Category: The Prophetic Urgency

The Wine of Her Fornication – W.E. Smith

Dear ones –

A drunken man has no discernment. All is haze and confusion. And this is a serious business. Notice the following passages –

“Then the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying, ‘Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, that you may distinguish between the holy and the unholy, and between the clean and the unclean, and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken to them by the hand of Moses.’” (Lev. 10:8-11)

“Her priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and the unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them.” (Ez. 22:26)

“No priest shall drink wine when he enters the inner court…and they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.” (Ez. 44:21-23)

Now notice this relating to our very day –

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” (Rev. 17:1-3)

Babylon, at its heart, represents confusion and mixture, where the holy is not distinguished from the unholy. All is worked in together. Tares and wheat, leaven and meal. Babylon is a quasi-religious system where all is mixed together, the natural and the spiritual. And those who are drunken cannot discern the difference; their eyes simply do not see it. They have no spiritual clarity. It has gone long beyond understanding. The “Lie” has worked itself into them deeply, into their heart, their desire; their lives. You cannot convince them otherwise for they are wedded to Babylon and all she represents. Her uncleanness runs far too deep. Like the harlot who cannot merely change her clothes to become other than she is. Her fornication refers to her unholy communion (becoming one spiritual body) with the powers of the world, the political, the economic, anywhere and everywhere the enemy has principalities and strognholds.

The product of the harlot’s illicit union with the world is “the wine of her fornication.” This wine is the intoxicating influence of the mixture of this religious system. The mixed system does not try to sort out the things of God from those not of God. It mixes them all together into one confusing mass. This mixture influences all people on the earth in the realm of religion. All people, including genuine Christians, are put into a stupor, being unable to discern the pure truth concerning knowing, serving and following God. They are influenced by the teachings, and the natural and worldly philosophies, ways and practices of this religious system, Babylon. As a result, people cannot distinguish between the holy and the unholy. (Tom Finley)

The harlot is. perhaps, the very woman who has hidden the leaven in the meal.

Next notice how Austin-Sparks suggests this will only lead to trouble for those attempting to stand outside of this confusion, this mixture –

I have told you all this so that you may find your peace in Me. You will find trouble in the world – but, never lose heart, I have conquered the world! (John 16:33 Phillips)

When the spiritual stands to confront the merely formal, traditional, nominal and “natural,” then there is going to be trouble. This is not now merely the reaction from the world: it is the reaction from religion. I would go further, and say it may be the reaction from Christianity. There is a very great difference between formal, traditional, nominal, “natural” Christianity, on the one side, and spiritual Christianity, on the other; a great deal of difference. So much so, that this also becomes a battlefield – the battlefield of a lot of trouble.

Leave formalism alone, and everything will go on quite quietly. Leave traditionalism alone – that is, the set order of things as it has always been; that framework of things as it has been constituted and set up and established by man; that Christianity which is the fixed, accepted system of things – and you will escape a great deal of trouble. But seek to bring in a truly spiritual order of things, and trouble arises at once. And YOU are the trouble maker! The truth is that the trouble lies in the existing condition, the situation, the state; but it is only brought out by your action. And so spiritual men and women, and spiritual ministry, are called “trouble makers,” because the two things cannot go on together. That is where Israel was. They had the traditions, they had the oracles, they had the ordinances, they had the testimonies; they had the forms, they had the system – they had it all; but, in the days of the prophets, there was ever this vast gap between the “externals” and “internals” of life in relation with God. The heart is far removed from the lips. The spiritual reality is not found in the formal. You may have it all – but then bring in the truly spiritual meaning of things, and trouble begins in that very realm. It is the trouble which arises when what is external and traditional comes into conflict with something which is truly spiritual.

They tolerate us now, but the animus will be loosed soon, the restrainer will be removed, the locusts will swarm out of the pit. And then where does that leave us dear ones, all those who seek the true, the holy, the clean, the pure?

Where are you in your heart? Whose side are you on really? Is there mixture in your life? Are you intoxicated like the priests who brought unholy fire into the temple of the Lord? What do you tolerate, or reason away? What is the Lord Jesus to you anyway, deep down where spirit touches bone and life is revealed for what it truly is?

The time is at an end, and Babylon is rising dear saints. A new epoch is upon us. Babylon is not so much a place but a condition, a delusion appreciated only by those who are drunk with the wine of the harlot’s fornication. It stands for everything opposed to the Kingdom of our God, and her King! Once the seduction begins, it will grow increasingly difficult to resist, as every man knows all too well.

Do we have eyes clear and sound to see such things? Are we drinking the pure water of the Word, and leaning in to hear the Masters voice? Is the Spirit groaning within us in unspeakable ways, in a language only God knows?

Where then are those who will stand apart? Where are those who will resist the seductive wiles of this harlot and the beast she rides? Where are those who love their Lord beyond everything and anything this world has or represents?

Dear saints, it is all under water – America, the nations, the world system – the Lord of All Judgment has declared it, and although He will never flood this earth again, He will bring His fire, oh yes, He will bring down His holy, cleansing flame, to extinguish the chaff.

And so I ask again – where are you? Where are you right now at this very moment?

Dear ones, I appeal to the life of Jesus Christ within you – Choose life, choose Him, Choose the Holy One! Flee Babylon, for her gates are never high enough for the Lord of All Light!

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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.

Really, Deeply, Truly Knowing the Lord – W.E. Smith

Dear ones, how do we come to truly and actually “know” the Lord? How also do we know that those teaching, writing, sharing, etc. have come to “know” the Lord in a personal way? That their words and insights, however factual and based in Scripture, are alive, living, proven in the fires of the valley and the wilderness?

The cross is just as much an offense to so many modern professors of Christ as it was to the Jews. Is it an offense to you personally? It is the Father’s way and it is our Savior’s Way, and yet are we seeking some other way through or around?

Are we seeking to learn the Lord through bible study alone, through more teaching and study? Is there a reason, if we are truly honest with ourselves in the spirit, that this proves tedious and empty over time?

There can be no Jesus without His cross. We cannot follow Him fully to Calvary then turn back, and then apprehend Him again risen up. There is no rising up without first going down, into the pit, into death, into infamy, reproach, rejection and loss, of all that we were and are.

