|Little Talk with Jesus||The Joy of the Lord||Wrestling's Place||Keep on Believing||In Him|
|On Ps. 37:4||Get It Settled||The Carnal Mind's Destiny||The Jesus Dispensary||In the Knowledge of Him|
|Boss? No. Lord? YES!||He Is Lord Pt. 1||He Is Lord Pt. 2||He Is Lord Pt. 3||An Inconvenient Identity|
|Of Love And Truth||Belonging||Expansion via Concentration||Known of God||Of His Own Will|
|Grief Unsuppressed||Spiritual Lust||On The Way To Humble|
Along with being born from above, Jesus added another necessity for entering the Kingdom of God/heaven, and that other necessity presents us with one of the most thought-provoking paradoxes in scripture, particularly in Jesus pre-resurrection teaching, i.e., that "except ye become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven." Now entering the kingdom is both an initial experience and an ongoing one, in that the sphere and domain of the kingdom is infinitely vast. After entering its gates a never-ending unfolding of the riches of divine sovereignty lies before us to be discovered by revelation and grasped fully with understanding. This further penetration into the rule of God in Jesus Christ and the believer's spiritual maturation are one in the same, so that therein is the paradox: We become more mature as we become more childlike.
For sometime now, the awareness of this principle has been increasing in this child of God, and just of late the words of an old gospel song have helped to remind me that our Heavenly Father delights in cultivating in us a child-like spirit. Please give its message your prayerful consideration that what it presents is an integral quality of the life of Christ being lived out in you. At one time, the song became so endearing to so many that even Elvis Presley, the Statler Brothers, and Jimmy Dean recorded it with slight variations in the lyrics. Here's how I remember the lyrics tracing back almost 59 years to the earliest days of my walk with the Lord:
I once was lost in sin, but Jesus took me in
And just a little light from heaven filled my soul.
It bathed my heart in love, and wrote my name above
And just a little talk with Jesus made me whole
I may have doubts and fears, my eyes be filled with tears
But Jesus is a Friend who watches day and night
I go to Him in prayer, He knows my every care
And just a little talk with Jesus makes it right.
Now let us have a little talk with Jesus
Let us tell Him all our troubles
He will hear our faintest cry
And He will answer by and by
So when you feel a little prayer wheel turning
And you know a little fire is burning
You will find a little talk with Jesus makes it right
I want to bear witness that the message of that dear old song is true. Jesus IS a Friend who watches day and night, and He loves to have us talk things over with Him, to I dare say, unload on Him. Isn't that what casting all your cares on Him really amounts to? In my own "practice" of this aspect of my relationship with Him, I found that I needed to have the tendency of approaching Him with somewhat formally orthodox language stripped away until I was really having childlike chats with my dear Friend. Oh, indeed, He is our Lord, our Owner and Master and Savior, but He is all that to us as our ever-faithful Friend with whom we can dare to converse with even respectful casualness. Tell Him the thoughts and feelings you're struggling with. Talk to Him about everything. You will come to be aware that He listens so very intently, nothing distracting Him from giving you His full attention.
Let go of your doctrinal correctness and tell Him about the shame you feel about that stubbornly re-occurring failure in your life. Doing so doesn't at all put you in the place of denying that His blood continually cleanses you from all sin. Tell Him how prone you are to worrying. Tell Him how often anger seems to characterize you more than the love He has called you to. Don't let the subtle legalism of thinking you always have to be positive in your confession spoil your time of openness with Him. Of course, I know that He already knows everything going on in you and with you, and He doesn't need to have you inform Him. But YOU NEED to get all that stuff out in words, whether out loud, or silently. You will find a special quality of fellowship entering into your "times with the Lord," that will increasingly become precious to you AND to Him.
Back, I think, beginning in the late 50's, "conversational prayer" became an emphasis among believers. There was at least one very popular book written about it by that very name. It was a good emphasis. It still is. You don't have to wait until life's pressures build up so much that you're driven to unload in prayer. We're all going to have those times, to be sure, but they don't have to be the only thing that leads us to having honest, open, unreligious communion with our Lord. The direction such chats with Jesus will take you will become delightfully surprising as one recently did for me. I was talking with the Great Listener just the other night, and I went from talking to Him about the painful struggles a dear loved one was going through, and suddenly I was on my way with Him to minister a big, long, comforting hug to her in the Spirit. I was given a sense that that was exactly what she needed, rather than any words. Yes, We, Jesus and I, went together and held her in our arms until she felt the love and security she desperately needed. So do have a little talk with Jesus, do tell him all your troubles, He WILL hear even your most faint cry and He WILL answer by and by.
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I found myself thinking introspectively how lacking I seemed to be in the experience of the "joy of the Lord," as in "The joy of the Lord shall be your strength," and "We write these things unto you, that your joy may be full." I do, not infrequently, much to my dismay, slip into indulging in the fruitless exercise of religious introspection. I was brought back to my senses (by the sense of the anointing within) by suddenly realizing the ego-centricity of such indulgence. I should know better: The joy of the Lord is not found in the observation of my emotions, but IN THE LORD, for---well, duh?---the Joy of the Lord, is the Lord's joy. Now just think, fellow Christian. The peace of God is God's peace; the strength of the Lord is the Lord's strength; the love of God is God's love, the faith and knowledge of the Son of God, by which we attain unto the full measure of the stature of Christ, is the Son of God's faith and knowledge; the knowledge of the glory of the Lord is His glory's knowledge, etc., etc., etc. Though certainly the Lord fully intends to, and most certainly will, as fundamental to His administration, share all of the above with all of His creation, nevertheless, all of the above is first and foremost God's possession. I repeat: the joy of the Lord, is the Lord's joy. Our Lord is a joyful, rejoicing God. "He will rejoice over thee with singing." Imagine God, rejoicingly bursting into song over us.
Set not your mind on things below, but on things above. Begin to look at yourself, your fellow believers, and all mankind from above. Reflect on God's joy from His perspective above, where Christ sits at His right hand. Meditate on what makes God joyful, and you will be on your way to enjoying His enjoyment. God is right now rejoicing over you, over all of us, with singing. Why? Because He knows the certainty of the goal of His goodness. God knows that He owns the field in which the pearl of great price is hidden, and He has redeemed the whole field in order to claim back you, His pearl of great price----yes you, together with all mankind.
The Lord's joy is a secondary experience for Him. Something causes Him, within Himself, to be joyful. That something is His knowledge that nothing can stand in the way of Him pouring Himself out in all of His goodness upon all of His creation. I don't think the Lord will be offended at me resorting to describing divine emotions anthropomorphically, so here goes:
When I think of God fully realizing within Himself the certainty of doing all His good pleasure, all I can think of is God saying to Himself, "Wow, that's a kicker," as His joy from within Himself washes over Him. The joy of the Lord is an ecstatic joy. Joy in the extreme. It has nothing to do with your fleeting feelings. In this matter, as in all things, don't trust your feelings. Get with God, and know His joy.
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I often get the distinct impression that much of the exhortation that confronts believers today, encourages a vain expectation, i.e., that to be in the spiritual-victory mode means living without any, and above all, struggle.
St. Paul, choosing an analogy to picture the struggle intrinsic to life lived in this world, opts for the analogy of wrestling. If you've ever done any serious wrestling, I can tell you that nothing in the field of athletic competition quite matches the stress placed upon one's body especially when one faces an opponent of comparable strength, agility and determination. It is thoroughly exhausting to the extreme. Our dear brother Paul wrote that "we wrestle....," or "for us the wrestling is...." His is a statement of fact, not an exhortation. Don't be deceived into believing in some latest formula for spiritual success that implies that the scriptural analogy of soaring on eagle's wings allows no place for the wrestling analogy. There seems to be some notion that we ought to be able to make a quantum leap into "the rest that remaineth unto the people of God," leaping OVER all struggling, especially of the intensity of a wrestling match.
But our wrestling is paradoxically integral to entering into rest. Face it, "we wrestle...." and rather than that being something that has slipped by our God-given defenses, it has been ordained by God FOR our spiritual progress. There exists the phenomenon whereby a believer gets suckered into believing the fantasy of a spiritual journey involving no wrestling. So what happens is that we then psychologically suppress the consciousness of our struggle, but it continues in the deep recesses of our soul, or what the psychologist calls our subconsciousness, and we become unreal in the fellowship of the saints. I've noticed that in the small house-church that I'm involved with, that when some of us (comparably) more mature brethren, testify honestly to the kind of wrestling we experience, that younger ones are often amazed to hear such confessions.
