Monday, May 31, 2010

FROM WANDERERS TO WARRIORS

FROM WANDERERS TO WARRIORS
A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing

 “The idols speak deceit, diviners see visions that lie; they tell dreams that are false,  they give comfort in vain.
Therefore the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd.
My anger burns against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders;
For the Lord Almighty will care for His flock, the house of Judah, and make them like a proud horse in battle.
From Judah will come the cornerstone,
from Him the tent peg,
from Him the battle bow,
from Him every ruler.
Together they will be like mighty men trampling the muddy streets in battle.
Because the Lord is with them, they will fight and overthrow the horsemen.”
--Zechariah 10:2-5

          The Lord’s people wander like sheep over the hills, unsure of anything, trying to appear as if they are well-fed and healthy.  Their idols, those whom they hold up as their examples, speak about worldly things, lead the sheep down paths that go nowhere, and put them out in pastures that have no grass or water.  The dreamers and prophets spin out dreams and visions for the people of God that have no substance, and there is no comfort or cure for what ails the flock.  The sheep are grouping for protection, and find none.  Even while the enemy circles, riding powerful and swift horses, the weak and young and sick and lame of the flock are being grabbed and taken away to slaughter, while the shepherds continue to try and calm the flock with pretty words and promises, with worship and praise, with books and meetings and buildings and appearances.  The flock is milling about in confusion, and many are beginning to wander out over the hills to be lost forever.

            But the Lord Almighty, God Himself, has set the Cornerstone—Christ Jesus--in place.  While the shepherds please themselves, taking the choice wool, eating off the fattest sheep, lying on beds of soft comfort, they ignore the commands of the Chief Shepherd, the Cornerstone of the House of Judah, and so there is no battle, there is no defense, and the flock is decimated.

            The Father and the Son are preparing tent pegs and battle bows and rulers—new shepherds to lead the flock—equipping battle-hardened men who will speak to the sheep in the voice of their Shepherd, the Lord Jesus, and the true sheep of God’s flock will recognize their voices, as they recognize Jesus’ voice.  These men of God will come together, and bring the flock together, and will not act alone.  These new shepherds will bring the flock together, and prepare them for war.  This new flock, headed by the One Shepherd, will ignore the old flock’s idols, dreamers and false prophets, and listen only to the voice of Jesus, the Word of God, and His Spirit.  They will forsake man-made religion and follow Christ alone, and be His Body, learning to obey every Word of His mouth.

            This Body for Christ will together become mighty men.  They will fight in the streets, on foot, without the world’s fancy armor or technological weapons.  The enemy on horseback, the wolves that circle and grab, will be overthrown by these warriors without worldly means.  There will be no mercy for the self-absorbed shepherds.  They will either kneel to the One Shepherd, or will be tossed from their luxury accommodations and wander over the hills without protection, as they left the weak and sick of God’s flock to fend for themselves.  They will experience the discipline of God, and through it some will come back to rejoin the flock in humility and pure love for God and His people.  Some will never come back, as they will find comfortable position in the enemy ranks.

            Jesus, the loving Shepherd of His flock, the Cornerstone of the House of Judah, will go after His lost and straying sheep through these mighty men of valor who will feed His sheep the truth, and God will strengthen them all together.  They will find their Way, and become an obedient flock, helping one another, giving to one another, living in love like their Shepherd commands.

            There will be redemption from sin, and complete restoration for the sheep of the flock.  Jacob, whose name means “struggles with men”, will become Israel, which means “struggles with God”.  These struggles will lead them back to Gilead, the land where God fulfilled His promises to Abraham through Jacob, who became Israel.  These people who come back will have persevered through deep trial and trouble.

          “I will restore them because I have compassion on them.  They will be as though I had not rejected them, for I am the Lord their God and I will answer them…Surely I will redeem them…I will bring them back from Egypt and gather them from Assyria.  I will bring them to Gilead…”  --Zech. 10:6-10

            This flock will be brought together, and will seek the Lord together after going through many hardships.  The sins that overpowered them will be thrown away, and the new life of Christ, including His cross and His daily dying to self, will be put on. 

