Vanity’s End

How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations!
For you have said in your heart:
“I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.”
Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit.
Isaiah 14:12-15 (NKJV)

The lowest depths…

As with the Devil, the heights of vanity also bring men’s hearts into the lowest depths of a living death; and this dark, hellish imprisonment of the soul makes it all the more fit for the even more real hell of eternity.

There is a kind of living hell in which some persons find themselves when the vanity of self, the lusts of the flesh, and the meaningless pursuits of the world have been permitted to take their full course through the life and being. This dark abode, this endless slide into the consuming void of emptiness, has at its core only eternal decay of spirit and bottomless despair of soul.

There lies within the fallen creature a restless evil, an insatiable lust for that which already infects it unto death. The more that it is fed, the more that its appetite grows; and the more that it is numbed through other courses of wickedness, the more that it longs for the inevitable and fearful death into which it reluctantly falls. Until the creature’s access to vain and wicked paths is cut off, it will forever return to its vomit as a dog, and go back to wallowing in the mire as the swine – loving itself in vain, hating itself in vain.

Yet even in the cutting off of its life from upon the earth, such a soul, in the torments of hell itself, continues the same inward spiral of wickedness and hatred towards God within the heart – and that with even greater despair upon despair, and sorrow upon sorrow.

The hopelessness of this woeful state cannot be sufficiently described in words – yet how many a soul is dragged away by his own lusts and enticed to the slippery sides of that pit, to crawl along the wall like a blind man unassisted by any means, his vision consumed by darkness within! The love of this world is as cold as it is sharp when it stabs one’s back; and the bitterness of this world is kindled into an unbearable flame that sears the conscience and scalds the mind to retreat into dull resignation.

But there is Truth which undercuts all excuse and disarms every defence of the thoughts.
There is Love which warmly bears all things until the heart’s complete surrender to it.
There is Light which makes bare every motive and intention, and graciously lays out a path once known to be impossible.
There is a LIFE of whole and unending goodness, a fountain of life and healing from within, which has been given in exchange for this existence of endless degeneration and vanity.

There is One who is all these things, Jesus Christ; and He is the mercy and grace of God to the lost sheep of His house.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”
John 10:27-28 (NKJV)

He is calling.
Who is hearing?
Let them hear!

The hypocrites do not truly hear; but God is near to those who have been humbled.

Let His voice be heard throughout the land by whomever He is calling!
Let eyes of new faith be opened by His visitation!
Let hearts of stone be crushed and transplanted for hearts beating with the life of Jesus!

And may those who have already known His hand be found in the seeking and partaking of these things!

There is no captivity that He did not lead captive for the freedom of all those whom He is calling.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.”
Matthew 5:6 (NKJV)

His righteousness is not merely an external cloak for the covering over of transgressions: it is also a new pure and righteous state of the inward being which increasingly displaces and replaces the old unrighteous state of being that made us love to walk in vanity and sin. It is a spiritual food and a spiritual drink which increasingly sustains and overflows from within all those who partake of its living way through repentance.

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to Me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, My steadfast, sure love for David.
Isaiah 55:1-3 (ESV)


“And all illusion ceases to exist.
The world’s caress is just the Serpent’s kiss.”
Theocracy (band)


Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in.
Let them thank the LORD for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of man!
For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things.

Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. So He bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress.
He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart.
Let them thank the LORD for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of man! For He shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron.

Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress.
He sent out His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction.
Let them thank the LORD for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of man! And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of His deeds in songs of joy!

Psalm 107:4-22 (ESV)

Priesthood: The Calling Which Purifies


§I ACCEPTABLE SACRIFICES


You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:5 (ESV)

Our obedience to the priestly calling of every member of God’s house is the only source of our ability to please Him in what we do. And the priestly calling of all believers is not, as many evangelical traditions have made it, to primarily be the confidant of one another’s sins: it is rather to be a minister UNTO THE LORD, who purifies the true ministers of His temple.

For despite the small good that can come by the confession of our faults one to another (Jas 5:16), there is no overcoming power in the act of itself; and even the prayer of a righteous man, though it may avail much, is soon discovered by many to be of little use in the continued overcoming of worldly and fleshly lusts. This is because we tend to minister in these things not unto the Lord, but rather unto ourselves.

Men seek “accountability” for their besetting sins amongst themselves, and in so doing tend to quickly neglect the power of God; which is found only in each one offering his own incense upon the altar of the brokenness of interceding love to Him, through obedience according to the giftings and callings of God.

For there is but one mediator between God and men: “the MAN Christ Jesus.” And if that Man alone (to whom we truly have to give an account) does not appear or seem close enough as to keep us from falling, then we have found the real root of what besets us: that our present experiential knowledge of God Himself is lacking.

“…to offer spiritual sacrifices…”
A spiritual sacrifice makes no excuse for the self: this means that the one offering does not consider their present sins worthy of hindering an entrance into the holy places. For the blood that has been sprinkled for us, and the body that has been torn open for us, gives us entrance, so that “going boldly” we may find grace in the time of need. His throne in the temple is the mercy seat – and have not our own hearts become a seat of mercy for His holiness, if He has indeed regenerated us in Christ? We have no excuse not to offer the spiritual sacrifices that are pleasing to the Lord, in view of God’s mercy.

“…acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
To confess sin to a brother, or to receive prayer from an elder, is only a spiritual sacrifice as far as it is done freely as a love offering to the Lord (and this can only proceed from a heart enraptured in some degree by His goodness). But the confession of a sin or the receiving of a prayer as a resort to please the real or perceived standards of others, or to attain to a level of personal piety whereby one might feel spiritually accomplished, is idolatry, and is an unacceptable sacrifice.

Time will tell the source and motive of all personal piety. Even an external source or motive, if it is yet other than the goodness of God Himself, falls woefully short of His glory. God will not be mocked. And He will not uphold the proud: He will allow them to fall again, especially if one whom He loves cannot be humbled unto His grace by any other means.

Therefore, we are not left to our own devices, nor to the cleverness of schemes, nor to the wisdom of sound counsel only. But we are called to fulfill the calling of a new priesthood, wherein is found a santification that goes far beyond the overcoming of only one particular sin, though that victory is also given.

The office of priesthood is the office of intercession. If we will minister to the Lord acceptably as priests, then we will seek Him earnestly in all our motives – especially those pertaining to good works, though without delaying in action. We will also be willing for Him to lay upon our hearts the burden of His own soul for His house, and for the lost sheep of His pasture.

We too quickly excuse ourselves in saying, “But I am unworthy to minister to others.” Yet aren’t we much more unworthy to minister to the Lord, which is our first and primary calling, and for which He has made us a way into the holy of holies? Surely then, He will make us able to minister to others in word, in deed, and in prayer, if only we are found ministering to Him in the same things by the bearing out of our souls before Him, and the seeking of His heart to become our own.

And how, one might ask, can this ministry intercession cleanse a man’s way?


§II“LIFT UP YOUR EYES”


And we are His witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him.
Acts 5:32

Ministering to the Lord in the seeking and doing of His will, despite ourselves and despite our existing shortcomings, is the magnet for His overcoming power. We become witnesses of His work only through obedience. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “Exercise thyself UNTO Godliness.” A man with no living experience of walking by the palpably leading hand of God will be a man of little or no strength in God; since the scope of his walk requires little or no strength, and he sees nothing beyond where he sits.

The overcoming power of God is given according to the measure of obedient faith in the various callings of God upon each one. And although the obediences to which He may call us might appear irrelevant or unable to affect our present sins, that is not at all the point. Dare we counsel God in the methods by which He delivers us from our own folly? He places one step at a time in front of us; and He orders those steps according to HIS wisdom, not our own.

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.
2 Chronicles 16:9 (NKJV)

The Hebrew for “loyal” here carries the concept of which Jesus spoke when He said “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single (or sound), thy whole body shall be full of light.”

In other words, while men seek to rid themselves of particular sins by developing tunnel-vision for those sins, the greater answer is truly found in developing a focused vision for whatever places Christ is calling one to in Him. For what the eye beholds, the body will soon reflect. The beholding of He who dwells in us and calls us will transform the beholder and the obeyer – and He is only beheld unto transformation by those who obey Him.

To neglect any prompting of the Holy Spirit is to neglect stepping into a greater place of His power.

If we wait to cross the Jordan until we are first made perfect, then we will never cross. We need to cross in order to find the beginnings of His perfecting power; for in that obedience are contained the seeds of perfection, and also the loyalty of heart which God answers in overcoming strength. In stepping into Jordan, the floodwaters which seemed to prevent us from taking the promised land are suddenly backed away from us, even beyond Adam (Josh 3:16), and the conquering of Jericho (the stronghold) comes well within the realm of possibility.

God fights on behalf of devoted hearts, and teaches them through continued experience to also fight for themselves. We are being made perfect through the crucible of obedience unto greater obedience.

