do-it-this-way" approach... and when it is all over, the heart remains as hard and as cold toward God as ever. There is an "art" in praise, an "art" in worship, an "art" in music, and an "art" in dancing before the Lord. And how little of it leads to true submission and worship at the feet of Him who is our Lord and Maker. And if you feel that in being blessed, and in partaking of much spiritual gift and provision you are somehow His specially favored people, listen to these solemn words at the end of this beautiful Song of Praise:

"Forty years long was I grieved
With this generation, and said,
It is a people that do ERR IN THEIR HEART,
AND THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN MY WAYS:
UNTO WHOM I SWARE IN MY WRATH
THAT THEY SHOULD NOT ENTER INTO MY REST"
(Ps. 95:10-11).

Here was a people who were favored above all nations on the face of the earth. They beheld miracle after miracle every day of their lives. Water miraculously flowed forth from the Rock to quench their thirst. Manna rained down from heaven every day to satisfy their every need. The Cloud of Glory abode upon their Tabernacle by day and by night for forty years...

BUT IN AND THROUGH IT ALL THEY NEVER CAME TO KNOW GOD! ..AND GOD TESTIFIED THAT THEY WERE A GRIEF TO HIS HEART!

These are frightening observations. But we need to consider these things very solemnly in this day and hour when the blessing of God upon His people is considered to be His seal of approval. This is not Old Covenant theology. This is New Covenant teaching, hidden away in the types and shadows of the Old. Listen to Paul's commentary on this episode in the wilderness: "Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the Cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the Cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them [or, 'the most of them'] God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness" (1 Cor. 10:1-5).

They were "overthrown in the wilderness" despite the fact that they had partaken of all these manifold blessings. In the very midst of their blessings, they failed to walk in obedience, and failed to enter the Land of Promise. And the apostle Paul admonishes us to learn from their mistakes, for they were types and shadows of the people of God living in this New Covenant era. (See 1 Cor. 10:11-12).

Sinai, The Holy Mountain Of God

"In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the Wilderness of Sinai" (Ex. 19:1).

Here they must abide approximately eleven months, camping at the foot of the holy mountain of God, and becoming acquainted with His righteous and holy laws and ordinances. Here they would build the Tabernacle, that God Himself might dwell among them. Canaan lay before them, and there was much warfare to be accomplished, but God must have a holy people to war against the unholy nations, and to enter that holy realm which Moses had already described as "the mountain of Thine inheritance... the place, O LORD, which Thou hast made for Thee to dwell in... the Sanctuary, O Lord, which Thy hands have established" (Ex. 15:17).

In this day and age this matter of holiness is usually equated with "legalism." We know that we are living in the Day of Grace. But what is often overlooked is that the Grace of God came into being in order that the righteousness and the holiness which God required in the Old Covenant, might now be PROVIDED in the New. The reason God did away with the Law was because it didn't work. And the New Covenant came into being to work into the hearts and lives of God's people that quality and character of life that the Old Covenant was helpless to produce. It was "because they continued not in My Covenant" that God saw fit to change it (Heb. 8:9). And the reason we can walk in holiness and righteousness in the New Covenant is simply because God comes into the heart and mind and soul to write His requirements there in the heart and in the mind... once again with a finger of fire, but this time "in fleshy tables of the heart" (2 Cor. 3:3). The New Covenant is not just a new "position" in Grace; it is a WRITING ON THE HEART, AND A WRITING ON THE MIND, AND A KNOWING OF GOD IN INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP. It is not just a declaration of what we are in Christ; it is a TRANSITION from the place of condemnation and death into a place of righteousness and life. It is a TRANSFORMATION from a state of spiritual death and darkness into a new state of spiritual life and light. Was God indeed concerned about sheep, and goats, and oxen, and turtledoves, and pigeons, and holy days, and sabbaths, and religious rituals of one kind or another? "Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes?" (1 Cor. 9:9-10). Was He really concerned that we wear a garment of only one kind of material? Or planting our garden with two kinds of vegetables? Not really. But He was giving us principles of New Covenant truth in an Old Covenant setting. In other words, God hates a mixture. He is after heart purity... purity of mind, purity of attitudes. That's what the Law is all about; and that's what the wilderness is all about. It is a revelation of the heart of His people that God is after... that in seeing ourselves in our total helplessness and hopelessness, we might draw close to Him and partake of His grace. They confidently promised God that they would do everything He said. God knew it wasn't in their heart to do it, and we hear Him lamenting... "O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments always..." (Deut. 5:29). But even before Moses passes off the scene he foresees the day when God would bring forth the New Covenant:

"And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live" (Deut. 30:6).

This is the whole substance and intent of the Law, as Jesus observed. (See Matt. 22:37-40).

God's Peculiar Treasure

"Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto Myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" (Ex. 19:4-6).

Israel could not attain to this; but it has been reserved for the New Covenant people: "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light" (1 Pet. 2:9).

Who are these people who are God's special treasure, His peculiar people?

"Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon His name. AND THEY SHALL BE MINE, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels [or, 'my special treasure']..." (Mal. 3:16-17).

They are the ones who have a wholesome, godly fear of the Lord of all creation... a fear that inspires love and devotion and commitment, even unto death. When God speaks they listen. But they do more--they obey. They seek to walk in His ways. They tremble at His Word. They speak often one to another, not in idle chitchat, but in fellowship, thinking upon His Name, meditating of His wondrous works, encouraging and edifying one another--teaching, exhorting, admonishing one another in the fear of the LORD. They are wholly occupied with Him, and therefore He is wholly occupied with them:

"If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (Jn. 14:23).

The "peculiar people" are not "peculiar" because they do foolish things or unseemly things. The word has the sense of a "hidden treasure"... something so precious it is concealed, and hidden from the eyes of men... something special, something superlative. They are people that are unknown, and yet "well known." For they may pass their days in this life in obscurity, scarcely known or recognized in the affairs of men. But they are "well known" in heavenly places, the subject of conversation and wonder among the celestial hosts. They are weak and insignificant in themselves... can boast of no special endowments in the natural... very ordinary and unassuming. Yet somehow without great natural ability and with no claims to any particular achievements, they love God with an intensity that sets them apart in a special place in His heart... a special habitation for the abode of Father and Son.

"Leviticus"... Before "Numbers"

We are always in a hurry to get to our destination; and God is much more desirous to bring us there than we are. But He has taught us that...

"An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning; but the end thereof shall not be blessed" (Prov. 20:21). And so for almost a year the Lord keeps the children of Israel at Sinai, to prepare them for the journey NORTHWARD to Canaan. This is what the book of Leviticus is all about. It is the book of the Holiness of God, and the Holiness of His people. The word "holy" and "sanctify" are used well over one hundred times in Leviticus alone. In all the sacrifices, in all the ordinances, in all the judgments that God decreed, He is reflecting the holiness of His nature, and the desire for holiness in His people.

"Numbers" follows Leviticus; for in the book of Numbers the people of the Lord are numbered and set in orderly array, in preparation for the conquest of Canaan. But we must become acquainted with the awesomeness of our God, and learn to "tremble at His word" if we are going to be a conquering people. Would to God that the Church of this hour which is so zealous for warfare could understand this. The Battle is not ours but God's; and if we do not learn to fear before Him, and partake of His Holiness and of His character and nature, we are not going to war a good warfare against the hosts of evil that are arrayed against us. Would God that His people could understand that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but spiritual, and that...

We overcome evil with good...
We overcome hatred with love...
We overcome lawlessness with obedience...
We overcome error and deceit with Truth...

If we understood this, then we would concentrate on these kinds of weapons, rather than upon all manner of humanly devised strategies and gimmicks and forms of entertainment. And so we must remain here at the foot of the Holy Mount, to learn His ways, before we are going to be numbered for Battle.

To learn about the Covenant that is written upon our hearts with God's holy finger of fire...

To know God's wrath against the golden calf, and have our idolatrous hearts smitten with His righteous judgments...To know the zeal of the Lord, and the zeal of His priests, to cleanse the camp of God from all its idolatry...

To partake of priestly concern for God's people, that we might, as Moses did, prevail upon God to "turn from His fierce wrath, and repent of the evil" that He has purposed, and in the midst of His wrath, to remember mercy...

To set our hearts upon building the Tabernacle of God; yet even as we do, to know that "Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that; build it"...

To cry unto God as Moses did, "I beseech Thee, O LORD, SHEW ME THY GLORY." For it is only in beholding His glory, and radiating His glory, that we shall be able to minister life and truth to the people of God.

Then does the LORD say, "Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount: turn you, and take your journey..." (Deut. 1:6-7).

