Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dying to Self-Sufficiency

For they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. (Mark 6:52)

As the first disciples demonstrated in their own walk with Jesus, it is not easy to learn to live by faith in God’s power. This difficulty of learning to walk wholly by faith in God has prevented many from entering into the life of promise. Fallen man has lived by a self-sufficiency for too long to suddenly begin depending on God for everything. As we shall see, the first disciples had a difficult time adjusting to this walk of faith, even after being taught these same lessons many times during a close walk with Jesus.

The Kingdom-life of God, where everyone lives under the control and power of the Holy Spirit, is not easy to enter. It will therefore be necessary to explain to new converts, as Jesus did, how difficult it is to enter into the life of promise. Jesus said, “Difficult is the way which leads to life {the Kingdom-life where God’s children live under the control and power of His Spirit}, and there are few who find it.” (Matt. 7:14) If we do not strive to enter into this “rest” where everyone truly lives by faith in God’s power, we will be unable to manifest the “light of life” from heaven.

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work… Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest… (Heb. 4:9-11 Emphasis added)

Because of the difficulty involved, Jesus told people to consider the cost before they tried to follow Him into His Kingdom-life. A real decision had to be made. They would need to determine beforehand if they were prepared to devote themselves entirely to the task at hand.

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” (Luke 14:28-30)

Although we seldom hear these words from preachers in this day, they are the words of Jesus. His words and His ways will never change. Men may try to change the Lord’s teachings to better fit their own desires, but all they are doing is departing from the Lord.

Everyone who wants to follow Jesus will need to learn these truths. They will experience just as much difficulty following Him into His Kingdom-life today as did the people who first received this warning from Jesus. Let us therefore believe our Lord when He says, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter {the Kingdom-life} and will not be able to.” (Luke 13:24)

Even after deciding to pay the price to buy the heavenly Pearl (the Lord’s Kingdom-life), which will entail a real turning from the independent and self-sufficient ways of the world, it will not be easy to stay on course. In other words, finding the Pearl and deciding to buy it is not enough! We will need to surrender everything from our old independent and self-sufficient way of life before we can receive it. (Matt. 13:45-46)

So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has {from his independent and self-sufficient way of life} cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:33)

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away… How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord… (Heb. 2:1, 3)

The members of Christ’s body will generally require considerable instruction and exhortation before they will be in a condition to have the Lord’s Kingdom-life fully established within their hearts. We learn this lesson by the way Paul taught the true gospel message in the first century. He knew there was a need for a real dying out to the old self-sufficient way of life. We therefore find him exhorting his pupils to press forward in their faith until they had entered into the Kingdom-life of promise:

And when they {Paul and Barnabas} had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:21-22 Emphasis added)

Similar to the pilgrimage taken by God’s people in the Old Testament, which is a spiritual type used by God to teach Christians in this age of fulfillment (1 Cor. 10:1-12), the children of faith in the New Testament will pass through a time of testing before they enter into the life of promise. And, as Jesus has stated, many of His followers will end up turning away from this walk of faith during the time when tribulations are being used to strip away their self-sufficient spirit. “For many, I say to you, will seek to enter {the Kingdom-life} and will not be able to.” (Luke 13:24) “They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.” (Luke 8:13)

Instead of putting the flesh-life to death by the Spirit, many disciples actually go back to living by the flesh. This is why Christians need to be instructed in the ways of the Spirit and exhorted to press forward in their faith until God has established His Kingdom-life within their hearts. (Heb. 3:7 – 4:11)

For if you live according to the flesh {by your own sufficiency after being reconciled to God} you will die {have a spiritual life that keeps dying}; but if by the Spirit {as regenerate Christians} you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live {in the Kingdom-life}. (Rom. 8:13)

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)

The Lord’s Kingdom-life will be fully established within the hearts of Christ’s followers when they have died to the fleshly ways of fallen man. Every disciple will therefore need to be exhorted to continue in the way of faith while God is stripping away their old self-sufficient way of life in the time of tribulation and testing.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience {and reliance on God}. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete {in faith and love}, lacking nothing… Blessed is the man who endures temptation {in the time of testing}; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life {the Kingdom-life} which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:2-4, 12 Emphasis added)

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while {while being turned from the old self-sufficient way of life in the time of testing}, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (1 Pet. 5:10 Emphasis added)

Christ has provided His church with pastors and teachers to build the members of His body up in their faith so they will begin to rely on God for all things. Both the spiritual life and the works that Jesus has planned to display through the members of His body can only take place when they are living wholly by faith in Him. They will therefore need someone who can help them understand how Jesus lived by the power of the Spirit through faith. This is why the church needs spiritual leaders who can instruct and exhort the members of Christ’s body “till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man {complete in faith and love}, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph. 4:13 Emphasis added)

Merely holding a position in the church does not make someone spiritual. All too often we find unspiritual people striving for positions in the body of Christ in the same way people “of the world” achieve their positions. The flesh has a natural appetite for position and power over others. It loves to be recognized, consulted, honored, admired and obeyed. Obviously, any “leader” who is still following the self-sufficient and self-exalting ways of this world will be incapable of leading others into the kind of faith that permits Christ to establish His Kingdom-life within the hearts of His followers.

But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life {the Kingdom-life}… (1 Tim. 6:11-12)

How patient Christ was with His first disciples! Having learned nothing from the feeding of the five thousand, they were given another opportunity in a different setting to learn this lesson about living by faith in God. “For they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.” (Mark 6:52)

In this next lesson they were separated from Christ’s presence. They were left alone and in a difficult position to help them recognize how great was their need to have God’s power working in their lives. And of course, trouble was bound to develop when they became separated from Christ’s presence. They ended up “…in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.” (Matt. 14:24 Emphasis added)

Jesus will often leave His disciples on their own when they are still trying to live by their own strength. He will permit them to be confounded by many “contrary” providences. It is during these rough times that He will be doing His work of breaking their self-sufficient spirit and teaching them to live by faith in God’s power.

Do you remember how Peter considered himself to be strong before he was clothed with power from the Spirit on the day of Pentecost? He thought he was capable of standing with Jesus even until death. But Jesus knew this human “strength” would prevent Peter from entering into the kingdom of light where everyone lives by faith in God’s power. Jesus therefore permitted Satan to “sift” Peter for a while. (Luke 22:31-32) Only after Peter’s sense of self-sufficiency had been brought to a real death would he be able to truly live by faith in God’s power.

Once Peter had become “poor in spirit” and had lost all hope in his own strength, he was in a position to enter into the kind of dependent faith that enabled God to lift him with divine power into the light of Christ’s Kingdom-life. (Matt. 5:3) Once he had lost hope in his own strength, he was prepared to wait on God in prayer to be clothed with power from above.

Living by dependent faith in the power of God is the Mystery of Godliness. Every believer will need to learn this foundation truth: The power of the Holy Spirit is perfected through God’s children as yielded believers become weaker in self and more dependent on Him. (2 Cor. 12:9)

Life in the kingdom of God is diametrically opposed to the way people live in this world. In the world people need to look out for themselves and strive to achieve the goals they have set for themselves. Only the strongest, or the most talented, or the most assertive, or the most educated rise to the top. In contrast, the people who are willing to become the most dependent on God become the greatest in His kingdom. It is not that they are placed in elevated seats of prominence, but they become the most useful servants. It is those who are willing to become the most childlike in their dependence on God who will become the most valuable servants in the kingdom of God.

Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a {helpless and dependent} little child will by no means enter it. (Mark. 10:15)

…What is highly valued among men {the independent and self-exalting ways of the world} is detestable in God’s sight. (Luke 16:15)

The first disciples, while they were being tossed by the storm, did all they could to escape from their situation. With their backs bent to the oars, and with perspiration pouring down their faces from their great struggle, they tried to save themselves from their situation. Eventually, however, they recognized their helpless condition. It was not until they had considered themselves “as good as dead” that we find Christ coming to them in divine power.

Paul tells us that Abraham had to reach this same state of helplessness, where he had lost all hope in human effort, before he possessed the kind of pure faith that enabled him to receive the “life of promise” through the power of God. (Rom. 4:19) The only thing he produced through his human efforts to help God was a flesh-life, which was represented by Ishmael.

