Category Archives: The Knowledge of God

The Known Land

I can’t remember if this gem was passed along to me by the hand of another or if I came across it myself in my Bible reading, but in any case I wrote it down in my notes, and came across it again today, and it is too beautiful to keep to myself. (And regardless how I came across it I certainly know where it originated.)

Here is what I wrote down:

          The promised land becomes the known land.

“…Them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised” (Num. 14:31).

That to me is a telling illustration of the kind of knowledge we have in the new covenant. God’s new covenant promise is that “they shall all know Me,” and He means this in much the same way He meant it when He promised that the new generation would “know the land.” Back then, this meant that God brought them into the land, and they walked in the length and breadth of it, and searched it out, and dwelt therein, and enjoyed its bounty and riches. Thus the promised land became the known land.

That is just what it means to enter our spiritual heritage in the heavenlies in Christ. It means knowing God Himself in just this way—abiding in Him, living in Him, walking in Him, searching out (not just mapping out) His unsearchable riches in Christ.

Yes, searching out. Knowing the land. Coming to know the breadth and length and depth and height of the love of Christ which passeth knowledge.

The apostle John wrote, “everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.”

That is new covenant knowledge. That is new creation knowledge. The kind of knowledge that makes us like Him.

Lie not one to another seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man which is renewed in knowledge [Gk. unto full knowledge] after the image of Him that created him (Col. 3:9,10).

What wondrous knowledge is this– new creation knowledge: it is the kind of knowledge that makes us like Him, more and more like Him, in all we say and do.

God gave the patriarchs and their progeny a promise back then—the promise of a land. And He was faithful to cause them to know that land. In the fullness of time He gave a further promise—that those in new covenant relationship with Him would know Him, each one of them, from the least to the greatest. He is faithful to His promise yet.

The apostle John wrote, “This is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life” (1 Jn. 2:25).

And what is eternal life?

This is life eternal,” Jesus prayed, “that they may know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent” (Jn. 17:3).

And so, dearly beloved family of God, let the promise of eternal life become more and more for each one of us the knowledge of eternal life. Let eternal life be the land in which we live and walk—our heritage in Christ Jesus. Eternal life. Knowing God, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent…

…In just the same way those of old came to know the land.

 

The Exegesis Of God–Part Two

Let’s recall from last time Solomon’s proclamation at the inauguration of the temple that God had instructed him to build for Him.

 The LORD hath said that He would dwell in the thick darkness.  But I have built an house of habitation for Thee, and a place for Thy dwelling forever (2 Chr. 6:1,2).

This is what Solomon’s temple was all about.  It was to be the place among men where the God who had formerly dwelt in thick darkness now shone forth.  Solomon’s temple was, however, only a shadow of the true temple not made with hands—the Son of God Himself.  And so last time we also quoted a verse from John.

 No man hath seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (Jn. 1:18).

The word declared is the Greek exegesato, and is related to our word exegesis, which is the biblical science of discovering and explaining what the Scriptures really say and mean.  Patient exegesis of the Bible will yield to the yielded much fruit.  But in John 1:18 we discover that the Son of God when He walked the earth was the exegesis of God Himself.  He was the One who explained, made known, revealed, shone forth, the hard-to-understand, unseen, obscure, unknown God.

That’s very wonderful, but I wonder if I don’t hear someone thinking, “Well and good that Jesus the Son of God was the exegesis of God the Father back then, but He is not here now.”

I know the regret you’re expressing: if only we could have lived back in Jesus’ day… or if only He were still here today.  Too bad the Devil succeeded in tearing down that living Temple in whom God dwelt and was revealed.

Just a minute.  Remember what Jesus said about that.

 Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up…
But He spake of the Temple of His body (Jn. 2:19,21).

And so the Devil has his own regrets that he and his cohorts conspired to have the Lord of glory crucified, thinking to be done with Him.  For He rose from the dead.  And He ascended into Heaven, where, seated at the right hand of God, He began His more excellent ministry of the New Covenant, and an enlargement of that Temple which would continue to be the same exegesis of God.

How so?  When Christ ascended to the right hand of God, He “received the promise of the Father” (Acts 2:33), on the day of Pentecost sending the Spirit to His waiting disciples, just as He, in turn, had earlier promised them.

 I will not leave you comfortless.  I will come to you (Jn. 14.18).

I will come to you?  This is a mystery.  The coming of the Spirit was such that the same One who was the exegesis of God at the right hand of the Father, while continuing to abide at the right hand of the Father in the Heavens, came to His disciples again, and took up residence in them.  For, those in whom the Spirit dwells, it is Christ Himself who dwells in them, as we read in many places in our New Testament.  (For example, Romans 8: 9,10, and many other places that speak of the indwelling Christ.)  And thus they become part of the same Temple Solomon prophesied of, the same habitation the Son of God fulfilled—the same living Exegesis that reveals God and makes Him known among men.

