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Thursday, December 27, 2012
Unity # 18: Bearers of the Life of Christ
Theme Song: Yahweh
We do not want to go away from You because You have Words of eternal life. Lord, to whom shall we go apart from You. (John 6:67) Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in Your house than to dwell in the tents of the wicked. Please renew Your deeds in our time and in Your wrath remember mercy. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, o Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Please give me strength now, for my flesh is weak. Jesus Christ is Lord and He has come in the flesh.
In Jesus Christ’s Name, Amen
This letter is about the eternal life that all believers have been granted at the time of regeneration when the old sinful nature was crucified with Christ and a new heart and spirit was granted to them. This process of regeneration has taken place through the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. We have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life (Rom 6:4). We have died and our lives are hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then we also will be revealed with Him in glory (Col 3:3-4).
Prior to our regeneration, we were darkened in our understanding and excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that was in us because of the hardness of our hearts (Eph 4:18). But the will of the Father is that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and the Father Himself will raise him up at the last day (John 6:40). Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes (John 5:21). Indeed, God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16). The Father has given the Son authority over all flesh, that to all whom He has given to the Son, He may give eternal Life (John 17:2). He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him (John 3:36). Remember that we have discussed in the past few letters that all who truly believe in the Son will obey Him. For he who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal (John 12:25). As God told Baruch, “But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I am going to bring disaster on all flesh,’ declares the LORD, ‘but I will give your life to you as booty in all the places where you may go.’” (Jer 45:5)
Many people associate eternal life with our entrance into heaven’s glory and the everlasting retention of our souls in the eternal Kingdom, but the Scriptures tell us that our free gift of eternal life can and surely will start at the time of regeneration for every person who has true saving faith. Eternal life has been promised long ages ago by the God who cannot lie (Tit 1:2). Being justified by His grace we are made heirs according to this hope of eternal Life (Tit 3:7). What exactly is eternal life? Jesus Himself is eternal Life. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Him (John 14:6). The night before Jesus was crucified He lifted up His eyes to heaven and prayed to His Father, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, 2 even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. 3 This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (John 17)”. Dear saints, eternal Life means knowing Jesus Christ. This is our only and all-sufficient inheritance as children of God. God has raised our Prince of Life from the dead (Acts 3:15). For the Bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to all the world (John 6:33). Christ’s life is the eternal life that is manifested to all of the children of God (1 John 1:2). God has given us eternal life and this life is in His Son (1 John 5:11). If anyone eats of this Bread, he will live forever; and the Bread also which He gives for the life of the world is His Flesh (John 6:51). Jesus Himself is the Word of God. And remember that man shall not live on bread alone, but on every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matt 4:4). We do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to us, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal (John 6:67). The Words which Christ speaks are spirit and life (John 6:63). The Jewish teachers of the Law searched the Scriptures because they thought that in them they have eternal Life, yet they refused to come to the very one whom the Scriptures testified about (John 5:39). Whoever drinks of the water that He gives shall never thirst; but the water that He gives us will become in us a well of water springing up to eternal life (John 4:14). All who eat His flesh and drink His blood have eternal life, and He will raise us up on the last day (John 6:54). He has given us eternal life and we will never perish, nor shall anyone snatch us out of His hand (John 10:28). The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; Christ came that we may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:20). For in Him is a fountain of Life and in His light we see light (Ps 36:9). He has made known to us the ways of life; He makes us full of gladness in His presence (Acts 2:28).
