Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Body of Christ - Its Identity

The Body of Christ - Its Identity

by Stella Paterson

It is a well known fact that the church is often referred to as the "Body of Christ." But with the word "church" being seen as a building where people go to worship God, how do we define the "Body of Christ?" If He has a body on earth, how has it come into being? And how do we identify it? What is unique about it? If it is actually the body of the living and all-powerful Christ, how does it function in the earth? Is there a false body of Christ? What is the difference between the true and the false? As we often say, the Bible has the answer.

There are many passages quoted throughout this article. Please read them all. It is so easy to skip over some we recognize as having read many times, and we think we know what they say. But to hear what the Lord is saying to us today, let us take time to read every word.

What Christ's body is not

How many are there who consider themselves a part of the Body of Christ? How many of the countless denominations and sects believe they are the called and chosen, seeing themselves as the Lord's elite because they have the truth? The Lord's body is not fractured, as we will discover here. It is not made up of throngs of people who go chasing after the signs and wonders or emotionally charged ministers who appeal to their itching ears. Of such ministers, Peter said, "For, uttering great swelling words of vanity, they entice in the lusts of the flesh, by lasciviousness, those who are just escaping from them that live in error; promising them liberty, while they themselves are bondservants of corruption; for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he also brought into bondage." (2 Peter 2:18-19 RV) And of those who have followed these false teachers, Peter then said, "For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the last state is become worse with them than the first."

Would the Lord have had Peter and others speak so clearly about false teachers and their followers if He considered them to be true members of His Body? Do we think it doesn't grieve Him to see what is happening more so today than at any other time? If they choose to follow others and to follow their own fleshly desires in the name of Christianity, they are choosing not to be a part of His Body--while at the same time, they believe they are.

Most of those who believe they are born again Christians own and read a Bible. This would include the false teachers and false prophets, expounding with great eloquence their manipulative but deceiving messages from God's Word.

By "Bible" we don't mean any one particular version; they have all been influenced by the bias of the translators who try to make 'good English' composition out of old language words. Add to that the interpretation of the mind of flesh, and a Bible can mean almost anything one desires.

The true Bible is the God-breathed words that were heard by the scribes of old, and now, thousands of years later, only the Spirit of God can reveal the truth of the written word. Without Him, our minds of flesh will too easily see the Bible as a book of rules by which to live.

For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is removed in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. But whenever one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. ~ 2 Corinthians 3:14b-16 EMTV

The same can be said for reading the New Testament--if one believes he is born again but remains flesh because of a false conversion at the hands of those proclaiming a false gospel. Or maybe he/she has become hardened to the voice of the Spirit, having once known His presence, and now sees the Bible only through eyes of flesh. That kind of thing will cause us to become judgmental and dogmatic--anything but Christ-likeness.

This is but a sampling of what Christ's body is not. So, let's look at . . .

How the Body of Christ came into being

All true believers in Christ Jesus, who have been born again [anew], become a part of the Body of Christ. Jesus told Nicodemus, "Except a man be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God. . . . That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born anew.'" (John 3:3b; 6-7) Paul spoke of the same when he said, "Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17) We must include Paul's words to those at Rome. "But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His." (Romans 8:9)

Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about seeing the kingdom of God, that it cannot be, until and unless a man is born anew. With the new birth, an amazing thing transpires! "And being asked by the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God would come, he [Jesus] answered them and said, 'The kingdom of God comes not with observation [Greek: 'ocular evidence']: neither shall they say, Lo, here! or, There! for lo, the kingdom of God is within you'." (Luke 17:20-21)

Jesus Christ comes by His Spirit to dwell in us! He is the Head and we are His Body. It is His kingdom, and He reigns! He cares for and nourishes us, as we see in Paul's words to the Ephesians.

So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the ekklesia: for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the ekklesia. ~ Ephesians 5:28-32 (paraphrased with Greek meanings)

To whom God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the nations, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory; whom we proclaim, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect [Greek: 'complete'] in Christ Jesus; ~ Colossians 1:27-28 EMTV

The Greek word for "mystery" is defined, by Thayer, as "a hidden or secret thing, not obvious to the understanding." In every verse in the New Testament where mystery occurs, we see it has the same meaning. Two such verses are these, which refer to the mystery of godliness and the mystery of iniquity.

1. "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; He who was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the spirit, Seen of angels, Preached among the nations, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory." (1Timothy 3:16 ASV)

2. "For the mystery of lawlessness [Greek: 'wickedness'] is already at work; only He who now restrains will continue until one comes out of the midst." (2 Thessalonians 2:7 EMTV)

The phrase "received up in glory" is more accurately translated in the ASV. The KJV used the word "into", which is incorrect, and suggests that glory is a place. This has led to songs being written and beliefs being held that glory is another name for heaven. The Greek definition for in is "a fixed position/a relation of rest."

