Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Determining the Source of our Righteousness

by Steve Bray

Self-produced righteousness has its source in the pride of life. It can therefore be offended. This is why people who live in self-produced righteousness inevitably stumble into sin when they are opposed. Something other than perfect love comes out of the mouth because there is still something other than perfect love in their heart. “For a tree is known by its fruit… For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matt. 12: 33-34)

It is possible to live by many of God’s laws in a self-produced form of righteousness, without having a pure nature of love that can endure “all things” with meekness, humility, and longsuffering patience. It is in this sense that we need to determine if our righteousness has its source in God or if it is something we have developed through our own efforts.

Love {the love that has its source in God – *see again pages 15-16} suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up…does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil…bears all things…endures all things. Love never fails… (1 Cor. 13: 4-5, 7-8)

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another…But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. {In other words, put on Christ’s life of righteousness.} (Col. 3: 12-14)

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps…who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return…but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously. (1 Pet. 2: 21, 23)

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven… (Matt. 5: 44-45)

Those who are filled with Christ’s Spirit naturally reveal the fruit of His Spirit. His love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control will continue to flow out of their heart like “rivers” of Living Water. (Gal. 5: 22-23) This steady flow of life from heaven makes it possible to consistently manifest His nature of holy love—the righteousness that comes from God by faith. “For the fruit of the Spirit is in ALL goodness, righteousness, and truth.” (Eph. 5: 9)

Jesus said we will find hypocrisy in those who produce their own righteousness. It is exposed by the way they judge others with a critical spirit concerning certain pet beliefs while they neglect “the weightier matters of the law” such as “love and mercy.” (Matt. 23: 23) Yes, they can be very adamant about certain laws, but their basic nature is contrary to perfect love. And we are afraid there is going to be a day when these people discover, to their own horror, how their lack of mercy, along with their critical and overbearing spirit, have put out some flickering wicks in weak Christians. They have actually turned them away from the true Christian faith. “Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come {in a fallen world}, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” According to Jesus, these legalistic offenders would have been better off tying a millstone around their neck and jumping into the ocean before they caused one of His little ones to stumble. (Matt. 18: 6-7)

James has clearly described the wisdom that comes down from heaven. (Jam. 3: 17) It comes from the life of Christ when He has become our “wisdom” and “righteousness.” “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.” (v. 17) In other words, if these characteristics have not yet become an innate part of our inner nature, then we have to assume that we are still not sharing with Christ in the righteousness that comes from God by faith.

Self-produced righteousness, which has its source in the pride of life, will inevitably result in partiality, contentions and divisions. This form of life is nothing more than human politics. After various individuals and groups determine what they consider to be the right way to live, they then try to press their opinions onto others. It naturally results in the divisions and favoritism we now find in churches and nations. It is how “mere men” naturally act. “For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” (1 Cor. 3: 3)

Those who receive the righteousness that comes from God by faith will no longer behave like “mere men.” Having lost their self-life, they are lifted by the power of God into His heavenly life where they become “perfect in one” with each other. (John 17: 22-23) These children of the Father bear His image of holy love in everything they do. They are “peaceable,” “gentle,” “willing to yield” and “full of mercy.” Their whole purpose in life is to lead others into the heavenly Kingdom-life that comes down from above. And they know it has nothing to do with self-produced righteousness.

Those who die to their own righteousness are in a place to live by the Spirit alone. It is by living through the Son, and sharing with Him in His eternal life of love, that we can all remain in harmony with God and each other. It makes it possible to “be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1 Cor. 1:10) And while our knowledge will tend to differ depending on our spiritual growth, when we all die to our own righteousness and opinions, we can then be led by the Spirit into the same truth.

Therefore let us, as many as are mature {spiritually}, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you {when you are dead to your own opinions and give Him sufficient time}. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained {to God’s life of heavenly love}, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. (Phil. 3: 15-16 NIV)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

True Godliness - Gerhard Tersteegen

True Godliness
[Part 1 of 2]
From the writings of Gerhard Tersteegen – (1697-1769)

