“…. make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you….” -1 Thess. 4.11
Isn’t it remarkable that the same man who gave us the most transcendent statements about the resurrected and ascended Lord could be found making such earthy statements as this one? The same man who declared that we are “seated with Christ” in heavenly places also instructed the churches in the most menial of matters which pertain to the daily grind of life, and I am convinced that it has everything to do with establishing true foundations in the Church.
There is something crucial about the day-to-day reality of life, and how we function within it, that determines the degree to which we will rule and reign with Christ in the age to come. There is a subtle form of Gnosticism in the Church, which sees all matters unearthly as positive, and all matters earthly as negative. It seems right in the beginning, but it actually negates the ultimate intentions of God, who longs to unite heaven and earth rather than to exchange one for the other. In fact, at the end of the age restoration, both heaven and earth will be reconfigured and made new, and God will manifest Himself fully and permanently, abiding forever in the great reality of that union.
When we think of earthly matters as inherently unspiritual, we confine the faith to religious categories and functions, and before long we have chopped up our hearts into compartments that fail to pulsate with the life of God. We begin comparing ourselves with other men, striving for higher spirituality, more esteemed religious positions, and a type of asceticism creeps in.
The apostle Paul, who likely had more spiritual revelation than any man in his day, was also a very nuts and bolts type of man. He could raise a boy from the dead one day, and get blisters from making a leather tent the next day. He could receive prophetic revelation and powerful gifts in a church gathering, and maintain the spirit of prayer and faith while engaging in tasks that we would consider a drudgery.
Paul knew that this unhealthy idea of spirituality could move into the churches, and from time to time he was required to address it.
One of the last hiding places of our carnal ambition is found in our desire to be considered spiritual by other men. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day were guilty of this, and ultimately it comes down to the fact that we have not adequately sought the glory which comes from God. We are looking for recognition in an earthbound way, though it is disguised with a spiritual facade.
I have met many men, usually young like myself, who are filled with anxiety and even depressions over the fact that they desire to be in “full-time ministry,” but no door has opened yet. Very often, they are recently married, or fathers of young children, and very often also, they lack a value for their calling as husbands and fathers, and their devotional lives are inconsistent as well. While the Lord may call and send young men to remarkable works, I am convinced that for most, the Lord would have them to focus firstly on learning to walk with Him in the kinds of tasks that we consider menial.
It doesn’t seem like a heroic ambition to “lead a quiet life,” but perhaps one of the greatest hindrances to the Church’s witness in the earth, is that we are too quick to speak and too slow to listen. We want our ministries to be known, our distinctives to be recognized, our names to be exalted. Paul told the saints to be content to lay low, and to allow the Lord to form Christ in us in the hidden places of life so that our public proclamation would bear the weight of heavenly reality.
It doesn’t seem incredible to “attend to your own business,” but this is a necessity for the life which would be built on a true foundation. If our finances are out of order, our children are not rightly loved and disciplined, our spouses are neglected relationally, our devotional lives are sparse, and our work ethic is dishonoring to the Lord, why should we look for the greener grass on the other side? Do we assume that “full-time” ministry will fix all of these issues? We need to “attend” to our own business, and allow the Lord to bring His government into our lives in the nit and grit of daily decisions and activities, or else we have rejected Paul’s apostolic instruction.
Lastly, he calls us to “work with our hands,” which is something both Jesus and Paul did. Can it be said that the hands of Jesus would not have had such healing effect in His ministry had He failed to abide in the Father during His carpentry days? If Jesus was totally submitted to the Father for His entire earthly life, then His carpentry days were just as ordained as the cross and resurrection themselves, but do we ever see it in this way? We are more likely to highlight the raising of Lazarus or some other dramatic event in Jesus’ life, and that is understandable. But the daily grind of sweat and labor in the carpentry shop was just as much a revelation of God as anything else in Jesus’ life, and He means to bring us into an experience and view of the same kind. When we view our “menial” tasks as unspiritual, we open our souls to a numbness towards sonship, and we are more apt to fall into a spirit of complaining or a depressive attitude. But if we make it our ambition to love the Lord and honor Him in the midst of the monotony and grit of daily events, we will see the glory of it in the same way that Jesus did.
