Again today's writing was sparked by the writing of that greatly respected writer, who though dead nearly a hundred years continues to be my friend and daily encourager, the late and great Rev. Oswald Chambers.
He writes, "Life without war is impossible either in nature or in grace. "!
(Well, take that passivists! lol) Then he explains that rather large supposition by saying, "The basis of physical, mental, moral and spiritual life is antagonism. This is an open fact of life. Health (on any level) is a balance ... and is maintained only by sufficient vitality on the inside against things (that come to war with it) on the outside." He goes on to give an excellent exposition on this subject, which I heartily recommend that you read.
But I want to take it from here with an exhortation that is beating in my heart today. He began this devotion with the Scripture in Revelation 2:7 "To him that overcometh..." (KJV). This is such a pivotal Scripture for our times. Perhaps for all times! Because when we get into an entitlement mentality as a nation - as we have done - and if it seeps into the doctrines of the Church - which it has - then false doctrine inevitably occurs! And it is evident in today's professed believer that there is a bit of confusion about the purpose and activity of faith and its co-worker - Grace!
Faith and Grace are too often mistaken for - or confused with, and replaced with - presumption and camouflage! It has become clear, if only to me, that people do not know, are not being effectively taught, a life of trust and belief of God and His Word! Instead we are given a lot of lofty, unreachable ideals and not so much as a step-ladder with which to reach them! It is a recipe for supreme and utter failure! The result of which is that we elect a "Saul" or find a "Moses" who is willing to rule over us or to touch God on our behalf! But we, as whole are not discipled into that place of utter abandonment to God, that place of laying it all on the line for Him everyday! But this is contrary to what Yeshua commissioned! God is trying to make oak trees, not bonsai! We are to be grafted into His Vine or Olive Tree, not kept in pots!
There seems to be an overall assumption, for example, that "Grace covers sin", and that faith is merely mental assent with whatever is being taught, and so both faith and grace are used sort of like an indemnity clause in an insurance policy - (as long as we - fill in the blanks- we will be saved"). The Scriptures make it clear, however, that Grace covers only the sinner who repents! And it also makes it quite clear that Sin is marked for complete annihilation! Therefore the former sinner, who receives that Grace which annihilates sin, becomes one who does not sin in that particular vein anymore - and then Grace moves on to other areas of that one's life, continuing to eliminate sin until all is clean - or Holy, set apart for the Lord. But - too often the clear Word of God that is to bring an awareness of that sin, and conviction against it, is not preached in power! The Law, which was to highlight and identify sin, has been tossed aside! And in place of that a "politically correct tolerance" has become the standard! But this wimpy, spineless, graceless, faithless mess will never accomplish the work of Holiness without which NO man shall see the LORD!
The completed work of repentance is that one is transformed, metamorphosed - if you will - into another entity altogether - into the very nature and character of God! The work of Grace is to completely and utterly remove sin from the repentant one! Grace is the Anointing of the Spirit to free the one, whom sin has taken captive, from that sin - thereby obliterating the charges against him! It does not just pretend that he didn't do it or make him feel better about it all! Grace does not wave a magic wand over sin, making what the Law calls sin suddenly acceptable! It is much better than that! Grace actually, effectively, empowers the sinner to overcome the sin and win victory over it! It so changes the recipient that the one who has been so freed has nodesire to return to that captivity! Because, you see, it - Grace empowered by Faith - begins with the motivations of the heart! Grace changes what we value, and then Faith is given to obtain those things - those spiritual things of real value to God, that have now also become the object of our desires!
So - stay with me now - logically then, the ones who hold on to and protect their sin, refusing to call it sin (calling God a liar to His face in so doing in the bargain), and neglecting to turn from the sin - or worse, obstinately and pridefully insisting that they do not need to repent of it or turn away from that - action, thought, behavior, or motivation - which His Word defines as sin - so that it can be obliterated without obliterating them - that one has become deceived - Hook, line and stinker! That one has made no real "decision for Christ" (refusing to fight their flesh for the Holiness that His Anointing requires), or if they did once make a decision for Him, something has choked it out! Because - in refusing to repent of what He calls sin, replacing His clear mandates with doctrines of their own choosing - they have simply applied a deceptive, feel good, doctrinal salve to their burning consciences, and continued on in their pattern of spiritual procrastination! That one, who will not humble themselves to admit their sin, and repent of it, is fighting no real fight of faith, nor running any real race of righteousness! They are, in fact, on a doctrinal dead-end street to destruction! Salvation is ONLY obtained by Teshuvah! Real, heart-felt Repentance from sin, caused by the conviction of the Spirit of God against sin, usually brought on by a large dose of TRUTH - aka Scripture - which is acknowledged and acted upon!
Graceheals sickness, it does not merely assist us to manage it! (That is the work of the medical profession!) Grace destroys strongholds, it does not just slip twinkies under the door! Grace is not confined to mankind's weakness and self-ambition, or natural ability! Grace does not defend sin! It court-marshals it, and condemns it to death! We must not aid and abet sin, we must not placate it, enable it and protect it from justice! That may indeed qualify as "tolerance" but it is not the LOVE of the Gospel, nor does it contain any real or eternal "Good News"! We will never attain to Holiness while harboring sin!! Repentance is the prerequisite for Grace! Grace is not dispensed to those who protect sin, but to those who cry out for freedom from its oppression! And Life everlasting is not extended to those who mentally assent to the idea of Holiness and Righteousness, but to those who fight the good fight of faith to attain that Godly standard! Salvation is indeed a free gift! But the working out of it into our daily lives and habits will take us the rest of our lives and requires all of our strength and devotion!
Life - real life - eternal life - begins now - the minute that we come into agreement with God that what He calls sin in His Word is indeed sin - and that it is not our lot in life! The minute that we see that we are being held captive by it, caught in the addictions of our lower nature, and cry out to Him! Trusting Him for His help to be freed from that ungodly bondage! The minute that we turn from our sin to God and His Holiness (make Teshuvah) - and we desire His Holiness above our fleshly pleasures that have taken us captive and have separated us from His Holiness - that minute - eternal life begins to work in us in the form of Grace - by Faith! Whether it is eternal or temporary, however, depends on whether we are willing to work that Salvation out into our daily lives, and continue in it until the end of all things!
And that which is called "Faith" - must be placed in God and His Word (not in our own ability, doctrines or traditions!) - Faith is the substance - the seed - the matter - that we grasp which transforms us from darkness to light, from sinner to saint, from cursed to blessed, from shattered to whole, from dirty to cleansed - it is the "stuff" which becomes our weapons of warfare - which, when united with our belief in the pure Word of God, and the Holy Character of God - enables our victory over sin!
But what we have missed or dismissed, by and large, is the struggle! As a whole, we who call ourselves the "Church", have discounted the warfare! We have scorned the very idea! We openly scoff at the truth that we are born into sin! We loudly deny that it is only in fighting our way out of that sinful captivity (with the power provided to us in His atonement) that we obtain eternal life! We act as though it is all simply handed to us on a silver platter for "making the right decision"! That is what we have been erroneously taught! Therefore, the tendency is to refuse all responsibility in the process! We have become altogether deceived and therefore negligent! But it is called a walk of faith, and a fight of faith! Not a Yacht of faith! Nor a Spa of faith! There are no retirement plans or vacation packages - just a Sabbath Rest! Yes! Yeshua did the impossible stuff that we could not do! But now He expects us to do what He has left us to do, He expects obedient observance of all that He has commanded!! He expects that we work to become Holy as He is Holy! That we die to sin and awake unto righteousness! Any of that ring any bells?
