Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Error of the Galatians

*The following article is from the book – The Gospel Message by Steve Bray - and the chapter entitled “The Error of the Galatians.”

Paul came to the Galatians with the indwelling life of Jesus Christ. He could say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2:20) He had received the life of promise. “It pleased God…to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles.” (Gal. 1:15-16) The Gospel he preached actually worked. This is why he was so insistent that the Galatians adhere to his teachings.

The Galatians, however, were being turned from the true gospel message. Some false teachers had come to the church and were leading them into a “law keeping” form of salvation. This error had turned them away from a faith that depends on the Son to reveal His Kingdom-life of perfect love within the heart and thereby save them from their fallen nature.

There have always been people within the Lord’s church who prefer the way of law because it permits them to save their flesh-life. It has become a stumbling block to both Jews and Gentiles alike. While they do not mind studying the Scriptures and committing themselves to many of its ways, they have generally been unwilling to die to their old self-originated form of life in order to find the Lord’s Kingdom-life from heaven.

You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me {the Messiah who has come to establish the eternal Kingdom-life of perfect love within the hearts of God’s people}. But you are not willing to come to Me {through the cross} that you may have life {the divine life from heaven}. (John 5:39-40)

Once people in the church have seared over their conscious concerning the deeper things of God, it is possible to find a sense of fulfillment in a law-keeping form of righteousness. Like the Pharisees, these people end up choosing certain “standards” that are within the capacity of their human efforts. We will then find them insisting that holiness consists of conforming to the laws they have accepted.

It takes pride to think we have the ability to produce a right kind of life. This pride will also tend to foster a spirit that tends to judge others based on the righteousness we have developed for ourselves. However, if we truly compare ourselves to Jesus, we will begin to see how there is still an evil spirit within our heart that has kept us separated from our Lord’s meek and loving nature.

People who depend on their own efforts to keep the law actually separate themselves from the life that comes from Christ. “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” (Gal. 5:4) This separation from grace will prevent the heart from becoming perfect in love.

The Divine love that suffers long, is gentle and will not break the bruised reed or quench the smoking flax, comes from the grace of God. You will find that law-keepers do not possess this grace. There will be a hardness in them that tends to condemn others for not living by the same standards.

People who have not entered into the Kingdom-life of perfect love that comes down from heaven cannot lead others into the Lord’s saving life. While they may hold up many of the laws found in God’s Word and expose people to the Scriptures, they never lead them into full salvation. Consequently, their converts eventually take on the same critical and condemning spirit.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell, as you are. (Matt. 23:15)

Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will declare justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice {a haranguing voice} in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench, till He sends forth justice to victory; And in His name Gentiles will trust. (Matt. 12:18-21)

Again, perfect love does produce righteousness. It is able to reveal a standard of living that clearly comes from heaven. And those who live through it will reveal a light that shows justice breaking forth into victorious Christian living. In the sense that Jesus had compassion, it will show compassion for the multitudes it sees lost in sin. It is capable of expressing the truth with a real sense of mercy and concern for the hearer.

Give no offense…just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (1 Cor. 10:32-11:1)

You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials…how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying… repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ…

And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God… For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock…

So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified… I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak… (Acts 20:18-35)

Paul knew that people who live by law would become “conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Gal. 5:26) He therefore said, “But if you bite and devour one another {with your unloving words}, beware lest you be consumed by one another!” (Gal. 5:15) Do you criticize others {perhaps only in your thoughts and not openly} for not living as you do? If so, it is evidence you have developed your “own righteousness, which is of the law” and know nothing of “the righteousness which is from God by faith.” (Phil. 3:9) When you live among law-keepers, you can expect others to criticize you for not following one of their standards. Everyone will have something they can use to judge others. Again, the perfect love of God will not be found in a church {or denomination, or any other religious organization} where people think that holiness consists of conforming to certain laws.

