Sunday, June 27, 2010

NARROW GATE ACCESS DEMANDS

NARROW GATE ACCESS DEMANDS
A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing


“Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed;
a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Luke 12:15

            Oh, brothers, when Jesus delivers a warning, He means it.  One of our chief downfalls among God’s people is greed, and here, Jesus gives us clear warning about this sin, and clear examples of what to do and not to do.
          In Luke 12, Jesus teaches us the new values we will have in the Kingdom of God, and demands that we live by them.  These new values are upside down from the way we’ve been living.  The world tells us to chase after food, clothing, and shelter—to pursue possessions—and that ‘God helps those who help themselves’. 
          Jesus says we shouldn’t worry about these things, but we should pursue the Kingdom of God and He will give us those Himself.
          The world says we should amass investments, including land, houses, bank accounts, retirement funds, vehicles, household goods, business assets, and all else we can get our hands on, to assure our security.
          Jesus says we should sell our possessions and give to the poor, providing ourselves purses that hold heavenly treasure.  He tells us that those who trust in earthly possessions are fools.
          Unfortunately, many of us who claim Christ in today’s modern world have ignored Jesus, and view these passages of Scripture as na├»ve.  We disobey.  We dismiss our Lord.  We pursue these things with the world—worrying, stewing, spending our time in anxiousness—believing not what Jesus said, but what the world says, that ‘God helps those who help themselves.’
          The sad thing is this:  Jesus expects and demands that every disciple leave behind his worldly pursuits, and pursue the Kingdom of God first.  Jesus expects and demands that we sell our excess, which is much, and leave ourselves in simplicity, living by faith, walking in the grace and knowledge of Christ, rather than the dogged pursuit of worldly security.
          Jesus actually means it when He says to give what we have to the poor!  He actually means it when He says don’t worry about what you’ll eat or drink!
          You see, these are Narrow Gate demands.  You can’t even begin the journey with Christ if you are burdened down by the worries and cares of this world.  When you come to Jesus, He demands you drop your burdens, and pick up His yoke, which is the cross, a burden which is easy and light because He empowers us by His Spirit to carry it.  How can you bear His cross, die to self, empty yourself of your non-Kingdom pursuits, if you are chasing after these worldly things?
          The answer is simple: You cannot.  So these demands by our Lord are entry demands into the Christ-life.  If we don’t obey these simplest of entry demands, we can’t enter the Narrow Gate that brings us into the Christ-life.
          That is why so many of us struggle with burdens, wonder where the power of Christ is in our lives, wonder why the actualities of the ‘Christian life’ are so much less than the promises.  Because we are not even on the road with Christ.  He is waiting for us to obey at the beginning so we can go on with Him.
          I have read and heard these truths my entire life, yet myself have often ignored and treated them as if they are children’s fantasies, and have seen others do the same. 
          Yet obedience to these Words are the Way, and the only Way, we will enter the Kingdom of God.
          Why do we think Jesus spoke them to His disciples as a warning?  Watch out, brothers, or we will be left out of the Kingdom of God because of disobedience to these simple Words! 

Saturday, June 26, 2010

IT IS GOD, NOT ME

IT IS GOD, NOT ME
A. Brother
©2009 Narrowgate Publlishing

            “Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’”  --Mark 5:36

            “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”  --Luke 1:45

            “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to My Father.”  --John 14:12

            “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’”  --2 Cor. 12:9

            It is God’s power that counts, not our ability.
          It is God’s grace that accomplishes His will in our lives, not our own strength.
          It is not what the world says that matters, but our faith.
          It is only when we truly believe in Jesus’ Word to us that we can do what He is doing.
          The Scriptures have a central theme:  It is God, not us.
          It is God’s work, not ours.
         
          Our “work” is to have faith that is True Faith.  Saving faith.  To count His grace sufficient for us.  To believe that, no matter how our plans and goals turn out, God is accomplishing His purposes.
          I’ve been faithful at times, and I’ve been a fool at times.
          The fool thinks that his own plans and efforts are what count.  The faith-filled man counts on God to reveal His plans.
          The Bible emphasizes that man only becomes wise when He understands and knows God and His purposes.  That wisdom begins by grasping how little we know, and how weak and helpless we are without God.  Grasping that we have absolutely no control over our own lives, no matter what we think.

