Month: July 2011

Behold the Birds, Consider the Lillies – W.E. Smith

Dear Brethren – there is a reason the Scriptures differentiate between the “works” of the law and the “fruit” of the spirit. The one involves exertion and doing, while the other flows from simply being. The one is innately unnatural, forced and external, while the other results from being one in kind and nature. Jesus often spoke of created things that did what they did merely because of what they were; what God created them to be.calla_lilies_1

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (Matthew 6:25-30)

babybirds

Why then has the mechanics of the Christian life for so many been reduced to an unnatural life of “toiling and spinning” – rooted more in our exertion and work than the natural being and flowing of the life of God? We are fools, destined only for frustration and failure, if we believe we can please God and advance in His likeness by perfectly adhering to this law of “sin and death”. There is, after all, a reason it is called this – because this is where it leads to all who attempt to satisfy it by work!

Dear brethren – if we are truly “in Christ”, joined to Him in life and kind, abiding in His Holy and righteous character, such that the very essence of God flows in and through and out of us by the agency of His Spirit – then no longer are we subject to any principle or law of acceptance that leads only to shortcoming and death. This is what the Apostle Paul strained so hard to convey in his letter to the Romans.

For your edification and encouragement, I am posting an excerpt on this subject from Watchman Nee’s book – The Normal Christian Life. My prayer is that this will help us to understand the depth of our freedom and victory in the True Vine from which all holy fruit flows. The entire book is linked here if you wish to read previous chapters.

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THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE – WATCHMAN NEE

There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:1-2).

It is in chapter 8 that Paul presents to us in detail the positive side of life in the Spirit. “There is therefore now no condemnation”, he begins, and this statement may at first seem out of place here. Surely condemnation was met by the Blood, through which we found peace with God and salvation from wrath (Rom. 5. 1, 9). But there are two kinds of condemnation, namely, that before God and that before myself (just as earlier we saw there are two kinds of peace) and the second may at times seem to us even more awful than the first. When I see that the Blood of Christ has satisfied God, then I know my sins are forgiven, and there is for me no more condemnation before God. Yet I may still be knowing defeat, and the sense of inward condemnation on this account may be very real, as Romans 7 shows. But if I have learned to live by Christ as my life, then I have learned the secret of victory, and, praise God! ‘there is therefore now no condemnation”. ‘The mind of the spirit is life and peace’ (Rom. 8. 6, and this becomes my experience as I learn to walk in the Spirit. With peace in my heart I have no time to feel condemned, but only to praise Him who leads me on from victory to victory.

But what lay behind my sense of condemnation? Was it not the experience of defeat and the sense of helplessness to do anything about it? Before I saw that Christ is my life, I labored under a constant sense of handicap; limitation dogged my steps; I felt disabled at every turn. I was always crying out: ‘I cannot do this! I cannot do that!’ Try as I would, I found that I ‘cannot please God ‘(Rom. 8:8). But there is no ‘I cannot’ in Christ. Now it is:

“I can do all things in him that strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).

How can Paul be so daring? On what ground does he declare that he is now free from limitation and “can do all things”? Here is his answer:

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death ‘(Rom. 8:2)

Why is there no more condemnation? “For …”, says Paul: there is a reason for it; there is something definite to account for it. The reason is that there is a law called ‘the law of the Spirit of life” and it has proved stronger than another law called “the law of sin and of death”. What are these laws? How do they operate? And what is the difference between sin and the law of sin, and between death and the law of death?

First let us ask ourselves, What is a law? Well, strictly speaking, a law is a generalization examined until it is proved that there is no exception. We might define it more simply as something which happens over and over again. Each time the thing happens it happens in the same way. We can illustrate this both from statutory and from natural law. For example, in this land, if I drive a car on the right hand side of the road the traffic police will stop me. Why? Because it is against the law of the land. If you do it you will be stopped too. Why? – For the same reason that I would be stopped: it is against the law and the law makes no exceptions. It is something which happens repeatedly and unfailingly. Or again, we all know what is meant by gravity. If I drop my handkerchief in London it falls to the ground. That is the effect of gravity. But the same is true if I drop it in New York or Hong Kong. No matter where I let it go, gravity operates, and it always produces the same results.

Whenever the same conditions prevail the same effects are seen. There is thus a ‘law’ of gravity. Now what of the law of sin and death? If someone passes an unkind remark about me, at once something goes wrong inside me. That is not law ; that is sin. But if, when different people pass unkind remarks, the same ‘ something’ goes wrong inside, then I discern a law within – a law of sin. Like the law of gravity, it is something constant. It always works the same way. And so too with the law of death. Death, we have said, is weakness produced to its limit. Weakness is ‘I cannot’. Now if when I try to please God in this particular matter I find I cannot, and if when I try to please Him in that other thing I again find I cannot, then I discern a law at work. There is not only sin in me but a law of sin; there is not only death in me but a law of death.

