Purity of Faith

Truly, I say to you, whoever does not
receive the kingdom of God like a child
shall not enter it.
(Luke 18:17)

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.”
(Isaiah 35:3-4)

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.
(Hosea 10:12)

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!”
(Romans 8:12-15)

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…”

(Hebrews 4:6-7)

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.
(Hebrews 7:17)

“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.”
(Matthew 11:28-30)

Dying To Live: The Faith Of Christ

For through the grace of God which is given to me, I say to everyone being among you, not to have high thoughts beyond what is right to think. But set your mind to be right-minded, even as God divided a measure of faith to each. For even as we have many members in one body, but all members do not have the same function, so we the many are one body in Christ
(Romans 12:3-5, LITV)

The fruit of faith will be in accordance with its measure. First there is that initial measure which “God divided” to each; and then there is the greater measure attained as each one humbly invests said deposit by the allowance of God’s power to be at work in them unto righteousness, bringing forth fruit unto salvation. For the gospel in which His righteousness is revealed from faith to faith is unto salvation (Rom 1:16-17). The parable of the talents illustrates to the wise the absurdity of not walking in such increasing faith; since the deposit of faith was freely given, as well as access to the power for said increase. This is also why we ought not to think highly of ourselves above one another, since even our increase is by the power of God through faith in Christ…

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
(1 Peter 1:3-5, ESV)

“Guarded through faith” – but what is the nature of that faith? It has long been taught that all one will ever need to walk in the power of Christ is faith the size of a mustard seed. No such thing can be found in all of scripture. Jesus said nothing about such little faith except in rebuke. He did however reveal that we are required to have faith LIKE a grain of mustard seed: “…If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt 17:20, Lk 17:6)
The difference here is immense, considering the parable of the grain of mustard seed. For while the natural man proudly settles for little faith (the size of a mustard seed), Christ Jesus meanwhile describes the kingdom within His people in terms of ever-increasing faith (LIKE a mustard seed)….

And He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we compare it? It is like a grain of mustard, which, when it is sown on the earth, it is less than all the seeds of those on the earth. And when it is sown, it comes up and becomes greater than all the plants, and produces great branches, so as to enable the birds of the heaven to roost under its shade.”
(Mark 4:30-32, LITV)

It is within the very nature of genuine faith to grow unto greater faith; and the sustaining of living faith over time actually depends upon its continual growth. Only through such faith as this can we be guarded by God’s power until the end. Today’s faith is not sufficient to lay hold of the power required to overcome the world tomorrow. But such faith cannot be born of the flesh. Only the ever-increasing faith of Christ Himself is the faith which becomes able to move mountains. Jesus has overcome the world, and we have yet to grow into the fullness of HIM! For by faith, “we all with unveiled face behold the glory of the Lord… being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 2:18)

Faith will only attain life in God to the degree that it has attained death in ourselves. The great tree grown from a grain of mustard in the parable of the kingdom is the Tree of Life, Jesus. He was sown in the earth a dead Seed and now lives to give life to all who died with Him. We grow up into His fullness by being members of Him in His death, burial, and resurrection by faith. Now if these three things are indeed our spiritual history by faith, then they should also become present realities by the obedience of faith for which we have received grace from God. “…we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith…” (Rom 1:5, ESV) That which true faith believes, it finds power from God to apprehend in experience. The grace of God appeared not simply to be admired, but to be walked in the power of. For He who died is the One in whom we are to remain planted, and He who rose also seeks to water and supply the growth. Let us therefore accept and submit to our death in Him daily, laying hold of the nutrients of His word and the watering of His Spirit by faith ever extending itself heavenward; as our roots drink evermore deeply of the love of the One who first loved us when we were yet His enemies. And that is the first key of faith: the acceptance of our place IN HIM apart from our own doing. It is only the pride of the sinful nature which doubts this; and it must be reckoned dead before Christ’s own Life can live in us. He will not suffer a rival in His temple.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat that falls into the earth dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. The one who loves his life loses it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it to everlasting life.
(John 12:24-25)