Whenever pastors and teachers display a severe and judgmental approach in pressing certain laws on others, it will become obvious how they have become “estranged from Christ” and “fallen from grace.” (Gal 5:4) Their efforts to establish a form of righteousness through their own endeavors will result in a pride that separates them from the grace that supplies the heart with the Son’s divine nature. God can only give His grace to the humble. (1 Pet. 5:5)

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits… A good tree cannot bear bad fruit… Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Matt. 7:15-20)

People who have based their righteousness on keeping the law will not understand the Sabbath-rest of God where God’s children “cease” from their own works. (Heb. 4:9-10) They are unwilling to count everything from the self-life as loss and become nothing in themselves so that Christ may become “all in all” and be the source of their spiritual life. They are still looking to have some of the glory.

Again, the way of finding divine life from heaven by following Christ through the cross, remains a real stumbling block to people who insist on living by law. Rather than glorying in what can be received from the Son by taking His way of the cross, they glory in the righteousness that comes from keeping the law. But regardless of how far they progress, people who live by their own human efforts {in the same sense that Abraham tried to help God produce the “life of promise” through his own efforts – but instead produced Ishmael, a life that ultimately had to be cast out} will not have the capacity to “put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:24) They cannot become perfect in love and mercy like their heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt. 5:48)

We need to realize that even Jesus, while living in a mortal body, did not produce the Kingdom-life by His own efforts. Everything He did came from the Father through faith. He said, “The Son can do nothing of Himself.” (John 5:19) This literally means that He did not do anything “out from” Himself.

Jesus did not live by a self-originated form of life. While He was required to surrender His will to the will of the Father in order to remain free from sin, and He had to choose to submit to truth, He was dependent on the Father to manifest the “light of life” from heaven through Him. And in this same sense He says to us, “Without Me you can do nothing.”

This does not mean that we will not find people working hard for the Lord. We will find them doing many things in the name of Jesus. But these works do not necessarily reveal the divine life of perfect love. And without this revelation of perfect love through our daily life, our works will remain valueless. (1 Cor. 13:3) They are called “dead works” because they do not reveal the divine life from heaven.

Human benevolent works are unable to further the kingdom of God because they will inevitably be overshadowed by the darkness that comes from a self-centered nature. A life that is still centered around self will display various signs of selfishness, and this corruption will divert others away from the Lord’s Kingdom-life of promise. The disciple will find reasons to excuse himself from pressing forward through the cross and into Christ’s life of perfect love as long as he still senses that his teacher is living for himself. And so, because of his opportunity to see the true meaning of light from his reading of the Scriptures, he becomes “twice as much a son of hell” as he was before being converted.

For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ {and they have seen what His life is like}, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. (2 Pet. 2:20-21)

Again, there is a vast difference between the works that man does as a benevolent person and the work that God does through people who have been perfected in love. The work that is accomplished in God’s kingdom is intended to have a supernatural quality to it. There needs to be such a degree of selflessness revealed that others can plainly see how this “light of life” is coming from the Son of God in heaven.

But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God {through the Son’s life of love}. (John 3:21 NIV)

But we have this treasure in jars of clay {weak mortal bodies} to show that this all-surpassing power {to live in perfect love} is from God and not from us. (2 Cor. 4:7 NIV)

There was a reason why Paul did not preach with “persuasive words of human wisdom.” (1 Cor. 2:4-5) One cannot develop the Christian life in the same way that teachers of this world help people develop their lives. In the world, everyone must depend on his of her own efforts to raise themselves into a better life. In contrast, the simplest child of dependent faith can enter into a position that permits God to raise them into the highest levels of spiritual life in the kingdom of God. Paul therefore preached “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (v. 5)

Unfortunately, the Galatians had turned from this way of childlike faith in God’s power and had begun to rely on their own strength to produce the “goal” of righteousness. (Gal. 3:3) And just as unfortunately, this has been the same error committed by many earnest Christians in the church today.

I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like {dependent and trusting} little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 18:3)

We can only enter into the Kingdom-life of God through a childlike faith in the Lord. While we are required to meet His covenant conditions, which includes submitting to His teachings, this submission will never produce the life of heaven. Again, “Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life {the Kingdom-life of heavenly righteousness}, truly righteousness would have been by the law.” (Gal. 3:21) Paul was trying to teach the Galatians to look to Christ as their only hope of truly enjoying the righteousness that exists within the kingdom of God.

