Tag Archives: Cross

The Spoils Of Battle

Why is it so hard these days to liberate people from their bondage to sin?  Why do we see so few turning from darkness to light, and from the authority of Satan unto God?  Is it just a matter of their own stubbornness, or is there more to it?

It’s very enlightening to discover time and again in the Old Testament that whichever side won the battle also took the spoils.  If Israel’s enemies won a battle, they spoiled the Israelites.  If Israel  won, they spoiled, plundered, their enemies, taking into their own possession what had been their enemies’.

The plunder was often brought into the treasuries of the house of the LORD, an open acknowledgement that since the battle was the LORD’s, the plunder was His.  Whether they knew it or not, those who were at war with Israel were at war with the LORD.  And so when He defeated His enemies, the spoils of battle belonged to Him. The victors plundered whatever they wanted from the slain on the battlefield, or from their towns and lands.  It might be armour, or garments, or gold and silver and precious stones, or livestock, or slaves.  Some of the spoil the warriors kept for themselves or distributed among those who had not been able to fight; much of it became the resources of the house of God.

Here are a few illustrations from Scripture.

While David was at Ziklag he sent to the elders of Judah “a present for you of the  spoil of the enemies of the LORD” (1 Sam. 30:26).

David also regularly dedicated the spoils of battle to the treasuries of the house of the Lord.

 Out of the spoils won in battles did they [David’s captains] dedicate to maintain [that is, strengthen] the house of the LORD (1 Chr. 26:27).

On one occasion three of David’s mighty men defied the whole Philistine army.  One of the three, Eleazar  the son of Dodo “arose and smote the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clave unto the sword: and the LORD wrought a great victory that day” (2 Sam. 23:10).    For some reason, the men of Israel were not around for this battle.   We are not told why, but when everybody came back the battle was all over.   Eleazar had defeated the whole Philistine army single handed.  “And the people returned after him only to spoil.”  That was easy, eh?

Here’s a story from the days of Asa, king of Judah.  Zerah the Ethiopian had come against Judah with “a host of a thousand thousand.”

 And Asa cried unto the LORD his God, and said, LORD, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O LORD our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O LORD, thou art our God; let not man prevail against thee.

Note those words: “Let not man prevail against Thee.”

 So the LORD smote the Ethiopians before Asa, and before Judah; and the Ethiopians fled.  And Asa and the people that were with him pursued them unto Gerar: and the Ethiopians were overthrown, that they could not recover themselves; for they were destroyed before the LORD, and before his host; and they carried away very much spoil. And they smote all the cities round about Gerar; for the fear of the LORD came upon them: and they spoiled all the cities; for there was exceeding much spoil in them. They smote also the tents of cattle [the livestock enclosures] and carried away sheep and camels in abundance, and returned to Jerusalem (2Ch 14:11-15).

Notice again the true perspective of this victory.  “They were destroyed before the LORD, and before His host.”  Zerah and his host had come against Judah, but it was actually God against whom they were fighting.  God answered Asa’s prayer and did not let man prevail against Him.   Therefore the spoils of battle were His.

 So they gathered themselves together at Jerusalem in the third month, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa. And they offered unto the LORD the same time, of the spoil which they had brought, seven hundred oxen and seven thousand sheep (2 Chr. 15:10,11).

Surely this speaks prophetically to us in a day when our Adversary the Devil has flocks and herds of men in countless numbers in his fold.  How long do you think God is going to put up with that?  God means them to become an offering to Him.  Are we not then jealous for what belongs to God?  Why do we put up with it?

And do we not see a pattern in these Old Testament stories?  A victory accomplished means easy spoils for the taking.

This is just what Jesus Himself said—that while the strong man keeps his palace [his courtyard] his goods are secure.  But when the stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he strips him of the armour he trusted in, and divides the spoils (Lk 11:21,22).

This happened at Calvary.  It was there and then that Christ the stronger-than-he overcame His (and our) adversary the Devil, the strongman.

 And having spoiled [stripped] principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it [that is, in His cross] (Col 2:15).

We note two things about the Luke passage.  The Stronger-than-he comes upon the strongman.  The cross was an offensive action.  The initiative was God’s.  And it was utterly deadly and totally devastating.

