Author Archives: Allan Halton

Government And Peace

Let me sketch you a picture out of a children’s storybook as best I recall it from my childhood. Perhaps you’ve seen something like it yourself—a castle high on a hill, and below it the whole kingdom round about inhabited by happy and contented people. Throughout the land a stream wends its way; along its banks are fields and orchards, abundance for all. The people live without fear, safe and secure from all alarms and enemies because of the king who resides in the castle and protects them. He is a great king, and powerful. He watches over his kingdom night and day lest any attempt to invade it and disturb its peace.

What a lovely picture, eh? If only… Yes, if only it were real. If only we could live in that picture instead of in the real world with its troubles of the present and forebodings of the future. Peace and Confidence (transients from the world) have packed up and left the home of the heart; the unwelcome intruders Anxiety and Fear have moved in, and growing numbers can’t evict them. Neither, it seems, can their government. Thus, many these days have lost faith in their government; they are anxious and angry about the things their government is doing. Or not doing.

Oh that they might discover the reality of which my storybook picture is but a wistful imagination, and delight themselves in a peace that the world with all its governments cannot give. Here is that reality in the words of a prophecy 700 years before it began to be fulfilled, and which continues to this day, and shall forever:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (Isa 9:6,7 KJV)

Here then is the king, and here is His throne and His kingdom. Its government, its rule, is upon His shoulder—it is His responsibility—and He is more than up to the job; it only takes one of His shoulders, the other, as someone has said, He reserves for His lambs.

The promise is that “of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end…” Those two words government and peace are one. His government is peace.  Peace is His government. Dearly beloved, let this lay hold of us. In vain do we seek peace apart from His government in our lives. But when we have bowed the knee and the heart to this king, His government, that is to say His peace, rules over us and in us and nothing can disquiet it.

“Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom…” There is the seat of His government—the throne of David. This reminds me of the prophecy of the priest Zacharias upon the birth of his son John the Baptist. The time of the fulfillment of prophecy and promise, of an oath and a covenant, had arrived. It’s a lengthy prophecy so I’ll compress it here (but I encourage you to read it in full; even if you’ve read it many times it’s well worth savouring again).

Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David…” (Lk 1:67-69 NKJV). This, then, is a prophecy of a coming king in the line of David. The horn in Scripture is symbolic of power, and the result of this power is “salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all that hate us…” Zacharias knew his Bible; he is almost quoting from it here: “for the LORD hath spoken of David, saying, By the hand of my servant David I will save my people Israel out of the hand of the Philistines, and out of the hand of all their enemies” (2 Sam 3:18). Zacharias continued: “…To grant that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.” So this deliverance from, this salvation from, is also salvation to. Under this king’s rule his subjects are not only liberated from their enemies, they are also provisioned with the grace of holiness and righteousness so that they may to serve their God without fear, for their enemies cannot penetrate His domain, fear is banished, and sin can no longer molest.

And so it is from the throne of David that this king’s kingdom—His government and peace—is ruled. The king of this kingdom, the Son of David, reigns on the throne of David in the castle of His kingdom high on the hill Zion at the right hand of God. It is from this throne in the heavens that His kingdom is administered here in the earth—by the Holy Spirit sent from that throne. Oh that we might be awakened to the reality of this. To be led by the Spirit of God is to be governed by the throne of God. Beloved, when that Government is in our hearts, its peace is inviolable. For the very throne of God is in that peace, and His throne is inviolable.

Be careful for nothing

Here’s another New Testament passage that has this same government and peace in mind:

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6,7 KJV)

That’s from the old King James version of 1611. The word through here is a mistranslation of the Greek word en. Newer translations have “in Christ Jesus.”

And some of the words in the KJV have lost the meaning they had back then. For careful other translations now have anxious. That is, full of care. Be not full of care, but careless, or rather carefree, by bringing every care in prayer to God. That is the emphasis here. “…Let your requests be made known unto God, and the peace of God that passeth all understanding shall keep…” As in another much-loved verse in Isaiah: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isa 26:3). Note who it is that does the keeping. “Thou wilt keep..” The perfect peace is the evidence of a mind stayed on God, it is the evidence of trust in God. It’s quite something that the word trust here (Heb batach) is elsewhere translated careless. “Rise up, ye women that are at ease; hear my voice, ye careless daughters; give ear unto my speech. Many days and years shall ye be troubled, ye careless women…” (Isa 32:9,10). Careless is the same word translated trust. You mean when we trust God it’s okay to be careless? Apparently, yes. Not in our walk, this is not advocating a lax walk. But we can breathe a sigh of relief, can relax, be no longer on edge. We may be careless even in the midst of cares. We may not be “out of the woods,” but we may “sleep in the woods” (Ez 34:25). That’s pretty careless, wouldn’t you say? Better stay awake and worry. Not when we are in the care of the Shepherd King of David’s line who keeps His flock. Wild beasts may prowl round about roaring and howling in the darkness, cares and troubles may lurk in the shadows threatening to devour us, but we are kept in perfect peace, a peace that passes all understanding. Because we trust in Him.

Kept in the Keep

I love the word keep, this is another of the old KJV words that has lost its original force. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace…” “And the peace of God… shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus…” Among the many definitions of keep the Merriam Webster online dictionary has this: “to preserve, maintain. To watch over and defend, to keep from harm.” That’s the verb. Where the KJV has “shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus,” newer translations have “shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus…” Guard is the same word Paul used when he said that “In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me…” (2 Cor 11:32). So the peace of God that surpasses all understanding shall be a garrison keeping guard over our hearts and minds, permitting no escape, and keeping out any anxious thought attempting entry. For—let’s not miss this—how can they enter into Christ Jesus? Because…

…Keep is also a noun: “one that keeps or protects: such as aFORTESS, CASTLE specificallythe strongest and securest part of a medieval castle. bone whose job is to keep or tend. cPRISON, JAIL.”

 Here we find keep used two ways. The keep is “one whose job is to keep or tend.” And the keep is also a fortress, a castle, “specifically the strongest and securest part of a medieval castle.” I love that. To be guarded by the peace of God is to be kept in a keep—the strongest and securest part of a castle, the very purpose of which was to defend against the worst onslaught of the enemy. It is the keep’s (or keeper’s) job to do the keeping—not the one who is being kept. It’s not our responsibility to come up with peace in times of turmoil. Many these days are anxious for peace, longing for peace.  But once again, it’s a misguided and fruitless endeavour to pursue peace as an end in itself. I know that the Scriptures exhort us to seek peace (Ps 34:12). But we must know where to look for it. Peace will not be found apart from the government of the King of Righteousness. It is His righteousness that effects peace.

And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever. And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places; when it shall hail, coming down on the forest… (Isa 32:17-19 KJV)

Peace in the very midst of a devastating storm of evil? Yes. To pursue the God of righteousness inevitably means finding His peace. Regardless of our circumstances. The keeping peace is just there when we have come to God—our loving God—on bended knee with all our cares. That is our responsibility. When we do that, we find ourselves garrisoned in His peace, that is, in the keep of the castle Christ Jesus Himself.

Dear Lord Jesus Christ our king on the throne of David, we pray, keep us in there; keep us in Your keep. It has proven to be true according to Your words, that “in the world you will have tribulation.” To our sorrow we know that to be true. But, then, it must also be true according to your word—and we may prove this also—that since you have overcome the world we may be of good cheer, and in You have peace, the kind of peace the world cannot give. And cannot take away either. We will, then, according to Your words dear Jesus our king, put our trust in You and let not our heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. Amen. (Jn 14:27, 16:33).

 

 

Breathing Together With God

Let’s talk about conspiracies, the real and the fictitious. And then let me tell you about the greatest one of all, which is the ruin of them all, and how you and I may become involved in it. I’m not happy using the word conspiracy with its connotation of evil for this one, but more on this later.

Conspiracies are not new, there have been many throughout the ages; the Bible itself tells of many actual conspiracies, and there are no doubt many in the world today. Neither are conspiracy theories new, these also have abounded. It’s easy enough to see why. A theory may prove true or otherwise, and the fact that there are real conspiracies lends credence to the false. It’s like counterfeit money. The only reason people make counterfeit money is so they can pass it off as real.

But counterfeit conspiracies have something in common with real conspiracies. They are both the works of the Devil, the Prince of darkness. As long as there is darkness in which the workers of darkness can hide there will be conspiracies. Real conspiracies. There will also be conspiracy theories purporting to give us some light into what’s happening in the dark. They are the polar opposite of what the psalmist had in mind when he wrote that “light is sown for the righteous…” (Ps 97:11). They are sowings of darkness under the cover of darkness intent on deceiving those in the dark. They are phantasms of darkness meant to cause fear.

Many years ago I myself was quite attracted to a conspiracy theory. This was back in the 1970s in Calgary. I was a newborn Christian and my heart was full with so much that was new to me, and I began to hear also of something called The Illuminati. Even the very title—this is the main idea behind conspiracy theories, isn’t it. You are now “illumined,” you are in-the-know, no longer duped like the masses out there in the dark. That’s how it was with a few of us in the little fellowship I was involved in (Faith Tabernacle led by dear old Brother Graham) when we heard of an Illuminati seminar. We too wanted to be in-the-know. The Illuminati conspiracy theory has a long history but this one was some kind of “new improved” version. (Which makes me wonder if the conspiracy theories in our day are in the lineage of the Illuminati; they seem to have the same family likeness.) In any case, when those of us who were intrigued by the Illuminati heard about the seminar we decided to take it in. It was a Saturday evening. The speaker got under way, and as we were sitting listening I turned my head to look around and, lo and behold, there was Brother Graham seated toward the back across the room from us. What a surprise. From time to time, and ever so nonchalantly, I looked back. He was listening intently it seemed to me, quite often with his head bowed and eyes closed. After a time there was a break. We were invited to help ourselves to refreshments at the back and have a look at some literature on a table. I hoped to talk with Brother Graham among the people milling around. But I couldn’t find him. It seems he had used the opportunity to slip away. The next morning, Sunday morning, I headed for Faith Tabernacle. I could hardly wait to hear what he had to say about the Illuminati. I walked in and sat down. On the wall above the pulpit was a little notice board upon which he usually placed a weekly Bible verse. This morning it read, “Preach the word. 2 Tim. 4:2.” After a time of singing and prayer and prophecy he gave his message, saying not a single word about the seminar. I got the message.

And have given myself to the word of God from that day to this.

So it’s not my intention to debate the truth or falsehood of the many conspiracy theories out there these days. What I want to do is tell you of a true “conspiracy” that is the undoing of all others real or fabricated. Anyone who has a Bible can read about this one; it’s hidden in plain sight. It’s because of this one that I don’t trouble myself with the conspiracy theories that abound these days. I’m not fearful of the agenda of “a cabal of global elites” who have what they call the Great Reset in the works. And when I hear the cry of alarm being sounded by those who are intent on awakening us to this evil conspiracy… warning us  we need to get “woke” and become involved in what they are calling the Great Awakening… I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. If this is not a satanic counterfeit I don’t know what is. This is deception upon deception. I anticipate a Great Awakening—but not that one. And, yes, it’s high time to awaken out of sleep, for the Great Reset took place some two thousand years ago on a hill called Calvary outside Jerusalem.

