“And he said, WHO art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, WHAT wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” (Acts 9:5-6)
“…the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way”
The purpose of the Way of God is to bring purity and freedom. By design it shatters our self-seeking and self-realization. It is not an easy way. Our concepts and aspirations will be crushed in the wilderness. It is there our presumptions must die in order to prepare us for the Land of Promise. The Land of Promise is where “we live, move and have our being” in Him. It is where resurrection Life arises out of the grave of self. That carnal self ever seeks to have the pre-eminence; it is the antithesis of all that God has purposed in Christ. Unity in Him is the result of a people who have laid aside their carnal selves for the joy of relationship in Him. They understand and feel the cords of Life binding them to one another. Humility is a necessity for those who seek the reality of being “hid with Christ in God”.
The Way will dry up the springs of self. Obedience is the Way into the provisions of Christ. The life of obedience is what gives us access to the “Tree of Life” and the abundance of all Christ is.
“Blessed are those who do his commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city”
The Tree of Life gives its fruit in every season. It is rooted deeply in the River of Life and in fact the River runs through this living Tree.
“…on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month…”
Let us be not discouraged by the Way of Christ. Let us not fall victim to self-pity, murmuring, blaming others, and the bitterness that can so easily contaminate our being. The Way of Christ is sure. His end is glorious and His Wisdom beyond our own. Blessed are we if we continue to “do Truth” in spite of the hardness of the way. The Passover was eaten with “bitter herbs”; a reminder that the bitter way brings us to sweet waters and the “oil of Joy for mourning”.
Faithfulness is revealed in our obedience to Him regardless of our feelings and disillusionment. It is here the mettle of our faith is tried, the reigns of our hearts tested, and the power of His Life is increased within us.
“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation”
He is worthy of a faith life which continues to do of His good pleasure regardless of the situations in which we find ourselves.
“And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet”
May we be of such a disposition that when He comes to our tree He may find fruit even in the time when by “nature” the season has not yet arrived. Save us oh Lord from a life of fig leaves (the religious garments of Adam) and cause us Lord to bear fruit in every season!
Relationship with Christ is the spring from which His Life flows. This flow of Life is the essential element of ministry.
The Womb of Ministry
“And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:16-17)
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy* both soul and body in hell”
Matthew 10:28 (ESV)
“I think, my friends, that it depends altogether upon that of which one is afraid. The words of our text (Mt. 10:28), with the solemn inculcation of fear, are also a ringing denunciation of fear: the “Fear Him” is balanced by “Fear not.” The fear of God is here made a way of overcoming the fear of man. And the heroic centuries of Christian history have provided abundant testimony to its efficaciousness” - John Gresham Machen
The history of the Church has been one of men and women bearing testimony to God by living His truth. True pilgrims were often “misfits”; even though their testimony was a shining light of God’s grace and favor in their generation. They did not dwell in the concepts of men concerning the scriptures. They lived their lives in the unfolding truth of God and as a result their testimony was the spirit of prophesy. There was a sense of being captured or, as Paul would say, “bound in spirit” to the will and purposes of God; a knowing that they had been apprehended to apprehend the thing to which they had been called.
To feel deep within our being that CALL, inarticulate in the language of men, which is more real, more powerful and more essential than any existence the world has to offer is true life. Its passion is to leave a clear witness of the Christ here in the earth. Bound up within this call is to know the joy of finishing our course with a testimony that clearly expresses His heart and being. The CALL to an effective communication of His Faith to the world around us and to leave a legacy of faith in our own children which will impart His Life to their generation is to be our birthright.
The CALL of Christ is unto Himself; it does not leave options or choices to those who respond to it. Disciples are ultimately freed from their own agendas and pursuits. They are captured by the wonder of His beauty to follow Him alone. They cannot rest in anything less than a full and dynamic expression of Christ. There is a sense of the eternal that draws them to things unseen. There is an endurance borne of “seeing Him” who is invisible.
“By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible”
The Testimony of the Church has ever been one of faith, intensity of spirit and heart which desires to honor Him.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus…”
May our testimony be somewhat worthy of all who have gone before us!
*Note: apollumi (G622), a strengthened form of ollumi, signifies “to destroy utterly”; in middle voice, “to perish.” The idea is not extinction but ruin, loss, not of being, but of wellbeing. This is clear from its use, as, e.g., of the marring of wine skins, Luk 5:37; of lost sheep, i.e., lost to the shepherd, metaphorical of spiritual destitution, Luk 15:4, Luk 15:6, etc.; the lost son, Luk 15:24; of the perishing of food, Joh 6:27; of gold, 1Pe 1:7. So of persons, Mat 2:13, “destroy”; Mat 8:25, “perish”; Mat 22:7; Mat 27:20; of the loss of well-being in the case of the unsaved hereafter, Mat 10:28; Luk 13:3, Luk 13:5; Joh 3:16 (Joh 3:15 in some mss.); Joh 10:28; Joh 17:12; Rom 2:12; 1Co 15:18; 2Co 2:15, “are perishing”; 2Co 4:3; 2Th 2:10; Jas 4:12; 2Pe 3:9. “Vines Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words”
“Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.”