Secondly, once the strong man has been dealt with, spoiling what was in his possession became the easy thing; the victor, Christ, was free to take for Himself the slaves that the strong man earlier held with careless ease.  We don’t have to read too far into the Book of Acts to verify this.  Peter’s Spirit-breathed words in the power of the ascended Christ gathered in the spoil of 3,000 souls in one day.  And that was only the beginning.

But, someone asks, where is that now?  If at Calvary the Stronger-than-the-strongman came upon the strongman and overcame him,  why in our day does the Devil still hold his captives so securely in his armour of darkness?  Why are we not free to take the spoils?  Where is the victory of Calvary?

Let me answer that question with another question.  Where is the Cross in our lives, fellow Christian?  It is the victory of Christ on Calvary’s cross that defeated the strongman, the Prince of darkness.  And so the spoils are His; only the One who gained the victory can spoil the strongman’s palace.

Oh, how critical, then, that we His soldiers learn to fight His battle with His strategy, learn to take our orders from Him, learn His strategy, His secret weapon—learn to engage the battle and victory of the Cross.

Taking the spoil is then the easy part—which belongs to the One who won the battle.

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 Life That Killeth Death

The last few days I have been mourning the death of a friend.  Our friend Amanda, after a long fight with cancer, died a few days ago.

This was all the harder for many of us because we had been praying earnestly for Amanda, hoping she would be healed.  Yet our Lord did not heal her.  She died, leaving behind her a husband and twelve children… some so young they will never have known their mother.

I know few people who had the depth of faith this woman had.  On one occasion she made Job’s words her own:  “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”  So let me repeat what I said, this time more accurately.  Our friend lost a battle with cancer.  But she won the victory of faith.  For, she held her faith in Jesus to the end.  She died in faith.

In fact (again more accurately) Amanda didn’t actually die.  She fell asleep in Jesus.  This is not just a euphemism.  This is the way the apostles referred to believers who had passed on (1 Cor. 15.6,18).

For, to those who believe in Jesus, the power of death has been broken.  Jesus Christ has “abolished death” (2 Tim. 1.10).  The word translated abolished is a very strong word in the Greek.  It is katargeo, which is made up of three parts: kata-a-ergeo.  Kata is a prefix which is often used as an intensifier.  This is followed by a, which in the Greek is the negative (as in a-theist).  And then the stem ergeo, which means to work.  And so Paul proclaims that what Jesus Christ did on Calvary’s cross resulted in death being made totally unable to work.  For those who believe in Jesus, death totally does not work; death absolutely does not work anymore, is of no effect anymore… for those who believe in Jesus.

And Paul goes on to say that this is something that the Gospel is supposed to make manifest—not just tell us about, but actually make manifest.  Christ has “abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel” (2 Tim.1.10).

So… this is the shape my mourning has taken the last few days.  Yes, I mourn for my sister, but more than that, I am mourning for the reality of this powerful Gospel—the Good News that manifests, that shines forth as light, the victory of Christ at Calvary.  Those who know the Good News ought to be walking in a Life that is totally triumphant over the whole kingdom of sin and death.  Is that the case with you?  With me?

Just today the lines of the poem that inspired the title for my blog came again to mind:

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
Such a way as gives us breath;
Such a truth as ends all strife,
Such a life as killeth death.

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
Such a light as shows a feast,
Such a feast as mends in length,
Such a strength as makes his guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
Such a joy as none can move,
Such a love as none can part,
Such a heart as joys in love.

(The Call by George Herbert, 1593-1633)

What’s this—a life that killeth death?  It’s ingrained in our thinking that death always triumphs over life, that death kills life.  And so we fear death.  But no, there is a Life that kills death, a Life that triumphs over death…

…Because it is a Life that leads in the Pathway of the Cross.  Jesus, walking in the Pathway of Life… this Pathway led Him to the Cross, where He accomplished the greatest thing that has ever happened in the universe.

He Hell in hell laid low;
Made sin, He sin o’erthrew;
Bowed to the grave, destroyed it so,
And death by dying slew.

Samuel Whitlock Gandy, 1780-1851

What paradoxes.  The Lord Jesus Christ manifested the Life “that killeth death.”  This Life led Him to the Cross, where He “death by dying slew.”  Eternal paradoxes.  And entirely scriptural.  By dying, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ destroyed (there’s that same word again, katargeo) him that had the power of death, that is, the Devil (Heb. 2.14).  He slew the Devil with His own weapon (as David did Goliath), and delivered those who “through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”

For, He became sin for us—He who knew no sin.  And that is what causes death—sin. It’s there in the whole family of Adam, from the tiny baby to the ancient man.  Sin.  The poison of sin is at work in the whole family of Adam.  It’s the sting of death.  “The sting of death is sin” (1 Cor. 15.56).  In other words, when somebody sins they have been stung by death.  Sin is the sting of death.  But Jesus took the sting out of death.  He became sin for us—your sin and mine—and died, taking sin down into the grave with Him.  He died unto sin.  He died for our sins.  He died for our sins—and rose again for our justification.  What a revelation!  Paul says that if Christ has not risen from the dead, “your faith is vain (futile), ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15.17).  The implication is that if Christ is risen from the dead (and He is), we are not in our sins.  If Christ is risen from the dead, this is evidence that the sting of death (sin) has been removed, and so we who believe in Him are no more in our sins.  And, therefore, what hold can death have on us?  And so Paul concludes:

Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15.57).

What is that victory?  Yes, it’s the triumph of the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary.  But thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  That’s what the Gospel is all about—or ought to be.  It ought to be a shining forth in our lives of the truth and victory that Christ wrought at Calvary, and which enables us to walk in Life even as He Himself walked.

I have to say that this is all too often not the case among us Christians, and so, as I said, I have been mourning for this.  I believe that if the Life of Jesus were more the reality we are walking in, my friend Amanda would still be with us.  I simply cannot accept that the present state of worldliness and weakness and sickness that is plaguing the churches is the will of God.

However, I know that my friend Amanda died in faith, and so, regardless what death seems still able to accomplish, it is faith that triumphs.  Death may be boasting over yet another of its victims, but faith has the last word.  For even though we see not yet the final victory over this the last enemy, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen” (Heb. 11.1).  Yes, the world is full of sin and sickness and death.  But faith is the victory.

…This is the victory that overcame the world, our faith (1 Jn. 5.4).

And this is why Amanda is not dead.  She is asleep… and waiting to be awakened.

See you later, Amanda.

Here is George Herbert’s The Call set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Love The Brotherhood

We are living in days when the price tag on being a Christian—a true Christian—is becoming increasingly apparent.  That’s already true in many countries where to be a Christian costs you your life, or prison, or severe persecution even at the hands of those you love most.

We haven’t seen much of that here in western lands so far, but the forces of darkness here are becoming increasingly hostile these days.  If you stand for truth and righteousness you are going to pay for it—even here in the so-called free world.

A while ago when reading through 1 Peter I noticed something I hadn’t seen before.  This letter is well known for its emphasis on trial and suffering.  But I noticed that interlaced through the letter there is a call—that we love one another.

And so I think, brothers and sisters, that as we see things growing more difficult we are going to see something else growing—something very beautiful–the fervent love of Christ among the brethren in a world that hates God and His Christ.

It’s because of this hatred that Peter urges us:

Love the brotherhood (1 Pt. 2.17).

And also:

Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful (tenderhearted), courteous (of a friendly mind) (1 Pt. 3.8).

Peter says finally, but apparently the Holy Spirit wasn’t finished yet.  He goes on to talk about suffering for doing what is right, saying that if we are determined to follow Christ in this world and truly cease from sin, we are going to suffer for it.  And then he brings up this matter of love again.

And above all things have fervent love among yourselves: for love shall cover the multitude of sins (1 Pt. 4.8).

I noticed in my Greek Interlinear bible that the article is there; it reads, “have the fervent love among yourselves.”  Peter has a specific love in mind.  I think it can only be the very love of Christ he has in mind, the fervent love of Christ who in His love for us was stretched out on a cross for us.

The Greek word for fervent actually means stretched out, meaning intensely strained, as if on the rack.  And Peter urges us that this same intense fervent love be among us.

In fact at the beginning of his letter he has already called for this.  “See that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently…”  Let’s look at this more closely.

Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently,
Being born again… (1 Pt. 1.22,23).

So, love is the evidence of the new birth.  How is it, then, that even among those who lay claim to the new birth there has been so much… let’s just call it opposite-of-love?  But Peter says it’s a purified soul that shows unfeigned fervent love.  It’s possible to be born again and still carnal.  The born again person must grow and be purified of all carnality.  And so when we are not walking in love, it’s because of the impurities in our heart—selfish ambition, self love, the lusts of other things….

