Month: May 2010

The Way of Death – W.E. Smith

There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. (Prov. 14:12, 16:25)

Thus says the LORD, “Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. (Jer. 21:8)

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts. (Prov. 21:2)

deathIf we would just get this one simple truth my brethren – if we would only be hit hard enough by what this is telling us – what riches would lie ahead in this living walk! What revelation it would yield!

My friends, I confess to you here that it has taken 40 years of living in myself for me to finally and ultimately surrender my way to Him. I am spent, and there is nothing left to be tried. A man, if he is honest will come to admit this. Only then can the Lord hope to have His way in him.

If we have truly come to the point of unconditional surrender at the throne of the Most High God, then we have necessarily come to the realization that our way leads only to death. Here, my friends, is the deep-running root of all real repentance – the renouncing of all that is bound up in us, all that we have come to be in Adam, all that we are and think and feel – all that runs wildly through our minds and hearts, and spills out into the world through our plans and words and living. We have come to recognize, as did the Apostle Paul, that profound spiritual truth, that in us “nothing good dwells”. No exceptions or exclusions; nothing carried forward into the new life. Nothing means nothing here folks. I am sorry if that bothers you, but only truth can set us free.

Six thousand years of human reasoning, scheming, organizing, inventing, contriving, and squirming – clearly reveal that man’s way leads only to unfulfillment, misery, failure, emptiness, despair, disillusionment and ultimately (what the Bible calls) death. We have been cursed you see, and no amount of humanistic revisionism can deny the record. Man alone and apart from his Maker – has been a total and abject failure in every single endeavor we choose to name.

Now it may ultimately take a lifetime, or most of it anyway, for us to arrive at this realization – that our own way amounts to nothing. Yet by the Lord’s grace alone He watches and waits patiently until we come to the end of ourselves, then crumble in a mournful heap beneath His feet.

We are done! We give up! There is nothing more to be said or tried! All of our best instincts and talents, all of our higher learning and wisdom, everything that was right in our own eyes for so long, all of our religion and all of the new things that were never new at all – everything we have to offer, all adding up to a BIG, FAT, useless ZERO!

Yet it all seemed so right didn’t it? It seemed somehow right and reasonable that the fruit of the forbidden tree was good for food, that it was pleasing to the eye, and that it was desirable for gaining wisdom. So many things, in fact, seem to make sense to us on the surface don’t they – like humanistic psychology to gain access to the inner man, like partnership with the world to advance the gospel, like highly structured and efficient church organizations for meeting the varied needs of the saints. These things may seem reasonable, they may seem to make sense on the surface – yet beware my friends, for this is God’s universe and He alone makes the rules.

He alone determines what is right and good! He alone declares what is true! He alone knows the way back to Himself!

Oh if we would only know what was truly lost in that garden so long ago, my brethren. If we would only come to grasp how far we fell, and how deeply we need a new and better way! A living way! A way that leads to life and fullness and restoration with He who formed us solely for Himself!

‘Thus says the LORD: “Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. (Jer. 21:8)

and…

“As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. (Psalm 18:30)

and again…

“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live. (Deut. 30:19)

Such fools we are, my brethren, and such a twisted way we have devised. Just look around you – look at all of the broken, empty, twisted lives of friends and family and strangers all around us! Sheep without a shepherd! See how they keep blindly resorting to the same useless ways to find peace, and healing and life. Look into their eyes, my brethren – I do every single day now, and it just about breaks the heart of God in me, for in them I see myself; I see all of humanity stumbling and fumbling toward the only hopeless and bloody destiny we have ever known.

There is death all around us and if you cannot see this then I have nothing for you, my brethren. The Bible, from cover to cover, is all about life you see – the life of God; and this is the life we need. Only through vital union with the Living Christ can we fulfill the ultimate ends that the Creator has designed. It is His life that will subsume all created things; His life that holds the secret of the universe and fulfills the eternal purpose of His Father. If we are in some manner attempting to get the Lord to bless or augment our own life, then this will only lead to spiritual futility and frustration. Oh Lord help this fundamental truth to penetrate us once and for all!

I am done Lord. I give up. I am tired of resisting you and all the wisdom of heaven. Forgive me Father, for my way that has taken me so far from You and Your Glorious Son, from life as you intended. Help me O Lord, to turn from this way and live. Teach me Your way, Precious Father, the living way that is in your Son alone. Help me no longer to hold any confidence in the flesh, in the natural man, or in the ways and ideas of men. Make your way straight before my sight dear Lord, that I would walk in it and never turn back. By your grace, help me to humbly submit all that I am to You that You might lead me in Your way – the narrow way that leads to Life and All Fullness in Jesus Christ!

My brethren, beloved children of the Lord,why persist in any way that leads only to death, disappointment and emptiness? The Lord Jesus Christ is our way now. For He alone declared – “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me“. His is a Living Way, a way of truth, of righteousness, of peace and of life. He not only knows where we are going, but He is also our means of getting there. There is nothing in ourselves we need or can trust. The flesh profits nothing, and we are no longer to walk according to the flesh unto death, but according to the spirit unto life. The way of Cain leads only to the pit and death – O how we need to see and know this, and to forsake it at any cost!

Our way flows out of what we are apart from Him – dead. His way flows out of Him and leads to all truth and life. For He is Life! It is a spiritual way, and only in and by His indwelling Spirit can we venture down this path. Only frustration and vanity can result from us trying to follow Him outside of Him, under the power of our natural lives. Consider how so much of what we call church and ministry today bears this out ever so tragically, as men use their way to advance the kingdom of God.

– We build machines, whereas the Lord brings His mighty power to bear on the situation.

– We walk by sight, whereas He wants us to walk by faith, trusting in Himself alone for all of our strength and provision.

– We erect multi-layered and sophisticated institutions to help and heal broken lives, whereas He gives us His Beloved Son, who holds the power of life and living in His hands.

– We send men with impressive credentials and big plans, whereas He sends His Son who created all of the universe, in the quickening power of the Holy Spirit.

– We seek quick and broad results, whereas He seeks pure, deep and lasting fruit.

– We are ever foolish, repeating the same mistakes over and over again whereas He is all-knowing and all-wise, never failing in any pursuit. He acts once and the result holds for eternity!

– We are earthly and trapped in time, whereas He fills all things and holds the beginning and the end in Himself.

– We skate about on the surface of life, excited by external results, whereas He focuses on the heart, ever going deeper, and asking more of us.

– We are easily impressed by painted and hollow things, and by numbers, whereas He demands substance, content and reality.

– We quite naturally exalt man, glorying in titles and accolades, whereas He exalts His Glorious Son, for whom the world was not worthy.

– We trust in the confidence of the flesh, whereas He moves quietly in the power and life of the Spirit.