As it was prophesied of such a priestly generation, to whom He comes as God into His temple:

And He (the Lord) shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
Malachi 3:3

Priesthood in God’s temple means that we are called to fearfully minister to His heart through walking by faith in the face of all ungody fear; and in this ministry we will find that He begins ministering far more deeply to our own hearts in the purification of the Holy Spirit than by any other means. It is the office by which the exercise thereof will call up a dead church to rise and meet the Lord who calls her to “come away,” shedding all the trappings of self-made religion as the faces of heaven’s inhabitants beam with awe and joy at the sight of a worthy Bride.

The heart of sanctification is not to please ourselves, but to honour God, who is worthy.

They shall enter into My sanctuary, and they shall come near to My table, to minister unto Me, and they shall keep My charge.
…And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.
Ezekiel 44:16,23


“Experience is the secret of power.”
Brian Troxel


SEE ALSO:

Neglect It Not: Intercession

HIS Intercession Is Our Calling

Will & Desire, Nature & Grace

Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Psalm 37:4

The heart which delights in the Lord will eat the fruit of Godly desires; but the heart which delights in itself will eat the fruit of sinful desires.

The sinful will desires not against its own nature, nor do the sinful desires will against their own nature.
Likewise, the sanctified will desires not against its own nature, nor do the sanctified desires will against their own nature.

But the will of each desires against the nature of the other, and the desire of each wills against the nature of the other; for two contrary natures cannot be at peace in one man.

Therefore God in Christ became man so that body soul and spirit might escape the sinful nature through the likeness of His death and resurrection by faith; and the God-man first became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God – not in ourselves – but in Him.

As the scriptures say,

For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
Galatians 5:17

If you have found a hunger and thirst for righteousness, it is His mercy alone to which you owe thanks, and His grace alone by which you must walk; only then will you find HIS righteousness bestowed upon you as a garment, and HIS holiness poured upon you as pure water.

There is no righteousness you can apprehend, no mercy you can earn, and no state of grace you can achieve. But that which Christ has apprehended, earned, and achieved, He now gives; and He gives it beginning in the seed of faith, which He alone also plants, waters and gives growth to: so that the man of faith might, by the application of grace, apprehend – and not apprehend that which God has already apprehended for him, but rather apprehend that which God has apprehended him for.

For that which the Spirit of God concieves is “born, not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” And if such a thing born should become full-grown, it must not forsake, but rather mature in, the very same elements of the very same Christ. For His gospel is unto His own, and they hang upon it, and He is their vindicator unto life.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” We are not our own workmanship, nor can we ever be forged in the foundry of our own will unto these good works. For only His will is that which follows after His desire, and so proceeds from His divine nature. And this perfect cascade of nature down unto holy deeds cannot be ascended from deeds unto nature by any man, any more than a worm can ascend the watery steps, the grace and vigor for which is given only to the river trout.

It is our tendency, according to the flesh, to venerate the “free will” of man, which truly is free only within the realm of its given desires; so that we prove ourselves unfruitful in the actual works of God, building rather a faith unto ourselves (though we confess no such thing aloud), unto great and terrible disappointment.

For the will is free only to follow after the desires of the heart; and the desire is free only to follow after the dictates of nature.

Will is determined by desire, desire is determined by nature, and nature is determined by God.

Thou wilt say then unto me, “Why doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will?” Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, “Why hast Thou made me thus?”
Romans 9:19-20

God’s decree is not limited by the bounds of our desire; the bounds of our desire are rather set by God’s greater decree.

The soul which cries at the supposed “unfairness” of this arrangement has not considered the fierce wrath which he has deserved since before he was brought forth from the womb, and how merciful it is that divine justice has not yet been poured out upon him. For it is the kindness of God which leads us to repentance.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
Romans 12:1-3

What, according to this scripture, does our ability to sacrificially offer ourselves derive from?
“The mercies of God”!

And how are we freed from being conformed to this world?
Not by renewing our own minds (which men are tended towards), but rather “by the renewing OF” our minds (a work of the Word and Spirit of God); which then leads to the working out in us of the singular decreed will of God, which singular will is “good, acceptable, and perfect.”

And the command here is one toward humility before God, which can be genuinely and soberly practiced only in light of God’s graceful gifting of faith toward each one who has ever found it.

But by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
1 Corinthians 15:10

Battle Hymn Of The Republic

May such a fire return to the army of the Lord:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps,
His day is marching on.

