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“For I tell you, unless your righteousness (your uprightness and your right standing with God) is more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

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Are you aware this very day you have available to you righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees? You also have before you relationship with One Who dwells ever within the kingdom of heaven, and it is available without price, without penalty, already purchased for you.  But there are demands that will be made of you: to submit, to obey, to trust, and primary to all …BELIEVE in the One Whom the Father has sent and to cleave to, trust, rely on, and have faith in His messenger (Jn 6:29).

But the demands that are asked of us are far eclipsed and exceeded by the delight of knowing the Lord here today, and of course in eternity that we get to enjoy in Him and dwell with Him.

But how can we have the righteousness required to even enter the kingdom of God? How can little old you and me meet the standard required?

Under the Old Covenant, the scribes and Pharisees possessed a righteousness that was of a legal, performance-based, external nature. They personified the cup that was cleansed on the outside, but inside is full of greed and robbery and extortion and malice and wickedness. Their own righteousness had a limitation, it could not penetrate into the heart of man because the covenant could not cleanse the inside of man.

Hebrews 9:9 portrays the situation this way: “Seeing that the first [outer portion of the] tabernacle was a parable (a visible symbol or type or picture of the present age). In it gifts and sacrifices are offered, and yet are incapable of perfecting the conscience or of cleansing and renewing the inner man of the worshiper.”

This Scripture is saying that under the Old Covenant, cleansing of a person could not penetrate to the inner man or conscience. Rather, it cleansed only the outside and was to tide mankind over until the New Order of the Messiah came that would bring a better covenant (Heb 9:10-11).

But the Good News is that the Messiah has indeed come! He has enacted a better covenant, by which no area, especially the inner man, is left uncleansed. Rather, all of man is cleansed – especially the inner man, the heart, the conscience, the seat of man’s thinking and personality – all are cleansed.

This then is what makes the way for man’s righteousness to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees… to receive Jesus Christ as the Messiah, to enter into covenant with Him as Lord and Savior – and to receive His cleansing that penetrated to the very inner man! It is only “in Christ” that we can possess such righteousness – because this righteousness is of His very own nature that comes to dwell within us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

In so entering into relationship with Jesus, you then also enter into His Kingdom which He Himself has advanced. You are now a new creation where the old has passed away – and the new has come!

It is important to understand a basic requirement for walking in such righteousness, for it is not automatic. The need is to not only be saved, but it is to remain responsive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is only those who are led by the Spirit that are called the sons of God (Rom 8:14).

The difficulty which remains after salvation is that you have a continual choice. Sometimes even a moment by moment choice…to obey the new resurrection life of Christ now in you, rather than your old nature which has technically been made dead with Christ by being nailed to the Cross with Him (Rom 6:6).

It is in the failure to recognize this need and to exert proper self-control that people fall into a life-style of ignoring this truth – and thus become perpetual “sons of disobedience” (Col 3:6). It is here that people deify themselves and only obey their earthly nature and appetites and fail to rest in faith in the new nature of Christ that should be in headship over their lives.

These are in fact people who have received Christ as Savior, but have never worked out their salvation with fear and trembling, nor have disciplined themselves to rid themselves of things like anger, rage, bad feeling toward others, curses and slander, and foulmouthed abuse and shameful utterances from their lips!

In essence, their old nature (which has been nailed to the Cross- and which they should reckon as dead) has retained rights and place and status that it should not, and so it still makes demands. They continue to respond to these demands and thus lead a rollercoaster life … sometimes having victory, others plummeting deeply into sin and failure.

The real problem is they have not become servants of righteousness (Rom 6:18). Instead, they have continued to cater to their flesh. You must understand, this is a very dangerous place! A new choice is needed here, and every power that is needed to make that choice has been already given!

Listen to Romans 6:19 as Paul instructs: “I am speaking in familiar human terms because of your natural limitations. For as you yielded your bodily members [and faculties] as servants to impurity and every increasing lawlessness, so now yield your bodily members [and faculties] once for all as servants to righteousness (right being and doing) [which leads] to sanctification.”