Time To Turn North

The song writer speaks of the "north wind" and the "south wind" that God sends upon His people. And so after coming out of Egypt the north wind, as it were, drove them farther and farther away from their goal. But now it is time for the south wind to blow, and to urge them northward to the land of their inheritance:

"Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof might flow out" (Song 4:16).

The rule of the Cloud is still the rule by which they must move forward into Canaan. But now the holy fire of God rests upon the Tabernacle. Now the holy fire of God is associated with the people of God, to consume their enemies.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

As the Rain and As the Snow

As the Rain and As the Snow - From The Hyssop that Springeth Out of the Wall
By George H. Warnock

What we are saying is that Truth begins to take on form and harmony and true meaning within us as we begin to walk in His Way, and not merely as we study the Bible. And as His ways begin to unfold we soon recognize that "as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9). Then we understand that we can only appreciate His ways as we allow our minds to be "renewed." We are aware that God made the majestic "Cedar that is in Lebanon." But now we are amazed that God takes note even of "the hyssop that springeth out of the wall." No longer is it alarming that people, even God's people, should resist the Truth. And no longer is there any purpose in arguing about it. Now we know that one must walk in God's Way if he is going to understand and know the Truth.

Nevertheless, we must be faithful to minister the Truth. For it will serve its purpose. God goes on to explain that His Word is like the rain that comes down from heaven, It will water the earth and flow back into the rivers and oceans from which it came in the first place. It is not really lost. If there has been a good planting of the Lord the rain will fulfill its purpose. But it takes time... and God's watchcare and faithfulness. And as the heart responds in faithfulness, with every going forth of the Word there is a certain work of grace wrought in the life. Truth becomes experience as we identify with it... I should say, with Him.

Then God says, "And as the snow from heaven..." Of course there is always evidence of life after a rain. But snow? Snow, and ice... these speak of hardness, coldness, and death. But as you begin to walk in His Way, you discover that there are "treasures" even in the snow. It, too, is to water the earth. God said so. But this can only happen at the right season... only in the hour of Spring! So that explains it! Here we were, wondering why we seemed to be so cold and lifeless, just cumbering the ground. Everything seems useless, futile, cold, barren. And yet I believe in Predestination. Sometimes I would like to forget it... but I know it is good doctrine: that God marked out my pathway before I was born, even from the foundation of the world. It seems to give you a feeling of importance and of greatness. But, like Joseph, the times come when you just have to lay it aside. I can hardly deny the doctrine... but at least I feel no urgency to argue about it anymore. I can hardly look at my life, very ordinary and futile as most of it seems to have been--and get excited about a doctrine that says God planned it all that way. But then I remember when I was a child, and my mother was doing needlework. She had two hoops that fitted together, one inside the other--and across the hoops was stretched a cloth, tightly drawn together by the hoops. The needlework looked real nice:, perhaps some pretty flowers, of different colors, all worked into the cloth according to a pattern that was stamped on the cloth ahead of time. Sometimes when she would lay it down I would take it and turn it over, and look at the underside. Then I would turn it back and forth and try to reconcile the beautiful flowers I saw on the top side, with the maze of colored thread underneath: loose ends, mixed-up threads, knots... anything but beautiful.

It must be something like that. There is a pattern. And because I believe God, I must believe that "all things work together for good to them that love God; to them who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow, He also did..." I can't quite see it that way now, because I am looking at the underside. The Master Workman is looking down from the top and I have to believe that He knows what He is doing. This gives me confidence and assurance in what I cannot see. But then He said it was supposed to be that way, to believe without seeing.

And so, "As the rain cometh down, AND AS THE SNOW..." Then I must wait. Wait for God. Wait for the right season. People have told me so often that God was waiting for me, and I have tried to accept that, because those who are teaching it seem to be more fruitful in His Kingdom than I am. But somehow I remain as the snow.

Now I can identify a little more with the Truth. There are "treasures in the snow." But these treasures can only be released in the hour of Spring. God does have a time and a season... and a day and an hour reserved for His people. But I can't choose that day and that hour. All I can do is to remain cold and lifeless until His time comes. Then it becomes "My hour." Sons of God must learn through experience that their time is not always ready, but it is being prepared. Can you identify?

Let us go a little further. The purpose of both the rain and the snow is to water the earth that it "may bring forth and bud." How precious it is in the hour of spring and early summer when this begins to happen. And how we anticipate the releasing of the blessing of God upon His people in that hour that they might truly become a fruitful field that the Lord hath blessed, that they in turn might become a blessing to others. Can we identify with God's Way?

Well, we can see buds and leaves of hope and blessing in the midst of God's people, and so we take courage. But let us go a little further. "That it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater..." Now that's what we want! We want to become the bread of life to those who are famishing about us, and water to the thirsty soul. Lord, make us to be that bread of life to the starving masses of humanity. And we have hope and confidence that God is preparing this kind of "bread." The Church of Christ is depicted as "one bread" as well as "one body." But let us never forget: in the formation of the Bread of God there is a process: and after the harvesting of the grain; after the grinding in the mills of God's dealings; after the anointing with the fresh oil of His Spirit, and the mingling together of the fine flour with the fresh oil.., and after the baking of the bread in the ovens of God's fiery trials... then and then only does the "dough" become "bread to the eater."

WHENCE SHALL WE BUY BREAD?

We would like to content ourselves with the thought that the Bible is the bread of life, and therefore we will do what we can to distribute Bibles. Or maybe our much activity in the Church might produce this bread. (And don't misunderstand me; we appreciate the printed Word, and every effort inspired by the Spirit of God to send forth that Word.) But let us just recognize plain facts. You want to be very practical, as you consider the needs of men? Then let us be practical. And let us just acknowledge that with every increase of our efforts to meet the needs of the people, so do those needs increase, And the "practical" in our midst, like Philip of old, have a very practical answer to the ever-present question that the Lord has posed: "Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat" (John 6:5). Now let us as God's people understand that because the Lord raises a matter of concern for His people, this is not God's authority for you and I to devise ways and means to fulfill the thoughts of God's heart. Jesus said this to "prove" Philip, not to authorize him to start a campaign for funds. Philip of course was very practical. Jesus is concerned about the hungry... so I will be concerned. Let us see: Two hundred dollars would perhaps help to solve the matter: everyone at least will have a little taste. Sound familiar? Perhaps if we could raise a thousand dollars, or twenty thousand dollars, we could get the job done.

But there are also a few Andrews around, and he has a little more faith... but still quite cautious. "There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes..." But he doesn't want to go out too far on the limb, so he mentions that it's really only a suggestion. The Lord knew all along what He would do, but very gently He was seeking to lead the disciples into His Way. Now having recognized their desire to help the people, and having received the suggestion from at least one in the group that there were a few loaves in their midst, little though it was, Jesus came forth with the answer. And it was very simple: Bring them to Me!

BRING THEM TO ME!

When, O when, Church of the living God, are we going to learn this lesson? That it is not in the raising of more money, and the enlarging of our churches, and the furtherance of our programs, that we are going to feed the multitudes. But it is in the five loaves and the two fishes surrendered entirely into the hands of the Master! That it is in the ministry with which God has enriched His people--not standing apart behind a pulpit, but broken and mingled together with the fish that have been taken in the net, that God shall meet the needs of humanity, That it is only as they are taken together in His hands, and become one in His hands, and broken in His hands, and mingled together in His hands, that they shall become that life-giving Bread that God has prepared for human need. Another billion dollars in the coffers of the Church will not accomplish what God wants accomplished in the earth. Selling your church edifices and building greater ones so that you can store more people will not do it, But a true Body (represented in the two fishes --"two" being the number of a corporate relationship); and a true ministry (represented in the five loaves); yet not two distinct entities as they exist today in the Church, but ONE in His hands, broken and mingled together, is God's total answer to human need.

Can we identify? Or at least, do we wish to identify? Do we have the courage to say with Philip, How are we going to meet the needs of humanity with so little? And further courage to say with Andrew, We have so little to offer? Or are we going to continue to canvas the believers for more and more and more only to end up with two hundred pennyworth and still barely enough to give a very small handful a very small taste?

JUST A BARLEY LOAF!

