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The Essentiality of a Secret Life in God

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“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” -Matt. 6.6

There is something most holy and precious about obediences and acts of loyalty that are carried out unto the Lord in secret. The real discrepancy in modern ministry is not a lack of activity or enthusiasm, but a woeful lack of true foundations, and this malady stems from the neglect of a secret life with God.

At the end of the day, all our anxieties, fears, compromises, moral collapses, and worldly strivings can be traced back to a threadbare secret life. We may be gifted in some form of ministry, waxing eloquent in spiritual talk, and impressing our friends and colleagues, but when the heat and press of real life strikes our hearts, our best facades wither for want of the reality of Jesus Christ. “Beholding Him, we are changed,” but when we the secret place of prayer is forsaken for other things, we are “mere men” with no heavenly distinctive in the earth.

The Lord has never cared much for religious performances. Feverish and self-conscious attempts at spirituality are ever and always driven by the desire to be seen and approved by men. He has always been the great Purist in terms of a jealousy for reality and “truth in the innermost parts”, and this can only be established and maintained when we are engaging Him in the secret place. It takes time to cultivate a secret life, for we are an inwardly itchy and distracted people, always yearning for recognition and praise. But during Jesus’ earthly sojourn, He left us with the preeminent example of Sonship, living out a seemingly mundane 30 years of submission to earthly parents and carpentry work, while abiding with His heavenly Father when there was no one to pat Him on His back. His identity was found totally in the favor the Father, and so He was able to live in a distinctive manner, “full of grace and truth”, unmoved by criticism and unaffected by flattery.

He did not strive for the recognition of His name or His spirituality, but lived a common life in a radically uncommon way. If anyone had the earthly right to “toot” their own horn it would have been Him, but He demonstrated the wisdom of God by glorying in that which only His Father could see. And when the day of His showing forth came, He emerged from the Jordan waters as One upon Whom the Spirit rested “without measure.”

Dear saint, get your eyes off of men, and cease this deathly cycle of seeking their praise and acceptance. As you fix your eyes upon “Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith,” you will be delivered from strife and brought into the real rest of sonship. All things will be made new. He will bring you into His heart and purpose, and your secret life with God will become your supreme treasure.

The great enemy of the Lord Jesus Christ in the present day is the conception of practical work that has not come from the New Testament, but from the systems of the world in which endless energy and activities are insisted upon, but no private life with God.  -Oswald Chambers

(Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God, by David McCasland; Discovery House Publishers, 1993; p. 187)

The Supremacy of Preaching Christ Himself

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“For while I was with you I resolved to know nothing except Jesus the Messiah, and Him crucified.” -1 Cor. 2.2

“Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.” -Acts 8.5

Every true preaching will lead its hearers to a higher vision of Jesus Christ and the centrality and supremacy of His cross. When we set up camp around superfluities or even biblical doctrines, however crucial they may be, yet fail to proclaim them in a manner that points the hearer Christ-ward, we fail in the high calling of true proclamation.

Nearly every religion on earth has some measure of light and truth; a paradigm or mode of thought that could be beneficial for living, but every one falls short of the glory of God. Religious systems do not impart life, and not one of them can deliver men in the salvific sense. Only the proclamation of “Christ, and Him crucified” brings to bear the truth of God, for “there is no other name given under heaven by which men can be saved.”

No other supposed faith can hold a candle to the glory of the Man Christ Jesus, and none can answer the ancient problem of mankind; namely, the universal dilemma of depravity and sin. To preach Jesus in the apostolic sense is not merely to give a “Roman’s Road to Salvation” presentation. It is to declare things which “angels long to look into”- the mystery of God as the merciful Judge, and the remarkable desire of Jesus Christ to restore sinners to Himself. Only the Gospel reveals the eternal God as He is, and only the Gospel deals with the issue of sin.

The missionary message is the limitless significance of Jesus Christ as the propitiation for our sins, and a missionary is one who is soaked in that revelation.

The key to the missionary message is the remissionary aspect of Christ’s life, not His kindness and His goodness, and His revealing of the Fatherhood of God; the great limitless significance is that He is the propitiation for our sins.

A missionary is one who is wedded to the charter of His Lord and Master, he has not to proclaim his own point of view, but to proclaim the Lamb of God.

(Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, October 15th selection)

Missionary work, ministries, movements, or “revivals” that stray from the proclamation of“Christ, and Him crucified” will ultimately fade into nullity. Even if they flourish numerically in this age, they will be as nothing in the age to come. “That which is born of flesh is flesh,” and only the foundation of Jesus Himself will endure to the glory of God. He must be the center, the nexus, and the capstone of our proclamation and vision. Even other necessary biblical views will end in nothingness unless they are postured in such a way as to lead us to “Christ, and Him crucified.” We need not to set forth our “own view, but to proclaim the Lamb of God.”