If we derive the power to walk after Christ from our own soul, then we do not truly walk as Christ walked. Only the faith of Christ is of true substance, not ourselves. The soul is saved to be restored unto the rule of the Good Shepherd, not unto its own. The soul is always beholden to the storm-tossed flesh if it is not beholden to the spirit under God’s Spirit. Jesus calms the storm from the inside out. The only works pleasing before God are those wrought in HIM. Only Christ living in and through us is a true fruitful life in the sight of God. All we bring to the table is the faith to surrender to His working – the faith which He gave us in the first place! If the matter was finished for us when Christ died, how much more then, since He is risen and seated on high, shall it now be being finished in us by the power of His own Spirit whom He sent for that very purpose! Or are we greater than He who said, “I am able to do nothing from Myself… for I do not seek My will, but the will of the One sending Me, the Father”? Surely we are not! So let us be made conformable to His death, even that the measure of the stature of His fullness might be shown forth in we who are HIS body. We are not our own: He would see our spirit and soul and body kept blameless for His coming – all three must come under the dominion of His own Spirit. This is the inner working of true faith that produces the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Faith which reckons itself dead in Him is proven by the same faith springing forth and branching out in the tangible substance of Christ’s Life. If we truly submit to God’s Word, then He (the Word) will even divide soul from spirit and lay bare every secret of the heart and mind, giving way to the complete rule of the Spirit of God in us. For the will of man and the faith of his own soul cannot lay hold of that which belongs only to the Spirit of God. It is only possible by the very FAITH OF CHRIST, who beheld the Father at all times, which is unfeigned and ever-increasing from glory to glory; and it only comes “from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

For as He beheld His Father, so do we in Him, and He in us. And as His likeness becomes revealed in us, “His Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are sons…” May such pure and unmixed faith thrive and multiply within the regenerated hearts of His own to become grown sons! Let that same mind of humble confidence be found in us which also was in Christ Jesus: the Seed who died to plant the kingdom of God within His people. Let us likewise more fully believe unto death that we would more fully believe unto Life: from glory to glory by faith to faith! Such is the faith of Christ, our only true Life.

For in it (the gospel of Christ) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; even as it has been written, “But the just shall LIVE by faith.”
(Romans 1:17)

The measure of faith exercised within us is displayed in the measure of His righteousness being revealed through us. If I know that I have already died on the cross with Christ, I can find rest in dying daily. And if I have so  died and remain dying, His Spirit may thereby work His resurrection Life in me. This is how the daily cross which results from obedience in a rebellious world becomes a light and momentary affliction; and even the earthly body may begin to acquire the marks of the cross. But again, the order is from the inward man to the outward man; it cannot be the other way around – that is self-made religion. If we have come to rest in Christ, let us remain working from that surrendered bliss and allow the body to reflect what is first true of the soul…

…Always bearing about the dying of the Lord Jesus in the body, that also the life of Jesus may be revealed in our body.
(2 Corinthians 4:10)

For I calculate that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to compare to the coming glory to be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the sons of God.
(Romans 8:18-19, LITV)

Faith which suffers the cross rejoicing is faith that overcomes the world. And we can have confidence because this faith has been tried and proven true; for it was the Lord’s before it became ours.

The heart of genuine faith gives way to only the Life of Christ Himself within His body. How can we claim to possess the faith of Christ when we live from ourselves?

“When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?”

