Saturday, July 31, 2010

A DISCUSSION OF LAW, GRACE AND GOOD WORKS

Brothers and Sisters:

Absolutely--good works will flow from our life in Christ.  We are called in Christ to a life of love and sacrifice for others.  As is made clear throughout the New Testament, these works will come from the power of Christ within us.  He is living in us, as we have died to self, and died to the rules and regulations of this world, and can now be free to live His life.  

As our Lord tells us, "If a man remains in Me and I remain in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing."  (John 15:5)  As Paul reiterates in Colossians Chapter 2, we must no longer judge ourselves or others by any outside standards, including any law.  "Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules..." (Col. 3:20,21)  

It is only Christ now.  It is only Him, working in us by His Spirit, empowering us to do the impossible, which is to love.  Truly love is the greatest miracle.  His love is so powerful and vast that it fills the universe, yet we struggle along under silly burdens, trying to please God by keeping this or that tradition or law.  The law was a shadow, the reality is in Christ. (Col. 2:17). 

So---my question to you is this, brother or sister.  

Is it possible to live a life of love and sacrifice without dying completely to ourselves, and living only to Christ?  

For there are many today in the churches who believe that we are saved, and then we do the good works, and those come in the form of religious duties, such as attendance, prayer times, Bible study times, supporting the church with a tithe of income, observing special days such as Christmas, Easter, etc.  Even being kind to those in need with gifts to charities.  

For instance, this allows us to think we are living the empowered Christ-life by "tithing" only 10%, which is one Mosaic standard of giving, when Christ now tells us that everything we have belongs to Him, and that we should give generously and cheerfully whenever we can to help anyone who needs us.  That standard is far higher than tithing, yet we persist in clinging to it, because we don't want the New Commandment.  We want the Old Commandments, because they are easier.  

Jesus illustrated this with the rich young man.  This fine young religious Jew had kept all the commandments his entire life.  Yet Jesus shocked him with a New Commandment:  Sell all you have and give to the poor.  Jesus was telling him, and telling us, that the Old Commandments of the Law, even if kept perfectly, could not save us.  His New Commandment was to love without limits, as He does.  That's why his disciples cried out in anguish, "How then can anyone be saved?"  They understood perfectly what He was saying.  And He confirmed it.  The New Covenant was impossible to keep by human effort.  It was only Christ in us, doing it by His power, that would suffice from now on. 

Many believe, and are taught outrightly or by implication, that this is the Christian life.  Such a sadness grips me about this, because I grew up believing that the "Christian life" was livable.  It is not.  Christ living in us is all that matters.  He does the good, He works the work of His Father in us, His Spirit is empowering us, but only if we lay aside all the other self-generated attempts to live some sort of acceptable life.  That is how Jesus Christ lived on earth, and how He teaches us to live.

What do you believe Scripture says to us about these things?

A. Brother

THE RELATIONSHIP OF LAW AND GRACE

This letter is written in response to a sincere question from a brother who just read, "The Law Brings Death", one of my previous blogs earlier in July.  He asked, "then what is the relationship between grace and law?"


Dear Brother--

Great question.  One that Scripture answers loudly in many places...I would ask a favor of you, dear friend.

Go back to my blog and look down the list of titles and find: "The New Way of the Spirit", which gives Word about the relationship of law and grace.  

In a nutshell, the Law of Moses was given to Israel to lead them to faith and grace.  Those who understood that, like David, built relationships with God based on faith and love, and had a deep understanding of God's grace and mercy.  From Abraham on, faith is the theme of the Old Testament.  Those who knew God knew Him by faith, not by adherence to the law.

The earliest challenges faced by the apostles, beginning in Jerusalem and continuing throughout the early growth around the world of the Body of Christ, was the challenge from those I call the "Religionizers", who couldn't let go of having some kind of laws written on parchment that told them what to do to be acceptable to God.  They couldn't just trust God to write this New Covenant, this Kingdom of God in Christ, this simple life of faith in the Son of God, on their own hearts.  Yet that lack of trust in God is at the root of every religious attempt to reach God by adhering to some set or other of religious guidelines or principles.  Proof?  The world is full of religion, and has very little of God's grace and love!