But God has something that is able to deal with all that carnality—the fiery trial that Peter has been talking about all through his letter.  Here’s the much-quoted passage.  And notice the word Peter uses to begin it.

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you;
But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad with exceeding joy (1 Pt. 4.13,14).

We are loved, brothers and sisters.  Let us love one another, then, with stretched-out love.

All I Saw Was Love

A woman who reads my blog recently sent me the link to the testimony of a Muslim woman who had an encounter with Jesus Christ.  It is one of the most moving testimonies I have ever heard.  Jesus began to reveal Himself to this woman in dreams and visions—something that apparently is happening frequently in the Islamic world.  She went through the inevitable rejection and beatings by her family, and then she was in church one Sunday when a bomb went off.  Many were killed.  Then a second bomb exploded.  This time she herself was hit.  I’ll let you listen to what happened then.

The woman gives as the lodestar of her Christian journey this verse:

They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives so much as to shrink from death (Rev. 12.11 NIV).

I want to listen to this testimony again, for this woman said some very penetrating and challenging things.  But last night after listening to her testimony, I was left with this thought, also from The Revelation.  Christ exhorted the Christians of Philadelphia to hold fast what they had, lest someone else take their crown (Rev. 3.11).  As I thought about that, in my mind’s eye (it was not a vision) I saw as it were a field of discarded crowns.  For, these days there are a lot of crosses lying around on the ground that western Christians have not picked up.  Perhaps they are blind as to what they are really neglecting.  Their crowns.  That’s what that field of crosses is—a field of crowns.  The thing is, there are others out there in Islamic lands and other places who are grabbing up those crowns—those crosses.

And one day there will be none left.

I encourage you to take the time (you’ll need about an hour) to listen to this incredible testimony.  The link is below.

I realize that some will raise an eyebrow when they discover this comes out of Bethel Church in Redding, California, but I promise you that your raised eyebrow will be humbled (as mine was) by listening to this.

At the same time, this is not an endorsement of the other messages on the same link, which I have not yet listened to.

http://podcasts.ibethel.org/en/podcasts/all-i-saw-was-love

Nay World, I Turn Away

I mentioned last time the price tag that is on the Testimony of Christ in our lives—the Testimony of the Spirit that means the Presence of Christ Himself is with us.  This will garner us the same thing it garnered Him.

But there is a price tag—a far heavier price tag—on being the friend of this world that hates God and His Christ. Oh, the loss… to one day discover that in going my own way in this present life (which is but a vapour), I missed out on the golden opportunity and privilege of walking with precious Jesus, and sharing His Cross… and being one in a great company of others who have done so at the cost of their lives in this world– the saints of the Lord.

Do I want to be the friend of a world that has crucified my Lord?  A world that through the centuries has spilled the blood of my brothers and sisters in great numbers, and continues to do so even today?

Nay world, I turn away,
Though thou seem fair and good:
That friendly outstretched hand of thine
Is stained with Jesus’ blood.
If in thy least device
I stoop to take a part,
All unaware thine influence steals
God’s presence from my heart.

I miss My Saviour’s smile
Whene’er I walk thy ways;
Thy laughter drowns the Spirit’s voice
And chokes the song of praise.
Whene’er I turn aside
To join thee for an hour
The face of Christ grows blurred and dim
And prayer has lost its power.

Margaret Mauro

The Price Of The Presence Of Christ

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I can sum up in one sentence a book I’ve been reading on early Christian history.  The early Christians lived in a world that hated God and loved blood.  The populace of Rome and other cities of the Empire came out to the arenas for their blood sports as passionately—and as routinely—as North Americans to a football or hockey game, cheering and jeering and betting on the outcomes.  Professional gladiators fought to the death; Christians and criminals died horrible deaths.  It was entertainment to a society that had become completely depraved.  They loved blood.  And ultimately God gave them blood to drink—their own at the hands of the barbarian hordes.

This is the kind of world the early Christians were up against and in which many of them became martyrs.  The story of their sacrifice is deeply moving.  But that was just the beginning.  Apparently the number of Christian martyrs all through history amounts to about 70 million.  Half of that total—something like 45 million—took place in the 20th century.  The world has not changed all that much, has it.  We’re in the early years of the 21 century now, and stories of Christian persecution are frequent news.