Conspiring—breathing together

Our English word conspiracy comes from the Latin conspirare—to be in harmony, to conspire: from com, together, and spirare, to breathe. So a conspiracy is “a breathing together,” a very vivid word construction; in your mind’s eye you can see the conspirators huddled close together in the dark, secretly breathing out their wicked whisperings. But what happened at Calvary—I can’t bring myself to use the word conspiracy with its connotation of evil—this was the carrying out of the breathing together of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit in their eternal plan of salvation for man and the utter destruction of the Devil and all his works. In this holy breathing together, this secret council in the Light, they determined that the Devil himself would be taken in the works of his own hands and destroy himself. For some reason, the Devil didn’t grasp his role in it all back then, and to this day never does:

However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Cor 2:6-8 NKJV)

That’s quite something when you think of it. The wisdom of God in a mystery, a secret. The hidden wisdom. Secret from whom? Hidden from whom? From the rulers of this age, both heavenly and earthly, who conspired together to crucify the Lord of glory. Their doing was their own downfall. There is more. Paul continues: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor 2:9).  We stand in awe of that, don’t we. But Paul adds something; may it startle us awake. This hidden wisdom, this secret wisdom that God has hidden from some is wisdom that has been prepared for them that love him. He has revealed, unveiled these things, yea, the very depths of God, to those He loves. How does He do this?

But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. (1 Cor 2:10).

Paul has been writing of the proclamation of the Gospel—“Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:23-24). Then he adds, “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor 1:25). Here, then, is the hidden wisdom of God—Christ crucified—the wisdom of the cross, which, says Paul, he speaks “among those who are mature.” Such as these would comprehend what he was saying. So right here we have an insight into what it means to be a mature Christian. They are those who, even while they have grown in understanding, continue to have the childlike believing heart. Jesus on one occasion rejoiced and thanked His Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that “You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes” (Mt 11:25). Hidden them how? For He spoke them openly. But being wise in their own eyes they were blind to these things, as the prophet foretold. “The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee” (Obad 3). Revealed them how? By His Spirit to the lowly of heart.

This must be why God’s “conspiracy,” although openly declared in Scripture, is apparently incomprehensible to the king of pride, the Devil, and the proud of heart who conspire with him against God.

Preach the Word

I think I’ll just string together now some scriptures of the Word of God—thank you Brother Graham for sowing that seed in my heart years ago—scriptures that speak of this hidden wisdom of God, who in His weakness and foolishness turns to foolishness the might and wisdom of men. It’s all over the Bible, really, this hidden wisdom; let’s breathe it in:

The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken.
The LORD is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. (Ps.9:15,16)

Notice the plural in verse 15 above—conspirators breathing together; and in verse 16 the singular—the Wicked One.

Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD, and teachest him out of thy law;
That thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit be digged for the wicked. (Ps 94:12,13)

Who is digging, or should I say dug, this pit for the wicked? Here’s our answer:

Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood.
He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made.
His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate (Ps 7:14-16).

The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined. (Ps 10:2)

For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit, which without cause they have digged for my soul.
Let destruction come upon him at unawares; and let his net that he hath hid catch himself: into that very destruction let him fall.
And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation. (Ps 35:7-9)

But mine eyes are unto thee, O GOD the Lord: in thee is my trust; leave not my soul destitute.
Keep me from the snares which they have laid for me, and the gins of the workers of iniquity.
Let the wicked fall into their own nets, whilst that I withal escape. (Ps. 141:8-10)

Now some actual instances of this:

So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then was the king’s wrath pacified. (Est 7:10)

And the three hundred blew the trumpets, and the LORD set every man’s sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host: and the host fled… (Jdg 7:22)

And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.
For the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of mount Seir, utterly to slay and destroy them: and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, every one helped to destroy another. (2 Chr 20:22,23).

Those are all from the Old  Testament. Now consider this from the New:

And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. (Col 2:13-15)

Triumphing over them in what? In His cross, the cross in which they were sure they were triumphing over Him.

As in the story of David and  Goliath. Who slew Goliath? Yes, David. But how did he slay him? No, not with a sling and a stone, but with Goliath’s own weapon.

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Heb 2:14,15)

Amen. True illumination from the scriptures of truth.

I promised at the beginning to tell you how we ourselves may become involved in God’s “conspiracy,” that is, in the weakness and foolishness of Christ crucified. Here is how, and it’s humbling to think that we ourselves are invited to breathe together with the holy God. He invites into His holy council chamber the humble, the meek, the lowly, and shares with them daily His counsels, His breathings. What is His counsel? That we take up our own cross daily, and, being led by the Spirit, follow Jesus, being always childlike of heart, simple of heart, trusting God. His way works, beloved, His secret counsel is effectual; it’s been demonstrated, and this will yet be manifested and shouted from the rooftops of all Heaven and earth.

Dear Father, thank you for inviting us to breathe together with you the breathings of God. Amen.

God Is My Witness

Just before His ascension Jesus promised His disciples that upon His sending the Holy Spirit, “Ye shall be witnesses unto Me” (Acts 1:8). But have you noticed in reading the epistles of Paul how often he mentions God being his witness? This is the “flip side” of receiving the Holy Spirit and thereby being made one of Jesus’ witnesses. Here are a few instances:

In his epistle to the Philippians: “For God is my record [witness], how greatly I long after you all in the bowels [tender mercies] of Jesus Christ” (Phi 1:9).

Also to the Thessalonians: “For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness…” (1 Thes 2:5). And a few lines further on: “Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe…” (1 Thes 2:10). You mean, Paul, you had a conscious awareness of God witnessing your activities, your behaviour, 24/7?

And to the Corinthians, where Paul as it were called God to the witness stand to vouch for his motive in delaying to come to Corinth: “Moreover I call God for a record [witness] upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth” (2 Cor 1:23).

And here, to the Romans: “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost…” (Rom 9:1). Here Paul is speaking of the witness of the Spirit. This is one and the same as the witness of God.

Again to the Romans he writes of this witness of the Spirit: For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God…” (Rom 8:15,16).

Now this one, again to the Romans, in which we discover that God bore witness to Paul’s prayers; this is what we want to focus on just now:

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;
Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. (Rom 1:8-10)

Here again, as Paul clarifies in verse 13, he wanted the Romans to know his motives—that he had not been unmindful of them, in fact had often wanted to come to them but had been hindered from coming. And who better to vouch for one’s motives than God Himself? And so he writes, “For God is my witness…” The question is, how did he know that God bore witness that he continually brought up the Roman saints in his prayers, asking that he might now “at last” have a prosperous journey in the will of God to come to them? As if God were saying, Yes, that’s right, Paul does that continually.

It was because Paul in all things—and especially as he prayed—was conscious of God. He knew God was hearing him.

It was two or three years from the writing of the epistle to the Romans before God answered Paul’s prayer, and it appears he had been praying about this even earlier. Nevertheless all that time he had the assurance that God would indeed answer his prayer in His time. He had the witness of God about it.

UK Bible teacher Ron Bailey says, “The first criterion of prayer is not need consciousness but God consciousness.” This accords with what Samuel Chadwick has written about prayer: “God is in secret. Let the first act [of prayer] be to affirm the fact of the Holy Presence” (The Path of Prayer, Samuel Chadwick). Later in that same book Chadwick again emphasizes, “Never leave without a conscious season of real communion.”

How vitally important. This is what Paul enjoyed and practiced, this is what enabled him to say that God was his witness to his prayers. He was conscious of God when he prayed; this—God consciousness—was the beachhead that with the help of the grace of God he established in prayer and maintained as he advanced throughout the day.

But know this. Paul, man of great stature that he was, had no other access to the Father than you and I. Let me say that a different way. You and I have the same access to the Father—faith in the blood of Jesus Christ—that Paul did. And so you and I may also enjoy the same witness of God not only in our prayers but in all we say and do.

You mean… God watching us with His eye continually upon us so that He is witness to all we say and do and think? Who could bear that, who could live under such scrutiny? I recall from years ago the testimony of an old man who said that when he was young he saw an Eye in the sky, and fled to hide from it. Well might he flee, and well might we all, and find no hiding place—that is, if we have not received the witness of God that He bore concerning His Son. This is what happened to the youth who saw the Eye in the sky. Somehow he knew it was a portent of a Day to come, and it led to his earnestly seeking God, and discovering the one and only Hiding Place that God Himself has provided—His Son Jesus Christ. For, when the eyes of God bear witness to what Jesus Christ the Son of God accomplished at Calvary on behalf of sinners, those who receive this witness enjoy that most happy and blessed state of a heart cleansed from all sin. Yes. All. No lesser purity than the very purity of God did the Son of God accomplish for sinful man, who washed us from our sins in His own blood. God Himself bears witness to this, as Peter confirmed regarding the Gentiles of Cornelius’ house who had come to faith in Jesus: “And the heart-knowing God did bare them testimony [witness], having given to them the Holy Spirit, even as also to us, and did put no difference also between us and them, by the faith having purified their hearts” (Acts 15:8,9 YLT).

And so since God bears witness to this, what is the result but a conscience that bears witness to this, a conscience that now has no awareness of sin. Far from it being unbearable, who wants to live without this?

And with it we have boldness and confidence in prayer.

“It is the Spirit that beareth witness…”

Here is a passage of Scripture about the Witness of God. Many of us have found it enigmatic (especially verse 8, for which please see the endnote: [i]) But let’s highlight at least some of it. John is strongly affirming and bearing witness that Jesus is the Son of God in whom alone is the victory:

6 This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood.
7 And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is the truth.
8 For there are three who bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and the three agree in one. [ii] (A second endnote.)
9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for the witness of God is this, that he hath borne witness concerning his Son.
10 He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in him [in himself]: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he hath not believed in the witness that God hath borne concerning his Son.
11 And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
12 He that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life. (1 Jn 5:6-12 ASV)

John is saying that the witness of God is that which He bore concerning His Son—that is, of what the Son of God, being fully man, accomplished by His death on the cross of Calvary on behalf of sinful man. God in Heaven bears witness to that. So does the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who believe Him. That’s why the heart is cleansed, and the conscience; the Holy Spirit bears witness to that. In fact God could not send the Holy Spirit to abide in us without the Son of God having first become the propitiation for our sins. And so the Holy Spirit is Himself the witness of God, just as Jesus is Himself “the faithful and true witness“ (Rev 3:14). “And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is the truth” (1 Jn 5:6 ASV). The Holy Spirit in you and me who believe in Jesus is the witness of God, the testimony of God, the evidence, that Christ has put away your sin and mine. The Holy Spirit in our heart is God’s witness, the witness that He has borne concerning His Son.

That Witness within is one and the same as having eternal life. For Christ has vanquished sin and death.

It is this Witness of God that the apostle Paul as a believer in Jesus enjoyed. We who believe Him may enjoy this same Witness. He is the provision and cleansing for any known sin that is confessed. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). Moreover He is the provision for any lingering sense of a sin conscience:

18 My Little children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue; but in deed and truth.
19 Hereby shall we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before him:
20 because if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.
21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, we have boldness toward God;
22 and whatsoever we ask we receive of him, because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing in his sight.
23 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, even as he gave us commandment.
(1 Jn 3:18-23 ASV)

John is saying that if our heart (our conscience) condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things—knoweth that His Son has put away all sin so that we may be free of sin and enjoy a heart (conscience) that does not condemn us. Further to that He has given us commandments to obey—believing in His Name, and loving one another in deed and in truth—so that we may maintain that clear conscience. And with that, since our heart does not condemn us, what do we have? “We have boldness toward God and whatsoever we ask we receive of him, because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing in his sight.”

