The immensity and depth of the anointing into which the Holy Spirit longs to baptize God’s children is such that words too holy to be spoken, songs too holy to be sung, and deeds to holy to be done might yet be able to become spoken and sung and done through we as His broken vessels – if we only will allow ourselves to be so shattered by His revelation to us. He would put a new song in our mouths, if only we stopped using them to make excuses.
When we sanitize the long and sorted history of God’s people by filtering it through our personal traditions, we miss out on a greater appreciation for the saying, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
On to the subject matter…
Now to him who works, the reward is not counted as grace, but as something owed. But to him who doesn’t work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.
Even as David also pronounces blessing on the man to whom God counts righteousness apart from works, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whom the Lord will by no means charge with sin.”
Is this blessing then pronounced on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. How then was it counted? When he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision?
Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. He received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while he was in uncircumcision, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they might be in uncircumcision, that righteousness might also be accounted to them.
Romans 4:4-11 (WEB)
Now consider this quote:
“There can be NO justification in a legal or forensic sense, but upon the ground of universal, perfect, and uninterrupted obedience to law. This is of course denied by those who hold that gospel justification, or the justification of penitent sinners, is of the nature of a forensic or judicial justification. They hold to the legal maxim, that what a man does by another he does by himself, and therefore the law regards Christ’s obedience as ours, on the ground that He obeyed for us.”
– Charles G. Finney, Systematic Theology, 362
Why not instead say that faith without works is dead, as say the scriptures? The claim of justification without any sanctification is self-deception; but this does not permit us to throw out the former because we do not see enough of the latter. They are both part-and-parcel of the grace of God in salvation. This conflation of the two leads to a denial of what both are. For there is judicial righteousness, and there is experiential righteousness – and the two are not at odds (except in the minds of some). They are both present in true salvation, yet they are distinct in function; for the one is the begining and underpinning of the other. It is not without purpose that the apostle Paul frequently structured his letters according to this principle. Peter then shakes awake our sleepy hearts from interpreting Paul carnally, and puts in us the fear of God, convicting us of God’s holiness; and James with John clarify the synthesis: that the righteous will practice what has been given to them, and the rest are evidently not of His sheep.
It is not a question of too much or too little grace; it is a question of authentic grace. It is not a question of to much or too little law; it is a question of authentic law. Now the authentic article of faith is the divine law being written upon the heart of a man by the finger of God, and it is the giving of empowerment to obey such by the indwelling Holy Spirit – and this is all of grace. For no man has this inherently: he must be granted it from heaven. To deny this justification by faith in order to begin sanctification is to remove a foundation before building a house.
Who could bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is GOD who justifies.
Romans 8:33 (WEB)
To set out upon a sanctified walk without being justified by faith is to set out across a bridge with no beams supporting it. It is doomed to fail, for it has no basis. It has no preexsisting grace by which to affirm that the way is sure and the goal attainable; and it has no ever-present grace to remind us that even what we have attained is all by God’s mighty power.
The man Finney often preached well against the tyranny of the self; but at times offered little more than the pitiful power of the fallen human will as its antidote – which only can perpetuate the cycle of said tyranny. (Rom 7). It is a sad truth that a great wealth of spiritual excitement and conviction can dwell alongside a ghastly lack of staying power.
Now this may be objected to by those who are aware of Finney’s teachings on the Holy Spirit, which are numerous and in many aspects quite excellent. But the Holy Spirit, were He bound by the choices of the human will or limited to man’s “uninterrupted obedience to law,” would have no power to sanctify us. For the will of man is the very first and primary matter that the Spirit comes to set right in us. For the law of God is not written on our hearts until the Lawgiver by the Spirit does so; and if He cannot do so without a sinner’s permission, then it will most assuredly never happen. But if we accept such teaching, we are left quite to ourselves, and we deny much of God’s help, however unwittingly.
For the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace; because the mind of the flesh is hostile towards God; for it is not subject to God’s law, neither indeed can it be. Those who are in the flesh can’t please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if it is so that the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any man doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
Romans 8:6-9 (WEB)
And how is the Holy Spirit obtained?
I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Counselor, that He may be with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world can’t receive; for it doesn’t see Him, neither knows Him. You know Him, for He lives with you, and will be in you.
