Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations. (Haggai 2:6,7)
It seems a terrible thing, even to think, but as we have touched so very much of what is called ‘Christianity’ we are bound to believe that, because vast numbers who call themselves Christian are in an utterly false position, and the system itself has become so largely an earthly, traditional, formal, and unspiritual thing, this worldwide shaking is quite necessary and will be eventually justified. If we were writing a treatise, we could show that what is called ‘Christianity’ is really the greatest enemy of Christ.
It will be seen that it is not a matter of substituting another and better system for an old and poor or bad one. Some people seem to think that it is all, or largely, a matter of the order, technique, and form, and if we returned to the “New Testament” form or order of churches, all would be well. The fact is that, while certain things characterized the New Testament churches, the New Testament does not give us a complete pattern according to which churches are to be set up or formed! There is no blue-print for churches in the New Testament, and to try to form New Testament churches is only to create another system which may be as legal, sectarian and dead as others. Churches, like the Church, are organisms which spring out of Life, which Life itself springs out of the Cross of Christ wrought into the very being of believers. Unless believers are crucified people, there can be no true expression of the Church.
NOTE. The following message is the first of one of the series given at the conference in Switzerland this year . It is printed here practically as it was spoken. In due course we expect that the whole series will be published in book form.
“Didst not thou, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever?” (2 Chronicles 20:7).
“But thou, Israel, my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend” (Isaiah 41:8).
“And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God” (James 2:23).
We have announced that in these evening gatherings our subject is going to be: “Into the Heart of God”, and when we speak about the heart of God, we mean friendship with God, for friendship means that the one has entered into the heart of the other. It is a matter of heart relationship.
It is a wonderful thing that that is possible between man and God! It was God who said of David that he was “a man after my heart”(Acts 13:22), and we have read that three times in the Bible Abraham was called ‘the friend of God’. Indeed, God Himself said of him: “Abraham, my friend” which means that he had entered into the heart of God. That entering was progressive. It did not happen all at once, but was a lifelong movement, a spiritual pilgrimage which ended in the heart of God. It had eight distinct stages – there were eight different movements in the life of Abraham which ended right there in the heart of God, and we shall hope to consider
some of these stages.
First of all, however, let us remind ourselves that the Word of God reveals that there is a spiritual pilgrimage. Peter said: “Beloved, I beseech you as sojourners and pilgrims” (1 Peter 2:11), and the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews put it in this way: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things make it manifest that they are seeking after a country of their own… But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly”(Hebrews 11:13,14,16). You see what that says: They all died in faith not having received the promises. They had seen them and greeted them from a long way off. All these heroes of faith mentioned in that eleventh chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews are still looking for a country, that is, waiting for their inheritance, and chapter twelve makes it quite clear that although they have left this earth, they are one with us in ‘looking’. They “all died in faith, not having received the promises… God having foreseen some better thing concerning us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:1,40. R.V. margin). So Abraham is still ‘looking’ with us for the heavenly country.
There is a whole group of New Testament words which describe the believer as a pilgrim and a stranger, and these many Greek words relate to people in the Roman Empire who had no settled abode anywhere. They were just visitors to the place. They had come to stay for a night, for a week, for a month, or for a year, but no matter how long they stayed, they did not belong to the place. They had no permanent residence there, and our New Testament is built upon that truth. All these Greek words are taken over and applied to Christians. When Peter said: “I beseech you as sojourners and pilgrims”, he did not say: ‘Be pilgrims and sojourners’ but ‘You are‘.
The first five books of the Bible are books of a pilgrimage. The Bible opens with man at home. God had made a home for man, and he was there with God in that home. It was called ‘Paradise’; but man lost his home, was driven out from it, and he became a stranger, a homeless stranger, a displaced person. He was a wanderer in the earth and a foreigner to God’s home, all because he was out of friendship with God. When that friendship broke down, man lost his home, and he has been a pilgrim and stranger in the earth ever since. There is no restful home for the soul of man in this world because the world is no friend of God. That is how the Bible begins, and then that truth is broken up, firstly in the case of Abraham. All through his life Abraham was a pilgrim. We are told that he lived in a tent, and he moved up and down the land with that tent. You may think it is all right to be in a tent for a week’s holiday (although that depends upon circumstances) but I doubt whether there is anyone here who would like to spend their whole life in a tent. Abraham was one of those of whom it is written: “They are seeking after a country of their own” – a place which they could call ‘home’.