          “They will pass through the sea of trouble; the surging sea will be subdued and all the depths of the Nile will dry up, Assyria’s pride will be brought down and Egypt’s scepter will pass away.”  --Zech. 10:11

            The flock who comes together to obey will leave the things of Assyria and Egypt behind.  They will be set apart for the Lord God alone, not relying on pagan and worldly means or methods of proclaiming the Kingdom of God.  They will rely only on the strength of the Lord, and will become mighty men as their Older Brother, the Firstborn among many brethren, the Lord Jesus, was the Mighty Man.

            These mighty men will teach in love, live in the love of Christ, and be willing to give up everything to be His.  They will be foot soldiers, not relying on man-made traditions or institutions for provision.  The flock will share provision, and the flock will feed one another, and provide shelter and care for one another.  They will obey their Shepherd, knowing that His sheep give water to the thirsty and food to the hungry, clothe the naked, share their homes with the alien and stranger, find jobs for the jobless, care for the sick, and comfort for those in prison.  

            This One Flock will confess their sins to one another and pray for one another.  The shepherds will rely on their One Shepherd to feed them, and clothe them, and to provide them their living.  There will be no petty laws, such as tithing and Sabbath days, because the flock will live by the Spirit, and give abundantly to one another out of God’s daily provision, and serve the Flock every day, which is true worship, with no motivation but the approval of their beloved Shepherd.

            “I will strengthen them in the Lord and in His Name they will walk…”
                                                                                                                 --Zech. 10:12

          This Flock will by strengthened, not by celebration and feasting, not by comfort and affluence, not by endless books and music, not by fine buildings, soft pews and smooth sermons, but by faith working through love in the muddy streets of their towns, cities and villages. 

            This Flock will be strengthened through many trials, and the Spirit of God will be evident in the Vineyard of the Lord by the clusters of fruit hanging from the vines.  The strength of the sheep will be in the Lord, and they will walk like Jesus did, in obedience to their Shepherd. 

            They will be slaughtered, but not by the wolves and the mounted horsemen.  They will be killed as Jesus predicted, by those who think they are doing God a service.  They will be persecuted by the religious, and hounded by the zealous for man-made tradition.  They will be ridiculed by those who claim Christ, but who prophesy lies in His Name. 

            Not one hair on their heads will be harmed, though they lose their earthly lives, because they will live eternally with their Beloved Shepherd.  Woe to the ones who cause these little ones to stumble, for their angels see the face of God on their behalf every day in Heaven.  May God have mercy on those who oppose the One Flock, which though taking no vengeance for itself, has its Protector, whose power will save them.  He will avenge, and it is a fearful thing to fall into His hands.

            Heed the Word of God through Zechariah, who long ago predicted that these things would take place as we see them now. 

Sunday, May 30, 2010

EKKLESIA? OR JUST "CHURCH"? Part Four of Four.

EKKLESIA—Part Four.
A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing


          Specific instances of our need to ‘play church’ instead of being the “called out people of God that gather together”:

1.      In regard to places of worship, and our need to build cathedrals and sanctuaries, Jesus replied clearly to the Samaritan woman’s concern about where she should worship: 

          “Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…a time is coming when and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.  God is Spirit, and His worshippers must worship in spirit and truth.”                                                                 --John 4:21-24

            So how impressed is God with our cathedrals and temples and sanctuaries?      Not the slightest bit.  We build them for ourselves, not for Him.  He is to be worshipped in Spirit, and by our obedience to the truth.  That is true worship, not gathering together with pomp and ceremony, with flags flying and music blaring, in our temples built by human hands.  This mountain, this Jerusalem, with its temples and synagogues, is not the new pattern Christ brought to us.  That’s why the New Testament believers didn’t build them.
          Why should God be impressed with disobedience?

2.      In our churches we honor the most attractive, the most talented, and the most impressive among us.  We give special consideration to these, with the encouragement to strive to these positions of honor, that allow them to have much influence over others.  Yet this flies in the face of biblical teaching.  It is in direct disobedience to the Word.