If you have received Jesus as your Savior there is a need to have reflected a corresponding change in your life and the way it is lived! If you do not see such progress and change, then you should question the reality of your salvation! You should not delay but resolve the issue today!

If your current vehicle for transportation is undependable for a trip across town you would not set out on a journey across country with it. Likewise, if your current relationship with the Lord is weak and undependable in your eyes, how is it that you would trust it to usher you into eternity safely? The Lord would have you rectify the situation even today!

So today, is your righteousness more than that of the scribes and Pharisees? Is your relationship and interaction with the Lord such that you are ever seeing progress in how you live your life? Are you tender and humble before the Lord, or is a two-by-four the implement of choice to get your attention?

Warning. You are too far away from the flame of the Lord in your life. Move closer! Seek Him continuously! Pursue Him in love! Be responsive and able to be moved by Him easily! Live and move and have your being in Him – there is no counter-fitting this! Press in with all your heart. It is to your benefit – not His!

Last thing. A servant of righteousness conforms to the divine will in thought, purpose, and action. Like dentures lacking enough adhesive bonding, are there big gaps between your thinking and the Lord’s? Your actions and the Lord’s? Your purposes and His? If so …ask Him to bring you in line.  Ask Him to bring what is needed.

Today, become the slave of God with your present reward in holiness, and your end in eternal life with Him! Have His righteousness that exceeds and far surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees!

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“And try to learn [in your experience] what is pleasing to the Lord [let your lives be constant proofs of what is most acceptable to Him]. “ Eph 5:10 Amp

The Importance of Being Dealt With By God…

We all like feedback.  We all want some manner of knowing that we are pleasing God and that the substance of our lives is tracking with Him.

Often I have wondered if the Holy Spirit could not provide us with something like the “playback” of football plays all marked in color squiggles of how the play fell apart. Maybe He even could provide footage of our lives with His evaluations to improve our “swing!”

Have you been guilty of too tight a grip?Worse, have you been resisting His move in you? I have for certain!  But the Lord has been actively loosening my grip and perfecting my swing – something I could not begin to do for myself!

Here is what He has shown me: His Love! He has shown me my total inadequacy, and even lack of compatibility in my flesh for His love to move and animate my natural life. Like trying to put nuclear power into a small Tupperware container – my own self is that inadequate.  It is not the leaning of Him on me, it is rather the leaning of my entire personality on Him that He calls for!

Here is where I had the problem.

Through particular set of experiences I had run amiss of His ways…and indulged opinions and emotions of self and the flesh. He allowed me to “feel” in my spirit the hardening, the coldness, the growing remoteness from Him. I could not stand feeling so locked up.  I had to go to Him and ask, “What is this Lord?”

But before that, I was holding wounded thinking, and feelings of betrayal, I could not move forward in His love. I became stuck. So for a short time I was frozen, unable to cooperate with His love, but also unable to process the problem. I became uncomfortable.

Output of His love was stilled. I wasn’t blocked, I was blocking, stifling Him! I was like the proverbial Dead Sea with no outlet. And with no outlet for the life of Christ through me, there was indeed a backup.

We are so good in the natural to sense a physiological problem. Not so good in the spiritual realm. But we must get better! Thankfully the Holy Spirit is always on task, and His discipline and disclosure are effective. In His grace He answered me and provided diagnosis, in His mercy He provided a way of remedy!

Then I was led to repent and renounce those thoughts and perspectives…

Here is the thing. He will not force you. He is a Gentleman. But He will allow you to become very uncomfortable, because your resistance is rebellion. Your refusal reaps death.

The difference between disobedience and death is time…. It is important to understand that. Only when I am aligned with Him in His doctrine, in His will, in His way – in His love being manifested …am I in life. When I balk against that, I balk against life.

But the great news is He does clarify for us where we are drifting away. Where our own “pudding” is deviating from His perfect blend and consistency!

Here’s how: 2Jn1:1-9…

– He recalls to mind the command to love one another

– He shows what this love consists of: that we live and walk in accordance with and guided by His commandment.