In a similar sense, God will only use His power to lift His children into His Kingdom-life when they are “as good as dead.” Every Christian must come to this point where they die to the ways of the flesh before they can begin living wholly by faith in God. Until they are brought to this state of helplessness, they will naturally try to produce the “life of promise” through their own human efforts. Those who lose their flesh-life will find Christ’s Kingdom-life.

For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death {Christ’s death to the flesh-life}, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection {His Kingdom-life}… For he who has died has been freed from sin {the old life of self-sufficiency and self-will}. (Rom. 6:5, 7)

Again, as the Scriptures have so clearly revealed, there needs to be a real dying out to the old self-sufficient way of life before the promised Kingdom-life can be fully established within the soul. This lesson comes directly from our Lord: “Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matt. 16:25)

God takes away our self-sufficient spirit by exposing us to difficult situations. These difficulties are intended to cause us to lose hope in our own fleshly strength. And, because this lesson is so hard for self-sufficient people to learn, it typically involves a lengthy and painful process.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God…But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while {in dying to your independent and self-sufficient way of life}, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (1 Pet. 5:6, 10 Emphasis added)

…We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:22)

“Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.” (Matt. 14:25) Jesus came to His helpless disciples walking in a supernatural life. He was demonstrating a simple fact: The very sea that threatened to overwhelm and destroy them had been placed under His feet! He always has everything under His control! There is nothing impossible for God!

Have you come to that point when you have been overwhelmed by the sea? Here is good news for you! You are being prepared to meet the Lord in a new and supernatural way. When you lose hope in yourself and enter His rest, He will come to you as the One who walks over everything that threatens your spiritual life.

The Lord teaches His most profound lessons in the midst of the storms. It was when everything was contrary to His disciples that Jesus appeared and said, “I Am; stop being afraid.” And when He was in the boat with them, the wind ceased. “Then those who were in the boat worshipped Him, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God.’ ” (Matt. 14:33)

If you learn nothing else from this book, remember to trust in Christ and stay close to Him! He will take you into His rest in due time. You will then be enabled to continually experience a peace that transcends all understanding and a joy that is inexpressible and full of glory. (Phil. 4:6-7; 1 Pet. 1:8)

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up {into the Kingdom-life} in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. (1 Pet. 5:6-7 Emphasis added)

You must learn to live in complete dependence on the Lord in all your activities. Christ desires to be in your life in a way that lifts you spiritually above all the storms of this world. He is the great “I Am.” Nothing is impossible for Him. Only when you realize this fact, and have begun to manifest this childlike dependence in the way you walk, will you truly be worshipping God.

Your “unbelief” can actually prevent God from working with His power in your life. Jesus said, “According to your faith will it be done to you.” (Matt. 9:29) And the Hebrew writer said, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” (Heb. 11:6) In other words, we please God and receive His enabling power in our lives as we rely on Him in the same way a dependent little child relies on his parent. If we are unwilling to enter into this childlike dependence on God for everything, we cannot please Him and we cannot expect to be lifted by His power into His Kingdom-life in due time.

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

We are told that Christ could not work mighty miracles in the lives of people in His own village because they lacked faith. “Now He could do no mighty work there… And He marveled because of their unbelief.” (Mark 6:5-6) It was their lack of dependent faith that prevented God from working in their lives.

Do you still lack faith in Christ’s ability to turn you into a vessel of His life and works? When you “have faith in God,” you will be enabled to move mountain-like obstacles from your appointed path. (Mark 11:22-23) Let us therefore, for the sake of God’s glory, learn to live by faith in Him.

We do not necessarily use God’s power to avoid difficult situations. We do, however, depend on His power to manifest the life of Jesus through our mortal bodies regardless of the difficulties. (2 Cor. 4:11) Our ability to reflect the glorious life of the Son is actually enhanced during periods of hardship.

Paul has described how he received a deeper revelation of this important spiritual principle during a very difficult time in one of his missionary journeys. He said, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardship we suffered in the province of Asia… Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened {this loss of all hope in the flesh} that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Cor. 1:8-9)

Any trial that increases our dependent faith in God is actually working for both our good and God’s glory. But if we are to learn from these difficulties and tribulations, we will need to stop depending on our own strength and learn to live wholly by faith in God’s power. Only in this way is Christ able to manifest His Kingdom-life through us.

Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard…The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought… You shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. (Isa. 58:8, 11)

*This article is from the book – The Mystery of Godliness. by Ian Thomas

Friday, July 17, 2009

Learning to Depend on God

Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 18:3)

We have tried to reveal through God’s Word {in the previous two lessons} how life in His kingdom is diametrically opposed to the ways of the world. There is probably no aspect that more clearly reveals this difference than this prerequisite of becoming as a little child. The child that Jesus picked up represents a totally dependent being.

Those who are the strongest and the most assertive in this world gain the highest positions. But even if they gain the whole world, it becomes worthless when they lose their soul for taking this self-exalting course of the devil. In contrast, those who become the most childlike in their dependence upon God and enter into the lowest levels of servanthood will be lifted by the Spirit of God into the greatest levels of His eternal life.

The true children of faith reject the honor that comes from man so they may receive the honor that comes from God. They also praise Him for choosing this way where every member of Christ’s body, even those who have few natural gifts and little education, have an equal opportunity to not only find the greatest measure of life from Him, but also to work through His power by simply walking and praying in His Spirit. Everyone can humble themselves and become like little children in their dependent faith in God.

We are therefore not surprised when God “chose” to use men like unlearned fisherman to further His eternal kingdom. It enables the Lord to more clearly reveal His glory. The honor then goes to Him alone.

For you see our calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty…are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty…and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. (1 Cor. 1:26-29 Emphasis added)

But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God. (John 3:21)

Everyone can potentially present themselves as a mere vessel {a weak vessel} to be used by God for the display of His life, power and glory. We can therefore praise our Lord for establishing a kingdom where everyone has an equal opportunity to become highly honored by Him.

Those who walk by the Spirit as Jesus did, become like humble little children who never fully know what lies ahead. They do not set roots down in this world because it is not their home. Their work is to listen to the continual guidance of the Holy Spirit and to respond to Him while trusting in the Lord to work out what He has planned. “The Lord will guide you continually…” (Isa. 58:11)

Those who are truly born of the Spirit become like a leaf blowing in an open field. God can easily move them according to His pleasures. “The wind blows where it wishes {according to God’s will}… So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

The Son of Man lived in the weakness of dependent faith. He pressed this demonstration of weakness to the point of physical death, where the weakness of the flesh was complete. It was from this point of absolute weakness that He was in a position to be raised by the power of God into the highest position of power and authority in the universe. He received the highest honor because He put Himself in the place of greatest weakness and dependence upon divine power from above.

The only way we will ever walk as Jesus did and manifest the same heavenly life is to follow Him in this same path of weakness. The Word of God is very clear on this matter: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength {or power} is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9) It is a way of life that stands in direct conflict with the self-sufficient ways of this world.

There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works… (Heb. 4:9-10)

The apostle Paul did his best to help Christians understand the opposing philosophies of life found in these two different kingdoms. For example, the Corinthians had continued to follow the spirit of the world in a self-originated form of life. We can find Paul contrasting the “spirit” that comes from the world and the Spirit that comes from God. They thought the objective of life was to use their own strength to exalt themselves and to gain as much as possible for their own little kingdoms. But Paul, who had received a vision of life in the third heavens, could see how they were going the wrong way.

You are already full {from feeding on the things of this world}! You are already rich {from hoarding your wealth}! You have reigned as kings {building up your reputations and your own little kingdoms in this world} without us—and indeed I could wish you did reign {in the true Kingdom-life of our Lord}, that we also might reign with you {sharing in the power of Christ’s throne}! For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last {since the last are always first in the spiritual life of heaven}, as men condemned to death {because the least and the weakest in the flesh become the most useful in God’s kingdom}… We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! (1 Cor. 4:8-10)

Paul was not upset about missing out on the things that are highly valued by the people of this world. He knew that their self-seeking and self-exalting form of life was separating them from the heavenly life and power of God. Paul actually took pleasure in the things that made him weak in self and dependent upon God. The things that turned him to dependent faith made it possible for him to be more powerful in the Spirit.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak {and living by dependent faith}, then I am strong {the power of the Spirit works in me}. (2 Cor. 12:10)

Paul had come to a true knowledge of life in the kingdom of God. He knew that honor from God would be expressed in the power of the Spirit as he lived through the weakness of dependent faith. This was the secret, or the mystery, that had been hidden throughout the centuries. It was the Presence of God’s eternal life residing within the soul of those who consistently choose to do nothing “out from” themselves so that God may be the source of everything that is done. (Col. 1:26-29)

The Laodicean church was made up of “high achievers.” They thought they were living “successful” lives because of what they had accomplished. But Christ said they were deceived by the devil. (Rev. 3:14-19) And sadly, there are many in the church today who have fallen into the same deception. “Many” will come before the Lord only to discover that their great accomplishments in this world were detestable in His sight. (Luke 16:15, Matt. 7:22) They will discover how they remained “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” They will not be prepared to stand before Him because they did not become like Him in His way of life.