          “But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”       --1 Cor. 12:22-26

            These and other passages detail how the Body of Christ honors those who are weakest, and seem the most to be hidden from the world.  But we in the churches most often ignore the sufferers, hoping their suffering won’t interfere with the daily routines of the church, and certainly won’t change our carefully planned curriculums or calendars to address the specific needs of specific members.  That would involve work, and change, and adjustment, and these religious systems and programs we set up just won’t accommodate that.  We certainly won’t stop what we’re doing and let the Spirit work.  That would cause the same kind of disruption.

3.      And our leaders, where are they?  Are they in the trenches, digging the dirt, working day and night to encourage and strengthen the weakest and neediest among us?  Are they sharing their very lives with the brethren daily?

          “Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you…”We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.”                         --1 Thess. 2:9,8

            Is this the example being set for us by our pastors and teachers and elders in the traditional churches?  The 24/7 care of a mother or father for their children?  The toil and hardship that Paul and the other apostles exampled?  Do our leaders wash the feet of the disciples as Jesus did?  Or do we prepare our sermons in nice, comfortable offices, replete with electronics, and a large library of suitable proportion to our church’s size and sophistication?  Do we meet with this committee and that committee, and the Deacons, and lead this or that carefully prepared Bible Study?  Are our leaders going out among us constantly, in our homes, our offices, meeting with us to encourage us in the Lord, and to build our faith?  Are they working night and day to make sure Christ is being formed in us?
            Do we not get the difference here between our “church” life and what is shown us as God’s will in Scripture?
          If this is what we’re doing, then we’re not following Jesus’ words or example.
Jesus is our Leader, and He set the tone by washing the disciples’ feet.  He taught us to lead by being servants, and not taking the seats of honor, but giving them to the least of our brothers.

          “…the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves…But I am among you as one who serves.”     --Luke 22:26,27

            If Jesus can spend His time serving His disciples, as He does for us now, acting as our advocate with the Father on our behalf, praying for us, and covering us with His blood He shed over our sins, then why can’t we do the same for our brethren?  The answer is: We must.  This is a prerequisite for true leaders in the Kingdom of God.  All others are imposters.
          And we must be very careful not to listen to or follow men who don’t lead by this example.  In this modern day, we have a large majority who have departed from Jesus’ Way, and come up with their own ways of leading the churches.  They have established themselves over flocks without the true authority of Jesus, which is absolute and total loving servitude.  They have been designated leaders by the hand of man, not the gifting and calling of God.  They may collect salaries, and be recognized by men, but do not lead anyone toward the vital, biblical life in the Kingdom.
          And of course some are self-appointed.  Starting and managing large ministries, they have branded themselves as leaders of the sheep.  However, marketing does not make it so.  Much of this is worldly, masquerading as Christ’s leadership.

          In this short teaching, I’ve set out a few examples of how we set aside the commands of God for the traditions of men.  There are many more—enough to fill a set of large volumes.  But what do we expect from hundreds of years of tradition upon tradition being built from a structure God never wanted to let us have, instead of the wonderful Body He gave us?

          Listen and heed the Words of Jesus on this subject:

“Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
‘These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.  They worship Me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’  You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.“                                                                             --Mark 7:6-8

            Are we practicing hypocrites, or are we the living, breathing Holy-Spirit led EKKLESIA of God?  I pray you’ll seek the Lord’s face today with all your heart, and join those who follow Jesus and give everything for Him.

 

          

EKKLESIA? OR JUST "CHURCH"? Part Three.

