“Come and Die”

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
Luke 9:57-58 (ESV)

Men look for their own sense of purpose; but God wants to take His own beyond this into walking in the lively substance of He who is the very purpose. Your hopes of success or earthly blessing will not get you through the onslaught of the Devil when he with heaven’s approval tears all your hopes and dreams into pieces. And then, poor soul, what will you do? How long will you shake your fist at God? Not even the prospect of the grave shall give you solace thereafter, though you wished it would; for you have dug it far too shallow.

“But though He cause grief, yet will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies.” (Lam 3:32) To be raised up most fully into the heavens, you must pass most fully through the blackness of death itself. The cross’s work is not being finished until it has begun finishing you. You must be being crucified into the Life which is deeper than a mere sense of your own purpose. You must walk through hell’s onslaught, through the terrors of death itself; holding fast your flame before the cold black stare of Satan’s nothingness. Your sense of purpose is only as good as your ability to keep it; but if you would go to deeper and higher places with God, His depths and heights will demand of you its demise: for the kingdom of God is where men and their own aspirations go to die.

And He said to all, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.
Luke 9:23-24 (ESV)

God in Christ brings us into His purpose by bringing us beyond ourselves – if only we will allow His death to be ours in this life daily; so that His very Life might reign in us, and consequently, we in His Life. God Himself must become our only means to His only ends; our only vision and our only Hope beyond hope. If you have another plan, may God shatter it beyond repair! O, let nothing be of any use to us but the keeping of the presence of God with us! It costs absolutely everything else; but there is no other way. Only then are we no longer entrapped in this world by the selfishness of seeking our own things; only then are we sufficiently broken vessels to pour forth the sweet aroma of Christ’s work for the glory of God alone.

Obedience to God as the means of finding our own sense of purpose is idolatry. His ministration will not be mocked even by what men call “ministries.” But obedience to God because He is worthy is its own reward to the humble; for it is the power of God moving within a man beyond that man’s capabilities, and it is the Spirit of God unhindered even by a man’s most seemingly pious desires. It is the legacy of those who have counted all as loss; it is the result of men reaching the end of their own rope, and finally letting go.

There is nothing more embittering than the anguish of defeat and loss without purpose. But there is nothing sweeter to the soul than the continual repentance whose heavenly joy is birthed by God’s own hand through said anguish; which finds strength beyond strength in the admittance of defeat; whose purpose is wrapped up in the mystery of Godliness at the willing loss of all else.

Let this mind be in us, which was also in Christ Jesus.

Peace Transcends Understanding

Knowledge requires the peace of God if knowledge is to be held in Godliness. I say not only peace with God, but also the peace OF God.

For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
Ecclesiastes 1:18

Solomon largely spoke here to the wisdom of earthly learning; but how much more this is true of spiritual understanding, especially when it is not couched in spiritual Life!

For instance, one who has been given discernment must always, perhaps more than most others, be constantly retreating into the secret place of the Almighty for peace, lest the isolating nature of knowledge become its own snare rather than the purifying crucible it is meant to be. And understanding alone is no antidote to either madness or vice. For the seed that it sows remains barren, or worse, brings forth the brambles of bitterness, when not accompanied by the watering of God’s grace and peace. Even true discernment, without the peace of God, leads only to misery; on the part of both the discerner and the discerned.

The one who discerns yet does not walk in the peace of God gradually strips himself of the true gift, and becomes worse than he was before ever havng received it. For our walk with God is to be just that: a walk with HIM – not a walk with gifts or with understanding, but with He who freely authors those things within us. The Lord is already pleased with His gifts – He made them after all – yet what He more deeply yearns for is to know us, and for us to know Him.

Seeking to fulfill the appetite that the flesh has for God’s approval of our gifts and understanding (which are His anyways), rather than pursuing the intimate presence of the Lord Himself, is a hollow path to travel. It is a life destined to become filled with the unspiritual sacrifices and selfish jealousy of Cain; where the inner life with Christ is lost in a thick fog of ungodly discontent, and where “sin lieth at the door.”