As one of the two men oldest men, and one of the two of longest spiritual history, and possibly the one with a history of having been lured down more paths that finally lead to a dead end, from which I had to retrace my tracks, when during testimony times, along with while affirming that we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us, I share some of what would seem to be some humiliating defeat, one of the younger ones will say something to the effect of, "Really, John, you go through that after all your years of walking with the Lord?" Even my fellow old-timer who mostly leads the meetings was surprised at the nature of my wrestling in one dimension of my temperament. He said, "Wow John, we never would have dreamed that of you." Without going into detail, that occasion had to do with confessing the constant struggle against giving into rage, and the possibility of that rage leading to violence. Yet, there the paradox exists. That very temperamental disposition with which I wrestle, exposes to myself my natural weakness, which leads to experiencing Christ's strength. Further it leads to the peace of God. Imagine: wrestling with rage leading to peace.
Now, I know that Paul in writing about our wrestling did so in the larger context of exposing the pervasive adversarial spirit of this present evil world system, into which we have been immersed, even while being immersed in the Holy Spirit. We wrestle with that, not its external flesh and blood clothing. But within that macro-wrestling, is each of our micro-versions, very, very unique to each of us. "We wrestle..." Yes, no getting around it, and you shouldn't try to get around it. "We wrestle...." Hallelujah. "We wrestle...." Praise the Lord. "We wrestle..." OK, Lord, let's get on with it. "We wrestle..." But not eternally, only temporally. Dear Christian, I know how it can feel like you're losing the match, in fact to be momentarily overwhelmed with feelings of utter defeat. But the body of Christ cannot be pinned. No three slaps of the referee's hand on the mat signaling the final defeat of the church of the living God, for He causes us to always triumph in Christ Jesus. Grace and peace to you, my fellow wrestlers.
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The exhortation to keep on believing, in and of itself, will not keep you believing. Nor will your determined effort to keep on believing keep you keeping on believing. But, in the sovereignty of God, as I've been pressed to write this devotional, it may be the time for some reader to experience that connecting of the objective exhortation of the Word with the Word in his/her heart and mouth by which our nature as the children of God issues forth in behavior worthy of who we are. In a word: what is indicative of us (we are the children of God) imperatively MUST express itself in doing the will of God, our Father, our Genetic Primal Origin. Jesus clearly stated that it was God's will that we believe on Him (Jesus) whom the Father sent. So God does, according to His choosing in due time for all of us, use imperative-constituted exhortation to release who and what we are into the manifestation of that most essential action of continuing to believe in His Son.
Back when I traveled as an evangelist for the (then) Eastern Area Crusade Staff of Youth for Christ, International, there was a popular, hopefully-encouraging little saying that we would lay on one another from time to time: "keep on keeping on." Well, keeping on in our spiritual walk boils down to keeping on believing. No one has better highlighted the fact that saving faith in the Greek of the New Testament is presented as a continual state than has Jonathan Mitchell in his translation of the New Testament. Especially in John's gospel, it is made clear that it is by having come to believe in Jesus, AND continuing to believe in Him that we are made whole, find refuge, are kept secure (all the good stuff that is explicit and implicit in the Greek word commonly translated as "saved"). New Testament salvation is NOT about "escaping hell and going to heaven." It is purely about becoming a truly whole person, in whom the life of Christ is increasingly swallowing up death in us.
One of the several people with whom I worked within the structure of Western Fundamentalism's take on evangelism, was someone very near and dear to me. There came the time when he just quit believing. He was overcome by so much mind-blowing disparity between the claims of evangelical/Pentecostal Christianity, that he finally resorted in desperation to looking for something else to believe in other than Jesus. Deep down, he was looking for control over his life, as it seemed to be dissolving into soul-chaos as he tried to make evangelical theory work for him. He would, from time to time, have brief forays back to faith, but he had no root in himself for the saving effect of the Word to become continual, continuous, ongoing and habitual.
One of the deceptions that is destructive of faith is that of being seduced into believing in Jesus according to our distorted expectations of what He should do for us, not keeping in mind the intrusion of our fleshly preferences over above the out-working of the saving will of God for us. We pray to consume things by our lust, rather than to continually pray to become whole. The essential discipline of the Christian life is not about anything other than the discipline to keep on believing in Jesus. The seminal answer to the seminal question presented by John in his first epistle keeps us on track with God: Jonathan Mitchell renders it: "Now who is the person continuously overcoming (or: progressively conquering) the ordered System (world; secular realm; religious arrangement) if not the one continuously believing and trusting that Jesus is (continuously exists being) the Son of God (God's Son; or: the Son who is God)? (1Jn. 5:5)
Jesus, God's Son, sent as the Christ to save us all, WILL save us all. So keep on believing. Your faith will be on solid ground. He saves us by faith---His faith in the Father shared with us. Our believing doesn't get God to save us, but rather God's determination that we should share in wholeness of His Son, which wholeness is received by the Son out from the wholeness of the Father, by the faith which is evoked in the Son by the Father's faithfulness, which becomes our faith in union with Christ. It isn't your decision to believe that gets you saved. It's God's decision to have you share in the saving faith of Christ. May the Word in your heart, and in your mouth, keep you "keeping on believing." May this exhortation, within the sovereign working of God, be used toward that end.
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A personal pronoun has the effect of emphasizing, or pointing to, or identifying someone. It always pertains to a person, hence PERSONal pronoun. It is never used to refer to things, to qualities, principles, concepts, powers, metaphysical abstractions, ideas, forces (think "the force be with you"), or anything of that sort. Recently I had "a teach(ing) moment,---not "a teachable moment," for moments aren't teachable, but one can be taught within a moment, and it focused on the personal pronoun "Him," referring to our Lord Jesus Christ.
It suddenly struck me with simplicity, that Paul, the apostle, and by his own testimony also the slave of Jesus Christ, made the inspired claim that "... in HIM were all things (or the whole) created." In HIM. In HIM. In HIM. Oh how that impacted me afresh with a truth I have held dear for many years, and oh how it settled fittingly into my heart. The whole (all that makes up creation) was created in a Person.
Will you, dear reader, pause with me and savor the wonder of that truth. The phrase that the Spirit of Truth used to speak of such wonder was "the containment field of all things." His Personhood is the containment field of the whole of existence. Outside of Him, nothing is. God, the Father, birthed the Son's Being, and within the Being of the Son, God created, carved-out, formed, designed and framed the infinite reaches of space, time and materiality---AND HE IS MINE. Yes He is. I have Him. You, dear fellow believer have HIM.
Oh to grasp it. The One in whom are all things, came to us in individual Personhood, and yet while among us as a Man, He brought into the whole, all the whole within Himself. He was One and the same, at once both the Cosmic Christ and the Man, Jesus of Nazareth. The whole of the old creation ended with HIS death, and all the fullness of the new came out of the grave IN HIM. Both transcendence and immanence meet in HIM.
St. John said it, "He that hath the Son hath life." We have Him, yes we do, and in Him we have all things, the whole. God, the Father, gave HIM to us. Imagine, we have Him – in whom is the whole. No wonder Paul wrote, "That I might know HIM." The whole includes us, so in Him we have ourselves. We are no longer lost to ourselves. We were never lost to Him, but we were lost to ourselves. We did not know Him, so we didn't know ourselves. Don't seek to know our identity. Seek to know HIM.
"Now I belong to Jesus; Jesus belongs to me. Not for the years of time alone, but for eternity." I've sung the song containing those words so many times and it still raptures me. I close with two so-pertinent passages of scripture from Jonathan Mitchell's Translation of the New Testament, Expanded, Amplified, (with) Multiple Renderings:
(Col.1:16) "because within Him was created the whole (or: in union with Him everything is founded and settled, is built and planted, is brought into being, is produced and established; or: within the midst of Him all things were brought from chaos into order)--the things within the skies and atmospheres, and the things upon the earth (or: those [situations, conditions and/or people] in the heavens and on the land); the visible things, and the unseen (or: unable to be seen; invisible) things: whether thrones (seats of power) or lordships (ownership systems) or governments (rulers; leadership systems; sovereignties)or authorities--the whole has been created and all things continue founded, put in order and stands framed through means of Him, and [proceeds, or was placed] into Him (or: = He is the agent and goal of all creation)."
