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.

 

“Whoso Findeth Me Findeth Life”

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The other day I was browsing here and there in my old copy of William Gurnall’s The Christian In Complete Armour.  I was reading absent mindedly (not a practice I recommend) because I was thinking of a passage in Proverbs Chapter 8 that has laid hold of me for many days.

Blessed is the man that heareth me [that is, Wisdom], watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.

I was savouring the words in my thoughts. “Heareth me… watching daily at my gates… waiting at the posts of my doors…”  Here is someone with a one-track mind.   Someone intently focused day in and day out.

Suddenly before my eyes on the page of Gurnall’s book was this:

     It becomes thee, poor creature, to wait at the posts of wisdom…

Could you be speaking to me, dear Lord, poor creature that I am?

It’s a wonderful chapter, Proverbs Chapter 8.  Wisdom cries out to all men (this is gender inclusive language).

          Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of men.

What is the cry?

          O ye simple, understand wisdom, and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.

And so while the cry goes out to all, the implication is that those who are wise in their own eyes are not likely to hear Wisdom’s cry: this is for the simple, for fools.

I wish we had space to savour every word in the chapter.  About halfway through we come to this:

The LORD possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old.
I was set up [anointed] from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.
When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.
Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth:
While as yet He had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust [the primal dust, NKJV] of the world.
When He prepared the heavens, I was there: when He set a compass upon the face of the depth:
When He established the clouds above: when He strengthened the fountains of the deep:
When He gave to the sea His decree, that the waters should not pass His commandment: when He appointed the foundations of the earth,
Then I was by Him as one brought up with Him [as a master craftsman, NKJV]; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him;
Rejoicing in the habitable part of His earth, and my delights were with the sons of men.

And so the veil is drawn back a little; we begin to comprehend that the One who is speaking here is the Living Wisdom and Word of God Himself, who was with God in the beginning, and by whom God created all things.  It is not merely that God in illimitable power created all things; all that He did, as we discover in this chapter, He created with transcendent Wisdom.

And therefore it is Wisdom who says:

Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways.  Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not.

“Therefore…”  Whenever you see a therefore, find out what it’s there for.  This one is there to cause it to dawn on us that those who hear Wisdom’s instruction shall become Wisdom’s own work, akin to the wonders recounted in this chapter, which to read fills the heart with awe.

And so we come to the verses that have arrested me:

Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.
For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD.

“Whoso findeth me findeth life.”  That one line has especially captivated me; this is why the call is to hear, and watch, and wait so intently and so continually.  “Whoso findeth me findeth life.”

To find wisdom is to find life.  God asked Job (if you recall from last time):

          Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom?

No, not by Job’s wisdom; God’s wisdom, which He gave freely to the hawk, wisdom with life in it, wisdom empowering it to fly.  The bird of the air and the beast of the field, the tree of the forest and the rock of the hill, the clouds above and the fountains of the deep—everything God created—is a revelation of some facet of His eternal Wisdom, who, as God’s Master Craftsman, wrought all His works, rejoicing continually before Him, and was daily His delight in the bringing forth of the old creation.

You know where I’m headed with this, don’t you.

For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God hath before prepared that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10).

“Created in Christ Jesus…”  The new creation!  And, “we are His workmanship…”  We—that is, the Church.  The word workmanship is the Greek poema, which means this Master Craftsman’s handiwork, His masterpiece, the project He has poured His all into, even Himself.  It is His life’s work, the crowning piece of all His wisdom and works, beyond which there is not, nor ever can be, any greater.  The Church of Jesus Christ, “the church which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.”  I know, it’s a far cry from what we see in our world around us today.  But let us tred softly, and remind ourselves that we don’t see it all; much of the work is behind this Artist’s veil, and He—Wisdom the Master Craftsman—is not finished yet.

Wisdom is, as we mentioned above, the Logos, the Word who became flesh—our Lord Jesus Christ.  But I am almost reluctant to state this, lest we file this in our mental filing cabinet as more information in the “Things I Already Know” file.  We need to look at this the other way around.  To hear our Lord Jesus Christ is to hear Wisdom speaking the word that is life, and which, as we respond, builds us uniquely and vitally into Wisdom’s new-creation building project.

