Category Archives: The Holy Spirit

The Winnowing Eyes Of The Lord

I continue to have on my heart the Man with the winnowing fan in His hand, which we wrote about last time. John the Baptist prophesied:

I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you in Holy Spirit and fire,
Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire (Mt. 3:11,12).

I like that– His wheat.  The threshing process can be very devastating, and in the midst of it we need to know we are His.  But this aspect of the Spirit baptism—the wind and the fire of the winnowing process—has been almost entirely forgotten in our day. And so there is a often a mixture of flesh and Spirit (sometimes a horrible mixture) among many of those who profess to be baptized in Holy Spirit. But God has not forgotten. He will yet thoroughly winnow His wheat till there is nothing left on the threshing floor but the pure kernels of wheat.

I am reminded of Solomon’s words:

A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment (justice) winnoweth away all evil with his eyes (Pr. 20:8).

That is a fearful prospect—a king with eyes like that. But this king is also our great High Priest, who walks in the midst of the golden lampstands with eyes as a flame of fire (Rev. 1:14).  His all-seeing eyes search out and winnow the very thoughts and intents of our hearts, and the fire consumes all that is evil and impure in His sight. His intent is to conform us fully to His own image and likeness, and thus make us together with Himself the very habitation of God.

This is what God is after, and He will not settle for less, as David discovered when he was inspired to write of the winnowing process as a great heart searching.

Oh LORD, Thou hast searched me and known me.
Thou knowest my downsitting, and my uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.
Thou winnowest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word in my tongue, but lo, O LORD, Thou knowest it altogether” (Ps. 139:1-4).

This is about the all-seeing eyes of God searching David and all his ways, knowing him through and through. Lord, he cried, you know my sitting down and my rising up. You winnow my path—my going out. You winnow my lying down. No matter what I’m doing, or not doing, I can’t escape You. I don’t even have my own private thinking place anymore. You make me aware You even know my thoughts! And every word I speak—You know it altogether. What is it you’re after, Lord? Do You really want that big a piece of me? My sitting down, my rising up, my going out, my coming in, my lying down, my thoughts, my words…

Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid Thine hand upon me.

David was overwhelmed with this knowledge, and the awareness of just how much God wanted to be involved in his life.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.
Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy Presence?

Nowhere.

If I ascend up into Heaven, Thou art there. If I make my bed in Hell, behold, Thou art there.

That’s what David found. In those rapturous times when he felt like he was in Heaven, his God was there. But when he made his bed in Hell—he did that once—he found His loving God was there also, who in great mercy brought him up out of the pit again.

If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me.
If I say, surely darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.
Yea, the darkness hideth not from Thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to Thee.

All this is far more than a poetic flourish about the omniscience and omnipresence of God. This was something David was experiencing, a conscious awareness of God, and he cried out, “Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy Presence?” Were you trying to get rid of God, David? But no… you were becoming aware of the extent to which God wanted relationship with you, a God whose all-seeing eye you could not evade, a God of unrelenting love who would not leave you to yourself no matter where you went or what you did, a God of love who would not let you go, because He wanted you—yes, you—for His very habitation. Nothing less than that.

And so you surrendered to His desire, and consented to this devastating searching.

Search me, O LORD, and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts, and see if there be a wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Let us also, with trembling, give Him our consent. Lord, search me and know me, open your eyes upon me. Know my sitting down and my rising up so that your Presence is with me in all I say and do. Winnow my path so that I walk in You, in the Way everlasting, and not in my own ways. Winnow my lying down, purify my inactivity so that this too is fellowship with You. Know my heart, my thoughts, that I might be moved with what moves You, and think the very thoughts of God. Look upon me, Lord Jesus Christ, my great high priest and king! Oh how deeply I need this searching, this knowing, this winnowing of the all seeing-eye of God. Oh to see the Man with the winnowing fan in His hand, the Man with eyes as a flame of fire! Make me, make us, make your churches, Lord, to be the very habitation of God among men. Come into our midst in this hour and open Your eyes upon us! We invite You to do this, Lord! Look upon us! This is my prayer—that You would not be just above us, as the sister saw, but that You would come right down into our midst, and do that needed winnowing work in our lives and in our churches that can only be accomplished by the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit and fire.  Amen.

