Sunday, December 20, 2009
by Dudley Hall
In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. John 16:23-24 (ESV)
"That day" must be a wonderful time! I think we all live with an unconscious hope that a day will arrive when everything wrong will be righted and we will have all our aspirations fulfilled. Is it fantasy? Is it just the daydreaming of idle children who are unsure about reality? Is Jesus playing on our need to have air castles?
"That day" had been prophesied for centuries. There were lots of speculations as to what it would look like. None of those speculations accurately pictured what it really was like. There were only about 120 followers of Christ gathered to pray and to hide from persecutors. Strange things begin to happen that drew a large crowd of amazed and amused people. Under inspiration from the Spirit of revelation Peter stood and explained what was happening in light of Old Testament prophecy. Each of the miraculous signs spoke of the fulfillment of God's redemptive time. Fire set on the individuals signaling that God would live in each of them. The sound of wind signaled that the breath of God was energizing this body like the original Adam and the slain body of Jesus. The tongues signaled the reversal of the curse of Babel. Spiritual communication was being restored.
But maybe the most important thing was that now the disciples had access to the Father in away that no one other than Jesus had ever enjoyed. He had introduced them to the Father as legitimate sons. They would now have the right to ask directly from the Father on the authority of Jesus' name. He had given them the same rights and privileges they had seen him enjoy and employ for three years. They had been assigned to carry out the transformation of society by proclaiming and practicing the gospel. They now had the power and authority to get the job done. As they lived out this dynamic they would experience joy to the fullest level possible for mankind.
It was his joy transferred. Jesus demonstrated a life of joy. He was man the way man was intended. He lived and loved and laughed and cried. He was so conscious of being loved by the Father that he couldn't bring himself to worry, covet, or fear. He knew his identity and his role. He was totally sure that he had accomplished what he was sent to do. It was this joy that he was offering the sons. They now could enter that relationship with the Father and have the same joy.
What a day! It is in our calendar. We live in light of that day. We are not waiting for it to arrive. It is here and available for us. Let's wake up. No time to sleep. The dawn has come. The Son has arisen, and it is time to carry on with the job of partnering with the Father in displaying his glory to all who still hide behind bushes afraid of a Father who desires to reveal his love to them.
By Don Walker
No, the title is not a misspelling. I am writing about feasting not fasting. I do believe in fasting (though my appearance may be deceiving), but I also believe in feasting. In fact, the Bible has more to say about feasting than it does fasting. I know that that conflicts with our religious, ascetic spirit, but nevertheless it is true. Under the Old Testament Law the Israelites were required to fast one day out of the year (Lev.23:26-32), but God required them to celebrate with feasting 21 days out of the year (Deut. 16:1-17). Three whole weeks out of the year they were to “party.” God even told them that if for some reason they could not make it to the place appointed for the feast, take their “tithe” (one of the three Old Testament tithes) and throw a party at home (Deut. 14:24-26). This tithe is sometimes referred to as the “rejoicing tithe.”
Think about that for a minute, if your income is $40,000 a year that means you would have $4,000 to party with. (I don’t know about you, but I could party pretty good with four grand.) It doesn’t stop there because every 50th year the Israelites were to cease from work and celebrate for the whole year (Lev.25:8ff.). This was the “Year of Jubilee.” [As far as Biblical scholars have been able to ascertain, the Israelites never observed the year of Jubilee. There were all sorts of rationalizations given by the rabbis to try and justify their not observing this aspect of the Law.]
I do take note that the first miracle that Jesus performed was at a wedding feast, and that He supplied the wine. I might also point out that Jesus was falsely accused of being a “glutton and a drunkard” (Matt.11:19) by the Pharisees due to his appearances at parties. Jesus made reference to feasts frequently in His parables, for instance, the feast that was celebrated when the prodigal returned, or the wedding feast in Matthew 22:1-14. In the first-century church the Lord’s Supper was more than a “cracker and a thimble full of grape juice” (as a friend of mine calls it “a sip and a nip”), it was a true meal known as a “love feast,” celebrating the Resurrection. Need I point out that the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:7-10) is a celebratory feast? You know it seems like feasting is throughout the Bible. In fact, I would have to agree with Tony Campolo, who entitled one of his books: The Kingdom of God is a Party.