(1Jn.5:20) "yet we have seen and thus know that God's Son has arrived and is continuously here, and He has given thorough understanding (comprehension; faculty of thought; intellectual capacity; input throughout the mind) to the end that we would constantly know [other MSS: so that we constantly know] by experience the True One (or: the true, the real and the genuine), and we constantly exist within and in union with the True One (or: in the real [situation]; in the midst of Reality): within His Son, Jesus Christ. This One is the True (Real; Genuine) God, and Life pertaining to and having the qualities of the Age (or: the life having its source in the Age [of Messiah]; eonian life; life of, for and on through the ages)."
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Of late, either immediately upon waking in the morning, or suddenly unexpectedly during the day, the lyrics to dear old gospel songs will come rushing back in my memory, and I'm often amazed at how well I remember them. That's so, I believe, because when Jesus came to me personally, and brought me to the place of surrendering by faith to Him as my Lord and Savior, coming from a Roman Catholic upbringing, gospel music, with its melodic and testimonial simplicity was completely new to me. I would hear those songs for the first time, and my heart would respond with, "YES, that's it. That's what happened to me." Now, so many years later, the songs take on even deeper meaning as the Holy Spirit unfolds dimensions that possibly the composers themselves hadn't considered. One of those songs goes like this:
"There was a time on earth, when in the book of heaven,
An old account was standing, for sins yet unforgiven.
My name was at the top, and many things below;
I went into the Keeper, and settled it long ago.
"Long ago, long ago;
Yes the old account was settled long ago.
And the records clear today, for He washed my sins away.
When the old account was settled long ago."
Now I hope you're not of that mindset that thinks such a basic message is not worthy of your serious contemplation, given your advanced state of spiritual maturity, because no matter how many years you've been walking on the Way, and no matter the extent of real spiritual revelation you've been favored with, in all probability a certain residue of spirit-defilement still lurks within your conscience, so that the old account which was settled at the cross, has not yet been settled completely in your heart, and the mind of the flesh, seeking to keep you from complete clarity of conscience, will actually use the fact that God has shown you wonderful things about His nature, heart and kingdom, to keep you from experientially clearing that old account of sin.
Tricky, tricky thing that is. Instead of focusing on a complete conscience house cleaning, you end up reassuring your heart that everything must be OK because of the great revelations you enjoy in your walk with the Lord. By this means, you suppress certain lingering conscience issues with their accompanying feelings of insecurity. Your experience then falls short of realizing God's great delight in you as His dear child. This leads to needing to come up with more and more cutting-edge revelation (so assumed) in order to hide your deep, subconscious feelings of spiritual failure, and/or inadequacy.
Get it settled. Jesus went to the cross so that you might know that, with God, there is no accounting of sin against you, or for that matter against any person, whether he/she be a believer or not. His accounting must become your conscience's accounting THOROUGHLY. Get off the treadmill of seeking more and more revelation so that you might feel more and more better about yourself, and take your time to reflect with intense focus upon the cleansing blood of Christ. There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel's veins, and sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains. By God's enabling grace, take your conscience by the scruff of the neck, and immerse it completely in that precious fountain.
Within Himself, the Lord Jesus, in taking you to the Father, caused you to see through His eyes the Father's great delight at seeing you come into His presence with the sure expectation of receiving the glory which you had in union with Christ before the founding of the world. That's your Reality, but your conscience, in some measure, still needs to be informed by that Reality as you wrestle with it's accounting mistakes. Hear the Spirit of Christ repeat over and over again, "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, NOT accounting their sins against them." Quit suppressing those demons of accusation that dare to stand against God's edict pertaining to your unsullied relationship with Him in Christ. Call them out of the dark recesses of your conscience, confront them. Tell them, "Your accounting is false. You're all devious bookkeepers, laying debits to my account that do not belong there. All that is in my account is eternal glory. I am accepted in the Beloved. You can take your accusations and shove them where the sun don't shine." Maybe I've offended you with the language of that last sentence, but I don't think I offended the Lord, in fact, I think He just might have slapped His knee, and got a good laugh at such colorful expression in support of His Truth.
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What's to come of the carnal mind? Some dear folks, upon realizing how great an obstacle the carnal mind presents to their spiritual progress, dismiss its place in the out-working of God's eonian purpose, assuming that this enemy will simply---if I'm accurately getting the drift of their thought---be annihilated by God, as something that began in mankind's thinking, totally by mankind's choice as occurred seminally in Adam's fall in the garden. There is, I must say, an encouraging emphasis on the fact that the carnal mind IS enmity against God. What makes an enemy an enemy is that there is enmity within him; enmity is what makes one an enemy. The problem is a mentality of hostility, a mentality that is adversarial in nature, hence "the devil" as the "adversary." Upon that, you may define for yourself just what the devil is, based upon the fundamental information above.
I'm not going to go into a long theological discourse on the relationship between enmity and death, but simply say dogmatically that enmity against God IS death. When man's spirit dies toward God, the immediate first result is hostility, enmity, and opposition toward Him rooted in the resentment-producing feeling that God has been unjust in His treatment of us. That feeling is present in all of us ranging from being very consciously aware of it -- and with that, consciously justifying the feeling and the overt behavior that springs from it -- all the way to it being completely suppressed (denying its existence in our lives) which suppression works itself out covertly in the strangest behavior clothed often in religious garb.
What is God going to do about this situation? Why change it, of course. What is it that folks think is going to be reconciled, if not our persona of enmity? If we are nothing but friendly toward God, then there is no need for us to be reconciled. It's as those in a state of active enmity against God that we have been in Christ reconciled to God, which accomplished reconciliation is being worked out in us ongoingly. All our unrighteousness is enmity-rooted. Are you aware of at least some misalignment between you and the Lord? Guess what? You're still mad at him at some level in the complex of your psyche. Oh, I know you nice-temperament types are quick to object to my insistence. "Me, mad at God? -- not true, never!" You're in denial, and the more you remain in denial, the more you'll substitute being nice for being righteous.
Get real. Tell the Lord, "Lord, I've got to admit, I'm angry with you along with loving you. I'm a mixed bag." You can tell Him that, you know. After all, He already knows it. It will be spiritually healthy for you to confess it. He won't retreat into some corner of heaven and sulk over you telling Him you're mad at Him. Since God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not reckoning their sins against them, you can be sure that what He finished by you being in Christ, He will finish by Christ being in you. Redemption in Seed-form will blossom into a beautiful, existential flower of un-mixed friendship and devotion to God in you. Nothing can stand in the way of that conquering Reality.
Here's the wonder of it, your enmity will end up being instrumental in making you love the Lord more than you could without needing to be saved from it. Reconciliation is being saved from the enmity that makes you such a sick jack-ass in areas of your life. Hey fellow believers, guess what? We're all sick. Yeah it's true, but it's pretty obvious to me, that most of you out there in reader-land are much sicker than I am. I'm just a little sick, you all are really SICK. (c'mon, I'm just having a little fun here).
The wonder of it is that it's our enmity that drives us into reconciliation. He that is forgiven much loveth much. So tell your carnal mind (to the degree that God's grace enables you to stand apart from it and speak to it), "your days are numbered AS the enemy of God. Jesus died to make you God's friend. You're going to end up loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Christ guarantees it."
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There's an old gospel song by John Peterson that begins: "There's a place where sin's forgiven, where there's cleansing from guilt and from loss. There's a place that starts for heaven, at the foot of the old rugged cross." In this devotional, I want to turn our attention to another place that, following Jesus' death and resurrection, God established as the divine dispensary of all His blessings according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. All that comes from heaven to earth is sent from that dispensary, of which each of us is a customer. But everything is free. There is no charge for the singular Product provided. We each have an account whereby we, given time, and in due time, equally share in the superabundance of divine provision, but what is provided is a combination of elements that are medicinal, edifying and fortifying for our overall well-being. Yet, though it's all free---you can't pay for it; you can't earn it---some of the medicine is bitter, some of what is edifying contains in it tearing-down compounds, and the fortification involves, paradoxically, great weakening.
All of the above provision is in a Person, and the Person IS the provision, for the provision is the perfected Humanity of Jesus Christ inclusive of us all as complete in Him. There with Him, in Him, God delivers to us in our present eonian existence, what we are already in Him within eternity. That is, from the moment that Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, the person of our eternal being was completely restored to us (we are complete in Him) in all its glory, but our existential self requires that we, on earth, together receive and become all that He has made us to be in heaven. Reaching to find more words for clarification: That which is below, must become perfectly aligned with what is above, and only what is above can accomplish that. Our below-self has nothing to contribute to our above-self. And I have to add that what is above lies deep within that which is below.
