Month: February 2010

To Taste and See – W.E. Smith

As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God? (Psa. 42:1-2)

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psa. 63:1)

We have elsewhere alluded to the reality that, as spirit-born children of a Heavenly Father, only God Himself can truly satisfy the thirst He has given us. David, in particular, recognized this reality and wrote about it often, stretching even language to its breaking point. Those who are truly His, living and breathing and abiding in the fullness and life of the Son, can affirm this intimately, for to taste the Bread of Life even once is to desire more; this is a living principle and how the Father of Life has ordained it.

Here, we would like to pursue this concept of heavenly food even further, as the Spirit permits, for it represents to us the essential things such as sustenance and survival and healing. Without nourishment the body will weaken and die; this is as true in the spiritual realm as it is in the natural.

In Ezekiel, we learn that one like David himself will be established as the true and faithful shepherd over the Lord’s people –

“Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd.” (Eze. 34:23)

Of course we know this to be none other than the Father’s Beloved and Faithful Son, Jesus Christ. And later, in the New Testament, we see this responsibility extended and fulfilled through His first disciples –

So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.”  (John 21:15-17)

“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28)

Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Pet. 5:1-4)

So what, in fact, is this food that this Shepherd will provide for His hungry sheep. Let’s consider this further, for our very survival and development in the Spirit rests upon both the One who feeds and the food itself.

In Genesis we see that the Creator speaks life into existence; that all of His creation responds to His Word. In this sense then, it is a creative and sustaining Word – a Living Word. And it is a faithful word because it never returns to Him void or empty.

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. (Isa. 55:11)

It always fulfils precisely what He purposes for it. This may sound familiar for there was another to whom this describes –

Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But He said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples were saying to one another, “No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. (John 4:31-34)

Just as the Creator’s Word spoke the heavens and the earth (and all things in them) into existence in Genesis, Jesus Christ is the Living Word whose food is to do the will of the Father and to finish all the work that He has purposed. In fact, this very same Word is one and the same from the beginning, as John affirms for us –

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. (John 1:1-4)

What sustained our Lord on the earth, as His food and sustenance, was actively pursuing the will and work of His Father in Heaven. And as the living and dynamic Word that expresses all life into being, He in turn represents the food we need to live and grow in Him. Often we hear teachers tell us that the Scriptures are the food we need to remain spiritually healthy and to grow up in the faith. This is only partially true of course, as the Lord Himself is the Living Word and Expressive Truth that encompasses all of the Father’s creative will and purposes.

The physical manna falling daily in the wilderness was a wondrous and miraculous source of life and health for the people of Israel. Yet it was not provided or intended to satisfy the hunger that only the Bread of Life could satisfy.

“He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.” (Deut. 8:3)

Notice how David expresses this –

Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate (or feed on) faithfulness. (Psa. 37:3)

O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! (Psa. 34:8)

To feed on something, to literally take it into your mouth so you can taste it, is a form of apprehension and experience that goes deeper than sight or touch or even hearing it with your ears. Only when this food gets inside you, and becomes part of you, can you know it truly, and only then will its life-sustaining energy begin to work. All the while the Israelites were constantly worrying about food and physical survival, and experiencing the faithfulness and goodness of the Lord’s miraculous provision, they were failing to learn the lesson that they were to feed on the Lord’s faithfulness; to taste that He is good and trustworthy, that “life is more than meat, and the body [is more] than raiment.”

Sadly they were more like those described by Paul –

For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.” (Phil. 3:18-19)

Like Esau before them, they hungered only for the earthly pottage that fills the body for a time, and not for the Living Bread who represents true life and fullness for the spirit in man.

We would do well to heed this lesson brethren, for the very fact that most of them did not enter into the promised land represents a harsh lesson for us. We must be careful if we are so convinced in ourselves that we are standing in the Lord, lest we fall in our delusion.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matt. 5:6)

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” (John 6:35)

…for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.(Rom. 14:17)

Yes, this spiritual food includes biblical teaching and doctrine (milk), but the real meat (solid food) that the Father wants us to sink our spiritual teeth into is Christ in all His fullness and life. It literally broke the Apostle Paul’s heart that he could not take these babes deeper into the provision and sufficiency of the Lord Jesus Christ, as our All and Everything; as the food that will ultimately satisfy us for all eternity. This is where all of these natural and physical shadows and types in the Old Testament lead. He alone is the conclusion of the matter; the moral of the story if you will. Ever so painfully and slowly it seems I am starting to learn this wondrous principle.

Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. (1 Cor. 3:1-2)

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (Heb. 5:12-14)

Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. “But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:29-38)

So what about you and I? Is He our daily bread? Do we feed on the strength, wisdom and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ? Or, are we actively seeking to be filled by some other means? He does indeed save us but He is so much more than a Savior. He does indeed justify us, but He is so much more than merely a Justifier. He certainly sanctifies us, but He is by no means limited to that. You see brethren, these are mere doctrines, and although they do hold a place, they can only be touched or handled, never tasted. Better that we understand and apprehend Him as the Bread of Life, and the Living Water, and the flesh and blood of the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. The life is in the food and the feeding. Oh that He would impress this on His people! Oh that we would be so much more than theologians or Bible scholars – and savor the sweetness of the Living, Creative Word!

My friends, in this context there are really only three groups of people on the earth today. The first care nothing of the things of God and generally go about their little, natural lives “sitting down to eat and drink and rising up to play” (Exodus 32:6). They want only to fill their bellies, much like Esau, who forsook his birthright for a bowl of soup to appease his carnal hunger.

The second have a taste for spiritual things, perhaps attend church regularly, even consider themselves well-schooled in the truths of Scripture. Many in fact are what they would consider fundamentalist or conservative in their understanding and approach to the Christian faith. Yet, because the soul has not been brought under the subjection of the spirit, they know only the theological word (milk). A such, they remain babes; born again to be sure, but stunted in growth, not walking and pressing deeper into the life and provision of God’s Heavenly Bread. Satisfied only with milk, they know little of hungering and thirsting for righteousness; of eating the body and drinking the blood of the Lamb of God. When they read things like David wrote in the Psalms, about “tasting and seeing” the Lord’s goodness, and “feeding on (or cultivating) His faithfulness”, it is more poetry than a living dynamic marking the difference between life and death; between divine life and humanly-sustained religion.

The third group has grown faint in this world, feeding for a time on its food and philosophy and religion. Yet, they have come to the point where they are no longer satisfied with the enriched white bread of man’s pursuit of God and meaning. They are tired of eating and drinking and still feeling empty and wasted. They have perhaps sampled many different foods on their journey, yet each leaves them even more empty. They hunger for something real; something substantial; something that will finally satisfy the longing in their spirit. After tasting the sweet manna of the wilderness, they desire the true Heavenly Bread sent down from the Father. And for the very few who have partaken of this Bread, their lives have been changed and enriched forever. They have partaken of the fruit of the Father’s glorious provision of life, and its taste is sweet and full in their mouths. It sends out strength and healing and victory over the old man, and all that is sickly and weak within them. And they are forever one with Him whom they have partaken. Finally, they have come to see that life can only flow from the Living Word that is inside them. To derive life from Him, then to live and move in the power and energy of that life, is what the Creator had always intended for them.

I recognize, with all frankness and humility, that there are elements of each of these in every one of us, my brethren. At least I can say this of myself even on my best days. But I also recognize that “in Him we live and move and have our being” and that He is the very fullness of God because He is the very food of God. There is no other. Believe me, as someone who has spent many years on this earth sampling this or that delicacy, hoping it will appease my hungry soul, I can confess honestly and completely that He is indeed the only One. Everything else is junk food, which is no food at all.

My hope and prayer is that each of us would feed on the Lord’s faithfulness; on His strength and fullness; and that we would taste and see that He is good and trustworthy, and that His Word never returns to Him empty or void. It is the very creative voice of God, and the Son, and only until we develop an appetite for this Heavenly Bread will we ever hope to be truly satisfied. Don’t be fooled by anything else, dear ones. And if you feel like you have been on milk for far too long, the time to go on to Him is now. Ask Him for the meat that is the Lamb of God, and He will not disappoint you.

By His grace and power, let us partake of the Prince of Life, and grow thereby in all ways pleasing to our Heavenly Father! Let us pray daily for one another as the time of His appearing draws near. Let us present ourselves before Him as a living sacrifice pleasing to the Father, no longer living and being for ourselves but for Him and His Glorious Kingdom. Let us forsake the cares of this world, the love of self and pleasure and money and getting more, more more! He is all we need my friends; all we need in every sense! Let us draw further into the Light as the darkness of the pit rises up with all manner of wickedness and deceit and violence against the household of God! Most of all, let us come to Him meekly as little children, acknowledging our absolute dependence on Him for all things pertaining to the life of the body and the Spirit.

In Jesus’ precious name, we pray. Amen.

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Let There Be Light! – W.E. Smith

lightoftheworldBefore we begin brethren, please pray for one another as the revealing of the saints draws near, as the kingdoms of this world become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. Pray also that His will be done on this earth as it is in heaven. I pray for all His little ones every day – that our dear and heavenly Father will bring you to glory in His beloved Son.