The best that our self-made religion has to offer is an understanding without peace, which is not the true knowledge of God.

Men think that great understanding will bring them peace; when it is truly God’s peace that transcends all understanding.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses ALL understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

True Religion

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
James 1:26-27

The religion toward which every man’s heart is naturally drawn is characterized by a boasting in his own spirituality through the outward show of lofty words, and even lovely deeds, while inwardly there dwells secret depravity unchecked. But true religion in the sight of God is characterized by the golden harmony of authentic selflessness and personal holiness.

There is a sureity of tongue that is born not of holy confidence, but of arrogance; and yet there is also a self-deprication that is born not of humility, but of sinful pride.
The spiritual worship that is to be the very walk of every child of God is a daily offering of life to receive Life; it is the fragrance of holy conduct born of the fear of the Lord’s mercy. For he in whom the demerrited mercy of God does not invoke a reverence unto obedience has not known God.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 12:1

To “worship in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:24) is seen in a selfless and holy life; to be authentically selfless only flows from the shattering recognition of the mercy of God; and to be truly holy is in a sense to be wholly true – which is to be without mixture in one’s dealings before the eyes of He who is all-knowing.

How, therefore, does the selfish man walk humbly, and the sinner live holy? By the application of the cross to every facet of his life and being, spirit soul and body. He to whom the cross of Christ truly applies will bear his own cross also. And it is this bearing of the cross which promises the abundant entrance into the heavenly kingdom. In the urgency of such a life in God, there is found the foretaste of eternal rest; and in the overcoming obedience of such a faith, there runs a trust which takes hold of a purely God-ward contentment.

“The truly religious man does everything as if everything depends on himself, and then leaves everything as if everything depended on God.”
– Joseph Parker

Bearing the Cross – John Calvin

“No one will calmly and quietly submit to bear the cross except those who have learned to seek their happiness beyond this world.”
– John Calvin

In This World You Will Have Trouble

…the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.
Mt 8:20, Lk 9:58

The Lord is our only stay. We have this fantastical image in our minds of Daniel in the lion’s den: where the lions all have smiles on their faces and Daniel is petting their manes. But the man beloved of God whom the Lord ordains to be thrown in with the lions will shortly find that their den is no such place. The lions may well be subdued and have their mouths held shut from truly harming him; but they nonetheless have every intention of ripping at and tearing apart the man of God, and will mercilessly intimidate him day and night. Even in the envelopment of our Lord’s protection, there is every earthly reason to abandon faith and be devoured.

When the Lord our Shepherd prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies, we are no less in their presence. We may eat and rejoice at the bounty of the Lord, yet the ravenous wolves stand across from us, at every moment spitting and shouting curses upon the Food and Drink of which we partake, seeking to shame us from partaking in the table of His sufferings. But the one whom the Lord upholds will not give in to fear.

We shall find no rest in this world of rebellion. We will be afflicted on all sides. Our blessed hope is a heavenly one, and it is one which we yet await. Let our running therefore not be stumbled by vexation with trials, as if a temporary world of tribulation is not worthy to be suffered for His eternal victory.

Rejoice in affliction!

A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing,
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He
Lord Sabaoth, His Name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us;
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That Word above all earthly pow’rs,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him Who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

– Martin Luther

The Time Is Now

And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.
And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Matthew 24:10-13

The time is now to know God.

As the lies of earthly satisfaction and false purpose in man’s religion are discovered by men to be empty, they are becoming all the more despairing of God, Whom they thought they had known by these vain things.

It is a day of utter meaninglessness, and of loathing for all that so much as resembles life. It is a day of disdain for light and infatuation with darkness. Man competes for the lowest degeneracy, and counts the void as the only substance; for what he was sold as substance was exposed to be devoid of it. Disillusionment only breeds further illusion for those who do not run to God in the hour of distress.

But as at all times, it is those learning to thrive in the hidden place of Christ in God who will find solace. The calling takes shape only for those who do such, and only to the degree that they press further into that precious communion with HIM.

I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.
I believed, even when I spoke, “I am greatly afflicted;” I said in my alarm, “All mankind are liars.” What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
Psalm 116:7-15

The time is now to know the Lord!

If men will ever say one thing of me, I want it at least to be, “He knew his God.”

God Is His Strength

So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.
Then Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, burned with anger. He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God. He burned with anger also at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong.
Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he. And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, he burned with anger.
Job 32:1-5 (ESV)

Now here is a man that lived up to his name.

Elihu means “God is his strength.”

The God who truly requires no introduction is ever so gracious that He prepares the way before Himself: tilling the hardened earth of our hearts as best as it will allow so that His word might not go forth in vain. He needs no witness from the mouth of a man, yet in mercy he sends one. He sends the voice crying out in the wilderness, uprooting the excuse of men and exposing their great need of the One coming. These voices are held in contempt by those that are wise in their own eyes; but they are considered of God a blessing unto His people. (Elihu was a Buzite, which literally means “contempt;” and his father’s name Barachel means “God has blessed”.)

Such a blessed voice was this Elihu. For after the seeds of discord and confusion were sown by those three fools called “friends” of Job, this little-remembered young man delivers his word immediately before the Almighty boasts of His majesty, and is never mentioned again. The Lord never rebukes this one: indeed, He begins right where Elihu leaves off and even expounds upon much that he said. This man was a sword long sharpened for a particular day of war, to cut asunder the lies of one man’s heart; he was a choice arrow crafted for a single flight, to pierce one target reached by no other; he was a treasure-trove of precious gems, fashioned for the day of lack: he was the witness of God among the profane, that their babbling mouths might be shamed through the foolishness of preaching.

The words of Elihu are words of great offence to the religious heart. It is no wonder that he is left so forgotten. He is a sort of prophet – not one trained of men, nor versed in “higher thought;” but of the simplicity of true wisdom found only in the stillness of God’s voice…

And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said: I am young in years, and you are aged; therefore I was timid and afraid to declare my opinion to you.
I said, Let days speak, and many years teach wisdom. But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand. It is not the old who are wise, nor the aged who understand what is right. Therefore I say, Listen to me; let me also declare my opinion. Behold, I waited for your words, I listened for your wise sayings, while you searched out what to say. I gave you my attention, and, behold, there was none among you who refuted Job or who answered his words.
Beware lest you say, “We have found wisdom;” God may vanquish him, not a man. He (Job) has not directed his words against me, and I will not answer him with your speeches.
They (Job’s friends) are dismayed; they answer no more; they have not a word to say. And shall I wait, because they do not speak, because they stand there, and answer no more? I also will answer with my share; I also will declare my opinion. For I am full of words; the spirit within me constrains me.
Job 32:6-18

Those who know their God are ever ruined for Him: they cannot stand to bear the prattling on of carnal men, who love to pit fool against fool and declare the craftier wise. The end of all human thought without God is emptiness and confoundment.

Elihu observed all of this with eyes quite unhindered by the scales of man’s reasoning: he beheld the folly of Job’s defence as well as the folly of his accusers, for he beheld the manifold wisdom of the sovereign Lord. From within his belly there groaned a burden of righteous angst not of his own making; and from within his very bones there kindled a holy fire destined to enflame the words of his mouth.

Like the pressure of a great river held back by a dam, he longed after the very desire of God for those waters to be liberated as is their nature – for the word of God is not bound. Those who truly have the word of God within them have also its desire at work in them. These have given up the futility of their own hearts for the in-filling of God’s heart. Those who so know their Maker speak of what they have seen and heard in the secret of His counsel, seeking not the approval of man, but of their Lord.

Behold, my belly is like wine that has no vent; like new wineskins ready to burst. I must speak, that I may find relief; I must open my lips and answer. I will not show partiality to any man or use flattery toward any person. For I do not know how to flatter, else my Maker would soon take me away…
…My words declare the uprightness of my heart, and what my lips know they speak sincerely. The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
Job 32:19, 33:3-4

These are not the words of arrogance, but of humility’s confidence. Elihu did not come wielding the word of the Lord; the word of the Lord came weilding Elihu. The word was the wine, the man was the wine-skin; and this man recognized that such was the righful order. His rebuke was not to destroy Job, but to show him the right. It was to remind his self-justifying friend of God’s kindness and forebearance so that he might repent back to the eternal blessedness of the Name he had once rested in.

Behold, I am toward God as you are; I too was pinched off from a piece of clay. Behold, no fear of me need terrify you; my pressure will not be heavy upon you.
Job 33:6-7

Job had begun well in his suffering, and was commended for the saying “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” [For the scripture thereafter says, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” (Job 1:22)] But Job did not continue in this right and humble frame of spirit. For thereafter he began to rather pity himself; and in response to the false accusations of evil suspicion from his friends, he attributed their folly to God and counted his sufferings unjust.

Elihu continues,

Surely you have spoken in my ears, and I have heard the sound of your words. You say, “I am pure, without transgression; I am clean, and there is no iniquity in me. Behold, He finds occasions against me, He counts me as His enemy, He puts my feet in the stocks and watches all my paths.”
Behold, in this you are not right. I will answer you, for God is greater than man. Why do you contend against Him, saying, “He will answer none of man’s words?”
For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, while they slumber on their beds, then He opens the ears of men and terrifies them with warnings, that He may turn man aside from his deed and conceal pride from a man; He keeps back his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword.
Job 33:8-18

There is no injustice with God: He works great evil unto the good for those that are with Him. He turns loose the very hords of hell to prove the mettle of His servants; and He delivers them from the gates of destruction, that they might see how their God delivers destruction back unto the enemy’s gates. The sufferings of the present time are the growing pains of the Life begotten of God within the creature. It is of mercy that He will not relent, and it is of wisdom that we should submit ourselves to the knife of our skilled Physician. The Lord will ever draw out His own unto the brink of despair, that they may learn the trust of Him – the faith which is called heavenly vision. He will expose the self-preserving heart by any means until it at last cries aloud, “It is well! You have declared my soul Your own, here it is for safe-keeping, as I cannot preserve myself, nor endure unto the end. But with You it shall be possible.”

Man is also rebuked with pain on his bed and with continual strife in his bones, so that his life loathes bread, and his appetite the choicest food. His flesh is so wasted away that it cannot be seen, and his bones that were not seen stick out.
His soul draws near the pit, and his life to those who bring death. If there be for him an angel, a Mediator, one of the thousand, to declare to man what is right for him, and He (the Mediator) is merciful to him, and says, “Deliver him from going down into the pit; I have found a ransom; let his flesh become fresh with youth; let him return to the days of his youthful vigor;” then man prays to God, and He accepts him; He (God) sees his face with a shout of joy, and He restores to man his righteousness.
He (the man) sings before men and says: “I sinned and perverted what was right, and it was not repaid to me. He has redeemed my soul from going down into the pit, and my life shall look upon the light.”
Behold, God does all these things, twice, three times, with a man, to bring back his soul from the pit, that he may be lighted with the Light of Life.
Job 33:19-30

Much more was also declared by the mouth of Elihu before the Lord spoke to Job from the whirlwind; but this I hope has introduced the essence of it. It is wisdom greatly despised by the world, and often forgotten by God’s people. He aquired his knowledge from heaven afar, he ascribed righteousness to his Maker; his words were not false, but perfect in knowledge. He declared purity in the heart by the loving of God’s justice, and trust in the Lord by the disciplines of His mercy.

Though perhaps little more than a youth, he yet spoke from what he had both seen and heard in the Lord.

God was his strength.