Truly, I say to you, whoever does not
receive the kingdom of God like a child
shall not enter it.
While men attempt the work of entering the kingdom in order to recieve it, Jesus reveals that in God’s wisdom we instead recieve the kingdom by faith in order to enter it.
When men lack faith to allow the cross to outweigh their sin, they redifine the gospel one way or another to fit their experience. Either they will make out Christ to be accepting of ungodliness in them, or they will place the power in their own soul to ensure their deliverance and salvation. Both are an afront to God, but I am dealing with the latter here, which can be the greater temptation to truly earnest hearts who have already seen something of holiness and desire to pursue it. Those whom the Devil cannot convince to live lawlessly, he tempts to live legalistically. Those in whom he cannot dispell the fear of God, he seeks rather to terrorize with doubting the sufficiency of His grace to provide true strength. The enemy is equally pleased to make us serve an unjustly permissive God as well as an unjustly overbearing one.
New believers who stumble in the Way yet have the fear of the Lord in them may become tempted to add dead works in order to gain visible righteousness; when truly the only righteousness that produces the works of God is the righteousness which is by faith. For “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Where men build a golden house upon no foundation, it is fool’s gold. The great bane of immaturity is a lack of confidence in the sufficiency of the grace of Christ to provide strength in all things. The power to walk as Christ walked does not reside in the natural man, it resides in the promise itself; for truly the promise of eternal life is Christ Himself, and all His fullness, which is the fullness of God. We can do nothing pleasing to God except through Christ, by whom we can do ALL things! If we but trusted Him in this, we would with patience be enabled to see His righteousness working in us through obedience; and then our faith would continually bring growth as good soil and water bring to a great tree, like the kingdom of God is pictured (Mt 13, Mk 4, Lk 13, also see previous article).
But because in this devil’s world we are encouraged to lack such deep and unshakeable faith (and the spiritual patience inherent within it), we instead either settle for compromise, or “go on ahead” from the pure doctrine of CHRIST into our own methods, just because we do not see the manifestations of faith which we have lead ourselves to expect. Ironically, this is actually a foothold for all manner of sins. It is all too common that after someone finds deliverance from certain sins early in their walk, the temptation is to become proud in the self, as though a new spiritual status has been gained by improved behavior. Truly the change in behavior was by the power of God through faith; but nevertheless this pride makes way for a blindsiding fall, and the response to this fall will reveal just how pure the faith of a person is. How they get up may sady determine their trajectory for years to come. Will they stand up in faith and continue to rest in Christ, who alone can deliver those who believe? Or will they try crawling another way? Many turn to their own power with the unspoken intent of adding to God’s power for deliverance. This can only make matters worse. For if, after having begun by the Spirit, we now seek to be perfected by the flesh, then we will only further feed the pride of the same old man who also commits the other sins we think ourselves to be contending with. But the weapons of our warfare are only mighty because they are THROUGH GOD. Only those who wait upon HIM will renew their strength.
Therefore it is written,
Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.
Say to them that are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, fear not:
behold, YOUR GOD will come with vengeance,
even God with a recompence;
HE will come and save you.”
True and pure obedience is that which chases the impossible out of an absolute trust in the power of God. What we so greatly lack by-and-large is humility enough to finally die and let only CHRIST be our vey life. We do not know the power of God! Righteousness rains down upon those who have already sown to themselves IN it. For in Him they already have it by faith, if their faith proves true.
Sow to yourselves IN righteousness, reap IN mercy;
break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD,
till he come and rain righteousness upon you.
