Category Archives: Spiritual Warfare

A People With A Destiny

I am reading through my Bible again and am in the book of Joshua.  This is very timely, for there is an urgency in my spirit, a renewed emphasis, on apprehending our salvation—our spiritual heritage.

We Christians, whether Jew or Gentile, have a spiritual heritage unto which we have been predestined, just as Israel of old was predestined to the heritage of Canaan—even before they were born.  They were predestined to an earthly inheritance because of the promise God made Abraham long before they were born.

And their inheritance was marked out beforehand for them; it was given them by lot.  They didn’t cross the Jordan and then have some sort of land rush, hoping to grab the best parcels of land before anyone else.  Rather, Joshua divided their inheritance to them (Josh. 1.6), and he did it by lot (Josh. 13.6, 14.2).  In other words, it was not actually Joshua, but God Himself who decided what portion each one was to possess.  This assured that every Israelite, the small as well as the great, the weak as well as the strong, received a portion in the land.  Ezekiel confirms this in what I believe is a prophecy foreshadowing our inheritance in the Spirit.

And ye shall inherit it, one as well as another… (Ezek. 47.14).

What an encouraging hope.  Oh how we admire the great saints, and wistfully wish we could be like them.  But this wondrous heritage in the Spirit is not just for the great saints; God will not be satisfied, God will not rest, till each and every true Christian, the small as well as the great, has apprehended his or her inheritance.

And so, like the Israelites of old, we too are a people with a destiny.  I think it’s likely Paul is drawing a parallel to Israel of old when he says in Ephesians (which perhaps could be called the New Testament book of Joshua) that God has predestined us “unto the adoption” (Eph. 1.5) and also unto an inheritance (Eph. 1.11).  It is a heavenly inheritance—a realm of abounding “spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ” (Eph. 1.3).  It is also a realm that must be conquered (Eph. 6. 10-20).  Spiritual forces of wickedness “in the heavenlies” must be overcome, just as the Israelites of old had to drive out their enemies in the land God had given them before they could possess it.

And what is this all about?  Why did God bring Israel of old into their inheritance?  Why did He redeem them from Egyptian bondage, bring them through the wilderness, and into the land He had promised them?  Ultimately it was that He Himself might be glorified, that He might make Himself a glorious Name (Ex. 15.11-17, 2 Sam. 7.23, Isa. 63.11-14).

So it does not surprise us to find Paul saying that this same motive is what is back of God’s purpose in eternal redemption and in bringing the redeemed into their inheritance.

It is “to the praise of His glory” that He has predestined us unto the adoption (Eph. 1. 4-7).

It is “to the praise of the glory of His grace” that those who first hoped in Christ are predestined to an inheritance (Eph. 1.11).

And, it is “to the praise of His glory” that this inheritance shall, in the day of redemption, be fully possessed (Eph. 1.14, 4.30).

This I am sure is what Peter has in mind when he talks of a salvation “ready to be revealed in the last time.”  He says this salvation is a living hope unto which we have been begotten, and which he describes as “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in the heavens for you who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pt. 3-5).

That’s so encouraging.  Everything in this world is corruptible, defiled, fading.  This heavenly inheritance is incorruptible.  It can’t be defiled, and it never fades away.  Even after so long a time it’s still there… waiting for you and me.

Notice that word reserved.  There’s an inheritance in the heavenly realm with your name on it.  Reserved for ________.  No one else can have it.  In fact I don’t need yours, and don’t want it; there’s one with my name on it too.

And no, Peter doesn’t mean that when we die and go to Heaven we finally get to keep our reservation.  He says this salvation is “ready to be revealed in the last time.”  It’s for here.  It’s for now… “in the last time.”

Notice also that you and I are being kept for this reservation.  We are “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Yes, the trial of our faith is very great… and at times, oh, so severe.  But oh, how precious it is, more precious than gold that perishes!  Gold will perish one day, but this inheritance, this salvation, will never perish.

