Category: The Fullness of Christ

Bibliolatry

“And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form. “You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! (John 5:38-39)

But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matt. 4:4)

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness,examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11)

There are many well-intended scribes among us in these latter days, devoted to external study, to mere words, many great teachers skilled at rightly dividing the written word. Mountains of books written, yet apostasy and falseness and superficiality everywhere and growing among so-called Christianity. They have taken the Word of Life and rendered it to mere fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; the wisdom of Solomon on scrolls of paper, but not written on the heart. “Live by biblical principles they say, and then reap the blessing of heaven.” They point to the Bible as some kind of path, some way out of death, when it was never given to be that. The Scriptures testify of Jesus Christ, and they witness to Him as the Word of God, sent down among us to express the very life and purpose of God in a way that we can comprehend. The “Word” of God is not just what Jesus (or His servants) said, but it represents all that He is – HE IS THE WORD OF GOD!

But (hear this please, for this is very important) life is not found in the Scriptures, and to take the New Testament and make its words and precepts so much like the law and prophets given to the Hebrews, is not what the Lord came to impart. “You do not have His word abiding in you,” said the Lord; and dedicating your entire life to mining, probing, dissecting, and parsing the written word may not get you one step further into the heart of God. You will become a scribe and scholar not a disciple trained on the bloody and narrow path that leads out of Adam into Christ. “Here take and you will be as God” said the dragon in the garden.

Jesus did not say it was better that He leave the twelve because He was going to give them the New Testament (and some super-apostle named Paul) to guide them in all matters of entering into the fullness of the Father – He said it was better because then He would indwell them personally and guide them from within through His Spirit. Then we will become branches of the true vine, bringing forth fruit of Him. Members of His body enlivened and directed by the Head, the Mind, the Brain that is Jesus. This does not negate the Scriptures at all but verifies them and substantiates them. Apart from the spirit, we cannot rightly divide them, or apply them, or even realize the rich spiritual meaning of them. But to take them beyond where they go, this is not helpful either. One can “know” the Bible and never truly know the Lord.

We all believe in the perfect, inerrant and Holy Bible, and it is an incalculable blessing to be sure. Yet it does not negate the need of each of us personally to be hearing the Shepherd as He leads us from within. We are to live by every word that God speaks; by His will in other words. Our lives in the Lord are living epistles and no less poignant or purposeful than the written letters we have brought down to us. As the Lord speaks to us He most often affirms this in the testimonies of those recorded in the Bible – this is my experience anyway, for what is worth.

When Ezra set up the schools to restore and circulate the written testimony of Israel, what evolved over centuries up until the time of the Lord was an oral tradition, a tradition of commentary and supplemental material (biblical principles and interpretations) from men known as as the Talmud. This was accompanied by sects, scribes, schools, each having their own slant on the testimony of God – sound familiar? This pattern has been repeated over the last 2000 years, until now many believers will not so much as stand up or sit down without affirmation from their favorite teacher or ministry. Well the Lord told them so much of what they had added to His Word was of the flesh, of men, and He then went on to teach what was really being expressed and intended. “You have heard… but I say….” They had taken the Scriptures as the end, the means to life, when it was really intended to point to and prepare the people for the coming of the Son of Man.

There is, to be sure, no less a Talmud it seems for Christians today than there was for the Hebrews. And this is at the least unhelpful and at the worst – dangerous. Rather than help the disciple to hear the Lord personally, these outward things can begin to replace His moment-by-moment leading. We are to obey the Lord, not some outward list of dos and donts. Converts are taught to live by “biblical principles” rather than following the Lord. Grace is stifled. Men (teachers) are exalted. Churches become schools rather than a body building up the members or a vine bearing fruit. Sermons become seminars with a step-by-step guide to living this life. There is great division over interpretation and ideas. The heart of the Lord is grieved. All because He is not first. All because men search the scriptures looking for something they can never give. Those who supposedly “know” lord it over His flock, yet they are not shepherds, and they are not the One True Shepherd!

