“And the staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout”
Life begets life. It is the principle of the Life and purpose of God in Christ. There is nothing inherent within the natural order of man to have this life of resurrection. It is this one thing for which all creation was created and that is to be filled with the Life of God. The natural man is understood by the spirit of man, but only the Spirit of God knows the mind and purpose of God.
“For who among men knows the things of a man, except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things of God, except God’s Spirit”
1 Corinthians 2:11
The necessity to walk with God and be led by His Spirit is to the end that others may taste and see the goodness of God. It is His goodness that leads us to repentance. It is His goodness to lift us up when we are discouraged. It is His goodness to cause us to discover the issues of our own hearts in order for us to be free in Him. It is to this end that we desire to know of the budding, blossoming, and fruitfulness of His life in ours.
Seek His life, abide in His life that He may be seen and heard in the lives we live. The signs of life should be the only credentials any individual should desire.
“Ye shall know them by their fruits”
“And the staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout”
“Aaron’s priesthood had been contested. People were questioning whether he was indeed God’s chosen. “Is this man ordained of God or not?” they asked. “We do not really know!” God set out therefore to prove who was His servant and who was not. How did He do so? Twelve staffs were placed before Him in the sanctuary and were left there for a night. In the morning His choice was seen in the staff which budded, blossomed, and bore fruit.
New buds, flowers, ripe almonds: all these proclaim the miracle of resurrection. It is life out of death that marks divinely attested ministry–that, and that alone. Without it you have nothing. God can only use as His ministers those who, through union with Him, have come to taste the power of an endless life.”
– Watchman Nee
His Lamp Am I, To shine where He shall say; And lamps are not for sunny rooms, Nor for the light of day; But for the dark places of the earth Where shame and wrong and crime have birth, Or for the murky twilight gray Where wandering sheep have gone astray, Or where the lamp of faith grows dim And souls are groping after Him.
And as sometimes a flame we find, Clear-shining, through the night So dark we cannot see the lamp– But Only see the light– So may I shine, His love the flame, That men may glorify His name.
– Annie Johnson Flint
“But made himself of no reputation…”
The God and creator of the universe made Himself of no reputation. He was not motivated by the approval of men, He required no support system to propagate His message. He did not need marketing efforts and promotional strategies for the proliferation of His purposes. He was born in a lowly stable, raised by simple folks in a village of no regard as evidenced by the question “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46)
This passage has deep things that can be learned in our own interaction with Him in this world. There is a freedom from strife, from craving recognition and acceptance. Sooner or later there comes an acknowledgment that truth requires nothing but His Spirit to stand. We stand in His righteousness, His merit, and we are fully dependent upon His Fire burning within our own hearts. We are to be witnesses of Him, not of ourselves, and for that reason we feel the great responsibility to be faithful to represent Him.
Humility is a fruit of the Spirit rooted in the power of relationship.
“Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that, he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.”
Jesus’ ability to gird Himself as a servant and to wash their feet was based on the security of being in a right and pure relationship with His heavenly Father. His freedom was a revelation of true power; to Peter, it was an offense. Service to God will often offend the carnal aspirations of men. The same freedom that allowed the Son to speak the truths of the Kingdom of God without restraint is to become ours. Freedom from self allows us to be free in His Spirit. There can be no true freedom in Christ while we cling to the corruption of self.
As we walk with Him in the experiential realities of life we discover the taint and malaise of self. We see it in our interactions with others, in our own internal conflicts, and in the hidden motives of our hearts. Thankfully He is faithful to correct us, and we must be willing to heed those corrections. Failure to do so will result in selfish living and disappointment.
“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.”
There is a precious internal work of the Holy Spirit whereby our intentions are freed from the lust of the acceptance of men to live for His approval only.
“Because of this, we also are striving to be pleasing to Him, whether being at home, or being away from home.”
2 Corinthians 5:9
Why was Paul so passionate about this?
“For we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive the things done through the body, according to what he did, whether good or bad.”
2 Corinthians 5:10
Only by the fear of the Lord are we freed from the fear of men. Accountability to God frees us to live right and to walk right. He who made Himself of no reputation will free us to do the same
True humility is always predicated on the power of truth.
“If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
The fear of man, and the need for acceptance, bring men and women to the snare of conformity to a group, a congregation, or to something other than Jesus Himself. The scriptures declare emphatically:
“The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe”
There are many precious people in God who because of their own insecurities develop unhealthy alliances to leaders, denominations, groups, or teachings. Too often this results in tragic and heartbreaking situations, broken and impoverished lives. The disillusionment and realization that they have been bound to something other than Christ leave them isolated and wounded. Freedom in the fear of the Lord must be the atmosphere of serving God.
“Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”
“Jesus Christ is always unyielding to my claim to my right to myself. The one essential element in all our Lord’s teaching about discipleship is abandon, no calculation, no trace of self-interest”
– Oswald Chambers (Disciples Indeed)
“We have no more but five loaves and two fishes; except we should go and buy meat for all this people.”