EKKLESIA—Part Three.
A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing

          I am not a biblical scholar.  I have spent a lifetime reading and studying the Scriptures, and until recently, it made very little difference in my life.  I had grown up doing church, and lived most of my adult life doing church, so I am familiar with everything in our “Christian subculture”.  I’m here to declare that one can spend a lifetime in the church, but not know the power of God in his life.  I was truly an “evangelical of evangelicals”, by birth, by lineage, and by profession.  Yet I became lost, a man burdened with sins and anxieties, in constant pain; unable to find solace from his brothers, or help within the institutions we call churches.  I became completely disillusioned by the gap between what I read in Scripture—this rich life Christ promised us and the early ekklesia I saw there—and our current church life.
          God called me back, and reached out with His love to me. 
          And when the Holy Spirit reaches out and fills us, when God calls us back to Himself, when we become true disciples of Jesus, we are entering a whole new world—the Promised Land of spiritual plenty that God has meant us to inhabit.  One who experiences the life changing entrance through the Narrow Door—Jesus our Lord—and truly agrees to embark on that journey known as complete and total discipleship—will be left almost entirely on his own by the traditional churches who operate by creed, curriculum and calendar.
          Creed never saved anyone.  Curriculum never radically changed anyone.  And the calendar, with its clocks and timetables, never allowed the Holy Spirit leeway to do His work, and still doesn’t.

          Jesus calls His followers to a radically different life.  We become new creatures, and that means we must wear entirely new clothing, and we will live by His calendar, His clock, and His Spirit’s curriculums and creeds.  We no longer live by the “weak and miserable principles” (Gal. 4:9) of this world.  As believers, we often, like the Galations, long for the comfortable, familiar paths, and so we gravitate back to doing things our way in the churches, instead of God’s Way.
          Paul reproved the Galations strongly for their move back into the religious world.  For taking back upon themselves yokes of regulations and rituals that God had broken off them through Christ.  Yet isn’t that what we do every day in the churches?  We long for structure.  Unregenerated man is fearful of change, fearful of spontaneity, fearful of letting the wind of the Spirit of God take His people where He wants them to go.  So we gravitate to the creation of our own structures.

          “The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
                                                                                                    --John 3:8

          As Jesus added when talking to Nicodemus that day:

          “You are Israel’s teacher…and you do not understand these things?”
                                                                                                     –John 3:10

          Our pastoral offices and pulpits are filled with many who do not understand these things.  They have chosen a secure vocation, and certainly don’t want their parishioners floating around on the wind of the Holy Spirit wherever and whenever God pleases.  They wouldn’t be available to fill all the slots that are needed to keep the church programs going.  Religious leaders today are like Nicodemus and the rest of the teachers of Israel in that day—instead of coming to God and His Spirit and His Word to find out what God wants to do, they are dedicated to perpetuating the system with which they are comfortable.
          Jesus Christ wants to transform people and let the creative, transforming wind of the His Spirit fill their sails.  He wants to free them from religion, and dead conformity to man-made rules and regulations, not enslave them to another religious system.  Yet we are prone to want these religious systems, even if God has told us they are not good for us.
          Like the people of Israel in its early days, we don’t like having Jesus as our only Head in the Body of Christ.  We want kings and princes who live in palaces to rule over us, as the other nations have.  Instead of wanting rule by Christ and His Spirit alone, moving and working in His Body as He wills, we demand a King, and a bureaucratic structure, and a visible place of worship, like a comfortable cathedral, in which to practice our religious rituals.  As God let Israel have its King, though He told them it wasn’t what He wanted for them, so God lets us have our denominations and our church institutions by the hundreds, and the trouble and the compromise and the watered-down version of Christianity they bring. (1 Samuel 8:6-21)
          But make no mistake, God still requires the same level of discipleship and obedience He always required.  If we let ourselves be drawn astray from the Word of God by our religious institutions, we are still accountable.




EKKLESIA? OR JUST "CHURCH"? Part Two.

EKKLESIA—Part Two.
A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing

          Those of us who’ve grown up in the “church” must be the first to question what we’ve been taught and test it in the Light of God’s Word for ourselves, no longer accepting the word of those shepherds who exist at the beck and call of those who pay their salaries.  Not listening to those whose entire secure livelihoods and career paths depend upon preaching and teaching things that will be acceptable to the religious majority. 
          We in the church organizations, the church denominations, are prone to accept things as routine and normal that are at best man-made and ineffective, and at worst apostate.
          Tragically, and not unexpectedly, our current versions of “church” are built mostly upon the traditions of men.

