Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Victory of the Cross

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.  And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. II Cor 12:7-10.

I suppose no one really enjoys suffering, Even the Apostle Paul asked for the external deliverance from the thorn in the flesh that was torturing him. Brother James asks us to CONSIDER it all a joy when we are tested, but this is not the natural response to an unpleasant situation. Honestly, we all have suffered, and our first response is not to consider it all joy. No, like David did so many times, we cry out for relief. The Lord's response to Paul - "Let's leave things as they are, brother Paul". For the "testing of our faith produces patience" writes James, so we are left powerless, clueless and seemingly abandoned. Except of course, we are not left alone, as our Lord is always with us, even to the end of this age.

There is ALWAYS victory for the believer. Sometimes, the Lord works a miracle and our cross is, for the moment, removed. But far more often, the Lord would just let us learn the principle that brother Watchman Nee learned many years ago: When difficulty arises, we only ask one thing - How much of me has been lost, and how much of Christ has been gained? Once Paul learned this lesson, his experience shared in Romans seven no longer bothered him, for he saw the value. The old outer shell is burst, and "rivers of living water" gush forth.

The message of the cross is that the victory we have in Jesus is always first of all an internal eureka moment when we "count it all loss" that we may gain Christ. Sometimes that mountain in front of our faces will move once we have come upon this revelation, sometimes not, but the victory comes when we realize that it no longer matters. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Beauty of the Cross

1For we know that, if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
II Cor 5:1-2

I was once a single man. I recall this as a historical fact, but now that I am married, I really don't remember what it was like. It's as if that man has died, and I am now living a new existence as a husband and a stepfather. I cannot deny that for most of my years here on earth I walked alone, with responsibility for no one, but I honestly don't recall the loneliness of that life. Now I suspect that the same will be true of my walk here on earth, once I have passed on to eternity. Sure, I will remember the fact of my walk on earth, but I shall recall nothing of how it felt to be hindered by sin and the flesh, so ecstatic will be my joy at being in Christ's presence. 

Someone, maybe Lewis, said that our focus on earth is usually wrong. We treat eternity as if it were nothing, and nothing as if it were eternity. The Bible is clear: there is reward in Heaven for what is done on Earth, but for most of us, the promise of reward is nothing but empty words. Jesus bids us, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness . . . " but do we do so?  What is the true object of our desire? Is it the True Bread of Heaven (Is 55)? Or like the proverbial woman at the well, are we seeking that which does not truly satisfy?

I am convinced that when our hearts are set towards eternity, the Cross will ever be glorious in our eyes. Yes, Paul says, there is suffering here on earth, but it is not "worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed in us", Romans eight. If that which we have now in temporal reality is taken away, we nevertheless are 'Being renewed in the inner man daily" II Cor 4. Yes, "the body they may kill, God's truth abideth still, his kingdom is forever". 

Lord, help me to focus on Eternity. Let me never live under the illusion that this life is all that there is. May I truly desire the Eternal, and gladly endure to the end, knowing that there is true treasure layed up for me in Heaven. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

"For without faith, it is impossible to please God. For he who would come to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" Hebrews 11:6.

For so long, Galatians 2:20 has been my life verse, but now I am ready to move onto the above as my theme for the rest of my days here on earth. Yes, indeed, I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. This is the starting point, for unless I realize just how hopeless I am, I will hold onto my old man and his ugly flesh. But a starting point is not meant to be dwelt at, but left. So said the writer of Hebrews in chapter six.

So it's a swap. I give up my life, but I get all that Jesus is in return. I suspect, saints, that He is better than anything we could ever imagine in a million lifetimes. As I said in my previous post, God is not a human Father, who gives grudgingly if at all. Not a chance. No, but when we see Him as He is, our lives are completely changed. And this is what I want for this year. I want to change what I do by changing how I think. I am really looking forward to what this new year brings.