That is the astonishing implication of the sending of the Spirit.  Those in whom Christ dwells now become part of that same exegesis of God that the Son of God was.

This is what the New Covenant assembly is all about, or ought to be.  The church—which was formed by the coming of the Spirit to individual disciples—is to be the fullness of that same Exegesis of God who walked the earth two thousand years ago, and is now seated at the right hand of God.

 The church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all (Eph. 1:23).

The fullness of Him?  The church is His very body—the fullness of Him?  I am sure this is what Jesus had in mind when He “spake of the temple of His body” which He said He would raise up.  “The church, which is His body…”  The Devil thought to be rid of Him by the cross.  What he did, to his great chagrin, enabled God to lay in Zion the foundation Stone for an enlargement of that temple.  It began with the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost.  He comes for nothing less than to continue the same exegesis of God that the Son of God was when He was here.

That is the nature of Christ’s more excellent ministry of the New Covenant.  It is a ministration of the very knowledge of God, and thus, “all shall know Me from the least to the greatest” (Heb. 8:11) .  This is something more than knowledge as we generally think of the word.  It is New Covenant knowledge: the kind of knowledge—the knowledge of God—whom to know means our being like Him.

How imperative, then, that we in the church, as ministers of the New Covenant (which all Christians are to be) give the Prime Minister of the New Covenant—the Holy Spirit—His lordship and pre-eminence in our individual lives, and in our gatherings.  He comes for nothing less than to reveal, to make known, the same God of love and righteousness that dwelt in the Son… so that the same exegesis of God now dwells in and shines forth from the churches—you and me and our brothers and sisters in the churches.

This is what the New Covenant, and the New Covenant assembly, is all about—or is supposed to be—the exegesis of God to a world in darkness.  Anything short of this… we are sorely missing His mark.

And it has to be said that much of what is called church in our day has in fact done that.  Has fallen short.  Has missed the mark.  Let the broken and repentant heart be encouraged.  Christ is still on the Throne at the right hand of the Father, and the Holy Spirit sent from the Throne is still in the earth.  The temple He inaugurated at Pentecost is still here, though in the midst of much that man has built cannot always readily be seen.  In fact her enemies are gloating these days that they have succeeded in destroying her and treading her down in the dust.  The Lord on the throne has a surprise in store for His enemies.  The power and principle of His resurrection life is still at work.  He continues to raise up this Temple—the One that was torn down on Calvary’s cross—just as He prophesied He would do.  He will beautify her, set living stones in her just like Himself.  He will yet be fully revealed, will yet shine forth in this temple in all His glory in the Heavens and in the earth…

…And all the confusion and debate and doubt and misunderstanding as to who He is—all the thick darkness—will vanish like the morning mist in the light of the sun.

The Exegesis Of God

Let me tell you a little story.  Once there was a young man who as a new Christian greatly admired an old saint whose teaching in the word of God had opened a vista the young man had no idea even existed. He aspired to be like the old saint.  The young man greatly admired the old saint’s worn, time-weathered Bible as well.  Its pages were wrinkled and crinkled, its verses underscored, its margins inked with notes.  Because of the aura that went with it—that of a seasoned saint steeped in the word—the young man wanted a Bible like that very badly.  But oh, that would take time, and patience, and what young man has patience and time, especially one who wants to distance himself as fast as he can from a life he has thus far wasted on himself?

And so how does a young man of 25 become an instant seasoned saint?  He buys a new Bible, and, being careful not to tear its pages, crinkles them one by one in his hand, attempting to imitate the effect.

It was a sorry disappointment.  He eventually gave the Bible to an acquaintance, who told him some time later that he had accidentally left it in a phone booth.

The young man is older now, and thinking back the other day, had a good laugh at himself and his immaturity.  He eventually learned that there are no short cuts in the pathway of coming to know God—or to owning a well-worn Bible, either.  Now he has two or three Bibles that look like that old saint’s Bible… but for some reason, his love of Bible exegesis has brought him to the place where he knows less now than the young man he used to be.

Exegesis?  It was only when the Internet and its resources came along that the young man, grown quite a bit older, came across the word.  Bible school students take classes in exegesis; they are taught careful procedures to rightly get at the actual meaning of Scripture.  An exegesis of any given word or passage explains that passage in its context going into, among other things, the meanings of the Hebrew or the Greek, thus hopefully bringing to light the obscurities of the word of God.