I am deeply grateful for all of you, so few yet so genuine, who frequent these pages, and have determined to press ever deeper into all that the Father has for us through His Son. I know we can seem at times scattered and isolated here in the wilderness, but we are closer than we think in the true measure of spiritual intimacy and relationship. We are one in Him, and bound spiritually to each other with a bond that nothing in this world, nor time or space can separate. And soon, brethren, very soon (I can almost feel it in my spiritual bones) we shall be forever together with He who has formed us together in Himself.

What I would like to share in this message is something the Lord has been affirming to me lately, and that is the reality that in His eyes, as He beholds this world and everything in it, there is only darkness and light (night and day), and all authority and activity is represented by either one or the other. Here are some passages, in no particular order, that bear this out –

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. (Col. 1:13)

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph. 6:12)

But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness. (1 Thess. 5:4-5)

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5: 14-16)

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and {yet} walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7)

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but {he came} to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. (John 1:4-9)

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (John 8:12)

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Pet. 2:9)

Dearest saints, sons of the day, are we truly aware of what occurs when He claims us for Himself; that indeed, we are spiritually transferred from a domain of darkness ruled by a liar and a pretender, into His Glorious Kingdom of Light in which the true Light of the world (John 8:12), Jesus Christ, is King. All physical realities, elements and forces that shine forth light into darkness, such as the sun and the stars and flame, are merely figments and shadows of the One who is the True Light of the world. And the glorious truth is that His marvelous and penetrating light can shine forth in us who live and walk in Him. He is that Bright and Morning Star who brings the dawn and daylight to a dark world cursed with perpetual night.

Notice again in John 1, where it says that “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.” It is nothing in ourselves – our wisdom, works, intellect, good intentions, morals or religion – that represents this “light” in us, but His very life working in and through us. In coming freely and humbly to Him, we come out of darkness and into light; revealed for the first time, seeing clearly for the first time, exposed for the first time, alive and seeing the dawn of day by that Bright and Morning Star. For God is Light and in Him there is no darkness. Only He can enlighten us; and He does so by His eternally creative command – “Let there be Light”.

Brethren, this too must be our deepest intent and desire, that true light would enlighten us, radiating outward everywhere we go in this dark, shadow-filled world. There is no clearer distinction than light and darkness; day and night. And even the smallest, most insignificant light will always dispel the darkness.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, among whom you shine as lights in the world. (Phil. 2:12-15)

Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says, “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.” (Eph. 5:7-14)

Nothing wrought of ourselves, however high or noble in nature will shine forth as His light. Only the marvelous light of Jesus Christ – the True Light – shining in us will scatter the darkness of this world and bring glory to the Father. Anything less is simply advancing darkness and death. Even the capacity to see what is wrought in the Light is itself evidence that we have this Light of Life.

There are indeed many in the world today who say that they have fellowship with Him and yet walk in darkness. This is a serious thing brethren, as only a dark and deluded heart could think this to be so. For the Son of God is Light, and only those who walk in this Light truly abide in active fellowship with Him. In Him there is no darkness whatsoever, and all the world and everything contained in it is shrouded in secrecy and darkness. Nothing is as it seems. All is built on a lie, and to the degree that believers abide in this world, we represent and advance the darkness. Dear brethren, this should not be so –

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. (Col. 1:13)

We need to pray always that He would show us the darkness that is even within us, and infuse us with His marvelous light, the Light of Life that is in Himself.

Another aspect of this is found in Matthew 6, where our Lord teaches us that to see spiritually requires light –

The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (Matt. 6:22-23)

If the Light of God is in us, then we will be able to discern between spiritual light and spiritual darkness, just as our physical eyes do in the material realm. As it is through the eyes that we take in all around us, it is essential that our spiritual eyes be equipped to see clearly. It is not enough to judge things by our physical eyes, for all is a deception in this world, and even the devil can make himself appear as an angel of light

But I am not surprised! Even Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light. (2 Cor. 11:14)

Again, nothing in this world is as it seems, as many of you know, dear saints. The world is darkness because the god of this world is the embodiment of darkness. All is rooted in a sophisticated lie that has been concealed in the shadows since that first dawn. That man can live apart from the one who made Him, and formed Him for Himself and His Glory – this is the dark lie that has been foisted so viciously on those still under the cover of night; those who have yet to come into the Light.

Yet the blessed wonder of it all is that, by His grace, we have been given the gift of sight; able to behold that which is real and true by the Light of He who is Truth! Praise God, for in Him now we can practice the truth and thereby enter into His Light! And perfect revelation demands that there will be no darkness (deception, dishonesty, craftiness, guile, impurity, etc.) in us whatsoever; that there will be no unlikeness to the One who is the pure and perfect and all-revealing Light.

Oh gracious and wise Father, please show us where there is darkness and shadow in us. Expose and reveal all of the secret places in our hearts where we even deceive ourselves of our real condition and need for illumination. Dear Lord, let the all-penetrating Light of your Beloved Son shine on us, and from us ever brighter, even more constant and true. Help us, Father, not to love the darkness or rely on it to cover up what we truly are. Oh Lord, bring us into Your Glorious and Eternal Light that we might see clearly, once and for all. Amen.

In Proverbs we read –

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day. (Prov. 4:18)

And so what is the “path of the righteous” if not the very life of the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ? Did He not say that He was the way and the truth and the life? This is the true Light, my friends, and nothing else claiming to be enlightenment or illumination or anything else will do. He is the divine spark of life that has come into the world to enlighten each and every one of us who has received Him by faith. Of course, “the powers … the world forces of this darkness” despise this Light, for He exposes their ways as evil, and reveals all for what it truly is. Nothing can hide from He who is the Light of the World, and the night is always threatened by the day that will bring a swift end to its shadowy reign.

Precious saints, if indeed we are of the day and not of the night, then why do so many us still walk in darkness? Why do we still trust the dark designs of those who obscure the perfect ways and wisdom of our God? Why do we so often live in the shadows rather than coming forward into His magnanimous Light? Why are we more often blind than seeing what we need to see; what His Light alone reveals – first in ourselves, and then in everything else? Do we not understand that in Christ alone we who were “formerly darkness” have been transferred from a “domain of darkness” into a Kingdom of Light?

Now there are many things that promise great things and big results, even in this Christian walk. Yet if anything, even a good thing in itself, obscures the Lord Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, in any way, then it is darkness and must be stamped out and rejected. Can we see this brethren? Can we see that He alone is the Light that lights our way; that He is the Sun around which all things live and move and have their being? Can we see that it is His life in us, eternal life, that brings glory to the Father and blessing to others? Can we see that anything or anyone that promises to provide illumination, that does not center around Christ Jesus, are not lights at all, but merely expressions of darkness? I dare say, quite solemnly in fact, that there is much darkness, even in the Christian church. Oh Father have mercy on us! May Your Son shine on all of those still in darkness; especially those who love the darkness and the shadow.

Dear children of the morning, as we approach this final Day of the Lord, His day of reckoning and judgment, let us take to heart these words –

“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (1 John 3:19-21)

We too, dear saints, represent His Light by which those in the world who love the darkness will be judged. No doubt they will respond to us as they did to the One who is the True Source of all Light. They will try to quench His Light in us lest they be exposed for what they are. Yet in persecution and death, His Light will shine even brighter in His witnesses, just as His Light has never been quenched from the hill of Calvary and never will.

Oh glorious and Wonderful Father, Most Ancient of Days – let there be Light in your children! Let the precious light and truth and life of Your Son fill us and surround us completely. Let His Light shine forth radiantly from Your little ones as a testimony to You and the Bright and Morning Star who is the Life of the World. Oh Lord, there is darkness and death all around us in this hour; in our families and workplaces; in our churches and institutions, in all the lies and false assumptions that undergird everything. Lies and deception and mistrust at every level of society, from top to bottom, with so many loving the lie, and advancing the darkness all around them.

Oh Father, let us shine forth for Thee and for Thy Glory. Scatter all darkness within us, even if it means pain and loss and the shattering of all of our idols. Let Your Son’s Glorious Light fill us throughout, emanating out from us in our words and works wrought only in Him! Oh Beloved Father, please, please, Let there be Light! In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

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Please pray for us here at Living-Walk, that we would watch and see the Master at work, and understand what He would have us do.

Your friend and servant in Christ Jesus,

Wayne

Jesus Christ, the Great Superlative – W.E. Smith

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. (Col. 1:15-20)

Superlative: of the highest kind, quality, or order; surpassing all else or others; supreme. (Dictionary.com)

While reading Paul’s letter to the Colossians recently, I was practically paralyzed by a sense of the unspeakable wonder of this being known as Jesus Christ. Language itself flounders and very nearly fails as this skillful communicator begins to consider the Living and Eternal Word, the One who reconciles all the world to God the Father through Himself.

Clearly, He who is our Lord and Life is the Great Superlative of history. And brethren, it should also be clear to us that all of the Father’s eternal purposes are bound up in His Son, Jesus Christ. All that the Father is doing, in terms of restoring all that has fallen, whether it be in the realm of the angels, the physical world, or the inner human condition, involves His Son. If we could only grasp this, and be granted an enlarged vision of His central place in all history and destiny. Oh Lord let it be so!