We are to be led and instructed and illuminated in the ways of life from within, by the abiding spirit that will illuminate and breathe life into the written word. Yet the word on its own is just as useless for engendering life and salvation as the law. This is what Paul the pharisee taught, and this is why the Lord when selecting the twelve did not go the scribes or schools; He went to the seaside and the tax booth.

This “teaching” or that is not all that we need in this dark hour saints – but cross-bearing testimony, god-breathed witness and testimony, real spirit-touching-bone expression of life. And it begins and flows from within us, affirming His blessed Scriptures. “The Scriptures point to me” – yes but then we set Him aside and spend lifetimes returning to the Scriptures. They are a means to an end, not the end in itself!

…and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:19)

And so what indeed is “sound teaching”? It is everything and anything that leads to the increase of the love of Christ, that directs the thirty soul to drink deep at His well. It is never knowledge for its own sake. it is never – “if only I could learn enough, spend enough time at the feet of Gamaliel, etc.” That is spirit-sucking religion; it is outward, it looks and smells and feels so good but it can never engender the life and fullness of God.

Statements mean nothing! Statements of Faith even less! What is the the Lord saying to each of us now is what matters.

What matters is that the Living Word that came down has penetrated us and become flesh in us so that we live and move and have our new being in Him alone – the scriptures will then take care of themselves, and something wonderful will begin to happen – we will indeed begin to understand His divine purposes in the revelation of His written Word. We will see Jesus Christ in them, and once they have directed us to Him, deeper to Him, we can set them in their safe and rightful place.

This is a delicate matter saints, one requiring maturity and balance, yet what is needed in this dark hour is not more scribes, not more rabbis, not more textualists – but witnesses, prophets, cross-bearing, striped lambs who are willing to lay it all down for the Lord, to stand by Him and His little ones who are bearing the scorn and reproach of this world –

You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; (Luke 22:28)

Do that brothers, be that – and then you will see. The windows will open, and the scriptures will affirm all that you see. You cannot study life, you must live it, you must enter into it, knee-deep and then neck-deep until it is all and only the Lord, all His way in you – spirit, soul and body!

Bro Sparks writes on this subject of knowing, truly knowing, epignosis (Greek: knowing as a living, breathing, costly truth that is wrought at the very center of your spirit), knowing beyond mind, ideas, concepts, etc. And what makes this knowing real? Well it is the cross isn’t it, the very thing we have shunned in this generation, the very awful thing that we have set aside. The cross as it works its deep and terrible force in a man’s heart and life, unleashes a power that turns merely knowing into revelation – something laid bare and revealed. This is why the wilderness, why the cave, while the barrenness and loss, why the scorn and reproach, why the gates of hell come against us.

I absolutely adore how Bro. Sparks (below) so exquisitely conveys something that I have struggled to express for many years now. Oh for saints such as these, who have gone down, gone in, gone deep, and come out again with eyes wide open.

Oh pray that we would be willing to lose all that we might gain such an abiding knowing of our Lord and His ways.

The prophet must live the message he is to convey to the Lord’s wayward people. We need prophets today like never before, those willing to pay the price of seeing and hearing the Lord. Pray He will raise ones such as these among us in this hour.

Lord, we know what You have said, we know what is written, and we thank you Lord. Yet we need to know what You are saying to us now, in this time. Grant us Your word, your heart, that we might be everything we need to be for one another as the days grow darker, and the evil advances inside the gate. Let there be nothing we look back to once we have left this Sodom, let it all be released from our hearts forever, that You might have Your place on the very throne of our lives. In Jesus, we live and move and pray these things. amen


The people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. (Daniel 11:32)

After the Cross, all the fullness of the Divine power was released upon the world through those who had been brought into absolute oneness with the Lord by that Cross. That is the peculiar kind of knowledge which means the release of such forces and such powers upon the world situation as are unknown by the great world systems. First, let us remember that this knowledge of God is by revelation. We can never get this knowledge of God merely by reading, by listening, by attending meetings…. You may understand it all by mental apprehension, know the terms and the verses, and use them – but what about the dynamic of this thing? What does our personal presence in a situation mean? Does it mean that there is the going out of a power which cannot be accounted for on any human basis whatever, but which is a greater force than the forces that are represented by world organizations, world methods, world resources? It is a most important question. Is this thing alive, or have we merely got a little more mental apprehension of it through conferences? Do we know God in this thing by reason of a personal inward revelation on the subject?