For, the Bible can indeed be a very obscure book… just as God Himself can be a very obscure God.

On the day that God gave Israel His commandments, He had come down on Mount Sinai clothed in cloud and smoke and thick darkness.

 And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was (Ex. 20:21).

Communing with God in the cloud, Moses received further commandments for the people, and eventually instructions for the tabernacle that God wanted built.  What was the significance of the tabernacle?

 Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them (Ex. 25:8).

Five centuries later when Solomon’s temple had been finished to the last detail, and the sacrifices had been made, and the ark brought into its place, the temple was filled with a cloud “so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God” (2 Chr. 5.14). Upon this, Solomon spoke the following words:

 The LORD hath said that He would dwell in the thick darkness.  But I have built an house of habitation for Thee, and a place for Thy dwelling forever (2 Chr. 6:1,2).

As I was reading this passage one day, the light came on.  What was the significance of the temple?  This.  The God who had been cloaked in thick darkness, in cloud and mystery and obscurity… He was here in His temple now, not afar off in Heaven, but nigh, not hidden away, but unveiled. That was the whole purpose of the tabernacle and the temple—that the unknown inscrutable God might dwell there and reveal Himself openly, make Himself known.

And so a thousand years after Solomon, we come to John’s words about the Temple not made with hands.

 No man hath seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (Jn. 1:18).

The word declared in the Greek is exegesato, a verb form of the noun exegesis, meaning that the Son of God declared the Father, revealed Him, made Him known. Vincent’s Word Studies confirms this.

 Hath declared (ἐξηγήσατο)  Or, rendering the aorist strictly, ‘He declared.’ From ἐκ, forth, and ἡγέομαι, to lead the way. Originally, to lead or govern. Hence, like the Latin praeire verbis, to go before with words, to prescribe or dictate a form of words. To draw out in narrative, to recount or rehearse (see Acts 15:14, and on Luke 24:35). To relate in full; to interpret, or translate. Therefore ἐξήγησις, exegesis, is interpretation or explanation (Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament, Volume Two).

In other words, according to John 1:18, the Son of God is Himself the exegesis of God.  The tabernacle and Solomon’s temple were but types and shadows of the true temple not made with hands; it was the Son of God Himself who declared, explained, interpreted, made known, revealed, shone forth, the God who had dwelt so long time in thick darkness, and no one had ever really seen.  In the Temple of His Son, this God now dwelt, and shone forth.  The obscure, mysterious, hard to understand, distant, way-up-there-somewhere-far-away God… the Son of God brought Him nigh and revealed Him and made Him known to men.

Only the Son of God Himself could do that.  In fact only the Son of God could be that explanation, the kind of exegesis that is God Himself making Himself known to men.

The young man I referred to is older these days, and is himself a little wrinkled and time-worn now.  He has loved Bible exegesis over the years.  What has it done for him?  This.  He finds in his heart a perpetual cry.  Oh to know more fully this One in the bosom of the Father—this One who is the exegesis of God Himself.

Apart from that exegesis, Bible exegesis has missed the mark.

…More next time.

God Is Honest

The other day in a time of prayer the Spirit of the Lord led me into a precious awareness of God.  Generally these days I find prayer very difficult, so I greatly appreciate times such as this. As I was making my petitions to God, reminding Him of prayers that have yet to be answered, I suddenly became aware of God—that is, of a certain quality of God.  I became aware of a God who is sincere.  Is faithful.  Is true.  He is honest.  There is no falseness in God.  None whatever.

You ask, didn’t I know this already?  Well… not like this.  Of course I could affirm that God is like this; I am familiar with many Bible verses about it.  But this experience was beyond that.  This was an awareness, a consciousness of God Himself.  I became aware of a God who is true.  He is honest.  It’s no use trying to embellish the word.  He is honest beyond words to describe.  So honest that it seems a sacrilege to even say He is honest.  As if there could be even a nano-possibility of His being otherwise.  The conscience recoils at having the suggestion brought up.

However, the writer of Hebrews does bring it up, saying that by two immutable things—God’s promise and His oath—it is “impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6.18).  The apostle Paul also brings this up, writing to Titus that the promise of eternal life is given by a God “who cannot lie” (Titus 1.2).

Why would the Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures find it necessary to say such a thing?  It’s because God knows our nature, that we have a deep-down problem in this area.  By nature we don’t trust God.  So, He who cannot lie comes out and assures us He will not lie.  He even condescends to confirm His promise with an oath.  “I not only promise I will do this; I swear by Myself that I’ll do it!”  He does so because He knows we have trouble believing the God who cannot lie.  It is perhaps the deepest and most revealing root of the nature of the human heart—that we humans doubt, mistrust… God.  Oh, what kind of creatures did we become when Adam disobeyed in the Garden?