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes… For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last… (Rom. 1:16-17 NIV Emphasis added)

But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. (Rom. 3:21 NIV Emphasis added)

But whatever was to my profit {everything that led to a strict religious life} I now consider loss for the sake of Christ…that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (Phil. 3:7-9 NIV Emphasis added)

The granting of this righteousness that comes from Christ is an act of our Sovereign God that comes through a work of His grace, when the conditions are met. Again, meeting the conditions can only prepare the way that will lead to the life of promise. We receive this “gift” of true righteousness by receiving an “abundance of grace.” Only in this way can we ever expect to “reign in life through…Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:17)

Paul uses Abraham, “the father of faith,” as an example to distinguish the difference between the “way of faith” and “the way of human effort.” He assures the Galatians that everyone who follows Abraham’s way of faith will receive the long awaited “promise of the Father.” “For if the inheritance {the life of promise} is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.” (Gal. 3:18) While the great saints of the Old Testament dispensation died in the faith without actually receiving the Kingdom-life of “promise” in this world (Heb. 11:39-40), they continued to walk in a justified state because they continued to submit to God’s will as best they knew how while waiting on Him for the fulfillment.

Yes, they responded to the known will of God. But their hope of truly becoming righteous was in the coming Messiah. The law had revealed to them their need for a Savior who could deliver them from the law of sin and death and enable them to display the true righteousness and holiness that God had originally planned to reveal through His children. They had learned by their efforts to keep the law how this life could not be produced through human efforts.

“What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come…” (Gal. 3:19) Again, there needs to be some way to control the corruption that tends to rise out of the fallen nature. But law-keeping could never produce the divine life of God. (Gal. 3:21) The Kingdom-life of perfect love would need to be received from the Son of God by dependent faith.

Abraham’s personal life provides a spiritual example to demonstrate this principle. God promised to manifest a son through him. Because his wife was past the age when she could bear children, it was impossible for them to produce the child through their own works {efforts}. The life of the “son” would need to be received as a supernatural gift from God through faith.

Even though Abraham became confused and thought it was necessary to help God produce the promised life of the son, which is the same mistake that most Christians are now making, he still continued to believe in God’s promise. In effect, “most” of his hope continued to be in God. Paul could therefore say, “He did not waiver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised he was also able to perform. And therefore ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ ” (Rom. 4:20-21)

This spiritual “type” is fulfilled in God’s promise to manifest the life of His Son through our mortal bodies (2 Cor. 4:10-11) in this world. Even though it is impossible for us to do, the promise can be fulfilled by receiving an abundant measure of grace and the “gift of righteousness” through our dependent faith in the Lord. As long as we remain “fully convinced” that God is able to do the work, we too will continue to be “credited” with Christ’s righteousness during the time of testing when we are waiting for Him to fulfill the promise. Like Abraham, there will be a period when we must learn to distinguish between our efforts to help God fulfill the promise and the true way of faith. God will need to put our self-sufficient spirit to death before we will be prepared to receive the promise by faith alone.

We should note that Abraham continued to obey God as best he knew how while he was waiting for the promise to be fulfilled. (Heb. 11:8) We should also note that it was not until he was “as good as dead” that he received the promise. (Heb. 11:12) As long as he had some hope in his human efforts, and still thought he could help God produce the life of the son, he was not yet in a place where he could receive the promise by pure faith. Similarly, God cannot manifest the Son’s Kingdom-life of perfect love within our heart until we are “as good as dead” to the ways of human {or self} sufficiency.

This was Paul’s meaning when he referred to the suffering that the Galatians were experiencing: “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh {by your own efforts}? Have you suffered so many things in vain…?” (Gal. 3:3-4 Emphasis added) The suffering that God sends into our lives during the desert testing period is designed to break our self-sufficient spirit and destroy the old self-originated form of life. And yet, these scourgings can very easily be in vain if we do not understand what God is attempting to do. Let us therefore yield to His work and permit the Holy Spirit to put our self-sufficient spirit to death so we are in a position to receive the promise of His eternal Kingdom-life by pure faith.

As children of promise, Christians must not make the mistake of trying to help God produce the life of the Son. Everyone who enters into this struggle by human effort will have to go through a longer period of suffering than would normally be necessary. And in the end, they will find that they can only produce a life that is represented by Ishmael. In other words, they will never be truly set free from the self-centered {fleshly} nature. Instead of entering into a real enjoyment of the spiritual life of promise, these believers will continue to find themselves going through a wilderness of spiritual suffering and dryness.