It is a boldness, an openness, a confidence, an assurance, brought about by the Witness of God in the conscience.

Here again is that same thought:

13 These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God.
14 And this is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us:
15 and if we know that he heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him. (1 Jn 5:13-15 ASV)

This is just what Paul said about God being his witness. He believed the Witness of God. He knew that God heard his prayers. He confidently anticipated the answer.


[i] I am inclined to agree with F.F.Bruce’s comment on 1 John. 5:8.

“The sequence ‘water and blood’ is not accidental, but corresponds to the historical sequence of our Lord’ baptism and passion. Cerinthus, we recall, taught that ‘the Christ’ (a spiritual being) came down on the man Jesus when He was baptized but left Him before He died. The Christ, that is to say, came through water (baptism) but not through blood (death). To this misrepresentation of the truth John replies that the One whom believers acknowledge to be the Son of God (verse 5) came ‘not with the water only but with the water and with the blood’: the One who died on the cross was as truly the Christ, the Son of  God, as the One who was baptized in Jordan.” (The Epistles of John, F.F. Bruce, Eerdmans, 1970.)

Perhaps this false teaching of Cerinthus (AD circa 50-100) is also what John had in mind when he wrote his gospel in about AD 90 and reflected back on what he had witnessed 60 years earlier when the soldier pierced Jesus’ side, “and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe” (Jn. 19:34,35).

[ii]  “The sentence which appears in the AV as 1 Jn 5:7 (‘For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one’) is no part of the original text of the letter. It appears in a treatise written by Priscillian (a Spanish Christian executed on a charge of heresy in AD 385) or by one of his followers…” (F.F. Bruce, The Epistles of John)

Bruce goes on to say that this statement was eventually incorporated into the text of the Vulgate in about AD 800, with the balancing words “in earth” added to the following sentence. Bruce explains further that Erasmus, upon whose 1516 Greek testament the King James Version is based, at the insistence of others included the spurious text against his own better judgement.

I Was Not Rebellious

This message is Part Two of The Great Rebellion. If you haven’t yet read that I encourage you to take it in first. It’s a long message, as is this one, but read together will mean greater profit.

“I was not rebellious…”

Now let’s consider the rebellion that God dealt with more severely than with any other—the great rebellion that He poured out His full wrath on—at Calvary. Jesus Christ put an end to all rebellion right there, beloved, the rebellion that is in the hearts of all those in Adam, and, reaching further back, the rebellion of Satan and the heavenly hosts that followed him. For we will yet see the judgment of Calvary fully carried out—the hosts of evil quake at the prospect of their destruction—and which those who bow the knee to the Lord Jesus Christ may apprehend by faith even now to their salvation.

Consider this passage from Isaiah:

The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.
The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.
I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.
For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed. (Isa 50:4-7)

We are not told specifically what this one’s opened ear heard, but from what follows it’s apparent that he had heard God’s commandment to submit to suffering and shame. His response was that he was not rebellious, neither turned away back, but gave himself to being smitten, shamed, spat upon. As we read the passage, does it not bring Jesus before our eyes? Smitten. Shamed. Spat upon. That is Jesus. They tore out the hair of his beard (though the Gospels don’t record this).

But how can this be—Jesus saying, “I was not rebellious”? That’s hard to read. You mean He had the potential to be rebellious? If it were not so, He could not have become the Saviour of rebellious man.

It was in a garden that Adam rebelled against God. It was in a garden that Christ resisted a temptation to rebel, to turn back from His commitment to obey God whatever the cost. He had earlier proclaimed this, His life-long commitment:

Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince [ruler] of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me [no sin, no grounds for death].
But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence. (Jn 14:30,31)

“The prince of this world cometh…” What is this about? The adversary of God and man had tempted Him on other occasions already, but this was the game match in which Satan would spend his all to defeat the Son of man. The match took place on Calvary but it was engaged in Gethsemane when the prince of this world tempted Him to do His own will and not the Father’s will. Thus we overhear Him in an agony—a great conflict—crying, “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt” (Mk 14:36).

“Not what I will, but what Thou wilt.” Do you and I recognize that these words from our beloved Lord Jesus Christ spelled the doom of Satan the rebel, and of all rebellion?

Learning the obedience

 The Holy Spirit, who also overheard Him in Gethsemane, had this to say by the pen of the author of Hebrews:

…Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;
Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchizedek. (Heb. 5:7-10).

Young’s Literal Translation has, “though being a Son, did learn by the things which he suffered—the obedience…” This gives us the word order in the original Greek, placing for  emphasis the obedience at the end of the sentence. Note that it includes the article—the obedience, specifying a certain obedience. What obedience is this, then—the obedience?

It is a very costly obedience. Jesus, though He was Son of God, and therefore had a disposition to obey His Father, still needed to learn by the things that He suffered what it would cost Him to obey. That cost can only be estimated by the appalling cost that disobedience has brought upon our world—and what it cost the Son of God to deal with it. Apart from this, how could He the Son of man otherwise become the great high priest of fallen men in need of learning obedience, if not by inaugurating the very pathway that they must tread in? What obedience is this then?

It is the obedience of the fear of the Lord

 God by His messenger Malachi challenged His priests: “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear?” (Mal 1:6). He’s talking about obedience. To honour the father is to obey the father. To fear the master is to obey the master. To fear God is to obey God. Again from Isaiah 50:

Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant… (Isa 50:10).

Yet it’s an idea that some don’t like because it seems wrong to fear the Lord. But the fear of the Lord is not the fear that “hath torment” (1Jn. 4:18). David wrote, “Let them now that fear the LORD say that his mercy endureth forever” (Ps 118:4). In the same breath he continues, “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” He fears the Lord, and therefore will not fear anything else. For, “In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge” (Pr 14:29).

When we think upon this, dwell upon this, actually to fear the Lord is to love the Lord:

And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good. (Dt 10:12,13)

A while back I came up with a little homemade proverb that I tucked into my heart:

To fear the Lord is to obey the Lord is to love the Lord.

Try it the other way around:

To love the Lord is to obey the Lord is to fear the Lord.

I find that helpful; in any case let’s keep this in mind as we read the following passage. Are you familiar with it—Isaiah’s prophecy of the Branch in whom the Spirit of the Lord rests? Bear in mind that this same Spirit is the portion of those who abide in the Branch:

And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;
And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. (Isa 11:1-4)

Various commentators from the days of the early church till the present have seen here the menorah (lampstand) with its centre stem and three couplets of branches. Note the perception of this powerful illumination penetrating beyond the shallow reach of eye and ear.

But we want to focus on the last couplet marrying together “the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” To have knowledge that is not joined to the fear of the Lord is a recipe for certain destruction. But note especially—this is quite the revelation—that the fear of the Lord is one of the branches, one of the lamps, of His very Spirit. And so this couplet together with the other two aligned along the centre stem make the Branch “of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord.” Let’s say that again. The light of this seven-fold Spirit means nothing less than the very eyes of the Lord in the Branch; there is no darkness, no haziness, no guesswork, no perplexity as to the will of God, but rather quick understanding.

Quick or quicken in the King James Version doesn’t have anything to do with speed; it means alive, or to impart life. However, Quick understanding is one word in the Hebrew: ruach. It means breath. One commentator has, “He shall draw his breath in the fear of the Lord.” The emphasis is on breath drawn through the nostrils and therefore having a fragrance. The same word in several other places is translated, “smell,” as when Noah offered his burnt offering, and the Lord “smelled a sweet savour [fragrance]” (Gen  8:21). But I think ruach in Isaiah’s prophecy is illuminated best in the story of Samson breaking the green withs [bowstrings] the Philistines had bound him with “as a thread of tow [a strand of flax] is broken when it toucheth the fire.” The word “toucheth” is ruach. That’s the King James Version. But get this. Young’s Literal Translation reads that Samson “breaketh the withs as a thread of tow is broken in its smelling fire (Jdg 16:9). What an image—the withs catch a mere whiff of fire and it’s enough to cause them to disintegrate on the spot. It’s this kind of response to the knowledge of God’s will that is the thought in Isaiah’s prophecy—the fear of the Lord being such that the very scent of His will genders a response of instant obedience. That is the fear of the Lord. Other translations have that the fear of the Lord is His delight. Young’s Literal Translation here says that the Spirit of the fear of the Lord shall “refresh him in the fear of Jehovah…” That nuance speaks to me. With the fresh quickening that only the Spirit can provide, our knowledge of God’s will is passing sensitive and our response of obedience instant. That, beloved, is what is meant by the fear of the Lord.

It is the obedience of Samuel…

Remember Amalek? Last time we wrote of Amalek viciously preying on the weak in the wilderness when Israel came out of Egypt. Some along the way had grown weary, and fell behind. Defenseless, they fell prey to the ruthless Amalekites. For this, God commanded that when Israel entered their inheritance they were to “blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it” (Dt 25:19) Why had Amalek done this evil? Because, said the Lord, “he feared not God.” The day came when God commanded King Saul to carry out His judgment and destroy Amalek and all that he had. Saul compromised, sparing Agag king of Amalek and the best of the sheep and oxen. Saul didn’t fear God either, would not obey him, but “turned back from following” Him (1 Sam 15:11). God called it rebellion.

And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king. (1 Sam 15:22,23)

And so God dealt severely with Saul for this; it cost him the kingdom. (And Samuel’s word to him was right on the mark—his rebellion led him to the door of the witch of Endor.)  After pronouncing this to Saul, Samuel had Agag brought before him. Agag breathed a quiet sigh of relief; surely now “the bitterness of death” was past. Until he saw Samuel drawing a sword. (Was it Samuel’s own sword or someone else’s? Saul’s?) “And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal” (1 Sam 15:33).

I still read this, and… Samuel did that? Samuel? Yes, beloved Samuel, an old man with the fear of God in Him, uncompromising in his obedience.

It is the obedience of Abraham…

…in offering up his “only son.”

And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt [prove] Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.
And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. (Gen 22:1,2)

There are poignant details in this whole passage; just now we want to connect two words together. Abraham obeyed God—that is, he feared God:

And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.
And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. (Gen 22:11,12)

Now note the Lord’s concluding words a few verses later. To fear God is to obey God:

And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,
And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:
That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. (Gen 22:15-18)

That is the fear of God—uncompromising obedience.

It is the fear of Isaac…

…who voluntarily gave himself to be the sacrifice that God had commanded Abraham to offer. We may well ask if anyone, excepting one Man, ever feared God the way Isaac did.

A generation later Isaac’s son Jacob, disputing with his father-in-law Laban, told him that “the God of Abraham and the fear of Isaac” was with him (Gen. 31:42). Arresting words. The fear of Isaac. That is to say, God Himself. Isaac feared God. When Abraham and Isaac reached their destination on Mount Moriah Isaac was already aware of his father’s earlier words that “God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” No doubt he helped his father build the altar, all the while aware that God had not yet provided the lamb. Did he start wondering if he himself were to be that lamb? Yet when the altar was ready, and his father now turned to him… we are not told that any words passed between them as they now stood face to face by the readied altar. But Isaac of his own free will let himself be bound and lain upon the wood he had carried on his own shoulders up the mountain. It was not death he feared, but God. He feared God and willingly became “obedient unto death.”