If God's people could only recognize that God can only multiply the very little we have when placed unreservedly in His hands! And that it is in the "breaking" of the loaf that the Word of God is multiplied, not in the printing of more Bibles! That it was just a "barley loaf" that tumbled down the slopes and smote the armies of Midian that were in number as "the sand that is upon the seashore for multitude." Just a barley loaf! But in the hands of Gideon it became the Sword of the Lord and of Gideon! There are not to be two swords: one out of the mouth of the Lord, and the other out of the mouths of His apostles and prophets and teachers. There is one sword, and it is His. Our quotation of Scripture and our knowledge of the Bible and our understanding of Truth is not the Sword of the Lord. The Sword of the Lord is that Word which proceedeth only out of His mouth... and out of ours as we lend it to Him. It was not in mobilizing the armies of Israel that the enslaved nation would find victory, but it would be in "demobilizing." First, twenty-two thousand had to be demobilized and sent home. The rest were brave and anxious for battle... but they did not know God's ways; and Gideon was admonished to demobilize still further. Another nine thousand seven hundred had to lay down their armor and uniform and go home. God would accomplish this victory by His own Sword--and the Sword would be in the hands of Gideon and three hundred men--likened in their insignificance and weakness to a mere "barley loaf." Can we identify? Or at least, do we wish to identify? Or will we continue on into the darkness of the night to feverishly mobilize the forces of the Church to wage a losing battle against the enemies of God with the very "practical" but very futile resources of our own human endeavour?

Abraham, a Foreigner in His Own Land

George H. Warnock - From The Hyssop that Springeth Out of the Wall

As we begin to walk a little in God's Way, so do we begin to identify with the people of the Way in the Bible. Now we can understand Abraham a little more. He had entered into the land that God had given him. He had walked through the length of it and through the breadth of it. But still something within cried out, "This is good, but I am not satisfied..." And why could he not be satisfied? Because God would not let him be satisfied... because God would enlarge his vision. In the seed and in the promise of blessedness that he had received from God there lay dormant a germ of something far, far greater that God desired to unfold to him. And therefore all this weary wandering through the land of promise was necessary in order that this germ of promise might blossom forth into something vastly different and vastly more glorious than a nice piece of real estate. As Abraham fretted over unfulfilled promises it is evident he saw little of what God really had in mind. Nevertheless God was faithfully leading him in pathways of obedience that would elevate his vision and cause this man of faith to look beyond the little land in which he walked. If we walk in God's ways this invariably happens. The prize of His promises soon gives way to higher things, better things, more heavenly things. Abraham soon discovered that he didn't really belong there... even in beautiful Canaan. He was but "a stranger and a sojourner" (Genesis 23:4). Hebron must have been very wonderful ...but still Abraham was not at home. He was a foreigner in his own land! He began to look for a better City, a "better country, that is, a heavenly." The real City for which he looked had "foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God." (See Hebrews 11:10, 16.) The nations God promised went far beyond the ones that would spring from Ishmael and Isaac. "The WORLD" would become his inheritance, as the true "Seed" was implanted in the hearts of men all over the earth. (See Romans 4:13; Galatians 3:16, 28, 29.) The "City" that he looked for would one day descend upon the earth. And one day Abraham will stand at the head of the line and will look upon his Seed which has sprung forth out of every tribe, and kindred, and tongue, and nation, and people. There will be the red, and the yellow, and the black, and the white. And Abraham will be able to say, "These are my children, for they have my faith." Then Abraham will step to one side and take his place with the rest, and Jesus will include his father Abraham in the company of His own sons (for "instead of thy fathers shall be thy children," Psalms 45:16). And Jesus will say, "Behold, I and the children whom Thou hast given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel," (Isaiah 8:18)... a people who are the Seed of Abraham, because "That Seed is Christ" --whether they be from the various countries of Europe, Russia, India, or the little remnant from the land of Israel and the Arabic nations surrounding them, or the people of China, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, or North and South America.., but the list is getting too numerous to mention. Let us just put it this way: "For Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy Blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation," (Revelation 5:9). Peoples from the far north and the far south... from the far east and the far west. If they truly believe in Christ, then are they "the Seed of Abraham, and heirs according to promise" (Galatians 3:29).

As citizens of this country or that, we all recognize the natural barriers that exist between men of different cultures and different racial backgrounds. But God, looking upon mankind with His own standard of righteousness and glory, and with the judgments of the Cross in view, declares: "THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:22, 23). As Christians let us stop wasting our efforts trying to rebuild the walls of partition that God tore down at the awful expense of the Cross. For God is totally committed to the judgments of the Cross whether nationalistic segments of mankind are or not.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Restoring The Soul

Excerpts from Dan Mace's book Restoring The Soul

Then said Jesus unto his 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. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
Matthew 16:24 -26

For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?
Luke 9:25

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:26


Before we were saved we were only capable of manifesting our own life, which was dominated by the sin and death of the old man and demon spirits. We (our mind, emotions and will) must now learn how to yield completely to and manifest the life of the new man. Again, this is easier said than done. Just as "I" and the "old man" are united but not identical, so our soul and our soul life are united but not identical. We must learn how to stop living by the life (strength, wisdom , abilities) of the soul and learn how to live by the life (strength and wisdom) of the Spirit.

Jesus said any person wishing to follow Him had to "hate" his own life, "deny" it, and eventually "lose" it altogether. What exactly was He saying. What "life" are we to hate, deny and lose? It is the life of the soul. Again, we are not referring to the soul’s functions. If the Lord were asking us to lose our soul’s functions and expressions, He would be demanding that we turn into mindless, emotionless robots. Jesus is referring to our independence, which manifests itself when we live according to our own wisdom and talents, and when we try to utilize them to carry out His will.

We must deny ourselves. But deny ourselves what? Did Jesus have a list of do’s and don’ts He handed out to people? No. The point is not that we must deny ourselves this or that specific thing. The point is that we must deny our self—our self life. We must lose our ability to follow Him in our own strength. Our independence must be put to death. However, our individuality (that which makes us different from each other) must be preserved.

Remember that Jesus was talking to His disciples, not to the unsaved. He was not saying if the unsaved lose their lives they will go to heaven, but if not they will go to hell. He was saying that if believers want to attain the fulness of God we must make a trade. We are going to have to exchange the life of the soul for the life of the Spirit.

To deny our "self" is to deny our soul-life. To deny our soul-life is to lose our soul-life. To not deny our self is to not deny our soul-life. To not deny our soul-life is to try to save it. Jesus said if we try to save our soul-life we will end up losing it anyway. Then He asked this question: "What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" In Luke’s Gospel the parallel passage reads, "if he gain the whole world and lose himself?" The person who saves his life—and even gains the whole world in the process—will lose his own life, his own soul and himself.

Self, soul and life are all synonymous in these passages. So what was Jesus saying? He was saying that we have to lose the soul’s life if we want to find the soul’s restoration. He was telling the disciples that they must forever stop drawing on their own life (resources and wisdom). The life of the soul must die if we ever hope to have it’s functions and expressions come forth in the Messiah’s image or in resurrection life. Only when we stop drawing on our own life can we begin to draw upon (and manifest) the life of God.

Those who truly love God readily turn away from those aspects of our life that are ugly, unpleasant or sinful. But we have a hard time rejecting those aspects of our life that we esteem to be good or noble or worthwhile. After all, we have many talents and much wisdom and posses commendable character traits. Some of us were naturally gracious before conversion. Others were endowed with great patience or are naturally charitable. We possess abilities and skills, many of which were given to us by God Himself. When we come to the Lord we are full of zeal and we want to please Him. We try to employ our talents and wisdom as we serve Him. But that is not what He wants. He wants us to die so He can live through us.

Unfortunately it takes a long time for us to realize this is what God wants. Many will never realize it because the Religious System teaches us to do exactly the opposite. It says we should utilize all our soulish wisdom and talent in the cause of evangelism and ministry. We learn very slowly that, although we possess many valuable resources, we must not utilize them according to our own wisdom. Every talent, every ability and skill, every religious goal and desire, and our entire personality must be brought under the government of God.

All our wisdom and admirable attributes, our talents and strengths, are produced by soul-life. The problem with soul-life is that no matter how religious it becomes it’s main concern centers on itself. Soul-life is continually pre-occupied with it’s own safety, security and desires. While soul-life is not necessarily evil in the sense that the old man is evil, it nevertheless remains self-centered. We are to be God-centered—something soul-life will never be able to produce.

The things of the world and the sins of the flesh are fairly easy to recognize. However, soul-life is much harder to recognize and put to death. Many blood-washed believers who gladly shun the things of this world and (at least) try to overcome the sins of the flesh find it difficult to embrace death to self. What are some of the manifestations of self? The biggest one is self-will, which seeks it’s own way or course of action in every circumstance. Another big one is self-seeking, which seeks it’s own good, often at the expense of others or the will of God. Below is list of manifestations which, while not all-inclusive, can shed some light on the subject.

*Self-importance: causes us to hold ourselves in high esteem. A disregard, even contempt, for the needs and feelings of others.

*Self-vindication: causes us to demand our own rights. It makes us announce when we've been wronged and causes us to defend ourselves.

*Self-seeing: causes us to only be able to see situations from our own perspective or point of view, rather than from God’s perspective.

