The first in a series of writings by my dad, Joseph Gaut.
The only thing that matters is faith expressing itself in love. ~ Gal. 5
“Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.
“Yes,” they replied. (Matt. 13:51)
No doubt Jesus’ early disciples were sincere when they told Him they had understood all these things. Yet they had barely begun to glimpse the glories of His Kingdom. In answer to this same question, what would we answer today?
If Christ dwells in us, we have access to all of the keys to His great Kingdom – wholeness for our bodies, minds and souls along with the authority to reach out to others in ways that stagger the imagination. But if we are unaware of what we possess, if we fail to know the doors these keys open, our use in His kingdom is limited.
In this brief writing, it is my ambition to share some of the priceless gems of wisdom the Christ has opened to me by his Spirit. May He richly bless you as you browse through these pages and we share His grace!
THE STILL SMALL VOICE
It was late at night. My wife and I had already gone to bed. Then something most remarkable happened. The Lord spoke to us. It is always awesome and wonderful when we realize we are hearing from our Savior. During his ministry on earth, He told us that His sheep would hear His voice and another they would not follow. He also told us that He was sending us His Holy Spirit who would teach us and lead us into all truth. And it was this same Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Living Christ, who was speaking to us that evening.
We had both been Christians for several years. And we had learned that, indeed, the Father does speak to His children. He speaks to us in many different ways and, however His Word comes to us, it always brings light, comfort and understanding. It is always something special to hear from the Comforter, to know that He cares. It is awesome to know you are in the presence of the Creator of this vast universe as He bathes you with His love. Truly His Word is worth more than gold or precious gems.
That evening He spoke three simple words to us by His still small voice, “Flee into Galilee.”
I had no idea what He meant. Neither did my wife. I lay there and pondered the brief message, Flee into Galilee, as I drifted towards sleep. I knew that the names of places in scripture often have symbolic meaning, such as the New Jerusalem that comes down out of Heaven mentioned by the apostle Paul. But this had me puzzled. Sleep soon overcame my bewilderment.
The days following held some special surprises as I began my quest to grasp what God had told us. I have learned through experience that we only gain insight as God gives it, so my search through the Bible with the help of a concordance was a prayerful one. And insight was gained. Perhaps not the complete understanding Christ had for me, but certainly enough to make a real impact on my life.
Flee into Galilee. I knew He was not telling us to pack our bags and fly to the Middle East. No, he was letting us know that we were at a place in our spiritual walk with which He was not satisfied.
As I searched the scriptures, I was reminded how Jesus’ disciples were Galileans. His faithful apostles and the hundred and twenty in the upper room were Galileans. The five hundred who witnessed His ascent into Heaven were called men of Galilee by the attendant angel. And Christ, before giving His commission to preach the gospel in all the world, sent word to his disciples to go into Galilee where He promised they would see Him.
At last it began to sink in. If we are to fulfill Christ’s commission, we need to depart for Galilee where He meets with us and shares His plans for reaching those in need of His unconditional love. We must be in the spiritual condition Galilee represents. Though we may love Him and truly call Him Lord, it is from Galilee that we can be certain of bearing a truly effective witness.
What is this place called Galilee? Certainly it is a place of complete submission to Him. Christ cannot live where we are not dead to ourselves. His true disciples, such as those in the upper room, had at least one trait in common. They all wanted the Lordship of Jesus in their lives; they were holding nothing back. And, if we are to have meaningful fellowship with Him, we need to be like those early Galileans. For only if a servant is yielded to his Master is He of use to the Kingdom.
Galilee is a place of giving and self-sacrifice. The Sea of Galilee, fed by the Jordan River, is full of crystal clear water teeming with life. As the Jordan flows in, it gives sustenance to the magnificent sea. Then it issues back out as the Galilee in turn gives of itself. The Jordan continues flowing to provide also for the Dead Sea, dead because it has no outlet, dead because it never gives. It keeps the nourishing waters of the Jordan unto itself and, in so doing, loses all hope of bringing forth life.
Galilee is a place of simplicity, free from self-righteousness and pretense. Christ was and is a Galilean. Galilee was at the crossroads of ancient trade routes and the Jews living there were often of mixed blood. They must have been looked down upon by their more cosmopolitan kinsmen in Jerusalem. After all, Jerusalem was the center of Jewish culture and religious practice. Galilee was rural countryside, provincial – the sticks.
The ministry of Christ in Jerusalem was met with ridicule and fierce opposition. Few there seemed to appreciate His message. He was so rejected in Jerusalem that He ceased to minister there, returning only to be crucified. Jerusalem was the host city for religious facade; a place where tradition was stacked onto ritual and ritual onto tradition as the Word of God was made void in the hearts of men. It was where the pious and prideful, so certain of their religious favor before God, were drained of compassion and the quality of mercy was not strained. It was the city where the Prophets before Him had been beaten and killed. It was the place of His own crucifixion.