Then again, not only is gravity a law in the sense that it is constant, admitting of no exception, but, unlike the rule of the road, it is a ‘natural’ law and not the subject of discussion and decision but of discovery. The law is there, and the handkerchief ‘naturally’ drops by itself without any help from me. And the ‘law ‘discovered by the man in Romans 7:23 is just like that. It is a law of sin and of death, opposed to that which is good, and crippling the man’s will to do good. He’ naturally’ sins according to the ‘law of sin in his members’. He wills to be different, but that law in him is relentless and no human will can resist it. So this brings me to the question,

How can I be set free from the law of sin and death? I need deliverance from sin, and still more do I need deliverance from death, but most of all I need deliverance from the law of sin and of death. How can I be delivered from the constant repetition of weakness and failure? In order to answer this question let us follow out our two illustrations further. One of our great burdens in China used to be the likin tax, a law which none could escape, originating in the Ch’in Dynasty and operating right down to our own day. It was an inland tax on the transit of goods, applied throughout the empire and having numerous barriers for collection, and officers enjoying very large powers. The result was that the charge on goods passing through several provinces might become very heavy indeed. But a few years ago a second law came into operation which set aside the likin law. Can you imagine the feelings of relief in those who had suffered under the old law? Now there was no need to think or hope or pray; the new law was already there and had delivered us from the old law. No longer was there need to think beforehand what one would say if one met a likin officer tomorrow!

And as with the law of the land, so it is with natural law. How can the law of gravity be annulled? With regard to my handkerchief that law is at work clearly enough, pulling it down, but I have only to place my hand under the handkerchief and it does not drop. Why? The law is still there. I do not deal with the law of gravity; in fact I cannot deal with the law of gravity. Then why does my handkerchief not fall to the ground? Because there is a power keeping it from doing so. The law is there, but another law superior to it is operating to overcome it, namely the law of life. Gravity can do its utmost but the handkerchief will not drop, because another law is working against the law of gravity to maintain it there. We have all seen the tree which was once a small seed fallen between the slabs of a paving, and which has grown until heavy stone blocks have been lifted by the power of the life within it. That is what we mean by the triumph of one law over another.

In just such a manner God delivers us from one law by introducing another law. The law of sin and death is there all the time, but God has put another law into operation – the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, and that law is strong enough to deliver us from the law of sin and death. You see, it is a law of life in Christ Jesus – the resurrection life that in Him has met death in all its forms and triumphed over it (Eph. 1:19-20). The Lord Jesus dwells in our hearts in the person of His Holy Spirit, and if we let Him have a clear way and commit ourselves to Him we shall find that He will keep us from the old law. We shall learn what it is to be kept, not by our own power, but ‘by the power of God’
(1 Peter 1:5).

THE MANIFESTATION OF THE LAW OF LIFE

Let us seek to make this practical. We touched earlier on the matter of our will in relation to the things of God. Even older Christians do not realize how great a part will-power plays in their lives. That was part of Paul’s trouble in Romans 7. His will was good, but all his actions contradicted it, and however much he made up his mind and set himself to please God, it led him only into worse darkness. ‘I would do good’, but ‘I am carnal, sold under sin”. That is the point. Like a car without petrol, that has to be pushed and that stops as soon as it is left alone, many Christians endeavor to drive themselves by will-power, and then think the Christian life a most exhausting and bitter one. Some even force themselves to say ‘Hallelujah!’ because others do it, while admitting there is no meaning in it to them. They force themselves to be what they are not, and it is worse than trying to make water run up-hill. For after all, the very highest point the will can reach is that of willingness (Matt. 26:41).

If we have to exert so much effort in our Christian living, it simply says that we are not really like that at all. We don’t need to force ourselves to speak our native language. In fact we only have to exert will-power in order to do things we do not do naturally. We may do them for a time, but the law of sin and death wins in the end. We may be able to say: ‘To will is present with me, and I perform that which is good for two weeks’, but eventually we shall have to confess: ‘How to perform it I know not’. No, what I already am I do not long to be. If I ‘would ‘it is because I am not. You ask, Why do men use will-power to try to please God? There may be two reasons. They may of course never have experienced the new birth, in which case they have no new life to draw upon; or they may have been born again and the life be there, but they have not learned to trust in that life. It is this lack of understanding that results in habitual failure and sinning, bringing them to the place where they almost cease to believe in the possibility of anything better.

But because we have not believed fully, that does not mean that the feeble life we intermittently experience is all God has given us. Romans 6:23 states that ‘the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”, and now in Romans 8: 2 we read that ‘the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus ‘has come to our aid. So Romans 8:2 speaks not of a new gift but of the life already referred to in Romans 6.:23. In other words, it is a new revelation of what we already have. I feel I cannot emphasize this too much. It is not something fresh from God’s hand, but a new unveiling of what He has already given. It is a new discovery of a work already done in Christ, for the words ‘made me free ‘are in the past tense. If I really see this and put my faith in Him, there is no absolute necessity for Romans 7 to be repeated in me-either the experience or the conduct, and certainly not the tremendous display of will-power.

If we will let go our own wills and trust Him, we shall not fall to the ground and break, but we shall fall into a different law, the law of the Spirit of life. For God has given us not only life but a law of life. And just as the law of gravity is a natural law and not the result of human legislation, so the law of life is a ‘natural’ law, similar in principle to the law that keeps our heart beating or that controls the movement of our eyelids. There is no need for us to think about our eyes, or to decide that we must blink every so often to keep them cleansed; and still less do we bring our will to bear upon our heart. Indeed to do so might rather harm than help it. No, so long as it has life it works spontaneously. Our wills only interfere with the law of life. I discovered that fact once in the following way.

