Sunday, January 15, 2012

DO YOU RELY ON DREAMS OF HAY AND STRAW OR THE HAMMER AND FIRE OF GOD'S WORD?

I DID NOT SEND THESE PROPHETS
A. Brother

“I did not send these prophets,
yet they have run with their message.”
Jer. 23:21

“…if they had stood in My council,
they would have proclaimed My Words to My people
and would have turned them from their evil ways
and from their evil deeds.” 
Jer. 23:22

“Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream,
but let the one who has My Word speak it faithfully. 
For what has straw to do with grain?” declares the Lord. 
Is not My Word like fire,” declares the Lord,
“and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” 
Jer. 23:28,29

            We have a critical situation in the affluent western churches today.  Many occupy pulpit and podium who are not called and chosen by God to prophecy to His people.  These men and women hold positions of authority, influence and power among God’s people, yet they have not been sent by the Lord.  Therefore, we are listening to people and their dreams, instead of hearing and being broken before the Lord about our sins and our evil ways.

          Many men declare their dreams, which is straw, instead of faithfully speaking the Word of God that is like a hammer that breaks rock.  Straw is made for small-minded creatures, like horses and cows.  It is food only for the witless--those who need to be led about by bit and bridle.  The dreams spoken of here are brought forward by the false prophets, who cry “Peace! Peace!” to the sheep, and they follow without thought.  Like dumb animals, these people who are occupying the pews listen to these false prophets, and are herded this way and that by these men who dream their dreams for them, and announce things God has not spoken.
         
          Unlike straw, grain is the sustaining life-giving Word of God that feeds those “who hunger and thirst after righteousness”.  Matt. 5:6  So, as sheep, our responsibility is to hunger and thirst after God and His Word.

            God’s Word is like fire, that burns up “wood, hay or straw…because the Day…will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work”.  1 Cor. 3:12,13  So those who claim to speak the Word of God must undergo God’s quality tests, to make certain they are speaking truth.

            Men who are called by God, and speak God’s Word, in contrast to the false prophets whom God does not call, do it boldly, being willing to risk everything every day to deliver God’s true message of repentance and correction and instruction in righteousness to His people.
          They speak the Truth, bringing real nutrition to the ekklesia of God, and their messages are like fire, burning up the false and fake, allowing God to replace it with the gems of the Spirit.  These men speak the Word of the Lord, wielding God’s hammer, which breaks the rock of prison walls into pieces, so that God can deliver His people from their sin.
          When the Word of God is truly spoken, it brings pain and true godly sorrow, which in turn brings repentance and salvation.  The healing it brings is true healing, deep healing, with the peace of God that comes from righteous living.  The true Word of God counsels obedience to God, and never deceives.

          Today we hear much peace and comfort spoken from our pulpits.  We hear lengthy discourses on how God loves us, and God’s grace is all we need, and how we need not fear anything because God is with us.  Yet we are blind and poor and naked…“worldly—mere infants in Christ.”  1 Cor. 3:1
            The men who speak peace to those who should be repenting of their sins, and their lukewarmness, do not have the good of the people of God in mind.  Their interests are not those of Christ Jesus.  No matter how popular and influential they are, these men face the judgment of God for speaking on His behalf without His permission.  They are speaking falsely, and are to their sheep as shepherds who lead them astray.
          These men who jealously guard their positions and lifestyles speak on their own behalf.  They “fill you with false hopes…visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord…to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’ “  Jer. 23:16,17
            These men “are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves.”  Jude 12
            These men who speak peace to troubled souls do not call the sinners to repentance as Jesus did, nor do they bring men into obedience to the Lord’s Word.  They don’t follow the Way of Christ, which is the Narrow Way of the Cross, but instead take Broadway, that wide, brightly-lit street of dreams and lead thousands to their destruction.
          Their teachings may be presented in small sanctuaries, with only a handful of sheep present, or they may be dynamically presented to large audiences, and go out with the latest technology.  Yet they lack any substance, or means of saving anyone.  The people of God perish in their comfort, while God is ignored.

“These are the men who divide you,
who follow mere natural instincts
and do not have the Spirit…
they boast about themselves
and flatter others for their own advantage.” 
Jude 19,16

            Don’t trust their flattering words, or their easy, comfortable gospel, which is no gospel at all.