– We love the darkness and borrow routinely from the world, whereas He scattered the darkness, and testified against it.

– We are unstable, knocked about by mood and temperament, whereas He is a Rock!

Again, what is this way of men that leads to death? It is the way of the humanist, and don’t think for one minute that this devilish curse hasn’t infected the church to its very core, and pulled it down to the pit, for the fruits are clear to those with eyes to see.

What is a humanist you ask? Here is a definition I stumbled on, and it is as obscene and insightful as any –

A Humanist believes in “Humanism,” a philosophy free from beliefs in the supernatural and dedicated to the search for meaning and values for individuals on this earth through reliance on reason, intelligence, scientific method, democratic process, and social compassion.

Humanism affirms the inherent dignity and worth of every human being and asserts that we are responsible for the realization of our aspirations and have within ourselves the power of achieving them.

Humanism contends that human beings are a part of nature, that we have emerged as a result of an evolutionary process, and that our values – religious, ethical, political, and social – have their sources in human experience and culture.

If you are perfectly honest, seeing with the eyes of the spirit, than clearly you will recognize strains of this evil – this way of man – in so much of what we call Christianity today. And it is nothing new by any means. Indeed, it is as old as that tangled garden, and as deadly as the dragon’s breath that whispered into the ear of mother Eve. Just as then, it has become the wisdom of the age, and we will do well to heed the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians –

However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

But as it is written:

” Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,

Nor have entered into the heart of man

The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.

These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2: 6-16)

Are you spiritual my brother? Or does the spirit of the world, and the way of man still drive you onward and downward unto defeat and death? Have you once and for all renounced and surrendered your way to the True and Living Way that is the Lord Jesus Christ? Or do you still trust and lean on your natural instincts – to get ahead in this world, or to advance yourself among men?

My brethren – these things must not be so among us, for He is the only way for us now. My sincere prayer for all of you is that you will see this, and avail yourself of Him, and throw yourself into Him with fearless abandon, leaving all else behind. Acknowledge and affirm Him now as your only way, and ask that He would grant you the faith to fall back into Him with complete confidence!

Father – we ask all of these things by Your grace alone, that no longer would we seek our own way, but follow Your Son all the way to eternal life. In Him we pray, Amen.

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 in this critical hour.

W.E. Smith

A Bond-Servant of the Lord Jesus Christ

Advertisements

The School of Christ – T. Austin-Sparks

LivingWalk Note: Dear brethren, beyond the Holy Bible itself, there are few books that we would consider essential reading for all those sharing this journey into the heart of our God. The School of Christ, by T. Austin-Sparks is one of them! And we share the first chapter here (with links to the remainder following), with the hope and prayer that those who have not partaken of this “meat in due season” might do so.

Chapter 1 – The Foundation of Spiritual Education

Reading: Eze 40:2-4; 43:10-11; Matt 3:17; 11:25-30; John 1:51; Luke 9:23; Eph 4:20-21.

The basic word out of those read, for our present purpose, is Mat 11:29—”Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me.”

Learn of me. The Apostle Paul, in a slightly different form of words, gives us what the Lord Jesus meant—”Ye did not so learn Christ” (Eph 4:20).

Leaving out one very little word makes all the difference and gives the true sense. The Lord Jesus, while He was here, could only put it in an objective way, for the subjective time had not arrived: and so He had to say, ‘Learn of me’. When the subjective time came, the Holy Spirit would lead the apostle to leave out the ‘of’, and say ‘learn Christ’.

I am quite sure that many of you will immediately discern that is just the flaw in a very great deal of popular Christianity today—a kind of objective imitation of Jesus which gets nowhere, rather than the subjective learning Jesus which gets everywhere.

So for this little while we are to be occupied with the School of Christ, into which school He brought the twelve, whom He chose “that they might be with him and that he might send them forth” (Mark 3:14). They were first of all called disciples, which simply means they came under discipline. Before ever we can be apostles, that is, sent ones, we have to come under discipline, to be disciples, to be taught ones, and that in an inward way. It is into this school that every one who is born from above is brought, and it is very important that we should know the nature of it, what it is that we are going to learn, and the principles of our spiritual education.

THE OBJECT OF OUR SCHOOLING IS FIRST COMPREHENSIVELY PRESENTED

Coming into this school, the very first thing that the Holy Spirit, the great Teacher and Interpreter, does for us, if we are truly brought under His hand, is to show us in a comprehensive way what it is that we have to learn, to present to us the great object of our education. We read those passages in Ezekiel which I think have a great bearing upon this matter. In a day when the true expression of God’s thought in the midst of his people had been lost and God’s people were out of immediate touch with Divine thoughts, away in that far country, the Spirit of God laid His hand upon the prophet and took him in the Spirit in the visions of God back to Jerusalem, and set him upon a high mountain, and gave him that presentation of a new temple, forth from which would flow a river of life to the ends of the earth. Then He followed this up by going into the whole thing in the most minute detail, and later instructed the prophet to show the house to the house of Israel with a view to bringing about a recovery of spiritual life in conformity to that great comprehensive and detailed revelation of God’s thought, that they should first of all be ashamed.

It is a much disputed matter whether the temple of Ezekiel will yet literally be set up on the earth. We will not argue about that, but of this one thing we need have no question, that all that Ezekiel saw has its spiritual counterpart and fulfillment in the Church which is His Body; spiritually it is all in Christ. And God’s method with His people, in order to secure a full expression of His thought, is first of all to present the perfect Object: and this He did when at the Jordan He rent the heavens and said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”. He presented and attested that which was the full, comprehensive and detailed expression of His thought for His people. The Apostle Paul, in words familiar to us, expressly voices the fact,

“Whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29).

“This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” —”Conformed to the image of his Son”. There is the presentation and the attestation and the declaration of Divine purpose in relation to Him. Therefore I repeat, the Holy Spirit’s first object is to acquaint us with what is in view in our spiritual education; namely, that He is to reveal Christ in us and then afterward to get to work to conform us to Christ. To learn Christ we must first see Christ.

THE PRE-EMINENT MARK OF A LIFE GOVERNED BY THE SPIRIT

The mark of a life governed by the Holy Spirit is that such a life is continually and ever more and more occupied with Christ, that Christ is becoming greater and greater as time goes on. The effect of the Holy Spirit’s work in us is to bring us to the shore of a mighty ocean which reaches far, far beyond our range, and concerning which we feel—Oh, the depths, the fullness, of Christ! If we live as long as ever man lived, we shall still be only on the fringe of this vast fullness that Christ is.