It’s been a few days since this revelation in my time of prayer, and I am left considering what change has taken place in my heart as a result of it.  For, once again, just as that revelation of the God of peace a few weeks ago didn’t last very long, neither did this one.  What was the value of it then?  And why is God dealing with me this way?  Little glimpses of His glory.  But as with that revelation in the park I am aware that this too did something in me.  Well, three things, actually.

One, these experiences are creating in me a great cry to see Him.  Oh, to see Him!  And His beauty beyond compare!  We may know many things about God, but there is a seeing of God that is beholding the glory of the Lord—a glory that has a certain Divine Ingredient in it that changes us into the same image… as we present ourselves before Him with open (unveiled) face.

Secondly, and perhaps this is the same thing… it has created in me a cry for the kind of character that correlates to the revelation of God.  Do you know what I’m trying to say? It would be wonderful to have so powerful a revelation of God that we are totally and completely transformed all in an instant.  I long for that… and I anticipate we will yet come to experiences like that.  But meanwhile when we are granted only glimpses of His glory, let us cherish even this.  Let us submit to this.  For, is not this how character is formed?  Character—it’s the fruit of the Spirit, actually.  And fruit doesn’t appear instantly on a tree.  It grows.

And so in giving us glimpses of His glory, it is character God has in mind.  His intent is to try us, to prove us by the glimpses.  How will we respond?  Will we dismiss it as being too small for us?  Or will we sow to this revelation?  Nourish it, cherish it, water it, lift up our faces to the Sunshine continually… and grow?  Will we obey the heavenly vision, like Paul did?  On the Damascus road he in fact received a very powerful heavenly vision of the Christ.  But even with so powerful a revelation he realized he had to respond in obedience to that vision (Acts 26.19).  How much more you and I, then, in the little glimpses we are granted.  Let us not be disobedient to the heavenly vision; let us respond.

Thirdly, I am to take this revelation very personally.  It wasn’t just a generic revelation. (I wonder if any revelation ever is.)  God revealed Himself to me like this so that I can lay it to heart in my own life and circumstances.  He is honest, purely honest, He will not fail me, He will be faithful to me in things He has promised and which at times I have agonized over, as Habakkuk did.

O LORD, how long shall I cry, and Thou wilt not hear?  Even cry out unto Thee of violence and Thou wilt not save! (Hab. 1.2).

What, Habakkuk accusing God of not hearing?  It was God Himself who had put this burden upon Habakkuk.  And so He provisioned him to carry it.  He granted Habakkuk a living word, a revelation.  “The just shall live by faith.”  It was a revelation that sustained Habakkuk, that provisioned him to carry his burden aright.

And so step by step at every step I must sow to this revelation of God till trusting Him, believing Him, becomes something so interwoven into the fabric of my own nature that it becomes my very character.  It is character God has in mind—and He has it in mind for me.  Since He revealed Himself to me like this, His intent is to cause me to become completely trusting, believing.  That is the character that corresponds to this revelation of God.  If I know Him to be faithful, true, honest, it causes me cease from all my doubts and anxious care.  It causes me to cease from my own efforts to answer my prayers myself… the way Jacob did.  It becomes my character that I rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.  I cease from my own works and enter His Rest.  “For they which have believed do enter into rest…”  It becomes my very character that I believe Him, trust Him implicitly.  He is honest, He will do what He has said He will do.

How deeply we need these encounters in which the Spirit of God discloses God Himself to you and me in the things we are going through.  And we actually become conscious of God.  Seeing Him… it just undoes you.  And you discover that the truths we love, really, they have no existence apart from Himself.  They are only alive and vital in His Presence.  And so it creates such a longing.  Oh, how we need to and long to abide in You, Lord.

At the same time, oh, how deeply we also need to sow to these revelations in the tests of life.  God’s objective is not just revelation.  God’s objective is to create in us a character that corresponds to His own.

…I mentioned Jacob and his elaborate scheme to answer his own prayer (Gen. 32.10-21).  But then He saw the face of God.  Somehow he found himself in a wrestling match in a night season, and by the time the sun arose upon him he had been deeply changed.  He had seen God face to face; it meant the end of all his striving, all his conniving, all his scheming, all his Jacobing.  That had been his name, his nature, his character, the way he had lived and walked for years.  Now he saw God, and was crippled.  And changed.  It meant a ceasing from all his own works and schemings—symptoms of a deep mistrust, something hard wired in him—and entering into Rest.  It meant receiving a new name now, a new character—Israel, prince of God.  He had won a wrestling match in the night—won by being smitten and defeated, that is.  He walked differently now, leaning on God… trusting… depending… believing that the God who had promised him an inheritance would fulfill the promise he himself had been labouring so long and so hard to try to fulfill.