Jesus assured the Laodicean church that He “chastens” those He loves. The scourging work He uses is intended to break the self-sufficient and self-exalting spirit that corrupts the heart of His children. Even though they were living under the devil’s deception, the Laodiceans still had hope. If they would repent, by turning away from the “spirit of the world” and begin living as God had planned, He promised to reveal Himself within their inner being. “If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Rev. 3:20)

The closed “door” is a worldly spirit. It is a reference to those who are still developing their “psuche” life from the things of this world. It will continue to prevent Christ from manifesting His heavenly Presence—His eternal “zoe” life—within their soul. As Jesus has so clearly revealed, the door is opened as we lay down our “psuche” life. (John 10:11-18) No one can enter into the life of promise until they have made a conscious choice in their own desert-testing period to stop trying to support themselves spiritually through the lust {desires} of the flesh, the lust {desires} of the eyes and the pride of life.

God’s Use of Suffering

The Galatians are another example of deceived Christians who had failed to enter into the life of promise. The Spirit of God, while taking them through the wilderness testing period, had been working to break their self-sufficient spirit through suffering. But they did not understand what God was trying to do. Furthermore, false teachers kept turning them back to the strength of the flesh and a self-produced form of righteousness. Paul was therefore concerned that all their suffering might end up being in vain.

Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect {in the Kingdom-life of promise} by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things {to break your self-sufficient spirit} in vain—if indeed it was in vain? (Gal. 3:3-4)

We believe there are many Christians who are being taken through extremely stressful situations for the purpose of taking away the strength of their flesh-life. And yet, much of what the Spirit has been trying to work out has been “in vain.” Instead of turning to the way of faith, they continue to strive in their own human efforts to correct the situation and lift themselves spiritually.

Those who have remained deceived by the spirit of the world, but who truly desire to serve God, can expect the Spirit to continue doing whatever is necessary to break their self-sufficient spirit so they may become totally dependent upon the Lord. His whole purpose is to bring every member of the body to that place of absolute weakness in self which will lead to the kind of faith that perfects God’s power.

But not everyone learns from these lessons. Each time a new difficulty comes along, they start striving again in their own strength and employing their old schemes. These fleshly human efforts once again take them into a very dry and barren land. While the Lord periodically takes them to wells of refreshment to keep them in the way of faith, much of their life is spent in a howling wilderness.

If this seems to be a description of your own spiritual life, we pray that you will not receive the suffering in vain. As Fenelon would say, “Let go and let God.” God cannot show Himself mighty through you while you are still working in your own strength. Enter His rest and cease from your own works. Sit at the feet of Jesus and learn to listen to the guidance of His Spirit so you will know what He wants you to do. Even though He keeps the members of His body active in the physical labor that needs to be accomplished, He expects you to leave the results to Him. He is the one who is in control and responsible for the outcome. And none of His plans will fail in the end if you will only cease from your own works.

It is the self-originated works of man that has prevented God from revealing His glory. He will not work through us while we are working in the flesh. He does not share His glory with anyone. While He never permits His work to completely fail while He has earnest souls attempting to follow His will, He is unable to reveal His true glory until everything has been placed into His hands. As He revealed through Abraham, He waits until we have lost all hope in our own striving, where we are “as good as dead,” before He begins to work the miracles through our lives. Those who learn to live by His Spirit and depend on Him like little children—those who have no thought of doing anything great in their own strength—will find that He directs their steps and accomplishes every work that He had previously planned to do. (Eph. 2:10)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him {expecting Him to provide guidance}, and He shall direct your paths. (Prov. 3:5-6)

I will go before you and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze, and cut the bars of iron. I will give you…hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the Lord, Who call you by your name, Am the God of Israel {the God who displayed His mighty power and glory through His children when they depended on Him}. (Isa. 45:2-3)

When Jesus first spoke of His kingdom, He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven… Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matt. 5:3, 5) Yes, in spite of what this world has taught you, the greatest blessings of heaven and earth will go to the meek and lowly. Jesus has therefore said, “learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart.” (Matt. 11:29 KJV) And you can expect Him to use as much suffering as needed to bring you into this place where He may bless you.

The Pride of Life Versus Humility

The meekness that we must possess is willing to be nothing in self. The more invisible we are willing to become, the more Christ is able to display His life and glory through our mortal bodies. This should help earnest souls better understand why God’s children should not seek to be noticed by others in what they do. This applies to the things they wear, the houses they possess, the vehicles they drive, the titles they seek and the works they do. God hates those who seek their own glory. He will only reveal Himself through those who are willing to be nothing in themselves. Again, the more invisible we are willing to become, the more glory He will reveal through our lives.

We must learn to distinguish between the things that are needful for our life in God’s kingdom and the things that lead into the world of vanity. The pride of life always puts Christ to death within the soul. Those who have been building an image to be honored by others, like Nebuchadnezzar before them, will need to be thoroughly broken before they can “find” the Son’s eternal life. Self-sufficiency and pride always separate us from the life of God. That old worldly form of life must be lost before Christ’s heavenly life can be found. (Matt. 16:24-25) In a book entitled, Prevailing Prayer or The Secret of Soul Winning, E. Wigle said:

Pride is one of the most offensive sins to God, and one of the greatest sins against Him, for it is worshipping self instead of God, and taking to self the glory that belongs to Him. “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.” Do you think that is the reason so many of us have so little grace?...

The humblest is the greatest. “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of God.” What is the bearing of the humble, towards their fellows? The apostle says: “In lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than themselves.”

If we have sought out a special title or a special position to be honored by men, we will never be able to esteem others better than ourselves. In fact, it causes the fleshly spirit to become upset when it does not receive what it thinks it deserves. And those who are still on this course can know they are going the wrong way to enter into the Son’s eternal Kingdom-life. This self-exalting spirit will continue to separate people from the kingdom of God and His eternal life.

We should also beware of the sinful desire to control others. It comes from the pride of life. God never uses His power to control people. “Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart.” This desire to rise up and assert power over others comes from the devil’s nature. And yet, we find many “leaders” among God’s people seeking to dominate and force their will on others. While God insists on order, and He provides leaders to instruct the members of the body in His ways of truth, He does not want His children following the worldly way of lording it over others.

There is a tendency among so-called “holiness” people to use this means to develop their “psuche” life. Like everyone who is separated from the eternal life of God, they find themselves seeking out some means to build up their own form of “life.” Their pleasure comes from having power over others. But God’s true leaders will live as humble servants esteeming others better than themselves.

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Matt. 20:25-28 Emphasis added)

The lower we are willing to sink, even going from a servant into that of a slave without any rights, the higher God is able to lift us into the spiritual realms with Him. In contrast, those who continue to exalt themselves for their own benefit should expect to find God resisting the spiritual life they have been attempting to develop. (1 Pet. 5:5) If we find that our spiritual life is continually being taken out of us, we have to assume that we are still caught up in the pride of life. Those who truly humble themselves into nothingness will be lifted by the power of God into a spiritual life that cannot be touched by the world or the devil.

The childlike meekness that we must possess also relates to a nature that is fully submissive to God’s purposes. It takes considerable pride to resist His will. But a meek spirit perfectly resigns itself to God’s will regardless of where it leads. When this childlike meekness is real, there is a deep sense of rest within the soul. Those who have become like Jesus in His meekness will continue to find contentment in God’s sovereign will, even when the whole world is falling apart around them. They know that God is working out everything in His perfect will for the ultimate good of His eternal kingdom.

Mr. Wigle described in his book a wife’s response when an acquaintance suggested that her husband should try to change the assignment he had received as a pastor. She reveals the kind of humility and trust in God that will always result in being highly honored by God—as the later outcome of this pastorate eventually proved.