I have read His fiery gospel writ in rows of burnished steel!
“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you My grace shall deal!
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,”
Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him; be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me;
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free!
While God is marching on.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12 (ESV)

The Good Confession

I charge you before God, He making all things alive, and Christ Jesus, He witnessing the good confession to Pontius Pilate…
1 Timothy 6:13 (LITV)

With these words Paul exposes the folly of our trust in the understanding of the mere creeds and so-called “confessions” by which we have so often defined our faith. For what great theological oration did Christ Jesus give before Pilate? Yet it says, “He witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate.” A witness is one who has lived that of which they speak; and the life of which they speak is their confession. Christ witnessed the good confession to Pilate; Christ’s confession was the very Life of God by which He was obedient to His Father in all things.

The good confession of which He witnssed was that He was the Son of God in the flesh. Ours is likewise to be that that same Life of the Son of God is being manifested in the life of our own flesh. Just as God and man were fully present in Christ before Pilate, so also our witness to Him shall be no witness at all until the substance of our real lives is being transfigured by the substance of God’s real Life working in us through the obedience of faith.

The witness which John makes of the apostles’ confession is, “That which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you…” In God’s appointed order, there is no discrepancy, though there be a distinction, between His Word and Christ Himself. Christ is the Word of God. If then we be Christ’s, and His word dwells in us, how can we not be constrained by that Word? “Why do you call Me “Lord, Lord,” and not do the things I say?” We have taken the distinction between command and Commander as justification for the glaring discrepancy between them in our own lives. But God does not abide such hypocrisy.

The incarnation of Christ Jesus is in itself the ultimate rebuke for our rending of the Word spoken from the Word lived. For in Him the Word was born a man, true Divinity elevating true humanity in Christ to its proper place in absolute harmony with God; so that those likewise born again of His Spirit from above might become partakers in the same resurrection life TODAY.

For how does John describe those who abide not in that Life?

By this we know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ IS come in the flesh is from God. And every spirit which does not confess that Jesus Christ IS come in the flesh is not from God; this is the antichrist which you heard is coming, and now is already in the world.
1 John 4:2-3

Notice how John says that it is a spirit which either confesses or denies the good confession. For he who confesses is he in whom righteousness is seen in the flesh, and he is from God; but he who denies is he in whom righteousness is not found in the flesh, and that one is not from God. In the case of the first spirit, it witnesses truly of that which it has seen and heard: which is the Word of Life; and in them the Life is manifest. But in the case of the second spirit, they bear witness of no such Life in the flesh; and their words are empty, because the Life, which is the good confession, is not manifest in them. Such is the spirit of antichrist: it is contrary to Christ’s Life working in us, though we speak His Name.

And again, regarding this second spirit which confesses not: it could be a demon, or it could be the spirit of a man, and there would be no difference. For the true confession that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is a life being evidently lived in the flesh “by the faith OF the Son of God.” (Gal 2:20). Does the faith of Jesus Christ Himself ever fail? That is the faith by which we are to be living. Religion stops at faith in Christ; but the righteousness of God is “through the faith OF Jesus Christ toward all and upon all those believing…” (Rom 3:22)

John, as he does throughout his first letter, is saying that those who have the Life of Christ ought to walk even as Christ walked: who, though being God, became a man, so that we, being men, might become “the righteousness of God in Him.”

Such is the good confession. To truly confess His name is to have His Life at work even in our life in the flesh, just as He was always about His Father in His own flesh.

If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; because this is the witness of God which He has witnessed about His Son:
The one believing in the Son of God has the witness in himself.
The one not believing God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the witness which God has witnessed concerning His Son.
And this is the witness: that God gave us everlasting life, and this life is in His Son.
1 John 5:9-11 (LITV)

Indeed, I tell you truly: he that believes in Me, the works which I do, that one shall do also, and greater than these he will do, because I go to My Father.
John 14:12 (LITV)

Thoughts on Hypocrisy & Repentance

It is the inconsistencies which we most tolerate within ourselves that make us the most hypocritical. These may even seem to be our smallest faults; yet no matter what they are, if we tolerate them the most, they render us more grievous hypocrites than the greatest failings of which we immediately repent.

Wickedness and idolatry will take whatever shape or form that it requires to survive; and subtlety is its greatest weapon.

Repentance is the destroyer of all hypocrisy, and righteousness fills the void left by its absence. Heavy lies the flesh of he who does not repent of every known fault; but free is the man whose slave-master is Christ.

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