We should note that Ishmael was around even after Isaac was born. And as long as this illegitimate son remained in the camp, the true son of promise was in danger. Sarah began to perceive that Ishmael’s presence {the self-originated flesh-life} would not only threaten their peace and happiness, but would also place the life of her God-given son in danger. To Abraham however, it was disturbing to think about completely casting out Ishmael. After all, this part of his life had come from his own efforts! Abraham would naturally have had a sense of pride in what he had accomplished through his own work.

How does this lesson apply to us? Even after we have experienced a miraculous new birth and we know that a “Seed” from the life of the Son has been planted within our heart, there is still a tendency to use our own resolutions and efforts to help produce the mature fruit of Christ’s Spirit. But as we have mentioned, a spirit that is contrary to the spirit of perfect love will remain within the heart of everyone who lives by law in an attempt to make themselves righteous.

Yes, we may even build great edifices in honor of the Lord. In fact, there is a tendency to enjoy these works because we like to be honored for what we have done. But regardless of what we have accomplished, and unless we have totally seared over our conscience, we will continue to sense that something is still wrong within our heart. We will still have a sense of Ishmael {the remains of the flesh-life} causing trouble. Consequently, we will find that we are not always overflowing with Christ’s divine life of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control {over the carnal nature, which will still have its “say” in unguarded or trying moments}. (Gal. 5:22-23)

The presence of Ishmael {the self-originated form of life} will continue to threaten a full revelation of the Son’s divine life. Even though it will be painful, let us cast out this old form of self-produced righteousness and enter into the fullness of the promise through the way of faith.

Ishmael’s inheritance was the desert wilderness. While we may be greatly distressed over the thought of truly dying out to the old self-sufficient form of life, we need to realize that keeping him around will inevitably result in an ever-returning spiritual thirst and a never-ending struggle against the old self-centered nature. This is why God has insisted that we “cast out” the old life that we created through our human efforts. “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise… What does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman.” (Gal. 4:28, 30)

This casting out will entail counting everything from our self-life as loss, so we may truly look to Christ as our only hope of being made perfect in love. “For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.” (Gal. 5:5) Yes, salvation from the fallen life is by grace, through dependent faith in the completed work of Jesus Christ.

This provides a better understanding of Paul’s message about the cross. There was only one way for him to become qualified to preach the Gospel. He too had to follow His Lord’s instructions to deny himself and take the path of the cross. It enabled him to “find” the Lord’s Kingdom-life and become an effective minister of the Gospel message. “It pleased God…to reveal His Son in me.” (Gal. 1:16) “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20)

Paul, as one who preached the true Gospel, knew how important it was to reveal the saving life of Jesus Christ before the eyes of his hearers. He could say, “For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God.” (Gal. 2:9) This visible display of a self-sacrificing life—the Lord’s “light” from heaven—will always bring deep conviction within the hearts of fallen man as the implications of the Gospel are being revealed through the Word of God. In other words, this display of selflessness will place a conviction on the hearts of those who still possess a self-centered nature.

There is only one means for preaching the word of God in a way that leads to a deep conviction within the heart of self-centered man. We must first receive a power from on high that enables us to display the self-sacrificing life and nature of Jesus Christ. It was in this sense that Paul could say to the Thessalonians: “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.” (1 Thess. 1:5 Emphasis added) As the Thessalonians observed a visible display of the Gospel message in the life of Paul, the word of God worked powerfully within their hearts.

Paul had discovered the secret that had long been veiled in the Old Testament Scriptures. The mystery was that Christ Himself would begin to reveal the light from His Kingdom-life through the saints, so that others would see the true salvation of the Lord and sense the need to surrender to the same light of life. When Christ is not able to reveal His glory—His life of perfect love—through the members of His body, the world will never see this great mystery of true salvation.

