Friday, December 31, 2010

IN 2011 LET'S SEEK TO KNOW CHRIST IN REALITY, NOT IN THEORY

A LIVING AND CLEAR 
SPIRITUAL APPREHENSION OF CHRIST
T. Austin-Sparks

“Each person must be careful how he builds...”
1 Corinthans 3:10

In other words, that which is of supreme importance is not Christian doctrine, mentally appraised and apprehended, but a living and clear spiritual apprehension of Christ. That is the work.

What are you building? Are you, through a living, clear, inward, experimental relationship with the Lord Jesus, building a structure which comes out of that inward spiritual knowledge? Is it by that you are growing? Or are you growing by things said and mentally judged, appraised, dissected, accepted, and assented to?

What is the nature of the building? The work in which we are engaged, to which this phrase “each man’s work” applies, is the building of Christ livingly into the very substance of our being, into the very fabric of our lives.

It is not a question of getting to know a great deal about Christianity. Let us note that. The heart of the whole matter is the difference between the philosophy of Christianity, of Christian doctrine and the spiritual knowledge of Christ.

The Lord would teach us — and this is the lesson that my heart is bent upon learning, and that I would urge upon you to make your quest also — that the ground of assurance is not in our having decided for Christ, nor that we persist in the Christian life, nor that we feel strong, nor that we have certain ability as Christians and are able to do this or that. It is not the measure of our activity in the work of the Lord, nor any one of these things which constitutes our Christian life. These are simply the outworkings.

The thing which constitutes us is that Christ is the foundation, and that we are inseparably linked with Him by faith. Everything else can be suspended as a secondary consideration until that is settled.

It is as though God, if we may put it this way to try to simplify the truth, had given us His Son and had said to us: In Him you have everything, and the first thing is not what you are, what you can do, or anything to do with you; it is what He is! If only in the face of all you may see of a multitude of contradictions in your own life in weaknesses, and imperfections, and lack of attainment, you will persistently believe in Him as having it in Himself to bring you through to the end, you will go through in spite of all.

We begin to take stock of ourselves, measure ourselves up, and say: I am not this, and I am not that, and I am not something else; or else, I am this, and I am that, and all this goes against me.

Nothing of all this is to the point at all. The totality of every divine requirement in us is in Christ.

By T. Austin-Sparks from: Glorying in the Lord - Chapter 3

Thursday, December 30, 2010

WHAT CHRIST CAME TO DESTROY

 WHAT CHRIST CAME TO DESTROY
A. Brother

“…He, too, shared in their humanity
so that by His death He might destroy him
who holds the power of death—
that is, the devil—
and free those who all their lives
were held in slavery by their fear of death.”
Heb. 2:14,15

Think on this huge truth.  Pray over this today.  Let the Father show us all about the power of the Son over death, and over the devil.

Everyone in this world is held in slavery by fear of death.  From the time we are born, we quickly become aware that we all die.  Old people die.  Young people die.  People in the prime of life die.  Even children die.  All die, and so all are held in the power of death, which in turn is held by the devil.  It’s the big trump card he plays over all men.  Men try to cheat death in a thousand ways.  In fact, it is a pretty safe statement to say each man spends his entire life trying to avoid death.  It’s our universal pastime. 

How many ways do we try?

Religion does not destroy death.  Belief systems do not destroy death.  Liturgy and curricula and catechisms do not destroy death.  Lifestyle changes do not destroy death.  Eating the right foods and living healthy does not destroy death.  Losing weight does not destroy death.  Medicine does not destroy death.  Plastic surgery does not destroy death.  Money cannot destroy death.  All face death at some point, sooner or later. 

Christ came to destroy the works of the devil.  His greatest ‘work’ is this fear of death.  He holds men in his grasp with it.

Yet, ironically, Christ only destroys this work of the devil in us by our own dying. 

“For you died, and your life is now
hidden with Christ in God.”
Col. 3:3

We now no longer worry and fret about our bodies dying, because we are already dead!  And the resurrection power of Christ becomes our Life, and Christ is now living in us.  We have His power over death, and we never taste that bitter cup which the devil gives to all those who don’t have Christ.  We now live eternally, thanks to our Lord, who gave Himself for us, so that we wouldn’t have to taste death.

So why are we afraid today?

“For you did not receive a spirit that
makes you a slave again to fear,
but you received the Spirit of Sonship.
And by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’.
Rom. 8:15

If we have fear, live by fear, are overcome with fear, then we are not experiencing the resurrection power of Christ in our lives.  We are held by the devil’s best weapon.  And we must turn to our Christ, our own Lord, and He will set us free.  If we don’t have to fear death, then what can cause us fear? 