Now, that at once becomes a challenge to us before we go any further. These are not just words. This is not just rhetoric; this is truth. Let us ask our hearts at once, Is this true in our case? Is this the kind of life that we know? Are we coming to despair on this matter? That is to say, that we are glimpsing so much as signified by Christ that we know we are beaten, that we are out of our depth, and will never range all this. It is beyond us, far beyond us, and yet we are drawn on and ever on. Is that true in your experience? That is the mark of a life governed by the Holy Spirit. Christ becomes greater and greater as we go on. If that is true, well, that is the way of life. If ever you and I should come to a place where we think we know, we have it all, we have attained, and from that point things become static, we may take it that the Holy Spirit has ceased operations and that life has become stultified.

Let us take the example of one who is given to us, I believe, as amongst men, for this very purpose of showing forth God’s ways, the Apostle Paul. The words which he uses to define and express what happened to him right at the commencement are these: “It pleased God . . . to reveal his Son in me” (Gal 1:16). Now, that man did a very great deal of teaching and preaching. He put out a great deal. He had a long and very full life, not only in the amount that he put out, but in the concentrated essence which has defeated all the attempts to fathom. At the end of that long life, that full life, that man who said concerning its commencement, “It pleased God . . . to reveal his Son in me”, is crying from his heart this cry, “that I may know him” (Phil 3:10); indicating surely that with the great initial revelation and all the subsequent and continual unveilings, even being caught up into the third heaven and shown unspeakable things, with all that, at the end he knows nothing compared with what there is to be known. That I may know Him! That is the essence of a life governed by the Holy Spirit, and it is that which will deliver us from death, from stagnation, from coming to a standstill. It is the work of the Spirit in the School of Christ to present and to keep in view Christ in His greatness. So God, right at the beginning, brings Christ forth, presents Him, attests Him, and in effect says, This is that to which I will to conform you, to this image!

Yes, but then, having the presentation, the basic lessons begin. The Holy Spirit is not satisfied with just giving us a great presentation: He is going to begin real work in relation to that presentation, and we are, under His hand, brought to two or three basic things in our spiritual education.

THE CHALLENGE AND MEANING OF AN OPEN HEAVEN

My aim, in co-operation with the Lord, is to make everything pre-eminently practical; and so we apply the challenge immediately, and I ask you, Is the Holy Spirit within you presenting God’s fullness in His Son in an ever-growing way? Is that the nature of your spiritual life? If not, then you must have some definite exercise before the Lord about it; there is something wrong. The anointing means that, and if that is not the nature of your spiritual life, there is something wrong in your case in relation to the anointing. To Nathanael the Lord Jesus said, “Henceforth” (our old English word is ‘hereafter’, but I think many people have mistakenly thought that means the ‘after life’) “ye shall see the heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” Hereafter, of course, was the immediate hereafter, the days of the Holy Spirit which were coming so soon. With an open heaven you see, and you see God’s meaning concerning His Son.

That open heaven for the Lord Jesus was the anointing. The Spirit descended and lighted upon Him. It was the anointing, and it is the same for us. The open heaven is the anointing of the Spirit from the day of Pentecost onward upon Christ within us. That open heaven means a continually growing revelation of Christ.

Oh, let me urge this. I am brought back to urge this. We must not just add other things too soon, but make sure that we are right on these matters. The open heaven at once brings Gods revelation in Christ to your very door, makes it available to you, so that you are not dependent in the first place upon libraries, books, addresses or anything else. It is there for you. However much the Lord may see good to use these other things for your help and enrichment, you have your own open heaven, your own clear way through, and no closed dome over your head. The Lord Jesus is becoming more and ever more wonderful in your own heart, because “God, that said, Light shall shine out of darkness” hath “shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).

THE ‘OTHER-NESS’ OF CHRIST

That being true—and if it is not, perhaps you must just suspend things there until you have had dealings with the Lord—that being true, the Holy Spirit gets to work on that, as I said, to make two or three other things very real to us, the first of which is the altogether ‘other-ness’ of Christ. How altogether other He is from ourselves. Taking the disciples who went into His school—it was not the School of the Holy Spirit in the same sense as ours is, but the result of their association with the Lord Jesus during those three or three and a half years was just the same—the first thing they learned was how other He was from themselves. They had to learn it. I do not think it came to them at the first moment. It was as they went on that they found themselves again and again clashing with His thoughts, His mind, His ways. They would urge Him to take a certain course, to do certain things, to go to certain places; they would seek to bring to bear upon Him their own judgments and their own feelings and their own ideas. But He would have none of it. At the marriage feast in Cana of Galilee, His own mother, with an idea, said, They have no wine. His reply was, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.” What have I to do with thee? That is a weak translation. Far better, ‘Woman, you and I are thinking in different realms; we have at the moment nothing in common.’ Thus throughout their lives they sought to impinge upon Him with their mentality. No, all the time He was putting them back and showing them how different were His thoughts, His ways, His ideas, His judgments; altogether different. In the end I expect they despaired. He might well have despaired of them had He not known that this was exactly what he was doing in them. Catch that and you have got something helpful. ‘Lord, why is it that I am always caught out, always making a blunder? Somehow or other, I always say and do the wrong thing, I am always on the wrong side! Somehow I never seem to come right in line with You; I despair of ever being right!’ And the Lord says, ‘I am teaching you, that is all; deliberately, quite deliberately. That is exactly what I am bringing you to see. Until you learn that lesson, we shall get nowhere at all. When you have thoroughly learned that lesson, then we can begin constructive work, but at present it is necessary for you to come to the place where you recognize I am altogether other than you are. The difference is such that we move in two altogether opposite worlds.’

This ordinary mind of man, at its best, is another mind. This will of man, at its best, is another will. You never do know what lies behind your motives until the Holy Ghost cleaves right down to the depths of your being and shows you. You may put your feelings and desires into the most devout terms. You may, like Peter, react to a Divine suggestion, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me”, and say, “Not my feet only, but also my hands and my head”; but it is only self coming up again—my blessing. I want the blessing, and so miss the whole point the Master is trying to teach. ‘I am trying to teach you self-emptying.’ He might have said, ‘and you are laying hold of every suggestion of mine for self-filling, to get; and I am trying to say, Give, let go!’ This self comes up in the most spiritual (?) way. Self comes up for spiritual blessing. We do not know what lies behind. We have to come into a very severe school of the Spirit which eventuates in our coming to discover that our best intentions are defiled, our purest motives are unclean before those eyes; things that we intended to be for God, somewhere at their spring is self. We cannot produce from this nature anything acceptable to God. All that can ever come to God is in Christ alone, not in us. It never will, in this life, be in us as ours. It will always be the difference between Christ and ourselves. Though He be resident within us, He and He only is the object of the Divine good pleasure and satisfaction, and the one basic lesson you and I have to learn in this
life, under the Holy Spirit’s tuition and revelation and discipline, is that He is other than we are: and that ‘other-ness’ is indeed an utter thing. That is one of the hard lessons.