{It is} the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory {the hope of revealing God’s Kingdom-life of perfect love}. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all {spiritual, not earthly} wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. (Col. 1:26-28 Emphasis added)

It is not the words we speak that will have the greatest impact on the world. This is why a “law-keeping” form of salvation has very little impact. The world can see the conflict between what we teach and how we often act in a spirit that is not perfect in love, a spirit that still evidences the remains of a self-seeking and self-indulgent nature, which is easily detected by others. The people we are teaching must see the Kingdom-life of perfect {self-sacrificing}love being expressed through our lives before they can understand the true Gospel message and be drawn into the same light of life. What we say will matter, but what we “are” is what enables the Spirit to truly convict those who have seen the light.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk {just words to give intellectual assent to} but of power {the “power of an endless life”}

(1 Cor. 4:20 NIV)

For the kingdom of God is…righteousness {divine love} and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 14:17)

Some people think it would be possible for them to be a better Christian if their religious upbringing would have been a little better. Others tend to think that a better God-centered religious education would help them improve their spiritual life. There are others who think that more zeal for God would enable them to accomplish more for the kingdom of God. While there is nothing wrong with these things, we need to note that they are exactly what Paul had to count “as loss” in order to fully depend on Christ and live in the resurrection power of God’s Spirit. By turning from a dependence on all these things, he was able to find the Kingdom-life from heaven. Let us not turn away from the true hope of glory, which is Christ’s indwelling presence, by acting as if some other means would improve our spiritual life.

If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so; {based on such thing as a good moral upbringing, a good religious education and a tremendous zeal for God; and}…concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection… (Phil. 3:4–10 Emphasis added)

Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes. (Ezk. 36:23 NIV)

The message of Galatians, in harmony with the rest of the Scriptures, is all about receiving a whole new form of life from Jesus Christ by following Him through the cross. Like the Galatians, we make a serious mistake when we begin to place our emphasis on living by certain standards that we equate with true righteousness. It naturally leads to a concentration on the standards we have chosen to amplify rather than on the life of perfect love we need to receive by uniting with Christ at the cross.

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world {and all of its self-originated ways} has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Gal. 6:14)

Everyone who will take the way of the cross is assured of finding Christ’s Kingdom-life of perfect love. (Matt. 16:24-25) It is only through His “exceedingly great and precious promises” that we can become “partakers of the divine nature” and escape “the corruption that is in the world through lust” – {desires for things temporal}. (2 Pet. 1:4) Thus, it is by faith. Yes, “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life {so we may be a display of His Kingdom-life from heaven} and godliness.” (2 Pet. 1:3) Let us therefore praise the Lord for what He has already accomplished for us and look to Him for the fulfillment in our own lives.

At the same time, we must not forget about the need to yield to all truth as we prepare the way for the Lord and His life of promise. James describes this as the faith that works. (Jam. 2:14-26) God will be testing our willingness to become like Jesus. He expects us to fully submit to being led by His Spirit. It will be necessary to yield to the ways of the Lord during this time of testing. There is no other way to be led into the fullness of the blessing.

But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness, {self-sacrificing} love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. (2 Pet. 1:5-9)

This preparation that demonstrates the true fruit of repentance is a necessary part of the six days of man. God is looking for a yielded heart that is willing to prepare the temple according to His specifications. But in the end, we are still dependent upon Him to manifest His glory within the temple of our body. There is no other way to reveal His life of perfect love in this world. We should therefore never rest short of the promised “Sabbath-rest” where it is possible to “cease” from our own works and begin living through the promised Kingdom-life of our Lord.

Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life {the first-fruits of the life of heaven} which the Lord has promised to those who love Him {to those who submit to His ways}. (Jam. 1:12)

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Pet. 1:10-11 Emphasis added)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Responding to the Right Impressions

*The following article is from the book – Walking With God by Steve Bray - and the chapter entitled “The Fellowship of Communicating with God.”

Learning to respond to the right impressions is an important part of being a Christian. We have therefore included extensive quotes from the best sources we have found on this subject. The following lessons are from Martin Knapp’s book Impressions. (We have provided additional material in the Appendix from Impressions and from Thomas Upham’s book Inward Divine Guidance.)