Who has a better reason to celebrate than the people of God do? Who has a justification for feasting than those who are living under the blessing of God Almighty? There are better reasons for feasting than the Super Bowl. We ought to be showing the world how to party. (Obviously, within righteous boundaries, not in a decadent way.) We should set the standard for celebration, and show the unbelievers how it ought to be done. We should be provoking the world to jealousy with our rejoicing.
I know that there are battles, struggles, and valleys as we pass through this world. It is at times, as one writer described it, a “vale of tears” that we are passing through. I, like you, have had my share of valleys, and times when the pain of life seems to be overwhelming, but I would agree with Michael Card, “There is joy in the journey.” If I focus on Christ rather than the “valley,” I find reason for celebrating. Celebration is not just an event it’s an attitude.
At this time of year when we celebrate the birth of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Lord Jesus Christ, let’s party like we mean it. Let’s feast and feast boldly.
By Charles Carrin
The miraculous life should typify every ordinary Christian life. We must discover that the trans-earthly Kingdom of God is a spiritual dimension that comes from that other realm and seeks to impact us in this earth-zone. When we fail to recognize this, we fail to apprehend the fullness of Kingdom power that Jesus provided for us and intended that we use.
After 60 years of ministry I am convinced more than ever that our penetration into the realms of God must be an ever-deepening pursuit of His Kingdom. Revelation-knowledge waits for us only in relation to the Kingdom. Studying the Church will not achieve it. I cannot over-emphasize this fact. We must be men and women driven in the holy quest for Kingdom truth. This destination can be achieved only with what Scripture calls a “renewed mind”. The “carnal mind” cannot go there. If the Universe is expanding at the speed of light, so is His Kingdom. It is this Kingdom which Jesus told Pontius Pilate was, “Not of this world”, meaning it did not originate on this planet, nor was it confined to the restrictions of the physical earth.
The Kingdom of God is not native to our world but is projected into our cosmos from the Great-Other-Realm. Therefore, all the dispensations of the Kingdom, including our ministering the gospel, experiencing gifts of the Spirit, exercising faith, doing miraculous works, etc., are all transearthly powers that are expressing themselves through us. The Kingdom of God possesses the potential to interact both with our physical dimension of time and space while it maintains a complete, uninterrupted union with the Eternal Dimension in which it originates. As gravity, electro-magnetism, centrifugal force, thermodynamics, etc., are native to our cosmos, so the Kingdom and all its works are native to the other realm. They are only projected into our’s. Scripture makes it very plain that all Kingdom attributes are extensions to us. They are “powers of the age to come”. Unfortunately,
1. We humans use only 3% of our brain power.
2. In the fall of Adam we lost access to 97% of our mental potential.
3. Albert Einstein, one of the greatest minds in 1000 years, used only 7%.
4. If–before the fall–Adam used 100% of his what must he have been like?!
5. If someone on the planet today used 100%, what would he be like?
6. Though now out of our reach, I believe we still possess the original 100%.
7. A new-born baby’s brain increases by 10,000+ synapses per second.
8. An adult brain contains more synapses than stars in the Universe.
I am persuaded that God securely “locked away 97%” of man’s mental capacity after Adam’s degeneration to prevent our sinful nature from abusing its incredible, almost illimitable power. We are now operating on the barest minimum of human intellect. Were the body’s nutritional needs in such decline, we would have totally starved to death.