If we’re not hearing (that is, hearkening to) that kind of word, we’re not really hearing our Lord Jesus Christ.

And so, I lay this to heart. I take my place with those among the sons of men to whom Wisdom cries—the simple, the fools.

But I am told that though I am such, I am blessed…

…If I hear Wisdom’s instruction.

…If I take my place at Wisdom’s gate, watching daily.

…If I stand at the posts of Wisdom’s doors, waiting as a servant waits.

For I know that Wisdom shall surely speak.   And I will find life

…And draw out from God His favour.

Wisdom continues with these somber words:

But He that sinneth against me [or, as some versions have it, he who misses me, or does not find me] wrongeth his own soul.  All they that hate me love death.

What a fearful warning.  Could not this wonderful chapter be concluded on a happier note?  But that’s the way Wisdom ends the chapter.

I’ll leave it there too.

 

 

God’s Whispered Word And Wisdom

Now that with age my eyes are getting a little better, I’ve discovered they’ve been graced to see more often in the old creation the invisible things of God.

The grandeur of a great mountain.  A growing tree.  A branch.  A leaf.  A brook flowing crystal clear.  The speckles on a trout…  These all have a message to speak that, when understood, enables us to know better the One who created all this and left us with a sense of wonder about it all.  And He created it not just a display of His great power, but also of His great wisdom.  Everything He created contains, and reveals, some aspect of the wondrous wisdom of God.

O LORD, how manifold are thy works!  In wisdom Thou hast made them all…  (Ps. 104:24).

Some time ago I was out in a popular recreation area.  It was a beautiful day, and warm, and around me were many people, most of them young people preoccupied with themselves and their play, rapt in the illusion that youth is eternal, enjoying themselves and the beautiful day, and God’s beautiful creation—yet totally oblivious to the God who created it all.  I felt such a darkness there, the darkness of the darkened heart of man, the lostness of man.  It started to close in on me, and I wanted to get away.  As I turned and took a step I happened to glance down at the ground.  The once green grass had been worn to the dirt by the many people walking back and forth, yet there at my feet was a bee seeking nectar in a little flower of clover that had somehow escaped the foot of man.  And a sudden flash of illumination came upon me—I wasn’t even looking for it—of an Order, a Wisdom, that had brought a whole creation into being.  I felt a sudden yet familiar fear.

And in that fear, a longing prayer—that my own life become more and more an expression of that same eternal Wisdom that pervades the natural creation.

A longing, I say, and an expectation.  I am reminded of something Job said:

Lo, these are but the outskirts of his ways: And how small a whisper do we hear  of him! (Job 26:14 ASV).

Job had been reminding his friends about certain wonders of the natural creation that reveal God’s power and wisdom.  Yet marvels though they are, Job said these are just the outskirts, the fringes, of God’s ways.  By His word God had spoken it all into existence—the heavens and the earth, and all that is therein.  But, said Job, that’s only His whispered word.  And he just knew, somehow, that God had more to say.  That led him to ask a further question:

But the thunder of His power who can understand?

To what extent Job discovered the answer to his question I don’t know.  But if the old creation is God’s wisdom and word in a whisper… is not the new creation His thunder?  Thus, my expectation.

Later God asks Job many questions about His whispers, and by them He “convinceth Job of ignorance and imbecility” (as the heading of the page in my old King James Bible reads).  Thus God opened his eyes to see Him like never before, and he repented in dust and ashes.

Oh what wondrous questions He asked him.  When I read them I too am convicted of ignorance and imbecility.  Among them He asked, “Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts?  Or who hath given understanding to the heart?” (Job 38.36).

Again He asked, “Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom?” (Job 39:26).  You mean the hawk flies by wisdom?  Apparently, yes.  That is God whispering to the open, attentive ear.  The wisdom God gave the hawk is a wisdom and understanding that is not mere blackboard teaching, but has empowering life in it by which the hawk soars in the heavens.  That is wisdom.

And that is the kind of wisdom His new creation Man is to walk in; that’s what is ours in Christ Jesus—that kind of wisdom, wisdom with power in it, wisdom with life in it, something akin to the instinct of life that we see in earthly creatures like the hawk.  We call it instinct.  God calls it wisdom.  The New Creation man is not someone who is trying to live by rules written in the Bible, whether in the Old Testament, or even in the New.  He is living his life out from what he is by nature: a new creation in Christ Jesus, in whom a Law and Wisdom is written in the inward parts—in the heart—the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus.

The new creation Man, we are told, is God’s handiwork, the masterpiece of His creative genius and wisdom (Eph. 2:10).  He is creating us in Christ Jesus, is bringing to maturity a many-membered new creation Man governed by a Law of Life and Wisdom that the old creation is just a whisper of.

It means an order, a harmony among those members, that is utterly breathtaking.

And when the Queen of Sheba had seen the wisdom of Solomon, and the house that he had built, and the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance [the standing] of his ministers, and of their apparel; his cupbearers also, and their apparel, and his ascent by which he went up into the house of the LORD, there was no more breath in her (2 Chr. 9.4).

What did the Queen of Sheba see?  What took her breath away?  Solomon’s wisdom, yes.  But the transcendent order of it all—of his kingdom and temple, the house he built for God.  The order, the harmony, of his many attendants and servants.  Yet the temple Solomon built was only a type, a shadow, of the new creation temple a Greater than Solomon is even now building in the earth.  With what is He building this new creation temple?  With Wisdom—the same Wisdom and Word by which He made the old creation (Pr. 8.22-31, Ps. 104.24).  And when He is finished, this Temple, this House, will shine forth all the fullness of the wisdom and glory of God such that all nations shall bow before Him—and principalities and powers in heavenly places as well—when they see in the Church “the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:10).

I tremble to think of this—that this is actually going to happen.  Even unbelievers, even the most godless of men, they love to get out in nature.  It’s the order, the harmony, they touch in the old creation, and though they refuse to know God, they stand in awe of it all.  But when those in the world around us see God’s order fully revealed in the kingdom of His new creation Man, in the Church which is His body, in the House and Temple which is the masterpiece of all His works—when they begin to see the Christians at last walking together in the new creation Life and Wisdom of God, and in the harmony of a new creation Order, it is going to be order out of chaos to them, and the fear of God is going to grip them, and they are going to believe (Jn. 17:20-23).  They are going to see such fearful harmony ordered by the new creation Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus that it is going to utterly take their breath away, and turn their hearts to Him in a way that present-day Christendom, with the cacophony of all its discord and divisions, has not been able to do.

They are going to hear instead a voice of many waters blended together in one majestic Voice—the thunder of His power.

I tremble at the prospect.

 

 

 

 

 

Now The Good News

First the bad news: we wrote about that last time.  Now the Good News.  That is God’s order, which we see in the way He sets forth the day in Genesis.  First evening, then morning.  First darkness, then light.

The dimensions of the Good News are greater than the universe, so I am acutely conscious of the smallness of this blog entry.  But simply put, the Good News is light shining in the darkness—light that opens the eyes of the spiritually blind.  If it is just words (and oh, we have so much that is just words), people’s eyes will not be opened to see their grave condition.  Make no mistake: the bad news of man’s spiritual state is very bad news; any thought people have that things are not all that bad is a serious deception with serious consequences.  And people cannot be talked out of their blindness; their eyes must be opened so they may see and be convicted, and come to repentance, and turn from darkness to light, from the authority of Satan unto God (Acts 26:18).

Here again is that passage in Ephesians we enlarged on last time, and notice again how Paul sets forth the bad news in the past tense.

And you… who were dead in trespasses and sins
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the age of this world, according to the prince of the authority of the air, the spirit that now worketh in [energizes] the children of the disobedience;
Among whom we all had our conduct in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath even as others” (Eph. 2:1-3).

Why the past tense?  It’s because the people to whom Paul is writing are “saints… the faithful in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 1:1).  They are no longer in Adam, but are now, joy of joys, in Christ.  And so he says that they were dead in trespasses and sins.  Now they are alive with the life of Christ.  Further, in the past they walked according to the age of this world and the spirit that has authority over the children of the disobedience.  They walk this way no longer.  They are no longer within that spirit’s domain.  They are not under his authority now.  They once had their conduct in the lusts of their flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.  Not anymore.  They are no longer children of wrath.