I used to suffer from sleeplessness. Once after several sleepless nights, when I had prayed much about it and exhausted all my resources, I confessed at length to God that the fault must lie with me and asked to be shown where. I said to God: ‘I demand an explanation’. His answer was: ‘Believe in nature’s laws’. Sleep is as much a law as hunger is, and I realized that though I had never thought of worrying whether I would get hungry or not, I had been worrying about sleeping. I had been trying to help nature, and that is the chief trouble with most sufferers from sleeplessness. But now I trusted not only God but God’s law of nature, and slept well. Should we not read the Bible? Of course we should or our spiritual life will suffer. But that should not mean forcing ourselves to read. There is a new law in us which gives us a hunger for it. Then half an hour can be more profitable than five hours of forced reading. And it is the same with giving, with preaching, with testimony. Forced preaching is apt to result in preaching a warm gospel with a cold heart, and we all know what men mean by ‘cold charity’.

If we will let ourselves live in the new law we shall be less conscious of the old law. It is still there, but it is no longer governing and we are no longer in its grip. That is why the Lord says in Matthew 6 – ‘Behold the birds . . . Consider the lilies”. If we could ask the birds whether they were not afraid of the law of gravity, how would they reply? They would say: ‘We never heard the name of Newton. We know nothing about his law. We fly because it is the law of our life to fly.’ Not only is there in them a life with the power of flight, but that life has a law which enables these living creatures quite spontaneously and consistently to overcome the law of gravity. Yet gravity remains. If you get up early one morning when the cold is intense and the snow thick on the ground, and there is a dead sparrow in the courtyard, you are reminded at once of the persistence of that law. But while birds live they overcome it, and the life within them is what dominates their consciousness.

God has been truly gracious to us. He has given us this new law of the Spirit, and for us to ‘ fly’ is no longer a question of our will but of His life. Have you noticed what a trial it is to make an impatient Christian patient? To require patience of him is enough to make him ill with depression. But God has never told us to force ourselves to be what we are not naturally: to try by taking thought to add to our spiritual stature.

Worrying may possibly decrease a man’s height, but it certainly never added anything to it. ‘Be not anxious”, are His words. ‘Consider the lilies, . . . they grow. ‘He is directing our attention to the new law of life in us. Oh, for a new appreciation of the life that is ours! What a precious discovery this is! It can make altogether new men of us, for it operates in the smallest things as well as in the bigger ones. It checks us when, for example, we put out a hand to look at a book in someone else’s room, reminding us that we have not asked permission and have no right to do so. We cannot, the Holy Spirit tells us, encroach thus upon the rights of others. Once I was talking to a Christian friend and he turned to me and said: ‘Do you know, I believe that if anyone is willing to live by the law of the Spirit of life, such a man will become truly refined.’ ‘ What do you mean?’ I asked. He replied: ‘That law has the power to make a man a perfect gentleman. Some scornfully say: ‘You can’t blame those people for the way they act ; they are just country folk and have no educational advantages. ‘But the real question is, Have they the life of the Lord within? For I tell you, that life can say to them: “Your voice is too loud or, ` That laughter was not right”, or, ‘Your motive in passing that remark was wrong. ‘In a thousand details the Spirit of life can tell them how to act, so producing in them a true refinement. There is no such inherent power in education.’ And yet my friend was himself an educationalist!

But it is true. Take the example of talkativeness. Are you a person of too many words? When you stay with people, do you say to yourself: ‘What shall I do? I am a Christian; but if I am to glorify the name of the Lord, I simply must not talk so much. So to-day let me be extra careful to hold myself in check.’? And for an hour or two you succeed until on some pretext you lose control and, before you know where you are, find yourself once again in difficulty with your garrulous tongue. Yes, let us be fully assured that the will is useless here. For me to exhort you to exercise your will in this matter would be but to offer you the vain religion of the world ‘ not the life in Christ Jesus. For consider again: a talkative person remains just that, though he keep silent all day, for there is a ‘natural’ law of talkativeness governing him (or her!), just as a peach tree is a peach tree whether or not it bears peaches. But as Christians we discover a new law in us, the law of the Spirit of life, which transcends all else and which has already delivered us from the ‘ law ‘ of our talkativeness. If, believing the Lord’s Word, we yield ourselves to that new law, it will tell us when we should stop talking or not start! -and it will empower us to do so. On that basis you can go to your friend’s house for two or three hours, or stay for two or three days, and experience no difficulty. On your return you will just thank God for His new law of life.

It is this spontaneous life that is the Christian life. It manifests itself in love for the unlovely – for the brother whom on natural grounds we would not like and certainly could not love. It works on the basis of what the Lord sees of possibility in that brother. ‘Lord, You see he is lovable and You love him. Love him, now, through me!’ And it manifests itself in reality of life in a true genuineness of moral character. There is too much hypocrisy in the lives of Christians, too much playacting. Nothing takes away from the effectiveness of Christian witness as does a pretense of something that is not really there, for the man in the street unfailingly penetrates such a disguise in the end and finds us out for what we are. Yes, pretense gives way to reality when we trust the law of life.

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Oh Most High and Holy Father – Truly we cannot work to find thee, or labor to ascend to where you dwell, to be as You are in essence and life and being! Truly, even our best effort and intention can only lead to frustration, failure and death. We thank You Oh Lord, that our redemption and sanctification are not subject to any man-sized or man-sourced willpower or religious urge, but to the essential provision of life and victory in the shared life of the Lamb! We affirm and believe with all that we are that we can be and do all things in Christ Jesus who strengthens us! In His beloved name we pray, Amen.

