“…. thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” -2 Cor. 3.14
The greatest triumph is not in the establishment of an impressive organization, the saving of my reputation, or the performance of some great spiritual feat before men. The greatest triumph is led by God Himself, and it has to do with wringing out my personality and aura until I am a broken vessel through whom He shows forth “the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.”
Though I have adapted to the niceties and expected behaviors of Christian culture, though I know how to act around the right people, though I have “stopped doing what I used to do, because now I’m a Christian,” I may yet be bound by self-conscious spirituality. The life of faith does not have to do with conforming to external expectations in relation to the Christian subculture that I’ve been inducted into. It has to do with an ultimate inward surrender to the Lord of history, “who always leads us in triumph in Christ,” over every earthly influence and power. When we are so conscious of the Lord that we are able to love our enemies, resist the lusts of the flesh, and we are no longer moved inwardly to seek glory from men, only then is it evident that we are following the Lamb of God in His holy triumph.
If I am not emanating the fragrance of Jesus Christ, I must still be bound by self-consciousness in some way or another. When the light of heaven shines upon me, it may yet be seen that I am still concerned for my own glorification. The evidence of this is that I am not yet “broken bread and poured out wine”; I am failing to emit the “sweet aroma” of Jesus Christ. When “the least of these” come into contact with me, are they coming into contact with the vitality of the Son of God, or something that smells too much like the work of man?
When we have soulish ties to men, to this earth, or to our own religious ideals and presumptions, rather than a total jealousy for God’s glory, it becomes impossible for us to “triumph in Christ,” and we are incapable of manifesting His “sweet aroma,” which is His very character and nature. His fragrance is always antithetical to our self-conscious attempts at spirituality. I may need to ask myself some questions along these lines.
When challenging or rebuking another saint, am I abiding in the kindness of Jesus Christ? Would the Lamb of God deal as abrasively as I have when addressing that child or that struggling brother? When complimenting or encouraging someone, am I using flattery to gain some end myself, or am I actually expressing His own encouragement? When correcting some faulty doctrine in another brother, am I exhibiting my own knowledge and correctness, or am I speaking out of a true jealousy for the glory of God and the good of that soul?
I may claim to be radical for the Lord, carrying the cross and going against the tide of this age, but am I emitting the very fragrance of Jesus Christ in the process? If I am not, it may well be that the “tide of this age” is still sweeping me away, except that I am blanketed in Christian phraseologies and ideas. The only solution to self-conscious spirituality is God-conscious living, and Jesus has rent the veil that we might abide with Him in that holy place. From there we triumph in Christ, and manifest the sweet aroma of the knowledge of God “in every place.”
You are not required to pass through a religious maze to “manifest” the fragrance of the Lord. There is no puzzle involved, no trick up His sleeve, no riddle to unpack. To experience the depths of Christ, you need only to go down into death, taking up your cross and following the Lamb wheresoever He goes. He will inevitably lead you on paths that will wring out your personality and press His glorious image into your person. You will still be unique as an individual, but you will exhibit the wisdom and power of the age to come, which is “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
We do not triumph in Christ by boasting in a meeting, seeking favor from men, or finding our way onto some platform of religious fame. We triumph in Christ when the power of self is broken from our lives, and the very fragrance of Jesus flows from our being. When He leads us in triumph, we will bring to bear the knowledge of God Himself upon a world that is perishing for want of that great Light.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: character, christian subculture, doctrine, fragrance, glory of God, jealousy, Jesus Christ, organization, religion, righteousness, Son of God
“For we know in part and we prophesy in part.” -1 Cor. 13.9
It was Smith Wigglesworth who stated:
Most people seem to have discernment, or think they have, and if they would turn it on themselves for twelve months they would never want to discern again. The gift of discernment is not criticism. I am satisfied that our paramount need is more perfect love.
One thing that still seems prevalent in the Church today is an “either it’s God or it’s not” mentality. Truth is, all of us see in part, and every movement, ministry, and individual believer is in the process of growth in the knowledge of God. The easiest thing to do in this process is to recognize the gaps and inconsistencies in other saints, and to write them off on account of those gaps.
This is terribly antithetical to the Pauline view of the Church. Do we know of anyone besides Jesus Himself who was more jealous than Paul for the salvation of Israel, the maturation of the Church, and the glorification of God in the earth? Paul is, aside from Christ, the great NT prototype for foundational leadership, and his disposition toward the churches (even the most immature communities) was quite the opposite as that of the critical soul who sees himself as superior those who are in need of doctrinal or ethical correction.
The situation at Corinth was the clearest example of this. Paul was dealing with a community of believers who had immorality in their midst, who were fraught with jealousies, divisions and schisms, who had very disorderly gatherings, whose meetings were doing “more harm than good,” who were questioning his own apostleship, and who were spreading confusion and doubts regarding the reality of the resurrection. Have you ever run into a community of believers in that rough of a condition?
In Chapter 11 of 1 Cor. Paul even states that sickness and premature death have broken out in their midst as a judgment from the Father for their lack of value for the Body in the context of the meal of the Lord. Divine chastisement is breaking out in their midst, and yet, Paul has the audacity (or should it be called an apostolic faith and sight?) to address them as “saints” and “holy ones” in the opening of the epistle.
I often hear comments along these lines with regard to certain movements within the Church:
“I have not taken the time to listen or read any of the teachings for myself, but I’ve heard all about them, so I just categorize them with the other counterfeits and all the hype that is out there.”
Often the sharpest criticisms come from those who have taken little time to hear from those they are criticizing. Yet it doesn’t matter how much certain expressions of Christendom “get under our skin”, even those that bear true issues of concern. If we cannot go to the cross in intercession, even on behalf of those who are “deceivers” and “white-washed tombs”, we are not expressing the wisdom of Christ. We are called to express the same reality in the present that Jesus revealed at the cross.
Indeed, there are radical mixtures out there, and those mixtures need to be addressed with the clear word of the Lord. Still, it must be asked of the critical soul, “Is your life not a mixture? Is there nothing to be addressed in your own life? If your secret life was to be examined as you are examining others, what would be revealed in that examination?”
Along those lines, is there any denominational, missionary, revival, or seminary history that can be recounted without a mixture? The fellowship that you are a part of, is it pristine and clear in every way? Is there any church or work that is expressing the fullness of Jesus Christ?
“Aren’t these movements polluted wells, though?” you ask.
Indeed, there are issues that could greatly harm the believer’s heart within certain movements. In the right spirit and context they need to be addressed. But the question must still be asked, ‘Was Corinth a polluted well?’ It was full of error and even sin, yet Paul never doubted the validity of their spiritual gifts, did he? He never questioned their salvation either. Instead, he challenged them to get things in order before the Lord, and I believe they were missing the mark in a lot more ways than many of the movements that are often criticized.
I want to look at all of the saints through the lens of Paul in the context of Corinth. Did he address issues that needed challenging? Yes, as one sent to them, he did. He addressed those with whom he had immediate responsibility and relationship as an apostle, and aside from that he was occupied with seeing the Gospel revealed to hearts who were bound in darkness.
Does this mean we have to be an apostle to raise concerns? Certainly not. But to categorize other believers (no matter how immature, or incomplete in doctrine or practice) as mere counterfeits is simply the opposite of what the apostle demonstrated.
The Body of Jesus is mangled at present, and there is not much in that Body that we may look upon with a sense of completion. We need the sight of Joseph of Arimathea, a man of “high-position” who was able to go against the tide of bitterness, self-righteousness, and unbelief which flowed so powerfully through his religious colleagues. He was able to look upon the Body of Jesus, mangled though it was, and to value it, though it had not yet appeared in resurrection glory, and despite the fact that the masses had no anticipation of that resurrection.
“It takes half a man to criticize,” said Sankey, who was Moody’s worship leader. It takes the resurrection life within to look upon the Body of Christ with merciful identification, as Jesus presently is from the right hand of the Father.
Shall we be jealous for the fullness of God in the Church? For a purging of bad teachings and doctrines? For a maturity to come to the Church again? Most assuredly. We must. But the only way for that maturity and depth to be restored in the last analysis is for us to go to the cross ourselves. To walk out the reality of the Gospel is the chief thing. To give ourselves to intercession on behalf of the Church is the central calling with regard to moving toward the corporate reality He is jealous for.
The mystery of Israel is the revelation that God is a God of mercy, and that His people are simply those who have received the grace to come under the rod of His Fatherhood and governance. When we think we’ve earned anything, we’ve removed ourselves from the grounds of the Gospel. If I realize that I haven’t earned anything (including insight into Scriptures or maturity of vision), I have the grace to look at the Church- in all of its various deficiencies- and to thank God for it, while crying out for mercy on Her behalf.
“Then how shall I know when these heresies need to be addressed? Didn’t Paul call out heretics and correct false doctrines?!”
You will know in the same way that Jesus did: When you are willing to go to the cross on their behalf. You will know in the same way that Paul did: When you have given yourself in prayer and intercession for their souls, and any correction you deliver will flow mercifully and boldly out of that place, when you have dwelt in the counsel of the Lord. It will not come in a reactionary manner, or as a result of fellowshipping with vulturous, gossiping men. We need to abide in the most holy place, to be jealous chiefly for His glory, and to come into His own truth and love for men.
I want to be found in the counsel of the Lord, friends. He’s more jealous for the fullness of Christ than any of us. He’s wanting to raise up foundational servants, who will proclaim His heart to Israel and the nations. The Church does need to be called to repentance. The Church does need a higher vision of the standards of God. Ultimately, we need “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God” Himself. That Word will only come from broken-hearted vessels who have been united with Him in the Holy Place.
Jesus Himself is the ultimate revelation of this. There is no one more jealous for truth, purity, reality, and fullness than Him. And the way He set out to establish that was by laying His own life down for the very ones who were crucifying Him. He continues to demonstrate that today, interceding from the right hand of Majesty. Shall we follow Him, or shall we strut around with a presumptuous and embittered collection of opinions and ideals?
When I stand before the judgment seat of Christ, what will be His assessment of the thoughts I have carried and the words I have spoken about others? Will they be seen as pure, true, and merciful as He Himself is, or will they be revealed as arrogant, spiteful, and serving my own exaltation? “Every idle word” shall be examined in that great day.
Oh, for the Spirit and nature of Christ Himself to permeate our lives today.
Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: discernment, doctrine, Joseph of Arimathea, judgment, Paul, Pauline, prophecy, smith wigglesworth
On August 4th, 2009, George Sodini walked into a fitness center near Pittsburgh, PA and shot 12 people. Three women were killed, and Mr. Sodini himself committed suicide. The day before the murder-suicide, Mr. Sordoni wrote that he was going to “see God and Jesus” soon on his blog, saying:
Maybe soon, I will see God and Jesus. At least that is what I was told. Eternal life does NOT depend on works. If it did, we will all be in hell. Christ paid for EVERY sin, so how can I or you be judged BY GOD for a sin when the penalty was ALREADY paid. People judge but that does not matter. I was reading the Bible and The Integrity of God beginning yesterday, because soon I will see them.
The day after the shootings, Dr. Brown addressed the murder and these words on his Line of Fire radio show (the show is appropriately titled “A Once Saved Always Saved Murder?”). The audio is below, and provides a good overview of the situation and the doctrine in question:
Evidently, the gunman had been taught that because he had prayed a prayer asking Jesus into his heart at some point in his life, he would spend eternity in heaven with God, no matter what sins he committed or beliefs he espoused thereafter. Here are some thoughts on the subject I put together in an email shortly after the killings took place, and the news came out concerning the gunmen’s beliefs. I submit them for consideration:
I would venture to say that our life and faith in Messiah is in reality more about an organic, somewhat mysterious spiritual dynamic, than a doctrinal system that has as the main goal avoiding the bad place and going to the nice place upon death.
Of interest may be Richard Dawkins’ article after 9/11 that I reference in my Atheism article: where he says: “religion teaches the dangerous nonsense that death is not the end.”
Of course, his thesis has major problems philosophically (does not atheism teach the dangerous nonsense that our only punishment and reward are in this life?), but I actually AGREE with him that false and untrue religion is quite dangerous, and for people to blindly believe that they’re going to heaven the second they die, without feeling the need to have a bit of evidence that it’s true beyond the words of a religious teacher, is quite dangerous as well as perhaps a bit crazy.
But then, if as so many believe, we don’t need the tangible, objective, supernatural presence of God, nor as Mark Galli writes, any real difference at all in our lives from non-believers, to know that our particular doctrinal system is absolutely true, why should we expect people to not “misuse” a doctrine such as once-saved-always-saved, or believe a false religion like Islam? They believe what they believe for the same reasons we do, and with the same level of certainty.
All this to say, I wonder if the problem with this shooter was both an unbiblical belief and blindly believing something with no tangible evidence. Perhaps in his case a healthy fear of death and the judgment to come was in order, as well as a healthy skepticism.
If we require nothing of our religion, why should we expect our religion to require anything of us?
Is it any wonder that those of us in the Kingdom of God that are living and dying for the advancement of the gospel, spiritual revival, cultural reformation, and an increased depth in the Church find it so difficult to awake this “sleeping giant” (as Leonard Ravenhill called it), when so many of us in the Church require nothing of our beliefs beyond simply hearing them preached from a pulpit or reading them in a book?
Until men and women start taking seriously the question of why they believe what they believe, not only will they continue to subconsciously resist the leaven of the gospel from infecting their entire lives, but dangerous doctrines will continue to abound.
Posted in News, Philosophy & Science Tagged with: Blogs, doctrine, faith, gunman, Hell, judgment, Leonard Ravenhill, Mark Galli, mass murder, murder, pittsburgh, richard dawkins, the bible, theology