– Specifically, that we continue to walk in love (guided by it and following it)

– Then verse 9 is the clincher: “Anyone who runs on ahead [of God] and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ [who is not content with what He taught] does not have God; but He who continues to live in the doctrine (teaching) of Christ [does have God], he has both the Father and the Son.”

You see this is the Lord’s perfect recipe, and His perfect checks and balances. Better than any handbook on improving our stroke, the Lord has provided His word as a yardstick, even a litmus test of our hearts, like a template reflecting His perfection we can unequivocally know – either we are approved or disapproved in our conduct – our likeness to Him.

Not because I am checking my pulse against His and analyzing it.  But because the Holy Spirit brings us to awareness in our spirit man we register a distance and a loss that causes recognition — something is very wrong.

This spiritual perception is the Lord’s grace and His truth at work by the Holy Spirit! He shows us where we are not abiding and brings us under conviction.

It is the Holy Spirit Who continually reveals, discloses, declares, and transmits to us the truth of Jesus Christ. And as He transmits to us all that is of Christ He is not bringing forth just a thought – He is bringing forth into us the very substance of Jesus!

It is in this manner, in the abiding Presence of the Holy Spirit, that righteous fruit grows – because of the work which His Presence accomplishes in us! This is the very “Pudding” of the Lord!

The Lord has One Pudding Recipe. It cannot be counterfeited! There is only One thing that is Christ-like, and that is Christ Himself! He alone with the Holy Spirit can validate the substance of His life in you – His pudding! Be open, unveiled, and fully submitted.

“Now to Him Who is able to keep you without stumbling or slipping or falling, and to present [you] unblemished (blameless and faultless) before the Presence of His glory in triumphant joy and exaltation [with unspeakable, ecstatic delight] –…” Jude 1:24 Amp

Amen!

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Chapter Eight

The Bride Lives … in Fellowship With Light and The Yoke of Jesus:

(The Place of Abiding, The Safeguard Against Error)

 

“…how can light have fellowship with darkness?” 2Cor 6:14 Amp

“Whoever loves his brother [believer] abides (lives) in the Light, and in It or in him there is no occasion for stumbling or cause for error or sin.  But he who hates (detests, despises) his brother [in Christ] is in darkness and walking (living) in the dark; he is straying and does not perceive or know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” 1Jn2:10-11 Amp

                When we talk about walking in the Spirit, abiding in Christ, walking in the light, abiding in love – these are all expressions that speak to the same process and disposition; that is they refer to taking the yoke of Jesus upon us and living in that place of yielded-ness and Christlikeness.  For the Bride, this continually expansive submission to Christ’s life and vision is not only imperative, without it we are truly nothing of His.  As the Bride is to be the physical presence of Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit here on earth – she can do nothing without Him.  Conversely, with Him she can do all things.  In between these two states the Bride must live and move and have her being in Him.  The Bride must become one with Jesus.  He is her Lord and the Most High God.  To receive Him is to receive His yoke.

 The Yoke

            Jesus’ yoke.  Think of brilliant light –         whiter than any white you have ever seen.  Like the light of Jesus at the transfiguration, where He became resplendent – washed in a glowing light.  Now think of this like a mantel around your shoulders, a sphere or ellipse that is carried aloft by its own power and properties.  It has substance and mass, light can pass through it yet it is not transparent.  It is in fact cloud-like.  Sometimes you can sense Its presence upon you.  It focuses you and leads you – yet you are free to move.  It wraps you in love as thick as honey, and your heart is buoyant with the depth of this love, yet you see people and events in clarity and truth.  You see motives, hearts, and woundings, beyond three dimension. Within the fold of this yoke there is unity, and fellowship, and oneness with Jesus and the Father.  In the parameters of this yoke all the wisdom, power, and giftings of the Godhead are operative.  This is how I think of the yoke that Jesus offers us.  And yet … we are often unaware of it.

            There is a second yoke as well.  Not the yoke Jesus offers – but one of slavery, oppression, lawlessness, darkness, sin, and eternal damnation.  Its weight is immense, pride strengthens its hold, and its grip upon lives is like shackels upon the hearts and minds of its inmates.  It is confining, and enslaving, and unforgiving, and unyielding.  Its bonds are only removed once its hold has been broken from off its captives.

