Friday, July 31, 2009
Words of Repentance From Ted Haggard
By Lee Grady www.themordecaiproject.com
In an interview with Charisma, the fallen Colorado pastor reaches out to the Christian community and asks for forgiveness.
After Colorado pastor Ted Haggard admitted to an embarrassing moral failure with a male prostitute in November 2006, the Christian community wasn't sure what to do with him. Some people wrote him off and kicked him to the curb. A few wept and prayed for the pastor and his devastated wife. We all tried our best to move on—knowing that the American church had suffered a big black eye through the ordeal.
I didn't know what to say to Haggard when the news broke two and a half years ago. Like so many others who had read his books, listened to his sermons and admired his church, I felt betrayed. I sent one brief e-mail to let him know I was praying. After he appeared in the HBO documentary The Trials of Ted Haggard earlier this year, I decided to ask him if he would talk to Charisma about his healing process.
Ted and Gayle drove to Orlando and we talked for more than two hours over lunch. I thought it would be awkward, but both of them were as gracious as they were eager to share their hearts. They still seemed to carry a lot of pain. Their emotions were still raw from having the ugliest details of their personal lives broadcast on national television.
The Haggards agreed to do a print interview, and I gave them the liberty of writing their answers so that they could be sure the sound bytes didn't get distorted. I wanted them to express their hearts clearly. Below is a short version of that interview. The longer version has been posted on our Web site and is available here.
Charisma: You probably feel as though you've been to hell and back since your moral failure in 2006. How are you doing now?
Ted Haggard: My visit to hell on Earth as a consequence of my own actions was both devastating and eye-opening. It took a tree to fall on me, but I did get the point. As a result, my spiritual life is undoubtedly stronger now. I am becoming the man I always prayed to be. Becoming worse than a leper in the eyes of others has deeply humbled me, to say the least.
Charisma: Do you have any plans to go back into ministry?
Ted Haggard: Since the release of the HBO documentary The Trials of Ted Haggard in January, we’ve had millions of visitors to tedhaggard.com and thousands of e-mails that included words of encouragement and invitations to speak and write. We’ve appeared again on Oprah, had two appearances on Fox network and have spoken in a variety of venues. It’s all humbling and embarrassing. But it does seem to help others, and we are being received with more love and respect than I’ve ever had in my life.
Charisma: For about a year you were under the discipline of a team of ministers. What did you learn from that?
Ted Haggard: I learned that what I had been teaching others for years is true: We should all live our lives as though there is no such thing as a secret. And I realize how much my sin costs others. Secrecy empowers sin. What I should have done is find a safe place to openly confess my sin and find a path to effective repentance. I am deeply sorry for those I have hurt and disappointed in my process.
Charisma: No minister actually plans to have a moral failure. What mistakes did you make that led you to make wrong choices?
Ted Haggard: I wrongly thought I could take care of my problems without embarrassing my family and friends. I feared the consequences and shame so much. I didn't trust others enough to talk about it. I thank God, though, that the crisis got things out in the open so I can enjoy honest communication and freedom today.
Charisma: What do you say now to people who struggle with gay feelings?
Ted Haggard: I am not a psychologist, so I don't have any advice for others who struggle the way I did. Nor do I know with certainty that my childhood experience contributed to my problems. Some of my counselors have made that connection, and the treatment of that childhood experience completely removed all compulsive thoughts and behaviors. I no longer deal with conflicting desires the way I did.
Regardless, though, I do not believe my childhood experience is an excuse. I am responsible and I have repented. I highly recommend qualified Christian counseling for anyone losing their fight with any kind of compulsive thoughts or behaviors. I believe our generation of believers is going to have to accept that it's not always lack of faith if we need counseling for assistance with integrity. If I had gone to counseling, I probably could have completely avoided my crisis.
Charisma: How has the church treated you since your fall?
Ted Haggard: A growing segment of church leaders are choosing to publicly forgive us and welcome us. Other church leaders are quiet, which I think may be the way they communicate that we are irrelevant and/or embarrassing to them. Others haven't known what to do so they have done nothing. When people are quiet, mean, judgmental, ignorant, angry or distant, I think that is justice, and I don't blame them. When others are kind, gentle, loving, helpful, supportive and gracious I consider it a gift and am grateful.
Gayle Haggard: Since returning to Colorado Springs, we have discovered many church people who were as eager to reconnect with us as we were with them. In this atmosphere of love and forgiveness, true healing and restoration is taking place.
Charisma: Women watched you from a distance, Gayle, and wondered how you could stay with Ted. What do you tell women whose husbands have had affairs?
Gayle Haggard: The reason I could stay with Ted was that I settled in myself that he is worth it. Sure, I was hurting. I felt totally let down and betrayed. My heart was thoroughly broken. But I had to believe that in spite of all the pain Ted loved me and I loved him and our relationship was real. I determined that he was worth fighting for, our marriage was worth fighting for, and the honor and dignity of our children was worth fighting for.
I encourage women with the words that encouraged me: Love covers a multitude of sins. When I pressed myself to forgive and love Ted, I healed. When I judged him and scrutinized him for all the pain he caused, I would spiral down into despair. Love never fails—if we choose love and let it do its work, we are all better for it.
To read the full transcript of the interview with Ted and Gayle Haggard, click here.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
In the Midst of Darkness, a Treasure Forms
By Kathryn Marquis www.kathrynmarquis.com
Recently, a friend commented to me about her disappointment when a dire situation suddenly arose in her family. She had just learned to live life without expecting the other "shoe to drop" and then it did. You must understand that this was not a casual or superficial complaint; this friend has faced her share of circumstances which would cause many of us to take one look, and run quickly in the opposite direction.
My friend was widowed very young by cancer, then, just as suddenly, this newly single mom's oldest son faced a cancer diagnosis of his own—and that's just the beginning of her journey. Her life story, meant to be a testimony of joy coming in the morning, has not yet seemed to have reached the light of dawn. Most recently a new set of "challenges" has reared its ugly head just as, in her mind, she could begin to trust in things not completely falling apart at every turn.
My heart aches at her situation and at my own, as we have faced seemingly innumerable losses and reasons for tears in the last couple of years. These are years which we had hoped would mark the end of our own season of "weeping and mourning"—only to replace the chronic pain and sadness I had lived with of raging circumstances. My raging circumstances included almost losing my marriage, walking through my mother's brain tumor diagnosis and her death a year later, the loss of jobs, a bankruptcy, the loss of our home, dealing with an immobilizing injury, and living homeless for three months. And yet, in the midst of darkness, a treasure forms.
Isaiah 45:3 "I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name."
"Lord, Haven't I Suffered Enough?"