Speaking on the “All Things in Christ“, T. Austin-Sparks, has left us the following words –

To begin with, it is supremely important that we should recognize that there is one basic and all-governing factor with God, which is a supreme matter for our knowledge, and that is the inclusiveness and exclusiveness of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Everything intended and required for the realization of Divine purpose and intention is in, and with, Christ, not only as a deposit, but all is Christ. That is the inclusiveness of Christ.

Then, on the other hand, nothing but what is of Christ is accepted or permitted by God in the final issue. That is the exclusiveness of Christ. However God may seem in His patience and long-suffering, in His grace and mercy, to be bearing with much, even in us His people, which is not of Christ; however much He seems for the time being to allow, it is of supreme importance that we settle it once for all that God is not really allowing it. He may extend to us His forbearance, His long-suffering, but He is not in any way accepting what is not of Christ. He has initially said that it is dead to Him, and He is progressively working death in that realm. So that in the final issue, not one fragment anywhere that is not of Christ will be allowed. Christ excludes everything that is not of Himself. That is God’s ruling of the matter. (from, The Stewardship of the Mystery, Vol 1. – All Things in Christ)

Which is really just another way of saying that He alone is the Beginning and End of All Things! That all from the Father is contained in His Son and nothing else! That Jesus Christ is the Center of Everything in God’s Eternal Purpose! Oh how we have reduced Him, my brethren. How we have repackaged Him to all the world as so much less than what He is. How small and shallow are our conceptions of Him, in whom “all the fullness should dwell”.

Does He then, in the realm of your heart and life and being surpass all things? Does the supremacy, the exceeding excellence of the Lord Jesus command your utmost attention and devotion and praise? Or is He merely some great “teacher” or “prophet” or “guru”? Do you merely follow him (or attempt to anyway), or do you live every single moment of your life in and through Him? Deep and wide is the difference between the two dear saints – Deep and wide indeed!

Here, again, is Austin-Sparks –

This passing, this breakdown, this confusion, this deadlock is all because the course of things is in His hands, and He is holding it all unto Himself. He is King! He is Lord! It is a tremendous thing to recognize that the very course of the nations, the very history of this world, is held in the hands of the Lord Jesus unto His own destined end. God has for ever set His Son as the only One to be full, complete, and final Lord of His universe, King of kings and Lord of lords, with a beneficent sway and reign over all the earth. Peace and prosperity is locked up with the Lord Jesus, and He holds the destiny of nations unto that. Men may attempt it of themselves, and they may go a long way to usurp His place, but the end is foreseen, foreshown. He must come whose right it is, and of His Kingdom there shall be no end. It has commenced in heaven; it is already vested in Him and held in His hands. That is how we must read history. That is how we must read our daily papers. That is how we shall be saved from the evil depression and despair that would creep into our hearts as we mark the state of things in this world. All is being held by Him to a certain end. The meaning is that nothing  can take the place of the Lord Jesus. (from, The Stewardship of the Mystery, Vol 1. – All Things in Christ)

All things belong to Him, whether the creation acknowledges it or not. He alone will be exalted as the highest in God’s eternal plans and purposes, with or without the cooperation or consent of the world. He alone is our hope of glory. He alone defines and enables this mystery of godliness, whereby a created and corrupted human being is indwelt by the life and glory of God Himself. He is the One  who joins heaven with earth (the life of God with the life of men) , and He alone is the heavenly food that represents eternal life in every regenerated spirit. Nothing can take His place, though the fallen and even the saved attempt to do so. Nothing! This is a divine and eternal fact, wrought in the great mind and heart and power of the Most High God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ!

He is the one who disarms the accuser of the saints, the devil himself, by reducing all of his accusations to dust. He alone fulfills all divine requirements and obligations. He is the eternal substance represented by all shadows and forms and symbols since the dawn of that first day.

For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col. 3:3)

So also it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (1 Cor. 15:45)

Take a few moments, my friends, and just stop and consider the immensity of these statements. Amazing! Truly Amazing! Here it is my brethren, in a nutshell, the mystery and the power of the Christian life. Christianity is not a way of life (as so often it is portrayed), but rather it is a life; the very life of the Lord Jesus Christ imparted to another. He is the living principle; the divine agent of  holiness that makes the mystery of godliness in fallen man possible. He is the heavenly Vine and we are the branches!

He did not come to show us the way home to the Father; He is the Way. He did not come with some new truth about the Godhead; He is that Truth! He did not come to show us a better way of life; He is that Life! He is not merely some divine dispenser of heavenly gifts; He is that Gift!

Clearly we see many ways and truths and lives in the church today; but do we see and touch and taste the living Christ?

This is no empty mysticism either, my friends. I dare say that if we have not come to fully believe and experience the living Christ inside us, then I must ask just what is Christianity anyway? What can it be without He Himself joined to us in vital union, and expressing His divine and holy life through us? This thing called sanctification (the saving of the soul) is an inside job, as only it can be. He is our life now. He sustains us in this life that He might present us holy and blameless to the Father in the next.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him  also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,  to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory (Eph. 1:3-12)

Does your life consist in Him my brother? Does mine? Oh how I wish I could affirm that with supreme confidence. Although others on this earth see the old familiar us, what are they seeing really? Is it a life hidden in Him? How much of the old self has truly died? Or is it merely the same old man in religious garb, looking and sounding pious, but still the same deep down?

Have we really died, my brethren? Really? To the world and the self and to lust of every created thing? To power and prestige? To the sound of others praising our name? To the lure of riches and unredeemed pleasure? To all of the worldly things that we never should have been unequally yoked to in the first place? Has everything that comprises us – spirit, soul and body – come under the lordship, influence, and inspiration of the Living Christ – our attitudes, opinions, ideas, values, perceptions, personality, moods, associations, beliefs, relationships, resources, circumstances;

ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING?

What, in fact, are we holding back as our own? Oh dear saints, beloved of the Lord, how we need such tremendous faith to lay it all down at His feet once and for all!

Are our lives truly hidden in Him, or do we just want others to believe this is so? If so, then let us forsake it all, and surrender. Let us stop pretending, for His alone is the light of living and pure reality, in whom there is no darkness. He alone is the Father’s beloved Son –

I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” (Psa. 2:7)

“This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” (Matt. 17:5)

Do you see this brethren, for this is tremendous! All that the Father is doing is bound up entirely in His beloved Son. He is, as Watchman Nee puts it, the “Sum of All Spiritual Things“. To see this, as only the Spirit can reveal, is so absolutely vital to our advancing in the faith, in this newness of life. To see the Living Christ as He really is, in all of His scope and supremacy changes everything. Notice what Austin-Sparks conveys regarding the importance of this spiritual sight, and that the object seen must be the Lord Jesus in all of His glorious and exclusive splendor –

And not only the faculty, but the object, of sight; it is a part of the vision. There must be a faculty for seeing before there can be an object seen, but, having the faculty, you must have an object to see; and the object is – what? What was the thing that came to the perception, the recognition, of people, when the Holy Ghost came? What did they begin to see? They began to see the significance of Jesus Christ, and there is one very familiar phrase which indicates what that is – “the eternal purpose”. They are one and the same thing – the significance of Christ, and God’s eternal purpose. The purpose of God from eternity is concerning His Son – the place that His Son holds in the very universe according to God’s mind; the tremendous comprehensiveness of Christ; the tremendous implications of the very being and existence of Christ; the tremendous consequences that are bound up with Jesus Christ. They did not see it all at once, but they began to see the Lord Jesus. They began to see that this was not just a man among men, not just the man of Galilee. No, He is infinitely greater than that, overwhelming. This mighty impact of a meaning about Jesus Christ is too big to hold, so great that you cannot grasp it. It is overwhelming and devastating. They began to see that; that was their vision. Out of that vision everything else came. Look at them and hear them, recognize what a new and great Christ they have found, what a significant Christ He is, how everything is bound up with Him. All destiny is centered in Him; He is the only consequence. (T. Austin-Sparks, from Prophetic Ministry)

Oh that He alone would be our Everything! Our Destiny! Our Beginning and End! Oh that we might truly see Him, in all of His Fullness; as the Great Superlative in God’s Plans and Purposes! Oh Lord let it be so, for everyone reading these words at this very moment!

In Jesus’ Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

A Man After God’s Heart – T. Austin-Sparks

Reading: Ps. 89:19,20; Acts 13:22; Heb. 1:9; 1 Sam. 13:14.

The Bible abounds with men. It abounds with many other things; with doctrine, with principles; but more than anything else it abounds with men. That is God’s method, His chosen method, His primary method of making Himself known. These men who were in relationship with God, with whom God was associated, bring distinctive features into view. Not in any one man is the whole man acceptable, every feature to be praised, but in every man there are one or more features that stand out and distinguish him from all others, and abide as the conspicuous features of that man’s life. Those outstanding distinctive features represent God’s thought, the features which God Himself has taken pains to develop, for which God laid His hand upon such men, that throughout history they should be the expression of certain particular traits.