Holiness Through Surrender

...My brothers, you also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ, for you to become Another’s, to One raised from the dead, so that we may bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sin were working in our members through the law for the bearing of fruit unto death. But now we have been set free from the law, having died to that in which we were held, so as for us to serve in newness of spirit, and not in oldness of letter.
(Romans 7:4-6, LITV)

Holiness is not merely a way of living, it is the very Life of God reigning freely in a man who is given over to Him. We shall only authentically live like Christ from the inward parts to the degree that His impending Life is at last allowed to replace our own. To seek for anything less from God in light of our sins reveals the pride of life that is born of the self-deceived sinful flesh. “I am simply too weak Lord” is the inevitable cry of the man who has evidently tried to accomplish by the fleshly nature the holy Life which he himself can never live. But the proper cry of the new creature is, “Lord, you are all that I have, my very Life: as I bring nothing except what You work in me.”
For the “weakness” of God cannot even be lowered to comparison with the “strength” of man: it is a comparison of the very nature of God with the nature of that which cannot but oppose and fall short of His glory. The strength for which we must cry is not strength of ourselves, but rather the strength which is His very Life; because except for Christ, I do not even have life before God! Yes, even the new creature is not mine to operate: it is HIS vessel, meant to be operated by the power of His Spirit.
No other is able. Not I, but Christ – Christ in me.

The fear and trembling with which we work out our salvation is the sweet fear and trembling of surrender; for it is only God Himself who can work in us to will and to do according to His good pleasure. The law of sin and death is set aside by the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus – and by no other means. And these two laws, which work in their respective subjects, were spoken of by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians…

For through law I died to law, that I might live to God.
(Galatians 2:19, LITV)

By faith’s surrender to the law of the Spirit of Life, we are released from the law of sin and death that is at work in the sinful flesh. That which causes us to walk against the will and pleasure of the Spirit may truly be done away with to continually receive the Life that is in Christ Jesus! “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom 8:2)
Without Christ, I lived after the flesh and was dead to God. But by faith, although still living in the flesh, I died in Him; so that my only Life may now be securely hidden with the risen Christ in God. For the righteous shall live by faith! And by a faith which has no motive except God’s own glory at every expense, we may lay hold of His Life in actual experience…

I have been crucified with Christ, and I live; yet no longer I, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith toward the Son of God, the One loving me and giving Himself over on my behalf.
I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness is through law (that is, apart from the Spirit through faith), then Christ died without cause.
(Galatians 2:20-21, LITV)

Christ is the end of that which ministers condemnation through the fleshly attempts of outward observance: He is the very law God’s Life at work in those who keep HIS faith in themselves. The great sin of disobedience which caused the children of Israel to fall away, according to the writer of Hebrews, was unbelief. It was this bitter root of dissatisfaction with the original and unchanging promise of God by which they kept themselves from entering His rest. In other words, they judged God by what their carnal eyes saw rather than walking after the Spirit by faith which is the substance of things hoped for. Those who kept no faith in the promise instead longed again for the bondage of Egypt: rather than looking for the city of God, the heavenly kingdom, in which we now may be immersed by the Holy Spirit. For the King of glory has arrived to His people: let Him come in and reign! Is not the kingdom within His own? Are they not His temple? But when we have no trust in Christ to be our present sustainer and only strength, we shall likewise come short of entering that rest (Heb 4:1). Meanwhile, the promise of entering still stands, waiting to be reached by the steps of faith that can only be made in the very Spirit who labors graciously to that end. Let us therefore not insult Him by disallowing His rule in and over the entirety of our being.

“This is the work of God: that you believe into Him whom that One sent.” – Jesus spoke of faith as the key to the very powerful working of God. It cannot the work of a man; for the best that any man can do is revive the old man to rule over the new and so deceive himself. “You cannot serve two masters…” It is only by God that all things are possible, and this is given to those who actively believe. The key to holiness is surrender – nothing less. “It is finished” must become an ever-nearer reality in our lives, bearing the righteous fruit that can only be apprehended by unfeigned faith, trusting in God to increase in us as we ourselves decrease. All we can bring to the table is surrender on all fronts. It is finished: and by the grace of God through faith not pretended, let it continue to be finished within the purchased possession! For by blood of His covenant we are sanctified; as the the Spirit actively works even in the present moment through our faith – faith which surrenders the whole being to the refining fire of God. We take hold of Him as we let go of our own ways and things, knowing the love of God toward those who so believe Him with their lives. “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His.” (Heb 4:9-10) Today, let it no longer be we who live, but CHRIST!