One summer morning a few years ago, as I walked and talked with the Lord, I found myself sitting on a park bench, weeping, and out of my heart came this prayer, "Lord, how is it that it feels like the first 30 years of my life have been about grief and tears?" In that moment His inexplicable love surrounded me, and filled me like a warm and healing balm. I heard Him whisper, the way that only He can, to my innermost being: "Kathryn, though your weeping has endured for a night, the rest of your life will be about carrying My glory."
I went away from that encounter rejoicing at His words, seemingly a promise of better things to come. Only, those "better things" turned out to be the circumstances noted above; not exactly what one would expect restoration to look like. I was understandably confused and disappointed. Not that there weren't amazing, encouraging circumstances and miracles that also occurred during that time. Yet, I too, like my friend, was looking for a quality of life without the constant expectation of bad things happening. "Lord, haven't I suffered enough? When can I trust again that things are going to be okay?"
As it happens, I was asking the wrong question. I had interpreted His promise to me to mean a change of circumstances, but He was talking about much more than that. As always, He has the best in mind when I can only conceive of the crumbs. Hidden inside His words to me was a promise of the transformation of my very heart. My question to Him needed to be not, "When can I trust in better circumstances coming for me," but, "Lord, what did You mean about carrying Your glory?"
Oh, if we only understood the "nature of suffering." Christ's suffering for our ultimate redemption was the greatest passion play, the greatest illustrated sermon ever presented on the very character and Person of the Godhead: "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). He is ultimate Love, in its purest, highest form. And, if we are very courageous in the midst of great trial, we suddenly become the seat of conception for the greatest revelation that can come to the heart of man: I AM.
The greatest treasure of darkness is that He is unchanging, He is still the same, He is on the Throne, His name is Love, and He never fails. Though the light become darkness around me, though the mountains be removed and hurled into the sea, You remain, Your love remains, and my Jesus is still the same.
In the Scriptures we are told to "count it all joy" when we face trials of many kinds, for to persevere through painful trials produces the character of Jesus, and His character within us gives birth to the hope that does not disappoint—even His GLORY (see James 1 and Romans 5) . Christ in me in perfect, intimate, conjugal oneness IS the glory of God in its ultimate expression.
The Glory About to Be Revealed In and Through Us
To carry His glory is His ultimate design and plan for humanity. Romans 8:18 says, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us." It goes on to say that even creation is subjected to the frustrated groaning of waiting for the revealing of the sons of the Kingdom. In Matthew 13 we see that it is in His sovereign design to harvest out of us every evil thing that hinders and causes us to stumble, "AND THEN" we will shine like the sun (with His glory!) in the Kingdom of our Father.
His ultimate design was and is to form and reveal in me a true worshiper; to give my life every opportunity to be a testimony and a pleasing fragrance, to reveal in me His glory, the treasure formed in darkness—the wealth in secret places. My place of suffering, at the merciful hands of adverse circumstance, is the crucible for the glorious "AND THEN" of Matthew 13, revealing the "pearl of greatest price."
Pearls are fascinating gems. Natural, uncultured (that is, without human intervention) pearls are very rare, forming only when a microscopic parasite or impurity accidentally invades the safe, pristine environment of the soft tissue or mantle of a sea mollusk. Being irritated by the invader, the mollusk coats the impurity with a calcium secretion in layer upon conjunctive layer. If one were to dissect a natural pearl, there would be no solid "centre" visible, but a series of concentric "growth rings." It's not a stretch to see the allegory. (Incidentally, my middle name is Margaret, from the Greek, meaning "A Pearl." In this sense, Trouble is literally my middle name.)
That summer morning when He spoke to me, He was giving me much more than a promise of better things to come. He was giving me a priceless key for life and having it abundantly. He was essentially saying to me, "Kathryn, I've chosen for you to endure; and where you have wept and thought it was 'for nothing,' you will come to find it has worked to ignite the brilliant, raging flame within you, the greatest treasure concerning darkness. If you will allow Me, Your life will carry the very I AM."
I long to be able to tell my friend that better days are coming for her, but they are not necessarily the better days of "easier circumstances." I have no idea if more loss will come to her, but I do know that as she comes through this time of trouble, she will emerge radiant and shining, with a better revelation of the character and Person of the God who loves her, who formed her, who has called her by name.
Often now, when I meet people, they look into my eyes and say something like, "Oh! I see Him! Shining there!" and I am reduced to tears for the honor of having been given the gift of an unveiled face, revealing His glory as a bright reflection in the mirror of my life. I have come to intimately know the truth of Psalm 84, that blessed are those who have set their hearts on pilgrimage, who pass through the valley of weeping, making it a place of springs—that the former and latter rains fall on them there.
Rightly He promised me that there would come a day for me when I would "Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you...Then you will see and be radiant, and your heart will thrill and rejoice...for you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, and the days of your mourning will be over" (Isaiah 60:1, 5, 20).
And, if He promised me, He has promised you.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
DON'T BE AFRAID of FAILURE
-by David Wilkerson.
When Adam sinned, he tried to hide from God. When Peter denied
Christ, he was afraid to face him. When Jonah refused to preach to
Nineveh, his fear drove him into the ocean, to flee the presence of the Lord.
Something much worse than failure is the fear that goes with it.
Adam, Jonah, and Peter ran away from God, not because they lost
their love for him, but because they were afraid he was too angry
with them to understand.
The accuser of the brethren waits, like a vulture, for you to fail in some way. Then he uses every lie in hell to make you give up, to convince you that God is too holy or you are too sinful to come back. Or he makes you afraid you are not perfect enough or that you will never rise above your failure.
It took forty years to get the fear out of Moses and to make him
usable in God's program. If Moses or Jacob or David had resigned
himself to failure, we might never again have heard of these men.
Yet Moses rose up again to become one of God's greatest heroes.
Jacob faced his sins, was reunited with the brother he had cheated,
and reached new heights of victory. David ran into the house of
God, found forgiveness and peace, and returned to his finest hour.
Jonah retraced his steps, did what he had refused to do at first
and brought a whole city to repentance. Peter rose out of the
ashes of denial to lead a church to Pentecost.
In 1958, I sat in my little car weeping; I was a terrible failure, I
thought. I had been unceremoniously dumped from a courtroom
after I thought I was led by God to witness to seven teenage
murderers. My attempt to obey God and to help those young
hoodlums looked as though it were ending in horrible failure.
I shudder to think of how much blessing I would have missed if I
had given up in that dark hour. How glad I am today that God
taught me to face my failure and go on to his next step for me.
SOURCE - http://davidwilkersontoday.blogspot.com
Saturday, July 25, 2009
The Secret of Spiritual Power
by Chip Brogden
“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:6b,7).
There is a principle at work in our life and walk with the Lord, and it is the principle of strength out of weakness. “The meek are blessed, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). If we want the blessing of the Lord then we must learn what it is to be meek, for the proud will not inherit anything from Him.