It is in our understanding the “fear of the Lord” where we discover the true “knowledge of God”. Wisdom is not the summation of learning nor is it a commodity gained by the efforts of men. Wisdom is the matrix by which truth is revealed. It is the wise in heart who grow in understanding.
“When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:”
The true knowledge of God comes to us as His wisdom enters our hearts. By it the knowledge of God is revered and held in awe.
“The first thing is wisdom—get wisdom, And with all thy getting get understanding”
There are many in this day who hold a knowledge of His word apart from the fear of Him; without wisdom all knowledge is perverted. Only the wise in heart walk and keep themselves in the fear of the Lord. They hold themselves accountable to Him who weighs all the words, actions and the motives of our hearts.
“Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding”
The scribes and the Pharisees held a knowledge of God apart from the fear of God. The result was a religion based on the words of God without the wonder of God. There is no greater darkness, no greater delusion, than that of men who hold knowledge apart from wisdom.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness…”
It is a fearful thing to hold the truth of God in an unrighteous manner! Let us not assume that by claiming a promise of God yet living in unrighteousness that He will acquit you in the Day of Judgment! Let us not presume that we can hold unforgiveness and yet be forgiven. Do not think that we can walk contrary to His Word and still grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“…to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”
To grow in the depths and power of our salvation requires us to walk in the wisdom of God. He shows His salvation to those who order their steps aright. He unveils Himself to those who align their hearts to His Word.
“Then laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil words, as newborn babes desire the pure soul-nourishing milk, that you may grow by it…”
2 Peter 2:1-2
The wise in heart put away from themselves all malice, hypocrisies, envies and evil words because they know, at least in some measure, the fear of the Lord. The recompense of walking in His righteous ways is the divine enablement to grow into Him in all things.
Christians may hold on to evil things while comforting themselves with the promises of God; this they do to their own sorrow. They may cover themselves with the fig leaves of religion even as they “hold the truth in unrighteousness” sealing to themselves a life void of the power of God. They may speak of grace, and can expound upon the mercies of God, yet never touch the true depths of either; only the fear of the Lord can reveal the power of these realities. It is by the enlightenment of His wisdom entering our hearts that we know the awe and the joy of obedience to Him who first loved us.
Without the fear of the Lord there can be no true wisdom or knowledge of Him. Only by the understanding that these bring are we able to depart from our evil ways.
“Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding”
“But wisdom is justified of all her children”
The wisdom of God is vindicated by the conduct of those who are held by its wonder.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” (Mat 7:24-27)
“I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it…”
Faithfulness to the present truth we know will always culminate in greater things in God. The Church at Philadelphia, even in their weakness and poverty, were faithful to do the works of God and were given an open door. Doing the will of God inevitably leads us into greater avenues of service unto Him. Those who are faithful in the little things will always receive more.
The stagnation of a faith without works perpetuates its own lethargy and barrenness. Within the true disciple lies an eagerness to do that which is before them without hesitation or delay. We must always bear in our hearts the verdict of God upon a “faith” which is void of works.
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man says he has faith, but has no works? Can faith save him? And if a brother or sister is naked and in lack of daily food, and one of you tells them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled;” and yet you didn’t give them the things the body needs, what good is it? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead in itself. Yes, a man will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one. You do well. The demons also believe, and shudder. But do you want to know, vain man, that faith apart from works is dead?”
The “Open Door” is set before those who are faithful to yield themselves to the promptings of God within and respond accordingly. There are those who feel hemmed in by circumstances when in fact they may have not been faithful to the things at hand. Joseph, bound within Pharaoh’s prison, remained faithful to the gifts which God had given him, and, in the end, he was given great authority!
“For whoever has, to him will be given, and he will have abundance, but whoever doesn’t have, from him will be taken away even that which he has”
The path to enlarged places in God is found within our faithfulness to Him in the little things; hidden things, often only known to God. In the end they will bring us to the open door of His grace.
Just a couple of examples are David who, while tending the sheep of his father, overcame the lion and the bear. Rebekah at the well, in her willingness and faithfulness to serve, was brought into the lineage of Christ!! (read Genesis 24:12-27) May we see the importance God places on those who reveal their heart by the work of their hands. He sees and measures out greater faith in proportion to their faithfulness in everyday life.
Let us seek His “open door” through faithfulness in our commonplace lives. Let our determination to honour Him “in all things” be an entrance into the greater things of Him. May we find joy each day in ever looking for ways to glorify Him, even in the secret thoughts of our hearts.
“I thank him who enabled me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He counted me faithful, appointing me to service…”
1 Timothy 1:12
Obedience will open doors that no amount of praying alone can.
“The Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his lord will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the right times? Blessed is that servant whom his lord will find doing so when he comes. Truly I tell you, that he will set him over all that he has.”
May His exhortations permeate our hearts, and may we seek to be faithful to Him in all things.
“Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord”
The one who was unfaithful lost what he had been given and the eternal consequences were even greater.
“But his lord answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant. You knew that I reap where I didn’t sow and gather where I didn’t scatter. You ought therefore to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received back my own with interest. Take away therefore the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will be given, and he will have abundance, but from him who doesn’t have, even that which he has will be taken away. Throw out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”
Faithfulness determines eternal destinies.
“…they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful”