Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christ Manifested

Christ Manifested
by John Fletcher - 1768

God's Purposes In Manifestations

Chapter 3

I now wish to consider why the Lord manifests Himself to the children of men, since this is the next important point. It is not, as is only too obvious, for the gratification of men's curiosity, but for purposes worthy of His wisdom. However, in order to discover what these are, we shall find it better to place all such divine manifestations in three general classes: extraordinary, ordinary, and mixed; then we shall consider the design and use of each class, as revealed in the Bible.


I am beginning with manifestations of the extraordinary kind, which means that they are either merely external, or are vouchsafed to a few persons only on special occasions, and are by no means essential to salvation.

Some extraordinary manifestations are calculated to rouse the thoughtless into a consideration of eternal issues. For example, you will remember that manifestation which some were favoured with, a little before our Lord's passion, when as Jesus prayed, there came a voice from heaven, saying, 'I have both glorified My Name, and will glorify it again'. The people, therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered; they looked upon the extraordinary as something common and natural. However, others said 'an angel spoke to Him', recognising the difference between this and thunder; but Jesus said 'This voice came not because of Me, but for your sakes'.

Other extraordinary manifestations are intended as a last warning to notorious sinners. The terrifying sight which Nebuchadnezzar beheld, in his second dream, of a Holy One coming down from heaven, crying aloud 'Hew down the tree', was of this kind. Likewise, the mysterious hand, which wrote Belshazzar's doom on the wall while he profaned the sacred vessels during his revels, was a last warning.

Some extraordinary manifestations are designed for the protection of God's people, or the destruction and humiliation of their proud enemies. Examples of this might include the story of the humiliation of the armies of Egypt by the Lord; also, when He cast down great stones from heaven upon the armies of the five kings who fought against Israel; or when He manifested His presence in Nebuchadnezzar's furnace, in order to quench the violence of the flame, preserve the three hebrews, and convince the raging tyrant that God's kingdom rules over all.

The design of other extraordinary manifestations is to encourage the children of God in dangerous enterprises; or to direct them in important steps. That one in the life of Joshua, before he began the conquest of Canaan, was of this kind; and that in the life of St. Paul, when the Lord stood by him in the prison informing him that he must bear witness also at Rome.

Some are calculated to appoint some persons to uncommon services and trials, or to the prophetic and ministerial office. In this connection, recall how Noah was commissioned to build the ark, Abraham to offer up Isaac, Moses to deliver Israel, Nathan to reprove David, Balaam to bless Israel, and Jeremiah to preach to the Jews.

Finally, there are those extraordinary manifestations which are designed to fulfil providential means for the deliverance of the people of God, as with Gideon; or to answer spiritual ends of reproof, instruction, and consolation to the church throughout all ages, as were most of the revelations vouchsafed to the prophets, and those to John.


The manifestations essential either to the conversion of sinners, or to the edification of saints, and which the Word of God (and the experiences of Christians) show to be common to all believers in the Church, are of the ordinary kind, and their use or design is one of the following:

1. To make God's Word spirit and life, quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, so that the gospel may not come to sinners in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.

2. To ease an anguished conscience, and impart the peace of God to a troubled mind-as in the case of broken-hearted David, mourning Hezekiah, weeping Peter, and Paul agonising in prayer.

3. To reveal Christ to us, and in us, so as to make us believe in a saving way, and to know in whom we have believed, according to the experiences of Peter, Lydia, Cornelius, and every living member of the Body of Christ.

4. To open a blessed fellowship, and keep up a delightful communion, with Christ - as appears from the experiences of believers illustrated in the Canticles.

5. To silence the residue of self-righteousness in us, and to deepen the humiliation of our souls - as in the case of Job. To make us grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ; to bruise Satan under our feet; to bruise the serpent's head in our hearts; to seal the exceeding great and precious promises given to us, that we might be partakers of the divine nature, and to continue immovable, always abounding in the work of faith, the patience of hope, and the labour of love. In a word, they strengthen us with might, by God's Spirit, in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith, and so that we may be filled with all the fullness of God.

6. To prepare us for great trials, support us under them, and to comfort us after them. This was our Lord's experience before His temptation, after He had overcome the tempter, and when He was at the height of His agony. This was also the situation in the case of David, Paul, and of all the Apostles, when they had been scourged for the name of Jesus; and it is still the case of all true, and deep, mourners of Zion.