Why do we need eternal life? We need eternal life because while we were helpless sinners, we were under the wrath of God. Just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is now law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. While we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, and much more, having been reconciled, we are saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Our free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of one man, death reigned through him, that is Adam, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, and through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. Through one man’s disobedience many were made sinners and so through the obedience of Christ many will be made righteous. Just as sin reigned in death, even so grace reigns through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom 5:6-21)
Now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, we derive our benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome is eternal life (Rom 6:22). In fact, God’s very commandment is eternal life (John 12:50) and by the Spirit’s regenerating work, we are able to fulfill the Law of love and experience eternal life therein. As we abide in the love, life, and Word of Christ, we are truly living. For everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and we know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him (1 John 3:15). The Biblical tests of assurance, loving, forgiving, and walking in the Light, given in the book of 1 John were written to those who believe in the Name of the Son of God, so that they may know that they have eternal life (1 John 5:13). Experiencing the eternal life of knowing Christ and obedience to Him always occur together; they are inseparable. We know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life (1 John 5:20). For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life (Gal 6:8). The mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace (Rom 8:6). We are to keep ourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life (Jude 1:21). The Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us; He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to our mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in us (Rom 8:11). When we see our brothers committing sin not leading to death, we should ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death (1 John 5:16). As regenerated people, we experience ongoing eternal life, and when we sin, God continues to forgive us as we repent and grant us the ongoing knowledge of Christ. For He Himself has promised us eternal life (1 John 2:25). Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together (John 4:36). Even if our Gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the Image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as bond-servants of the saints for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give us the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the Face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Cor 4:3-11)
Dear saints, now God calls us to fight the good fight of faith, to take hold of the eternal life to which we were called, and to make the good confession in the presence of many witnesses (1 Tim 6:12). God will render to each person according to his deeds. Remember, we are not saved by our deeds, but deeds are the evidence that we have been truly saved by grace through faith. To those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality, they will receive eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the Truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. (Rom 2:4-11) Jesus says to us, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. (Rev 21:6)”.
Please avoid the writings of Charles Finney which I recommended earlier. Anand informed me that he had some dangerous doctrinal errors.
Love in Christ,
Friday, December 21, 2012
Unity # 17: Appointed to Bear Fruit that Reveals Our Identity
Dear Father, You are the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Who are we that You are mindful of us and concern Yourself with our lives? Thank You for not sparing Your own Son but graciously giving Him up for us all so that we may live through Him. Thank You for Your forbearance with the sins of our flesh and thank You for Your promise of the bestowing of righteousness even to the character of our earthly beings. Jesus Christ, You are Lord and You have come in the Flesh. In Jesus Christ’s Name, Amen
In last week’s letter I spoke of the throne of grace, which may be approached with confidence by all who are regenerated by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. The sins of the regenerated do not lead to death because they do not interfere with the ongoing and progressive sanctification of the soul nor lead to the irreversible hardening of the heart which hinders one from continually approaching the throne of grace. There is a sovereign pull of love on the souls of each of the true sheep back to the throne of grace so they each of them may be cleansed in their consciences time after time until they see Christ face to Face. In addition to the impossibility of a Christian continuing in a life of deliberate sin, there is a certain bearing of good fruit that occurs in every believer. These good fruits are bestowed to the saints by the Father and are gifts of grace. This letter is about this bearing of fruit. As we read through the New Testament we comprehend the fulfillment of God’s promise to send His Son to redeem all of His people from all time. What the Law of God could not do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending His Son in the form of sinful flesh and thus He condemned the sin of our flesh, so that the requirements of the Law might be fulfilled in us who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Rom 8:3-4). Many of the verses in the New Testament seem to indicate that we are saved by our good deeds, and yet we know that we are saved by grace through faith alone. For example, Jesus said, “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment (John 5:28)”. Did Jesus mean that our good deeds save us from judgment? No, but rather Jesus has clearly promised us that everyone who has been saved by grace will inevitably bear and continue to bear the fruit of righteousness to the glory and praise of God. This is the effect of the work of the cross on the life of one covered by the blood of Christ. As Jesus told His disciples, “16 You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17 This I command you, that you love one another. (John 15)” Yes, Christ has appointed us to bear the enduring fruit of repentance that John the Baptist commanded the people to bear because the axe is already at the root of the trees and every branch that bears no fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire (Matt 3:8-10). Christ is the true Vine and His Father is the Vinedresser. The branches which bear fruit are those of us who are saved and who abide in Him. Abiding in Him means to remain, wait, and continue in Him. He prunes us through the refining fires of persecution and discipline so that we may be even more fruitful. For all discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Heb 12:11). But Jesus also said that those who do not abide in Him are like branches which dry up and are eventually burned. In a parable, Jesus explained how a tree that continually bears no fruit is considered useless for the ground and is cut down (Luke 13:6-8). Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and My Words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples”. His will is that our joy may be full and that we love one another by following Christ’s example to lay down our lives for one another. He no longer calls us slaves, but He calls us friends because He makes known to us everything that He has heard from His Father (John 15:1-33). When we bear fruit, we are able to acknowledge that the love of the Father is in us and that the resurrection power of Christ has been granted to us. No false humility can cloud the Christian’s realization that the Father has glorified Himself by allowing His child to bear fruit. This is the way in which a Christian can read the book of 1 John and praise God for granting him the marks of a true believer in measures that are increasing with time. By our fruit of love all men will know that we are true disciples (John 13:35). For He has given us honest and good new hearts at the time of our regeneration so that we would hear the Word, hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance (Luke 8:15). Because the bearing of fruit will surely occur in all those who have been regenerated, Jesus told us that we would know those among us by their fruit. He teaches us that a good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. In due time, the fruit of our nature will be reaped and we will be known even before the people of God for who we truly are. (Matt 7:15-20) As Paul told Timothy, “The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after. Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed (1 Tim 5:24-25)”. How can we refuse to examine the fruit of those among us when Christ clearly tells us that we will know them by their fruit? Many, including myself have used Paul’s words to the Corinthians to justify such an attitude which subconsciously thinks that others cannot be known by their fruit. Paul says, “Therefore
do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s heart; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God” (1 Cor 4:5). In context, Paul spoke here of the need for the servants and stewards of Christ to be found trustworthy. The Corinthians had been giving praise to Godly men such as Paul and Apollos and were tempted to become arrogant in behalf of one against the other. Paul was warning them that God’s servants are commended by God alone who knew the motives of their hearts. God alone would praise each one when He arrives. Paul was not contradicting Christ’s Words that we would know others by their fruit. Those who bear no fruit are hidden reefs in our love feasts, fearless, caring for themselves, clouds without water, carried along by winds, autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, and uprooted (Jude 1:12). As Jesus said, the Kingdom of God would be taken away from those who bear no fruit and given to a people who would truly produce this Kingdom’s fruit (Matt 21:43)
Dear saints, we were made to die to the Law through the Body of Christ, so that we should be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we should bear fruit for God (Rom 7:4). As Paul prayed for the Colossians, “ 3 We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints;5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel 6 which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth; (Col 1)”.
What is fruit? Is fruit prophesying in Christ’s Name, casting out demons, and performing miracles? Not necessarily, because some will believe to have done these things and yet Christ does not know them and they will be commanded to depart from Him because they have practiced lawlessness (Matt 7:21-23). For the tax collectors and prostitutes who formerly lived apart from the Law have believed and obeyed Christ, yet the teachers of the Law themselves did not believe in Him or even feel remorse after seeing the repentance of sinners (Matt 2:28-32). Rather the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and Truth (Eph 5:9). The seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (James 3:18). How blessed we are when we do not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers. For our delight is in the Law of the Lord, and in His Law we meditate day and night. We will be like trees firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does he prospers. (Ps 1:1-3) May our love abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that we may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God (Phil 1:9-11). The
righteous flourish like a palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord and flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green, to declare that the Lord is upright; He is their rock and there is no unrighteousness in Him. (Ps 92:12-15). The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise (Prov 11:30). From the fruit of our mouth, we enjoy good, but the desire of the treacherous is violence (Prov 13:2). How blessed we are when we trust in the Lord. We will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit (Jer 17:7-8).
Christ is the grain of wheat which fell to the earth and died in order to bear much fruit (John 12:24). He is the shoot that springs from the stem of Jesse, and the branch from His roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord, of wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord rests on Him. (Is 11:1-2) This Branch is beautiful and glorious and the fruit of the earth will be the pride and the adornment of the survivors of Israel and all those throughout the world who trust in Jesus (Is 4:2). For the roots, blossoms, and sprouts of Jacob will fill the whole world with fruit (Is 27:6). Out of Jerusalem will go forth a remnant, and out of Mount Zion survivors. The zeal of the Lord will perform this (2 Kings 19:30). God says, “Drip down, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds pour down righteousness; let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, and righteousness spring up with it. I, the Lord, have created it (Is 45:8)”. There will be peace for Christ, the Seed: the vine will yield its fruit, the land will yield its produce and the heavens will give their dew; and God will cause the remnant to inherit all these things (Zech 8:12). God is the One who causes us to be very fruitful, and makes us stronger than our adversaries (Ps 105:24) He tells us, “O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like a luxuriant cypress; from Me comes Your fruit (Hos 14:8)”.