Paul wrote the entire letter of Galations to refute them.  Other long passages in the New Testament clearly mark out the differences between living by law, and living by grace.  Any attempt to revive the Mosaic Law in the life of true believers in Jesus Christ is another renewed attempt to live by the letter, instead of by the pure grace of Christ.  It is not by following the letter that we are justified.  

See Abraham's life, who was justified by grace, through faith, and not by the law, which had not been established yet.  The law was never meant to be a measuring stick of approval with God.  It was meant to point Israel to faith, because they would find they could never keep the law.

This is why our Lord Jesus Christ was so upset with the Pharisees and Sadducees.  They were loading burdens on men's backs that nobody could carry, which was the law and the traditions of the elders, and keeping men from knowing the grace of God through faith.  They were keeping men out of the Kingdom!  

So today, anyone who tries to add law to grace will be reproved by our Lord Jesus Christ for doing it.  Otherwise, He came to us in vain, and brought the Kingdom of God, this Kingdom of Grace and Love, in vain.

May you find the power of Christ through His grace alone,
A. Brother
Gary  

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

WHY MILLIONS ARE BEING MISLED BY NEW MOVEMENTS

THE SIN OF LOOKING FOR SIGNS
AND WONDERS
A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing


          “A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it but the sign of Jonah.  For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”  --Matt. 15:4

          Many today look for miraculous signs to convince them that Jesus is the Way.  They, like the Jews in Jesus’ day, demand that they be shown bigger and bigger things in order for God to “prove Himself” to them.
          Many people who claim to be Jesus’ followers want to provide those signs and wonders.  There are whole movements that emphasize spiritual manifestations, the outward show, the circus, the balloons and candy, the excitement and the ceremony.
          In order for them to be convinced that something is real, they have to feel, and touch and taste it.  They must, like Thomas, see with their own eyes some miraculous proof that Jesus is Lord, and touch with their own hands these proofs, in order to have faith.
          Jesus Christ rebukes the “wicked and adulterous generation” who looks for signs, and instead, gives us the only sign we’re ever going to get from Him.
          That sign, the sign of Jonah, is Death and Resurrection.
          That is the miracle we see only by faith in the Son of God.
          The world demands signs, but those who will know Christ, and follow Him truly, will be willing to die, and be resurrected, with their Lord.  As Paul says, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  --Phil. 1:21
            It is a wicked and adulterous desire that causes us to demand signs of God.   
          Faith listens, hears and obeys.  Faith does not brazenly demand of the God Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, that He comply with our childish, foolish wishes to be entertained and “wowed” by circus tent miracles.

          Jesus says:

          “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your Name, and in Your Name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Away from Me, you evildoers!’ “  --Matt. 7:22,23

            We who follow Jesus through the Narrow Gate, and on the Narrow Way He takes, will do this daily dying to self, and be resurrected to new life, become New Creations, in Christ. 
          This is the sign, our miracle resurrection in Him, that Jesus shows the world! 
          What greater miracle could there be than seeing the blind see, the lame walk, the weak made strong?  What greater miracle could there be than seeing the old nature, with its ugly, worldly ways die, and a New Man be born in Christ, up from the grave, shining in purity and love and all the Ways of God?
          This is the “sign of Jonah” Jesus is giving us!
          This resurrection miracle is the proof that satisfies “those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.”  --Matt. 5:6

            Beware, brothers, of seeking any other sign.  Danger lurks in every corner for those who disobey this Word of God.  Satan can duplicate for his own purposes physical signs and wonders, and so-called “spiritual manifestations.” 
          But he cannot duplicate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in us.

Monday, July 26, 2010

THIS TIME I WILL TEACH THEM

"This time I will teach them--this time I will teach them my power and might.  Then they will know that My Name is the Lord."  Jer. 16:21