…Lord, touch us this same way.  Cause us to see Your Face… and so doing, bring us into the knowledge of God that passes knowledge, the knowing of God that carries us beyond the place where we are familiar with spiritual things yet somehow still unable to walk any differently, the old nature still very strong in us.  Cause us to see with the seeing that changes us, Lord Jesus Christ, the seeing of God that produces in us the character that corresponds to that revelation…

…Your very own beautiful character, Son of God.  You simply believed God Your Father.  You believed, without doubting.  You put Your trust in Him.  You rested in God without toiling anxiously or fabricating the salvation He purposed to reveal.  You were secure in Your Father’s love in which there could be no fear.  This… it was Your character.

Because You knew Your Father to be genuine.  True.  Faithful.  Honest.

We may not be there yet.  But Lord, we continue to look to you, and ask that you continue to reveal Yourself to us, and in us, till the character you are looking for is fully formed in us.

…Here’s a poem by an unknown author that echoes my heart in this.  I confess that I changed two words.  In the first verse I changed transient to glorious, and in the last verse I changed Till to Since.  A glimpse of the glory of God is surely not transient.  And it’s not necessary to wait till we die to lay our burden down and enter into rest.  It’s necessary only to believe.  It’s those who enter into the believing character of Christ who enter into rest.

Show me Thy face—one glorious gleam
Of loveliness divine,
And I shall never think or dream
Of other love save Thine.
All lesser light will darken quite,
All lower glories wane,
The beautiful of earth will scarce
Seem beautiful again.

Show me Thy face—my faith and love
Shall henceforth fixèd be,
And nothing here have power to move
My soul’s serenity.
My life shall seem a trance, a dream,
And all I feel and see,
Illusive, visionary—Thou
The one reality!

Show me Thy face, I shall forget
The weary days of yore,
The fretting ghosts of vain regret
Shall haunt my soul no more.
All doubts and fears for future years
In quiet trust subside,
And naught but blest content and calm
Within my breast abide.

Show me Thy face—the heaviest cross
Will then seem light to bear;
There will be gain in every loss,
And peace with every care.
With such light feet the years will fleet,
Life seem as brief as blest,
Since I have laid my burden down,
And entered into rest.

Feed God First

Our Lord has accomplished something very special when He sees us beginning to consider His own interests first in all we go through, and in all we seek from Him.  When this becomes our first consideration—when in every problem, every situation, every need, every petition, our foremost concern is our Lord’s own interests—we have come into something very beautiful in His sight.

This is not to say that our problems and needs are not God’s own interests.  They are.  He cares for us deeply.  But His primary goal in all the things we are going through is that we have fellowship with Him in the midst of it all—that we come to know Him, and be conformed to the image of His Son.

It was the Father’s interests that were His own interests.

Take the story of the widow of Zarephath in the time of her great need.  When she met Elijah she was out with her son gathering sticks for the fire so she could bake her last bit of flour, and then die, she told him.  Don’t be afraid, yes, do that, Elijah responded.  “But make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and thy son” (1 Ki. 17.13).  Kind of selfish of him, wasn’t it, taking a poor widow’s last meal?  But this was a man who stood before God.  God’s interests had become his own, God’s hunger His own.  And he wanted this woman to know that regardless how desperate her need was, she would come out the loser if she too did not make God’s need her own– her priority.

But when she did this, behold how wonderfully God met her need!

The same with you and me.  God is not being selfish when in the midst of our great anguish and deep need He says, “Feed Me first.”  It is our own great advantage He has in mind–that is, bringing us to the place where His advantage has become our own.

Yes, we seek Him for His help in all our dire circumstances and deep needs.  But getting Him to answer our need is not the first in importance.  First comes fellowship with Him, and getting knowing Him and His own heart’s longing.  First comes worshipping Him—which means giving Him our all on the altar of burnt sacrifice to satisfy His own great longing for you and me.

Otherwise God may become to us no more than a dispenser of help for our troubles, one who answers our prayers… but we still haven’t come to know Him, to walk with Him, and become like Him.

