Friday, October 16, 2009

Examining Our Plane of Life

{Chapter 10, From the Book – The Way to Eternal Life – Steve Bray}

Can you begin to see how we are expected to live on a heavenly plane of life far above what anyone can achieve through their own efforts? Jesus was serious when He said that we cannot do anything apart from Him. The branch can only bear the fruit that originates in the genetic makeup of the plant. (John 15:5) It is His Presence within us that lifts our spirit into this heavenly life on the highest plane.

The branch never strains to make the fruit develop into maturity. There is something placed inside a plant by the Creator that naturally produces the fruit. The fruit is to naturally flow out of the inner nature. While man can train himself to produce a crude facsimile of the Spirit’s fruit, a close examination will reveal how it does not have its source in the ever-flowing life of Jesus Christ.

We know that certain traits can be developed by people who do not profess to be Christians. The people of the world, as they seek to display their own glory, will go to great lengths to make themselves look good in the eyes of others. An Olympic athlete will “flee youthful lusts” and even “keep himself unspotted” from sinful conduct so he may win the prize. A businessman will “control” his temper to improve his business. You can expect a society lady to remain outwardly “sweet” in order to maintain her image, even when you spill tea on her lovely dress. It is in this sense that many Christians have learned to “school” themselves in religion. But these efforts to be “right” will never result in a nature that naturally and consistently produces God’s life of holy love in every situation.

But 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)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Gal. 5:22-23)

We all start out trying to imitate Christ by conforming ourselves to God’s Word. We might refer to it as “The Promising Way.” It looks so attractive and right; and it appears so likely to succeed. Surely it is a splendid thing to imitate Christ. But can it be done? You say, “I can try.” But let us reply with Paul’s response to the Galatians: “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect {in love} by the flesh {your own human strength and efforts}?” (Gal. 3:3)

Jesus promised to come and dwell in our hearts by faith. Surely this is much better than having Christ as my helper while I strive to make myself like Him. We are to abide in Him, and He in us.

You may be saying to yourself, “There is nothing new in this.” No, indeed; but have you acted upon it? Many have known these truths for years without fully responding to the conditions. There must be a day when we die to the independent and self-sufficient ways of the world. God’s way for insuring that each of His children would be enabled to live on the highest plane of spiritual life regardless of their own abilities, was by making the life available through faith.

Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all… (Rom. 4:16)

When God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness,”(Gen. 1:26) He knew that it would be necessary to have the Living Word residing within the heart of man. He did not give Adam an instruction book to follow. God supplied Adam with life from heaven. The Living Word—the Son—was in him, manifesting God’s image through Adam’s human body. The Son has always been the “light of life” and the “light of men.” (John 8:12; John 1:4) It was only after man lost the eternal zoe life of God out of his soul that he needed an instruction book to teach him how to live. But today we have access to the eternal life that Adam lost. And so we can get by without a teacher or an instruction book if we will truly abide in Christ by responding to every leading of His Spirit.

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth… He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine {the eternal zoe life} and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father {the life that originates in Him} is mine… (John 16:13-15 NIV)

But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true…you will abide in Him {share with Christ in His eternal life}. (1 John 2:27)

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

There are people in the church who think they have made themselves right by conforming to certain outward standards as the Pharisees did. But it requires a great deal of rationalization to come to this conclusion. There will inevitably be discrepancies between what the Word requires and what is taking place in their life.

The real trouble is that so many people who deplore “higher criticism,” tend to indulge in what might be called the “highest criticism.” They do not deny the truth found in God’s Word, but they are always toning it down to levels that will permit them to remain comfortable with their current Christian experience. They do not honestly search the Scriptures to see if they are meeting every mark that God requires of them.

Even when they see something amiss, instead of acknowledging the discrepancies in their life, which would eventually turn everyone to Christ for His heavenly life, there is a tendency to rationalize why certain commands do not apply. Oh, if we could only take Christ at His word and recognize the need for complete conformity!

At this point, we want to remind every earnest soul of the need for confessing everything coming out of them that is not in complete agreement with the light of life as revealed through Jesus. People who have built their spiritual life on a foundation of self-effort do not like to confess what is wrong in their life. The pride of life keeps them from acknowledging their faults because it would continually tear down the psuche life they are attempting to build. But once we understand how we cannot produce our own righteousness and that nothing from the self-originated form of life is any good, it becomes easy to confess the corruption that God exposes. This is what prepares us to count everything from ourselves as loss, so that we may come to a knowledge of the life of Christ and receive His gift of righteousness by faith. (Phil. 3:8-10; Rom. 5:17)

The key to entering into this heavenly life is the confession of everything that is contrary to the life that Jesus revealed. If we will confess the discrepancies, yield to the light of truth, and look to Christ to make His life a part of our very nature, He will save us from all unrighteousness.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Our responsibility is to confess everything that is wrong. It is Christ’s responsibility to cleanse us from “all unrighteousness.”

Holiness people tend to rationalize why the “wrong” is not sin. Since they believe they are sanctified wholly and cannot sin, they must call their inappropriate behavior something other than sin. This is what has prevented many of them from being turned into a true display of Christ’s life of perfect love. In spite of their high religious standards, many of them continue to have attitudes and carnal traits that have turned many away from Christ. The children are being lost at a very high rate because they do not necessarily want what they have seen in the nature of their parents. They see the hypocrisy between their profession and what frequently comes out of them.

We should also acknowledge that the rich young ruler was able to see the eternal life in Jesus. There was something very special in Christ’s nature that he wanted to possess. Everyone would like to be consistently filled with God’s eternal life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc. But this young ruler was unwilling to give up the psuche life he had developed from the things of the world in order to receive it. Jesus can only give His eternal life to those who die to self-will so they may follow the leading of His Spirit. “My sheep hear My voice…and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life…”

The point being, that if people turned away from the eternal life that could be seen through Jesus, we can expect some children to turn away from the eternal life no matter what. They will choose to live by their own will and develop their own psuche life from the things of this world. But the problem today is that they are seeing religion without the eternal life. And mere religion has little drawing power in comparison to living for self in the world.

We definitely need more people revealing the eternal life. And if we are to have them, it will be necessary to confess everything in the nature that is contrary to the fruit of Christ’s Spirit. Those who truly die to everything that is self-originated and begin looking to Christ alone to be the source of their life, have nothing to fear when they confess these discrepancies to Him. If they can see that their hope is in Christ rather than in themselves, they will be willing to confess everything He reveals so that He may cleanse them from all unrighteousness.

There are many examples that could be used in considering this matter of fully conforming to God’s requirements. His command to love “as He loved” would be high on the list. But we have attended enough Bible classes to know that most Christians believe they do love God and others. Even though we have previously discussed how Paul defined love to the Corinthians, the English word remains so nebulous and adaptable to so many different opinions that it is difficult to use it as a marker of life on the highest spiritual plane.

We will therefore consider God’s command not to be anxious. This is a hard one to get around. “Be anxious for nothing…” (Phil. 4:6) Those who have been empowered by the Spirit to consistently obey this command can know they are now living on the highest spiritual plane.

It does not take us long to discover how the flesh-life becomes anxious about many things. At the same time, we need to realize that the Spirit does not become anxious because there is in God’s very nature a deep sense of heavenly peace.