John 14:16-17 (WEB)
The more true obedience to His maker that a man walks in, the more he ought to behold the gracious preordination of God in every step along the way, and all the more quickly should he therefore yield himself unto the doing of that same will of God. But the man who becomes proud of his own obedience sees it only as the doing of his own will, and mocks the grace of the God who had soveriegnly worked it all in him. This man takes little delight in being humbled; and rather than simply surrendering to the will God, he constantly makes treaties with his Creator, thinking it to be the Lord’s method. Man’s desire to “be like the most high” of his own accord and by his own means is insatiable; and it must be crushed by the overbearing power of the Spirit of Grace, who is the mouth of the fount of true sanctification.
Do I hereby condemn Charles Finney? No! Based on many other things he said, I actually believe that he himself had a real and powerful walk with God. For by God’s grace, many who are attracted to vain philosophy may yet be constrained by His power to truly know and walk with Him despite their most carnal notions; and they are herein most blessedly inconsistent. Finney also lived in a day of great spiritual slumber – and despite the shear reactionism behind such of his teachings as those here quoted, he was apparently not without a good measure of real fruit. I dare any one of us to presume that we were the better man for that hour. God knew what He was doing.
The legacy of those things which we call the movings of Christ throughout the ages is one often beset with the mixture of man’s disasterous religious recipes and earthly philosophy.
O Lord, give us eyes to see that which is pure, holy, and becoming of You; that we may test all things, and hold fast to what is good!
The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, who are prophesying, and say to those who prophesy from their own hearts: ‘Hear the word of the LORD!’ Thus says the Lord God, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!”
God calls false the “prophet” who sees his own visions, feels his own feelings, and speaks his own thoughts. For a true prophet is the one who sees what God sees, feels what God feels, and speaks what God thinks.
The gulf of difference between these two is irreconcilable; and the standard by which the matter is measured is the holy scriptures – through which the word of the prophets is made known, and by which the prophets themselves are forged, for therein has the Spirit Of Prophecy expounded Himself. And the testimony of Jesus IS the Spirit of prophecy.
His prophets today, therefore, are those both in whom and through whom the very Christ of those scriptures’ testimony is found seeing, feeling, and speaking after God Himself.
In these men the Word of the Lord is not trapped on the pages of its binding, nor confined within the interpretation of mere men, nor restrained even by the words of great men of history; but it is become a living fire in their bones to strike down and eviscerate the imperfect chatter of every foul spirit which continues to oppose it in their own day.
The spiritual authority that a man carries directly corresponds in measure to his current conformity to the revealed will of God – and that will is moving through time, the Spirit of Christ as a wind blowing each obedient man His way; but are we ourselves remaing in symphony with Him? For though we may stand upon the shoulders of giants, we must yet remain mindful that those who proclaim the word of the Lord in every age shall be judged alone according to the testimony of the Word Himself, Who is living and active.
And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 1:19-21
By this standard our words are measured.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to flesh, but according to Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus set me free from the law of sin and of death. For the law being powerless, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and concerning sin, condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous demand of the law might be fulfilled in us, those not walking according to flesh, but according to Spirit.
Romans 8:1-4 (LITV)
A man cannot overemphasize his total inability to please God in and of himself; but there are those who struggle to obey God because they overshadow the cross of Christ with the ruinous heap of their recurring sins. This in itself is actually a fleshly self-centeredness, it is a faithless sin to be repented of in view of God’s mercy. For if one fears and delights in the Lord, including the sufficiency of His work and a trusting in His desire to continue it, then that same one delights in nothing less than the glory of God’s Name; and to obey the Lord then becomes a joy despite one’s existing shortcomings.
Only by this does one draw near to God in such a way that his personal faults and long-entrenched sins can be overcome in the Lord’s ever-nearer presence; for this honors the Holy Spirit and invites His power. But when our obedience is about ourselves, and not all about the Lord of Glory, then it is not true obedience anyways, and will ironically benefit us nothing. The Lord calls us not to the limit of our means, but far beyond, where we have no means but He Himself. The fruit of the Spirit is not invoked by the striving of the flesh.
For the ones that are according to flesh mind the things of the flesh. And the ones according to Spirit mind the things of the Spirit. For the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace; because the mind of the flesh is enmity towards God; for it is not subject to the law of God, for neither can it be. And those being in the flesh are not able to please God. But you are not in flesh, but in Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone has not the Spirit of Christ, this one is not His.