In all things we are conquerors, because the strongest weapon in the devil’s arsenal, death, was destroyed by our Christ.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
…I am convinced that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons, neither present
nor the future, nor any powers, neither
height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God
that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Rom. 8:35,38,39

May the heart-peace of Christ grip us today, and not let go.  May His resurrection power give us the understanding that we are sons and daughters of the Father, and nothing can snatch us out of His hand.  Not even death.



Wednesday, December 29, 2010

TODAY IS THE DAY FOR CHRIST IN YOU

Dear Brothers and Sisters:


We are called to be so much more than just "Christians".  The word has come to mean so little these days.  It is used to blanket everything and nothing.  It is a meaningless phrase.


I call what we're pursuing the "Christ-life" because it is really all about the life of Christ in us, not some life we're trying to live for Christ.


Witness what Paul says, and how much higher and greater this is than some small "Christian life":


"...God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ."  Col. 1:27,28


How can we sit back and live some lifeless form of Christianity when the Light of Christ shines like a beacon in our hearts?  How can we go through the motions of living an "acceptable Christian life" when Christ means us to go on to glory with Him, which is Him living out His life in us?


We are responsible this day, this month, this year, for what we do with this knowledge of Christ.  We must go on, move upward, strive to know Him and the fellowship of His suffering, the power of His resurrection.  What could be greater?  What lower calling could suffice once we see Christ?


This is our task together in 2011.  We must seek Christ, and give up all other trivial pursuits.  Many of us are whiling away our time with stupid, senseless, and even shameful activities.  Many of us are selfishly guarding our time, our resources, our energies, as if we are hoarding them for some future goal that exceeds the worthiness of Christ's goal for us.


Yet He calls to you today if you are reading this.


Leave your self-focused dreams and goals and desires.  Open your time, your resources, your heart, your energies to the love of Christ.  Make Him your sole and soul pursuit.  Let Christ captivate you, be the object of your love, and let Him powerfully change you into His image this day, this year.  


No other Way has been given.  Christ is all, and must become our all.


"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.  And anyone who does not carry his own cross and follow Me cannot be my disciple."  Luke 14:25-27


Did Jesus mean these words?  Or was He just in a tough mood that day?  Didn't He always speak the truth?  Of course, and that is why that very day, many turned back from following Him.  Will you?  Or will you stick, and see this through?


I pray we will not be of those who turn back, but of those who carry on to know Him in 2011.


Your brother in Christ,
A. Brother

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

WHEN CHRIST CAPTIVATES US ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN IN 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Narrow Gate:

This short teaching defines what Christ is saying to me these days.  It summarizes what Paul was saying about his life, and what the apostles taught in those early days after Christ’s resurrection.  This is the secret to why the good news took off and grabbed so many across the known world, raging like a grassfire across the landscape. 

If we truly want to experience the power of Christ, the glory of His church, the fellowship of joy with the Father and the Son, then we will listen and make this our goal.  I have brought this teaching to you because it says what needs to be said as if our brother Austin-Sparks was here with us, and it says all that needs to be said for this coming year’s focus!

A. Brother
WHEN CHRIST CAPTIVATES US
ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN
T. Austin-Sparks

“For to me to live is Christ.”
Philippians 1:21

That is the good news of the all-captivating Christ.

When Christ really captivates, everything happens and anything can happen. That is how it was with Paul and with these people. Christ had just captivated them.

They had no other thought in life than Christ. They may have had their businesses, their trades, their professions, their different walks of life and occupations in the world, but they had one all-dominating thought, concern and interest - Christ.

Christ rested, for them, upon everything. There is no other word for it. He just captivated them.

And I see, dear friends, that that - simple as it may sound - explains everything. It explains Paul... it explains these believers, it explains their mutual love. It solved all their problems, cleared up all their difficulties.

Oh, this is what we need! If only you and I were like this, if we really after all were captivated by Christ! I cannot convey that to you, but as I have looked at that truth - looked at it, read it, thought about it - I have felt something moved in me, something inexplicable.

After all, nine-tenths of all our troubles can be traced to the fact that we have other personal interests influencing us, governing us and controlling us - other aspects of life than Christ. If only it could be true that Christ had captured and captivated and mastered us, and become - yes, I will use the word - an obsession, a glorious obsession!

When it is like that, we are filled with joy. There are no regrets at having to 'give up' things. We are filled with joy, filled with victory. There is no spirit of defeatism at all. It is the joy of a great triumph. It is the triumph of Christ over the life.

Yes, it has been, and because it has been, it can be again. But this needs something more than just a kind of mental appraisement. We can so easily miss the point. We may admire the words, the ideas; we may fall to it as a beautiful presentation; but, oh, we need the captivating to wipe out our selves - our reputations, everything that is associated with us and our own glory - that the One who captivates may be the only One in view, the only One with a reputation, and we at His feet.