Even earnest Christians will find themselves coming up against situations they believe gives them a right to disobey God by being anxious. They will insist that obeying this command is beyond their power. And while in once sense this is true, it is within the grasp of faith to be filled with Christ’s Spirit. And since the flesh-life can be crucified {the source of anxiety can be “done away with” – (Rom. 6:6)} and the Spirit is available to fill our soul, we can potentially be set free from this sin. For the Kingdom-life of our Lord is a consistent display of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

The only way we will ever obey this law is by sharing with God in His heavenly life. It is the “peace of God” filling our soul that keeps us from ever being anxious about the things of this world. His conscious Presence within us makes us fully aware of His absolute sovereignty. And so regardless of the apparent difficulties taking place around us, we know that everything is working together for our eternal good and God’s glory.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose…to be conformed to the image of His Son… (Rom. 8:28-29)

People who live by their own strength and try to control the providences of their life will naturally have many things to worry about. The more a person attempts to dominate and control his environment, the more he can expect to have anxious moments. These self-sufficient Christians will also have a very difficult time trying to display Christ’s nature of love when their will has been crossed and things are interfering with their plans. It will be obvious to those who are close to them how they are not sharing fully with Christ in His divine love.

While anxious thoughts can rise up without the consent of our will and not be sin, they become sin if we permit them to go on. The real sin comes from not seeking out the remedy that God has provided to do away with this carnal trait.

For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son…that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled {fully met – NIV} in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 8:3-4)

Many Christians will admit they are anxious about many things. A physician once said, “May I make a remark about you clergy? Many people consult me, but I find that you leaders of religion are just as anxious about your bodies as men who profess no religion at all.” What a rebuke! If our spiritual leaders do not obey this command, how are we to ever lead the multitudes into a faith that will look to Christ to enable them to fulfill all the righteous requirements of the law?

Paul had learned the secret to being content in every situation. Contentment excludes anxiety and worry. He did not care if the Lord kept him in this world to spend more time suffering for the work of God’s kingdom or if the Lord chose to take him from the world. He left all those decisions to the Lord. He had died to his own will and had entered into a deep rest in God’s will. His one purpose in life was to respond to the leading of the Spirit. Because He had complete faith in His Sovereign God, he could keep His mind on things above and remain hidden with Christ in the heavenly realms. (Col. 3:1-3)

Do you remember when Paul and Silas were in the inner prison locked in stocks after receiving a severe beating? We do not find them either anxious about their future or complaining about their unfair treatment. They did not lose their spiritual life when they had a “bad day.” Because they were receiving their “life” from another realm, they were in a spiritual state that permitted them to sing praises to the Lord in spite of their painful situation. We are not surprised that the jailer and all his family sought out the salvation that both Paul and Silas revealed before their eyes.

Paul never tired of speaking about the peace and joy he received from the Lord. And if anyone might have a reason for being anxious about each new day, it was Paul. But regardless of his hardships, he spoke of rejoicing always. He had found the secret for being content. The secret was the Presence of Christ’s heavenly life dwelling within his soul. “It pleased God…to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles.” (Gal 1:15-16)

From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked…in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen…in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things… (2 Cor 11:24-28)

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content {there is no anxiety in contentment}… I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:11, 13)

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! (Phil. 4:4)

The fact that earnest Christians become anxious about certain things does not mean they do not have a saving relationship with Christ. But it is something that needs to be confessed and acknowledged as wrong. It is a sinful trait that prevents others from seeing the true salvation of the Lord. And the fact that it still rises out of the heart also reveals how there is a higher plane of salvation available through faith. “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit…” (Matt. 7:18)

Read again the earlier statement about what divine love does and what it eliminates {in Chapter 3 – New Testament Salvation}. Included in the list of things it expels are impatience, unkindness, jealousy, envy, boasting, self-assertion, pride, foolishness, selfishness, self-seeking, selfish anger, irritability, bad temper, fretfulness, uncharitable remarks, complaining, despair and despondency. We cannot consistently reveal Christ’s life of holy love when some of these traits are a part of our nature. It results in a carnal darkness that prevents others from seeing the Saving Life of Jesus. But praise the Lord, we have a Savior who can deliver us from everything that is contrary to His divine nature!

Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him… (Heb. 7:25)

“We may be quite sure of three things,” says Francis Ridley Havergal. “First, that whatever our Lord commands us, He really means us to do. Secondly, that whatever He commands us is ‘for our good always.’ And thirdly, that whatever He commands He is able and willing to enable us to do, for ‘all God’s biddings are enablings.’ ” Let us therefore submit to His full salvation so that as His church body, we may begin displaying to the world the true glory of our God.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Christ Our Life-Steve Bray

Christ Our Life

{Chapter 9, From the Book – The Way to Eternal Life – Steve Bray}

In our service of making God’s truth known, we have purposely drawn on the spiritual insight of a number of different writers. This chapter uses some of the lessons provided by Ruth Paxson in Rivers of Living Water.

Our great desire is to open up the real meaning of Christianity. The church in general is not making people aware of what Christ has come to do. The implications of this can be seen in the following example. It refers to young people raised in “Christian families,” some of which had ordained ministers as fathers, and who have attended Bible college without ever learning what it means to be saved by Jesus Christ.

A small Bible college has former students who owe money to the school. Attempts to collect the fees are rejected. And yet the majority of these individuals profess to be Christians while spending money that is owed to the school for their own pleasures. Some of them honestly think they have a good relationship with the Lord, even while choosing in self-will not to pay their debt. And yet the Scripture says, “Owe no one anything…” (Rom. 13:8) This speaks of people who are expected to repay a debt and can repay it. Paul would say to them, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived…” (1 Cor. 6:9) And he includes thieves among those who will not inherit the kingdom of God. We are amazed at how people can be raised in the church, and even attend Bible college, and never learn how sin separates people from Christ unless they repent.

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord… (Heb. 10:26-30)

Now if we were to stop at merely revealing how God’s Word will one day judge sinners for not keeping the laws of God, we would be describing Old Testament standards. But the New Testament teachings raise the standard much higher. When Jesus came preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God and gave His Sermon on the Mount, He went beyond the requirement of obeying outward laws. He insisted that the heart also be right. That being the case, if someone else were to pay the debt owed by these students, or even if they were to pay it under compulsion, they would not gain anything when it comes to being right with God. If the heart is still willing to do something wrong without confession and repentance, it has not been saved from sin by the grace that Jesus supplies. While the law was designed to constrain this kind of sin, the grace and truth that comes through Jesus Christ changes the very nature.

There are many so-called “good people” who do not rob banks. Of course, many of them would take the money if it was somehow put in their hands without anyone knowing it. But they avoid being an outright thief because of a concern for their reputation. They resist this sin without even professing to be a Christian. But when Jesus puts His Spirit within our heart, He changes our nature so we cannot go on sinning.

If people are ever to be saved from sin, they must be taught what Jesus has come to do. And they must not be permitted to think they have become Christians until they have fully submitted to the salvation He offers.

…You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. (Matt. 1:21)

He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned {lived by his own will and out from his own resources} from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin {go on resisting the teachings in God’s Word}, for His seed {the Son’s submissive nature} remains in him; and he cannot sin {he cannot rebel against the light of truth}, because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:8-9)

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you {with His submissive nature}—unless, of course, you fail the test? (2 Cor. 13:5 NIV)

We have already described the various stages in God’s work of saving a soul from sin. The new Christian, who has truly surrendered their will to walk by the Spirit, will still lack light on many matters. And we should not be loading them down with unnecessary burdens that come from our personal convictions. The Holy Spirit can be counted upon to lead them into all truth if we will continue to encourage them to remain in this Spirit-directed way of life. But there are fundamental issues of obedience they must be taught if we are ever to keep them from being deceived by the devil when he masquerades as an “angel of light” and by his so-called “ministers of righteousness” he now has working in the church. (2 Cor. 11:14-15)

There is only one Christian life. Receiving into our heart, through faith, the “light of life” that is in the Son is what makes us a Christian. (John 8:12) We receive New Testament justifying grace and the gift of the Spirit when we lay down our will so that Christ may begin to live through us and reveal the same divine nature that He revealed through His mortal body. While there will be some preparation work that needs to be worked out through the power of the Spirit before we are “filled” with His “light of life,” we can only remain justified by walking in all revealed light.

If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another {with God – what an awesome privilege!}, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:6-7)

…If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Rom. 8:13)

God in heaven is invisible. But He wants to reveal Himself in this world. Our choice to live through Christ in the heavenly realms provides Him with an opportunity to walk again on this earth. The spiritual blessings that are now residing in the Son—His love, joy, peace, victory, spiritual power, holiness and others—can now be revealed through us when we give Him an opportunity to fill the temple of our body with His Spirit. (Eph. 1:3; 1 John 4:9)

So what does it mean to be a Christian? It means we must submit ourselves in a way that permits the Son to reveal Himself through our mortal body. To be a Christian is to have Christ become for us our wisdom, our righteousness and our holiness. It is a life of faith where we continually look to Him to manifest His rivers of Living Water through us so we can do by nature what the law requires.

It is not unusual to hear a modern Nicodemus say, “How can these things be? How can I live such a life in my home where I receive ridicule rather than help and where I have experienced so much spiritual defeat? How can I live this kind of spiritual life in a place of business where everyone around me is living for self? How can I find the highest plane of Christian living when I remain unfed in a church filled with worldly-minded people?” But Jesus still has an answer for every Nicodemus. He has an overcoming life that makes human beings in this world “more than conquerors,” regardless of their circumstances.

Let us remember that the life is in Christ. We should not be thinking in terms of what we can and cannot do. “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son {through His shed blood}, much more, having been reconciled {a past event}, we shall be saved {from our self-willed nature} by His {indwelling} life.” (Rom. 5:10) We also know that Christ has previous experience in manifesting this very life in a world where evil surrounded Him. He continued to reveal the divine nature, even when He was misunderstood and maligned. The people ridiculed, scoffed, opposed and finally crucified Him. But His spiritual life held up. The heavenly “light of life” continued to shine.

Christ has a spiritual life that is able to reign over the most difficult conditions. If you find yourself failing to manifest His righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit in any situation, it simply means that you are not currently filled with His Spirit. “Those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:17)

Christ’s first disciples were also perplexed about how they would get along after Jesus was no longer with them in the physical realm. But He insisted that their spiritual life would be improved when He came back in the power of His Spirit to dwell within them. His indwelling Presence within the soul is better than having Him physically present in the room.

It is now possible to come into a far more vital and real relationship with God than the greatest saints of the Old Testament. The Life of the Vine can now become the very essence of the life of the branches if we will choose to live through the Son. We can now become “perfect in one” as we share with Him in His life. (John 17:22-23, 26)

And all these {the greatest saints of the Old Testament}, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us. (Heb. 11:39-40)

These truths about living through Christ were the center of Paul’s teachings. He wanted everyone to understand the riches of the glory that was now available to the saints. He had but one aim in everything he did—that Christ might be formed in every believer. “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you.” (Gal. 4:19) His whole being was given over to the work of furthering this eternal Kingdom-life in the hearts of those who would listen to him. “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present ever man perfect in Christ Jesus.” (Col. 1:28)

Christ is in the heavenlies. While He is the Head and the Source of what His Spirit-led disciples are doing, He is the invisible part of the church. His followers here on earth are to be the visible part of His body. This is a staggering thought. It plainly implies that you and I are to bring Christ down from heaven to earth so that others may see His eternal life.

The life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us {by sharing in the same life}; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:2-3)

True Christianity involves entering into this fellowship that takes place within the Trinity by sharing in the eternal life. It was this sharing with the Father and the Son in their life of love that led to such a rapid spread of Christianity in the first century. And if we are to continue drawing others into this true Christian life, we too will need to become vessels of the same “light of life.”

Perhaps you are saying, “The truth regarding this life on the highest plane is Biblical, but it does not match my experience or the experience of most other Christians. It therefore seems to be impractical and beyond the realm of possibility.” But our response is to exhort you to take your eyes off people and begin looking to the Word of God and His teachings. The fact that only two of all the Jews that came out of Egypt were prepared to enter the life of promise does not mean that it was impractical and beyond the realm of possibility for the multitude. It is unbelief that prevents God from fulfilling His promises. “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” (Heb. 3:19) “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)

In the same way that refusing to come to Christ to be justified is the great sin of every unbeliever, refusing to look to Christ for His abundantly full spiritual life is the great sin of those who are in the church. God does not hold us accountable for our inability. He will however hold us accountable for not using the provision He has provided. Christ shed His blood so that we could live through His sanctified life. He has provided a salvation that makes it possible to consistently live in true righteousness and holiness all the days of our life.

{The Messiah came} To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies {everything that causes sin}, might serve Him without fear {of the carnal nature}, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life. (Luke 1:74-75)

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. (Eph. 1:4)

The Father and the Son are now prepared to come and make their home within our eternal soul. They have prepared a banquet feast that is to take place within us forever. “All things are now ready.” Since the provisions are now ready, we can expect to be held accountable for refusing their invitation.

…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)

Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, 'I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.'{His property was more important.} "And another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.'{His business was more important} "Still another said, 'I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come {His wife was more important to him than the will of the Lord.}…For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.” (Luke 14:16-20, 24)

God has set a feast before you, but He cannot compel you to eat. He has opened the door into His life in the heavenly realms, but He cannot compel you to enter. Do not permit the things you have invested your money in, or your plans for a career, or the house you have planned, or even your family to keep you from entering into this heavenly life today. “But seek first the kingdom of God {His heavenly Kingdom-life} and His righteousness…” (Matt. 6:33) If you make excuses and put it off today, you can expect to be turned away from His Presence in the day of the Great Feast.

The basic principle that governs whether or not we will share with Christ in His spiritual life is control. The Holy Spirit must bring each one of us to the place where Christ is given sovereign control over everything we do. Those who will yield unconditionally to Him, which entails permitting Him to be the Head who directs their every step, will become filled with His Spirit.

It is not enough to simply believe in some Bible truths. Andrew Murray said, “We are too easily content with the thoughts suggested by the words of the Bible.” For example, Christ’s Sermon on the Mount sounds good in theory. But these words often remain in the abstract and never become an innate part of the Christian’s life. We do not mind having Christ as our hero and thinking highly of His teachings as long as we can remain in control of our own life. But we will one day learn that singing praises to the Lord on Sunday and living for self the rest of the week will result in being turned away from heaven.

We are now coming to the fundamental reason for so much confusion within the Christian church. We have developed hundreds of individual religions that consist of varying beliefs in mere words. Each one has a little different emphasis on which “words” it stresses. And because there is so much confusion about who has the correct words, everyone seems to think they have a right to believe whatever they want. No one seems to realize that the kingdom of God—the Kingdom-life that needs to be established within the heart—“is not in word but in power.” (1 Cor. 4:20) It does not matter what words we believe if Christ does not come to us in “the power of an endless life.” (Heb. 7:16) He is the One who determines if we have truly submitted ourselves to be a vessel of His life.

Jesus has provided an exact pattern of how His true disciples are to walk. “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40) True Christianity comes from studying the spiritual image that Jesus revealed through His mortal body, and fully yielding ourselves to the same divine life. This is the only way to enter into the full salvation of the Lord. He will manifest within us whatever we truly yield to with our whole heart.

Once we begin to understand these truths, it becomes easier to see why people are not being saved from sin. What keeps Christ from revealing His heavenly life through the multitude of people now filling our churches is their unwillingness to fully yield to the light that Jesus revealed. Since He is the source, it has nothing to do with inability. Of course, we also need to realize that most of them have never received these teachings. They do not know that Christ is waiting to reveal His eternal zoe life within their mortal bodies.