*Self-affection: causes us to love most those who love us.

*Self-consciousness: causes us to always be worried about what others think of us. It is an inordinate preoccupation with image.

*Self-confidence: having confidence in our own abilities and wisdom instead of deferring to God’s wisdom and abilities.

*Self-complacency: an unholy contentment with our present spiritual state or level of maturity.

*Self-glorying: causes us to seek the praise of men instead of or in addition to the praise of God.

*Self-righteousness: deceives us into believing that we are good, and in fact, better than others.

*Selfish cares and fears: keeps us continually concerned about how situations or events will affect us. Will it cause me pain and suffering? Will it deflate my ego? Etc.

*Selfish giving: doing things for others, or giving things to others (or to God) in order to get something in return from them (or Him).

*Selfish possessions: makes us clutch our possessions; makes us unwilling to give of our money or material goods freely.

*Selfish pleasures: partaking of (morally acceptable) pleasures or past times that please us but not God. Wasting God’s time on spiritually unprofitable enterprises.

*Sensitiveness: causes us to be easily offended; makes us unable to receive constructive criticism, godly rebuke or discipline and correction (spiritual or natural).

*Selfish sorrows: having wounded pride or ambitions; causes us to be greatly pained if we do not get what we desired and leads to depression.

*Selfish-sacrifices: denying some aspect of self in order to satisfy or glorify another aspect of self, rather than to satisfy and glorify God.

*Selfish spirituality: remaining spiritually in the same place because of a blessed experience or the spiritual blessing we enjoy there.


*Selfish charities and gifts: this is when we give in order to receive the praise of men; giving to satisfy self.

*Selfish Christian works: ministering to get power, glory, money, or any other motive than to simply please God. This leads to a worshiping of our ministry and if we are not careful, we end up destroying the very work God called us to.

Self can flourish in any atmosphere or surrounding, no matter how religious. It can adapt and conform to any religious group. It can assimilate and teach great prophetic truths and spiritual principles. It can assume a most pious position among the brethren. But the one thing self cannot do and will never voluntarily do is die and let another life live through it.

This is why the death to self message is so crucial in this hour. Only this kind of death will produce the full image of Jesus Christ in us. Religious knowledge will never produce the image of Christ. Religious works and ministry will never produce the image of Christ. The only thing that can bring forth the image of Christ in a person is as he denies his own life.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

A NEW MAN – A NEW CREATION

Abraham, the Father of All who Believe

"How slow we are to comprehend that in God's design and purpose, He would have a people in the earth walking in the same Spirit that our Lord Jesus walked in. Not to make ourselves equal with Jesus. For we are much less, much weaker ~ yet knowing that God's strength is "made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor 12:9). And Jesus Himself as the Son of God, voluntarily took the role of a slave, a bondslave who did all that His Master wanted Him to do.

Surely the more we are filled with the Spirit, the more meek and humble do we become, because that is the nature of the Holy Dove that rested upon Jesus. And therefore Jesus told His disciples that when He went away, He would send the Comforter to abide with them in His stead. And through Him they would do the same works that He had done, because they would be baptized with the same Spirit. And even greater works, because He would be exalted to the Throne with all power in Heaven and in Earth, and interceding for them before the Father.

We are not talking about the "old Adam" in us attaining the stature that Jesus walked in. We are talking about the old Adam being crucified with Christ, that the Seed of the Last Adam might bring forth a New Man from the Seed that He has implanted in the soil of our hearts.

Two Adams and Two Adamic Races

We are inclined to think this way: Jesus had a great advantage over us, because He had no sin nature, and we do! True, but in God's glorious plan of Redemption, we are redeemed by the blood of Jesus (the Last Adam) by simply believing in the Man Christ Jesus as our Sin-bearer and Substitute. And then by matchless grace, He puts His Spirit in our hearts, who abides there as our Advocate and Intercessor in the earth -- to show us the way by which we shall overcome the Old Adam, that the New Adam might reign as King in our lives.

It is true that our Lord was born without the sin nature, and what assurance this gives us! How else could He become our Redeemer? But He was still subject to temptation as we are, and He was subject to the trial of obedience, as we are. Even the First Adam was created without a sin nature, and yet he fell -- not because of inherent sin, but because of an act of disobedience.

The first Adam chose to disobey. "Adam was not deceived" is the clear word of the apostle (1 Tim 2:14). He wasn't tricked into it, like Eve was. He chose to disobey. It must have been because he knew Eve was the only creature God had made that was compatible with himself. Adam loved her, and she was very close to his heart, for she was made from a rib that God took out from Adam's side as he slept. He deliberately chose to go the way of disobedience, to save his marriage. How could he live without his beloved wife who was now on death-row because of her disobedience to God? He loved her, and chose to share the penalty of death with her.

We mention this as a background to what we know about the Last Adam, and how He avoided the pathway of disobedience. It was the Father's plan and purpose to undo the tragedy of the Fall, and Jesus came out from the bosom of the Father, to be another Adam in the earth, born of "the seed of the woman" but conceived by the Holy Spirit. He was therefore without sin, but He too would be subject to trial and testing, for anything or anybody that cannot endure trial and testing, is not worthy to be in God's Kingdom.

The test of Adam and Eve was very simple. It would involve no hardship. But the dazzling gem of the fruit on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was too much for Eve to resist.

Our Lord (the Last Adam) was subjected to a very severe trial also. Would He be true to the covenant He declared in the prophetic Psalm: "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God!" Or would He fail? The trial was in His pathway all through life. 'Son, You are to become the Lamb for the Burnt Offering, and in so doing You will deliver My people from their captivity to the Law of Sin and Death. But You must learn obedience in order to annul the disobedience of Adam. I have ordained a Bride for You, as I did for Adam. In Your obedience to Me, You must sleep in death, a death brought about by cruel hatred and malice at the hands of a rebellious mob. Only then will this Bride be redeemed and washed and cleansed from all her filthiness. For Your Bride will be chosen from the sons and daughters of Adam, redeemed by the blood of the Cross, upon which You must die.'

Our precious Lord and Saviour made a full commitment: I will walk in obedience, for the sake of my Bride that You have promised Me.

And so we have the story of our redemption. By one act of disobedience of the First Adam we all fell into sin and disobedience by natural generation. And it was by one act of obedience that the Last Adam prevailed. Not denying of course that He learned obedience through His life, as He walked in union with the Father. Nevertheless His life of obedience culminated in a final act of obedience by which we are redeemed. "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous" (Rom 5:19).

Calvary was in no sense a tragedy -- something that could have been avoided if, if, if -- All these Ifs must be shut out of our minds, when we realize that our Lord Jesus came as a Lamb, ordained of God to be slain for our redemption. In the outworking of God's sovereign purposes, this Lamb knew He was ordained to die for His people, but "for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb 12:2). The Captain of our salvation must be made "perfect through sufferings" (Heb 2:10). This sacrificial Lamb anticipated the Day when a glorious Church would come forth, He being the Head: "a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Eph 5:27). He anticipated the day when this holy Bride would be revealed, and one of the holy angels was excited when he saw her, and said to John: "Come hither, I will show thee the Bride, the Lamb's wife" (Rev 21:9).

We must emphasize the perfections of this Holy Bride, these overcoming Sons, this Holy Nation, this Royal Priesthood, for they are called by many names. We must be convinced that God's plan for us is to become Holiness to the Lord, "A crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God" (Isa 62:3). And many people draw back, thinking they are too unworthy, too human, too carnal, to ever come to such a state, until they get to Heaven. Do these people really believe that it would be easier for God to take them to Heaven, than to work in their lives the perfections of Christ while they walk here in the earth? God designed that the great redemptive work by which we come forth in God's own image and likeness, would take place right here in the earth; and the Lord from Heaven came to earth, to become the Last Adam, our sin-bearer. And now by His mediatorial ministry in the heavens, He will continue to faithfully minister all those virtues and qualities that are in Him, through His Holy Spirit, to His chosen ones in the earth.

His mandate is secure. Jesus knows what it is all about. He is the "Mediator of a New Covenant" which is not like the old one, "written and engraven in stones." But a New Covenant where He writes His righteousness, His mercy, His grace, His beauty, His faithfulness, His own nature and character on our hearts, by the Holy Spirit. And He will continue to do so until God has procured for His Son a Holy Bride, made ready by precious blood sprinkled on the heart, and by the renewing grace of His Holy Spirit within us.

We are purged from sin and disobedience by the efficacy of Jesus' blood, and our obedience to the Gospel, which the apostle Paul calls "the obedience of faith." The regenerating power of the Holy Spirit transforms us to become heirs of the will of the Last Adam. We hear Him saying in prophetic voice in the Psalms: "Lo I come to do Thy will O God." When this Will of God becomes our Will, by virtue of the new Seed planted within us, growing within us, and coming to fruition within us, and our minds are renewed by the same Spirit -- then we are able to overcome even as He overcame.