Let us hold fast our faith, then, though it be tried by fire, and thus be ourselves ready for this salvation that is ready to be revealed, this inheritance that is reserved for us.  The time is at hand!  We have an appointment with a destiny!  Let us keep it!

What Are You Thinking?

In view of what we have been sharing about walking in the light of His countenance, I wonder if I don’t hear someone thinking, what are you talking about, do you know anyone who enjoys this kind of light, this New Covenant glory you are talking about?

In fact I know many who enjoy this… in measure.  It’s that inner sense of His shining face, a sense of illumination as to His will, and the steps He is leading us in.  He has lifted up His countenance upon us; He is smiling; He is pleased.  There is the assurance of His love.

But I also know at least one person who knows the times when darkness veils His lovely face, times that call for us to “trust in His unchanging grace.”

And remember that in the very passage we have been dwelling on (2 Cor. Ch. 3) Paul says:

Seeing, then, that we have such hope we use great plainness (openness) of speech, and not as Moses who put a veil over his face…

Hope?  This seems to imply that we may not be experiencing the full reality of what Paul is setting forth—not yet, that is.  Do I see His shining face?  Well, yes, in measure.  We enjoy this light of His countenance in measure.  But there is much more to come, and I don’t want to cheat myself of that.  So I nurture hope in my heart.  It is in the sphere of hope that we embrace these things—that in the New Covenant we have the hope of seeing the face of Jesus Christ shining with the glory of God, and our being changed into the very same image… from one measure of glory to another… to another…  It is with this confident hope and expectation that we unveil our own faces in every step of our walk, and continue to turn our unveiled faces with anticipation upward.  We know we will not be disappointed.  For “hope does not disappoint,” anchored, as it is, “within the veil.”

And so we seek to war a good warfare on the basis of this hope.  Yes, warfare.  We must recognize that we are in a war; this new-covenant hope is intensely resisted by the forces of darkness.  They are able to affect even our own thoughts.  This is perhaps the most difficult thing we Christians have to go through—the darkness of our thought life.  There are night seasons when His lovely face is hidden from us, and our minds are prey to darkness. That lovely shining countenance we love so much… now we are sure it is a frowning countenance.  In such times let us recognize our thinking for what it actually is—just that—darkness, not light.  Let us be on our guard, then, and beware lest we start believing that what we are thinking is actually true.  All those doubts, fears, evil surmisings, dark forebodings… let us recognize all that for what it is—darkness, not truth!

So let us keep this living hope ever before us, more and more seeking to gird up the loins of our mind, to discipline our mind not to dwell on darkness.  Let us put on the armour of light.  Let us guard against meditating on the darkness in times of darkness.  Let us meditate on the Light in the night watches—not on the night (Ps. 63.6).  Wrong thinking, if we do not recognize it for what it is, can become an enemy stronghold in the mind.

It can become a habit of mind to meditate on darkness—on some problem or evil circumstance or failure.  Or… have you ever entertained an imaginary conversation with someone who had done you wrong, and you are doing warfare with that person with your imaginary words?  Once when I was doing this myself, the Holy Spirit intercepted my thinking with a question.  “What are you thinking?”  I suddenly became aware that all I was thinking… it was just darkness!  I was embarrassed at the time, but I am grateful for that question now; it has helped me many times to dismiss thoughts that are darkness.  David cried out, “Search me O LORD and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts…” (Ps. 139.23).  This is what that question did for me.  It was God knowing my thoughts, and thus I was able to know them myself.  We deeply need this kind of input from our God, showing us the nature of the thoughts and intents of our heart.  Without it, and all unawares, darkness is seeping into our hearts as we think on these things.  Our adversary is building his own stronghold in our very thoughts when we do this.

Paul spoke of weapons that are effective against the strongholds of darkness.

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;
Casting down imaginations (reasonings, arguments), and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ… (2 Cor. 10.4,5).

Paul is speaking of the enemy strongholds in the minds of those who were calling in question his apostolic authority and accusing him of a mere human agenda.  No, he cautioned; he might be walking in flesh, but he did not war after the flesh; he had weapons which could bring these strongholds down.