Our greatest need today is not more preachers. What we need to see is Jesus Christ walking up and down our streets and living in our homes. How will He do it? – By individual believers choosing to walk by His Spirit! There must be a real death to the old self-originated form of life {the independent and self-sufficient nature that Satan fostered on the world}. “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:24-25)

This is where many of Christ’s disciples turn back and follow Him no more. The devil convinces them that their life is their own and the requirement to die to their psuche life is too much to ask of them. They say to themselves, “Do we not have an inalienable ‘right’ to have freedom to do as we please? Is that not what freedom is all about – to provide personal liberty to pursue life and happiness from the world as we desire?”

What?! “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…” (1 Cor 6:19-20) The kind of freedom that is in your mind – the kind that gives you a “right” to find life from the world – comes from the spirit of this world. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15 KJV) And if you do not renew your mind and choose to be a vessel that Christ can use as He pleases to display His life and works, you will end up separating yourself from Him forever. Jesus only gives His eternal zoe life to those who listen to His voice and continue to follow Him wherever He leads. (John 10:27-28)

We pray that “the many” will begin to see the hypocrisy of trying to be a Christian while living by self-will. “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps. Correct me, Lord, but only with justice – not in your anger, lest you reduce me to nothing.” (Jer. 10:23-24 NIV) We must be converted from the lawlessness of a self-directed life to a Spirit-directed life before leaving this world.

Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matt. 7:22-23)

If we are to separate from lawlessness, there needs to be a crisis point where there is a definite, voluntary transference of the control of our life to Christ. Even though Christ has already purchased the vessel to be used for the display of His glory, each individual believer is required to deliver the property to Him. Purchase gives title to property, but it requires delivery to provide possession. Let us therefore fear coming before the Lord on the Day of Judgment as a thief who refused to give Him full possession of the property that He had purchased with His own blood.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom. 12:1)

This absolute yielding to God includes everything within—intellect, heart, will; and everything without—home, children, business, possessions, friendships, time, money and every future plan. Let it be clearly understood that God is able to see into the heart. And He will not accept a blemished offering. He will not fill the temple with His glory while anything is being held back. Whether the refusal is little or great, it is still an act of rebellion against God. If Christ is to be Lord, He must be Lord of all.

Again, the banquet feast has already been prepared. We can now live in the Presence of God and dine with Him. But He will not make Himself known within our inner being until the door has been opened through absolute surrender. It is impossible to be a true follower of Jesus if we are refusing to follow Him in His way of the cross.

The devil has deceived many into thinking they can direct their own steps through life. It has cut them off from the life of promise. As Jesus has said, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” Only the few are now enjoying the banquet feast that Jesus has prepared.

Some may say at this point, “As far as I know I have yielded my whole life to Christ, yet I still seem to be living on the natural plane.” We will find that yielding alone is not enough. Many have failed to begin looking to Christ with the kind of expectant faith that believes He will do what He has promised.

Full surrender says, “Lord, I am no longer my own. I present my body a living sacrifice for your exclusive use.” Faith says, “Christ is my life.”

Faith is what enables us to rely on Christ to reveal Himself through us. Whatever we see in Him, whatever light He opens up to our understanding, we must then look to Him in expectant faith to reveal the reality of that life within our inner being. In other words, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God…” (Gal. 2:20)

Many seem to think they must make themselves right after presenting their body to Christ. Like Abraham of old, they attempt to help God produce the life of promise. But these efforts will never produce anything more than another Ishmael life. It always falls short of the life of promise. We cannot develop the eternal zoe life through our human efforts. The life of true righteousness comes from Christ. He is our righteousness. As Paul went on to say, “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law {trying to obey written commandments through our own efforts and strength}, then Christ died in vain.” (Gal. 2:21)

We all have access to a life of consistent spirituality. But this heavenly life must be appropriated by faith. Grace supplies the life, but faith must receive the life. Faith makes real what grace has made available to every believer. “According to your faith will it be done to you.” (Matt. 9:29)

Andrew Murray says, “Abiding in Him is to consent with our whole soul to His being our life, to depend on Him to inspire us in all that we do, and to absolutely surrender everything for Him to rule and work in us. We rest in the full assurance that He works in us what we are to be and He enables us to maintain that perfect surrender in which He is free to do all His will.”

Mr. Murray helps us to see how our part is in the surrendering and in the looking in faith for Christ to do what He has purposed to do. Everyone who remains in this kind of yielded walk of faith will find that Jesus is able to begin manifesting Himself through their mortal body. The power truly comes from God.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us…that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. (2 Cor. 4:7, 10)


Ruth Paxson (Written in 1928)

CHRIST Jesus was made like us that we might be made like Him. In the incarnation there was the union of Deity with humanity that in regeneration there might be the union of humanity with Deity. When the Holy Spirit begat in the believer a new nature He opened the door to a living, organic union between Christ and the Christian which will exist through the ages upon ages to come. Christ and the Christian are eternally one. The exalted Christ lives now to bestow upon us in all of its fullness His own triumphant, joyous, holy life.

To be a Christian is nothing less than to have the glorified Christ living in us in actual presence, possession and power. It is to have Him as the Life of our life in such a way and to such a degree that we can say even as Paul said, "For me to live is Christ." (Philippians 1:21) To be a Christian is to grow up into Christ in all things: it is to have that divine seed which was planted in our innermost spirit blossom out into a growing conformity to His perfect life. To be a Christian is to have Christ the life of our minds, our hearts, our wills, so that it is Christ thinking through us, loving through us, willing through us. It is increasingly to have no life but the life of Christ within us filling us with ever increasing measure.

But I can hear some modern Nicodemus say, "How can these things be?" How can I live such a life in my home where I receive no sympathy nor help but rather ridicule and scoffing, and where I have for so long lived a sinful and a defeated life? How can I live a truly consistent Christ-life in my social circle where there is scarcely a person who ever gives Him a thought and where His name is never mentioned? How can I live "in the Spirit" in a place of business where I am surrounded by those living altogether "in the flesh" and where the very atmosphere seems surcharged with evil? How can I even learn to live the life more abundant when my membership is in a thoroughly worldly church where little is given to feed and strengthen my spiritual life?

As we are in Christ in the heavenlies so is He in us on earth. Christ in us can live this life anywhere, and that is what He longs to do. This truth our Lord gave in His last conversation with His disciples on earth. He had told them that He was going away from them and they were wondering how they could ever be true disciples apart from Him. The burden of this last conversation was to assure them He would be with them in a spiritual presence
far more real and vital than the relationship they had with Him up to that time. The same life that was in Him as the Vine would flow through them as branches.

John 15:5, "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing."

It was likewise the burden of our Lord's high priestly prayer on that last night.

John 17:23, 26, "I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. And I have declared unto them thy name and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou has loved me may be in them, and I in them."

"I in them" - these three simple but significant words close the prayer with that little inner circle in which He breathed forth the passionate desire of His heart for His own on down through the centuries. Now as well as then, it is the consuming desire of Jesus Christ to reincarnate Himself in the Christian.

The apostle Paul in the revelation given him laid hold upon this precious, glorious truth and it is woven into the warp and woof of his experience, his preaching, and his missionary service. "Christ liveth in me" was the very acme of his personal spiritual life.

Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself up for me."

Philippians 1:21, "For to me to live is Christ."

"Christ liveth in me" so that "To me to live is Christ" - there was nothing beyond this for Paul. Having the glorified Christ as his very life was all-inclusive in Paul's spiritual experience. This to him was life on the highest plane.

"Christ in you" was the heart of his message to the churches. It rang out with clarion clearness in all Paul's teaching and preaching. A cross section from any of Paul's epistles would reveal this truth written in capital letters.

Colossians 1:27, "To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."

"Christ in you" was the very passion of his missionary service. Paul might employ different methods in his service for God, he might be all things to all men, but the end, the aim, the goal of it all was just one thing with him - that Christ Jesus Himself might be formed in each one who heard the Gospel message.

Galatians 4:19, "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you."