It is the obedience of the Son of God…

…to His Father’s will that led Him up Mount Calvary carrying His own cross, determined to be “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Php 2:8).

In the will of God, He endured the suffering and shame and death of the cross.

That is the obedience.

“Not what I will, but what Thou wilt.”

“He learned, from the things He suffered, the obedience…”

It is the obedience of all those who obey Him

…And being made perfect he became the author of eternal salvation unto all those who obey Him; called of God an high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

 The writer of Hebrews is enlarging here on his earlier words, that “it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Heb 2:10).

Thus the perfect Man was perfected—tried, proven—by sufferings, that He might lead others in that Way. The way of the cross. The way of the cross, mystery of mysteries, becomes the way of salvation. Being made perfect He became the author of eternal salvation unto all those who obey Him.

Walking in obedience, then, walking in obedience today, daily, with the same obedience of the Son of God, is the harbinger of our eternal salvation. Do we faint under the very thought of this, it’s just too much to bear? If so we’re not seeing the beauty of this. As our great high priest after the order of Melchizedek, Christ the Branch imparts to us step by step the needed grace, the help we need, to obey Him—His own Spirit.

And so, with that help, the help of His Spirit—the Spirit of the fear of the Lord—and since He who learned the obedience in the things He suffered is the author of eternal salvation to those who obey Him, let us arm ourselves with the same mind. Let us fear Him, obey Him, though to do so bring suffering upon us. As obedience surely shall in this world. For to cease from sin in this world will surely mean suffering:

Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;
That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. (1 Pt 4:1,2)

Let us so live, beloved, and see to its finish the horror story of rebellion. For, count on it, God with the judgment of Calvary will surely bring all rebellion in His universe to an end. Let us fear Him, then, and be wary of that alien voice, that thought, that suggestion, that to follow through on, would mean to rebel against the will of God. A very small thought, when fed gains strength, and will grow. And grow. And grow. As rebellions always do if not instantly quashed.

But what if I stumble, what if I sin? Is it all over for me?

But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared (Ps 130:4).

Forgiveness, that He may be feared? Yes, because to be left in sin is unimaginable horror; if I sin and continue in sin with no hope of forgiveness I am doomed to perdition along with all rebels. How then can I not fear Him, thankful beyond words to express, that with Him is forgiveness? Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus. Repentant of my sin, I swiftly repair myself to the throne of grace that I may receive the forgiveness, and the cleansing from sin, and continue in the pathway of obedience.

For, our obeying Him means the ultimate perdition of the rebellious.

And the salvation, eternal salvation, of the obedient.

And the gratification of delighting the heart of God.

And the fellowship of His everlasting Rest.

The Great Rebellion

In my Bible reading over the course of several days my Radar began to blip (yes, there is actually such a word) whenever I came across instances of resistance and rebellion against God in the story of Israel coming out of Egypt into their promised land, which Moses called “the rest and the inheritance” (Dt 12:9). So I began to pay attention to these blips, wondering what was behind them, and asking, “What, beloved Radar, are you desiring to reveal to me?” I continued reading, anticipating His answer, noting that God dealt very severely with those who resisted what He was doing in liberating Israel from Egyptian bondage and bringing them into His rest. Being on the watch more alertly now, light began to dawn on me as to why.

According to Isaiah 14 the first rebellion was in the angelic realm. Here is the account:

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. (Isa 14:12-14)

Note the refrain, “I will… I will… I will…” It appears that this being named Lucifer set himself upon a pursuit of self determination, making his policy, “I will” rather than, “what Thou wilt.” We gather that this rebellion was the beginning of Satan (Adversary), his former name (Lucifer, morning star) being no longer true to him. It appears that a host of angels joined Lucifer in that rebellion (Jude 6).

Lucifer, now Satan, “that old serpent” (Rev 12:9) succeeded in bringing man into his rebellion. However, when this happened, God began to unfold His “eternal purpose in Christ Jesus”—that of returning man to Himself. This eternal purpose would take some time to unfold, and in the unfolding of it rebellions continued to reoccur. This is where light began to dawn on me—that every rebellion is an echo of the first rebellion of Lucifer against God. Actually, it seems to me, they are more than echoes; Satan is the behind-the-scenes instigator of all rebellion. When we see in our world around us the continual refrain, “I will… I will… I will… not Thy will but mine be done,” where do you suppose this is this coming from?

The Rest of God and man

I recall something that F.B. Meyer wrote—that in Genesis there is no record of the seventh day having an evening or a morning as did the other six days of creation.

And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. (Gen 2:2,3)

The seventh day, then, is the rest that God had sanctified for Himself. And for man. And for all creation. Satan despoiled God of His rest by spoiling Him, robbing Him, of man. This brought a curse upon the ground. The man himself was sent out of the Garden to live a life not of rest but of toil and sweat. (God had given Adam work to do in the Garden– Genesis 2:15– but it was the work of rest, not the work of toil and sweat.) Even so, having driven man out of the Garden, God always intended to fulfill the desire of His heart—the man being with Him in the Sabbath rest of God.

If you are familiar with Hebrews Chapters 3 and 4 you will know that Canaan was a type of this Rest, the Sabbath rest that man lost in Eden. With Canaan in mind the writer of Hebrews says, “There remaineth therefore a rest [Gk sabbatismos] to the people of God” (Heb. 4:9). And so the story of Israel coming out of Egypt into Canaan is prophetic of God’s eternal plan to return man to His rest. “The rest of the inheritance” was, in type, the original Rest of God into which, man entering, would mean God finally vanquishing the rebel Satan and his hosts and gaining His heart’s desire—God and man together in His rest, and all creation rejoicing because of it.

Pharaoh stubbornly resisted Moses time and again, but—read the passages over again—the contest is not between Pharaoh and Moses; it’s God Himself that Pharaoh is resisting. And who is it, actually, who is motivating Pharaoh? No wonder then that God dealt so severely with Pharaoh, who refused to release His people from Egyptian bondage. God destroyed Egypt because Pharaoh resisted His plan.

Then there was Amalek who harassed the weak on their way through the wilderness. Who was behind that? God swore that He would blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under Heaven for this. I want to quote a bit about this here because it will show us something about the heart of God.

Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt;
How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God.
Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it. (Dt 25:17-19)

Two things here. 1. God’s tender love toward the weak, the faint, the weary, the hindmost of His people. (Is that our attitude toward the stragglers, the feeble, those who have fallen behind?) 2. The severity of God toward His enemies.

Now, why did Amalek do this vicious, this heartless evil? “He feared not God.” Hold on to that thought, we will come back to it in the second part of this message.

Then the Canaanites—not those who inhabited Canaan but those who dwelt in the wilderness (Num 31:1-3)—they also fought against Israel. To their own destruction. The same fate befell the Amorites who resisted Israel along the way. Then the Canaanites who inhabited the land fought against Israel. Be sure that the first rebel was involved in all this resistance, determined to hinder the purpose of God in bringing a chosen people into His rest. God dealt very severely with His enemies for all this.

But the heartbreaking thing is that God’s own people chronically rebelled against Him. “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me” (Isa 1:2). This lament of Isaiah’s was some 700 years after the exodus during which Moses himself had said, “Ye have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you” (Dt. 9:24).

A prime illustration of this was the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram against the leadership God had appointed to guide His people to Canaan. God caused the earth to open its mouth and swallow them live for this. If like me you are aghast at the severity of this judgment, it can only be because it has not registered on us how serious a matter rebellion against God is.

The great rebellion in the wilderness

On the border of Canaan Moses gave the people a history lesson:

Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst the LORD thy God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against the LORD…  (Dt. 9:7)

He then reminded them of the occasion of their greatest rebellion:

Likewise when the LORD sent you from Kadeshbarnea, saying, Go up and possess the land which I have given you; then ye rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God, and ye believed him not, nor hearkened to his voice. (Dt. 9:23)

Moses said, “ye believed him not.” What they did believe was “the evil report” of the ten spies, which filled them not with faith but with fear:

And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt. (Num 14:4)

Moses and Aaron fell on their faces when they heard this, and Joshua and Caleb “rent their clothes,” pleading with the people:

Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not. (Num 14:9)

The ten spies who brought back the evil report of the land “died by the plague before the LORD” (Num 14:37), and He swore an oath that none of those who had believed them, that is, had refused to believe Him, would enter the rest. The Lord, though he had “saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not” (Jude 5). “Your carcases shall fall in the wilderness” was the sentence He pronounced upon them; they would never see His rest. Why such severity? Because to rebel against  Him and refuse to enter that rest was to align themselves with the original rebellion of Satan, who had deprived God of His rest in man. It was iniquity then and iniquity now, it was disobedience, it was unbelief, it was a heinous crime against God to turn back from Him. For it was to the very intent of bringing His people with Him into His rest that God had sanctified them unto Himself and redeemed them out of Egypt. From the beginning of their journey He had gone to great lengths to show them that He Himself was with them, and He would continue to be with them in this.

Notwithstanding ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God. (Dt. 1:26)

Thus they brought upon themselves the wrath of God, as the Psalmist recorded: “To whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my Rest” (Ps 95:11). This is a reference to Numbers 14:21-23, in which the words, “as I live… surely” are the formula of an oath:

but in very deed, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of Jehovah;
because all those men that have seen my glory, and my signs, which I wrought in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have tempted me these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice;
surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that despised me see it.

A very severe judgment.

Today if ye will hear His voice…

 It’s quite something that right in the middle of a psalm of praise and worship the psalmist, caught up in the Spirit of the Lord, suddenly breaks in with a cry—it’s the cry of the heart of God—that is still sounding today. Let’s read the whole psalm, the better to realize the impact of this sudden breaking in of the cry. First, with the call, “O come,” there is a crescendo of praise, and then a second “O come” is a call to worship and bow down before so great a God… and then the cry, and you can’t help but sense the broken heart it comes from:

O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.
For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also.
The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land.
O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.
For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today if ye will hear his voice,
Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.
Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways:
Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest. (Ps 95:6-11)

Why this severe judgment? To repeat, it was because it was high crime against God to refuse to enter His rest. This was to align themselves with the rebel Satan.

But saints of the Lord, saints of the Lord—those whom God has called to be His very own—we do the same today when by not entering into God’s rest, we deny Him the desire of His heart—deny Him His will for us—our being together with Him in His rest. Our being with Him in His rest, this is to the praise of His glory. Do we recognize this? Entering His rest is not just for our own sake; to deny Him our entrance into rest is to deny Him His glory in our lives, His rest in our lives. We read the ancient story and are critical of them; we know that nothing justified their refusal to enter the rest—the difficulty of the prospect, the size of the giants, the cities walled up to heaven; it was none of these that kept them out of Canaan, but their own unbelief, their own refusal to obey God. “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Heb 3:19). What is it, then, that justifies you and me from failure to enter His rest? Yes, I know, the difficult, the impossible circumstances. This is what we say… and we are left with a heart that cannot rest. But entering the rest does not depend on circumstances, it depends on believing God, obeying Him. “For we do enter into the rest–we who did believe…” (Heb 4:3 YLT).