We have committed ourselves fully to God. We know he will overrule all. We accept life just as he permits it to come to us. He has said, “All things work together for good to them that love God.” We believe just what He has said. It is not for us to choose our way… We wish above all things to be in harmony with Him. We have learned to interpret His choice by the providential opportunities which He opens before us daily… We dare trust our heavenly Father with an implicit confidence in all things. Every step of life thus far has shown how tender and faithful God is under all circumstances…

Those who enter into this kind of childlike meekness and continue to accept, with praise, whatever God’s will permits to enter into their life, will find the “peace of God” that transcends all understanding. It is truly a glorious life to begin living as dependent little children who turn everything over to God in prayer and who rely on Him to work out all things for their eternal good.

Giving Control to God

Once we have ceased from our own works and start walking as Jesus did, we begin to see how everything comes from above. As we rest in the faithfulness of our Sovereign God, we realize that “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.” (John 3:27) There is nothing self-originated in this heavenly form of life. We learn to wait on the Lord and say with Jesus, “I can of Myself do nothing.” (John 5:30) We trust Him to guide all our steps as we respond to what the Spirit is leading us to say and do. And as we walk in this way of life found in His kingdom, He supplies our soul with His eternal life.

I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear {from the Spirit}, I judge {and respond}; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. (John 5:30)

My sheep hear My voice…and they follow Me. {They walk by the Spirit in the same way.} And I give them eternal life… (John 10:27-28)

God needs time to break the old independent and self-sufficient spirit. No matter how hard we try, we cannot destroy this long acquired self-sufficiency through our own efforts. Instead, we must choose, through a choice of our will, to have the work done. We are required to enter into the place where we reckon ourselves to be dead. (Rom. 6:11) Furthermore, it is God’s will that we continue to “rejoice” and “give thanks” to Him, regardless of how He chooses to do the work. (1 Thess. 5:16-18)

We need to be mindful of how some of God’s called-out people of old lost their life for grumbling in the wilderness testing period. (1 Cor. 10:6-11) All complainers will eventually lose their spiritual life.

When Jesus entered the Garden of Gethsemane to reveal the one path that leads through the cross and into resurrection life, He was only required to agree with His Father’s will. He was not expected to scourge Himself and weaken Himself and nail Himself to the cross. Everything was taken out of His hands once He had fully submitted to His Father’s plan. His responsibility was to merely yield to what the Father was working out.

In the midst of these deep trials, Jesus looked forward to the life that was set before Him. The same principle applies to His followers. Let us therefore keep in mind that after passing through this dark night of the soul, where considerable spiritual suffering takes place, a heavenly life will be found.

After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied. (Isa. 53:11 NIV)

Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. (John 16:22)

Once we have agreed to reckon ourselves to be dead to our own will and ways, we can count on God to begin the scourging work that will weaken our strength and prepare us to die to the power of the flesh-life. (Heb. 12:5-6, 10) And praise the Lord, once we are “as good as dead” (Heb. 11:12), as Abraham was after he had lost all hope in his own strength, we will be in a position to receive the Promise of the Father. This path of weakness in self always leads to the place where it is possible to be clothed with the power of His Kingdom-life from on high. “For My strength {or power} is made perfect in weakness.” (1 Cor. 12:9)

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you {to make you more dependent upon God}, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed {when His Kingdom-life of perfect love is revealed within your soul}, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (1 Pet. 4:12-13)

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory {to be vessels of His heavenly life} by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (1 Pet. 5:10 Emphasis added)

Some of you may think that God has gone too far in His work of humbling you. But you need to realize that God understands His purposes better than you do. You may be helped in this matter by considering the forty years that Moses was kept on the backside of the desert, tending sheep. After separating him from the self-exalting ways of Egypt {a type of the world} where he possessed riches, power and prestige, he was taken through an extended period of being humbled. In fact, because of the great work that God had planned to do through him, he had to be brought to a point were he was the most humble man on earth. It is as humility deepens and we give all control over to God that He is able to work more powerfully through our lives.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you {lift you with His power into a heavenly spiritual life} in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. (1 Pet. 5:6-7)

It is God’s wisdom to bring out true character by taking people through very humbling conditions. The men and women who have been greatly used by God have generally gone through many deep trials to humble them and prepare them for their appointed work. Again, everything is intended to make us more dependent upon God. The following comments from a letter written by John Fletcher may therefore be helpful to someone today.

Who knows also whether by all you have suffered, and still suffer, our gracious Lord does not intend to kill you to the flesh and to the world, and both to you? Our hearts are so stupid, and our insensibility is so great, that the Father of our spirits sees it necessary to put some of His sharpest and longest thorns into our flesh, to make us go to our dear Jesus for the balmy graces of His Spirit.

If you have a heart that desires to be mightily used by God, we suggest that you study the life of Joseph and then pray for God to prepare you in a similar way. Consider how much suffering he had to go through and how low he had to sink before he was in a condition to be raised into the presence of the king and be in a position to share in the power of his throne. Not only was he a type of Christ, but he also revealed the path that everyone will take before there can be a supernatural lifting by the power of God into a sharing with Christ in the power of His throne. It is only from the powerlessness of being held in the deepest prison, and entering into similar depths of humility, that God can raise you by His power into a place where so many hungering souls can be helped.

Is there any wonder why God had to place a wilderness experience between Egypt and the life of promise where He could test and prepare His called-out people? It is not enough to simply know truth in theory. Those who have ears to hear will still need to go through a period of deep affliction. Let us therefore keep in mind that anything that helps to bring about a real death to our self-sufficient and self-exalting spirit is being used by God for our good. We will need to learn to give everything over to Him.

No one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation… For this reason, when I could no longer endure it {without knowing if you had turned back to the ways of the world to find spiritual relief}, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain. (1 Thess. 3:3-5)

The experience of a deep trial does not necessarily mean that someone has been resisting God’s will. It does mean that God is doing a work that is intended to bring the child of faith into a closer walk with Him in the Spirit. Since God’s light is infinite, we can know that our Lord will always have something new to be opened to our mind. And if we are truly sanctified, where we desire to live for God’s will alone, we will see every situation as an opportunity to become more dependent upon God and more useful in the ways of the Spirit.

Let us therefore maintain a thankful spirit in all our trials. If we truly love the Lord, we can know that He is working out all things for our good. (Rom. 8:29) And if the trial becomes very deep, we have to assume that He is preparing us for a very special work.

Of course, even when God has prepared us to be highly exalted into the spiritual realm, it does not mean that He plans to place us into a position of high visibility. Some of the saints who have been most highly exalted into the spiritual life of heaven and done some of the greatest works for His eternal kingdom through their prayers, have walked in obscurity in this world. Others, having become known for their walk of faith, were generally despised or looked down upon by the wise and learned people of this world. Following Christ and His apostles, they were made “a spectacle to the world” as they bore the reproach of men, because of how they followed Christ in His self-emptying way of the cross. (1 Cor. 4:9)

Let us remember that Jacob could not become a “prince” with God until the Lord had caused him to be lame. He needed to have his strength removed before he could be useful. While it gave him access to God’s power for blessing others, the world saw him as a “lame” man. Those who truly follow Jesus by dying to their own sufficiency to walk in the Spirit, will look like hopeless cripples to the people who follow the self-sufficient and self-exalting ways of this world. But they will become a “prince with God” and have access to His divine power. It places them in a position in the Lord’s Kingdom where they can use His authority to carry out His eternal purposes through their prayers of faith.

The fact that we do not depend on our own strength does not imply that we are not to use our wisdom and energy in our Christian service. God has gifted everyone with a purpose. Yes, He can even use men like the apostle Paul with their brilliant minds. Once the individual has been humbled and has learned to depend upon God, the Lord will employ the gifts and the strength that He has provided.

Living under the control and power of the Holy Spirit becomes the exalted dignity of God’s children. It brings them into the divine order. They become a new creation molded by the loving thoughts of God. They find that all of life becomes a spiritual journey where the mysteries of God and the knowledge of His eternal kingdom are constantly being revealed as they live by faith.