            A brief study will show us that Jesus’ yoke – all that He offers us — arose from His sacrifice on the Cross. It is derived from His Messianic Kingdom and the New Covenant  which Jesus cut with the Father in Heaven.  This yoke is Jesus’ offering to us as His believers and followers.

In Matthew 11:29-30 Jesus mentions His yoke is easy, and gives rest for our soul.  One of the Strong’s renderings for this word “yoke” that brings great insight is “balance, for a pair of scales.”  The balance is the post that everything rests on.  All is held at the intersection of the balance post and the arm that holds the scales in place. On the shoulder of that balance or yoke rests the arm for the scales.  All the weight of everything on the scales rests upon that small place.  The balance shoulders every weight, steadies it, and keeps it in place. The stuff sitting on the scale doesn’t carry the weight – the balance does – or more exactly the yoke does.  He gives us His yoke, and He takes all of our weights, cares, and sin.

Now this is my opinion, but I can make a fairly good case to support some of it … but I believe there are multiple aspects to the yoke of Jesus.

For instance, in Galatians Chapters 4 and 5 we find a discussion of a yoke of slavery, and right with it – Jesus’ yoke of freedom.  By extension we also see here a yoke of the law and of grace.  From 1 John 2 and 3 we might also notice there are yokes of light and darkness, love and hatred.  Romans 6, 7, and 8 speak of similar juxtapositions between what could be seen as a yoke of the flesh and the yoke of the Spirit.  But what I hope to express is that while Jesus has one yoke – this yoke has many facets that are all reflective of Him.  They can be spoken of as Love, Grace, Freedom, Light, Spirit, Kingdom, righteousness, and Life.  Yet more than just words that simply define — they carry the characteristics of Jesus Himself.

The other yoke descriptions such as hatred, law, slavery, darkness, and flesh/world/sin/death are antithetical or opposites of Christ.  And while they coalesce as a yoke as well – this yoke stands as one that opposes all that Christ is and what His yoke offers.  These are truly two polar opposites, these yokes. They are antagonistic to each other and opposed to each other just as Galatians 5:17 clarifies that the desires of the flesh are opposed to the desires of the Holy Spirit.

 The Litmus Test for Knowing Him

Now, in Matthew, Jesus asked us to take His yoke upon us and to learn of Him.  First John Chapter 2:3-6 begins to show us a way to determine if we are knowing Him more.  You see – one might just be able to make the statement according to Scripture that without taking on Jesus’ yoke we can never get to know Him.  Thus, knowing Him in increasing measure becomes a means to validate that we have indeed taken His yoke upon us.

So 1Jn2:3 tells us that we can estimate that we are knowing Him more deeply if we are keeping and observing His commandments.  No new commandment is being given here, but rather an old commandment is being restated, and in this restatement it is made clear that it is fully realized or accomplished “in Christ.”  We are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Why is this so important?  Because we see in 1Jn 2:9, if you don’t love as stipulated – then you are deceived and in in darkness.  You see, “Love” is the greatest gift of the Lord, and it is the most defining element of Jesus’ yoke.  It stands to reason, as a litmus test, if one thinks He is knowing Jesus more and more and is being obedient to His commands (to love), but does not love – he is deceived.

In Fellowship

There is a need for simple agreement between what we believe, and what we do. It is called “congruence.” There is agreement between what we are inside, and how we are behaving on the outside.  There is even greater need for agreement or fellowship between us (The Bride) and Jesus.  This is the intention behind the discussion of Paul in 2Cor 6:14-16.  The words used to describe the desired relationship are yoked, partnership, fellowship, common, and agreement.  Over and over Paul is making a case for believers to be in full agreement with Jesus, and light, and fellowship, and harmony.  This point cannot be underestimated in importance.

If we think we are in agreement with Jesus yet we hold an opinion in conflict with Him, or His word – we do not have true fellowship with Him, for at that moment we have broken fellowship and we reside in darkness.  If we see His requirement to love – yet we retain hatred, we are in darkness.  If we exercise our own opinion on any Biblical subject and find we are out of agreement with Jesus’ word on the subject – we are in darkness, and we are operating under a spirit of error and rebellion. If we think we are progressing in Christ, yet we do not love – we are not operating under the yoke of Christ.  We have deceived ourselves and are still held in slavery by a yoke – of bondage, hatred, and darkness.

In a sense – we can almost think of Jesus, His word, His Truth, His Spirit, His Life, His Light and all other aspects of His yoke as layers of His Yoke.  Almost like spherical planes stacked one upon the other, distinct, yet comprising one Yoke – they exist in total agreement.  They are one Yoke.  The have complete fellowship, each one with the other.

Likewise, there is similar perfect agreement and unity between Jesus and the other members of the Godhead.  “… Behold, the Lord our God is One.” (Deut 6:4)  Where Jesus is, there is Light, and there is Truth.  Thus to abide with Christ means we abide in His Light and His Truth and His teachings.  Another way to think of this is: as we have His agape love for our brothers, we abide in His Light, and sin and error have no access to us.

          Jesus and His Yoke Frees us From Error

            This concept of protection from error is further addressed in 1 Jn 2:27 which says:  “But as for you, the anointing (the sacred appointment, the unction) which you received from Him abides [permanently] in you; [so] then you have no need that anyone should instruct you.  But just as His anointing teaches you concerning everything and is true and is no falsehood, so you must abide in (live in, never depart from) Him [being rooted in Him, knit to Him], just as [His anointing] has taught you to [to do].”

            And also 1John2:10:

            “Whoever loves his brother [believer] abides (lives) in the Light, and in It or in him there is no occasion for stumbling or cause for error or sin.”

            By abiding in Christ and His Light (read Yoke) the occasion for sin or error is removed. To abide in Christ is also to abide in His Truth and His Light, and His Love.  They are perfect overlays of each other. We cannot abide in the Love of Christ, and then fail to adhere to and embrace His Truth and Light.  To abide in one, we abide in all.  To fail to abide in one means we fail to abide in all. This is what we want to focus on more particularly.

            When each of us is saved, we are anchored in Christ, but we are not completely sold out to truth, or light or love.  These are things that get sorted out as we progress in Christ.  It is the working out of our salvation with fear and trembling.

Think of it like the devastation of Katrina within New Orleans.  Once recovery work was started, it took time and effort to overturn the damage.  We too were each damaged and devastated by lives lived in darkness and sin.  But once we were saved, consecration to Christ, obedience to Him, and the renewal of our mind by the word began to overthrow the previously despotic rule of the flesh and sin in our lives.  The moment we are saved, we are all Christ’s, positionally.  But He begins the task of becoming Lord over our lives freeing us from every yoke of bondage to darkness, slavery, and every lofty thing in us that exalts itself against the true knowledge of God.  He does this through His Word and the agency of the Holy Spirit applying the work of the atonement in us.

            Think then, of the danger in these end times for believers to ever imagine that their wisdom can contend with the truth of God.  I speak here specifically of where believers begin to parse the word of God, for any one of various reasons.  Sometimes we have trouble getting our heads around a particular doctrine or teaching.

For instance, think of the debate that rages between believers and denominations (The Bride) over topics such as eschatology (end times prophecy), the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, just to name two.  There are many others.  Matthew 24:12 speaks of the church in the end times when it states: “And the love of the great body of people will grow cold because of the multiplied lawlessness and iniquity.”

          The Greatest Need is Love

We need to stop here for a second to emphasize something.  Imagine my foot stomping on the ground here.  In three pivotal Scriptures we have looked at – Love was the front-end – the doorway so to speak.  In 2 Cor 6:14-16, where Paul discourses on fellowship and light, just prior to that he is urging them to open there hearts and affection for the people of God.  He is saying they need to love! In 1Jn2:10 we have seen that to abide in the Light and to be free from stumbling or error or sin – we must love!  And lastly, we see (Mt 24:12) that as the love of the end-times church dwindles and waxes cold, lawlessness and rebellion increase. Love keeps us in the fellowship of Light and Harmony with Christ.  Love keeps us abiding in truth.  Love keeps us free from error and sin. So as love in Christ declines in these last days, abiding in Christ also declines, and error and lawlessness increase.

I also want to say that where we lack in certainty in our understanding, agape love can provide the entrance to apprehend in the spirit what our minds cannot yet grasp.  It is also this agape love that keeps us in the right position of submission and humility before the Lord.  Thus, even where I don’t understand – I can still submit and obey (like Abraham with Isaac as an offering).  It is in this place of love that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is propagated and nurtured.  It is here that no charge that can be brought against me.  It is here, that the character and presence of Christ expands – where love is.  God is Love.

         The Warning to the Bride

            Back to the critical point here — you and I and the Bride at large, are not qualified to pick and choose from the Bible what to believe or not based on what we like, or agree with, or what makes us comfortable or happy.  We are not in such a privileged position to do so, nor do we have the wisdom to do so.  In fact, that action constitutes idolatry. As Jesus (the Word made flesh) is in perfect agreement with His Light and His Truth, we are not free to rewrite or edit them to our liking or comfort.  And yet, this is often exactly what believers attempt to do when they cannot grasp or rationalize, in their own thinking, a Biblical Truth.

            If the Word of God, Jesus, Truth and Light are indeed all in agreement, then to reject any part of the Word is in fact like rejecting part of Jesus or His Truth or Light.  It is to move outside of the Yoke of Jesus, outside love, and to welcome and indulge error and darkness into the Bride that should be a body filled with light and truth.  Listen with that in mind, again, to what 2Cor 6:14-16 says:

            “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers [do not make mismated alliances with them or come under a different yoke with them, inconsistent with your faith]. For what partnership have right living and right standing with God with iniquity and lawlessness?  Or how can light have fellowship with darkness?  What harmony can there be between Christ and Belial [the devil]? Or what  has a believer in common with an unbeliever?  What agreement [can there be between] a temple of God and idols?  For we are the temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in and with and among them and will walk in and with and among them and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

            You and I can, in ignorance, yield to a yoke of darkness and captivity when we yield to a yoke not of the Lord’s.  It is a mismated alliance.  It is a joining together of things that are of God, with things that are not.

Jesus has said to us, Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me (Mt 11:29-30).  His yoke is like His Word, His Light and His Truth.  It is not something to be parsed, edited, or tampered with.  To receive Christ is to embrace His Word and Light and Truth – without our editing them.  He is Lord and we submit to Him, and to His yoke – intact.

            In this day, the Bride faces a great challenge to yield only to Jesus, His word, and His yoke. She must submit to Him, resist the enemy, and he will flee from her.  But the greatest entrance and success for her abiding in Christ and to having fellowship with her Lord is to remain in His Love and to allow it to remain in Her. Let our fellowship with Jesus be in the fullness of Who He is – with no presumption to edit, or parse, or substitute our own creation for the Wisdom from above.  God forbid!

            The crowning accolade for the end times Philadelphia Church (Rev 3:8) is that they have kept His Word and guarded His message and not renounced His Name.  The Bride must wake up to this warning – to forsake the Lord’s yoke in any part is to forsake His word, His Love, His Truth,  His fellowship — and by forsaking His love to instead to open wide the door to error, rebellion, and lawlessness.

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Day Sixty-One

Whom do you serve: Rules or The Ruler?

“…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve….” Joshua 24:15

            Two sisters: Mary and Martha – famous, yet perhaps even still underestimated in the fullness of what they truly convey.

I believe in a very real sense they represent two types of dependence. Indeed, I believe they clarify and address the issue posed by Paul’s question in Galatians 3:3: “Having begun [your new life spiritually] with the [Holy] Spirit, are you now reaching perfection [by dependence] on the flesh?”  I believe neglecting this question is a danger for all believers.  We begin our journey with Christ by faith, but as we proceed we allow works and the flesh to take the helm – and as a result we suffer great loss. Our dependence on the Spirit is transferred to burgeoning dependence on the flesh.  It is based on the misconception that the Holy Spirit will work among us on the basis of us doing what the Law demands, more than because of our believing or trusting on the message that we heard. (Gal 3:5)  We have then trusted our righteousness to be a product of our actions vice our faith in Jesus and the Gospel message.