But it is vain to think we will have any success against the strongholds of darkness in the minds of others before we ourselves have brought into captivity every thought of our own mind to the obedience of Christ.

And so Paul continues:

And having in a readiness to revenge (avenge) all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.

Your in this verse is plural.  Meaning “you as a church,” which is how Weymouth translates it.

Let this become our seeking then.  God has spiritual weapons with which we can pull down strongholds and bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.  This would indeed be a formidable church.  But first it will take discipline in our own thought life– not dwelling on the darkness, but rather earnestly seeking to fix our eyes on Jesus’ shining Face.  This will create another stronghold that the Prince of darkness cannot invade.  Let us gird up our minds, then, let our minds be filled with the light of faith, and hope, and love.  We have the hope of certain victory.  We will yet see the light of the glory of the Gospel of Christ triumphant over all darkness.

I’m Not Tired Yet

I mentioned a while ago that I hoped to share with my readers some things that were opened to me about the realm of the Spirit during a time of fasting.  It’s still on my heart to do that, but my leading is to first emphasize what the Spirit of the Lord is emphasizing—that at this particular juncture in the purposes of God when many are finding it very hard to go on, and prayer is difficult, and there is so little of His Presence with us, our Lord is saying strongly, “Keep seeking Me earnestly!  Don’t quit!  Don’t give up!”

We’ve had several confirmations the last while that this is what He is urging upon us.  I sensed that again earlier today—that our Lord is bursting with hope for each one of us in the same way we would be cheering and shouting encouragement to our favourite runner in a marathon race.  I don’t know how He manages to make each and every one of us His favourite runner, but He does, and He wants to see us finish and win the prize.

The shape this is taking in my own thinking is along this line:  although we have a measure of this now, God is about to bring His people into a realm of the Spirit and a walk in the Spirit more wondrous than anything we have ever known.  But necessary to this is the time we are now in—a very grievous time of spiritual drought and famine in which many at times can’t find enough of the water of the Spirit so much as to wet their tongue.  So there is a lot of weariness and discouragement.

Part of the reason for this dark and desolate time, I believe, is that it emboldens the evil spirits to come out and make their play, like the psalmist said when the sun goes down and it is night, “wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth” (Ps. 104.20).

There are certainly a lot of beasts creeping around these days seeking their prey.  And not just out there in the “world.”  They are finding their prey even in many churches.  In fact this is the hour when the man of iniquity is being revealed in the temple of God “shewing himself that he is God” (2 Thes. 2.4).  He’s beginning to reveal himself, manifesting signs and lying wonders, and many are being deceived by it all.

And so it’s a very difficult time for the true of heart, and our Lord wants to reassure us.  Don’t give up!  Don’t quit!  Keep seeking me!  I am with you more than you can know, and what I am about to do with your help will deal with all this like a snail in the sun.

It’s a wonderful prospect.  BUT.  We are being very foolish if we think we can just wait for this and meanwhile fill our lives with earthly things.  If there was a time when a Christian could keep his or her walk with the Lord on the back burner and just enjoy the earthly life, that time is gone now.  We have entered a time when, as my friend Terry said recently, “if we are not in the Spirit we are going to be dead meat.”   To trust the arm of the flesh to get you through something is to court total disaster.  We are entering a time—have already entered it—when our own wisdom and earthly zeal will no longer get us through things.  Our own strength will fail us.

And it’s for this very reason, I think, that God has permitted the great spiritual drought we are in.  That’s how I’m beginning to see things.  He has dried us up, has caused our own strength and zeal to shrivel, because He knows it just won’t cut it in the day that’s coming.  So He dries us up to prepare us for what He has in mind to bring us into– a totally spiritual provision, a totally supernatural strength and sustenance, with no admixture of the earthly whatsoever!

Perhaps that’s a fearful thought.  Personally I find it exciting.  And why should it be less than exciting to the new-creation man?

So, with this in mind, the other day I was looking for a song on YouTube.  (I go to YouTube very very cautiously, by the way; there are beasts there ready to eat you if you let your guard down even for a second.)  I was looking for that old song, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”  That’s what I have been wanting to do more fully—trust Him with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding.  Anyway, somehow I came across a song called, “I’m Not Tired Yet” by the Mississippi Mass Choir.  Please forgive me: I was intrigued by the title, so I listened to it.  🙂  My old ear couldn’t make out the words, but “I’m not tired yet” was the continual refrain.  I thought, they’re singing what God is saying: “I’m not tired yet.”  Amen, I said to myself, God never gets tired.  He’s not discouraged.  He’s going to do what He said He would do.

I wanted to get the words to the song so I searched for the lyrics.  When I found them I was a little disappointed.  They were along the lines of… well, here they are, read them for yourself:

Been working for Jesus a long time.
(I’m not tired yet.)
Been running for Jesus a long time.
(I’m not tired yet.)
Been working for Jesus a long time.
(I’m not tired yet.)
Been singing for Jesus a long time.
(I’m not tired yet.)
Been running by day and praying by night.
(I’m not tired yet.)
I’ve gotta get going it’s a mighty hard fight.
(I’m not tired yet.)
No… I’m not tired yet.
No… I’m not tired yet…

There’s more, but see what I mean?  I wondered if it was just human zeal boasting about a conflict they’ve never engaged.  I know by experience that a painful revelation awaits those who zealously lean on the arm of the flesh in the trials of life.  But then I thought… I’m probably not being very generous here.  These people are no doubt singing because they have been through a lot and actually have discovered the secret of never growing tired.  And that old familiar passage in Isaiah came to me.

Hast thou not known?  Hast thou not heard?  That the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?  There is no searching of His understanding.

So, yes, it’s true—and we need to remember this—God never gets tired.  It’s a very difficult hour and it’s going to get even more difficult.  But God is not tired yet.  God is not tired yet.  He is going to finish what He started.

“Well and good,” you say, “He is God.  What about me?  I’m starting to get so tired.”  Let me say that I too know what it’s like to grow very weary in the trials of life.  At times I have been filled with such inner emotional pain that I have said, “Lord, please just take me home, I can’t do this anymore.”  Even the apostle Paul spoke of being “in weariness, and painfulness.”  Christians are not made of plastic, and the Lord knows it.  He Himself knows our frame.  He remembers that we are dust.  But when Isaiah reminds us that God never grows weary and never faints, he is leading up to something.  This God who never gets tired, what does He do?

He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.

He gives power to whom?  To the faint.  To them that have no might.  Can you relate?  These are the ones whose strength He increases in a day when the strong and the zealous are falling and fainting on every hand.

Now the verse we all love:

Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles: they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.

We love that old song, don’t we.  “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength…”  In other words, no matter what they are going through, those who are waiting upon the LORD will be able to say, “I’m not tired yet.”  Why?  Because they have tapped into a hidden strength, the resources of Almighty God Himself.  Human zeal and strength—the arm of the flesh—will never carry the day.  But those who wait upon the Lord will, because they have exchanged their strength, as the Hebrew word renew means.  They are no longer walking in an earthly realm.  They are walking in a spiritual dimension, and are being sustained with an entirely spiritual strength—God’s own strength.

And as I said, more and more we are entering the day when this is not optional.  We are up against such complex problems, such grievous things, such difficult things, and forces in a heavenly dimension… forces that are far too great for us, far greater than any human resource can deal with.  We must be in the Spirit, meeting all things with spiritual provision. This is what the day at hand is calling for and requires.

But if it is required, this can only mean that God has it for us, beloved!  He has the provision for us to run this race and not get tired, to walk and not faint.  And it begins by waiting upon Him, looking expectantly to Him… and mounting up into the realm where the eagle flies—the realm of the Spirit, the realm where we discover the wind under our wings, and find those thermals in the Spirit that draw us upward, upward, upward… and we have loosed the surly bonds of earth.