Let it fill you with cheerfulness and a true sense of peace and joy no matter how deep in obscurity your lot may be that God is leading you on while preparing you for a work that will display His power and glory. And though it may not even be in the present dispensation of His kingdom, you are being prepared for the life of eternity where the most humble souls will be placed into the positions of greatest power and usefulness. “So the last will be first, and the first last.” (Matt 20:16) You therefore need to take your eyes away from this world and its ways so you may be prepared for a greater usefulness in the life of eternity.

We believe the following lessons from George Watson will be helpful in summarizing what has been said in this chapter. Because this subject is so seldom discussed in the church today, it should be useful to many earnest souls.

We have in Job 5:17-26 a most perfect delineation of the various fruits that are produced from God’s chastisement. “Happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty.” To the outside observer it looks as if the fires of divine chastising are just the same as the fires of God’s wrath in the punishment of sinners. This is why the dealings of God with those whom He dearly loves forms such a stumbling block to sinners and also to weak and partial believers. Job was a sample of how the Lord deals with those souls that are entirely given up to Him, and no one can have any true insight into the book of Job without going through in a similar way, the desolations that Job passed through… In one sense, the furnace he passed through was kindled by Satan, but you will notice Job always attributes everything to God, because when a soul is utterly abandoned to the Lord, it ignores secondary agents, and recognizes the hand of God always in everything as the supreme force…

Whatever God permits to come to us, we recognize as from Himself if we are living in perfect abandonment to Him, and such a one knows that God is love, and that He can only act in love with those who are utterly yielded to Him… But to others, as in the case of Job’s friends, it looks like the flame of divine wrath against sin.

We see in the next verse that God’s chastening produces great pain… “He maketh sore, and bindeth up; He woundeth and His hands make whole.” To those entirely given up to God, His fiery correction comes as a painful surprise, and this is why Peter says to such persons, “Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as if some strange thing had happened.”…

In the next verse we see the different stages of these fiery trials until the soul is brought into a state of perfect death where it lives in God alone, regardless of how He may deal with it. “He will deliver thee in six troubles; and in seven there shall no evil touch thee.” [There is a place where the devil has nothing in us, which leaves him without any ability to touch us spiritually.]

Six is always the Bible number for imperfection, and is the anti-christ number, but seven is the complete number for Christ and His grace. While the soul is going through six troubles [while still passing through the desert-testing period], it experiences a constant distress and mental pain at the various degrees of darkness, or disappointment, or desolation it has to suffer, but when the seventh stage is reached [in the Kingdom-life of promise], it becomes dead…to the world, and to its own religious experiences, to its own holiness, to its own gifts and graces, to its own good works, its own high ideals, and knowing that it is nothing, and deserves nothing, it in a certain lofty way throws itself away into God. [It is then that the devil loses all power over the soul.]…

Then follows a description of the perfect triumph that such a soul has when it is dead to itself, and united to God [in His “zoe” life]. In famine it does not die because it draws its life from the fountain of the Infinite One and no longer is nourished by its own graces and circumstances. [It does not need temporal stimulants to lift the emotions, nor is it affected by changing conditions, because it does not live through the “psuche” life.]… It is hid from the scourge of other peoples’ tongues, because the fire of God has burned out its reputation and the sense of the good opinions of others… Such a soul…being one with God, is in agreement with all His works and all His ways, and recognizes all things of creation as in God’s plan.

It is true that this Scripture will have its perfect outward accomplishment in the millennial age… But in a Scriptural way, those who pass through the perfect correction of God in this life are to be so dead to outward things, and to evil forces, as to be in perfect league with God and His providences, and as it were, shut in with God as in a tent.

Hence the next verse says, “Thou shalt know that thy tent, or tabernacle, is in peace.” That tent is the living God, in which the soul…makes its home. Then follows the closing stage of such a soul, that it is to be fruitful…and come to the close of life, like a shock of grain, fully ripened for the everlasting garner.

Authentic Christianty

Thursday, July 16, 2009

We Would See Jesus

by Authentic Christianity

John 14:18-21

18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. 19 A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. 20 At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. 21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.

  1. The Gospel message is fundamentally about the Son of God coming in His Spirit to share His life with us.

  2. The life that Christ reveals within us is the same eternal life He now shares with His Father. "At that day"—the day He fills the temple of the body with His glory, we "know" we are partaking in the divine life that is shared in the Trinity.

  3. Jesus has only promised to manifest Himself to those who obey Him.

Matt 16:24-25

24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

  1. The form of spiritual life that is developed from the temporal things of this world is always dying. It is completely lost when the world passes away. (1 John 2:15-17)

  2. We find the Son’s heavenly life by following Him through the cross. This is the final test of faith. Do we believe we will find His life if we will die to our self-life? "For if we have been
    united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection." (Rom. 6:5) Because He lives we can live in the same life.

John 15:11

11 These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.

John 14: 27-28

27 …My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. 28 You have heard Me say to you, "I am going away and coming back to you."

John 17:20-21, 26

20 I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; 21 that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me… 26…that the love with which You love Me may be in them, and I in them.

  1. Jesus can share with us the love, joy and peace that resides within His divine life.

  2. The fruit of His Spirit naturally flows out of our heart when He fills us with His Spirit.

  3. Those who are partaking of His life reveal the holy love that He shares with the Father.

John 16:16

A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.

  1. Jesus could not share His life with His disciples until after He was in a glorified state at the right hand of the Father. "He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things." (Eph. 4:10)

  2. Now that He is glorified, His "rivers of living water" can flow out of our inner being and become a display of His "everlasting life." (John 4:14; 7:38-39)
John 14:6-7

6 I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. 7 If you had
known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.

  1. The Father is the original source of the eternal life. The Son receives this life from Him and then communicates the life to us through a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.

  2. He is the way, the truth and the life. It is by living through Him that we become partakers of the divine nature.

1 John 4:9-10

9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.

  1. We remain filled with the life of the Son as we walk by His Spirit in union with Him.

  2. Jesus set the example by living through His Father. He then instructed us to follow Him. He said, "I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me." (John 5:30)

John 12:20-26

20 Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. 21 Then they came to Philip…and asked him, saying, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." 22 Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus. 23 But Jesus answered them, saying, "The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. 24 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into he ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.
25 He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.

  1. Jesus had to go through the cross to be in a position to share His life with His disciples. He then instructed His disciples to follow Him through the cross. According to His promise, everyone who loses their old form of life will find His life. (Matt. 16:24-25)

  2. Christ expects us to share with Him in His heavenly life. He therefore says, "Where I am, there My servant will be also."

  3. When we bring people to see Jesus we must tell them what Jesus told Andrew and Philip. They too will need to pass through a death to the old flesh-life if they hope to see Him and share with Him in His life in the heavenly realms.

Col. 3:1-4

1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

  1. Those who are truly born of God are empowered to overcome the world. (1 John 5:4) They can begin to hear spiritual truths. It is then that they are taken by the Lord through a time of testing where they must learn to walk by His Spirit.

  2. The eternal life that Jesus revealed bodily is now available to everyone who will take their minds off earthly things and begin looking to Him to do what He has promised.
  3. The work of the church is to build Christians up in their faith so they will learn to walk by the Spirit and begin looking to Christ to be the source of their life. "And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son." (1 John 5:11)

Eph. 1:3-4

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.

  1. It has always been God’s purpose to have many children who manifest His image of holy love in everything they do. This divine life is now available from the Son.

  2. Those who have sufficient faith to die to the world and its things will receive the promise. Every spiritual blessing in Christ’s heavenly life can now be received through faith

John 3:12-13

12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.

  1. Jesus lived as the Second Adam. He lived with His Father in the heavenly realms as He walked by the Spirit in this world. Everything He did was a manifestation of His Father.

  2. We are to walk as Jesus did by permitting Christ to live through us as the Father lived through Him. We too can have our physical life in this world while living through the Son’s life in the heavenly realms.

2 Cor 6:16-7:1

16 …For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk among them. {KJV-"Walk in them"}… 17 Therefore "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you…" 7:1 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

  1. The Lord wants to "dwell in" us and "walk in" us today. This is a description of how the life of God was able to dwell in both the first and the Second Adam. Christ came to restore this way of life.

  2. The soul will remain separated from this life of promise while we are still in possession of "unclean things." An unclean thing in God’s sight is anything that is not fully devoted to Him and His use. These things prevent us from seeing the Son’s heavenly life.