Oh, the simplicity of it. The heart that cannot rest, yet all too often seeks to find rest in things other than the one thing alone that will bring rest… are we sure it’s not because we have set at nought God’s one and only way of rest—believing Him, and obeying Him? Like Israel of old, all too often we have forgotten our Resting Place (Jer 50:6). In God alone is our rest. Let us surrender to Him, then, that evil heart of unbelief that cannot rest. He says I will make you lie down in My green pastures, I will cause you to rest. “I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD” (Ez 34:15).

Let us believe Him, then. Let us know that no matter the size of our own giants or how difficult our circumstances, we may, we must, glorify God therein—gratify God, actually—by believing Him and entering His Rest, His Sabbath, which He made for man that He might be glorified. Really, it isn’t all about you and me; it is for His sake that we enter His rest… and are ourselves benefited.

And so let us be very sure then, that we know what’s going on when we are listening to an inner voice that insists it is more to our advantage to do our own will. That voice comes from one whose enmity against God is to this day unabated. To believe is to enter the Rest. To not believe, the writer of Hebrews calls disobedience: “Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience… Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience” (Heb 4:6,11 NKJV).

Let us, beloved, not be numbered among the disobedient—the rebellious.

More next time.

The Easy Yoke

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mt 11:28-30)

Some time ago I wrote about this, relating it to the cares and burdens of life. Jesus’ words certainly apply to that. But I’ve been looking at this further because of a question on my heart. Just what is the easy yoke that Jesus says is His? Let’s see if we can find out.

First, let’s find out what the unbearable yoke actually was. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden…” Bible expositor G. Campbell Morgan draws our attention, as always, to the context of Jesus’ words. He was addressing the cities where He had taught and preached. Matthew names three in particular “where most of His mighty works were done”—Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. He is pronouncing woes upon those cities. “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida!… And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell” (Mt 11:21-23). Why? Because He had taught in the synagogues in these cities—as was His practice wherever He went (Mk 1:21, see also Lk 4:31, Jn 6:59)—and for the most part His teaching and preaching was not received. He had come to proclaim a king and a kingdom, and was rejected. What was left for them but woe upon woe?

Yet it’s quite something, quite the revelation of His heart, that He had no sooner pronounced these woes than He broke out in prayer, overcome with thankfulness that His Father, Lord of heaven and earth, is the kind of God who “hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Mt 11:25-27). What joy surges into the heart—that God is that kind of God, a God who hides Himself from the wise and the prudent, the high and the lofty, and reveals Himself to the lowly, to “babes.” Babes—not babies but infants (as the Greek makes clear) little ones whose lowliness has opened their eyes. Of such is the kingdom of God.

It’s right then that Jesus gives out His invitation. “Come unto Me, all ye…” Yes, not only those who were little in their own eyes, but those also who were so “wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight” that they had rejected Him. Whether they had received Him or rejected Him, they were those to whom He had been sent—“the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt 15:24). He had taught in their synagogues and done mighty works in their streets. His great heart of love was burdened for them. “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden…” They were a people under the law of Moses. It has been calculated that the law of Moses contains something like 613 commandments. The very thought is wearying; some years later we find Peter himself calling the Sinai law “a yoke… that neither our fathers nor we were able to bear” (Acts 15:10). He wasn’t being critical of the law God had given; he was simply acknowledging what they all knew by experience—the Sinai law was beyond their ability to bear.

Yet the Pharisees of Jesus’ day strictly policed the people to make sure they observed each and every one of these (going easy on themselves in the process) adding to them countless others of their own making, one of them being that people were forbidden to come to the synagogue for healing on the sabbath day (Lk 13:14). Jesus loved nothing better than to loose people from their burdens on the sabbath, and He had blistering words for the Pharisees because “they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers” (Mt 23:4). The apostle Paul, himself once a strict Pharisee, later called the Sinai law “a yoke of bondage,” urging the Galatian churches not to be entangled in it again, but rather to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ had set them free (Gal 5:1).

What then is the easy yoke?

If Paul called the old covenant a yoke of bondage, and if Peter called it a yoke that Israel was not able to bear, then the easy yoke Jesus is speaking of must be the new covenant. But I wonder how many of us, though we are Christians supposedly under the new covenant, find there’s not much difference; we are still labouring and heavy laden, trying as best we can to keep the laws of the new covenant, yet always falling short, or feeling that maintaining our relationship with the mediator Himself is a labourious chore. If that is the case it means we haven’t yet come to know the liberating law of the new covenant.

So we must make a discovery. Here’s a passage of Scripture that I think will help us do that. It’s in Romans Chapter 7. I want to quote from Young’s Literal translation, which gives the tenses more clearly:

Are ye ignorant, brethren–for to those knowing law I speak–that the law hath lordship over the man as long as he liveth?
for the married woman to the living husband hath been bound by law, and if the husband may die, she hath been free from the law of the husband;
so, then, the husband being alive, an adulteress she shall be called if she may become another man’s; and if the husband may die, she is free from the law, so as not to be an adulteress, having become another man’s.

So here is someone in a relationship from which there is absolutely no release—apart from the death of the husband.

Now I must reluctantly state something here—please don’t use this passage to enforce your doctrine that a woman can be released from her marriage only by the death of her husband (or vice versa) and that therefore there are no grounds for divorce under any circumstances. You make yourself a modern-day Pharisee with this teaching, and it is entirely unscriptural in the first place, and has done damage in I don’t know how many lives. I won’t pursue this further here, and in any case, if that is all you get out of this passage, you have entirely missed the point. That is not Paul’s focus here; he is leading up to a wondrous revelation:

So that, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the law through the body of the Christ, for your becoming another’s, who out of the dead was raised up, that we might bear fruit to God;
for when we were in the flesh, the passions of the sins, that are through the law, were working in our members, to bear fruit to the death;
and now we have ceased from the law, that being dead in which we were held, so that we may serve in newness of spirit, and not in oldness of letter. (Rom 7:1- 6)

What a wonder—dead not only to sin, which Paul has shown in the previous chapter,  but dead to law as well.

Which law?

Is this still a bit complex? It could be because there are three laws in operation here. Let’s see if we can distinguish them, bearing in mind that here in Romans 7 Paul is still enlarging on what he introduced in Romans 5:11—the contrast between the two men, Adam the old man, and Christ the new man.

2. The law of sin. (Yes, I know, I’ve put the second one first, don’t give up on me.) In verses 1 and 2, “the law of the husband” is the grievous law by which all those in Adam are as it were “married” to the “husband”—the old man. Paul refers to this law as he comes to the conclusion of Romans 7; it is “the law of sin which is in my members” (7:23). He cries out in the deepest anguish of heart for release from it. But (sorry for the grim news) it is a law from which there is no release but by death (Rom 7:1,2). Remember, of course—this is very important—that Paul is speaking in Romans 7:23 not of his present experience, but of the state he was in before being in Christ. He is using a well-known literary device called the “historical present tense,” in which one speaks of the past as though present.

1. Now the first one. The principle of law. Romans 7 opens with, “Know ye not, brethren, for I speak to them that know (the) law…” I’ve placed the article in parentheses because it’s not there in the Greek. Paul is speaking to “brethren,” born again believers like himself who have the same Father, some of whom were Jews but the majority of whom were Roman Gentiles. They too “know law,” are familiar with law, just as he a Jew knew law, for the Jews had the law of Moses; the Romans to this day are renowned for their system of law. So Paul knows that the believers in Rome will all understand that the law “has dominion over a man as long as he lives.” He proceeds with his illustration of a married woman being bound to her husband as long as he lives—but only as long as he lives. There is no escape from it as long as the husband lives. In fact, instead of delivering “the woman” from the law binding her to the man, the law actually strengthens that captivity and makes it even more severe. What law is this? It is the law of God, but only the letter of law. In his own personal conflict with the law of sin Paul said he had delighted in “the law of God after the inward man” (7:22) but found that all it did was bring him into captivity to the law of sin in his members. That’s what the letter of law does, whether the law of Moses or Roman law or that to which the consciences of all men and women in varying degree bear witness (Rom. 2:15). It has the effect, not of making them righteous, but of awakening the law of sin in them and thus making sin “exceeding sinful” (Rom. 7:13). That’s what the principle of law does; it gives sin “muscle,” as Paul wrote to the church of Corinth. “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law” (1 Cor. 15.56). This is the yoke under which the Jews laboured and were heavy laden, the law that Peter referred to as a yoke Israel could not bear and Paul called a yoke of bondage. This yoke is broken only by death; all human beings are “under law” as long as they live.

3. That is, all except those who are in the easy yoke of Christ—that is, are “under grace.” “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under (the) law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). This is the law of the Spirit which in the new husband enables those married to Him to “bring forth fruit unto God” (Rom. 7:4). This is the great delivering and liberating law of Romans Chapter 8, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” The critically important thing is that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus does not and cannot rule in those who are still in Adam, the old man. A death must take place first.

Release by death, but whose death?  

This is vitally critically immensely indispensably indisputably important. I’ve piled on the adverbs so you won’t miss how absolutely utterly important this is. The only way of release from the law of sin, as well as from the outward principle of law—which actually aggravates sin without imparting righteousness—is by a death. But whose death? Your death, my death, cannot effect this. Whose death then? The death of Christ, Paul says. “…Ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ…” Paul has in mind the death of Christ that becomes the death of those who are in the body of Christ.

It was after I’d read the Romans 7 passage many times over the course of many days that one word suddenly stood up off the page of my Bible. Christ. Do you know, dear brothers and sisters, that this is the key word in this whole passage? Christ. It would do us all well to have this word re-quickened to us, for it is almost considered nothing much more than Jesus’ last name. No, Jesus is the Christ—the Anointed One, the Spirit-empowered and Spirit-empowering One! Only He, the Anointed One, could accomplish the death that releases from the former “husband”—the old man. And only He the Anointed One could consequently liberate those bound by law to the old man so that they could become joined, as it were, married, “to Him who was raised from the dead.” Only with the former “husband” deceased are they delivered from bondage to him; only thus may they be joined to Another who is raised from the dead, and find themselves under another rule, another law, another yoke—another covenant.

And so Paul shows that it is only in the body of Christ the Anointed One that this release from the old man and joining to the new man takes place. Only in the body of Christ is the old man put to death and the first yoke broken; only in Him is the new yoke bound in place; only in the body of Christ are we joined to “Him that was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit unto God.”

So how does one get into the body of Christ?

How then does one get into the body of Christ where this wondrous transition takes place? Simply by baptism. Paul shows in another epistle that it was “in the cloud and in the sea” that the old covenant people were baptized unto (or, into) Moses (1 Cor. 10:2). In accordance with this pattern the new covenant people of God are “baptized into Christ.” There are several references to this in the New Testament (Gal. 3:27, Rom. 6:3, Col. 2:12, 1 Cor. 12:13). None of these, in my view, speaks of water baptism; water has no power to effect this union. (This is why John the Baptist said that One coming after Him was mightier than he, for He would baptize in Holy Spirit.) Let me show how I come to my view:

For by [or, in] one Spirit we were all baptized into one body… (1 Cor. 12:13).