7. And lastly, to make us depart in peace, as Simeon did, or to die in perfect love with our enemies, in the full triumph of faith, like Stephen. All who live and die in the Lord, partake - more or less - of these ordinary displays of Christ's powerful presence, and I wish you to remember, that it is chiefly (if not only) in support of these important manifestations that I take up my pen.


The third class of manifestations is that of mixed ones; so called, because they are partly extraordinary and partly ordinary. Some are ordinary in their design but extraordinary in their circumstances. The manifestation to the Apostles in Acts 4: 31 was like this; the design of it was merely common, that is to comfort them under contempt, and to encourage them both to do good and to suffer evil; however, the shaking of the place where they were assembled was an uncommon circumstance.

Some manifestations are mixed, both as to their design and circumstances. That the iniquity of Isaiah should be put away, and that Saul should be converted, were not uncommon things - they are the common effects of ordinary manifestations - but that the Prophet should be commissioned to preach to the Jews and that Paul should be called to open the eyes of the Gentiles were extraordinary circumstances; as extraordinary as a flying cherub appearing to the one, and an unusually bright light blinding the other.


For want of distinguishing properly between what is ordinary and extraordinary in mixed manifestations, those people who are not possessed of a clear head (or of an honest heart) often conclude that none but fanatics speak today of divine manifestations! If they hear someone preach that they must be converted in the way that Paul was, they pertly ask if this means that they are Jews, or if they must be struck to the earth by a voice from heaven! Such people wilfully forget that our Lord spoke to His hearers as to sinful men, and not as to bigoted Jews, when He said 'Except ye be converted, ye cannot enter the kingdom of heaven'. They obstinately refuse to see that the circumstances of the Apostle's falling to the ground were not essential to his conversion, and had no other use than to make his call more remarkable for the Jews and of comfort to the Christians.

So, although I contend only for the ordinary manifestations of the Lord Jesus Christ, I am far from believing that all extraordinary or mixed manifestations have ceased. Such a concession would savour too much of the spirit of unbelief which prevails in the church today. These extraordinary manifestations are more frequent than many imagine! To show you how far I am from agreeing with the modern spirit of unbelief, let me say that I am so attached to the Bible, as to say of many who pass for ministers of Christ 'Woe to the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing; that say "the Lord says" and yet the Lord hath not sent them.' I think the desire to be styled 'reverend' or 'right reverend', and the prospect of a 'living' or a 'mitre', are very improper motives for assuming the sacred office. Am I sufficiently an enthusiast as to believe that the Church is right in requiring that all her ministers should not only be called, but also be moved by the Holy Ghost, before they take upon themselves the office of Ambassadors for Christ.


Having mentioned the design and use of ordinary manifestations, it may not be improper to touch upon the abuse of them. Their genuine tendency is to humble one to the dust. The language of those who are favoured with them, is 'Will God indeed dwell on the earth'; 'Lord, what is man, that Thou art mindful of him, and the son of man, that Thou visitest him'; 'Now that I see thee, I abhor myself : I am not worthy of the least of thy mercies : I am dust and ashes.' But as there is nothing which the heart of man cannot be tempted to corrupt and pervert, so, as soon as the power attending the manifestation is a little abated, Satan begins to shoot his fiery darts of spiritual pride. 'You are a peculiar favourite of heaven' whispers that old serpent 'few are so highly blessed. All your enemies are scattered; you need not be so watchful in prayer, and so strict in self-denial; you shall never fall.' If the believer is not upon his guard and does not quench these fiery darts with his shield as fast as the enemy throws them, he is soon wounded, and pride kindles again in him.

St. Paul himself was in danger from this quarter and so there was given him a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet him, lest he should be exalted above measure, through the abundance of the revelations. Aaron and Miriam fell into this snare, when they spoke against Moses, saying 'Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? Hath not He spoken also by us?' David likewise acknowledged his error in this respect : 'In my prosperity I said "I shall never be moved," Thou hast made my mountain to stand strong, but Thou didst hide Thy face from me, and I was troubled.' The way to avoid danger is to recognise it before hand, to look much to the lowly Jesus, and upon the first approach of a temptation towards pride, to give - with double diligence - all the glory to Him who has graciously bestowed all, and to take - with double care - all the shame of our sins to ourselves. Paul's advice in this respect is excellent: 'Because of unbelief some were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear.'