          The true Word of God calls us to repent and follow Jesus.  Jesus says:

“If anyone would come after Me,
he must deny Himself and take up his cross and follow Me. 
For whoever wants to save his own life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it….
If anyone is ashamed of Me and My Words
in this adulterous and sinful generation,
the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes
 in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.” 
Mark 8:34-38

            When Christ comes in glory to receive His own, He will say to many who’ve attended church and sat under these false prophets “…I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.”  Matt. 25:12

          And to these who prophesy smoothly as if God is speaking through them when He is not He says:  “The master of the servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of.  He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites…”  Matt. 24:50,51

          This message is for those who claim to speak the Word of God.  You must examine yourselves and truly put yourselves to the test.  If you are called, you will know this.  Your anointing will be from Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit will rest upon you with power and authority.  Your teachings will be full of the Truth, and you will call God’s people to Him without flattery, and with conviction.  You will adhere to the Word, and sit in God’s council, listening and heeding His voice only.  You will not twist and distort the Word of God for your own ends, nor for the purposes of other men or institutions set up by men, no matter if they pay your salaries.  You will declare the simple Truth, and call men to repentance and obedience to Christ as citizens of His Kingdom.  You will preach the Word, sharing it morning, noon and night with those whom God has put in your care.  You will love the brethren above all, and give God’s love to them at all times, making the most of every opportunity in these evil days.

          You will call the Body of Christ to live like His Body, set apart, holy, and infused with the Holy Spirit’s power for righteous living.  You will teach the flock how to live with one another in love, and how to take care of one another in practical ways.
         
“For the time will come when men
will not put up with sound doctrine. 
Instead, to suit their own desires,
 they will gather around them a great number of teachers
to say what their itching ears want to hear. 
They will turn their ears away from the truth
and turn aside to myths.” 
2 Tim. 4:3,4

            This message is also for those who sit like dumb animals under the teaching of those who claim to represent the Lord.  You are responsible for your own lives, minds, and actions.  You can think, study and pray for yourself.  God will teach you His Ways if you truly want anything more than easy deception and comfortable living.  Would it not be tragic if you were to lose your own soul because you were too lazy or fearful to follow the Truth instead of smooth, flattering men who make you feel good?

          Don’t you want the Lord Himself, and His love, and His companionship, instead of false hopes?

“This is what the Lord Almighty says,
‘Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you;
they fill  you with false hopes. 
They speak visions from their own minds,
not from the mouth of the Lord…
In days to come you will understand it clearly.” 
Jer. 23:16,20

          Escape the trap Satan has devised for you.  Don’t follow anyone who preaches a gospel other than the one which was given you in Scripture.  Be willing to follow Jesus Christ, even if it means going upstream to the religious river that flows around you.  Better yet, get out of that river altogether, leaving the false prophets, and find those who truly teach and preach the Good News of God’s Word.
 
          I pray that we will come to understand this clearly, not when Christ comes back, and we realize in a rush of regret and fear that we have listened to the wrong gospel, but now, in grateful repentance and the experience of the grace of God in our changed lives, through His Son Jesus Christ.
           

Monday, January 9, 2012

THE MYSTERY DISCLOSED. YOU IN CHRIST AND CHRIST IN YOU.

CHRIST IN YOU. YOU IN CHRIST.
A. Brother

"To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse..." (Col. 1:2)


"I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness--the mystery...that is now disclosed to the saints...which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."  (Col. 1:25-27)


In Christ.  This phrase is the key to all knowledge, wisdom and life. 
Christ in you.  This phrase sums up the whole message of the gospel. 

These are the truths upon which the entire span of eternity, and the entire universe hinge.  The door of truth swings on these massive, smooth, beautifully and perfectly forged hinges, and can be swung open by a single touch of the weakest, tiniest hand.
And this is a great mystery.  One that we can not hope to comprehend without the Holy Spirit’s illumination in our hearts and minds.

If we come as children to Christ, as He commands we do (Matt. 19:14 et.al.), then we can, with the feeblest of cries, call the entire power of God to our disposal in Christ.  He is ready and willing to uphold us in danger, to strengthen us in turmoil, to fill us with His peace in the worst of circumstances if we come like this.  If we come as able adults, sure in our religious place, content in our righteousness, holding up hands of complacency and self-worth, then God is bored with us, and cannot invest in us this life of Christ Jesus.

If you have not died with Christ (Col. 2:20), then you cannot be raised with Christ (Col. 3:1).  If you are not raised with Christ, you are not alive in Christ and dead to the world.  If you are not dead to the world, then you are living in your own power, not in Christ's.

In Christ.  Christ in you.  These sum up all mysteries that have been solved by His coming.  Today, we must dwell here, in the childlike realm of this Truth, and stay every day until He reveals the fullness of His own character in us.  Once we know this, we can never leave this place without damaging what God is doing in us.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

SHOULD WE SEEK THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS?

LIVING THE MOST EXCELLENT WAY
A. Brother

            What is the most excellent Way?  And should you and I be seeking the gifts of the Spirit without first learning to walk in it?

            Remember that Paul addressed the most detail on this subject to his most troubled church body--the Corinthians.  I Corinthians 12 and 13 address the issue of the most important spiritual gifts, and what is most important of all.