Thus we speak of Abraham’s faith, of Moses’ meekness. Every man is representative of some feature wrought into him, developed in him, and when you think of the man the feature is always uppermost in your mind. Our attention is drawn, not to the man as a whole, but to that which marks him in particular. So by one Apostle we are called to recollect the faith of Abraham, while another will bid us remember the patience of Job. These features are God’s thoughts, and when all the features of all the men are gathered up and combined, they represent Christ. It is as though God had scattered one Man over the generations, and in a multitude of men under His hand had shown some aspect, some feature, some facet of that one Man, and that one Man is able to say, “Ye search the scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life; and these are they which bear witness of Me…” (John 5:39). There is a Man spread over the Bible, and all who have come under God’s hand, have been apprehended for the purpose of showing something of His thought, which in its fulness is expressed in His Son, the Lord Jesus. Recognizing that, we are better able to appreciate the words we have just read, which in the first instance related to David, but are clearly seen to reach beyond to a greater than David. Read again Psalm eighty-nine and you cannot fail to see that two things merge into one another: “I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people.” You have to look for a greater than David for the complete expression of that. In the words “I have laid help upon one that is mighty…” we have one of the great foundations of our redemption. A greater than David is here. David in those principal features of his life under God’s hand was an expression of God’s thought concerning Christ. You cannot say that of David’s life as a whole. You cannot carry the statement, “I have found… a man after My heart…” through the whole of David’s life, and say that when David was guilty of this and that particular thing which marred his life this was after God’s heart. We have to see exactly what it was, in and about David, which made it possible for God to say that he was a man after His own heart. It was just that which indicated Christ, pointed to Christ. It is only that which is Christ which is after God’s heart.

The Divine Purpose from Eternity

“The Lord hath sought him a man after His own heart…” (1 Sam. 12:14). Remembering our previous meditations, we shall find a large setting for a statement like that. It speaks of the creation of man, of the Lord seeking to have a man-race, a corporate man in whom His own thoughts and features are reproduced in a moral way. The Lord has ever sought Him that man. It was the seeking of such a man that led to the creation. It was the seeking of such a man that led to the Incarnation. It is that seeking of a man which has led to the Church, the “one new man.” God is all the time in quest of a man to fill His universe; not one man as a unity, but a collective man gathered up into His Son. Paul speaks of this man as “…the Church, which is His body, the fulness of Him…” That is the fulness, the measure of the stature of a man in Christ. It is the Church, which is there spoken of, not any one individual. God has ever been in quest of a man to fill His universe.

The Likeness is Moral and Spiritual

God thinks thoughts, desires desires, and wills wills, and those thoughts, and desires, and wills are the very essence of His moral being, and when He has thus reproduced Himself in this sense, He has a being constituted according to His own moral nature; the man becomes an embodiment and personification of the very moral nature of God; not of the Deity of God, but the moral nature. You know what it is in life to say that anything or anyone is after your own heart. You mean they are just exactly what you think they are and what you want them to be for your own complete satisfaction. The man after God’s heart is like that to Him.

Devoted to the Will of God

There is a third thing which defines that to some degree, which puts its finger upon the root of the matter. What is the man after God’s heart? What is it that God has sought in man? The verse in Acts tell us: “…who shall do all My will” (Acts 13:22). If you look at the margin you will see that “will” is plural: “…all My wills”— everything that God desires, everything that God wills, the will of God in all its forms, in all its ways, in all its quests and objectives. The man who will do all His wills is the man after God’s heart, whom God has sought. The words are spoken, in the first place, of David. There are several ways in which David as a man after God’s heart is brought out into clear relief.

Firstly, David is set in striking contrast with Saul. When God had deposed and set aside Saul, He raised up David. Those two stand opposite to one another and can never occupy the throne together. If David is to come, then Saul must go. If Saul is there, David cannot come. That is seen very clearly in the history, but let us note that in this we are confronted with basic principles, not merely with what is historic and to do with persons of bygone days. Before God there are two moral states, two spiritual conditions, two hearts, and these two hearts can never be in the throne together, can never occupy the princely position at the same time. If one is to be prince, or in the place of ascendency, of honour, of God’s appointment, the other heart has to be completely put away. It is remarkable that even after David was anointed king there was a considerable lapse of time before he came to the throne, during which Saul continued to occupy that position. David had to keep back until that régime had run its course, until it was completely exhausted, finished, and then put aside.

It would be a long, though profitable study, to go over Saul’s inner life as shown by his outward behaviour. Saul was governed by his own judgments in the things of God. That is one thing. When God commanded Saul to slay Amalek—man, woman, beast, and child; to destroy Amalek root and branch, it was a big test of Saul’s faith in God’s judgment, God’s wisdom, God’s knowing of what He was doing, God’s honour. If God commands us to do something which on the face of it would seem to deny something in God’s own nature of kindness, and goodness, and mercy, and we begin to allow our own judgment to take hold upon God’s command and to give another complexion to the matter, to take obedience out of our hearts, we have set our judgment against God’s command. In effect we have said: The Lord surely does not know what He is doing! Surely the Lord is not alive to the way His reputation will suffer if this is done, the way people will speak of His very morality! It is a dangerous thing to bring our own moral judgment to bear upon an implicit command of the Lord. Saul’s responsibility was not to question why, but to obey. We recall Samuel’s word to Saul: “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22). The man after God’s heart does all His wills, and does not say: Lord, this will bring You into reproach! This will bring You into dishonour! This will raise serious difficulties for You! On the contrary, he replies at once: Lord, You have said this; I leave the responsibility for the consequences with You, and obey. The Lord Jesus always acted so. He was misunderstood for it, but He did it.

Saul was influenced in his conduct by his own feelings, his own likes and dislikes, and preferences. He blamed the people, it is true, but it was he himself who was at fault after all. It was his judgment working through his sentiments. In effect he said: It is a great pity to destroy that! Here is something that looks so good, that according to all standards of sound judgment is good, and the Lord says destroy! What a pity! Why not give it to God in sacrifice? Now we know that it is true of the natural man that there are these two aspects, a good side and a bad. Are we not, on our part, often found saying, in effect, Let us hand the good to God! We are quite prepared for the very sinful side to go, but let us give the good that is in us to the Lord! All our righteousnesses are in His sight as filthy rags. God’s new creation is not a patchwork of the old; it is an entirely new thing, and the old has to go. Saul defaulted upon that very thing. He reasoned that the best should be given to God, when God had said, “Utterly destroy.”

The man after God’s own heart does not make blunders like that. His interrogation of himself is: What has the Lord said? No place is given to any other enquiry: What do I feel about it? How does it seem to me? He does not say: It is a great pity from my standpoint. No! The Lord has said it, and that is enough. God has sought Him a man who will do all His wills.

So we could pursue the contrast between Saul and David along many lines. We are led to one issue every time. It all points in one direction. Will this man surrender his own judgments, his own feelings, his own standards, his entire being to the will of God, or will he have reservations because of the way in which he views things and questions God?

An Utter Rejection of the Flesh

There is another way in which David stands out as the man after God’s own heart, and it is this with which we are especially concerned, and with which we will conclude this meditation. It is that which is to be noted in the first public action of David in the valley of Elah. We refer, of course, to his contest with Goliath. This first public action of David was a representative and inclusive one, just as the conquest of Jericho was with Israel. Jericho, as we know, was representative and inclusive of the conquest of the whole land. There were seven nations to be deposed. They marched round Jericho seven times. Jericho, in spiritual and moral principle, was the embodiment of the whole land. God intended that what was true of Jericho should be true of every other conquest, that the basis should be one of sheer faith; victory through faith, possession through faith.

David’s contest with Goliath was like that. It gathered up in a full way everything that David’s life was to express. It was the comprehensive disclosure or unveiling of the heart of David. He was a man after God’s own heart. God’s ground of approval in His choice of men is shown to us in His words to Samuel with reference to another of Jesse’s sons: “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature… the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). In the case of David, the heart that God had seen is disclosed in the contest with Goliath, and it was that heart which made David the man after God’s own heart all the rest of his life. What is Goliath? Who is he? He is a gigantic figure behind whom all the Philistines hide. He is a comprehensive one, an inclusive one; in effect, the whole Philistine force; for when they saw that their champion was dead they fled. The nation is bound up with, and represented by, the man. Typically what are the Philistines? They represent that which is very near to what is of God, always in close proximity, always seeking to impinge upon the things of God; to get a grip, to look into, to pry, to discover the secret things of God. You will recall their attitude toward the Ark when it came into their hands. They were ever seeking to pry into the secrets of God, but always in a natural way. They are called “uncircumcised.” That is what David said about Goliath: “this uncircumcised Philistine.” We know from Paul’s interpretation that typically that means this uncrucified natural life, this natural life which is always seeking to get a grip on the things of God apart from the work of the Cross; which does not recognize the Cross; which sets the Cross aside, and thinks that it can proceed without the Cross into the things of God; which ignores the fact that there is no way into the things of the Spirit of God except through the Cross as an experienced thing, as a power breaking down the natural life and opening a way for the Spirit. There is no possibility whatever of our knowing the secrets of God except by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit “was not” (we use the word in the particular meaning of John 7:39) until Calvary was accomplished. That must be personal in application, not merely historic. The uncircumcised Philistines simply speak of a natural life which comes alongside the things of God, and is always interfering with them, touching them, looking into them, wanting to get hold of them; a menace to that which is spiritual. Goliath embodies all that. All the Philistines are gathered up into him. David meets him, and the issue, in spiritual interpretation, is this, that David’s heart is going to have nothing of that. He sets himself that all things shall be of God, and nothing of man. There shall be no place for nature here in the things of God, but this natural strength must be destroyed. The Philistines become David’s lifelong enemies, and he theirs.