Secondly, it comes by the way of pain. You get a thing revealed to you as truth, perhaps something about the Cross of Christ, or victory over Satan, and you think you know it, and you say, “This is beautiful!” And you begin to talk about it, and it is not very long before something happens – your circumstances are touched. Now you go down with this truth, down into the vortex of awful agony, right down to the gates of hell, your being is upheaved right from the very bottom, and all the time there is the question – “Will that truth hold good?” Is it going to work? And when you have got down as far as you can go, the flesh elements and the self elements have been dealt with, and you grimly hold on to the Lord in this matter of victory – then it comes out, you have tested it right to the very bottom of your being – that thing has become you, and then you can go to others in their grim conflict and their darkness, and say, “I know – I know this thing, and I know God is faithful, I know the victory.” You have got a mighty emphasis on your knowledge, it is a thing about which you have no doubt, because you have gone down into the depths with it, and proved it down there, and by the very pain the thing has been proved.

May this word speak to some of you groaning under the burden of never knowing enough.

Let us esteem each other more worthy than ourselves in this our, of our love, of our blessings, of our prayers and our treasure.

Advertisements

Labels

I am personally finished with labels. They are designed solely to divide, exclude and discriminate, as they are so front-loaded with meaning and value. So what if you are not a “christian”, or an “evangelical” or this or that. The first response from those that are, is that “you are not one of us”, so there is suspicion. division and fear.

What is our first response when we here someone is a Muslim or a Buddhist or a Catholic?

Be honest now.

It is that you are not like me, you are not in my group, I have to change that. I either have to avoid you entirely or  convert you, change your mind in some way.

We hate racial prejudice but accept religious prejudice freely and loosely all the time. THIS IS WRONG and very dangerous, and it is not the way of our Lord. He never once said to anyone, go and become a christian, change your name. He said “go and sin no more” if I am not mistaken.

Look at how these pious, religious men treated lepers, the unclean, gentiles, Samaritans, and prostitutes in the New Testament. Look at how their labels reared up high walls around these human souls. Repugnant. Insidious. Then look at how the Master so graciously and irreverently tore them all down into heaps at their feet.

Let us here and now vow to stop labeling human beings, and start treating all human beings as children of God, individuals with a redemptive story, a history, value and meaning.

No more of this us and them mentality. No more caste systems! No more untouchables!

We will never learn anything or truly share anything with anyone if we are trying to convert them to our label. Love is impossible with labels, as you will never go deeper than the label and all of its associated bigotry and meaning.

Children do not use labels!

Go the playground and watch and listen.

Watch as little ones approach others they know nothing about.

Are their first words – “What are you?”

Or do they look for things they can share – a toy, an activity, an interest, and then plunge right in?

So over time, their parents begin the process of programming them to discriminate, and for this they need what – LABELS.

Black, white, rich, poor, christian, pagan, american, republican, democrat…

So by the time they reach adulthood, they are no longer looking for things they can share but things that discriminate and divide. They have become as narr0w, isolated and small as their parents.

“Come to me as little children” – said a very wise man.

Labels are a lazy, insidious, sheep-like way of making sense of all of the color and diversity in this world.

All is done.

Once you discover that the man over there is a Muslim, there is nothing else to know. You will never know what is in his heart, never discover that he deeply loves his family and works hard to support and provide for them, never know that the faith he holds is a sincere and deep one. You will never go to his home and share a meal with him.

In short, you will never, ever, ever be like the very one you profess to follow.

Consider how aggressively the various Jewish groups tried to get Joshua to proclaim which groups he was in – pharisee, saducee, herodian, etc. So they could then either shun or exploit Him. This still goes on today. The christian caste system is every bit as active and insidious as anything found in Hinduism.

“One can never safely approach God through theology, only by the Holy Spirit.”

Do you know who wrote that?