This is the gospel, the good news - that when Christ really captivates, the kind of thing that is in this letter happens, it really happens.

Shall we ask the Lord for that life captivation of His beloved Son?

By T. Austin-Sparks from: The Gospel According to Paul - Chapter 5


Monday, December 27, 2010

TO ALL OF YOU FOR THE YEAR 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:


This coming year of 2011 is to be, for me, a year of repair and restoration.  Christ has made it plain to me that there will be times when I won't be able to almost daily finish the teachings He gives me from His Word, as I have been able to do for the last year.


But we know that Christ does all things well, and in accordance with the will of the Father, right?  My task is to submit to Him in all things.  This is hard for my naturally rebellious and self-motivated nature.  I tend to jump first, and look later.  I tend to paddle hard for the shore when I need to move to the middle of the current, or go for the current when I should be paddling for the shore.  My judgment has been, shall we say, a little suspect at times in my life.  I'm understating that, as you can tell!


So, my natural man is being submitted to Christ, who is working in me to build up the New Man in Christ.  This process continues, and is never easy.


I will still blog on this site, though may not have the daily ability to add posts.  However, I'm asking you also to go back and visit my many posts from the past year that you've not seen.  Please feel free to give these out, forward them to others, print them out, or use them in any way to increase the Kingdom of God.  They are yours, as well as mine, given by the Spirit of God to bring us all into Christ more fully.


And that is my purpose in 2011, my calling from the Lord.  It is to prophecy, to teach, to give out the Word of God to you for the furthering of your faith.  My calling is to grow in my own inner Light and knowledge of Christ so that He can speak even more clearly and decisively, with His authority, through me.  My obedience is necessary, as yours is.  We must discipline ourselves in this fight.  For this battle is the Lord's, not ours, yet He needs us to be good soldiers of Christ Jesus.


What a privilege we have moving forward into this year.  We are Christ's and Christ is ours.  We have the Father, we have the Lord Jesus our eldest brother, the Firstborn among many sons and daughters, and we have one another.  The love God has for us is shown us in Christ, and we show our love for Christ by loving one another in the Body of Christ.  


What a fantastic opportunity we have, whether we are in plenty, or in want.  Whether rich or poor, whether old or young, whether in trial or in good times, whether we are in free countries or oppressed, we can live for Christ and learn Him wherever we are.


I pray for all of us that we will learn Christ this year.  That we will not learn "about" Christ, but that we will "put on Christ" as Paul says, and be clothed in Him.  That He will be all for us.  That the grace and truth that came through Christ to the world will be evident in us.  That His love will captivate and control us, by the Spirit He gives us, which is the down payment for all the rich inheritance He has for us.


Please read what God has given me, and comment honestly so that your brothers and sisters may benefit from your experiences and thoughts on Scripture.


I plan on doing shorter posts, with simpler thoughts.  The year of 2011 will be a hard, yet rewarding year for us all if we put our eyes on Jesus at all times.  I'm hoping to  hear from more of you--to have you share this blog with more of those who want to seek Christ--and to let God give the increase in whatever way He chooses.


I daily pray for all those who love Christ, wherever you are.  It blesses me every day to get on and see the sources and statistics from my readers.  At this point, there are dozens of you, sometimes 50 or more each day reading, from over 30 countries of the world.  We have Christ in common, and what bond could there be on this earth that is stronger?  I value your prayers, your input, and your readership.


I pray for you as you go into this new year.  May you access all the riches of Christ that are at our fingertips in the heavenly places where He calls us to live.  May we all have our minds on "things above, not on the things on the earth."  


May we focus on Christ in 2011, so those around us can see Him more clearly in us!


Your brother,
A. Brother

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A 2011 NARROW ROAD TRIP WITH CHRIST

 A 2011 NARROW ROAD TRIP WITH CHRIST
A. Brother

TEXT: Luke 24:13-35

“As they talked and discussed these things
with each other, Jesus Himself came up
and walked along with them, but
they were kept from recognizing Him.”
Luke 24:15,16

This year, which, like last year, will seem short when it’s over, we must learn to recognize Christ as He walks with us.  This year, if we want Him, He will be with us on the narrow road of discipleship. 

I say, if we want Him, because sometimes we just want to discuss all these “Christian” things with each other, and worry, and complain, and talk “about” Christ, and talk “about” the Christian life, and think “about” walking with Christ.  Sometimes, and we need to admit it, we are like these two disciples after the crucifixion.  We are walking along, perplexed, sad, and disappointed.  We expected more.  We expected different things out of this “Christian life”.