          “Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come?”  --Eccl. 8:7

          This way of thinking flies in the face of modern, worldly thinking.
          Many of those who claim to know God have bought into this way of thinking—that our efforts are what make the difference.  Endless encouraging slogans tell us to work harder, never give up, achieve our goals and dreams, fight for what we want.
          But God’s plans and goals are about who we are, not what we’re doing with our plans and goals!
          I’ve always thought, and was always taught, that our goals must revolve around worldly achievement.  What job I had, or what house I bought, or what things I could provide, or how accomplished I was at various tasks and skills.

          Brothers and sisters, God cares how I live, about my faith and love for Him, and my love for others around me.
          Whether I ever achieve any humanly significant goals is irrelevant to God.  It is whether Christ lives through me that counts.
          

Sunday, June 20, 2010

MANY WILL FALL AWAY

MANY WILL FALL AWAY
A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing


“From this time many of His disciples turned back
and no longer followed Him.”  
John 6:66

 Because some follow Jesus for the wrong reasons, they fall away.

“For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not 
believe and who would betray Him.” John 6:64

  • Some of us come to Jesus because we believe in the security He brings us.  We read His promises all the time.  We devour the promises of God—the verses that speak of His provision—the promises of food, clothing, shelter, protection, blessing, peace, contentment—the things that make us feel safe.  We may be like the ones who speak with Jesus here, demanding our bread as part of the price we ask of the Lord for following Him.  But what happens when God calls us to suffer deprivation, or we lose our security, our earthly blessings, our earthly peace?
          “I tell you the truth, you are looking for Me…
            because you ate the loaves and had your fill.”
                                                                                 John 6:26

  • Some of us may come to Jesus because we want to be part of a powerful movement.  We want to fight for a cause, to be a significant participant in something that matters.  Like these Jews who thought Christ would make their enslaved, poverty-stricken country a bigger force, and bring about the political kingdom they wanted.  But Jesus withdraws from such people, because He is not in the business of politics or power on this earth.

          “After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, ‘Surely this is
            the Prophet who is to come into the world.’  Jesus, knowing that they intended to come
            and make Him King by force, withdrew again to a mountain by Himself.”  John 6:14

  • Some of us come to Jesus because He provides us with excitement and wonder.  He does miracles, which we can see in front of us.  We call upon Him to do these miracles, because we want them, so that we can believe.  But what happens when the miracles don’t occur?  What is our faith really set on?
          “Unless you people see signs and wonders, 
           Jesus told him, “You will never believe.”
          John 4:48

The Lord Jesus told the parable of the farmer sowing his seed in Matthew 13:3-23.  He explained it in detail to His disciples, just to make sure they understood that not everyone who followed Him as a disciple would end up with Him.  He was teaching them that true disciples stick through all the hardship to the end, and don’t give up.  They don’t abandon Jesus just because they’re hungry, or they are weak and powerless politically, or they haven’t seen a sign or miracle to lift them up recently.

We must follow Jesus for the right reasons.  We must understand His call to hardship and be willing to undergo “discipline”, which comes from the same root word as disciple.  That means tough training in righteousness, and in dying to self, and in reliance only upon Christ, and His Spirit in us.  There is no room for a soft gospel, which is no gospel at all.  The good news of the Kingdom of God is for those who will respond in faith to the Father’s call to follow Christ to hell and back if necessary.

We seek Christ because the Father draws us. (John 6:37)  When Jesus spoke to the crowds in John chapter 6, He had just shown them the miracle of the loaves and the fish, and now He spoke of Himself as the bread of life.  He told these large crowds that, to be true disciples, they would now have to eat His flesh and drink His blood.

“I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you…For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me and I in him.”  John 6:54-56

At this teaching, many left Him, even those who were called by the Father.

“On hearing it, many of His disciples said, 
‘This is a hard teaching.  Who can accept it?”
    John 6:60

Was Jesus talking about a symbolic grape juice and wafer communion service here?  No, otherwise why would these people have left?  They knew this meant something much deeper.  They sensed it meant that to follow Jesus His disciples would have to eat what He ate, the bread of suffering and affliction, and to drink what He drank, the cup of the cross.  To follow Jesus would mean trouble, and persecution, and hardship.  That’s what Jesus was saying, and that’s why the people fell away from Him.  Just because the Father has called us, doesn't remove the need for obedience.

Our Lord has never changed.  His Word has never changed.  The way men teach His Word has changed, and many of us have grown up under, or come under, teaching that ignores Christ’s Way.  He still calls us today to discipleship, and to call others to true discipleship.  The authentic call of God to come to Christ will be like the call in Acts, which the apostles gave to the disciples.

“Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.  ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God’, they said.”  
Acts 14:21,22

Let’s strengthen and encourage one another today to live as true disciples.  That as seeds we would fall into the ground and die, so that by obediently going through the hardships of living with Jesus Christ, many more of those the Father is calling would become disciples, would hear the Word of God and obey.  And become the type of disciples who will not just walk away from their Friend and Firstborn Brother when the going gets tough.

“And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I shall lose none of all that He has given Me, 
but raise them up at the last day.”  John 6:39





Saturday, June 19, 2010

AM I A WILLING SEED?

AM I A WILLING SEED?
A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing


“If only in this life we have hope in Christ,
we are to be pitied more than all men.”
1 Cor. 15:19

Each of us is a seed.  Our body, our mind, our heart--everything that makes us into the person we are as we walk around on this earth--is just a small, insignificant kernel of what the future holds.  Seeds must die in order to grow into what they are designed to be: a stalk of wheat, an apple tree, a giant redwood.

What is required of us as seeds is the one thing we are afraid to give.  We are required to give up the “seed life” and become this new creation, which is far more glorious than just being a seed.  Death must come to us in order for us to find our true purpose, in order for us to blossom and grow into the divinely appointed new form in Christ.

There are two deaths.  One now—the death of self—and one later—the death of this earthly body.  

First, there is the death we are to die when we are called to follow Jesus, and this death is the death to self.  Jesus talked about it, and many would not follow Him because He required it.
 
It is the death Jesus died when He left behind His throne and all His power and wealth in heaven, and came to be with us and to die for us. (John 12:24)
 
It is the death Jesus died every day while on this earth, giving up what He wanted, what would have been better for Him, what would have made life easy, what would have given Him a comfortable, normal existence—in favor of doing His Father’s will.  He put all His own things aside to do what His Father asked Him to do.

This is the death Jesus requires of us, and the death we don’t want to die.

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”  
                                                       John 12:24,25

This death is essential to the release of God’s power in our lives, as it was essential that Christ died to show the power of God in His resurrection.  It is foolishness to the world, and a stumbling block to religious people, yet it is “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 
                                                        1 Cor. 1:24

We often romanticize the cross, and relegate it to being an icon, yet it is as real today for you and me as it was the day Christ Jesus was fastened to it with huge spikes.
This cross—this daily dying to what we want, to our own plans and dreams, to our own desires for this life—this cross is ours.  It is newly hewn each moment, each hour, each day, and each day we must lay on it and give up all to do the will of the Father, as Jesus did.

As Jesus died to His own will, so we must die each day to ours.
 
The power that is released in our daily death is the power of the resurrection.  When we lose our own lives, suddenly the life of Christ in us is evident.

Second, this daily dying is what prepares us for the next death, the final death for those of us who have died to ourselves, and lived the Christ-life now.

We can know with certainty we will be raised to life when our bodies die, because we have already experienced the new life of Christ in our mortal bodies on this earth.  As seeds, we have died, and seen the new man spring up out of the dead husk.  We have already known resurrection power daily, having died daily to ourselves.  At the end, we can give up this body happily, knowing the final resurrection is certain.

“If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.’” 
                                                              1 Cor. 15:32   

           
Why would Paul say this if our lives as Christians in this earthly life were to be comfortable, easy, and full of the riches of enjoyment now?  Why would he say this if we were to live smooth lives, receiving all we want, finding fulfillment now?  He wouldn’t, and didn’t.  It is because he could say, in obedience to His Lord Jesus:

         
“I die every day—I mean that, brothers—just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  1 Cor. 15:31

           
He had already died, and his life was hidden with Christ in God.  He was willing to give up all his comfort and his good life now for Jesus, and therefore he had already experienced death.  He was not afraid of dying one final time to his body, because he had already been dying to it every day, and was used to that process.

         
There are many today, as there always have been, who don’t wish to die to themselves.  They want a good life now, and they teach it and preach it.  These men are deceivers, and don’t represent the Lord Jesus, who told us the cost of following Him.

         
If you don’t feel certainty today about what will happen to you after your earthly, physical body dies, then perhaps you are not experiencing the first dying Jesus called you to know.  You are not familiar with dying.  You have not fallen to the ground, a willing seed for Jesus, and died to your own plans and dreams, your own desires in this life, your own interests and needs.  Until you do, and practice this daily dying, then you won’t have the certainty that comes with resurrection power in your daily life.  You won’t have the certainty, because you haven’t paid the price for that certainty. 

         
Are we willing seeds?  Willing to die so that the resurrection power of Christ may be shown in us, today, every day, and forever? 