A man may preach about eschatology, the issue of Israel, divine healing, or even the cross itself without preaching Jesus Christ. If the message delivered is only categorical and canned, one may even expound on 1 Corinthians 2.2 without actually preaching “Christ, and Him crucified.” There is preaching and there is preaching. Have we come to know the difference between the two?

In contrast to mere human proclamation a man sent by the Lord will expound the same subject matter in such a way that it reveals the centrality and glorification of Jesus Christ to the heart of the hearer. Everything depends on whether or not the proclaimer is ascribing the glory to God in his own soul. If we are puffed up about knowledge, wanting to be clever, hoping to receive a certain calculated response from our listeners, we are disqualified from preaching Jesus Christ. Our own souls must be ever and always ascribing glory to the Lamb of God, or all our speech becomes suspect and dubious.

Thus, a radical and total jealousy for Christ Himself to be glorified is at the heart of true proclamation. Philip preached Jesus. He not only spoke about Christ, but his proclamation was an actual conveyance of the Person Himself. Something of the substance of the Lord was transmitted to the hearers and salvation ensued immediately. For Paul it was the same reality. Even the prophets of old preached Christ in this manner, though they prophesied “in part.” 

We need to see to the restoration of preaching Christ Himself, and not merely speaking of Him in a superficial or skin-deep manner. Down to the “marrow” of the soul we must be suffused with an active jealousy for the glory of Jesus Christ. Preaching and living from that place is preaching Christ indeed.

Have I “resolved to know nothing except Jesus the Messiah, and Him crucified,” or am I frolicking on the periphery of Christian theology and thought? He must be the center, dear saints. The world shall be in want of a true proclamation of the Gospel unless we give Him the pre-eminent place.

The more the Church holds to its central message- Jesus Christ Himself- the more effective it is.

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Fragrance of Christ vs. Self-Conscious Spirituality

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“…. thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” -2 Cor. 3.14

The greatest triumph is not in the establishment of an impressive organization, the saving of my reputation, or the performance of some great spiritual feat before men. The greatest triumph is led by God Himself, and it has to do with wringing out my personality and aura until I am a broken vessel through whom He shows forth “the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.”

Though I have adapted to the niceties and expected behaviors of Christian culture, though I know how to act around the right people, though I have “stopped doing what I used to do, because now I’m a Christian,” I may yet be bound by self-conscious spirituality. The life of faith does not have to do with conforming to external expectations in relation to the Christian subculture that I’ve been inducted into. It has to do with an ultimate inward surrender to the Lord of history, “who always leads us in triumph in Christ,” over every earthly influence and power. When we are so conscious of the Lord that we are able to love our enemies, resist the lusts of the flesh, and we are no longer moved inwardly to seek glory from men, only then is it evident that we are following the Lamb of God in His holy triumph.

If I am not emanating the fragrance of Jesus Christ, I must still be bound by self-consciousness in some way or another. When the light of heaven shines upon me, it may yet be seen that I am still concerned for my own glorification. The evidence of this is that I am not yet “broken bread and poured out wine”; I am failing to emit the “sweet aroma” of Jesus Christ. When “the least of these” come into contact with me, are they coming into contact with the vitality of the Son of God, or something that smells too much like the work of man?

When we have soulish ties to men, to this earth, or to our own religious ideals and presumptions, rather than a total jealousy for God’s glory, it becomes impossible for us to “triumph in Christ,” and we are incapable of manifesting His “sweet aroma,” which is His very character and nature. His fragrance is always antithetical to our self-conscious attempts at spirituality. I may need to ask myself some questions along these lines.

When challenging or rebuking another saint, am I abiding in the kindness of Jesus Christ? Would the Lamb of God deal as abrasively as I have when addressing that child or that struggling brother? When complimenting or encouraging someone, am I using flattery to gain some end myself, or am I actually expressing His own encouragement? When correcting some faulty doctrine in another brother, am I exhibiting my own knowledge and correctness, or am I speaking out of a true jealousy for the glory of God and the good of that soul?

I may claim to be radical for the Lord, carrying the cross and going against the tide of this age, but am I emitting the very fragrance of Jesus Christ in the process? If I am not, it may well be that the “tide of this age” is still sweeping me away, except that I am blanketed in Christian phraseologies and ideas. The only solution to self-conscious spirituality is God-conscious living, and Jesus has rent the veil that we might abide with Him in that holy place. From there we triumph in Christ, and manifest the sweet aroma of the knowledge of God “in every place.”

You are not required to pass through a religious maze to “manifest” the fragrance of the Lord. There is no puzzle involved, no trick up His sleeve, no riddle to unpack. To experience the depths of Christ, you need only to go down into death, taking up your cross and following the Lamb wheresoever He goes. He will inevitably lead you on paths that will wring out your personality and press His glorious image into your person. You will still be unique as an individual, but you will exhibit the wisdom and power of the age to come, which is “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

We do not triumph in Christ by boasting in a meeting, seeking favor from men, or finding our way onto some platform of religious fame. We triumph in Christ when the power of self is broken from our lives, and the very fragrance of Jesus flows from our being. When He leads us in triumph, we will bring to bear the knowledge of God Himself upon a world that is perishing for want of that great Light.