What made this possible?  Paul hastens on to tell us.  He had introduced this passage with the words, “And you…”  Now come the words, “But God…”

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 are ye saved);
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus;
That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Following the bad news that Paul has first opened our eyes to, this is good news, exceeding good news!  It is mind blowing, in fact, stretching beyond its limits our capacity to comprehend it all.  I read this and other passages, and… am I dreaming?  Can this be true?  Can mortal eyes actually be reading this?  You mean those in Christ are no longer in the domain of sin and death? They are in another kingdom now, where grace and life reign?  Is that not a wonder?  Is that not astonishing good news?  Yes!  And cause for great joy!

Yet those words, “for His great love wherewith He loved us,” were written, I am sure, with tears, and we must go to other scriptures to find out more fully what this love involved.  If those to whom Paul was writing had been quickened together with Christ, and raised up together with Him, and seated together with Him in the heavenlies, it was because through faith in Jesus and baptism into Christ they had become partakers of what God accomplished on the Cross of Calvary, where Christ was baptized into the death that Adam in his disobedience had brought upon himself and all his progeny. Since all those in Adam were dead in sin, Christ died to sin, so that all who are baptized into Him might be dead to sin and live unto God, unto righteousness (Rom. 6:1-11, 2 Pt. 2:24).  He who knew no sin—shoes off, please—was made sin for us, that we might become nothing less than the very righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21).

Back to the Ephesian passage: let’s continue to pay attention to some tenses, and the reason we are doing this is because all too often much of this is relegated to the future or to Heaven.  Not so.  Those to whom Paul was writing, those in Christ, were quickened (at a past point in time) together with Christ.  They were raised together with Him.  This is also the past tense.  When did this happen?  It happened when they were baptized into Christ.  (It is baptism in Holy Spirit that accomplishes this, not baptism in water, which is also necessary.  But this is a topic too large; it will have to wait for another time.)  Baptized into Christ they are no longer in Adam now.  They are in Christ; it is His resurrection life they are now partakers of.  Walking with Christ in resurrection life is the present reality of those in Christ (Rom. 6:4).  Further, they are even now seated together with Christ in the heavenlies.  This also took place in their baptism into Christ, since this is where He Himself is seated at the right hand of God.  Then comes the future, and what a future it is.  “…That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”  It appears that it takes eternal life in the ages to come to explore this great salvation that is in Christ.

And so when Paul now pens everybody’s favourite verse, let us bear in mind what he has in mind—the immense dimensions of the salvation he has just been speaking of:

For, by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.
Not of works lest any man should boast.

This is Good News—the salvation that God has freely prepared in Christ for any who are willing to receive Him.  Salvation by grace through faith is the wondrous gift of God in Christ.  (For salvation is not a product we receive apart from Christ Himself.)  And yes, His grace means the forgiveness of sins because of His death.  But much more, grace also means salvation from sin’s power in the life of an entirely new creation Man who is no longer under the reign of death.  They have “passed from death to life” (Jn. 5:24).  They have eternal life—even now (1 Jn. 5:13).  In due time this eternal life will catch up to their bodies (Rom. 8:23), but even while yet in mortal flesh, those in Christ have eternal life, and even now reign in the power of that life (Rom. 5:17).

What Does This Look Like?

 If this is the present reality of those in Christ—being made alive together with Christ, being raised up with Him, being seated with Him in the heavenlies—what does this look like?  What does reigning in life look like while we are yet in mortal flesh?

It looks like love.  Love is the primal characteristic of those who live, those in whom death no longer reigns.

We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren.  He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.  Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him (1 Jn. 3:14,15).

Eternal life, then, reigning life, finds its expression in love.  In its many facets of patience, endurance, faith, forbearance, forgiveness, humility, obedience… love is revealed, reigning where sin and death once reigned, ruling where pride once ruled.  I think you may see where I’m coming from here, and where I’m going.  Remember (from last time) the route that Lucifer mapped out for himself?