What would you say if I told you it was a Buddhist monk from Viet Nam.

“Oh but, but…”

See how this works.

NO MORE LABELS!!!!

If God is Love…

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

“So what did you learn in Sunday School today darling?” said the father to his young daughter as they got into the car.

“We learned that God is love. That love is the thing that God is most known for”, she replied.

“A wonderful lesson my dear, so true, so very true. He loves us very much.”

As they drove through the thick, green countryside, there was a period of long silence, as the young girl seemed to be deep in thought.

“Daddy….”

“Yes darling?”

“When we see people who are not Christians acting with love towards each other, does that mean God is there with them?” she asked curiously.

“Hmm.” said the man pensively… “I suppose it does, doesn’t it.”

No Place for Any Other First – W.E. Smith

Dear saints – It is with some fascination that I contemplate what men try so creatively, so ingeniously to do for the Lord. It is as though we don’t trust Him, or somehow feel we can do things better in terms of bringing about the fullest expression of spiritual body life. I absolutely relish this description by Sparks here of what really transpired shortly after He ascended –

“While there was some initial testimony, the Apostles did not formulate in conference an enterprise, a mission, with all the related arrangements and organization. The new Life forced off the old leaves and dressed the new organism with a new vesture from within. The might, energy and urge of the Holy Spirit within produced a Way and an order, un-thought-of, unintended by them, and always to their own surprise. What was happening was really that Christ was taking form within them, individually and corporately, by new birth and growth. The believers and the companies were becoming an expression of Christ.”

Now if I may speak quite frankly, such a thing positively scares the life out of many believers, especially those who feel that everything of Christ must be branded, named, organized, systematized, collectivized, boxed, replicated, scheduled, itemized, etc.

Where I wonder in what Sparks has described is there a place for one such as Diotrephes, who loves to be first, over others, standing apart, in some place of self-importance?

I dare say that such Nicolaitans create these unnatural religious mechanisms so that they can control them, lord over them and derive no small degree of stature and importance from them – all in the name of Christ, all for Him ostensibly.

“THESE THINGS I HATE!”

…said the Master.

Rather than step back and glory in what the Lord through His Spirit was doing back then, we rather pull a verse out of the Book of Acts and create a system, a methodology from it – oh what a wonderful idea.

“They met in homes” – Oh so the pattern for church is to meet only and always in homes.

“The church in this city.” – Oh so we must organize city churches with spiritual headship over each jurisdiction.

“They all sold what they had…” oh so we are to give all of our resources to a centralized church body and have them manage and distribute it as they deem suitable.

Dear saints, what is so delicious, so marvelously impressive about the Book of Acts, is not only these things specifically, but that the wind was blowing, and that these saints allowed themselves to be swept up and away in its moving. Nothing of men, All from the Lord. Attempting, even with the very best of intentions, to replicate, simulate or return to the various particulars of what happened HAVE AND WILL FAIL EVERY TIME!

This book is a book not of patterns and templates, but of free-flowing life. It is the most un-religious book ever written.

May we open all of our doors, tears down all of our walls, open all of our windows – and simply let the mighty wind of the Spirit bring forth life into our fellowship and union with one another in the Lord. May we lay down all pride and lust for power and control. May we learn from John in his first letter which speaks of real heaven-blown fellowship and oneness in the LIGHT, LIFE and LOVE of God.

May He breathe on these words as they pass through your day today… amen

**************************

From TAS –

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you. (Ephesians 1:18 NIV)

It is a seeing of the immense significance of Jesus in the eternal and universal order. With the Apostles that seeing was subsequent to the days of physical association. During the forty days after His resurrection it was like the dawning of a new day. First, those intimations, as when the uncertain light just passes over the heavens. Then more steady and certain rays, leading to the Day of Pentecost, when the sun appeared in full glory over the horizon dispelling the last shadow of uncertainty. On that day they saw Him as by an opened heaven. The mystery of the past was dispelled. The Bible lay open like a new book. They saw Him in the light of eternity. They began to see that, while He was the glorified, personal, Son of God, He was Himself the embodiment of a great, a vast heavenly and spiritual order and system. This seeing was absolutely revolutionary. It was a crisis out of which a new world and a new creation was born. True to this fundamental principle, all that vast revelation, which has come down the centuries from and through the Apostle Paul took its rise from that crisis described by him as “It pleased God… to reveal His Son in me” (Gal. 1:16). “I received it… by revelation of Jesus Christ” (vs. 12). All the implicates were in the crisis; the full content was a progressive and ever-growing revelation.