By contrast, the humble Galilee offered not much more than a few fishermen, long since stripped of any worldly pretense. Knowing they were in the presence of a Power much greater than they had encountered before, they might well have said with Peter “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” They knew their condition and had no mask for their unworthiness. In short, they were prime material for the Kingdom of God, wide open for the gospel of love found at the beautiful feet of Jesus.
As I pondered these things, I knew I had glimpsed something of what the Lord meant when He told us to flee into Galilee. One further insight, however, served to bring the whole matter into much sharper focus.
WILL THE CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN?
When we speak of our fellowship circle, we state a greater truth than perhaps we realize. Jesus’ early disciples were figuratively gathered about Him in a circle, eager to hear His wisdom. He was the preeminent one on whom all eyes focused. All the rest were simply brethren.
He is just as much with us today as He was with those early Christians, only more so now for He dwells in us by His Spirit. He told those first disciples He was going away but would not leave them comfortless. He was speaking of the Holy Spirit whom he promised would lead them into all truth, the same Spirit who dwelled in Him and by whom He taught them.
As heirs of this same wondrous promise, we should examine ourselves and be assured that we are in the same circle of fellowship as those early Galileans, aware that the Holy Spirit dwells in the hearts of all who have accepted Him and that Jesus is the only leader of our fellowship. He is the exact center of this circle and all eyes should be focused on Him for He is still speaking and sharing His wisdom with us just as he promised He would.
It is the same anointing teaching us today that ministered to John and Peter. Sometimes He speaks to us through dreams or visions as Joel prophesied (Joel 2:28), but often He simply uses the lips of our born-again brothers and sisters. We must know that when we ignore or quench His precious Spirit, we are draining out Life itself, our vital link with eternity.
Jesus accomplished His work on earth by being submissive to the Spirit of His Father. Without mass media and with only a handful of followers, the world is still shaking from His impact. How staggering to realize that the same Spirit that was in Him has been made available to us, His brothers and sisters, without measure as we walk with Him in love. The mystery of the ages is manifest today, Christ in us, the Hope of Glory.
His church is not organized like worldly institutions. His army does not function like the armies of the nations, dependent on communication from other men. No, His church is organized in perfect harmony by His Spirit, moving as the Spirit moves, going where the Spirit says to go, speaking what the Spirit says to speak. As Jesus told Nicodemus:
“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
In God’s great army, we receive our marching orders from the Master. We don’t know how He will deliver His next command, but we do know that if we obey, He’ll be glorified.
Christ’s circle of fellowship is radically different from anything found in this world. It must be of necessity since man, without Christ, organizes his activities in truly carnal ways – carnal because man, without Jesus, has no other choice.
Man’s organizational structures become pyramids of power as they grow in time. There are examples all about us. Armies have multitudes of privates at the base of the pyramid but only a handful of generals at the top. Business corporations and man-made religious hierarchies function along the same line.
For non-Christians it can’t be any other way. When man is the head, instead of Christ, communication is left to the mercy of insecure human nature and we see the devastating results in the world all about us. But whatever our so-called station in this world, in Christ we are just another member of the family of God. He is the only leader. His Spirit and Living Word are preeminent. We should follow only Him, not letting anything or anyone come between us. It is either the Living One or man; Spirit or flesh. Our attitudes are so important in this.
If we are looking to man to teach us and lead us and our faith is in man to do so, then we’ll have man as teacher with all the religious bondage that accompanies such an attitude. But if we are looking to Jesus to instruct us and light our pathway through life, then surely He will keep His promise and of a certainty we will benefit eternally.
If we place man at the center of the circle, no matter how brilliant or knowledgeable he may be, we’ll suffer from the idolatrous act. For idolatry is what it is and the circle will fast become a pyramid, just another man-made religious edifice. We can cloak such deception with hymns, scripture reading and religious platitudes, but when Christ is not central, there is no life to give life, just the dead burying the dead. Seemingly countless moves of the Spirit have taken place throughout church history, only to fade away as man, with his love for tradition and religious prestige, has organized the Lord right out of the picture.
We know that Jesus often speaks through different earthen vessels in which He has placed the treasure of His Holy Spirit. He speaks through some more than others as He chooses in His wisdom. Such ministries, when valid, come not from anything in man, but from the wellspring of Life. Christ is always the minister; we have no other.