We may have a deep wound that some circumstance has brought into our life.  But to have been wounded with the wound of longing for God… this is a precious gift that can only be healed in finding Him in the midst of what we are going through.  It causes our first prayer in all things to be, Lord, I want to, I must… know You in this thing!  This is my first and great desire above and beyond Your answering my prayers and meeting my needs.  I must know You!  Bring me through the secret door in this situation, which, going through, I discover myself face to face with You in my great distress, and come to know You in a deeper way.  And in this way I become a kind of firstfruits that satisfies Your own deep hunger… for fellowship with one who is just like You.  For, the firstfruits are always Your own to enjoy first– and then when Your own hunger is satisfied others enjoy the bounty.

So… are you and I in the midst of a trial that is very difficult for us?  Let us be crying out like Job, then.  He cried out in the midst of his great trial, “Oh, that I knew where I might find HIM” (Job 23.3).  We must find GOD in our trial—as Job did.  So often our prayer is, “Deliver me from the trial, Lord!”  Job cried that too in his anguish.  But God answered Him in a way that was higher than Job could comprehend at the moment.  God’s objective was that Job come to know Him—actually see Him.

He has the same thing in mind for you and me.  That is His objective in what we are going through—that we find Him.  God Himself, that is.  The implication is becoming one with Him… as Elijah was.  “Make me a little cake first,” he had said.  It was God’s request, really. 

…And look how God answered Job after He had first brought him to know Him—know him oh so wonderfully—like never before.

“Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is full of tender pity, and compassionate” (James 5.11).

I think of David in the midst of all his trials and afflictions—how he swore unto the LORD that his first priority would be to make a habitation for his God (Ps. 132.1-5).  See how God responded?  Once He has that habitation for Himself He says, “I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread.  I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall shout aloud for joy.”

God is not unmindful of our needs and great longings.  Far from it.  But our God is a God of great love, and great wisdom.  His love for us is, oh, so deep.  When what we long for seems so far away, is nowhere in sight, there is something near He is working to help us discover—something very special He has in mind for us to find right there in the midst of our trial and unanswered prayer—Himself.  This is His own great longing.  And this is why we find ourselves in this kind of trial—and needing to endure, like Job, and be patient.  Our God loves us deeply, and wants the very best for us.  The very best.  He wants us to find Him in our trial.  Once this happens, and patience has had its perfect work, like the widow of Zarephath we will find our desires and prayers answered far more fully than we were ever able to formulate.

The Lampstand—The Corporate Testimony Of Jesus Christ (Pt. 4)

Last time we talked of individuals who had the testimony of Jesus Christ.  John on Patmos had this testimony.  The messenger who was showing John the things he wrote about in the Revelation had this testimony—so powerful a testimony of Jesus Christ that John was tempted to worship him.  He thought the man was Jesus Himself.

This is a very tremendous thing—individual men coming into the testimony of Jesus Christ.  But as great as it is, it doesn’t hold a candle to what God has in mind.  We admire great saints, but God is not satisfied with just one person here and there coming into this tremendous testimony.  His desire is that this testimony be revealed in something called the church, where all the members—every man and woman and boy and girl—are shining forth this pure testimony together as one Man.

Remember that in the Old Testament it was the tabernacle that was called the “tabernacle of the testimony.”  The tabernacle in the wilderness had a testimony—had something to reveal about God, something to say about God.  But the tabernacle was just a “figure” foreshadowing Christ—the corporate Christ, that is—Christ in union with His bride, His body.  Some very good teachings are available on this, showing how every aspect of the tabernacle speaks of Christ and His church.  The bread on the table of showbread, for example.  This speaks of the body of Christ.  Paul said, “For we, being many, are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread” (1 Cor. 10.17).

And the lampstand in the tabernacle.  John saw the Son of man walking in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.  And he said these seven lampstands were “the seven churches” (Rev. 1.20).  A single lampstand, then, represents the local church, which is to have the light and testimony of Jesus Christ shining in it.  (See also Rev. 11.3,4, Zech. Ch. 4.)

To some extent—certainly not in full measure, but to some extent—the church in Corinth had this testimony.  It was a lampstand in which the Testimony of Jesus Christ was shining.  As we read 1 Corinthians we discover the wick in the lamp needed trimming, but nevertheless the Corinthian church was a genuine lampstand shining forth the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Earlier we quoted the passage in which Paul said he had come to the Corinthians with “the testimony of God.”  How did Paul come to them with this testimony?  It was not the Torah Paul came to Corinth with.  It was “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified,” that Paul testified of.  And the result of his testimony was that the testimony of Jesus Christ was reproduced in the Corinthian church.

I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;
That in everything ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;
Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:
So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Cor. 1.4-9).