“When Jesus said “Give ye them to eat”, it was not because He expected His disciples to have a plan, but because He wanted them to expect a miracle. Like us, however, they chose the easier way, the way which does not require the exercise of faith or prayer. Their solution was to “go and buy”. It was a proposal unworthy of disciples; it could as well have been made by the Pharisees or even Sadducees. It displayed no faith, no trust in Him. As John’s Gospel makes plain, their thoughts were in their pockets. They had not enough money!
We only see what we can do. We shut our eyes to God and His inexhaustible resources. But God is not to be measured by us. Never mind what we can do or cannot do; He is waiting to show us His miracles.” – Watchman Nee
God’s purpose is to bring us to the place of measuring our circumstances in the greatness of His provisions.
Recently, while considering prayer and the keeping power of God, I was struck with the analogy of under-water swimmers. Their lives depend on the oxygen above. If they do not surface for the pure air they will drown in the dark depths of their surroundings. So, it is with Christians. Prayer is the lifeline of our spiritual lives in a dark and dank world.
The deception comes when we feel safe and comfortable in our material world. Things generally seem to work out, day after day goes by and we can easily take life for granted; life which is ours only because of the breath of heaven. Prayer is not something to be scheduled or orchestrated by human design. Prayer is simply drawing near unto the One who has begun the great work of salvation within us. His desire is to bring the rule of His Life into the lives of His own. A man’s natural tendency is to want control and religion often placates this desire. But the prayer and communion of His Spirit brings the fresh fragrance of Christ into our stale air.
Prayer enlarges our world. Lives lived outside of prayer are shallow, limited in scope, and have little contact with the world around them. Without the love of God beating in our hearts it is impossible to feel His compassion for others, to know His ministry of outreach. His breath in our hearts expands our horizon and desires to make Him known.
The beginning of Man in the garden was the result of the breath of God. Just as the first Adam became alive by the breath of God so too do we become alive by the Breath of the Second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:47).
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul”
We see Jesus in the Book of John, prior to His resurrection, breathing upon the disciples the breath of the Holy Spirit. Though it was a temporary ministration it transformed their lives and prepared them for the coming of the indwelling Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.
“And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost”
As with all things in God, that which is external is transient and temporary. But the breathing on them as they walked with God was to become an internal reality. God’s full purpose is that we may live UNTO Him for eternity. Prayer is the essential breath of the New Man. His Spirit is the fire of His presence burning and purifying us within.
God’s instruction to us:
“But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God…”
Christians with unforgiveness, bitterness and stagnation are those who fail to inhale afresh the atmosphere and substance of God. This breath cannot help but bring change and transformation to our lives!
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
2 Corinthians 3:18
“Believers keep up and maintain their walk with God by secret prayer. The spirit of grace is always accompanied with the spirit of supplication. It is the very breath of the new creature, the fan of the divine life, whereby the spark of holy fire, kindled in the soul by God, is not only kept in, but raised into a flame”
– George Whitefield
“And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence.”
The emphasis in many Christian circles is one of assuring one another of God being with us. We live our lives as we see fit and then seek confirmation from our leaders that He is there to bless us, rescue us, and guard us against the repercussions of our wrong decisions. Very little consideration is given to our obedience to Him. The real question of Life is; are we abiding in Him, is His will becoming our own.
The truth is, He is to have preeminence in our lives. We are to follow Him while much of the Gospel preached today is one of God following us. He does in great love watch over His Own but His Own are to hold Him within their hearts. They live to serve Him, honor Him, and give Him their life on a continual basis.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
“The greatest mistake any Christian can make is to substitute his own will for the will of God”
“Jesus of Nazareth always comes asking disciples to follow him–not merely “accept him,” not merely “believe in him,” not merely “worship him,” but to follow him: one either follows Christ or one does not. There is no compartmentalization of the faith, no realm, no sphere, no business, no politic in which the lordship of Christ will be excluded. We either make him Lord of all lords, or we deny him as Lord of any.”
― Lee Camp
When Christ came, He enlightened the world with the breath of heaven. His “Life is the light of men” (John 1:4). His Life in us is the only hope for this ever-darkening world. More importantly, His Life through us is the wisdom of God. This fragile earthen vessel is the means He has chosen to reveal His grace.
“For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”
2 Corinthians 4:5-7
Discipleship is the placing of our life into His hands. Our words without His breath, His Spirit, and His Life are powerless and ineffective. There is a life of confinement, a place of discipline and circumspection, through which we discover the unction and the power of the Holy Spirit. We are afforded glimpses in the scriptures of the early disciples as they grew in their sensitivity to His leading. This was no casual affair of their hearts with Him; He became the center and core of their lives. They walked in the “breath” of God and from this place of abiding they spoke the Words of God.
“He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh His glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.”
