Category Archives: Kingdom of God

The Kingdom of God and the principles which we are to seek and live by.

Through The Channel Of Troubles

My purpose in this blog entry, which is much longer than usual, is not so much to get into the why’s and wherefore’s of the pandemic that now has its grip on our world, but to show the provision and wondrous opportunity God has given us in the midst of it.

But just briefly to start, two or three have asked my view on the present pandemic: is it a judgment of God or purely satanic, the work of the Devil? I’ve heard prophecies claiming both, but I take to heart Paul’s exhortation that, while we are not to despise prophesyings (and I don’t) we are to “prove all things,” and “hold fast that which is good” (1 Thes. 5:20,21). Therefore, not having the witness of the Spirit nor of the Scriptures as to these prophecies, I am not holding them fast, for I have not found them good. In fact I have to say I’m weary with most of what passes for prophecy these days. For one thing, did any of our popular prophets see this coming? I wonder that it is not a cause of deep embarrassment to our “prophets” that they are so “out to sea” concerning such events. Where are those like Agabus of old, who prophesied of a coming famine “throughout all the world,” which, amazingly, actually “came to pass…” (Acts 11:28).

I haven’t been graced with the gift of prophecy, so, seeking to be careful not to go beyond my measure, here is my view, guided, I believe, by the Spirit, and based on the Scriptures.

We live in a broken world, in an evil world, “this present evil world,” as the King James Version translates Paul’s introductory words to the Galatian churches. However, the word “world” here is not the usual kosmos, but aionos, which other versions translate “age.” So right at the start we have a promise. It is an evil age we live in, but it is only an age; one day this evil age will come to an end. Meanwhile we find ourselves in it—and need to be rescued from it. Here is the Galatians passage from Young’s Literal Translation:

Grace to you, and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ,
who did give himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of the present evil age, according to the will of God even our Father,
to whom is the glory to the ages of the ages. Amen. (Gal. 1:3-5 YLT)

The word “delivered” is actually much stronger—rescued translates it better, as the New English Translation has it: “who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age according to the will of our God and Father…”

Now, all throughout the history of this present evil age, evils great and small have abounded. What is the cause? It all began when “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin…” (Rom. 5:12).

There, that one word sin, that is the root of the problem, and Satan certainly had a hand in that. “Sin entered into the world…” In a heavenly realm Satan himself was its originator, he exported it to Adam, who wilfully imported it; and now all those in Adam sin, the result of which is “this present evil age.” Satan and his “principalities and powers” in the heavenlies are now “the rulers of the darkness of this world [again, the word there is age]” (Eph. 6:12). What a grievous ruin it all is—that the creature God made in His own image and likeness, and who was to have dominion over His whole creation, should now be so ruled, the willing and obedient slave of sin in a domain of darkness ruled by evil angels.

But God was not finished with man, and, long story short, rescued him with the one and only Answer to the ruin of man, the salvation that is in Christ Jesus. This present evil world is the result of ignorance of that Answer, or open resistance to Him; it is man’s own attempt to continue in his sins and at the same time save himself from their consequences. It is a world that God will yet bring completely to naught, according to His promise, and I believe we are seeing a further unfolding of this before our eyes.

Now, evil diseases are one of the consequences of original sin. But setting aside the question of just exactly how the caronavirus Covid-19 arose, it is plain as day that God is working in what had now become a pandemic to shake man’s inveterate confidence in himself and his own resources. The pandemic has turned into a major shaking of our world, especially of the economies of many nations. The confidence of multitudes is being shaken severely, and the worshippers of Mammon… are our own hearts broken as God’s heart is broken by those who love and worship Mammon instead of the God who loves them?… the worshippers of Mammon, those who make Mammon their confidence, are now reeling with the aftershocks, scrambling to find something to hang on to. I see that in the news. Closer to home certain people dear to me, I wonder if I don’t hear them thinking, “What’s happening, my world isn’t what I thought it was.” Hopefully this is what many are beginning to do, rethinking a “worldview” which more or less excludes the true God; hopefully they are opening to a willingness to replace that worldview with one that not only includes but centres on Him, on the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ… whose arms are open to embrace them and whose hand is extended to rescue all who reach out to Him.

Rescued from… rescued to…

Again, setting aside the question as to the particular origin of this pandemic, here we find ourselves in the midst of it. What are we to do? What is our hope in the midst of it?

If we who already are His disciples have been rescued from this present evil age, what have we been rescued to? Paul in the Romans 5 passage shows that sin and death entering the world brought about the reign, the kingdom, of sin and death. “Death reigned… sin reigned…” (See Romans 5:11-21.)

That is the bad news—the kingdom from which we have been rescued. But there is Good News. God by His Son has brought in an entirely different kingdom of righteousness and life. This is the word that He gave us from the beginning—from the mouth of John the Baptist, from the mouth of Jesus the Christ, and from the mouth of the apostles in the Acts. Let’s trace it.

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
And saying, Repent ye; for the kingdom of the heavens is at hand [is nigh]. (Mt. 3:1,2)

Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel. (Mk. 1:15)

Jesus when He rose from the dead continued to speak of this kingdom to His apostles:

…To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God… (Acts 1:3)

After they received the Spirit they too continued to proclaim this gospel of the kingdom, as we discover all through The Acts:

But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. (Act 8:12)

And he [Paul] went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. (Acts 19:8)

And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. (Acts 20:25)

And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,
Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him. (Act 20:38,31).

(There are many similar references in The Acts.)

So, we have been delivered from a kingdom, and delivered to a kingdom. This is the gospel that Paul and no doubt the other apostles proclaimed wherever they went. Considering our present world situation, here is a verse of particular interest. Paul and Barnabas having reached the end of their missionary journey began to retrace their steps, visiting again the churches they had established:

Confirming [establishing] the souls of the disciples, exhorting to remain in the faith, and that through many tribulations it behoveth us to enter into the reign of God… (Acts 14:22 YLT).

Note again the emphasis on the kingdom of God—with this further emphasis, that it is through many tribulations this kingdom must be, yes, entered. “Through” is the Greek dia, which Strong’s defines as “a primary preposition denoting the channel of an act.” I like that. In my mind’s eye I see a ship heading out of open water into a channel, a strait, which will take it not away from, but to its desired haven. Even so, says Paul, it is through the channel of troubles that we must sail to enter the kingdom of God. The natural inclination of the earthly man is to shrink back from troubles; perhaps that would also be the inclination of believers green behind the ears, so Paul sought to help these new disciples become established souls who would not be overthrown and draw back when imminent troubles came upon them, but rather would continue steadfast in “the faith,” for it was through those very troubles that “we must—it behoves us to, it is necessary, needful to—enter the kingdom of God.”

What is the kingdom of God?

Just what is the kingdom of God? It is the reign of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom.14:17). Back again to the Romans 5 passage: it is the reign of life (Rom. 5:17). It is the reign of grace (Rom. 5:21). Distilled to its essence it is the reign of God—and that in the midst of and through and many troubles.

And how is one introduced into the kingdom of God? Initially by repenting of that deeply ingrained insistence on sitting upon the throne of our lives ourselves, and leaving God out—that is called sin—and by believing the Gospel of the kingdom of God with a willingness to give the King of this kingdom His rightful place in our lives. We read of this King and His kingdom in the familiar and beautiful passage in Isaiah:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder… 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 justice and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever (Isa. 9:6,7).

Wonderful! Good News! The government upon His shoulder!

Ah, but the truly wonderful Good News is that by His Spirit, the government upon His shoulder is within us; that very rule of God and His Christ is in our hearts! THAT is the kingdom of God, which John the Baptist announced, and the time of the inauguration of which Jesus proclaimed was fulfilled, and which the apostles after Pentecost proclaimed had arrived. They were now in that kingdom. For, by His Spirit those in Christ are “raised up together, and seated [enthroned] together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus…” (Eph. 2:6).

Since that is so, is there not a two-part question that arises?

The first part. Were not these disciples Paul was exhorting already in the kingdom of God? Had they not earlier heard the Gospel, repented, believed in Jesus, and received the Spirit of God? Yes they were; Jesus Himself tells us that those born of water and the Spirit “enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). Also this in Paul’s words to the Colossian church. God has:

…Delivered [same word, rescued] us from the power [the authority] of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love… (Col. 1:13).

The second part. If God has done that, how then can Paul be exhorting the disciples that we must through many troubles or hardships enter the kingdom of God? What can this mean if they were already in the kingdom of God? But this is a pattern we find elsewhere in the Scriptures, and in Paul’s own life. He himself was in the kingdom of God as he went about proclaiming it. For on one occasion he warned the Corinthians that his coming to them might make some of them unhappy, for “the kingdom of God is not in word but in power” (1 Cor. 4:20). Yet some years later as he shared with Timothy the evils that had come upon him, he assured him that “the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (2 Tim. 4:18). Encouraging words for you and I as well. Again, do not those who believe in Jesus have eternal life (Jn. 3:16)? Yes, they do, and yet Paul exhorted Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith, lay hold of eternal life…” (1 Tim. 6:12). In like manner Paul exhorted the early disciples who were in the kingdom of God to enter the kingdom of God through many troubles.

Let this be our pattern as well, who by the Spirit of God and new birth have been introduced into His kingdom. Let us “continue in the faith,” let us go through the Channel of Troubles, and what we now know by faith we shall prove more and more fully—the reality of the wondrous kingdom of God. We may, and must, through all troubles great and small, near and far, enter this kingdom, a kingdom that cannot be shaken, a kingdom that is above all as its King is above all, whether men or angels…

…Remembering always that the kingdom of God is a kingdom of priests. Let us therefore continue to come boldly to the throne of empowering grace on the behalf of those in our world around us; they deeply need to see in their midst people who like themselves are in the midst of troubles yet are not troubled, are not shaken, and enquire why that is so, and, in becoming aware of the reality of a different kingdom, may turn and enter it themselves.

A Colony Of Heaven

A rare thing for me—let’s talk politics. I live in Alberta, one of Canada’s western provinces. Policies of the federal Liberal government have left many in these resource-rich provinces with empty purses. They made their feelings known in our October 21 federal election, which saw “the enemy,” Justin Trudeau and his Liberals, re-elected, albeit this time not with a majority government but with a minority, because the western provinces voted Conservative en masse. Now in Alberta a movement to part ways with eastern Canada is gaining angry momentum. Wexit, they’re dubbing it—West Exit—after the fashion of Brexit, Britain’s movement to leave the European Union. That’s not the whole picture; in Quebec the separatist Bloc Quebecois, roundly defeated in 2011 and considered history, lo and behold is up and running again. My country is deeply divided, I should say tri-vided.

I love Canada; I love Alberta, and it grieves my heart to see things come to this. I’ve been listening in to what’s being said, and dwelling on it a lot. Too much. Which is why I want to talk politics.

Heaven’s politics. A verse from Philippians has been coming to mind: “For our conversation is in heaven…” That’s the old King James Version, which uses “conversation” for “conduct, behaviour.” The New King James Version has this:

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ… (Phil. 3:20 NKJV)

Why the word citizenship? As I thought on that, something I’d read many years ago kept resurfacing: “We are a colony of heaven.” I couldn’t recall where I’d read it. Google found it for me in the 2017 Passion Translation:

But we are a colony of heaven on earth as we cling tightly to our life-giver, the Lord Jesus Christ…

But that couldn’t be what I was looking for; I’d read it long before the publication of that translation (it’s to the far left of a paraphrase, actually). Eventually I found it in James Moffatt’s translation which was first published in 1922:

But we are a colony of heaven, and we wait for the Saviour who comes from heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ… (James Moffatt, A New Translation,1922)

“Our citizenship is in heaven” is the more accurate translation but Paul was writing to the church in Philippi, and he knew his readers would “get” what he was saying. Philippi was a Roman colony, which meant its residents were actually citizens of Rome.

And from thence [we sailed] to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony… (Acts 16:12).

I remember when I was a boy my dad saying that Victoria, British Columbia, was “a little bit of England.” To be in Victoria (named after a great 19th century queen of the British Empire) was to be as it were in England. In that sense it was a “colony of England.” In fact the daily newspaper (of which my dad’s brother Seth Halton was for many years editor) was called the Victoria Daily Colonist. One could go to the Empress Hotel in Victoria and have “high tea,” as close as you could get without the actual presence of our present Queen Elizabeth. (Google tells me you can still do that.)

Philippi was one of several colonies in the Roman Empire. Colonies were originally Roman outposts established to secure conquered territories. “Eventually, however, the term came to denote the highest status of a Roman city” (Wikipedia). “The idea of a colony was, that it was another Rome transferred to the soil of another country” (Vincent’s Word Studies). Inhabitants had the privilege of Roman citizenship, which meant “exemption from scourging, freedom from arrest, except in extreme cases, and, in all cases, the right of appeal from the magistrate to the emperor” (Vincent). The inhabitants spoke Latin and were subject to Roman law. The coinage had Latin inscriptions.

Philippi, then, was a miniature Rome. Its citizens, although in distant Macedonia, were citizens of Rome.

The word translated “citizenship” or “colony” is the Greek politeuma, a noun. It’s interesting that earlier in his epistle Paul used the verb form politeuomai when he urged the saints in Philippi, “Only let your conversation [interaction, conduct, citizenship] be as becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel…” (Phil. 1:27). In fact Robertson’s Word Pictures suggests that the better translation here would be, “only do ye live as citizens…” Politeuomai is found in only one other place in the New Testament, Acts 23:1, where it is translated “lived.” The more common word for “conversation, conduct” is anastrophe, which is used 13 times in the New Testament. So, in selecting politeuomai here, it’s very suggestive that Paul has in mind that, whereas the saints in Philippi were in distant earth, they were citizens of heaven.