Do you see the man after God’s heart? Who is he? What is he? He is a man who, though the odds against him be tremendous, sets himself with all his being against that which interferes with the things of God in an “uncircumcised” way. That which contradicts the Cross of the Lord Jesus, that which seeks to force its way into the realm of God other than by the gate-way of the Cross is represented by the Philistine. Who is this uncircumcised Philistine? David’s heart was roused with a mighty indignation against all that was represented by this man.

That constitutes a very big issue indeed. It has not merely to do with a sinful world. There is that in the world which is opposed to God, positively set against God, a sinful state that is recognized and acknowledged by most people. That is all against God, but that is not what we have here. This is something else that is to be found even amongst the Lord’s people, and which regards nothing as too sacred to be exploited. It will get into an assembly of saints in Corinth and call for a tremendous letter of the Apostle about natural wisdom, the wisdom of this world expressing itself as the mentality even of believers, and thus making the Gospel of none effect. This spirit that is not subject to the Cross creeps in and associates itself with the things of God, and takes a purchase upon them. It is not so much that which is blatantly, obviously, and conspicuously sinful, as the natural life which is accounted so fine according to human standards. The Lord’s people have always had to meet that in one form or another. Ezra had to meet it. Men came and proffered their help to build the House of God: and how the Church has succumbed to that sort of thing! If anybody offers their help for the work of the Lord, the attitude at once taken is: Oh, well, it is help, which is what we want; let us have all the help we can get! There is no discrimination. Nehemiah had to meet it. There is some help that we are better without. The Church is far better without Philistine association. That is the sort of thing that has assailed the Church all the way through. John, the last surviving Apostle, in his old age writes: “…but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence… receiveth us not…” (3 John 9). You see the significance of that. John was the man of the testimony of Jesus: “I John, …was in the Isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” The great word of John’s writings is “life”: “In Him was life…” (John 1:4); “…this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11). Diotrephes could not bear with that. If Christ is coming in, Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence, must go out; if he that loveth to have the pre-eminence is coming in, then Christ is kept out.

The man after God’s own heart is the man who will have no compromise with the natural mind; not only with what is called sin in its more positive forms, but all that natural life which tries to get hold of the work of God and the interests of God, to handle and to govern them. This has been the thing that has crippled and paralyzed the Church through the centuries; men insinuating themselves into the place of God in His Church.

You see what David stands for. He will take the head off that giant. There has to be no compromise with this thing; it must go down in the name of the Lord.

The Price of Loyalty

Now notice this, that for his devotion David had to suffer. This man, who alone saw the significance of that with which he had to do, this man who alone had the thoughts of God in his heart, the conceptions of God, the feelings of God, the insight of God; this man who alone amongst all the people of Israel in that dark day of spiritual weakness and declension was on the side of God, seeing things in a true way, has to suffer for it. As he came upon the scene, and, with his perception and insight into what was at stake betraying itself in his indignation, his wrath, his zeal for the Lord, began to challenge this thing, his own brethren turned upon him. How? In the cruellest way for any such man, the way most calculated to take the heart out of any true servant of God. They imputed wrong motives. They said in effect: You are trying to make a way for yourself; trying to get recognition for yourself; trying to be conspicuous! You are prompted only by personal interests, personal ambitions! That is a cruel blow. Every man who has come out against that which has usurped God’s place in any way, and stood alone for God against the forces that prevail, has come under that lash. To Nehemiah it was said: You are trying to make a name for yourself, to get prophets to set you on high and proclaim through the country that there is a great man called Nehemiah in Jerusalem! Similar things were said to Paul. Misrepresentation is a part of the price. David’s heart was as free from any such thing as any heart could be. He was set upon the Lord, the Lord’s glory, the Lord’s satisfaction, but even so, men will say: It is all for himself, his own name, his own reputation, his own position. That is more calculated to take the heart out of a man than a good deal of open opposition. If only they would come out and fight fairly and squarely in the open! But David did not succumb; the giant did! May the Lord give us a heart like David’s, for that is a heart like His own.

We see in David a reflection of the Lord Jesus, Who was eaten up by zeal for the Lord’s House, Who paid the price for His zeal, and Who was, in a sense above all others, the Man after God’s own heart.

New Book – “The Real Thing” Now Available

The Real Thing: An Exhortation for the Authentic Christian Life

  • Over Five Years in the Making!
  • Over 300 Pages of Spirit-Touching-Bone Reality and Exhortation!
  • A Veritable Canon Shot Across the Bow of the Laodecian Church!
  • Not Another Call to Revival, or More Things…
  • But a Call to the Real Thing, the Only Thing!

Buy from the LivingWalk Bookstore or Amazon.com –

Well folks, we are very excited to announce that our new book – The Real Thing: An Exhortation for the Authentic Christian Life is now available. After much prayer and waiting on the direction of the Spirit, we feel at this time that this resource may be a nice compliment to this online journal.

Here is the Preface to The Real Thing: An Exhortation for the Authentic Christian Life to give you a quick sense of what the book is all about –

Preface

My name is W.E. Smith, and I offer this series of messages to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ with the sincerest humility and hope of blessing. To be sure, I never started out with a book such as this in mind, but merely to share some of the mighty things the Spirit of God has been revealing in recent years, as I started to behold the Lord Jesus Christ in a new way, in all of His preeminent glory.

Although I have technically considered myself a Christian for most of my adult life, it was only a number of years ago that something really started to happen inside me, as I started to yearn for the authentic Christian life portrayed in the Scriptures.

“Father, please show me your beloved Son, in all of His fullness and beauty and sufficiency.”

– was perhaps the prayer that truly changed everything in my Christian walk. The contents of this book are what I believe was the Lord’s response to this simple request. In addition to the Word of God, the Lord was ever gracious during this time to introduce me to a number of seemingly forgotten teachers of old – Andrew Murray, George Mueller, T. Austin-Sparks, G.H. Pember, Robert Govett, Watchman Nee, A.W. Tozer and Hudson Taylor, among others. Ever gradually and wonderfully, the light started to shine in my spirit, and to reveal what this thing called the Christian life was really all about. Each day brought some new and deeper revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Spirit took me on a whirlwind tour of both the Old and New Testaments.

As this personal awakening began, I felt somehow compelled to share what the Holy Spirit was conveying to me, so, with much prayer and trepidation, I started an online journal called LivingWalk. This name arose rather spontaneously from a child-like and earnest desire to pursue a more dynamic, moment-by-moment relationship with my God; where I could actually hear Him and walk with Him, and bring glory to Him as His grace permitted.

I suppose what I ultimately discovered over much time and travail, was that when the God of heaven and earth reveals Himself to one fully (in His Beloved Son and Holy Spirit), every man-inspired religious enterprise shows itself for what it is – artificial and empty. To have the Lord Jesus Christ in all His fullness, and to grow daily and vicariously in Him, is to have it all; everything you truly need – joy, peace, power, direction, wisdom, enlightenment, and perhaps most of all, a hunger for more of Him. To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to hunger and thirst for Him, for He is the ‘righteousness of God’ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

To know what is in the Father’s vast heart pertaining to summing all things up in His Son; to abandon our own plans and to join in His plans and purposes; to see what He sees and to desire only what He desires; to breathe life only on His terms, in all of its fullness in the spirit; to be restored to the place where only the Lord sits on the throne of our heart; to live and walk in Him constantly and to have every aspect of our lives fully surrendered to His will – this is truly the end of the Christian life. To seek anything less is to shortchange our Heavenly Father’s love, and to confound His great purpose is sending His Son into the world.

I have titled this compilation, The Real Thing: An Exhortation for the Authentic Christian Life for a couple of reasons. First, because there are, in my view, far too many false or lesser things out there representing the true Christian experience. And secondly, because this series of messages represents an expression of the gift that I have been granted by the Lord for the edification of His Body, that of exhortation (see Introduction: The Gift of Exhortation).

It may be helpful to the reader to be aware that the messages presented here were not originally conceived to be shared in book form, and although some effort has been made to arrange chapters by theme or topic, each message (chapter) very much stands alone in terms of its message and content. It may also serve the reader to know that this is not primarily a book of teachings or theology, with structured points on Christian doctrine. Like the epistles of the New Testament, it is offered for believers that they might enter more fully into the practical truths of what it is assumed they already know. In this sense these words represent ‘meat’ not ‘milk’. As the title of the book suggests, the major theme addressed herein is the authentic expression of the life of Jesus Christ in one who has surrendered himself wholly to Him as a living sacrifice; the ‘real thing’ in other words.

Dear Christian, if you are discouraged by men so readily replacing the “mystery of godliness” with humanly derived substitutes; if your spirit is thirsty for God and Christ alone; if you want your walk with Jesus Christ to be alive, dynamic, vibrant, intimate and truly heart-changing, then I offer these messages humbly in the hope that you may be blessed by what is presented here in the spirit.