This verse is usually considered only with a view to the functioning of the members of the body of Christ with diverse spiritual gifts manifested by the Spirit. But we must never lose sight of the truth that these Spirit-given functionings in the body of Christ are taking place in a body that has been raised from the dead. And before a body can be raised from the dead a death must take place. Baptism always involves a death. “Know ye not,” says Paul, “that so many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death?” (Rom. 6:3). It’s my conviction based on 1 Corinthians 12:13 that Paul has the Spirit baptism in mind here in Romans 6:3 and the other places where he speaks of baptism into Christ. Baptism into Christ and baptism into the body of Christ are not two separate things.

This is why Paul says in the Romans 7 passage that “ye also were made dead to the law through the body of the Christ…” It is the death of Christ he has in mind; therefore those in the body of Christ (by Spirit baptism into that body) benefit from that death and are themselves made dead to the law, and in that same body also become “another’s, who out of the dead was raised up, that we might bear fruit to God.” It is both Christ’s death and His resurrection that is the lot of those baptized into His body. They are “dead to the law by the body of Christ,” and in that same body of Christ become one with “Him who was raised from the dead,” and therefore are now able to bring forth fruit, no longer unto death (Rom. 6:21, 7:5) but unto God. For they are now serving—the word means to serve as a slave—not in oldness of letter, but in newness of Spirit. What a wonder of the grace of God.

The new covenant yoke

Those words—newness of Spirit. Is not this a marvel? I’m transfixed with those words. We can understand readily enough Paul calling it slavish to try to serve in oldness of letter—that is what labouring and being heavy laden under the old yoke is all about, and it brings forth “fruit unto death.” But to serve as a slave in newness of Spirit? What is this, what yoke is this? This, beloved, is the new covenant! The easy yoke. The yoke of liberty! What joy! What rest unto the soul! This is what Paul means in Romans 6 by being no longer under law but “under grace.” This is a yoke in which there is an empowering—empowering grace, the empowering of the Spirit of Christ the Anointed One. “I can do all things,” says Paul, “through the Anointed One who empowers me” (Phil. 4:13). And apart from Him, apart from the Anointed One, nothing can be accomplished. Nothing.

Christ. It’s all about Him—and those yoked with Him, those who by baptism in Holy Spirit are one with Him who is raised from the dead, those who are serving God together with Him in newness of Spirit—that is to say, in new covenant relationship with Him—thus finding rest unto their souls while bringing forth fruit unto God. For, the new covenant is not just a higher order of moral precepts. The new covenant is a relationship with a Person, the Anointed One Himself, whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.

Abba Father

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Come with me back to the time when Mary and Joseph after three days of frantic searching finally found Jesus in the temple. I read that story again a few days ago because, well… because, don’t you too sometimes wish you could have been there yourself? We find the story in the Gospel according to Luke. Mary must have told him about it, along with other things we find in Luke’s gospel alone, details that could only have been known by Mary herself—among them Jesus’ first visit to the temple when Mary and Joseph brought Him there “to present Him to the Lord” (Lk 2:22).

The occasion I have in mind was when she and Joseph and their young family went up to Jerusalem to keep the feast of the Passover, something they did in the spring every year. Jesus was 12 years old, the eldest of several brothers and sisters by this time. The family was part of a larger company of friends and relatives keeping the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem, a journey of several days from Nazareth. We join them on the first evening of their return home after that joyous week. They have stopped somewhere for the night, and Mary and Joseph start rounding up the children. But where is Jesus? They haven’t given a second thought to His whereabouts all day, “supposing him to have been in the company.” Now in a heart-stopping moment they suddenly realize He is not with them, and hastily return to Jerusalem that very night. But it is three very long days and sleepless nights before they finally find him, of all places, in the temple. He is “sitting in the midst of the teachers, both hearing them and questioning them, and all those hearing him were astonished at his understanding and answers.”

It is then that his astonished mother says, “Child, why have you done so to us? Behold, your father and I have looked for you, greatly distressed” (Modern KJV). The King James Version has “son” here, but the Greek is teknon, child, one still very much under the authority of his parents.

Here is the simple response that spoke volumes:

And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not [knew ye not] that I must be about my Father’s business? (Lk. 2:48,49 KJV)

Other translations bring out the sense more clearly—“in My Father’s house,” or “in the things of My Father.” Here is Young’s Literal Translation:

And he said unto them, `Why is it that ye were seeking me? did ye not know that in the things of my Father it behoveth me to be?’

In other words, they ought to have known where He would be—in His Father’s house, intent upon the things of His Father. Note that He said, “must be…” It is necessary, it behooves me, to be about the things of My Father… in the House of My Father.

Father. Eighteen years later when the anointing came upon Him in the form of a dove at Jordan the Voice from Heaven proclaimed, “This is My beloved Son in whom is all My delight.” The Son for His part delighted in His Father, and did “always those things that please Him.” He loved His Father as His Father loved Him. He rejoiced in His Father, as His Father rejoiced in Him. All through the Gospels we find Him addressing God as Father. In the Gospel of John alone He calls God Father something like 120 times.

The Gospel of John tells us of another Passover when Jesus while ministering in Galilee went up to Jerusalem to keep the feast, and again went into the temple. This time He:

…found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;
And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.
And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up (Jn. 2:15-17).

That passage when read carefully reveals that He didn’t lay the scourge on any of the people. “He said unto those that sold doves…” He knew the scourge was reserved for His own back.

But that’s quite something—that His love and zeal for His Father’s house consumed Him. That’s what He was all about. His Father. His Father’s interests. His Father’s house.

 This purging of the temple happened at two different Passovers—this one in the first year of Jesus’ public ministry as recorded by John, who also tells us of Jesus coming up to Jerusalem for another Passover (Jn. 6:4), which must have been the following year, the second year of His ministry. The other purging in the third and final year of His ministry is recorded in the three synoptic Gospels. It took place just before the Passover during which He Himself became the Passover Lamb. At this time He also cast out those who bought and sold in the temple, telling them vehemently, “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Mt. 21:13).

We know that it’s never been a temple of wood and stone that God desired for His dwelling place, but He was identified with this one: His Name was there (1 Kings 8:29). And so it was only with the greatest reluctance and sorrow for their hardness of heart that Jesus finally declared as He mourned over Jerusalem, “Behold your house is left unto you desolate…” (Mt. 23:38). As Ron Bailey points outs in The Better Covenant, it is no longer “My Father’s house.” It is no longer “My house.” Now it is your house. And it is desolate. God is done forever with this house.

Not many days after this Jesus is in Gethsemane.

Abba Father

 These words are found only three times in the New Testament. Here is the first:

And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. (Mk. 14:36)

This is the cry of His heart springing from the depths of His love for His Father. Abba Father. That is αββα ὁ πατήρ. Abba is Aramaic for father, and pater is Greek for father. Actually pater is preceded by the article— ὁ, pronounced hothe Father. And so we have, Abba. The Father. Abba does not mean Daddy. Yes, it springs from the tenderest love and devotion, but it carries in it the highest respect and reverence. Jesus is acknowledging that His father is the Lord to whom His utmost obedience is due, and He gives this to Him from His heart.

Abba. Father. The question has been much debated, did Jesus speak both of these words, or is Mark translating the Aramaic Abba into Greek for the sake of his readers? “Abba, that is to say, Father.” I’m inclined to think Jesus spoke both of them, for it appears that the first Christians also used Abba Father when addressing Him. They must have picked this up from reading the passage in Mark’s gospel, the only one that records it, and likely the earliest one to make the rounds of the churches (probably as early as 45 AD).

But how did this come to be—the words Abba Father in the mouths of Christians? What was it that brought about this new relationship, that they themselves could call God their father?

After His resurrection when Jesus revealed Himself to a broken-hearted Mary Magdalene, He gave her a message for… for whom? He bids her, “Go to My brethren…” But it is not James and Jude He has in mind.

Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. (Jn. 20:17)

It’s His disciples He has in mind; they are about to come into a relationship with God that they had not known under the old covenant, nor yet as they had walked with Jesus as His disciples. What had He done that would enable this new relationship once He ascended? It was the result of the redemption He had wrought on Calvary, redeeming those who had been under the law, liberating them into the same kind of relationship with the Father that was His own. Here are the passages that speak of this—and now we have come to the two other times Abba Father is found:

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Gal. 4:4-7)

“The adoption.” It means, “the son-placing,” and this is not about gender, it’s about filial relationship whether male or female; it is for all those who are born of God. Here it is again in Romans:

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. (Rom. 8:14,15)

Abba Father. This was the heartcry of The Son of God all His days on earth. We, then,  who have received the Spirit of God’s son, how can it be otherwise than our having that same cry? Abba Father. This is our own cry now—we who have received the Spirit of the ascended Son into our hearts—it is our testimony that He continues to this day to cry out, Abba, Father. And we who have received His Spirit cry out with Him.

There is so much more that could be said. Perhaps John says it all when He writes, “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God.” Children… of God?

…So I leave us with this. May this be an ever-fresh revelation and inspiration to you and me: that to be a child of God, a son of God, to have received “the adoption”—the Spirit of the Son of God into our hearts—this can mean no less than being the Son of God meant to Jesus. For Him it meant being about the things of His Father—His Father’s interests, His Father’s glory, impassioned zeal for His Father’s house, His Father’s will… though it meant the cross for Him daily, and ultimately. You and I who have received the Spirit of God’s Son, are we seeking to gratify the passion of that Spirit? Are we too crying daily, Abba, Father?

Seek The Things Above (Part Two)

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Last time we began to answer the question on many hearts these days: “Why isn’t God doing something about this?” That is, this pandemic now in its second year. Just as a few countries began to proclaim a tentative victory, it caused the medical system of India to collapse. A firsthand report from a friend there reveals that things in India are far worse than we’re hearing in the news, the number of deaths is far higher. And the worst is yet to come—this wave of the pandemic there still hasn’t reached its peak. Other countries, poor countries, some of which have received no vaccine whatsoever, are also finding it extremely difficult to cope with the increasing numbers infected. Here in Alberta, Canada, daily infections are higher than anywhere else in North America. The blame game is well underway, but it’s so short-sighted to blame earthly governments for all this; the problem goes far deeper than that.

But consider this. The pandemic has so dominated the news that scarcely any attention has been given to the fact that other evils—droughts, plagues of locusts, famines, brewings of wars… are taking place at the same time.

If you recall, we quoted Solomon of old who in Ecclesiastes gives his account of things “under the sun,” a phrase he used 29 times elaborating on the futility of it all. “Vanity of vanity, saith the Preacher, all is vanity.” That is, pointless, meaningless, futile. That is life “under the sun.” Solomon has no reputation as an optimist but he certainly was a realist. Here is what we quoted:

For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare, even so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them. (Ecc 9:11,12 KJV)

It has always pained my heart to hear of a suicide, a pain I’m feeling more often these days when I hear of people who have taken their own lives because life under the sun seemed so pointless to them, in fact had become unbearable—the mental and emotional oppression brought on by the lockdowns, the family breakdowns, the economic hardships… it all became too much to bear any longer, life was not worth living. That they have done so is unbearable to me, because, oh, life is not pointless, there is purpose, eternal purpose in Christ Jesus the Lord that will take ages and ages to unfold. God has not left mankind prey to evil nets and snares “under the sun.” He has made provision in Christ for life. Life above it all, as we showed last time, quoting from Colossians:

If, then, ye were raised with the Christ, the things above seek ye, where the Christ is, on the right hand of God seated,
the things above mind ye, not the things upon the earth,
for ye did die, and your life hath been hid with the Christ in God;
when the Christ–our life–may be manifested, then also we with him shall be manifested in glory.
(Col 3:1-4 Young’s Literal Translation)

What are the things above? Last time we showed that the pronoun ye is those who are in Christ, and mentioned from Ephesians that “all our spiritual blessings are above, our heritage is above, our warfare is above—in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.” That’s because we ourselves are above—that is, we who have been baptized into Christ—because “God, who is rich in mercy for His great love toward us even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us [made us alive] together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-7).

