Month: June 2011

“You Follow Me” – W.E. Smith

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. (Luke 9:23)

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:1-2)

But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Gal.6:14)

Beloved saints, the hour is so very dark is it not? So much confusion and dread, as the world and so much of the church that bears our Lord’s name seeks answers everywhere but in He who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Oh how desperate are these times dear ones, and how great is the need that we are following  the One True King who is the Lamb of God and the Hope of the World! So many groping for a way, a path, a deliverer, a teaching or wisdom that makes sense of it all. So many who are so very vulnerable right now to every false and seductive thing out there.

Recently, I found myself revisiting this deeply personal conversation at the end of John’s gospel where the Master conveys some essential things to Peter –

Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” (John 21:20-22)

And those three words kept ringing in my spirit for days – YOU FOLLOW ME! YOU FOLLOW ME!


Lately, you see, I have been searching far more it seems, things having anything to do with prophecy and end-time events and interpretations. I have found myself ever so gradually and subtly looking for someone, anyone who seems to have the answers; who seems to be able to explain it all in a coherent way. Yet what was true then for Peter is even more true for us today at the end of this present age, when the temptation to look to other sheep is so very real and powerful. The times are growing  increasingly unsettling and scary for all of us, and it is perhaps somewhat understandable that we find ourselves looking for something to grab hold of.

Brethren, what might the Ecclesia of Christ actually look like if each individual member of the Lord’s Body was actually following Him, and not men or groups or a body of ideas? What would happen to these mega churches that have sprung up in so many former corn fields? What would happen to so many of these slippery and shiny TV preachers and to the whole rash of Christian consumerism that sucks literally billions of dollars away from advancing the gospel, or helping the afflicted and needy among us?

YOU FOLLOW ME!

Not your pastor! Not your church! Not your body of beliefs! Not a thousand years of tradition and habit! Not the Christian theme of the month!

Earlier in this conversation, the Master asked Peter no less than three times whether he loved Him. He needed to know, you see, because He knew what Peter would be asked to suffer for this love –

“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.”Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!” (John 21:18-19)

Will then, following the Lord alone lead to suffering, loss and even potentially death at the hands of this world and its god? Yes it will, dear ones, and anyone who suggests otherwise is not following the Master. And we cannot follow Him if we do not possess a love that will endure, and that is greater than any other love. As with Peter, He has to know whether we really do love Him above all else, and whether we will be willing to follow Him, wherever that leads. We know that He went through the way of the cross before going on to life and glory in the presence of the Father. This path will be no different for any of those who choose to follow Him.

Dear ones, it is so powerfully tempting in this bewildering and unsettled hour, to be tempted to follow one who seems to have answers or interpretations that alleviate our uncertainty and anxiety about what is coming. This truly is a time when false prophets and false guides are coming out of every nook and cranny of hell to lead sheep away from the True Shepherd. “No pain! No suffering! No hardship! No loss! No death!”- is the happy chorus ringing out from so many of these corn-field temples in this hour!

Oh how I wish right now this were true my friends, for I am suffering myself a great deal, and there are days and hours when I grow so disillusioned and susceptible. Oh how I wish that the cross I am bearing would be so magically lifted, as these happy preachers with the silk shirts and big collars promise. Yet His command rings on in my spirit –

YOU FOLLOW ME!

Yet what does this really mean, to follow Him? It involves many things certainly, but we must first accept by faith what Paul refers to as the “foolishness of the cross” (1 Cor. 1:18;23); the heaven-inspired principle that real strength and power is derived only out of weakness (2 Cor. 13:4, Heb. 11:34, 2 Cor. 12:9), that real spiritual life can only spring forth from the death of the human soul (the self-life). Until we grasp this by faith in the spirit, then we can never even begin to follow Him to where He has gone. This is a strange wisdom that stands in stark contrast to the the world’s popular and humanistic notions of the independent and self-sufficient man, where the mind and potential of man will save him, and bring about the godless utopia promised by the serpent in the garden.

Oh dear saints, to take up our cross and follow the Lord Jesus Christ is to follow down the path of the faithful ones of old who have suffered and died, having not received the promises (Heb. 11:13); so many who were made to be weak such that the power of God would be manifest in them. The way of the Lamb of God is the way of a blood-stained cross, of reproach and bitterness, of rejection at the hands of those live by the spirit and wisdom  of the world. For this reason it is called the narrow way (Matt. 7:14).

YOU FOLLOW ME!