The way of the world says that in order to be stronger, we must build ourselves up and seek strength and dominance over others. Christians everywhere are keenly interested in how to be increased, how to be stronger, how to take authority, how to rise up, how to get more. They look for methods, formulas, and techniques for becoming bigger and better. The results have been disappointing. Many mistakes have been made and many people have been hurt and disillusioned.
The Lord has a different approach for us to take. He invites us to accept weakness in order to be strengthened. We do not become strong by embracing strength, but by embracing weakness! This is the secret of all spiritual power. When Paul learned this secret he was able to say, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (II Corinthians 12:10b). This makes no sense to the natural man. I do not remember ever hearing anyone begin a teaching on spiritual warfare with this verse. It is no wonder, then, that these teachings never seem to produce any lasting fruit.
This passage of Scripture from James gives us further insight into why the strong are weak, and why the weak are strong. Our study of this verse may be divided into four distinct sections. Let us look at each one individually.
GOD RESISTS THE PROUD
Christians are full of many plans, many pursuits, many thoughts, many words, many things. It is impossible to say just how much of the flesh is involved in the things we undertake in the Name of Jesus. We know they cannot be purely spiritual works because often there is little fruit to be found. We labor and toil and work but it seems as if we make little or no progress. It seems as if something is always blocking our way and preventing us.
The automatic assumption is that anything which resists us or hinders us is of satanic origin. That is, if we encounter difficulty in our spiritual walk, our first reaction is to rebuke the devil, or ask the saints to pray for us to have a clear way. Certainly the devil will attempt to hinder us from anything we undertake that glorifies God and threatens the darkness. Yet we learn from James 4:6 that there is Someone else who can resist us. There is Another Who carefully watches what we do, and frequently hinders us from making progress.
It comes as a shock and surprise to some Christians to see one day that God, not the devil, is resisting them. The Lord Himself resists us, closes doors, causes things to be unfruitful, and spoils all our plans. How so? Because “God resists the proud.” This resistance from God is insurmountable. It is a fearful thing to fight the Lord. We spend most of our lives wrestling with God instead of cooperating with God, and in the end we have nothing to show for it. So much time and effort is wasted because we proceed in our own, stubborn way. We attribute all difficulties to the devil, or to other people, or our circumstances, or our environment, and fail to recognize that the Lord Himself is resisting us.
God resists the proud. This is an active resistance that will block our path like a huge rock or a great chasm. All who walk in pride are in league with the devil himself, and will receive the same judgment (cf. I Timothy 3:6). Brothers and sisters, this is a serious matter. If we harbor the least bit of pride then we will find ourselves on the wrong side of the Lord, but if we are humble before God and man then we cannot be defeated because…
GOD GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE
The single requirement for grace is humility. But what is grace? Grace is more than just a theological term used to describe how we are saved. Grace is the power of God at work in my life to do what cannot be done in my own strength. Grace is energizing and proactive. When I have reached the end of myself then Grace Himself takes over and does what I am unable to do. In the first place, what I cannot do is save myself, and so I trust in the Grace of God, Jesus Christ, to save me. But Grace will not only bring me through the Gate; He will bring me down the Path. Grace does not just get me started in the right direction, but goes along with me every step of the way. For Grace is a Man!
It should be obvious that God will not give us grace while we are still proud. Why? Because He will allow no flesh to glory in His presence. He desires us to be thoroughly emptied of ourselves. When we cease doing what we cannot do then He begins to do what we cannot. The problem is that we still think we can do so many things. We must learn sooner, rather than later, that “apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5b). Nothing! But it is human nature to try and do it ourselves. This human nature is the flesh. It prevents us from entering into Grace. God cannot save someone who is still trying to save themselves. Similarly, God cannot do what we are still trying to do. He will wait - weeks, months, or years - until we have exhausted our strength. When our strength is completely gone and we finally go to Him in weakness, He becomes our strength and we find Grace is there to do the impossible. Then we know it was not us, but the Lord. All praise goes to Him, and we retain nothing for ourselves.
See how many times the disciples tried to correct the Lord. See how many times they argued with the Lord. See how many time their thoughts contradicted the Master. See how many times they urged Him to take action. And the Lord, ever patient, would correct them. In every case we see that He is the Lord, and they are the disciples. The roles must never be confused. He is the Master, and we are His servants. We do not command Him, but He commands us. We do not direct Him, but He directs us. We do not lead Him, but He leads us. He was not created for us, but we were created for Him. He does not serve us according to our pleasure, but we serve Him according to His pleasure. So we must be adjusted to Him, and not the other way around. The Lord will never apologize to us and say, “I’m sorry, I was wrong. We’ll do it your way.” How laughable! How absurd! But we often live as if we expect Him to do that very thing. We have not humbled ourselves.
All those who want power with God must see that His power is released through our weakness (cf. II Corinthians 12:9). Do realize that you are weak whether you admit it or not, but the power of humility is in recognizing and agreeing before God that we really can do nothing of our own selves. God’s power is not for those with natural charisma, talent, leadership skills, education, training, or “connections”. God is not looking for volunteers to serve at their own convenience as their schedule permits, but calls for disciples who will lay down their lives. The flesh counts for nothing in spiritual matters. God’s power is not revealed to us when we are proud, but when we are humble. Any demonstration of “power” manifesting itself through a proud man or a proud woman is, quite simply, not from God and cannot be trusted. Spiritual gifts may be counterfeited, but spiritual fruit cannot be faked. We will know the false from the true by their fruit, not their gifts (Matthew 7:20). Meekness is an essential quality of spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:23). Gifts may accompany fruit, but gifts may never substitute for fruit.
The secret, then, is to…
SUBMIT YOURSELVES THEREFORE TO GOD
Do we need the power of God today? Do we seek the Life of the Lord today? Do we desire Him to have the preeminence in our lives today? Do we long for Him today? Then now is the time for us to be unconditionally and wholeheartedly surrendered to Him. We need not drag the process out for several days and weeks, months and years. “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Do it today, do it now. If we must daily take up the cross anyway, let us bow our head and give up the ghost instead of struggling to stay alive, which only prolongs our agony. The secret to overcoming is dying daily.
If God gives Grace to the humble, then we should live a surrendered life so we can tap into grace. Die to Self, die to effort, die to trying, die to scheming. Stop wrestling, stop fighting, stop squirming, stop arguing, stop reasoning, stop bargaining, stop all that and just surrender, yield, give up, and lay down before Him! Humility is not some outward show, but a heart attitude that says in effect, “I will not resist the dealings of God. I will not argue with the Lord. I will not insist upon my own way. I recognize and admit that apart from Him I can do nothing. I am finished. Lord, I look to You to do in me and through me what I cannot do.” Friends, if we truly mean that when we say it then we will naturally spend more time praying, more time in the Word, more time ministering to God, because we will realize we do not know anything and we can not do anything without hearing from Him. If Christ is to have the preeminence in all things right HERE is where it begins. Humility is offering no resistance to the dealings of the Lord with us.