It is certainly one that this world will refuse to learn. It will not have that. That runs directly counter to the whole system of the teaching of humanism—the wonderful thing that man is! Oh no, when you have come to your best, there is a gulf between you and the beginnings of Christ that cannot be bridged. If you attain your best, you have not commenced Christ. That is utter, but we perhaps hardly need that emphasis. Most of us have learned something.

But let us, while we know this in experience, take the comfort which comes perhaps from being told again exactly what is happening. What is the Lord doing, what is the Holy Spirit doing, with us? Well, as a basic thing, He is making us to know that we are one thing and Christ another. That is the most important lesson to learn, for there can be nothing constructive until we have learned it. The first thing, therefore, is the altogether ‘other-ness’ of Christ as over against ourselves.

THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF REACHING GOD’S STANDARD OURSELVES

Then, secondly, the Holy Spirit brings us face to face with the utter impossibility of our ever being that of ourselves. You see, God has set up a standard, God has presented His model, God has given us His object for our conformity and the next thing we come up against is the utter impossibility of being that. Yes, of ourselves it cannot be. Have you not learned that lesson of despair yet? Is it necessary for the Holy Spirit to make you despair again? Why not have one good despair and get it all over? Why despair every few days? Only because you are still hunting round for something somewhere, some rag of goodness in yourself that you can present to God that will please Him, satisfy Him and answer to His requirements. You will never find it. Settle it that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags”. Our righteousness, all that trying to be so righteous, the Lord says of it all, “Filthy rags!” Let us settle this once for all. If you are looking ahead of what I am saying, you will see what it is leading to. It is leading to the most glorious position. It is leading to that glorious issue mentioned by the Lord Jesus in this way, in those days before things became inward: “Learn of me . . . and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” That is the end. But we shall never find rest unto our souls until we have first of all learned the utter difference between Christ and ourselves, and then the utter impossibility of our ever being like Him by anything that we can find in ourselves, produce or do. It is not in us, in ourselves, in that way. So we had better despair our last despair with regard to ourselves. Those two things are basic.

A FINAL WORD AND EXHORTATION

But then the next thing the Holy Spirit will do will be to begin to show us how it is accomplished. We are not going to start on that just now, but stay with the fact that the Holy Spirit can do nothing until these other things are settled. Oh, God is very jealous for His Son. His Son has gone right through the fires over this matter, having accepted manform and a life of dependence, having voluntarily emptied Himself of that which meant that at any moment He could of Himself work by Deity for His own deliverance, salvation, provision, preservation; having emptied Himself of that right and said, I let go all My rights and prerogatives and powers of Deity for the time being and I accept man’s position of utter dependence upon God as My Father; I meet all that man ever has to meet on man’s level! * He met it in every realm in its concentrated form and force and went through without a flaw as man for man, and went back to the throne on the merit of a complete triumph over every force that ever man has to encounter in satisfying God. Do you think that after that God is ever going to forgo His Son, and all that He wrought in man’s behalf, and say, Only be at your best and that will satisfy Me? Oh, what blindness to Christ, to God, is this Christianity that is popular today! No, there is only One in this universe concerning whom God can say from His heart “in whom I am well pleased”, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. If ever you and I are going to come into that favour, it will be as “in Christ Jesus”, never in ourselves.

When that is learned, or when that part of the education has been taken up, then it is that the Holy Spirit can begin the work of conformity to the image of God’s Son. Well, we have seen lessons one and two in the case of the disciples. Through the months and years, they came to see how altogether different He was from themselves, and then came to the place of despair on that very matter as the Lord intended it should be. He foresaw it all. He could not hinder it, He could not save them, He had to allow them to go that way; and right at the end when they were making their loudest protestations about their loyalty, their faithfulness, their endurance, and what they were going to do when put to the test, He said to them all, “Do ye now believe? Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone” (John 16:31-32). And to one in particular He said, “The cock shall not crow till thou hast denied me thrice” (John 13:38). What do you think those men felt when He was crucified, and they had all run away, and left Him alone, and the one had denied Him? Do you not think dark despair entered into their souls, not only over their lost prospects and expectations, but despair over themselves. Yes, and He had to allow it. He could take no step to prevent it; it was necessary. And you and I will go the same way if we are in the same school. It is essential. No constructive work can be done until that has got advanced within us.

Well, that sounds terrible, but that ought to be encouraging! After all, it is all constructive in a way. What is the Lord doing with me? He is preparing a way for His Son, He is clearing the ground for bringing in the fullness of Christ. That is what He is doing. He did it with them, and Pentecost and afterward was His answer to what happened on the day when He was delivered up, to all that happened with them. You say, Then He commenced His constructive work. Yes, He did; after the Cross and Pentecost, things began to change in an inward way, and from that time you begin to see that Christ is now manifested in a growing way in these men. They may have a long way to go, but you cannot fail to see that the foundation is laid, the commencement has been made. There is a difference, and the difference is not that they are necessarily changed men so much, as that Christ is now within them transcending what they are by nature. It is not that they become so much better, but it is that Christ within becomes so much more real as a power.

That is all for the moment. Let us bow our hearts today, yield today. It is the School of Christ. I know how challenging it is, challenging to this old man who dies very hard, yields with great difficulty. All our training, teaching, perhaps has been other than this. We have come into this horrible heritage of humanism—to be the best that I can be, to be my best! Well, you must take what I am saying in the sense in which I am saying it. No one is going to think that you can go and just be careless, slovenly, at your worst or less than your best, simply because of what I have said; but you know what I am talking about. At our best we can never pass across that gap between man and Jesus Christ. No, that gap remains, and the only way to get over is to die and to be raised from the dead; but that, for the moment, is another matter.

* FOOTNOTE: This does not mean that He emptied Himself of Deity, but of its rights for the time being.

Continue Reading the Rest of the Book Here – The School of Christ

But if it Dies – W.E. Smith

acorn2Folks, take a good long look at this image (it’s an acorn in case you were wondering). Not too pretty is it? Nothing you might frame and hang on your wall. Well, as we will see, that might not be such a bad idea.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:24-26)

You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; (1 Cor. 15:36)

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. (Psa. 23:4)

It is an awe-inspiring truth (as we shall see) that this shadow of death, spoken of throughout the Scriptures, promises the hope and potential of deeper, more abundant life. Although this is undoubtedly man’s greatest threat and fear, it is also where God does His finest and most heart-quickening work.