Love in Christ, Preethi
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Does Not Even Nature Itself Teach You…
This section will be a journey for me to write because I am going to attempt to communicate some “soulish” intuitions about the nature of the man’s authority over the woman in human words. I may end up not including this section in my book if it is not written coherently, but I pray that Lord-willing you and I will learn something from this. In the past year I have been trying to understand the authority of a man over a woman as described in Paul’s instructions to the Corinthian church about the necessity for women to wear head coverings. In Paul’s instructions he conveyed that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of woman, and God is the head of Christ. The head covering is a symbol of authority on the woman’s head. Paul asks, “Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her as a covering” For a woman to pray or prophesy with her head uncovered is a disgrace. And for a man to cover his head is a disgrace. For man is the image and glory of God; and woman is the glory of man. Man does not originate from woman, but woman from man. Man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. However, in the Lord, neither man nor woman is independent from one another. (see 1 Cor 11:1-16) God created woman from the man’s rib as a helper suitable for him. The man said that she was now bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh because she was taken out of him. And for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Gen 2:20-23) Thus, there are innate God-ordained differences between men and women:
1. The woman is the glory of man.
2. The woman originates from man [was taken out of him] and becomes one with him.
3. The woman was created for man’s sake, to be a suitable helper.
I have had a list of FAQs about these things for several years and I am going to write a summary of my journey of understanding what little I have come to understand. These FAQs included “Which man am I the glory of?”, “Which man was I created for the sake of?”, “Which man am I a suitable helper for?”, “Do these items apply to myself with regard to all men, all Christian men, Christian authority figures who are men, or only my father/husband?”, “How do these things apply to me in my singleness?”, “What exactly is authority?”, “What are the implications of oneness in flesh?”…and many others.
I must admit that the culture of my upbringing does not seem to have benefited me in any way to understand the natural order that God has created. Dad and mom would have been a good example to me had I understood the true relationship between them. Dad and mom’s relationship could be described this way: mom pretends like she is the boss, but really dad is the boss and they both know it. I only realized this in the past few years, and thus most of my childhood, I was never taught and rarely, if ever, saw the God-ordained order of authority between men and woman displayed. But when I read the 1 Cor 11 and Gen 2 passage, I had realized that there is something very Spiritual and natural going on here between men and women. And yet our wicked culture has so quenched this ordination that we have altogether lost our understanding of it. I have needed the Spirit and Word to restore this lost understanding of the natural and Spiritual differences between men and women.
Firstly, I will explain my present conviction about woman’s head coverings. I went through I period of time [about 2 years ago] when I covered my head during church. I did this in faith, having felt confused and uneasy whenever I read the 1 Cor 11 passage. I had no clue if God truly wanted me to cover my head, but I did so in faith. The passage said that women should cover the heads and I decided to obey. The first Sunday that I did so was very informative. God gave me comfort in my fear of the opinions of others, and I felt a kind of protection that I had never felt before. I felt that my soul was covered by the life of Christ. Of course, this had been true since I put my faith in Him, but I felt it in greater degree. In fact, though I expected to feel more honor and respect for my earthly father, the greater effect was an increased knowledge of Christ’s covering over me. The covering seemed to remove all subtleties of sensuality, pride, and, surprisingly, insecurity. I do not know how to explain this well enough. The Sundays after that first Sunday were not so inspirational and I eventually settled into a mode where my head covering made no difference whatsoever to my heart’s attitude as it had the first Sunday. I realized that I had been given an introduction to the nature of authority. Eventually I stopped wearing a head covering and I no longer felt guilty not to do so, though that does not make me faultless. The Lord is my Judge and Savior. I was informed that in the Corinthian church culture, most noble women would cover their heads, always, not only in church. Whereas, the prostitutes of the time, who were not under the authority of a husband, father, or any other Godly man, would not cover their heads. Thus, for a woman not to cover her head indicated that she was wanton, rebellious, sensual, brazen, and forsaking of Godly authority. Thus, both the good and bad angels, who lack omniscience, could see the outward manifestation of a woman’s heart by her action of covering or not covering her head. I heard some present-day men of God explain that the application of head coverings for the present day would be for a woman not to dress in the same way as the worldly women of the present day, but rather in a way that shows that she is in submission to Christ and Godlyauthorities. So though the prostitutes and magazine-cover women wear sensual clothing, I ought to be set-apart in purity and chastity in the way that I dress. My present conviction is that I ought to dress in a way that honors God and shows myself as set-apart from the culture of the day, in a way that shows I am in submission to God and my father, and not looking for inordinate affairs with wrong types of people. If God truly wants me to cover my head, I pray that He brings me to the point of conviction again…
So my inward grappling with the ideals behind head coverings introduced me to these Spiritual mysteries of the God-ordained structure between men and women. Another event that happened was when Anand told me something very heart-breaking last year, and I thank him, because the hurt of it has healed with the Truth that I learned thereafter in my pursuit of comfort. He said, “Not many men are going to be able to lead you” and it stung greatly. I replied earnestly, “What do you mean? Why? What is wrong with me?” He replied that a man has to be extremely Godly to lead me. I initially started to comfort myself with the thought that I really was not as Godly as Anand thought and that he had not really seen my bad side completely. I also questioned what exactly a man needed to be able to lead me. Did he have to be much more intelligent than me? Did he have to have more knowledge of the Bible than me? Did he have to have a deeper prayer life than men? Did he have to simply be 20 years older or 2 feet taller than me so that there was no way I could threaten his authority? Did he have to just be approved of by dad and Anand? Did he have to be extremely strong in the areas where my flesh is weak? LORD, WHAT DOES A MAN NEED IN ORDER TO LEAD ME??? After Anand made this comment, I asked dad whether he thought that there were men who could lead me. His response was even more strange, “Yes, there are probably some men out there, but they would have to be very humble and desire only to build God’s Kingdom”. So then, again, I started questioning, “Does the man need to have a greater desire for God’s Kingdom’s advance than me to lead me?” and “Why would humility help a man lead me?”