The inexhaustible stock of the divine dispensary was brought to its full inventory addition upon addition, from out of the entirety of Jesus' human experience from incarnation to enthroned glorification. Beginning with His incarnation, God produced in Him the perfect Man by the totality of His human experience, an experience containing the whole spectrum from indescribable pain to ecstatic joy. You see, it is not about the finished work of Christ, it is about Christ, the finished Work of God. The whole of all human experience was summed up in Him, and brought to its God-determined destiny.
You can't, of yourself, according to your preferences, order what you want to be delivered from this Dispensary on High. All that pertains to your provision is decided by Dispensary Staff: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are agreed that all that the Perfected Jesus is---right now, never changing, throughout all eternity, is what we all together must become, and They decide in each and every case, what, and how much should be dispensed, and when. Beware of any and all teaching that says that faith is about convincing the Pharmacist to release to you what (you think) you need. No, faith is about the trust, confidence and assurance that He IS doing it His way, and in His measure, and according to His timing. That is: Jesus is about His Father's business, of that you can be sure. That is saving faith.
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"Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart." (NRSV)
A brother wrote: "I usually take it that God is the one who puts desires in our heart that He wants us to have and that we are to pursue them. Most commentaries I read are just the opposite saying delight or give yourself over to the Lord and your desires will be fulfilled. Then they quote 'ask and it shall be given, seek and…' I know it can be both, but I see it more as direction rather than objects. How do you see this?"
My take on this verse has always leaned to the way that my brother sees it, but like he says, it can go both ways. I looked at the LXX and "of your heart" is in the genitive/ablative form. It can mean (as a gen.) "your heart's desire;" as an ablative, "the desire from your heart" (i.e., what your heart produces); or, "the desire which pertains to your heart;" or as apposition, "the desire which is your heart."
These may seem like fine variations on a theme, and they are, but they can give us varied perspectives. From delighting ourselves in the Lord, a change – a transformation – comes to our heart. This is a work of the Spirit within us, and the new heart that has been given to us – the new (or: renewed) nature – automatically transforms our desires. It is like what Paul said in 2 Cor. 3:18; beholding the glory of the Lord brings a change in the image that we reflect.
Still a young child that loves its parents can have childish desires, and quite often the loving parent gives the child the things for which it has expressed desires. But the mature person puts away childish things because he has matured. So I think that the important thing is that our focus – or attention – should be on where it is that we put our delight.
A parallel saying to Ps. 37:5 is Prov. 16:3, "Commit (or: Roll) your work unto Yahweh, and your THOUGHTS (or: plans) shall be established." The train of thought in the first 8 verses of Ps. 37 seems to center on the focus of our interior life: "Fret not... Trust... Delight... Rest... Cease from..." When the core of our being (our heart, thoughts, etc.) is Christ, the rest falls into place – even though our outward humanity may be perishing, as the inward humanity is being renewed – day by day.
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In my personal experience of scripture (and it must be experienced, not just read), I have never found anything to compare with the excellency by which Paul, in first chapter of Ephesians, vss. 17 through 23, conveys the centrality of the apostolic message. Oh that all we preachers today, might be able to "hit the mark" as he did so long ago. By comparison, we are unskilled archers in our preaching, teaching and prophesying. There's a passionate repetition in that section of his letter that brings us face to face with the man. When the Spirit opens our eyes to what that emissary of Jesus Christ had on his heart to deliver to his blood-washed brethren, we cannot fail to note how repetitively he focuses our attention. Note, I beg you, that once establishing that it is "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory," who is the source of all that he, Paul, desires that the Ephesian believers should realize, he then goes on to repeat himself over and over again, in the use of personal pronouns: "in the knowledge of HIM;" "the hope of HIS calling;" "the glory of HIS inheritance;" "greatness of HIS power;" "HIS mighty power;" "in Christ when HE raised HIM;" "set HIM;" "HIS own right hand;" "all things under HIS feet;" "gave HIM to be head;" "HIS body;" "the fullness of HIM." (emphasis mine)
Paul is all about Him and His. "The Father of glory and His glorious Son" is Paul's message. Once we see that the gospel is all about Him, only then can we fully realize that He is all about us. But we need to get the focus right. The references to "You," "your," "ye," "to us-ward," "the church," become properly meaningful only in our union with Him. If our focus is upon the things that are ours in Him, rather than upon Him, all those things begin to take on a life of their own, rather than He being Himself to us in the riches of His grace, and in the glory of His grace.
How subtle is the drift into seeking "the spirit of wisdom and revelation" but not "In the knowledge of Him." When "the things of God" become separated in our focus from the Lord Himself, then we have lost the true sense of the Logos. If God simply wanted to spiritually educate us with great ideas for living, He would have done so with a booming voice so powerful that all the world would hear Him. No, He spoke to us "in a Son." It's in the realization of Him through intimate fellowship, whereby He shares His very self with us.
The Being which God shares with us as His children, is realized experientially in communion with Him in Christ. The spirit of wisdom and revelation is in the knowledge of Him. Paul's benediction--his good word---sums it up: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all." The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ IS the love of God given freely by the union of Being experienced in, and as, fellowship. I don't have any formula for making that happen. I can encourage you to look for His appearing in the everydayness of your life, but it requires an initiative of presencing on His part. The lovely gospel song, In the secret of His Presence says it better than I can:
In the secret of His presence, how my soul delights to hide,
O how precious are the lessons that I learn at Jesus side.
Earthly cares can never vex me, neither trials lay me low.
For when Satan comes to tempt me, to that secret place I go.
To that secret place I go.
I have walked alone with Jesus, in a fellowship divine,
Never more can earth allure me, I am His and He is mine.
I have seen Him, I have known Him, for He deigns to walk with me.
And the glory of His presence, will be mine eternally.
O the glory of His presence, O the beauty of His face.
I am His and His forever, He has won me by His grace.
And finally, to those of my generation:
And He walks with me, and He talks with me.
And He tells me I am His own.
And the joy we share, as we tarry there,
None other, has ever known.
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Reality's Truth; Reality's Genuineness, has come to us, sent by God, in the Person of His Son, our Lord Jesus. That Reality can be likened to a magnificent tapestry of rich, vivid colors, nuanced with breathtaking hues, yet while each thread, or patterned complex of threads, possesses its own unique, outstanding richness, they very carefully blend together gathering the viewer's sense of beauty into a point of focus where all the colors meet. At that point of meeting, all the coloring of the tapestry is intensified so that on the occasion of the artist standing by, discerning the viewer's awe-struck admiration, his heart explodes with satisfaction. His passion has been fulfilled. Making the spiritual application: Jesus, AS Lord, is that divinely appointed point of focus. He is the delightful pleasure of God, His Father, meant to become the delight of every man's heart. Miss that, and the sense of what the tapestry is all about, has avoided you. But not forever.
Every man has an appointment to see the tapestry with new, enlightened, and admiring eyes. Back to basics, you dear ones who have embraced the Truth that the destiny of all mankind is to return home to Love's abode. "He hath given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that He is LORD, to the glory of God, the Father." (emphasis mine.) The Word in our hearts that saves, is the convincing Word that joins our mouths into participating in the declaration of God, Himself, that His Son, Jesus, is Lord. And it is the dynamic of the conviction that God has raised Him from the dead that opens our mouths to affirm His Lordship. How is that so? What is the relationship between the two---the heart believing in His resurrection, and the mouth confessing His Lordship?
We all came from somewhere. Even an atheistic scientist must admit that we have come from that which is greater than we. It is to that source that we owe our existence, and therefore we owe acknowledgment to that source as that to which we belong. As believers, we know that our Source is out from within Christ, within God, the same Christ who became Jesus our Lord. We belong to our Source. That's what Jesus Lordship is about. We belong to Him. He owns us (that's what the Greek for "Lord" means: "Owner"). You are not your own (you don't own yourself); you were purchased by a price, by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, as of Lamb without spot or blemish."
That purchase was a REdemption, a buying back. You have always belonged to Him, but you were made to suffer under the captivity of one claiming lordship over you. Jesus rightfully reclaimed what was His. That One is alive – the Victor over death – making Him Lord of both the living and the dead. He's a living Lord, actually bringing to bear His saving Lordship over us, from within us, as our life. That's the relationship.
"I am my Beloved's and He is mine, His banner over me is love."
What a wonderful Owner, who gives Himself to those He owns. Jesus does belong to you, my dear friend, but you need to know that having the Son (He that hath the Son hath life) is of great worth to you only as the One who has you. The One you have is that Magnificent Lord of all. Turning to a beloved gospel song which has the matter of belonging in correct order:
"Jesus, my Lord, will love me forever;Back to index
From Him (as my Owner), no evil can sever.
