“If I see aright, the cross of popular evangelicalism is not the cross of the New Testament. It is, rather, a new bright ornament upon the bosom of a self-assured and carnal Christianity. The old cross slew men, the new cross entertains them. The old cross condemned; the new cross amuses. The old cross destroyed confidence in the flesh; the new cross encourages it”
– A. W. Tozer
“Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.”
2 Corinthians 4:10
The call and purpose of God in Christ Jesus is to the end that we become an expression of the life and wonder of Jesus. Our interaction with the Holy Spirit is about the “manifestation” of His Life in us. He alone is to be the fulcrum upon which our life is lived. God’s singular focus is the glorifying of the Son; as our hearts become aligned by the power of the Holy Spirit we are caught up in this grand purpose. The signature of a life lived in the grace of God will be summed up by the cry:
“He must increase; I must decrease”
There is a hidden dynamic of life available within the confines of the Cross of Christ. A life of resurrection awaits those who would enter into the reality of discipleship. There is but one avenue of advance; one door, one key and one price for the surpassing glory of His Life being manifested in us: a dying to self. It is here that even the call to ministry must be refined within the consuming fire of God until its sole purpose is to manifest His life at the cost of our own. The pathway is littered with many who have started out well only to become enamoured by their own expressions of ministry and the adulation of others. How perilous is this way and how deceptive the human heart is at every juncture in our journey!
His ministration subtly becomes “our” ministry. The people we minister to become “our fellowship” and “our church”. The dregs of fallen Adam usurp the blessings of Christ. It is one thing to start out well but few there be that end well. The safeguard is to remain faithful to the truth; speak truth, live truth and identify with Him who is the truth. Relationships must be subservient to the truth. It is here that the weight and the power of the Cross is revealed. Popularity and acceptance are virulent enemies of the cross and the human heart is susceptible to both. Paul presented this vital truth in the Book of Galatians:
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed”
Paul himself made it clear that his standing with the people of God in his day was founded on him being held within the truth of God and not in the office of his apostleship. Every ministration of God which causes schisms, division and a calling of people unto themselves, “their” church or fellowship, is an affront to the person and the lordship of Jesus Christ.
Only those who are living daily unto this ONE end will know of the wonder, the power and the excellency of the glory of the Resurrected Christ!
“So then death worketh in us, but life in you”
2 Corinthians 4:12
The radical nature of the Kingdom of God is one of mystery and paradox; it is contrary to the constitution of natural man. Entering into it requires the death and renunciation of the self-life in order to touch the wonder of its power. The very LIFE of the Kingdom of God is only available in Jesus. There is “salvation in no other name” and there is LIFE in no other. He ALONE is the Kingdom and He ALONE is the Way into the Kingdom. He is the TRUTH of the Kingdom and He is the LIFE of the Kingdom.
“For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom”
1 Corinthians 1:22
Here Paul sums up the inclinations of the world and the people of God. His people desired signs and wonders and others sought “wisdom” (Greek word “sophia” from which we derive the word philosophy*). The nature of the heart of man has not changed. God’s Kingdom will not be found by these means for Paul goes on in the very next verse of scripture:
“But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness”
1 Corinthians 1:23
Christ crucified is the pivotal point upon which the entire purposes of God rest. The Way into this Kingdom is dependent upon the extent of our identification and participation in His death being worked out in our lives. The corresponding revelation of His Life in us will be to the degree of “death” being worked into us. This happens through the operation of His Holy Spirit combined with our own will yielding in true discipleship. Smooth words, elaborate teachings and overt signs and wonders will never replace the power of a crucified life. It is in this place that God’s work must culminate if we would enter into the wonder of His Life. Again Paul continues:
“But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God”
1 Corinthians 1:24
It is in those who are called that this revelation is made known. The nature of a call requires a response and the call to discipleship is predicated with an “if”. The “if” allows a free-will response from the individual. Entrance into the Kingdom is not by words, understanding, or signs and wonders but by the crucible of the Cross.