Notice what I just said: stories of Christian persecution are frequent news.  Here in North America we don’t experience this first hand.  We enjoy religious freedom; the world about us more or less leaves us alone.  That is, so far.  There’s a foreboding by certain Christians on a website I sometimes visit (SermonIndex) that persecution is at the door in the United States.  This likely means Canada too, I would think.  Considering the past—and what is happening in other nations even today—it’s inevitable that severe persecution will be the portion of western Christians too.

The question is, what will bring this persecution on?  In many countries to identify yourself as a Christian is to imperil your life.  Not here.  Being a Christian does not get you persecuted in Canada or the United States.  So how is it that persecution is likely to come upon us here?  What will change?

I hear someone saying it will happen because our society is more and more ready to openly express its growing hatred for God.  I agree.  But what will cause that latent hatred to be manifested openly?

Psalm 2 comes to mind.

Why do the heathen rage, and the peoples imagine a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His anointed, saying,
Let us break their bands asunder and cast away their cords from us.

Is not this increasingly the mindset of our western societies?  Enough of the confining cords and restraints of righteousness!  God is not going to tell us what to do.  We want loose!

But that means dealing with and silencing those who reprove them.  That means gathering together “against the Lord and against His Christ”—His Anointed One.  Yes, and, as the Christians in the book of Acts who quoted these words discovered, that means gathering together against the “anointed ones” as well—the Christians (Acts 4.26).

Jesus said:

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you (Jn. 15.18).

I’ve read these words often.  One day the light came on as I read them.  The whole context of this verse is… Jesus is speaking to His disciples about the coming of the Comforter, the Spirit of truth.  It was a “coming” that was in a very real sense the coming of Christ Himself to them.  For, He has just said to them, “I will not leave you comfortless (orphans); I will come to you” (Jn. 14.18).  And He is talking of the coming of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit.  In other words, the full reality of the coming of the Holy Spirit to you and me is that Christ Himself has come, and is seen in our lives.  This is not going to be taken kindly by a world that hates God.  And so John says in one of his letters, “Marvel not if the world hate you” (1 Jn. 3.13).  Why are we not to marvel?  It’s because we live in a world that hates God… and suddenly, because of the Holy Spirit in you and me, they see God manifested in you and me.

This is the significance of Jesus’ words.  “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.”  He goes on:

If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (Jn. 15.18,19).

In other words, the world doesn’t hate its own.  If we are like the world, we are in no danger of persecution.  But those who are not of the world, those Christ has chosen out of the world and in whom His Spirit has come to dwell… the world that hates God will hate these anointed ones.

And what do we mean by the world?  When Jesus spoke these words to His disciples He was including many who boasted they loved Jehovah.  Yet their religion was just a cloak.  Very religious they might be, but they actually hated God.  See what He says?

If I had not come and spoken to them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.
He that hateth Me hateth My Father also.
If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now they have both seen and hated both Me and My Father (Jn. 15.22,24).

That’s the significance of the Son of God.  They couldn’t go around professing they loved Jehovah when their God appeared in the person of His Son… and they hated Him.  In like manner, the coming of the Holy Spirit reveals the hearts of all men—those out there in the world… and professing Christians as well.  They won’t be able to continue saying they love Jesus when they hate those who are one with Him because of the Spirit of Jesus in their lives.

Most everyone likes to think of themselves as a nice person; most people would protest indignantly being told they hate God.  But it’s their reaction to the Holy Spirit—their reaction to a vessel in whom God dwells by the Holy Spirit—that tells on them.

Some, upon this revelation of their own hearts, will be convicted and broken.  And deeply repentant.

Others will harden their hearts, and take out their hatred of God and His Christ on those in whom He is shining forth.

There are many genuine Christians who live in countries where they are persecuted merely for being identified with the literal Name of Christ.  What about us here?  But remember, ultimately it is the Holy Spirit who is sent in Christ’s Name.  “…The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name” (Jn. 14.26).  It is this that we Christians need in the western world, where ordinary churchgoers are not persecuted but rather ignored.  There are many Christians in the West who are grieved to the quick over the state of their world—and their church.  They are seeking God about it.  They have a great cry on their heart.  I believe God is going to answer that cry with a baptism of His Presence that will mean Christ Himself is seen in them.

That makes me tremble.  Christ Himself?  Oh, how deeply we need this Testimony.  It’s something we seek to give ourselves to day by day… and sow to, and pray for, and long for, and cry for… and expect.

But this is the Presence of One that the world has demonstrated time and again it hates.  This is a visitation with a price tag on it.