While there was some initial testimony, the Apostles did not formulate in conference an enterprise, a mission, with all the related arrangements and organization. The new Life forced off the old leaves and dressed the new organism with a new vesture from within. The might, energy and urge of the Holy Spirit within produced a Way and an order, un-thought-of, unintended by them, and always to their own surprise. What was happening was really that Christ was taking form within them, individually and corporately, by new birth and growth. The believers and the companies were becoming an expression of Christ.

The Fire

Oh dear saints, dear, dear saints and brothers. Have our hearts so fully and uncompromisingly been given to the interests of the Lord in this hour, in this time of such utter abandonment and declension? He has tolerated so much these many centuries since He left us in the body, hasn’t He? So many ideas, concepts, expressions, ambitions – so much that is of men, and not from Him at all. So patient has He been, so long-suffering, as everything associated with His name has become so recklessly degraded, earthly, limited.

Consider the gap between the Old and New Testaments, from the time of Ezra to John the Baptist, and how this reminds us of what we have seen since the beloved apostle John left this earth.
Synagogues and sects and divisions; merchants as veritable fixtures in the temple. A religion borne of human scholarship, so very well documented yet barely breathed in the lives of men. Division, declension, fleshly and false religion.
So that when He arrived in the very flesh, they knew Him not. Simeon and Anna did, yes, for they were not part of the many and their religion. They were given wholly to the Lord’s interests. They did not follow men and creeds and groups and isms or  ‘ologies. They were not this or that; they were merely all in for the Lord.
Oh how patient is our Lord and Judge. But there comes a time when the fire comes, and when it does, all that is of men, and all that is of the soul will be purged away. This is what the letters to the churches speak to us. “I know your works….” He declares. He sees with piercing eyes, and all that is not truly of Him and from Him and for Him will not stand.
Please be pierced by this word from Bro Sparks –

(From Brother Sparks)

The fire will test the quality of each person’s work. (1 Corinthians 3:13 NIV)

I have no doubt that you love the Lord. I am not raising any question about that. But, I do say again, we are involved in a great system which is a very complicated thing, and a great deal of it is not of the Lord. It is something that man has brought in. Man has put his hand upon the things of the Lord, and man has made things according to his own mind, and therefore a great deal has come in which is of man and not of the Lord. And when we say that, we are not only thinking of Christianity in general, we are thinking of ourselves. This is true of ourselves. We have all come into something called Christianity, and we have all taken on something of Christianity, and there may be a great deal that we have to get rid of, and come back to the simple fundamental reality. And the fundamental reality of all realities is the presence of the Lord. We have got to know that the Lord is with us, and that the Lord is with us in all that we do, that this did not originate in our mind. It did not originate in our will, it did not originate in our emotion. It did not come from our soul, this thing has come from the Lord in every detail, like the tabernacle. Just like Jesus Christ, in every detail it has to come to us from God.

That ought to send us back to our knees – to go through all our work. It may be necessary for us, from time to time, to stand back and ask the Lord about all that we are doing. ‘Is this out from God, or is it something out from ourselves? Is this way of doing things the mind of God, or is it our mind? Is the Lord in this, or have we come into it?’ You see, that is a great deciding matter. Make no mistake about it! Everything that is only of man is going to perish. Sooner or later it will be shaken. Every man’s work shall be tried in the fire, says the Word of God.

Psalm 88 – W.E. Smith

O Lord, God of my salvation;

I cry out day and night before you.

Let my prayer come before you;

incline your ear to my cry!

For my soul is full of troubles,

and my life draws near to Sheol.

I am counted among those who go down to the pit;

I am a man who has no strength,

like one set loose among the dead,

like the slain that lie in the grave,

like those whom you remember no more,

for they are cut off from your hand.