…for whose sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them to be trash, that I might gain Christ and be found in Him; not having my own righteousness of law, but through the faith OF Christ, having the righteousness of God on faith: to know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, having been conformed to His death, if somehow I may attain to a resurrection out of the dead. Not that I already received or already have been perfected, but I press on, if I also may lay hold, inasmuch as I also was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:10-12, LITV)

Faith Unencumbered

“Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of man will give to you;
for God the Father sealed this One.”
Then they said to Him, “What may we do that we may work the works of God?”
Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God,
that you believe into Him whom that One sent.”
(John 6:27-29, LITV)

It is only when I accept the absolute sufficiency of the blood of Christ to wash away my sins that I finally make myself open to the work of His cross in killing the old man who commits those sins. For when I give in to the fleshly feeling that the blood of Christ is insufficient, I resort to self-induced sanctification to make up for it.

But this is an affront to the gospel. For by such efforts I will only ever fail to measure up to God’s holiness, and I will only ever prove the Devil’s point when he accuses me. But when I behold that Christ died even for the sin of such religious compulsions, I am now free to lay down upon the altar in surrender, where I may reckon myself dead to sin and alive to God whose Spirit is able to perform that which He has promised to work in those who believe.

Then do not throw away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of patience, that having done the will of God you may obtain the promise.
For, yet a very little and the One coming will come, and will not delay.
“But the just shall live by faith; and if he draws back,
My soul is not pleased in him.”

But we are not of those withdrawing to destruction,
but of faith, to the preservation of the soul.
(Hebrews 10:35-39)

True humility is bold to go before the throne of grace for strength – pride lingers in the outer court, caught in the fleshly cycle of self-pity, insulting the grace of God as it minds the things of the flesh: and in this place there is no sacrifice left for sins. From such let all repent! For the one who minds the things of the Spirit is the one who constantly allows the light of Christ to expose such unbelief and therefore walks in no condemnation before Him – looking no longer at his natural face in a mirror, but looking rather into the perfect law of liberty: which is to lay hold by faith of all things given in Christ Jesus. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God because they behold the old man; whereas those who walk after the Spirit walk by faith in the work of Christ, and thereby naturally bear His fruit, because their heart is replaced by His and their mind is being renewed in the Word of His gospel.

But if the flesh is given place to rise up and act, we will inevitably fall into subtly perverting the grace of God into an excuse to live worldly. The flesh is unsatisfied and unsatisfying in all things and will only leave us restless; and we will begin to make up our own outward works to prove that we are truly walking with God by His Spirit; yet we will not allow Him to expose said works as being wrought by the flesh and therefore evil. Such is not true and can never become acceptable before God. “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (Rom 14:23)

And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness more than the Light, for their works were evil.
For everyone practicing wickedness hates the Light,
and does not come to the Light, that his works may not be exposed.
But the one doing the truth comes to the Light, that his works may be revealed,
that they exist, having been worked in God.
(John 3:19-21)

It is the most imprisoned of Christ who are the freest men; for the one who has despaired of all but HIM has the truest hope and will not be disappointed. It is by child-like faith in the power of God alone that victory is found and the kingdom entered. The righteous fear and trembling that we are exhorted to walk in comes from seeing just how futile all but the means of Christ and His cross are. It is this very growing reliance upon HIM that produces maturity and allows God to will and to do in us according to His good pleasure. Only faith unencumbered by anything outside of God’s empowerment produces GOOD fruit. Only the Spirit who raised Christ Jesus from the dead is the author of those things in us that are uncorrupted.

A good tree cannot produce evil fruits,
nor can a corrupt tree produce good fruits.
(Matthew 7:18)

This only I desire to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by works of law or by hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, do you now perfect yourself in the flesh? Did you suffer so much vainly, if indeed it also was vainly?
Then He supplying the Spirit to you and working works of power in you,
is it by works of law or by hearing of faith?