          There are times we learn things ABOUT the Lord.  Most of us, if we've been in church many years, will have learned many things about the Lord.  We have the knowledge in our brains, this head knowledge of Christ, and His Word.  We can tell people many things ABOUT the Lord.
          Here God is saying something different.  His people are going into exile soon.  They will see their homes, cities, farms, and crops destroyed.  They will experience pain and hardship like they've never known in their lifetimes.  God is looking at them and He sees a people caught up completely in themselves, fascinated by their own culture, in love with their own ideas, intent upon their religious duties, and with a great knowledge ABOUT Him, but little knowledge OF Him.  These, His beloved, are immature, bound up in sin, trapped in the world, and about to enter a period of suffering they won't be able to escape.
          So the Father pronounces, through Jeremiah, a new thing.  A declaration of His intent.  God says, this time, they will learn OF Me.  My people are too precious to me to be allowed to go on like this any longer.  I will save them, even if it is painful for them.  When they come back to me after this exile, they will be humbled, they will know Me, they will know My power and My might.  They will come back a different people, changed into My people.  This time I will teach them that I am all.  I will teach them it is only by My power and My might that they can live.  They will know MY NAME IS THE LORD.  And they will come back to rebuild My temple, and to love me alone.
          Today, do you only know ABOUT the Lord?  Do you really live in your own power and the strength of your own hand?  Does God seem as a loving, but distant Father, whom you know a little, but serve faithfully?  Do your religious activities bring you solace?  Do you want more?
          Pray that God would deliver you from the trap of surface knowledge of Christ, and bring you, no matter what it takes, into the Christ-life.  Pray that, even if it means sorrow and suffering, God would wean you away from the baby food of modern Christian worship and teaching, and bring you into the FULL KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST that He wants you to have.  Pray that He will keep you from deception, and bring you, with others who seek Him, back to the "full message of this new life" which was promised us.
          Those of us who are learning the true power and might of God through Christ will pray for you.
          We know what it's like to be trapped in surface knowledge, and to be caught in the world, by sin made slaves.  If you pray, God will provide a way of escape.



Sunday, July 25, 2010

GOD NEEDS MEN.

NOTE:  This list is a great reminder of all the things we can become in Christ as men, if we just lay down all else but Him.  This is not a law, but the powerful work of the Holy Spirit.  Let us each rest in Christ as we work to become this New Man in the Lord Jesus.  This is what we should be striving toward, as we trust in Christ for all!