It is a very lamentable thing, that in these our last, dark, and corrupted times, godliness, piety, or the true service of God…is become so rare and so little known upon earth. Even amongst Christians…true piety or godliness is so little known… If they talk of godliness, they do not even now of what they are speaking. Where others form an idea of it, it is soon perceived, on close examination in the light of God, that their conceptions of it are far from being in accordance with the nature of the thing itself. Notwithstanding all the external appearance and form of godliness, its power is universally unknown, and is even rejected as mere imagination and error…
In order to form to ourselves an idea of the nature, quality, and essence of true godliness, or describe a really godly man, it is only reasonable that we do not direct our thoughts, first, to such things which the hypocrite and the ungodly can have in common with those that are really godly… Hence, when we refrain from gross vices, when we do not curse, nor are drunken, nor steal, nor quarrel, etc., but lead an externally sober, just decorous, quiet, and social life, it is not sufficient proof that we are godly…
We may diligently attend to outward ceremonies and to pious duties, which are good in themselves. We may be baptized, and go to church… We may read, learn, and meditate upon that which is good, make external prayers, fast and give alms. We may commend and in some measure love piety, and the godly. We may associate with them, possess much literal knowledge of the truth, know how to converse in a pious strain, and with all this, be in reality not yet godly…
Secondly, I say, that true godliness cannot consist in anything which some godly men may possess, or have possessed, but which all have not. Under this head may be included ecstasies, revelations, the gifts of prophecy, a wonder-working faith, extraordinary light in divine mysteries, brilliant gifts, and outwardly manifested zeal, and every other extraordinary gift of God’s grace. Godliness does not consist in any of these.
Hence we must not particularly desire any such like high things, and by no means be envious, when we see or hear of them in others. Self-love often thinks, “Ah, if thou hadst such gifts, such light and zeal, as this or that individual, thou wouldst then be truly godly and able to edify others.” Self-love may induce us to imitate something or other, to which we are not called, and without the grace of God. All this arises from a principle of self-conceit and self-love, and is a very dangerous temptation of Satan, against which we must arm ourselves by prayer and humility, and only labor to attain the substance of godliness, rejoicing meanwhile in the gifts which God has bestowed upon others.
He that possesses such things, has no cause to presume upon them, or to exalt himself above others. He must take heed that he does not cleave to them, and rest in them, or take a selfish pleasure in them…since they are only gifts…in possessing which, the individual stands in greater danger than others who do not possess them
The godly…often experience spiritual and divine consolations, peace, sensible delights, sweetness, occasional assurances, and various other divine communications and gifts of grace. I say they experience such things frequently, but not at all times or without variation, from whence follows, that the substance of true godliness cannot consist in these things…
Hence it is, that many a well meaning person, who reads or hears such sentiments advanced, and has not yet enjoyed the like sensible gifts of grace, may fall into…doubt about his state. He may be hindered in the path of self-denial and the cross, by frequently striving from selfish motives after joy and consolation, and seeking on all sides for signs and assurances of his [full] salvation more than for the marks and properties of true godliness…
True godliness (eusebeia) is that inward state or disposition, which is wrought by the Holy Spirit, and the occupation of the soul, which springs from it, by which she again renders that homage and worship to the triune God which is due to Him… For since He is a Spirit, it necessarily follows, that He must be worshipped not in a mere external, ceremonial, and hypocritical manner, but inwardly, heartily, in spirit and in truth, if it is to be done in a manner worthy of Him, as our divine Teacher Himself demonstrates. “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)
This immediately produces in the soul an unspeakably profound veneration… This glorious Being appears to her to be alone great and good… God is exalted and magnified by her, whilst she herself is abased in the deepest humility… She cannot bear to see herself honored or esteemed by others…
It appears horrible and inhuman wickedness to her to offend such a God. This veneration of God…also produces a real faith and confidence towards God in Christ Jesus, to Whom she yields, resigns, and commits herself wholly…that He may do with Her, and in her, and make of her, whatever He pleases in time and in eternity. She hopes and trusts that He…overrule everything for her good and His glory.
It produces in the soul, a departure from herself, and from all that is not God, and an ardent hunger…nay, a real entering and transition into Christ with Whom she inwardly unites herself. By a continual and believing attachment, retiring into, and abiding in Him, she receives grace for grace, essential, spiritual, vital power and strength, by which she is wholly penetrated and animated. By degrees, all inward and outward acts, words, thoughts, and inclinations are produced and inspired by this new principle of life. On which account, she most willingly ascribes all the good that is found in her, or may proceed from her…to this divine source—the vivifying Spirit of the Lord Jesus in her.
The soul can then say with truth in the words of St. Paul, “…I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God…” (Gal. 2:20) She also learns the true import of those words of Christ, “…He that abideth in me, and I in him, bringeth forth much fruit; for without me, ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5) In truth, this essential union of faith in Christ Jesus is the sole basis of all true godliness. The new life which springs from it, is true godliness itself, which is therefore emphatically called in Scripture, “godly in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:12) in order to distinguish it as something vital, powerful, and essential from all self-made, specious, and shadowy religion. A simultaneous consequence of the…inward knowledge God is to cleave to Him…and to love nothing out of Him, which cannot be truly loved in Him.
An ungodly (asebes) person is one who is detached from God, and cleaves to himself and the creature. A godly (euseges) man is one who is detached from himself and the creature, and adheres to God with all affection… He embraces this lovely Being with all the powers of his love, and seeks pleasure, joy, consolation, and delight in Him alone… He immerses himself in Him, until at length, after every intervention and partition of sin and self-love is cleared away, by the exercise of great fidelity and patient endurance, and through the powerful operation of the grace of God, he becomes entirely one with God, or one spirit with Him. (1 Cor. 6:17)
And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one {in life and nature}: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one…that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:22-23, 26)
Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. (1 John 4:17)
This, taken together, is otherwise called in Scripture, “Walk before God” or “in His presence.” It is in reality nothing else than true godliness, the true service of God, or real religion…

Monday, October 08, 2012

God’s Spirit of Love - William Law

The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, “See here!” or “See there!” For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:20-21)

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

Oh, sir {or madam}, would you like to know the blessing of all blessings? It is God coming to share His Spirit with you. God wants to bless you with His life so that you may be a vessel of His divine love and be a blessing to others. “I will bless you… And you shall be a blessing.” (Gen. 12:2)

The Son is now prepared to fill you with His Spirit and satisfy your soul. He wants to set you free from the old self-centered nature that has caused you so much trouble. It will deliver you from all the inward strife that comes from not getting your way. Life is no longer a burden when His satisfying Presence is dwelling within you and He is directing all your steps. While difficulties will continue to come, His is able to keep your heart filled to overflowing with an everlasting supply of His love and peace and joy.