Let’s not be afraid of this.  Maybe it’s frightening, the prospect of being so totally in the Spirit that we have none of the familiar earthly moorings to hold on to any more.  But oh… what an adventure is before us!

…As it turns out this blog entry wasn’t a detour after all.  In fact it’s already leading into what I have been wanting to share about the realm of the Spirit.

 

Two Shadows

It’s happened again.  And like so many others I am hurting badly over the latest school massacre in the United States—this time little children, some of them in kindergarten.  My heart bleeds for the parents of these little ones.  They have just gone through the end of their world.

Now we are being treated to the inevitable media feeding frenzy over it all… again.  They are covering every conceivable angle… again.  They are bringing in the expert panels to analyze what happened… again.  They are bringing in the grief counsellors to treat people for post traumatic distress… again.  They are “searching for answers”… again.  Not that they search very far—by this they mean trying to find out the killer’s motive.

The thing is, the experts set forth their analyses, the grief-stricken get counselled, the answers get searched out… and then for the most part it’s business as usual… till it happens again.

It seems it is a very difficult thing to awaken a society to the consciousness that Something is missing… and that God never intended this life we live to be lived without Him being the centre of all.

Our presumption that we can in fact do this—leave Him out—is the recipe for evil.  People are prepared to live with that, of course, as long as evil doesn’t get too evil.  As long as they feel they can keep evil in their own control, they even enjoy it.  The problem is that evil is not content to stay in the harness.  In due time evil is unleashed…. as we see happening more and more these days.  Sooner or later man will have to acknowledge that he doesn’t have the answers anymore—that evil is out of control.

In fact I believe we are now entering what the Bible calls “the Evil Day.”

It’s very frightening, but fellow Christian, this is our cue.  This is where you and I come in.  We are called to the warfare of the Evil Day.  We are called to put on the whole armour of God that we may be able “to stand in the Evil Day, and having done all (accomplished all) to stand.”  In other words, when this Day is over, the victory over evil that our Lord Jesus Christ accomplished at Calvary is going to be made manifest worldwide.  Evil will have been vanquished on the field of battle, never to be found in heaven or earth again.

And so in the midst of great anguish we have great hope.  Men’s hearts are failing them for fear as one thing after another comes upon them.  But Christian, this fearful company does not include you and me.  We are putting on our armour, and we know the outcome of the battle.

We know that when the harvest of evil is ripe… what does a ripe field mean to the Man with the sickle?

When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed forever (Ps. 92.7).

He’s going to cut it down, beloved.  So we take heart in the midst of destruction.  When Death is casting a long shadow (as it is these days), what can this mean but that Death’s day is about done?

We take courage in knowing this.  God is going to deal with it all.  But even now we get out from under that shadow!  We need not live under that shadow!  There is another Shadow we can abide under.

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty (Ps. 91.1).

Let us not be foolish, beloved, carrying on as we always have and suddenly finding our world has caved in around us.  Let us earnestly be seeking this Shadow, this Secret Place.  It’s not a run-away-and-hide-from-it-all kind of place.  It’s a Place right there on the field of battle, a place in the midst of trouble where we can be a help to those in trouble, a light in the darkness.  Evil is all about us.  The snare of the fowler is right before us.  There is terror by night, and the arrow of evil by day.  Pestilence walks in the darkness, destruction wastes at noonday.  Thousands around us are falling.  But it cannot come nigh us.  We are safe from it all in the secret place of His Presence—under the Shadow of the Almighty.

Just flowery words, Psalm 91, this beautiful psalm?  Please don’t be so foolish.  They are filled with promise.  Give yourself to them, as I give myself to them.  They’re the words of God that cannot be broken, and they work effectually in those who believe (1 Thes. 2.13).

We must walk, all of us, through the vale of tears, the valley of the shadow of death.  But as sheep of a very Great Shepherd, we need fear no evil in this valley.  And why not?  Because “Thou art with me.”