His Appearance “For Us”

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“Just as the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Abide in My love.” -Jn. 15.9

Some years ago, I was in the home of a beloved servant of God by the name of Art Katz. We were discussing the need for a recovery of the kind of preaching that would not merely inform the people of God, but lift them into a greater inner-awareness of His majesty. He made a comment that struck my heart, and I am feeling it’s reverberations especially today. This is what he said:

The Church is suffering from a chronic sense of inferiority, and they need to be built up in the reality of His love. We need to come into the realization that we’ve been “accepted in the Beloved.”

So many believers are “suffering from a chronic sense of inferiority,” and the opportunities for insecurity, self-consciousness, and anxiety are around every corner, particularly in a Western culture that is so status-driven. The powers of darkness have always worked overtime to keep the saints from a sustained and abiding experience of love of God. They have worked thousands of years at mastering the art of destroying the lives of men, and nowhere have they been more successful than in their schemes to bind men in strife after worldly acceptance, while robbing them of the awareness of God’s desire to secure them in His love.

Billboards and magazines pin women into the corner of striving for external beauty; commercials and other media venues trap men in the pursuit after bigger trucks and better homes. The options are voluminous for all types of searching after acceptance from others. Even- or maybe especially- in the religious world, many are jockeying for positions in ministry that would feed their ‘spiritual’ egos, and so many leaders are eaten up by a desire for numerical growth in their congregations and the popularity of their ministries.

Individual strife for a spiritual reputation is also common in the Body, with jealousy and envy dominating those who are wanting to establish a “form of godliness” without the reality of His power and love. We are comparing ourselves to others, living in an earthbound manner, and our vision of Jesus Christ is suffering as a result of it. We want approval from men, and it is that corrupt desire that robs us from experiencing the heavenly approval that the Father longs to express in His own “kind intention.”

“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (Jn. 5.44)

Across the board, we humans are being consumed by a sense of inferiority to someone or something, and it all stems back to the fact that we have not adequately received and abided in the love of God Himself.

Can we fathom that He does not regret having brought us into the Kingdom? That we are not a part of some “inferior” segment of the Body of Christ? That we have nothing to prove to Him, nothing to perform in the aim of earning His love, and that He is kind and compassionate toward us not because of our spiritual performance, but because that is who He is?

We need to commit the rest of our days to pursuing a greater understanding and awareness of His love toward us. He has declared that He loves us “just as” the Father loves Him. Hear Him, dear saint! His affections are no less profound toward you than they were toward Moses, Paul, Brainerd, Whitefield, or any other great soul. Oh, that we would be awakened to the reality of His constant and unfading love, and that it would be more for us than a theological category. Our Gospel inheritance is an abiding awareness of the glory and love God Himself.

The more I study the New Testament and live the Christian life, the more convinced I am that our fundamental difficulty, our fundamental lack, is the lack of seeing the love of God. It is not so much our knowledge that is defective but our vision of the love of God. Thus our greatest object and endeavor should be to know Him better, and thus we will love Him more truly.

-D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The pursuit after acceptance from men is a deathly roller-coaster ride, and it will not end until you learn to still your heart before the Lord, and receive the love of God Himself. Jesus Christ has already declared that He loves you just as the Father has loved Him, but your reception of that love is not automatic. You must push your way past the multitudinous voices that press for your attention, “be still and know” that a much profounder love is being poured out from heaven. All other voices lead to the fading glory of self, but the voice of the Lord is “above the waters,” and it leads to His eternal glory, which is “life forevermore.”

If the praise of man elates me and his blame depresses me….then I know nothing of Calvary love. -Amy Carmichael

Dear believer, you need not be jerked and pulled by the opinions, compliments, and criticisms of men. You need not be plagued with a sense of inferiority and a burning desire to be accepted by others. The undying and unwavering love of God Himself is available to you, for the cross of Jesus Christ has torn the veil of separation on your behalf. Turn from sin and strife for acceptance, and let your heart be stilled in the place of prayer. There you will hear His voice, receive from the well of His love, and your joy will be made full. From that holy place, He will give you grace to live amongst men with a whole new consciousness, abiding in the love of God Himself, “accepted in the Beloved One.”

The Sense of Inferiority vs. Abiding in the Love of God

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“Just as the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Abide in My love.” -Jn. 15.9

Some years ago, I was in the home of a beloved servant of God by the name of Art Katz. We were discussing the need for a recovery of the kind of preaching that would not merely inform the people of God, but lift them into a greater inner-awareness of His majesty. He made a comment that struck my heart, and I am feeling it’s reverberations especially today. This is what he said:

The Church is suffering from a chronic sense of inferiority, and they need to be built up in the reality of His love. We need to come into the realization that we’ve been “accepted in the Beloved.”