“For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh”
2 Corinthians 4:11
The end and purpose of all life is “…that the life of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh”.
*NOTE: Contained within the Greek language are differing words for knowledge and love. The word for Philosophy comes from two Greek words (φίλος- philos) and (σοφία-sophia). Philos is one of three main Greek words for Love; agape, philos, and eros. Each speak to a realm or a sphere of love. Eros is a love which proceeds from the flesh and in turn loves fleshly things. Philos is a love which originates from the soul; it speaks of friendship and affection and when combined with (σοφία-sophia) we end up with the word philosophy: man’s love for wisdom and knowledge. It is a knowledge which may sound deep and good but leaves those who hold it weak and ineffective in the ministration of His life. God’s end is Agape – it is His love ruling, leading and holding us to His ways and purposes. God’s love cannot rest in anything which is contrary to His nature. It is the One over-riding motive which can produce discipleship within the heart of an individual. Peter’s love (philos) failed for man’s affection will never hold a heart true in times of testing.
“That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God”
1 Corinthians 2:5
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ”
In this scripture we read the language of one in whom the Cross of Christ was a living reality. This expression is the “the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus”. The power of God revealed within the life of an individual is summed up in this one verse. Men and women may fast and pray for this power but the essence of God is expressed through the lives of those who walk in the substance of this truth.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…”
Religious people often pray for things that only obedience can unlock. Prayer is essential to a life in the Spirit; it is through prayer that we find Grace and divine enablement to live the life of obedience. Religion attempts to replace obedience with prayer. The true Christian experience is through prayer we become obedient. When power is lacking in God’s house it is the result of the church embracing a crossless Gospel. The Gospel of the Cross of Christ will bring His Life, His Power, His character and His Glory into this dark world through the medium of a surrendered people.
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ”
The measure of all that we do, embrace, declare and allow into our lives is to be measured by this one principle: His Life in us. The decree of God is such that in order to live in one realm we must experience death in the other. We cannot find life in this world and expect to hold on to His Life in the other. We are living in a day of choice. Discipleship is a decision that no one else can make for us. It is a decision of the heart; a decision based upon love. What men love they serve, as Jesus sums up so succinctly in this verse…
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”
It takes very little discernment in our interactions with others to discover what the treasure is in their lives. Out of the abundance of the heart men speak and thereby reveal their primary love.
“So is he that lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God”
Spiritual poverty is the result of the choices we make. We are the “epistles” read of all men. The depth and power of God is expressed through “earthen vessels” and as such we must bear the responsibility for the life we express. We have lost sight of our responsibility to show forth His light and life in this world. It is the fruit of a Gospel which has lost sight of God; a gospel that is centered upon people rather than God. Where men absolve themselves of accountability and relegate their walk to words, teaching and statements of faith, Godlessness and unrighteousness become acceptable. It is in such a time that God raises up the Prophetic to “show the (heavenly) house to the (earthly/fallen) house” (Ezekiel 43:10).
“Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities…”
The religion of today wants to be able to love this world, walk and live in the ways of this world and yet take hold of all the things of God. Such things will never be.
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him”
1 John 2:15
It is through the true fellowship of the Spirit and in the worship of Him where the things of His life become more real to us than the dim things of earth. Wherever His people gather and commune together in the Love of Jesus that men and women are drawn out of this world and into His.
“But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life”
“This dandelion has long ago surrendered its golden petals, and has reached its crowning stage of dying–the delicate seed-globe must break up now–it gives and gives till it has nothing left.”
Art Work by Lilias Trotter (14 July 1853 – 28 August 1928) A Missionary who poured out her life to the call of Christ in Algeria. Her artwork is the expression of her devotion to that Call.