Preach that in America and then see how large a building you will need. Very small indeed, for few if any these days will come. It is offensive and insulting to so many, so many who are strong and seeking to be stronger in themselves. Tell them they must first be emptied before they can experience His living fullness, and the many will turn back. Tell them that real beauty comes only from ashes, and they may just ask you to leave their company.

The cross is missing. It is missing in our worship. It is missing in our instruction. It is is missing in personal testimony. It is missing in all of these so-called schools and seminaries. Oh yes, lots of Jesus, lots of Bible, lots of Scripture, lots of teaching and learning, but this is all empty without the curse and cross of Christ applied to our own lives. It is the cross that divides so many of us, not doctrine, not statements of faith, not factions so much – but the cross.

Why do they always kill the prophets? The religious ones? The “church” ones? Because they bring the message of the cross – “Christ crucified.”

Have you sat there wondering, there in the church service, in the worship service, there at the conference, wondering deep in your spirit what is wrong? Why you feel so cold? Have you been reading some book, where all is on the surface, scripturally accurate, yet something is missing, some living dimension, some power, something unnamed, undefined?

Why are those few who have embraced the cross in personal experience shunned among those who name Him as their life? Why are the many so offended with such a one as Paul, who was dying daily before their very eyes?

Yes, you have the mark and sentence of death upon you, and rather than show tenderness, patience and love, they rather judge you and disregard you. You seem broken and out of sorts to them, or worse suffering from secret and unconfessed sin. If only you would adopt the 12 steps to success, if only you would stand on the word, if only you had more faith; if only you were more like them.

Oh how lonely and scorned is the Lord’s witness. It has always been this way, and it will be this way until He returns to vindicate them, to tell the whole world that these ones were mine all along and I knew them.

Dear brethren – there is so little time left it seems. So stop pretending. Stop seeking the way of men and religion and church. He is the only way! He is the image of God that is to be forged from the flame into our very being! His life is the new wine, that comes first from being emptied. His is the life that traverses all death, like He walked on the very deep. “You shall die” He said to Adam, and so must we. There must be the bearing of the curse before their is renewal, replenishment and bounty.

Oh yes, of itself it is a terrible, ugly thing, an instrument of death – but it is His path to glory, to the throne, to the filling of all this universe with Himself.

Saints – please, please read the following from Bro. Sparks. You will not see such sentiments in most places these days. Ask the Lord if this is so, if you are missing something, if this is what you are lacking, what you are failing to embrace. Then ask Him to help you to minister in love to all those who are bearing their cross, all those hurting and alone, confused and scorned by the many.

Why the Prophet’s Message is not Apprehended

Reading: Acts 13:27, 15; II Corinthians 3:14-18; Isaiah 53:1.

The prophets were read, as Paul points out here, every Sabbath. It was the fixed custom to read the law and the prophets every Sabbath, and it may be pointed out that it was not just at one particular time in the day that this was done, but all through the Sabbath day the law and the prophets were being read in the synagogues. And yet it says that although the very rulers themselves, as well as the dwellers in Jerusalem who attended the temple, heard that reading of the prophets so continuously, they never heard the voices of the prophets. And because they failed to hear that inner something, which was more than just the audible reading of what the prophets had said, they lost everything that was intended for them, as this thirteenth chapter of Acts shows. The Apostles left them and turned to the Gentiles, who had an ear ready to hear.

That is a matter of no small consequence and seriousness. It is evident that it behoves us to seek to hear the voices of the prophets, really to know what the prophets were saying. Let us again look at the statement: “…because they knew him not, nor the voices of the prophets.” Why did they not know? Why did they not hear? There is one basic answer to that enquiry which is going to occupy us just now, and which brings us down to foundations, really to the root of things.

THE OFFENCE OF THE CROSS

(a) A Suffering Messiah

The answer to that enquiry is this – because they were not willing to accept the Cross. That is what went to the root of the whole matter. Firstly, they were not willing to admit of a suffering Messiah. They had their own minds well made up, both as to what kind of Messiah their Messiah would be, and as to what He would do, and as to the results of His advent; and anything that ran counter to that fixed mentality was not only not accepted – it was an offence. They could not admit into the realm of their contemplation that their coming Messiah would be a suffering Messiah. Yet the prophets were always speaking about the suffering Messiah. Isaiah, at that point in his prophecies which we know as chapter 53, presents the classic on the suffering Messiah, and yet he opens by saying: “Who hath believed our message?”

I think we need not stay to gather further evidence that that was their attitude. Right the way through it was just that. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, was dealing with that very thing. Towards the end of the letter he spoke about the offence of the Cross, and he set that over against the Judaizers, who were dogging his steps everywhere and seeking to prejudice his ministry, and at whose hands he was suffering. He ‘bore branded on his body the marks of the Lord Jesus’ (Galatians 6:17). Why? Because of his message of the Cross. He said, ‘If I were willing to drop that, I could escape all this suffering; it is the offence of the Cross which is the cause of all the trouble’ (Galatians 5:11). And all the way through we see the Jews’ unwillingness to admit of a suffering Messiah.

(b) The Way of Self-Emptying

But then it went further than that. It became not only a national issue but a personal one. They would not accept the principle of the Cross in themselves. You find that representative individuals of the nation, who came to the Lord Jesus from time to time, were presented with the offence of the Cross – and off they went again, not prepared to accept it. Nicodemus was very interested in the kingdom which the Messiah was going to set up, which he was expecting and anticipating, but it became a personal matter of the Cross. Before the Lord was through with Nicodemus, He had brought into his full view the serpent lifted up in the wilderness. That was an offence.

Another man, who has become known to us as the rich young ruler, went away very sorrowful because of the offence of the Cross. It was no use for the Lord, at that time, before the Cross had actually taken place, to speak in precise terms about it to other than His disciples, but He applied the principle, which is the same thing. He applied the principle to this young man. ‘If, as you say, you are interested in the Kingdom and in eternal life, this is the way: the way of emptying – utter self emptying.’ “He went away sorrowful: for he was one that had great possessions” (Matthew 19:22). The Lord said, “How hardly (with what difficulty) shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” (Luke 18:24). The offence of the Cross finds them out.

Now here, with the Jews as a whole, they were making the kingdom of God an earthly thing on the principles of this world – and do not let us blame them without blaming ourselves. This is our battle right up to date. It is a matter that finds us all out at heart. Oh, you may not be expecting that through your preaching of Christ a temporal kingdom will be set up and you will get a literal crown to wear and a throne to sit upon – that may not be your outlook or mentality; but are we not, almost every day of our lives, in trouble because the Lord hides from us everything that He is doing and starves our souls of their ambition to see things, to have things? Is that not the basis of a great deal of our trouble? We want to see, we want to have, we want the proofs and the evidences. We do really, after all, want a kingdom that can be appraised by our senses of sight and hearing and feeling – a palpable kingdom, the answer in tangible form to all our efforts and labours; and the opposite of that is a tremendous strain upon faith, and sometimes even brings us to a serious crisis.

Why does not the Lord do this and that, which we think He ought to do? It is simply this soul-craving to have proof and demonstration; and this is why, if there is anything built up in Christian work which is obvious, big, impressive, where there is a great thing being organized and a great movement on foot and all is in the realm of something that can be seen, crowds of Christians flock after it; or if there are manifestations, things that seem to be clear proofs, the crowds will be found there. The enemy can carry away multitudes by imitation works of the Holy Ghost in the realm of demonstrations and proofs. We are so impressionable, we must possess; and that is exactly the same principle as that which governed the rulers. They were not prepared for the principle of the Cross to be applied in this way – an utter self-emptying, being brought to an end of everything but the Lord Himself.

THE PROPHETS’ THEME – KNOWING THE LORD

Now you see that does bring us to the matter of the voices of the prophets. What was the one thing the prophets were always talking about? It was about knowing the Lord.The thing that was lacking amongst the Lord’s people in the days of the prophets was the knowledge of the Lord. There were plenty of people who were prepared to have the Lord for what He could do for them, but as for the Lord Himself… ah, that was another matter.

What is the Lord after with you and with me? Is He first of all wanting us to do things? The idea of what is of God today is chiefly associated with the things which are being done for Him, the work we are engaged in, and so on – that is, with what is objective and outward. But the Lord is not first of all concerned about how much we do. He is far more concerned that, whether we do little or much, every bit of it should come out of a knowledge of Himself. Any amount can be done for the Lord in Christian work and activities, just as you do other work, but it may not proceed from your own deep knowledge of God. The Lord is concerned above all else that we should know Him. “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he hath understanding, and knoweth me” (Jeremiah 9:23,24, A.R.V.).

May that not explain the very principle of the Cross that is being applied to us? The Lord does not satisfy and gratify; along many lines He seems again and again to be saying ‘No’ to quite a lot that we crave for; and, being denied, we often come to the point where we would almost give up everything and allow the biggest questions as to our relationship with the Lord. And yet what He is after all the time, by His denials and withholdings or delays, is to deepen our knowledge of Himself. What matters with the Lord before anything and everything else is not that we should be in any given place doing a lot of Christian work (do not let that stop you serving the Lord!), but that we should be there as one who knows the Lord. Our opportunities for serving Him will spring out of our knowledge of Him; He will see to that. The Lord the Spirit is arranging His own work. He knows where need exists, and when He sees someone who can meet that need He can make contact.

KNOWLEDGE OF THE LORD BASIC TO ALL USEFULNESS

That is the principle in the New Testament. We see it in the life of the Lord Jesus Himself. That meeting between Christ and the woman of Samaria was not just a casual happening, a pretty story. No, you have principles. The Holy Ghost wrote those narratives, and involved principles in every incident. Here is One who has water to give that the world knows not of, and here is a thirsty woman. God sees to it that the one in need is brought into touch with the One who has the supply. That is a law. If you have not got the supply, it is very largely empty work that is done for the Lord.

The principle of the Cross works out along many lines, in many ways – testing, trying, emptying us, in order to bring us to the place where we know the Lord, and where our joy in the Lord and our enthusiasm and our Christian life are the result of something deeper than the mere momentum produced by doing many things, running about from meeting to meeting, giving addresses, being occupied on the crest of a wave of engagements in Christian work. The Lord does not want it to be like that. I am not saying that you will never be on the crest of a wave, that you will never have your hands full; but the Lord’s way of making us useful servants is so to deal with us as to make us know Him, so that, whether occupied in Christian work in an outward way or not, we are there with a knowledge of the Lord. What is so necessary for us is an increasing measure of the preciousness of the Lord to our own hearts; that, whether we are able to do anything or not, He should still remain very precious to us. That is what He wants.

That is very simple, but it is basic to everything. You are there in some place where you cannot be always talking about the Lord, where you can do very little; but if the Lord is precious to you, that is service to Him, and in you He has available a vessel for anything more that He wants. I am sure the Lord will never bring us out and entrust us with responsibilities until He has become very precious to us in the place where we are, even though many other things that we would like are being denied to and withheld from us. It is the principle of the Cross.

Nicodemus comes with all his ‘fullness’. He is a man with a great fullness – a ruler of the Jews, in high standing, in a place of influence, and much more. He represents a fullness of a religious kind. Then the Lord virtually says to him: ‘You have to let it all go, and start all over again like a newborn babe. You are concerned about the Kingdom of Heaven, but you cannot bring any of that into the Kingdom.’ To the rich young ruler He says, in effect, ‘You cannot bring your riches in here.’ You may have a lot of natural wealth – intellectual, financial, influential, positional, but that does not give you any standing in the Kingdom of Heaven at all. The wealthiest, the fullest, the biggest here in this world receives no more of the glance of the Lord in their direction than the poorest and the weakest. All are brought down here – you must be born again, you must start from zero in this matter of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom is not a matter of eating and drinking, it is a matter of spiritual measure; and you start spiritual measure by being born of the Spirit. The new life is utterly spiritual from the very first breath – something that was not before, something new.

Spiritual measure is just knowing the Lord; that is all. Our standing in the Kingdom of Heaven is simply a matter of knowing the Lord, and if we are going to gain higher place it is not going to be at all by preferences, but by the increase of our spiritual measure. People who count in heaven are spiritual people, and what counts is the degree of their spirituality; and spirituality is knowing the Lord. We may take it that the Lord applies Himself utterly to this matter of bringing us to know Him. That is the thing that really does count.