            

Friday, June 18, 2010

OUR SPIRITUAL IMMATURITY--Paul's First Letter to Corinth

OUR SPIRITUAL IMMATURITY
A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing


“We are fools for Christ,
but you are so wise in Christ!
We are weak,
but you are strong!
You are honored,
we are dishonored!”
1 Cor. 4:10

         
As I read through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian believers, my thoughts center on the Christian churches in America in which I’ve spent my entire life.  I think of the situation we are in now, with report after report about the churches detailing the hidden sexual sins of leaders and laity alike, the divisions, the controversies, the immorality, the high divorce rate, the legal problems, the idolatry of money and greed.

Paul’s letter deals with all these things.  The Corinthian church problems and sins parallel what we’re going through today.  So this letter also gives us great light on why we are experiencing this great surge of sin and compromise with the world.

First—Paul identifies the root problem.  This churches were “worldly—mere infants in Christ…you are still worldly.” (3:1-3)  The root problem was infancy in Christ, immaturity.  They had not grown up at all.  They were acting like babies, fighting and quarreling, acting out sinful impulses, revealing pride, stubbornness, rebellion, and an unwillingness to yield to the Holy Spirit.

Yet this church had the visible signs that we hold up for pride in the churches today—“…in all your speaking and in all your knowledge--…therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift…” (1:5-7) 

In other words, this church had great speaking, great knowledge of the Scriptures and the gospel, and the manifestations of many of the spiritual gifts, especially the ones that showed publicly, like teaching, preaching, and tongues. (see Chapter 12) 

It was a church that outwardly was flourishing, and growing in numbers, riches and status, yet inwardly was in turmoil, with many problems.

As babies, we think only of ourselves.  That is natural.  We are only consumed with eating, sleeping, and trying to get our bearings in the world.  We want to be held, loved, hugged, and stimulated constantly.  When we are tired, we cry until someone lets us sleep.  When we are hungry, we cry until someone lets us eat.  When we are uncomfortable, we fuss until someone makes us comfortable.  When we are cold or hot, we fuss or cry until someone takes care of that problem.

But as we mature, we are able to discern our own problems, and take care of them in increasing measure.  At least, that is the aim of good parenting.  To enable our children to grow and mature, taking on more and more of their own needs, and meeting them.  As they get older, hopefully we teach them also to take care of the needs of those around them, and to help those less mature to grow in maturity.  When they become adults, we hope they will do the same for their children.

The Corinthians, as we are today in many of our churches, were consumed with themselves.  They were centered on outward things, and didn’t have the mind of Christ.  “But we have the mind of Christ.” (2:16)  Paul had just finished explaining to them how the spiritual man has the Spirit of God, and isn’t looking at anything, including Christ, from a worldly viewpoint.  He had explained how Christ is foolishness to the world, and Christ is foolishness to the religious man. (1:18-2:16)  He was contrasting their worldly minds with the mind of Christ they were supposed to have.

These men and women were fighting among themselves about who was the greatest teacher to follow.  They were fighting for position and prominence.  They were jealous of one another.  They were fighting to appear wise and they were exhibiting pride instead of love, head knowledge instead of heart knowledge, and they were in general judging things wrongly, instead of having the Spirit’s viewpoint, and the mind of Christ.

These Corinthians were wise and strong and achievers in their own eyes, which had made them arrogant. (4:18)  Many of them now looked down on Paul, and had been influenced by some smooth, talented leaders into the world’s ways of thinking.  They were upside down in their thinking, not right side up. 

Paul was in the trenches, an everyday guy, who came to them and fathered them in the Good News of Christ, but was not an eloquent man.  He was simple and to the point, and had brought them into Christ that way.  As he said, “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 the power of God.”  (2:4,5)

They had succumbed to worldly ways, believing that the eloquence, the educational, the outward shape, the special gifts, the things that made for drama and entertainment, were the important things.  Paul points out that these mean immaturity, not maturity.

So with us today.  We have all the problems we’re having, the sins that prevail in our churches and among those who call themselves believers, because we are upside down in our thinking.  We value the outward.  We want to look good, and feel good, and be entertained.  We want God to see our beautiful worship, hear our beautiful songs, and look down on us in benevolence and bless us.  We want to be healthy, wealthy and wise, to quote Benjamin Franklin.  We want to have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as the Declaration of Independence guarantees us.