“Nor are you to be called teacher, for you have one Teacher, the Christ.” (Matt. 23:10)
We are all simply fellow workers in the vineyard. Spiritual gifts, including preaching, cannot be turned on and off at man’s design, but function only when energized by the Living God. When man preempts the Spirit and dominates the assembly, the River of Life slows to a trickle and the body of Christ, His church, suffers. When we presume what God would speak to us as we gather together and through whom He would say it, we quench the very source of life. If we call Him Lord, we should let Him be Lord. Our assemblies are meant to be feasts of the Living Word where we break the bread of life together as the Spirit ministers to each of us as He will.
We should be looking to hear only from Him, conscious that God is not limited. He can and does speak through anyone or use any method He chooses to reach and soften our hearts and renew our minds. But regardless of how or through whom He delivers His word, His full authority rests in His word. It is not diminished if it comes through the mouth of a child.
If the apostle Paul were among us today, we would be wise to heed his admonition to follow him as he followed Christ. (I Cor. 11:1). His authority resided solely in the Living Word, the Spirit within his heart. Only as he walked in the Spirit, only as he followed Christ, was he an example for the flock. It is always Christ on whom we are to keep our eyes focused so we do not wander astray.
His circle of fellowship is filled with His love. We may find ourselves in this circle at the local pharmacy or grocery as we share His life with one of His own. Our communion might be just a warm smile or a friendly hello. Or we might find ourselves listening to something wonderful the Master has done for someone we love. The physical setting of where we meet is totally unimportant so long as we gather by His Spirit, the place alone where life is found. He has let us know that wherever two or three are gathered in His Name, He is there also. And if He’s there, we’re in Church. He didn’t say to get a hundred people together and He might show up.
Whether our gathering is large or small, we need to fellowship in an atmosphere of love, forgiveness and courtesy to encourage those about us to share the beautiful things Christ has done in their lives, to profit from the revelations God has given, and to be blessed by the understanding of others. Of utmost importance, we must realize that Christ’s circle of fellowship is held together by the bond of His love. Delicate though this bond may be, it is the strongest force there is, for love is the very nature of God.
Love is the bond of unity. When we walk together in love, all eyes focused on Him, then He truly reigns in our fellowship and we can expect great blessing for He is in our midst in power.
From this Galilean circle, Jesus cherishes to speak His wisdom to His children today, whether direct, through a fellow believer, or by any one of His many ways. And when He speaks, the earth shakes – the kind of earth that has clogged our vision. Things happen. How could it be otherwise?
THE NEW JERUSALEM
May our spiritual eyes see that Christ’s Galilean circle of fellowship is the New Jerusalem about which the apostle Paul tells us:
“One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.”
This is the Jerusalem about which Isaiah prophesied:
“You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.”
Clearly God wants the New Jerusalem to be the praise in all the earth now. And He has given us the grace and power in His Holy Spirit, everything we need, to win this great victory. Truly He is talking about the Kingdom of God when He tells us of the New Jerusalem.
And the Kingdom of God is a spiritual Kingdom. It is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). It comes without observation. It is at hand. Jesus tells us that His Kingdom is not of this world and that we must be born again to see it. We enter into this Kingdom through much tribulation.
Jesus told men during His earthly ministry:
“I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Kingdom of God come with power.” (Mark 9:1).
And certainly they did see His Kingdom come with great power. They saw themselves filled with the Holy Spirit that they might continue the compassionate and mighty acts of Jesus of Nazareth. They saw Jesus come to sit on the throne of David in the throne rooms of their regenerate hearts to direct them in paths of righteousness. Jesus told his disciples He was going away and the world would not see him anymore but that He would come again to His own to dwell within them and they would see Him (John 14). He kept that wonderful promise to those early disciples just as He keeps it today for all who love Him.
The church needs to see Him today. Man-made devices must be cast aside as believers rest in Jesus, so yielding to the King of the New Jerusalem that He fully occupies the prepared and welcoming thrones in hungry hearts with such power that lightning and thunder roll across the Heavens and everyone knows that God is in our land.
The New Jerusalem is in the capital city of the people of God, the House of Israel, the Holy nation. Jesus said that He came only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. If we have accepted Him as our Redeemer, then we are of that house, numbered among the children of God of whom Jeremiah spoke when he said that God would one day make a new covenant with the House of Israel (Jer. 31:31-34). When we accepted Christ, we were no longer strangers to His new covenant and He accepted us as citizens in His Israel (Eph. 2:12). We too became of the seed of Abraham, named in our beloved Jesus. And Christ gave us a Land of Promise to conquer and possess; not the kind of land that is taken with tanks and guns, but a beautiful place in Him that is won with love and harmony by the free gift of His grace.