Even so, in spite of our reduction to 3% brain power, the human mind is an awesome, incredible, indescribable, being. If all 5,1/2 billion people on earth were talking on the telephone at the same time and using 18 different telephones, it would still not correspond to the electrical traffic a single brain is handling. Each brain is a universe within itself. The corpus callosum tissue separating the two hemispheres of the brain contains as many connections as all the combined telephone lines in America. In other words, to cut through the corpus callosum would be far more destructive than shutting down every telephone in the U.S. The 1,000 billion cells now operating in each of us originated from a single cell at conception. In that split-instant every other mental and physical system was successfully programed. That conceptual-explosion of power in a sub-microscopic way was repetitious of the “Big Bang”. Such a detonation, occurring thousands of times daily around the globe– unimaginable as it is–is only a feather’s-weight hint at the operational capacity of the Kingdom of God. God does not merely act. He is action itself. Astonishingly, He wills to reveal that power to us and through us.
I have a pastor friend in Florida who years ago was flunking Bible College. Intellectually, he struggled. Though grievously disappointed at having to drop-out of school he was preparing to do so when a friend encouraged him to seek renewal in the “spirit of his mind”, Ephesians 4:22-24. He exhorted my friend to ask the Holy Spirit to “give him the mind of Christ” and to “bring to memory” everything Jesus had said to him.” He obeyed, the Holy Spirit miraculously responded, and today–with a renewed mind–this pastor can quote all of the New Testament and most of the Old Testament from memory–and he can do that in more than one version. What happened? He experienced “renewal in the spirit of his mind”.
And be aware that my friend experienced more than just intellectual-renewal. It was the miraculous magnification in the “spirit” of the mind! Paul tells us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2-3, Today, that pastor quickly admits it is not humanly possible for him to have such phenomenal recall of Scripture. He also knows this experience does not make him immune to theological error. While he is the only one of my personal acquaintance who has experienced such mind-renewing transformation, I have had the privilege to pray for a number of children and adults whose mental deficiencies underwent radical improvement. I also ministered to my friend with the astonishing memory.
While I do not believe we will experience restoration to Adam’s original ability, I am persuaded that this is what the Apostle Paul targeted when he told the Ephesian believers to be renewed in the spirit of their mind. Notice carefully, Paul’s using the word spirit. He was aware that this change involved much more was than mere brain tissue. And keep in mind that renewal is restoration to something once possessed but now lost. Antithetically, the only option for believers’ mental renewal is to remain “carnally” minded. Paul further addressed this possibility in his letter to the Roman saints, 8:6,7, “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God ...” My point is this: A carnal, unrenewed mind, no matter how long one may have been born-again, or how well-educated, cannot comprehend the phenomenal breadth of the Kingdom of God. No one on the earth today qualifies for that distinction. All of us are still learners. Everyone has his small bit of wisdom to share.
Dr. Lisa Randall, 45 year-old female theoretical physicist, author, and Harvard University Professor says “The Universe has higher, hidden, infinitely larger dimensions so vast that our’s in comparison is nothing more than a 3-D sinkhole.” The greatest living physicist of all, Dr. Stephen Hawkins, actively pursues her concepts. I am not saying that the “dimensions” of which Dr. Randall speaks are Heaven, Hell, Eternity, etc. I don’t know. I want never to forget that “the world by wisdom knows not God” But I want also to remember that one of the earliest Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah came from the mouth of a pagan witch-doctor, Balaam. Numbers 24:17. I will not reject truth because it doesn’t wear a denominational label.
While I totally believe in the new birth, the baptism in the Spirit, impartation of spiritual gifts, and the miraculous benefits they bring, I am equally convinced that we humans cannot comprehend Kingdom-reality apart from receiving renewal in the “spirit of our mind”. For this intellectual need, being born-again is not enough. There is a holy progression into God’s realm which we dare not fail to recognize and apply. Even with the best of Scripture learning, spiritual gifting, fervent devotion to God, without exception, the mind must be renewed! Lacking it, we cannot apprehend the Kingdom.