In compiling these messages, it is the author’s sincere hope and prayer that the reader will be encouraged, challenged and exhorted, such as the Spirit would permit. Any shortcomings in these messages, in terms of scriptural accuracy, interpretation or completeness is fully the weakness of the author, for which he humbly solicits the reader’s grace and kindness.

Finally, we thank our ever-gracious Lord and God in advance if this little book should, even in some small way, bring spiritual edification to His people. If indeed you have been spiritually blessed by these words, we would ask that you let us know, and that you might pass this book along freely to your friends, family and fellow saints.

Your servant in Christ Jesus,
W.E. Smith


What Cain and Abel Represent – T. Austin-Sparks

Note: This is an excerpt from the book, The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus

What Cain and Abel Represent

We come to the second of these outworkings of the law of life in Christ, brought to us in the second of the seven personal representations of the Old Testament, or of the book of Genesis, and we have now before us Cain and Abel. Here we see the law or principle of life manifesting itself in a contrast and a conflict. Where there is life – and you understand that I am not speaking of ordinary human life, I am speaking of Divine life, spiritual life, that unique and peculiar life which Christ is and which is Christ where that life is, this antagonism will inevitably come to light. It always is the case, and you can neither avoid the clash nor suppress it without doing despite to the life. Immediately the life of God is found anywhere, an antagonism manifests itself, conflict begins.

Here, then, we find that life; and we are speaking now in the realm of types. Life was found along Abel’s line and death was found along Cain’s line, and we have to investigate the difference. What was the difference? Let us look at Cain very carefully.

We can be superficial about Cain and come to conclusions which, while they may be quite right and true, are inadequate. Let us be quite fair, quite precise about Cain. Cain did not ignore God, nor was he one who was outwardly opposed to God. Cain recognized God; he acknowledged Him to be the object of worship. Cain brought to God, as an act of worship, the best that he knew and the best that he had. I say the best that he knew, not the best that he could have known. In this realm, what Cain brought was good and was costly. Until we recognize that, and put it like that, we are not on the way to understanding the difference between death and life. It is of no use our painting what we would call the way of death all in black or dark colors and thinking of the way of death as necessarily being that which is marked by the most atrocious outrages against God. We must not suppose that, to be in the way of death, it is necessary to be openly and positively antagonistic to God, or to ignore God, or to refuse some practical acknowledgment of God. It is not necessary that these things should obtain in order to be in the way of death. The way of death is something deeper than that, something very much deeper than that, and we shall see that this is so as we go on.

You see, Cain brought the fruit of his natural life, and that is all there is to it. When you have said that, if you understand it, you have got near the heart of the thing.

In Abel’s case, his attitude was that we must die to live. We have nothing that is acceptable to bring to God, only a life to be repudiated. Abel recognized sin and saw that the sinful soul must be poured out unto death, not offered to God, neither it nor its works or fruits. You see, on the Cain side, the soul seeks to be accepted on the ground of what it deems to be its own good. On the Abel side, the soul seeks to die to itself.

Christ Jesus and the Jews

Now, we carry that over immediately to Christ Jesus and the Jews. You notice that we read of the Jews in John’s Gospel in the exact terms used about Cain – a terrible thing. But the point that we and all the Lord’s people need to grasp is this, that we are not necessarily dealing with what we call the ungodly, as standing in the place of Cain, and the godly, in the truest sense, as standing in the place of Abel. We are in a much narrower compass of things than that. There is an Israel after the flesh and there is an Israel after the Spirit.

So we turn to Christ and the Jews in His day. The Jews worshipped and they murdered, a terrible combination. Their worship, which in its realm was very devout, and costly in a way, was nevertheless but an outward thing. It is not necessary for me to call to your remembrance various passages which passed through the Lord’s lips about that. “Ye make clean the outside of the platter”: “They make broad their phylacteries”: “You make long prayers”: they delighted “to be seen of men to fast”; and so on. It was outward. Their worship was their own glory and works. As they worshipped they drew attention to themselves, and made their very worship an occasion of self-glorification. It was all a matter of forms, into which they threw themselves maybe very heartily, but by which none the less they sought to gain benefits for themselves. Even worship was toward themselves all the time, not really toward God, but for their own favor and good. It had nothing to do with the heart of God. God’s satisfaction was not the one and only consideration.

Now, look at the Lord Jesus, who stands always in opposition to the Jews, and they to Him. The opposition is found, not in the outward at all, but deeper down. He worshipped; but He worshipped by a life wholly yielded to God. But more, He worshipped by a life governed by the very nature of God. By that I mean that God’s nature was the thing which characterized His worship. God is holy, God is righteous, God is altogether without mixture; He is pure. God is light. In Him there is no darkness at all, no suspicion or suggestion of darkness, cloudiness, or lack of transparency. It was what God was, what God is, that governed the worship of the Lord Jesus. That is to say, He saw that it was not possible to worship God in truth, unless you recognized what God was, what God is, and forever abandoned anything and everything that was not like God. You could not come on to God’s ground to worship God and bring there something unlike God, something contrary to God. You must worship God in truth. There is so much that is false, so much that is a lie, so much that is a contradiction, so much that is untrue and unreal and make-believe about human nature, and you must part with it all if you are going to be a true worshipper, and recognize that here you cannot play with God, cannot deceive God, cannot have fellowship with God while there is anything like that about you. You are governed entirely by the consideration of what God is. To do otherwise is like coming into the presence of an extremely sensitive person and just saying or doing those things which create agony to that sensitive person. If you are a musician, a musical person – I do not mean if you played music! – if you were a musical person, if you had a high, keen sense of music, and anyone came into your presence and strummed and struck constant discords, you know what agony it would be. You would go hot and cold. If you knew a certain person to be keenly, acutely strung to true music, and you were not in any special way musical, it would be the last thing that you would do, if you had good sense, to attempt to play in the presence of such a one. I remember a man who played the violin fairly well and he went to hear someone who played the violin very well. He came to me after and said, I am going to put my foot through my violin: I will never play again. If that man heard me play, it would drive him mad! You see what I am getting at. The point is that this is how the Lord Jesus was attuned to God, and the thing which weighed with him was the nature of God. What does God require of a worshipper? Does He want certain forms? His worship was by a life laid down as a testimony against sin. Remember that! The death of the Lord Jesus has various aspects, but this is a very vital one. It was a laying down of His life as a testimony against sin.

It would be impossible for there to be any fellowship with God while there was sin: and there was sin. What are you going to do with regard to it? You cannot clean up sin. It must die. But, seeing that sin is not some abstract thing, but that man is become sin, then to deal with human nature, from which you cannot pluck out or eradicate something called sin, you have to bring in another human nature in which there is no sin. What is to happen to us then? Not to have sin plucked out, but to die and to have Christ come in our place. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I, but Christ.” Well, His worship was by a life laid down as a testimony against sin.

You see the working of that in Abel. Of course, Abel did not lay down his life. That is where the type falls short, but the principle is the same. The death of Abel was a testimony against sin – “The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth…”

Now, you see this conflict and the conflict is perfectly clear. There is a Cain line of death, full of worship, full of acknowledgment of God, full of gifts to God, full of splendid things in its own realm, and there is Abel’s line of life. This latter works out in an offering, not of things, but of self, and that upon an altar. The creature must die.

The Sphere of the Conflict

(a) The Warfare is Between Two Kingdoms

Now we can get very quickly to our point. This conflict operates in two realms. Firstly, it operates in the realm where there is that which is of God and that which is of Satan. We all know that. That is the simplest and most obvious realm of the operation of this antagonism. I mean, it is the realm where every born again child of God moves immediately they receive this life. We all know that immediately we become the Lord’s and are filled with His joy, and then go back to our business or our sphere of life in this world, expecting that everybody is going to be very pleased and to respond to this, we find instead that, without so much as breathing a word about it, suspicious looks are cast in our direction and the atmosphere is full of something. You never have to say a word – it is there. More often than not, the moving about of a child of God in this world draws out into the very atmosphere an antagonism, a conflict, without any words being spoken. It is not imagination, it is there, and the more strong the soul-life on the other side, the quicker the discerning of that which is in us; the more shrewd is the arrival at a conclusion that there is something, and the more definite the antagonism. I mean that simple, artless people, while they do not understand you and cannot go with you, they do not give out to you what comes out from those other people of a strong soul-life. We know that realm of the outward, where the antagonism becomes manifestly between what is of Satan and what is of God. I need not follow that, it is known so well.

(b) Man Himself the Real Battle Ground

But there is this other realm, where in an inward way conflict arises between that which is of God and that which is of self. The point is this, that the realm, the real realm, of this battle is man himself. That is where the battle really rages most fiercely. Most of us come very quickly to recognize the difference in the outward realm, where the conflict is between us and those who are not for God, and we accept it. But when this thing gets inside, it is far more difficult to deal with. When it arises within us, it is very difficult to accept it, because we do not understand it. We find the conflict within ourselves and that conflict has been precipitated by the very presence of life in us. It is the outworking of the law of life in Christ Jesus. It may be comforting in one respect to know it is that. So often, when the thing becomes acute, the tempter gives his own interpretation to it and would have us believe that everything is wrong and that there is nothing of God there at all; whereas the fact is, it is because there is that which is of God that the conflict has arisen within, and we ourselves have become the battlefield. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: for these are contrary the one to the other” (Gal. 5:17). But what is it, what are the two things that are in conflict? Now a very elementary and superficial answer would be, of course, that it is the flesh and the Spirit, the old man and the new man. That is quite true, but it is not an adequate answer. It really does not get right to the heart of this thing, and I do want that you should see the core of this matter. It is most important. For want of discernment in this matter, many of the Lord’s people are rendered helpless, impotent, bewildered. You see, beloved, the real battle is between soul and spirit.