You have put me in the depths of the pit,

in the regions dark and deep.

Your wrath lies heavy upon me,

and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah

You have caused my companions to shun me;

you have made me a horror[b] to them.

I am shut in so that I cannot escape;

my eye grows dim through sorrow.

Every day I call upon you, O Lord;

I spread out my hands to you.

Do you work wonders for the dead?

Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah

Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,

or your faithfulness in Abaddon?

Are your wonders known in the darkness,

or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

But I, O Lord, cry to you;

in the morning my prayer comes before you.

O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?

Why do you hide your face from me?

Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,

I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.

Your wrath has swept over me;

your dreadful assaults destroy me.

They surround me like a flood all day long;

they close in on me together.

You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;

my companions have become darkness.[d]

Dear saints, the following is a psalm of instruction, a maskil, designed to teach us something important of the ways of God, something very deep. It is not for those newly born, or with untried and untested legs in the faith.

And so what does it teach exactly? What is it trying to convey? What happy evangelical truth is it presenting?

Oh beloved – how we have been misled by the very source and purveyor of all mixture and corruption.

Where is this man in the psalm? Where is his heart, where is his relationship with God? Is he walking happily along? Is he sitting comfortably at the feet of Jesus with a wide grin on his face and a melody in his heart?

Or is the stench of death all over him? Is he grappling with all his strength with the very One who He loves and knows and seeks?

Where is His God in fact? Out in full view? Or hidden? Silent? Does he feel forsaken by the very One he knows can save him?

Is he surrounded by good Christian brothers to cheer him up? A men’s group perhaps? Or maybe he has just returned invigorated from a recent conference or retreat?

Is he full of answers or dark questions?

Is he a backslidden saint – has he turned his back and his heart away from His God?

So what is this trying to teach us? What cheerful truth is it trying to convey? What saintly conclusions does it draw?

I will leave it to you to answer such questions, but be careful, be honest in the spirit.

You see every trial, every test has at its core a fundamental reality, and it is this – the cross as it is applied us personally will cut to the very heart and core of our relationship with the only One who can deliver us from the grave of death. In fact, it is not so much the outward afflictions at all that represent the deepest pain through it all, but the sense that He has indeed hidden Himself, that He is silent, that He has put His right arm back into His cloak. “Father, Father – why have you forsaken me?”. All my friends asleep, the dark cloud of death closing in, and yet the only One who can act on my behalf is hidden away. He is not responding. Note the section which reads – “What good can come when I am dead?” he is saying. What can You teach me when I am in Abaddon? “Oh Lord if only You had come sooner”, said Lazarus’s sister. “If only you had not delayed”

So why do I trouble you so with this psalm? Why do I presume so much to take it upon myself to interrupt your comfortable christian life with such discomforting things? Should I not rather be encouraging you with “You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you” or resounding a chorus of Onward Christian Soldiers?

Because dear ones, darkness is coming, nay it is already here. And everything we believe, everything we have been taught will be tested in these fires. Everything will be shaken, and men will be forsaken by the very ones they least believed would do so. And everyone of us will be left alone on that dread hill of Gethsemane, alone and crying out to our God through the storm and the silence. Deep and dark questions will flood our soul and spirit, and the very foundations of what we believe will be shaken and tested.

Are you therefore bold enough for this? Are you tough enough? Are you deep enough with the Lord to endure this?

When He not only rocks your little world but also your little faith – will you stand? When Leviathan is unleashed, will you trip and stumble and let Him go?

Dear friends – as I beheld that meteoroid flash across the sky and explode yesterday, then shake the very foundations and windows all around, I thought of only one thing, and it was this –

Satan is coming!

Are you ready? Am I?

Oh Lord, make it so.