 

Whose Fan Is In His Hand

As this year comes to a close let me share what’s on my heart. In a recent gathering we had been praying for a deeper work of the Spirit in the churches in our area, and in our own midst—that God would do whatever He needs to do to bring into being churches that are according to the desire of His own heart, churches that make a serious impact on the world around us, which is growing darker by the day. After prayer there was a time of quietness. Then one of the sisters said that while we had been praying she had seen above us a man with a winnowing fan in his hand, and he was waving it back and forth.

John the Baptist’s prophecy came immediately to mind:

I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you in Holy Spirit and fire,
Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire (Mt.    3:11,12).

This is a picture of the ancient threshing floor into which the stalks of wheat were gathered and then rolled over with a threshing cart or sledge to break up the stalks and break out the kernels from the stalks. Then the thresher tossed the broken stalks into the air with his winnowing fork or fan, and the kernels fell back to the ground and the wind blew the chaff to the outer edge of the threshing floor where it was burned. This process was continued till the threshing floor was completely clean; there was nothing left on the floor but the wheat, which was then gathered into the granary.

We discover in our Bible that threshing floors can be very devastating places—yet very wonderful places. It was in a threshing floor that Uzzah was smitten dead because he put out his hand to steady the ark. But this caused a great heart searching, the result of which was that David discovered God’s way to return the ark to Zion (1 Chr. 13:9-15:2).

It was in a threshing floor that David built an altar of burnt offering after he had seen the angel of the Lord ready to strike Jerusalem. This same threshing floor, because of the altar that David built, became the site of the new temple God had in mind (1 Chr. 21:18-22:1).

God in Isaiah called His people, “My threshing, and the corn of my floor…” (Isa. 21:10). He spoke this in view of the impending judgment of Babylon; that’s the context in this passage. God by His servant Isaiah had just pronounced the fall of Babylon. But what did this mean to God’s own? “Oh My threshing and the corn of my floor…” It might have looked like complete destruction, that threshing floor, but it only meant a purifying of His kernels of wheat. It’s a word that is prophetic of this hour, when, in a vast worldwide threshing floor, God purposes to liberate His own from Babylonian captivity, and release them from all that holds them to the earthly realm.

Daniel saw in vision a great image that was crushed to pieces and “became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors, and the wind carried them away” (Dan. 2:35). What could be more devastating? Powerful kings and their kingdoms just… blown away. But this happened because the great image had been smitten on its feet by a Stone cut out without hands, which then grew into a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

And so, when the inevitable shakings come, in the midst of the devastation—in the midst of winds and fires—God wants us to remember who we are (we are His precious wheat), and who it is that has the winnowing fan in His hand. It is our mighty Lord Jesus Christ, and His purpose in all the devastation is to bring to completion the desire of God’s heart. He is lovingly, faithfully, fulfilling the great purpose of God—that of baptizing a people into Christ, and purifying them from all that is extraneous to the desire of God’s heart.

 

The Bible’s Greatest Prophecy

If I were asked what is the greatest prophecy in the Bible it would not be an easy question to answer.   So many wonderful prophecies! But I think I would have to say it’s the one given by the greatest prophet. That, in Jesus’ own words, was John the Baptist. Jesus said that among those born of women there was no greater prophet than John the Baptist (Luke 7:28).

What then did this greatest of prophets prophesy that was so great? I realize that Jesus said this of John because he had been sent to prepare Israel for the manifestation of their great Messiah. But what did John say of this coming One?

All four gospel writers record a certain prophecy which according to the Greek tense in Mark 1:7 John “preached continually” as he baptized. Here are the references in case you want to look them up (Mt. 3:11, Mk. 1:8, Lk. 3:16, Jn. 1:33), and here is Luke’s record:

John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but He who is mightier than I is coming, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals: He Himself will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire” (Lk. 3:16 NASB).

And so there it is. This coming One would be a baptizer like John—but He would baptize (the word means immerse) not in water but in Holy Spirit.

It was not long before this One came to John and was baptized by him in the Jordan waters, John protesting that he needed to be baptized by Him. But after this I think there must have been a continual question in the hearts of John’s anticipating followers. When is this Man going to start baptizing us in Holy Spirit? Did John get it wrong?

For, Jesus never did baptize anyone in Holy Spirit while upon earth. In fact He could not do so till He was glorified (Jn. 7:39).  But this meant that after His baptism in Jordan there was yet another baptism for Him to undergo (Lk. 12:50). It was only after this, and seated now at the right hand of God, that He began His ministry of baptizing in Holy Spirit, sending the Spirit according to John the Baptist’s prophecy and His own earlier promise:

For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in Holy Spirit not many days hence (Acts 1:5).