He told us that He would one day gather His people from the many places they were scattered and bring them back into the beautiful land He had for them. His people, those who love Him and are called by His Name, have been scattered in many strange places: places of fear, greed, and disharmony. But today, Christians are uniting in love and fellowship and returning to the Land of Peace and Righteousness. We see Jesus sprinkling the cleansing water of His Word on us, bringing us alive in Him. Truly as we walk in Him, we are being brought back into the Land of Faith, known so well by our kinsman, Abraham, who walked by faith and courage. We are being brought back as God pours out His Spirit on us, enlightening our understanding and delivering us from the dead letter of the law into life in the Spirit.
With our spiritual eye, we see a wonderful thing taking place as bones that were once dry come together, preparing for God to breathe yet more life into them that, united by His love, they will stand upon their feet a mighty army for our God (Ezek. 37).
Truly, when not walking in Christ, we are dry bones, dead. We may live in fine houses, have adoring families and many pleasures. But without Jesus, we are still in the grave. Jesus told the Sadducees “I am the resurrection and the life.” When we accept Jesus, He raises us up out of the grave we were in before we knew Him and He brings us into the land of the living.
Just as He told His disciples many centuries ago to raise the dead, heal the sick, cast out demons, and cleanse the leper, so He commands us today to do these same works. Jesus raised multitudes from the dead during His earthly ministry; not just a few who, like Lazarus, were physically dead, but thousands who heard Him preach and saw His miracles. He raised multitudes that let His Word take root in their innermost being, unto salvation. He calls all Christians today to such a ministry of reconciliation that, by reaching out to others by His love, we might raise our neighbors from death and then help them remove the binding grave clothes that hinder their walk with Christ.
Our Lord speaks plainly of this matter (Ezek. 37:12-14):
. . . Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people. I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD.
“…the power of sin is the law.” (I Cor. 15;56)
If I needed to flee into Galilee, from where must I flee? That was the question I had to ask myself. The answer was to come over the following months and years and, indeed, is still coming. Through it all, I have gained a better understanding of the Christian walk and been freed from bonds that shackle the love and joy Christ Jesus has for us. I have also glimpsed how universal much Christian experience is while being so very diverse at the same time. And I’ve seen the need for the church to better understand the battle in which we’re engaged that we might all fight a more victorious warfare.
Early in my Christian experience, I had a good bit of misdirected zeal to please God. For example, I once took a writing pad and began listing all of the commands of God I could find in the book of Matthew. I wanted to know what God expected of me so I could act upon it and please Him.
Soon I had a list of commands more difficult than anything Moses brought down from the mountain. True, his were engraved on stone and mine were only scribbled on paper, but my intentions were about the same as those of the children of Israel in days gone by. To paraphrase them, “God, you show me what to do and I’ll do it (and deep down inside, I’ll probably be a bit more holy too).”
I look back now and remember that I was most serious when I did this. I was trying to live by a rule book but neglected to see that the Prince of Peace Himself, the author of the book, had come into my heart to direct my pathways all the days of my life.
He wrote the rule book he gave to His servant Moses. He told the early Israelites that if they would keep His commands, they would live and, if not, they would die. This first covenant, as glorious as it was and as holy as the Law is, proved to be a ministration of death. Israel, unable to keep the stringent requirements of the Law, went deep into religious bondage and was in large part blinded and unable to receive the Messiah when He came.
And here I was reading the books of the New Testament and coming up with a harder law than Moses had given the Hebrew children. The Law had commanded do not murder, but Jesus told us that anyone who is even angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. If those with Moses died in the wilderness, what hope was there for us today?
As holy as the Law was, the way of the rule book did not work. If it had given us salvation, Jesus would not have had to suffer the agony of Calvary. God dramatically demonstrated man’s failure to find life through the covenant of commandments and ordinances during His many centuries of dealing with ancient Israel.
No, Christ did not come to give us a larger, more comprehensive book of rules and regulations to follow. He came to give us Himself. He came not only to provide further revelation of the Father; He came to give us life.
God brought this into sharp focus into my own life one evening by asking, in His small still voice, a simple question: “Just who is going to grow the fruit of the Spirit?” I knew He was talking about such things as joy, peace and gentleness. I thought for a moment and realized it had to be Him who did it if it was to be done. I simply needed to quit striving and let Him do it. Shortly thereafter He gave me a single key word that seemed to sum up the whole matter: Yield.
How we need to rest in Him and simply yield to the Spirit of grace who would do His work in us. How very different is the New Covenant from the Old. What a temptation it is to take beautiful God-breathed scripture, profitable to us in so many ways, and reduce it to a rule book for our lives, thereby ending up with a walk not unlike that of the ancient Israelites who perished under such law. We must take seriously the teaching of the gospel concerning the Holy Spirit who wants to dwell within us and direct our lives from our love-filled hearts. We must yield to the One who wants to open scripture to our understanding and lead us along His victorious paths.