To be a Christian is to accept Christ as Saviour and to crown Him as Lord. But there is one step more: it is to appropriate Him as Life. As the works within the watch are the real life of the watch so the Lord Jesus within the believer is the real life of the believer. "The Christian life is not merely a converted life nor even a consecrated life but it is a Christ-life." Christ is the Christian's center; Christ is the Christian's circumference; Christ is all in between. As Paul has put it "Christ is all and in all."

Colossians 3:4, "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory."


The spiritual history of a believer could be written in two phrases, "Ye in me" and "I in you." In God's reckoning Christ and the believer have become one in such a way that Christ is both in the heavenlies and upon earth and the believer is both on earth and in the heavenlies. The Church without Christ is a Body without a Head; Christ without the Church is a Head without a Body. The fullness of the Head is for the Body and the Body is "the fulness of Him that filleth all in all." (Ephesians 1:23)

Colossians 2:9-10, "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the God head bodily, and in him ye are made full, who is the head of all principality and power."

Ephesians 1:22-23, "And he put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all."

Could God tell us more clearly that in His divine purpose He means for the fullness of Christ to be the fullness of the Christian? It is a staggering thought! Its plain import is that you and I and all other Christians are to bring Christ down from heaven to earth and to let men see even in us who He is and what He has done and what He can do in a human life. It is to have Christ's life in such a perfection of likeness that men see Him in us and are drawn to Him in faith and love. It is to be such a oneness of life that one's human personality is but a vessel in which the beauty, holiness and glory of the Lord Jesus shine forth in undimmed transparency.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

To Know the Will of the Lord

While in prayer this morning, I was seeking God’s will for today, asking him to guide all my steps in everything I did. But how do we know EXACTLY what God wants us to do today? How do we discern what is from our own will and what is motivated by the Holy Spirit? Sometimes I feel so inadequate in knowing FOR SURE what the Lord wants from me day by day.

I think of Mary and Martha in the scriptures. Martha seemed to be doing what anyone might do today…she had a house full of people and she was taking care of them, it seems very logical, so much so that she was sure the Lord would see it her way too when she went to complain to him that Mary wasn’t helping her. Sometimes we are surprised to see that the things that seem so important to us, are not at all a concern for the Lord.

Learning to not “assume” what we are to do day by day is truly a learning process, it is part of the strong meat that the Lord wants to lead us to.

Hbr 5:14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, [even] those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Rom 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God

This morning while pondering these things, (sometimes I ask the Lord to speak loudly to me, because I feel like I am so hard of hearing and can’t always “see” what he wants me to do…I feel so dumb sometimes) then Lord brought to my mind, “the just shall live by faith” … and then to the scripture in Luke 7:22 “…tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see...the deaf hear”…and he took me to , Isaiah 29:18 “And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.” Praise the Lord that will make you want to shout! He answered so quickly, I can rest in him; He makes the blind see, and the deaf to hear!!

Day by day, he is able to make us “see” and “hear” what his perfect will for us is that day. If we are willing to seek him daily, surrender our wants and desires to him, we can rest and know that he will direct our steps. Through exercising this each day, we will see more and more of his will being formed in us. We would like it all to happen over night, but it is a process, we are “working out our own salvation with fear and trembling”, but what a wonderful journey we are on. It might be too big to think about living the rest of our lives in the perfect will of God, always obey him in everything…but surely the Lord is able to keep me in his will today.

Jude 1:24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present [you] faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,

Saturday, October 10, 2009

To All Who Received Him

(The following composition by Steve Bray is an amplified compilation of truth gleaned from Faith Beyond Reason by A.W. Tozer)

We begin with an explosive text, teaching as it does about a mysterious, invisible birth – a mystic birth. Here is how it reads:

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. (John 1:11-13)
Such a text cannot be properly handled without getting into areas that some may consider radical. It cannot be handled without considering the fact that there are many people in the world who are God's creation but not God's children. It cannot be handled without considering the refusal of many “believing Christians” to accept the terms of true discipleship – the willingness to turn our backs on everything worldly for Jesus' sake.

This invisible birth of which John speaks is a powerful act of God. John is talking about something far beyond the life we have been able to know through our physical birth. This invisible, mysterious birth has nothing to do with the fleshly works of human effort. It is produced by divine power from heaven. This birth is of the Spirit – a birth of another kind, a mystic birth that produces the life of Jesus Christ within our soul.

Some people are very perturbed when a preacher uses the word mystic. They want to chase him out immediately. But regardless of what these people believe, the whole Bible is a mystical book, a book of mystery, a book describing the wondrous works of God.

The Bible actually says that God has given us the privilege of being born of His Spirit. This is not poetry or simply nice sounding words – this is theology! We can become sons of God and be conformed to the image of the Son through the power of the Holy Spirit. So it is plain that a person who is a creation of God becomes a child of God only when he or she is born by a special work of God Almighty. And we have a right to be sick inside when we see people in the church acting like sons of the earth, acting like children of the flesh, and conforming to the ways fostered on this world by the “god of this age,” all the while saying they believe in a new birth that produces a whole new creation.

And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died from them and was raised again... Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God... (2 Cor. 4:15, 17)

Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If {and the word is “if”} we have been united with him like this in his death {to the flesh-life} we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection {life}. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin –because anyone who has died has been freed from sin...But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 6:3-7, 22-23)
Now how did these people get this privilege of being born into a whole new divine life? They believed, and they received Christ's life. In most cases we have believed ourselves into a blind ally that does not have any correspondence to reality. Our belief has become one where we accept something as true even though all the actions of our life refute the reality of the things we say we believe. But true “believers” enter into a humble, trusting and dependent faith by wholly yielding their life to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation – but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds {self-willed ways} of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Rom. 8:12-14)

These true believers have received the divine life of Jesus Christ and “to all who received him...he gave the right.” Note that this word receive is not passive. This is not a mere statement of fact. Action is required and terms are to be met before the reality of the new birth will occur. The Bible knows absolutely nothing about passive reception, for the word receive is not passive, but active. We make the word receive into “accept.” Everyone goes around asking, “Will you accept Jesus?” This makes some sort of salesman out of Jesus Christ, as though He stands waiting to know whether we will patronize Him or not.

Let me repeat, a passive reception is unknown in the Bible. We have often been taught that passive acceptance is the equivalent of faith when it is not. The Greek is active. We must seek the reality Christ's divine life with all of our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength, through a living faith. Receiving Christ savingly will require an act of the total personality. It is an act of the mind, the will and the affections. It must be an aggressive act of the total personality. Every part of the being must be a hand reaching forth for the divine life of Jesus Christ.

The true believer is one who will meet any condition the Lord lays down, even to the forsaking of relatives and friends. No one ever successfully came to the Lord by making terms with Him. They came to the Lord and actively began walking according to His stated terms.

“You are getting radical,” you protest. Maybe so, but we say nothing more radical than the Lord has said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26) Jesus is asking us to place our love and responsive obedience to Him before that of wife, husband, and children. And if we do not, He will not have us. That is the sum of the teaching of Jesus on this subject.

Let us get it straight. Jesus Christ does not just offer us salvation as though it is a decoration of honor added to our garb. He says plainly: “Throw of your old rags of self-directed righteousness; strip down to nothingness! Then come to me and receive my life of true righteousness and holiness to wear as a white robe so all the world can see the sons of God.”

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:22-24)
To receive Jesus Christ as Lord is strong meat. We are being called to yield our whole life to him and walk in His preordained will for our life. “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2:10)

Some want to cling to their sinful pleasures. In our churches in this deadly hour of deception we are guilty of encouraging people to remain in their worldly way of life. Consequently, the church becomes filled with double-minded people who profess Jesus with their lips, yet they follow the ways fostered on this world by the “god of this age.” “Just believe on Jesus and accept Him, and then you can be as you were before. You can do what you did before, as long as you don't commit those awful sins like getting drunk and chasing after women.” This is the kind of deceitful Christianity that is being passed along in too many circles and is leading many into the pit.