He gave His life, to ransom my soul.
Now I belong to Him.
"Now I belong to Jesus;
Jesus belongs to me.
Not for the years of time alone,
But for eternity."
In the first installment of this series on the Lordship of Jesus Christ, I approached the subject from the viewpoint of ownership, of what "belonging to" implies. There is no such thing as complete autonomy of personhood. We exist as those belonging. Indeed, it can be said that we belong to one another, AS those together belonging to Him. I've observed what seems very obvious to me, that there are words in our English language, and I extrapolate it to be the same with all languages, especially in the case of compound words, a Logos-derived conveyance of root-meaning. So it is with "belonging." We be (are) longing to be returning to the One to Whom we belong. Such words are micro-parables. The Being in which we all have our being has birthed an all-inclusive Personhood within Whom we exist and within whom we are contained. The Person of Jesus Christ, AS Lord, is the containment field of all sentient and non-sentient existence. None are capable, no thing is capable, of escaping from Him. There is no outside-of-Him to where we can go. In a recent meeting of the house-church I attend, in the flow of the sharing, I affirmed that same principle: that nothing exists outside of Him, and in fact, outside of Him even nothingness itself has no existence.
Continuing on now with broadened viewpoint, let us consider Lordship in terms of authority. Surely, the One who claimed rightfully that to Him has been given all authority in heaven and earth, certainly that One, by virtue of being granted such an exalted place, would be by definition, The Lord---The Lord of lords, and King of kings. To the trippy, fashionable reasoning that would reply, saying, "Oh, but He was only talking about the Christ in Him, the same as can be said of us all." Lord deliver us from such reasoning!!! He IS the Christ. It is in having HIM---read first John---that we all have the enchristedness that is ours in union with HIM (singular). Look out: Your theology might be exposing a lust to be your own lord. All authority is out from within being, or according to being. The intentional nature of Ultimate Being (God/Deity/Godness/The Divine Nature) realized Itself in the birthing of a Son – out from within all sonship precedes. He is FIRST, thus He is LORD. In the eternity of God's relationship with humanity, our existence as children of God depends upon there being One who, as The One coming forth out of the loins of God, in turn (in the image of God) brought us all out of His loins.
According to Paul, in Philippians, Jesus did not grasp after being like God. Why? Well, because AS God's Son, He WAS, of course, like His Father! No need to grasp after that which was already His, even, or especially, as He took on the form of a servant (slave). Is it understood by those today who write so prolifically re: every person's Christhood, that as the Father is greater than the Son--- that is, as the Son's Origin, He, the Father, gave to the Son in begetting Him, the fullness of Deity, thus raising the Son to equality with Himself, so that, in turn, our Lord Jesus, in the same life-giving administrative sequence, has raised us up within Himself (singularly) into that Family communion---the sharing of His Sonship--- by which the saints of the Most High are partakers of, and participate in, the Divine Nature, and exercise from and with the Son, all authority in heaven and earth? The issue is of Source. In Him we have all things. Apart from Him we have nothing. "How shall He who delivered up His own Son on our behalf, not, with Him, give us all things?"Back to index
"Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
The Amplified Version renders that verse as: "For every one who calls upon the name of the Lord [invoking His as Lord] will be saved. [Joel 2:32]
Jonathan Mitchell has it as: "For you see, Everyone--whoever may at some point call upon the Name of the Lord [=Yahweh]--will be delivered (kept safe; rescued; saved, healed and made whole)!"
I think I should raise the question: Did the Holy Spirit, in inspiring Paul to write those words, just capriciously choose "Lord," instead of seemingly other applicable options such as the Son of God, Son of Man, Christ, or Jesus? I don't think so. Without suggesting some kind of rote inspiration, I think the Spirit's choice had to do with very specifically indicating that our salvation issues forth from top-down authority. Only One has received the right by inheritance to claim men's souls for Himself, and thus for Him who sent Him. Most folks harbor the silly notion that salvation is an option offered to us by God, as if God has said, "Please take notice: I've provided the possibility of your salvation through my Son, so the ball's in your court now. You can be saved if you want, or not; it's completely up to you."
I remember years ago, hearing a preacher on the radio say: "This is how salvation works. God's voting for you; the devil's voting against you, and you have the final vote." If, as a believer, you're thinking, "Gee, John, that's the way I've always understood it, myself," then the Lord slipped a little salvation into you, but by-passed your brain in doing it. There's something very fundamental going on with that kind of perception, and it has to do with Lordship. Such reasoning indicates that the one of such twisted perception really is insisting on being his own Lord, especially as pertaining to an issue so dear to the heart of God and man. It has been determined that you WILL be saved, and that determination is not yours. That's really what Lordship is all about, what divine authority is all about: It's about Who has His say about everything, and very especially about salvation.
Nowhere is this made clearer than Jonathan Mitchell's translation of Jn. 13:3, even considering the possible alternative renderings he offers. I'm referring to Mr. Mitchell's The New Testament; God's message of goodness, ease and well-being which brings God's gifts of His Spirit, His life, His grace, His power, His fairness, His peace and his love; expanded, amplified, (with) multiple renderings: "Jesus, having seen and now knowing (or: being aware) that the Father has given [other MSS, aorist: gives/gave] all people and all things to Him--into [His] hands, and that He came out from God--forth from the midst [of Him]--and now is continuously leading and bringing [all] under [His] control to God (or: is progressively humbly withdrawing and going back [to be] face to face with God)."
Simply put: Salvation is of the LORD, and by LORD we mean that what pleases Him is what's gonna' be. Do you think it would please Him for all men to be saved? I hope the answer leaps from your heart, "Oh, yes, most certainly. I can't imagine anything less than that being the pleasure of His heart." Then remember that Isaiah saith: ".....the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand." (Isa: 53: 10b). Also this majestic statement from Isaiah: "The Lord has made bare His holy arm before the eyes of all the nations [revealing Himself as the One by Whose direction the redemption of Israel from captivity is accomplished] and all the ends of the earth shall witness the salvation of our God." (Isa. 52: 10, Amplified Version) In each of these inspired declarations, salvation is connected directly to Lordship.
"Look to the LORD all ye ends of the earth, and be saved."Back to index
In the previous devotional, I reminded fellow believers of that fundamental dimension of our true identity in Christ, i.e., that we are owned. We are not our own, we belong to Another, and accordingly, that most ancient Christian creed summarily and faithfully proclaimed: Jesus is Lord! Is it not noteworthy that Our Lord, Himself, declared to His disciples that He was their Lord and Master? But a confusing misunderstanding can spoil how desirable it is to have Jesus as Lord, when "Lord and Master" might trigger in us associating Lordship with bossiness.
Sadly, the subject of the Lordship of Christ for some might conjure up feelings of giving in to being "bossed around." Subconsciously one might FEEL that being Lord means that Jesus is simply bossy. For others, they are unable to recognize the Lord's presence and working in their lives AS Lord because He often works with us making concession to our individual life history and temperament so that, with some, He exercises His Lordship with a very gentle approach, even quite covertly. Not so, for instance, with Saul of Tarsus. Saul, that headstrong Pharisee needed a very overt, in-your-face confrontation. Read the account. He was very overtly COMMANDED into salvation and discipleship. Yet into the life of the woman caught in adultery He introduced His Lordship AS a non-condemning Presence. For some, He presents Himself as the Lord who saves. For others, as the Savior who takes over.
If, for instance, your conscious experience of Christ has been of Him as your Teacher, be it known that it has been as your Lord that He has taught you, subjecting you to Himself as the Truth. It is especially in pondering the truth of Jesus as Lord that we are shown something of the mystery of Christ. He is both the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and the Little Lamb in the midst of the throne. The Lord commandeered my allegiance to Himself very much in His Lion mode.
As I have many times testified, I didn't experience Christ as patiently knocking on the door of my heart waiting for me to let Him in. It was much more like Him kicking the door down with splinters and hinges flying, and announcing that from now on, things were going to be different. In effect, He gloriously announced, "you're mine; you're mine by generation, creation, and regeneration. Come, follow me." He didn't ask my permission to save me, He commanded me onto the path of salvation by that Word that accomplishes that for which it is sent." Instantly, gone were the days of my life as a tough, reckless teenage gang member. My brass knuckles and blackjack---which I never actually used, but thought that having them made me a tough guy---were part of the Old Man which was crucified with Christ.
In our next devotional on this theme, we'll look at how Lordship pertains to belonging.Back to index
In the title of this article I'm borrowing, of course, from the book, "An Inconvenient Truth," by Mr. Al Gore which set off a fire-storm of controversy on the subject of anthropogenic (alleged human-caused) global warming/climate change. Readers may have differing opinions as to what are the facts in that controversy, but I'm quite confident that the identity, of which I'm about to remind my brethren, is to the self-admiring self, a very inconvenient one. I remember vividly the moment when as I was reading our Lord's imperative that discipleship involved denying one's self (soul-life), that the thought came to me, "Lotsa' luck to the person reading those words who expects that self will ever deny self," which inevitably led to a growing conviction that there is a true self and a false self, and that our true self, Christ, our Life, is the only One who can confront the false self with its delusionary, pretentious claim to being our true person. Richard Rohr writes of the false self, and I have for years referred to that existentially actual, lie-constituted, phenomenon as the false persona.
Coming to know our true identity has been a subject very much in vogue among believers wearied, in particular, by evangelicalism's failure to differentiate between the being which all mankind has within the Being of God – a being of undefiled purity – and the self that emerged from the vulnerability inherent in our subjugation to creature materiality. Spirit compressed into materiality suffers a vulnerability that inevitably led to the disconnect from our true being through Adam’s disobedience. As our being within the Being of God found itself distanced in some sense from its intrinsic nature, it was driven to self-create a persona that is primarily defensive. That self is, of course, a lie that lives by the lie that a truly autonomous self is possible at all. Our sufficiency is of God, and not of ourselves. Our state of complete dependency on God is something that the false self hates. Its delusionary quest for autonomous freedom inevitably leads to bondage. So we come to that dimension of identity so inconvenient to our self-driven insistence on perceiving of ourselves as belonging to ourselves.
There is a truth that, once fully welcomed (not merely accepted), stands in the way of sonship-identity becoming a mere concept, a concept which the false self turns into self-aggrandizement. As a mere soulish concept, we see it as good for food, pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired. We become self-admiring sons. "Look at me, I have discovered who I really am." OK, who exactly are you? Try this on for size: You are not your own, you are bought with a price, the price of the precious blood of Christ. You belong to Another. You have a Lord, and it’s NOT you. Someone owns you, and to Him you owe the servitude of a slave. None other than Paul, the apostle of Jesus Christ, presents to us, right there alongside his revelation of the glories of sonship, his insistence that it be known that he is a slave of Jesus Christ. His apostleship is that of a slave-emissary sent forth with a message that is not his own, but with the message of His Master: the Master who, in fact, IS the message. Forget the watered down term "bond-servant." The Greek is simply "slave." And he gloried in that identity. Redemption is being bought back to the One who is our rightful Owner.
To the self which imagines itself to be autonomous, that description is degrading. To the saved self, it is liberating. I am liberated from horrible bondage of having to determine my own destiny. I can view my little choices in life with amusement at how non-determinative they really are, for my Lord has determined that I fully share the glory He has with the Father. As I'm turned away from that false form of sonship, with it's dis-quality of self admiration, and turned to see and admire my Lord, I love myself and others as I see myself through His eyes. The false self is dying from being deprived of that perspective, and in its deprivation it erects a self-preserving persona out of its desperation to BE. One form is that of the Pharisee who erects that defensive wall against his deprivation of true worth: a wall made of straw and mud bricks of self-righteousness. "See, look what I have built. It proves I am someone." From the same source of deprivation, the out-and-out overt "sinner" thinks and says, "So I am what all my rebellious acts and addictions say I am, therefore I will completely abandon myself to BE that person, for I must be someone."Back to index
In two previous devotionals I raised the issue of the believer's identity as that of a slave of Jesus Christ. Seldom do we hear in today's teaching re: coming to know our true identity, the joyful exultation, "Oh yes, I now know who and what I really am. I'm Christ's slave." Continuing on that theme, I hope to relate the matter of belonging to the truth of Jesus' Lordship, and our relationship to that central truth of the New Testament. In those previous devotionals, I raised the issue, so prominent in the writings of the first apostles of our Lord, that we are not our own, we have been bought with a price, that of the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Simply stated, we do not belong to ourselves, we belong to Another who owns us – not for His own selfish purposes – but so that by belonging to Him, we might share all that He is. We belong to Him as our Lord, but also we belong to Him in union with Him. His Lordship does involve His loving and gracious control, but that control is not as a Boss merely giving orders to underlings, but as the Lord who controls us by infusing us with His life of devotion to the Father.
Jonathan Mitchell---by thoroughly researching one of the Greek words conventionally translated as "commandment"---has uncovered that at its root, the word conveys the impartation of a goal. This truth, shines brightly particularly in John's first epistle as translated by our brother, Jonathan. Jesus doesn't get His way with us as our Lord by barking out "commands," but by being, Himself, in us, the imparted goal of God's eonian purpose. As our life, He is moving toward and into that goal with the certainty that accompanies His trustful confidence in the Father working within Him. Having already been perfected by His human experience to be the Seed-form of the New Humanity at the heart of God's wondrous purpose, by Him sharing Himself with us, as God's finished workmanship, we have God's goal-impartation within us in the Person of our Lord, by His Spirit.
The need to belong lies deep within the human heart. We belong in our bodies, which belong to this earth, which in turn belongs to our solar system, and that vastness of that system is dwarfed in comparison with it belonging to our galaxy. AND the galaxy in which we belong, belongs within the universe of infinite expansion. As J. Preston Eby has seen and declared, God, as Creator, is co-existent with His creation. This begs the extrapolation that God's creation is as expansive as God Himself. Our great God is expanding Himself, you know; expanding Himself out from within Himself, and we are integral to that expansion. Too wondrous to fully grasp is the truth that the above sequence of belonging ends with all things belonging to Christ, who belongs to God. Paul wrote that all things are ours, and we are Christ's and Christ is God's.
But mostly our need of belonging is about deeply personal relationship. This great God and Christ, is our brother and Father. One of the gospel songs I have loved to sing reaches our hearts with this truth:
Jesus, my Lord, will love me forever,
From Him no power of evil can sever.
He gave His life, to ransom my soul.
Now I belong to Him.
Joy floods my soul, for Jesus has saved me,
Freed me from sin, that long had enslaved me,
Lifted me up from sorrow and shame,
Now I belong to Him
Now I belong to Jesus; Jesus belongs to me,
Not for the years of time alone, but for eternity
I'm sure the author of those lyrics had in mind the delight of the Shulamite maiden in the Song of Solomon, when she exclaimed: "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine." She had the order right. Once we fully consider that we belong to Him, then we can fully appreciate that He belongs to us. Then that deepest need of our hearts will be met as we come to know with her that, "I am my beloved's, and His desire is toward me." Imagine that the desire of such a One as He, who has inherited all things, should be toward us.Back to index
It is inescapably evident that with God, concentration precedes expansion.. He concentrates that He might expand. He concentrates that He might multiply. He puts His all into singularity with plurality in view. The totality of what could become a forest of oak trees, is found within a single acorn. It is believed that the whole of the yet to be measured immensity of our universe, came out from one tiny point which contained all the energy that now operates all physical things. The whole of humanity with its billions of souls began with the creation of one man. And disproportionate in importance to the above, is the truth that the whole of the New Humanity was encapsulated within the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ, out from Whom proceeds a continual release of a vast family of incarnate sons and daughters.
Deity begat only One Son directly, transferring to that Son by divine generation all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. All the sons have come forth, since that single act of eternal begetting, from "....the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." Out of the One will come the many, and the many finally will match the fullness of the One. The expansion and multiplication of the glory of God---the knowledge of which shall fill the earth as the waters cover the sea---began in the concentration of that glory in One Man. The Father, who has life in Himself, gave His Son to have life in Himself, Who, in turn, in the likeness of His Father, is the One giving life to the many.
God, without the least reservation, committed His all into His Son that, through the Son, God might become All in all. God has not in the least way hedged His bet, if I may dare to put it in those terms. He's held back nothing in reserve just in case His plan through His Son might not work. No, with God, it's all or nothing. It's Jesus, or nothing. Jesus Christ our Lord IS God's total investment. But there is an appropriate and matching commitment of response by which the Lord makes this process workable. It is to finally get the whole of creation's focus upon His Son as His intermediary means of fulfillment, as He shines forth from His many brethren. Scripture is clear on this point: "Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith." We are to be given a matching focus upon His Son. God must, and will, bring us all into a participation in His total focus upon "the Son of His love." By that shared focus, all that God has intended for us to enjoy will come to pass as His life, in His Son, and in us all. This brings us to know intimately, and experientially, "the Only True God, and Jesus Christ Whom He has sent."
"There is one mediator between God and men, the man, Christ Jesus."Back to index
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:" (Jn. 10:27 KJV).
This indicative statement of Jesus re: the positive responsiveness of His sheep (a metaphor for the believers' profound dependence upon the Lord's protective leadership while taking us to "green pastures" of provision within Himself), puzzled me for the longest time. The statement seemed sort of disjointed to me. I thought it would make more sense if Jesus had said, "My sheep hear my voice, and they know me, and they follow me." That, I thought, would express a more logical progression, that is, that His sheep, hearing His voice and thus recognizing that it was Him calling to them, would naturally follow Him."
So I continued for some time puzzled by what the Lord meant to convey by those words, knowing that I was missing something of great importance. Slowly puzzlement gave way to the entrance of dim light, and then further to a significant measure of light, and I began to enter a level of understanding that brought a strengthening of faith's foundation and anchoring (to change metaphors). We do have the imperative to "follow on to know the Lord" in scripture, but as a parallel to the fact that Pauline theology presents being in Christ as foundational to understanding Christ in us, it is foundational to us being able to hear God's voice, so as to follow Him, that HE KNOWS US. Earthly knowledge of things heavenly is completely dependent upon heaven's knowledge of things earthly. If we begin with a subjective search within ourselves to recognize our Shepherd's voice, we will be prone to being misled by actually hearing our own carnally-minded voice which leads us down strange paths of distorted expectations that lead to disappointment.
You see, only the Good Shepherd knows us as we truly are, seeing through our independent construct of self-identity to who we are in Him. How subtle is ego's need to be able to claim how clearly and consistently we hear from God. A conversation between the ego-informed, and ego-created self and God, might go something like this: "I thank you, Lord, that I am not as other men, in that I hear your voice so clearly, and I follow you." To which the Lord might very well respond: "Of a truth I'm telling you that what you are hearing more often than not, and more often than you'd like to admit, is your own voice so desperately trying to calm your insecurity with assurances of spiritually-acute hearing. To that self-invention I grant no recognition, and in fact say to you, "Depart from me ye accursed, I never knew you."
It is AS the person who God knows, that we hear His voice and follow Him, not as the person we presume to know ourselves to be. What a comfort it has been to me to know that God knows me AS born of Him, sharing His nature within His only-begotten Son, so that it is God-natural for me to hear His voice. I am being continuously brought back full circle to the realization that true knowing comes to us only within the communion of the Holy Spirit, and thus it is so as pertaining to the subject of this devotional. It is in the ultimate spiritual experience of that deep, experiential, intimate fellowshipping knowledge of God that we come to "know as we are known."
It is only normative for the sheep to hear the Good Shepherd's voice according to His knowledge of them. The "you known of God" hears His voice. You, as not known of God, not only do not hear His voice, but you will hear the voice of another, and follow that one into a continuing construct of false identity. That false identity may feel and seem like it is very substantive and of great spiritual weightiness, when in fact it is a house of cards that will fall at the slightest touch from God. Many, many have been the believers who, not continuing in the faith of Christ, have for a season suffered irreparable damage by thieves posing as shepherds – thieves who know how to appeal to the fleshly ego, and encourage what is essentially spiritual pride on the part of those deceived by them. This is a common thread found in the appeal of cults: Making you feel special in a way that is contrary to your specialness as known of God. But since Jesus spoke of the dead hearing his voice and then, as a result, would be living, God's voice is bound to break through our death.Back to index
(The following was a brief reply, with some small addition, to a brother in Christ who wrote that "[nothing] should or can trump love." Yet he, while once embracing the truth of ultimate reconciliation, has come to believe that it is great error. What follows briefly posits the implications within his statement.)
Indeed, nothing can or should trump love, certainly not death, of all things. Love, by its nature is enduring, as Paul puts it: "Love never fails," implying, of course, that love is purposeful. It is intent upon success and endures unfailingly toward its goal. So we eventually and inevitably find that in our pursuit of love, we come face to face with truth, that is, most certainly what is true about love. So love and truth go hand in hand. Pursuing love leads to questions re: what is true, that is, what is real and genuine, and to seek truth inevitably confronts us with the nature of love.
The KJV translators probably chose "fails" in that verse in the sense that we speak of an engine failing or quitting on us, so other translations have it as "love never quits." Love never says to anyone, "I'm quitting now that you've died without knowing me. Death's eternal suffering will take over from now on. My endurance has come to an end. Your resistance has outlasted my endurance. I will love you from afar, from My heaven, as you are in hell, since I am Love, but I will no longer be effectively purposeful in any way pertaining to you and your lost and suffering condition. I've washed my hands of you forever."
Love with limits.
The phrase, "of His own will" appears in that exact form at least twice in the KJV version of the New Testament, in Ephesians 1: 11, and James 1: 18. The Ephesian passage confronts us with the grandeur of God's sovereignty, the splendor of divine deliberation which allows for no loopholes that would give opportunity for other wills to mess with, or mess up, God's good pleasure. It leaves no room for any outside input, and certainly does not portray a God anxiously hoping for other wills that might grant Him permission to carry out His own. An enlightened preacher might even wish for a fanfare before quoting, "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of him, who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." The opening words to the worship chorus penned by brother Jack Hayford come to mind: "Majesty, worship His Majesty." O yes, indeed. There it is, the freedom of God. A God who is free to desire, intend, purpose, and will whatever, and then, unobstructed by any other will or wills, does the thing----perfectly.
When writing those words, Paul most certainly must have had in mind God speaking through Isaiah: "Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.' " (Isa: 46: 9-11). It is upon Himself, according as He has spoken of Himself, that He gives us great and wonderful promises of redemption, security and salvation. Such a Father God can be relied upon. Such is the God and Father that drew forth from His Son that faith which Paul in this same epistle calls "the faith OF Christ," and such is the faith that is ours in union with Christ. As the Lord once spoke to me: "Nothing depends upon you; everything depends upon Me, so you can depend upon me."
James comes along side Paul and complements his emphatic apostolic declaration of divine effectiveness with the wonderfully sweet, personal assurance: "Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." God willed that we be begotten of Him. He willed it, spoke the Word of truth into us, and by that irresistible Word, He "hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." (1Pet: 1: 3b). He spoke the Word, Jesus, into us in all His resurrection glory. Now that very resurrection life of Christ has begun the process of spreading from our spirit-base to our souls, consummating with this corruption putting on incorruption, and this mortal putting on immortality, that it might be said, "Death is swallowed up in victory." Why and how were you born again unto a lively hope? Because He willed it.Back to index
One of the very helpful insights that has come from valid (non-ideologically-driven) psychology, is the insight re: the necessity of allowing grief over loss to play itself out completely. That's hard. We can, and usually do, choose at least for a time to suppress much of our grief as an avoidance of facing the terrible pain involved. It's more than understandable. Such suppression could be---for a season and seen in the whole---protective from having to face too great a blast of suffering from a loss that feels to the mind and emotions as incalculable and unbearable. I'm not speaking only of loss suffered by the death of a loved one, but also of the loss of the once beauty of relationships. What we once experienced as unsullied, and even immune from any intrusion of twistedness; what we once deemed to be incorrupt and even incorruptible, now lies at our feet, the broken, crumpled, misshapen remains of a once beautiful dream.
Such experiences are the micro equivalent of the macro of all creation's (or: the creature's) subjection to futility. We must all share in that universal travail that must be experienced in all its fullness, if we are to be filled with all the fullness of God. It all goes back to the Garden of Eden. While God saw the entirety of His creation as good, and very good upon crowning the whole with the creation of man, yet along with that good there existed a contrariety meant to serve creation's essential goodness, to serve its full maturation of being filled with the knowledge of the glory of God. That contrariety, that evil, that alienation, was there in the beginning of creation. It, namely death, was present in the form of corruptibility and mortality, for after all, since it all became corrupted, it must have been corruptible. For death, from one man's sin, to be passed upon all men, there had to be a condition of mortality, for immortality does not allow for death, only mortality does.
How terribly frightening it must have been for Eve to realize the implications of God's commission to "........conquer it (the earth)." There was obviously an alien accompaniment to creation's essential goodness, a disturbing alien accompaniment, that led to anxiety and then to outright fear. “What if we fail to be conquerors? What will become of us and our beautiful garden if we fail?” In that moment of questioning, intruding into the beautiful expectation of uninterrupted bliss and ecstasy, a dark, ugly specter appeared. God had not yet released the grace of knowing that what He commissions He takes responsibility for and would, in them, cause His Word to not return to Him void. But first, and as integral to the vision, the grieving, groaning travail must reach its fullness in order to birth the new heaven and new earth, “wherein dwelleth (only) rightness.”
Even before that commission, I'm sure – intuitive female that she was – she must have had (I'm convinced) a gnawing feeling deep within that everything wasn't just “peaches and cream” in God's world. She shoved down that uneasiness until the serpent's guile forced her to face it. His cunning brought it all to the surface. She'd been set up and was ripe to sign on to an easy fix. She could avoid the suffering that she intuited must come with having to become a conquerer----she thought. Just get to know what God knows. She could get that wonderfully mystical knowledge of good and evil, and thereby do an end run around the evil part. But---as I've preached and written many times---she got what God knew about good and evil WITHOUT knowing God---without knowing the suffering involved in being God.
Oh dear, what a mess! But WAIT, I hear a Word. Oh, what a wonderful Word. What an invigorating Word even within my grief, a grief that participates in that Word: "Behold, I am making all things new."Back to index
A certain Christian by the name of Humble-Bound, was so named by his Lord as a reminder to him that on his way to The Celestial City - all costs for citizenship, and permanent residence, having already been borne by His Lord and confirmed by His promise and oath - he must needs go by Way of the despised village of Humble. In fact, he would cross over into a disputed area claimed by both his present, very impressively adorned city of residence, Natural Pride, and his home-of-destiny, The Celestial City.
The farther he would advance along his way, the less resources Natural Pride would be able to muster to lay claim to the area, and the closer he got to Humble proper, the more he would sense that Natural Pride's authority must give way to the Authority of The Celestial City's presence and character in Humble. The former authority could not be compared to the latter. One was the authority of darkness, the darkness of the lie, the other, the authority of light, the light of the Truth. Each had power. Both powers would be felt keenly by Humble-Bound; the one at times so deceptively appealing, and so soul-tearing, as to bring Humble-Bound to the edge of despairing that he could ever make it to Humble, and from there to The Celestial City – or if he still even wanted to make it! But as horrific as the power of despair might become, the inexorable power of hope would prevail, and Humble-Bound would make it to Humble.
Gradually it would increasing dawn on him, that His Lord had already been this Way. This very Way. And that His Lord had the ability, and the determination, to give him the very same power that His Father had given to Him to prevail on the journey. His Lord had prevailed through humiliation to fully arrive at Humble, yet it was humiliation that drew forth from Him His inherent humility. Humility must pass the test of humiliation. And so it was for Humble-Bound, for He was not greater than his Lord. Wisdom had not explained the humiliating circumstances that would serve to get Humble-Bound to Humble. He had assumed in his immaturity that he could and would make it to Humble, and beyond to The Celestial City, with some allowance for, and preservation of, a certain measure of self-dignity. Nay! It was not to be so.
Much of his progress forward on his way to Humble involved him not noticing where he was stepping, so that just one short step, time and time again, would send him hurtling down some embankment head first, face scraping on pebbles and rocks, clawing at anything he might hold onto to stop his plunge downward. Bloody and bruised at the bottom, each time he hoped he'd reached THE bottom, only to repeat the same just a little farther down the Way. Sometimes it would be a completely unexpected powerful wind that would hurl him against a rock or tree, or tripping over one of the many rocks along the Way. All of them, he came to finally realize, were the rocks of self-confidence, even self-confidence in his humility. There was the time when an earthquake sent him sliding into a whirlpool that drew him downward into such dark, watery depths that he despaired of reaching the surface ever again.
An awareness finally grew though, as he pondered the path he'd taken thus far, that as miserable as his falls were each time, each time, HE FELL FORWARD, and that during the time within the dark, watery depths, a Hand had reached down and pulled him to where he could breathe again. His Lord had come this Way for him, and now, in union with His Lord, and His experience, he came to know that he was going this Way for others. He paused at one point on the Way, and remembered assuring words of a song:
"There were ninety and nine that safely lay in the shelter of the fold.Back to index
But one was out on the hills away, far off from the gates of gold.
Away on the mountain, wild and bare,
Away from the Shepherd's tender care;
Away from the Shepherd's tender care.
"Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine; are they not enough for Thee.
But the Shepherd answered, 'this of Mine, has wandered away from me.
And although the road be rough and steep, I go to the desert to find My sheep;
I go to the desert to find My sheep.'
"But none of the ransomed ever knew how deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed through e're He found His sheep that was lost.
Out in the darkness, He heard its cry; sick and helpless and ready to die;
Sick and helpless, and ready to die.
"But up from the mountain thunder riven, and out on the rocky steep;
There arose a glad cry from the gate of heaven, 'rejoice, I have found My sheep.'
And the angels echoed around the throne, 'rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own;
'Rejoice for the Lord brings back His own.' "
There is a fire, "strange fire," that God severely judges, as in the prototypical case of the presumptuous "worship" of Nadab and Abihu as recorded in Lev. 10; 1 and 2 (KJV), who "offered strange fire before the Lord." Among the applications that may be made of that principle, is the application re: one's own passion in the quest for spirituality as contrasted by the fiery passion of God Himself working within us that Fire of Him who, without our help, works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.
The flesh has its own fiery, passionate desire for recognition before God, and God refuses it His recognition. To those, according to Jesus' story in Matt. 7: 22, 23 who claim recognition before God on the basis of prophesying, casting out demons, and performing many miracles in Jesus' name, God is resolute in His rejection of such imagined standing: "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness'" (NAS) The knowledge Jesus referred to, is in the Greek, the intimate, experiential knowledge of God that He has with our true person, not the persona of self-righteousness. Jonathan Mitchell's translation, makes this so very clear:
"Within (or: On) That Day many will say to Me, 'Lord! O Lord! Do (or: did) we not prophesy in (or: by) Your name? And do (or: did) we not cast out demons (Hellenistic concept and term: = animistic influences) in (or: by) Your Name? And do (or: did) we not perform many works of power and ability in (or: by) Your Name?
"And at that time I will speak assuredly to them, 'I never became acquainted with or came to know you folks (or: not even once had intimate experiential knowledge of you). Those people habitually working (performing; or: making a trade of; making a living in) the lawlessness proceed to go to a room (or: territory) away from Me.'" [Ps. 6:9]
God began warming up to that subject in His dealings with this servant years ago, and has gotten as the saying goes up close and personal about it with me just recently. The flesh is, if anything, self-admiring, and in its religious form, it admires and extolls its self-initiated quest for God's acceptance and commendation. It's spiritual lust plain and simple. It does belong to "the lust of the flesh," and is more fundamentally contrary to what constitutes true spirituality even more than those things we normally associate with "the lust of the flesh.
When we offer that strange fire before the Lord, we offer it, not to the true God, but to the idol of self. Watchman Nee, in one of his books, confessed that there was a time in his life when he had a lust to preach. I've known that lust. To stand in the place of speaking for God while folks hang on to your every word, is a lustfully, heady thing. "Man of God;" Mmm, mmm! How good that sounds to the heart seeking to be anesthetized to the pain of spiritual insecurity by imaging its spiritual lust to be spiritual superiority.
Some can and do accept their spiritual lust as evidence of their election. "I must be among the elect, for I have such strong feelings about God, and truth, and being pleasing to Him, and being on the front lines of the advance of His kingdom, and what the true Church of Jesus Christ is, or should be." I don't know anything that is more antithetical to humility than all that smacks of the above. When it comes to fire fighting fire, believe me the fire of God will have as a top priority purging our souls from this abomination.
The hymn writer places the matter before us with the following lyrics that could represent (I am not judging) one or the other fire:
I'm pressing on the upward way, new heights I'm gaining every day; Still praying as I'm onward bound; Lord plant my feet on higher ground.
My heart has no desire to stay, where doubts arise and fears dismay. Though some may dwell where these abound, my prayer, my aim, is higher ground.
Lord lift me up, and help me stand, by faith on heaven's tableland, A higher plane than I have found, Lord plant my feet on higher ground.
Those lyrics my well have been written because the composer was on fire with the fire of God, but if we're praying and singing according to the strange fire, the emphasis would be: Though SOME may dwell where these abound, MY prayer, MY aim, is higher ground.
One day, the Lord spoke to me with loving severity, and said, "Away with your passion for me; I'll have none of it. I have enough for both of us." There's an article on our web page titled, "The Perils of Piety." It might be a good one to read along with this devotional.Back to index