So many believers are “suffering from a chronic sense of inferiority,” and the opportunities for insecurity, self-consciousness, and anxiety are around every corner, particularly in a Western culture that is so status-driven. The powers of darkness have always worked overtime to keep the saints from a sustained and abiding experience of love of God. They have worked thousands of years at mastering the art of destroying the lives of men, and nowhere have they been more successful than in their schemes to bind men in strife after worldly acceptance, while robbing them of the awareness of God’s desire to secure them in His love.

Billboards and magazines pin women into the corner of striving for external beauty; commercials and other media venues trap men in the pursuit after bigger trucks and better homes. The options are voluminous for all types of searching after acceptance from others. Even- or maybe especially- in the religious world, many are jockeying for positions in ministry that would feed their ‘spiritual’ egos, and so many leaders are eaten up by a desire for numerical growth in their congregations and the popularity of their ministries.

Individual strife for a spiritual reputation is also common in the Body, with jealousy and envy dominating those who are wanting to establish a “form of godliness” without the reality of His power and love. We are comparing ourselves to others, living in an earthbound manner, and our vision of Jesus Christ is suffering as a result of it. We want approval from men, and it is that corrupt desire that robs us from experiencing the heavenly approval that the Father longs to express in His own “kind intention.”

“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (Jn. 5.44)

Across the board, we humans are being consumed by a sense of inferiority to someone or something, and it all stems back to the fact that we have not adequately received and abided in the love of God Himself.

Can we fathom that He does not regret having brought us into the Kingdom? That we are not a part of some “inferior” segment of the Body of Christ? That we have nothing to prove to Him, nothing to perform in the aim of earning His love, and that He is kind and compassionate toward us not because of our spiritual performance, but because that is who He is?

We need to commit the rest of our days to pursuing a greater understanding and awareness of His love toward us. He has declared that He loves us “just as” the Father loves Him. Hear Him, dear saint! His affections are no less profound toward you than they were toward Moses, Paul, Brainerd, Whitefield, or any other great soul. Oh, that we would be awakened to the reality of His constant and unfading love, and that it would be more for us than a theological category. Our Gospel inheritance is an abiding awareness of the glory and love God Himself.

The more I study the New Testament and live the Christian life, the more convinced I am that our fundamental difficulty, our fundamental lack, is the lack of seeing the love of God. It is not so much our knowledge that is defective but our vision of the love of God. Thus our greatest object and endeavor should be to know Him better, and thus we will love Him more truly.

-D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The pursuit after acceptance from men is a deathly roller-coaster ride, and it will not end until you learn to still your heart before the Lord, and receive the love of God Himself. Jesus Christ has already declared that He loves you just as the Father has loved Him, but your reception of that love is not automatic. You must push your way past the multitudinous voices that press for your attention, “be still and know” that a much profounder love is being poured out from heaven. All other voices lead to the fading glory of self, but the voice of the Lord is “above the waters,” and it leads to His eternal glory, which is “life forevermore.”

If the praise of man elates me and his blame depresses me….then I know nothing of Calvary love. -Amy Carmichael

Dear believer, you need not be jerked and pulled by the opinions, compliments, and criticisms of men. You need not be plagued with a sense of inferiority and a burning desire to be accepted by others. The undying and unwavering love of God Himself is available to you, for the cross of Jesus Christ has torn the veil of separation on your behalf. Turn from sin and strife for acceptance, and let your heart be stilled in the place of prayer. There you will hear His voice, receive from the well of His love, and your joy will be made full. From that holy place, He will give you grace to live amongst men with a whole new consciousness, abiding in the love of God Himself, “accepted in the Beloved One.”

The Gospel Judges Our Secrets

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“…. according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.” -Rom. 2.16b

Is it remarkable to us that Paul conveys the reality of God’s judgment as a crucial component of his “gospel”? Do we see it as “good news” that “God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus”?

Paul is addressing the issues of Law and conscience in Romans 2, and he swings his subject back around to the inward reality, as apostles always do. He declares that even if all seems to be intact externally with the saint, the real issue of judgment has to do with “the secrets of men,” for the Lord is ever and always concerned with reality, and not with the mere appearance of things.

Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment. -Jn. 7.24

Have I been refined a thousand times over in the inner-man, or have I upheld an image of spirituality in public that conflicts with the secret thoughts and motives of my heart? Have I been willing for the work of the cross in my soul, or have I sought to circumvent the word of truth, and clung to a foundation-less reputation that has been applauded by men, but will be found wanting on the day when “God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus”?

If there is duplicity and hypocrisy in my life, if I am still laboring for approval from men, if I am gripped inwardly with greed, pride, lust, envy and fear, the apostle has a word for me, and it is part and parcel with his Gospel. A Day of judgment is coming, when the light of God’s countenance will shine so penetratingly upon my life that every despicable thought, motive, and deed will be exposed. If I have held forth an impressive religious image before men, but have harbored ungodly “secrets” until that Day, they will be revealed in shocking transparency and with exacting clarity.

