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)
And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarmers having a soul of life; and let the birds fly over the earth, on the face of the expanse of the heavens.”
Genesis 1:20 (LITV)
The life of God must begin its reign in the heart of the creature – in the earth which has passed through water and the Spirit. We saw by the third day that such is the case, on which day life sprang up to be observed: rooted from the ground below and reaching heavenward, bearing fruit and perpetuating its own kind through the giving over of its own precious seed once more to the ground. For it is in dying to the things of earth held precious that more and even greater things are able to be sown unto reaping.
Yet that is still not the end of maturity for the making of the new creature in Christ; it turns out only to be the furnishing for that which is yet to follow. The earth (or for our purposes here, the heart) which has given itself to the bearing of good fruit welcomes the inner radiance of Christ and the rule of His light in all seasons (day four), capacitating His new creation to host deeper and higher expressions of God’s life.
And God created the great sea animals, and all that creeps, having a living soul, which swarmed the waters, according to its kind; and every bird with wing according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Genesis 1:21 (LITV)
“…having a soul of life… ..having a living soul…” – This is the stage where the various expressions of the Life of God within the creature begin to take on a life all their own. The uniqueness of God’s manifold wisdom in each life is meant to so thrive. The expressions of life which grace the waters are not bound to the surface of them, though at times they may dance between the waters and the air, welcoming the onlooker to search out the depths. And they which grace the heavens in their flight are not continually bound to the surface of the earth, though they often rest near it to establish their dwelling and to multiply their kind. That is to say, where the Life of God is truly at work, it should with maturity become observable in a plurality of expressions; from the hights of heaven’s most glad worship to the depths of the most burdened intercession.
These new expressions of Life in God’s creation are of a higher and more glorious form than the aforementioned plants and trees. They in fact utilize those things simply as their food and as the furnishings of their abode. The good fruit of the ground becomes sustenance for the living creatures in the air and waters, just as the fruitful obedience of Christ to His Father was His daily bread. For the Life which bears the fruit of the Spirit through the creature becomes bread accessible unto others; and in so becoming, its vessel in turn is fed by feeding. What a glorious cycle to be caught up in! Give the Life of God, and you shall receive it in abundance! This descibes not a “karmic” principle by which to gain, but the ongoing sustenance of a selfless living creature unto the glory of He alone who raises it up. This is the evidence of the word of God at last finding freedom enough within us to begin evidencing itself as that unbound word which it truly is.
And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas; and let the birds multiply in the earth.” And there was evening, and there was morning the fifth day.
Genesis 1:22-23 (LITV)
There must, by obedience to every command of the Spirit, develop a harmonious melody of free and spontaneous Life within the creature; each part properly complimenting the other as every wonderful decree of God sets its rhythm. The whole of the new creature cannot operate with perfection where any one of its parts is absent or broken in function – this applies both to an individual child of God as well as to the body of Christ. The body is either built up or torn down according to the obedience of the parts, and likewise the parts are either edified or torn down according to the obedience of the whole. By this, the whole is made fit for the King of Glory to fully enter in: the very Son of God, unto whose image the conformity of the redeemed is predestined. And shall the elect continue giving themselves over to that perfect will of God? Before us this choice continually lies.
As Peter wrote to those of like precious faith:
The Lord of the promise is not slow, as some deem slowness, but is long-suffering toward us (the church), not having purposed any of us (the church) to perish, but all of us (the church) to come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with rushing sound, and having burned the elements will be dissolved, and earth and the works in it will be burned up. Then all these being about to be dissolved, what sort ought you (the church) to be in holy behavior and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the Day of God, through which the heavens having been set afire will be dissolved; and burning, the elements will melt?
2 Peter 3:9-12 (LITV)
CONTINUED IN PART SIX
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
(Consider this an add-on to the previous post.)
To the lost man, earthly (including demonic) reasoning is his revelation. But to the found man, heavenly revelation must evermore become his reasoning – and not merely his reasoning in the mind; but that upon which he acts in faith, which is the substantiation of things hoped for. Revelation bearing no fruit in action has been received in vain. It is those who honor the gift of God through obedience that continue receiving more of His fullness; for those who truly know Him desire nothing less than that He be glorified in the fruit of His labors within them.
And we are His witnesses of these things, and also the Holy Spirit, whom God gave to those obeying Him.
Acts 5:32 (LITV)
A witness is one who has heard, seen, looked upon and touched the Word of Life.