I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God,
I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation in the sides of the north:
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will be like the Most High.  (Isa. 14:13,14)

Christ took a different route.  He thought it not rapine—a thing to be taken and held by force—to be equal with God (Phil. 2:5-8).  Rather, He emptied Himself, becoming in the likeness of men.  No, not famous men, not rich men, not high men.  He took on Him the form of a bondslave.  And being found in fashion as a man He humbled Himself even further, and became obedient unto death.  No, not a noble death, not a hero’s death.  The death of a despised criminal.  The lowest of the low.  The death of a cross.

That is a different pathway than the one Lucifer sought to take, and into which he invited Adam to turn and walk with him, to the ruin of the race.  Christ’s pathway was in the opposite direction—His motive was love—to the salvation of a new race.  Being found in fashion as a man, instead of seeking the heights, instead of seeking to ascend into heaven, instead of seeking to sit in a throne above the stars of God, instead of seeking to ascend above the heights of the clouds, Christ descended into the lower parts of the earth—which meant taking upon Himself the apron of a bondslave who washed the feet of others, always the duty of the lowest slave.  “I am among you,” He told His disciples, “as one who serves” (Lk. 22:27).  He called this service love (Jn. 13:1).

But then, His love going deeper, He went even further, and walked in obedience unto death, a death that was in His case unjust.  Yet this route took Him to the destination that Lucifer never arrived to by his own self-seeking route.

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him… (Phil. 2:9).

His motive was love.  He is there for our sake, not His own, that in the power of His Spirit we may live as He lives, love as He loves—reign as He reigns, in our own cross, and in all circumstances, just as He reigned in His.  This, beloved, is the way of salvation—the way of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the way of the Cross—the way love.  He humbled Himself and become obedient unto death, even the death of a cross.  It was there on the Cross that He died to the root of pride in the heart of man.  His humiliation is our salvation.  Those who are seated together with Him in the heavenlies—it is His throne they are in, it is He who is exalted.  Gone now is any thought of exalting our own throne, gone is the Serpent’s poisonous thought of reigning above the stars; rather, we reign in the humility of Christ, knowing that the kings of God’s kingdom are servants of all, bondslaves who serve others in love, laying down their lives for one another in love.  As their Lord had done, so do they (Jn. 3:16, 1 Jn. 3:16).  This is their greatest honour.

It is the lowliness and love of God in Christ that overcame the pride of the Serpent that man was infected with in the beginning.  Instead of the poison of the Serpent coursing through us—pride, envy, malice, hatred—the love and humility of God now flows in and through those who are in Christ, motivating all they say and do.  That is salvation.

And what is the purpose of all this—this so great salvation?  It is to the intent that God may be glorified in a Man who is His very image and likeness.  God said in the beginning, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” and formed Adam of the dust of the ground.  The Serpent determined to efface that image, and did.  So entered the bad news.  But God foiled the Serpent in his purpose, for, even before the beginning God had the Good News in mind, and in the fullness of time, brought forth out of Adam another Man.  His eternal purpose was not in Adam, but “in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:11).  It is this Man who is the true image of God (2 Cor. 4:4, Heb. 1:3).  But when this Man came on the scene, Satan determined to efface Him as well.  He was foiled again.  This time utterly.  In the wisdom of God, the very cross upon which Satan conspired to have Christ crucified became our salvation.

And so it turns out that what we said about the Good News following the bad news—yes, that’s true, but God had the Good News in mind even before the bad news.  He could never have endured the bad news of what was going on in his creature man if He had not, before it all, prepared “a Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:18).  This was God’s comfort of hope in the bad news He knew was coming.  The Gospel.  The Glad Tidings.  The Good News.  The Lamb of God.  Our Lord Jesus Christ.

First The Bad News

You know how it is in our cynical world: someone tells you they’ve got good news for you… and bad news.  They give you the good news but you’re already steeled for the letdown.  “What’s the bad news?”  The bad news that follows always eclipses the good news.

It is not so with God.  With Him, the bad news is first.  Then the good news.