God Needs Men - by Zac Poonen, www.cfcindia.com

God needs men today -
  • Men who will stand before His face and hear His voice daily,
  • Men who have no desire in their heart for anyone or anything other than God Himself,
  • Men who fear Him so greatly that they hate sin in every form and love righteousness and truth in all their ways,
  • Men who have overcome anger and sexually sinful thoughts, and who would rather die than sin even in thought or attitude,
  • Men whose daily lifestyle is one of taking up the cross and pressing on to perfection, and who are constantly working out their own salvation with fear and trembling,
  • Men, full of the Holy Spirit, who are so rooted and grounded in love that nothing can ever move them into an unloving attitude towards another human being, however great the provocation,
  • Men who are so rooted and grounded in humility that neither human praise nor spiritual growth, neither a divinely endorsed ministry nor anything else will be able to make them lose the awareness of their being less than the least of all the saints,
  • Men who have an understanding of God's nature and purpose through His word, and who tremble at that word so that they will not disobey even the smallest commandment or neglect to teach it to others,
  • Men who will proclaim the whole counsel of God and expose religious harlotry and unscriptural human traditions,
  • Men who have the revelation of the Holy Spirit on the secret of godliness, on Christ having come in the flesh and opened a new and living way through the flesh,
  • Men who are diligent and hard-working, but who also have a sense of humour, and know how to relax and play with children and enjoy God's good gifts in nature,
  • Men who are not ascetics, but who at the same time live a disciplined life and who are not afraid of hardships,
  • Men who have no interest in expensive clothing or sight seeing and who will not waste their time in unprofitable activities or their money in unnecessary purchases,
  • Men who have mastered their desire for fancy foods and who are not enslaved to music or sport or any other legitimate activity,
  • Men who have been disciplined successfully by God in the fires of affliction, abuse, tribulations, false accusation, physical sickness, financial hardships and opposition from relatives and religious leaders,
  • Men full of mercy, who can sympathise with the worst of sinners and the worst of believers, and have hope for them, because they consider themselves to be the foremost of all sinners,
  • Men who are so deeply rooted in the security of the love of their Heavenly Father that they are never anxious about anything, or afraid of Satan or evil men or difficult situations or anything,
  • Men who have entered into God's rest, believing in the sovereign working of God in all matters for their best and who therefore give thanks always for all men, for all things and in all circumstances,
  • Men who find their joy in God alone and who are therefore full of the joy of the Lord, having overcome all bad moods,
  • Men of living faith, who have no confidence in themselves or their natural abilities, but complete confidence in God as their unfailing Helper in all situations,
  • Men who live, not by the promptings of their own reason, but by the leading of the Holy Spirit,
  • Men who have been genuinely baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire by Christ Himself (and not just thrilled by some emotional counterfeit or convinced by some theological argument),
  • Men who live constantly under the anointing of the Spirit, endowed with the supernatural gifts that He has given them,
  • Men who have revelation of the church as the body of Christ (and not a congregation or a denomination), and who give all their energies, their material wealth and spiritual gifts to build that church,
  • Men who have learnt to bridle their tongues through the help of the Holy Spirit and whose tongues are now aflame with the divine Word,
  • Men who have forsaken all, who are not attracted any more to money or material things, and who desire no gifts from others,
  • Men who can trust God for all their earthly needs and who never hint about their material needs or boast about their labours, either in their conversation or through letters and reports,
  • Men who are not stubborn, but gentle, and open to criticism and eager for correction from older and wiser brothers,
  • Men who have no desire to dominate or advise others (although ready to give advice, when asked for), and who have no longing to be considered as 'elder' brothers, or leaders, but who only desire to be ordinary brothers and servants of all,
  • Men who are easy to get along with, and who are willing to be inconvenienced and taken advantage of by others,
  • Men who will make no distinction between the millionaire and the beggar, the white-skinned and the dark-skinned, the intellectual and the idiot, and the cultured and the barbarian, but who will treat them all alike,
  • Men who will never be influenced by their wife, children, relatives, friends or other believers to cool off even slightly in their devotion to Christ or their obedience to God's commandments,
  • Men who can never be bribed to compromise by any reward that Satan may offer (whether honour or money or whatever),
  • Men who are fearless witnesses for Christ, fearing neither religious heads nor secular heads,
  • Men who desire to please no human being on the face of the earth, and who are willing to offend all men, if necessary, in order to please God alone,
  • Men for whom God's glory, God's will and God's kingdom always take priority over mere human need and their own comfort,
  • Men who cannot be pressurised either by others or by their own reason into doing 'dead works' for God, but who are eager and content to do the revealed will of God for their lives alone,
  • Men who have the discernment of the Spirit to distinguish between the soulish and the spiritual in Christian work,
  • Men who look at things from a heavenly view point and not an earthly one,
  • Men who will refuse all earthly honours and titles offered them for their labours for God,
  • Men who know how to pray without ceasing, and also how to fast and pray when needed,
  • Men who have learned to give generously, cheerfully, secretly and with wisdom,
  • Men who are willing to be all things for all men, so that by all means they might save some,
  • Men who have a longing to see others not only saved but also made disciples of Christ, and brought to the knowledge of the truth and to obedience to all of God's commandments,
  • Men who have a longing to see a pure testimony established for God in every place,
  • Men who have a burning passion to see Christ glorified in the church,
  • Men who do not seek their own in any matter,
  • Men with spiritual authority and spiritual dignity,
  • Men who will stand alone for God in the world, if need be,
  • Men who are totally uncompromising, like the apostles and prophets of old.
  • God's work in the world suffers today, because such men are few in number. Determine with all your heart that you will be such a man for God, in the midst of a sinful and adulterous generation and a compromising Christendom. Since there is no partiality with God, it is possible for you too to be such a man, provided you yourself earnestly desire to be one. Since God demands commitment and obedience only in the conscious area of one's life, it is possible for you to be such a man, even though the conscious area of your life may be limited. (That area will keep increasing as you walk in the light and press on to perfection). There is no excuse then why you cannot be such a man. Since nothing good dwells in the flesh, we have to seek for grace from God to have the virtues listed above. Cry out to God daily then, that He will give you grace to be such a man in these, the closing days of the age.