Death, decay, then life – a natural process every tiller of the soil or naturalist knows only too well. From mighty trees fallen and eroding on the forest bed flow all of the ingredients for even greater life and vitality. Here death and life, caught up in a dance only the Creator could have conceived, form a vital connection, the one perpetuating the other in a mysterious and magnanimous circle. Death, decay and decomposition promote a frenzy of micro-organic activity that perpetuates and promotes the continuing life and vitality of the ecosystem.

This is true also of the realm within the human heart where spirit and soul intersect. It is also one of the preeminent themes of the Bible.

But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” (1 Cor. 15:54-55)

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. (Heb. 2:14-15)

Death – sin, the devil, the way of man.

Life – righteousness, Christ, the way of God.

“…but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:3-5)

Here we find the first, and in many respects, the only lie – “You shall not die”. Indeed, we will and we must. For it is from the death and loss of the self-life (or the soul life as Watchman Nee terms it) that we gain the life of He who is God’s precious Seed – Jesus Christ.

My friends, the Kingdom of God does not grow in numbers and vitality through sophisticated and worldly marketing campaigns, fancy facilities or ear-tickling sermons. Nor can the individual Christian life increase in fruitfulness by the preservation of the life of the soul and flesh. God is abundantly clear on this – that life flows only out of death; that unless a seed falls to the ground broken, there can be no promise of fruitfulness and life. Here is one answer to that age-old question of why the devil is among us.

Indeed, we must die (and in fact welcome the death of the self; the old man) and fall to the ground such that the living dynamic of Jesus Christ can be born and developed within us. He is God’s precious seed that was planted on the earth such that the life of God would grow and multiply throughout His creation. He was bruised and broken open on the cross only that life might spill out to the many who claim Him by faith alone. Here is how death is swallowed up in victory and the designs of the devil are universally confounded.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head And you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Gen. 3:15)

The mortal flesh is merely the shell that contains the promise of life. Yet look at the expense and excess to which human beings go to perpetuate and promote what is essentially only packaging. Look again at how we Christians go to such great lengths to prevent the seed from falling and being broken. Until we love God more than our own life; unless we are willing, as so many saints and martyrs of old, to lay down our lives and risk being broken open and exposed, then the fruitfulness and vitality we preach about and desire will never actually happen.

Why then brethren is the contemporary church still falling for this first and most vicious lie and living for the life of the world in the pursuit of earthly things? We curry its favor rather than boldly preach the truth and risk being persecuted or worse. We look for easy ways of advancing the kingdom that don’t require provoking the animosity of the world and its god. We have perverted the Christian message to such a degree that many see it as a means of worldly gain and not loss. Yet the clear testimony of God’s word, affirmed by example and the Holy Spirit Himself, is that only those who do not love their lives unto death will truly grow and live and impart life to others. Here again is the power of the cross of Christ on the individual soul, performing the work of reducing that which must be brought to death.

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. (Mark 8: 34-35)

Dear saints, it should be in no manner offensive to say that to preserve, promote and perpetuate our life is opposed to all things taught in the Bible. Jesus rebuked Peter as Satan’s mouthpiece for opposing the purposes of God in allowing His beloved Son to advance towards the cross. Here was the same spirit found in the serpent in the garden when he told the first woman she shall not die. True saints follow their Lord in not loving their lives unto death, and in possessing a perpetual willingness to lay it down. Recall that Paul, writing to the Philippians, expresses his desire –

“…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death. (Phil. 3:10)

Paul knew most pointedly that, until we are conformed to the death of Christ, He could not be raised in us; that death and life were constantly working together to promote the creative and transformative purposes of the Father.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are  afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you. (2 Cor. 4:7-12)

The sheer wonder of it all is that the Father’s way demands a devil here among those whom He would claim and refashion in His Son. Although the devil, by his very nature, intends our harm and loss, the Creator uses it to build up His little ones in His eternal kingdom. This theme is found over and over again throughout both Testaments of the Bible; that from the laying down and brokenness of one, flows life and abundance to the many. We see this from the garden of Eden onward to that quintessential act of God’s precious Son pouring out His life for the life of the world.

Only by leaving his homeland and following his God blindly and vicariously through the wilderness, could Abraham prove himself faithful and become the father of many nations.

Only through tremendous loss and pain, could Job experience the fruitfulness of his Creator’s encouraging word and the restoration and increase of all things.

Only by losing his freedom and dignity, could Jacob come to see that with God all things are possible, including reconciliation with his brother.

Only by being debased, broken and stripped of his pride, could Joseph bring life to His family in Egypt during the drought.

Only by being dispatched to the wilderness, and stripped of all of his princely ambitions and attachments, could Moses be prepared as the instrument of salvation to so many.

Only through being maligned, misunderstood and martyred would the testimony and message of the prophets offer hope, comfort and life to those who would come after them.

Only by being reduced and poured out from one end of the Roman Empire to the other, could Paul and the apostles advance the gospel and the kingdom, saying – “So death works in us, but life in you”.

Dear brethren, the Bible is replete with examples where Satan or his agents intended evil and destruction, but God used it for good and life. Many new Christians are often confused by the question of why the devil or why pain and death? Yet here is the answer from Genesis to Revelation – that life would emanate from His Son alone – bruised and broken open; that life would spill out to all those who would believe on Him, being conformed to His death, and raised up in His life.

Praise God for this mystery of life and godliness too often kept hidden from the saints. Yet it is the theme of all the Scriptures is it not? In so many types and examples and allusions, all pointing to He who is the ultimate fulfillment and hope of all things.

All so that the “excellency of the power” would be of God and not ourselves, lest we might boast. Always death (the cross) and life (the resurrection life of Christ) interacting within us to produce this new man in the image of the Lord of all life, He alone who is worthy before the Heavenly Father. Oh the mystery and majesty of it all, such that even a devil and death itself has a role in the creative workings of God.

Addressing the reason why there is so little fruitfulness and fullness of Christ in the lives of believers, Watchman Nee (who spent many years of His life imprisoned for his faith) wrote –

“There is new life in us, if we have received Christ. We all have that precious possession, the treasure in the vessel. Praise the Lord for the reality of His life within us! But why is there so little expression of that life? Why is there an ‘abiding alone’? Why is it not overflowing and imparting life to others? Why is it scarcely making itself apparent even in our own lives? The reason why there is so little sign of life where life is present is that the soul in us is enveloping and confining that life (as the husk envelops the grain of wheat) so that it cannot find outlet. We are living in the soul; we are working and serving in our own natural strength; we are not drawing from God. It is the soul that stands in the way of the springing up of life. Lose it; for that way lies fullness.”