When we are submitted to the Lord, we find Grace. We find peace. We find rest. All things are in His hands, and He does all things well. We need not fear what any devil or any man can do to us. To be submitted to the Lord is to be under His care, under His guidance, under His power, under His protection. Whom shall I fear? What can man do to me? What can the devil do to me? If I have humbled myself beneath the mighty hand of God then He will exalt me in due season; He will justify me; He will defend me; He will fight for me. If our submission to God is complete, if our surrender to the Lord is total, then victory is assured. We will…
RESIST THE DEVIL, AND HE WILL FLEE
So many times we try to resist, but we are defeated. Why? Simply because we attempt to resist the devil before we have first submitted ourselves to God. There is a proper order that must be observed without fail. First, we must understand the principle of God resisting the proud but giving grace to the humble. This is the foundation of everything we do. Second, the word “therefore” signifies that those who learn this principle will act upon it accordingly. If they understand the truth just stated, they will submit “therefore” to God. Third, as a result of their submitting to God, they will find the devil flees whenever and wherever they offer him resistance. The word “flee” means “to run away in terror”. How wonderful! How delicious to see the devil running from us in terror, instead of the other way around! That should be the normal experience of all Christians. That is the normal Christian life, a life that overcomes.
The whole object of satan is to bring us down from the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 2:6) and entangle us into some kind of earthly, fleshly thing that saps us of our strength and diminishes spiritual authority. Knowing this, the Lord has us to pray daily, “Deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13ff). That is to say, “Deliver us from the earthly, the fleshly, the worldly, the carnal, the selfish, the natural, the human, where satan has influence to work evil against us. Deliver us from all that hinders and distracts us, and bring us into the Kingdom of Your dear Son, that we may walk in Spirit and Truth, in the heavenly places, demonstrating your preeminence over all things Below.” Brothers and sisters, praying in this way is what it means to resist the devil. He cannot stand before us when we take the high ground and maintain the Lord’s Testimony.
If we grow impatient and fall into the flesh then we become weaker. To react in the flesh diminishes spiritual authority, and this must be avoided at all costs. Allowing the flesh to have its way for only a moment guarantees defeat against a spiritual adversary. “We worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). To lose all confidence in the flesh is to take the higher ground of the Spirit. To meet flesh with flesh means the victory will go to the strongest, and there is always someone stronger than you according to the flesh. Instead, if people come against you in the flesh, let them come against you. If they wish to rail and argue with you according to the flesh, do not respond in kind. If they attack you without cause, let them attack, because the fleshly, the carnal, the natural cannot defeat the spiritual. The one who is submitted to the Lord has authority over those who remain unsubmitted to Him. Flesh is overruled by Spirit. Hate is overruled by Love. Darkness is overruled by Light. Death is overruled by Life. Earth is overruled by Heaven. “He that comes from above is above all” (John 3:31ff).
We offer no resistance, no defense, no argument, no justification to people who mean us harm. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12a). We resist satan, not the person. We stand against the devil, taking no action against the instruments the devil uses. We submit to God, we offer no resistance to man, but we stand firm against the spiritual adversary. Outwardly, before others, we appear weak. But inwardly, before God, we are strong. “Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds” (II Corinthians 10:3,4). If we war after the flesh then we are emptied of spiritual strength. If we war after the Spirit then we are emptied of fleshly strength. Which will you have, spiritual authority, or fleshly power? You can have either one you want, but you cannot have both.
We face perilous, dangerous times. The secret of spiritual power to see us through these times is humility. The arm of the flesh will fail us. Brothers and sisters, since we cannot avoid weakness, we may as well make the best possible use of it. Let us accept the dealings of the Holy Spirit with us and offer no resistance to Him. “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up” (James 4:10). Amen.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Victory Is A Man
by Chip Brogden
Everyone who looks does not see. Everyone who hears does not listen. What are we looking for? What is it that we need to see? What would God reveal to us? There is but one desire of God for us, and that is that we may see Christ. God does not reveal one hundred, one thousand, or one million things to us. He is pleased to give us His Son, and He delights for us to look only to Him. Not even the things He gives, but to Him who is the Gift. We may pray for revelation into a great many matters, but only one thing is important to God, that is, that we may have revelation into the Son.
If we know the Son, if we possess the Son, if we see the Son, we know and possess and see all that God has and is, for He has deposited all of Himself into His Son, and all of His Son He deposited into us.
As we progress we begin to ask for and seek spiritual “things” in order to have a victorious Christian life. We learn to do this from watching what everyone else is doing. We seek many blessings from God. We pray many prayers and make many requests. Sometimes it seems we are given what we ask for, and sometimes it seems we are unchanged. So we struggle on, always searching for something out in space a thousand miles away that will change us from being defeated to being victorious.
The whole problem is that we view victory as something out in the twilight zone of the Spirit, while we are struggling along here on Planet Earth, toiling and sweating as we wrestle and fight against a powerful adversary. To us, victory is something we do not have, something we cannot see, something we are not experiencing, something that we must search for and diligently seek out until we find it. The routine of daily life becomes old. We hope to find the victory we seek in a new book, or a tape, or a teaching, or a ministry, or a church, or a group, or a video, or a seminar, or a special speaker, or a website, or a special discipline, or a spiritual regimen. We go through them one by one, and some of them even seem to work short-term, but eventually they will sit on the shelf in the recesses of our mind, collecting dust and never being put into practice beyond the initial excitement of having learned a new thing or riding the wave of the latest spiritual fad.
God does not give us a thing called victory. Instead, He gives us His Son to be our Victory. Christ is Victory. It is not a question of going forth to war in the name of Jesus and claiming the victory in advance. May I say that Victory does not depend upon whether you “claim” anything or not. Victory is a Man! Overcoming is entering into Victory Himself, being clothed with Victory, sharing in the Life of One Who overcame. Thus, our victory is bound up in the Lord Himself. It is not a separate grace or gift which He grants to certain ones who learn some principles of spiritual warfare.
People are looking for a technique or method by which they may work out a victory on behalf of Christ. Not surprisingly everyone has their own way of waging warfare. Some emphasize intercessory prayer, and believe the secret is in getting hundreds of people praying for the same thing. Others lean towards praise and worship. Some stress binding and loosing. Others believe the key is in locating and naming certain spirits which supposedly control different parts of the world. Still others think there must be some prophetic act to be performed or declaration to be made.
Here is the problem with virtually all of these things: they are just that - THINGS - methods, techniques, teachings, strategies, but they are not Christ. Victory is not this, that, or the other. It is not some spiritual thing. Victory is a God-Man. The one in Christ is seated with Him in the heavenly places. If we see ourselves in Him then we cannot help but understand that since the battle is already won, and Victory is ours, then we do not need a method or a technique designed to “get” a victory which we already possess.