Although of Hebrew lineage, Paul himself was a Roman, but not because his hometown Tarsus was a Roman colony. Someone in an earlier generation (his grandfather or great grandfather?) had become a Roman citizen. This is why when Paul was about to be stretched out for a scourging, he said to the centurion, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?” (Acts 22:25). The centurion in charge of the scourging immediately reported this to his commander. “Take heed what thou doest, for this man is a Roman.” The commander instantly came and queried Paul personally. “Art thou a Roman?” Paul confirmed that he was. The commander responded, “With a great sum obtained I this freedom.” The word he used is politeia, citizenship. “And Paul said, But I was free born.” Upon this they backed away from him as though he had the plague—or should I say as though he were the Roman emperor himself.

So Paul reminds the Philippians, “our citizenship—our politeuma—is in heaven.” I think I see the root there from which we get our word politics, although I doubt that “our politics is in heaven” would qualify as good exegesis. But if our citizenship is there, our politics is certainly there also. In any case, when we read that verse in context we discover that Paul is brokenhearted because of those whose walk made them “enemies of the cross of Christ.” How so? How were they enemies of the cross of Christ? They “mind earthly things.” It is upon this that Paul says, “For, our citizenship is in heaven…”

That’s quite something, isn’t it. Just as the residents of Philippi were citizens of Rome, the saints there were citizens of heaven.

The psalmist foresaw this long ago. He spoke of Rahab and Babylon, Philistia, Tyre, Ethiopia… cities and regions of the Gentiles, and then with those in mind he said, speaking now of the glorious city of God, “This man was born there” (Ps. 87:3). They lived in Babylon, or Tyre, or wherever. But they were on the census rolls of the heavenly register as citizens there, having been born there:

And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her, and the Highest Himself shall establish her.
The LORD shall count, when He writeth up the peoples, that this man was born there.

What is this but the wondrous Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has made born-again—that is, born-from-above—disciples of Christ from all nations citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem!

Yes, of course I seek to be a good citizen of Canada. True disciples of Jesus in whatever country they are sojourning have always sought to be good citizens, obeying the laws of that country—except when those laws violate the law of their heavenly country. That must always be first and foremost.

So I want to lay to heart what Paul is saying. I don’t want to be minding earthly things, but heavenly things; I want to be a good citizen of heaven my home and native land, obeying its law, enjoying its liberty from sin and death, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, loving Him and those around me, speaking always with grace the salt-seasoned language of heaven, drinking always from its springs, feeding ever on its bread, bearing its arms against evil, shining forth its light in the darkness of this world, a citizen of heaven devoted to the Lord of heaven, with single-eyed allegiance waiting, waiting, waiting expectantly and confidently for Him… and as I wait, always rendering unto Him the living coinage of His own image and superscription, in all things conducting myself here on earth in the little colony of heaven of which I am a part—a local church—in such a way that “a little bit of heaven” is brought nigh right here where I live in Canada.

This is my way, O Canada, of standing on guard for thee.

Disciples Of The Lily

And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain: and when He was set, His disciples came unto Him: and He opened His mouth, and taught them…

These words in the Gospel according to Matthew introduce us to what has been called the Sermon on the Mount. It’s clear that the multitudes as well as the disciples had followed Jesus up the mountain, for we read at the end of the sermon that “the multitudes were astonished at His teaching” (Mt. 7:28). But it was primarily to His disciples that Jesus was speaking. The word disciple means, simply, learner. He was the Teacher, the Rabbi, they the learners.

What is it that He was teaching them? What were they to learn? The answer to that question is to be found in asking the better question, “Who is it that they were to learn?”

For, when He opened His mouth and taught them, it was Himself that He was revealing to them—Himself—the Life of the ages. John the beloved was there at that time, and no doubt it was this scene on the mount, among many others, that he had in mind when many years later he wrote of the Word of life that they had heard and seen and looked upon and their hands had handled, the Life eternal that had been with the Father, and was manifested to them. One cannot help seeing Him seated there on that beautiful day with His disciples around Him sitting or reclining in the grass, the flowers of the field blooming round about them, the birds of the air flying above.

It was the One now seated before them who had created it all, object lessons of Himself, and, perhaps with a motion of His arm He draws their attention upward, then downward.

Behold the fowls of the air… Consider the lilies of the field…

The context of these words is about two kinds of slavery—the slavery of Mammon and the slavery of God. Mammon originally meant “that in which one puts his trust, his confidence” and came eventually to mean (is it any wonder in this materialistic world?) “money, possessions, material prosperity.”

Jesus is teaching His disciples the Life that is not slavery to Mammon, is not anxious nor burdened with its own security, but rather trusts in the faithfulness of a heavenly Father to provide all that is necessary, both earthly and spiritual, while being bondslaves to Him. It seems an incongruous thought—slavery to God? But that is the word Jesus uses. “Ye cannot serve-as-bondslaves God and Mammon.”

And so He tells them, “Therefore…” What a precious place to find that word. Let us heed it. “Therefore, be not anxious for your life…” That’s what being a bondslave of the living God is like. It is the Life that is free from care, unburdened with the cares of this life.

Therefore, be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than food, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air…

What about the fowls of the air? This. They are not sowing and reaping and gathering into barns, intent upon making sure they have in hand what tomorrow will need. What then? What resource do they have? “Your heavenly Father feedeth them.”

Remember that old poem?

Said the robin to the sparrow,
“I would really like to know
Why those anxious human beings
rush around and worry so.”
Said the sparrow to the robin,
“Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father
such as cares for you and me.”

It’s meant, of course, to remind us that we do have. And note that Jesus has said, “Your heavenly Father feedeth them.” Not their heavenly Father. The robin and the sparrow cannot call Him Father. The disciples of Jesus can. And will not this Father who feeds the fowls of the air feed His own children, and care for all their needs, whether earthly or spiritual? It is thus that they grow, not by “taking thought,” not by anxious care; they cannot by anxious care add so much as one cubit to their stature.

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow…

This is where Jesus calls His disciples to become disciples of the lilies of the field. The word consider comes from the same Greek root that the word disciple comes from. Consider also has the prefix kata, which is an intensifier, which is why Young’s Literal Translation has, “Consider well.” Thayer says it means “to learn thoroughly, to examine carefully, to consider well.”

Kata also has the idea down in it. This is likely why Halton’s Expanded Translation has:

Humble yourself, get right down on your elbows in the grass, and become a disciple of the lowly lilies of the field: recline at their feet, and learn from them, learn well from them, the secret of spiritual growth, the secret of the life that toils not, nor spins, yet because of that wondrous law of life within, they grow with a beauty that by comparison, Solomon in all His glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Now Jesus’ next word. “Wherefore…” Let us heed this one too:

Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Much more? Wondrous words we are invited to trust, to believe. The lily in all its glory is clothed with a beautiful array that it does not spin for itself, does not toil to produce. It is God who so clothes it, putting within it a law of life that brings into being that beautiful raiment as the lily simply obeys that law of life. This is how it grows—simply by letting that law of life have its way, and trusting in its Creator to provide the needed sunlight, and water, and nutrients from the soil. Thus the lowly lily brings forth and displays an inimitable beauty that glorifies God, who created it for this very purpose—to glorify Him.

Shall He not much more clothe us, to the praise of His glory?

Help us, Jesus, help us to be no longer of little faith, but to fully believe you, and follow through on your counsel, and become disciples of the lily.

Heed The Harbinger

No, I am not referring to the popular book of our day, but to a man who in his own day was not very popular at all.  This blog entry is an excerpt from a writing by Edward Burrough, one of the early Quakers.  Actually they called themselves simply Friends; it was in scorn that their adversaries called them Quakers, for they saw them frequently trembling, and ridiculed them for it.

You and I know why they were trembling… or ought to know… by first-hand experience.

I came across this writing in Foundation Papers, a newsletter I get in the mail from contemporary Quakers who are seeking to return to the foundation the first Quakers established back in the 17th century.  That move of the Spirit of God shook the world, and as you read this excerpt you will see why.  You will see glimpses of a very powerful Gospel that in its going forth exposed how far the churches of that day, bound as they were in formalism and the traditions of men, had strayed from the original Gospel of Christ and the apostles.

Our old friend George Warnock used to say that the early Quakers were a harbinger of what is coming.  Harbinger?  Something that shows what is coming.

With this in mind, then—with what is coming in mind—there is only one thing we can and must do, and if we are wise we are doing this with the whole heart.  We are heeding the same proclamation that John the Baptist and Jesus Christ and the early apostles sounded, and which those early Quakers also sounded.

“Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

Edward Burrough was just 18 when he was caught into the powerful current of the Spirit that was moving through England at the time.  In 1658 when he was 24 he wrote this piece.  And just four years later he died in prison where, along with many other Quakers, he had been cast because of the living Testimony that dwelt in him.

Here is Edward Burrough’s Epistle to the Reader.  I have put in italics the portion that I found so moving.

The Epistle To The Reader
By Edward Burrough
London the 9. Mo. 1658

It is now about seven years since the Lord raised us up in the north of England, and opened our mouths in this his Spirit; and what we were before in our religion, profession, and practices is well known to that part of the country; that generally we were men of the strictest sect, and of the greatest zeal in the performance of outward righteousness, and went through and tried all sorts of teachers, and run from mountain to mountain, and from man to man, and from one form to another, as do many to this very day, who yet remain ungathered to the Lord. And such we were, (to say no more of us,) that sought the Lord, and desired the knowledge of his ways more than anything beside, and for one I may speak, who, from a child, even a few years old, set my face to seek and find the Saviour, and, more than life and treasure or any mortal crown, sought with all my heart the one thing that is needful, to wit, the knowledge of God.

And after our long seeking the Lord appeared to us, and revealed his glory in us, and gave us of his Spirit from heaven, and poured it upon us, and gave us of his wisdom to guide us, whereby we saw all the world, and the true state of things, and the true condition of the church in her present estate. First the Lord brought us by his power and wisdom, and the word by which all things were made, to know and understand, and see perfectly, that God had given to us, every one of us in particular, a light from himself shining in our hearts and consciences; which light, Christ his son, the Saviour of the world, had lighted every man withal; which light in us we found sufficient to reprove us, and convince [that is, convict] us of every evil deed, word, and thought, and by it, in us, we came to know good from evil, right from wrong, and whatsoever is of God, and according to him, from what is of the devil, and what was contrary to God in motion, word, and works….

…And also as our minds became turned, and our hearts inclined to the light which shined in every one of us, the perfect estate of the church we came to know; her estate before the apostles’ days, and in the apostles’ days, and since the days of the apostles.

And her present estate we found to be as a woman who had once been clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, who brought forth him that was to rule the nations; but she was fled into the wilderness, and there sitting desolate, in her place that was prepared of God for such a season, in the very end of which season, when the time of her sojourning was towards a full end, then were we brought forth….

….And we found this light to be a sufficient teacher, to lead us to Christ, from whence this light came, and thereby it gave us to receive Christ, and to witness him to dwell in us; and through it the new covenant we came to enter into, to be made heirs of life and salvation.

And in all things we found the light which we were enlightened withal, (which is Christ,) to be alone and only sufficient to bring to life and eternal salvation; and that all who did own the light in them which Christ hath enlightened every man withal, they needed no man to teach them, but the Lord was their teacher, by his light in their own consciences, and they received the holy anointing.

And so we ceased from the teachings of all men, and their words, and their worships, and their temples, and all their baptisms and churches; and we ceased from our own words, and professions, and practices in religion, in times before zealously performed by us, through diverse forms, and we became fools for Christ’s sake, that we might become truly wise. And by this light of Christ in us were we led out of all false ways, and false preachings, and from false ministers, and we met together often, and waited upon the Lord in pure silence from our own words, and all men’s words, and hearkened to the voice of the Lord, and felt his word in our hearts, to burn up and beat down all that was contrary to God; and we obeyed the light of Christ in us, and followed the motions of the Lord’s pure Spirit, and took up the cross to all earthly glories, crowns, and ways: and denied ourselves, our relations, and all that stood in the way betwixt us and the Lord; and we chose to suffer with and for the name of Christ, rather than enjoy all the pleasures upon earth, or all our former zealous professions and practices in religion without the power and Spirit of God, which the world yet lives in. And while waiting upon the Lord in silence, as often we did for many hours together, with our minds and hearts toward him, being staid in the light of Christ within us, from all thoughts, fleshly motions, and desires, in our diligent waiting and fear of his name, and hearkening to his word, we received often the pouring down of the Spirit upon us, and the gift of God’s holy eternal Spirit as in the days of old, and our hearts were made glad, and our tongues loosed, and our mouths opened, and we spake with new tongues, as the Lord gave us utterance, and as his Spirit led us, which was poured down upon us, on sons and daughters. And to us hereby were the deep things of God revealed, and things unutterable were known and made manifest; and the glory of the Father was revealed, and then began we to sing praises to the Lord God Almighty, and to the Lamb forever, who had redeemed us to God, and brought us out of the captivity and bondage of the world, and put an end to sin and death; and all this was by and through, and in the light of Christ within us. And much more might be declared hereof, that which could not be believed if it were spoken, of the several and particular operations and manifestations of the everlasting Spirit that was given us, and revealed in us.

But this is the sum: life and immortality were brought to light, power from on high and wisdom were made manifest, and the day everlasting appeared unto us, and the joyful sun of righteousness did arise and shine forth unto us and in us; and the holy anointing, the everlasting Comforter, we received; and the babe of glory was born, and the heir of the promise brought forth to reign over the earth, and over hell and death, whereby we entered into everlasting union, and fellowship, and covenant with the Lord God, whose mercies are sure and infinite, and his promise never fails. We were raised from death to life, and changed from Satan’s power to God, and gathered from all the dumb shepherds, and off all the barren mountains, into the fold of eternal peace and rest, and mighty and wonderful things hath the Lord wrought for us, and by us, by his own outstretched arm.

And thus we became followers of the Lamb whithersoever he goes; and he hath called us to make war in righteousness for his name’s sake against hell and death, and all the powers of darkness, and against the beast and false prophet, which have deceived the nations. And we are of the royal seed elect, chosen and faithful, and we war in truth and just judgment; not with weapons that are carnal, but by the sword that goes out of his mouth, which shall slay the wicked, and cut them to pieces. And after this manner was our birth or bringing forth, and thus hath the Lord chosen us and made us an army dreadful and terrible, before whom the wicked do fear and tremble; and our standard is truth, justice, righteousness, and equity; and all that come unto us, must cleave thereunto, and fight under that banner without fear, and without doubting, and they shall never be ashamed nor put to flight, neither shall they ever be conquered by hell or death, or by the powers of darkness; but the Lord shall be their armour, weapon, and defence for evermore. And they that follow the Lamb shall overcome, and get the victory over the beast, and over the dragon, and over the gates of hell; for the Lord is with us, and who shall be able to make us afraid?

That’s the end of the excerpt.  After I read it I just… it made me tremble, and it’s sackcloth and ashes for me till in our own generation we come to the reality of this Gospel—a Gospel not in word, but in power, a Gospel by which life and immortality are not just words on the pages of my Bible; life and immortality are brought to light and shine forth in power and total victory over Hell and death and all the powers of darkness… and our whole world quakes as a result of it.  Too far out?  But the harbinger has already arrived… some 350 years ago!

Those wishing to read the Edward Burrough’s full epistle may find it at: http://www.strecorsoc.org/docs/burrough2.html  Beware of other things on this site: there are many writings there which show how painfully far many modern-day Quakers have strayed from the truth by following what they called the light in their hearts, all the while utterly losing sight of the True Light Himself.

Edward Burrough’s epistle is also available at:  http://www.hallvworthington.com/Burrough/Burrough%20Mystery.html.  There is also a short biography of him on this site.

Behold A Throne

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The Bible record shows us that the apostles and prophets of old went through some very hard things.  Apostasy, persecution, affliction…

But there was something that held them, that kept them, through it all.  In the midst of it all they saw an eternal Throne.

Isaiah saw a vision of this throne in the year that king Uzziah died.  Uzziah was one of the longest reigning kings, and though he had made mistakes, was greatly loved because of the peace and security the people enjoyed under his shadow.  His reign was a time of great prosperity.  Suddenly this great and benevolent king died.  I’m sure many hearts were anxious.  Would the peace and prosperity die with him?

But what does Isaiah the prophet see?

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple (Isa. 6:1).

Perhaps it is here that Isaiah was first introduced to a throne, and a king and a kingdom, that would never pass away.  For a little later we find him prophesying:

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 and forever (Isa. 9:7).

Jeremiah saw this same throne a century and a half later when the people of God were about to be deported to Babylon for their idolatry.

But the LORD is the true God, He is the living God, and an everlasting king… (Jer. 10:10).

This, I am sure, is what kept Jeremiah when Nebuchadnezzar deposed their king and carried the people captive to Babylon.  He knew there was an eternal throne with an everlasting king sitting upon it.

Ezekiel the priest was among those captives.  In Babylon by the river Chebar he saw this same throne.  He saw in vision the cherubim bearing a throne, “and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a Man above upon it” (Ezek. 1:26).

And so even in their captivity there is still One upon the throne.  And He assures Ezekiel that His purposes have not come to an end.  Greater things are ahead.

The apostle John saw this throne.  He had just been exiled to the barren isle of Patmos off the coast of present-day Turkey.  John was there because his testimony had been galling to the authorities of the day.  At the same time, many of the churches in which he has ministered were in a state of complacency; others had been overcome with false teaching.  His whole life’s work, it seems, had been largely in vain.  What a recipe for discouragement.

But John sees a vision while on Patmos.  It centres around a throne, and One who sits upon it.

And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and [one] sat on the throne (Rev. 4:2).

We too must behold this throne.  In fact John calls his vision a prophecy.  It was prophetic of our day.  We too are living in a time of great apostasy, of spiritual famine and drought.  It has become very difficult for the sincere of heart to endure.  Many have fallen away.  But God has provision for those who love him to endure.  We must with the eye of the Spirit behold a Throne.

The apostle Paul saw this throne.  In a letter to his “son in the faith” Timothy we discover that Satan and evil men had already done serious damage to the work of the Spirit that Paul has given his life to.   He warns of those who have “turned aside unto vain jangling” (1 Tim. 1:6), and that “in the latter time some shall depart from the faith” (1 Tim: 4:1).  And so he urges Timothy to stand guard over the doctrine being taught in the church he is involved with (1 Tim. 1:3).  He urges him to “war a good warfare” (1 Tim. 1:18), and to “keep that which is committed to thy trust” (1 Tim. 6:20).

And how can you do this, son Timothy?  There is one thing filling Paul’s mind in what he is saying to Timothy.  We find it at the beginning of his letter, and at the end.

Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, [be] honour and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Tim. 1:17).

…Which in His times He shall shew, who is the blessed and only potentate (the only power), the King of kings and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting.  Amen (1 Tim. 6:15,16).

In other words, yes, there will come a time when this Throne and the One upon it will be openly manifested.  But even now, though He may be invisible at this time, those with the eye of the Spirit can behold His throne and live under His rule.  And no other.

The Pathway Of The Wind

Solomon said, “As thou knowest not the pathway of the wind, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child, even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all” (Eccles. 11.5).

It has taken me several years to understand this verse, which it seems Jesus had in mind in a reply to a certain Pharisee, Nicodemus by name, who had come to Him by night to acknowledge what his colleagues refused to acknowledge.

Rabbi, we know that Thou art a teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him (Jn. 3.2).

I believe that in these words of Nicodemus we are touching more of a plea than a statement.  I believe they are the words of a man who wanted God, but in spite of all his credentials and the religious things he was involved in, felt painfully distanced from Him.  Jesus knew his heart, and this is the response He gave him.

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Well, yes, Nicodemus was painfully aware there was something he wasn’t seeing.  But now this on top of it all?  How could a man be born again when he was old?  Could he enter the second time into his mother’s womb and be born?

Jesus answered, Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.   That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

Just quickly, notice the use of thee and ye here.  “Marvel not that I said unto thee (singular), ye (plural) must be born again.  You must all be born again, Jesus was saying.  Even though this one individual He was speaking to was a learned Pharisee and a teacher of Israel, he was no different from all men born of Adam’s race.  Just like everyone else, he needed to be born again in order to enter the kingdom of God.

And then Jesus continues—and I wonder if I don’t see Him and Nicodemus somewhere out on a rooftop in the cool of the evening, and they can hear the wind blowing in the trees nearby—and I think also that we hear the echo of Solomon’s words in what He says:

The wind bloweth where it listeth (desireth), and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

Remember that in both Hebrew and Greek the word for wind and spirit is the same word.  Solomon the wise man said it wasn’t possible to know the pathway of the wind, or how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child.  But a wiser than Solomon was now saying to Nicodemus that there is in fact one way to come to know the pathway the Wind walks on.  That is to become like this child in the womb, and be born of the Wind.

There is pathway, and a life, a realm, a wisdom, that cannot be known by the natural man.  But those born of the Spirit can indeed know and walk in this realm and this Pathway.

As thou knowest not the pathway of the wind, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child, even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.

As I said, it has taken me several years to understand this verse.  It’s the part about the works of God that has evaded me.  But just like the pathway of the wind, and the mysterious inner workings of life in the womb, even so the realm of the works of God simply cannot be known by man.

Paul said the same thing:

But the natural man (the soulical man) receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2.14).

It takes the new creation man, a spiritual man, to know these things, these things of God, and to walk in them.  These are the works that Paul says God has prepared beforehand for the new creation man to know, and walk in.

For by grace ye are saved through faith, and that (salvation) not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast.
For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained (before prepared) that we should walk in them (Eph. 2.8-10).

Works—the Bible distinguishes between dead works, and good works.  These good works Paul speaks of are simply the things we are about in our daily lives, the things we do, the spontaneous outflow of our walk with God, our love relationship with God.  They are living works—the works of a new creation Man, works God has prepared beforehand for us that we should walk in them.  We are just walking in sync with God Himself as a great eternal purpose unfolds.  Our works are works of rest, you might say.

The thing is… the beautiful, the liberating, thing is… this new creation man is under no other obligation.  He or she need not get under any other yoke whether in thought or deed.

It’s Automatic

Last time we talked of Jesus urging His disciples, “If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.”  It’s a warning.  We are to take heed to our hearing.  Whether or not the ground of our heart brings forth the fruit our Lord is looking for depends on the quality of our hearing.  Do we take his word seriously—that shallow soil or weed-infested ground can hinder the seed from bearing fruit?  If our hearing is good, we lay that to heart.  We cooperate with the Divine Farmer, seeking His help to make sure our hearts are good ground with deep, fertile soil where nothing is growing but the Good Seed He planted.  In this kind of ground the seed will surely bring forth… an hundredfold.

And, as we see in what Jesus says next, our work in done when we present to the Lord this kind of soil.  The rest is up to Him—and to the Law of life in the seed He plants.  After exhorting His disciples to make sure they are hearing what He is saying, Jesus continues with this:

So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;
And should sleep, and rise night and day,
And the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.
For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear (Mk. 4.26-28).

The emphasis in the original is, “How, he knoweth not.”  There is a mysterious process of life at work in the seed—the same process we mentioned in an earlier blog.

As thou knowest not what is the way of the wind, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child, even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all (Eccles. 11.5).

In the natural creation, it’s life that causes the child in the womb to grow.  It’s life that causes the seed to grow and bear fruit.  These are the inner workings of a law of life God set to work in nature when He created all things.

And God created all these things with this in mind:  their voice speaks to us of the wonder and beauty of the Kingdom of God.  Jesus in His parables drawn from nature is speaking of the Kingdom of God.  It is “the word of the Kingdom” that the sower sows, and, depending on the soil conditions, brings forth fruit.  And so, as we said, we have a part to play there.  He that hath an ear, let him hear.  We can seek to be good deep soil, and keep out the weeds.

But once the conditions are right, our job is done.  It’s no use the farmer standing anxiously over the ground as if so doing could help the seed along.  “The earth bringeth forth fruit of herself.”

This word in the Greek is automate (pronounced automatay).  Sound familiar?  I’m not much of a Greek scholar, but even I could tell what that word likely meant.  Here’s what a real Greek scholar (Kenneth Wuest) has to say about it.

The words of herself are the translation of automate which is made up of autos (self) and memaa (to desire eagerly).  The word means in its totality, “self-moved, spontaneously, without external aid, and also beyond external control, with a way and a will, so to speak, of its own that must be respected and waited for.”  We get our English word automatic from this Greek word automate.  There is only one other example of its use in the New Testament, where the gate opens to Peter of its own accord (Acts 12.10).  The earth, therefore, brings forth fruit automatically.  The nature of the soil, the weather, and the cultivation of the plant, all enter in.  But the secret of the growth is in the seed itself.

This is very encouraging to us, isn’t it.  The farmer doesn’t stand anxiously over the seed he planted.  He isn’t wringing his hands as to what will happen next.  He doesn’t stay up all night worrying.  He just goes about his daily routine, sleeping, rising, sleeping, rising… and… what’s this?  The ground that received the seed is bringing forth now!  The seed has yielded to a law of life that meant it first had to die… and now it is growing, growing, growing… “first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.”

So with the Kingdom of God that is growing in the earth right now, and in due time will be openly manifested.  There is a beautiful mystery at work that the hand of man has no part in—the mystery of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which is at work in those who believe.  We need to respect that working, and wait patiently for the results.  Something spontaneous–automatic– is happening while we wait, something that is working of its own accord as we rest in the Lord.  Having kept out the weeds, we only need to yield to the seed that has been sown, trusting the Law of the Spirit of life to bring forth the seed that was planted in abundant fruitfulness… to the praise and glory of God.

How’s Your Hearing?

Jesus has entered a boat and is speaking to the multitudes on the shore.  He speaks to them a parable about a sower who sows seed on various types of ground.  It’s all the same seed, nevertheless the ground it is sown in brings forth different results.

Some seed falls by the roadside where the ground is packed so hard it can’t even get in, and immediately the birds come and peck it all up.

Some seed falls on thin soil with rock underneath, and although it springs up quickly, when the sun gets hot it just as quickly dies because it isn’t deeply rooted.

Some falls on ground that looks good but is infested with the seeds of thorns, and when the thorns grow up, the plants growing from the good seed are choked out.

And some of the seed falls on fertile ground that yields fruit (I like that word yield here) “some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred” (Mk. 4.8).

At the end of the parable Jesus says to the multitude, “He that hath ears let him hear” (Mk. 4.9).

Luke has this more dramatically, telling us that Jesus cried out this warning.

And when he had said these things He cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Lk. 8.8).

In other words, let no one underestimate the eternal importance of what He has been saying!

After speaking this and other parables to the multitude, Jesus goes aside with his disciples and explains the parable.  He didn’t do this with the great multitude, at this point already realizing that most of them weren’t all that interested in what He had to say; they followed Him just for the signs and wonders and miracles.  Others were openly against Him, and followed along looking only for an opportunity to find fault.  But now he explains the parable to the disciples.  He has been talking of hearing the word, likening the hearers of the word to various types of ground.  We won’t enlarge on this here except to say that God intends the seed of the word in our lives—the word of the Kingdom of God—to bear abundant fruit, and depending on the condition of our heart this may or may not happen.  Hardness of heart, persecution, the cares of this life, the deceitfulness of riches… all these and the lusts of other things can cause a crop failure.  But the good and honest heart that endures to the end will bring forth the fruit God is looking for.

What we want to emphasize here is that the Lord rephrases to the disciples His earlier exhortation to the multitude.  After He has explained the parable to His disciples He directs these words to them:

If any man have ears to hear, let him hear (Mk. 4.23).

This is phrased a little differently than the first exhortation, and the thought seems to be that Jesus recognizes that, unlike many of those who were stone deaf to what He had been saying, His disciples have ears to hear.  The more accurate translation of this second exhortation is, “Since a person has ears to be hearing, let him be hearing” (Wuest Expanded Translation).  You mean, Lord, your disciples actually have ears to hear, and you still admonish them?

It’s a profound warning for us, then.  It’s possible to have ears—even to think we are hearing—and yet not be hearing very well.

Christ continues by saying:

Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given.
For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.

Christian, let us guard against dullness of hearing.  Hearing… yet not really hearing.  Hearing… yet it doesn’t really register because we are going about our lives in this world, and, with all the things that cry for our attention, the ear that was once attentive is no longer hearing the way it used to.

Or, perhaps unknowingly we have become presumptuous, over-familiar with spiritual things.  It’s something that can creep in so easily on the heart.  We hear and presume these spiritual words to be ours because of some special group or move we have been involved in, or some great church we go to.

Or, apart from any group or church we are involved in, we have given the inherent pride of our own heart lots of water and sunshine, and we are now oblivious to our deep and continual need to walk in humility and “tremble at His word.”  And so now the seed of the word falls on our ear… and we heard it as usual, but actually nothing happened.  We have ears, but we are not really hearing.  We have lost what young Samuel had when he responded trembling, “Speak, Lord, for your servant heareth.”

In other words, the Lord had Samuel’s full attention.

The Lord Jesus Christ says that with what measure we give our ears to hear Him, in this measure what He is saying shall be measured out to us.  If we give our ears but a little, that’s what is given to us in return—little.  If our hearing is dull, we won’t get much.  If our ears are keen, are sensitive, we will hear more—in fact shall be given more than we anticipated.

…Unto you that hear shall more be given.

Is it possible then, that the Lord has spoken, and, although we heard the words, and got a little, there was more we could have heard?  Apparently.  The Lord says that it is to those who have ears and actually hear, that it shall be given.

For he that hath, to him shall be given.

And then the solemn final warning.

And he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.

I don’t want to be in that category of the listener who the Lord says has ears but is actually going about his life not hearing what He is saying at all.  And suddenly I discover that what I thought I had… actually I did not have it, and it is taken from me completely now.

The Christian’s Inheritance (Part Four)

In the last three blog entries we’ve been talking of the inheritance of the Christian. We mentioned that this was foreshadowed in the Old Testament by Israel coming into Canaan the promised land. We pointed out that theirs was a temporal and earthly inheritance; the Christian’s is eternal in the heavenlies, the realm of the Spirit.

There’s another way our inheritance is foreshadowed in the Old Testament. God told the tribe of Levi—the priestly tribe—that they were to have no inheritance with their brethren when they came into the land of Canaan. Rather, “I am their inheritance,” God said.

At that time the LORD separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before Him to minister unto Him, and to bless in His name, unto this day.
Wherefore Levi hath no part nor inheritance with his brethren; the LORD is his inheritance, according as the LORD thy God promised him (Dt. 10.9).

You mean, when the children of Israel began enjoying their beautiful acreages in the land of Canaan there was nothing reserved for the tribe of Levi? All they got was… God?

What a letdown, eh? All they got was… God? All they got was the priesthood, the anointing?

…He that hath an ear let him hear.

There came a time when God uprooted Israel from their heritage because of their disobedience. He sent Nebuchadnezzar his servant to destroy the beloved city and temple they boasted in, and evict them from His land, and take them captive to Babylon. Jeremiah the prophet was heartbroken, and overcome with anguish. He was so bitter he felt he was drunk with bitterness.

He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me drunken with wormwood.
He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones, he hath covered me with ashes.
And Thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity.
And I said, my strength and my hope is perished from the LORD:
Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall… (Lam. 3.15-19).

Suddenly it seems that Jeremiah, the tears streaming down his cheeks… he remembers something. He is a priest of the tribe of Levi (Jer. 1.1).

And he says, “This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope… The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him” (Lam. 3.21,24).

All was gone! The heritage of Israel had been obliterated, utterly desolated! Yet in the midst of it all Jeremiah discovers hope, because God is His portion, His inheritance, His lot. He has fellowship with God in the midst of the desolation, weeping together with Him… and rejoicing in hope with Him as well. He knows God’s compassion will not fail, that His mercies are new every morning; out of the desolation a new day will dawn, and out of the ashes God will bring forth something even greater than what was lost. So Jeremiah wipes away his tears; he will wait in patience for the faithful God to reveal His great salvation.

The LORD is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him.
It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.

David, too, while not of the priestly tribe… light dawned on him as well one day, and he saw that the portion God had given the priestly tribe of Levi was prophetic of His desire for all of His saints. For He would have them all to be a kingdom of priests. I think it likely that David wrote this psalm in the days when he was, as he said, being “driven out from the inheritance of the Lord” (see 1 Sam. 26.19). And so David said:

The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: Thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage (Ps. 16.5,6).

This is very beautiful. If not for this we might feel envious of our Christian brothers and sisters who seem to have a better inheritance than we do. We look over the fence and envy their lot.  They have it so good.  They are free of afflictions and troubles. It seems God has blessed them with things He has not blessed us with; they have happy circumstances, fulfilling relationships, while we ourselves are going through such hard things.

It’s a formula for bitterness isn’t it.

…Not when the Lord draws nigh, and reveals that He Himself is our portion, our inheritance, our lot. Now we are able to say—and mean what we say—“the lines (the boundary lines) are fallen unto me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.” Why so? Because in the midst of our suffering and pain we are beginning to see that… God Himself is our inheritance.

Pleasant—it means pleasing, delightful. We have a goodly heritage right there in the midst of unhappy and hard things. What heritage? God Himself. His Presence. His peace. His love. His joy… Himself. The hidden beauties of His own heart and character, the greater things He gives us in the very things life seems to deny us, things that perhaps we would never have known were even there if we could have chosen to live our lives happily ever after with all that we wished for. But no man or devil or circumstance of life can separate us from the inheritance of God.   It is a wondrous, wondrous secret—that the cross we must carry, the way of the cross which seems such loss to us, and which seems to lead in the wrong direction, actually leads to Life.

“Thou wilt shew me the Path of Life,” David concludes his psalm. “In thy Presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand are pleasures forevermore.” This is where the lines were drawn for David the outcast who had nowhere to lay his head, and he knew that it was because a loving God had drawn those lines to include this territory for him.

“Thou maintainest my lot,” David said.

…Lord, we ask that you maintain our lot too, the heritage that is You yourself. Some things are so beautiful and so high that we worry we might miss out on them. Not if it is You looking after this on our behalf, Lord. So we lean on You to do this; look after this for us, dear Lord, maintain it, protect it, keep it for us, tend it with care; uphold our lot, Lord, that we might continue to enjoy the riches and beauty of this pleasing and goodly heritage—You yourself—regardless of our earthly circumstances. Amen.