And how can we sow to ourselves in what may not yet be visibly raining upon us? The answer is that we sow IN a righteousness, which although not yet fully seen, has been bestowed upon us so that we may ACT upon SOWING in it. We obey not the possible works we make up for ourselves, but rather we obey the impossible works which God has prepared for us to walk in. For wherever we step into His impossible path, we shall find his power. The same sanctification and holiness which many of the scriptures call us to walk in is eslewhere stated to already be finished. This is not a contradiction, nor does it merit a compromise in our thinking. The answer is found in the integrity of our faith (or lack thereof). Faith mixed with the motives and excuses of the flesh cannot reconcile this thing and therefore leads to the production of many elaborate and compromising doctrines; but faith unmixed, unencumbered, and dying to self can say boldly to a true brother, “I am confident of this very thing: that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion until the Day of Christ.” (Php 1:6)
This is descriptive of faith LIKE a child. A new child believes without question its Father’s promise, and expects without compromise the fruits of that promise. This alone shall lay hold of all that God reserves in His inexhaustible treasury. For He has gladly bestowed upon us the riches of His grace in Christ Jesus – let us therefore not insult His Spirit through passing it by in unbelief! In the end, the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable was not the younger, who boldly received the open arms of his father; but it was the elder, who kept himself a stranger to the grace of his father even though he never left his vicinity. He had continual access to every good and perfect gift, but never asked or received of it. Under the self-made cloak of loyalty (dead works of the flesh), he lived after his own will rather than availing himself of becoming a son; something which his father had reserved for whomever would recieve it. “But as many as received him, to them gave he POWER to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:12)
So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
The sin of the elder brother in Jesus’ parable was a lack of faith disguised in the outward humility of dead works. Under the premise of not spoiling his father’s abundant grace, he never availed himself of any of it. But true humility is that which boldly asks God for strength in the time of need without pretending to bring anything of worth to the table; for it knows the folly of self-effort well enough to ask for nothing less than the provisions of God Himself in Christ Jesus. For if we have a perfect Father who rewards the diligent seeker (and we do), then we can be certain that He on His part will not fail – only let us also exercise faith to walk forward into the unknown, not shrinking back as those who are destroyed. The true humility of faith moves beyond the veiled pride of self-deprication: it is the confidence to depend upon God alone at the expense of all self. It is the same mind which also was in Christ Jesus, it is HIS faith! Our faith shall grow up to His stature if we exercise that which is already given; and His grace indeed sufficient. Do you believe this? Die! Rise and walk! God’s rest awaits those who by faith and patience inherit the promises, where the Spirit works through the yielded of God who trust and obey.
Since therefore it remains for some to enter it,
and those who formerly received the good news
failed to enter because of disobedience;
again He appoints a certain day,
TODAY, saying through David…
“Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…”
We are all too eager in our day to label all boldness before God as “arrogance,” and all humanly-conceived works as “humility.” This propensity of ours is the Devil’s programming through the unstable and unspiritual men whom many today call teachers. Satan would not have any man approach the throne of grace, and he will do everything within his power to dissuade us. But the foot-dragging of doubt and self-sufficiency is the spiritual melodrama of a belligerent soul which only causes it to continue stumbling and falling in darkness. This will only continue where the Holy Spirit is given no further room to empower because the self remains enshrined, if not enthroned. Self-righteousness is the greatest obstacle to true repentance; and therefore itself requires much. The depth of REPENTANCE determines the potential depth of faith’s roots; and the depth of going beyond our own strength determines the depth in which the Holy Spirit can operate. “Now the lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the lord is, there is liberty…”
When Peter stepped out of the boat, he stepped further out of his own life and further into Christ’s. In that moment his heart caught a glimpse of the truth that the only safe place is to be with Christ wherever HE goes at the expense of all else.
“The christian life from start to finish is based upon this principle of utter dependance upon the Lord Jesus… Do you think that if you cease trying to please God your good behavior will cease? If you leave all the giving and all the working to God, do you think the result will be less satisfactory than if you do some of it? It is when we seek to do it ourselves that we place ourselves back again under the Law. But the works of the Law, even our best efforts, are “dead works,” hateful to God because they are ineffectual.”
– Watchman Nee, ‘Sit, Walk Stand’
For the Law perfected nothing;
but the bringing in of a better Hope did,
through Which we draw near to God.
“Come to Me, all those laboring and being burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, because I am meek and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest to your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”