The problem with a spiritual warfare “method” is it deceives us into thinking we have something with which we may overcome the enemy. We do not. If yours is a “method”, then the method will fail. There are no methods for Salvation, for Christ is Way. He does not show us the way, He is Way. Similarly, Christ is not present with us in order to show us a way to victory. He is Victory. If we have any hope of overcoming by taking a little piece of Christ and incorporating it into our spiritual warfare program then we have failed before we have begun.
We must realize that our grounds and basis for victory is Christ. The many schemes, plans, formulas, and strategies that we devise in order to gain some sort of advantage over the enemy are but wood, hay, and stubble. Why do we seek such methods? Because we have not seen ourselves seated with Christ in the heavenly realm.
WINNING THE WAR BUT LOSING THE BATTLE
Let us look at some spiritual warfare methods. There is a distinctive amongst these methods, that is, darkness is glorified, darkness is talked about, darkness is exalted. Such teachings are, for the most part, enemy-oriented. Where is the revelation of Christ? It is not to be found. Instead, we are often told to seek revelation into satan, the demons, the works of darkness, and how we may overcome them.
For instance, we have been told that we must discern the names of the principalities and powers over certain areas in order to bind, rebuke, and cast them out. How does this method glorify darkness? It does it by getting people to seek revelation into other “things” apart from Christ. When we engage in this pursuit we are no longer praying for the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ, we are instead praying for the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of satan. Since God does not reveal anything to us apart from His Son, from whence comes the “revelation” of satan?
As Christians we use a lot of spiritual phraseology without understanding what it really means. For instance, we say, “The battle is already won.” What does this mean? If we take it for what it says, it means that there is no fighting left to do, and we are already victorious. It means either victory has been handed to us, or we have already fought the battle and won. Both of these have, in fact, been done for us in Christ. We have been handed a victory, and we have also already fought a battle in which we obtained the victory. On the one hand, we did nothing at all for it, and on the other hand we have already fought the battle: yet not we ourselves, but through Christ. Since Christ overcomes, and I am in Him, I overcome as though I fought the battle myself.
This ought to be good news to us. But for the most part our Christian experience is more along of the lines of winning the war but losing the battle. Some have accepted this situation as inevitable so long as they live on the earth. They do not see victory on this side of heaven. They want to believe that Christ has really overcome the devil and destroyed all the works of the enemy, but then they look at their own failures and defeats and wonder why they are losing the battles if they have already won the war. Well, that is a good question. Here is another question to consider: if the war is already won, why are we still fighting battles at all? Why wrestle when we can stand?
Can you see the difference between wrestling for a victory that I do not have, and standing in a Victory that is mine already? How can we see the difference in our experience? It is quite easy to mark where we are and see if we are living and walking in the truth. When we fight according to the flesh we have no choice but to wrestle. But when the enemy is spiritual, we wrestle by STANDING, not by fighting.
If I see victory as something that I have to wrestle the devil for then I will be under great stress of spirit, soul, and body, looking for the devil under every rock and in every dark corner. At the slightest discomfort or annoyance I will presume the adversary is out to get me again. I will become obsessed with darkness, demons, and devils. The more you swat at a hornet the more likely you are to be stung. And sure enough, the more attention I pay to the devil, the more diligent he is to harass me.
I will experience lots of failures and very few victories. Whatever victory I do experience is fleeting and brief. Just when I think I have bound the devil he gets loosed again, and I am in for yet another round. Around and around we go. He goes, and comes, and goes, and comes. I resist, he flees, and comes again. My dreams bother me by night and flashing thoughts disturb me by day. Since I am fighting the devil I have to take time out to “come against” every single thought. I have to answer every single accusation. The tiniest temptations become huge weights. I have little joy, no peace, no real confidence. Only fear: fear of failing, fear of giving ground to the devil, fear of what he might throw at me next.
This is what many people call spiritual warfare. It is not. What I have described is wrestling as a flesh and blood person who is following flesh and blood rules. For…
VICTORY IS A MAN, NOT A METHOD
When God is pleased to reveal His Son to us, we will learn that Victory is not a thing, but a Person; that Victory is not an experience, but a Man; that God does not give me a thing called victory, but has given me His Son in the place of victory in order to be my Victory. Then Victory will never be future-tense and far-away, but Ever Present and Now. For Victory is Christ. And Victory lives within you. Thus, Victory has nothing to do with the devil, and everything to do with Christ. Since most Christians have more faith, assurance and reverence for the devil than they do for the Lord Jesus, it is easy to see why so many are defeated.
God revealed His Son to me only after I had failed as a pastor, when my church was closed, when I had thrown away all my books and tapes and magazines and notes on spiritual warfare and was left with nothing but Christ. I had looked for victory in spiritual warfare by focusing my attention on the devil, but God never taught me anything about spiritual warfare, nor did He reveal anything to me about the devil. He taught me concerning His Son. God did not show me how to be victorious, He merely revealed His Son to me as Victory. Having done this, it was sufficient to make me victorious.
I remember the day when it happened. I was sitting in my backyard one morning with my Scripture translations opened to Ephesians and two texts before me. The first was:
“And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, Which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:19-23).
I was thankful for this passage, but it did not register much with me. Praise the Lord that Christ is risen from the dead and is exalted far above every principality and power, demon and devil. This I can agree with. This I can believe in. But I found no comfort for me in my particular battle. I did not doubt the Lord Jesus’ victory, I doubted MY victory.
So I did not understand the significance of the first passage until I read the second passage before me:
“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).
Now I had read Ephesians through probably one hundred times, but something arrested my attention on that day. A beam of light struck me and the words seemed to leap up from off the page and slap me in the face. I stopped for a moment and read the first passage again, then the second passage. “…He raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named… And raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
Together, together, together, together…
For the first time in my life, I saw Christ, sitting at God’s right hand. And I saw myself seated with Him. His victory is my victory. TOGETHER we were raised from the dead, TOGETHER we were set at the right hand of God in the heavenlies, TOGETHER we were seated far above ALL principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named! I began to laugh at my own stupidity. What is there left for me to do now that I am far above all these things? What is left for me to fight? I can find nothing to do now except to simply abide in Christ and allow Him to be my Victory, just as I allow Him to be my Salvation.
I did not come to this conclusion after years of study. I did not learn it from any Bible teacher. It came to me from out of the clear blue sky. There it was, right there in the Bible. How could I have missed this? I missed it because my eyes had looked, but had not seen. I had scanned over the verses with my eyes and memorized them, but they never struck me to the ground. They never took up residence within me. They were letters in a book, good letters, wonderful words, but nothing that lived or breathed in me. I did not see Christ in the Book until that moment.