The Kingdom message–imparted by Jesus to Paul, Peter, Philip, others–was accompanied by mighty signs, wonders, manifestations of Kingdom power. When Peter walked the streets of Jerusalem the touch of his shadow restored invalids to health and strength. Acts 6:15. At Joppa he raised Dorcas from the dead. Acts 9:36-43. At Lystra, Paul commanded a lame man to stand and walk. Acts 14:8-10. In Samaria, Philip drove out demons. Acts 8:5-7. In every case, these men experienced the “powers of the age to come.” Hebrews 6:5. These displays were not normal earthly-events for that day. Not at all. Instead, they were invasive-flashes from the Kingdom of God.
Though the Kingdom’s full revelation is reserved for the future, these flashes of divine power suddenly–and abnormally–appeared on earth. In that moment, these men were more than mere humans; they were followers of Jesus under the revelation of Kingdom authority and the Holy Spirit’s anointing. In a sense, they stood in the edge of Glory. Their feet were on earth; their faces in Heaven. Simultaneously, they were in both realms. Eternity shone through them like sunlight through a window. They were not the Light but only the pane through which the light passed. Jesus is the Light.
When Jesus delivered the maniac of Gadara, the townspeople returned and found the man “in his right mind”. Jesus did more than regenerate his soul and cast out demons. He restored his mind! The day of the Resurrection, when Jesus appeared to the disciples on the Emmaus road, they later said,"Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?’ Luke 24:32. In part, this was a mind-opening experience. Today, fresh mental and spiritual knowledge of the Kingdom of God is being projected into our realm and we must be prepared to receive it. I need to illustrate that scene:
If you were standing at the edge of a pool of water and threw two rocks into it that land apart, each will cause a circle of ripples to flow toward the other. In our purpose, the circle on your right represents the non-physical, spiritual Kingdom of God. The one on the left can represent the natural or physical kingdom. Ripples from each will pass through the other. Where they overlap you have an eliptical shape in the water that has been created by the two circles of waves. The eliptical zone in the middle is the area in which all born-again believers live. Simultaneously, we are part of both the natural and spiritual realms. Though living here, believers have already been entrusted with miraculous “powers of the ‘age to come’”. Hebrews 6:5.
The tragedy with many born-again believers is that they remain locked into the concept of earth-life only; they keep themselves restricted to its prison-like confinements. They have never discovered the reality of their spiriutal realm and forget that “Now are they the sons of God. ”I John 3:2. Now! Now! Now! Their assumption is that “eternal” life begins when they die. Not so! Nothing is more astonishing than our discovering that God has placed within reach of ordinary believers the Kingdom’s amazing power of the Holy Spirit. That is precisely what Jesus made available to us.
He said, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” Acts 1:8. “These signs will follow those who believe.” Mark 16:17. Through these miraculous invasions, the Holy Spirit draws back the Kingdom’s veil and allows us to experience the wonders of the “age to come” Though we experience only a grain-of-sand demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s Kingdom power, even the smallest revelation of His presence displays this fact:
The miraculous life should typify every ordinary Christian life. We must discover that the trans-earthly Kingdom of God is a spiritual dimension that comes from that other realm and seeks to impact us in this earth-zone. When we fail to experience this, we fail to apprehend the fullness of Kingdom power that Jesus provided and intended for us to use.
Romans 12:2-3. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind , that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
1 Corinthians 2:16-3:1. For "who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?" But we have the mind of Christ.
Isaiah 26:3-4. “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You.”
Mark 5:15 Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.
Mark 12:30 And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment.
Luke 12:29 "And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind .
Romans 7:21-8:1. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God — through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
Romans 8:5-8: For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Ephesians 1:15-19. “Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding (kardia/heart) being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power ...”
Ephesians 4:20-25. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
1 Corinthians 2:1-6. And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Philippians 2:5-9. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”
2 Timothy 1:7-8. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Philippians 2:5-7. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.
Colossians 2:18-19. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head.
1 Peter 1:13. Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Hebrews 9:14. “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Thursday, December 10, 2009
By T. Austin-Sparks
The Key to Fullness
Reading: Acts 2:23-25, 34-36, 41; 3:13-15; 4:8-12; 5:30-32; 9:4-6; 10:36.