And because of this same thinking, Paul threatens to come with a whip, to take down these arrogant leaders, and to show the power of God is what is important.  To show what right-side-up thinking is, and how eloquence and superior wisdom are not necessary, but that the fruit fo God’s Spirit in our lives is.  “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power.”  (4:20)

For a number of lengthy sections of his letter, Paul describes and details the gross sins of the flesh that this elegant, educated, polished group of Christians had allowed inside their fellowship.  It is a list of our sins today.  The often hidden sins we don’t show one another or the world.  This sad list should, if we have the mind and heart of Christ Jesus, make us weep with sadness over our own sins, and the sins of our brothers. 

Even worship had become a spectacle, with one trying to outdo the other in outward manifestations of the Spirit of God.  What a sad spectacle indeed this is.  Their “love feasts” to commemorate the Lord’s Supper had become a chance to eat and drink and have a party, with some going hungry, and some getting drunk.

After all this, Paul addresses the spiritual gifts.  He emphasizes that “each one…is given for the common good.”  (12:7)  This is a purposeful statement, telling the Corinthians, and us, that truly spiritual men and women exercise the gifts of the Spirit of God, whether preaching and teaching, or giving, or service, or prophecy, or tongues, not for their own glory and edification, but for the glory of Christ and the edification of their brothers.

Then, in Chapter 13, Paul caps this teaching off, with a beautiful and powerful reminder of what the Corinthians had completely forgotten and ignored.

“And now I will show you the most excellent way…Follow the way of love…” (12:30 through 14:1)

This ignored and forgotten basis for all Christ-like living is also the basis for all spiritual maturity.  Paul makes it the foundation of all behavior that is acceptable for a Christian, reiterating what he taught in Romans and all his other epistles, and what Jesus taught in John Chapters 13-17. 

For a contrast in churches, see Paul’s two letters to the Thessalonian churches.  They weren’t perfect, but they were practicing the command of Christ to love, and therefore, had few of the problems of the Corinthian churches.

To summarize, the problems and sins that the Corinthian Christians experienced in the first century are very similar to ours in the affluent churches of America today.  We must look to Scripture to root them out, and take teachings like the Apostle Paul’s and begin exhorting ourselves with these truths.  We must take heed to the warnings in them.

“For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers …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 them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.  Now these things occurred as examples to us…” (10:11-10)

Today we must heed the same warnings.  God is giving us warning through many today who are calling God’s people to repentance from these gross sins.  He will not tolerate our ways.  We must go His Way, which is to live in love, to live in Christ, to forsake the world, to hold to His Word.  We must obey, and not be lost as that entire generation was in the desert of Sinai.  They were lost because of their disobedience, and so will we be lost if we don’t obey, though we look good, and we seem wise; though we rejoice in our own strength, and honor ourselves.

THE CAUSES OF SPIRITUAL IMMATURITY

NOTE:  T. Austin-Sparks was born in 1888, and carried on an effective ministry until his death in 1971.  His writings are enjoying new prominence, because of his emphasis on the "full message" of the gospel, Christ's preeminence, and his stand against the "errors and omissions" of modern Christian thinking.  His writings are wonderfully enriching in Christ, and I urge everyone to put his name into a search engine and go the website that bears his name.

THE CAUSES OF SPIRITUAL IMMATURITY
by T. Austin-Sparks

Hebrews 6:1.