            It was precisely because this undisciplined, motley crew of believers was struggling with pride, selfishness (even when observing the Lord's Table together), divisions (over who was following which teacher/leader), lawsuits among believers, terrible sexual sin, and a lot of other immature behavior, that they had trouble discerning and appropriating the gifts from the Spirit in the proper ways. It was their spiritual immaturity which limited their understanding.

            So, what did Paul say? He clarified that there are many gifts, and that it was the Holy Spirit that gave those gifts to people in the Body of Christ for the purpose of building up others in their faith. It was not man's decision, it was not man's work. It was the work of God.

            He did indicate that if someone desired spiritual gifts, that he should seek the highest gifts--the highest one being Prophecy--which means giving out the Word of God to others. He even put tongues in perspective, stating that tongues is for private prayer unless someone with the gift of interpretation is available to edify the Body.

BUT WHAT WAS PAUL'S GREAT REMINDER ABOUT GIFTS? 

"But eagerly desire the greater gifts.
And now I will show you
THE MOST EXCELLENT WAY."
1 Cor. 12:31

            The most excellent way, brothers, is LOVE. It is the greatest FRUIT of the Spirit, which is often ignored completely. LOVE should be pursued before and during our pursuit of any other gifts from God.

            It is the highest and best, the Way of Christ, and "covers a multitude of sins".

            The Corinthians, like many of us, had not yet learned how to fly, and were wanting a Lear Jet. They were always concerned about getting the best spiritual gifts.  God's best is that we learn how to walk in love as Jesus did, and then He'll bestow on us spiritual gifts we can handle.

            Lear Jets are for the best pilots, not novices who are undisciplined and haven't paid the price. The best commercial pilots come out of being combat pilots. Same for us in the Body. The highest gifts are reserved for those who've trained to discern good from evil by constant use--who've been through the fires and the waters and learned to rely on God and His Spirit to get them through.

            We must learn to "follow the way of love" while we "eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy." (1 Cor. 14:1)

            I was raised in a church that emphasized the highly visible gifts of tongues and preaching and teaching, but without the greatest gift of love it was a "resounding gong...a clanging cymbal" and I was left with the conclusion that it was gaining nothing. (1 Cor. 13:1-3) 

            In fact, as it is today in many churches, it was very discouraging to see Christians involved in promoting themselves and their own “spirituality” or their own “giftedness”.  In fact, many Christians confuse talent with gift, and so we have the ungifted, immature believer with talent being pushed into leadership.  This means, like the Corinthians, we are seeking the wrong things, and need to grow up in Christ.

            I pray that we would discern our spiritual condition in the churches. That each of us would call for the gift of love to be lived out, and that all other gifting would be prayerfully left to the Holy Spirit's direction as we draw closer to Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

HOW WE MAKE HEAVENLY THINGS INTO EARTHLY THINGS


HOW WE MAKE HEAVENLY THINGS INTO EARTHLY THINGS
T. Austin-Sparks

“The heavens do rule.”
Daniel 4:26

There is a great need today that there should be the rule of the Heavens.

But the Holy Spirit has got to do it, and we have got to come to recognize the fact that what we see in organized Christianity is not it.

The spiritual people of God are more and more feeling separated from the old system of Christianity and churches and ecclesiastical systems. People are recognizing a deep dissatisfaction with what has held the ground so long, and there is a cry for spiritual reality.

Many sermons are clever and full of mental ability, but they are starvation to the spirit. There is all the activity, but it is not spiritual life, and I believe the Lord is going to show us the nature of the thing that is in the heavens. The thing that man has brought down on to the earth and taken up and perpetuated is only at best a poor imitation of things in the heavens, but in a very large realm it is a caricature of heavenly things.

Man has taken hold of heavenly things and brought them down to earth and made them earthly things. That is where things all went wrong at the beginning.

At the first, things were of the Spirit. The people gathered in their homes or anywhere. It was not the place. It was not the ministry. It was the Lord, and they were circled around Him.

But then the day came when they said, "We must have public buildings," and then the architecture became a factor, and so things developed, and they became something on the earth for men to take note of.

They wanted man to be attracted, and that was the first step in one of the greatest perils that has overtaken the church. For prestige, recognition, the world to be attracted, there is the result that you get the mixed multitudes in the Church.

If you can attach some big names to it, you can attract the people, and one of the devil's greatest measures has been popularising the church. The pre-eminent thing is lost, that the church and Christ is a mystery to the natural man and that it is no use to expect the natural man to appreciate it.

The church is essentially a spiritual thing according to the mind of God. What really governs everything is God's conception of things, not ours, and if we are going on with the Lord there is going to be a whole system of change and we are going more and more to view things from the heavenly stand­point.

You have got to get into the heavenly system to get heavenly results.