God is Preparing a Resting Place for Himself

I recall reading how Augustine said something like this: "Thou hast made us for Thyself, O LORD, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee." I never forgot that gem of truth. But in more recent years I came to understand there is a counterpart to that:

"God created Man that He might find His resting place in Man, and God can never find rest, until He finds His habitation in Man."

Isaiah declares this state of restlessness in God:
"For Zion's sake will I not hold My peace,
And for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest,
Until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness,
And the salvation thereof as a Lamp that Burneth."
(Isa 62:1)


Now God is so eager to see His glory shining forth in His people, that He actually sets watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem, to continually remind Him of His own Vision – until it happens!

"I have set watchmen upon thy walls,
O Jerusalem,
Which shall never hold their peace
Day nor night;
Ye that make mention of the LORD,
Keep not silence and give Him no rest,
Till He establish, and till He make
Jerusalem a Praise in the earth."
(Isa 62:6,7)

Certainly, brethren, we are often in a state of restlessness as we consider our circumstances, our failures, our barrenness – our helplessness to deal with hopeless conditions that abound in our lives, or in the world about us. If only God would make this deep impression on our hearts, that God will not let us REST, in any degree of fullness, until we cease from our own works, and until God's pleasure in our lives becomes the all-consuming purpose for which we live.

For it is not about the Canadian Dream, or the American Dream – It's all about Him, and His Glory, and His Resting-place, and His Vision for His people.

Never could the Mighty God discover a habitation and resting place for Himself in the vast realms of the heavens, nor in the angelic beings He has created, nor yet in the beautiful unspoiled, untarnished earth that He had created. Only Man created in His image, could become a true resting-place for the Most High God. And so when man sinned and fell away from His Creator, God's Sabbath Rest was broken. Any tent or temple that God ordained in the past, were but for a season, and served only as a faint shadow of the Temple He found in our Lord Jesus Christ when He was here. And now since His ascension, His glorious body of which He is the Head, is designed of God to be His own Temple, His own resting-place. Not another Temple, but a Temple of which He is the "Chief Cornerstone" – a glorious Body, of which He is the Head.

We can't help but pause here for a moment to emphasize this undeniable fact – which should be very obvious to us all. How could the Mighty One "who inhabiteth eternity" ever delight in any kind of structure or temple or palace that man might build for the glory of God? Even Solomon who built a very costly and magnificent temple in Jerusalem, which God ordained for a season -- recognized that it was just a place where His Name might be known in Israel, and where men might come from other nations, who would hear about the fame of Yahweh, Israel's mighty God. It was ordained simply to be "an house of prayer for all people" (Isa 56:7, Lk 19:46). And when in the process of time the people of God went their own way and despised His Name, God raised up prophets to denounce their hypocrisy.

"The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool: where is the house that ye build unto Me? And where is the place of My rest?" (Isa 66:1). God's real quest in ordaining this magnificent structure built by the wisdom of Solomon, was that a man of penitent heart, and humbled before God, might have an altar upon which he might offer his sacrifice, and a house of prayer. Only then would that man himself become a place where his Creator might find rest.

And so He challenges His people, and all men today who would bring sacrifice and worship into a temple they have made:

"Where is the house that ye build unto Me? and where is the place of My rest? For all those things hath Mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My Word" (see Isa 66:1,2). God can only delight and find rest in men who have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus, and bring glory to His great name, with a humble and a contrite heart.

Certainly God will yet choose a remnant of the natural Israel, who are "beloved for the fathers' sakes." But let us never forget that Gentiles, washed in the blood of Jesus, have already been grafted into the Olive Tree of Israel, because of Israel's failure to receive their Messiah. And when those branches of Israel, cut off and dead, are grafted back into their Olive Tree, they become part of the same tree that we as Gentiles were grafted into by His grace (see Rom 11:19-25). It is in this context that the apostle tells us: "And so all Israel shall be saved" (vs 26). "All Israel" -- all who are in this Covenant Tree of Israel: the wild branches from the Gentiles who abide in the Tree, and the dead branches of Israel, whom God will graft back into their Covenant Tree, in the day when God will turn their hearts back to Him. The wall of partition that separated the Jew from the Gentile has been torn down -- and together they are one new man in Christ (see Eph 2:15). Some of those dead branches are coming into the Tree now, but only a small remnant. But those who are "beloved for the fathers' sakes" will yet come back into the Tree after "the fulness of the Gentiles be come in" (Rom 11:25).

In Ephesians, Paul speaks of a House, in which God tears down the wall of partition, to create one new Man from this union of Jew and Gentile. Whereas in Romans, Paul is speaking of a Tree, where the wild olive branches are brought into the Covenant Tree of Israel, and "grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the Olive Tree" (Rom 11:17). But whether it be called the House of God, or the Covenant Tree -- these two warring factions, who have been constantly at enmity with each other -- together they discover total Peace in Christ! And they are "one New Man" because they have been washed in the blood of Jesus!

I am amazed how many Christians these days are seeking to become involved with Jewish customs and traditions, in the hope of reaching Israel for Christ. A few years ago there was a tremendous interest by Christian people, in a spotless "red heifer" they discovered, a perfect specimen for Israel's sacrifices. Do God's people not understand that the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross has done away with the sacrifices of the Old Testament?

"For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Heb 9:13,14). The Word tells us clearly, that if there is any efficacy or purpose in those former sacrifices, "Would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have no more conscience of sins" (Heb 10:2). There is no other sacrifice, nor ever can be -- because the sacrifice He offered was once for all "when He offered up Himself" (Heb 7:27). His sacrifice was totally acceptable to God, and totally sufficient. And for those having received the "knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins" (Heb 10:26).

I am confident God will yet raise up a true Testimony of Jesus to carry this Gospel of the Kingdom to the land of Israel, as well as to the four corners of the earth. And I do not mean a message only, or a teaching from the Bible only, but a living Word that will go forth: "not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (1 Cor 2:4).

A New Sabbath for God's New Man

We have talked about God's Habitation in Man; and in this context we must talk about God's Sabbath Rest, for these concepts are very much the same. When God had finished the old creation, which culminated in a Man in His image, He ordained the seventh day as a Sabbath. But His rest was not for long. The man He had made in His image sinned, and God's "rest" was disturbed, and once again God went to work. He worked many centuries in the hearts of men, waiting for the time when the woman's Seed would bruise the head of the Serpent (see Gen 3:15). The Seed was none other than our Lord Jesus, who would bruise the Serpent's head, and in Him the Father found true Rest. In this Man, after so long a time, God had once again enjoyed a Sabbath Rest, and this Man was Himself the true Temple of God, as He walked in the earth. When Jesus had driven the money-changers out of the Temple, some of the Jews came to Him and asked for a sign to demonstrate why He had taken that very severe action, and Who gave Him that authority? Jesus said to them, "Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (Jn 2:19). It was a blinding truth, and it became a stumbling block to their rebellious hearts. What a ridiculous thing to say that He would raise up a Temple from the rubble in three days -- a temple that took 46 years to build!

"But He spake of the Temple of His body" (vs 21). He was the true Temple where God Most High had taken up His habitation. God had found perfect rest in His Son. And as the Father ministered in and through this Man, it was God drawing closer and closer to the offspring of Adam's fallen race: not only to bring them back to God, but to prepare them "for an Habitation of God through the Spirit" (Eph 2:22). He assures us that we too may become a part of this House, this Habitation, as we come into oneness with the Son. We do not become another Temple, but we become a part of Him -- a further enlargement of the Temple that He is.

There is no record of men keeping the Sabbath until the giving of the Law at Sinai. Even in Egyptian bondage, the people of Israel continued to worship the gods of the heathen (see Ezek 20:7-13). Yet God continued to work among them for His Name's sake. Then He gave Israel His holy laws at Sinai, including the Sabbath laws. These laws were compulsory, and if broken, there were very severe punishments. But His people never experienced a real Sabbath Rest, because of their consistent rebellion against God.

Then Jesus came to earth, to carry on the work of the Father, saying, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (Jn 5:17). He would even do the Father's work on the Sabbath day, because to the Lord Jesus, every day was a Sabbath, as He rested in the Father, and the Father rested in Him. Of course He got into real trouble with the Scribes and Pharisees over this, for they did not know that in doing the Father's will He was really walking in Sabbath Rest every day. All through His ministry in the earth Jesus continued working, to bring God and Man into this new Sabbath Rest of the New Creation order.