Now, you cannot simply say soul is flesh, soul is old Adam. That is not true in the full sense. You have to be careful. If you say that, then you are going to embark upon a line of killing the soul and you must not do that. The soul itself is not a wrong thing. It is not wrong to have a soul. The Lord tells us that the soul has to be won. “In your patience ye shall win your souls” (Luke 21:19). “We are not of them that shrink back unto perdition; but of them that have faith unto the saving of the soul” (Heb. 10:39). And yet the conflict is here between soul and spirit. From this you may recognize the nature of the Fall, as being a violation of spirit by soul. In our previous meditation we noted the attack upon man’s soul, that is, upon his reason, desire and will, and we saw how man’s reason, desire and will were taken out of their place and made to exercise and function independently of God. Man has a spirit, and by his spirit he was put into communication with God, who is Spirit. He knew God, not through his soul: in that unfallen state, he had not to come to reasoned conclusions about the will of God; he had not to sit down and reason out what God wanted. In his unfallen state, he perceived, he sensed, he intuitively knew, and that is why conscience arose and smote him, because conscience is not a faculty of the soul, but a faculty of the spirit. Well, man disregarded the organ of communion with God when he disregarded God as the final court of appeal on all matters and, acting on the ground of his own soul, violated his spirit. Then that conflict arose in man which has gone on ever since. He is a house divided against itself, which cannot stand, and you have these two sides as in the one, soul and spirit. By nature he is essentially now a soul man. In the New Testament, unfortunately, he is called “the natural man,” but everybody knows the word there is “soulical” man; man who is governed and actuated by soul, that is, by his own self-reasoning, his own self-discerning, his own self-willing. That is the type of man he is, and over against him in the New Testament you have placed the spiritual man, “he that is spiritual.” Thus there arises the conflict between these two “men” as in the one, the conflict between soul and spirit, spirit and soul; what is of God, God’s thought, as against our thought; God’s reasoning, if we may use that word, or God’s reason as over against our reasoning; God’s will as over against our will; God’s feelings, affections, desires, as over against our feelings, affections and desires. These two things now come in, not into the unregenerate man, but into the regenerate man. We are not talking now of the man out of Christ, we are talking of the carnal man. The carnal man is the Christian in whom there is flesh, and who is actuated by it.

Now, you see, the soul is the place where the flesh resides, for flesh in its spiritual sense (not the physical sense) is an evil thing. It is self-willed, self-guided, actuated by Satan. That is flesh. It is that which lusteth against the Spirit, and you know how much the New Testament says about flesh as an evil thing. It is resident in the natural soul. The spirit reborn in new birth becomes the vessel for the indwelling of that which is of God.

Now, this conflict is set up. You say, I know it all too well, although perhaps I should never have analysed and explained it like that; but I know it! We do know it! But the trouble is that so many have not got past that. They are still in it. We have not yet come to the point but I might as well say right away that it is not God’s will that this conflict should go on in perpetuity throughout our spiritual life, that we should always be in this conflict. We shall speak of that another time.

Divine Life Demands a Walk after the Spirit

Here we have to sum up what we have been saying in a phrase or two. The aspect of the basic matter with which we are dealing here is that the law of life demands a course in the spirit, and not in the flesh or in our own soul. It demands a heavenly union with God in our spirit, and not the soulical religious life according to our ideas. That is the difference between Cain and Abel. Oh yes, Cain was a religious man, Cain was a worshipping man, Cain brought what, in its realm, was good, precious, costly. Cain, in his way, was devout in his acknowledgment that God is to be worshipped, but his understanding was darkened, and so is the understanding of our souls. We, by nature, do not know God’s thoughts. “The natural (or soulical) man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: … neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor 2:14). Thus Cain, with all his devoutness and all his worship and his religion and his acknowledgment of God, was still in the darkness of a darkened understanding: his judgment was all out, his ideas were all wrong, he was missing the mark and nothing got through above the altar. God had not respect unto Cain’s offering. The Jews stood in that position, and, to prove it, the Jews murdered, even as Cain murdered. To prove it, challenge the worship of the soul-worshippers, of the religious people who are not spiritual, and you will find something flare up. They cannot bear to have it interfered with, challenged or touched. To a true worshipper, to one who worships in spirit and in truth, you can say or do what you will, and you will find no spirit of murder rising up, or anything akin to it. Like Abel, such a one will lay down his life, even at the hands of the worshippers, the religious. That is the difference here between the soul and the spirit.

Now, I said before that we are in a very much narrower circle than that which embraces believers and the ungodly. Beloved, life, that which gets through and goes on, that which is the seal and mark of God, of what is of God and what is acceptable to God; life is along the line of the spirit. Death, though it may have all the outward semblance, forms, worship, acknowledgment of God, religion, is none the less death. It does not get through: it does not go through. Oh, you say, surely you are speaking out in a very wide realm of things? We know what you are thinking about, of the merely religious people who go to church and say formal prayers. I am not! There is an application no doubt that can be made to them from such words, but that is not what I am thinking about. I am not dividing these things up so utterly and finally as to put them into pigeon-holes. I am saying that there are overlappings of these things in most believers, and therefore there is a limitation of life. Why is it that missionaries can come back from mission fields after twenty-five or thirty years’ service, and say, The whole thing has broken down, the promises of God have become dust and ashes to me! Let us be quite frank. They are doing it. Some are known to us. Why is it? There comes a point where, because of the unreality and because things do not work, do not go through, do not reach Divine ends, so many just come to an impasse and have questions, and justifiable questions, about the reality of things. Why? Now, I am leaving out certain other things. I know all about physical and nervous breakdowns, depressions, melancholia, and all those things which come in sometimes to becloud. I am not talking about that. I am speaking about that realm where what is spiritual is not working out, where there is no seal of God that is adequate. For the much pouring out, the much giving, the much doing, no spiritual life is really to be seen as the fruit of it. The absence of life! Oh, it is possible, beloved, for us to be under the hand of God in chastening and disciplining, where we see no fruit of our labors, no results of our work, and where everything, so far as our senses are concerned, our souls, is hidden, darkened, obscured, and yet all the time for life to be working in the power of resurrection both in us and through us, and for others to be getting the benefit of it, though we neither see nor sense it. That is one thing, but that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about absence of life, where things are dead spiritually. What is the trouble? Well, the answer is in Cain and Abel. The explanation is here in the difference between soul and spirit. The soul is not a wrong thing, but for it to govern is another matter. If that which is of soul gets the upper hand, then it is self getting the upper hand, and the works are out from ourselves, the energies and activities of our own souls, and not the energies of God through our spirits.

In saying such things, do not let anyone think for a moment that, when you live on the level of the spirit, where all things are to be out from God and nothing out from yourself, there is never going to be anything doing. A lot of people think there are going to be no works, no activities at all. The only difference is in the kind of activities. You do not do less, you do other. It is different, but the end sees much greater gain than all the self-propagated activities for God. In the hidden depths everything must be toward God, not toward self. We do not know how deeply rooted in our own souls is that self. We discover something of it when we can no longer do, when God puts His hand upon us and says, Stop doing for a month or two, and puts us out of action. Then we discover how great a measure of self-gratification was in our doing, and, with its cessation, we are no longer gratified. We have lost our gratification, and we have nothing in its place, and what the Lord is seeking to do is to take away our gratification with things and doings, and for Himself to be our gratification; that, whether we do or do not do, even if there is nothing that we can do, we have the Lord and are satisfied. I am perfectly certain that is the crux of the whole matter. It is what the Lord is to us, not what our work is to us; not what anything is to us which has its seat or spring in our own souls. We have the Lord and we are satisfied. I wonder if there is one of us who has absolutely got there? No, we have still to have patience unto the winning of our souls. These souls have still to be brought over in ever fuller degrees to where God is their only gratification. Through many, many bitter tears we may come there, but when we do come there, the tears will be wiped away. You see, the tears are associated with getting somewhere. They are never there when you arrive. The little girl who said, If God is going to wipe away all tears, He will have to have a very big handkerchief, had a wrong idea as to how tears are wiped away. Tears have to do with processes and the wiping away is simply the result of arriving. They pass away. “In your patience ye shall win your souls.”

The Necessity for Enlightenment

But the understanding must be enlightened – “having the eyes of your heart enlightened” – the understanding must be enlightened, so that instead of Cain’s way, which is a way in the soul, where even in its devotion to God, even in its acknowledgment of God, the soul yet draws everything to itself, there may be a life which is in the spirit. Cain would not have admitted it was so. No soulical life would admit that it was drawing everything to itself. It is the most difficult thing for anybody to accept that, yet that is the nature of the soul. The spirit is just the opposite. The spirit is always toward God; the renewed spirit, that is. The Lord Jesus poured out His soul unto death; He committed His spirit to God.