My first glimmer of hope came from The Story of Ian and Larissa, for which I am very grateful to God. Ian underwent a serious accident during their “courtship” and was put in a wheel-chair, unable to work, have children, speak properly, and other disabilities”. Larissa chose to marry him. She sacrificed her life to take care of him and to show him love and respect as his wife. The one thing that caused me to understand more about what a man needs in order to lead a woman was her sharing about how her husband led her. She gave an example in which Ian would just barely, with great struggle, be able to mumble the words, “God is good”, and Larissa would be led by these words and her soul would follow his lead for the day by his statement. Larissa was choosing to be led by Ian who could not work, elaborately teach or speak, give her children, physically comfort, or do most of the things which young women dream of their husbands doing for them. And yet, she wholeheartedly was led by him. What did Ian have that he could lead Larissa? What did Larissa have that she could be led by him? I realized that Ian had exactly what he needed: he had the anointing of the Spirit, faith, and the love of Christ. Larissa had exactly what she needed: humility, purity, faithfulness, servant-hood, and respect. She clearly understood the Biblical premise that she was made for her husband and sacrificed many earthly comforts to fulfill God’s calling in her life. She notes that God gave her a supernatural joy and peace in the midst of her sacrifice. She likely feels very blessed by Ian and does not consider herself as having made a sacrifice. Their testimony has encouraged numerous saints throughout the world to truly seek God to use their marriages to display the eternal Covenant between Christ and the church.
There were several other questions I had when I felt anointed by the Spirit to write letters to the saints that I know. I knew that women were not to speak in the church or to authoritatively teach men and that positions of authority such as pastor and eldership were to be granted to men alone. Unlike some other women who felt threatened by these church ordinances, I felt protected by them. I felt extremely uncomfortable trying to imagine myself being a leader/teacher in the church over men [sorry, but I sometimes could not help but imagine every possible scenario of a given train of thought]. It felt like blaspheme to my soul to think of assuming any authority over any man, even young men. I attribute this feeling to the ordinate desires granted to me in my regenerated spirit. The flesh must be crucified continually in order to walk according to the desires of the regenerated spirit. I currently have much peace in writing letters, knowing that I assume no authority over men, and that I am under Christ’s and my earthly father’s authority. And if I speak Truth from the Scriptures, God in His authority uses His Word with His own power in the hearts of His people. It appears that the Godly men who are very secure in their God-given manhood, are most willing to be encouraged by a sister in Christ with no fear, because they understand my soul, and do not view me as an authoritative teacher, but as a dear sister who is sharing her testimony of her heart/minds interaction with the Word for the encouragement of the saints. My conscience is clear, because I have assumed no authority over men, and Lord willing, I write in agape and humility. I thought back to the state of my soul in the presence of men over the years. I realized that whenever I had been in the presence of a man, my soul subconsciously went under the headship of some of them. It was not something I consciously decided to have happen, but if I was in the presence of men, especially Christian men who had the Spirit of God indwelling them, my soul somehow yielded itself in respect. My voice and demeanor became more respectful, quieter, and gentle. Even if I was sharing a testimony of something God was teaching me [“praying and prophesying”], if men were present, my physical being subjected itself to my soul’s submission to any Spiritual male heads present. Whereas, I noticed that when I was with only women and children, I became more authoritative and outspoken, and assumed more responsibility. Sadly, there were probably some instances in my earlier life as a teenager when my soul was wrongly seduced to respect men that I ought to have avoided and I was quite uncomfortable and “lost” in doing so. Any yokes apart from Christ and His ordained yokes are cruel masters. I realize now that every inordinate affair in a woman’s heart originates from the inordinate subjection of her soul to the wrong authority. Though in some sense, coarse sensuality in a woman defies the authority of all men and she seeks to usurp her role as a woman by her wantonness. Eventually, I learned that not only did a man need the Lord’s anointing [the clear, humble, and loving heart of faith] to