We need to be intensely aware that something so much better than walking by rules, regulations, and moral precepts — the Old Covenant way — is now available to us through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We need to know that JESUS HIMSELF IS OUR COVENANT, a covenant incomparably more precious than a book written on paper or commandments engraved on stone.
We find Christ referred to as our covenant in words of prophecy from Isaiah:
I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house. (Isaiah 42:6-7)
Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people . . . . (Isaiah 49:8)
And from Jeremiah:
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jer. 31.31-34)
What a blessing to know that He puts His law in our minds and writes it on our hearts by coming into the very hearts of those who love Him! He and the Father make their abode in us. He pours out His Spirit upon us, which is the Spirit of the living Christ (Ref. Joel 2:28).
How futile the way of ordinances and moral precepts to direct our lives, regardless of how modern our particular version may be, when we can have the living Christ Himself as pilot of our ship. As Paul told the Galatians:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Gal. 2:20)
How much better it is just to yield and let Christ live His life through us, fully knowing that our old worthless selfish nature was co-crucified with Him and that when He arose from the dead, we arose also (Ref. Col. 3:1). Let us apprehend by faith that the crucifixion of this old nature was completely accomplished at Calvary and let us walk in that knowledge.
And let’s establish once and for all in our own minds what happened to the laws and regulations that old dead religious nature wants to follow and not revive them for our lives today, regardless of how attractively they may be packaged.
. . . .He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Col. 2:13-15)
All who rely on observing the law are under a curse . . . . (Gal. 3:10)
… by observing the law no one will be justified. (Gal. 2:16)
Instead, let us follow in the new and living way, CHRIST IN US, THE HOPE OF GLORY. Let us understand that Jesus Himself is our righteousness, our holiness, our wisdom and redemption. (I Cor. 1:30)
Further, let us know that the fiery trials we have as Christians are used by God to burn the legalistic bonds and other shackles that stifle our freedom. When the Hebrew children were thrown into the fiery furnace, they lost nothing but their bonds from which the fire had freed them. God is a Consuming Fire who, in His love for us, wants to consume everything that hinders our walk with Him.
And what hinders our walk with Him more than a legalistic approach to Christianity? It comes as an angel of light, but as Paul plainly tells us, “…the power of sin is the law.” (I Cor. 15:56) The Law in itself is good and holy, but to walk by it, instead of by the grace of God, is to invite disaster into our lives. It is to come up against a force that stirs up lust and greed and all of the evil found in man. As we are told in Romans 7:7-10:
What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what it was to covet if the law had not said, Do not covet. But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from the law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.
Much of our Christian warfare is a battle in overcoming the life of self. It is among the greatest battles we have. And is deep in the prison of darkness trying to justify itself before God by keeping the law. May we see the reality of the crucifixion of self along with the accompanying complete and the accompanying crucifixion of the external legal code that would keep us in slavery to sin. May we understand that Jesus completely won this victory for us at the cross.
Christians know that many of the stories and examples given in the Old Testament literature serve as types and shadows of the present reality to help us better understand our New Covenant. The history of Samson serves such a purpose.
The story of Samson and Delilah is a favorite among many. You will recall that Samson was an Israelite who was endowed with God-given supernatural strength. He once tore loose a Philistine city gate with its supporting posts and carried it away on his shoulders. Another time he slew a thousand enemies of Israel with the jawbone of an ass. He was not one to trifle with.
Samson had a weakness, however, that was to bring his downfall. He fell in love with a Philistine girl named Delilah who, after several unsuccessful attempts, coaxed from him the secret of his immense strength.
Samson’s parents had raised him under a strict Nazarite vow before God in which he was never to let a razor touch his head. While Samson slept, Delilah had his hair shaved, and when he awoke, his strength was gone for the power of the Lord had left him. He was bound, blinded and forced into slavery grinding at the prison mill.
One day after his hair had grown out again, he was taken for sport into the temple of the Philistine god Dagon. In one last heroic feat, he braced himself against the two main support pillars of the pagan temple and, once again having great strength, brought down the structure, killing more Philistines at his death than during his life.
This bit of history has many great lessons for us today. Samson’s hair is symbolic of the covering for the church. That covering is Christ. When we are covered by anything else, we really aren’t protected at all. If someone takes our covering from us, we have been robbed of our freedom.
Samson lost his freedom because of his affair with Delilah who is symbolic of the long arm of the law which is, simply, harlot religion. Once again we are reminded that the power of sin is the law. There is nothing like a flirtation with legalistic religion to wrap us up in chains and rob us of our liberty. The attractive harlot would have us believe that by keeping certain observances, ritual practices, and moral precepts we are gaining in favor before God. How alluring it seems to substitute self-righteousness for righteousness hidden in Christ.
The harlot places man and his organizational methods for doing things ahead of Christ, the true and only head of the Church. And Christ will be second to none. He has let us know that it is “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit” that the work of the Lord is accomplished and that He seeks those who will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.
The apostle Paul told us to follow him as he followed Christ. We’re never to follow after anyone or anything that doesn’t follow after Christ, regardless how attractive. If we do, we risk losing our spiritual strength, just as Samson was stripped of his. If we fail here, we may suffer the disastrous consequences of religious bondage with its accompanying spiritual blindness and inner agony.
Our submission is always to Christ, the Living Word, and to His Spirit. We should never submit to a man because he claims some position in an organized religious structure. Ordination papers, seminary education, and man-made recognition don’t make one a servant of God. Only an answered call from God can do that. And many are called but few are chosen. The chosen ones are those who answer the call and take up their cross and follow Him. He who would be first will be last and servant of all.
Today the Father sends us teachers, apostles and other ministries for our benefit. We should ever be alert for them, listening attentively for our Master’s voice. No other voice has any value. If we don’t hear Christ speaking, we should run the other way. “My sheep hear my voice. A stranger they will not follow.”
Hopefully we will grasp the pearl of wisdom given us through the apostle John:
As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit, just as it has taught you, remain in him.” (I John 2:27)
May we let this precious anointing teach us, not only in our private lives, but as we fellowship together. We see the anointing teaching us when no man has taken preeminence in our fellowship and quenched the Spirit. We know the anointing is at work within the body of Christ when we see all of the saints free to express their revelations, give their testimonies, and share the life of Jesus in the perfect order and harmony found in our Lord’s Spirit.
May we come together in expectancy, wondering what rich food the Lord has for us as we meet, united by the bond of love and yielded to Him, not knowing what brother or sister is going to be the next to speak or sing the words of life by the precious anointing within them. Then we can share the bread of life from Jesus in His Kingdom, clustered about Him as we love one another in the true unbridled fellowship that brings health and growth to the body of Christ.
And let us recognize that his Body is not divided. Every true Christian has Christ’s Spirit dwelling in his heart. Love is the power that brings His body together to perform His great task on earth. And love is the power that holds his people together — not the jam and glue of man-made organization, tradition, or social background.
Love has the victory!
WHO ARE WE, ANYWAY?
Who shall lay anything to the charge
of God’s elect? (Romans 8:33)
One of our adversary’s favorite methods of warfare is to wage a relentless attack against us using the weapon of condemnation. Regardless of how close to God we’ve been living or however good the intentions of our heart, the enemy wants to tell us that it’s not good enough and that we’ve fallen short. He would load us down with feelings of guilt and inadequacy in his efforts to hinder our walk with our Savior. Many Christians carry just such loads of guilt about with them, sapping their joy and strength.
We should learn not to listen to this voice of condemnation. It comes from the Accuser of the Brethren (Ref. Rev. 12:10) and his time is short. Often his method is to tell us we’ve violated some point of law, whether such law is Biblical or part of some modern tradition.
Thank God, Jesus has set us free from bondage to the law and freely given us the grace of God.
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1)
We know that the very strength, the very power of sin is the law. Therefore it is not surprising the enemy of our souls would try to buffet us with condemnation in his attempt to sap the joy and peace of our salvation.
. . . we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. (Romans 6:6)
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal. 2:20)
So who or what does the devil have left to accuse? Our old nature, the only thing worthy of condemnation, went to the cross with Jesus. It’s been dealt with. We’re in the beloved. We’re in Him for all eternity. And we were in Him when He arose from the dead. (Ref. Col.3:1)
The verdict is in. The Judge of the Ages has rendered His final decision. NOT GUILTY!
So rebuke that accusing devil and tell it to stay out of your life. You know the verdict. You know the truth that he can’t lay anything to the charge of those who follow Jesus.
Many Christians have feelings of inadequacy stemming from the slings and arrows of an outrageous fortune — rejection experiences in childhood or failures somewhere in their lives. We need to understand that rejection and failure are all part of that old carnal nature and accept by faith its crucifixion at Calvary. We need to see that God does not condemn us. We need to understand that in Christ we have become new creatures, all things made new. Our life is now hidden in Him. In Him, there is no rejection, no failure. Condemnation is not part of His new creation. God looks on our hearts and knows our intentions. And our hearts are new, hearts He Himself has given us. He sees us as His children, sons and daughters. In Him is the healing balm of Gilead to mend all past hurts and injuries and make us whole.
We need to be ever conscious of who we are. Let us clearly see that it is now Christ living His life in us and through us. We are part of His new creation. May we know our identity and accept no substitute. And let us follow this new heart in all that we do for He dwells there and will not lead us astray. He tells us we are His.