Courtesy:  http://www.cfcindia.com

FOREHEADS OF FLINT

PAUL AND EZEKIEL
A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing

“But the house of Israel is not willing to listen to you
because they are not willing to listen to Me,
for the whole house of Israel is hardened and obstinate.
But I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are.”
Ezekiel 3:7,8

“I served the Lord with great humility and tears, although
I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews.  You know
that I have not hesitated to preach anything that
would be helpful to you…”
Acts 20:19,20

          To preach the whole gospel, the Word of God in its simplicity and power, will require everything of a man.  This calling is high—so high that it requires the utmost in humility and godly stubbornness—which are qualities sorely lacking in most of us.

          This man Ezekiel was called to speak the Words of God to the people of God.  He was not sent out to preach to strangers in a strange land (Ezek. 3:4-6).  He was sent to speak to Israel, which is the spiritual Israel, including all of us who by faith are descendants of Abraham (Romans 9:8).

          And God warned Ezekiel at the beginning.  He said that Israel wouldn’t listen to Ezekiel because they were “hardened and obstinate”.  He was equipping Ezekiel with a quality of character that would help him endure this opposition and hatred, this hardheaded stubbornness.  God was going to give Ezekiel a “forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint.” (Ezek. 3:9)  The command God gave to Ezekiel was that no matter whether the people of God listened or not, he was to speak out the Word he was given.  That was his task.  Give what he was given.  Every Word, every phrase, every truth.

          Paul is our New Covenant example of an Ezekiel.  Paul endured incredible opposition and hatred from those who called themselves Jews.  The plots he refers to here in Acts resulted in many beatings and floggings, long periods of imprisonment, a stoning, the necessity to flee for his life on a number of occasions, and continuous harassment.  Yet Paul, in his humble and persistent way, never stopped preaching and teaching the “full message of this new life”. (Acts 5:20)  This man, with the obstinacy and stubbornness of God’s love in his veins, declared near his death, “that I am innocent of the blood of all men.  For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.” (Acts 20:26,27)

            When you and I talk of the gift of prophecy that comes from the Holy Spirit, we must take Paul and Ezekiel as examples.  Like our Lord Jesus, they endured hostility from those who called themselves religious.  When God calls a man, He gives this man the Spirit of Jesus in him to stand up to these obstinate people.  Make no mistake, brothers, as modern Shepherds, we are under the same commands.  Like David, God will enable you to defeat the lion or the bear that comes after the flock. 

          “I know that after I leave,” Paul said, “savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw disciples away after them.  So be on your guard!”
(Acts 20:29-31) 

          One final important thing about both Ezekiel and Paul, which they share with the Lord Jesus and the host of other prophets God has used throughout history.

          Neither of them were called by men.  They weren’t chosen because of their talents.  They weren’t put forward for ordination in a religious institution.  They didn’t follow some prescribed path to career fulfillment as a minister of the truth.  They didn’t pursue a man-pleasing higher educational goal before they answered the call of their Lord. 

          But they, like Jesus, knew their time had come.  When God calls you, you’ll know.  The Word of God will be like it was for these two men—fire in their bones—that could not be shut in.  They had to obey, because it was God doing the work in them, not them doing a work for God.  The Father was working, and so they were working.

          Obey God rather than men today, all you brothers who know this call on your life.  But remember, let God do the work in you, and let Him speak the Word through you.  It is not about the messenger, but it is about the One who sends him.  What a calling! 

            “Jesus answered, ’My teaching is not my own.  It comes from Him who sent me…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 7:16-18)

            There are many today who speak on their own.  There are many who are called by men, not by God.  There are scores who talk more about themselves, their own ministries, and their own opinions, than they do about Christ.  But you, man of God, be true to the One who sends you.  Speak the simple truth He gives us in His Word.  May we be men who honor the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and may nothing false be found in us. 

           

Saturday, July 24, 2010

THE CULT OF SELF

THE CULT OF SELF
A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called the children of God!
And that is what we are!
The reason the world did not know us
is that it did not know Him.”
--1 John 3:1

          When we look around at our cultures and our churches, we see a self-focus that has become so pervasive it has twisted even many of the faithful into mere shadows of what God intends us to be.  This self-focus is a worldly focus, and turns our light into darkness, our good deeds into nothing. 