lead me, but God had given me a natural inclination to follow the man. These inclinations of Godly men to lead and of Godly women to follow are items which are manifested in the heavenly realms. The nature of such authority and submission structure is instituted by God in the heavenly realms, being manifested in our physical behavior. This structure does not depend on and does not even necessarily involve the physical talents of either man or woman. Thus, a woman like Larissa who is physically stronger, smarter, and more “able” in an earthly sense at just about everything than Ian, can submit to, honor, respect, and follow her husband. And Ian can truly lead Larissa with a clear conscience and a strong bold authority with no qualms about his physical weaknesses. Why? Because this authority structure is ordained by God and it remains. “When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all (1 Cor 15:28)”
My understanding was confirmed by some words from a sermon by Paul Washer, “Recovering Biblical Womanhood”. He explains [min 10-12] that though a woman is able to be fulfilled and sustained in all ways by Christ, she was also made to be Spiritually led by Godly men. I have realized that if I am walking by faith, my soul immediately and faithfully resorts under the headship of God-ordained authorities: always my parents, and other Godly men such as Anand. However, the saints throughout the world are living in a day when most men are not taking responsibility to abide in the Word; this has greatly limited the pool of Godly men to which Godly women ought to submit themselves to [of course, we must show proper respect to all men].
Just as there is a Spiritual order of headship between man and woman, there is also a type of authority that is granted to the elderly. A gray hair is a crown of glory (Prov 16:31) and the Israelites were commanded to rise up before the gray headed, to honor the aged, and to revere their Lord and God (Lev 19:32). One reason why the elderly are to be given respect, is that there is a general tendency for older men to have more wisdom and experience. For foolishness is bound in a child’s heart, but wisdom and understanding accompanies ages men and a long life (Job 12:12). We remember the example of King Rehoboam who was given good advice by his elders, yet, he rejected his counsel and listened to the evil younger men’s counsel (1 Chron 10). Peter told the younger men to be subject to their elders and to clothe themselves with humility towards one another (1 Peter 5:5). Paul told Timothy not to sharply rebuke and older man, but to rather appeal to him as a father (1 Tim 5:1). However, there is something that seems to surpass the authority of age itself, and that is the subjection of the soul of a man to Christ. As King David says, “I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Your precepts (Ps 119:100)”. Similarly, Paul told Timothy not to let anyone look down on his youthfulness, but to show himself as an example to the believers in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity (1 Tim 4:12). When a man is walking by the Spirit, regardless of his age or physical talent, Godly authority is bestowed to him. Another example of this is God’s sovereign election of Jacob over Esau. God told Rebekah that the older would serve the younger (Rom 9:12).
Finally, there is something about the nature of a man and woman’s oneness in flesh that is in stark contrast to what the world teaches us about the relationship between men and women. For in secular media, our society and our children are constantly taught that the love of a man for a woman is conditional. She must be irresistibly beautiful all the time, a wonder woman, money-making, interior decorating, cuisine artist, socially adept, perfect mother….in order to be loved by her husband. Somehow, the world teaches us that women who are not beautiful, physically talented, or capable are not worthy of unconditional love. The beautiful irresistible damsel in distress is rescued, saved, and sacrificed for…but the rest of the real damsels in the world who are not beautiful or “worthy” are left in the pit of destruction. Do we see how utterly contradictory this is to the nature of our Christ for His bride. While we were still sinners, in horrifying distortion of Spiritual beauty, He demonstrated His love to give Himself for us. He calls us a part of Himself. Each one is apt to love and take care of himself, whether or not he thinks himself to be worthy. Similarly, for a man to consider his wife to be one flesh with himself, he shows her unconditional love, whether or not she is worthy. Here in this love, she is filled with deep respect for him, and in her deep respect, his heart is filled with tender response….you know how this goes J. There is a general tenderness that all Godly men are to have for all Godly woman as Paul tells Timothy to treat the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity (1 Tim 5:2).