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

Your friend in Christ Jesus,

Wayne

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Raised a Spiritual Body – W.E. Smith

Good morning my dear brothers and sisters – grace and peace to you, and love in the Lord Jesus and our Beloved Father in Heaven. You are all in my heart and in my prayers unceasingly these days, as all the world plunges speedily into greater darkness despair and lawlessness.

May each of us offer ourselves up this new day unto He who holds all things in His mighty power and provision. May we release ourselves unto Him completely, and rest in His faithfulness and love. He is the Word made flesh who has come into the world, yet it is into us that He must come now dear saints, supplanting all that we are, and uprooting us from this world and its ways. He must become our all, the very root and branch and vitality flowing in and through us! There must be no place remaining for the old man, for the self-life, for our labor and high thoughts and best intentions – these are after all nothing, and they lead only to emptiness.

Brother Sparks below speaks of “fresh releases” in our spiritual life, and this is what we need each new morning most certainly. There must be release from all that we are in and of ourselves. All that we are in Adam, all that genetics and personality and environment and human history and failure has made us. All our self-flowing thoughts and wisdom. All instinct and opinion. All must be stripped away until all that remains is the Lord Jesus Christ. And all that is not of Him, not of love, not of His Spirit in us – it must be let go, purged, burned away like dross. Oh but indeed, the price of attaining to His fullness in us is so very dear isn’t it?

My brethren, how I love you all and pray that you will cling to Him with all He gives you! With faith and steadfastness, with longing for His soon return and kingdom! One day soon, we will each of us stand before Him, throw ourselves at His feet and weep showers of joy! Everything will be melt away; all pain, all bitterness, all confusion.

Our hope and glory, is the resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 15) unto life and glory. We must not be tempted or seduced into fixating on death and burial, but on that which lies ahead. We must not weep for Lazarus lying in his grave clothes, but we must hold fast to our faith that the Lord is on His way. He will come soon, speak the word, and even death will give way to His mighty power! Hallelujah! Praise God who has the victory over even death! My brothers and sisters, rejoice, for very soon we will all be RAISED IN GLORY, RAISED IN POWER, AND RAISED A SPIRITUAL BODY! Death and suffering does have its place for a season, but it too will give way to the overflowing and heavenly life!

What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”e; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.

I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”g“Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

FLESH AND BLOOD CANNOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD!

And so it must be dealt with finally in each of us. It must go the way of death, burial and life unto enlargement and glory. This is not just for prophets, apostles or super-saints – but for all of His redeemed ones, for all the elect, those called from the foundation of the world to fulfill His eternal purposes in Christ.

“Let nothing move you” – Not loss, not despair, no loneliness, not rejection, not the treachery of those who once loved you, not estrangement from blood family ties, not persecution, not the day to day weariness of being strangers in this sick and godless world.

Oh Lord, let this be so – let absolutely nothing move us from your heart, from faithfulness, from clinging to Thee with all that grace and faith provide. Let not what the enemy intends for our harm and death prosper. Turn it into good Oh Lord, into greater dependence and abandonment to the Comforter and Advocate within us. Enlarge us unto life Oh Lord! Release us unto Christ Jesus, that we may say with Paul, that He alone is our life! To live is Christ and to die to ourselves and this world is only gain!

Oh Lord we pray for rest and release! We enter into the One who is the fulfillment and embodiment of the Sabbath day; that day that pictures the end of all fleshly and soulish labor and occupation. No more of our own toil and effort! All is Christ! All is the Vine! All is spiritual life and vitality! All lives and breathes and moves in Him and out of Him!

Oh Lord, let it be so for all reading these words this day! All my dear brothers and sisters who have blessed your servant so richly during these days of loss and confusion.

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Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame. (Hebrews 12:2)

The passion of the Cross is the way of our release, and if you consider your own spiritual experience, those of you who have any experience of a walk with God, you know quite well that it has been through times of deep and acute suffering that you have found fresh releases; fresh releases in your spiritual life. Is it not true? Yes, we pass into a time of excruciating spiritual and soul suffering. We do not know what the Lord is doing, what He means by this, what He is after, but we know the features of our experience and know what it is that we are suffering, and it goes on. We, of course, ask the Lord to stop it, to bring it to a quick end, to deliver us from it. He takes no notice of us, and it is only those people who get out the other end who say, ‘Thank God, He did not take any notice.’ In the meantime, we think He is anything but kind and good and doing the right thing, but as we get on under His hand, we begin to see and to sense that He is dealing with something. Maybe He is dealing with our pride, our independence, or our irresponsibility, for example. That is the issue that comes up, and we are faced all the time with something about ourselves that is almost devastating. We would not have believed that that was so strong in us.

Oh, of course we were always ready to believe that that is in mankind and in us as a part of mankind in a general way. Yes, we would never have resented being told that there was pride or something like that about us, but we would never have believed how deeply rooted and terribly strong that thing is until it was put to a fiery test and everything was held up, and we saw that everything in our life and work for God was held up on that point…. And we know quite well that what the Lord was after was not the pulverising of us, as we thought, the winding up of us, but to bring about enlargement, to bring about release, and release always lies along the line of the Cross, the passion. Enlargement always lies in that direction.

By T. Austin-Sparks from: The Cross and the Way of Life – Chapter 1

To Know Christ Crucified – W.E. Smith

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Cor. 2:2)

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal. 2:20)

May I never 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)

For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him in our dealing with you. (2 Cor. 13:4)

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Gal 5:24)

Dear beloved and precious end-time saints –

The only way we can truly and personally know Christ crucified is to be crucified with Him. Paul is not suggesting here that he wishes to know “about” Christ crucified – to know this as a mere doctrine or a teaching, but we see elsewhere what he really meant – to enter into the experience of Christ crucified; the work of the cross for the dying to the life of the self and this world. This is that part of the gospel that so many, even myself on my best days, simply don’t want to hear or experience.