          Many of us, if we’re honest, will admit we’ve never seen one person come to Christ in our church services.  We’ve seen Christians drift from church to church, and group to group, and so the mega-churches drained all the small churches to form their memberships.  Like the marketplace economy in the 20th century, with our villages being desiccated by the movement of people living in rural areas with small populations to the large metro areas of the nation, so our small churches have disappeared, melded into the mega.
          Have some people come to Christ? 
          Yes, but what have they been brought to?
         
          Are we teaching these same unbiblical practices to our children, so they can grow up and perpetuate a man-made traditional institutional system that has no resemblance to historic, biblical ekklesia?   Or so they can grow up and reject this institutional, lifeless version of churchianity, and cause us to wring our hands, wondering why they’ve “gone away” from the Lord?
          Shouldn’t we make certain every day that we are listening to the truth of God in His Word, and practicing it?  Shouldn’t we be measuring our gatherings and our life with other believers in the bright light of God’s revealed Word?  Shouldn’t we have a healthy fear that we will create ways of doing things in the churches that run counter to Scripture, as man has been prone to do throughout his checkered history?
          Shouldn’t we become mighty protectors of the Way, given us by Jesus, the Word made flesh, instead of fierce defenders of our man-made systems and organizations?

          For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea…They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.  Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.
            Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.”                                                                    --1 Cor. 10:1-5

            You may not understand at first glance how this Scripture applies.  But sadly, many of us have come out of Egypt--in other words, we’ve been called out of this world, to go into the Promised Land, which is the Kingdom of God--yet we will be scattered over the desert, not able to enter the Kingdom of God because of our disobedience to the Word of God.
          This warning from Paul was given to believers in Christ.  Not pagans.  So as believers, we must take care not to give ourselves to things that don’t please God.  All these Jews had come out of Egypt together, and they had gone through the Sinai desert together, drinking the water and food God miraculously provided, following the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.  They had all passed through the Red Sea unscathed together, and had seen the power and might of God.  In other words, they had started out right. 
          Yet they didn’t all make it into the Promised Land.  An entire generation was kept out of the Kingdom by sin, and by “setting their hearts on evil things.”

            Brothers, doesn’t this concern you enough to make you fall to your knees today, seeking the Lord from His Word, and from His Spirit, to show you how we should be living as the people of God?

          It should, because one of the chief ways we displease God is by direct disobedience to His commands, in favor of obeying our own traditions.
          So we find ourselves face to face with the fact that many who follow our modern, easy church traditions will never see the Kingdom of God.  We will be kept out of the Promised Land by our adherence to weak and ineffectual man-made ideas instead of God’s wonderful provision for us in Scripture.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

ARE WE THE EKKLESIA? OR JUST CHURCHES?