I could go on and on but will stop here. I am still in the process of understanding these things which once upon a time, were understood in the hearts of many, but in our ungodly and crooked generation, are like buried treasure, that only the Spirit and Word can revive in our hearts and minds.
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Unity # 16: The Throne of Grace
Theme Song: Lord, Reign in Me
I speak to the spirit that causes me to speak/write: Has Jesus Christ come in the flesh and is He Lord?
Yes, Jesus Christ has come in the flesh and He is Lord
Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your Kingdom come. May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Forgive us of our sins by the blood of Your Son as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. I praise You and I thank You for Your sovereign pull of love on our souls.
In Jesus Christ’s Name,
Several weeks ago I wrote a letter about eternal security and listed several evidences of true saving faith. For example, love for the saints, obedience to Christ’s commands, and a lack of continuation in sin as a life’s practice are Biblical tests of assurance. True faith always results in the ongoing bearing of fruit and the ongoing conformance of a person into the Image of Christ. Where there is no progression in holiness, no true and saving faith has been established. And where there is a deliberate continuation in sin as a life’s practice, there has been no knowledge of the love of Christ. As the author of Hebrews writes, “ 26 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb 10)”
Those of us who have been regenerated struggle with sin daily. For there is a battle that exists in our choice of submission to the Holy Spirit who dwells in us and the sin that dwells in the flesh. As children of God, there is still sin that remains in our flesh and when we have stumbled, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins and those of God’s chosen people throughout the world. (1 John 2:1-2). By being the propitiation, He turns away His Father’s wrath from us by having borne the payment for our sin.
1 John 3 tells us that we cannot continue in sin as a life’s practice, and yet we know that we do sin in both hidden and willful ways after being regenerated. Can we ever have a clear conscience? Can we ever have assurance of our standing before God? As King David prayed, “ 12 Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. 13 Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I will be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression. 14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Ps 19).” Hidden sin refers to those sins which we are unaware of at the present time, but which God brings to light in His time. Presumptuous or willful sin refers to the sin which results from our conscious choices. When true Christians willfully sin our consciences are not clean until we repent of the willful sin. When we are trusting in God’s forgiveness of our hidden sin and have confessed and received forgiveness for willful sins, our consciences truly are clean and our assurance of our eternal standing through the imputed righteousness of Christ is very great. Hebrews 9:13-14 says, “13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh,14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”.
Dear saints, there is sin not leading to death, and God will, in His good time, cause us to repent and to be granted the ongoing and abundant life through Christ. Sin which does not lead to death is the sin committed by regenerated people who are sealed by the Holy Spirit. Such sin will not result in a hardening of heart that has no return. It will not cause one to continually refuse to approach God’s throne of grace and receive mercy from Him. It does not cause one to have a life characterized by a love for the world which exceeds the love for God. It does not continuously interfere with the Spirit’s progressive transformation of the person. 1 John 5:18-21 says, “18 We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, guard yourselves from idols.”
Though true believers are still in the process of putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, humbly receiving the Word planted in them which is able to save their souls, and proving themselves to be doers of the Word and not simply hearers of the Word who delude themselves (James 1:21-22), they are continually approaching the throne of grace. Heb 4: 14-16 speaks of this throne of grace: “14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
The regenerate life is characterized by a confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh. Those who are born-again have a great high Priest over the house of God and thus draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having their hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and their bodies washed with pure water (Heb 10:19-22). When Jesus began to wash His disciples’ feet, Peter initially refused, but Jesus told Him that unless He washes him he has no part with Him. Peter then requested for Jesus to wash His hands and head as well. Jesus replied, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is clean; and you are clean [because of the Word spoken to you]” (John 13:5-11, 15:3). If we are regenerated by the Word and Holy Spirit, we truly are clean forever in the sight of God through the blood of Christ, and yet each day as we commit sin not leading to death, we must let Jesus wash our feet of the filth of our wanderings. For when in our post-regenerate lives have we loved and worshipped Christ as He deserves to be worshipped and loved? And yet He is pleased by the fruit of His gift of faith in our lives! We have a need to endure so that when we have done the will of God, we may receive what was promised. In a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But His righteous one shall live by faith. And if he shrinks back, God’s soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. (Heb 10:36-39). If we do not let Christ cleanse our feet, to cleanse our conscience of the past and ongoing sin that does not lead to death, not only will we be unable to achieve victory over sin, but we have no part with Christ.