I looked up from where I was sitting, and I do not think I was in the Spirit, and I do not think I had a vision, but it was as though I could see beyond the sky and all the way up into Heaven. Everything from the Cross through the Throne was spread before me. Now that I could clearly see myself seated with Christ everything fell into place. For if I was seated with Him, I had to have been raised with Him! And if I was raised with Him, I had to have died with Him! And if I died with Him, I had to have been crucified with Him!
Everything opened up before me in an instant. Whether I saw it in my mind’s eye or with my heart I am not sure, but I saw Christ on the cross, and me crucified with Him (Galatians 2:20). I saw myself buried with Him by baptism into death (Romans 6:3). I saw myself raised with Him to newness of life (Romans 6:4). I saw myself ascended with Him, and seated with Him in heavenly places. I saw it backwards and forwards, upside down and rightside up. But I did not have the words to describe it. Even today I have a hard time explaining it. All I can say is, “I saw it.” It sounds so plain and uninteresting that way, because I do not claim to have seen an actual vision, yet it was indeed a seeing. It was definitely a perceiving.
I finally realized that victory over the enemy would never be a problem ever again. From that day onward I understood that my victory was secured by Christ Himself, and there was nothing left for me to do or to obtain but to receive His finished work and accept His Victory as my victory. As surely as Christ does not struggle with the devil, as certain as His overcoming is, so certain is my overcoming with Him. I thank and praise God that today Christ is Victory.
CHRIST IS REST FROM OUR LABOR
By revelation I understood that we may “stand therefore” only when we have learned to sit with Christ, that it is more about rest and faith, and less about fighting and struggling. Seeing myself in Christ for the first time was like walking out of one room and into another, closing the door behind me. I got a glimpse into another world that was beyond me. Finally I saw the inconsistency of claiming Christ as my “victory”, or even asking Christ to give me the “victory”, and then battling my way through life as if I still had to do something to earn it. Because if Victory is MINE then there is nothing left to do but praise God for it and live out of it.
There is no higher place in the universe than to be seated with Christ in the heavenly places. Indeed, since Christ is larger than the universe, then to be seated with Christ is to be above and beyond all time and space and dimension as we know it. To be seated with Christ is to overcome as He has overcome. It is entering into His victory. It is not a fight to obtain victory, but a sitting down having already been made victorious. It is rest, but it is not “rest” in the sense that we do nothing. It means we have rested from our labors and now we work according to His power which works in us and through us.
God does not give us victory, God places us into Christ as our Victory. Since we are one with Him, it is nevermore a question of our ability, gifts, talents, or power. Everything we ARE is swallowed up and eclipsed and surpassed by everything HE IS. Today, in Christ, I overcome: but not because I am anything. On the contrary I am nothing. But since I am in Christ, Who is God’s Everything, His overcoming is my overcoming. If the Head overcomes, so does the Body which is joined to the Head. If the Vine overcomes, so do the branches which are joined to the Vine. Can you see this? Take the weakest member and put it in union with the Head and they will go the way the Head goes. Take the weakest branch and put it in union with the Vine and it will go the way the Vine goes.
When we begin looking to the Son as the Sum of All Things then we are giving Christ the preeminence. We are entering into the very heart, mind, thought, intent, purpose, and plan of God - that Christ Himself would fill all things, that His glory would be reflected in all things. If our way is a method, then the method gets the attention, and the man who created the method gets the credit, and the people who put the method into practice get the glory. But if my “method” is Christ, then Christ gets all the attention, Christ gets all the credit, and Christ gets all the glory. In this way Christ is magnified, the heart of God is satisfied, and we ourselves are attuned to His Will in Christ.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
The Hidden Wisdom
by Chip Brogden
“We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom” (I Corinthians 2:7a).
Stress, depression, frustration, and confusion are usually the result of unmet expectations. That is, we expect things to be a certain way. We have an idea as to how we think things should go (but where did this idea come from?). If things go differently than what we expect then we are apt to become frustrated, angry, or upset. The greater the disparity between what we expect and what actually happens, the greater our discomfort. This shows that the difficulty is not in what we are experiencing, but in what we expect to experience.
The Lord Jesus is the most misunderstood Person of all. Millions of people expect something that He is not willing to provide, yet He offers every one of them something that they do not expect - or want. This seems to be the Lord’s way. A quick reading of the Gospels reveals just how little people understood Him. Even His own disciples had a hard time understanding Jesus. He would have shared much more with them, but they could not bear it (cf. John 16:12). It is as though they were walking around in a fog. Jesus never acts or speaks in an expected way. That is why He is misunderstood, and often rejected.
He is no more understood now than He was then. Even though we have the benefit of a written record of His earthly life, the acts of the early Church, the letters of the apostles, and all the Old Testament history, prophecies, and teachings to help us know Him, Jesus remains a mystery. We are still walking around in a fog. How do I know? Because so many sincere believers are frustrated, angry, upset, confused, or depressed in their walk with the Lord. They do not understand what God is doing in their lives. And no one seems to be able to help them.
Paul explains it as “the hidden wisdom.” What is wisdom? By itself, wisdom is the ability to see everything from God’s perspective, for “the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7b). We cannot understand from our viewpoint. We must leave our earthly, natural, human ground and come up with Christ into the heavenlies so we may see as He sees (cf. Ephesians 2:6). So what does it mean when Paul says this wisdom is hidden? It means this wisdom is not obvious. It is not readily seen. It is camouflaged in such a way that you can be looking right at it and not know it. That is why everyone looks and listens but so few people “get it”. We CAN see it, and we CAN know it, but we must seek it out, because it hides from us.
Are we saying that we cannot know the Lord? No, but we are saying that we cannot know the Lord as long as we cling to our earthly perspective. There is a wisdom that comes from above, and there is a wisdom that is earthly (cf. James 3:15-17). According to Scripture, these two are mutually exclusive. We cannot rely on both because they are contradictory.
A most remarkable example of the hidden wisdom is found in Luke 10:21: “Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, ‘I thank You Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the wise and prudent while revealing them to babies; yes Father, for that is Your good pleasure.’” Jesus used parables when speaking to the multitude, but He explained everything to His disciples (cf. Mark 4:34). But so often “they did not understand… it was hidden from them, and they perceived it not” (Luke 9:45ff).
The hidden wisdom is indeed revealed, but not to those who are wise in their own merit. It is not gained through study, contemplation, or mental gymnastics. It is the revelation of the Father. The Father Who reveals to babies is also the Father Who hides from the wise. Every child of God should know something of this hidden wisdom. If we do not know, then we should ask the Father to reveal. It is His nature to do so.