          Scripture teaches that our “self”—this unique, God-created person—is prone to sin, subject to decay, and that we must deny our “selves” in order to enter the Kingdom of God. (Mark 8:34)  Christ in us completes us.  When Christ inhabits us by His Spirit, He helps us let go of the old man, and behold, all things become new in Him. (2 Cor. 5:17)  This new man is not full of self, but full of Christ, and led and empowered by the Spirit of Christ within. (Col. 3:3)

          We are dead, and our lives are now with Christ, in Christ, and His life is in us, in this new man, created by God, reborn into freshness, and able to live the Christ-life by His power, and to His glory.  Living the successful Christ-life has everything to do with dying to self, and depends upon that death of self for its beginnings.

          However, many of us have been taught a self-focused gospel, which has come out of the churches in recent generations, especially in America.  This self-focus is really like a cult.  Its adherents are adamant about their personal rights to a good life, their political rights to freedom, their entitlements to receive the blessings of God because they claim the Name of Christ. 

          This gospel is not the true gospel of Christ, or it would teach what Jesus taught.

          Jesus taught self-denial.  Jesus taught us to be other-focused.  Jesus showed us how, with His life of self-sacrifice for our sakes.  So how could we have been led astray by this Cult of Self?  How could we follow teachings that fly in the face of all that our Lord Jesus exemplified?  I don’t have the answer to that question, but we’ve done it. 

          Think about Satan’s temptations of the Lord Jesus when He was out in the desert, practicing what He was soon going to preach by denying Himself food for forty days, and spending all His time with His Father preparing for ministry.  What did Satan tempt our Lord with?  Self-gratification, self-glorification, and self-focus.  (Matt. 4:1-11)  It was all about Jesus’ inner self, His manhood, His personhood, His pride, His need for attention, even His placement in the world.  Satan tests us in the same ways, and many of us are failing the test, because we have been unprepared.

          In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus left His disciples while He went to pray in agony about the death He was going to die the next day.  How did He admonish them in that moment?  “Watch and pray that you will not fall into temptation.  The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”  (Matt. 26:41)  Yes, it is our flesh that is weak, and we not only experience these temptations to self-focus that Jesus did, but because we have been taught this self-focused gospel, we have often fallen to them. 

          Brothers, I admonish us, and I pray for us, that we would give up our membership in this Cult of Self.  There are many of those who claim Christ whose entire life is centered around themselves, their families, their churches, their jobs, their possessions, their activities and hobbies, their time, their efforts.  It’s all about us.  It’s all about me.  It’s all about my fulfillment as a person.  Our entire society is geared to this self-focus, and we’ve bought into it.

          We even preach Christ as if He’s the self-help guru, ready to bring us to self-fulfillment by following Him! 

          What a lie!  He’s going to bring us to self-death, so that in our new, God-wrought personhood, Christ is all, and we are nothing except His Sons and His Daughters.  As John cries out in joy, we are children of God now, and what a privilege!  Though the world hates us, we are His and His alone, and find our fulfillment in that fact. 

          How dare we preach a gospel that is other than that handed down to us in Scripture!    When Christ comes back, will He find faith on earth? 

          Those who seek Him will find Him, and when He returns, they will find their lives as promised, for eternity.

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but
whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
--Matt. 16:25

WHEN THE CHRISTIAN THING BECOMES AN IDOL

NOTE:  This is as contemporary as when T. Austin-Sparks spoke these words many years ago.  Today we have become even more fascinated and dependent upon our "Christian" institutions and ministries, our work for God, and thus are in great need of this Word again from the Lord.

WHEN THE CHRISTIAN THING BECOMES AN IDOL

T. AUSTIN-SPARKS


          Shun (keep clear away from, avoid by flight if need be) any sort of idolatry (of loving or venerating anything more than God). (1 Corinthians 10:14).