“He asked them,
‘What are you discussing together
as you walk along?’”
Luke 24:17

Our Lord already knew what Cleopas and his friend were discussing.  He just wanted them to tell Him.  They gave Christ a laundry list.  “Don’t you know about all the things that are happening?  Don’t you know that our hope for Israel just died at the hands of the Jewish leaders on a Roman cross?  Don’t you see that we had higher hopes?  We are confused, we are downcast, we just don’t get it.”

In other words, Cleopas and friend were like us. 

“Here’s our list, Father, of the things happening.  Why are they happening?  I’m so perplexed, and just don’t get it!”

It reminds me of the many blog sites on the web, the discussion boards and forums for Christians.  So many are just wanting to endlessly discuss the problems, the terrible events, the end times, the various doctrinal issues, the many things Christians discuss when they get together.  Some just want to ignore everything and pretend, talking about inconsequential things, daily things, the little things about life that bug them.  Some want to fight and argue, or espouse some new angle, new movement, new religious guru who’s got a new idea.  Discuss, discuss, discuss, talk, talk, talk, argue, argue, argue.  That’s us.

So what did Christ do when Cleopas and friend were in the middle of one of these endless “Christian” discussions?

“He said, ‘How foolish you are,
and how slow of heart you are to believe
all that the prophets have spoken!’”
Luke 24:25,26

Here is Christ, and here are His distracted followers, in a nutshell.  Christ wants to give us faith, and we want to endlessly discuss things and wallow in our self-pity.  But He knows us, and so here is what He wants to do, as He did with them.

“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets,
He explained to them what was said
in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.”
Luke 24:27

We talk among ourselves, and worry and discuss, and fret about things, and debate endlessly this point of Scripture or that point of Scripture.  We don’t get it.  Some of us try to gloss over all the problems with “feel good” stuff.  Great emotional stories, or inspiring Scripture.  Promises, and more promises, which we say God must fulfill for us.  Some want to apply Biblical “principles” to our lives, so we have some rules to live by.  Some want us to go back to the law, and post it, and live by it.  Some just want to complain.

Yet Christ, the resurrected Lord, comes alongside us to reveal Himself to us from Scripture.  He walks with us to open our eyes.

“When He was at the table with them,
He took bread, gave thanks, broke it
and began to give it to them. 
Then their eyes were opened
and they recognized Him…”
Luke 24:30,31

When Cleopas invited Jesus in to dine with him, to sit down and be part of His life, then things began to happen.  Christ, the risen Lord, broke bread with him and gave it to him.  The Lord gave Cleopas the Bread of Life, which is Himself, and Cleopas suddenly saw Christ, and when Jesus disappeared suddenly, they now had a different conversation.

“They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts
burning within us while He talked with us
on the road and opened
the Scriptures to us?”
Luke 24:32

These disciples stopped talking, started listening, and most of all, sat down to a meal with Christ, making Him part of their lives.  Then Christ was able to give them Himself.  They saw that Christ was all, that Christ was real, that He was the answer to all their perplexing and vexing questions and debates.  That Christ was the solution to the problems.  That all the disciples’ vain talking and discussing and arguing was useless. 

Walking and living with the risen Christ is our answer.  Knowing Christ is the answer.  Whatever your questions are today, He will explain to you in Scripture who He is, and how He will meet your need.

Like Cleopas and friend, we must stop arguing with and complaining to each other, and have the risen Christ open our eyes to see Him.  It is simple, brothers and sisters.  It is all about Christ.  All of Scripture points to Christ.  All is in Him.  He is the Way.  He is the Truth.  He is our Life.

In 2011 it is my goal to know Christ.  Not to know about Him, or of Him.  But to do this one thing, the highest and best thing.  To walk with Christ and have Him open my eyes to Himself.  To break the Bread of Life with Him, and drink Living Water.  To be part of the Kingdom He rules.  To know the fellowship of His suffering, and the power of His resurrection.

My goal is also, with Christ’s direction, to find and nurture companions on this narrow road we walk with Christ.  As He called out the disciples, so He will call out who walks together here, and who contributes to this wonderful conversation.  This is all Christ, and all Scripture, and the Narrow Gate looks forward to 2011 as a year of powerful growth together in Him.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

THE NARROW GATE FOR 2011

 THE NARROW GATE FOR 2011
A. Brother

“He who speaks on his own
does so to gain honor for himself,
but he who works for the honor
of the One who sent him
is a man of truth;
there is nothing false about him.”
John 7:18

The Spirit of God is telling me that I must give out the truth in the coming year with a sense of urgency that exceeds any in the past.  There are times coming that will shake the very foundations of society as we know it.  There are times coming that will cause many who don’t cling to Christ alone to fall away.