Words without life produce lives without change; it is the bane of religion. His Spirit alone can affect the human condition. Without the placing of ourselves into His hands we will remain unfit and unprepared for His work on the earth. Like the loaves and the fishes in the hands of the young boy, we will remain insufficient to feed the multitude. It is only in our being broken and blessed in His hands that He takes the weak things to confound the wise, and the inconsequential to bring the power and glory of Jesus to this lost world.
“They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works.
They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work”
In our submission to Him, we are made fit and able for His work. Left to ourselves, we are bereft of the ability to make Him known. He is our inspiration and Life; we are but the vessel through which His light shines. We are simply the filament in a light bulb. Without His power flowing through us, there is no intrinsic ability to shine. In Christ alone, we live.
“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 3:5-6
“By the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain… “
1 Corinthians 15:10
“The way we continually talk about our own inabilities is an insult to our Creator. To complain over our incompetence is to accuse God falsely of having overlooked us. Get into the habit of examining from God’s perspective those things that sound so humble to men. You will be amazed at how unbelievably inappropriate and disrespectful they are to Him. We say things such as, “Oh, I shouldn’t claim to be sanctified; I’m not a saint.” But to say that before God means, “No, Lord, it is impossible for You to save and sanctify me; there are opportunities I have not had and so many imperfections in my brain and body; no, Lord, it isn’t possible.” That may sound wonderfully humble to others, but before God, it is an attitude of defiance.
Conversely, the things that sound humble before God may sound exactly the opposite to people. To say, “Thank God, I know I am saved and sanctified,” is in God’s eyes the purest expression of humility. It means you have so completely surrendered yourself to God that you know He is true. Never worry about whether what you say sounds humble before others or not. But always be humble before God, and allow Him to be your all in all.
There is only one relationship that really matters, and that is your personal relationship to your personal Redeemer and Lord. If you maintain that at all costs, letting everything else go, God will fulfill His purpose through your life. One individual life may be of priceless value to God’s purposes, and yours may be that life.” – Oswald Chambers
“Who hath despised the day of small things?”
“Who hath despised the day of small things?” (Zech. 4:10). Don’t you despise it! And take care not to trifle with these small things in your own souls; dont treat them rashly. I am afraid some of my poor people are very cruel to something very precious in their souls. Take care, child of God, and do not act presumptuously; if you cannot say there is grace, do not say there is absolutely none; though you cannot see His steps of majesty in your souls, do not say they are not, and have never been, there. Remember the words of Jacob. “And Jacob awoke out of his sleep and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not” (Gen. 28:16).
…The people of this land feel no need of the Saviour, and hence, bye and bye, there will be no gospel to be preached to them. You will not find the gospel of the grace of God continuing long, where there are none who want the Saviour.” Sermon Excerpt Preached on 16 on May, 1852, at John Knox Tabernacle, Glasgow, Scotland
– Jonathan Ranken Anderson
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption”
The Gospel of Grace through the wantonness and desire of the people for an easier way will become the gospel of compromise and apathy. God gives people over to the desires of their hearts. Israel lusted after meat and God gave them meat and while it was still in their mouths His judgment broke out among them.
“While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD struck down the people with a very great plague.”
Therefore the name of that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had the craving.” Numbers 11:33-34
The Gospel of believe-ism carries with it a ministration which numbs the heart, bringing in its wake lukewarm living, and hypocrisy. God’s judgment is to allow its propagation in our midst to sift the sheep from the goats, and the wheat from the tares. God allows the false expressions for a season to separate the precious from the impure and the earnest in heart from the insincere.
“Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision“
The Day is upon us, a day of sifting and of glory and judgment. The Parable of the ten virgins is unfolding in our midst. How we need to find that fellowship of the Spirit in which the exhortations, the admonitions, and the warnings of God flow freely to keep us alive and awake for this evil day.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…” 1 Peter 5:8
“The hearts of the disciples were troubled because they feared the consequences of His leaving them. It is evident that they knew what it was to have the Saviour, and that is, I suppose, more than can be said of most now present. It was more than could be said of the disciples at one period of their lives; and more than can be said of those who are still in their natural state, for Scripture tells us that such are “without Christ”. Now, do you know what it is to be without Him? If not, you cannot know what it is to have Him. He will not be found with any that do not value Him. He is infinitely precious in Himself and infinitely precious in the eyes of the Father. Herein is love in its richest expression that the Father gave His Son, who was the love of His love and the heart of His kindness. The Son is the heart of the Fathers love if you get that, you have everything. He remains among a people as long as they think Him to be precious”
– Jonathan Ranken Anderson
“Unto you, therefore, which believe He is precious…”
1 Peter 2:7
The true testimony that our “belief” is born of a living faith is revealed in how precious HE is to us in our day-to-day life. Our estimation of His worth will be measured by our need and dependency upon Him in the outflow of everyday living. While many profess a “belief” in Him, His worth is known in the proportion of our need to live in a manner that pleases our Heavenly Father.
To those who live out of the resources of self have little need of Him. They may speak of Him, use His name for their endeavors, and yet be unaware of their desperate need of Him. It is the need that determines His value.
“And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach”