“…. you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” -1 Cor. 3.3
Paul received word from a messenger that there were all kinds of divisions and unhealthy comparisons seething in the church at Corinth. The schisms were rampant, and men were identifying with different apostles as their source, thinking themselves more spiritual because of that supposed identification. Some were even naive enough to make themselves superior to all the others because they were “of Jesus” Himself, hoping perhaps that this would put them in a more spiritual category than all!
All of this jealousy and comparison stems from an inadequate revelation of the supremacy of Christ, and the fact that in Him we have all been justified and “accepted in the Beloved.” We need oft to be reminded that His kingdom is not of this world. Paul went on to address this foolishness by declaring:
“So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.” (vv. 21-23)
The jealousy and strife that most believers deal with is not the overt kind we see in the Corinthian church, though even that is all too common today. The jealousy most saints are gripped and paralyzed by is more subtle and inward. We see someone in a more esteemed position than ourselves and we are gripped with a sense of inferiority. We hear of men who do great exploits, exploits of the kind that we’ve never come close to experiencing, and immediately we are seized with insecurity and depressions.
This is a pitiful state to live in, yet because of it’s subtlety most believers are fixed in a place where the inner-man is walled in on every side, kept from the experience of the love of God, and set into a mode of dullness. Insecurity and the sense of inferiority give way to poisonous lies, and before we know it, we are harboring secret bitternesses toward others, though they have done nothing to offend or injure us. The only cure for self-consciousness, the sense of inferiority, and the subtle jealousies that bind is a fresh revelation of Jesus Christ, who is the Head of the Church, which is His Body.
When at once we realize that “all things” and all believers belong to us, that they are gifts to us, our eyes are removed from our own plight and brought into an awareness of the marvelous generosity of God. When we realize that He is coming with recompense and reward, and that His glory and light will permeate the entire cosmos, what is a little petty comparison? When we see His glory and majesty, these jealousies are exposed as demonic and anti-christ. When we are washed thoroughly in mind and heart by the revelation of Christ, all things are made new. We have liberty to bless all men, even if we differ with them, and to have an authentic desire for their spirits to prosper. After all, we “belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.” Is there any greater identification than that?
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: apostles, corinthian church, foolishness, jealousy, Jesus, Jesus Christ, love, love of God, Paul, Revelation, the church, visions
“Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it; yet the Lord set his affection to love your fathers and chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as at this day.” -Deut. 10.14-15a
The subject of God’s love is not a syrupy, flighty, or hollow subject. It is not the stuff of spiritual lightweights, nor is it a distraction from the weightier matters of Scripture. His love is not merely an attribute to be considered, nor is it a mere compartment among His many traits. It is not a cheap and fluffy revelation, but the very essence of who the Lord of history is.
The love of God is a vast reality, and it has ever and always been bound to His personality and purposes. A Biblical understanding of the love of God is absolutely foundational to the life of the Church, and if we have yet to know Him as the One who “sets His affections to love” us, we have yet to know Him as He is.
The Deuteronomic writer paints with a broad brush in these two verses, and I wonder if they strike our hearts as they must have struck his.
Verse 14 tells of the greatness of God as Creator and Ruler of the entire created order, and of heaven itself. He is high and lifted up, far above the peak of the highest mountain, transcending in every way the greatest of earthly kings and the most powerful of angelic beings. The earth belongs to Him, and “all that is in it.” We cannot wrap our minds around His greatness and glory, we can only ascribe the honor to Him in worship, and be swallowed up in wonder at His Person.
But in that great sweep of awe and transcendence, the writer reminds the children of Israel that the Lord has “set His affection to love” their forefathers, and that the chosenness of the fathers was also upon them as a nation. In that chosenness, it was not only the commandments that applied to them, but the setting of His very affection and love as well.
Could they believe, in the trial of the wilderness, with blisteringly hot winds against them, that the concentrated affections of God Himself had been directed toward them? Unfortunately, most of them could not. But He remains the same, and His heart is still set towards the sons of men, with desire to cleanse, redeem, and show His love to them in remarkable ways.
There are notes of His pure and fervent love sounded throughout the Scriptures, from the patriarchal times right through to the prophets, most notably Hosea, and it reaches a climax in the revelation of Jesus Christ in the New Covenant. Israel, as a people, has a great bulls-eye on it’s chest, and the arrow of His affections will one day hit it’s mark in an everlasting way, when all at once she has been purged and redeemed in the Day of the Lord.