Our Bible tells us that on the day of Pentecost the waiting disciples “were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). It is this initial filling, then, that was their baptism in Holy Spirit, although there were also other times later when they were “filled with the Spirit” (Acts 4:8, 4:31, 13:9, 13:52). This does not mean they were baptized in Holy Spirit again and again. Those who believe in Jesus are baptized in Holy Spirit only once (just as they are born again only once)—the first time they are filled with the Spirit. Thus the teaching, “one baptism, many fillings.”

Later when the Spirit was poured out at the house of Cornelius Peter referred to this as baptism in Holy Spirit (Acts 11:16). He also called it the gift of the Spirit, “the like gift” that God had given on the day of Pentecost to those “who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 11:17). This is confirmed by another verse earlier in Chapter Ten:

And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 10:45).

These Gentiles had “received the Holy Ghost,” Peter confirmed, “as well as we” (Acts 10:47).  This was their baptism in Holy Spirit.

Baptism in Holy Spirit, then, is the receiving of the Holy Spirit that Jesus spoke of when He promised His disciples He would send “another Comforter… whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him, but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (Jn. 14:17). What wondrous words.

And it is this baptism that is entrance into the Kingdom of God. For, Jesus told Nicodemus that no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit (Jn. 3:5). Link this with “the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit which He shed (poured) on us abundantly” (Titus 3:5). It is in this baptism, this immersion, then, that one is regenerated, born anew. That is some bath, transforming an old creation man into a new creation! And of such is the kingdom of God.

And so we discover that all these—baptism in Holy Spirit, receiving the Spirit, the gift of the Holy Spirit, being born of the Spirit, entering the kingdom of God (and there are others)—they are all different aspects of the one momentous event.

This is why John’s prophecy is so very great. Yes, it all centres in Christ Jesus our Lord. But in fact it may be said that the very reason the Son of God came was to the intent that He might baptize in Holy Spirit, might send the Spirit, thus joining His disciples to Himself, enabling those who believe in Him to live the life which otherwise cannot be lived—His own life, the life eternal. To receive the Spirit of Christ, to be baptized into Christ, means Christ Himself living in us. It means that we who were once “without strength” (Rom. 5:6) are now “strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man…” His Spirit in the inner man? What, oh joy of joys, is the implication of this?

“…That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith…” (Eph. 3:16).

That is the essence of the New Covenant. The Spirit baptism is part and parcel of the New Covenant, is in fact initiation into the New Covenant, in which God does what the Law could not do—enabling those who “walk in the Spirit” to fulfill the righteous requirement of the Law. That is a fascinating verse—Romans 8:4—moving from the incarnation and death of the Son of God to His sending the Spirit all in one breath.

In fact there are many passages in our Bible that are only seen aright through the lens of baptism in Holy Spirit—baptism into Christ. Here is one.

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him (1 Jn. 4:9).

There again the apostle speaks in one breath of the coming of the Son of God and of the sending of the Spirit. God’s purpose in the sending of the promised Spirit is to baptize us into all that God accomplished in the incarnation—to make us one with His Son in His death and resurrection and ascension.

That is why He came. He came to baptize in Holy Spirit. He came to live as a man, and to die as a man… and to live again, that we who are baptized in Holy Spirit, baptized into Himself—we who were once dead in sin—might be dead to sin (for He died to sin), and that we might be raised from the dead just as He is raised from the dead, and that we might walk in newness of life, might live and reign with Him (while yet on earth, it must be said) as He lives and reigns at the right hand of God.

That is the love of God, the love of God manifested in the Cross of Christ, and poured forth into our hearts “through the Holy Spirit who is given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.

 

 

 

Baptized Into The Heavenlies

Many of us in the West are aware these days that we have entered intense and increasingly difficult times (just catching up to Christians in various other parts of the world), and when one is in the midst of very trying things there is little appetite for a teaching.  At the same time, we must be solidly grounded in truth; we must be standing on the sure foundation of Christ, and our prayers must go up from prayer’s foundation.  Otherwise we are incapable of fighting the battle of the Lord; we will soon go under.  That need never happen: God has given us all the provision we need to triumph in what is more and more becoming a very evil day.  So let me share with you something my Teacher is teaching me these days—right in the midst of the battle.