  3. The wilderness testing period is the time when every heart idol needs to be removed from the heart. While the Lord will provides periodic wells of refreshment as we pass through this arid land, we are to press forward in our faith by seeking out the "rivers" of Living Water that are to rise up from within into an endless display of His life of holy love

Matt. 5:8

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

  1. This special privilege is granted when every idol has
    been removed from the heart.

  2. To see God is to share with Him in His heavenly life
    and nature.

1 Cor 2:9-10

9 But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." 10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.

  1. While man himself cannot grasp through his own reasoning power what God has prepared for us in the heavenly realms, the Holy Spirit can now begin revealing this life within our inner being.

  2. We must not limit God because of our own limited understanding. Christians are required to believe what God’s Word teaches and then fully surrender to the truth that is stated.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Time of Preparation - Steve Bray

*[See Introduction to God’s Saving Grace for an explanation of the terms “zoe” and “psuche”.]

There was a desert wilderness that separated the old life in Egypt from the new life in the Promised Land. God used this testing period to teach His people His ways, to humble them and to lead them to depend on Him. He permitted them to go through difficult situations and then tested them to see if they would respond to His ways. If they learned to trust in His Word, respond to His teachings, and look to Him to do what He had promised, He would take them into a land flowing with milk and honey.

Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live…and go in and possess the land {the life of promise}... And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna {a supernatural food}…that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread {by the physical} alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. {Life is supplied by God as we yield to the voice of His Spirit.}…

You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you {to change how you think and act in order to prepare you for life in the kingdom of God}… For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs… (Deut. 8:1-7)

The number forty in the Bible represents a special time of trial and testing. While the people of Israel remained in the testing period for forty years, Jesus was there only forty days. The number represents a principle more than a certain amount of time. God will take His children beyond this dry and arid land the moment they have turned from the ways of this world by rejecting Satan’s temptations and have fully yielded to His way of the cross.

Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust {desires} of the flesh, the lust {desires} of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

[The NIV translation gives some much needed insight to this passage] – Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful {self-willed} man, the lust {desires} of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires {will} pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17 Emphasis added)

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Rom. 12:2)

He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me…and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. (John 14:21)

For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. (Heb. 10:36-39)

While an entrance into the life of promise establishes the Kingdom-life within the heart, it does not bring an end to temptations and trials. It is during this special time of trial in the wilderness that God’s called-out children must reject the way of life that Satan fostered on the world. As our Leader revealed, Jesus was required to refuse the devil’s temptations to respond to the lust {desires} of the flesh, the lust {desires} of the eyes and the pride of life before He could be strengthened from on high and come out of His wilderness testing period in the power of the Spirit. But this does not mean the devil would not come along with further temptations in an attempt to turn Him from His Father’s will.

Now when the devil had ended every temptation {in the wilderness testing period}, he departed from Him until an opportune time. Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region. (Luke 4:13-14)

It is during the wilderness-testing period that God’s children are required to pursue holiness. But we cannot make ourselves holy. Our responsibility is to respond to God’s Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit so we may be brought to the place where God is able to manifest His holy Presence within the temple of our body. (John 14:21) He has promised to reveal His life of holiness through each of us. “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) We become “partakers of His holiness” after passing through the suffering that takes place in the wilderness testing period. (Heb. 12:10)

This pursuit of holiness is what prepares us to receive “the gift of righteousness” and “reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:17) When Christ manifests Himself to the soul “according to the power of an endless life,” we “put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:23) If we do not press on through this time of testing in the pursuit of Christ’s life of holiness, we will end up falling short of the grace of God. (Heb. 12:14-16)

It is not enough to believe only certain parts of the gospel. God expects His children to fully submit to the way of life that exists in His eternal kingdom. Receiving Christ as Lord entails submitting to everything He teaches. It includes entering into the way of life described in His Sermon on the Mount. This is where He explained how people live in His kingdom. It is also the way of life as depicted in First Corinthians chapter thirteen.

If God’s called-out people are never told how they are required to live, they will never make it through the testing period. Many ministers do not reveal the truth to their people. Charles Finney, in noting how ministers often fail to perform their duty in this matter, said in his Lectures to Professing Christians: “They seem to hold up a different standard from that which is inculcated in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, which was Christ’s exposition of the moral law. Christ expressly taught in that sermon that there was no salvation without conformity to the rule of life laid down in that sermon.” If the people are not being taught of the necessity of fully conforming to the way of life found in God’s kingdom, they will never be prepared to enter into it.

Many Christians have never seen this Pearl of Great Price. The tremendous value of His Kingdom-life has remained hidden from their view. Because the leaders of the flock have never opened the real meaning of salvation to their view, they are never truly prepared to pay the full price to receive this heavenly life.

It might help to note how God backed up the Jordan River all the way to “Adam” when the people were miraculously taken into the Land of Promise. (Joshua 3:16) It is an example of how God intends to reverse what occurred at the Fall when Adam first turned from the Tree of Life to enter into a self-originated form of life. Those who choose to die to their self-originated form of life {living by self-will in our own sufficiency}, will come to a place where the heavenly paradise of God can be established within their eternal soul so they may enjoy His Presence forever.

Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to {the ever-present} eternal life. (John 4:14)

Jesus said, “Difficult is the way which leads to life {the eternal “zoe” life}, and there are few who find it.” (Matt. 7:14) Even though others may preach a different gospel, our Lord has warned of this difficult time of testing that separates the soul from the self-originated form of life. And there is no way around this “difficult” way. (Acts 14:21-22) However, it is our prayer that the following lessons will help earnest souls avoid unnecessary chastening and suffering. By knowing what God is attempting to do and by responding to the truth, we can save ourselves some chastening in the time of testing.

For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives {into His heavenly life of promise}…for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Heb. 12:6, 10-11)

The World’s Value System

The devil has fostered a value system on the world that must be recognized. He will have the advantage until the light from God’s Word has exposed the evil in his ways. Scripture has used such terms as “the spirit of the world” and “the spirit of error” to refer to this corrupt way of life. Yes, even if we have been a part of the Christian church and have sought to be followers of Jesus from earliest childhood, we have still “walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.” (Eph. 2:2) Most Christians do not even understand what it implies to follow the course of this world. They have remained deceived and are still under the sway of “the spirit of the world.”

Life in the eternal kingdom of God requires a complete change in how we think. The Son provided a little insight into just how offensive man’s ways are to God when He said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matt. 16:23) The difference between the ways of this world and the way of life in God’s kingdom is so great that Jesus could say without qualification, “What is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15) And since it is detestable in God’s sight, we can begin to see how important it is to clearly identify “the things of men” and “the course of this world.”

A careful reading of the Bible will reveal the following facts: The “spirit of the world” teaches everyone to become independent and self-sufficient. It is an evil influence that turns people from a childlike dependence upon God to a self-seeking and self-exalting form of life. The people of this world reject the light of life as revealed through Christ’s self-denying and self-emptying way of life. They prefer to build up their own image and live for their own pleasures.

While fallen man may become religious and serve others as a part of this image building process, his main focus is to develop a personal kingdom where he becomes great. These are the ways that are highly valued by men and are detestable in God’s sight. It helps us to see how far we must go in renewing our mind before we can be lifted by the power of God into His eternal kingdom.

Those who live in the kingdom of God empty themselves of their own glory so they may live as mere vessels of God’s life and works. In His kingdom, He receives all the glory because He becomes the source of everything that takes place. Jesus provided an example of what this means. The Son of God left the place of prominence to become the lowest servant. Instead of living for His own pleasures, He willingly “suffered” for the good of others. And He assures us that He did not do anything “out from” Himself. (John 5:30; 8:28)

Can we begin to see what it will require if we intend to follow Him? And we must be mindful of the fact that we can only find His eternal Kingdom-life by following Him. (Matt. 16:24-25; John 8:12) Instead of living for our own pleasures and desires as worldly-minded people naturally do, it actually entails choosing to suffer for His kingdom while living in this world. We can become “joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” (Rom. 8:17)

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone {separated forever from the eternal life}; but if it dies, it produces much grain… If anyone serves Me {in the kingdom of God} let him follow Me {through the cross}; and where I am {in the Kingdom-life}, there My servant will be also. (John 12:24-26)

The world teaches us to save ourselves and to live for ourselves as a means for finding “life.” When Peter was on this “save thyself” course, which reflects the fallen way of life that Satan fostered on the world, Jesus knew that he was under Satan’s influence. In contrast, the Spirit of Christ teaches us to deny ourselves and to lose our old self-originated form of life so we may find life from above. It is here that we must choose which of these two conflicting courses we are going to follow.