Even as “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.”
Know, then, that those of faith, these are sons of Abraham.
(Galatians 3:2-7)

But are you willing to know, O vain man, that faith apart from works is dead? Was not our father Abraham justified by works offering up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith worked with his works; and out of the works the faith was made perfected.
And the Scripture was fulfilled, saying, “And Abraham believed God, and it was counted for righteousness to him;” and he was called, Friend of God. You see, then, that a man is justified out of works, and not out of faith only.
(James 2:20-24)

In God’s eyes, there is not a war between faith and works.
There is rather a war between dead faith – which requires no empowerment by the hand of God because it is going nowhere and is required to produce nothing; and living faith – which works in following God’s voice, requiring His power unseen for the obtaining of His promises because it walks obediently on an impossible road.
The war is between the old man, who obeys the flesh, which leads to death; and the new man, who obeys God, submitting freely to the ongoing labors of the Holy Spirit, which is the restful path of life and peace.

We do not grow out of the gospel, we grow into its fullness.

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.
(Psalm 131, ESV)

Whoever Exalts Himself…

In a day when the message of man’s church is to “rise up,” we truly need more than ever to humble ourselves before the Lord.
The working out of our salvation with fear and trembling is sustained by humbly yielding ourselves to God who desires to work IN us according to HIS good will and pleasure.

The second beast of Revelation 13 is one which looks like a lamb but speaks like a dragon. It is the very same voice of self-ascension “rising up out of the earth” (Rev 13:11) which beguiled Eve long ago.
If YOU are rising up of YOUR own volition, it is only the dragon who empowers you in any success. But those who humble themselves under the mighty hand of God will be exalted IN DUE TIME (1Pet 5:6).

The earth that the meek will inherit is the new one after HIS return – and He does not return for a self-asserting bride that has conquered the earth; but rather for a humble people who have at last allowed Him to fully conquer them!

We conquer the enemy by Christ’s victory in us, not by our own victory outside of us.

And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony,
for they loved not their lives even unto death.
(Revelation 12:11 ESV)

This is the only true victory, and the only way that God’s people shall endure in the day of their greatest trial.

Joshua 8 – Part 1: Our Authority & the Enemy’s Blindness

And Jehovah said to Joshua,
“Do not fear, nor be afraid. Take all the people of war with you,
and rise up, go up to Ai. Behold, I have given the king of Ai, and his people,
and his city, and his land into your hand.
And you shall do to Ai and to its king as you have done to Jericho and its king. Only, its spoil and its cattle you shall take for yourselves. Set yourself an ambush for the city behind it.”
(Joshua 8:1-2)

“Behold, I have given… into YOUR hand…”
“Set YOURSELF an ambush…”
 
The walls of Jericho were conquered not by the hand of any man; but by the overcoming faith of the people in their Captain.

But having been delivered from the great stronghold, they were now expected to walk in THEIR authority from heaven to continue their conquest. Jericho was handed to them without any requirement but the first steps and proclamation of newborn faith; but the taking of Ai required a walk of both holiness and meekness. This was initially failed by the man who stole the things devoted to destruction (Joshua 7), which brought grief and delay upon the whole camp of Israel; and that man was purged from their midst. The putting off of idolatry is the putting on of authority in the Spirit.

And this authority is that of the pierced hands; for pride brings the loss of authority in God’s kingdom, just as the Devil was opposed and cast out. Pride is the root and substance of all idolatry. But the method of Christ’s victory was through death and humiliation at the hands of all the fury of the adversary; for the enemy is blinded by his own vanity, so as not to discern the mystery of Godliness. The greatest warriors in the army of the Lord are the meek, for the enemy cannot comprehend the mind of Christ, “who subsisting in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, having become in the likeness of men and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, having become obedient until death, even the death of a cross.Because of this also God highly exalted Him and gave Him a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of heavenly ones, and earthly ones, and ones under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