The Bible speaks much of God's Rest. The land of Canaan was spoken of as a Land of Rest – where His people would partake of rest and of fruitfulness and of victory over their enemies (see Josh 1:13-15). But even though they took the Land of Canaan and dwelt in it, they really did not discover the Rest that God had in mind for them.

"For if Jesus had given them rest, then would He not afterward have spoken of another day" ( Heb 4:8). (Note: the context of this passage refers to "Joshua" – but the KJV uses "Jesus." The names Jesus and Joshua are virtually the same in the Greek). By a revelation of the Spirit, the apostle Paul discovered this other Day of Rest that David spoke about, and which the children of Israel had not discovered. They had great victories, and took the land God had promised. But Paul reminds us that if Joshua had really brought them into the Rest that God had in mind, then God would not have spoken of still another Day. But He did speak of another day, in the psalms of David. And what Day is that?

"Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your heart" (Ps 95:7,8).

Some may feel that today ought not to be so specific. Tomorrow should be good enough. We often hear the expression, Tomorrow is another day, but God limits our day of opportunity to "TODAY, if ye will hear His voice."

Why not Tomorrow?

Let me illustrate the fatal decision Israel made when they waited for tomorrow. After their long journey through the wilderness they came to the doorstep of Canaan. Then they sent 12 men to spy out the Land of Canaan that God had promised them. Most of them came back with an evil report (Num 14:37). None of the 12 spies could deny it was a good land, but 10 of them said, We can't take it! The inhabitants of the Land are too powerful! But two of them (Caleb and Joshua) tried to persuade them to obey God and go in. Caleb said "Let us go up at once and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it" (Num 13:30). All Israel missed their Day of opportunity, because they voted in favour of the majority, the ten spies who came back from Canaan with an evil report. They had heard a clear word from Caleb and Joshua, but they refused to walk in obedience to the Word of God. They did not "mix the word with faith, in them that heard it" (see Heb 4:2). God would teach us that when a living Word comes forth from the heart of God, faith is available right there, to walk in obedience, and do what God says, if we mix the Word with faith. But the decision of the majority prevailed, and that whole generation failed to enter into the Canaan Sabbath Rest. I think it is fair to say, that in Bible days, the decision of the majority was very often, perhaps usually, wrong.

Now all this happened TODAY! But the next day they realized their mistake, formed a make-shift army, and went against the enemy. Moses told them not to go, but they went anyway. The result was total disaster. They were routed and put to flight by the men of Canaan. It was no longer TODAY. TODAY had slipped by in their unbelief; and Tomorrow was too late. God said this band of men went forth and attacked the enemy, not in faith but in presumption! (see Num 14:44). Note that God calls it presumption when we attempt to do something without having clear direction from the Lord!

What is this Rest that Remains for God's people?

It is important to recognize that the apostle uses these references to the Sabbath Rest to give us great hope, as well as much caution.

Great hope, because it is still TODAY. We still read these words and hear the good news of Rest and Delight in God, in this world of chaos.

Much caution, because this Word comes to us TODAY, with no assurance that we will be able to hear it TOMORROW. "TODAY if ye will hear His voice, harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness." Of that generation, God spoke these solemn words: "Unto whom I sware in My wrath that they should not enter into My rest" (see Ps 95:7-11).

"Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: again, He limiteth (defines, ordains) a certain day, saying in David, TODAY, after so long a time; as it is said, TODAY if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts" (Heb 4:6,7).

Let us be assured what God means by the Rest that remains for the people of God. He has appointed still another day for His people, because it is a mutual rest! God must find Rest for Himself; and if we do not discover our rest in God, He cannot discover His rest in us!

Then how long will Today continue? This, we do not know. And therefore God's Word to all of us is very solemn, and very clear: "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb 3:12,13).

And how was Israel supposed to keep their Sabbath days unto the Lord?

"Not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words" – but walking in His ways, doing His pleasure, and speaking His words (see Isa 58:13). This verse confirms very well the Sabbath that we are talking about. Whatever the will of God might be in your walk with the Lord Jesus, do it as unto Him at all times, for the true Sabbath is "Today." God calls it "My Sabbath" – because He finds true Rest and Delight and Joy in His people, when they cease their endless works, and find their Rest in Him.

"There remaineth therefore a rest (Gr 'Sabbatismos') for the people of God." It's something like we would say: I walk in the blessing of baptism (Gr 'Baptismos'), because I was baptized in water, and into Christ. Our baptism into Christ is a once-for-all work of grace, but we abide in that work of grace day by day. And likewise I cease from my own works daily, and find rest (a Sabbatismos) in the finished work of the Cross.

Labouring to Enter into His Rest

This may sound frustrating. But the labour must be in the Spirit. The word means to be diligent in our walk with God, that we might have intimate communion with Him -- hearing His voice, and abiding in Him, and He in us. I know we all fall short of this abiding union with Him. But we must know that He is our Mediator in the heavens, interceding for us that we do not fall short of His desire for us. He will not fail in His advocacy on our behalf, until we find our total Delight in God, and He finds His total Delight in us.

When the apostle tells us to give diligence to enter in, he emphasizes that it is through a living Word, activated by His Spirit – otherwise the frustration of our own labours will defeat us. When God speaks, that Word is "quick (alive), and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb 4:12).

Instead of saying, the Word is not working that way, and lamenting over it, let us seek the Lord very earnestly for the manifest Presence of Christ in our midst, and then it will happen the way God said! When we have come to perfect Love, He will come and abide in us in Rest and Joy and Delight, and we will hear God singing for joy in our midst, fulfilling the prophecy of Zephaniah:

"The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty;
He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy;
He will rest in His love,
He will joy over thee with singing."
(Zeph 3:17)

May we all anticipate the Day when God will have found such Rest in us, that He will rejoice over us with singing!

Now in all that we have said about The Sabbath Rest of the Lord being TODAY, we must keep in mind Paul's exhortation to the Romans. We are not to judge any man who, in his walk with God chooses to keep a certain day as special unto the Lord. This is all part of our liberty in the Spirit, to keep all days the same, or to observe one day above another.

Nor are they to judge our liberty, if we observe all days the same – as we do it unto the Lord, and enjoy God's Sabbath Rest every day (see Rom 14:5-6).

The Vision and the Appointment
George H. Warnock
CHAPTER 3 - A NEW MAN – A NEW CREATION

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Guarding the Truth

Introduction


Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (NIV II. Peter 3:15 18)
The apostle Peter instructed the saints to be on guard against those who were distorting the teachings of the apostle Paul, as well as the rest of the Scripture. He had good reason to warn them. False doctrines have power to carry us away from God and bring us down from our secure position in Christ. We Christians are to guard the truth. When a person is given the responsibility to guard something, that person must keep a constant eye on it. They must pay attention to it. Implicit in the term "guard" is the need to fight against those who come to steal or destroy what you are guarding. So if we are to guard the truth successfully, we will have to possess a certain amount of zeal for that truth and a commitment to it.

To our dismay, in the last decade we have watched the exact opposite attitude sweep over the body of Christ like a plague. There has been a radical shift of emphasis from guarding truth to guarding relationships regardless of truth. The whole idea of sacrificing relationships for the sake of truth is being discredited.

Suddenly we have a situation where the average Christian no longer cares about doctrine. In fact, the defense of truth is fast becoming the enemy and tolerance the hero of Christendom. Multitudes of believers have been duped into believing that it is wrong to defend the truth they are supposed to be guarding. They have bought the lie that spiritual unity should take precedence over everything.

Yet it has become evident (at least to us) that a host of demonic teaching spirits have been unleashed against an unsuspecting Church. The result is that many Christians are now accepting all kinds of unbiblical teachings and practices into their lives. If ever there was a formula for disaster among the Lord’s people, this is it.

The shift away from caring about doctrine has been the result of various significant developments both inside and outside the Christian community. The first development has been the influence of the world. Tolerance and unity also happen to be the emphasis of today’s "politically correct" establishment. We are getting close to the institution of a one-world government. Both in secular and religious arenas the atmosphere among humanists and New Agers is inclusive. Everyone will be included in the new order—everyone except God’s "elect" of course. They will be viewed by all nations, and by many Christians as well, as too divisive and intolerant.

There’s an incredible amount of pressure outside the Christian community to be inclusive and tolerant. Unfortunately, the organized Church is caving into this pressure. This should not surprise us, for the Religious System has never been very successful when it comes to resisting the influence of the world. Instead of influencing the world for the good, the world always seems to be influencing our churches for the worse—and this is nowhere more evident than in the fact that contemporary believers are continually imitating the world, creating Christian versions of its corruption. This is why we have Christian rock/heavy metal and Christian rap and Christian alternative music. This is why we have Christian tee-shirts with pagan advertisement look-a-likes, such as the one that displays a Budweiser beer can and reads: "Godweiser—this blood is for you."