The Christian’s Inheritance (Part Three)

We mentioned last time “the Holy Spirit of promise” which is the earnest of our inheritance.  We are in Ephesians now.  And there is so much here that we will just have to break midstream into Paul’s thought.  He says that in Christ:

…we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will;
That we should be to the praise of His glory who first hoped in Christ;
In whom ye also, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, in whom also after that ye believed ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise,
Which is the earnest of our inheritance unto the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory (Eph. 1.13,14).

(Let’s bookmark for the moment that twice-repeated phrase “to the praise of His glory.” We’ll come back to it.)

The Holy Spirit, then, “that Holy Spirit of promise,” is given us as the earnest of our inheritance—the pledge, the seal, the guarantee, that assures redemption of the purchased possession.  Paul has already told us back in verse 7 that in Christ we have “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”  But forgiveness of sins, wonderful as it is, is only the negative side of our redemption.  Now Paul shows us the positive side– the giving of the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest, the pledge, of an inheritance fully purchased… but not yet fully in our possession.  Yes, it is ours—the earnest of the Holy Spirit guarantees it, guarantees that in due time the holders of the pledge will be able to redeem in full the purchased possession.  In fact the Greek for earnest is arrabon, which can also mean engagement ring.  The Holy Spirit is, then, our engagement ring—the pledge of a coming marriage.  The bride-to-be rejoices in the ring, and holds out her hand to show it off.  But no bride or groom would be content to settle for the engagement ring alone.  It’s the bridegroom himself she has in mind, total union with the bridegroom—and so does he.  We too must not put the pledge for the whole.  By the engagement ring of the Holy Spirit we are sealed unto the marriage—total union with Christ our bridegroom in the day when all that He has—and is—becomes ours.  Let this be our consuming desire, as it is His.

Meanwhile the Holy Spirit is the earnest, the seal, the pledge, “unto the redemption of the purchased possession.”  Let us keep our seal inviolate till the wedding day.  “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph. 4.30).  Israel in the wilderness came to the place where, in spite of all that God had done to fit them for their inheritance, they “vexed His Holy Spirit,” they “grieved Him in the wilderness” (Isa. 63.10, Heb. 3.17).  We can’t go in, they said.  “We are not able…” (Num. 13.31).

We are able, said Caleb.  “Let us go up at once and possess it, for we are well able to overcome it” (Num. 13.30).

We too are able!  Delivered from sin and death, and being given the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are meet, we are sufficient, are competent, are well able, to partake of our portion of the inheritance of the saints in the light.

Which is?  God Himself.  “God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all.”  If we are children of God, we are His heirs, Paul says, “heirs of God…”  All that He has is ours—all that He is.  What can this mean?  It is so high and so vast a thought as to be largely incomprehensible to us.  It means, I believe, that we are to come to know God—the depths of God.  “For the Spirit searcheth all things, the depths of God” (1 Cor. 2.10).  It humbles us and fills us with awe when the implications of this passage dawn on us.  This is something the angels don’t have—the Spirit of God in such a way as to enable us to search out the depths of God… because we share His very nature.  For, as Paul explains, it’s only the spirit of a person that knows all about that person.  Even so, it’s only the Spirit of God that knows all about God (1 Cor. 2.11).  Paul’s point is that– wonder of wonders– we have received His Spirit (vs. 12).  We are born of God, share His nature.  We are His children, and so His heirs.  The Holy Spirit is our guide, then, leading us to search out and explore and make real in our experience… the very depths of God.  We are to come to know Him—and this in such a way as only those who are partakers of His nature can come to know Him. It is a wondrous hope, and the very thing that the New Covenant promises.  “They shall all know Me from the least of them to the greatest.”

But know Him to what degree?  Paul goes on, “…Heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.”  We are to know God the Father just as the Son of God knew Him when He walked here on earth.  We are joint-heirs with Christ; all that is His is ours.

The Christian’s inheritance, then, with Christ Himself, is the heart and mind of God, the mountains of His righteousness, the vastness of His love.  We are to know Him with the kind of knowledge that makes us like Him.  We are to be like Him in this world (1 Jn. 4.17).  This is the end of all the teaching, the talking, the preaching, the praying—all that now makes up Christianity. Sons in God’s image. Partakers of the divine nature, which angels are not heirs of.  Only fallen men now made meet are heirs, men once held in the bondage of darkness but now made fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in a realm of pure Light… unto which no sinful man can approach.  Only these are the heirs of God.  Sons, daughters, who think like He thinks, who feel as He feels, who walk as He walks, who talk as He talks, and act as He acts.

…I pray for an awakening of the saints of God.  Oh that we might see that with our Passover experience and our Pentecost experience we are but in our beginnings.  Yes, God has delivered us from the authority of darkness.  That was what the Passover accomplished.  What about the rest of the sentence?  He has “translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.”  He has “made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.”  Translated?  The word simply means, transferred. This is what God accomplished in Christ on our behalf.  We need not spend years in a wilderness, like Israel of old in their disobedience.  God’s intent at Sinai was to equip his people to immediately enter into their inheritance. “Let us go up at once and possess it,” said Caleb. “We are well able.”  We too are able.  This is God’s intent in the pouring out of His Spirit at Pentecost.  Strengthened with all might by His Spirit in the inner man we are well able to begin immediately to apprehend our inheritance.

I pray for an awakening.  It ought to provoke us that we Christians are so short of what is our own.  Why are we content with so little?  We should be jealous for what is our own.  We spend our days wandering in a wilderness, like Israel of old.  Yes, God looks after us in the wilderness, as He did them.  But oh how straitened they were in that wilderness… as are we.  This is what accounts for the condition of the church these days—the Christians, the saints of God.  We mourn sore like doves over the condition of things—the problems, the carnality.  There is scarcely a Christian who doesn’t have problems of some kind.  Quite simply, we have not yet apprehended the awesome inheritance Christ purchased for us at Calvary, and our present condition reflects it.  Instead of total conquest over God’s enemies and casting them out of the heavenly heritage which is our own, our enemies spoil for themselves.  They are able to do that from their heavenly vantage point—that belongs to you and me.  We must take our inheritance!  Really, it’s a matter of life and death—and as the Day draws nigh it’s going to become more so—that those in the world around us be able to find a Christian who is walking in his or her inheritance and knows their God, and has authority in heavenly places.  It’s far from a selfish thing that we enter into and take our inheritance.

Let us press on, then, and press in.  We are thankful that Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us; we rejoice in our Pentecost.  But like Israel of old, at this stage we are yet in our beginnings.  These are but to make us meet for our inheritance.  The Passover has dealt with the past; the earnest of the Spirit is just that—the earnest, the pledge, the deposit that guarantees us the fullness of the purchased possession “to the praise of His glory.”

Let us note this last phrase well, which we bookmarked earlier.  It is only as we come into our inheritance and abide there that we become those in whom the Lord is glorified.  Only then does the glory of the Lord shine forth from our lives for all the world to see.

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