Not your government or civic leaders! Not earthly parties or principles! Not political champions with a megaphone and a bright new idea! Not some ‘Christian world view” (whatever that means)! Not the siren call for change, however seductive it might seem!

Oh brethren, beloved of the Lord, I know so personally lately how wearisome is the waiting. I know that it often seems as though He might not ever return for us, that His words have fallen to the ground – “I will not leave you orphans”. Yet, in addition to a love that follows, we also need a faith that follows, for we recall this encouragement to the prophet Habukkuk about that which tarries –

For the vision is yet for the appointed time;
It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
For it will certainly come, it will not delay. (Hab. 2:3)

Often we must follow Him through the darkness and the silence, through the confusion and mystery. And this is so very difficult, even impossible without His grace upon us. For the fact remains that if we do not love Him nor trust Him, we will never follow Him. We will choose another, and in doing so we will stumble and fall back. In place of reward we will suffer loss.

YOU FOLLOW ME!

And so am I lovingly and faithfully following the Master each and every day? As much as I would like to say yes, the truth is I am not; not by any means, my brethren. And I beseech all of you in your prayers to remember one so weak and faithless. The living reality of the matter is that He is actively and patiently testing this love, and proving whether His word has taken root in my life. There are persistent stumbling-blocks that remain, things within me that prevent me from following Him totally and completely. There is pride, and worldliness, persistent unbelief (in trusting Him completely), and most pernicious of all, an unwillingness to let everything I am in this world fall away. All this it seems, and so much else keeps me from truly following Him and Him alone as He demands!

“If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire,[where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.]“If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell,[where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.]“If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell,where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED. (Mark 9:43-48)

How very hard and personal this is, following the Lord, and rooting out anything and everything that prevents us from doing so. It is between ourselves and the Master alone. John’s relationship was of no consequence to Peter, as the Lord made painfully clear. Although we are represented in the Body of the Lord, each as His members, each one is accountable to the Head directly. Nowhere in the Bible are we enjoined to follow anyone but the Lord Himself, personally and directly. He alone is the Chief Shepherd who has laid down His life for His sheep.

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. “He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep.“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me,even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. (John 10:11-15)

We are not even permitted to follow another (hired hands, as the Lord refers to them) who may himself be faithfully following the Lord. Is there a holy and righteous saint among you, wise and full of good counsel and example? Excellent, then be encouraged by him but then go and follow the Lord yourself (“…what is that to you? You follow Me!”). The Apostle Paul was very clear, when he counseled those in Corinth (1 Cor. 11:1) and Philippi (Phil. 3:17) to follow his example as he himself followed the Lord Jesus. Both in his teaching and example, Paul was most careful to subordinate  himself so as not to elicit a following unto himself; to take the hands of new converts and place them directly in to that of the One who is the True Savior and Shepherd –

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 believe if we examine the testimony of all of God’s true, spirit-breathed prophets, we will discover, without exception, that they never attempted to get the people to follow them personally, but to turn their hearts directly to the Lord. We are to be dependent, yes, but never to men, or teachings, or rites or traditions, or programs, or anything that is less than the very Life of God, which is found in Christ Jesus alone. There is, dear saints, no salvation by proxy in the Kingdom of Heaven, nor can anyone else run the race for the prize in our place. In the end, His words to each of us ring clear –

YOU FOLLOW ME!

Dear saints, to follow the Lord into His kingdom is a costly and difficult thing. It may just cost you everything you know and love in this world.

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.”But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.”Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.”But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62)

So very dear indeed, is the price of following the Son of Man into the Father’s household. Are we willing to pay it? Are we willing to suffer for it? Are we willing to lose everything that we might gain what He alone has to give? Is it hard, dear brethren? Oh yes it is my friends, and please don’t be persuaded by anyone who tells you otherwise, for they are following another who has promised them the wide and easy way. Will it require an iron-clad  and spirit-deep devotion and commitment beyond anything imaginable? Indeed it will, and until we are willing to depend on Him for everything, then we can never truly follow Him to where He has gone. Can we follow Him, while at the same time circumventing the cross, with all of the death and anguish that it represents? I think by now you know the answer to that question. We can never truly know Jesus Christ and Him crucified, as Paul defined it, until we are willing to follow the Lamb of God into His suffering and death. Beyond that is life and glory, this is wonderfully true. Yet it is only beyond the cross, and the mortification of the soul-life in each of us, that we will ever know true, eternal, spiritual life – the very life of God as represented in His image, the Lord Jesus Christ.