Monday, December 29, 2014


But we all, with uncovered face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. II Corinthians 3:18

And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

Beloved, now we are the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. I John 3:2

What is the key to transformation? In Christ, we are already new creations (II Cor 5:17). This is in the Aorist tense, indicating that the process is finished. At the same time, we must freely admit that our experience is far from perfection. There is no need to question this. The question is what we must do with the fact that, with Paul, the very thing we would do, we don't do, and that which we would not do, we do.

Peter promises us that everything we need for a godly life is already in us (II Peter 1:3). Yet the road to spiritual maturity is sure to include nearly constant failure. Why? We must learn the way of self-denial, the way of the cross. "To live is Christ and to die is gain". Until we realize we are nothing apart from him, and try to live a Christian life, failure will be our reward. But there is another way.

Years ago, people used to make pictures by putting film in a camera (How many of you born after 2000 knew this?). The way it works is that there is an unexposed negative in the film. When exposed to the light long enough, an image forms. So with our life in Christ. We are told to correct our thinking, and that the result of new thinking will be new behavior. Of course, this is not an exact analogy, as the film has no choice in the matter. Whenever the photographer opens the lens, an image is captured. In our walk with Christ it is the disciple who chooses to "open the lens" and let the Light of Christ shine into his heart. This speaks of abiding in Christ, remaining on the branch, trust. We remain in Him by focusing on the Life of Christ that is in us. Our fellowship is sweet. We do not go away unchanged.

What is God like? Doubtless many of us can give the correct theological answer, but what do we REALLY believe? Almost universally, we begin with an anthropomorphism. That is, we think of God in human terms, as if He were our human father. My own father was aloof and distant, not terribly interested in my concerns and cares. Guess what? I have to admit that much of my experience of God is based on this anthropomorphism. He is largely, in my experience, someone "out there" that I will doubtlessly need to give an account to some day. Intimate Father? Not so far, but I can say this - Times, they are a changing! I want this year to be the year that I behold his Glory, and having beheld Him, to have my subjective experience transformed. I invite everyone to join me in this goal. Let me know how you are doing!


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Radical Grace

I am pondering the meaning of Grace. The Apostle Paul starts many of his letters, "Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ". Grace. What is this? Is it possible that I am so entangled with religion that I can't see what grace is? I suspect this is so.

By the grace given to us in Christ, we are set free, Gal 5:1. Yes, "he whom the Son sets free is free indeed". Yet a man who does not do what he wills to do, is not truly free. This is the struggle of Romans seven. Paul has yet to discover that his victory is already won in Christ. Under his own power, all he can get is chapter seven. The bridge verse is "But thanks be to God who has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."Then he concludes, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, for the Law of the Spirit has set them free from the Law of Sin and Death." The Law of Sin and Death cannot be broken, but as brother Nee says, it is also subject to a higher law, the law of the Spirit.

I asked the Lord about this, and he led my spirit to Galatians 5:16. "Walk in the Spirit and there's no way you will be gratifying the lust of the flesh". Walk in, rely upon, cast oneself in - this is part of walking in the Spirit. Mostly I think ultimately it's TRUST. Jesus says, "You can't be my disciple unless you deny yourself". This is what Father has in mind. No more striving. Psalm 46:10. Yet I observe much unbelief in the members of the Body. We claim to trust Him, but in reality fear leads us. Seeing is not believing, saints. Believing is seeing. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the (revealed) Word." Rom 10:17.