EKKLESIA—Part One
A. Brother
©2009 Narrowgate Publishing



          The Greek word ekklesia is used over 100 times in the New Testament to describe what happens when God’s chosen and called out people gather together wherever they are.  This word has been translated “church” in our Bibles.  We need to see that this translation has become completely inadequate for describing what should happen when those who love God gather together.
          One of satan’s greatest and most important tasks on his daily agenda is to keep true followers of Christ apart.  He is dedicated to separating those who love God from each other in any way he can.  The enemy of our souls knows that when Christ’s men and women become filled with the Holy Spirit, and begin coming together not just to worship for an hour on Sunday, but gathering in earnest, in constant prayer, confessing their sins to one another, sharing with each other their earthly incomes and possessions, giving love with open hearts and hands, and in general being like Jesus—and so becoming His Body on earth—then he has lost a huge battle in his war on God.
          Does any of this sound like the definition of “church” the way you’ve known it?  Perhaps that’s why our “churches” in this day and age have been allowed to grow vastly in numbers without opposition by the enemy.  Our mega-church society, with its watered down version of “churchianity” has not been difficult to create or maintain. 
          We need to think about this.  Why would Jesus tell us that we will be few, and persecuted, and suffer all kinds of opposition from the world, if it weren’t true? 
          If we are flourishing in a godless society, and experiencing a virtually unchecked ability to publish our books, and make our music, and build our great buildings, and preach our great sermons in our beautifully designed sanctuaries, and organize hundreds more “Christian” organizations and institutions every year, ad infinitum, then shouldn’t we question what we’re doing and test ourselves to see if we’re really practicing in any way the gospel we’ve been given in the Word of God?
          Why would Satan and his minions, and a world that is plunging headlong into every conceivable depravity, not give us a hard time about all these things we’re doing?  Should not this be cause for falling on our knees and asking God why?
          And why, if the large group, numbering in the millions, of evangelical believers in the western countries, are practicing, true, unadulterated Biblical discipleship to Christ, is our society-at-large descending into sinful degradation?  Where is the salt and light described by Jesus as accompanying His true followers?  If we are being these things to the world around us, then why are our neighbors and business associates going to hell just as much today as yesterday? 
          The ancient world of Rome and other nations was turned upside down by a handful of people filled with the Holy Spirit.  When millions who claim Christ in these United States cannot make a ripple in the pond of evil, then something is very definitely wrong.
          It’s time we gained the biblical perspective on what it means to be the ekklesia of God.  This perspective was held by the small, insignificant group of believers who turned the world upside down, rocked empires, and with only the weapons of spiritual warfare spread the gospel far and wide over the earth.  Their blood, shed for the Christ they loved, cries out to us as the blood of Jesus does, as an example of what it means to “lay down our lives” for the truth.  Shouldn’t we listen to this cry?

(PART ONE OF FOUR INSTALLMENTS)

PASSIVE PARALYSIS OR DELIBERATE FAITH

FROM THE WRITINGS OF T. AUSTIN SPARKS
OPEN WINDOWS

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23).

Faith is going to determine which of two things is going to characterise us. This is the real point. It is either going to be that we are living under a terrible paralysis, as altogether petrified through confusion, perplexity, inability to understand, being unable to disentangle, to sort things out, to see straight and see clearly, to know what is meant by happenings. 

That means utter paralysis, simply standing with our hands on our hips, helpless and hopeless. That is the effect of the absence of a positive faith. 

The only way of life and deliverance from such a paralysis is a deliberate faith in God which causes us to take the attitude that we are going on with God, understanding or not understanding, explaining or not explaining, having light or having no light; we are going right on with God on the basis of what God has done in us, made real in us, of what God Himself is to us by what He has effected in us. We are going on!

We, beloved, shall come there and may come there more than once in the course of our life; we shall come to the place where we realise we are going right out into outer darkness and despair and paralysis, to be ruled completely out of any effectiveness, fruitfulness, or value whatever, unless we pull ourselves together and say to ourselves, 'The whole thing is an inexplicable, bewildering confusion, tangle from our standpoint or the standpoint of man; but God is, God is faithful. That is what He Himself says He is'. 

Thus without questioning God we go on believing God. We have even to believe God to the point of putting over on to Him the responsibility for failures, for mistakes, in so far as we have really and honestly put our lives at His disposal and have become utter for God and are free from personal interests and worldly interests and are here only for God. 

We have to make over to the Lord's account things which may have been mistakes or failures, and trust Him with these and go on.

Friday, May 28, 2010

STRENGTH COMES THROUGH DEATH

STRENGTH COMES THROUGH DEATH
A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing


“Thus he killed many more when he died than when he lived.”
--Judges 16:30

            Our strength as men and women in Christ comes after death.  We haven’t begun to learn the secrets of true strength until we being the process of dying to ourselves, and our sins. (See Romans 6, and Galations 5) 
          In Sampson’s case, though called by God to lead Israel, he gave away his strength to women, and to pleasure, and wasted most of the precious time God had given him.  His story is a lot like some of ours, Christian brothers—a story dominated by thoughtless and selfish living.  Though called to great purposes by our God, we give ourselves to worldly passions and lowly goals. 
          It is by dying to ourselves that we live unto God. 
          Often, like Samson, the only way we begin to understand the Lord’s Way is when our strength is gone, and our eyes are gouged out.  Read the entire account of Sampson’s life.  He wasted much, but in the end, when he repented and gave himself wholly to God, he was used for a final, glorious purpose, and his life was given to save his own people, God’s people.
          It is never too late for those called by the Lord to fulfill their calling.
          But this calling is not of our own choosing.  Christ Himself is our Lord, and He will choose it.  He is all, and we must die to our own plans and schemes, for they come to nothing in the end.  Like Sampson, we come up with all kinds of clever, passionate ideas for delivering God’s people—he led a life of upheaval and violence, with compromise his constant companion—yet, in the end, the lesson of his strange and short life was his death.  It was by giving up his own life that he delivered God’s people.
           