          The Apostle is distressed. As he writes this letter it is as though from time to time he meets something that almost pulls him up dead. Three times at least he suspends his main theme and puts in a parenthesis. The section from verse eleven of chapter five to verse three of chapter six is such a digression. What is this thing, that makes his going so difficult and strenuous?
          It is not the theme that is difficult!
          It is not in the writer himself! It is certainly not a lack of urgency or importance! The issues are paramount. The whole significance of the Person, Incarnation, Cross and Worth of the Lord Jesus is at stake!
          No, the difficulty is in those to whom he writes.
          Not that they do not know the Lord. They "have been enlightened"; they had "tasted of the heavenly gift"; had "been made partakers of the Holy Spirit"; had "tasted of the good Word of God"; and "the powers of the age to come"; and yet, and yet, there is an immaturity, a failure to "go on," a spiritual infancy which threatens to be fatal in respect of all the ultimate purposes of their heavenly calling. It is this arrested growth, prolonged babyhood that holds back the spirit and the pen of the Apostle, and would even put restraint upon the Holy Spirit. (See the paragraph mentioned.)
          The trouble was seen by their being always occupied with those matters - "principles" - which are meant to be built upon, not toyed with. Perhaps the trouble was deeper than that; it was a dwelling upon the things as such and a failure to discern their real spiritual meaning and implications.
          There are two maxims which it will be well for us to have settled quite early. One is that we can only "go on" in the Holy Spirit. The other is that the Holy Spirit can only take us on as the foundations and "principles" are laid and settled.
          There are many of the Lord's children who, after many years of being such, are under arrest, paralysed, ineffective, and almost counted out because they are in a state of unsettlement about the "first principles." With some it is a matter of "faith toward God"; with some it is the matter of baptism; with some it is "eternal judgment.'' Let it be clearly recognised that on all such matters the Holy Spirit Himself will demand an absolute settlement and will not take us on to "full growth" until the "principles" are established.
          Why are there so many old-aged infants, elderly dependants, spiritual "Peter Pans," amongst the Lord's people? Why is it that after years of work and service so many come to a place where they are beaten and helpless because of being "without understanding" in that sense in which the words are used? Col. 1:9; 1 Cor. 14:20; Matt. 15:16.
          It may be - and certainly sometimes is - because at sometime the Spirit's requirement as to some basic principle was unheeded, argued aside, discussed, passed, or definitely refused. That is a sin against the Holy Spirit - while it may not be the sin - and that sin is bound to find us out sooner or later. What we have to say here as we proceed will make clear what we mean by this being found out.
          The letter to the Hebrews marks the transition from the fragments of the Prophets to the fulness in Christ, this fulness is spiritual and is consequent upon spiritual revelation which leaves all the "earthlies" behind and comes into the "heavenlies," even in the matter of Divinely constituted institutions, which nevertheless were but as "schoolmaster" to lead to Christ and maturity.
          We can still go on with the "things" and stand still as to the "meaning." For instance, it is impossible to have a revelation of the true nature of the Church - the Body of Christ - and remain a denominationalist or sectarian without joining issue with the Holy Spirit.
          It is equally impossible to remain a Jew as such (in the matter of Judaism) and be a member of Christ.
          Once the Holy Spirit has spoken or enlightened, tremendous crises are reached on foundation principles, and these crises if not settled soon will come up later. The Holy Spirit never moves a fraction from His original premise.
          Now, while this is all so important, it but opens up for us the way to a closer consideration of what spiritual maturity is.
          There are three letters which deal especially with the matter of unduly delayed maturity, or spiritual childhood continued in too long. They are: "1 Corinthians," "Galatians" and "Hebrews."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

THE CALL TO PREPARE A PEOPLE

THE CALL TO PREPARE A PEOPLE
©2010 A. Brother, Narrowgate Publishing

“Many of the people of Israel
will he bring back to the Lord their God.
And he will go on…to make ready a people
prepared for the Lord.”
Luke 1:16,17


            There are those God is calling as John the Baptist was called.  The Spirit of God is searching the hearts of men now, to find those who will obey the Lord God in this call.
         
          God’s choices will be startling to many, because these called ones will be lowly and discarded by the world.  They will have no earthly pedigree, no outward signs that give an indication why God would choose them. 

          But these men and women will be branded with the brand marks of Christ, His wounds, His scars, His fullness of the Spirit.  They will walk in obscurity, but their cries will be heard by many of God’s lost ones.

          God’s chosen vessels will be purified through fire, and be tested beyond their own limits by flood and famine and war.  They will know the Lord, and will have His Word written in their hearts.  They will be as the apostles were, expending themselves physically and mentally, their bodies broken for the Christ who was broken for them.  They will not worry about food, clothing and shelter, but will seek the Kingdom first.  Their knees will be calloused, their hearts will be soft.

          These men and women will make ready the people of God for the Lord’s Coming.  They will speak anything they hear from the Father, and they will do His will, walk His Way, love with His love, and give with His unlimited grace.  They will speak only the Truth of Scripture, and not defend the ways of men. 

          These men and women will go to the cross for Jesus, as He went to the cross for them.  They will not hold onto worldly goals, nor fight for anything less than Christ in His people.  These prophets and leaders, unrecognized and unappreciated by many, will nevertheless bring back the ‘ekklesia’—the ‘called out to be together’ people of God—to readiness to receive the Kingdom of Christ. 

          “And he will go on before the Lord, in the Spirit and power of Elijah…”
                                                                  --Luke 1:17

          These called ones will be filled with the Spirit of God, not just in word, but in deed, and will exhibit the love of God, the fearlessness of Jesus, the power of the Spirit to call men and women to repentance out of their lives of compromise and sin.