Remarkable for the Church, which is mostly made up of Gentiles, is that we have been “grafted” into the same covenantal glory with God. Through Israel, most pointedly through a Jewish Man called Jesus, we have been inducted and adopted into the understanding that God has set His affections to love us. Do we believe it? Have we a consciousness, in the midst of emotional collapses, failures, and wilderness times, that He has set His affections to love us?
Have we an awareness that it is not only the great heroes of the faith that He loves, but that His heart is set toward us as well, not only to command and call us, but to love? Dear saint, you are indeed a “wild olive shoot,” a vessel not yet totally formed, but you have been grafted into the full revelation of God’s affections and love, and this has always been His intention and desire. Ask the Lord for a greater perception of His set affections towards you.
From that tender place, the mighty light of His love will shine in your soul, and you will “circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.” You will fear and love the Lord God of Israel with all your heart, and everything will be made new.
Many generations ago, He set His affections to love the fathers of Israel, and in this generation, He has set His affections to love you. This is no small thing, and to come into this understanding is to “taste of the powers of the age to come.” Bask in that reality, and you will walk in “newness of life.”
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: angelic beings, israel, love of God, Reality, Revelation, Scripture, the church, The Earth, wilderness
“Just as the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Abide in My love.” -Jn. 15.9
Some years ago, I was in the home of a beloved servant of God by the name of Art Katz. We were discussing the need for a kind of preaching and proclamation that would not merely inform the people of God, but lift them into a greater inner-awareness of His love. He made a comment that struck my heart, and I am feeling it’s reverberations especially today. This is what he said:
The Church is suffering from a chronic sense of inferiority, and they need to be built up in the reality of His love. We need to come into the realization that we’ve been “accepted in the Beloved.”
So many believers are “suffering from a chronic sense of inferiority,” and the opportunities for insecurity, self-consciousness, and anxiety are around every corner, particularly in a Western culture that is so status-driven. The powers of darkness have always worked overtime to keep the saints from a sustained and abiding experience of the favor and love of God. They have worked thousands of years at mastering the art of destroying the lives of men, and nowhere have they been more successful than in their plan to bind men in strife after worldly acceptance, while robbing them of the awareness of God’s desire to secure them in His love.
Billboards and magazines pin women into the corner of striving for external beauty, commercials and other media venues trap men in the pursuit after bigger trucks and better homes, and the options are voluminous for all types of searching after acceptance from others. Even in the religious world, many are jockeying for a position in ministry that would feed their ‘spiritual’ egos, and so many leaders are eaten up by a desire for numerical growth in their congregations and the popularity of their ministries. Individual strife for a spiritual reputation is also common in the Body, with jealousy and envy dominating so many souls who are wanting to establish a “form of godliness” without the reality of His power and love. We are comparing ourselves to others, living in an earthbound manner, and our vision of Jesus Christ is suffering as a result of it. We want approval from men, and it is that fallen desire that robs us from experiencing the heavenly approval that the Father longs to give.
“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (Jn. 5.44)
Across the board, we humans are being consumed by a sense of inferiority to someone or something, and it all stems back to the fact that we have not adequately received and abided in the love of God Himself.
Can we fathom that He does not regret having brought us into the Kingdom? That we are not a part of some “inferior” segment of the Body of Christ? That we have nothing to prove to Him, nothing to perform in the aim of earning His love, and that He is kind and compassionate toward us not because of our spiritual performance, but because that is who He is?
We need to commit the rest of our days to pursuing a greater understanding and awareness of His love toward us. He has declared that He loves us “just as” the Father loves Him. Hear Him, dear saint! His affections are no less profound toward you than they were toward Moses, Paul, Brainerd, Whitefield, or any other great soul. Oh, that we would be awakened to the reality of His constant and unfading love, and that it would be more for us that a theological category; rather, an abiding experience as our hearts are more and more surrendered to His.
The more I study the New Testament and live the Christian life, the more convinced I am that our fundamental difficulty, our fundamental lack, is the lack of seeing the love of God. It is not so much our knowledge that is defective but our vision of the love of God. Thus our greatest object and endeavor should be to know Him better, and thus we will love Him more truly.