Oh, but to lose is not popular in our modern churches. To be reduced or side-lined, perhaps split open and poured out; this is more often than not seen as a sign of infidelity or spiritual weakness, surely not the intimate workings of a loving and heavenly Father with His hand on our lives. In His infinite wisdom, He has ordained that in order for us to live again and anew in His Son, we are to die to sin and the world and indeed all that opposes the life and nature of God and His Son. Paul clearly draws this out for us throughout his epistles –

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 6:3-11)

Here we see that death is used by the Father to foster even greater life (the life of the spirit) and that by being identified with the death of His Son (as illustrated through the rite of baptism), we also share in the power and dynamic of His resurrected life.

Elsewhere, Paul incorporates the law and sin into the equation, providing even deeper insight into how death is bound up in the plan of God –

“For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Gal. 2:19-20)

And further –

… and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (Col. 2:11-14)

If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. (Col. 2:20-23)

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. (Col. 3:1-4)

To Timothy, Paul declares –

It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; (2 Tim. 2:11)

Dear brethren, saints of the Most High; clearly the Lord’s eternal wisdom and ways are nothing like our own. That which we fear and dread more than anything is precisely what He employs to generate life – real life, His life. And this is no empty mysticism or allegory here. That true spiritual life – the very life of God – can be conferred to mortal beings, who start out life in the material world and the flesh, is a mystery and wonder that only the Spirit can discern.

Death will most certainly be swallowed up in life and victory –

He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken. (Isa. 25:8)

And so stripped down to bare facts, the Christian reality is essentially about a new (spiritual) life being raised up out of an old (natural) life that has been willingly laid down and broken open. Nothing happens or indeed can happen until this happens. Until each and every one of us come to the point where the life of Christ is more important than our own, then nothing else matters. Not rules, or self-discipline, or the flesh dressed up in church clothes. None of these or anything else can produce the fruit that only life can generate.

Think seriously on this brethren, for so much of what passes for Christianity in this world has little to do with the life of Christ being born out of the death of the fallen Christian. Many are baptized each and every day not really comprehending what it represents: death and resurrection life. The power and ability is in the life, and there is only one life that matters to the Father, and that is the life of His Son. The law only has the power to legislate and condemn; it changes nothing. The existential nature and life of Adamic man has the power only to sin and offend God.

ONLY THE LIFE OF JESUS CHRIST ABIDING IN THE BELIEVER MAKES THE LIVING POSSIBLE!

Everything else is a pretense, and denies the power, as Paul has said. “But if it dies”, then the promise of life advances. And oh what a life it is, brethren, for nothing in all creation is as awesome and beautiful and worthy as the life of the Son of God. It is a life that is destined by the Father to subsume all the universe, filling every space and soul, bringing the hope of the transcendent glory of God to all created things.

My sense in this hour is that those who would be His witnesses at the close of this age must carry forth that testimony that started with righteous Abel and all who followed him, all those who were martyred for their faithful service to the Lord. We must all be prepared and willing to surrender all that the Lord would require so that the life of His Son would be fully formed and manifested in us.

The first generation church did not grow, either in number or spiritual maturity, because of slick marketing campaigns or big buildings, but rather it grew up out of the blood and broken bodies of the apostles and saints; those who lovingly poured themselves out that the life of Jesus Christ would rise up throughout the Roman Empire.

Let’s consider this again, recognizing that its meaning is for every single one of us seeking to advance the Lord Jesus and His Eternal Kingdom –

–unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.

“If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:24-26)

Oh Heavenly and Glorious Father – we have been taught many things, and we have believed many lies about how You as the Author of Life perpetuates life. We know that in our fleshly hearts we would prefer an easier, less intrusive way. Yet from the life of one, poured out in love, as a willing sacrifice, flows life to the many. And we pray for just such a heart and spirit, that for You and Your loved ones, we would be ready and willing to lay down our lives, our place or position, or anything else so that much fruit would be formed in us. In Jesus’ precious name, we pray. Amen..

Our End is His Beginning – W.E. Smith

Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS”; and again, “THE  LORD KNOWS THE REASONINGS of the wise, THAT THEY ARE USELESS.” (1 Cor. 3:18-20)

Brethren, why do we persist in trusting our own wisdom when the Word of God and the long, sordid history of our lives plainly reveal that our ways do not lead to the Lord’s blessings or glory, nor to the fulfillment of His eternal plans and purposes?

Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written,

“THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM. (1 Cor. 2:6-9)

It is not what we have seen or heard in the course of our experience that constitutes wisdom or truth for the child of God, but that which is imparted to the regenerated spirit within us. This wisdom of the world or wisdom of this age, that permeates and informs everything in this world, is not from our God at all, as it is a natural wisdom, appealing to a natural life, and perpetuating a rebellious system in conflict with the Lord of all Life. It is, as the Scriptures affirm, a wisdom that crucified the very “Lord of glory”, who came into the world to save it.

For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts  of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. (1 Cor. 2:10-13)

Dear brethren, it is vital that we comprehend what is being suggested here, that our instruction, direction, wisdom and truth is to come not from the world, appealing to the natural man, but from the Spirit of God, revealing the deep things of God. In most cases, this is a way and a wisdom that turns the world’s wisdom on its head, as in the case with the following word from Paul –

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.  (2 Cor. 1:8-9)

Affliction, excessive burden, despair, death, not trusting in ourselves – are these concepts or expectations being taught in the compromised church of the our day? How I wish it were not so dear saints, but the sad reality suggests otherwise. Yet the disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ is not to follow what is popular or ticklish to his ears, but he is to allow the Spirit of God to lead him into the very way and life of Christ Jesus. This is that mysterious path from death to life, from the pit to glory, that we see from Genesis to Revelation. This is the wisdom of God, that will ultimately confound the rulers of this age, and result in the filling of all things with His Son. Despite what humanist religious teachers are saying these days, you cannot receive Christ Jesus as your personal savior and then choose to reject the Father’s wisdom in terms of magnifying His Son; it just doesn’t work this way folks. I will leave it to the Holy Spirit to bring this home to your heart, as only He can.

Dear saints, it is our Lord’s way to bring us to the end of ourselves; to bring us to the very brink of despair so that we might see no way out but to trust in Him wholly and without flinching. In the Lord’s perfect wisdom there can be no self-confidence whatsoever. You see, the testimony of Christ in His chosen ones does not hinge on human strength or ability, but on His provision and power alone. If our strength and hope is not in Christ but in ourselves or any other created thing, then how can we be sure we are abiding in His will? Is His care not sufficient? Do we think we need something more?