It is this last one—that we ourselves have been raised with Christ and are therefore seated with Him in the heavenlies—that we are emphasizing in the Colossians passage. Our very life is there. In Christ. In the heavenlies. If we then are above, says Paul, we ought to be seeking the things above, “where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”

So then, to ask what God is doing in this hour is answered by discovering what Christ is doing. For Jesus Christ the Son of God is seated at the right hand of God; the Father has committed all things unto Him (Jn. 3:35, 13;3). He has sealed Him, has given Him His signet ring, has given Him “all authority in Heaven and in earth” (Mt. 28:16). What then is the Christ doing at the right hand of God?

He is administering the Good News of a kingdom that when fully completed will mean all the works of man brought to naught and all enemies under His feet.

He is overseeing a building project. Jesus Christ at the right hand of God is building a church. “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt. 16:18). Many of us are fond of reminding others that the church is not the building. I know I’m being a bit cheeky here but the church is the building. The church that Jesus is building is a house, “…the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim 3:15). And so of course, by “house” I do not mean a house of wood and stone.

A priest upon His throne

Now there is an ancient prophecy we must read. Leading up to the passage, we are told of a crown that was to be set on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest at that time. Then follows the prophecy:

Then speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The Branch; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD:
Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both. (Zech 6:12,13)

The Branch—this is the Christ. The Anointed One. He sits and rules upon His throne. But there is something here we too often overlook. It is a priest who sits as king upon the throne. The counsel from this throne—the wonderful counsel of the Gospel of peace—proceeds from one who is both a king and a priest. Look one moment, and it is a crown on His head. Blink your eyes and it is a mitre on His head. In Christ at the right hand of God the scepter of the king and the censer of the priest are one.

And seated at the right hand of God this king/priest is building a Temple, a habitation, a dwelling place, a house for the living God. He is not using wood and stone. He is using “living stones,” as Peter the rock says, for He is building “a spiritual house” (1 Pt 2:5). The living stones built into the house are also its “holy priesthood,” who offer up “spiritual sacrifices [that is, themselves], well pleasing to God by Jesus Christ.” Peter also calls this priesthood “a royal priesthood” (1 Pt 2:5-9). This priesthood is not a separate clergy, and it is not confined to the ministries God has set in the church who are not a separate clergy; each and every living stone is involved in this priesthood, not just theoretically, but vitally, functionally. And so seekers of the things above, seekers whose minds and affections are set on things above, find themselves involved in what the great king/priest of this house is doing. He is building living stones into the house of God, and He is involving the living stones in the building of the house—always reminding them that “except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it” (Ps. 127:1). My old King James Version margin reads, “are builders of it in it.” Quite something, that the house is building, edifying, itself. Yet it is, and must always be, the king/priest Himself who is doing the building. “Except the Lord build the house…” All we do must be His doing, or we labour in vain.

Now I want to get to the heart of what has been in my heart concerning seeking the things above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

He ever lives above, for me to intercede

There are in essence two ministries in the universe—one of intercession, the other of accusation. Dearly beloved, have nothing to do with the latter, leave it to the one who in his hatred of God and man loves to do that. It is intercession that is the heartbeat of Christ’s high priestly ministry at the right hand of God, intercession that is the pleading of His own blood, as Charles Wesley wrote in his immortal hymn:

He ever lives above, for me to intercede;
His all-redeeming love, His precious blood to plead:
His blood atoned for all our race,
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Our great king/priest reigning at the right hand of God maintains continual intercession on behalf of the living stones of this house. Such were the saints in the church at Rome, whom Paul reminded that whatever the condemner might bring against them, “it is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom 8:34). This is His occupation and His preoccupation—to make intercession for His own, and He will not fail in it, His intercession has the very power of the throne in it; it is effectual. “Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).

Oh, the Lamb, the bleeding Lamb, the Lamb of Calvary,
The Lamb that was slain now liveth again to intercede for me.

Thus you and I offer up this perpetual prayer of gratitude:
Thank you, Jesus, thank you, thank you, that you intercede for… me.

“I pray not for the world…”

But what is this? Jesus not praying for the world? This is what Jesus said in what has been called His high priestly prayer of intercession. John Chapter 17. He is praying for those whom His Father has given Him “out of the world.”

I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. (Jn. 17:9,10)

That used to trouble me a lot because I knew that God sent His Son into the world to reveal His love for the world—the multitudes under the sun. And here He is not praying for them? It’s not because He was a Calvinist; I finally learned to read Scripture in context. When we continue reading we come to this: “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (Jn. 17:15 KJV) Or, “from the evil one” (NKJV). For the evil one is bent on resisting God’s plan for the world. And then this: “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.” And then this:

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

Do we see this? In seeing it are we broken? “…That the world may believe… That the world may know…” And so the very question of God not caring for those under the sun is unthinkable. It is because of His great love for the world that His ministry of intercession is first of all on behalf of His own—that they may be kept from the devices of the Evil One, who, because he is bitterly set against all mankind, and hates and deceives them and robs and destroys them and divides them against one another, he makes Christ’s own the special objects of his hatred. It’s because he knows they are his downfall. And so Christ prays to His Father to “keep them from the evil.” The pits and snares and devices of “the evil one.” And He prays that they may be “perfected into one,” may be so one with Him and with one another that the world may see Him in His house, that through those in His house the world may come to know His great love for the world.

What Jesus prayed was entirely scriptural, actually. (No surprise, the Word of God knew His Bible.) “Out of Zion the perfection of beauty God hath shined” (Ps. 50:2). “Beautiful for situation [or elevation], the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the great king” (Ps. 48:2). “Thou shalt arise and have mercy on Zion… So shall the heathen [the nations] fear the name of the Lord, and all kings thy glory. When the Lord shall build up Zion he shall appear in His glory…” Ps. 102:13-16). And so God’s burden is for His house because His burden is for the world. For when the love of God in Christ is resident in Zion, when Zion is beautified with the beauty of the Lord, others are drawn into His house; they come to know His salvation, His rescue operation from “this present evil world” (Gal. 1:3-5). This—salvation from sin, the one problem of this evil world—is God’s answer for the world. This is vehemently resisted by our arch-enemy the Devil. He is out to make war with the saints; he is out to defeat them. So in standing against him as part of our spiritual armour we are to be “praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Eph 6:18).

This is our great high priest’s primary concern. His own. The saints. It is the concern of a commander for his army. How can they win without his continual intercession on their behalf? But once armed and empowered by His might, He enjoins upon them that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men…” because He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1,4 NKJV). Are not you and I glad for this? How quickly some of us, now in the house of God, now God’s own, forget that “we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (Titus 3:3).

And so what Christ said—“I pray not for the world”—He said as a faithful “high priest over the house of God” (Heb. 10:21). It doesn’t mean that we in the house of God are not to pray for the world. Now provisioned as priests in His house, armed with His Spirit, His anointing, we are to pray and make intercession for our secular authorities, our neighbours near and far, our loved ones still lost, as the saints throughout the ages have done and still do, sometimes with burdens of intercession that press them into the very ground. It goes without saying that God cares for all mankind. He couldn’t care more, for in His love for the world He has given no less than His Son.

A kingdom of priests

 If this then is what God is doing, if this is what is happening “above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God,” what are you and I doing in this hour? Are we seeking the things above? We must, lest we remain earthly minded, blinded really, and cheated of what is ours in Christ at the right hand of God. Ours? But just what is it that is ours at the right hand of God? A crown? A throne? Yes, but is this something we have in mind for our own benefit alone—sitting with Christ as a king in His throne? Or… is the heart of a priest beating within us and it is the need of others we have in mind, the wayward, the lost? Are we compelled by the love of Christ, seeking that we might join our great High Priest upon the throne in His ministry of effectual intercession?

None will reign with Christ in His throne who are not priests in His kingdom of priests.

John the Revelator sees in the throne room of Heaven a throne, and One seated upon the throne, and “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads” (Rev. 4:4). In Scripture the white robe is the garment of the priest. So here are priests wearing crowns of gold and sitting on thrones. This then is the royal priesthood, 24 being a symbolic number (as are all the numbers in The Revelation). And—something to think about here—is John in this vision of the heavenly throne room seeing just the heaven-side? Or is this also inclusive of those in the earth who have apprehended their heavenly calling? This is my view. They may be in the earth scattered in churches here and there, but spiritually speaking, they are “round about the throne” in the heavenly throne room of God. They are one with Him who sits on the throne. And with one another.

This royal priesthood is our calling “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling.” It is a calling from above—the “on-high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” It’s something that originated not in our own heart but in “Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood…” so that we can go to Heaven after we die? That, beloved, is less than His love has washed us for. “…And has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever” (Rev. 1:5,6). No less than this is what “the things above, where Christ is” means, and unto this honour we are called; this is our great privilege—to draw near to the throne of grace, draw near boldly as priests who have a great high priest over the house of God, draw near and join Him in His priestly intercession for others from the throne of God.

The whole creation “under the sun,” groaning and travailing in pain together until now, awaits the outcome of this.

Seek The Things Above (Part One)

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That wise man Solomon made some observations about what he called “life under the sun.” Here is one of them:

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare, even so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them. (Ecc 9:11,12 KJV)

That’s a very dismal assessment of things, isn’t it. But Solomon was right; it’s something that has been proven true, grievously true, countless times throughout history. People are just living life under the sun, and suddenly they are caught in an evil time, as in this pandemic, a great net cast over the Sea of Humanity. But that is just one of the hazards of life “under the sun,” and the only way out of it, as everyone knows, is by dying, itself a very unwelcome prospect for most people.

But this begets the question I have been asked not once or twice with regard to the pandemic. “Why isn’t God doing something about this?” To many He seems to be completely silent, in fact completely absent, even indifferent to it all.