However the Lord calls you to work with your hands, the point is that Paul is calling us to a faithfulness in the practical affairs of life, and if we have been unwilling for that, we are not likely to function as leaders in the Body, nor to rule and reign at higher levels in the age to come. The great majority of believers will not be pastors or prophets, teachers or missionaries by occupation, but will function on grounds that seem unofficial spiritually. But if it is in the intention of the Father it is holy, holy, holy, and He calls us to an intimate union with Himself no matter where we are or how we are positioned.
The purposes of God are served in the formation of His servants when they give themselves to labor that is monotonous and predictable, that lacks any kind of flamboyance or charismatic excitement, but requires a steadfast patience and faithful performance, day after day.
…. we need to serve our apprenticeship in the things that are ordinary, unseen and undistinguished. We need to show ourselves faithful in those places so that we can be faithful in the true works of God. This is the sublime wisdom and requirement of God.
(Art Katz, Apostolic Foundations, Burning Bush Press: Bemidji, MN; 2009, p. 16)
Are you surrendered inwardly to the Lord in the unseen and menial tasks? Do you trust Him in hiddenness? Are you willing simply to honor Him by being responsible and faithful with the work He has before you today, even if no man thinks you are spiritual or worthy of esteem? The way that we maintain communion with the Lord in the daily grind, the way that we steward our money and our work, and the way that we treat people when no immediate reward is in view- all of this determines whether or not we are moving into a true experience and expression of the Kingdom of God.
A man may be neck-deep in the work of modern ministry, engaged in all types of seemingly spiritual labors, yet totally out of touch with God who has called him. This is not what the Lord has intended for you. But if we know Him vitally in the midst of the menial and mundane affairs of life, we have come to know Him indeed.
Bryan Purtle is a firefighter and author that carries a jealousy for historical revival, the salvation of Israel, and the recovery of apostolic proclamation and living through the revelation of Jesus Christ. Visit his website at thoughtsuponrising.com.
Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Church, full-time ministry, Ministry, mundane, Paul, Revival, spiritual, spirituality
Editor’s Note: The text below was written by Adolph Saphir in his work Christ Crucified; Lectures on 1 Corinthians
“…To know “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” is not the minimum of knowledge but the maximum of knowledge; it is not to know little, but to know all; that here is not a descent from a loftier region, but an elevation into the highest sanctuary; that “in Jesus Christ and Him crucified” all doctrines, all God’s teachings, and man’s experiences culminate; and from “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” all duties, all works all ministries are to emanate and to be evolved. Here is the hidden, the perfect wisdom of God. No doctrine is seen clearly and truly unless it leads to the cross; no work is God-pleasing, no experience or attainment genuine and vital, unless it has its source, root and strength in the cross; no waiting for the second Advent is healthy and purifying unless it is called forth by the contemplation of the great God and Savior, who gave Himself for us, and redeemed us from all iniquity. He who longs after wisdom, deep and broad, profound and comprehensive, lofty and real, heavenly and entering into the earthly life, let him learn from the Apostle Paul, that to know Jesus Christ and Him crucified is Alpha and Omega, that here are hid all treasures of wisdom, and knowledge, and spiritual understanding. No other fervor or activity is pleasing to God, and useful on earth, but that which proceeds from beholding the Lamb that was slain. That which appears to the world as an obstacle is a channel, for the weakness of God is stronger than man.