We may squirm to hear such a thing, but it is Paul’s Gospel. If we have an inadequate consciousness of the Day of judgment, we have not been apprehended by the Gospel of Paul. The gospel of some other man or angel has intruded, and we have been hooked into a lie.

The fact of this coming Day of exposure is Gospel (good news), for we are hearing it now, before that Day dawns. We have the privilege- painful as it may be- of bringing our duplicity and mixtures to Him today, while it is yet day. We have opportunity to repent and believe the Gospel afresh, and when at once we are sprinkled with the blood of the Lamb, everything is made new. When He purges our secret lives, which have harbored all kinds of dark ambitions and shameful musings, and makes us carriers of His own thoughts and desires, only glory remains. We have the remarkable privilege of moving away from a life of bondage and into the joy of becoming stewards of heavenly mysteries.

That is why there is no condemnation for those who are in the Man, Christ Jesus. He cleanses, refines, and heals us from all the corruption and disease that our souls have carried, and graftsus into His own purpose and way. It is no wonder that the Day of judgment was for Paul a necessary element of the Gospel. That Day will once and for all expose and destroy the sins of the world and the hypocrisies of men, and the mysteries of God will become the Government of the entire cosmos. Why should the Church live in hypocrisy and hidden sin when the Gospel has come to deliver us from darkness, both now and in the age to come?

Are you living a double-life, dear saint? Have you some underlying bitterness, anger, lust, rage, or fear still dominating your thoughts? In Light of the Day to come, allow the Father to bring judgment against your duplicity today, and when He burns out your soul-illnesses and makes you true, the exposure of your “secrets” will be Gospel to you, indeed. You will walk in the liberty of the Gospel, which is “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him. -Ps. 25.14

The Gospel is not an alterable message that can be shifted and redefined by men in their particular customs, preferences, and societies. The Gospel of Paul, which is the Gospel of God, raises a question mark against all that man has been, all that man is, and all that man ever will be within himself. It calls to task the kings of the earth, all who boast against God, and even all those who purport to be spiritual. Only His very mercy can cleanse, only His truth is true, and only His Light illumines our souls to the degree that our secrets are judged, and that judgment is itself a mercy. The Gospel judges not only our external acts of sin, but the secrets of our hearts, and it is a great mercy that He is touching our secret lives now, instead of being exposed when it is too late.

Oh, how jealous He is for His glory, and how jealous He is over our lives. The jealousy of the Lamb is the expression of His great love, in that He will not let us go until we have come into an unhindered union with God Himself.

Groping for God On Less-Than-Green-Grounds

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“…. and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us…. ” -Acts 17.26-27

There are times in the life of a saint when the Lord will bring him into transition and move him from one place to another, one function to another, or one occupation to another. Often the minds of believers are occupied with searching for the next transition, hoping for another position, looking over the horizon to some idyllic destiny. We hope for a picturesque scenario, where there is no turbulence or trial, no uncertainty or mystery, and where all the pieces of the puzzle seem to fit together effortlessly and without thought.

God, in dealing with His children, will have none of this. He is bent on establishing reality, and His reality is ever and always opposed to our idealistic wish-dreams, particularly those aspirations that are not grounded in a jealousy for His glory. He has “determined” our appointed times and boundaries, which is to say, it is in His calculated purpose for us to live in the specific generation that we live in. It is in His design for us to abide within the physical boundaries wherein He has placed us. If we are willing to follow Him wheresoever He calls us, and we have yet to hear a word of some great transition, we must conclude that He has us where we are for a significant reason. And that reason is supremely this:

“…. that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him…. “

The current press and trial of life, whatever it may be, is most likely a “determined” tool meant for the refinery of the saint, and it has been initiated by the great Potter Himself. Have we been vessels of pliable clay, or are we hardening our hearts towards His dealings? We are too often looking for the greener grass on the other side, when the real purpose of being on this side is that we “would seek God,” “grope for Him and find Him,” exactly as He is.

If you are gripped with anxiety about the future, about entering ministry, or pursuing some higher position of occupation, you are missing the point of your present location and orientation. The real key for transitioning rightly is not in seeking all the options set before you in your own wisdom and rationale, but in seeking God Himself. He will permit the most exquisite and painstaking sufferings in our lives, if they are necessary to bring us to the place where we are quickened to seek and grope for Him.

We may see others advancing in areas where we feel we should be advancing, but the word of the Lord to us is the same as it was to Peter, when he coveted John’s long life in light of his own foreseen martyrdom:

“…. what is that to you? You follow Me!” (Jn. 21.22)

Often the seasons in which He seems most absent are the seasons when He is present and at His greatest work in our souls. His silence is not evidence of His standoffishness, as much as it is a Fatherly kind of waiting upon us, to see if we will respond as His sons in the test that He has permitted. When that press and turmoil is upon our hearts, do we turn inwardly, looking for an answer within our own shoddy logic?  Do we look to flesh and blood, or do we “seek God”, “grope for Him and find Him?”

The promise holds true for us all, “He is not far from each one of us.”

Look not to that idyllic world of your own contrived destiny. Look not to what men say you are entitled to by virtue of any worldly accomplishment. Look not to despair or fear or bewilderment in the face of the weighty trial. Seek God. Grope for Him, right from the ground He has placed you upon in the here and now. That is the central issue. He is the central issue. Your transition, position, and destiny are totally secondary to seeking and beholding the Lord of History. And if He knows how to oversee the whole of history, He is wise enough to lead His sheep through the hills and valleys of our lives.

He is trustworthy, dear saint, and when we seek His face on “less-than-green” grounds, all things work together for our conformity to the image of His Son.

The Realization of His Kind Intention

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“He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” -Eph. 1.5-6

Self-consciousness, paranoia and fear have no abiding authority in the life of a believer. Once we have come to realize that in the Gospel, the “kind intention” of God Himself has been disclosed to the world, we begin to see that His transcendent mercy is vast enough to swallow up every worldly disposition that we have harbored. The Spirit of God intentionally pursues and diminishes every disposition that has kept us from a true knowledge of His nature.

The powers of darkness relish in spreading the disease of self-consciousness in the Church, particularly because it binds men in pride, intimidation and a fear of others. It takes the very love of God being “shed abroad in our hearts” for that power to be broken, for whether we are shy individuals or social butterflies, if we have not been established in the inmost parts by the “kind intention” of God, we will invariably be impaired by self-consciousness in one way or another.

The revelation of His “kind intention” in the Gospel- namely, that God Himself has predestined us for communion with Him- makes us to realize that if we have been born from above, we have access to a mode of being that marks our consciousness with that glorious Pauline phrase: “…. accepted in the Beloved….”

This is not a syrupy, lightweight subject. This is not merely the message for those saints who are smiling all the time, or who seem to have all of their personality traits in tact. This realization is the power of God’s own Personality, pressing into our frame, and driving out every earthbound, would-be wisdom.

The redemption that has come to us through the cross of Jesus Christ is a total deliverance from the spirit of the world. Where once we knew bitterness, we now know a holy love; where once we knew paranoia, we now know Godly confidence; where once we knew the fear of man, we now know the presence of God; where once we knew timidity, we now know a heavenly boldness; where once we knew falsity and performance, we now know trueness; where once we were self-absorbed and arrogant, we now know humility and value; where once we knew anxiety and nervousness, we now know the priestly quietness of acceptance before God. He has not only made us new creations externally, but opened up access to the formation of Himself in all our ways of thinking and living.

“And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” -Eph. 1.22-23

When we surrender our self-reliance to the fire of God, He torches that which was binding and unheavenly, and deposits in its place an inward awareness of His “kind intention” toward us. Dear saint, you’ve been accepted by the King of creation, and “all things” are in subjection to Him. Do not be bound by self-consciousness, fear, or the desire to please men. Glorify the Lamb of God, for His shed blood has torn the veil of separation on your behalf!

Deviating from the Thread of the Knowledge of God

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“We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” -1 Jn. 4.6

“….even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” -Gal. 1.8-9

There is a thread of the knowledge of God which runs through the Scriptures, and which we need desperately to cling to in these last days. It is the accumulated revelation of God, beginning in Genesis, running right through the Patriarchs, Judges, and Prophets of the Hebrew Bible.

It continues on in the New Testament record, finding it’s revelatory climax in Jesus Himself.

The foundational apostles, having a firm grasp on that thread, found themselves in a continuum with the knowledge of God set forth by their progenitors. What the prophet of old saw in part, the apostle viewed in fuller measure, but that fuller measure never ground against the revelation of God given before. Isaiah and Ezekiel’s visions were not trumped by Paul’s, but rather summed up in Christ. “I have not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it.” The apostle’s teaching did not replace the revelation of God given in the Hebrew Bible (after all, Paul charged the Gentiles to read the prophets!), it brought type and shadow to manifested definition through the Gospel of Jesus.

In obedience to the Gospel call, the apostles poured out their lives to convey and deliver that precious knowledge of Christ to the Gentiles. On the shoulders of that great Hebraic history and sacrifice, the Church finds its foundation, and out of the sap which comes from Israel’s tree, we “live, move, and have our being.”

When the Gnostic heresy was affecting the community to which John wrote, he was gripped with concern and addressed the Church along these lines:

These men do not have a hold on the holy thread which has been given through Christ; namely, the intimate knowledge of the God of Israel, which was delivered to us by the full-orbed demonstration of His wisdom on the Cross. They deny His flesh-and-blood witness, and thereby prove that they are false. They didn’t come from the apostolic fellowship, they have a hold on some faulty version of faith, and are operating in a spirit of error.