Emphatic mention of this test of impressions is made by Upham in his valuable treatise on Divine Guidance. He says… “If a leading is of God the ‘way will always open for it.’ The Lord assures us of this when He says: ‘When He putteth forth His own sheep He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice.’ Notice here the expressions, ‘goeth before’ and ‘follow.’ He goes before to open a way, and we are to follow in the way thus opened. It is never a sign of divine leading when a Christian insists on opening his own way, and riding roughshod over all opposing things. If the Lord goes before us He will open all doors for us, and we shall not need ourselves to hammer them down. The Word declares, ‘Behold, I have set before thee an open door and no man can shut it.’ ”

This open door of providential opportunity awaits every person who follows impressions from above. “I will go before thee,” declares Jehovah to all who follow Him, “and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron.” All true impressions from above find “crooked places” divinely straightened, gates of brass divinely broken and bars of iron divinely sundered.

The providential openings which thus ever welcome those divinely led are marvelous. God never impresses a Noah to build an ark, or a Solomon a temple, but that means, material and men await their appropriating faith. He never impresses a Philip to go preach to an individual, but that he prepares the person for Philip’s preaching…

We cannot forbear to quote further from the luminous teachings of George D. Watson on this frequently puzzling point. He says: “The Holy Ghost never guides us contrary to the Word. The Word never guides us contrary to Providence, and Providence does not guide us contrary to the Word or Spirit. So that these three elements of divine guidance are always harmonious… When you want to be divinely led, simply consult God’s providence and consult God’s Word and consult the convictions of God’s Spirit upon your heart, and the Lord, if you are humble and teachable, will see that you are properly led.”…

God has given us reasoning powers for a purpose, and he respects them, appeals to them, and all of His leadings are in unison with them. He will bring up all the facts in the case in such a way as to convince us that His leadings are all in harmony with sanctified common sense…

God never asks us to act on uncertainties. To do so is a spiritual crime. “He that doubteth is damned if he eat,” and this principle proscribes the doing of anything concerning the rightfulness of which there is doubt… [“For whatever is not from faith is sin.” (Rom. 14:23)]

God does not drive, but leads His children… Watson says, “You can detect the devil by one or two things. The devil always talks loud. Jesus always talks low and tender… When a [worldly] spirit makes an impression on the mind, that impression can be made in a loud, rushing, pell-mell sort of way… I mean to say that the impression has a loudness in the mind… The devil wants you to be in a hurry and rush and go pell-mell and not wait for anything; whereas Jesus is always quiet and He is calm and always takes His time… The more you wait on God, if the conviction comes from the Holy Ghost, the more you wait and the more you pray, the stronger it becomes. If it comes from the devil, the more you wait and the more you pray, the weaker it grows. You can tell by that. If you have a call to some mission work or anything, and you say, ‘I wish I did know whether it were God or Satan,’ you just take time…”

While it is true, when duty is clearly known, that “the king’s business requireth haste,” yet when it is not clearly known it is just as true that “he that believeth shall not make haste.”…

The impressions from above, when followed, are attended by a sweet peace and the consciousness that they are right; those from below, by perplexity and the feeling that something is wrong. The first brings rest. The second robs of it… The Holy Spirit is an unerring guide, and he who detects and turns from every wrong impression and fully follows Him will be led into “all truth.”…

May we each so “try the spirits,” and “watch and pray,” that, like God’s people of old, we may see our “pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night,” and thus while being led in a “plain path” be enabled to “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”

God does not reveal the full details of His will all at once. He keeps His children in constant dependence upon Him. You will therefore need to have your patience perfected and learn to live each moment by the Spirit. “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete {living in full dependence upon God}, lacking nothing.” (Jam. 1:4) The more lamb-like you become in your meek and lowly submission to His will, the easier it is to hear His voice and follow Him. You will then begin to discover that you never lack anything.

Wesley Duewel says in his book there is never an emergency with God. Even though we may think there is a crisis, our Sovereign God knows the end from the beginning. In Let God Guide You, he says, “The nature of guidance often requires extended time. You must allow God time to prepare you, others, and the situation for which you are praying.”

Even though there may appear to be a crisis developing at times, God will never permit His Spirit-led children to enter into any greater difficulty than is necessary for their good. As we have learned from the apostle Paul’s life, God will sometimes use very difficult situations to bring us to the end of ourselves. (2 Cor. 1:8-9) He will also use special thorns to separate us from the self-sufficient and self-exalting ways of the devil. He will do what is necessary to produce within our heart a childlike faith so He may keep us in the place where we “lack nothing.”