Here is the bad news as set forth by the apostle Paul.

And you… who were dead in trespasses and sins
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the age of this world, according to the prince of the authority of the air, the spirit that now worketh in [energizes] the children of the disobedience;
Among whom we all had our conduct in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath even as others” (Eph. 2:3).

This is the grave diagnosis of the human condition.  Let’s look at it a little closer.  “And you,” Paul says.  He is writing to people who were once in Adam, but are now in Christ (Eph. 1:1).  What then was their former state?  What is the state of all those in Adam?  He says they are “dead in trespasses and sins.”  They are “the children of disobedience.”  Actually in the Greek it’s “the  disobedience”—Adam’s disobedience, which opened the door for an alien spirit to begin working in him, and consequently, because he was the head of the race, in all his progeny.  Every person born into the human race is in a state of spiritual death because the Serpent succeeded in exporting his own sin into the world through the disobedience of Adam.  This is what Paul says in Romans 5.  “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed through unto all men, because all sinned…” (Rom. 5:12).  A few verses later Paul talks of death reigning (Rom. 5:14,17).  And so death is not just an event that terminates mortal life.  Death reigns over all those in Adam from the moment they are born to the end of their life.  Even while they go about their lives in this world, they are in a state of death.  They are, as we read here in Ephesians, “dead in trespasses and sins, wherein in times past ye walked…”  All those in Adam are, then, as all those in Christ once were, the walking dead.

That is their state.  And they are under a domain.  “…Wherein in times past ye walked, according to the age of this world…”  Being dead in trespasses and sins, their walk (their way of life) accords with this present age, which is an evil age—“this present evil age” (Gal. 1:4).  This age has a prince over it whose domain is “the air.”  Paul is not really talking about the physical atmosphere of our planet, but the “atmosphere” of this present world system in which people attempt to thrive even while dead in trespasses and sins, building their world even while denying they are in a state of rebellion against God.  It’s all largely the attempt to be independent of Him, free of Him.  It’s the greatest of bondage, they are far from free; they are under the rule and authority of another, they walk “according to the prince of the authority of the air…”  Who is this prince, who has authority over the air?  He is a spirit.  “…The spirit that now worketh in [or, energizes] the children of the disobedience.”  It’s Adam’s disobedience, as we said.  But going deeper, it’s the disobedience of this angelic prince who rebelled against God some time prior to the events of Genesis Chapter One.  We are told very little in our Bible about this rebellion, but we are shown its essence in Isaiah 14 where the prophet is given revelation as to what happened in the heart of a heavenly being once named Lucifer.

For thou hast said in thine heart,
I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God,
I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation in the sides of the north:
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will be like the Most High.

Note the refrain.  “I will.”  The insistence, “my throne.”   It was rebellion against the will of God, and the throne of God.  And back in the Garden of Eden this prince succeeded in bringing Adam into his rebellion.  The day that Adam bit into the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, it was disobedience to God, and he died for it.  Actually it was Adam who was bitten that day by the poisoned-tongued Serpent.  In that moment the venom of the Serpent began to course through his being, and he died.  Now all in Adam have in their systems this Serpent’s poison, this prince’s fundamental principle: not God, but I.  Not God’s throne.  My throne.  Not God’s will.  My will.  I will, I will, I will…  They are the disobedient children of Adam’s disobedience, dead in trespasses and sins.

“…Among whom we all had our conduct in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath even as others” (Eph. 2:3).

That is the bad news.  It is very bad news.  That is why our world is in the state it is in.  All those in Adam have been poisoned with the venom of the Serpent.  They are dead, and dying, because of it.  They are “alienated from the life of God” (Eph. 4:18).  And no man has in himself or in all his worldly resources any serum capable of remedying this condition.

“And you…”  It was with those two words that Paul began to relay the bad news.

“But God…”  With these two words he begins to proclaim the good news that follows the bad news.  That is God’s order.  First the bad news.  Then the good news.  His good news is the Gospel—the Glad Tidings, the Good News—of Jesus Christ.  It is very good news, unspeakably good news, utterly eclipsing the bad news.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.