So when Jesus prayed for His own, He said, "And the glory [Greek: 'glory, as very apparent'] which You have given to Me, I have given to them, so that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; so that they may be perfected in unity, and so that the world may know that You have sent Me, and You loved them just as You loved Me." (John 17:22-23 EMTV)

In a day when so many are feverishly trying to please God through efforts of self, which really only impress others, this is what the Lord desires of us:

Therefore, brothers, I exhort you through the compassions of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable [Greek: 'logical'] service. And do not fashion yourselves after this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and well pleasing and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself too highly, beyond what you should think, but to think soberly, as God has imparted to each one a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. ~ Romans 12:1-5 EMTV

After presenting our bodies a living sacrifice and allowing the Holy Spirit to have His way in us, Paul's advice in this passage is fitting.

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

We must look closely at the very next verse. " When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested [Greek: 'be rendered apparent'] in glory. (Colossians 3:4 RV) "In glory" does not mean in heaven. The same word meanings for "manifest" (appear) and "in" glory, as we covered earlier, apply here as well. Now let's look at Paul's words spoken immediately following the previously quoted passage where he tells of the veil being lifted.

Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. ~ 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 EMTV
Those words in bold print tell us what the true Body of Christ should look like.

It is only by the Spirit of the Lord that the real Body of Christ is visible. And the fruit of that same Spirit will be evidence of His presence--not just one attribute (if we could call it that), but ALL. All fruit of the Holy Spirit is seen in a true member of Christ's body. What do we see in that mirror? Are we being transformed into His image from glory to glory? What fruit is evident to those around us?

The living body

The Body of Christ is a living organism. As Head of the body, Jesus Christ is the Life source. His Spirit is the Power by which the Body functions. There are no divisions--only unity in the faith. "There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in us all." (Ephesians 4:4-6 EMTV)

There is no need for elaboration on many of the passages quoted. Even with our English language and its deficiencies in translating from the old languages, the message is very clear. This one, for example, needs no comment.

For just as the body is one and has many parts, but all the parts of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and we were all given to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one part but many. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:12-14

And the passage goes on to speak of the functions of the various parts of the human body, then continues on with. . .

But now God has set the parts, each one of them, in the body just as He desired. And if all parts were one part, where would be the body? But now indeed there are many parts, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." But to a greater degree the parts of the body which seem weaker are necessary. And the parts of the body which we consider to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater propriety. But our presentable parts have no need. But God united the body, giving greater honor to the part being inferior, lest there be divisions in the body, but the parts care the same for one another. And if one part suffers, all the parts suffer together; or if one part is honored, all the parts rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:18-27 EMTV

This passage describes the function of some parts of Christ's Body:

And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a fullgrown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; but speaking truth in love, may grow up in all things into him, which is the head, even Christ; from whom all the body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in due measure of each several part, maketh the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love. ~ Ephesians 4:11-16 RV

A few more thoughts

Is life then a bed of roses where we experience nothing but wonderful things? Do we walk in prosperity and health as described by the word of faith crowd? Was Jesus loved by everyone? Was He respected by those in authority? No, we know He wasn't; He was persecuted and viciously beaten before He died on the Cross. Do we have a right to expect anything better? "Yea, and all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." (2 Timothy 3:12 RV) "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God." (Romans 8:18-19)

But we have this treasure in clay vessels, so that the extraordinary character of the power may be of God and not of us; in everything being oppressed, yet not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; cast down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, so that also the life of Jesus may be revealed in our body. For we who are living are always handed over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifest in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:7-11

The true Body of Christ practices daily the giving over of self to the crucifying power of the resurrected and living Christ. Their whole desire is for Him to be manifested in them, so that they are being changed from glory to glory.

The false body of Christ is taken up with the things of this life, being watchful to always follow the rules of the Bible, which they are comfortable with. It may be that the ones they are not comfortable with, they will apply to others with whom they don't agree. This admonition to the true Body may well be describing them and their actions.

Therefore do not let anyone judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or of a new moon or of sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ. Let no one rule against you, desiring to do so in false humility and in worship of the angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, in vain being puffed up by his carnal mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, supported and joined together by joints and ligaments, grows with the growth of God. If you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you submit to regulations--"Do not handle, nor taste, nor touch," things are all for corruption with the using, according to the commands and teaching of men? These things indeed have a reputation of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and severity on the body, but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh. ~ Colossians 2:16-23 EMTV

The false body of Christ are those who seek to follow signs and wonders, as though Christ is here or there. This is where so much deception has crept in. Too many "signs and wonders" are the lying ones of which Paul spoke in 2 Thessalonians 2:9. Jesus said that signs will follow those who have fully put their trust in Him. Why is that? Because He dwells in them, and it is His work!

We must aspire to walk in perfect oneness with Christ, emptied of self and humbly submitted to the Holy Spirit. What a glorious sight Christ's Body is, as He is manifested in her! When she is looked upon by those in the world, all that will be seen is Jesus. There will be no question as to her identity.

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Look to the Hills

The Following is Chapter 9 of Bills Britton's book "Reach for the Stars"

The hills of Judea rose majestically out of the brown earth, and lifted their snowy peaks toward the clouds, while the eagles rested on the highest of their rocky crags. The young Israelite gazed with fond pride on this peaceful scene.