The Bible says that as many as received Christ, meaning His eternal life as He once manifested it *(See 1 John 1:1-2), to them He gave the right to become children of God. We need to offer up our old flesh-life for it to be consumed by the fire of our Lord so the temple of our body may be filled with the light of His glory. This may cost us our friends, our jobs, and even our families, but we must make sure we enter into the good, pleasing and perfect will of God, which He has preordained for our life.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Rom. 12:1-2 Emphasis added)
Knowing the Words Is Not Enough

In one of his confrontations with the Jewish leaders, Jesus gives us reason to look at those in His day who held truth to be merely intellectual understanding. Here is the setting, the question and Jesus' reply:

Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. The Jews were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having studied?” Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” (John 7:14-17)
This attitude toward truth held by people in Jesus' day leads us to consider those who cling to an intellectual concept of God's truth in our own times. I call them evangelical rationalists and in effect, evangelical rationalism will kill the truth just as quickly as liberalism does.

First, let’s look at these Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day. They marveled at Him, and they said to one another, “How did this man get such learning without having studied?” It was their concern that Jesus had never studied in the accepted schools of higher learning. If He were living today, Jesus would have been questioned about His lack of seminary training.

Here is where the spirit of the world leads everyone astray. Religious leaders often believe that the written words of truth are the truth we must receive. This has always been one of the basic misunderstandings of Christian theology. That is, if you have the words, you have the truth. If you memorize the Scripture, you have truth stored in the “heart.” Our Savior tried to correct this inadequate view. He showed them the heavenly quality of His message. He showed them that, as the Second Adam, He was simply a transparent medium through whom God spoke. As John so plainly described, Jesus was the Eternal Word of truth being manifested in human form.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He {the Son} was with God in the beginning... In him was life, and that life was the light of men...The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-2, 4, 14)

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of Life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. (1 John 1:1-2)
In order to receive the Word of Life into our mortal bodies, we must enter into Christ's death to self so we may be raised up by the power of the Spirit into a participation with Him in His divine nature. “His divine power has given us everything we need for {a Christlike} life and may participate in the divine nature...” (2 Pet. 1:3-4) In effect, ever since the first Christian “Feast of Firstfruits” at Pentecost, we have had access to the firstfruits of Christ's eternal life.

Indeed, the {living} water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to {a present manifestation of the firstfruits of the} eternal life. (John 4:14)
If {and again the word is – “if”}we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection {life}... But now that you have been set free from sin {your self-willed nature} and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is {a present manifestation of Christ's} eternal life. (Rom. 6:5, 22)

Here is the weakness in modern Christianity and I am wondering why there is so much silence about it. We find a dividing line between evangelical rationalists and evangelical mystics. Like the scribes and Pharisees of old, they {evangelical rationalists} think we have the truth in our life when we simply know the words that have been given to us by God in the Bible. But the written word always points away from itself to the Living Word {Jesus Christ} who was with the Father from the beginning and who must impart His divine life within our inner being.

Once again, evangelical rationalism will kill the truth just as quickly as liberalism will, though in a more subtle way. As in our Lord's days on earth as a man, these rationalists do not know anything about the mystical depth or the supernatural and divine life they are to receive from Christ. They have the text and they have the creed, and to them that is the truth. So they pass it on to others. And the sad result is a church without divine spiritual life.

I believe that the Bible is a living book, that God has given it to us and that we dare not add to it or take away from it. It is revelation. But revelation is not enough! There must be divine illumination through a manifestation of the Living Word from within our inner being. We must participate with Christ in His divine nature. It is not enough to hold an inspired book in my hands. I must have an inspired heart. There is a radical difference. There must be a divine inward illumination by the omnipotent power of the Holy Spirit or we will never be able to live out our Lord's teachings as He provided in His Sermon on the Mount, which are a manifesto of the way of life in His kingdom of self-sacrificing love. No one who remains under the control and power of the flesh can live according to our Lord's kingdom life. We must be born of the Spirit and become a whole new creation if we hope to enter the undivided kingdom of God.

You ask, “Is it possible to hear the truth and not understand the truth?” Let’s listen to Isaiah first, and then the apostle Paul.

Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving. (Isa. 6:9)

Always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2 Tim. 3:7)
Yes, it is possible to see and yet not perceive. Paul also says, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that you faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.” (1 Cor. 2:4-5) Now, the theological rationalist understands those verses in this way: He says that your faith should stand not in the wisdom of man but in the word of God. But that is not what Paul said. He said that your faith should stand in the power of God. That is quite a different thing.

We must get to know the written word. There are promises from God that we must understand and spiritual principles we must accept into our life if we hope to receive the reality of the promises. But in the end, we must turn to the omnipotent God and rely on His power in dependent faith if we ever hope to participate with Christ in His divine nature.

Jesus said those who are willing to do God's will shall know the reality of divine truth; they shall know His teachings – whether His teachings come from God or whether He speaks on His own as a mere man teaching more doctrines. We cannot know the Father and His divine life until after the Son has revealed Him from within our inner being. I can know about God; that is the body of truth found in His written word. But I cannot know God until the Spirit of our Lord reveals Him in the soul.

If a sinner goes to the alter and a worker with a New Testament argues him into the kingdom, the devil will meet him two blocks down the street and argue him out of it again. But if he has an inward illumination of divine life – the witness within – you cannot argue with such a man. The Spirit will cause that one to hunger and thirst after true righteous and holiness (Matt. 5:6, Eph. 4:24), with the intent to fill him. Jesus promised –

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matt. 5:6)

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. By this he meant the Spirit... (John 7:38- 39)

Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14)
If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out. He will know. Yet most people continue to hold out on God, refusing to follow the path of Jesus {who lived only to please His Father} and rebelling against His teachings. You can take a Bible study course and learn all about synthesis and analysis and all the rest. But if you are holding out on God you might just as well read the newspaper. All the courses in the world will not illuminate you with divine life in your soul. You will find your head full of knowledge, and you may become quite disciplined in your moral way of life, but the divine nature will not enter the soul until it is imparted by the power of God.

You cannot argue around this. You can read your Bible – read any version you want – and if you are honest you will admit that knowing the words alone will never impart divine life. You can repeat Romans word for word and you will still find your inward nature far from our Lord's kingdom life. The truth you know intellectually must be known spiritually through the divine power of God. The Bible teaches us how we can perfect God's power within our inner being, and we must respond according to His ways. God will give every earnest seeker of His divine life a new nature. “He rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Heb. 11:6)

Again, there is a radical difference in seeking to understand God’s word and seeking the life of God. In that great day of Christ's coming all that will matter is whether or not I have been inwardly illuminated and purified. “God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them...for he purified their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:8-9) They gave up their old self-willed way of life of living by human effort in their own sufficiency and sought to live under the control and power of Christ's Spirit. For those who have placed all of their faith in the mere word of God {the Bible} to produce this change in character, I suggest that you carefully consider the warning taught to the first century scholars of God's word. Listen to what Jesus said to them.

You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by {a belief in} them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to {die to self and} come to me {through the cross} to have {divine} life. (John 5:39-40)
True Disciples of Christ

Jesus plainly stated, “If you hold to my teachings, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32) Not many people are being set free from the bondage of their old carnal nature because they have not responded to the spiritual principles that have been so clearly described in the New Testament.

Jesus is saying that not everyone who becomes a disciple of mine is “really [one of] my disciples.” We can learn quite a bit from what is not said or written. For example, if I say “up,” I imply that there must be a “down.” If I say “long,” I imply also a “short” or I would not have had to say “long.” So when Jesus spoke of real disciples, there must have been others who were false disciples.