          There are many things which are not only harmless, but good in themselves, which have, nevertheless, been allowed to take the place of the Lord Himself, and good things can therefore embody the principle of idolatry in the one in whom the devotion is found.
          Touch some Christians, or Christian institutions, and let the touch be even in relation to something more of the Lord Himself, and you will find an uprising of jealous regard for the institution which utterly blinds to that possibility of an extra measure of the Lord Himself.
          You can be so devoted to a denomination, a missionary society, a piece of Christian work, that there is no room for any extra measure of the Lord. The thing itself has become the end, the object for which you live, and when the Lord wants to get you moved on into something more of Himself, the obstacle is that good Christian work, association, institution, tradition, connection.
          Yes, and that is idolatry in principle, and we see from history how the Lord again and again has had to smite with smashing blows things which in themselves were good, in order to save His people unto Himself personally...
          What is God after in us?
          It is HIMSELF which He is seeking to establish as the object of man's life, and not the THINGS that have relation to Himself: and I say again, you meet something intensely fierce if you touch a thing, even though you are touching it maybe with a view to getting people to move on with the Lord Himself. To put that in the other way, if your appeal for moving on with the Lord seems to people to involve their having to move away from this or that or some other thing, then there is warfare; which shows that Satan in his eternal campaign of idolatry, has got a footing amongst Christians in relations to things which take the place of the Lord Himself, good things though they be in themselves; and you find, if you are spiritually sensitive, that you are not just encountering the established institutions, but you are encountering a terrific spiritual force.
          Is that true? It is true. Had I never come up against it, never would I have believed the terrific force there is lying behind Christian institutions if your ministry touches them.
          You meet something which turns upon you, and it is not just the thing or the people. It is something that threatens your very life, to slay, and this in principle and essence, beloved, is idolatry; because its ultimate effect is that even the Lord cannot have what His heart is set upon and get His people spiritually where He wants them, because they are so bound up with His things. They are not able to discriminate between His things and Himself.

Friday, July 23, 2010

THE UNSHAKEABLE

THE UNSHAKEABLE
A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing

“…but now He has promised, ‘Once more I will shake
not only the earth but also the heavens.’  The words
‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken—
that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.”
Heb. 12:26,27

The created things spoken of here include all religiously-crafted things.  There is nothing standing after this great and final shaking, except Christ, and those in Him.  There will be a landscape devoid of man-made things, and this new spiritual landscape will have only those things worked by the Spirit of God left upright.  All monuments to us will be thrown down.

Each year it is a tradition for the President of the United States to read his “State of the Union” address.  In it, he gives his assessment of where the country is at, and what progress has been made. 

In 1952 a great teacher of the Word of God, T. Austin-Sparks, wrote a year-end synopsis of what he and his people had observed of the life of the churches during their travels around the world that year.  I call it “The State of the Church, 1952” and it is shocking to read it now.  Since it’s the year I was born, it strikes an even more personal note in me. 

Its truths are not nullified, but confirmed, and brought further into clarity in this year of 2010.  After 58 years, it is still all about the increased shaking of the churches by the hand of God, to shake loose men from their apostate and self-focused ways.  If anything has happened, it’s an escalation of the shaking, to now include the affluent western countries, our economies, and our very societies.

Austin-Sparks said in 1952: “It seems a terrible thing, even to think, but as we have touched so very much of what is called 'Christianity' we are bound to believe that, because vast numbers who call themselves Christian are in an utterly false position, and the system itself has become so largely an earthly, traditional, formal, and unspiritual thing, this world-wide shaking is quite necessary and will be eventually justified. If we were writing a treatise, we could show that what is called 'Christianity' is really the greatest enemy of Christ.”


In basing his assessment on Christ and the unshakeable Kingdom, Austin-Sparks sets the right standard for us today.  We must examine what we’re doing and saying in the light of the Truth every day.  We must not take anything for granted.  The churches have so long been going their own way, without the sanction of the Spirit of God, that everything is suspect, and must be examined in light of Scripture.  


To all those spending their time defending church, or church leaders, I beg of you in Christ to put down your fists, and instead pick up the Word of God and study it freshly.  Open your heart and mind to the Spirit of God, and know that only what is of Christ will be left after this final and intense shaking.


I read daily about Christ’s men and women and children being murdered, imprisoned, tortured, and going through other sufferings around the world for His sake.  He is there, and He is glorified in their dying, as He is in all those who die to self daily wherever they are.  All the daily dying is unshakeable, and our tears today will bring up the fruits of the Spirit tomorrow, with our Lord Jesus’ joy and blessings springing out of good soil.  He will do the multiplying.  Let us take care not to try to do the work for Him, but let Him do it in us.