We pass from Abraham to Israel, who for forty years of their life were pilgrims and strangers in a wilderness. God had promised them all a home, a rest at the end of the journey, but they never received that promise in their lifetime – “These all died in faith, not having received the promises”. Even when they went into the land of promise they never had rest. Why was this so? Because they were in a world which God had rejected and repudiated, a world with which God was not in friendship, and a world which was no friend of God.
That brings us to our first stage in the spiritual pilgrimage, and we must look at other passages of Scripture.
“Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah begat Abraham, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot. And Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees” (Genesis 11:27,28).
“Now the Lord said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto the land that I will shew thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed. So Abram went, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him” (Genesis 12:1-4).
“And Terah look Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan” (Genesis 11:31).
God had said to Abraham: ‘Get thee out of thy country, thy kindred, thy father’s house, unto a land that I will give thee’. Many hundreds of years afterward Stephen said: “The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran” (Acts 7:2). How I would like to stay here to tell you something about Ur of the Chaldees! What a great city it was, and what a wonderful civilisation existed right back there at that time! I would like, too, to tell you something about father Terah, and about his three sons, the eldest of whom was Abraham, and about the kind of life they were living in that great city; of how the son, Haran, died there, and of how Haran’s son, Lot, joined himself to Uncle Abraham, but time will not allow us to talk about all that, however interesting it may be. We have to come to this first step into the heart of God.
God had said emphatically and precisely. “Get thee out”! In those words it is quite evident that God had repudiated the old world of Abraham, and, so far as he was concerned, had finished with it, and finished with it in finality. In effect, He said to Abraham: ‘Now that is absolutely finished with for you’.
This marks the first step into the heart of God. God’s heart was not in Chaldea, but outside of Chaldea.
Now mark carefully: this was not a stage in the spiritual journey, but a definite, basic step. There was a point at which one foot of Abraham was in Chaldea and the other was outside, and when he lifted that one foot and put it at the side of the other he had crossed the line. There was just a line between Chaldea and outside of Chaldea. In our New Testament language: between the world and outside of the world. It was intended by God to be absolute and final at that point. He was allowing no compromise – Abraham’s heart had to go over the line toward the heart of God. All the phases and the stages will follow that. This basic decision and step will afterward be applied and tested all through his life. Many situations, many trials and many difficulties will arise to challenge that step, and every one of those circumstances will ask the question: Did you really mean it when you began? How far did you really mean it when you said that you were going all the way with God?
You see, there stands right at the beginning of the spiritual pilgrimage, which ends in the heart of God, this crisis: the crisis which is in these words of God – “Get thee out”! All God’s intention and purpose are bound up with our reaction to that first command.
Perhaps many of you older Christians do not need this word, but there are a number of young people, and there may be some older in years who are young in the journey. What God is saying is this: If you are at all concerned with finding a place in the heart of God, this is where you must begin. You must come to this first step of oneness with God in His repudiation of this world.
You see, what we are concerned with is the heart of God, that is, friendship with God. It is said of Noah that in building the ark “he condemned the world” (Hebrews 11:7). It was not a matter of whether the world believed that it was being condemned. The fact is that it was a condemned world, and it was only a matter of time before the flood came and destroyed it. It was a good thing that there were eight persons in the heart of God! They escaped the coming judgment.