Why?

Because it is so terribly hard and painful; so penetrating and deep. Yet this is the singular path for the increase of the life of God in us, all of us, not just the Pauls and the great saints we quote so much in our writings.

Oh my dear brothers and sisters – to die to ourselves, to all we are, to all we know, to this world and our place in it, whatever that means to each of us personally. Bitterness, betrayal, anguish, the very deepest and lingering kind of sorrow and heaviness – such that there is nothing of us left. NOTHING. Such that we no longer have any confidence, any resource, and instinct left in ourselves. Everything goes up to the cross, even things that are not inherently bad or evil. Our freedom for example, our options and opportunities in this world, our physical health, our names and titles, our family and our children even, our little securities and situations that if we are honest mean so very much to us.

Oh Lord, in your grace and mercy, help us!  Lift us up Lord but then fill us with all that You are! Let Your light and life shine forth in us in ever-increasing freedom and flow. Help us to simply get through this day Oh Lord – to remain steadfast, to wait on Thee, to trust You completely and utterly.

Oh dear ones – if one of us is suffering, if one among us is coming to know this cross in a present and personal way, and you know of them, then the Lord fully expects you to bear this one’s burdens, to love them and minister to them, to come along side them as the ever-ministering Spirit makes possible. This is truly the only way any of us can bear so great a weight. To give a drink of water to one of His suffering ones – here is where the richest rewards are found in His kingdom. He is watching in this hour to see how we serve and love one another, for this is the true disciple, the one that all men will see as the one who has love for one another. Ask Him to make known where He wants you to help, to love, to give, to lose yourself in another’s suffering – for my sense in this dread hour is that so many of His own will be going through these crucifying trials in order to bring forth this bride for the groom.

Amen Oh Lord. Amen.

Gain and Loss – W.E. Smith

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, the exchanged life is really about the setting up of a new set of books isn’t it? I have been considering this very thing lately –

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3; Emphasis added)

It is nice to think that we can gain something of value in the Lord’s accounting without losing anything on the other side. To merely add Christ on top of our lives as a supplement, an addition, etc. Yet the Word of God is clear, that we gain Him only in proportion to the loss of other things. The cross is about loss, about death. The Spirit brings in this gain of Christ, and this attainment of all that is bound up in Him, including our resurrection to glory in Him. This surpassing value of knowing Christ is really what should compel us to be willing to lay everything else down, to lose it if necessary, that we might thereby gain the Lord in greater fullness and provision of life.

Like Paul perhaps, until coming to this realization in the spirit, we gained many things in this world and in this life, many things that were not necessarily evil or wrong. Normal things in life. A family, children, a career, a certain prominence, material things and so forth. These things we are to lose to gain Christ are not necessarily sins or weaknesses, although they are certainly included on the left side of the balance sheet. Peter and the other fisherman, for example. left their nets to follow the Lord, and when they tried to return to their previous life, they were utterly hopeless. A carpenter on shore had to shout out to them to tell them where the fish were. To gain the Lord, in fact, may just ruin us for everything we held previously. To know Christ in ever-increasing fullness of the spirit gradually becomes the main ambition of our hearts and lives. He becomes the treasure we seek, and this changes everything else we hold. Now for some of us, He knows what it will take for us to grow in the increasing attainment of Him, and the cost is so very dear, so very high, life itself. The price is so many bottles of tears that He stores away in His vault, one day perhaps to rain down on this new earth.

Oh my brethren, that we might gain the Lord, and be willing in our hearts to lose everything else if necessary. This is the narrow way of the disciple, the overcomer, the one found ready at His appearing.

Be blessed all you His saints. I love you all in the Lord, and we are one.

WES

“One Thing I Know” – T.A. Sparks

I do know one thing. I used to be blind, but now I can see. (John 9:25 GW)

If you and I were allowed to be perfectly satisfied with what we have got at any stage, and not to feel the absolute necessity for something we never have had, should we go on? Of course not! To keep us going on, the Lord has to bring about those experiences where it is absolutely necessary for us to see the Lord, and know the Lord in a new way, and it must just be so all the way along to the end. It may be a series of crises of seeing and seeing again, and yet again, as the Lord opens our eyes, and we are able to say, as never before, “I see!” So it is not our study, our learning, our book knowledge, but it is a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of our hearts being enlightened, and it is that seeing which brings the note of authority that is so much needed. That is the element, the feature, that is required today. It is not just seeing for seeing’s sake, but it is to bring in a new note of authority.