But to the ordinary Israelite, these hills meant more than just beautiful scenery. They spelled out his security, and safety from dreaded invaders. Let the Assyrians come, he thought, when their warriors and chariots came charging through the valleys, I will simply take my family and flee to the hills. When the enemy is gone, I will return and replant my crops. He lifted up his eyes to the hills, his place of refuge and safety.

From Whence Cometh my Help?

But there were some in Israel who were not just ordinary citizens. They saw by the eye of the Spirit. And they were aware of the weakness of trusting in natural resources for help against such cunning, vicious, and determined enemies.

The prophet of God warned the people in Amos 6:1: "WOE TO THEM THAT ARE AT EASE IN ZION, AND TRUST IN THE MOUNTAIN OF SAMARIA".
Jeremiah was even more bold in Jeremiah 3:23, when he said, "TRULY IN VAIN IS SALVATION HOPED FOR FROM THE HILLS, AND FROM THE MULTITUDE OF MOUNTAINS: TRULY IN THE LORD OUR GOD IS THE SALVATION OF ISRAEL." This scripture may seem to you to conflict with the Psalmist, but this is only because Psalms 121:1 has been so misunderstood, misquoted, and misinterpreted down through the years.

I will Lift Up Mine Eyes

How many times have you heard saints get up and testify, saying: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help"…… Oh, how religious this sounded, and how full of faith. But how exactly opposite to the truth of the Word.

For this scripture in Psalms 121:1 is not a statement of faith, but a question. The Revised Standard Version as well as the Amplified Old Testament both word it in the form of a question: "From whence shall my help come?" Then the answer is given in verse two: "My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth." The commentaries of both Adam Clarke and Matthew Henry also confirm this. And in the margin of the Schofield Bible it is worded thus: "SHALL IF LIFT UP MINE EYES TO THE HILLS? WHENCE SHOULD MY HELP COME? MY HELP COMETH FROM THE LORD!"

The Arm of Flesh

How we like to put our trust in something we can see or touch. Our job, our bank account, our doctor, or even our friends. Oh, so many hills all about us to run to in time of trouble, a great multitude of mountains. And how solid and firm they seem. But chapter 16 of Revelation tells of the seven vials of God's wrath being poured out upon the earth, and verse 20 says: "And the mountains were not found."

There is something much better than natural help, or "hills", to have around in times of need and trouble. And that is a trust and confidence in the divine protection, provision, and leadership of the Holy Ghost! As Romans 8:14 says: "FOR AS MANY AS ARE LED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD, THEY ARE THE SONS OF GOD." To the natural man this seems very weak, flimsy, and insecure. But then, the natural man is not coming into Sonship. Hallelujah!

The Arm of the Lord

The ministry of Moses, the man of God, ended in a blaze of glory as he prophesied glorious promises to the children of Israel just before his death. In Deuteronomy 33:27 he said: "THE ETERNAL GOD IS THY REFUGE, AND UNDERNEATH ARE THE EVERLASTING ARMS." Now this man knew something about leaning on the arm of the Lord. He had delivered two million or more slaves from the hand of the tyrant Pharaoh, and had left the world's mightiest nation in shambles. All without any "hills" to trust in. He had brought them across a sea without a bridge or a ferry boat. He had fed them for forty years without a commissary, farm, or even a deep-freeze. There had been plenty of water in the midst of a dry desert land. Now he could speak with authority when he said: "UNDERNEATH ARE THE EVERLASTING ARMS". He had proved God, and found Him faithful.

The Pot of Manna

When Moses was admonished to build the Tabernacle, he was instructed to gather a pot of the manna that fell from heaven and put it into the ark of the Covenant in the Holiest Place. This was a symbol and remembrance to them of the divine provision of God for them through the wilderness journey. Praise God!

We are now in a time of training for the great and terrible day of the Lord. Those "terrible trials" we seem to be going through are only for the purpose of teaching us to trust in God and rely upon His grace, instead of depending upon the natural resources and abilities. For in that day when the forces of Anti-christ put the pressure on God's people to either bow or starve, the only ones who will survive are those who have learned His divine provision. They have learned not to "look to the hills" for safety and protection.

"Training Camp Experiences"

The training and discipline God is putting us through now may seem hard to bear (remember, you have not yet shed blood for the sake of the Gospel, and most of you have not even been stripped of all your earthly possessions). But this training will yield a good fruit, if we are exercised thereby.

"Bed, Springs, and Mattress"

God had given me many examples of His timely provision, and His supernatural care for His own. One of the most amusing incidents that happened to me took place soon after the birth of our oldest daughter. My wife was in St. Louis with our two babies, while I was finishing up a summer of evangelistic meetings.

The summer being ended, I went back to Springfield, Missouri to get ready for the fall term of Bible School, and to find an apartment for the family. I found the apartment, but there was no springs or mattress for our bed. And when I had paid the rent, I only had $11 left with which to buy the springs and mattress. After searching the town over, first in the better stores, then in cheaper stores, then finally in a second-hand furniture store, I discovered that my $11 would not begin to buy either springs or mattress, let alone both of them. I was distressed. I stood on the corner of Walnut and Campbell, wondering where to go from there. And there on the sidewalk, while people passed by, I silently looked to the Lord for direction and guidance.

"Go to the Auction!"

As I stood there with my eyes closed, a voice seemed to speak to my heart: "Go to the auction". Auction? What auction? And then, before my eyes came a vision of a small sign which said: "AUCTION EVERY TUESDAY". Where had I seen that sign? And then I remembered. It stood in front of a farmhouse on the west edge of the city. I had often passed, but never stopped. And this was Tuesday. Would it do any good to check out this leading? I got into my little red panel truck and headed west.

Something said: "Faster!" I stepped on the gas. "Faster!" I sped to the farmhouse at the legal speed limit. As I drew near I could see a long line of cars on both sides of the road, and I knew they were having an auction. I parked the truck and started toward the farmhouse. Something said: "Run!", and I ran up the road, then up the driveway toward a barn where a crowd of people were gathered, while other folks looked at me and wondered why the hurry.

"Going…… Going…… Gone!"

As I neared the crowed, I could hear the auctioneer but could not see him. He was saying: "Alright, I have a bid of $10, anyone say $10.25? Going for $10…… anyone bid 10 and a quarter?" I heard myself yelling: "Yes", as I ran toward the crowd. The crowd turned to look, startled, then began to open a path for me. The auctioneer looked disgusted at this interruption, and the crowd laughed as they saw my appearance, all out of breath. The auctioneer put his hands on his hips and said: "Did you bid $10.25?" I caught my breath and answered: "Yes sir, what are you selling?" The crowd really laughed then, and the auctioneer looked more disgusted than ever. He pointed to his left and said: "I'm selling this bed, springs, and mattress. Now do you want to bid on it?" I didn't even go look at it. I just told him that, yes, I would bid $10.25. Then a lady bid $10.50 and I raised it to $10.75. I knew that was my limit, for if she bid $11, I could go no higher. But she did not bid again, so he sold it to me. I asked if I could pay for it immediately, and he directed me inside the barn to a cashier. By the time the tax was added on, my money was gone. I then pulled the panel truck into the driveway, and loaded on my bed, springs, and mattress. By the time they had made another sale, I was driving joyously down the road praising my Jehovah-Jireh, the glorious God of Provision!

The Folding Machine

A few years ago, after getting into the publishing ministry and printing many thousands of tracts and booklets, we found that we desperately needed a folder. Folding by hand was nigh on to impossible. But there was no money for a folder. However, one Friday a salesman came along, and when he learned my need for a folder, he promised to bring one out the following Monday to demonstrate. I took this as from the Lord, and agreed. I was to look at his folder, and then decide whether or not to buy. But Friday night I asked the Lord to show if I was to buy it, and how. Saturday morning our son, Steve, went to the post office. He returned with a card from REA railway express, saying we had a package. Believe it or not, it was a table-top folder, just like the one I was to look at, only a different brand. God had spoken to a brother the week previous to mail it to me from California. God will not let me reveal our needs, but He does our talking!

How Many Hills?

Yes, there are cattle on a thousand hills, but they all belong to God. How many hills are you looking to, and trusting in? Maybe you have an "ace in the hole", but before your training is over, God will take it away.

For that which God is training us to enter into, there must come an entire reliance upon Him. This sometimes is a hard lesson to learn. One widow learned it by making a cake for Elijah. Elijah had learned it sitting by a brook, watching the ravens fly in. Peter had a lesson by looking into a fish's mouth. He also got a lesson while sleeping between two soldiers in a prison. Paul and Silas had learned it in a Philipian jail.

The Plymouth Car

I must be a slow learner, for I have been getting many lessons. One time I was in desperate need of a car. I began to fast and pray. Finally in desperation I went to a car dealer, agreed on a Plymouth, and arranged for a loan. But when I went back to close the deal and pick up the car, the Lord gave me a warning signal that this was not of God. So I called the deal off. I felt bad. So close, but still no car.

The very next day, just at supper time as the family were sitting down to the table, the phone rang. It was a long distance call from another state. "Bro. Bill", they said, "God told me you needed a car. There's a Plymouth there in Springfield that belonged to a friend of mine. I bought it from him, and am sending you the title. It is now your car, you can go over and pick it up." Suddenly I felt like eating, and joined the family for supper. Praise God, He's tearing down my hills!

"In the Name of Jesus"

A story too long to tell here concerns a demon possessed murderer who came to my home one night to kill me. He was a brute of a man, and I was a young preacher in a terrific struggle against demon power in the church. He got into the house on a pretense, and then at an opportune time, he made a grab for me. Suddenly, somehow, I had my hands on his head, and was speaking in tongues. The demon seemed to be bound, and he could not touch me again.

No one was home but me, and our oldest boy who was then just three years old. This man walked about the room, ranting and raving, cursing and talking crazy. He walked over to the big chair where the little boy lay, asleep, reached down and took hold of his ankles.

I could see his intentions, and it seemed that I could see Steve smashed up against the side of the wall. I said: "In the Name of Jesus, turn him loose!" The man turned loose as tho the baby's legs were hot. I then woke the boy up, carried him into another room, put a flashlight into his hands, and sent him out into the night with instructions to go to the church. The little lad headed down the dark dirt street of the fishing village toward the church, while I turned back to my problem "visitor".

Needless to say, God protected us, and gave us a mighty deliverance. Hallelujah! The very next day, this ex-convict went completely berserk, was captured and subdued and eventually placed in an insane asylum. I felt bad that I had not been able to deliver the poor man from the evil spirits, but at any rate, I had learned something. I had learned to depend entirely upon the Spirit of God in an emergency.

The Mountains Crumbled

I found myself one time nestled into a lovely little valley of contentment, surrounded by a large number of protecting hills. Not literal hills, but the kind we have been talking about.

I had a good job, a regular income, a beautiful home, a radio broadcast, a good reputation, and a growing spot in the civic life of the city. Just been elected President of the PTA, on the Board of Directors of the T.B. Association, officer in the Lion's Club, Sect. Treasurer of the little League Association, LUTC, Red Cross, etc. etc. We loved the little city of about 50,000 population where we lived, right on the Gulf of Mexico. Nice climate, fine neighbors. How many hills can you have in one place?
Had I stayed in my little nest, I would not have been led into this publishing ministry, and you would not be reading this now. But God began to deal with me about leaving this place. My wife and I had never had it so nice since we had been married, and I was not quite willing to hear the voice of the Lord when He spoke about leaving and going out by faith. Going…… where? I didn't know. I didn't have any contacts, no churches asking for revivals. After all, I was preaching on the radio and in various churches in that area. Why should I have to leave? Too many hills.

My back had been hurt some years before, and was now growing progressively worse. I was wearing a brace, and at times was almost disabled. But still I stumbled on.

Then Steve took down sick. A constant low fever, one leg drawing up shorter than the other, and we took him out of school. He was 9 years old. The doctors finally confirmed it as a positive case of Rheumatic Fever. The child crippler. We were told to keep him in bed, quiet, to prevent damage to his heart. My heart was crushed.

That night I knelt by his bed, after everyone was asleep. I travailed before God, and came to a place of absolute submission to His will and purpose for my life. He took me over every phase of my life…… the job, the home, the broadcast, Little League, the civic jobs, the prestige…… everyone of them went on the altar that night. But, you see, God had a mighty powerful leverage on me. My little boy was lying there, crippled by this horrible disease. Around midnight I had nothing left.

And then God spoke: "Lay your hands on him, and rebuke that thing". I did so, then went to bed. The next morning I said: "Honey, let's take him back for another examination, I believe God has healed him". And I told the doctor about how I had prayed for him, and asked for another complete examination. After a thorough exam, the doctor said: "Mr. Britton, there's not a thing in the world wrong with this boy, he's as healthy as any child I've ever had in here, no Rheumatic fever, no cold, no nothing. But just to make sure, we'll have another blood test made."

"My Help Cometh"

Back to the laboratory we went to get some more blood. I asked them to check it 40 ways, for I wanted to be sure. That afternoon the doctor called and said: "Good news, Mr. Britton, everything is negative, no fever nor anything else. You can put him back in school tomorrow, and he can run and play and do anything any other child can do." Since then he has had a normal, healthy life, and has been on the baseball, basketball, and tennis teams in highschool, with no more sickness. Not long after that I resigned my job, we sold that home in Florida, and moved out into new channels, looking only unto our Lord and provider. As we drove north in the car, God completely healed my injured back!

He is Faithful

Many have been the times He has proven faithful to His unworthy servants. Like the time a large piece of lumber fell out of a tree and struck little 2 year old Rachel in the stomach, narrowly missing her head. We rushed her to the emergency room of the hospital, and waited there for a long time while they unsuccessfully tried to find a doctor. Finally, we decided God did not want us there, so we left without treatment. Her condition looked serious for some time, then one day in church, her mother reached out in faith for her healing, and in that moment she was perfectly healed.

There was an immediate change, and there has been no after effects. Praise His wonderful Name! Many more times has God met us, teaching us not to look to the natural, the hills, but to depend entirely upon Him. This is the heritage of the Sons of God!

Bill Britton

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Exchanged Life

by Authentic Christianity

Hudson Taylor received a letter from a fellow missionary named John McCarthy. The truth in the letter helped Mr. Taylor find what he referred to as “the exchanged life.” Part of that letter stated: “To let my loving Savior work in me His will… Abiding, not striving nor struggling; looking off unto Him; trusting Him for present power; trusting Him to subdue all inward corruption; resting in the love of an almighty Savior, in the conscious joy of a complete salvation, a salvation ‘from all sin’…willing that His will should truly be supreme…”

This “rest of faith,” where the Lord becomes the source of our spiritual life, is what Hudson Taylor eventually found after years of struggling in Christian service. This exchanged life may have already taken place in some of you. But this subject has only recently been opened to my own heart. And I believe there may be others who need to hear this same truth. My desire in this sermon is to share an area of truth that the Holy Spirit has begun showing me. Rather than striving and struggling to live in the kind of holy love that God intends for us to manifest, we are to look to Him to do what He has promised to do. Christ has come to be the source of our “righteousness and peace and joy.”

The Scriptures reveal how we are to be “more than conquerors” by living through Christ. We also have witnesses like Hudson Taylor who have testified to finding a fullness of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” after many years of weary Christian service. Because the Lord has come to give us His “life to the full,” we can know that He has made provisions for us for more than an up and down Christian walk, a life of surging and then the inevitable sagging. Let us now look at how we can come to the place where we learn to abide in the Vine rather than going on wearing ourselves out as we strive and struggle in the inadequate strength of the flesh.

Let’s begin by reading Philippians 3:3-10:
3 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit {are led by the Spirit}, rejoice in Christ Jesus {for what “He” is doing}, and have no confidence in the flesh, 4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,

1.) First, let us consider what the apostle Paul is implying when he says we are not to have any confidence in the flesh. As a Pharisee, he was one of the greatest men of religion of his day. He had gone to the top of his class when it came to serving God through one’s own efforts and pedigree. He had a godly heritage, the best schooling, and an unexcelled zeal for service. And when it came to obeying the laws of the Old Testament, he considered himself blameless. But there came a day when he began to understand what Jesus was referring to when He came preaching “the gospel of the kingdom of God.” The form of life that Jesus depicts in His Sermon on the Mount goes far beyond what anyone can work out in the strength of the flesh. To fulfill these righteous requirements, he would need something more than what he possessed from the natural plane of life. This realization, that God requires us to manifest a form of holy love that far exceeds human capacity, is what brought Paul to the place where he realized he must lose all confidence in the flesh. He had to count everything from the natural realm, “as loss,” so He could come to “know Him {Christ} and the power of His resurrection.” – (Phil. 3:10)

2.) In Romans 14:17 Paul says, “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking {a visible manifestation}, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” This is the Kingdom-life that Jesus came to establish within our hearts. There needs to be a constant flow of righteousness and peace and joy flowing out of our inner being through the power of the Holy Spirit if we are to fulfill all the righteous requirements taught to us in the New Testament. As Jesus reveals in His Sermon on the Mount, the royal law of the kingdom of God is much higher than what God expected from the Old Testament saints.

3.) This is what Paul was speaking about when he said, “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things {from the self-life}, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ…not having my own righteousness, which is from the law {from trying to live by the letter of the law in the strength of the self-originated flesh}, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.” (Emphasis added) He counted everything as loss so as to come to the kind of dependent faith that would enable him to receive the very righteousness that exists in the life of God. He realized that he would need to continually live in the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit if he was to consistently reveal the “righteousness of God.” “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth.” (Eph. 5:9)

Now let’s read Galatians 2:19-21.
19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; 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, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.

1.) We have already learned how Paul lost all confidence in the flesh. He came to the place where he was no longer living “out from” himself in his own strength. He was permitting Christ to live through him. 1 John 4:9 and then 17 says, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him… Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.” When Paul no longer lived in the strength of his flesh, he was able to receive – through faith – this life of holy love that comes directly from God. Although Paul was required to fully surrender the vessel of his humanity to Christ, he then depended on the Lord to become the source of his life. He had died to the old way of living by his own fleshly strength. It was then that he could become a vessel of the supernatural righteousness that comes from God by faith. It perfects the heart in holy love and enables us to fulfill all the righteous requirements found in the written laws.

2.) We simply do not have the capacity in our human strength to develop the kind of righteousness that will reflect the teachings in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount in which He describes how people live in His kingdom. But Christ, who established this heavenly Kingdom-life in bodily form, is able to manifest this life of righteousness through our mortal body.

3.) Paul says in Romans 8:3-4 – “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled {NIV – fully met} in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” – This righteousness that comes from God by faith can only be displayed through us after we have ceased from our own works and have begun to live under the control and power of the Holy Spirit.

4.) In Ephesians 3:19 Paul describes a love that “passes knowledge.” If we are to truly fulfill all the righteous requirements of the law, we will need to come to know the reality of this love by being filled with a fullness that comes from God’s life of holy love. “…to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Eph. 3:19) “…that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:21) And finally, “…by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust {self-seeking desires}. (2 Peter 1:4)

Now let’s go to Matthew 16:24-25.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

1.) The objective of the Christian faith is to find Christ’s resurrection life and share with Him in His “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” When Paul had to come to the place where he had no confidence in the flesh and counted everything from the natural plane “as loss” so he could come to know Christ in the power of His resurrection, he was simply following Christ’s instructions – “Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” If we are to be raised by the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit into Christ’s kingdom-life, we must choose to follow Him through the cross.

2.) In Romans 6:5 Paul says—“For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.” It was at the point where there was no strength left in the flesh that Christ could be raised by the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit to the highest place of usefulness. Abraham is another example of this principle. He tried to help God produce the life of promise. But all he produced in his own strength and by his own efforts was the carnal Ishmael. We are told that it was not until he was “as good as dead” that he could receive the life of promise by faith.