Jesus made this basic separation from the world when He was baptized. and used His baptism as a means of declaring to heaven, to men and to hell that His heart was separated unto God. At His baptism Jesus took sides with the heart of God against this world, and declared that His heart was not in this world – it was with the Father. Every Christian is supposed to be baptized. You may have different opinions as to what it is, how it should be, but if you are going to take Jesus as your example, and what the New Testament teaches on this matter, you have to recognize that baptism is a declaration that you have stepped over a line and that now your heart is wholly with God and out of the world. No sooner had Jesus been baptized than He began to be tested as to the step which He had taken. Those temptations in the wilderness by the devil were to test Him as to whether He meant what He had done. Satan offered Him all the kingdoms of this world and all the glory thereof, and the test was: Was the heart of Jesus out of the world or not? He stood faithfully to the position that He had taken and repudiated the world, and if you want to know what Jesus thought about the world you have only to read one chapter in the New Testament – the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel by John. There Jesus refers repeatedly to the world and prays that His disciples might be delivered from it. He said: “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:16).
Now notice something: What was the world to which Jesus was referring? The only world that the disciples knew was the religious world, and that was the only world that Jesus lived in in the days of His flesh. What do you mean by the world? You see, it can be a very religious thing. There can be a lot of worldly religion – there can be as much of the world in religion as there is out of it. The world is a spirit, a mentality, a power. In one word, it is all that which is not in friendship with God.
God was no friend of that religious world in the days of Jesus. The world means independence from God, being able to get on without Him in its own way. It is self-centred, not God-centred; it is governed, deceived and blinded by Satan.
Now the point is just this: We shall never get anywhere in this spiritual pilgrimage until we have fully and finally settled this one question. One of the most painful things that we see is the way in which all young Christians do not go on with the Lord. They come to a point where they say that they are going with the Lord, they make a decision for the Lord, and there it stops. So many do not go any further than that – and here is all this immense purpose of God. They have only taken the negative side of His command and have not listened to the positive side: “Unto the land that I will shew thee…” … ‘I will make thee a blessing and thou shalt be a blessing’ … “in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed”.
You see, God has called us ‘out’ for a mighty ‘in’. He did not just say to Abraham “Get thee out”! The separation was governed by the great purpose of being made a mighty blessing to others.
One world is repudiated, but God does not believe in vacuums, so He must put another world in its place. Abraham was God’s new beginning for a new world. He was called “the father of a multitude of nations” (Genesis 17:5). The father gives the character to the family, and the very first thing about the character of this man was that his heart was wholly set on God. If we are truly spiritual children of Abraham, we must take his character.
Well, that is where we begin, the first step in the spiritual pilgrimage to the heart of God. Whatever we may say about ourselves, in our faults and failures, may it be true of every one of us that we have a heart wholly for God, for this is the way that ends with God being able to say, of you and of me, “My Friend”.
Note: The rest of this enlightening little book can be read here.
“Then he said, ‘This is what I will do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. (Luke 12:18)
“For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matt. 12:50)
“For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38)
Beloved saints – the soul – the self-life, the life of the mind, the will, the emotion, the creativity – this is so strong, so deep in me. This is the “Jacob” in us, the “Peter”, the cleverness, the conniving, the “working it out” according to our experience, instincts, intelligence.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life (soul, self-life, psuche – soul), he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)
The disciple has no will, no plans, no motive, no thought for himself. His life is no longer his own, and he no longer trusts his own soul with his plans, decisions, or path forward. This is very much like the Holy Spirit, that is hidden in the shadow of the very Christ He was sent to reveal and express.
Do you see this family of God?
Now we are not, as you know, speaking of moral things particularly, merely doing what is right or good. No, the commitment of the disciple goes much deep and further than that. This is about having a sword in your hand, and Saul lying there before you, and yet holding back your hand because as yet the Lord has not told you to strike. It is about entering actively and completely into the rest, the labor of the Lord as is pictured in His Sabbath day – “The Father is working still, so I am working” confessed the Master to a group of merely religious men who thought only of religious things. “Where I see the Father working is where I work” – He said.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matt 7:21-23)
In the Father’s Kingdom, lawlessness is so much more than we have made it – it is everything that is not abiding in His will. It is everything that violates His very life and creative working – maybe read that again because it may sound almost heretical or extreme. Let the Spirit bring it home to you. This is the real meaning of Roman 8:2, where Paul speaks of the law of the Spirit of life. Does our life, our work, our plans, our engagements – do they in any way violates the life of the Lord, which is the expression of His will in His creation, and for us particularly?