Is this what James meant when he said we should keep ourselves "unspotted" from the world [James 1:27]? Is this what Jesus meant when He told us to be a "light set upon a hill" [Matt. 5:14]? We should be on a hill with a light, offering the lost something that is completely other than what they are experiencing. Jesus never taught His disciples to make Christian versions of the world’s iniquity so the unsaved would be able to "relate" to them better. He never told us to copy the trends and fads of our fallen society in order to reach the lost.

A second development has come from within the Church, on a grass-roots level. There has been a reaction against the misuse of doctrine. People are tired of all the fleshly striving over doctrine that has gone on year after year between denominations and religious groups. They are tired of all the division and backstabbing among God’s people—and rightly so.

Though not all division over doctrine is wrong, it is certainly true that many of our divisions are wrong because they have been the result of religious pride, not a genuine, Spirit-led defense of God’s truth. There has indeed been much wickedness manifested and people have been hurt, even destroyed, all in the name of defending doctrine.

It is good that believers are trying to correct the situation. But the way we are attempting to repair these divisions is wrong. We are over-reacting, and not only over-reacting, but over-reacting against the wrong thing. Neither godly doctrine or the godly defense of that doctrine is the cause of most of our divisions. The problem is religious pride. The problem is what men do with God’s doctrine. They hold it in unrighteousness. They twist and pervert it. They use it as a means to their own selfish ends and they use it to divide and enslave the body of Christ.

Instead of rejecting the tools that our religious leaders have used to divide the body of Christ, we should be rejecting the men and the systems they have created, which separate God’s people. Unfortunately, this will probably never happen—not in this age anyway. Religious leaders have beat the people of God down into a permanent state of submission. Most Christians will never call those who are responsible for these divisions into account for fear of "touching God’s anointed" or "rebelling against spiritual authority." Neither will they ever leave the systems these men have created.

A third development has also originated within the Church, but at the highest levels of leadership. An organized effort by leaders of the Protestant and Catholic church has been launched to unify the two faiths and bring the "separated brethren" (Protestants) back into the Roman Catholic fold. Most Christians are not aware of what is going on yet; by the time they find out it will be too late to stop it.

Currently there are many "walls" that divide Protestants from each other and from Catholics, but the biggest and the most important wall is the wall of doctrine—and this is why we have seen an effective campaign by various denominations and national religious leaders to de-emphasize the importance of knowing, maintaining and defending doctrine. Today’s buzz-words are reconciliation, unity and tolerance.

The Lord has given us a burden to expose some of the errors that are having a disastrous effect on God’s people. Those who read this booklet may already understand what’s happening. That’s good. Some may not; and it doesn’t hurt to be strengthened in our convictions through confirmation. We stand with the apostle Peter, who said, we will not be "negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth" [II. Pet. 1:12].

Brother Daniel
Click here for the full article.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Perfecting Holiness

Perfecting Holiness

If you’ve read very many of the articles on this website, then you will have noticed that I’ve ranted on about the difference between morality and spirituality in many of them. And if that doesn’t ring a bell, let me revisit this issue for a few minutes. God never called us to morality. He doesn’t concern Himself with moral issues, nor does He make moral judgments. He didn’t condemn Noah for his drunkenness; nowhere will you find Him passing judgment on Solomon for his immorality; He doesn’t speak out against slavery; and He has never campaigned for women’s rights. God is concerned with spirituality, and His judgments are made on that basis. God does not promote morality – religion does. Remember, there’s a difference between God and religion. One is not the same as the other. And, there’s a difference between spirituality and morality. Religion has blurred that distinction.

I’ll give you an example. In the Amplified Bible (a translation I generally prefer) the word "moral" is inserted in several places that, at least from my perspective, are specifically talking about spiritual issues, not moral ones. For instance, in Ephesians 4:18 it says, "Their moral understanding is darkened and their reasoning is beclouded, [They are] alienated (estranged, self-banished) from the life of God [with no share in it; this is] because of the ignorance (the want of knowledge and perception, the willful blindness) that is deep-seated in them, due to their hardness of heart [to the insensitiveness of their moral nature]." I believe the obvious context here is spirituality. Their spiritual understanding is darkened and it’s due to the insensitiveness of their spiritual nature. Then to further confuse the issue, the very next verse (19) correctly states, "In their spiritual apathy they have become callous and past feeling and reckless." Verse 18 says it’s a moral issue; then verse 19 does an about-face and calls it a spiritual problem. By using the words "moral" and "spiritual" interchangeably, they come to mean the same thing in the minds of many. I have heard many comments over the years from religious types who sincerely believe their morality makes them spiritual.

However, morality is represented by inconsistent, ever-changing, man-made standards. What may have been considered immoral several years ago might very well be accepted as moral today; and others accept things considered immoral by some as moral. Opinions change over time and can vary from person to person and from group to group, though all claim to get their direction from the same timeless, unchanging God. Some denominations have avoided establishing official policies on current moral issues (abortion, homosexuality, women clergy, etc), because there is so much disagreement within their denomination. Yet some people remain supportive of their denomination, even though they disagree with the stand it has taken on certain moral issues. When it comes to morality, confusion and disagreement abounds, with a liberal amount of tolerance mixed in.

And every religious institution that exists today (whether Christian or non-Christian) promotes some form of morality they claim comes from God. People who say they love the same God judge and condemn one another in the name of their God, because they adhere to different moral standards. In the past Christians have waged war on "heathen" nations whose morality was unacceptable. Today, Islamic fundamentalists wage war on Christian nations, determined to stop what they view as the immoral corruption of Christianity. And though I condemn their actions in the strongest sense, I agree with their assessment of "Christianity"; the efforts of institutional Christianity in exporting its spiritual deception and materialistic and idolatrous theology to other parts of the world is disheartening. On the other hand, what the Islamic extremists are doing is nothing more than what countless other religious groups, Christianity included, have done over the ages, which is nothing more than a violent attempt to impose their morality on others in the name of their god.

What most of the religious world doesn’t understand is that the Sovereign God has called us to spirituality. The reason they don’t understand is because they’re caught up in this blurred, religious deception that teaches them morality and spirituality is the same thing. Morality is the result of following what men say, what they think and what they want. Spirituality is following what God says, what He thinks and what He wants. And herein lies the dilemma. How do you know the difference? Every religious group puts God’s name on their buildings, claims God’s authority for everything they believe and His approval for everything they do and most everyone in the world thinks they have to go to one of these groups to find God.

I suppose there may be some who think my only reason for having this website and writing these articles is to give me an opportunity to make sarcastic remarks about religion and religious institutions. And while I’ll admit taking pot shots at religion may be one of the benefits; it’s not my main objective. The reason I write these articles is that I want people to understand how to have a relationship with God. Having a real, personal, intimate relationship with God means you understand His will and purpose (to change you and conform you to the image of His Son). It also means you understand that if you’re submitted to Him and determined to be obedient He’ll actively participate in your life to accomplish that will and purpose.

It means you’re focused on Him, you spend time with Him, that you’ve learned to talk to Him honestly, that you struggle to know what He wants, what He’s saying just to you, and that you’re determined to submit and be obedient when you do manage to understand Him. It means that you’ve learned the source of this relationship and this understanding is God alone and it comes as a result of what you do, alone, with Him. That’s true spirituality. It’s not a group exercise. It’s not what people do when they meet together on Sunday morning at 10 AM. And it’s certainly not what the priest or pastor talks about and it’s not what he models in his life for others to see and follow – he’s probably too busy talking about and dealing with moral issues (or social issues, or the latest financial crisis threatening the perpetuation of the institution)!

This brings me to the reason for writing this paper. There are those who have heard me talk about the difference between morality and spirituality and, as a consequence, have rejected morality and the religion that promotes it. Now it’s time for some caution. Those of us who have been under the constraints of religious morality have to be careful with our newfound freedom. We can easily allow ourselves to begin to indulge our fleshly nature - a sort of delayed reaction, pseudo-spiritual rebellion against the religious bondage we’ve come out of. We tend to want to think that since we’ve rejected religious morality, now we’re free to do most anything we choose. The justification is easy: the only reason we didn’t do certain things in the past is simply because we had been victimized by a repressive, manipulative religion – we were simply too religious.