And Joshua sent them away, and they went to the ambush,
and stayed between Bethel and Ai, on the west of Ai.
And Joshua remained that night in the midst of the people.
And Joshua rose early in the morning and called up the people,
and they went up, he and the elders of Israel in the sight of the people of Ai.
And all the people of war with him went up and drew near,
and came before the city. And they camped on the north of Ai,
and the valley was between him and Ai.
And he took about five thousand men and set them as an ambush
between Bethel and Ai, on the west of the city.
And they set the people, all the camp on the north of the city;
and its rear on the west of the city.
And Joshua went into the middle of the valley on that night.

And it happened, when the king of Ai saw,
the men of the city rose early and hurried to go out to meet Israel in battle,
he and all his people at the appointed time before the plain.
He did not know that an ambush was against him behind the city.
And Joshua and all Israel were stricken before them,
and they fled the way of the wilderness.
And all the people in the city were called to chase them.
And they pursued Joshua, and were drawn away out of the city.
And there was not a man left in Ai and Bethel who had not gone out after Israel. And they left the city open, and chased Israel.

(Joshua 8:9-17)

The Lord set Joshua and the people in a place which to their enemy made them appear vulnerable and open for attack; but his brashness was the very mechanism of his downfall. Joshua took the way of apparent defeat in order to lay hold of victory for his people. This is a wonderful picture of the cross, upon which Christ Jesus took the fall for His people’s deliverance, enduring the scorn and temptation of the Devil; but being the spotless Lamb of God, He was raised from the dead. And having emptied the gates of hell upon Himself to their own exposure, He now holds every key to their final demise. For it is HIS authority by which the gates of hell (the council and strategy of the enemy) cannot overcome those who remain in HIM. For what He has bound and loosed in heaven is bound and loosed on earth by those who give themselves over to walking obediently by faith in what they see the Father doing.

And Jehovah said to Joshua,
“Stretch out the javelin in your hand toward Ai. For I will give it into your hand.”
And Joshua stretched out the javelin in his hand toward the city.
And the ambush rose up quickly out of their place,
and they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand,
and entered the city, and took it.
And they hastened and burned the city with fire.
And the men of Ai looked behind them, and saw; and, behold!
The smoke of the city had gone up into the sky.
And there was no power in them to flee here or there.
And the people who had fled to the wilderness turned back against the pursuers.

And Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had captured the city,
and that the smoke of the city had gone up.
And they turned back and struck the men of Ai.
And the others came out from the city to meet them.
And they were in the midst of Israel, some on this side, and some on that.
And they struck them until not was left to them a survivor, not one that escaped.
And they caught the king of Ai and brought him alive to Joshua.

…And Joshua did not draw back his hand with which he stretched out the javelin until he had destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai.
Only, Israel seized for themselves the livestock, and the plunder of the city, according to the word of Jehovah which He commanded Joshua.

(Joshua 8:18-23, 26-27)

The boldness to walk in overcoming faith is a boldness unfamiliar with pride which is held in meekness. Walking in the authority of Christ is knowing of the Father’s will without the restraints of our own will and drawing the power of that heavenly kingdom to earth by stepping out upon what can only be presently seen by eyes of singleness toward HIS purposes and hearts longing for HIS appearing. This requires the present knowing of His actual will: not as a distant and general unknown, but rather as a clear vision of His desire for today into which we step and speak that it might be so, for He has decreed it. It is OUR faith which overcomes this Devil’s world (1Jn 5:4), that upon the gallows meant for his intended victim, he himself might hang, even as Haman did (Esther 7:10).

And Joshua burned Ai, and made it a heap forever, a desolation to this day.
And he hanged the king of Ai on the tree until evening time.
And at sundown Joshua commanded, and they took his dead body down from the tree, and threw it into the opening of the gate of the city;
and raised over it a great heap of stones until this day.