“My judgment is just, for I do not seek My will, but the will of the One sending Me, the Father”
JOHN 5:30 (LITV)
Discernment is proportional to the degree that a man is free from his own will and agenda. Men who are focused on building up a church, a ministry, or want recognition for themselves or others, will not have the ability to judge things rightly. In their own pursuits they become blinded by their lack of objectivity. The Judgement of Jesus was clear for He did not seek His own will. He was not here to be the Messiah, a prophet or some great teacher; He came to simply do the will of the Father and in the doing of that WILL He fulfilled all that was spoken of Him. The out working of the cross, whereby men die to their own desires, is the essential element in becoming objective in discernment.
“But the spiritual one discerns all things, but he is discerned by no one”
1CORINTHIANS 2:15 (LITV)
Spiritual discernment is relative to the depth of being crucified with Christ in the experiential reality of life. Man’s need to control and have our own way is in itself a path to blindness and stagnation. Objectivity and Judgement suffer when men are not free from their own desires. Men who want to build up a large following are not concerned with the true condition of the people of God; for numbers in the pews determine their success as pastors and leaders. That standard of success will hinder a man from preaching the truth. This horror in the religious world today is why Truth is disregarded. The consequences of truth will never be popular and as a result true discernment is hidden from such a one.
Discernment is a spiritual faculty that is developed by the exercising. It is for our growth and maturation and is nurtured by seeking to minister to others by His Spirit. It is in learning how to discern the heart of those with whom we come into contact that we are enabled to sense the need and true condition of our brothers and sisters. This enablement is for the purpose of ministering His Word and His Grace to the glory of God. The development of this grace will only come as we walk learning to be sensitive to Him and His ways. It is by exercising of our “senses” we are able to grow in this faculty of discernment.
“But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil”
This growth in discernment is also the very means by which God opens His Word to us to partake of the “strong meat” of the Word.
Freedom from self is the window through which God shines.
“Oh my soul you have said to Jehovah, You are my Lord; My goodness is nothing apart from you”
True righteousness in the life of the individual believer is always His Righteousness. It is as real as He is for within the power of true faith there is a laying hold of His Life. Faith is not an ethereal or make believe thing; it is the living conduit by which the Life of the Son becomes ours. The branch does not “pretend” to draw in the life of the vine. It does not try to put forth a good show of imitating what the life of the vine might look like; it lives by the unconscious daily ministration of that life.
In the religious world today we have many kinds of “righteousness”, from the declared judicial righteousness to the rigorous and strict self-made righteousness on either end of the spectrum. The declared one is generally filled with apathy, contradiction and carelessness. The self-made, strict one is filled with striving, contradiction and varying degrees of pride and condemnation. Both these extremes will, in some form or another, be part of the journey of a true believer. However as we grow in Him we begin to discover the need for a true and lasting power to sustain a righteousness that is no longer made up of smoke and mirrors or of self striving. The sincere heart begins to search out the true source of real righteousness with an unfeigned display of genuine life.
True Righteousness is a relationship with Christ. It is not a doctrinal position (though the initial steps of a child of God start there); it is as vital as the branch abiding in the vine. Only a real relationship with Him can bring forth a real righteousness. Within this relationship there is a continual current of interaction between the parties involved. Jesus Christ the vine pouring into us the power, substance and desire for righteousness, and we the branch receiving from this flow the divine enablement to embrace the cross and make the received righteousness a living reality. It is in this precious outworking of life that we grow into His Righteousness by the wonder of a living faith. Paul declares in the book of Roman’s…
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation to everyone believing both to Jew first, and to Greek; for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; even as it has been written, “But the just shall live by faith”
It is clear that the Gospel of Christ (not men) produces a revelation of the righteousness of God from faith to faith. A life that is not expressing a growth in righteousness is not living in the Gospel of Christ! When men teach another gospel, one that leaves out the cross of Christ, the result is an impotent and powerless message in which victory over sin is preached but never realized. We can grow into the realization of a life energized and sustained by the living Christ or we can settle for a form of righteousness which is devoid of any real and lasting vitality. Faith is the medium and His Righteousness is the crowning jewel of His work in us.