Recall the story of the two sisters in Luke 10:38-42.  Jesus was coming to visit them in Bethany.  Martha was overly occupied with much serving and brought a complaint before Jesus about her sister and her lack of helpfulness.  I love the way my husband framed this in a recent sermon, “Martha was busy making sandwiches that the Lord hadn’t asked for.” Mary, however, was seated at the Lord’s feet and was listening to Him.

Now I have to confess, having been engaged in ministry over the last fifteen years I have seen the works mentality creep up in my own activity. Many times I have slid into a place where I’m sure I was making sandwiches that the Lord hadn’t called for.  It is in fact the very heart of the issue before us.  As a believer, a part of the Body, and one having a place within the Bride of Christ – my primary engagement is to be with the Lord.  He is the One to Whom we are betrothed, and all of our serving is to radiate out of our relationship to Him.  Another way to say that is, every serving that I do should flow out of obedience to Jesus and in the overflow of the abundance of His life in me. While there is perhaps no food shortage in the Body of sandwiches not ordered, there is indeed a shortage of the food that Jesus spoke of.  He said, I have food which you know nothing of. My food is to do the will of My Father.

Yet what we see in great volume within the Body of Christ is the same kind of service and serving that Martha was doing, which results in the greater works being left undone. Mary’s life seems to be aligned with the freedom spoken of in Galatians 4, speaking of the New Jerusalem, where there is a supernatural birth which gives rise to children of the free. This life is a product of living according to the Spirit of Life in Christ which sets us free from the law of sin and death (Rom 8:2). What we in the Body need to remember is that the covenant of promise (Abraham’s Destiny) supersedes the law.  The law came 430 years after the promise and its purpose was simply to build an awareness of our sin in preparation for the coming Messiah.

Recognize then, that the Law itself serves the purpose of the Messiah.  It causes us to see our need, though the law itself cannot save.  All of Martha’s sandwiches could not bring righteousness, for they only served her flesh. This is the reason she was angry with her sister – she wanted Mary to serve according to external rites so that she could glory in Mary’s subjection to the law and that wasn’t happening (Gal 6:12-14).  We are not justified and declared righteous by the law, but rather we are to rely on the Holy Spirit by faith and wait for the blessing and good for which our righteousness and right standing with God causes us to hope.  In other words, the law serves God – isn’t that what we should be doing too? Like Mary, or even like Ruth seeking the covering at the feet of her kinsmen redeemer, our true service and serving should be at the feet of our Master, waiting and receiving, and being awash in the fullness of His presence.  Not serving rules in bondage, but serving the Ruler of All – in freedom.

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Day Thirty-Six

 

 To Gaze upon the Vision

 

“Where there is no vision [no redemptive revelation of God], the people perish;…”

Prov 29:18 Amp

 

 

 

          How can I share with you the power that is exerted by the Lord, His Word, and His vision on my life?  How can I convey the quotient of the spiritual vigor that resides within me for His purposes?  How can I explain the reasoning behind (when no reasoning is involved) in the sense that I know I am His and He is mine?  Yet – to this I am called, to try and share.

          When you drive in traffic and something on the side catches your eye – you look, for some — gawk, and if you are not careful – you will begin to drift in that direction.  We are unconsciously moved toward that which we gaze at.  The same is true in our spiritual life.  If we gaze upon the heart of Jesus Christ through His word – we are transformed from glory to glory – and this is from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2Cor 3:18) In essence, we become what we behold.  The more we gaze at Him, the closer He draws us, the more like Him we become. 

Remember the account of the fiery serpents in Numbers 21? The Israelites had begun to speak against God and Moses because of the difficulty of their way.  The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people.  Some people were bitten.  Some died.  As the people repented for their rebellion, the Lord had Moses craft a serpent out of bronze to be raised up on a poll.  As the Israelites gazed upon that bronze serpent steadily, with attentiveness and expectancy – they were healed.