This is quite the thing.  The Corinthian church had the “testimony of Christ” confirmed in their midst—a living word expressed corporately, as well as the manifestation of the Spirit, the shining forth of Christ in the gifts of the Spirit—also a corporate expression.  It’s quite something, isn’t it, that this church that is given the reputation for being such a carnal church had a testimony like that.  “The testimony of Christ was confirmed in you…” Paul said.  That is awesome to read!  In other words, people coming into the Corinthian assembly became aware of Christ.

What was the evidence that the testimony of Christ the Anointed One was confirmed (established, made firm) in the Corinthian church?  It was that, as a result of the Spirit of Christ in their midst they were enriched “in all utterance, and in all knowledge.”  They had spiritual knowledge, and not only that, they could give it forth; there was a vital “discourse” taking place in their assembly—the sharing together of the things of Christ with one another.  And they came behind “in no gift.”  Paul brings these more fully into view in Chapter Twelve.  Diverse manifestations of the Spirit were abundant in the Corinthian assembly, and functioning together produced “the testimony of Christ.”  With a word, a psalm, a doctrine, a tongue, an interpretation, a prophecy, a revelation, a healing… each one of the Corinthians in differing ways and differing measures participated in the Testimony of Christ.  All were involved in this (1 Cor. 14.26).

There’s a lot of emphasis on the ministry these days.  There are a lot of great pastors around.  Because of the Internet there are a lot of great messages available.  But it’s painful how little of the corporate testimony there is—of this “one loaf, one body,” of this lampstand wherein the Oil of the Holy Spirit is aflame and light shines forth, light shines forth in the lampstand—in a church, I mean, every single member being vitally involved in the shining testimony.  You hear of anointed preaching.  But where is the corporate anointing that enables all in the body of Christ to function vitally?  As it is, the saints are pretty much used to leaving it all up to “the ministry,” and the ministry for the most part are content to leave it that way.  But this kind of church order is short of the glory of God.  We must seek the corporate testimony for Christ’s sake—for the glory of His Name.  It’s only as this corporate testimony comes into being that the communities around us will see the glory of the Lord.

“By one Spirit are ye baptized into one body,” said Paul.  I anticipate, then, that the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire—it is my conviction that this is yet ahead for us, though I know we have seen a measure of it in the past—is going to cause great shakings throughout the ten thousand denominations of Christendom.  God is going to bring into being local churches that function as one anointed body in which every member is vital—not just the pastor behind the pulpit.

And these local lampstands are going to be one in the Spirit with all other lampstands.  This thing called denominational Christianity is going to go up in smoke as a result of this powerful baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire.

And this baptism is going to cause great shakings in the “come-out-of-her” groups as well.  For, there is as much a sense of oldness about the come-outer groups and home fellowships these days as there is about the denominational system.  (I am encouraged by this; something new is at the door.)  In fact I would say there are many out there in the denominational system who, walking in the light they have, are walking a closer walk with Jesus than some of the “come-outers.”

Come-outers like to remind people that the true meaning of ekklesia is the called out assembly.  And they are the called-out ones, they insist.  But so was the Corinthian church a called-out assembly.  Just how far had they come out?  They were still in many ways carnal, Paul said, and walked as men. Because of it their lamp sent up a dirty, sooty flame.  There were divisions in their midst.  There was immorality.  And though they had been given abundant knowledge, they ended up priding themselves in the knowledge they had.  They thought they knew a lot.  Paul had to humble them on this account.  I think it is something like ten times in his first letter to the Corinthians that Paul—obviously deliberately—provoked them with the words, “Know ye not…?”  “Know ye not…?”  “Know ye not…?”

It isn’t knowledge that is the light that must shine in the lampstand, Paul said.  It is love that is light.

And so the great High Priest through His servant Paul had to trim the wick of this lampstand in order that the Testimony of Christ continue to shine brightly in Corinth.

The lampstand—a church—is a corporate witness.  Yes, each of us is to have a testimony which is the Testimony of Jesus Christ.  But the fullness of the Testimony of Jesus Christ is the corporate testimony.  Jesus prayed in His high-priestly prayer, “I have made known unto them Thy Name, and will make it known, that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in THEM, and I in THEM.”  Them, He says.  I in them.  It is a corporate thing.  If Jesus is in you as well as in me, how can there be any discord or division between us?  Or between churches?

I know there has been much emphasis on “the baptism,” and the gifts of the Spirit over the past century or so—more specifically since the 1948 revival at North Battleford, Saskatchewan, from which the Charismatic movement got its beginnings.  They got that name from the charismata—the gifts of the Spirit.  It wasn’t really God’s plan, but it seems He permitted men to take the charismata back into their denominations instead of coming out of the denominations and by one Spirit being baptized into one body.  Of course they realize they must have unity—the Bible calls for unity among Christians.  But they are determined they will have unity their own way—they will have “the baptism” and maintain their denominations in the process.  It is frightening disobedience to the Spirit of Christ.  Deception—great deception—is inevitable.  We are seeing it already.