As we read these passages, we cannot fail to see that one note runs through them all - one triumphant note ringing in unmistakable clearness. I think it is gathered up in the most concise and direct form in the last passage: “He is Lord of all”. The Lordship of Jesus Christ - that is the note. That was the great declaration at the beginning, and that was the explanation of everything. There is no doubt but that, in those first days, there was a great fullness of life; everything was marked by fullness. We could say concerning that time that ‘the river of God was full of water’ (Ps. 65:9). Everything was full: the gathering in was full, the going on was full, the testimony was full. Everywhere you looked, you saw the fullness of the Lord in individuals and in companies, and the secret and explanation was just this - the Lordship of Christ.
Absence of Fullness Today
The one thing that we are having to deplore today is the absence of that fullness. We do not see those who are being brought to the Lord led into fullness. They get so far, but they very soon come to a standstill. Their spiritual life does not increase and grow with the fullness of Christ. Those who are the Lord’s - I am speaking generally - do not bear the marks of having gone on into the greater fullnesses of Christ. Multitudes are still at the beginning. The one thing and the only thing that they say about their relationship to the Lord is that at a certain time in a certain place they came to the Lord, they found the Lord, they were saved - and that may be twenty, thirty, forty years ago. They may have a testimony to having been kept by the power of God during that time: that is, that they are still with the Lord, they are not back on the other side of their conversion; but they are not characterized by real spiritual fullness, having grown and made increase.
A very great many of the Lord’s people are deeply concerned and burdened about this spiritual state today; and, in an attempt to meet it, through the last fifty years in particular, a great many movements have sprung up, so that over the Christian world, at regular and frequent intervals, conventions and conferences are held for what is called ‘the deepening of the spiritual life’. This is to meet the situation which is recognized as being so far-reaching and widespread - a poor spiritual state amongst Christians; a weak and defective condition of the spiritual life - and this thing grows and grows, but is not meeting the situation at all. The demand for it increases rather than lessens, proving that the need is not really vitally touched and overcome.
Well, what is the remedy? Why was it that at the beginning they had such virile converts, marked from the outset by such a large measure of Christ? Why was it that then things happened on such a large and effective scale within the compass of a few days? Why was it that the churches grew and the Lord added unto them those who were being saved? Why could it be that in one day three thousand, and soon after as many again, were added? Why, in the course of one man’s lifetime, could the greater part of the then known world be evangelized and churches be established everywhere, and that upon a large measure of spiritual light and life? Why?
If you think about it, I am quite sure that you will be convinced that the answer is to be found in the testimony - the declaration born out of something which had happened - and that testimony was to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. They proclaimed Him as Lord. “He is Lord of all.” The Lordship of Jesus Christ is the secret of fullness, and we never really move into the fullness of Christ until He is Lord.
Now, perhaps you are saying that that is very simple. Who, after all, does not believe in the Lordship of Jesus Christ? Well, it is very much deeper than that. The Lordship of Jesus Christ is not only an objective fact. I suppose almost any Christian, any really born-again child of God, would be willing to subscribe to the objective fact and say, “Jesus Christ is Lord”!
But why, then, this state of things? Either what I am saying is entirely untrue, and the Lordship of Christ does not lead to His fullness, or else it means something more than objective truth; and I think the latter is the case. The real trouble is that in so many of His own He is not Lord. He may be Saviour, but He is not Lord. The Lordship of Christ means in us a very deep and very drastic work. It means the overthrowing of every other lordship.
But the other lordships may not be in the form of outward things. The other lordships may be in our own wills. Just that strongmindedness of ours may be the thing which occupies the throne in the place of Christ. The Lord Jesus is kept out of His place as Lord in us because of the very strength of our own natures, our desires, our affections, our likes and our dislikes, and all that realm of our human feelings. There may be that in our make-up which is thwarting and frustrating His Lordship and in so doing is just keeping us out of His fullness.
It may be the enthronement of that reasoning power of ours - we will not call it ‘intellect’, that would be too presumptuous - but the working of our minds, reasoning and arguing and thinking that our judgment about things is right, is certain, is conclusive. Our convictions, at which we have arrived after weighing up the pros and cons, are the things by which we are to be governed and, perhaps, others are to be governed. The strength of our minds, our reason - if you like, our intellect - may just be in the way of His Lordship, and you will find all those things in the Apostles before Pentecost.
You will find them arguing against the Lord on affectional grounds, on rational grounds, on preferential grounds; mind, heart and will all obstructing His absolute Lordship, occupying the throne. Not until that was entirely and completely broken and smashed in the day of the Cross was a way made for His Lordship. Yes, the other lords may be inside our own constitution, our own make-up, our own disposition. Whatever they may be, wherever they may be, the truth is this, that the way to the fullness of Christ is by His absolute Lordship in our lives.
Now, the whole Bible bears it out. Wherever you look, you will find this is the underlying truth. You look at Israel’s history. While in the wilderness for the forty years, the one thing that was the issue being fought out was the Lordship of God: they were fighting with that matter of absolute submission and subjection to Him in their own hearts, their own minds, their own wills. For forty years that battle went on; and it was not until the Jordan made the great divide between that kind of thing and the coming of the Captain of the Lord’s host into His place - the representative of the people gathering them all up into his own person, taking the shoes from off his feet, bowing with his face to the ground and handing up the lordship to the Lord, the Captain of the Lord’s host - it was not until then that they moved on into the great fullness which God had intended for them.
The inheritance was altogether frustrated while the battle of lordship went on. The inheritance was entered upon so soon as that lordship was established. In the later chapter of Israel’s history under the judges, it is quite clear. What is it? - limitation, defeat, bondage, captivity; everything frustrated and thwarted and spoiled. When David comes into his place as king, then Israel is delivered, moving later into the fullness of the glory under David and Solomon. Lordship is the key to fullness.
In the New Testament, it is just the same. Here you have it in the case of the Apostles, the twelve. You can see their defeat and their weakness and their failure and their poverty - until Christ becomes Lord, absolute Lord; the Holy Ghost making Him Lord in them as He was Lord in Heaven - and then they come into fullness! Pentecost - “Jesus Christ is Lord” - and then fullness!
Take Peter. You remember, Peter had to have a special battle over this. I think he had more than one battle; perhaps we all have more than one battle. Fullness is a progressive thing. We do not enter upon it all at once, and every fresh measure of that fullness is preceded by some fresh conflict as to the Lordship of Christ, and Peter had several. But you remember Caesarea and you remember the house of Cornelius. What preceded it? Peter in Joppa on the housetop, and the vision, a sheet let down from Heaven in which were all manner of four-footed creatures, reptiles, unclean beasts, and the voice saying, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” ‘Not so, Lord; nothing unclean has ever passed my lips.’ And the thing was done thrice, the Lord was insistent; and Peter was wondering what the vision meant, when the messengers of Cornelius arrived from Caesarea.
Peter was invited to go to the house of a Gentile with the word of the Lord, to the house of the unclean. And what was his note there? Well, his note was: “He is Lord of all”. What happened? Peter entered into something bigger than he had ever had before; that is, he found a bigger Christ than he had known before. In recounting what happened, he says: ‘Who was I to withstand God?’ ‘Who was I? The Lord took this thing in hand and showed Himself far bigger than myself and my tradition - He simply lifted me right out of my old bondages and limitations and landed me out of my depths altogether!’ The house of Cornelius came into fullness. It was all upon that one inward triumph, the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Take Paul. Paul is a wonderful case of spiritual growth, of swift movement on into spiritual fullness. How quickly Paul moved on with the Lord! What a wealth we have in him! Why? Because he was such an exceptional man? Not necessarily. Spiritual growth may have nothing whatever to do with what we are naturally. Nothing at all. Oh, we meet so many of those who have the natural intelligence and the advantages of training, all the academic advantages, but who in spiritual things cannot see, cannot grasp. At the same time so often there are those who have had no such advantages, who are altogether without that natural basis which might be expected to be necessary for understanding, and yet somehow these leap into things, and on they go.
No, it may have nothing whatever to do with what we are naturally. Why was it that Paul made such swift progress and grew so rapidly? You notice, at the end of the ninth chapter of Acts, how, after he had been received at Damascus, had recovered his sight and had been baptized, it says that he was with the disciples certain days, and he at once in the synagogue began his witness and his ministry, and mightily refuted the Jews, openly testifying that Jesus was the Son of God. He grew. Well, where is the secret? “Who art thou, LORD?” “What wilt thou have me to do, LORD?” That is it. From the beginning with him Jesus was Lord.
Now, let me say it again. It has been said many times. In the book of the Acts, they did not first of all preach Jesus as Saviour. They preached Him as Lord. You see, that carried with it of necessity the Saviourhood. Acknowledge Jesus to be Lord, in those days, and see what it involved. If that One who so recently has been crucified and buried is really today the living Lord, then that crucifixion and burial was no ordinary thing. That could not have been just a man being killed, martyred, for his beliefs. He could not be classed amongst those who have died for their fanatical views or for trying to set up a movement against the powers that be. If this is the LORD, then it is something more than that. He must be the Christ, He must be the Saviour, He must be the Son of God. All THAT is involved if He is Lord now; and if they accepted and acknowledged Him as Lord, well, that included His Saviourhood, but the Saviourhood was something subsidiary to the Lordship.
After all, the Saviourhood of Christ is but a recovering thing in relation to His Lordship. The Lordship was the eternal intention of God concerning Him. The Saviourhood is in order to get back to the Lordship, to lead on to the recovery of the Lordship. He can never be actually Lord until He has saved the inheritance of which He is the eternally designated Lord; but when He is Lord, it means that He is Saviour, He HAS redeemed. The Lordship is more than the Saviourhood. And so, when you come on to God’s SUPREME ground - “hath made him a Prince and a Saviour” - then the way is open for God to take you right on, beyond conversion, beyond the infant stage of just being born again, on to ‘growing up into Him in all things’, on to the fullness of Christ. So they put the full testimony there, where all the rest was included, and thus there was a wide open way for all God’s intention. Wherever you look in the Scriptures, you find that it is Lordship which is the secret of fullness.
God’s Dealing with the Individual
Now, this is something which God, by every means, seeks to make good in every one of us. All the dealings of the Lord with us are not just to get us saved, but to make the Lordship of Christ real in us. Yes, all His dealings with us are to that end, and His dealings with us are personal dealings. Everything is going to be very personal in this matter. You and I, no matter who we may be, if we really come into the Lord’s hands, are going to be dealt with in such a way as to bring us to the place where Christ is Lord in our lives. It is going to be personal: for, after all, while the end is corporate and collective, it must of necessity be an individual thing between us and the Lord, so that we know, within our own hearts and experiences, that God is working at a very real thing in this matter of making His Son Lord.
It is going to be as personal with us as it was with Paul. It may not be in exactly the same way, but it will be just as personal. “When we were all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking unto me in the Hebrew language” - I, me, and my own language, and by name - “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 26:14). It is going to be as personal as that with us; we are not going to pass in the crowd. You say, ‘Oh, Paul was an exceptional man, an exceptional case, outstanding; it can never be like that with me!’ Well, it is going to be. We may not go on a Damascus road and see a light from Heaven at noontide brighter than the sun. But it is going to be as personal.
I was once staying with a sea captain, and as we talked about ships, and work amongst men on the ships, and so on, he told me an incident in the life of a Captain of one of the Union Castle liners. When he was Chief Officer, he was always seeking an opportunity for leading men to Christ, and he asked the Captain one day if he could have a service for the crew in the evening. Although he received permission, he said nothing during the day. He said nothing to anybody; he was letting it go. Late in the afternoon someone, one of the crew, said, ‘Oh, you are having a service tonight, I hear, and quite a few of the men are coming!’ ‘Oh’, said the Chief Officer, ‘I have not said anything about it: where did you get that from?’ ‘I think it originated with the cook!’ was the reply. So the Chief Officer went along to the cook and said, ‘Who told you I was having a service tonight?’ ‘Oh’, said the cook, ‘it was only a joke!’