This is why the Scriptures are literally packed with examples of human beings and angels being confounded with almost unbelievable patterns of deliverance. The utter outlandishness of these stories are often what lead so many to refute the veracity of the Bible itself – Noah’s boat, Isaac’s altar, Jacob’s long painful pilgrimage to the end of himself, Joseph’s unlikely path to savior of his people, Moses’ mysterious road to becoming divine intercessor, the parting of the Red Sea, Jericho’s falling walls, Jonah’s over-sized fish, Job’s extreme loss and restoration, David’s bizarre and winding path to the throne, Esther’s night with the king leading to the deliverance of all Israel; God’s Son coming into the world by way of a virgin birth; and of course, His reconciliation of the world by way of a bloody cross. Yet is it not the case that such impossible events actually reveal to us that God is behind them; that His ways are beyond searching; that if we are to be saved by Him, then He will do it in a manner that confounds all other patterns, possibilities or explanations?

I have been spending a lot of time in the Old Testament lately, and one theme seems to be rooting itself deeper and deeper into my spirit; and it is this – that the God of the Bible; He who has proven Himself over and over to be faithful to His chosen people; does not think or act or proceed as a man in any way shape or form. There is a mystery surrounding how He does things that is largely alien to our experiences and expectations. He seemingly takes delight in confounding us; in turning our reality on its head. Typically, His deliverance or victory comes in a manner that is inconceivable to our limited  reality trapped as it is in time and space and superficial human experience. Often we really don’t know what He is going to do or even what He is doing at the time. It is often only after He has accomplished His purposes that we finally and ultimately see the wonder of His ways; and afford Him the praise and glory that He deserves.

So often it seems, we not only want God to help us or show forth His grace on us, but we want Him to do it in our way, and according to our wisdom and expectation. We want to be healed perhaps, or delivered from some circumstance that is discomforting; even painful. And we have it all mapped out how we think He should proceed to help us. Or maybe we have a ministry – and we vainly feel that the Eternal God who sits above the circle of the earth has an obligation to advance it in some manner. Oh we sowed all these seeds, and have the entire marketing plan all carefully construed according to the ways of men and the world – and yet we somehow think He will automatically bless it and give life to it. Oh what fools we are dear brethren! Have we not learned what is written in the Scriptures, that His ways are not our ways –

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
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. 55:8-11)

And again –

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.”  (1 Cor. 1:26-31)

Does not this confound everything the world teaches about how to get ahead in life; how teams, for example, set about to win at whatever sport they are engaged in; how business goes about competing in the marketplace? Clearly it does, because down here it is all about human beings seeking glory for themselves and praise from everyone else. “Look at me” – a man cries in the street! “Look at what I can do!”

The whole divinely twisted concept of a suffering servant, of losing one’s life to win it; of the weak becoming strong in the strength of another; of pouring out your own life so that others might live – it almost strains our brain trying to see the logic of it all doesn’t it? And it opposes everything we have been taught from the moment we stuck our crooked little heads into this world. And this modern generation, with all of its emphasis on working and doing and over-achieving, and man’s seemingly limitless capacity to solve his problems and to advance himself with human initiative and ingenuity – the power of the human will; the boundary-shattering potential of technology and science – Oh my brethren, we are so desperately and grievously lost, are we not? Oh how fallen and corrupted in our hearts and minds we have become.

I dare say that I more than any am most guilty of this. I wish I could deny my own condition, but how can I when it is what I know so intimately; and have known all my vain life. Rejection, loss, affliction, despair, weakness, dependence – I know in my heart my sensibilities about such things are not aligned with the wisdom of God and His ways. Oh Lord, please help me! Have mercy my Lord!

Oh Gracious and Glorious Father of Life – forgive us for we have all sinned and fallen short of Your holy purpose. Oh Lord, why will we not forsake our wisdom and ways? Why do we cling so stubbornly to only that which our natural minds can comprehend or our hands can accomplish? Why will we not hope in Christ, when He is more than willing and able to save and sanctify us to the uttermost?

All throughout his selfless ministry to the gentiles, the Apostle Paul struggled trying to get them not to be ashamed or repulsed by his weakness in presenting the gospel to them. In fact, it seems that he was always at any point at the brink of death as he poured himself out for the gospel of Christ.

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (1 Cor. 2:1-5)

I find it interesting that we have a generation of Christians that, by all evidence, seems heaven-bent on eradicating all weakness and discomfort in the lives of the saints, when this appears to be precisely our Lord’s pattern of life and ministry. So ready are we to exchange our sackcloth for robes, and the Lord’s reduction for the humanist ideal of the shiny, all-together man, that the vast majority of Christian service and witness has become little more than emptiness and futility. If there is one thing new Christians must learn from the first day, it is that heavenly life can only spring forth out of death. We all need to ask the Lord to help us receive this principle and wisdom, for it is the very opposite of what we learn in this world from the rulers of this age.

Dear friends, beloved saints of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am not here to condemn anyone, for then I could only begin and end with myself, and who among us could stand? Yet the Lord has impressed upon my heart the utter need for us in this generation to be in a posture of readiness and waiting upon Him alone. There is so much mixture and corruption in our midst and we need to depend on the Spirit of God more than ever before. For too long we have been directing our ways rather than letting the Lord direct us in His ways. It matters not what we can do, or would do, or might do given the resources – it matters only what He can do, and what He is doing. And don’t pretend to think that you know His ways, for they more often than not turn all of our designs and plans upside down. He must know that we will wait for Him, trust in Him, and hope in Him, and follow Him down that path (the path of the cross) that seemingly makes no sense; that makes us squirm, that compels us to wait until the very last moment until He prevails over the plans of men and the devil. Only then does the glory rise up to where it belongs; only then my friends – don’t allow yourselves to be fooled.

This is so vitally and urgently important, for what is coming is a time of revealing, of stripping away. All will be made known in the time of shaking that is coming upon this earth. And when His little ones stand up (please refer to Rev. 11) adorned in sackcloth, and presenting only the pure and simple testimony of the Lamb, their every step will be determined and directed by the Lord. They will not so much as sit down or stand up unless His Word directs and equips them. They will appear wretched and failed as humanity beholds them; yet they will command the very might and power of the Creator as they witness for Him against the pervading darkness. Like the Son of Man two-thousand years ago, there will be no beauty in them as the world deems beauty, and their words and testimony will make the many want only to silence and kill them.

Are we ready my brethren? Have we forsaken all of our thoughts and ways for His? What are our expectations regarding the end of this age anyway? I am sad to say that most of what the church is teaching today is doing little to prepare His Beloved for what will be. In point of fact, by the Spirit of truth that abides within me, most of the flock is being set up to be deceived by events that will transpire prior to our Lord’s return. I pray you (and I no doubt) will not be one of them.

Yet we must take to heart that the ways and methods of men will not fulfill the purpose of God, nor result in His praise and glory. I too must come to terms with what I think about weakness and distress and despair, and my almost inborn need to resist it at all cost. Yes, fellow saints, we are to be strong, but not in our own strength. Yes, we are to do great things by our Lord, but He alone is the author and finisher of our faith and works. The very reality of small and pitiful human beings doing extraordinary things beyond their ability or scope can only lead the world to consider who they are dealing with; who in fact stands before them. Herein lies the divine judgment of those final days soon upon us, dear brethren. This will not be a time for taking up swords to protect our Lord, or to rely on human reason or instinct or emotion or logic or education or any other known or created thing.