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

Thou art with me!  There is Another Shadow, beloved, under which we can walk through this terrible valley.  We need to find it and abide under it.

…Lord Jesus, Thou that dwellest in the heavens, we lift up our eyes to Thee, and we lift up our hearts with our hands, and the hearts of those who saw their flock of little ones torn by the ravening wolf yesterday.  How long, Lord Jesus, how long?  Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.  We have entered a day, Lord Jesus, when more and more people will be praying your prayer not ritually, but from the heart:  “Deliver us from evil!  Oh God, please deliver us from evil!”  And we believe You will answer, Lord, in this Day.  And believing, we put on our armour.  We will be numbered among those fighting on Your side in the Evil Day, knowing that when it is all over we shall be the ones standing victors on the field, and thus bringing in another Day… a Day in which the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the cow and the bear shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw with the ox… and the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.  Amen.

The Gospel Of Eternal Life

Three times in his letters the apostle Paul refers to something he calls “my gospel” (Rom. 2.16, 16.25 and 2 Tim. 2.8).  There is of course only one Gospel—the Good News of our salvation.  But Paul was able to call this Gospel his own.  How so?  It’s because the gospel of God was not just hearsay to him; it was operative in his own life.

And what is the Gospel?  I realize many of us are very familiar with this, but I think we do well to look into the nature of the Gospel of Paul, lest the Gospel we’re so familiar with turn out to be a Gospel other than—or maybe less than—the one that lived and burned like fire in Paul.  So let’s look at this.

Paul, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, a called apostle, separated unto the gospel of God
Which He had promised afore by His prophets in holy scriptures… (Rom. 1.1,2).

This gospel is laid out in great detail in Paul’s letter to the Romans, but we will go to his second letter to Timothy, where it is encapsuled.  It is a very powerful gospel—very great glad tidings.

Paul is writing to Timothy from a Roman prison where Nero has cast him, intending shortly to execute him.  As we read later in the letter, Paul himself anticipates his end is at hand.  But he doesn’t call it an execution.  He calls it an offering unto God.  He is “ready to be offered,” he tells Timothy.  He has “fought a good fight,” he has “finished his course,” he has “kept the faith.”  He looks forward to the crown of righteousness which is laid up for him, “which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me in that day, and not to me only but unto all them also that love His appearing” (2 Tim. 4.6-8).

Paul begins his last letter with these words:

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus…

These words remind us of his letter to Titus.

Paul, a bondslave of Jesus Christ according to (in accordance with) the faith of God’s elect, and the knowledge of the truth which is after (accords with) godliness;
In hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie promised before the ages of time…

Paul told the Romans that God promised the Gospel “by His prophets in holy scriptures.”  Here he says God promised it “before the ages of time.”  So this Gospel is a very great thing in the eternal purposes of God.  We highlight the words, “in hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie promised…”  They echo the introductory words to Timothy we quoted above: Paul says he is an apostle of Jesus Christ “according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus.”  And so what has God promised?  Life.  And what life has God promised?  Eternal life.  Before the ages of time God promised that out from a whole race bound under the law sin and death He would bring a new man into a new dimension of life—eternal life.

But what does this eternal life involve?  Dying and going to Heaven and living forever?  Let’s read Paul’s letter to Timothy a little further.  We’ll discover the astonishing gospel unto which Paul had been separated.

First, he calls Timothy to boldness.  He is not to be ashamed of what he is involved in.

Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but suffer evil along with the gospel according to the power of God…

The testimony of our Lord is the witness to the truth to which Christ was faithful in His own life and walk, and which we too are equipped to give by His Spirit.  We note in passing that Paul gives no credit whatsoever to the reprobate Roman ruler Nero for his imprisonment; he is a prisoner not of Nero but of Jesus Christ.  For, Nero may purpose to shut the Gospel down, but Paul knows it is actually for the furtherance of the Gospel that he has been jailed.  His sufferings and imprisonment will result in the Gospel not being shut down but actually growing.  And so he seeks to encourage Timothy with the same realization.  This Gospel is attended with much shame and suffering as far as this world is concerned; many there are who will not bear the shame and afflictions of the Gospel.  But Paul assures Timothy that God has all the power necessary to equip him to bear up under it all, and suffer the evils the gospel suffers in its way of triumph.