3.) We need to have a clear understanding of what prevents even earnest souls from living in the power of Christ’s resurrection. It goes back to the matter of still having confidence in the flesh. This is the lesson that everyone, including Hudson Taylor, generally finds so hard to learn. The “spirit of the world” teaches us to live in the strength of our flesh. The devil knows it will keep us separated from the power of the Spirit. We need to realize that God designed and created His children to live by the Spirit. The whole plan of salvation is designed and intended to turn us back to living under the control and power of the Spirit so we may manifest God’s life and glory in this world.

Now let’s read John 5:30.
{Jesus said} 30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.

1.) The Son came into the world as the Second Adam to reestablish the way of life that the first Adam had lost. God intended His children to live through His Spirit so they could be a true reflection of God’s love in this world. The Son chose not to live by His own strength. He never stepped out into self-will, even when severely tempted to do so. He lived His whole life doing the will of the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. He literally said He did not do anything out from Himself. This is how God intended for man to live. Jesus, while living in a mortal body, was demonstrating how His followers were to walk. They were to make decisions and act only as they depended on and heard from the Spirit, just as He did. And because He only sought to do His Father’s will, everything He did was righteous. "I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” (John 5:30) Jesus commands His disciples to follow Him in His way of life. And we are told in 1 John 2:6 that we must walk as Jesus did. The only way to do this is to walk in the power of the Spirit. As the Father lived through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, we too are expected to permit the Son to live through us. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” As we abide in the life of the Son through our responsive faith, He will produce the fruit of His Spirit through our lives. Again, “The fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth.” And, “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 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. 5:22-25)

2.) Jesus said of Satan, “He speaks from his own resources.” Satan chose to do things independent of God. In contrast to how Jesus lived by the Spirit, never doing anything on His own, the devil chose to do everything on his own, in other words, to live “out from” himself. If he were to have his own glory, he would need to live independently of God and do his own works. Here is the essence of the fallen way of life. It is to live independent of God. We are not fully saved from this fallen state until we are living back under the control and power of the Holy Spirit.

Next turn to Romans 6:10-11.
10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1.) The real meaning of Christ’s way of the cross can be summed up in these simple words, “Not My will, but Yours be done.” Jesus walked in this way of the cross all of His life. Christ died to sin “once for all” at the cross. That was the last chance he had to turn to self-will. And having died to living for self-will once for all, He now lives to God. Paul tells us this great truth because this is the life that Jesus shares with us when we have permitted Him to establish His Kingdom-life within our heart.

2.) We too are to reckon ourselves as being dead to self-will and alive to God’s will alone. This is what makes us slaves of God. Romans 6:22 goes on to say, “But now having been set free from sin {which implies having died to self-will}, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.

3.) 2 Corinthians 5:15 says, “He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” We need to note that losing our own will to live for the will of God brings us to the place where we can be raised by the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Kingdom-life. The bliss of heaven is to permit God to be the source of everything we do.

Now let’s turn to John 12:24-26
24 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. 25 He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.

1.) Everyone who is truly born of God has the seed of divine life planted within their heart. But that seed will never bear the heavenly fruit of the kingdom of God until it is planted in the ground and dies. There is an old covering around it {the self-life} that needs to completely break down and disintegrate before the heavenly life can rise up.

2.) What is the life that we are told to hate? It is the old independent form of life that everyone inherits from Adam and the real source of our problem. Furthermore, we must realize that in order to have an independent life, we must live in our own or self-sufficiency. It implies “confidence in the flesh.” It is this old independent and self-sufficient spirit that we need to hate because it prevents us from living in the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit. When we can begin to see just how strongly it is opposed to the meek and lowly Christ-life that never lived for itself, we will begin to hate it enough to thoroughly die to it.

3.) Jesus said that those who follow Him through the cross will be with Him. We know that He is sitting at the right hand of God on the throne of power. And that is where He wants us to live spiritually, even as we live out our days on earth. Colossians 3:1-3 says, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” We need to be looking to Christ and expecting Him in faith to manifest His power, His life and His works through us.

4.) If we truly hope to be honored by God with the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit, we will need to die to our old independent and self-sufficient spirit. However, we cannot do this in our own strength. Although we can reckon ourselves as dead, choosing to die to our own will, we cannot crucify the strength of our flesh. Our responsibility is to go into our own Garden of Gethsemane and say with Jesus, “Not my will, but yours be done.” We can then expect the Spirit to take us through a “night” of trials, where there may be considerable “darkness” and soul suffering. It will be a painful time as God carries out His scourging work in us. He will be using His scourgings to break down our old self-sufficient spirit. He knows what trials are necessary to remove the hope we have in our flesh. But we can depend on Him to never put more on us than He has already prepared us to bear. And yet, He must go on until He has destroyed the old self-originated form of life. We will eventually find that God’s power is truly perfected in our weakness. It is then we will discover how our child-like {simple, pure and responsive} faith has brought us into a real participation with Christ in the “divine nature.” (2 Pet. 1:4)

Now let us quickly look at some Scriptures that reveal how we are brought into this promised “rest of faith” where we live by the Spirit alone.