Thursday, July 22, 2010

THE EXPRESSION OF CHRIST

THE EXPRESSION OF CHRIST
T. AUSTIN-SPARKS
What are the purposes of God in His people?

Born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:13).

What, in the thought of God do Christians exist for? What does the Church exist for? What do local churches exist for? There is only one answer. The existence and the function is to be an expression of Christ. There is nothing less and nothing more than that.


Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, and all between! Let that be the starting-point; let that be the governing rule and reality in all matters of life and work, and see at once the nature and vocation of the Church. This vast, incomprehensible heavenly system, of which Christ is the personal embodiment, touches every detail of life, personally and collectively.
But remember only the Holy Spirit sees and knows how it is so; hence, as at the beginning, there has to be an utter submission to and direction by the Lordship of the Holy Spirit. 


What the blood-stream is to the human body, the Divine Life is to and in 'the Church which is His body'. What the nerve system is in the physical realm, the Holy Spirit is in the spiritual. Understand all the workings of those two systems in the natural, and you begin to see how God has written His great heavenly principles, first in the person of His Son, and then in His corporate Body.


As an individual believer is the result of a begetting, a conception, a formation, a birth and a likeness, so, in the New Testament, is a true local church.


It is a reproduction of Christ by the Holy Spirit. Man cannot make, form, produce or, 'establish' this. Neither can anyone 'join' or 'enroll', or make himself or herself a member of this organism. First it is an embryo, and then a 'formation' after Christ.


So, all talk about 'forming New Testament churches' is nonsense. The beginning is in a seeing of Christ, and when two or three in one place have seen Him by the Holy Spirit, and have been "begotten again by the word of God", there is the germ of a church. That, then, is the starting-point. But, how drastic that is, in the matter of reconsideration and recovery.

BREAKING THE RELIGIOUS RULES

NOTE:  T. Austin-Sparks' teachings from the Word were not known to me until very recently, though I grew up in the evangelical churches.  Now that I know the content of them, I'm not surprised.  His was a great ministry, but unlike many brothers today, a quietly effective one.  He is a brother who lived from 1888-1971 on this earth.  For Austin-Sparks, the centrality of Christ was everything, and God also has shown me through Scripture that this man of God was absolutely accurate.  It is all about Christ, not about us.  Read this with humility and the unafraid attitude of the Spirit, and you will see.

A. Brother

BREAKING THE RELIGIOUS RULES
T. AUSTIN-SPARKS

"The Jewish leaders began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules. But Jesus replied, 'My Father is always working, and so am I.'” (John 5:16-17).

A true knowledge of the Lord Jesus will reverse a good many of our ideas, and a good many of our procedures. A true knowledge of Christ and union with Christ, with all that that means, will make us go to work in entirely the opposite way from that in which we have been accustomed to go.

We shall come to be governed by this one consideration, that it is not what we would do for the Lord, but what the Lord would do through us, that is alone to rule. 

It is a very testing way. You can hardly believe, unless you have been the same way, how often and intensely and bitterly the enemy fights and tempts you to come down on to a lower position, and to take up things again for God and launch big schemes, enter upon big undertakings, set up some thing on the earth that can be seen, because all those who are governed by that standard of things seen have said: 'You see, you are doing nothing! Show us what you are doing! You cannot show us anything for it all!' Satan does work on that line. 

To the flesh that is not easy. To go on with God and have nothing to show for it, never to be able to have the work written up in the papers, to publish no reports, nor statistics, and yet to know in your heart of hearts that, although it is hidden, something is going on, and that you cannot do otherwise than you are doing, is far from being a path of ease to the flesh.

It is a testing way, but, blessed be God, if we do endure the testing and go on patiently with Him, in His time, when that flesh has been finally laid low; when the voice of natural ambition is no longer sounding and having influence, and we are now utterly at the place where if things are not going to be of the Lord then there is not going to be anything at all, the Lord has a free way, and He is able to indicate that all the time something has been going on. 

He shows how He has been at work, and how that in time there will be manifested a work of God, a work that shall have such a large percentage of spiritual value and meaning in it that you are very glad, after all, that you walked with God and not with men in the work of God.

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