“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33). This prevents us from becoming too dogmatic and sure of ourselves. At some point we just have to throw up our hands and say, “It’s beyond me!” If we can figure out the Lord Jesus then we have made Him too small. To know Him is to know how little of Him we know. As the Lord continually reveals Himself we find a depth and a height that we could not have imagined. The hidden wisdom teaches us to see things from the perspective of the Heavenly Man. So without further delay, let us look at some of the most prominent examples of hidden wisdom.
LIFE OUT OF DEATH
“Anyone who does not take up his own cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. The one who finds his life will lose it, and the one who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:38,39).
This is perhaps the foundation of the Hidden Wisdom. To our way of thinking, we ought to preserve and protect our life. Of course this is true to some extent. The Lord does not intend for us to be suicidal or foolish. What He has in mind here is something more than our physical existence.
“My life” is “me”, or as we commonly call it, the Self. We do not truly appreciate how strong Self is. Self-reliance, self-assurance, self-confidence - all of these will rise up to resist the Lord until we lose our life by taking up the Cross daily (cf. Luke 9:23). When the Cross has done its work then self-reliance becomes trust in the Lord, self-assurance becomes faith in the Lord, and self confidence becomes hope in the Lord. And that is only the beginning. The object is “not I, but Christ” (Galatians 2:20ff).
So the Hidden Wisdom teaches that in order to gain anything, we must give up everything. If we try to gain first, we lose. In the heavenly economy, Self plus Anything equals Nothing. But Christ plus Nothing equals Everything. How many Christians are trying to add something to their spiritual walk: more love, more power, fresh anointing, gifts, prophetic words, etc.? But they have never lost their life. They have never taken up the Cross. Thus, anything they think they get only increases Self and decreases Christ, and what looks like an outward gain is really a spiritual loss.
“He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). This is the way to fullness, though it is contrary to all that we think. Indeed, I would say that most of our frustration comes from our simple unwillingness to embrace this decreasing. That is why after five, ten, or twenty years of God’s dealings some people are just as unbroken as ever. Before he was martyred, Jim Elliot wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Meditate on that. It is better to embrace this sooner rather than later.
WISDOM THROUGH FOOLISHNESS
“If any man among you seems to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (I Corinthians 3:18,19).
Man places a high value on education, instruction, learning, and knowledge. Perhaps these things have their place, but in spiritual matters they mean nothing. Indeed, when the Spirit of the Lord begins to give us the Hidden Wisdom, we find it is contrary to the wisdom of this world. In order to see as He sees we must be willing to embrace the unknown and the unfamiliar.
Paul warns that in the last days perilous times will come. He tells us of a sort of people who are “ever learning, and never able to come to the full-knowledge (epignosis) of Truth” (II Timothy 3:7). There is no lack of instruction and learning, no lack of Bible teachers and Bible studies, but there is a lack of experiential Truth. That is, people have truth as a “thing” instead of Truth as a Man. This demonstrates that an accumulation of knowledge does not guarantee an apprehension of Truth. The Bereans and the Pharisees both searched the Scriptures, but the Pharisees had a doctrine while the Bereans had a Man (compare Acts 17:10-12 with John 5:38-40). The difference is incalculable.
“God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise” (I Corinthians 1:27a). The word “confound” here means “disgrace”. The Lord intends to disgrace and humiliate the wisdom of this world. How will He do it? By choosing what appears to be foolish. He will confound your own wisdom by letting you think you have everything figured out, only to do something you do not expect. In the end, we must throw up our hands and say, “Lord, what do we know? Reveal Yourself to us!”
This is why Paul is not ashamed to admit that “not many wise after the flesh” are called (cf. I Corinthians 1:26a). While some see this as a disadvantage, Paul sees it as an advantage. In fact, the heavenly wisdom is so important that Paul tells us to become fools so we may receive it. He counts his extensive training and religious education as “dung” that he may “win Christ” (cf. Philippians 3). Naturally, those who are full of Self are too proud to look foolish, and they will reject this advice. But it is the way of the Hidden Wisdom.
MADE STRONGER THROUGH WEAKNESS
“And He said to me, ‘My Grace is sufficient for you, for My Strength is made perfect in weakness’. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Corinthians 12:9-10).
Here is another tenet of the Hidden Wisdom - Strength from Weakness. Most Christians see weakness as weakness. They spend most of their time praying or requesting prayer for their circumstances to change. Paul used to pray that way, but no more: now he sees weakness as strength. Of course, this offends the natural man, but Paul explains it quite simply.
Three times the apostle asked the Lord to take away his “thorn in the flesh”. It is pointless to debate what the “thorn” was, and for the purposes of our study it is irrelevant. Whatever you believe the thorn to be, it represented a weakness, something the gifted apostle despised, something he wanted to get rid of. He attacked the situation with prayer. Three times he asked the Lord to remove it from him, but the Lord did not do as Paul asked. Instead, He said, “My Grace is sufficient, and My Power is perfected in your weakness.”
Now Paul goes to the opposite extreme and rejoices in the things that make him weak. Now this is Hidden Wisdom indeed, and I doubt that one out of one thousand Christians really follow Paul’s lead here. Instead, most of us become angry, agitated, frustrated, sullen, downtrodden, and despondent when we encounter these “thorns”. But that is why Paul was an apostle and we are not. Here is the secret: when I am too weak to do anything, the power of the Lord does in me and through me what I cannot do myself. The Cross intends to keep you in a state of weakness so that Christ must do everything for you. Thus, Paul says that “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). This, in spite of the fact that his “thorn” remains!
Now it does not say that Paul made himself weak on purpose. We do not have to seek weaknesses, infirmities, tribulations, temptations, or trials. We already have them. The key is how do we respond to them? We can fight them, or we can embrace them. Paul clearly shows us that it is not always God’s will for us to be saved FROM the fire. Often we are called to walk THROUGH the fire, with no assurance except that His Grace is sufficient. In the fire we learn that “Grace” is a Man, just like Victory is a Man. To be delivered from weakness is one thing, but to meet Grace in my weakness is something else entirely.
BECOMING THE GREATEST BY BECOMING THE LEAST
“Whoever wants to become the greatest must become the servant of all… for anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, while the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Mark 10:44; Luke 14:11).
So far we have seen the Hidden Wisdom expressed in life out of death, wisdom out of foolishness, and strength out of weakness. Here again the Lord strikes another blow to Self. According to our way of thinking, we ought to do everything possible to push ourselves to the front, rise to the top, and make a name for ourselves. But Jesus insists on humiliating the proud and giving grace to the humble.
A well-known musician was invited to a church to minister to them in song. He arrived on the appointed day, but when the time came for him to perform he could not be found. After some searching he was located in the church kitchen, washing dishes. The others were shocked, and asked why he was not on the platform. This brother simply replied, “There is no competition for the lowest place.”