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Salt - by Guy Morris

This word is to you that have experienced a birth into the family of our Lord. Your life has been changed because of Jesus Christ, but the leaders of today have lost the vision of how the children of our Fathers kingdom grow up.

The purpose the Lord has is to stir up your thinking; to think... asking yourself where you are and what message are you hearing? What direction are you going? Are you on the milk of the Word? Is the milk healthy? Have you ever tasted meat that comes from the Lord? We need to ask ourselves if we know what salt is. Have we ever really tasted the flavor of the saltiness of the Word of God? Are we really carrying the cross that Jesus has asked us to carry following Him all the way or is it only a cross attached to a pretty chain around our neck?

The scripture the Lord has chosen for this letter comes from 2nd Kings 2:19-20, 21 and the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren. And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him. And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the LORD, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land.

A cruse is a container or vessel that is used for different things. Some are used to hold water, salt, seed or other things for the household. In this case it is a vessel that holds salt.

The city the Lord is referring to are a people who call themselves the bride of Christ or the Jerusalem of God, the brethren or perhaps they prefer to just plainly be a Christian church. At any rate I spent the first 42 years in these churches of different names and doctrines before the Lord called me out.

It is a divided city which is so full of different names and teachings that we almost lose count of how many there are.

Each one of these which are called by different names will very willingly tell you that they are right and the others are wrong. Saying, 'You will find out when you get to heaven and see that we were right.' This is the city we are talking about. A city that is full of divisions. As you look at this city as a whole you will also find it is a city of confusion. In the book of Revelation the Lord has given this city another name and that name is spiritually BABYLON.

To go on with this scripture we see the situation of this city is pleasant. Most of the buildings we call churches have padded seats to sit on. Nice carpet and the colors are pleasant to the eyes, but it depends who you talk to as to what answer you get. Perhaps the reason for this is because the scripture goes on and says the water is naught and the ground barren.

The Hebrew Word naught has many words to describe its meaning. Here are some; bad, evil, harm, hurt, worse, calamity, wretchedness, and more of such words to describe its meaning. So we see that the watering of the Word is not good and it makes the ground barren.

The Hebrew word barren means to miscarry; that is to suffer abortion, by analogy to bereave of children, and rob of children.

Perhaps the reason He is using this scripture is because the Holy Spirit used this to help teach me and so He is passing it along to you. He used this scripture to help teach me of what the churches have become. It wasn't that I was not saved as they put it or birthed into life by the Spirit of God. It was that I was not growing or developing into a healthy son of God.

The watering of the Word has been so twisted into different meanings and I was being robbed of growing up in our Lord Jesus. It was causing me harm and if it were not for the Lord calling me out I don't know what would have happened to me because I saw in a vision that my pastor was trying to cast me and another person into a bottomless pit. This scared me.

All I knew was going to church was the right thing to do. So now what am I to do? He preached Jesus, being born again, and receiving of the Holy Spirit. Yet God is saying he is robbing me.

We can understand how a child is born in the natural,(by the flesh), but we don't understand the fullness of how a Spiritual child of God is born and given a change of growing up to be just like Jesus. What is born of the flesh is flesh, but what is born of the Spirit is Spirit.

Many churches may have really had a part of a person receiving Jesus, receiving the Holy Spirit but then tell the people to pitch their tent in the wilderness of this world, far short of the Jordan River and the promised area of God. They call each tent by name and make up the rules that govern their group. If you don't follow the rules they may press you to leave, but if you want to leave on your own they may speak to you like they spoke to me.

You are leaving the will of God; your going to Hell or they may put the quilt trip thing on you trying to get you to come back saying you are going in the wrong direction. Some say, we need you to help us and others are really looking up to you. Patting us on the back does wonders to the ego of the flesh.

Satan is not afraid of a baby casting him out of heavenly places. What he is really concerned about is that baby growing up. He has done a good job so far keeping that child from growing up. I believe the Lord is about to change all that; that is if we are willing to listen to HIM.

The truth of the matter is I was going back to my Father's house looking to the Holy Spirit to guide me. Where I was all those years was living the life of a prodigal son only I didn't know it. Giving my time and money to leaders that were not helping me but harming me and other children of God from growing up in Christ Jesus. Now my Father was calling me out of these tent builders to come Home, to be in His presence.