Idolatry substitutes ideas and things for the Divine Person. The world speaks of the true, the good, the beautiful; an element, an abstraction. This is not the language of revelation. The Pagan asks, “What?” The God-taught ask, “Who?” Ideas however sublime, laws, however pure, cannot bring peace to the heart and life to the soul. Salvation can only come through a Savior; life can only be given from the source of life, the living God. And this is the greatest mystery of Godliness, that God Himself has come down to earth; that God Himself has visited His people; that the Son of God became man. “God manifest in the flesh.” Higher than this we cannot rise. Greater gift that this God could not bestow on us. The Eternal has allied Himself with our finite existence.” (Adolph Saphir, “Christ Crucified” Lectures on 1 Corinthians chapter 2, page 13)
Posted in Featured Articles, Revival & Prayer Tagged with: bible, crucified, God, Jesus, Knowledge, Paul, Public Domain: Adolph Saphir, spirituality
“Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
My eye is wasted away from grief, my soul and my body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow
And my years with sighing;
My strength has failed because of my iniquity,
And my body has wasted away.
Because of all my adversaries, I have become a reproach,
Especially to my neighbors,
And an object of dread to my acquaintances;
Those who see me in the street flee from me.
I am forgotten as a dead man, out of mind;
I am like a broken vessel.” -Ps. 31.9-12
The element of human weakness in the Psalms is a great provision for the Church, for the moment we come onto the grounds of flowery religious cliche, we at once come to unreality, and God will not work with us along those lines. It is noteworthy for us to consider that the sweet-singer and priestly King of Israel, David himself, had seasons where his soul was overcome with grief and confusion, paranoia and weariness, fear and hopelessness. This does not make him an insignificant figure in the history of the faith, but is rather a testament to the faithfulness of God, Who is able to save “to the uttermost” all who call upon His name.
The Psalms are filled with David’s inner turmoils and wrestlings, and he was not afraid to sing of them in the Tabernacle of old. He did not think of his spiritual image before men, for he was pre-eminently concerned for the presence of the heavenly King. He knew that the One Who had formed the world and knit him together in his mother’s womb, was well acquainted with the actual condition of his life. He felt no need to perform spiritually, but to come to God on the grounds of truth, bringing to the Lord the whole of who he was, “warts and all.”
This is a great call for our nip-and-tuck, fashion-obsessed, image-dominated society. We unfortunately bring the unreality of worldly thought into our experience of religion, and most of us can be found putting up the self-image of our choosing; that which looks most presentable to men. But God has ever and always been eager for the reality and truth of our condition, for it is only on those grounds that we meet with His mercy and transforming power.
We would be quick to accuse, and even quote a verse at David if he were to pour out his soul to us as he did in Psalm 31. His pleas with the Lord were often antithetical to the boisterous, Dominionist views of many modern souls in the Church. We might think of his song as a bad witness, a complaining rant, or a sign of his weak spirituality. But how was it that David became such a precious figure with such favor from God? How is it that when Jesus comes He will restore the “tabernacle of David,” that He will sit on “David’s throne,” and that He did not wince when He was called “the Son of David” by the blind man?
God is not ashamed to be identified with David because David cried out to Him from the ground of reality. And it is David’s pursuit of God from the ground of weakness, in grief, in sorrow, even in iniquity, that made him a “broken vessel” who is still “blessing the families of the earth” today. His weakness is the condition of all humanity, but out of that low place, he continued to cry out to the One who is “high and lifted up,” and we are still feeling the reverberations of his life in God in our generation. Am I pursuing Him from the ground of reality, or have I got some image to uphold before men?
When I come to Him from the ground of my own brokenness, at once I am touched by the only One who has the power to cleanse, heal, and restore my soul, and to bring me into alignment with the reality of Himself. And to live in the reality of God Himself, walking circumspectly before Him in all His glorious light, is to be “free indeed.”
“For I have heard the slander of many,
Terror is on every side;
While they took counsel together against me,
They schemed to take away my life.
But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD,
I say, ‘You are my God.’
My times are in Your hand;
Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me.