When we think of a king, we usually think of some human authority exerting their will upon their subjects with a haughty air. Regardless of whether the “king” calls itself pastor, priest, pope, prophet, or presbyter, all too often this is how we meet human authority. You can be sure that this authority does not represent the Lord Jesus, nor the Church that He is building, regardless of what it calls itself, for it is not congruent with the Lord Himself. True authority is not found in title or position. Jesus, the King of Kings, shows us that true authority is serving, not lording over. In fact, Psalm 72 tells us what a true king is - someone who serves the people, provides for the poor, and defends those who cannot defend themselves.
We are being prepared for a kingdom. But our preparation is not in learning how to wear a crown or how to walk around with a glorious robe and scepter. One brother sings, “He’s brought me low / so I could know / the way to reach the heights”. In God’s Kingdom, to go higher, we must go lower. That is the Hidden Wisdom.
WEALTH AND PROSPERITY BY BECOMING POOR
“…As poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” (II Corinthians 6:10).
How can a poor man make many people rich? The natural mind cannot understand it. But through the Hidden Wisdom we learn that the true measure of wealth is not in the abundance of material possessions (Luke 12:15). To the outward appearance, Paul, who has “suffered the loss of all things”, is a failure. The truth is that having gained Christ, he possessed all things in Him.
To the church in Smyrna, Jesus says, “I know your poverty: yet you are rich”. To the church in Laodicea, Jesus says, “You say you are rich and have need of nothing, but you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (compare Revelation 2:9 with 3:17). The church who had nothing was rich, and the one who had everything was poor. Which would you rather be: Smyrna, or Laodicea? Sadly, many Christians equate blessing with material prosperity. They judge the success of their church or their ministry by numbers and dollar signs. Is this not the Laodicean spirit?
But when we look at Smyrna we see two themes: tribulation and resurrection. Again, the principle of life out of death. Outwardly, Smyrna cannot match the boasting of Laodicea. But they take their name from “myrrh”, the anointing oil. Thus we see that the oil of gladness is found in difficult trials, and not in easy times. Smyrna represents the sweet-smelling incense produced from tribulation. Laodicea had no tribulation - but they had no perfume, either. I have often said that everyone wants apostolic revelation but no one wants apostolic persecution. Yet you cannot have one without the other.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the Kingdom of God belongs to them” (Matthew 5:3). “Poor in spirit” here means spiritual bankruptcy. In Christ’s Kingdom we gain by losing. When we are emptied then we are filled. It is not a matter of how much money do you have, but rather, how much of you does your money have? The nations pursue the “many things” and are deeply concerned about them (cf. Matthew 6:32). But only ONE THING is needed (Luke 10:42a). Don’t diversify; simplify. When we forsake the way of the world then Christ becomes our inheritance, our All in All, and we possess Treasure in Heaven, a Kingdom that will never end.
THE HIDDEN WISDOM REVEALED THROUGH DEATH AND RESURRECTION
“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33).
We have only scratched the surface of the Hidden Wisdom, but by now we have a good foundation to build upon. We are told that to save our life we must give up our life. To become wise we must become fools. To become strong we must become weak. To be exalted we must be humbled. To be rich we must become poor. But why is this?
We should see the negatives (death, foolishness, weakness, humility, and poverty) are only the means through which the positives (life, wisdom, strength, exaltation, and wealth) find expression. To put it another way, God’s Purpose does not end with death, but with life out of death. He does not stop with foolishness, but with wisdom from foolishness. He does not cease working at the point of weakness, but carries through until He perfects strength from weakness. He will not rest with making you low, but intends to make you low so that He can bring you higher. He does not delight in poverty for poverty’s sake, but makes you poor in order to make you rich.
Viewed from this perspective, all the negative things we may experience in this life are, in comparison, “light afflictions” which are “but for a moment”. These so-called “light afflictions” (which can be so overwhelming at times) are actually working something glorious in us which is “far more exceeding and eternal” (see II Corinthians 4:17). Jesus endured the Cross (the negative) because of the joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:2). Apart from Resurrection, the Cross is dark, empty, confusing, and meaningless. It certainly looks like defeat. We may not even comprehend or see God’s End in our brief life on earth. But with Resurrection everything becomes clear - at least, looking back on it, we can see God’s End was not Good Friday, but Resurrection Sunday. Resurrection always follows Crucifixion. In the end, God is justified. In the end, we will understand.
But for now, oh Lord, Your ways are past finding out! Lead us in Your narrow way. Teach us to embrace the Hidden Wisdom, which is Christ. Let us see into the heavenlies. Whether we live, or whether we die, we belong to You. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His Holy Name! Amen.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
More GREAT QUOTES
"People do not believe lies because they have to, but because
they want to." - Malcolm Muggeridge
"I can say that I never knew what joy was like until I gave up
pursuing happiness, or cared to live until I chose to die. For
these two discoveries I am beholden to Jesus."
- Malcolm Muggeridge
"Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experience
that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with
particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my seventy-five years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my experience, has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained. In other words, if it were ever possible to eliminate affliction from our earthly existence by means of some drug or other medical mumbo jumbo...the result would make it too banal and trivial to be endurable. This, of course is what the cross signifies. And it is the Cross that has called me inexorably to Christ." - Malcolm Muggeridge
"You cannot tell the truth about people you don't like, and
therefore the first duty you owe them is silence." - Chadwick's mother
"It is not the sty that makes the pig, but the pig that makes the
sty." - Chadwick
"Unless we have WITHIN us that which is ABOVE us, we will
eventually yield to that which is AMONG us." - Unknown
"A man being rich under the gospel, when it is known that his
money can be used for the glory of God and the conversion of souls, is demonstration absolute, that he loves the world supremely. To say that he is rich, but does not set his heart upon riches--that he continues to retain his wealth, and yet does not set his heart upon it, is manifestly absurd and false. For, certainly, nothing but a supreme attachment to it could cause him to hold on to the possession of it, when every wind is loaded down with cries and beseechings to send the bread of life to those that are ready to perish.” - Charles Finney
"A preacher who preaches the truth uncompromisingly will be asked 'Does your preaching always have to be so pointy? Does it always have to be so sharp?' And of course the answer is no. He can blunt his message if he'd like, and become just as dull as the average preacher." - Jesse Morrell
"It is not our business to make the message acceptable, but to
make it available. We are not to see that they like it, but that they get it." -Dr. Vance Havner
"A man who spoke little English gave this description of a sermon
he had heard: he said 'Big wind. Much lightning. Loud thunder. No
"A wooden key is not so beautiful as a golden one, but if it can
open the door when the golden one cannot, it is more useful."
- Martin Luther
"That is the best cat which catches the most mice." - Martin Luther
"No one can be a good preacher to the people who is not willing to
preach in a manner that seems childish and vulgar to some."
- Martin Luther
"So preach that those who do not fall out with their sins may fall
out with thee." - Martin Luther