As always and forever, His grace is sufficient for us. Now this in no way means we will understand in advance what He is doing and why He is doing it. Not so dear saints, for this is the path of child-like faith and trust. When He comes to us and asks us to do something that at once seems strange or incomprehensible, that our minds can’t in any way rationalize, here is where we must follow him in perfect and trusting obedience. And if someone comes into your life or crosses your path; someone lowly and unimpressive to your eyes and human predilection; and yet they come with the very words and Spirit of the Lord – do not despise them, but rather give praise and glory to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; who causes even the blind to see and the lame to stand and walk. And if perchance the Lord asks you to exchange your comfortable but empty little life for sackcloth and ash; for mourning and witness to the dread of this world and the foul sin in the heart of man – then my brother, don’t look back, go forward in His grace and power alone; and be all that He would be in you, and say all that He might say through you; and suffer all that He might permit you to suffer and lose for His sake in this cursed world.

Dear saints of the Most High – no longer must it be that fleshly wisdom defines us and determines our conduct and testimony in this world. This is nothing to be proud of, as attested to by Paul to the Corinthians –

For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you. (2 Cor. 1:12)

Rather, we must appropriate all that the Lord provides us through his expansive and ever-flowing grace. Just as our Savior and Shepherd lived breath-upon-breath and moment-to-moment by His Father’s care and provision, so must we live in Him, for His gracious provision is more than sufficient for both life and godliness in this crooked generation. We must cease trusting in ourselves, in our quaint little religious urges, our vaunted opinions and positions pertaining to the Christian walk, our empty “the ends justify the means” results-oriented thinking. Both the way and the results belong to the Lord, as does all the glory. All praise and glory is His and must flow from the lives of His children as they forsake their ways for His.

Oh Heavenly and Eternal Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ at Your side – please keep us from the vanity of our own thoughts, and the emptiness and delusion of our own capacity. Purge us dear Father of all self-confidence, and the deep brooding lust of glory that is in all of us. Make us ready dear Father, that we might stand in that appointed day; that indeed He might stand and show forth Your righteousness and truth in this unholy world. Let all things be done for Your glory, Lord, by Your wisdom and way. Let it be Your strength and might alone that operates in the lives and testimony of Your little ones. Keep us from all delusion and deception and distraction that prevent Your purposes from being realized in our lives. And please come Lord Jesus. Please come soon to claim us and to raise us up where You are for ever and ever. Amen.

Further Reading –

The School of Christ, Chapter 1 – T. Austin-Sparks

Excerpt:

Taking the disciples who went into His school—it was not the School of the Holy Spirit in the same sense as ours is, but the result of their association with the Lord Jesus during those three or three and a half years was just the same—the first thing they learned was how other He was from themselves. They had to learn it. I do not think it came to them at the first moment. It was as they went on that they found themselves again and again clashing with His thoughts, His mind, His ways. They would urge Him to take a certain course, to do certain things, to go to certain places; they would seek to bring to bear upon Him their own judgments and their own feelings and their own ideas. But He would have none of it. At the marriage feast in Cana of Galilee, His own mother, with an idea, said, They have no wine. His reply was, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.” What have I to do with thee? That is a weak translation. Far better, ‘Woman, you and I are thinking in different realms; we have at the moment nothing in common.’ Thus throughout their lives they sought to impinge upon Him with their mentality. No, all the time He was putting them back and showing them how different were His thoughts, His ways, His ideas, His judgments; altogether different. In the end I expect they despaired. He might well have despaired of them had He not known that this was exactly what he was doing in them. Catch that and you have got something helpful. ‘Lord, why is it that I am always caught out, always making a blunder? Somehow or other, I always say and do the wrong thing, I am always on the wrong side! Somehow I never seem to come right in line with You; I despair of ever being right!’ And the Lord says, ‘I am teaching you, that is all; deliberately, quite deliberately. That is exactly what I am bringing you to see. Until you learn that lesson, we shall get nowhere at all. When you have thoroughly learned that lesson, then we can begin constructive work, but at present it is necessary for you to come to the place where you recognize I am altogether other than you are. The difference is such that we move in two altogether opposite worlds.’

This ordinary mind of man, at its best, is another mind. This will of man, at its best, is another will. You never do know what lies behind your motives until the Holy Ghost cleaves right down to the depths of your being and shows you. You may put your feelings and desires into the most devout terms. You may, like Peter, react to a Divine suggestion, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me”, and say, “Not my feet only, but also my hands and my head”; but it is only self coming up again—my blessing. I want the blessing, and so miss the whole point the Master is trying to teach. ‘I am trying to teach you self-emptying.’ He might have said, ‘and you are laying hold of every suggestion of mine for self-filling, to get; and I am trying to say, Give, let go!’ This self comes up in the most spiritual (?) way. Self comes up for spiritual blessing. We do not know what lies behind. We have to come into a very severe school of the Spirit which eventuates in our coming to discover that our best intentions are defiled, our purest motives are unclean before those eyes; things that we intended to be for God, somewhere at their spring is self. We cannot produce from this nature anything acceptable to God. All that can ever come to God is in Christ alone, not in us. It never will, in this life, be in us as ours. It will always be the difference between Christ and ourselves. Though He be resident within us, He and He only is the object of the Divine good pleasure and satisfaction, and the one basic lesson you and I have to learn in this
life, under the Holy Spirit’s tuition and revelation and discipline, is that He is other than we are: and that ‘other-ness’ is indeed an utter thing. That is one of the hard lessons.

It is certainly one that this world will refuse to learn. It will not have that. That runs directly counter to the whole system of the teaching of humanism—the wonderful thing that man is! Oh no, when you have come to your best, there is a gulf between you and the beginnings of Christ that cannot be bridged. If you attain your best, you have not commenced Christ. That is utter, but we perhaps hardly need that emphasis. Most of us have learned something.

But let us, while we know this in experience, take the comfort which comes perhaps from being told again exactly what is happening. What is the Lord doing, what is the Holy Spirit doing, with us? Well, as a basic thing, He is making us to know that we are one thing and Christ another. That is the most important lesson to learn, for there can be nothing constructive until we have learned it. The first thing, therefore, is the altogether ‘other-ness’ of Christ as over against ourselves.

Note: If you are a Christian – young or old – and have not yet read this book – The School of Christ, then we strongly recommend that you do. It is free online at the following address –

http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/school_of_christ_the.html