Now Paul lays out for Timothy (and for all of us) the staggering dimensions of this awesome gospel of God.  Let’s read it carefully.

…Suffer evil along with the gospel according to the power of God,
Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, nor according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the ages of time,
But is now made manifest by the appearing of Jesus Christ, who hath abolished (annulled) death, and hath brought life and immortality (incorruption) to light through the gospel;
Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles” (2 Tim. 1.8-11).

This is such a powerful passage of Scripture.  Paul says that Jesus Christ has “abolished death.”  That is, He has made death impotent, he has made it “of no effect.”  He has made death so that it “doesn’t work” anymore, as the word literally means.  It has no power.  This is what God accomplished in the cross of Jesus Christ.

But that is not all.  In what Paul is saying here he has his opening words in mind, “the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus.”  He returns to them now, saying that the God who has made death of no effect has “brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”  We too easily miss the import of these powerful words.  Paul is not talking about a gospel that merely informs us that God has brought life and incorruption to light; he is talking about the gospel that is an actual demonstration of the truth that Christ has annulled death.

This is what the Gospel is all about—and nothing less.  The Gospel is a bringing to light, a manifestation, a shining forth… of a life that is dominion over death.

And what is death?  Paul is not talking solely about the death that terminates our mortal existence.  Yes, in due time that too is vanquished.  But primarily Paul is talking about the death that reigns over the whole family of Adam all their days.  Death is not merely an event that ends our life here on earth.  It is a domain in which all men have been bound since the day Adam sinned in the Garden.  All, that is, except those who have been liberated from that bondage by the Gospel.  The Gospel of God is a gospel that brings men into the kind of Life over which sin and death has no dominion.

Paul wrote to the Romans, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8.2).  He wrote, “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one, much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5.17).

Christian, is this the gospel—the glad tidings—unto which you and I too are separated?  Are we walking in a Life that reigns over all—over sin, over the domain of death?  Over the flesh, over the world, over the Devil?  And this not only in our own lives but in the lives of those around us?

This is why He saved us.

But it doesn’t end with our own salvation:  “He saved us, and called us with a holy calling…”  What is the calling?  It is the calling to walk in eternal life and make eternal life manifest in a world bound under the law of sin and death.  What does Paul urge us to, then?

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life whereunto thou art called and hast confessed a good confession before many witnesses (1 Tim. 6.12).

Let us lay hold on this eternal life, Christian.  This is our calling.  It is unto this that we, like Timothy, have been called on behalf of all men.  It’s the Gospel of God, the Gospel of eternal life.  Let us never settle for a gospel less than this!  It is good news—very good news indeed!

The Sword In The Shadow

One thing about the Internet is that it has brought into being an information overload.  There is an overwhelming ocean of information available.  We have been deluged with knowledge… and you pretty much need an “ark” to get through it all safely.  For, though it was never God’s intention, even Christian teachings end up becoming that—just more information.  There are thousands of websites hosted by Christians, thousands of messages, thousands of blogs like this one.  How much of it actually penetrates the heart in a way that changes us?  It can become a habit to not read things carefully and prayerfully—and selectively—with a prepared heart.  You just skim things quickly, and move on.

Let us be careful that our spiritual faculties don’t become dull with all this use.  That can happen.  I want to be watchful to not let that happen.  Here is why.

The other day I sensed the Spirit of the Lord reminding me again that He yet intends to speak forth a very powerful word.  And it is going to surprise many.  I was reminded of a passage in Isaiah.