The world leads people to direct their own steps. The objective is to be free from servanthood so we may “pursue life” as we please. Individuals want the right to develop their “psuche” life according to their own will. And while no man should bind another man, this so-called “right” to personal freedom has been promoted to such an extent that even Christians have been unwilling to become servants of the living God.

Paul spoke of being “bound” to the Spirit. It is a reference to losing all rights to his life. He gave up all rights to his own life, and stopped living for his own pleasures, so that God would be able to direct all his steps. This is what enabled him to find the Kingdom-life from heaven and consistently enjoy “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 14:17) Have you taken this same God-ordained course, or are you still following the spirit of the world?

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin {to self-will and self-seeking}, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God… And having been set free from sin {self-will} you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh {your unspiritual mind}. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness {everything is unclean that is not wholly devoted to God and His purposes}…now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness {to be used by God as He has planned}. (Rom. 6:13, 18-19)

While worldly-minded people will sometimes restrain their pursuit of pleasure in this world for a season, it is generally with the intent of accumulating their resources to prepare to have more happiness in the days ahead. Being afraid of what is ahead, they anxiously make plans to protect their future “psuche” life. They try to protect themselves from future hardships because they have learned how easy their spiritual life is lost in unpleasant circumstances.

The people of the world naturally live by their own strength and will. To them, only a fool would avoid planning his own future. Because they have never entered into a Spirit-directed way of life, where they trust God to work out all things for their good, they remain caught up in the self-sufficient and self-seeking ways of this world.

Jesus’ teachings are completely foreign to the worldly mind. He said to those who desired to follow Him, “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.” (Luke 12:22 KJV) He knew that those who continued to live for themselves would not be able to serve Him in His kingdom. “No one can serve two masters.” (Matt. 6:24) He went so far as to emphatically say, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth.” (Matt. 6:19) He said that only those who are of “the nations of the world” do such things. (Luke 12:30) Lacking faith in the one and only God who is able to fully care for His true children, the people of this world think they must live for themselves and store up treasures on earth to protect their future.

The true followers of Jesus live as dependent little children. They trust in God to take care of their needs as they live for His Kingdom and glory. To the children of faith, this is wise because it puts the omnipotent power of God to work in their life.

These two different ways of life present us with a very important question: Who is the wise man and who is the fool? Is the man of the world wise when he rejects Christ’s teachings in order to lay up treasures for himself on earth? Or, is the child of faith wise when He trusts in the God of infinite wisdom and power to care for His future needs while he pours out his life in the service of the Lord’s eternal kingdom? Jesus Himself provides the answer to our question with very clear words.

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man… But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man… (Matt. 7:24, 26)

God says that unless we are completely changed and become like dependent little children who trust in Him to direct our steps, which includes depending on Him to supply our needs according to His will, we will never see the kingdom of God. (Matt. 6:31-32; 18:3) In fact, He instructs us to give up our rights to both our lives and our resources in living for the good of others, so we may receive “the kingdom of God” as a gift. (Luke 12:32-34) He even goes so far as to instruct us to be willing to go through physical suffering for the sake of His eternal kingdom. (Phil. 1:29) Can we begin to see how our mind will need to be completely renewed before we will be prepared to enter into the way of life found in God’s eternal kingdom?

For those who are willing to be honest with God’s Word, it should become quite apparent how there will need to be a radical change in how we think if we are to pass through the desert testing period and enter into Christ’s heavenly life of promise—the constant, abiding and eternal “zoe” life. Those who continue to live for themselves will find that it is impossible to truly respond to God’s Word. No one can serve two masters.

Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live…and go in and possess the land {the life of promise}... And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you…to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not… For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs… (Deut. 8:1-7)

In God’s kingdom the “least” and the “last” shall be the “greatest” and the “first.” Because everything is reversed, you will need to completely reverse your course in order to “come out” from “the spirit of the world.” “Therefore, ‘come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you {into the life of promise}.’ ” (2 Cor. 6:17)

Since our Lord’s ways are diametrically opposed to the ways of this world, you should begin to see why you will need to die to your own reputation and seek to be the lowest of servants if you are to follow Him. Have you taken this course, or are you still seeking to have your own reputation so you may have honor from men? Remember, God is the one who is testing your heart. And it was Jesus who said, “How can you believe {in the Christ who made Himself of no reputation and did not receive honor from men}, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44)

Those who are willing to be the least and last will be lifted into the highest levels of spiritual life in the heavenly realms. What has been the result of your system of beliefs? Has God honored you with His life from heaven?

Of course, the devil will tell you that God did not really mean what He said. You will therefore need to be very careful to avoid being deceived. You must listen to the Spirit of truth. You cannot afford to be like God’s people of old who did not receive the promise because they did not respond in faith to His teachings. “And to whom did he swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey?” (Heb. 3:18)

As you seek out this life of promise, and search out God’s ways, you will be helped considerably by remembering what Jesus said: “What is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” If the people of this world love to do something, and they commonly seek after it as a means to improve their spiritual life, then it is probably something that needs to be avoided at all cost. Their whole thought process is in conflict with the “zoe” life in God’s eternal kingdom.

“But My people have changed their Glory for what does not profit. Be astonished, O heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid; Be very desolate,” says the Lord. “For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water {as they seek spiritual life from the temporal realm}.” (Jer. 2:11-13)

Anyone who honestly opens their heart to the truth will begin to see how all independence, self-sufficiency and self-seeking, which naturally lead to a self-exalting form of life, come from an evil spirit. This “spirit of error” has led fallen man to keep his eyes on earthly things. In contrast, the true children of God lose their “psuche” life and live for the Lord and His kingdom alone. This is how we know who are the children of God and the children of the devil. And we need to say again that no one can serve two masters.

For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him… (2 Cor. 5:14-15)

We know that we are of God {because we no longer live for ourselves}, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one {because they live for themselves and their own glory}. (1 John 5:19)

There is only one way to be saved from the spirit of the world and this fallen way of life. We must deny ourselves and follow Christ in His way of the cross. It implies dying to the “psuche” life. Whatever you do, do not try to justify living for your own purposes. Even if you have the whole world agreeing with you, the self-seeking way of life is still detestable in God’s sight. As James has said, “This wisdom {that leads to self-seeking} does not descend from above, but is earthy, sensual, demonic.” (Jam. 3:15) It always leads to the wrath of God. (Rom. 2:8)

They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God {and understands His way of life} hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:5-6 Emphasis added)

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God {so we may walk in His ways and find life from Him rather than vainly seeking life from the things of this world}, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. (1 Cor. 2:12)

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above… Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col. 3:1-3)

This may be difficult to comprehend, but Jesus lived in the heavenly realms with His Father while He walked in this world. It was in this sense that He was “in the world” but not “of the world.” Yes, He is now in a place of much greater glory. But there is a way for man to walk in the heavenly realms with God while living in a mortal body. Jesus said, “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” (John 3:14) The Son was living with the Father in the heavenly realms by sharing with Him in the eternal “zoe” life while He walked in this world. And He expects us to live through Him in the same way. (1 John 4:9)

Every individual must choose today where he or she intends to live. Our place of life needs to be in the heavenly realms today if we plan to live throughout eternity in God’s kingdom.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love…raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly place in Christ Jesus. (Eph 2:4, 6)

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness {to reveal God’s heavenly kingdom-life}, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:4)

Walking with God

Jesus specifically stated that God hides the truth from the wise and prudent. (Matt. 11:25) He does this by speaking of spiritual truths using physical descriptions. The spiritual implications then need to be opened to the heart by the Spirit. He reveals the truth to those who come to Him as dependent little children. (Jam. 1:5)

The wise and prudent dislike having anything spiritualized. They prefer to deal with what they can grasp with their own intellect. This is the reason why Paul was unable to speak of the deeper spiritual truths to carnal people.

We also recognize the danger of trying to spiritualize God’s Word in a way that distorts the truth. With these thoughts in mind, we express the following beliefs without wanting to be dogmatic. But as we recognize Jesus as the Second Adam, we have to assume that He walked with God in the same way that the first Adam first walked with God. Jesus spoke of the Father always being with Him; and yet, no one was able to see the Father walking with Him. In effect, the Father walked with Him by walking in Him.