Where is the voice of authority today? Where are those who are really speaking with authority? We are languishing terribly in every department of life for the voice of authority. The Church is languishing for want of a voice of spiritual authority, for want of that prophetic note – “Thus saith the Lord!” The world is languishing for want of authority, and that authority is with those who have seen. There is far more authority in the man born blind seeing, in his testimony – “One thing I know that, whereas I was blind, now I see” – than there is in all Israel, with all Israel’s tradition and learning. And may it not be that that was the thing about the Lord Jesus that carried such weight, for “He spoke as One having authority, and not as the Scribes” (Matt. 7:29). The Scribes were the authorities. If anybody wanted an interpretation of the law, they went to the Scribes. If they wanted to know what the authoritative position was, they went to the Scribes. But He spoke as One having authority, and not as the Scribes. Wherein lay that authority? Just that in all things He could say, “I know! It is not what I have read, what I have been told, or what I have studied that is with power, but this – I know! I have seen!” (TAS)

 

The Heart of a Prophet – W.E. Smith

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (Matt. 3:7)

You are near to their lips, but far from their mind. (Jer. 12:2)

I am quite sure that those who have any knowledge whatever of the times, spiritually, will agree with me when I say that the crying need of our time is for a prophetic ministry. There never was a time when there existed so extensively the need for a voice of interpretation, when conditions needed more the ministry of explanation. One does not want to make extravagant statements or to be extreme in one’s utterances, but I do not think it would be either extravagant or extreme to say that the world today is well-nigh bankrupt of real prophetic ministry in this sense – a voice that interprets the mind of God to people. It may exist in some small degree here and there, but in no very large way is that ministry being fulfilled. So often our hearts groan and cry out, Oh, that the mind of God about the present situation could be brought through, in the first place to the recognition of His people, and then through His people to others beyond! There is a great and terrible need for a prophetic ministry in our time. (T. Austin-Sparks, from, The Prophetic Ministry)

Dear saints, we urgently petition our gracious Father for all of you that you will be found patiently waiting and watching in the Lord Jesus, as the hour closes in on midnight, and the Thief is at the door. Oh how so many saints are asleep, or drifting into soul-seducing slumber as the world races onward towards its date with destiny and the awful judgment of the Lord of all the earth. And where, brethren, where are the teachers, the shepherds, the prophets of the hour providing that much needed meat in due season, fervently exhorting the children of light to all vigilance and separation from this present evil world? Where are they indeed? Heaven help us in this dread hour dear ones. When brother Sparks wrote many years ago, that “there is a great and terrible need for a prophetic ministry in our time”, we concur completely. Where are those with the prophet’s heart, utterly abandoned to the purpose and perspective of their god? Where is this broken heart of supplication, of intercession, of pleading and pouring out? Where is the heart solely given over to restoration, recovery, reform and rededication? Where is the heart willing to antagonize the devil himself and to incur his violent attention? Where is the voice lifted up above the noise of human opinion and earthly interest and  interpretation?

But You know me, O LORD; You see me;
And You examine my heart’s attitude toward You. (Jer. 12:3)

Oh dear saints, read all of Lamentations slowly and carefully, carried on by the Spirit, and perhaps by the grace of the Lord, you will be inspired by this heart of the prophet. Perhaps you will see that it is very much a broken and shattered heart that we see here; a devastated heart. Perhaps you will see that this heart, this prophet’s heart, is really nothing less than the heart of our Lord being poured out for the ones He loves.

Recently, I found myself revisiting the lives of the great ones among our kind – the prophets of old. For whatever gripped them and held them is what I want and need. I want nothing and no one out before me but my God; to be utterly abandoned to His will and purpose, to His moment-by-moment direction and leading. To have a power able to divide light from darkness and soul from spirit, and the complete and utter loss of all that I have become in this sin-plagued world. I wanted so very much to get inside this strange and secret life; inside their experiences with God, to truly comprehend what moved them. For very clearly, there can be no prophet without the prophet’s heart.

So strange and so utter are these characters my friends, the Elijahs and Jeremiahs and John the Baptists of the world, moving alone in the shadows with their God, breathing in His words and breathing out His fiery pronouncements; utterly rejected and forsaken by their own, yet always sustained by the Lord who preserves them by His irresistible strength and purpose. Oh how we would all do well to have this heart dear ones; to be utterly poured out into His cup. Oh that we would see what they saw, and comprehend the days in which we live, and be ever willing to stand for the Lord when so many others have fallen.

Notice how Austin-Sparks captures this so powerfully in reference to Elijah –

That is what comes very clearly before us at the outset in the case of Elijah. There is no doubt about God’s sovereign choice, and there is no question as to God having endued Elijah with Divine power. Nevertheless, we see him at every step under the hand of God, and those steps are all steps which are a disciplining of the man himself. God is dealing with His servant all the time, and bringing him, all the way along, under His hand, so that he never becomes something in himself, but has everything in the Lord, and only in the Lord. We make a great mistake if we think that it is enough to have the Divine thought as to Divine purpose, that is, to have the knowledge of what God desires to do. That is not enough, that knowledge of the thought of God is not sufficient. There has to be a dealing with us in relation to that Divine thought, and that dealing with us is usually in a way which is altogether beyond our understanding…

That kind of ministry, born out from that secret history with God, needs very special government by God to preserve its safety, to safeguard it from all those forces which can destroy it, and that is why Elijah, having such a ministry, needed to be governed in every step by God. There must be no generalization of movement in his case, there must be specific movement, God dictating every step. So God preserves that authority as He produces it, that is, by a hidden life. Such a life and such a ministry must not be exposed, otherwise it will be destroyed. (from, The More Excellent Ministry)

Indeed, we read much of the prophet’s public ministry, but behind it all there must be this “hidden life” nurtured and sustained by the Living God!