         
         

Thursday, May 27, 2010

IT'S NOT WHAT YOU KNOW

IT’S NOT WHAT YOU KNOW
A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing


            “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony of God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
            I came to you in weakness and fear, with much trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”
                                                                                              --1 Cor. 2:1-5

            All my life I’ve been addicted to knowledge.  Since I was a child, knowing things was important to me.  Having information, gathering information, reading, studying, collecting data, finding out about things.  It was the way I was raised.
          And our world has gone this direction in the last couple of centuries.  Science and literature, the arts, education.  These are the holy grails of modern life.  If we can only know more, we can figure life out, and get things straightened out, and the world will be a better place.  If human beings can learn and grow in their minds, getting new information about their bodies, their minds, their world, then they will become better.  It is ignorance that has made the world the mess it is today.
          This simple, seemingly wise approach to viewing the world and its messes is actually the foolishness of man trying by his own efforts to ignore God and center the universe around himself.
          You see, worldly knowledge sits on a platform.  And that platform is the letter “I”.  It’s my knowledge that counts.  If “I” can only learn more, then “I” will change into the person “I” want to be.  If “I” can get others to learn more, or understand the facts, then “I” will get them to become better people.  If “I” know more, then “I” will rise above my peers, and “I” will move ahead in the world.  If “I” can learn this or that then “I” will make more money, or be smarter and wiser than others, or “I” will earn this or that designation or degree, or “I” will feel better about myself.
          What was the first temptation to enter the world?
          You remember Eve’s encounter with Satan, the serpent? 
          Did Satan tempt Eve with money or fame or possessions?
          No.  He talked to her about knowledge. 
          The serpent wooed Eve with the thought that she and her husband Adam could be like God, knowing the secrets of the universe, of life, of good and evil.  He convinced them that the forbidden fruit of the tree in the center of their beautiful garden was actually the Holy Grail.  That God didn’t have their best interests at heart, but that He was jealously guarding His own store of knowledge, which, if unlocked, could make man equal to God.
          It was this fruit she saw, that was “desirable for gaining wisdom” (Gen. 3:6), that she wanted and she ate, and Adam gladly ate with her.
          They wanted to be rid of their need for God.
          They wanted to be like God, knowing everything.
          You’ve heard the phrase all your life—“knowledge is power”.
          Now you know where this phrase comes from.  Satan wants us to believe this lie, as he worked on the first man and woman to believe it.
         
          But that’s not how we learned Christ.
          We should rather follow another phrase, not as the world means it, but giving it God’s meaning:  “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. 
          To know Christ is to know His love, His wisdom, His righteousness, holiness and His redemption.  God chooses to reveal His Son in us, not because we’ve memorized the Bible, or gone to numerous Bible studies, or sat under great preaching and teaching.  He chooses us because, as He created Adam and Eve to love Him and become close to Him, He has chosen us for the same purpose. 
          Our own need to be top dog, to be the smart one, to be like God in wisdom and knowledge and power—that’s our failing, and our original sin.  When we spend our lives thirsting and hungering for knowledge, we are really trying to fix ourselves, instead of letting God fix us.  We don’t want His help.  We want to assert our little brains and figure it out, and boast about that.