Many men these days, and women, speak on their own behalf.  They work for their own honor.  They self-promote.  Self-increase.  Self-motivate.  Self-reveal.  Self-rejoice.  Self-indulge.  Self-improve.  Self-expand.

Yet the man or woman who speaks for God the Father, maker of heaven and earth, will not speak of himself or herself.  He or she will speak of Christ, the One and Only, sent by the Father to redeem mankind and govern a Kingdom that is not of this world.  This man or woman will work only for the honor of Christ.  He or she will promote Christ, and talk of Christ, and lift up Christ.  Reveal Christ, let Christ increase, let Christ expand.  This person will be concerned only that Christ is exalted.

Paul wrote the Philippian believers a letter toward the end of his life.  He was sitting in his own rented place under house arrest in Rome.  This man endured much suffering for Christ, and his life is an example for us of one who had nothing false about him.  He was concerned and interested only in Christ, and in working for the honor of the One who had sent him to preach the good news.

“I eagerly expect and hope that
I will in no way be ashamed,
but will have sufficient courage
so that now as always
Christ will be exalted in my body,
whether by life or by death.”
Phil. 1:20

Paul was Christ-focused.  He was intent upon gaining the Kingdom of God, regardless of what happened around him.  He was called to preach Christ, and to lift Him up, and he did that, through terrible afflictions, persecution, and opposition.  He risked all for Christ on a daily basis, as he valued Christ above all.

Are you and I filled with a sense of urgency?  Not an urgency to get that promotion, or to make more money, or to be thinner, or to get that new car.  Not an urgency to build our ministry, or to get in shape, or to lower our cholesterol.  Not an urgency to make new year’s resolutions, or to be more organized, or to spend more time reading.  But are we filled with the urgency to know Christ, to follow Christ, to die with Christ so that we can know the power of His resurrection?  Are we filled with the urgency to hear His voice and do His will?  Are we hungering and thirsting after Christ, as the thirsty deer pants for the stream of water?  Are we filled with a sense of urgency that time is short, that our life is but a breath, and that Christ is coming for us?  Are we urgently buying oil for our lamps, the oil of the Spirit, filling them to overflowing so we are ready for our Bridegroom when He knocks?

This is no call for perfection.  Only a call to urgent devotion.  Which of us by worrying, can add a single hour to his life?  So worrying produces only wrong fruit.  I’m not asking us to worry, but to work.

What is our work?  To exalt Christ, so long as we inhabit this body.  To promote Christ, and to lift Him up, so that all men will be drawn to Him.  Not to us, and not to our ministries, but to Christ.

In 2011, we must drop self-promotion and begin to talk of Christ, to love Christ, to devote ourselves to Christ, to spend time with Christ, and to exalt Christ by our lives, our words, our every move.  There is no other purpose God has for us.  The Father loves the Son, and we must also, if we are to be like Him. 

The man or woman of truth will do this.  I pray that when you come to this blog, you will experience Christ, and that Christ Himself, through His Spirit, will be exalted by my words.

We are brothers and sisters—those of us who know Christ—and we are on the same narrow road with Christ together.

“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ
not only to believe on Him,
but also to suffer for Him,
since you are going through the same struggle
you saw I had, and now hear that I have.”
Phil. 1:29,30

Oh, Family of God, drop all other seemingly important things to do the one thing that is truly, urgently important.  You and I will be called to suffer for Christ, and in ways we don’t anticipate.  We must be grounded firmly in Him, rooted and built up, established in our faith, full of thanksgiving.  We must have Christ in mind, in heart every moment.  We must not just seek to survive, but to thrive in Christ.

“Do not be afraid”, says the Lord Jesus Christ.  “I am with you always.  No weapon forged against you will prevail.  No situation will be beyond My strength in you.  No person or spiritual force will overcome you, so long as you remain in Me, and I remain in you.  But you must rest in Me, and rely on Me, and not on yourself or your own strength.  You must stop striving and working as if everything depended on you.  I will not fail you or forsake you.  Believe in Me, lift Me up, make Me your bread and your water, your life, your goal, your purpose.  My burden is light, My yoke is easy, when you discover who I really want to be for you.  My Father and I will make Our home with you today if you obey Me in this.”

Stop listening to those who waste your time with trivial pursuits.  Seek Christ and His Kingdom first in 2011.  We’ll do it together!