When the Judaizers were infiltrating the congregations in Galatia, Paul was equally concerned, though the impostors were of a different order than the Gnostics. In essence, he charged the Church thusly:

The Gospel that we delivered to you was not the concoction of men. It was given to me by way of holy revelation, through a vital encounter with the God of Israel. Before my confrontation with the Messiah on the road to Damascus, I thought I had a hold on the thread of the Lord’s doctrine, but I was on a windy path of religiosity that had impressive forms, but no viable union with Him in truth. The Messiah Jesus appeared to me, transformed my heart and view, and introduced me to the true thread of the knowledge of my father Abraham’s God. Now, why would you make room in your hearts for those who would proclaim a so-called Gospel that is totally out of touch with the foundational word that you received from me? It may have manners of formality and superstructures that seem spiritual, but its foundations are faulty. They have not been laid by foundational servants who are in that holy continuum, but by men with agendas. Flee from these “different gospels”!

We look upon the congregations in Galatia and wonder how they fell prey to the Judaizers. We look upon the ones to whom John wrote, baffled that any of them would even consider the strange ideas and ruminations of Gnosticism. But it behooves us in these days, with a shortage of foundational servants in the Church, to raise very serious and applicable questions.

Do we have a firm grasp on the “thread” of the knowledge of God, as He has set Himself forth in the Scriptures?

Are “different Gospels”, that the apostles of old would hardly recognize, taking center stage in our congregations?

Do we find ourselves in a continuum with the prophets and apostles of the Scriptures, or is our “revelation” of Jesus and the Gospel a caricature of the true and foundational revelation once and for all given?

Certainly, we all “see in part” and “prophesy in part”, but my own heart is alarmed these days, as I’m hearing “different gospels” promulgated, even in evangelical and charismatic congregations. “Gospels” that seem to have a hold on some other thread of knowledge- one that grinds against the revelation of God given through the Scriptures.

I’m hearing statements like this:

“There’s no need to preach repentance in the church. I refuse to preach repentance to people who are already repenting.”

“God is not the author of any suffering or any natural disasters. In fact, because all of His judgment was fulfilled at the cross, He does not act in that way any more. That was Old Testament.”

“The Gospels were actually written to support Paul’s epistles.”

“Maybe you’ve been spending too much time in Jeremiah. Maybe you’ve even spent too much time in the Gospels. Jesus was not a grace preacher. He was a preacher of the Law. You need to get out of the red letters for a while and get into Paul.”

The man who made the latter statement declared, “I may be a little too Pauline for you all…”, to which I responded, “Actually, he is not being Pauline at all!”

Dear saints, I am not into “watchdog ministry” or looking under every rock and behind every bush for the slightest spasm of doctrinal error. I am not one to find pleasure in naming names or exposing faults in others to my own elevation. But my heart is breaking over the kinds of things I’m hearing these days, and I’m told by itinerant preacher friends that they are running into this all over the nation.

….there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master [and His Lordship] who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. -2 Pet. 2.1

This applied to Peter’s day, and it will apply in an increasing measure in the days leading up to the Lord’s return. The Lord has never been fond of mixtures, and we are seeing a staggering kind of mixture in our day. It is likely an old mixture, but it is being repackaged and is spreading in an unprecedented manner. It’s a profession of Jesus as Savior, but a denial of Jesus as Lord. A profession of Jesus as “good”, but a denial of Jesus as “the Judge of all the earth.” A profession of Jesus as compassionate, but a denial of Jesus as the One who calls “all men to repent.”

Dear saints, it is not either/or. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” “Behold then the kindness and severity of God…” If we are unwilling to grow in the knowledge of God as He has set Himself forth in the Scriptures, we can be sure that we do not have a hold on the right “thread”.

More than ever, we have come to a time when an “utterness” toward the Lord is the matter of life and death for the Church and for Israel. We’ve got to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints,” lest we find ourselves swimming in the polluted waters of “different gospels,” which will have great appeal to men, while leading them away from the reality of of Christ, though their movements will likely bear the name “Jesus.”

The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity. The oracles they gave you were false and misleading. -Lam. 2.14

We need to be cognizant of the fact that as the final pages of history are turned, there will be demonstrations of power that are from the Lord, and demonstrations of power that are from below. The safeguard against falling prey to “different gospels” is to be found in the secret place with the Lord, to immerse ourselves in the Scriptures, and to walk in humility one with another in a continued pursuit of the true knowledge of God.

The world is evil, the times are waxing late, and the glory of God has departed from the church as the fiery cloud once lifted from the door of the Temple in the sight of Ezekiel the prophet.

The God of Abraham has withdrawn His conscious Presence from us, and another God whom our fathers knew not is making himself at home among us. This God we have made and because we have made him we can understand him; because we have created him he can never surprise us, never overwhelm us, nor astonish us, nor transcend us.

….The God of our fathers wills to be the God of their succeeding race. We have only to prepare Him a habitation in love and faith and humility.

A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, Ch. 8, God’s Infinitude

I do not want to leave you with a note of hopelessness, for He has made Himself overwhelmingly available to us. No person has more copiously poured our their affection or condescended so far to reach you. If we seek Him with all our heart, we “shall find Him,” and when we get a hold of the “thread” there is no greater place of holy delight, “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” All the more grievously does it strike me, that many would wallow in habitual sin and a “different gospel”, when the glories of the Man Christ Jesus have been made available to all who would come.