You see, here is a man, having had this deep, secret preparation with God in much prayer, who finds himself brought out in Divine authority to make a great announcement which represents a crisis in the purpose of God. You would expect that, from that point, he would go straight on from strength to strength, from place to place, would at once become a recognized authority, a recognized servant of God, and be very much before the public eye. But God would guard against any servant of His taking up a Divine purpose and a Divine commission in himself, taking it up in his own energy. That will destroy it, and there must be a hiding, a very real hiding. If a geographical hiding is God’s way of getting a spiritual hiding, well, be it so. If God chooses to send us out of the realm of public life and ministry into some remote and hidden place, in order to take us away from the imminent peril of our becoming something, of our being taken up to be made something of, our going on in the strength of our own self-life, that is all well and good; but whether it be geographical or not, the word of the Lord to all His servants would always be, “Hide thyself!” (from, The More Excellent Ministry)

Dear saints, we don’t need to formally be ordained a prophet to have a prophet’s heart, and to be hid away in the secret chambers with our God. Here is sublimity and power my friends, and yet to have such a heart we must also be willing to bear a prophet’s scars – REJECTION, LONELINESS, ISOLATION, BEWILDERMENT, ABANDONMENT, DEPRIVATION, ESTRANGEMENT – that strange sensibility that this world is not our home and that we were never meant to be established in it. Oh there are many like Lot and Demas among us content to dwell in the walled city with the gates and the painted splendor of the world – but that can never be for us. No career, no wife, no children, no happy home for Jeremiah living so close to the time of judgment. Rather, to the smug, the indifferent, the cold, the blind, the worldly, the servant of the Lord must be content to provide this “meat in due season”, to prepare a remnant who will forsake the easy, formalized way of the many, and follow the Lord into the pathless wilderness.

For the burden of the prophet – to restore, to recover, to set upright that which has toppled, is not an easy one to bear; in fact it is a great mystery how they bear it at all. Only the Lord knows His strange working upon the human heart. The prophet of the Lord must always oppose the false, cold religious establishment of his day, even at the price of being hated and hunted for it by those who take their Lord for a fool and refuse to believe He will fulfill all that He has declared. Can there be any greater courage found in a man, as that which was found in the Lord’s prophets, both of the Old and New dispensations? Never! These are the true and only heroes, and of course we must realize that all of the prophets, whoever they were, merely foreshadowed the One who was the Prophet; the One greater than Moses – the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 3:3).

Here further, are some penetrating insights from one (Leonard Ravenhill), who himself was something of a prophet crying in the wilderness –

The prophet in his day is fully accepted of God and totally rejected by men. Years back, Dr. Gregory Mantle was right when he said, “No man can be fully accepted until he is totally rejected.” The prophet of the Lord is aware of both these experiences. They are his “brand name.”

The group, challenged by the prophet because they are smug and comfortably insulated from a perishing world in their warm but untested theology, is not likely to vote him “Man of the year” when he refers to them as habituates of the synagogue of Satan!

The prophet comes to set up that which is upset. His work is to call into line those who are out of line! He is unpopular because he opposes the popular in morality and spirituality. In a day of faceless politicians and voiceless preachers, there is not a more urgent national need than that we cry to God for a prophet! The function of the prophet, as Austin-Sparks once said, “has almost always been that of recovery.”

The prophet is God’s detective seeking for a lost treasure. The degree of his effectiveness is determined by his measure of unpopularity. Compromise is not known to him.

He has no price tags. He is totally “otherworldly.” He is unquestionably controversial and unpardonably hostile. He marches to another drummer! He breathes the rarefied air of inspiration. He is a “seer” who comes to lead the blind. He lives in the heights of God and comes into the valley with a “thus saith the Lord.” He shares some of the foreknowledge of God and so is aware of impending judgment. He lives in “splendid isolation.” He is forthright and outright, but he claims no birthright.

His message is “repent, be reconciled to God or else…!” His prophecies are parried. His truth brings torment, but his voice is never void. He is the villain of today and the hero of tomorrow. He is excommunicated while alive and exalted when dead! He is dishonored with epithets when breathing and honored with epitaphs when dead. He hides with God in the secret place, but he has nothing to hide in the marketplace. He is naturally sensitive but supernaturally spiritual. He has passion, purpose and pugnacity. He is ordained of God but disdained by men.

GOD’S MEN ARE IN HIDING UNTIL THE DAY OF THEIR SHOWING FORTH. They will come.

The prophet is violated during his ministry, but he is vindicated by history.

There is a terrible vacuum in evangelical Christianity today. The missing person in our ranks is the prophet. The man with a terrible earnestness. The man totally otherworldly. The man rejected by other men, even other good men, because they consider him too austere, too severely committed, too negative and unsociable.

And here we were worrying about our stock portfolio, or not being able to take that next family vacation, or the sports standings. Oh Lord help us! Grant to us by Your grace the prophet’s heart and the prophet’s separation, the prophet’s tears and the prophet’s faith and the prophet’s love for your wayward people in these dark times.

Arise, cry aloud in the night
At the beginning of the night watches;
Pour out your heart like water
Before the presence of the Lord;
Lift up your hands to Him
For the life of your little ones
Who are faint because of hunger
At the head of every street.” (Lam. 2:19)

The prophet is one who is poured out and emptied by the Lord, and his blood is precious to the One who sent Him and keeps him. One day, brethren, He Himself will exact awful vengeance on all those who have spilled it (Rev. 16:6). This is certain, for the Lord God is a just God, and He will forever advocate for His beloved servants.