A genuine effect of divine manifestations is to produce an increase of confidence in the Lord, and of activity in His service. What holy boldness filled the souls of those worthies, who 'through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness ... and turned to flight the armies of the aliens'? See how the love of Christ constrained the disciples to speak and act for God after the day of Pentecost; nothing could exceed their fortitude and diligence! Nevertheless, if you yield to the temptation to be proud, not only is the Comforter grieved, but carnal security, spiritual sloth, and indulgence of the flesh, prevail. The deluded Christian fancies himself to be the same still, though shorn of his strength, like Samson. 'Soul' he says to himself 'thou hast goods laid up for many years, even for ever. Although the Lord does not manifest Himself to you any more, be neither uneasy nor afraid; He changes not'. Sometimes the delusion grows to such an extent that the further this man goes from the Kingdom of God, the stronger he imagines his faith. He even speaks contemptuously of that Kingdom. He calls righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost an immature experience, a low dispensation, beyond which he has now happily passed. He thanks God he can now rest upon the bare Word, without an application of it to his heart; that is to say, he is fully satisfied with the letter without the Spirit, he feeds upon the empty husks of notions and opinions, as if they were power and life.

The end of this dreadful mistake is generally a relapse into gross sin, as witness the falls of David and Solomon; or, what is not much better, he settles into a form of godliness without the power of the same, like the Laodiceans of old. The only way to avoid this precipice, is for us to follow in the light of the first manifestation, and to look daily for new visitations from Christ, until He makes His abode with us, and until we walk in the light as He is in the light. A manifestation of the Holy Spirit last year will no more support a soul this year, than air breathed yesterday will nourish the flame of life today. The sun which warmed us last week, must shine again this week; old light is dead light; a notion of old warmth is a very cold notion; we must have fresh food daily, and though we need not a new Christ, we need-perpetually-new displays of His eternal love and power. The Lord taught us this important lesson when He made the manna in the wilderness to disappear every day, and when He caused that manna which was not gathered fresh, to breed worms and to stink.(*The critic and the extremist may consider that Mr. Fletcher is here advocating weekly sights of the Saviour. Nothing is further from the truth, as the author is at pains to make clear. However, he does advocate constant close contact with the One who said 'without Me you can do nothing').

Nevertheless, even as the mysterious food continued sweet in the golden pot within the ark, so does the heavenly power in Christ; to whom, every true Israelite will come daily for new supplies of His hidden manna, for fresh manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Thousands, by not taking account of this, seek the living among the dead, fancying that a living Saviour is to be found in dead experiences, and that all is well even though they live after the flesh, and are, perhaps, even led captive by the devil, at his will. However, when their souls awake out of this dangerous dream, they will become aware of their mistake, and will frankly acknowledge 'God is not the God of the dead, but of the living' and that 'if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.'


CHRIST MANIFESTED by John Fletcher - Around 1768

This particular book was not written by him for mass circulation; he intended it for only one reader-a gentleman friend who was bewildered and who could not obtain proper spiritual help in his local church. The six chapters here presented originally took the form of letters in Mr. Fletcher's own handwriting. It was not until fifteen years after the author's death that these letters, along with many other manuscripts, were gathered into two large volumes and published. The edition from which I have taken this manuscript was published by Messrs. Jones and Company, of Finsbury Square, London, in 1830.

Read the book here

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

MAN-centered or GOD-centered

Finding the 'Keys' to the 'Kingdom'
The Man-centered approach:

There is a correct and an incorrect way to approach GOD. Unfortunately, our generation has learned the incorrect way to a fault, while remaining ignorant of our error. We have been born into the 'great falling away.' We have been indoctrinated with the theological teachings of men. By use of man's reasoning capabilities, God has become moldable, manageable, and conformable to our perceived needs and desires. In short, God has become whatever an individual or group have created in their own imagination, with the influence of religious points of view incorporated to give said image substance and validity. I fear that we are all in for a very rude awakening!

"Yet, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our Potter, and we all are the work of Your hand" Isaiah 64:8.