Paul five times in Ephesians uses a phrase which in the King James Version is translated, “in heavenly places.” (Actually one of these is translated, “in high places.”)  The Greek for this phrase is en tois epouraniois, which some versions translate “in the heavenlies.”

The first reference (using in the heavenlies) has to do with blessings:

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ (Eph. 1:3).

The second has to do with the immeasurable power God wrought in Christ in raising Him from the dead and setting Him at His own right hand in the heavenlies.  He prays that we might know:

…What is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenlies
Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all (Eph. 1:19-23).

The third passage has to do with how what God accomplished in Christ affects those who are in Christ:

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus:
That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through (in) Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:4-7).

The fourth has to do with how the church is to impact spiritual beings in the heavenlies:

 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in the heavenlies might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him (Eph. 3:8-12).

And the fifth has to do with how the wicked beings among those spiritual beings are completely brought to nought by those in Christ who are equipped with the whole armour of God.

 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in the heavenlies (Eph. 6:10-12).

The third passage is in the centre of these five, and is central to what we want to emphasize.  Let’s look at it.  It is built upon the second reference about what God, with illimitable power, accomplished in Christ’s death and resurrection and ascension into the heavenlies.  This, Paul says in the third reference, is the very heritage of those to whom he is writing this epistle.  They are quickened (made alive) together with Christ, and are raised up together with Him, and are seated together with Him in the heavenlies.  The question remains, when did this happen?  When did the Ephesians join Him in this heavenly heritage?  When did it happen that they were quickened together with Him, and raised up together with Him, and seated together with Him in the heavenlies? It happened when they were baptized into Christ.  For, Paul is writing this epistle to those “in Christ” (Eph. 1:1).  It is those in Christ whom God has quickened together with Christ, and has raised them up together with Him, and made them sit (enthroned them) together with Him “in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.”

Is not this astonishing?  To be baptized into Christ is to be made one with His accomplishment in the cross and resurrection and ascension (see also Rom. 6:3, Col. 2:12, Gal. 3:27).  By being baptized into Christ—it is not water baptism but Spirit baptism that accomplishes this—one is baptized into His death, and is consequently made alive with Him in the power of His resurrection life, and is enthroned with Him in the heavenlies “far above all principality and authority…”  I am not talking about theory.  I am talking about participation in Christ by His Spirit.

I used to view the first reference (about the spiritual blessings) as one who with neck craned upward was looking into the heavenlies trying to figure out how I could get those spiritual blessings down.  That is entirely wrong thinking.  They are “spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ.”  If I am in Christ I am with Him in the heavenlies; the blessings are my heritage in the heavenlies.

And I used to view the last reference as a soldier who was warring against these forces of darkness in the heavenlies from an earthly vantage point—a rather intimidating prospect.  But that too is entirely wrong thinking.  “We wrestle… in the heavenlies…”  That is the sphere of our warfare—the heavenlies; we are there in the heavenlies, in fact in Christ are above these forces of darkness.

Dearly beloved in Christ, this—what God wrought in Christ at Calvary and in His resurrection and ascension—is the foundation, the bedRock, upon which we walk, and testify, and pray, and fight the good fight of faith.  Baptized into Him we are dead to sin as He is dead to sin; baptized into Him we are alive unto God as He is alive unto God; baptized into Him we are enthroned as He is enthroned above all the forces of darkness in the heavenlies.  This, the heavenly realm, is the sphere of our life and walk and warfare.  We are baptized into it.  Let us fight the good fight of faith from thence.  It means inevitable triumph.

 

 

 

 

Baptism Into Reality

Question.  How did the children of Israel get into the Promised Land?

Answer.  They were baptized into the Promised Land.  The Jordan baptism was, as it were, a death and a resurrection: twelve stones representing the twelve tribes were left in the bottom of the Jordan, and twelve stones were set up on the Canaan side of Jordan.  Having come through this baptism the children of Israel were “in the land.” Although they had yet to discover the length and the breadth of this land, and what possessing it involved, they were actually in the land.

Fast forward.  Now consider those who were baptized in Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost—not just the initial 120, but the 3,000 who were added to them the same day.  The 120 had some understanding of what was coming (Acts 1:8), but what about the rest?  How much did they comprehend of all that this baptism meant—the breadth and the length and the depth and the height of it all?  Perhaps very little.  Nevertheless, those who had been baptized in Holy Spirit were actually “in the land” of their inheritance in the heavenlies.  It was not till later that the apostles would have opportunity to teach them what this baptism was all about, and not till much later that the New Testament, in which the significance of baptism in Holy Spirit is spelled out (mostly in Paul’s epistles), was available to the believers.