This trial of the serpents is about more than just receiving healing.  It is about the power of what we look at steadily, with expectancy – what we gaze upon that can not only hold our gaze, but also holds our heart.  Other than the Lord, there is not one thing I trust as able to be gazed upon with duration – that does not ultimately corrupt us.  Not money, not position, not power, not beauty, no thing. 

The redemptive vision of the Lord is perfect – as He is perfect.  It is our spiritual fuel cell, our compass, our finder, our internal navigator that spurs us on to gaze, to search, to pursue, to hunger for the Lord.  It is the Lord’s blessing in us, stoked as a fire, tended by the Holy Spirit that draws us to look, listen, learn, love – to behold that vision and to be led by it, and to be changed by it, from glory to glory which is from the Lord Who is the Spirit.

Be loved – be drawn to gaze upon the redemptive vision of Christ, without which we perish.

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Day Ten

Heed the Call to Simplicity

“But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”  NKJV 2Cor 11:3

In the Garden of Eden, Satan baited Eve to doubt and disbelieve God’s intentions by posing questions to her.  Watchman Nee describes with great detail this attack in The Spiritual Man, and how this tactic was used to cause Eve to employ her mind to answer his questions.  Though we may not see it, the attack was a malicious and deliberate attempt to get Eve to stir up her soul (specifically her mind), so her soul would expand in its efforts of thinking and depart from under the rule of the spirit within her.  The spirit was the part of her, and Adam, that could commune with God.  To destroy the rule of their spirits was to destroy this fellowship with God.

Now, here, the Apostle Paul presents a warning so that a similar evil will be averted today by believers who possess a regenerated spirit in Christ.  He is warning that our minds may lead us into the very same corruption as Eve experienced, a corruption characterized by fleshly thinking and doing, and a dependence on our soul vice the spirit as it is moved and led by Christ.

If you are a believer in Christ you actually have two minds.  You have your natural mind that you were born with.  But through your regenerated spirit you also have the mind of Christ.  Romans chapter eight discusses this duality, especially verses 1-18.  May you study them and receive revelation!  But in very simple terms, imagine you are a dog-sled and that there are two different dogs that like to lead you (the sled).  One dog is the flesh dog, one is the spirit dog.  Depending on which dog is allowed to lead – that is the nature of the things he pursues.  The flesh dog pursues the things of the flesh and seeks to gratify those desires.  The spirit dog seeks those things of the spirit and seeks to gratify the desires of the spirit.

So essentially Paul is warning us to let the spirit dog always be the lead dog, and let the flesh dog die of boredom and non-use!  The importance of this is not to be minimized!  Your flesh dog – can never please God (Rom 8:8), and it will always lead you astray.  The profoundness of this notion is underscored by the meaning of “simplicity” in 2Cor 11:3.

This word simplicity is haplotes (#572) in the Strong’s Greek.  It means singleness, without dissimilation or self-seeking.  The word is also derived from (#573) haplous, which adds the aspect of a particle of union, and being folded together.

Our flesh is “self-seeking.”  Our spirit is Christ-seeking.  Paul’s admonition to pursue simplicity in effect means never be self-seeking, thus never flesh-led!  Further, to have union in Christ – to be folded together implies we seek the same things, have similar perspective, and have the same goal as Christ Jesus – thus be spirit-led, following the dictates of the spirit.  This is having the simplicity in Christ Jesus!  It is singular devotion that is pure and of one substance with Him.  It is uncorrupted.

The point is – once the enemy finds a strategy that works, he generally keeps running with it.  Getting Eve to rely on her mind (flesh) rather than remain dependent on the spirit worked in the Garden – so he sees no reason to change his playbook.  He believes it will cause you also to fall.  But for you – hear the words of Paul and do not allow the enemy’s tactics to succeed again!  Let the flesh dog die – surrender and renounce the use of your flesh.  Reckon yourselves as being dead to sin but alive to Him.  And yield/offer “yourselves” (all of your faculties and members – all of your soul) to Him as instruments of righteousness (Rom 6:13).  Be-loved …

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