LIKE WINE LEFT ON ITS DREGS

LIKE WINE LEFT ON ITS DREGS
A. Brother
  
“Moab has been at rest from her youth, like wine left on its dregs,
not poured from one jar to another—
she has not gone into exile.
So she tastes as she did,
and her aroma is unchanged.”
--Jeremiah 48:11

            There is no way to change into the image of God in Christ without a complete disruption of our restful, static lives.
            Would we become a sweet aroma to God’s sense of smell?
            Then we must be poured out.  Like Paul was poured out, his life being given for the ekklesia, the called out to be together people of God, as a living sacrifice we are to be poured out, unsettled, turned upside down and inside out, in order to become the sweet smelling aroma of Christ to His Father.  As Jesus was poured out, His life given freely for us, so we must give our lives freely for one another, sacrificing our own plans and dreams and goals to God in exchange for His Kingdom.
           
“Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”
--Luke 17:33

            Jesus tells us plainly that we are not to seek a life of rest and relaxation, finding our fulfillment on this earth in anything we build here.  We are not of this world, we are of His Kingdom, and so cannot feel at home in this body, in this society, in this time and place, no matter how we are urged to do so.
            Jesus calls us to a pouring out.  A pouring out of our own expectations and desires, our own worldly pursuits and dreams. 
            Jesus also promises us new wine.  A pouring in of the Spirit of God, with Kingdom purposes for us that are higher and purer than we can imagine. 
            However, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is impossible for us to receive new wine without first being poured out, being emptied of our old wine, which is the self-focused life we have been taught.  Don’t think you’ll receive any of Christ’s fullness until you are willing to begin to let go of it—all the wrong thinking, the wrong expectations, and the unscriptural pursuits we constantly engage in.

“You still lack one thing.  Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow Me…
How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!
…What is impossible with men is possible with God.”
Luke 18:22,23,27

          In this modern age, we have thought to reinvent the gospel, and create some palatable and easy truth for people to follow as Christians.  We are wrong, and it has cost many the Kingdom.  If we would follow Jesus, we will do it on His terms, not ours.
            We have sought lives of rest and fulfillment in this world.  So we have little of Christ, and we are much as we were before we supposedly came to Christ--we smell worldly and we taste worldly to our Father.
            There is no compromise if we would enter the Kingdom of God.
            There is a pouring out required, and it is impossible for us to do it ourselves.  God must direct this pouring out, this emptying process.  We are simply the obedient, willing servants who allow it.  We must let go of our idols—our desires for money, security, status, position, leisure, worldly pleasure—and seek the Kingdom of God first.  There are no assurances we will ever be “healthy, wealthy, or wise” in the eyes of the world by following Jesus.
            God does not regard our protestations and defenses as anything but rebellion and disobedience. 
            He is God, and He designed us for this.  He didn’t design us for self-focus and a life of rich leisure on this earth.  He designed us for this process of becoming Christ, being filled to all the fullness of our Lord Jesus and emptied out of our own inadequate and foolish self-will.  It is through this process of dying to self, and living to Christ that we become the sweet aroma of love, faith, hope and all the other fruits of the Spirit growing and maturing in God’s Vineyard.
            Make no mistake.  God will have His Way in the end.
            If you do not choose willingly to be poured out for Christ, then you will experience a pouring out and a smashing that will be terrifying to you instead of comforting.

“’But days are coming,’ declares the Lord,
‘when I will send men who pour from jars,
And they will pour her out; they will empty her jars and smash her jugs.
Then Moab will be ashamed of Chemesh,
As the house of Israel was ashamed
When they trusted in Bethel.”
--Jeremiah 48:12,13

            Leave your idols behind—your Chemishes and Bethels—to follow Jesus, before He sends His discipline to save you from yourself!



Friday, December 24, 2010

END THE YEAR WITH A SPIRIT OF THANKSGIVING

End the Year with a Spirit of Thanksgiving

By Zac Poonen

In each of the 7 glimpses of heaven given in the book of Revelation, we see the inhabitants of heaven continuously praising God with a loud voice - sometimes as loud as thunders and as the noise of roaring rivers. This is the atmosphere of heaven - one of continual praise, without any complaints or demands. And this is the atmosphere that the Holy Spirit desires to bring into our hearts, our homes and our churches as well. It is thus that Satan will be driven away from all these places.

I read of a fiery brother (who lived in the last century) who used to frequently praise God with loud `Hallelujahs'. One day, one of the staid, dead Christians around him, who was irritated by this spirit of praise, asked him what the brother would do if God finally sent him to hell. To this the brother replied, "If I go to hell, I will keep on shouting `Hallelujah' and the praises of God there, until the Devil tells me to get out of Hell, lest I infect others in hell with the spirit of praise!!"   No, there is no place in Hell for those who have a spirit of praise! The ones who go to Hell are those who are full of complaints and demands against others. They were like that when they were on the earth and they carry that evil nature with them when they leave the earth too.