“When You Were Young…” – W.E. Smith

Dear ones, few saints of recent generations have seen what T. A. Sparks was allowed to see. The place, the principle, the way of the cross of Christ, in bringing forth divine life into a flesh and blood and soul-driven man. Please read the following very slowly in the Spirit, if you will –

When you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted. (John 21:18 ESV)

The “eyes which are as a flame of fire” are looking for reality. They pierce through many things. In the first place, they pierce through traditional and formal religion or “Christianity.” Their interrogation is – Is your religion a matter of attachment or adherence to a system, a historical tradition, a family inheritance; and so on? Or is it born – is it a birth in you; is it something that has happened to you; is it your very life, your very being? Secondly – and I concentrate more especially upon this for the moment – they pierce through temperament and disposition. They demand to know whether the reason why you are where you are, are concerned for what you are concerned for, are connected with what you are connected with, and are disposed as you are, is because your particular temperament leans that way. You are artistic and mystical in your tastes and constitution: therefore you choose or ma ke your religion after your own image. Your temperament is melancholic, and so the more abstract, profound, serious, intense, introspective, and speculative, appeals to you and finds a natural response in you. You make God, Christianity, Christ, the Bible, after your image.

Or again, you are of the practical temperament. To you everything is only of value as it is “practical.” You have no patience with these contemplative people. You are irritated by the “Marys,” for “many dishes” are your concern. To you, how the end is reached is of much less importance than the end itself. You are not bothered much with imagination, and you would put all the value on things done – how much there is actually to show for your day. Your God and your Christianity are entirely, or almost entirely, of the practical kind, after your own image. And so we could go on with all the other temperaments. But this will not do, for Christ is not any one of these; He is different. He may combine the good in all, but that does not wholly mean Divine nature. He is different. All this is the human soul, but the essential nature of Christ and true Christianity is of the Divine Spirit – it is heavenly! If new birth means anything, it means this, that another nature and disposition is born into the believer, so that he or she is “carried whither they (naturally) would not.”

Oh saints of God, Oh the divine constraint that is so foreign, so alien to us modern believers. “When you were young…”

Yoke

But now your very life has been secured in My yoke, and you will only go where I go, when I go, at the speed I go. Here is, must we say, the bound and tethered existence of a bond slave, with no rights, no claims, no interest in himself. He is a bought man. There is no longer any self – no longer “I will go, I will do this, or that, I will….”

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Cor 6:19-20)

Personality, disposition, predilection, proclivity – these are all the virtues and prerogatives of a free man. But we are no longer free in that sense. No longer our own. No longer living out of ourselves, for ourselves, to gratify ourselvesJames, also reminded us –

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:13 -)

Is this exceptional? A fair question. Is this the life of a John the Baptist, a prophet, a Paul only?

No, no, beloved, this is in fact the normative, intended path for all – for He is the Way for all of us, not just for a few.

And here is the exquisite mystery that makes even the angels to shutter – in this ever-increasing constraint, in this heaven-imposed straightness, in this narrowness, there – if only we have eyes to see, and a faith and love to endure through it all – is freedom, there are wings, there is air to be breathed, and deep paths to follow, and heavenly heights to be attained. Oh yes, at first we groan, we feel hemmed in, so useless, so impaired – but then we begin to settle in, we let go, we acquiesce, we surrender, we submit.

Then here, here in this blood-streaked, tear-drenched shadow of the cross, here in that hellish twilight of confusion in the very presence of all the demons (the very ones who tried to destroy us forever) – we are reborn, we begin to breathe and grow, and walk, and to ultimately delight in Him as our all in all. Here, at the colossal end of ourselves, we begin to live, to breathe, to walk, then run, then leap over a hedge (as David). Here is where we finally realize what Paul meant when he said –

“TO LIVE IS CHRIST”

And –

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Here, there is peace and rest and a settling in to what He has ordained for us. Here, and only here (for no mere religious experience will accomplish this) is where we become sons in His household, disciples in His school, and friends in His heart. The burden becomes light for it is His to bear, and the fetters, whatever they are, become our greatest blessing – for they make way for Him to find glory in a man, glory out of dust, glory out of flesh and blood and bone.

Oh Lord, You will make all things beautiful in its time. You will make it good Lord, you will speak life out of death, and this life will be the very Light of the World! Make it so oh Lord, In Your Precious Name, we pray. amen

T.A. Sparks Byline