What follows here is my answer to that question (yet not mine, but God’s). It shows that God is doing something, and shows just what He is doing, and further, that He has participants in what He is doing. The answer is found in the first four verses of Colossians Chapter 3. I’ll cite them, greatly loved as they are:

 If, then, ye were raised with the Christ, the things above seek ye, where the Christ is, on the right hand of God seated,
the things above mind ye, not the things upon the earth,
for ye did die, and your life hath been hid with the Christ in God;
when the Christ–our life–may be manifested, then also we with him shall be manifested in glory.
(Col 3:1-4 Young’s Literal Translation)

There we have it, God’s own wonderful answer. There is a life not “under the sun” but above it all. There are “things above.” That is, for those who have been raised with Christ. These are to “seek the things above.” What are the things above? As we discover in Ephesians, all our spiritual blessings are above, our heritage is above, our warfare is above—in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. But we want to focus on the Colossians passage. What  we discover in Colossians is that our very life is above, because—and it’s this that we hope to open here—Christ is above, seated at the right hand of God. Christ Himself, as always, is Paul’s emphasis—“If ye then be raised with Christ, seek the things above where Christ is…” To be raised with Christ obviously implies that these first died, which is what Paul goes on to say. “Ye did die…” Who are these ye? You mean that if I am one of them I don’t live under the sun anymore? Wonderful news—I’m outa here, I died. But just when did I die? And more wonderfully, when was I raised with the Christ, and therefore am seated with Him at the right hand of God, living the life that is hid with Christ in God? We must backtrack into Chapter Two for our answer. We need to dive into the middle of one of Paul’s very long sentences:

…Because in him [in Christ] doth tabernacle all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,
and ye are in him made full, who is the head of all principality and authority,
in whom also ye were circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh in the circumcision of the Christ,
being buried with him in the baptism, in which also ye rose with him through the faith of the working of God, who did raise him out of the dead. (Col 2:9-12 YLT)

There is a vital revelation in these verses, and we only have space here to get to the essence of it. Note the words, “in him…” “in whom…” That is, in Christ. The ye of Chapter 3 are those who are “in Him,” that is, in Christ. And how did they get into Him? They were baptized into Him. They were “buried with Him in the baptism…” That’s what going under the water of baptism signifies—being dead and buried. But note that Young’s Literal Translation includes the article here. “The baptism.” This is not baptism in water but baptism in Holy Spirit, which baptism in water only signifies. It is baptism in Holy Spirit that is baptism into Christ—into His death. My death by any means, by my own hand or otherwise, cannot accomplish what His death accomplished. Death to sin. Death to this world. It is this death of which A.W. Tozer spoke when he said, “The Christian’s grave is behind him.” For, the baptism is also baptism into Christ’s eternal resurrection life. (See also Romans 6:1-4.)

Do I hear you thinking, “I don’t feel like I’ve been raised with Christ”? But baptism in Holy Spirit—that moment when you received the Spirit of Christ within—is something you no doubt did feel, you experienced this. And so being raised with Christ is true of you and me whether we feel it or not, for baptism in Holy Spirit is baptism into Christ, and in Christ are  hidden realities. And when by revelation our eyes are opened by the Spirit to see these hidden realities, we may embrace them by faith. “…Being buried with him in the baptism, in which also ye rose with him through the faith of the working of God, who did raise him out of the dead.”

Let me add this, brothers and sisters. Many of us anticipate a mighty move of the Spirit of God. But let us not be looking to a coming move of the Spirit to make real to us what even today may be embraced by faith, and walked in.

We’re still backtracking in Chapter Two; Paul has this baptism in mind when toward the end of the chapter he says:

Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—“Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle…” (Col 2:20,21 NKJV)

And he continues to have it in mind at beginning of what we call Chapter 3:

If, then, ye were raised with the Christ, the things above seek ye, where the Christ is, on the right hand of God seated, the things above mind ye, not the things upon the earth…

Let’s read that carefully. “If then ye were raised with Christ, seek the things above…” What a wonderful word to find here. Above. Above it all. “Seek the things above, where Christ is…” Let’s not miss the emphasis. “Where Christ is.” Not the things themselves, but Christ Himself. “Seek the things above, where Christ is…” And where is Christ? Christ is “seated at the right hand of God.” Seated, that is, enthroned. And we who have been baptized into Christ are there with Him. We are seated, enthroned, with Christ at the right hand of God, the place of all power, the very power of God. What an astonishing revelation for faith to lay hold of.

More next time.

The Everlasting Light

I don’t expect to be saying much myself in this message, just quoting from others, and from quite a bit of Scripture. I wanted to start out by inviting you to sing along with me a little children’s song we used to sing, but I couldn’t find it anywhere on the Internet. Here are the lyrics, maybe you know the song:

The Lord shall be unto me an everlasting light,
The Lord shall be unto me an everlasting light,
If I follow Jesus, If I follow Jesus,
The Lord shall be unto me an everlasting light.

Don’t mind my becoming a bit teary-eyed as I sing, it’s a beautiful song of a powerful truth.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12). He didn’t say there would be no darkness, but that the one following Him would not walk in that darkness, but rather in the light of life. The light of life is an everlasting light. It doesn’t shine for a while and then go out; this light never goes out, and the darkness, try as it may, cannot put it out; it is everlasting, it shines continually and forever. We are invited to walk in this light. There is empowering grace in the invitation when received by faith.

The song comes from Isaiah, who is addressing the city of God—Zion and her children:

The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.
Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the LORD shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended. (Isaiah 60:19,20)

With this passage in mind let’s read something Andrew Murray once wrote:

I was once preaching and a lady came to talk with me. She was a very pious woman, and I asked her, “How are you getting on?”
Her answer was, “Oh, just the way it is, sometimes light and sometimes dark.”
“My dear sister, where is that in the Bible?”
She said, “We have day and night in nature, and just so it is in our souls.”
No, no! In the Bible we read, “Your sun shall no more go down.”
Let me believe that I am God’s child, and that the Father in Christ, through the Holy Ghost, has set His love upon me, and that I may abide in His presence, not frequently, but unceasingly. [i]

Not frequently, but unceasingly? Asa Mahan, whose testimony is in Forty Witnesses[ii], wrote the following:

Soon after I became conscious of a personal union with Christ, “I in him and He in me,” I inquired of the Lord whether such blissful union could be an abiding one. In specific answer to such inquiry this promise was, all-impressively, presented to my faith, and has ever since abode in my heart as the light of my life; namely, “The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee; but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. Thy sun shall no more go down, neither shall thy moon withdraw itself; for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.” (Isa. 60:19,20).

Why mournest thou, then, for the darkness, follower of Jesus the everlasting light? Let’s keep our eyes fixed on the everlasting light of life.

William Penn in his preface to the Journal of George Fox wrote of the light of the gospel-day that early Friends walked in. Fox’s journal is liberally sprinkled with references to this, “the everlasting day,” as he called it.

When the people were settled I stood up on a seat, and the Lord opened my mouth to declare His everlasting Truth and His everlasting day. (The Journal of George Fox)

Therefore all Friends, mind the oneness, and that which keeps you in the oneness and unity, it is that which keeps you out of the world; and this one light leads you out of darkness into the everlasting day, where ye see the church of God. (Epistles of George Fox, Number 46)

Labor to exercise a good conscience towards God, in obedience to him in what he requires, and in doing to all men the thing that is just and honest; in your conversations and words giving no offence to Jew or Gentile, nor to the church of God. So you may be as a city set on God’s Zion hill, which cannot be hid; and may be lights to the dark world, that they may see your good fruits, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. For he is glorified in your bringing forth good fruits, as you abide in Christ, the vine, in this his day of life, power, and light, that shines over all. Therefore all that believe in the light, walk in the light, as children of the light and of Christ’s everlasting day; that in the light you may have fellowship with the Father and the Son, and one with another; keeping in the unity of his holy spirit, in the bond of his holy peace, in his church, that he is head of. My desire is, that God’s wisdom everywhere may be justified of her children, and that it may be showed forth in meekness, and in the fear of the Lord in this his day, Amen. (Journal, 1687)

Whilst I was under this spiritual travail and suffering, the state of the city New Jerusalem, which comes down out of Heaven, was opened to me; which some carnal-minded people had looked upon to be like an outward city, that had dropped out of the elements.  But I saw the beauty and glory of it, the length the breadth, and the height thereof, all in complete proportion.  I saw that all, who are within the light of Christ, in His faith, which He is the author of, in the truth, and power of God, which are the walls of the city, such are within the city, are members of this city, and have right to eat of the tree of life, which yields her fruit every month, and whose leaves are for the healing of the nations….  This holy city is within the light; and all that are within the light are within the city; the gates whereof stand open all the day (for there is no night there), that all may come in…. The Christians in primitive times were called by Christ ‘a city set upon a hill’; they were also called ‘the light of the world…’ (Journal)

The fruit of the light

This everlasting light brings forth children, and brings forth fruit.

Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness “ (1 Thes. 5:5)

For ye were once darkness, now are ye light in the Lord; walk as children of light: (for the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth) proving what is well-pleasing unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness… (Eph. 5:8-11 ASV)

The King James Version has here, “the fruit of the Spirit,” but the American Standard Version and many others have “the fruit of the light.” I like that. It reminds me of the promise Moses gave Joseph:

And of Joseph he said: “Blessed of the LORD is his land, With the precious things of heaven, with the dew, And the deep lying beneath,
With the precious fruits of the sun, With the precious produce of the months [the moons]… (Dt. 33:13,14 NKJV)

And that reminds me of this:

 And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow every tree for food, whose leaf shall not whither, neither shall the fruit thereof fail: it shall bring forth new fruit every month, because the waters thereof issue out of the sanctuary; and the fruit thereof shall be for food, and the leaf thereof for healing. (Ezek. 47:12)

Fruit every month? And note that the reason these trees bring forth unfailing fruit is because their roots are in a perpetually flowing river.

And here again:

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit (Jer. 17:7,8)

All these remind me of this next one, which is very easy to relegate to the future. Let’s not do that.

And he showed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the midst of the street thereof. And on this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve manner of fruits, yielding its fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Rev. 22:1,2 ASV)

That is the fruit of the light bearing fruit every month of the year. That is the city from which flows a river of everlasting life “proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb” within her, a city the light of which is the everlasting light dwelling within her. “There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever” (Rev. 2:5).

“God is light,” writes John in his first epistle, “and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 Jn. 1:5). So there is no night in this city, no darkness at all. The citizens of this city, because they abide in this city, dwell in this city, and walk in this light, have fellowship with Him who is the light, and with one another, “and the blood of Jesus Christ His son cleanseth us from all sin” (I Jn. 1:7).

Here is what Francis Ridley Havergal discovered so wonderfully one day:

First, I was shown that “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin,” and then it was made plain to me that He who had thus cleansed me had power to keep me clean; so I just utterly yielded myself to Him and utterly trusted Him to keep me….
It was that one word “cleanseth” which opened the door of a very glory of hope and joy to me. I had never seen the force of the tense before, a continual present, always a present tense, not a present which the next moment becomes a past. It goes on cleansing, and I have no words to tell how my heart rejoices in it. Not a coming to be cleansed in the fountain only, but a remaining in the fountain, so that it may and can go on cleansing. (Frances Ridley Havergal, Forty Witnesses)

Are you and I saying that this is not so with us? Yet this is why He has given us His own abiding anointing—the Holy Spirit—to teach us to abide in the Anointed One (1 Jn. 2:20-27). That anointing abides in us, and is the empowering to abide in Him, and in fact teaches us to abide, as we are ready and obedient learners of the anointing.

And so, dearly beloved of the Lord, let us not be of little faith; let us not put off into the future, or into faraway Heaven, the everlasting light of the everlasting day, nor the everlasting life that springs from the fountain of life, nor the eternal unfading inheritance, nor the fadeless glory, nor the unfading leaves of the tree of life, nor the fruit of the light that fails not, nor the ever-present and continually cleansing blood, nor the incorruptible manna, nor the abiding Presence and anointing… all of which are the manifold blessings of the New Covenant. There was a day when our Lord was just dying to inaugurate this New Covenant so He could bequeath to us all these and more. He is living today that He might cause us to know them in vital relationship with Himself, to the praise of His glory.

[i] Andrew Murray, Apostle of Abiding Love, by Leona Choy

[ii] Here is a pdf of Forty Witnesses:

Forty Witnesses – Salvation from Sin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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