Of course, if you haven’t recognized it yet, this is exactly what Paul was talking about in Galatians 5:13 when he said, "For you, brethren, were called to freedom, but do not use this freedom as an opportunity to indulge your flesh or as an excuse for selfishness. Instead, serve one another in love." The word in this verse translated "freedom" (or "liberty" in the KJV) is eleutheria and in this context means, "freedom from religious interference or constraints"; literally, the freedom to pursue God and serve Him without other people looking over your shoulder, telling you what rules you have to follow in the process. The problem illustrated in this verse and the passage preceding it is a common one. When we throw away the coercive restrictions of man’s religion and the morality that goes with it, there’s a void that exists and must be filled. And our flesh is only too happy to jump in and fill this void with all kinds of fleshly pursuits and selfish, "me first" thoughts. And where there used to be certain moral restraints in place, now we find a tendency to do things we might not have otherwise done.

OK. So far, so good. I’ve developed the problem, now for the solution. We need to go back to the beginning of the paper and remember I was trying to explain the difference between morality and spirituality. And if you’re serious about your pursuit of God, please look closely at what I’m about to say and give it honest consideration. It’s not enough to simply reject religion and its morality. No one can possibly know God in an intimate relationship, serve Him in submission and obedience and walk with Him in dependence and trust with no restraint in his life. Our flesh just won’t allow it. If we follow our flesh, it will try to lead us into lawlessness. We have to embrace spirituality, which brings us to the subject of this paper.

What’s missing is holiness. It’s holiness that must fill the void. The full comparison of morality and spirituality goes something like this: just as religion leads to morality, true spirituality leads to holiness. In spirituality, God Himself will give us the restraints He knows are necessary for our benefit, allowing Him to accomplish His purpose in our lives. With spirituality, the restraints in our lives do not come in the form of men’s religious standards and rules, they come as a result of the character (Who He is) and nature (what He does) of God becoming a reality in us through the experiences we have with Him. As we will see, over time, those qualities taken together, become our holiness.

God never intended for us to navigate our way through this life using a religious moral compass. Instead, His intent is for us to know Him, serve Him and walk with Him, and in the process of doing so, learn to imitate Him and share in His character and nature. That’s holiness. And holiness is a true spiritual compass, because it has its source in God.

But before we go any further, let me tell you what holiness is not. It’s not this stuffy, judgmental, holier-than-thou, "I’m more spiritual than you", never relax or have fun, always somber and serious concept that some have. And it’s not WWJD. Holiness is not religious situation ethics, where you find yourself in certain circumstances, and stop, and think about what Jesus might do in the same circumstance. Those who wear a bracelet or necklace with WWJD on it, if they do stop and think, more than likely all they’re really doing is trying to remember what their religion has taught them about its particular brand of morality. So, in the final analysis, their actions are not guided by what they’ve been personally taught by God (John 6:45) through their experiences with Him (spirituality-holiness), but by the morality they learned in religion.

Let’s look at some Scripture passages that talk about holiness. This is Romans 6:19-22.

"I’m saying this in words you can understand because of the weakness of your human nature: just as you once yielded yourselves as servants to impurity and ever-increasing lawlessness, you must now yield yourselves completely as servants to righteousness and holiness. You know that when you were slaves to sin, righteousness held no restraint over you. And what possible good came then from the things you’re ashamed of now? None at all, for the result of those things is death. And since you’ve been set free from (the penalty of) sin and have made yourselves the slaves of God, you enjoy your present reward in holiness, and the eventual result of that is eternal life."

I’ve italicized "holiness" above where the word hagiasmos appears in the original text. Depending on the context or the whim of the translator, hagiasmos is translated either "holiness" or "sanctification". Either way, it should be understood that this word is used to identify the particular way of living of the believer who has separated himself to God and from any evil that may have characterized his life before he committed it to God. It is this separation (or sanctification) that is God’s will for every believer (I Thessalonians 4:3); is learned by hearing God speak His Truth (John 17:17, 19); and is a result of submitting to and following the leadership of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:16).

So, the first thing we need to understand about holiness is that it requires separation to God. The key for every believer is clearly illustrated above in the phrase "and have made yourselves the slaves of God". And as in everything else related to spiritual reality, sanctification is not merely an idea or intellectual concept. There is always a vast difference between understanding a concept and possessing a reality. You can either simply agree with the definition of sanctification, then essentially ignore it and go on living your life the way you want to, or you can commit yourself to it, talk to God about it and struggle to learn what He wants to teach you and how He wants to change you.

And if we want to understand better how that process works, a consideration of Ephesians 4:20-24 might help. Leading up to this passage, in verses 17-19, Paul is talking about living like Godless heathen in the futility of worldly reason, being ignorant and estranged from God, and insensitive to any real spirituality. This is what we see in verses 20-24: "But this is not what you learn from following Christ! If you have really heard Him and have been taught personally by Him, as all Truth is found in Him, you will get rid of your old way of life, your old self that was on its way to destruction because of deceitful lusts. And then you will continually be renewed in your mind, with a fresh spiritual attitude, a new self, being recreated in God’s image, in righteousness and true holiness."

Here, "holiness" is not hagiasmos as before; now it’s hosiotes. Properly translated "holiness" in most versions, hosiotes is used to define the reality of holiness in those who continually and actively maintain an intimate relationship with Him. In the course of this relationship God is teaching them; what they learn from Him changes the way they think; as they begin to think like God, they also begin to act like Him; and this changes them. And here I have to remind all those who have been indoctrinated with evangelical religion that this is just another of many passages in Scripture that describes salvation or deliverance as a process that takes place over time, not an instantaneous act that is completed by reciting a sinner’s prayer, professing certain Biblical facts or by getting wet. Salvation is a life-long commitment to a real God Who participates in our lives to bring about real changes in us.

Also, you may have noticed in both the passages I’ve shown you that "righteousness" is mentioned with "holiness". Righteousness is the essential companion to holiness. It is translated from dikaiosune, the noun form of dikaios, which means, "that which is right or just". This is, of course, not a subjective term. "That which is right or just" can only refer to the character, nature, will and purpose of God. Therefore, righteousness is the manifestation of the claims of God in the life of the believer and is sometimes described as "God’s way of doing things right".

Now, earlier in this article I quoted Galatians 5:13 where Paul warns us not to use our freedom as an opportunity to indulge our flesh or as an excuse for selfishness. The last sentence in that verse says, "Instead, serve one another in love." This is the practical part of what I need to say about holiness. The exercise of love one for another is the means God uses to develop holiness in us. Following the flesh and selfishness are the exact opposites of righteousness and holiness. If you go back and check out the verses that follow the passage in Ephesians 4:20-24 above (specifically 25-32), you’ll find they deal with issues that hinder or destroy our ability to love one another.

Paul makes the connection between the exercise of love towards others and the reality of holiness in I Thessalonians 3:12-13. "And may the Lord cause you to increase, even overflow, in love for one another, just as we do also for you, so He may establish your hearts faultless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones." Here, "holiness" is from yet a different word, hagiosune, and is used to indicate the manifestation of holiness in the personal conduct of the believer. Holiness is the result of our willingness to reject our own selfishness and serve others in love. As in every other spiritual issue, reality is still the key. Holiness does not depend on what you think or what you accept as true. Holiness is the result of what you do when you consciously decide to reject the impulses of your flesh and your selfish desires and focus on the desire of God for your life, and that obviously includes the needs and interests of others. Holiness is what you have been reduced to after your obedience; it’s what remains after you kill your flesh; it’s the true spiritual you after the religious morality is forgotten.

And just in case I have not yet made it perfectly clear, holiness is not the result of some religious formula and it’s not vicarious, that is, it cannot be transferred from one person to another or indiscriminately attributed or imputed to another. Holiness is an individual possession, developed little by little, as the result of intimacy and obedience to God, following the example of Christ and yielding to the power of His Holy Spirit. Holiness is only gained the old-fashioned way: it must be earned by diligence and faithfulness over time.

"Do not nurture relationships with those who would destroy your faith. Is righteousness and lawlessness the same thing? Can light have anything in common with darkness? What agreement exists between Christ and the devil? Are believers and unbelievers to be partakers of the same promises? What agreement is there between the temple of God and that of idols? Remember, we are the temple of God, as He has said, I will dwell in them and walk with them, and I will be their God, and they will be My people. So, do not join with them, says the Lord, and avoid anything that would defile your spirituality. Then I will receive you with favor, and will be a Father to you, and you will be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. Therefore beloved, since these promises are ours, let us purify ourselves from anything that would defile our body or spirit, perfecting holiness in the reverential fear of God." (II Corinthians 6:14-7:1)

In the phrase "perfecting holiness in the reverential fear of God", the word "perfecting" is epiteleo, an intensive or strengthened form of teleo, meaning, "to accomplish". Here, Paul is simply emphasizing the fact that we should be especially determined to allow God to do what He wants to do in our lives. "Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God". (Leviticus 20:7)

Ken Brown