Satan has paralyzed the vast majority of Christians, and made them ineffective in spiritual warfare against him, because he has succeeded in getting them infected with the spirit of murmuring and complaining against their brothers and sisters, against their relatives and neighbors, against their circumstances, and even against God Himself.

We overcome Satan, when we obey the following exhortations:

 "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts
to which indeed you were called in ONE BODY;
and be thankful"
(Col.3:15)

"I urge that thanksgivings be made FOR ALL MEN"
(1 Tim.2:1)

"Always give thanks FOR ALL THINGS
in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ
to God, even the Father"
(Eph.5:20)

We are exhorted first of all to be thankful for all whom God has called into Christ's Body. If the choice had been left to us, we might not have called many of those whom God has called - especially those who belong to some other group than ours!!! But God's wisdom being higher than ours, even as the heavens are higher than the earth, He obviously had a different opinion about them than we have. And if we are wise, we will re-align our thinking in line with God's.

Once we have learned to be thankful for our brothers and sisters in Christ's Body, we can then learn to give thanks for all men and then for all our circumstances. We know that our Heavenly Father sovereignly controls all men and all circumstances. If we really believe this, we will certainly praise God at all times, and thus prove that our kingdom is of heaven and not of this world. Then Satan will lose his power over us. Only then will we be able to wage an effective warfare against him.

There is a wonderful word written in Revelation 12:8 that no place was found in heaven for Satan and his demons. This is how it must be in our lives too - in our hearts, in our homes, and in our churches. SATAN AND HIS HOSTS MUST FIND NO PLACE IN ANY OF THESE PLACES.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

STOP TRYING TO SATISFY GOD

NOTE:  This teaching is for now.  Though written many years ago, it applies to our modern Christian emphasis on “self-improvement” and “self-transformation”.  I pray that God will enlighten each of us today, and let us stop working, striving, fighting, in our own efforts to satisfy the Lord.  He is satisfied fully with Christ, and we are to live in Christ, and have His life in us, which then takes care of it.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free…” Gal. 5:1

A. Brother

STOP TRYING TO SATISFY GOD
T. Austin-Sparks

“When one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
Now the Lord is the Spirit;
and where the Spirit of the Lord is,
there is liberty.”
2 Corinthians 3:16,17

If we turn to the Lord, and are occupied with Him in the way we have indicated, the Holy Spirit sets us free.

It may be you are struggling, striving, fighting, wrestling, praying, pleading, longing, yearning, asking the Lord to set you free from condemnation, free from fear, from from those paralyzing bonds in which Israel was when the glory appeared.

Do you want to be free from fear, from dread, from terror, from condemnation? What are you doing to get free?

There is one simple, direct way, namely, to be occupied with the Lord, to turn to the Lord. Get Christ as God's satisfaction in your view, and cease trying to satisfy God yourself.

Faith in Christ is all God's requirement. How deeply true were His words, "Apart from me ye can do nothing". "Abide in me. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me".

That is only figurative language, which means, Be occupied with Him, set your mind on Him, dwell in Him, rest in Him, abide in Him; or, as Paul would say, Gaze on Him, behold Him, let Him be the object of your occupation, and the Spirit will make you free.

More than that, this beholding of Christ means that the Holy Spirit changes you into God's likeness: "Beholding... we are changed".

It is not said, Beholding, we begin to change ourselves, we embark upon self-transformation with all its struggle, and conflict, and battle.

We are changed by the Lord the Spirit. Be occupied with Christ, and the Spirit takes up the matter of transforming into His image.

Be occupied with yourself, and you will see that the law of conformity to type operates. If you are the type, then you will conform to that type. If Christ is the type, then the Holy Spirit will conform to His likeness.

Then this being occupied with Christ means that the Holy Spirit makes us sufficient as ministers of a new covenant. I do not think that ministry is such an onerous thing after all.

We need to came back to the simplicity, the spontaneity of ministry. Be occupied with Christ, and the Holy Spirit will show you more and more in Christ with which to be occupied, and as He makes that livingly real you will have something to give to others.

Your ministry may not be a platform ministry, but it will be ministry, something for others. Who wants more than that?

Oh, the snare of the platform idea that so often constitutes the whole conception of ministry, as though other people are not ministers at all. It is just as much your privilege to behold Christ as any man's in this universe, and, that being so, it is just as much your calling to minister what you see in Christ to others.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

THE TERRIBLE TRAGEDY OF SELFISH AMBITION

 THE TERRIBLE TRAGEDY OF SELFISH AMBITION
A. Brother

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,
but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”
Phil. 2:3

There is a selfish and ambitious spirit that has gripped the people of God in these times.  Many have become slaves to this spirit, instead of bond-slaves of Christ. 

We cover this attitude with a gloss that seems spiritual.  We paint ourselves as ambitious for Christ and His Kingdom, yet we are really just serving ourselves and the goals and dreams we have.