But oh how strong is this soul life in us, oh let us just be honest my brothers. It is there when we rise in the morning, and throughout the day, always giving place to the enemy and his world, to frustration and confusion, as we try to serve two masters.
To see Him working, where He is working, what He is doing, to hear Him as he invites us into His labors, this is the key then isn’t it? This is true and absolute peace and rest, the key to so many things. The Jacob must become the Israel, and the Peter must become Cephas. The yoke must pass from the Lord unto each one of us.
I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” (John 21:18)
Surrender. Release. Giving up your hands and your heart to the bonds of the Lord. No will. No life of your own. Emptied of worldly ambition, and everything inside you to bring about what the world considers success. A bond-servant, like Eliezer (Abraham’s servant, about his master’s business. Like the 12-year old lad who followed the Father into the temple when all of His family was returning to their home. “Don’t you know…” He said. Well do we? Do we know what this life is all about. Yes, Paul says that there is the “promise of life” (2 Tim. 1:1) but how we have made this so much about more of our own life, more of the soul-life, and not eternal life, the life of God, the very working of God in His creation, which can never cease. The Sabbath is not about the cessation of labor at all, merely the end of our labor as we take up His, as we enter into His yoke to plow His field. This never rests my brothers, and for years I was blind to the true meaning of the seventh day, which of the fullness of entering into the Lord’s creative work.
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. (Isa 40:28-31)
How strange it is that we have been taught that either God or His people need to rest! Is His strength not immeasurable and unquenchable? Is this all that the seventh day teaches us?
Are you clever? Many advanced degrees maybe? Tasted worldly success? Moved great mountains in this world, done big things? Oh how hard it is to hate your own soul, to hold it in mistrust and contempt, to see how it moves you away from the creative work of the Lord. How it causes so much conflict and confusion in your life, as you are seeking both your own will and His at the same time.
Service. Ministry. Works – most of it merely men. The soul playing at God. We see opportunities maybe and we interpret this as the Lord opening the door. Perhaps, yet our Lord did not heal all of the many sick ones when He was on this earth did He? Only those whom the Father gave Him to cleanse and heal. Nor did He with divine fiat eradicate all hunger and poverty in the world. “The poor you will always have among you,” I seem to recall Him saying. Apostasy in the church? Everywhere. So you have a little light, more maybe than some, so you assume in your soul that the Lord wants you to deliver everyone from their delusions? Good luck with that, and please be sure to let us know how this goes.
And so what shall we do dear ones? Well the simple answer, and it is always a simple answer with the things of the Lord – is that we should do only that which He gives us to do. PERIOD. Only that which the Holy Spirit leads, equips and empowers. Only then will He confess that he “knows us” and owns the works we are engaged in. In the end, such works have already been ordained and determined from the beginning anyway.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:10)
But first we must come to hate our own soul. We must come to the place where we have no trust whatsoever in it. This is called in the Bible – death. This is what the cross is designed to do, to remove every last vestige of reliance, confidence, or trust in our own ability, our own capacity to do anything “of the Lord.” We must forget all of the seemingly great things we have done under the power, ability, inspiration and life of the soul (especially those things of a religious nature), and toss them on the great dung heap of history, for that is what they amount to in the eyes of the Lord.
Father of Light – show us where You are working, and release us from our bonds Lord, to enter into Your work alone, Your Sabbath Rest, that which holds eternity within it. Show us where so much of our lives and plans are merely the soul life in us. Strip away forever the Jacob and the Peter. Give us eyes to see through the fog of self-confidence and self-trust. For apart from You Lord we can do NOTHING!
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
Beloved Saints, children of light – I hope you know by know that I share such things not as one who has merely read about them, studied them, or lived them vicariously through the life of another. These are not merely proof texts to convince your mind of something. You will know in your spirit that these are words of life and truth, sprinkled with the very blood of the Lord’s cross. I am still struggling to let go, and perhaps I always will in this body of flesh. To follow the Lord is so unimaginably simple and yet so incredibly hard at the same time. There is a bloody and violent war going on in my being, and oh pray that His way will emerge, if only for this day.