What is my point?  I am saying that one may be baptized in Holy Spirit and not yet comprehend what this is all about.  It does not negate the reality of the baptism.  It was of people who had been baptized in Holy Spirit that Paul asked, “Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” (Rom. 6:3).  It seems they did not realize this.  “Know ye not…?”  They had been baptized into Christ, but did not yet comprehend the significance of that baptism—that as a result of it they too were dead to sin… and (the natural consequence of being baptized into His death) also partakers of His resurrection life and walk.

In Acts 19 Paul asked certain Ephesians if they had received the Holy Spirit when, or since, they believed.  They had not, and so he baptized them in water in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and then after Paul had laid his hands on them, Jesus baptized them in Holy Spirit.  It was to these saints that Paul later wrote the following words, including himself as one who was in Christ as a result of the Spirit baptism:

But God, who is rich in mercy for His great love wherewith He loved us,
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved);
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus;
That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus… (Eph. 2:4-7).

More literally that would be “with-quickened,” “with-raised,” and “with-seated.”  Christ being made alive and raised from the dead and enthroned in the heavenlies became the present heritage of the Ephesians.  They were quickened (made alive) with Him, raised with Him, seated with Him in the heavenlies.  When?  When did this happen?  It happened when they were baptized in Holy Spirit—baptized into Christ.

And so it is with all who are baptized in Holy Spirit.  Baptism in Holy Spirit is baptism into Christ—into His death, resurrection, and ascension.  It is not “positional truth.”  It is the present reality of those baptized into Christ, that is, made one with Christ, joined to Christ, by His Spirit.  Just as the Israelites were in the land as a result of the Jordan baptism, those baptized into Christ are quickened together with Him and raised together with Him and enthroned together with Him in their heavenly heritage.

It is not positional truth hopefully to be gained in a future day, it is actual and present truth for those in Christ, and so can be walked in by faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have Thine Own Way, Lord

This morning in prayer, with many deep and unresolved needs on my heart, the old hymn Have Thine Own Way came over my heart.

 Have Thine own Way, Lord! Have Thine own way…
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay…

It’s a hymn I have loved for many years; this morning what moved me, broke me, was the drawing nigh of a certain Spirit that enabled me to pray this, not for my own attainment, but for the Potter’s own sake, for the love of the Potter.  Do you know what I mean?

In His Presence and Spirit I felt such conviction; oh how unaware I am that my motives are often quite selfish; I seek the things of God just for my own sake. But the Spirit, with God’s own interests at heart, drew nigh and inspired me to pray, “Have Thine own way, Lord… that You may truly have Your liberty in my life, the desire of Your own heart in my life.”  I felt so broken by how deeply God longs for this in each and every one of us… yes, for our own benefit, but for His own as well.  The vessel is, after all, for the Potter. He greatly longs for full expression in us, for He  knows our needs more deeply than we ourselves do, and knows that only He can meet them.

And so, He will continue working in our lives till He has helped us to totally forsake all our own efforts and strivings to attain to Christian fulfillment, or resolve our problems… and yield it all to Him, and become totally surrendered in His hands, so that He can mold us and make us to be what He wants us to be, and have His own Way and desire in our lives—and do what He wants to do.

In a vessel such as this, He Himself lives and moves and has His being among men once again, for He Himself is present with men once again—in you and me—just as He was in His only begotten Son.  This is His own hope in all His dealings in our lives, in all His moldings, shapings… that, instead of our own workings to resolve the problems around us, we ourselves become the Potter’s own workmanship, and the things we do His own workings among men.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God hath before prepared that we should walk in them.

How precious a hope this is to Him, and if the beauty of this purpose of the Potter has laid hold on us, we share it with Him. He knows (and surely you and I know also) that it is He Himself those around us must encounter—He and His own workings.

We are His workmanship—the project most special to His heart, His great handiwork—created in Christ Jesus to walk in works that He has prepared for us to walk in, beautiful works that accomplish far more than we could ever think of accomplishing by our own efforts.