There is not much wriggle room for glorying... when we are faced with being little more than a lump of clay. There is something inherent in man's fallen nature that seeks out glory. We are all susceptible to this unsavory attribute of our natural inclination. Remember the argument Satan presented Eve with in the garden? "And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil" Genesis 3:4-5.

Equality with God! Pride!

"Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall" Proverbs 16:18.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Alien and A Peculiar People

"Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation" 1 Peter 2:11-12.

We are not of this world, we are aliens. We long for the city whose builder and maker is God. We are citizens of his kingdom. “...The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:20-21)

Definition of alien - anyone who does not belong in the environment in which they are found

1. a person who is a citizen of a country other than the one in which he or she lives.
2. a being from another world
3. a person who does not seem to fit in with his or her environment

Jesus said, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” And he prayed, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.” “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;” (John 17:16-18, 20) Jesus said we are not of this world any more than he is of this world.

This is not our kingdom any more than it is his. Just as the father sent him into the world so he has sent us. We must crucify the flesh. The body of the flesh that loves the world and the things of the world; it can not receive the things of the Spirit. “…..There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” (1 Corinthians 15:44) Until we have put to death that body of flesh as Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me:.."(Galatians 2:20) we will not be able to fully comprehend what the Lord said. “…the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14) Peter said we were, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1 Peter 1:23)

This is a spiritual rebirth, quicken by the word of God. Peter was there when Jesus spoke of this seed in the parable of the sower in Mark the 4th chapter. “And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear….Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables” (Mark 4:9,11)

Jesus was speaking to them of the Kingdom of God and explained the parable to them. “And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? The sower soweth the word.” (Mark 4:13-14)

The seed is the word of God and he is the sower. Most of the seed did not grow up and produce fruit. It is amazing to read the reasons why. Some believed Satan rather than the word of God that was sown. Others did not want to suffer afflictions or persecution that would have caused them to grow strong having deep roots. Others cared about the things of this world. (Mark 4:19) “And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.” The Amplified Verse reads, “Then the cares and anxieties of the world and distractions of the age, and the pleasure and delight and false glamour and deceitfulness of riches, and the craving and passionate desire for other things creep in and choke and suffocate the Word, and it becomes fruitless.”

As Jesus said in verses 9 and 12, it takes ears to hear, and eyes to see.

Many that are in this state where the word has been choked and is unfruitful, they don’t even realize it. When I was still in the “Christian” religious system, they said “Do not to be so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good” But by his grace, my Lord called me out to have a real relationship with him instead of one that is filtered through man’s ideas of who they want God to be. He has caused me not to want to be part of this world. Consequently, the world seems strange to me, and I am strange to them. As long as you have one foot in the world and one foot in Christ, you will lose; his seed will be choked out. You can live good moral lives and do a lot of religious works, but if your idea of success is to live the “American dream” and you strive for that, you are missing the truth and you are of the world. For the world seeks after those things. God said in Ezekiel 14:4 he will answer you accord to the idols of your heart, because you do not have a love for the truth “…God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:” (2 Thessalonians 2:11)

Many well meaning people will fall into deception because they followed deceived leaders teaching a false gospel. But we are not like the world; we do not seek after these things. The Lord knows what we have need of. If we seek the Kingdom of God instead of this world’s kingdom, he will supply what we have need of in this world. Yes, we occupy while we are here in this world, doing the work the Lord gives us to do. But our desire is not the wealth of the world; it is the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and to be found in him at his coming. The over indulgence of the things of this world and the mind set to compete and to succeed over another is not found in the mind of Christ who came as a servant. "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness " is one of the most famous phrases in the United States Declaration of Independence. These three aspects are listed among the "inalienable rights" of man, but is NOT listed or found in the mind of Christ.

They are things that the world seeks after, but we seek a higher calling, to become as a servant. The grace of God teaches “ that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:12-14)

Yes, we are a peculiar people, the world is strange to us, and we are strange to the world. If we are not, we are not of Christ. The world will not change and we are not called to try and make it change. We can only preach the Gospel of the Kingdom as the Lord gives us utterance, and the Holy Spirit will drawn out of the world those that are his. Philippians 3:20 says, “For our conversation (citizenship) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:”

(Psalms 85:13) Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps. (1 John 2:6) He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.

Even so come quickly Lord Jesus!