THE CROSS BASIC TO ALL KNOWLEDGE OF THE LORD

They could not hear the voices of the prophets because the prophets were talking about a suffering Messiah, and there was something inside the people which had closed the door; they were predisposed against anything like that, and so they could not hear. Even the disciples of the Lord Jesus were in that position. When He began to refer to His Cross they said, “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall never be unto thee” (Matthew 16:22). A suffering Messiah? Oh, no! But they did come to the place where the Cross had its very deep application, where it meant an end of everything for them. The Lord precipitated that whole question, and you see them after His crucifixion – they have lost their Messianic Kingdom, they have lost everything, they are stripped and emptied. And then what happened? They began then to know, just began to know, and their knowledge grew and grew; but it was of another order entirely. So you find, in the rest of the New Testament, that, in their own history and in their instruction of others, two things go together. They are like the negative and the positive in an electrical circuit – there can be no current without both. The negative is the application of the principle of the Cross, which says No, No, No: an end: death to yourself, death to the world, death to all your own natural life. But the positive is the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of God, mightily present, but always hand in hand with the Cross. With those two acting always together, the negative and the positive – the Cross, and heavenly purpose and heavenly power and effectiveness – you find that there is movement and an ever-growing knowledge of the Lord.

We cannot have the knowledge of the Lord – the most important thing in the mind of God for us – except on the ground of the continuous application of the Cross, and that will go right on to the end. Do not imagine that there will come a day when you have done with the Cross, when the principle of the Cross will no longer be necessary and when you have graduated from the school where the Cross is the instrument of the Lord. Such a day never will be! More and more you will come to recognise the necessity for that Cross. If you are going on into greater fullness of knowledge – I mean spiritual knowledge of the Lord – and therefore greater fullness of usefulness to Him, you must take it as settled that that principle of the Cross is going to be applied more and more deeply as you go on.

Oh, God write that in our hearts! for surely we all know the need of the Cross; and those who have known most about it are conscious most of its need still. We have seen the terrible tragedy of people who knew the message of the Cross in fullness, and who after many years have been a positive contradiction to that very message – marked by self-assertiveness, self-importance, impatience, irritability, so that other people have been unable to live with them. Are you one of those habitually irritable people? I do not mean one of those persons who sometimes is overtaken in a fault. The Lord is patient with the upsets that come here and there along the way, but are we habitually irritable, short-tempered, difficult to live with? That is a denial of the Cross, and that has wrecked the life and work of many a missionary.

The Cross will be applied right on to the end, and, altogether apart from our faults and the things in our constitution and nature which have to be dealt with, in this coming to know the Lord for still greater usefulness we go from death to death on that side of things. We think of some known to us. We marvel at the way the Lord has been able to use them, the large place into which He has put them, what riches He has given them; but of late they have been plunged into depths of death never known before. It is evidently unto something more, something greater still. It is like that; the knowledge of the Lord requires it in an ever-growing way.

KNOWLEDGE AND USEFULNESS SAFEGUARDED BY THE CROSS

But furthermore, there is no safe place, apart from the constant application of the principle of the Cross. Safety absolutely demands it. Nothing is safe in our hands. The more the Lord blesses, the more peril there is. The greatest peril comes when the Lord begins to use us. You may say, ‘That does not say very much for our sanctification.’ It certainly does not say very much for ‘eradication’! Well, here is Paul. Did that man know anything about the Cross? Would you say he was a crucified man? If he was not, who was? Did he know the Lord? And with all that he knew of the Cross and the Lord, did he know that he needed the Cross to be applied right on to the end? He will definitely place it on record – “… that I should not be exalted overmuch, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me.” “That I should not be exalted overmuch”! (II Cor. 12:7). And mark you, he is saying that because of the great revelation that had been given him. He was caught up into heaven. It is a most perilous thing to be entrusted with Divine riches, so far as our flesh is concerned. The only safe place is where the Cross is still at work, touching all that is ourselves, touching all our independence of action.

Take all these Apostles – take Peter, a man who would act so independently, who liked to do things on his own and do what he wanted to do. We find it cropping up constantly. He is the man who acts without stopping to ask anybody. We have no hint that he ever got into fellowship with his brother disciples and said, ‘I am thinking of doing so and so; I would very much like you to pray with me about it, and to tell me what you think; I have no intention of going on unless there is one mind among us.’ Peter never did that sort of thing. He got an idea, and off he went. The Lord summed him up very well when He said: “When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not” (John 21:18). That was Peter before the Cross was in-wrought in him. But see him afterwards. Why, in those early chapters of Acts, do we read “Peter and John”, “Peter and John”, “Peter and John”? Well, they are moving together now, there is relatedness. Is it an acknowledgment that Peter felt his need of co-operation and fellowship, that he had seen the perils and disasters into which independent action led him, even when his intentions and motives were of the best? These are just glimpses of how the Cross touches us in our impulsive, independent nature, our self-will, our self-strength. The Cross has to deal with all that to make things safe for God, and to keep us moving in the way of increasing knowledge of the Lord, which, as we have said, lies behind all our value to the Lord, all our usefulness, all our service.

THE CROSS OPENS THE WAY TO FULL KNOWLEDGE OF THE LORD

The Cross is the only way to spiritual knowledge. Important as study of the Word of God may be in its own realm, as laying a foundation for the Holy Spirit to work upon, you never come to a knowledge of the Lord simply by studying the Bible. The Holy Spirit may use what you know of the Bible to teach you much, to explain your experiences, to enable you to understand what the Lord is doing, but you never get this kind of spiritual knowledge by study and by teaching.

You must be prepared to let the Cross be so applied to your life that you are broken and emptied and fairly ground to powder – so that you are brought to the place where, if the Lord does not do something, you are finished. If you are prepared for that way, you will get to know the Lord. That is the only way. It cannot be by addresses or lectures. They have their value, but you do not know the Lord spiritually along those lines.

The full knowledge of the Lord is reserved to us who live in this dispensation, because the latter is governed by the Cross. Peter himself had something to say about this:-

“Concerning which salvation prophets sought and searched diligently; who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what time or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow them. To whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto you, did they minister these things, which now have been announced unto you…; which things angels desire to look into” (I Peter 1:10-12).