The thing is—and this realization in the Spirit overwhelmed me this morning—oh how deeply I need the Spirit of Christ! Only He can cause me to see the beauty of the Lord, and motivate my heart aright.  My heart is small and cold… and He comes, draws nigh, and suddenly I am feeling afresh the flame of His own desire, and am seeing as He sees.  How I need You, dear Lord Jesus!  How deeply I need Your Spirit afresh!  You kindle renewed desire, and the flame of Your Spirit… oh, how it consumes the bonds of the yoke my heart is bound under.  I am bound by nature to… to myself.  I need so deeply the operation of the Spirit of Christ which alone can set me free.  No work of my own can do it!  I need Your Spirit, Lord, Your Presence, that beautiful Presence that steals upon me, and motivates me out of Your very own heart.

Come, Lord—come and abide! Why do You come…  and then hide Yourself again?  How I need Your beautiful Presence… You Yourself, to come and abide.  I need You to abide, Your beautiful free and freeing Spirit in whom the Law of grace reigns, the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus that sets me free from all toil, and labour, and striving, and spinning, and causes me to rest.  As You have promised:  “I will shepherd My flock, and I will cause them to lie down…”

 But now, O LORD, Thou art our Father; we are the clay, and Thou our potter: and we all are the work of Thy hand.

Yet where is the touch of Your hand, my Potter? Why have You left me like this?  The clay feels forsaken, unfinished.  Has the Potter forsaken the work of His own hands?  Am I still on Your wheel?  Am I still pliable, moldable, shapeable?  I feel hard, brittle.  When will You take me in hand again, and finish the work You started in my life?

And with such thoughts as these… they are not doubts, they are longings… I find myself longing for, aching for, the kind of working and walk that is not my own doing, but the Potter’s own workmanship in the earth in a yielded vessel who is walking in those prepared works of His, the kind of walk that satisfies the inmost longings of the heart—both His heart and mine—and meets every impossible need.

But the Potter has not forsaken the work of His own hands. How can He deny Himself?  The longing I feel… it is His own, and He will not forsake His own longings.  Nor His own work.  In fact, He has already guaranteed this kind of walk for me, cutting a Covenant with His own beloved Son on my behalf.  The Son of God walked this kind of walk on my behalf that He might send forth His Spirit into my heart, the Spirit that alone can break the chain in which I labour, and bring me into the Bond of the Covenant, liberating me into the longed-for total surrender of myself into the hands of the Master Potter, that He might have His Way… and total liberty to do as He wishes in my life, do just as He pleases—and reveal Himself to men as He is.

Is that not just what the hymnist, too, longs for? “Christ only always living in me,”  having His own way in me, manifesting Himself and His love in me, doing through me what He alone can do.  This, I know, will accomplish what nothing else has ever been able to accomplish.

I know also that I will make a discovery then. When He has His own way in me, I will find the desire of my own heart beyond my fondest dreams.  In fact what I had previously conceived in my own mind, and hoped for, and tried to accomplish, will make me blush.  For, when the Potter has His own way in me, I myself will find beyond measure, exceeding abundantly above all I could ever ask, or even think.

And under His absolute sway shall discover a paradox: a liberty I never dreamed of.  In total surrender to the Master Potter I enter a realm of, oh, such liberty—a walk in the Spirit that can only be described as walking “on the wings of the Wind.”

And so, dear Lord, please be merciful to me… and never leave me to myself, never leave me pursuing anything less than this. Save me from living a life in which You Yourself have not had Your way, a life that has sought fulfillment, but in which You Yourself, when all was said and done, felt unfulfilled.  I cannot bear the thought, Lord.  I cannot bear the thought.  Please return me continually to this old refrain in the fresh empowering of Your Spirit:

 Have Thine own Way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me, I pray!
Power, all power, surely is thine!
Touch me and heal me, Saviour divine.

Have Thine own Way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now!
As in Thy presence humbly I bow.

Have Thine own way, Lord, have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway.
Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me.

Adelaide A. Pollard, 1907

The High Priest And His Lampstands

I observed in my reading recently that the high priest of the tabernacle that God instructed Moses to make was himself responsible for the care of the lampstand.  It was Aaron himself who was to arrange the seven lamps on the lampstand and light them every evening so that they cast their light in front of the lampstand—that is, toward the Holy of holies (Ex. 25:37, Num. 8:2,3).

And every morning he was to replenish the oil and dress the lamps in readiness—that is, he was to trim the wicks so that when lit again they would burn clearly and brightly without a smoky, sooty flame (Ex. 30:7,8).