Listen, O isles, unto Me; and hearken, ye peoples, from far; The LORD hath called Me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath He made mention of My name.
And He hath made My mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand hath He hid Me, and made Me a polished shaft; in His quiver hath He hid Me;
And said unto Me, Thou art My Servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified (Isa. 49.1-3).

This passage is no doubt speaking of Christ Himself.  For it is Christ who has “the sharp sword with two edges” proceeding out of His mouth (Rev. 1.16, 2.12).  At the same time this is speaking of a corporate testimony:  “Thou art My Servant, O Israel…”  Israel is a corporate entity.  Yet here this corporate entity is spoken of in the singular.  “Thou art My Servant, O Israel…”  In the King James Version of the  Bible, thou is always the second person singular pronoun.

And so I think this is one of the places in the Old Testament where we see hidden the mystery of the corporate Man that God revealed to his apostles—particularly the apostle Paul—the mystery of Christ.  Paul wrote, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ” (1 Cor. 12.12).  He didn’t say, “so also is the body of Christ.”  He said, “so also is Christ.”  We then as members of the body of Christ are this sword, this mouth, that Christ greatly desires to speak out of.

One of the weapons of our spiritual armour is, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6.17).  It is not just the Bible.  It is “the Spirit’s sword, which is the word of God.”  It is the word that the Spirit of God speaks that is the sword of the Lord Jesus Christ.

But it is we who wield—actually become—this sword.

We are reminded of Gideon and his little band of three hundred.  “The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon…” they cried.  Not just the sword of Gideon. And not just the sword of the Lord either.  “The sword of the LORD and of Gideon.”  One sword!  The sword of the Lord and of Gideon and his little band of dedicated men who were one with Him.  It wrought utter havoc among the enemies of the people of God.

How little we have seen of this formidable, fearful, spiritual weapon.  How little our world about us has seen of it.  How little our enemies have tasted of it… though they dread it like nothing else.

We—and they—are yet going to see this terrible swift sword.

There is no more formidable weapon in the whole universe.

And it is going to go forth only from the mouths of those who have been hidden in the shadow of the hand of the Lord.

The hand speaks of the Lord’s dealings in our lives: His discipline, His chastening… His love… His covering, His protection… His own work.  “In the shadow of His hand hath He hid me…”  Others can’t see you there.  His shadow is over you… and He is working.  What is He doing?  You yourself may wonder at times.  Is He doing anything in my life?  You may wonder why you never amount to anything when others are out there in the light doing great things for God.  But as He keeps you hidden from view in the shadow of His hand He is molding your mouth, shaping your mouth, into a sharp sword with two edges.  You are learning not to speak your own words, but His.  You are learning that many times you have nothing to say.  His purpose in it is that you might become part of this corporate Servant in whom He is glorified.

Jesus said of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, “He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shew (declare) unto you” (Jn. 16.15).  This is the commitment of the Holy Spirit—not to speak from Himself, but what He hears the Son of God saying (Jn. 16.13).

But when He speaks—He and the one in whom He abides—it is Christ Himself speaking.

What is the Lord Jesus Christ going to do with this sword?

First, He is going to purify His churches with it (Rev. 2.12).  It is a two-edged sword (a two-mouthed sword as the original has it: God’s mouth and our own mouth) that pierces to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  It is a sword—a word—with the very eyes of God in it, and lays all bare before Him (Heb. 4.12,13).  Only those in whom the hand of the Lord has wrought the heart of a priest are going to be entrusted with this kind of sword.

Then He is going to bathe this sword in Heaven (Isa. 34.5).  That is, He is going to cause principalities and powers in heavenly places, the rulers of the darkness of this age, to know its devastating power.

And He is going to visit the serpent, the dragon, in the midst of the sea with this sword (Isa. 27.1).

Very wondrous things, these, and fearsome.

A mouth that is a sword of light–  laser sharp… and just as penetrating.

A man or woman who, long-hidden in God’s quiver, is the arrow He selects and suddenly shoots into the heart of His enemy like a bolt of lightning.

Only those who continue to abide under the shadow of God’s hand will become this kind of weaponry.