RELATED MESSAGES –

Hearing and Following

The Voice of the Shepherd

The Lord’s Wilderness

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The Real Thing – W.E. Smith

Watchman Nee asked one of the the most poignant question ever considered by man, when he asked – “What is the Normal Christian Life?“.

Well, what is it my brethren, this thing called the Christian life? What does it look like, and would you recognize it if it stood square out in front of you? I ask again, what does the real Christian life look like? Is it this earth-bound life being lived out by most western Christians all over this world? Is it expressed in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness? Is it the manifest life being lived out by you and I?

What does a real Christian live for? What is the passion and pursuit of his heart? What is his first and last thought at the beginning and end of each day? What is his place and purpose in this world, in the short life he lives on this earth? What is the preoccupation and focus of his heart? What lights his eyes, and informs his soul, and compels him from one moment to the next?

What are his expectations and ideals? What is the living dynamic that enables and energizes him? What is His first love? Do you know my friends; I mean really know, as only the inner piercing of the Holy Spirit can allow you to know? Do you ever even contemplate such questions?

Be careful now. There are many counterfiets and shadows in circulation. There are countless notions and assumptions about what real Christianity is and is not. Indeed, every sect and division in the faith each has their own institutional and theological answers to all these essential questions; a creed, a statement, a formalized and inviolable doctrinal affirmation. Often they are printed on a card and handed out to new converts as the beginning and the end.

Yet I am not asking your church or your pastor, but you personally. Do you know? If you met a real Christian on the street tomorrow would you know it? What would give them away? Good works or a kind heart perhaps? Selfless charity? Manifest piety or devotion to the cause of Christ?

We say we are Christians; all well and good. Yet are we really living the essential and authentic Christian life? Is the Living Christ being formed in us? I am not asking if you are a Christian, no not that at all, please don’t misunderstand. For that is far easier to determine. Many have said “the prayer” and claimed the blood, then maybe gone forward to some altar in the presence of the saints; perhaps even been immersed in the baptism and death of the old man. Yet this new birth, this wondrous beginning, may or may not have any bearing on how one lives and walks afterward. It is a sad reality brethren, and one that grieves the Father terribly, that so many who have received the fullness of eternal life in His Son, at so great a cost to Himself, have failed to walk in this life.

My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you— (Gal. 4:18, Emphasis Livingwalk)

For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

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.

And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister….

Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. (Col. 1:9-23; 25-28, Emphasis Livingwalk)

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. (Col. 2:6-7, Emphasis Livingwalk)

Oh dear ones, is He being formed in us? Are we walking in Him every moment of every day? Are we being made complete in Him such that He might fill all of the Creation with Himself? Are we walking in a manner worthy of our Lord in other words?

Or does each day just bring with it more of ourselves? More of our personality? More of our opinions? More self-interest? More of our best efforts and failures? More of our soul? More of our carnal appetites? More of our blood, sweat and toil? More of us seeking a place and a future in this cursed world? More religious idols that we allow to supplant Him, and eclipse Him, and shun Him in the inner sanctuary of our hearts? Oh dear ones, this must not be so, for He willingly and graciously poured out all of His life and His love for us, that we might take it up, and walk in it, and grow in it, and become something else; something new; something heavenly and mysterious, that even the angels rub their eyes to glimpse more perfectly?

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:14-19)

“Filled up to all the fullness of God.” Oh dear saints, does this sound anything like our Father in Heaven is trying to improve you or make you  a better man; with all that you are still in tact, alive and well? No and never! Rather He is in intent on filling you with all the fullness of His Perfect and Beloved Son! Oh that you might see this with spiritual eyes, and that it might shatter everything that religion and self-help and humanism has wrought over 6,000 years! No, the first lie is still the only lie! You shall not be as God! Only God shall be as God! And only God; only His Son being formed in you shall put a smile on the face of the Father and blessing to His heart! And so – Is He being increased in us or are we?

“He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30)

Oh my brethren, my heart yearns that you would see this once and for all as did John the Baptist, and put aside all and anything that confounds this wonderful and mysterious purpose. Oh that you would stop being so impressed and so compromised with religious things and religious men and religious buildings and religious formalities, and that you might see with eyes wide open in the spirit what the Father wants us to see – the beauty and the majesty, and the glory, and the absolute and universe-filling perfection that is Christ Jesus, the Son of God, the King of Kings, the Light of All the Universe! He, my friends, and He alone, is the real thing. In point of fact, He is the only thing! And His Mystic Body, what Paul reveals in his letter to the Ephesians, is what we are in the process of becoming, individually joined to Him one to one another, onward to the fullness of Christ Jesus!