(Joshua 8:28-29)

The hidden wisdom of God in Christ Jesus is unto the demise of His enemies by the manifestation of HIS authority and power through those in whom He dwells.

But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, having been hidden,
which God predetermined before the ages for our glory,
which none of the rulers of this age has known.
For if they had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory…
(1 Corinthians 2:7-8)

…the mystery having been hidden from the ages and from the generations,
but now was revealed to His saints; to whom God willed to make known
what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the nations,
who is Christ in you, the hope of glory…
(Colossians 1:26-27)

…and to bring to light all, what is the fellowship of the mystery having been hidden from eternity in God, the One creating all things through Jesus Christ;
so that now, to the rulers and to the authorities in the heavenlies,
the manifold wisdom of God might be made known through the church,
according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,
in whom we have boldness and access in confidence through HIS faith.
(Ephesians 3:9-12)

And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom.
And whatever you bind on earth shall occur, having been bound in heaven.
And whatever you loose on earth shall be, having been loosed in heaven.
(Matthew 16:19 LITV)

– Brendan

The Lord Who Takes

…The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away;
blessed be the Name of the Lord.

(Job 1:21)

“Many say that the Lord indeed gives; but they say that it is not right to say that the Lord takes away. This is a raging controversy among preachers, who are having trouble just accepting the Word… They say that the Lord does give; but only the Devil takes away. They say (in accordance with the scriptures) that the Devil has come to steal, kill, and destroy; but my bible doesn’t say that he WOULD do it – it says that he CAME to do it – and if you don’t have a Shepherd, then he will indeed do it. But when THE LORD is your Shepherd, then the Devil can come to do whatever he wants, but he’s got to get permission to touch you. He can’t just walk up to me and take my life: my life is not in the hand of Satan – don’t give him that power. If we gave him that power, all of us here would be dead by nightfall. He’s not going to let a host of believers like this live if he has death in his hand. But I read in my scripture that JESUS said ‘I hold the keys of death, Hell, and the grave’!
The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away!

“…We get so used to hearing, ‘The Lord gave.’ We get so used to, ‘Morning by morning new mercies we see.’ We get so used to having all that our hearts desire, until all that we can get to is, ‘The Lord gave.’
Maybe there really are those who can say, ‘Everything I’ve asked for, God has given to me’ – and if that’s true in your experience, keep on living; because I am witness that there is some more to this verse. For it says ‘The LORD’ – same God – ‘taketh away’! We get so used to, ‘The Lord gives,’ that we take it for granted; and so when the Lord takes away, we pitch a temper-tantrum. And the sign of Christian maturity is that when the Lord gives, we say, ‘BLESSED! BLESSED! BLESSED!’ But when He takes away, when He breaks your heart, when He doesn’t give you what you asked for, you still say, ‘BLESSED! BLESSED! BLESSED!’

– E.V. Hill, preaching at his wife’s funeral

 

In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.
(Job 1:22)

Job was not rebuked for ‘blaming God’ (since that is not what he did by saying this) – but he was rather rebuked for afterward self-righteously defending himself against his foolish friends’ accusations. He started well in blessing the Lord, but slid quickly into pitying himself, to which God essentially replied, “Who do you think you are to complain? Am I not the Almighty?”

When God takes, He IS giving: He is giving us into His own hands to shape us into the image of the Son, who Himself prayed on our behalf, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but YOURS be done.” And let this mind be in you which also was in Christ Jesus! As the scripture says, the desires of our hearts will be granted when we delight in HIM! Do we so delight in HIS will that we count it all JOY when we meet trials? The word of Elijah to king Ahab, “there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word,” came from a man so given over to the will of God that he could confidently speak even from his own heart; for his heart had become the GOD’S very own. We shall not truly appreciate the heights of God’s mountain until we have been tested in the valley. Let us therefore feast at the table which He has laid before us in the presence of our enemy, if that is where it is currently set for us. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and HE will exalt you” (James 4:10)

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen Him, you love him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
(1 Peter 1:6-9)