There you have two orders – prophets and angels – who did not know certain things which are revealed to us. The prophets knew much, but they were searching diligently to know something they could not discover. ‘What does this mean?’ they must have asked themselves. ‘The Spirit of God is making us say these things, but what do they mean?’ They sought diligently to know that which was reserved for us. Why could they not know? Because full knowledge is based upon the Cross, and the Cross had not taken place then. And angels, too, desire to look into these things. Can it be true? We thought angels knew everything! Surely angels have far more knowledge and intelligence than we have about these things? They do not know. “Which things angels desire to look into.” Why do they not know? Angels have had no need of the Cross; the Cross has no meaning for them personally. It is on the basis of the Cross that full knowledge is entered into. Does that need any further argument?

THE CROSS SECURES POSITIVE, NOT ONLY NEGATIVE, RESULTS

So then, the Holy Spirit, in order to bring us to the full knowledge of the Lord and by means of that growing knowledge to make us useful to the Lord, must constantly work by means of the Cross in principle; and my closing word is this. The work is not all negative; the Lord works on a positive basis. You may think that the Lord is always saying No, that He is always against you, that the Cross is suppressive; but no, it is a positive instrument in the hands of the Spirit of God. God is working on a positive line. The fact is that, if ever the Holy Spirit brings us into a new knowing of the meaning of the Cross, He is after something more. That is the law of the Spirit of life.

You must remember that the Lord Jesus, in His resurrection, was not left just where He was before. Before He died He was on this earth, and then He died; and Paul refers to His raising from that death in these words: “the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to that working of the strength of his might which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all” (Ephesians 1:19-21). The resurrection carries Him through to the “far above all,” and the principle of resurrection is always that of rebound – we may go down very deep, more deeply than ever we have known before, but the Spirit of God is intending that that shall issue in our being higher than ever before. So do not be afraid when you are feeling very empty, very finished, very much at the end. Ask the Lord that if this is truly the working of His Cross it shall be successful in what He intends for you; and if it is successful, you will be on higher ground afterward than ever you were before.

THE NEED FOR A DEFINITE TRANSACTION WITH THE LORD

We have said from time to time that the Cross does involve a crisis. For some this may be an overwhelming experience, the biggest thing that has happened in your life, even bigger than your conversion. It was so for some of us as we moved from the apprehension of the substitutionary aspect of the Cross, where we saw only what Christ had done for us, to the apprehension of our union with Christ in death, burial and resurrection. Whether or not you have a big crisis which divides your life in two, you must have a point of transaction with the Lord where you recognise that the Cross is in principle an utter, all-inclusive reality that, sooner or later, is going to run to earth the last vestige of that self-life which is the ground of Satan’s power. It is best at some point to have this understanding: ‘I rejoice in the fact of Thy death for me, and I am saved on the ground of that death and my faith in it. But I died in Thee – that was Thy thought about me as a son of Adam. I could not bear to have all that that means brought to me at once, but I recognise that it has to be worked out as grace enables, and that sooner or later I have to come to an utter end; and I therefore commit myself to all Thou dost mean by the Cross.’

A transaction of that kind is necessary. Do not begin to kick when the Lord begins to work it out. He takes you at your word, but He is doing it with the definite object in view of getting you to a higher and fuller knowledge of Himself. Out of that growing knowledge of Him, the growing preciousness of the Lord, all real service will issue. It is not what wedo, but what we have, that is the secret of service.

(In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks’ wishes that what was freely received should be freely given and not sold for profit, and that his messages be reproduced word for word, we ask if you choose to share these messages with others, to please respect his wishes and offer them freely – free of any changes, free of any charge (except necessary distribution costs) and with this statement included.)

The Touch of Life – W.E. Smith

And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately the leprosy left him. (Luke 5:13)

And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and could not be healed by anyone, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. And Jesus said, “Who is the one who touched Me?” (Luke 8:43)

When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”

“O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment. (Matt 17)

Dear saints – leprosy, cancer, disease, demonism – it is all death. It is this fallen world dying. It is the life of Adam that remains – the grim legacy of sin and curse and death. It is in the very cells and molecules of all of us. We pass it on to our precious children, all the while the god of death wrings his hands and smiles.

Yet there is one, and only one who touches death. He reaches out and touches it, for He is willing and He alone is able. He touched death in the leper and His life flowed out of Him. The woman with internal bleeding touched Him and the life flowed out of Him. He rebuked the demons and they came out.

Rejoice Ye His saints – for Life has come amongst us in this cursed graveyard we call this world.

Where, where I say is the power and the life in His people? Why are we so dead and listless. Why do we not send the demons and death running by the very life that is in us? His life!

“O unbelieving and perverse generation,”

Spoken to his own, dear saints – spoken to His own – to you and to me.

Has He changed? Does He not want to manifest His power and life in the darkness and death of this world?

Where is the light and power and life in His people while all the world sinks into even greater death and depravity. Did He not say after He ascended that we would do greater things than He did? Then where, I submit, are they? What on earth happened? He changes not and remains faithful, so it must be us. IT MUST BE US!

Let me declare ever-so plainly that if so many of us did not actually love this putrid and death-filled world more than we love the Lord then things might not be so deplorable. We embrace death rather than life. We shrink back from, and even enjoy the darkness. We are riddled with unbelief, and our puny lives are merely evidence of our puny faith. All we have is a wispy religion propped up with programs and strings.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Cor. 3:17)

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63)

Oh dear ones, where then is the spirit and the life; where is this freedom promised?

Let us repent dear saints and pray for a quickening of our hearts unto the Lord. Let us turn to the Living One who holds the keys to death and Hades –

I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.  In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Rev 1)

… and so how great is our God? – Oh that we would see Him personally, and be forever changed by what we see. John fell to the ground as though dead, yet today we seem not to have any fear of Him at all. We sings love songs to Him but we don’t tremble in His presence. We don’t seem to care that these same eyes of fire are now measuring each and every one of us.

Dear saints – I will start with myself, and end with myself – pray that I would fear this Lord, and tremble in His presence, and walk only in the life that He gives. Pray that all that resists Him in me will be burned away, by whatever it takes, whatever loss or pain or affliction. For I am the least and the last, and He deserves so much better than I.