          “Therefore it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”
                                                                                              --1 Cor. 1:31

          It is God’s wisdom and power that count.  That’s why Paul, the highly educated, super-smart apostle, would say what he said to the Corinthian believers in this letter.  That all his education, and all his learning, profited him nothing.  That it was all about Christ, and His power, and His love, and knowing Him.  That the knowing we are to seek is the deep knowing of God at the heart level.  That God wants us to have knowledge, but the knowledge God is prepared to bestow on us is the deepest knowledge of all.  The knowing of God Himself, and friendship with Him.
          Head knowledge—whether about science, or business, or medicine, or society, or music, or art—is of limited importance.  That knowledge is just discovery of what God has already created, or man has created in his desire to be like God.
          Heart knowledge of God is the great secret that God has never kept from mankind.  Starting with Adam and Eve, He has wanted us to have this knowledge, that unlocks all the other secrets of knowledge in the universe.
          When we come to KNOW Christ, He “becomes for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”  --1 Cor. 1:30
            And, in knowing Him, as Lord, Master, Savior, Brother, Friend, we become like Him, and thus we show the wisdom of God, in all its foolishness, to the world.

          All this, because it runs counter to the world, also runs counter to most of organized ‘Christian’ religion today.  We’ve gotten so much of our current religious subculture from the world that among our holy grails is the search for knowledge about God.  Notice I said, ‘about God’.  We have succumbed to Satan’s temptation, and produce vast quantities of tools and aids to know about God and His Word.
          Unfortunately, this is an exercise in futility, testified to by the amazing lack of power from God in our churches today.  As I experienced in my life, the pursuit of knowledge, in the form of knowing more about what the Bible says, and having more knowledge of what’s going on in the world so we can ‘defend our faith’, and knowing more science so we can effectively debate atheistic science, and reading more books so we can get other men’s opinions to bolster our own and strengthen our faith—all this pursuit—is a waste of time.
          Instead, brothers, we should be knowing Christ.  Knowing Him, as in living with Him, having Him live in us, being devoted to His Kingdom first.  This is the only knowledge that counts.  It is the knowledge that brings His power into our lives, and then we boast only of Him, and His life in us.  He becomes all to us, and we no longer need to strive to build up the “I”.  He fulfills us, fills us with His knowledge and wisdom, and we understand all things, because we are spiritual men and women.

          “The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment:  ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?’, but we have the mind of Christ.”
                                                                                                1 Cor. 2:15,16

            So, knowing Christ in experience, not in head knowledge, is accompanied by wisdom and truth, and this is God’s wisdom and truth that begins to pervade and captivate our minds and hearts, and we become men and women of the Spirit.  The Spirit shows us all things, and anoints us with God’s wisdom and power.  We are then not subject to the worldly wisdom and knowledge around us, nor swayed by it.  We start and continue in knowing the mind of Christ, and we fill up more and more with His thoughts, His understandings, His love, His great and deep spiritual Way.
          This knowledge puts us at odds not only with the ‘holy grail knowledge pursuit’ of the world, but also of the churches.
          Our modern churches who claim Christ have held up ‘higher learning’ as something that is accompanied by a piece of paper from an accredited institution that verifies a man or woman has pursued certain courses of intellectual study and successfully completed them, even in spiritual matters.
          Yet this should really be termed ‘lower learning’.  It is just knowledge of facts, and their supposed relevance, and proves one can study, memorize, and take tests.

          Let me give a practical example. 
          Your plane has crashed in the mountains in the dead of winter in a remote area.  The survivors must stay alive in the worst conditions until help arrives.  Your flight had a large group of PHD’s, all experts in many fields, including botany, geology, physics, engineering, and assorted other sciences, and these are all alive and ready to help.  Sitting on a log nearby is a gnarled little old man, and he has nothing other than 50 years of experience surviving in the wilderness, having pioneered in a rough, unsettled land, and lived and gotten along in the worst conditions nature could throw at him.  No degrees, no book learning.  No recognition in the eyes of the world. 
          Who would you choose to follow in your quest for survival?
          Today, choose to follow Jesus, and work with those who know Him, and know His wisdom, the wisdom that He’ll give you to survive and thrive by faith—in the worst of conditions, in the storms of life, in this world of terror and instability.
          Choose knowledge—of Christ.  Because it’s not what you know, it’s Who you know!
           

Featured Post

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 ...