I find great comfort in this, for the lampstands of our day are not burning very clearly or brightly, and I don’t seem to have any ability in myself to do anything about it.

What do I mean by the lampstands of our day?  We understand that Moses was to make the lampstand of the tabernacle according to a pattern shown him “in the mount” (Ex. 25:40).  In other words, there was a heavenly reality that this lampstand was just a representation of.

And what is the heavenly reality?  It is the church.  John in The Revelation describes a vision of a certain Man walking in the midst of seven golden lampstands, and John tells us a little further on that these seven lampstands are seven churches.

So a lampstand represents a church.  And He must be a priest, then, this Man, for who but a priest has authority to walk amidst lampstands?  And this is just what we discover Him to be by John’s description of Him.  This Man is dressed in the priestly robe of fine linen down to the foot.

And so here in The Revelation we see our great High Priest walking in the midst of the seven golden lampstands—the seven churches—with loving care and attention tending them, replenishing their Oil, trimming their wicks, that they might shine forth with a pure clear light.  He is intent on conforming them to God’s desire—if for their part they will but repent.  He has no word of reproof at all for two of these lampstands (one is characterized by love and and the other by suffering).  For the rest He has words of correction.  In fact one of them (in spite of much that is commendable) is in danger of no longer being considered one of His lampstands.

As I said, I find great comfort in this—that it is the High Priest’s own responsibility to care for and deal with His lampstands.  For, I often mourn over the state of things here in the western world.  The churches of our day, many of them… if their light has not totally gone out, they are dim and sooty in their burning, and they are not focused forward toward the Holy of holies the way the lampstand is supposed to be.  I am not alone in my mourning; many there are who anguish over this, sometimes to the point of despair.  Where is the Oil?  Where is the light?  We are not pointing fingers, we often feel that the lamp of our own life is scarcely shining.

But when we are feeling like this, it is so comforting to remember that primarily it is not up to you and me to deal with all this.  I am not providing excuse for those who don’t care anyway; I am speaking to those who care, those who love the church, and are burdened.  It is the High Priest Himself who is responsible for the condition of His lampstands, His churches, and He will not be negligent in doing so.  It is the light of the glory of God that is at stake, and He will not rest till His lampstands are shining forth the pure light of the glory of the Lord.

What does this mean for us, then, for you and for me?  It means we can anticipate this One revealing Himself, this One who calls Himself “the faithful witness” (Rev. 1:5).  Yes, He is faithful.  He will not leave His lampstands in their present dismal state.  This is what my heart is set on—seeing Him.  It’s easy enough to point out how poorly the lamps are shining these days, and many major on this.  But I don’t have much of a heart for criticizing churches.  What I long for and set my heart on is the appearing of this Man who begins to walk in the midst of the lampstands dealing effectively with things.

He is going to do this, beloved.

But… think about this.  Just how will He do this?  Beloved, He will do this by walking in the midst of the lampstands, the churches—by the Holy Spirit in you and in me.  Does this grip you the way it grips me?  I know that in myself I can make no impact on the churches—nor is it my responsibility.  But this One is going to make His appearing—in fact is beginning to make His appearing—and as I see Him in whatever way He reveals Himself to me… what I speak and do in whatever church situation I am involved in… will be His very own speaking and doing.

I tremble at that.

John describes this One.  Clothed with a garment down to the foot, the fine linen of His own righteousness covering His whole body.  Girt about the breasts with a golden belt or sash that sustains the heart and its motives with purity in every situation no matter how grievous.  His head and His hair white as wool, as snow—the maturity and authority of the Ancient of Days, and perfect purity of thought.  Piercing, penetrating eyes from which none can hide, yet consuming in fire all the uncleanness that is exposed.  Feet (yes, His feet) glowing like bronze in a furnace as He steps forth for justice and judgment.  His voice like the sound of many waters blended together in perfect harmony.  Seven stars (His messengers, His ministries) in His right hand of authority, and a sharp two-edged sword proceeding out of His mouth.  And His countenance like the sun shining in its strength.

You consider this, and you tremble.  This One walks in the midst of the churches.  This One has—or rather, is—in Himself all that is necessary to bring the churches into full conformity to the will and intention of God…

So that God is as glorified in the church as He was in Christ Himself when He walked the earth (Eph. 3:21).

That is going to be utterly devastating in one sense.

But very, very wonderful in another.