Oh Lord – touch us with Your Life Oh Lord – touch us like you touched so many things that are dead or dying. Reach out and touch us that we will never be the same again. And show us Thyself Oh King! Show us Thy majesty and glory, and may we shudder in Your Holy Presence! Show us Thyself lifted up above this dying realm, above all that the stink and filth and rot of men and devils and this cursed world.

Oh Lord, we are dirty, so dirty Lord, so much in need of Thy cleansing blood. Purge us Oh Lord of all that isn’t Thee Oh Lord, all that is less than Thee.

Show us Thy need Oh Lord, how utterly empty we are without Thee. Whatever it takes Oh Lord – let us lay down our lives unto death, even the death and mortification of Thy cross oh Lord. Shake this world out of us, Shake it all Lord, shake it with Thy mighty thunders Oh Lord so that our only ground is Thee!

Saints of the Lord – hear me please – if you are not willing to go all the way with Jesus the Christ, then go back now. If you have never been taught what the cost is for following Him, that it is in fact your very life – then now you know. Count the cost then decide. Just decide deep in the very bowels of your being – make a decision. And then never turn back. never even look back – at all that you will lose for Him.

For dear ones – to gain this Christ is everything. He is everything! The pearl, the treasure, the gold and the glory.

Oh we believe Oh Lord, help our unbelief. Yes we are a perverse and unbelieving generation, but help us Oh Lord.

Go out saints of God, for the bread is on the ground – He is waiting. He is new every morning! Take Him into your mouth and live. Drink deep from the fountain that is our Savior and our King!

For to live is Christ and to die is gain!

Jealousy for God – T. Austin-Sparks

“And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Is it thou, thou troubler of Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house” (1 Kings 18:17,18).

“And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts” (1 Kings 19:10).

When we bring together those two fragments – “I have been very jealous for the Lord”; “Is it thou, thou troubler of Israel?” – we find two strangely contrasting and conflicting points of view. On the one side, the claim – truly supported, and undoubtedly true – to have been very jealous for the Lord. And on the other side, this term, this description, used of that same person: “thou troubler of Israel”. But the juxtaposition brings out something very significant. To be very jealous for the Lord may inevitably mean that you are a troubler of Israel. Indeed, it usually works out like that. You will give nobody any trouble – I mean spiritual trouble – if you are not jealous for the Lord. But if you are, make no mistake about it, this is how it will come back at you: ‘Thou troubler of Israel!’

THE PROPHET AS ‘TROUBLE MAKER’

Now, although Elijah seems to have repudiated the charge, and there was truth and right in his so doing, nevertheless the charge was true. Ahab, for once in his life, was telling the truth, but telling the truth in a way of which he was not aware. It is essentially a part of the ministry of a prophetic instrument, to cause trouble. It is inevitable; it is in the very nature of things. For the very function of the prophet came into view when things were not right. If things had never gone wrong, had never needed adjusting, correcting, or bringing to some greater measure of spiritual fullness, there would have been no need of prophets. We should know very very little about prophets, if things had gone right on as they should have done. The function of the prophets was to keep and hold before the people of God, God’s full thought concerning them, especially in the face of certain things that worked very definitely against it. And it is just because of that clash and conflict that the trouble arises.

Elijah’s charge against Ahab was a real one; but the ‘trouble’ to which Ahab referred was not in Elijah – it was deeply inherent in the spiritual condition of the time. Its real root and cause lay there. There would have been no ‘trouble’, but for people like Elijah; everything would have remained quiescent. When Elijah was there in the country, Ahab knew of it, and searched for him high and low. He was the great irritating, aggravating factor. Though for a long time hidden, nevertheless his very presence in the country was having the effect of dragging this thing out – this spiritual apostasy and corruption, which was, after all, the root of the trouble. It could not go on unchallenged, while such people as Elijah were there. I am not at this moment so much concerned with Elijah himself, as with what he represents: the presence of some living spiritual testimony, embodied; an annoying, inconvenient, aggravating thing, always somewhere about. As you notice in the chapter, Ahab sent throughout the length and breadth of the land, to try to discover Elijah. If only he could get hold of THIS, and destroy THIS, he thought, he could get rid of the ‘trouble’.

This leads us to some very definite conclusions. If there is a clash, a collision, between two irreconcilables, there will always be trouble. Given the incorrigible downgrade trend of human nature, and, wherever that is challenged, you will have trouble. That there is such a thing in human nature needs no argument. We know quite well that any kind of turning of that trend upward, no matter in what realm, is always fraught with hard work, with conflict. It is the nature of things to decline. Leave anything in this creation to itself, and it degenerates; we know that to be true. Every attempt, every effort to improve things, in every realm, is fraught with conflict. That is clearly true of human nature. It hates to be bothered, troubled or disturbed; it wants to have its own way. Morally and spiritually, the trend is always downward; if that is challenged, there is going to be trouble.

ISRAEL EXEMPLIFIES THE DOWNGRADE TREND IN MAN

How terribly true is the working of that principle and law in Israel! Never in the history of mankind has such an experiment been carried out, as that which God carried out with Israel. God did everything that could be done to make possible an upward trend in the life of a nation. He gave it the very best system of laws and regulations, for every department of its life – physical, moral, spiritual. He gave it the very best conditions, in a land flowing with milk and honey; a land that simply leapt to respond to any little effort to make it fruitful. God showed infinite patience and longsuffering with that people. Never was such an experiment carried out in human history, as was carried out with Israel.

They had only to answer to God in any little way, and immediately He blessed. If they did this, in the temporal realm, at once they received blessing for it; at once they were rewarded. They had only got to ask, and He gave. They had only to do, and He came out to them. We often wish (secretly) that we lived in those days, when the temporal responses of God were so wonderful! Yes, even when they were not right with Him, if, in the midst of their criminal attitude toward God, they humbled themselves and prayed, God seemed to forget it all, and to come right out to them. God was carrying out an experiment. Right at the centre of His universe, He was giving an object lesson for all ages, for all intelligences to observe, to read. He put this people there under the most favourable conditions – physically, geographically, morally and spiritually – that He could provide. His attitude was: If you will, I will, and there will be no delay about it.