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Eph. 4:11-24)

Oh little ones; so many in this hour, at the end of this age, are so easily deceiving you and distracting you and diverting you from the Real Thing, from He who is our beginning and end, our very life and reason for life. Oh how this grieves me terribly and brings the Holy Spirit’s tears to my eyes and my heart. So many idols set up to perpetuate man on this earth; all dressed up in his Sunday best, keeping rules and rituals, day after day and year after year, on and on and on…

Gracious Father, forgive us Lord, every single one of us, for falling prey to every lesser thing, every earthly, man-inspired thing. Oh Lord, grant us just such a heart to love Thee Father, and to allow all that it takes for Your Beloved Son to be formed in us, such that His fullness might fill everything in every way. Oh Lord, there are many out there still pretending and still patronizing groups and following men and cardboard creeds, who have utterly no idea at all what the Christian life is all about. Even worse, Lord, so many are using the name of your Precious Son as a means of worldly gain and enrichment. Oh fierce and terrible Lord, I pray not for such wolves but for your precious sheep, for whom the blood of the Lamb was spilled. I pray you will save those just as you called Noah out of the world, and Lot out of Sodom, and Israel out from Egypt prior to Your terrible wrath being poured down. Oh Lord, turn our hearts to Thee, and open our eyes that we might see such wonderful things. Save us Father, please save us in Your great mercy and long-suffering! In Jesus’ Glorious Name, we pray, Amen.

Further Reading –

The Meaning of the Christian Life (T. Austin-Sparks)

The Meaning of Divine Life (T. Austin-Sparks)

What is a Christian? (T. Austin-Sparks)

The Normal Christian Life (Watchmen Nee)

“In Him Was Life” – W.E. Smith

Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:30-31; emphasis added)

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13; emphasis added)

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 1:3-4; emphasis added)

Now the Apostle John tells us that the singular reason he wrote both his gospel, and what has become 1 John, is that the reader would come to know that only in Christ Jesus do we have real, spiritual, heavenly life; the life of God; a life fitted for His Kingdom and His household; the life that makes us His children; the life for the age(s) to come; a life conformed to the image of the only One upon Whom the Father has set His seal.

It is interesting that John did not say he shared these things so that we might know how to live (what most religions, including so-much false Christianity, emphasize), but that we might know that in Christ Jesus we have life. He is the life we need and have, if we have come to Him in faith. Oh brethren, these are wondrous and profound truths, and I share this compilation of Scriptures that you might feel compelled in the Spirit to consider them, to meditate on them, to take them to the Lord and ask Him for help to enter into the living reality of them.

So also it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly. (1 Cor. 15:45-49; emphasis added)

John also assures us that the only life that truly matters, the quality and principle of life that measures up, is to be found “in Him”; in the Lord Jesus Christ. Then Paul augments this by saying – ““The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” So the life that was breathed into Adam there in the beginning, and the life imparted by the Lord to all those who come to Him in faith; these are different somehow. The one gives way to the other. It is preliminary and temporary. It is the Creator’s first thought but not His last thought, regarding the human race. The natural must be supplanted by the spiritual; what the New Testament calls “eternal” or (better still) “age-lasting” (GK – AIÓNIOS) life.

The writings of John (and Paul) are replete with the living principle surrounding this new spiritual life that is to be found only in the Father’s Beloved Son, He who was sent into the world as the “life of the world” and the “Last Adam”

Mark this dear saints, that there is something about the life of the Lord Jesus; that it is a life that cannot be contained; that it is a life that is designed to permeate all that it touches. It is the very life of God, and to think or imagine that it shares anything in common with the corruptible life of the soul, the life breathed into Adam, is to miss everything that the Spirit is teaching regarding this “newness of life”. To be breathed on by He Who is the life-giving spirit is something else entirely. Yet, do we not today have this strange phenomenon where so many “Christian” teachers are convincing so many others that Jesus came and died and rose again so that He might thereby enhance and extend our own life; that we can have “our best life now”, and forever into eternity besides? Perhaps someone needs to tell such false guides and their disciples that the only way to enter into this life, is through death; the cessation of our own life. To be born again in the spirit (of Christ) necessarily implies the end of the life that came before. To rise up out of the water of baptism, and to stand and walk in this newness of life – do we truly know what this means? That our old self, the life according to Adam, must remain behind us in the pool of death?