That touches a new field of contemplation. The soul-life as such must come under, the spirit-life must come up. In so far as the soul-life governs, there is death. There may be a lot of emotion, a lot of sensation, a lot of pleasing, a lot of activity, but the end is death. Inasmuch as the spiritual life governs, the life of the spirit, there is life, and “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” is the law of life.

Now, do not bother about the technique, about the way in which this word has been expressed in its details, but ask the Lord to enable you to grasp the conclusion. As one in whom the life is, I am made aware of two things. It is an inevitable result of the life that the conflict within arises. I have, further, to know the nature of that conflict, and, when my understanding is enlightened, I see that it is the conflict between myself on the soul side and myself on the spirit side. It is a conflict between my own soul and what is of God in me. That is a house divided against itself: it cannot stand. It must sooner or later crash, and we are seeing the crash of such divided houses all around. That is not God’s thought. There is a way out. We shall see later, if the Lord wills, what that is, but here we recognize the fact. Let us seek the Lord that we may walk in the Spirit, walk by the Spirit, have our life in God and not in things, and not out from ourselves; for this natural life is a false life and it deceives because it is deceived. But His life is true, and He is true who is the life. Because He is life, He is also the light. Because He is the light, He is the life.

Let us ask the Lord to make the meaning of this clear.

Note: This is an excerpt from the book, The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus

Repentance As a Way of Life – W.E. Smith

“The root of all evil in human nature is the corruption of the will. The thoughts and intents of the heart are wrong and as a consequence the whole life is wrong. Repentance is primarily a change of moral purpose, a sudden and often violent reversal of the soul’s direction. The prodigal son took his first step upward from the pigsty when he said, “I will arise and go to my father.” As he had once willed to leave his father’s house, now he willed to return. His subsequent action proved his expressed purpose to be sincere. He did return. (A.W. Tozer, From True Religion is Not Feeling but Willing)”

I dare say I am troubled, my friends, by the general manner in which repentance is presented to us today by our modern Christian teachers and guides. I take issue with the fact that much of the current emphasis barely takes issue with sin, or the inborn depravity of man’s condition, or the ageless reality that the God we serve is a high and holy being who cannot dwell with evil.

For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; No evil dwells with You. (Psa. 5:4)

Note: For the record, I define sin as anything less than Christ Jesus, and in a larger sense, anything other than Christ Jesus. To miss the mark in other words, and the central truth resonating through all of God’s Word is that He alone is that mark!

In much the same way that many other foundational doctrines of the faith are being re-packaged by this new, veiled humanism, such is the case with repentance. Here, too, we discover that at its core, repentance is presented as having to do with fallen man’s behavior and need for affirmation, rather than his unlikeness to a Holy Maker who will not abide with darkness and impurity.

I love the way Tozer paints the vivid word picture of repentance as an “often violent reversal of the soul’s direction”, and how he targets the human will as the real source of man’s corruption. We do not, according to Tozer, slip morally because we are having a bad day, so much out of character, but rather because the carnal and dark heart within us stands in open defiance of our Father’s loving purpose. The will, which animates the human soul, the very soul that must be saved (won over to the Lordship of Christ Jesus), must be brought under the active dominion of the regenerated human spirit, which alone receives the divine things of God, and the power unto righteousness.

I have sinned against the Lord”, cried David, accurately portraying his infidelity and murder as an offense against the Most High. All sin, whatever it looks like, or whoever it hurts or destroys, is an offense against God simply because it defies His perfect and creative purpose on the earth. True repentance acknowledges what God is as much and perhaps more than what we are. It stems from the stark and spirit-inspired sense that the chasm between the Creator and the created is wider than we could ever have imagined.

When the first man Adam tasted of that forbidden fruit, and all the creation groaned on that darkest of days, it was the will of man that was then and there corrupted and sealed in his offspring. And ever since it stands with clenched fists in open and violent defiance of the Maker.

Those whom the Bible calls the children of light will see this most clearly. Those who view sanctification as little more than an improved self, or a fancy suit of clothes draped over dead men’s bones, will not; indeed, they cannot.

My friends, when we repent, we do so not only for the evil that we have committed (our behavior), but for the evil that our entire existence represents in relation to God (our condition). We repent in dust and ashes for what we are, as we gradually come to see Him for what He is. And as this unlikeness and inequality becomes ever more evident to us, as He draws us into Himself, we begin to see what Job saw when he cried –

“Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:6)

or the Apostle Paul, when He enjoined us to –

“Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Rom. 12:9)

At the most essential level, as the Holy Spirit is turning our moral world upside down and inside out, we begin to see how absolutely loathsome and helpless we are. Then, flowing out of this is a heaven-sent desire to be rid of it, once and for all and forever. This is what Paul was driving at when he tells us to “abhor evil.” The Jews of his day would be very familiar with Old Testament directives to separate themselves from what was unclean or unholy. To abhor implies a desire to be removed or separate from it.

Yet the humanistic religion of our day is quick to nod its happy head and suggest that “nobody’s perfect, my friend. Just say you’re sorry to God and all will be well. After all, He loves you and understands that you are only flesh and blood.”

Do we not see how this trivializes it all away into vapor, and why so many supposed Christians never actually grow in Christ, or come to see life from God’s perspective. I must confess here that this has been an apt description of my Christian walk for most of my life. I repented for what it did for me; or what I wanted it to do for me, not because it affirmed the moral perfection of my God.

I have since begun to ask the Lord to show me what He sees in me, warts and all, and to help me to treat repentance as a way of living this new life, not something I do only when I stumble morally at some point in time. As we draw further into the light that is Jesus Christ, we will see more clearly and vividly what He sees, and that our need for cleansing and forgiveness is a constant necessity as long as we are here in the flesh.

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:6-10)

The Bible teaches, and experience confirms, that our behavior (or what the Scriptures call fruit) springs forth from what we are. I sin because, plainly and simply, I am a sinner. I lie, not due to some momentary lapse of truthfulness, but because I am a liar. I steal, not because I temporarily stumbled, but because I am thief. If the well has been polluted, then the water will be undrinkable. Jesus came, suffered, died, then rose on the third day, not to change what we do, but what we are.

Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous… (1 John 3:4-7)

The humanist tendency today is to refuse to be defined by what we are, to consider the human condition as essentially good, yet prone to weakness. This explanation, false to its core, tramples on the truth of what Adamic man really is, and ultimately degrades the cross of Christ.

To repent in Biblical terms, is to turn away from the sinfulness we abhor, and toward our pure and perfect Redeemer. Repentance is the ongoing expression of the truth that the Holy Spirit is exposing about our foul condition. Yes, when it surfaces in the form of rotten fruit and hurts others, it becomes even more exposed, but repentance has a persistent role in our transformation.

“Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance…” (Matt. 3:8)

We repent also because we have veiled the testimony of our Lord to this sin-stained world. Rather than magnify our Lord Jesus Christ, we have covered Him over in the dark shroud of the old carnal self. Rather than shine forth His pure and heavenly light, we have only added to the darkness. In place of salt, we have scattered sugar, and the rot and decay of evil has advanced, unrestrained by the power of God in us.

Repentance marks a commitment to turn, a redirection of the will back toward the One who has begotten us; He who is drawing us out of the darkness and depravity of this world into His marvelous light.

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. (1 John 2:16)

It is not an intellectual or even strictly moral thing at all, but it flows out of the illumination of the human spirit. It is a heart-deep revelation of our profound uncleanness, and a God-sent obsession to be eternally cleansed and pure.

True repentance is nothing more than seeing clearly, as the Lord sees. It is seeing unlikeness, impurity, disorder (the human soul, with all of its natural energies and inspiration, governing the human spirit, rather than the other way around, as intended by the Creator), worldliness, carnality (the lustful energies of the physical body governing both soul and spirit). In short, we repent of anything that is less than Christ, and anything put in place of Christ; even things that are not necessarily bad or evil in themselves. Only as we begin to truly and clearly see the Lord Jesus in all of His divine fullness, with eyes wide open in the spirit, do we begin to see ourselves and all that we represent. Only then, will repentance bring forth the fruit of a transformed life, pleasing to the Father.

We repent, my friends, because we do not love Him as He has loved us. We repent because He is pure and holy, and we are not. We repent because we see with eyes wide open in the spirit, what He sees. We repent because He who is innately worthy has stooped to help we who are not.

For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.  (2 Cor. 7:10)

Indeed, part of the Godly sorrow that surfaces and sometimes threatens to consume us, may even flow out the realization of how utterly unworthy we are of any good thing from the Master’s table. He has stooped to wash our feet, yet we persist in wanting to be dirty. Idolatry, impurity, uncleanness, selfishness, worldliness – oh that we would be free my brethren; oh for the day when we will be free!

May our Holy and Perfect Father lead each of us further along this path into His light and truth. May the tears that flow from the recognition of our own uncleanness and unfaithfulness render the fruits of righteousness and holiness in our hearts and lives. May we begin to see all things as only He sees them, abhorring that which is evil, and turning to He alone Who is good. In Jesus’ perfect and holy name. Amen.