By T. Austin-Sparks from: The Heavens Do Rule - Chapter 2

Monday, January 2, 2012

RULES AND REGULATIONS KILL. ONLY CHRIST'S SPIRIT BRINGS LIFE AND RIGHTEOUSNESS.

THE NEW WAY OF THE SPIRIT
A. Brother

 “He has made us competent ministers of a New Covenant—
not of the letter but of the Spirit;
for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
2 Cor. 3:6

          As modern American believers in Christ, many of us have been raised with a sort of ‘hybrid gospel’ that tries very hard to combine some elements of the letter and some elements of the Spirit.  As evangelicals, we must go back to basics, and see that there is no compromise possible. 
          The Bible teaches us clearly and simply that Christ is the New Covenant, and supplants the Old Covenant of the letter of the law. 
          The letter kills.  This is the declaration.  Any attempt to codify and write down on tablets of stone the ‘principles and precepts of the Christian life’ will kill that life, just as surely as the Mosaic Law brought death, and sin, to light.  This was Paul’s whole declaration in Romans.

“For when we were controlled by the sinful nature,
the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work
in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death.  But now,
by dying to what bound us, we have been released from the law
so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not
in the old way of the written code.”
Romans 7:5,6

          Again, brothers, there can be no compromise with law.  There has crept into the churches over the past several centuries much compromise on this issue.
          But Scripture is clear.  Any attempts to live by a code, or a set of rules, is futile, and a disobedience to Christ.  Not only in long passages in Romans, but also in long passages in his Corinthian letters, as well as in Galations, and other letters, Paul spends an enormous amount of time declaring this new life in Christ as being completely dependent on the Spirit of God for its power within us to change us.  Death comes from trying to live by the basic principles of any kind, including religious basic principles.
          This was the very thing Christ died to save us from.  Do we now, as the Galations did, think we will be carried through to completion in Christ by our own efforts?  Sadly, brothers, many of us do. 

“Are you so foolish?  After beginning with the Spirit,
are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?”

          The real tragedy today is that many who are attending our churches, and claiming the name “Christian” have never even begun “with the Spirit”.  We have begun by the church creeds, lived by the church’s edicts, and tried our hardest to adhere to the levels of righteous living we think we must attain in order to make it to heaven.  Many of us who are in so-called “Spirit-filled” churches fit this description also.  We are loud in our worship, and try our best to summon up the Spirit in our meetings, yet we live the rest of the time in our own efforts, trying desperately to understand and live by the ‘basic Christian principles’ we think God calls us to live by.

          Oh, my brothers and sisters who strive and work to be ‘good Christians’, we can never reach our goals. 

          Power and life are not in the letter, whether the letter of the churches, or the letter of the law, or the letter of the world.  Death comes through the letter. 
          Life comes through Christ, BUT only if we submit ourselves to death.  The death of self, and the new life of the Spirit that does it all in us.  All Christ’s work in us.  It is no longer our work, but Christ’s.  Not just to believe in His work on the cross, but to believe in His daily work in us, transforming us, creating us into His image by the power of His Spirit.
          There is no self-effort that can do that.  In fact, our attempts to live up to some standard of behavior or another will always end in frustration and death. 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
the old has gone, the new has come.”
2 Cor. 5:17

          This is why Paul declared, over and over, that Christ set us free from the law of sin and death.  Watch out for those who want you to follow this or that set of rules, or this or that set of principles.  They are wolves in sheep’s clothing, perhaps not intentionally, as they may be ignorant of the true life available to us in Christ, yet are all the more dangerous in that ignorance.
          There are many pastors and teachers today who will solidly and confidently declare things that are not true under the New Covenant.  They will do so, as they have to me, with great volumes of rhetoric, and in fact will produce long lists of Old Testament Scripture to back up their arguments that we should be keeping this or that basic precept of the law of Moses.  Yet their arguments are in vain with Paul and the other apostles, and with the New Covenant Scripture.  You must not be swayed by these men and women.  We must adhere only to Christ, and His Spirit, as the power in us to live righteously.  Our righteousness is worked within us only by the power of His Spirit.
         
“You who are trying to be justified by law
have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen
away from grace.  But by faith we eagerly await
through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.”
Gal. 5:4,5

          I read and hear many things from “Christians” who declare that we must be adhering to this or that principle, or this or that law, while we live the Christian life.  That is why there is tremendous confusion among believers. 
          Brothers, there is only the simple, straightforward message of life in Christ, and the power of His Spirit to work it in us.  This is the “full message of this new life” (Acts 5:20) that was declared from the beginning by the apostles, and brought to us in the New Covenant Scriptures.
          We must not stray from this declaration, though it makes us a stench in the nostrils of certain religious people, who love their principles and their precepts, and who love the trappings of religion. 

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not
gratify the desires of the sinful nature…
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, and self control.
Against such things there is no law.”
Gal. 5:16,22,23
          

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