Romans 8:5-9 (LITV)
“…there is not one that seeks after God.”
“Seek, and you shall find…”
Men do not find God because they do not seek for Him. For if they truly sought, they would find. A seeking of power or of wisdom as distinct from the seeking of God Himself is idolatry; and it is the fool who supposes that God will suffer His might or counsel to be either mingled with or weighed by that of men. Woe to them that go on tickling their own ears, who repent not of their own devices and conceptions when the Lord makes Himself known; for in due time He grants them strong delusion! Woe to them that become proud of seeking the satisfaction of their own minds as an end in itself, as though having no higher authority were the truest of wisdom; for in vain they seek out an excuse not to find the immovable reality of He who is Lord of all, and their reward is the void which they have so esteemed. To deify the mind of man is to blaspheme the mind of God. “Proffessing to be wise, they became foolish…”
All things (under the sun – natural light) are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
The ears of men are ever itching to hear a new thing; but let a matter be spoken of God, and it cannot be tolerated. They cannot bear to hear of their true predicament, because it breaks the noise of their elaborate distraction: the machinery of artificial crisis, the religion of passing the blame. The monument to destruction is ever so carefully built up, the meaninfulness of vanity is ever so highly venerated to draw the heart unto anything but the subtance and reality of God Himself. The emptiness of man’s soul is ever feeding upon the devices of its own self, never to satiate its hunger. The more of its own debt that it thinks to pay, the more that it finds to be owing. Well does the symbology of the enemy mockingly betray a truth: that the serpent remains ever consuming its own tail, for it cannot fulfill itself. Such madness is the prospect confronting those who reach the end of all earthly learning and wisdom in a world which lies under the power of that wicked one.
But the spiritual are free of this vanity, for through the operation of the Spirit of Truth within them “by the faith OF the Son of God,” they overcome Devil’s persuasion to share in his fate. These recognize through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit that all deception begins in the heart of a man, including their own; and must be overcome by the Truth of God dwelling in the innermost parts. By Him they are made free of their rebellious state, which disposes the heart to so readily to be flattered by the crafty peddler of the tree of knowledge. For the fruit of the tree of Life can only be planted and nurtured by that one Spirit of God Himself – which feat no mere man can accomplish, “because the mind of the flesh is enmity towards God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither CAN it be.” With those after the flesh, the Sovereign Lord is righteous to find fault, and against such He is also righteous to execute judgement; “for the saving grace of God has appeared to all men,” and “men loved the darkness instead of the light, for their deeds were evil,” so that men are without excuse.
The demonstration of man’s depraved heart without God’s Life reveals His longsuffering and patience; and the impossibily of men to choose freedom from themselves reveals how much that grace truly is grace. For among whom none was righteous and not one merrited favour, He raises up from among the incapable dead a people for His own possession, which by Him are also made into His likeness; as the likeness of God was otherwise inseperably lost, and no man but those being conformed to the likeness of the One Son of Man can claim truly to bear the image of God – though even many christians are ignorant to this fact. It is not in the least unfair that the many are allowed into destruction: truly it is of His mercies that not all men are utterly consumed. Indeed it is a wonder that He has so decreed and laboured to save even some, working unto the good of those who love Him, who do so because they are “THE called according to His purpose.” And being that such is the gift of God, there are none of them which can boast! For not by prudence in observing signs of power have the zealots been delivered, any more than that by knowledge in plausible arguments have the wise been truly enlightened; but salvation is revealed “to those who are called, of both Jews and Greeks: Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
For the power is He who died now reigning over death; and the wisdom is He who was raised now living in those who by His operation have died.
For except the Lord has implanted the working of His faith within a soul, it proudly lives unto itself and remains dead to God, existing under that great darkness concerning which the apostle rightly spoke, “There is NOT ONE that seeks after God.” Now it is tempting for the carnal mind to minimize or try to deny so comprehensive and infinitely deep a chasm; but enduring faith rests upon power unseen of the eyes, and it reckons by wisdom unknown of the mind, having first accepted this horrible truth. And since the will of sinful man is utterly free of God, praise be unto God that His will is utterly free of sinful man, so that He may bridge the chasm without the loss of any to whom His mighty arm is revealed!