You see dear saints, if we continue in willful sins, we would be ashamed. We would shrink back and God would have no pleasure in us. For this reason John tells us as God’s little children to abide in Christ, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. If we know that He is righteous, we know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. (1 John 2:28-29). There truly is a state of walking by the Spirit in faith in which God is pleased with us and we are assured of our salvation by grace through faith alone. May we be watchful and ready, and walking in this grace when He appears, whether we are taken to be with Him or whether His second coming occurs in our lifetime. He tells us that if we walk by His Spirit, we will not carry out the desires of the flesh (Gal 5:16). It truly is possible for us to walk in the obedience of faith with a conscience cleansed by the blood of Christ. Indeed, countless saints who have gone before us have walked in this way and met their Savior’s greeting into eternal glory: “Well done, My good and faithful servant”. The fruit of our walking by the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is not law (Gal 5:22-23). Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires (Gal 5:24).
There is something very important that we must understand about our struggle against sin and our battle to repent and receive forgiveness when we have gone astray. For imagine that a Christian has fallen in some way and thinks to himself, “I have not loved my brothers. I have borne no fruit today. I have been addicted to sin. Thus, what if I am not a Christian? I have continued in sin, so how can I be a believer?” Should such a person simply take great pains and efforts to obey the commands of Christ so as to be assured of his standing as a person with the true saving faith that results in obedience? Yes, but there is only one way that this person can return to obedience: and that is through the gates of grace. For the struggle between the carnal desire of the flesh to do good and the inability of this same carnal flesh to do so is a losing battle as we have discussed in Unity # 13. For if we seek to be justified by obedience to the Law, not only will we fail, but we will have fallen from grace as Paul told the Galatians (Gal 5:4). Rather, the way that the Christian gains the victory is through a return to the conscious belief in the Gospel of grace. There is no other way to achieve victorious obedience outside of the conscious remembrance of the Gospel by which we are saved, not by the righteous deeds of our selves, but by the mercy and grace of God, by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5-6). Indeed, it is the grace of God which has appeared that alone brings salvation to all men and instructs them to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and Godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and appearing of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. Yes, God will fulfill this in each and every one of His people in His chosen time. He tells us to speak, exhort, and reprove according to these things with all authority and to let no one disregard us (Titus 2:11-15).
The way we are strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might is to put on the full armor of God so that we will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil, to resist in the evil day, and having done everything to stand firm. It is remarkable that each piece of the armor of God involves the Gospel of our salvation. The putting on of the Armor of God is a conscious renewing of our minds to the state of belief in the Gospel and a full surrender to Christ that results in the walking by faith and the Spirit. Eph 6:14-18 says, “14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. 18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints”.
Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as Christ is pure. (1 John 3:2-3) Dear saints, it is impossible to believe the Gospel and long to be perfect as Christ is perfect, and to simultaneously desire to willfully sin. The hope of becoming like Christ defies all desires of the flesh to sin. Thus, may we find refuge in this purifying hope of seeing Christ face to Face and becoming like Him. As King David says, “The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned” (Ps 34:22) Dear saints, while we were yet sinners God demonstrated His own love towards us by sending Christ to die for us. Much more then, having been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Rom 5:8-11) Listen to God’s Words to us from Is 44:21-23:
21 “Remember these things, O Jacob,
And Israel, for you are My servant;
I have formed you, you are My servant,
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me.
22 “I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud
And your sins like a heavy mist.
Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”
23 Shout for joy, O heavens, for the Lord has done it!
Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth;
Break forth into a shout of joy, you mountains,
O forest, and every tree in it;
For the Lord has redeemed Jacob
And in Israel He shows forth His glory. Is 44
And Israel, for you are My servant;
I have formed you, you are My servant,
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me.
22 “I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud
And your sins like a heavy mist.
Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”
23 Shout for joy, O heavens, for the Lord has done it!
Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth;
Break forth into a shout of joy, you mountains,
O forest, and every tree in it;
For the Lord has redeemed Jacob
And in Israel He shows forth His glory. Is 44
No One Who is Born of God Makes a Practice of Sinning Sermon by John Piper 51 min
The Invincable, Irrefutable Joy Article by Bonhoeffer
Love in Christ,