The Apostle Peter tells us that Paul's letters are difficult to comprehend. I believe this is because the message Paul preaches is directly from Heaven (Galatians 2) and no carnal mind can get it. If I am preaching the same message he preached, I too would be accused of "easy believism" or some sort of antinomian heresy (See Romans 6). Grace that is truly unconditional has no part in human rational thought. I mean, yes, we understand the word, but instinctively reject the word's meaning. So take your pick. If you reject unconditional grace in favor of some sort of ethic, you get legalism (Revelation letter to the Ephesians). If you embrace a cheap grace, your life will be overrun by selfish desire.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Jesus revealed

He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” (Joh 1:11-12 AV)

Who is this Jesus that we worship? I suppose many have often wondered what it would have been like to have lived in Palestine when Jesus walked on the earth. How might He have touched our lives? Surely we would have seen Him, known Him, walked with Him, loved Him. And maybe we would have, but here's a thought: The people who DID live in Palestine in the first century didn't even recognize Him. Why not? His teaching was as "one with authority". His miracles could not be denied. John the Baptist, whom they held to be a prophet, said "Behold the Lamb". All the signs were in place, but His own people rejected Him.

Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?” (Isa 53:1 AV)

Isaiah here indicates that when Messiah comes, people would not know Him, unless the LORD makes Him known to them. Who is this Jesus? A man of sorrows, acquainted with our grief. A sheep led to the slaughter. A man who would not defend himself, but allowed evil men to have their way with Him. And this is our King? To those who would receive Him, He is. And also, one day, every knee will bow, every tongue confess, that He is Lord. But now, as it were, He is disguised in the cloak of humility. Only to those to whom the LORD has revealed Him can receive Him.

Jesus said to His followers, "If they rejected me, they will reject you, too". If we are walking the Jesus way, we will at best be misunderstood, and at worst killed. But I ask, "What Jesus are we presenting to the world today?" Some make Him to be a God of Prosperity. Others try their best to religiously follow his commands. But these things the world understands. What it doesn't get is the man who, when slapped down on one cheek, turns the other. It doesn't understand a Peace that transcends human understanding when a trial overwhelms. The world is offended by one who overcomes by allowing himself to be overcome.

Our brother Vern Kuenzi wrote about this before the LORD took him home. "Restoring the Vision of the End Times Church" is a recommended read. As far as I know, Amazon still has the book for sale, if anyone would like to check it out.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Self Denial

23 And He said to them all, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it.” (Lu 9:23-24 KJ21)

How can we best understand these words? This is Jesus' condition for discipleship (If any man would come after me".

1. Deny yourself
2. Take up your cross
3. Follow me

Deny yourself. Many men have tried to live a self-denied life, depriving themselves of food, or fellowship, or love, only to find that self is an overwhelming opponent. What we have failed to see that "self-deprivation" is ITSELF an act of self. There is no holiness achieved. Self-righteousness, to be sure, but not the holiness that God demands. What does Jesus have in mind here, then? Is it possible that He has commanded His disciples to do the impossible? Yes. Impossible for man, but "with God all things are possible". Says the Apostle Peter:

His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” (2Pe 1:3 KJ21)

The key then is Knowing Him who called us, and turning away from reliance on ourselves. I always share with my wife that the gospel is as easy as ABC. Admit you are powerless. Believe that Jesus has already won the victory. Confess these things with your mouth. Simple, and yet . . . How many of us are given the privilege of the revelation of our utter helplessness?

Take up your cross. I would understand this via James chapter one.

2 ¶ My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations, 3 knowing this: that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing.” (Jas 1:2-4 KJ21)

How can we consider suffering and trials joyous? How can we never, ever complain, or try to maneuver our way out? Could "take up" = accept with joy? If we see it, saints, yes, if we but see it! This is why we live not "by bread alone" but by every Word that comes from Father. Read the eighth chapter of Romans. Comparing this present suffering with the glory to be revealed in us, well, Paul says, it's all worth it. If I am giving up what I cannot keep to gain what I cannot lose, brother Elliot, I have walked wisely.

Follow me.

The Christian life is not difficult. It's IMPOSSIBLE. Only one man has ever lived it. But here's the good news: HE"S ALIVE! And He continues to live his life through his body, the church. Only by abandoning trust in ourselves can we achieve what God requires. Even Jesus Himself learned obedience as a son, and could do only that which He saw His Father doing. In this we follow in His steps, trusting not in ourselves, but in Him who has overcome the world.