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being (or soul). (Gen. 2:7; emphasis added)

And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. (John 20:22; emphasis added)

Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)

Here we have two parallel passages in the Word where life is imparted through the breath of the Creator. The one conveys the life of the soul, whereas the other conveys something else: spiritual life. This higher form of life requires a cessation of the first type of life, and a rebirth into the second. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22)

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.“Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’“The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8)

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:14-16)

Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life. The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.”” (John 4:13-15)

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40)

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (Rom. 8:2)

…for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Rom. 8:13)

Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” (John 6:27)

There are many perhaps who quite happily follow the Lord for the bread and water (the food which perishes) that sustains this present life in the flesh, but turn away whenever He calls them deeper into the true meaning of His life, and the price for entering in. There are many more still who thank Him for this life, then seek to store it up in barns so that they can continue on in themselves rather than go out each morning to gather in His provision. They will go from hillside to hillside whenever there is the promise of loaves and fishes, but mention the path and the pain of the cross, and they scatter like rabbits at the firing of a gun. Oh how I wish I could confess that this does not describe myself, but the Lord knows and I cannot. We must all come to see and esteem this life above our own, and to most fully appreciate that the only real life is “in Him”. Not in ourselves even on our best days. Not in a reformed or improved Adam. Not in religion. Not in things or service. Not in doing. Not in law-keeping or the adherence to rules or regimens. Not in formalism or ritual. Not even in attempting to mimic the Lord, for this too is futility. Only His life in us can be the well-spring of living water springing up into eternal life; the very life of God.

And this life can only be found on the other side of the river, on the other side of death, through the cross, through the death of the soul. For this life has been determined by the Father to reside only in His Son, and all those who abide in Him. It is for this very reason called the life of Christ, and for any man to say that He truly lives, he must confess that “to life is Christ and to die is gain” and also that “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” No brethren, this eternal life is no mere extension of our own lives into so many numberless tomorrows, as is widely taught. There is, in the end, only one life, and to abide in that life is the reason for our salvation and existence. Although we all try in so many ways, we cannot bring our own lives into this new life that we derive in Christ Jesus. A new principle is now in effect, one that offers genuine freedom and deliverance from death,  and it is something the Holy Spirit calls the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus“. Without this life, nothing else really matters. Everything is just a teaching, a concept, an empty promise.

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. “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:35-40)

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. “I am the bread of life. “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” (John 6:47-51)

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. “For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. “This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53-58)

Dear reader, have you come to that place of awful reckoning where the Holy Spirit has convinced you that you have no life in yourself? That you need this life-giving Bread, not for what He might add to your life, but to replace you entirely? Have you come to the place where you can confidently confess that He is your life? Not the focus of your life; not the love of your life even – BUT YOUR VERY LIFE? Please review all of these Scriptures most carefully, for they are intimating something so very radical and wonderful. To accept them and to enter into the reality of them by faith will ultimately cost us everything. “It is no longer I who live,” confessed Paul, “but Christ lives in me.”

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (John 6:63)

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. (John 10:27-28)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

“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. (John 12:24-25)

“For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. “I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.” (John 12:49-50)

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (John 14:6)

…because I live, you will live also. (John 14:19)

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— (1 John 1:1-2)

This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life. (1 John 2:25)

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. (1 John 3:2)

And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. (1 John 5:11-12)

For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. (2 Cor. 5:4-5)

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. (2 Cor. 5:14-15)

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Col. 1:17)

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. (Col.2:6)

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… (Col. 2:13)

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)

“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. 2:20)

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Gal. 6:7-8)

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. (John 15:1-6)

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Cor. 5:17)

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Phil. 1:21)

…for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Rom. 8:13)

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. 6:8-11)

…for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ (Acts 17:28)

Beloved brethren, it is hoped by placing all of these glorious passages together, that the Holy Spirit will open our eyes and penetrate our hearts to the living and personal reality of the Life that the Father has sent into the world. Yet the abiding question remains – Is He our Life? And when He is revealed in glory, will we be revealed with Him? Is our life bound up in the life of the Vine and the branches?

It is interesting that the majority of those who came for the life offered by the loaves and fishes never stuck around for the abundant life really being offered by the Lord Jesus Christ. With their bellies full, and strength to live on another day in themselves, they slipped away. We are not told what ultimately became of the Samaritan woman at the well who said – “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.” Perhaps she did come to see that the One speaking to her was in fact the Living Water. Perhaps she is now waiting to be revealed with Him in glory when He comes into His presence. This is our hope and prayer for all of you who to come here on a regular basis; for the very most anyone can do is to help others to see that only in the Lord Jesus Christ do they truly have abundant life.

Dear brethren, this is our hope and prayer in the spirit for all of you!