And I heard the angel of the waters saying, “Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, because You judged these things; for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it.” (Rev. 16:5-6)

Another who had also seemingly glimpsed the strange and wonderful world of the prophet wrote the following regarding Jeremiah –

In a time of national calamity and moral collapse there was a heart that burned with this fire of repentance and righteousness. In the midst of riot and rampage through Israel’s streets, stood one lone prophet with the message of the hour mixed with tears. Like Ramah, he refused to be comforted. Like his Lord, he could not ignore the plight of his people. He witnessed and pleaded on the corner of every street and hedge of Jerusalem for their lives and their liberties, to truly return to the Lord. Echoing through the alleys and lanes of the city it could be heard,

“Arise! Cry aloud in the night! At the beginning of the night watches; Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift up your hands to Him, for the life of your young children who faint because of hunger at the top of every street!” Lamentations 2:19)

See, Jeremiah was no stranger to his nation’s sin and pain. He did not observe from a terraced temple treasury at the passing of the publican and prostitute that paraded through the streets of Jerusalem. He did not stand as high priest and judge to the agony and cry of Zion’s children, but to the contrary, he walked with them, he pleaded with them, he wept with them! Like his Messiah, he was no stranger to their desperation; he stood with them at the threshold of their judgment and cried.

“…Call upon Me and come pray to Me! And I will listen to you! And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart…” (Jer. 29:12&13.)
Judgment never falls without the tears of the prophet falling first –

‘And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it…’ (Jesus over Jerusalem) (Luke 19:41) (Chad Taylor from, Why Revival Still Tarries)

And so what is the prophet’s heart? Indeed, it is nothing less than the beating heart of the Lord God Himself; He who searches the hearts and knows all those named by His name, yet who seek everything else but His Kingdom and His righteousness.

My soul, my soul! I am in anguish! Oh, my heart!
My heart is pounding in me;
I cannot be silent,
Because you have heard, O my soul,
The sound of the trumpet,
The alarm of war. (Jer. 4:19)

Dear saints, as we consider the imminence and gravity of the Lord’s appearing for the watchful among His people, and as we look upon the almost hopeless state of the Laodecian church in this age, let us be faithful in providing the solid food of His prophetic word in due season, that we too might be found faithful at His coming.

Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? “Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. “Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. “But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  (Matt. 24:45-51)

The meat (or food) is the word of exhortation and the season is upon us, to be sure. And yet we must also recognize that, like the times of the ancient prophets, the many in our day will not receive this strong meat, and ultimately come to reject the ones dispensing it –

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. (Heb. 5:12-13)

In closing, I will leave you with the words of Elijah to the people of Israel, spoken at a time grimly similar to our own in the Church of Christ. The time for choosing, brethren, is at hand, for the Lord will soon descend into His Presence, and the midnight cry will go forth –

Elijah came near to all the people and said, ” How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word. (1 Kings 18:21)

Not a word! And so what is your answer, my brethren? Did you know that you are either for the Lord your God or against Him? Pray that the Lord might grant you this heart of the prophet, undivided and true, willing to forsake everything that a remnant might be spared; that the Lord’s heart might come forth in this dark hour.

Where are the prophets among us today, dear saints? Why have all the prophetic voices been silenced – the Austin-Sparks, the Tozers the Ravenhills? What is the Lord saying to us at the tail end of this age?

Oh Lord, help us! Please help us!

Related Links: The Ministry of Elijah (T. Austin-Sparks), The Prophetic Ministry (T. Austin-Sparks), and Voices of the Prophets (T. Austin-Sparks)

Excerpt from The Dwelling Place of God (A.W. Tozer)

The Loneliness of the Christian

The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world, a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good Christians as well as from that of the unregenerate world. His God-given instincts cry out for companionship with others of his kind, others who can understand his longings, his aspirations, his absorption in the love of Christ; and because within his circle of friends there are so few who share his inner experiences he is forced to walk alone.

The unsatisfied longings of the prophets for human understanding caused them to cry out in their complaint, and even our Lord Himself suffered in the same way.

The man [or woman] who has passed on into the divine Presence in actual inner experience will not find many who understand him. He finds few who care to talk about that which is the supreme object of his interest, so he is often silent and preoccupied in the midst of noisy religious shoptalk. For this he earns the reputation of being dull and over-serious, so he is avoided and the gulf between him and society widens.

He searches for friends upon whose garments he can detect the smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces, and finding few or none he, like Mary of old, keeps these things in his heart.

It is this very loneliness that throws him back upon God. His inability to find human companionship drives him to seek in God what he can find nowhere else.”

“…which you did not know” – W.E. Smith

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

Dear saints – we often focus on the last part of this passage, the one quoted by our Lord, about not living by bread alone, but by every word breathed by God. Yet here I would like to draw attention to the fact that the Lord fed them with something they did not know, something strange, something new.

Is the Lord doing something new or strange in your life? Are things entering your life that you have never known before? Quite likely they are, for this is the Master’s way with us.

Yet we don’t seem to like things we know nothing about do we? It was this way with Israel, and it is this way with us. We want the Lord to save us, to secure us, to help us in ways we are familiar with; in short with the ways of Egypt (the world). Oh dear saints, those who have walked this narrow wilderness way for any length of time, know that He will never do things this way, for He must turn our hearts and our trust to Him completely. Although we would like Him to do things according to our way, He simply doesn’t operate that way. He will sustain us with “manna” for this very reason.

If you find yourself presently in need of help, in need of provision, in need of saving – then consider this, for He will do a new thing, with things we know nothing about, beyond our previous experience.

Be blessed dear saints.