For the freedom of the human will is only ever unto the bondage of the tyranny of self; and the breaking of this evil will by God is required to bring about the true freedom of serving His good, pleasing, and perfect will. The creature indeed has capacity for much; but no son of Adam has any capacity for spiritual goodness without first the extension of uncommon grace which gives power to become a child of God. Seeking with the whole heart after the One who exposes the thoughts and intentions of the heart is a characteristic of those being made alive in Christ Jesus: it is the province of those that are being drawn of the Father; for only by His Spirit are uncovered the wonders of His great Mystery. And those who have found the mystery (which is the glory of God hidden in Christ, and living in them), if these shall continue to overcome the snare of mere human ingenuity, let the prayer of their regenerated hearts ever remain, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your law.”
For if we are saved not of ourselves, but by the gift of God, how much more then should we also dispose the continuation of our growth in Him unto that same power and wisdom of Christ; for now within us He strives to will and to do according to His good pleasure. For that power and wisdom of Christ, which before we lacked and has now been endowed – shall we not with fear and trembling now submit to its working, a choice which before we could not have made? For it is not unto the heathen, but unto the children, that God says, “Choose you this day whom you will serve,” and, “receive not the grace of God in vain.” The Law of the Spirit of Life is come!
“…faith arises from disposition of soul, but dialectic from the skill of its inventors. Wherefore to those who have the inworking through faith, demonstrative argument is needless, or even superfluous. For what we know through faith you attempt to prove through words, and often you are not even able to express what we understand. So the inworking through faith is better and stronger than your professional arguments. We Christians therefore hold the mystery not in the wisdom of Greek arguments, but in the power of faith richly supplied to us by God through Jesus Christ.”
– Antony of Egypt, to the Greeks who came to visit him. (Taken from the account of his life written by Athanatius of Alexandria)
And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so.
Prior to the formation of these lights within the heavens of the creation, the express light of God began overtaking its inner darkness from without. This is good for a season; but light shining from outside cannot reveal much to the eyes of the creature regarding the seasons, nor effectively convey the signs of the times. Such light from without indeed begins a good work, even unto the bearing of some fruit (see previous post); yet there must become an undying flame of the light shining from within, by whose guidance a good witness is truly obtained.
Christ Jesus came to us at first as a light from without – Emmanuel, God with us: external to men. This was necessary so that He might initiate the process of our conformity unto His image; but it was also necessary that He went back to the Father, so that we might now receive the gift of God’s mystery: “which is Christ IN you, the hope of glory.” Without the indwelling of the Son within, there is no continuation of His making us evermore His own. Men who have only teaching from without, and even a perfect example before them, still can only passively observe; they cannot become with these alone. There must be that excellent law of the Spirit of Life at work; for that Life is the Light of men.
Because it is God who said, “OUT OF darkness Light shall shine,” who shone in our hearts to give the brightness of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure IN earthen vessels, so that the excellence of the power may be of God, and not from us…
2 Corinthians 4:6-7
The Light of the world now begins to take definite shape “IN the expanse of the heavens” as the Sun of Righteousness. This is the same expanse created on the second day, all contained within the created order – or for our purposes here, within the creature. This formation of light is the preperation for God’s Life to not only bring forth tender shoots or stately trees of the ground, but also to be found freely moving upon its earth and soaring in the midst of its heavens. (Again we see that each day is dawned upon with the intent of preparing for the wondrous work of the next.)
And God made the two great lights – the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night – and the stars.
The day is seen in the rising light of the Daystar of Christ Jesus’ indwelling; and the night remains in places where His light is only yet dimly reflected. The day of the creature is now defined by the express shining of His indwelling Spirit in the expanse He made between the waters, all beckoning up the fruit of our ground and keeping watch upon every matter within reach of His rays. And even the night of the creature is continually encroached upon by the Light of its world through the reflective nature of the lesser light; and with the Light embraced, the Day of the Lord is draws ever the more at hand, when “night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (Rev 22:5)
“…and the stars.” – Not only does the moon reflect the sun’s rays into the night, but now also the Light of Life shines in from fellow vessels, appearing as stars in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, bearing witness to the Truth through a realm devoid of light and substance. These also provide an additional measure of guidance in the traversing of our own earth and waters in the night seasons; and they cause us to marvel at the boundless wonders of the Almighty who placed them in His own heaven, calling them out each by name to the praise of His glory.
Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.
“And let them be for signs…” – His children are for signs and wonders in Israel (Isa 8:18). Every faithful conduit of God’s light, both from within and without the new creature, serves to confirm His will and speak His word in season and to reveal the way which pleases Him as steadfast markers in an expanse blackened by sin; as voices in the desert ever preparing the way of the Lord. Behold, He cometh!
And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
“…to rule over the day and over the night…” – This stage of God’s work within us characterized by Light shining forth from within gives way to His very present and active rule: the law of His Light becoming an inescapable operative principle. Up until this fouth day, God has illuminated, divided, and disciplined waters; He has established ground, and even borne some good fruit in us with relatively low responsibility on our part. But a good Father desires His children to take what light has been given thus far and continually use it to discover what more He has hidden away in the deposit entrusted to them.
“…and to separate the light from the darkness.” – A child of God is one being marked by the growing distinction between light and darkness. Our response to the piercing, the reflecting, and the guiding of His light will determine how much more we become made in His image; for the eye that is not single to this one purpose of God in Christ has left the creature full of great darkness. His children are those of Light, of the Day; they are to remain walking as such. The wise are not content to rest upon the good of yesterday as today’s assurance, for it cannot sustain what God has prepared further in advance; but the reward of today inspires hunger for tomorrow’s blessed obedience. There remains yet room within the heights and depths of the creature to be filled with all manner of His Life, and that in abundance.
All is seen by the Day of the Lord appearing in the heart.
– Francis Howgill
CONTINIUED IN PART FIVE
And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be collected to one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. And God called the dry land, Earth. And He called the collection of the waters, Seas. And God saw that it was good.
God’s work in separating our waters from His (see previous article) brings upon us the ability and thereby also the responsibility to subdue our own raging waters, so that we as the instruments of His will might not hinder the continued work of His Spirit in and through us.
Excerpt from previous section:
“The new creature which submits itself to the word continues discovering the evidence of even greater depths in God far above its present experiential knowledge; thirsting always to drink deeper of that eternal spring so that even the waters of earth below might be made conformable to the word of His mouth…”
“Let the waters under the heavens be collected to one place.” – It is a grave mistake to suppose that just because God has separated our earthly waters from His heavenly ones, He wants nothing to do with them. Truly, He wants to be the only One to do with them: they must also become His waters, for unto His glory they are created. But this can only occur to the degree that we ourselves give them up unto His designs – such obedience is our responsibility. It is by the allowance of His increase within us that we ourselves decrease. There is a purpose for our waters, and it is for a very particular and focused calling, hence the gathering of them into “ONE place.” This represents the specific calling of every creature in Him, whatever that may be for each one. For once having partaken of His waters, in drinking more of Him we find greater power to conform our own waters according to His calling.
Subsequent to the second day’s obedience of the dividing of the waters, the third day’s work is revealed in discipline of our unruly waters by the word of His mouth: “Let dry land appear.” This now establishes His solid ground within us, raising up the humbled earthen creature to bear fruit of the Spirit of the Lord…
And God said, “Let the earth sprout tender sprouts, the plant seeding seed, the fruit tree producing fruit according to its kind, whichever seed is in it on the earth.” And it was so.
The planting of God produces various fruits according to the measure of grace given it, which also produce fruit after its own kind. Just as a tree yields others of its kind after itself, so also the fruitful Christian plants the seeds of their Godly virtues in the soil of another’s heart. It is on this third day, after the dry land appears, that the inward work of the Spirit is becoming outwardly evident. Just as the dove later sent from Noah sought out dry new ground, and did not settle until such was found; so also the Spirit of the Lord ever seeks within us the hidden ground in which His roots can spread deeply to support His fruit above, according to the calling with which we have been called.
And the earth bore tender sprouts, the plant seeding seed according to its kind, and the fruit tree producing fruit according to its kind, whichever seed is in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning the third day.
The third day initiates growth in God: it is the day of resurrection which brings up a fruitful harvest through the dying of former things; so that the coming days might become fully lighted by the sun from within the creation, and even the darkness of each night season be kept lit by that hope of the Day of Christ burning within them as a candle
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.
CONTINUED IN PART FOUR