          “And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.”  --Luke 1:80

            These men and women, like Moses, like John, like many of the prophets before them, and like their Lord Jesus Christ, will be nothing in the eyes of the world.  They will be veterans of the desert, long periods of obscurity and suffering.  They will have been forgotten by almost everyone, but not by their God.  The Lord will call them out, and they will witness of what they know by experience—what they have learned in the furnaces of affliction—and teach others to persevere in Christ to the end.
          The truth of God, from His Word, will be their primary concern.  They will not be swayed by religious tradition and weak and miserable principles of this world.  They will be “eyewitnesses and servants of the Word.”  --Luke 1:2

            The results of their lives, though given up freely for others, will be life in Christ for many.  The fruit of their hearts will be love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, humility, faith, and self control.  They will call many to repentance, and example the life of Jesus among His people.  They will build up the Bride prepared for Christ, which looks ugly, poor, and in rags to the world, but is beautiful to her Betrothed, who looks on the inside, not the outside. 

          Today, there are those reading this who are called to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.  To bring the Word of repentance to the modern, affluent, self-satisfied churches who are really “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”  --Rev. 3:17

            You know who you are.  God is calling you, as he has called from the beginning of time for those who will obey Him.  As the apostles, after being filled with power and the Spirit of God to bring the Word of Christ, experienced opposition and hardship, so God has been preparing you in the desert trials of your life to stand up and shout from the rooftops what God has whispered in your ear.

          Today, we must obey the Lord, and not men.

          Let us obey His voice, no matter how full of fear and trembling we are at what might happen—at the opposition and the anger, the abandonment of others, the worldly hatred that will come our way.  Let us speak out, as Peter, James, John, Stephen, Andrew, and the others did, whether it means a painful death, or exile.  Let us go outside the gates of comfortable, self-satisfied churchianity, preaching the true gospel of Christ, and our Lord, by His power, will lead many out of bondage to dead religion, and worldly evils.

          “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.”  --Acts 5:20

 
          

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

DON'T FOLLOW MEN

A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing


            “The Lord spoke to me with His strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people.”  --Isaiah 8:11

            “I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob.  I will put my trust in Him.”  --Isaiah 8:17

            “To the law and to the testimony!  If they do not speak according to this Word, they have no light of dawn.”  --Isaiah 8:20

          As Isaiah brought the Word of God, so we must bring it.  As the prophets didn’t follow men, but God alone, so we must follow God and the Lord Jesus, no matter whether it means going with the crowd, or not.

          We believe and obey the Word of God, not men.  The “house of Jacob” represents the churches in our affluent, uncaring, unloving society today.  The Lord is hiding His face from our religiosity, our blatant disregard for His Word, our disobedience and apostasy.  He can’t stand our constant worship meetings, which reflect none of His glory, because obedience to His Word is absent.
          If we don’t LIVE the Word of God, and that means the Truth as revealed in all of Scripture, we don’t walk in the light as He is in the light.  –1 John 1:6
            If we don’t LIVE according to the Word of God--and that means being substantially obedient to the Word of God--we don’t have a testimony that speaks the life of God to people.  We have no light of dawn, the Word says.
          To claim Christ means obedience to Christ in this world.  God will not bear our disobedience any longer.  Discipline is coming, brothers.

          We wait on the Lord, and put our trust in Him alone!