But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him {life from the Spirit} will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:14)

The Son of God has come as the Messiah to establish His kingdom-life of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” within your heart. He wants to give you a new divine nature so you may display His life of holy love in everything you do. Because divine love does by nature what is right in relationship to both God and others, this sharing with the Son in His life of love will enable you to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law. “Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Rom. 13:10) His Spirit of Love, as He fills your heart and purges away your old selfish and self-seeking nature, moves you to live for the good of others without the need of being rewarded, or honored, or esteemed.

The Son, through His Spirit, comes to give you an abundantly full measure of His life. (John 10:10) This divine life, being sufficient in itself, lives for the one purpose of propagating itself. It meets wrath, evil, hatred and opposition as light meets darkness, only to overcome it with its own blessings. For the wrath of an enemy, the treachery of a friend, or any other form of evil, only helps the Spirit of Love to more clearly reveal God’s true glory. This love, as it was expressed by Jesus on the Cross, is always prepared to lay down its rights and to seek the good of others in order to lead them into the same heavenly life.

God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this…because as He is {as the Son revealed this divine love}, so are we {to be} in this world. (1 John 4:16-17)

Many of those who are born of the Spirit of God have discovered in their own Bibles the wonderful teachings about becoming like Jesus in love. They try their best to respond to His teachings because they want to become like Him. But in time, after continuing to find a contrary spirit in their heart, they begin to doubt and question the possibility of such a state. In a world that has so much strife and division and misery, it will appear to be a doctrine that is too refined and imaginary to be reached. But this objection will begin to fall away once it is seen from the right perspective.

As you have perceived, we are speaking of a form of love that is beyond the capacity of natural man to produce. It is not something that can be worked up or developed through human efforts. It is a supernatural life that God has promised to supply to His children when they present themselves to Him to be used as vessels of His life and works. We must come to Him with a dependent and yielded faith that expects Him to reveal His divine life of love through our mortal bodies.

For this reason I bow my knees {in prayer} to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith… {that you may} know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:14-19)

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels {weak mortal bodies}, 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)

You may indeed do many works of love and find enjoyment in doing them when they are convenient for you, or when they are not contrary to your current feelings. But this does not mean you are revealing God’s Spirit of Love. There is a form of love that even carnal people are willing to express as long as it receives its reward and contributes to their self-esteem. But we are now speaking of being filled with God’s Spirit so that His divine love can be naturally, universally and freely poured out even in unfavorable circumstances. Yes, this is a love that truly surpasses human understanding. And yet, it can be revealed within your inner being as a new divine nature by the Spirit of God.

God wants His Spirit of Love to become your life. His life of love knows no difference, regardless of time or place or persons involved. It naturally gives and forgives, bears and forbears. For the Spirit of Love, wherever it is, is its own blessing and happiness. In truth, it is the reality of God in the soul. Since this divine love is not something you are required to work up, but flows directly from God, it can be revealed everywhere and on every occasion. It becomes the natural fruit of a Spirit-filled life. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love…”

Since every Christian does not consistently reveal this overflowing life of the Spirit, we can know there is something that each individual must do. God requires His children to surrender their whole being to the life that was in Jesus. You put on the life of Christ by offering your body to Him to be used by Him for the display of His life and works. Those who will learn of Him and surrender their whole being to the light of truth that was displayed through Him, will be taken into the life of promise where they are enabled to partake of every spiritual blessing found in His heavenly life.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies {each and every moment of the day}, a living sacrifice,

holy {set apart for God’s exclusive use}, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom. 12:1)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as he chose us in Him {to live through Him} before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. (Eph. 1:3-4)

We can now begin to see what it truly means to believe in Christ and to receive Him into our life. Jesus did not come to merely forgive our sins. He came to share His life of holy love with us. And while we enter into a reconciled state by trusting in His shed blood, we also need to look to Him in faith to manifest His divine life within our inner being. This is the much more of salvation that makes us like Him in His nature of love and enables us to reveal God’s glory in everything we do.

In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. (1 John 4:9)

For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His {indwelling} life. (Rom 5:10)

If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus…put on the new man {the Second Adam} which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:21, 24)

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another… But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection {yield to the life and nature of Jesus}. (Col. 3:12-14)

But as many as received Him {by choosing to receive His life and nature into their heart}, to them He gave the right to become children of God {bearing His image}, to those who believe in His name. (John 1:12