We therefore believe that the Garden of Eden, which is the Paradise of God, should be looked upon as a spiritual type used by God to help earthly-minded people—those who think in temporal terms—to better understand spiritual principles. Before the Fall, God {who is Spirit} walked with Adam in this world as He walked with Jesus. You might say that the heavenly realms touched the earth. In heaven, everyone shares with God in His life because He is omnipresent. When there was no darkness separating the heavenly realms from the earth, the Divine Life that is throughout the heavens touched the earth. The heavens and the earth were one with each other. There was no darkness separating the two. God, who is Eternal Spiritual Life, walked with Adam because Adam walked on earth in the heavenly realms, sharing with God in His spiritual life.

When Jesus brought “light” {the eternal life} into the fallen world, He penetrated the darkness that had separated the heavens from the earth after the Fall. Once He had completely overcome the “spirit of the world” by denying the self-originated form of life to the point of death on a cross, He was in a position to share His overcoming life with everyone who chooses to walk as He did. When man was no longer living “out from” himself, God could once again walk in man.

We now have an opportunity to overcome the darkness. We can walk with God in the same way the first Adam walked with God before the Fall and in the same way the Second Adam walked with God after the Fall. Our spirit can be lifted into the heavenly realms where it is possible to share with God in His eternal “zoe” life. God is then able to “dwell in” us and “walk in” us as we live in this fallen world. This is the way of life that every believer needs to lay hold of by faith.

For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them. (2 Cor. 6:16)

But God…because of His great love…raised us up to together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2:4-6)

And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. (1 John 5:11)

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called… (1 Tim. 6:12)

Now that the barrier of darkness which had separated man from the eternal life of God has been torn apart, we can overcome the world and enter into the Presence of God. The veil that separated man from God has been rent. We can now live in the heavenly realms and eat from the Tree of Life by sustaining ourselves on God alone. As the Son consistently shared with the Father in His heavenly life while walking in this world, we too are enabled to share with Him in the spiritual blessings found in His eternal life. (Eph. 1:3) It is in this sense that He can establish the firstfruits of the Paradise of God within our eternal soul.

As the living Father sent Me, and I live {in the eternal “zoe” life} because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me {the Tree of Life} will live {in the same eternal life} because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven… He who eats this bread {by sustaining their spiritual life on Christ alone} will live forever. (John 6:57-58)

To him who overcomes {the world and the flesh-life} I will give to eat from the tree of life {so they may sustain themselves on the Son’s eternal “zoe” life}, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God. (Rev. 2:7)

The Son has given every believer access to the Glory that He shares with the Father. (John 17:22) We can now become like Him in heavenly love. (1 John 4:17) And yet the people of the world and many deceived people in the church have “changed the Glory for what does not profit.” (Jer. 2:11) There are earnest but deceived Christians who are still turning away from the Bread of Life for the temporal food of this world. It is the reason why they are not enjoying Christ’s heavenly Presence within their soul. And until they are consistently sharing with Him in His overcoming life, they can expect to find themselves periodically being beaten up spiritually by the devil.

We need to distinguish between life in the desert-testing period and life in the land of promise. God only supplied His people with periodic wells of refreshment while He was taking them through the wilderness. This is where He works to break the self-sufficient spirit. He can only perfect His power through His children when they have no confidence in the flesh and have begun to live wholly by faith in Him. He therefore takes them through long dry spells to drain their cracked cistern of everything that is self-originated. Of course, He sustains them with the promises in His Word and occasionally takes them to special wells of refreshment to build up their hope and to keep them from completely turning back to a self-directed way of life. He wants to keep them encouraged so they will fight the good fight of faith and lay hold on the eternal life that flows without ceasing.

Unfortunately, the “spirit of the world” and “the spirit of error” keep turning them back to the ways of this world for their relief. As they keep relying on their own sufficiency and the temporal pursuits and pleasures of this world for their spiritual support, God is required to use greater measures of suffering. It is not easy to cause someone to lose all hope in this world and die to their self-sufficient spirit. The flesh-life is not easily weakened and prepared for death. God therefore continues to scourge His children to take the strength out of their flesh-life as He prepares them for the cross and a complete death to the old self-originated form of life. (Heb. 12:6, 10)

Blessed is the man who endures temptation {in the time of testing}; for when he has been approved {when the mind has been renewed and he is fully submitted to God’s way of life}, he will receive the crown of life {the Kingdom-life that is held in the heavenly realms and can now be imparted to the soul} which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (Jam. 1:12 Emphasis added)

He who has My commandments and keeps them {in the time of testing}, it is he who loves Me…and I will love him and manifest Myself to Him. (John 14:21)

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus {to share in His glory}, after you have suffered a while {in dying out to the old flesh-life}, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (1 Pet. 5:10 Emphasis added)

God never presses His children beyond what they can bear. He recognizes the need for a careful balance between suffering and encouragement. He does not want anyone to completely turn back to the world. But the special times of refreshing that He supplies should not be mistaken for the life of promise. Christ has come to supply the soul with an endless supply of His Living Water. “As the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” When He comes in “the power of an endless life” (Heb. 7:16), His people “never thirst.” (John 4:14) Those who still experience an up and down “psuche” life can know there is a better life – the eternal “zoe” life, where it is possible to consistently enjoy the indwelling Presence of the Lord.

Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord {to work out his own affairs}. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness…

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green {because the Living Water never fails}, and will not be anxious in the year of drought {because the river of life continues to flow}, nor will cease from yielding fruit… I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways {whether you are living by the flesh or the Spirit}… (Jer. 17:5-10 Emphasis added)

The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought {regardless of the conditions around you}… You will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. (Isa. 58:11)

It is in the wilderness testing period that God determines if we are willing to become like Jesus. In this age of fulfillment {the New Testament}, God has spoken to us through His Son because He is the target of our faith. We are to become like Him in this world. And those who do not cease from their own works and learn to yield to His way of life so that His “light” may be manifested through them, will end up being like the foolish virgins. They will come before the Lord, referring to Him as their Lord, but He will insist that He does not know them. Their problem is that they never permitted Him to manifest His life through the vessel of their body. They therefore are not fit to enter into the kingdom of God and to be wedded forever with Christ in His eternal life.

Can you begin to see why we must choose today where we plan to live throughout eternity? There are only two choices. Either we will choose to live through Jesus in His light of life, or we will find ourselves eternally separated from His life and in outer darkness where there will be misery forever. With this thought in mind, we close this chapter with some thoughts from G. D. Watson. In speaking of “A Gentle Spirit,” he reminds us of the absolute necessity of yielding to the Spirit who was in Jesus. For “the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” (Jam. 3:17)

…Unless we, from the bottom of our hearts, desire a gentle spirit, and then by the grace of God determine that we will have it, it is not likely that we will ever know its inexpressible blessedness.

It is possible for us to desire sanctification [to enter into the life of promise], and even resolve on having it, without involving the proper appreciation of having a soul filled with all the meekness and gentleness of Jesus. It is a law in the spiritual life that we get from God just about what we determine to have. It is amazing how God watches and honors the deep, serious determinations of the will of His creatures. Most men do not know that they determine to go to hell [and this includes many in the church], but such will be proved to be the fact in the Day of Judgment…

Every advance step in grace must be preceded by first apprehending it, and then a prayerful resolve to have it. Real gentleness is not a mere set of parlor manners that we can put off and on; it must be soaked into every fiber of our being, and must be drawn from a divine fountain.

So few are willing to undergo the suffering out of which gentleness comes. We must die before we are turned into gentleness. Crucifixion involves suffering, and it is not a painted death but a real breaking and crushing of self which wrings the heart and conquers the mind. There is a good deal of mere mental and logical sanctification nowadays which is only a religious fiction…such a one goes forth with a gay, flippant, theological prattle about the deep things of God; but the natural heartstrings have not been snapped, and the Adamic flint has not been ground to powder…and the beautiful self-constructed air castles have not been crushed to pieces. And not having the real death-marks of Calvary there cannot be that soft, gentle, floating, victorious, overflowing, triumphant life that flows out like a spring morning from an empty tomb…

To have a real gentle spirit there must not be the least secret feeling of anything bitter, or sour, or severe, or combative, or dictatorial, or a sitting in judgment, or religious braggadocio spirit. If we do not know how to suffer, then we will never know how to be gentle.