CRISIS OF FAITH IN AMERICA






CRISIS OF FAITH
A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing



          Today in America there is a huge crisis among those who call themselves ‘Christians’.
This crisis is worse than all the earthquakes, oil spills, and volcano ash crises put together.  This crisis is one of the soul, and the heart.  It is a crisis of faith.
          How did this crisis occur?  Because the American evangelical churches departed from teaching and preaching the gospel of faith decades ago, and have continued to move further and further away from Jesus Christ’s good news of the Kingdom.  This is not some recent move from the Truth, but a slide away that started perhaps as far back as the 19th century, and has gotten progressively worse.
          Look at our churches.  Is there one thing done in our churches today, tomorrow, next week, next month, that requires faith?  Does it take faith to go to church today?  Does it take faith to gather for Bible Study?  Does it take faith to play your Christian music in your car, or faith to read your devotional in the morning?  Does it take faith to do choir practice, or faith to put your children in their Sunday School classes?  Does it take faith to do anything you do today? 
          In other words, are we doing only the things within our grasp to do, within our daily power to do, our own abilities?
          The problem runs deep.  In fact, so deep, that we don’t even acknowledge it.  If I stood up today in any one of hundreds of evangelical churches today and said these things, all but a small minority would shake their heads in disagreement, and deny that what I’m saying is true.
          They would say, “We center around faith in Christ.  We talk about it, we preach it, how dare you say we have a crisis of faith!”
          But where is the obedience?  Where are the fruits of God’s Spirit?  Where are the good works created for us to do in Christ Jesus? 
          I have read three teachings by prominent Christian authors and speakers in the last week referring to the terrible grip which sin has gotten on our Christian leaders.  These sins include greed, corruption, and especially sexual disobedience.  The problem with these sins extends to the people who just sit in the pews of our so-called ‘Christian’ churches.  Empirical studies have proven that between 40% and 70% of men in our evangelical churches, whether in leadership or just sitting in the pews, are in the grip of sexual sin, such as pornography, adultery, homosexuality, and other perversions.
          We know the Bible teaches us that sexual sin is a sin against ourselves and God.  That the Lord will not tolerate it, and He will “punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.  For God did not call us to be impure but to live a holy life.  Therefore he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you His Holy Spirit.”  --1 Thess. 4:3-8
            Yet we ignore this and many other passages of Scripture that repeat the Truth about these sins.  Some men who are actually wrapped up in these sins stand in the pulpit and preach against them!  What hypocrisy!  What lies!  And we expect our righteous and holy Father to bless us.
          You think I speak from holy ground?  I, too, was caught up for many years in these sins.  Greed, the love of money, position and recognition.  Sexual pleasure outside my marriage.  And still I was in the churches, and even tried to confess and get rid of these sins, without success.  Everyone wanted to sweep them under the rug, and quickly deal with me quietly, and now I know why!  Because many of the men involved in leading with me in the churches were sinning in the same way.
          But we must prayerfully consider the causes of these sins.  We must get to the root of the tree.  Where do we have our minds and hearts that cause us to sin?  How do we pluck out the eye, cut off the foot, that causes us to sin? 
          I personally see that the path of evangelical Christianity in the 20th century has been one of increasing acceptance of worldly ways, and less and less adherence to the full Truth of Scripture.  We have lost Jesus in our religious trappings, and don’t even understand the basics of a true, fully committed walk with Him.  We don’t understand the love of God, the evil of sin, and what is required of those who would become believers in Christ.  We have created an easy, smooth “Christian life” concept that has nothing to do with our Lord and His Word.
          We say we are Christians, yet don’t have the power and authority of Christ in anything we do.  We do nothing from faith.  We have created a church superstructure that denies God’s involvement.  We do not operate by the Spirit, but by programs, and curriculum, the calendar and the clock.  And from experience I state this:  it’s just as true in the tiny, small town churches as it is in the large megachurches.
          We no longer have confession of sin as a central requirement of daily living in Christ.  We no longer gather as a Body for Christ to exercise the spiritual gifts, and to encourage and lift one another up, or to share our lives with one another.  We no longer feel the need to weep and mourn over one another’s sins, and to pray for one another so that we may be healed.  We no longer believe, thinking we are too sophisticated, that spontaneity has a part in God’s intentions for the churches, so we program every minute, every miniscule detail, so human leadership can better control believers’ meetings.
          We no longer believe we must give to one another individually and without judging, but believe it’s the government’s job.  We no longer share our property and possessions with our brothers because we believe that stands against free enterprise, as if free enterprise is something that Jesus taught.  We stand firmer on our American rugged individualism than we do on the gospel of God which He called us to.  We act as if our spokesmen for Christians in America are on the television, as if men like O’Reilly and Limbaugh and Hannity are the pulpit-masters of conservative Christianity, when they speak from their own worldly viewpoints, and are paid by godless networks to get ratings.
          This is not a fruitless crying in the wind.  This is a direct call to repentance.  We, individually and together with those who will listen to the Spirit of God, must seek the Lord for His Word and His will.  We must root out the causes of this spiritual rot.  We must call others to repent with us, as Nehemiah did, as Ezra did, as all the prophets from Moses to the John the Baptist did, and since then, as all the prophets in the Body of Christ have done in times of great apostasy.
          For this is a great falling away.  This is particularly distressing to the Lord, as He gave Americans more wealth, and more freedom to pursue His Kingdom than any people in history.  And we American Christians have blown it.  We have compromised and sinned greatly.  We are in danger of being disciplined severely.  Read Hebrews.  We fit the description of those who’ve tasted and seen that the Lord is good, yet have fallen away anyway. 
          Brothers who love God, let’s forsake everything that hinders us, and run the real race with Christ.  Let’s leave this churchy life of compromise behind!

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