First, we must consider the person who becomes a disciple of Christ on impulse because of the way someone has built up an emotion that requires a release. These people come into Christianity in a wave of enthusiasm and I am a little bit cautious of anyone who is too easily converted. Most of these people are easily flipped back the other way when their emotions change in another direction. “Those...are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away” or “those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures.” (Luke 8:13-14)

I have never considered it a very great compliment to the Christian church that we can generate enthusiasm on such short notice. All the religions of the world can do the same. Many get converted on enthusiasm, but quickly fall away on principle. The less there is in the kettle, the quicker it boils and cools off.

I have also met the kind of disciples who seemed to be Christians because of the cult of personality. They had been overwhelmed and charmed by a big dose of winsome personality. Men of the world have always been able to get large followings because of their charisma. But it has nothing to do with following the ways of our Lord and Master.

There are also many people who we might call half disciples. They remain double-minded. These are men and women who bring their lives partially under the control of Christ but they refuse to give up other areas to His control. But if we have not given up all of our life to the control of Jesus Christ, we do not have any reason to believe that He is taking responsibility for our life. Jesus has clearly linked true love for Him to our obedience. “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15) “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his be conformed to the likeness of the Son...” (Rom. 8:28-29) If we are not obeying our Lord by earnestly seeking to be conformed to His spiritual image, and that by living under the control and power of the Spirit, we do not have any guarantees from our Lord.

Many of these half disciples will obey the Lord in select areas of their lives but disobey Him in others. We must submit all of our life to the will of God. There cannot be any of our self-will in God's undivided kingdom. God calls His people out from the ways of the world to live in His good, pleasing and perfect will. It was an old English preacher who used to say, “If Christ cannot be Lord of all, He will not be Lord at all!” We must submit ourselves to be wholly led by the Spirit of God if we want to be true sons of God.

Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation – but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the {self-willed} sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the {willful} misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Rom. 8:12-14)
No matter what we profess with our lips, we cannot be led by the Spirit of God while we are living according to the self-willed way of life that has been fostered on this world by the “god of this age.” And our Lord's warning is clear, “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21) There is only one way out of the old self-willed way of life –

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded... Humble yourselves before the Lord {in dependent and responsive faith} and he will lift you up. (Jam. 4:7-8, 10)
Suppose a young man starts out with a shining face as he kneels at the prayer meeting and says, “Lord, take me and use me as you will!” He starts out as an exemplary, consecrated Christian man. Then a beautiful girl comes along. She is not committed to the Christian life but she is nice to look at and she has a winsome personality and a soft voice. The young man becomes interested in her and eventually there is a wedding. They set up their home and begin living according to the world's self-willed way of life. You ask him why he is no longer willing to be an instrument of God’s good, pleasing and perfect will. He replies, “Well, my wife had another plan for me.” And even though he may remain in the double-minded way of life and still attend church services, he refuses to submit his life fully to the will of God. I do not want to be cruel but I must be honest. We can only enter into the undivided kingdom of God by submitting our will to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He must be head of, and Lord in every department of our life. We cannot have a girlfriend or a husband or a home or a job or anything else, including all “rights” to our very self, closed off in a compartment that we do not permit Christ to control. If Jesus is not Lord of our whole life, as it will be throughout eternity, then we are not real disciples.

We read in the Book of Acts this passage: “On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people.” (Acts 4:23) All human beings, when given the freedom to do so, will gravitate to others who are like themselves. For instance, let some people go and they will soon be looking for others who have their same desire for certain recreational activities. Christians will flock together too. If we have Christian hearts we will be more than Sunday morning Christians however. Our whole existence will revolve around the Kingdom of God. Those who love to be in the will of the Lord will have a need to be walking in His path all of their life and in all areas of their life.

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teachings and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42)

All the believers were one in heart and mind. (Acts 4:32)
Once again, truth must be understood by inward illumination. Truth is not the text. Truth is in the text, but it takes the text plus the Holy Spirit to bring truth to a human soul. Until that time we do not know it in reality. That is why Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching you are really by disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

We have all gone to Bible classes and listened to people teach who were learned in the word of God. Still we come away as cold as a pickled fish. Most people end up saying something like, “So what? Let's go have a soda!” Are we aware that we can have objective truth in the mind without having divine life in the soul? Until Christ imparts His own life within our inner being we will continue to find conflict between the desires of the flesh and the ways of God. We must seek the present reality of His life with all of our heart, our soul, our mind and our strength.

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me {as an inner manifestation of divine life}. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that...I am in you. (John 14:18-20)

This is how we know that we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. (1 John 2:5-6)
We Belong to the One We Follow

We live in a day when it is very hard to find a genuinely sincere person. Most people are so caught up in the kind of society we live in that they are always pretending, always “putting on a front.” They are never their real selves until they get mad, and when they get very mad they begin to spew forth the things they have been holding in their heart.

For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matt. 12:34-37)
Evil will inevitably erupt from the heart as long as it remains self-centered. It will have the need to be constantly defending its rights and there will be a natural desire to attack others whenever it has been crossed.

In contrast, when we have the life of Christ in our soul we will never need to defend ourselves. This is not to say that Christians will not sometimes speak forth some statements that will sound very harsh to the people of the world as they speak boldly in defense of God's righteousness. The Pharisees were the most religious of God's people in their day. And yet this is what Jesus said to them.

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him... He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God. (John 8:44, 47)
Our Lord had to say to them what the Father told Him to say. Jesus never spoke on His own, but said only what the Father wanted to speak through Him. (John 8:28) This statement came from the heart that was soon to die for the very people to whom He was speaking. Yet, because of the serious nature of their unbelief, our Lord had to speak the truth to them and to all the generations to come.

There are always some who will argue that Jesus should have compromised. But He could not compromise truth to make them feel better about themselves in this temporal world, when He realized how He would have to send them into eternal wrath if they did not learn how to enter into God's truth before it was too late. He drew the line sharply and said, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” (Matt. 12:30) He left no area open in the middle. In the kingdom of God there will be no darkness, and in hell there will be no light. Jesus could not blend light with darkness by compromising God's eternal truth.

In our day churches are trying to offer such a compromise between the ways of the world and the ways in God's eternal kingdom. Some pastors feel this is the way to get along with people and to improve the church's public relations. Our Lord would have been thrown out of most seminaries today as being too strict in His teachings. He was dealing completely in the area of truth, and eternal truth is uncompromising. It never worries about what people think of it. Truth never worries about who is going to hate it or who is going to receive it. It never worries about what there is to lose and what there is to gain.

Our Lord was eternal truth in human form. (John 1:14; 1 John 1:1-2) And that explains all of the conflict, all of the animosity against Him. He might have been more compromising with the people while He was in this world. And if He had done that He would have pleased those who preferred to see heaven and hell join arms and go down the street in fellowship saying, “If we cannot agree, at least let's not disagree.” But if He had permitted people to go on in their deception He would have been the one to blame when they were sent into eternal wrath for rebelling against God's eternal truth. Remember, “All men are like grass, and all their glory {in the flesh} is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” (1 Pet. 1:24-25)

Jesus never dealt with people according to the world's way of compromise and etiquette. He was dealing with spiritual issues with eternal ramifications. So Jesus had to tell those who rejected His word, “You belong to your father, the devil.” And He was speaking to people who held a religion that was wholly built upon the word of God. In fact, Abraham was their father and they had the temple with its holy place and the scroll of the Law. They were God's priests and they were fully committed to serving Him. Their profession was impeccable.

But now the Light of God was shining on them. This light that shines forth on every person in their darkness was shining through their profession and their claims. Jesus said to them – “He who belongs to God hears what God says.” (John 8:47) In spite of their profession He assured them, “You do not hear.” That left only one conclusion: “You do not belong to God.” While they believed in God and in many of His teachings, there were truths they could not accept into their heart. This meant they did not have God's enabling power opening up the reality of His truth in their life. And sadly, this same deception is all through the church today.