And so let us be very watchful not to get drawn into it.

But let us be filled with anticipation also.  Yes, deception abounds.  The beautiful realm of the gifts of the Spirit has become contaminated.  The lights that once burned brightly have faded and yellowed.  Charismatic is almost a dirty word these days.  But there is more ahead of us than behind us.  There is yet a mighty baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire ahead for us.  I believe we are yet going to see manifestations of the Spirit, manifestations of Christ, that will utterly—and literally—floor us, and cause us to weep… and cry for joy.  People will fall on their faces and worship God.

And I believe we are going to see a wondrous unity come forth as God baptizes us by one Spirit into one body.  We have known so much of division.  We have mourned and wept over it all.  Who of us has not anguished with Christ over the divided condition of the body of Christ?  But His word still stands.  “By one Spirit are ye baptized into one body.”  The fire of this baptism must, then—and will—consume all that is discordant with the Lord Jesus Christ.  A corporate testimony of Jesus Christ is going to come forth.

Beloved, we must be encouraged in this dark hour to know that our Lord Jesus Christ is not finished yet.  He who walketh among the seven golden lampstands will not rest till His pure testimony is shining forth in every place.  And Jesus Christ Himself is seen in the churches!

What’s In Your Scope? (Part 1)

We have hunter types in the family, and come hunting season be sure of it.   They are out there scoping for game.  They get out the spotting scope and the binoculars and are off to the hills looking for their prey.

They did pretty well this year.  They got game in their binoculars, and then in the scopes of their rifles… and we have moose and elk in the deep freeze now.

I used to scope for game myself in earlier days, and one thing I know about looking through a scope.  When you are looking through a scope you are pretty much oblivious to all else around you.

Now, I realize it’s usually not good practice to pin modern English definitions to Greek words in the Bible merely because the Greek is the word from which the English is derived.  For example, our English word despot—a cruel dictator—is derived from the Greek despotees.  But this does not mean the people who used Greek in Bible days had a despot in mind when they used the word.  They meant one who has absolute power, and in fact the word is used of our Lord in a number of places.

However, here is a case where I think it works to export the English meaning back into the Greek.

“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
For our light affliction (or, tribulation), which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
While we look not on the things that are seen, but at the things that are not seen: for the things that are seen are temporal: but the things that are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4.16-16).

The Greek word for look here is skopeo, from which we get our English scope.  The Greek word meant to consider, to heed carefully, to mark.  We see the noun form in, “I press toward the mark.”  There was something Paul kept his eye on, you might say kept in his scope.

And Paul says we are to keep in our “scope” things that otherwise cannot be seen—eternal things.  We must be living our lives more or less oblivious to what is seen—trials and troubles, temporal things, our light affliction which is but for a moment—and keep scoped in on what cannot be seen apart from the eye of faith.

You mean when the troubles of life are right in our face we are to have our eyes fixed on things that cannot be seen?  That is a very amazing thing when you think about it.  You mean, here is a person who lives their life on the basis of something that cannot be seen—something in an entirely different realm, a different dimension?  Their life is governed by something unseen, something eternal?   They go by that?

Yes, it is truly amazing.  And so, Christian, let us consider this.  There is all kinds of Game roaming the everlasting hills of God—some of it very Big Game indeed.  But mere knowledge that the Game is out there will not do us much good.  We must keep that in our scope!  We must keep our spiritual faculties fixed on spiritual reality, on unseen things—on Jesus Christ who is Lord, not sin, not circumstance.  We must look not on the things that are seen, temporal things—but on unseen things, eternal things, eternal realities.

We must keep these in our scope. There is a kind of seeing that means what you see is on your table—you know what I mean.  You are able to live and walk by this heavenly reality.  It is effective in your life in everything you face.

I say this as a challenge to us all.  Let us be so scoped in on what cannot be seen that we walk in the reality of what cannot be seen.  There is a call in this very difficult hour for strong perception as to heavenly realities—the reality of the Lord Jesus Christ and His heavenly kingdom—a perception that enables us to live according to THAT, and not according to what is seen.  It is a perception that enables us to live by what is unseen.  It is the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus our Lord—His triumph over sin, and death, His victory over all evil.  It is to walk in the Light in the midst of darkness, such that the Light and reality of what Christ accomplished at Calvary—His victory over the world, the flesh, and the Devil—is as real in us as at Calvary.