Jesus had to fight the battle before us to make the way for our redemption. He was tempted at all points but He overcame. It was no mock battle for Him, but a very real struggle with blood, tears, and persecution.
He was able to overcome because He knew who He was. When the enemy tempted Him with If thou art the son of God . . ., there was no if about it to Jesus for He knew the truth of who He was. He knew He was of the blood line of the Most High God. He knew that He was born from Heaven above of the Holy Spirit. He knew who His Father was. He knew His own true identity.
And today He wants us to know who we are. We should grasp that God is truly our Father. We are no longer of this earth but are now from above. Though we are in this world, we are not of it. We should understand that even now we are seated in Heavenly Places in Christ Jesus. (Ref. Eph. 2:6)
Understanding this is important to our leading a victorious overcoming life in Christ. God’s people “. . . overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (Rev. 12:11)”
Our overcoming by the Blood of the Lamb certainly involves our acceptance of His sacrifice for us at Calvary. But we should also recognize that we are of His blood line. We should accept that our identity is found only in Him. And we should let this be part of our overcoming testimony. Yes, we need to know in our hearts and in our minds who we are and acknowledge before men that we indeed know who we are.
We should confess with the sincere words of our lips that the Accuser of the Brethren also knows who we are and has no power over us for Christ has given us power over all the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19). Let the enemy know that you know you are a blood member of the family of God, that the blood of the Lamb of God now flows in your veins, and that your real identity is found only in Christ. As a Christian, you are part of Christ’s Body and empowered by His Holy Spirit to live for God. The enemy has no claim against those who live for Christ Jesus. Indeed, who can lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?
IN HIS IMAGE
He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go
bury my father.”
Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their
own dead, but you go and proclaim the Kingdom
of God.” (Luke 9:59-60)
Our task is not to bury dead doctrines, but rather to preach Jesus. Light dispels darkness. If we simply proclaim the gospel in love, false foundations crumble and prisoners are set free. We don’t have to battle with ghosts of the past.
Speaking the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power and grace of the Holy Spirit deals a fatal blow to legalism and false tradition, main support pillars of the structure of evil. There are many lesser supports, such as rationalism, false piety, and a legion of wrong beliefs, but legalism and tradition are central. Without them, the structure of false religion will fall. Truth shatters them even as the strong arms of Samson broke asunder the two central columns of the Philistine temple of the false god Dagon, causing the utter collapse of that cesspool of idolatry.
Paul noted the relation of falsity in belief to these two problems in his letter to the Colossians when he wrote:
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
The principles of the world to which Paul was referring are legalistic elements or principles. They hold the world’s machinery together. Paul called them weak and miserable principles and cautioned the Galatians they could once again be enslaved by them. He let them know that their legalistic religion was quenching their joy and that he did not want them to be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. He had similar words of caution for the Colossians when he told them:
Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’?
Paul tells us that:
Before faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. (Gal. 3:23)
He further tells us:
. . . when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. (Gal. 4:3)
Legalism is a great bondage of the human spirit, a prison of darkness. How are we cleansed of these legalistic bonds that would enslave us?
Remember once again the Hebrew children: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Ref. Daniel 3). They would not bow the knee to the golden image built by King Nebuchadnezzar, so he had them thrown into an exceedingly hot and fiery furnace to destroy them. But a fourth figure appeared in the fire with them as Christ delivered them from all harm. Not even their robes were singed and there was not so much as the smell of fire on them. All the flames did was burn their bonds without in anyway harming them.
So it is in our walk with Jesus. The apostle Peter tells us not to think of the fiery trials that come upon us as a strange thing. We go through trials that melt these earthly elements with a fervent heat and free us from prison. We may not even perceive what some of these bonds have been. We just know that after we come through a time of testing, we have a deeper understanding of Christ and His love for us along with much more freedom in Him.
We have fiery trials because God loves us and wants to burn away our bonds. God is a Consuming Fire (Deut. 4:24). His burning love for us consumes all of the dross and carnality out of our lives and leaves pure refined gold.
Before meeting Jesus, man generally believes in the Ten Commandments or some other ethical code of conduct. The Heaven of the religious or ethical man without Christ is a Heaven under law. When we come into Christ, we are translated into a Heaven under the Grace of God. All things are made new. We are seated in Heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ref. Eph. 2:6).
When we accept Jesus, He brings us into this New Heaven, apprehended by faith, where He is. He lives in us. He and the Father make their abode in us. Heaven is where God is and it is in the eternal hearts of the redeemed. The Kingdom of God is within and the King reigns from within.
But there is warfare in Heaven. In our battle to be free from the legalistic elements of this world, we wrestle against the principalities and powers in the Heavenly realms that would keep us in bondage to law and man-made tradition. As we walk with Christ and let him fight our battles for us, we are set free and He cleanses our Heaven. We come into alignment with Him. Our Heaven becomes purely a Heaven of Grace. His consuming fire destroys everything that would bring contamination or defilement.
He gives us this New Heaven the day we accept Him as our Lord, but we need to march in and take possession. In our battle to claim the land, the dragon and his motley crew come with messages of condemnation, legalism, false tradition and despair in their efforts to put us back into the chains of slavery. But we know that all of the principalities and powers in the Heavenly realms had their power completely shattered at Calvary.
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Col. 2:15)
In the record of His earthly ministry, we glimpse the battle Jesus had against the legalizers of that bygone day. Those under the law were continually pointing the finger of condemnation at Him for healing on the Sabbath and other apparent infractions of their canon. But Jesus chose to walk by a higher law, the Law of Love, found only in the Spirit of His Father. He knew that anything done in love and faith was in the center of God’s will and that man could not justify himself.
Angered by His disregard for their traditions and threatened by the power of His gospel, they plotted His death. Yielding to the Father, He was handed over to the High Priest of the Law, the personification of legalistic religion, who clamored for His crucifixion. The Power of Sin came against Him as He was nailed to the cross. Little did his persecutors know that the law of commandments and ordinances was forever nailed to the cross with Him. By walking the pathway of love, He had fulfilled the law at every point and delivered mankind from its awesome power. He could look down from the cross and say It is finished. Freedom from legal bondage was complete. He blazed the trail before us in royal splendor and ushered in the Way of Grace, a way that tells us to bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. And what is the law of Christ? Why, of course, the Law of Love.
The law of commandments and ordinances, however, is still there in full force for those who through ignorance or preference find themselves under it.
. . . until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (Matt. 5:18)
But we are no longer subject to the law. Everything we need was accomplished in Him. We can let him accomplish the same wonderful work in us. He ushered in a New Heaven under grace. We can let the Old Heaven of legalistic principles vanish from our lives as we submit to Him. Man is of the earth, made of clay, carnal. The New Man in Christ Jesus, however, partakes of the divine nature. In Christ, man’s carnality, mired in earthly clay, disappears. We have a choice of pathways: the grace of Jesus Christ or the fierce dark light of the law.
Jesus once told those under the law that they proselyted both land and sea to find one convert whom they made into twofold more a child of hell than they themselves were. To be under the law is to be a child of hell, burdened by the tremendous guilt and torment of condemnation that knowledge of the law brings with it. When law comes, knowledge of right and wrong comes with it, bringing no power to do the right and condemnation for the wrong.
In man’s carnal unenlightened mind, attitudes towards good and evil are determined by knowledge and understanding of the law. With a code of ethics come opinions of right and wrong, good and evil, by which man renders judgment. Adam ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We could say Adam ate of the tree of the law. Jesus sets us free from its bitter fruit and gives us the mind of Christ that we might leave all judgment with the Father. When we judge others we quench the very love of God in us and cannot effectively reach out to help those who are drowning in a sea of problems.
As we walk with Jesus and allow His Spirit to work in us and through us, we share in His victory. His experience on earth was one of triumph as He continued in the Word He received from His Heavenly Father.
. . . Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him . . . . (Hebrews 6:7)
Jesus came to perfection. He was so completely conformed to the express image of His Heavenly Father that He could tell His disciple, Philip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” He was the Living Word made flesh.
God’s desire for us is that in like manner we be conformed to the image or likeness of Christ. We have the same Holy Spirit in us that raised Jesus from the dead to make this reality in our lives.
When we look into the mirror of our soul, may we see this same likeness – the likeness of love. As the seasons pass, may we view someone who is warm and friendly inside and know that the Master has truly been at work in us. And, may we also look for Him in the joy and peace of others about us, for truly it is Jesus Who is coming in us, molding us into His express image. Even as He was the Word made flesh, He is making His Living Word flesh in us today. He is bringing His people to perfection as we partake of His very nature.
He does not command the impossible when He tells us to be perfect, even as our Heavenly Father is perfect, for perfection is found only in Him. As we walk in Him, we share in His perfection and righteousness. Our old nature was crucified at Calvary; we now live and have our being in Him, and He is the Perfect One.
Jesus comes for a bride without spot or wrinkle, perfection found only in Him. His bride is one with Him, bone of His bone, flesh of His flesh. Our identity is in Christ.
In Him, the shackles of legal bondage and false tradition fall off and the glorious image of the Son is revealed, CHRIST IN US, THE HOPE OF GLORY, as we begin to comprehend a truth so magnificent that it is difficult to realize it can be expressed with such simple elegance:
The only thing that matters is faith expressing itself in love. Galatians 5:6
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