But we act as though it is a formula or a set of rules at best - or like some kind of random contest prize at worst! We seem to have no real idea of what the Word actually says about any of it - and yet we claim that we live by it! We have substituted mere "positive thinking" for faith! And we have fallen on our faces in defeat - not repentance - time and again! No wonder the heathen openly mock us!
Most Churches have awakened, somewhat, to the problem that folks do not seem to ever grow up. That they are, as it says , "ever learning, but never coming to a knowledge of the truth"! The leadership scratch their heads over it, and spend much time in prayer and fasting, but for some reason never seem to come up with the correct answer! We do not need another program! Another teaching video from someone who is living it! We need a daily application course to teach all those who are not living it how it is to be lived!
I have likened Church - or the institutional system which is called by that name - to a green house - hence the references to "pots" and "bonsai". At least the good ones, who are preaching live Word can be compared to green houses, the rest sort of resemble the orphanages in a Dickens novel - a bunch of starving, disheveled, dirty children, longing for a savior! But a green house is great for seedlings! Those new ones who need protection from the environment, who are not good at getting the nourishment from the source, yet. However, it is a sorry environment for fully-grown oaks!
Anticipating this difficulty, but needing to hold on to everyone (because the system can't work if you can't pay the staff), the solution is to make spiritual bonsai! Tiny miniatures of "spiritual maturity"! They talk like "trees", dress like "trees", and act like "trees" (at least while leadership is looking) - but they are so confined by the pots they are in, so root bound, etc. - that they will never be able to fulfill the Great Commission! (Which, by the way, was not given only to PAID CLERGY!) But the Bonsai are taught that if they bring their tithes and children, to keep the big machine alive, that they are fulfilling it by proxy! So to keep them alive (barely) they are constantly cut back and "put in their place"! Nourishment is carefully doled out, lest they get too big for their pot and begin to demand more room! They are petted, comforted and "loved" quietly to death. But they look alive! Some manage to live there until they die physically, but few feel that they are accomplishing the dream which God planted in their hearts! And there is a good reason for that - they are not!
I don't know about everyone else, but I am weary to death of seeing the few select go roaring off to my beloved Israel - and many other mission fields - without me! I am sick and tired of seeing the likes of John & Lisa Bevere and Joyce Meyer and Creflo & Taffy Dollar and Kenneth & Gloria Copeland, and a host of others - who are able to live everyday about the Word of God - because somehow others catch their vision and support them! That is great! And I am sure that they are anointed to do what they do! But - I want to doexploits for God, not just fund them! I want to fulfill John 14:12, not just watch while others fulfill it - "on my behalf"! Christianity was designed to be interactive! It was never supposed to be a spectator sport - pay your money, let "them", the exalted few, take all the risks - and receive all the blessing!
I feel like the "Beloved Betrothed" in the Song of Songs, when she lamented, "I am dark and swarthy (aka - severely burned!), I have been kept busy in my brother's vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept!" I totally feel you on that one sister! Gene and I have, at times, almost single-handedly "kept" someone else's vineyard! Yet, somehow, we are never seen as more than weed pullers, load toters, or go-fer's (go for this or go for that)! We have been seriously bonsaied! And let me tell you how they keep us small - they continuously heap life draining responsibility on our backs while withholding the Authority that should accompany that responsibility for themselves! They take the power and the glory while the peons do all the work!
Not that they are consciously aware of such scullduggery on their part! I am not accusing anyone of conscious robbery or devious premeditated murder! Most of them are simply deceived by the enemy, and brainwashed by the system! They are thoroughly deceived into thinking they are doing us all a favor! They truly believe the lie of the enemy that they must maintain control at all times, to protect us from the crazy ones! As though God fell off His throne or something! But that kind of paranoia leads to operating in control and manipulation and not real Authority at all! Real Authority is ONLY given, never taken or usurped. Period. So sadly, without realizing it, most of these hard working - God anointed - leaders are working against the very thing they set out to accomplish! How tragic. Some wonder aloud how could they have been anointed by God and missed it so badly!? But Saul did! He was God's anointed! And we need to be careful how we deal with these misled ones! We do not want to come against them in an unrighteous way! But neither do we need to keep pretending that the Emperor is properly clothed!! They deserve our prayer and intercession, but not our service and loyalty! There is still time for Repentance for them! It could be gotten right, if they really wanted it more than they want the personal perks of the system.
But the effect of this system - that has been called Church - but which has been unwittingly separated from the Word of God - is that the Spirit of God, the Ruach Ha Kodesh, though loudly touted as being among them, is not able to move as He would! He is not able to garden or shepherd, because those whom He put in charge under Him, have usurped His Authority as their own! And take Authority over others that He did not give them! He is grieved over the smallness of the work they accomplish, but He did put them in charge, and He will not over-ride them! He is patiently waiting for them to humble themselves, to change. He realizes that they do not see the mistake which they are making - so He sends emissaries among them, those who do see, and who have the courage to say what they see! However, most times those courageous ones are simply marked as rebellious (aka "Jezebel") and uncooperative, and, therefore, are eventually, effectively, muzzled and bound, totally stripped of authority and integrity, and pushed so far to the edge that the only place left to go is out. So, seeing that His gift to them - of Truth and Light - was rejected, the Spirit releases them to go. (And then those leaders get angry because they left! Go figure?) But the leaders, refusing to change, continue building their own kingdom while His Kingdom lies in shambles. And yet, again, there is time for repentance! He still calls, He still intercedes!
But there is a rattling going on outside those dimly lit hallowed halls! Like the valley of the dry bones in Ezekiel, an army of those cast aside -of those who have been effectively "eaten by vultures and parched beyond recognition" by the elements from which they were not protected, - a whole regiment of those sucked flat and spit out by the Church (not even given a decent burial) - who were not content with looking right, sounding right and seeming right - but who wanted to be right - or nothing - those who - Having gotten what nourishment that system provided, and having thanked them for it and moved on - in them/us there is now a shaking going on that is stirring up these seemingly dead ones and breathing into them new life!
There is a wind of the Ruach stirring among us, calling us out of the dust of the flesh into whence we had fallen (having been given little other choice) and which is now bringing us back into the dream with which we began this treacherous but glorious journey! Our vision is returning and our clarity is expanding and our strength is being renewed and our Hope is being made alive! We suddenly, joyously find that we are not rejected - as was said of us! Joyously we realize that our beloved has come to us and has accepted us! And now He will cleanse us again (and that He has been cleansing us all along - we did need to die to all but Him) - and that He is now ready to put us to work in our own vineyard, for His own purposes - and to walk with us there every day! Does it get any better?
So, any of you who fit this description of the cast off ones - "Lift up your heads, your redemption draws near!" Get up from where you have fallen! Shake the dust from yourselves and follow Him quickly. As His mother, whom we know best ad "Mary", said to the servants at that famous wedding, "Whatever He says to you, do it!" He has kept our tears, and now it is ready to be turned into Wine and poured out for the Joy of those attending His wedding feast!
Now is the day of Salvation. Now is the hour of Teshuvah! Now is the harvest ripe. We must stop licking our wounds and get back to work, for the night is coming! Dusk is settling in all around us, but if we will truly believe, there will be light in our dwellings! He is found by ALL who seek HIM! He is not set aside only for a frozen chosen! It does say, of course, that "many are called but few are chosen", however, the distinction is simply that the chosen are the called who actually showed up and went to work! They are the ones who were saved, and then worked out that Salvation in daily choices of righteousness! We must take back our Authority and stop shying away from the responsibility that goes with it! We have sometimes shied away because we were told we could not do it! I think we have established the plain fact that we indeed can not! But He can, and He will! "NO WE CAN'T, BUT YES HE CAN!", Should become our new motto. "He is the reason for the season" - but we are not just talking about a holiday! Church - and I am talking to the called out ones - it is seriously time to put up or shut up!
Just in case He really is coming soon!