What is the sum of the whole thing? What is the story when you read it? An amazing story! It is that, in spite of everything, the course is always downgrade, downgrade, downgrade. This is something

incorrigible, inveterate. God has shown for all time, for all times, that there is something in man, IN man, that is deeper and stronger than all the upward advantages that God can give him. Put him in a paradise, and he will turn it into a slum! Give him all the best conditions, and, in the long run, the condition will be one of disgrace. And, somehow, strangely enough, man loves to have it so. If you try to interfere with it, you see what you meet. The dentist and the doctor can be the most hated persons in the world! Is it because they are so evil? Oh, no; there is something irrational about it, utterly irrational. The value is altogether overlooked – simply because it goes against the grain! And what is the ‘grain’? How many people would sooner suffer, suffer, suffer, than endure perhaps a few moments’ pain, to have the suffering cleared up! You see what I mean – it is a strange thing, this human nature. But that is really at the root of this whole thing.

Is it not strange, that that which can be, or could be, the answer to all need, the solving of every problem, the clearing up of every evil situation, the bringing in of conditions so much more favourable, can become the most hated thing? Is it not strange? Look at the Lord Jesus: look at all that God has given in Him; look at all that He was, all that He came to bring, all that He came to do! He is a challenge, an abiding challenge. Can you find evil in Him? “What evil hath this man done?”, asked another man once – a man who knew something about evil, wrong and sin; perhaps few knew more about it than Pilate did. Yet, knowing it all, he had to say: ‘I find no fault in this Man’ (Luke 23:22,14). And yet this One is the object of malice and hatred, unto murder. Strange, isn’t it? He could clear up all the situations, solve all the problems, meet all the needs; and yet – and yet – ‘Away with Him!’ Anything that stands in the way of man’s own disposition, or predisposition, or predilection, having its own way, will be a ‘trouble maker’.

Now that touches a principle. You and I, on the broadest basis of the Christian life, are here in this world in this very capacity, to straddle the path of iniquity, of sin – of the very course of man – and to represent a check; and because we are here for that, we shall be called ‘trouble makers’. In a very real sense we shall BE trouble makers. The trouble will focus itself upon us, and we shall have to suffer for it. The very fact that you are jealous for the Lord will bring you into conflict with that trend that there is in this world, in man. It is going to be a really gruelling business for any testimony for God in this world, because, in the very nature of things, it counters the whole course of this world, which is downhill.

THE SPIRITUAL VERSUS THE ‘NATURAL’

That is, as I have said, the broad line of the principle. Let us get nearer to the heart of things, so far as what is represented by this chapter is concerned. When the SPIRITUAL stands to confront the merely formal, traditional, nominal and ‘natural’, then there is going to be trouble. This is not now merely the reaction from the world: it is the reaction from religion. I would go further, and say it may be the reaction from Christianity. There is a very great difference between formal, traditional, nominal, ‘natural’ Christianity, on the one side, and spiritual Christianity, on the other; a great deal of difference. So much so, that this also becomes a battlefield – the battlefield of a lot of trouble.

Leave formalism alone, and everything will go on quite quietly. Leave traditionalism alone – that is, the set order of things as it has always been; that framework of things as it has been constituted and set up and established by man; that Christianity which is the fixed, accepted system of things – and you will escape a great deal of trouble. But seek to bring in a truly spiritual order of things, and trouble arises at once. And YOU are the trouble maker! The truth is that the trouble lies in the existing condition, the situation, the state; but it is only brought out by your action. And so spiritual men and women, and spiritual ministry, are called ‘trouble makers’, because the two things cannot go on together.

That is where Israel was. They had the traditions, they had the oracles, they had the ordinances, they had the testimonies; they had the forms, they had the system – they had it all; BUT, in the days of the prophets, there was ever this vast gap between the ‘externals’ and ‘internals’ of life in relation with God. The heart is far removed from the lips. The spiritual reality is not found in the formal. You may have it all – but then bring in the truly spiritual meaning of things, and trouble begins in that very realm. It is the trouble which arises when what is external and traditional comes into conflict with something which is truly spiritual.

I used the word ‘natural’ a few moments ago – of course in quotation marks, taking it out of the New Testament: it means, literally, that which is merely ‘soulish’, ‘of the soul’. It is important to realise how very soulish a thing can be, even in Christianity. There can be tremendous passion, tremendous earnestness, tremendous enthusiasm, tremendous arguments and conviction; and yet the thing may be far, far removed from what is spiritual. It may be another world altogether. The conflict arises between those two things. When the natural mind is manipulating Divine things; when the natural reason has taken hold of the Word of God and the things of God; when man’s own passions and interests are being served through the work and service of God: that can become the ground of a great deal of spiritual conflict and trouble.

Trouble will arise in the realm of religion, and in ‘Christian religion’, as such, when what is purely spiritual comes up against the fixed system and tradition of men. It can happen as truly within Christianity, as it did between Christ and Paul, and Judaism. There was the tradition, and, in itself, there was nothing wrong with it; there was nothing wrong with what God had given, with the oracles and the testimony, nothing spiritually or morally wrong. But they had become ends in themselves, things in themselves; and the real meaning, significance and interpretation of them was lost; THEY were the things. The temple was the thing: with God it was not the thing; it was only a sign of something else. With them the sacrifices were the things: with God they were not the thing at all; there was only one Sacrifice that was true with God. And so we might go over the whole gamut. The THINGS – the forms and the means – were everything, and it was criminal in their eyes to say otherwise, to give any other interpretation than the historical and traditional. That is where they fell out with Paul. He had come to see the meaning of things, he had advanced from the things to the meaning; and they had not. Therein lay the conflict and the trouble.

‘SOUL’ IS THE GROUND OF SATAN’S KINGDOM

But now, let us come to the very heart of it. There is the wide circle of the world, of mankind and of human nature; and, within that, the smaller circle of religion, whatever the religion may be. These are realms of conflict when God’s full mind is present. But right at the heart of both of those, there is something else, something that is easily discernible right through the Bible: there is the Satanic. Now, if Satan is alive to anything, sensitive to anything, touchy about anything, it is on this matter of the place that the Lord Jesus is to have – and to have, not formally, but vitally; not just historically, but spiritually: so that the Lord Jesus becomes not merely a name in history, not merely a figure in history, not merely a teacher in history, not merely a historic factor, but a vital, potent force in this universe, right up to date. That is the point upon which Satan and his kingdom are most sensitive. They are alive to any little thing that points in that direction, and they recognise immediately a potential menace to their kingdom.

Human nature is a good playground for that. Hence the story of missionary martyrs: those who have touched the raw material of human nature with the testimony of Jesus, with all the terrible conflict, suffering and cost. The natural man – the natural mind, the natural will; that which is merely the soul of man – in moving and working, exercising itself, asserting itself and drawing to itself, in the realm of the things of God, is a splendid playground for the evil forces. You assert any little bit of your soul life, and see what the Devil will do with it! You uncover any little bit of your soul life, and see what a wreck Satan will make of you! It is the whole story of the devastation that results when self-occupation, introspection and self-pity – all the forms of self-life – assert themselves and become accentuated. Does not the evil one just play havoc with people like that! They have opened the door, and he is not slow to present himself there for access.

Now, set over against all that – the natural man brought into the spiritual world (if that is a possibility), or into the realm of God’s things – is that which is purely and truly spiritual, that which is of the Spirit. And when those two things come into collision, there is trouble – for they are both great systems – simply because, in the realm which is truly of the Spirit, Satan has no place at all! ‘The prince of this world cometh’, said Jesus, ‘and hath nothing in Me’ – the Man who lived in and walked by the Spirit. In all things, in ALL things, He referred and deferred to the Spirit of the Anointing which was upon Him. The prince of this world had NOTHING in Him.

Poor Peter was just at the mercy of the Devil, because, with all his sincerity, with all his well-meaning enthusiasm, he moved in his own soul. His relationship to Christ was one purely of the soul. When Peter came to be a man under the government of the Holy Spirit, that matter underwent immediate adjustment, and you can almost watch the process of that soul-life of his being brought more and more under control.

Perhaps I should pause to safeguard this, by saying very emphatically that it is not wrong to have a soul. No, God has given us a soul, and it is our soul which has got to be saved. But the point is – what is the base upon which and from which we operate, the instrument that we are using, the ground of our living? Either it is the soul, which is the seat of our SELF-life, in every sense; or it is the spirit, which is the seat of the DIVINE life.

Here, then, is the explanation of the conflict. Satan works hard to get hold of ‘soul’. He can lead everything out on to a false stream in that way. A thing that may start in the Spirit, can at some point, without sufficient watchfulness and prayerfulness, be led right out on to a false trail, and end up as something altogether different from what it was at the beginning.

But, to return to this eighteenth chapter of First Kings – Baal and all the rest of it – the heart of the thing is this. It is not Baal, it is not Ahab, it is not Jezebel: it is the evil powers; and THEY are after this man Elijah. Behind Jezebel, there are evil forces set upon the destruction of this man, because his very presence means a breach in their kingdom. He is the man in touch with God, in touch with the Throne. In him and by him, THAT throne becomes imminent – that throne is present. And these two thrones, these two kingdoms, are against one another.

‘TROUBLE’ INEVITABLE WITH SPIRITUAL SIGHT

When, therefore, there is the purest testimony, the fullest expression of what is of God, the heavenly over against the earthly, the spiritual over against the carnal or the natural, the enemy gives a turn to things, a twist to things, and lays the responsibility at the door of a spiritual and a heavenly ministry. He says: ‘You are the cause of all the trouble – you are the troubler!’ But no. The trouble lies deeper than that, and in another realm. The truth is, there is something here that, in its very nature, MUST create trouble, MUST be a source of trouble, so long as God’s known will, His revealed mind, is being violated; while the full expression of God’s purpose is being withstood. To bring in something that stands for that, there is going to be trouble.

It is a costly thing to have seen God’s full purpose and thought concerning His people. It is always a costly thing. The Lord Jesus set a very vivid example and object lesson of this truth right in the foreground, in the incident of the man born blind (John 9). There is no doubt that the Lord intended that man to represent Israel and Israel’s condition at the time. He gave that man sight – and what happened to the man? “They cast him out”, that is all; they cast him out, they excommunicated him (v. 34). That is an object lesson, an instance of this very thing.

If eyes have been opened; if, in any sense – not officially – you have become a ‘seer’ – one who sees: it is going to cost you a lot, it will involve you in a lot of trouble. This matter of ‘seeing’ does that. It was Elijah the SEER, over against the BLINDNESS of Israel. It is a costly thing to be a spiritual man or a spiritual woman in this universe. It is a costly thing, yes, very costly, to hold to a heavenly and spiritual position. It is a costly thing to hold for Christ’s full place; it involves you in trouble. It is a costly thing to have light – if it is true light, God-given light. It is a costly thing to have life.

But remember, it is here, in this, that the power is resident. It is with this that God is found ultimately to be committed. You know the story again. God will have no compromise with the thing that lies behind. ‘Take the prophets of Baal!’ They were all slain. There is no compromise with that spiritual thing. But God is shown as to where He stands, to what He is committed, and where the power is.

For I suppose that, if Elijah represents one thing more than another, he does represent spiritual power. When we think of spiritual power we always refer to Elijah – ‘in the power of Elijah’. It is proverbial. Why? Not because of anything that he was in himself; no, not because of the man. He was a man in touch with the Throne; he was a man who had seen; a man who was committed, of whom it was true that he was “very jealous for the Lord”. God was with Elijah.

John came ‘in the power of Elijah’ (Luke 1:17); he was the Elijah of his time. The Lord Jesus said of him: “If ye are willing to receive it, this is Elijah” (Matt. 11:14), though John himself denied this (John 1:21). Elijah is a sort of phantom in a certain realm. Poor Herod was scared of his life – he began to see things, to get strange ideas – when he heard about Jesus: some suggested to him that this was Elijah returned to life, but he thought it was John the Baptist risen from the dead (Matt. 14:2; Mark 6:14-16). The fellow just lost his mental grasp of things. This Elijah man counts for something. Power is with him; the verdict is with him.

And – let there be no mistake about it – in the end it will be found that God IS committed to that which is utterly committed to Him for His full purposes. It is costly; it causes much trouble; BUT – the issue is with Him, and He will look after His own interests.