The Christ-life has nearly been forgotten among many in the churches.  That is because we don’t teach the gospel of the Scriptures.  We have learned an easy, self-focused plan for our salvation that doesn’t involve messy sacrifice, public humbling, giving up worldly ambitions and goals, generous sharing of all we have, daily love for others, and a narrow, hard road with Christ upon which we will give all we ever wanted for the sake of knowing Him.

I have said it before in these teachings, and I’ll state it again forcefully, as the Holy Spirit is saying it so loudly in my ear that I can’t hear anything else.

There is a universe of difference between the selfish, ambitious, affluent Christianity taught and modeled in many of our churches today and the actual life of Jesus Christ and His disciples taught us and modeled for us in Scripture.  We must address this disconnect, this chasm in our thinking and in our living, or we will perish along with the world.

That’s right, perish.  Get it right, or die without Christ.

Paul and other New Testament writers lived lives that bear no resemblance to the cushioned, comfortable, busy-with-being-prominent, planned-for-success, heavily-marketed, designed-to-sell lives of our “Christian” leaders today.  And with many others who seek to emulate them in the churches.  We have compromised with the world, and are leading one another down the broad road to hell.

Christ demands, and has always demanded, complete, 100% discipleship.  All other versions of the Christ-life are lies of men.  We must give up all to follow Him, He made that clear, and gave us many examples from His own ministry among us, as well as the apostles and early disciples.

The ambitions we have will mean nothing to Christ.  His only ambition for us is that we know Him, in fullness and power, in love and purity, and that we live only for Him and His Kingdom in this world.  That we be set apart for Him, and useful to Him in the Body of Christ.  That we know the love of God, and live that love daily.  That we live quiet and godly lives in Christ, and that He be Lord of our lives every moment.  That we become His righteousness, His face and hands and feet, His heart, His mind to the world.

There is no other Way.  This was the Way which Paul persecuted until Christ stopped his personal ambitions on the way to Damascus.  This Way was maligned and persecuted all over the known ancient world, and has been ever since.  It is this Way we are called to follow.  It is Christ alone we make our ambition and our goal.

You can dress up your ambition for great ministry and wonderful achievement among Christians any way you want.  Christ sees through every disguise.  He is not fooled.  Who do you think you’re dealing with—a man?  You are laid bare, every thought, every motive, before the One you’ll meet face to face soon.  He will not accept your feeble explanations and sales pitches about why you felt good about pursuing whatever dream you chose.  He will either know you, or He won’t.  You may ‘minister’ to thousands and have lofty status within Christian circles.  You may see great success in such ways.  Yet you may not have Christ with you, except in Name.

We must learn this humility and self-denial which our Lord Jesus exampled for us. 

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss
for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything
a loss compared to the surpassing greatness
of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,
for whose sake I have lost all things.”
Phil. 3:7,8

You say Paul was an extreme example.  (This is how we treat the Scriptures today—many explain away these things.)  Then why does Paul, speaking from the Holy Spirit, say we are to live the way he lived?

“Join with others in following my example, brothers,
and take note of those who live according to
the pattern we gave you.”
Phil. 3:17

Very clearly stated.  No room for squirming out of it.  We are to live by the example of these men and women of God, who lived by faith and gave up their worldly ambitions for the sake of Christ.  (See Hebrews 11 for some reminders of whose lives we emulate.)

How sad that we have chosen to ignore much of the true Christ-life for our own version of Christianity.  Yet it had started, even back then when Paul was writing from prison.  Many were being led astray by false versions of “Christianity” as he suffered for Christ.  They weren’t suffering, they were prosperous, and they were teaching false gospels, as many are today.

“For everyone looks out for his own interests,
not those of Christ Jesus.”
Phil. 2:21

Paul was experiencing the loneliness and abandonment that comes when busy “Christians” run off to do their own things.  Those men who left him there to suffer alone had important things to do, ambitions to fulfill, places to go, people to see.  They were the ones Paul is referring to here, that were so busy chasing their own dreams they weren’t available for Christ’s humble and insignificant work.

Who will you emulate?  The busy workers, their good lives full to the brim with things to do for the churches, for Christianity, for their ambitious goals and dreams?

Or Christ and His followers?

I pray we will all make the choice to be with Christ, on the narrow road, the road that fewer will find, but the only road upon which we may be His companions.

LATEST NEWS

A. BROTHER'S FIRST BOOK RELEASED. "EVEN THE DEVILS HAVE RELIGION". 100 Collected Prophetic Words from A. Brother.

For the first time, A. Brother's messages are being compiled in a series of books.  These will be released periodically over the coming ...