Jesus has clearly explained why “the many” disciples have always ended up turning back from the way of eternal truth. They say about His truth, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (John 6:60) They were unable to hear what God had to say, and so our Lord then said to His genuine disciples – “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” (John 6:65)

This is an accurate test of any man or woman in terms of whether or not he or she is of God. Are they willing to hear the Word of God? And this hearing does not refer to the kind of hearing we hear every Sunday at church services as one might listen to music. Many people hear the word of God but it does not have any effect on their life. But scriptural hearing refers to being in sympathy with God's truth so that it is heeded and obeyed. People who belong to God have been given a desire to do what the word commands. If a person does not have a compelling desire to obey the eternal truth, then it is plain they do not yet belong to God.

Your baptism, your church attendance and your name on the church roll, and the big Bible you carry – these are not the things that are important to God. You can train a chimpanzee to carry a Bible. Every one of us is the sum of what we secretly admire or desire to do or become. What we spend our time thinking about, whether it be God's will or our own will, is what determines the true condition of our heart. This does not mean that men cannot be tamed like domestic animals. Many a husband has learned to say, “Yes, dear. Yes, dear.” But when his wife is not there, you can hear him say something different to the goldfish! At times he lives in anger and bitterness but he hides it because he has been trained by his wife. The meekness that God’s children are to express in this fallen world cannot be a learned response. It must be imparted by a supernatural work of the Spirit.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Judgment Begins in the House of God

Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. (Hebrews 6:2)

If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (Philippians 3:11)

Every saint, every diligent disciple, knows how the Lord Jesus deals with each detail of his conduct. As we confess our sins and achieve victory over the flesh and soulish pride, the Lord removes our sin and self-will from us by several Divine means. This is the operation of eternal judgment, and it will be administered to us now if we will cooperate with the Holy Spirit.

We believe it is possible to pass completely through death, spiritual resurrection, and eternal judgment now—in the world. We can enter life and rulership now. In this manner we arrive at the spiritual dimension of the first resurrection from the dead.

We believe further that only those who pass through judgment and spiritual resurrection now will participate in the first resurrection from among the dead, will rise from the dead and ascend to meet the Lord when He comes.

How could it be otherwise? It is not possible that we can be raised from the dead, rise to meet the Lord in the air, be ever with the Lord, and then be judged. The only way in which this could be possible would be if our judgment is a sort of gala awards ceremony in which every believer receives a blessing and is not punished to any significant extent.

If we believe Christ bore all of our punishment on the cross, and by believing in His name we escape punishment, then it is plausible that every believer will be raised from the dead, ascend to meet the Lord, be ever with the Lord, and rejoice throughout the administration of the Judgment Seat of Christ, realizing that no punishment of a serious nature ever will be administered to him. Also, we can sit in the balconies of Heaven in air-conditioned comfort and eat candy while we watch the Jews without the Holy Spirit preach the Gospel in the face of Antichrist. How the Jewish evangelists learned the Gospel without the Holy Spirit is not always made clear.

This error is believed by numerous Gentile Christians and perhaps by some Jewish Christians. It is true that the victorious saints will have boldness in the Day of Judgment. It is not true that the lukewarm, indifferent (to spiritual matters) "believer" of today has a scriptural basis for any such assurance. The prevailing carefree attitude is not supported by II Corinthians 5:10,11 or the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew. Neither is it in harmony with the fourth chapter of I Peter, Jude, or the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation.

In fact, the concept that a correct doctrinal position concerning Christ delivers us from reaping what we sow is contrary to the entire Scriptures, especially and emphatically the New Testament—particularly Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

It simply is not true.

If it is not true we can see immediately the danger facing the Christians and their teachers.
It is not possible that a believer can be raised from the dead, ascend to meet the Lord at His coming, be ever with the Lord, be glorified together with Him, and then be judged. It will not happen. We must be judged in advance of the first resurrection. Revelation 20:4-6, the passage that describes the first resurrection, does not mention the books of judgment.

Peter informs us that judgment already has begun in the house of God (I Peter 4:17).

R. Thomas

Sunday, October 04, 2009

The Great Obligation of a True Christian

From the writings of Gerhard Tersteegen – (1697-1769)

The following material was extracted from two books published by Harvey Publications and printed by Old Paths Tract Society.

Gerhard Tersteegen was a German contemporary of John Wesley. He wished for a secluded life, but crowds besieged his dwelling place, eager to feast on the words of wisdom that fell from the lips of one who had been closeted with his Maker. Everywhere he went, crowds gathered by wayside, in barns, and in homes where their famished souls feasted upon the Bread of Life. Tersteegen was also a prolific hymn writer.


If true Christians possess so great and sublime a dignity, they have also a great and sublime duty to observe, and that for the very same reason—they are not their own, but God’s, both as it respects body and soul. Hence it is said in the words of our text, “Ye are not your own; therefore glorify God in your bodies and in your spirits which are God’s.”… The life of my spirit, the life of my body, my powers and faculties, belong not to me, but to God…

I must desire neither grace, nor long life, neither health, nor bodily powers, except for the sole end and purpose of applying them to the service of God to Whom they alone belong. I must devote all my powers and faculties to Him; all must be for him. If I only employ them in eating and drinking, in amassing money and possessions, or in attaining honor in order to live in ease and pleasure, I commit a culpable [accountable] wrong. I have no right nor authority over my bodily powers, no right nor power over my property. I must offer them up to God and devote them to His service…

This is that real and complete service which God requires of His people even as we read in Romans 12 that we are to “Present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” [This is our “reasonable service.”]… Therefore, since Christ has purchased my body and my senses, I must not lend my ears and eyes to hear or see anything sinful. Like Job, I must make a covenant with my eyes and ears that I do not desire to hear, see, taste, and feel anything that does not lead me to God…

I dare not love the world, nor that which is in the world—the lust [desires] of the flesh, the lust [desires] of the eye, and the [self-elevating] pride of life. My heart belongs entirely to God. I must, therefore, present and devote my love, my inclinations, and desires to him, or else I commit real sacrilege… Ought I to take pleasure in vanity? Have I not enough in Christ? Why ought I to desire anything else beside Him? This would be just as much as if I said to Him, “Thou alone art not enough. I must therefore have something else for my gratification besides Thee!”

This be far from us! Let us delight ourselves in the Lord alone and entirely, for He alone is able to give us all that our hearts can wish and desire both in time and eternity. Christ, Who has bought our hearts, not with gold and silver, but with His precious blood, and has, therefore, the greatest right to them, will not have them half and divided, but is desirous of possessing them entirely…

My will is not longer my own, since Christ has purchased me and has weaned my spirit from the world… I dare not use my will anymore according to my own will or my own good pleasure, for self-will must no more be mentioned amongst Christians.

The words, I will, and, I will not, are disgraceful in the mouth of a true Christian. Our will must be resigned to Christ. We must be prepared to live according to His will and not according to the will of the Gentiles [unbelievers]. We must ever be ready and willing to follow the smallest intimations of His good pleasure… We ought to renounce all right over our own will in order that Christ, by His Spirit, may alone will and not will in us…

O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. (Jer. 10:23)

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (Rom. 8:14)

Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh {as he dies out to the self-originated way of life} hath ceased from sin {self-will}; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. (1 Peter 4:1-2)

Therefore as much as we do not seek to walk according to our [God-ordained] vocation, holy and blamelessly in the sight of God…God is not only not glorified by us, but rather dishonored and disgraced. For when those individuals who have the appearance of being particularly devoted and attached to godliness, [live]…as the world does, the latter [the world] is then ready to say, “Look… These are the people who wear the name of pious saints and regenerate, and yet they are no less fond of vanity than the world and seek after wealth and riches and after great honors. It is all mere hypocrisy with them. It is true, they have the name that they live, but they are not less spiritually dead than other men.”…