Heb 12:6
6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives."

1.) Also, verse 10 reminds us that this scourging is for our profit so “that we may be partakers of His holiness.” It brings us to the place were we are prepared to live through Christ. The writer also says in verse 11, “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

2.) Unfortunately, this divine work of God can be “in vain” if we do not submit to what it is intended to do. Paul had to address this problem in the Galatian church. They had turned away from depending on the Spirit to the old way of trying to live out the Christian life in their own strength, the strength of the flesh. In other words, they had turned back to self-sufficiency. Galatians 3:3-4 says, “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?” We can go on trying to live in our own sufficiency, but it will only lead to more scourging. It makes it impossible to find the true rest of faith where there is a constant supply of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

James 1:2-4
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

1.) The only way we will ever be “complete, lacking nothing” is when we have ceased from our own works and are living by the Spirit alone

2.) God uses difficult trials to bring us to the end of our self-sufficiency. Only then will we have the patience to wait on the Lord and expect Him to truly work His works through us as we walk by the leading of His Spirit. He is the One who has the power to work out all things according to His perfect will. It is then that we will “lack nothing.” He has obligated Himself to supply all the resources necessary to carry out His will. But keep in mind that He must be the source and originator of that will, and in all our service we are only to proceed as we are “acted upon” by His Spirit.

3.) 2 Cor 3:5-6 says, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

1 Peter 5:6-11
6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you {even in the dark night of suffering}. 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.

1.) God alone knows how much suffering is needed to bring us to the place where we have no confidence in the flesh. Only then can He lift us with the power of His Spirit into the fullness of His Kingdom-life of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” This is the Pearl of Great Price. We must be prepared to give up everything from our old self-originated form of life before we can truly walk in the power of Christ’s Spirit.

2.) When we still have a love for living an independent life and by our own sufficiency, the cost may appear to be too high. But we must remember that this is the fallen form of life that cannot enter into the heavenly realms. Jesus said in Matthew 18:3, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Little children live by dependent faith, expecting everything from someone else. They do not direct their own steps. They are led everywhere. And until we come into this same kind of dependent and trusting faith in God, we cannot expect to be lifted into the fullness of Christ’s Kingdom-life.

3.) We really do not have a choice in this matter. We must either choose to enter into this Spirit-directed and Spirit-empowered way of life, or we are choosing to live by the flesh. Paul says in Romans 8:13—“For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” He is saying we need to die to all self-originated deeds of the body. Because he goes on to say in verse 14 “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” May we all choose to turn away from living by the flesh and learn to live by the Spirit so we may be included as one of the Spirit-led children of God.

Hudson Taylor eventually entered into the “rest of faith” where He learned to live through Christ’s Spirit. He referred to it as the “exchanged life.” He learned to abide in Christ and expect everything from Him. He came to realize that Jesus meant it literally when He said, “I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in Him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” It was after Mr. Taylor had come to the end of himself and had truly learned to abide in the Vine that he could say – “The sweetest part, if one may speak of one part being sweeter than another, is the rest which full identification with Christ brings. I am no longer anxious about anything…for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me; for in the easiest positions He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient.”

The goal of our faith is to enter this rest of faith where we trust in our Sovereign God to work out all things according to His perfect will. Then the world will be able to see what it is like to live in the eternal kingdom of God where He is the source of everything that takes place. The people of the world need to see this Pearl of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” manifested through God’s children. Christ will share His resurrection-life with all who will abide in Him.

Saturday, July 03, 2010


~ David Wilkerson

“For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).

Here is God’s secret to spiritual strength: “Quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” The word for quietness in Hebrew means “repose.” And repose means calm, relaxed, free from all anxiety; to be still, to lie down with support underneath.

Not many Christians today have this kind of quietness and confidence. Multitudes are involved in a frenzy of activity, rushing madly to obtain wealth, possessions and pleasure. Even in the ministry, God’s servants run about worrying, fearing, looking for answers in conferences, seminars, best-selling books. Everyone wants guidance, solutions, something to calm their spirit. Yet they seek it in every source except the Lord. They don’t realize God has already spoken a word for them, through Isaiah: If they don’t turn to him as their source, their striving will end in sorrow and confusion.

Isaiah describes what God’s righteousness is supposed to accomplish in us: “The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever” (Isaiah 32:17). If we’re truly walking in righteousness, our lives will bear the fruit of a calm spirit, quietness of heart and peace with God.

As Isaiah looked around, he saw God’s people fleeing to Egypt for help, trusting in men, relying on horses and chariots. Ambassadors were coming and going. Leaders were holding emergency strategy meetings. Everyone was in a panic, wailing, “What can we do?”

Isaiah assured them, “It doesn’t have to be this way. Return from your backsliding. Repent of your rebellion of trusting in others. Turn to the Lord, and he’ll cover you with a blanket of peace. He’ll give you quietness and rest in the midst of everything you’re facing.”