(D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, as quoted in God’s True Love by David Harwood; 2008, p. 22)
The pursuit after acceptance from men is a deathly roller-coaster ride, and it will not end until you still your heart before the Lord, and learn to receive the love of God Himself. Jesus Christ has already declared that He loves you just as the Father has loved Him, but your reception of that love is not automatic. You must push your way past the multitudinous voices that press for your attention, “be still and know” that a much profounder love is being poured from heaven. All other voices lead to the fading glory of self, but the voice of the Lord is “above the waters,” and it leads to His eternal glory, which is “life forevermore.”
Dear believer, you need not to be jerked and pulled by the opinions, compliments, and criticisms of men. You need not to be plagued with a sense of inferiority and a burning desire to be accepted by others. The undying and unwavering love of God Himself is available to you, for the cross of Jesus Christ has torn the veil of separation on your behalf. Turn from sin and strife for acceptance, and let your heart be stilled in the place of prayer. There you will hear His voice and receive from the well of His love, and your joy will be made full. And from that holy place, He will give you grace to live amongst men with a whole new consciousness, abiding in the love of God Himself, “accepted in the Beloved One.”
Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: art katz, beauty, David Harwood, inferiority, love, love of God, Ministry, proclamation, the church
She stood in front of me with tears streaming down her face and asked the question that still resonates through every fiber of my heart: “How can you be so sure God is real and that He cares about me?” How do we know? There are so many voices in the world today…so many people who claim to have the truth. There are numerous religions–you can find a church, or community, or sect that upholds everything from believing in nothing to worshiping everything that breathes. How do we know what’s true? How can we sort through the counterfeits to find the substance that’s real; how do we know that the world isn’t right when it tells us we can believe in anything we want as long as it’s truth for ourselves?
As I’ve asked myself that question, I’ve seen the answer play out over and over again here in the work taking place in Costa Rica. In working with an inner healing ministry called Peniel (from Genesis 32:30: “I saw God face to face, and my soul was delivered”), I’m learning more and more about the truth. Jesus said, “I am THE Way; I am THE Truth; I am THE Life” (John 14:6). He also said, “You will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Was this arrogance or confusion on His part? Many in the world around us would say, “Yes.” Still, what is true?
The truth is that every one of us is born already believing things about the world around us. Those beliefs can be correct, or they can be erroneous. In the same way that a computer is programmed, and the information programmed into the computer will result in a polished product or one that breaks down with the computer’s use, our brains receive input from the moment we are first conscious of the world around us. For example, if in our mother’s womb, we hear, “You aren’t wanted. Why were you born? This pregnancy is too hard,” we are born with the knowledge that our life is a burden. But is this true? God says that He created us (Psalm 139) and knows everything about us…He knows when we sit, and when we stand, and He has a purpose for our lives. He loves us. He wants us. He is glad that we are alive. Still, if we have received erroneous information from the world around us, we will react based upon those lies. Only the One who created us and meant us to come to life believing in the truth can restore those places deep inside of us that get lost along the way. In other words, we were meant to know Him–for Him to be our Truth (the standard by which we guide our lives), and in knowing Him, our hearts are made free of the burdens, and lies, and misguided reactions that so often trouble our daily lives.
Returning to the original example, as I prayed with my friend and the Lord showed her how He saw her birth and the world around her, for the first time, her heart came to life with the knowledge that God IS real. He created her heart, and He is able to heal it. For the first time, the fear went away, and she was able to sleep through the night in peace. She didn’t have to do anything to earn this, or try to work to put her heart back together. The One who created her knew in that moment how to heal each part.
So many things take place in this life…so many bumps and bruises happen along the way that attempt to teach us things about ourselves. There is one Voice that calls above all other voices, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and weighed down, and I will give you rest.” Will we let Him? Can we humble ourselves, and rest for a season from trying to save ourselves through good works or other religions; can we let Jesus be enough; will we dare to come face to face with Him and let His truth heal our souls? He is waiting, and if we ask Him, “Lord, do you care about me? Can you heal me?” The answer will always be, “Yes. I love you. I’m waiting for you. Come.”
Posted in Life & Family Tagged with: freedom, Jesus, Life & Family, love of God, truth