We must dig deeply into the Scriptures. We must be found in the place of prayer. We have a privileged calling to make a demonstration of His wisdom to the “principalities and powers of the air,” to “move Israel to jealousy,” to take the Gospel of glory to the “uttermost parts of the earth,” and ultimately, to “hasten” the day of our glorious Lord’s return.

Dear saints, I say again, there is nothing more crucial than coming into a knowledge of God as He is, and not as we ourselves have conceived Him to be.

Little children, guard yourselves from idols. -1 Jn. 5.21

The Near Extinction of Honor

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“‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect [fear]?’ says the Lord of hosts to you, ‘O priests who despise My name.’ But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?’” -Mal. 1.6

We need to be leery of any view of the Fatherhood of God that does not lead us into a holy esteem for the Lord. Likewise, our view of His Lordship ought always to be accompanied with a sense of His kindness, lest it become stoic and lifeless. Our view of His Fatherhood must be attended by the quintessential attribute of His nature; namely, His holiness, lest we find that we are engaged headlong in activities performed “in His name,” but altogether devoid of His honor. The prophet commences with an “oracle of the word of the Lord,” declaring, “I have loved you.”

How did Israel requite the Lord for His gracious love? From the love of God the prophet now turns to the ingratitude of His people. God has treated the people of Israel as a son; have they honored Him as Father? They have retained the relationship of servant to Him as Master; have they rendered Him due reverence? The rightful respect due God has been withheld, due mainly to the ungodliness of the priests against whom the charge is directed.

(Charles Feinberg, The Minor Prophets; Moody Press, 1990 ed. pp. 251-252)

It is a rarity for the “rightful respect due God” to have a place in the consideration of modern saints. With the advent of smart phones, instant internet access, and a thousand other forms of entertainment and distraction, the idea of being “still” and knowing that He is God is taking on an archaic character. The everyday bustling believer is being (or has already been) reduced to a brand of humanity that can only respond to, and receive from, that which is quick, easy, and colorful. The priestly distinctives of waiting and honoring and revering the One on the throne have reached the status of taboo, even if we would refuse to admit it.

We have learned to settle for the offering up of blind, lame, and sickly sacrifices, and the robust faith of the apostles and prophets of old is nearly extinct in the Western Christian experience. We need daily to be reminded that:

The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; 
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. 
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; 
The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. -Ps. 19.8-9

Many Christians are being raised with an understanding of God that is tragically bereft of the kind of reverential honor that the prophets and the old Levites bore before the people. There is something tinpot and cheap about our hurried ministries and perfunctory thoughts of God. They do not ring with the life-giving note of the fear of the Lord, and unless we acquire that, we can be sure that however busy we might be with work, play, or some ostensible expression of ministry, we will not bear the necessary priestly distinctive: “holiness unto to the Lord.” Our witness will be reduced to humanism and our ministry to mere religion.

Our great task is not first to perform externals, but to bear the knowledge of God as He is before the people, and that knowledge cannot be obtained but by a people in earnest pursuit of the Living God. If we give slipshod attention to Him, however feverishly engaged in ministry we might be, He will be as a Father without honor. We need to be arrested by the reality that He will have nothing to do with man-centered ministries, humanistic theologies, or garbled definitions of priestliness and sonship.

Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not not pleased with you,” says the Lord of hosts, “nor will I accept an offering from you.” -Mal. 1.10

We need to be acutely aware of the fact that it is possible to function in a distorted kind of faith that caters to our spiritual preferences, but is in no way pleasing to the Lord. It is even possible for this infraction and offense to be committed “on My altar” or under the auspices of Christian ministry.

Leon Morris wrote that Malachi gives attention to “laxity among the priests,” and this may well be the characteristic condition of believers in modern times, whether Evangelical or Charismatic. The laxity is not in activity, but in earnestness after God. The Levites had deviated from the priestly covenant, and in like manner, the Church has largely deviated from “faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.”

‘My covenant with him [Levi] was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him as an object of reverence; so he revered Me and stood in awe of My name. True instruction was in his mouth and unrighteousness was not found on his lips; he walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many back from iniquity. For the lips of priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.
But as for you, you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by the instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi,’ says the Lord of hosts. So I also have made you despised and abased before all the people, just as your are not keeping My ways but are showing partiality in the instruction. -Mal. 2.5-9

We need to peer long and hard into the Levitic call, especially at its heart, for it is not unlike the call of every saint. In the Gospel, we have been “grafted” into a continuum with the Hebraic Levites of ancient times, for like our Lord, the nature of a priest is the “same yesterday, today, and forever.” We ought to be bearing that priestly honor for the Father, and going from “glory to glory” in that wondrous reality. Have we seen Him as worthy of that kind of life; of living, moving, and having our being in Him; ‘broken bread and poured out wine’ for His sake?