We read in the scriptures that at one time it was OK to go to church or to gather together with others of like minds. Now it is different, because every one of us have been born into this world at the time of the great falling away. Our churches have become a part of the great harlot Babylon! Maybe there is a church somewhere which hasn't fallen away; I don't know. All I know is I have not heard of any.

When I was being called out two angles came to my house and stood behind me as I sat on the couch. I did not see them but I knew they were there. One of them spoke to me encouraging me to obey the Lord. I obeyed Him and left it. It made me think about the two witnesses that were sent to Lot to get him out of Sodom. At the same time you feel a little like Abraham when he was called out to the wilderness not knowing where he was going looking for the city of God; the one He was building.

The first thing the Holy Spirit began to do was to take away some bad teachings. I felt just like I was in a wilderness with the Lord's people scattered every where unknown to me. He also was teaching me new things that the church never taught. One of those things is the knowing that now I was a part of the true church of God, the one He is making, and not man. Sometimes I missed hearing the singing and fellowship with a few of them, but then manna came down and I was glad I obeyed Him.

Along with the scripture that I shared with you He showed me something else about the churches. I happened to go to Denver and the Holy Spirit wanted me to go to the stock show that was going on in town. He wanted to show me something. I didn't know where to go but I happened to be just in the right place sitting about half way up in the seats. They were selling bulls for reproduction of the farmers herds. Man o man did they fuss over those bulls, washing, combing, brushing and even putting curls in the hair at places. It looked like they were putting some kind of oil on them to make the hair shiny. These bulls were bought by the highest bidder.

The entire time what the Lord wanted me to see is... this is what man is doing to future preachers in the schools of men. They are hirelings groomed for producing people. They will go to the highest bidder teaching the doctrine of that school. They only looked good on the outside.

Elisha spoke what the Lord wanted-- Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him. And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the LORD, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land.

Bring me a vessel full of salt. If you have been called out and you're walking in this wilderness as a living sacrifice unto the Lord; don't desire to go back. For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Mark 9:49

Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you and teach you because He will make you into the salt of the earth and when the Lord goes forth with healing in His wings; you will be one with Him. Some of the Lord's people will be stubborn and will not come out of her until the day you are sent to them.

You that are being called out and you haven't obeyed Him yet; you need to do it. You need to trust the Holy Spirit to care for you. Jesus said, will there be any faith left when He comes? We don't want to come up short of having faith in God's Word and His promises.

True worship is to obey Him!

The Holy Spirit told me that when they were putting the guilt trip on me.

He is fully capable of getting you where you need to be according to God's will for you. The time will come that everyone whose name is in the Book of Life will be called on to come out of her before she is destroyed.

When I was being called out some things the Lord was showing me were hard to believe and I sort of felt like Abraham and the story told about him when he was called out. Maybe you feel the same way and you donĂ¢€™t know exactly where to go or what to do. I want you to know this is normal for a person like you.

You are special to our Father. One of the hardest things to over come is your own family and the love you have for them, which is a part of this world. The reason is, if you love your family more then Jesus; you are not worthy to have Him. In other words you will never be as one with Him. Talk about being salty? We all have to make up our mind that it is the Lord we will love and obey, denying our own life in order to be one with Him.

The Lord needs vessels of Salt for the healing of the true Church of God. To be vessels of Salt you need the mind of Christ and that means growing up to be Sons of God. Taste the Words that come out of the mouth of our Lord Jesus. If you don't think they are really salty then you are not hearing Him, nor tasting the flavor of salt.

I encourage everyone of my true family which is born of God. Have faith in every Word God has spoken through His Son Jesus or a fresh Word that He is speaking to you now. Yes, to have true faith in His Word will cause you to lose your Life but you will find a life that is truly wonderful and not of this world. We all need to be the salt of the earth; always ready to walk further with our Lord Jesus Christ. Always ready to have an answer seasoned with salt.

Matthew 7:14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

There are many obstacles about this door seeking to turn you aside or call you back and the way is to suffer the loss of your life. It will be worth it to become the salt of the earth because that is what JESUS IS.