The Chief Officer felt that the Lord had tied him up to it and that he had to have a service. Amongst the men who came was one who was brought under deep conviction of sin. He had been greatly concerned about this man, and had been praying very much for him. But he did not come through to the Lord. They arrived in port, and he and another fellow went off ‘on the spree’, and they took the voyage back without them. This fellow spent all his money, got into no end of trouble and then quarrelled with the other man, and they parted and he was left stranded and in a deplorable state. He went to the British Consul to ask for help. The Consul got into touch with a shipping agent, to get him a job on a ship, so as to get him back to his own country, and he was told to report at a certain yard on a certain day to go aboard and take a job. When he got there, because of past history he was given a very menial job down in the stoke-hole, looking after the fires.
Some days later they were in mid-ocean. There was terrible heat outside and inside, and he staggered up on deck to get a breath of air. Dazed and half senseless, he perched on the ship’s rail, lost his balance and went over. For a time he was not missed. Presently he was enquired after and could not be found. A search of the ship was made, and the roll-call was held. Three-quarters of an hour passed, and they reported to the Captain that he must be overboard. The Captain ordered the ship to turn round on its course (and it takes three-quarters of a mile to turn a ship like that round), and back they went for three-quarters of an hour. No one ever expected to find him, but at sea every effort has to be made to recover a man, not just leave him. Three-quarters of an hour back on that course: everybody looking out in every direction, listening.
Suddenly a man said, ‘I thought I heard something!’ All looked - there was a black spot in the sea! A boat was lowered, the man picked up, brought aboard. Asked what had happened, he explained, and said: ‘I saw the ship going, going, going! I kept myself afloat, and struck out to follow the ship’s course so far as I could, though I knew it was a hopeless thing. She went on and on, almost out of sight. And then I saw her turn round, gradually come nearer, and as you got near I decided on one last shout for help - and that was the shout you heard!’
Well, you are not surprised, are you, that that man came to the Lord? That was the outcome of this true story. His last shout, as he explained, was not just a shout to the ship. It was a shout from his heart, higher than the ship - it was the last cry of a man to God. But he is a representative case. Poor fellow, he is not a Paul by any means, is he? - ship’s stoker who has been touched by the Spirit of God, who has kicked against the pricks, who has fought and gone off, but who has been so marvellously singled out - saved by what might be regarded as a millionth chance naturally. Yes, the Lord had His eye on him.
Yes, the Lord’s dealings with us will be as personal as that. They may not take the same form, but the matter is going to be as personal as that with every one of us. The Lord is going to hedge us up to this. If we are really going through into all the Lord’s purpose, we are going to be faced with this matter of His absolute Lordship, and our destiny is going to be determined entirely on the basis of His Lordship. We may be saved, but that is not the end of the destiny which God has fixed for us. Salvation is the first step in God’s purpose. We can be saved, and still lose the great purpose of God in salvation - the fullness of Christ. That is the destiny toward which salvation is the first great step. But the fullness of Christ demands the Lordship of Christ. If you want to go right on, to go right through, not to miss anything - as Israel, that first generation, missed the Lord’s purpose - if you do not wish to miss what He is after, do not be content with just being saved. For, after all, to have Christ as Saviour means that the benefits are ours; but to have Him as Lord means that everything is for Him. Which is the higher - what we get or what He gets? Surely our hearts respond to this! While we are deeply, we are profoundly grateful for all the blessings of redemption, of salvation, nevertheless it is unto Him and not unto ourselves that we want the satisfaction to come, and He is only really satisfied with the glory that issues from His own acknowledged Lordship.