Make Your face to shine upon Your servant;
Save me in Your lovingkindness.” (vv. 13-16)
Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: David, davidic, Jesus, light, presence, psalms, religion, spirituality, The Earth
“…. according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.” -Rom. 2.16b
Is it remarkable to us that Paul conveys the reality of God’s judgment as a crucial component of his “gospel”? Do we see it as “good news” that “God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus”?
Paul is addressing the issues of Law and conscience in Romans 2, and he swings his subject back around to the inward reality, as apostles always do. He declares that even if all seems to be intact externally with the saint, the real issue of judgment has to do with “the secrets of men,” for the Lord is ever and always concerned with reality, and not with the mere appearance of things.
Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment. -Jn. 7.24
Have I been refined a thousand times over in the inner-man, or have I upheld an image of spirituality in public that conflicts with the secret thoughts and motives of my heart? Have I been willing for the work of the cross in my soul, or have I sought to circumvent the word of truth, and clung to a foundation-less reputation that has been applauded by men, but will be found wanting on the day when “God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus”?
If there is duplicity and hypocrisy in my life, if I am still laboring for approval from men, if I am gripped inwardly with greed, pride, lust, envy and fear, the apostle has a word for me, and it is part and parcel with his Gospel. A Day of judgment is coming, when the light of God’s countenance will shine so penetratingly upon my life that every despicable thought, motive, and deed will be exposed. If I have held forth an impressive religious image before men, but have harbored ungodly “secrets” until that Day, they will be revealed in shocking transparency and with exacting clarity.
We may squirm to hear such a thing, but it is Paul’s Gospel. If we have an inadequate consciousness of the Day of judgment, we have not been apprehended by the Gospel of Paul. The gospel of some other man or angel has intruded, and we have been hooked into a lie.
The fact of this coming Day of exposure is Gospel (good news), for we are hearing it now, before that Day dawns. We have the privilege- painful as it may be- of bringing our duplicity and mixtures to Him today, while it is yet day. We have opportunity to repent and believe the Gospel afresh, and when at once we are sprinkled with the blood of the Lamb, everything is made new. When He purges our secret lives, which have harbored all kinds of dark ambitions and shameful musings, and makes us carriers of His own thoughts and desires, only glory remains. We have the remarkable privilege of moving away from a life of bondage and into the joy of becoming stewards of heavenly mysteries.
That is why there is no condemnation for those who are in the Man, Christ Jesus. He cleanses, refines, and heals us from all the corruption and disease that our souls have carried, and grafts us into His own purpose and way. It is no wonder that the Day of judgment was for Paul a necessary element of the Gospel. That Day will once and for all expose and destroy the sins of the world and the hypocrisies of men, and the mysteries of God will become the Government of the entire cosmos. Why should the Church live in hypocrisy and hidden sin when the Gospel has come to deliver us from darkness, both now and in the age to come?
Are you living a double-life, dear saint? Have you some underlying bitterness, anger, lust, rage, or fear still dominating your thoughts? In Light of the Day to come, allow the Father to bring judgment against your duplicity today, and when He burns out your soul-illnesses and makes you true, the exposure of your “secrets” will be Gospel to you, indeed. You will walk in the liberty of the Gospel, which is “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him. -Ps. 25.14
The Gospel is not an alterable message that can be shifted and redefined by men in their particular customs, preferences, and societies. The Gospel of Paul, which is the Gospel of God, raises a question mark against all that man has been, all that man is, and all that man ever will be within himself. It calls to task the kings of the earth, all who boast against God, and even all those who purport to be spiritual. Only His very mercy can cleanse, only His truth is true, and only His Light illumines our souls to the degree that our secrets are judged, and that judgment is itself a mercy. The Gospel judges not only our external acts of sin, but the secrets of our hearts, and it is a great mercy that He is touching our secret lives now, instead of being exposed when it is too late.
Oh, how jealous He is for His glory, and how jealous He is over our lives. The jealousy of the Lamb is the expression of His great love, in that He will not let us go until we have come into an unhindered union with God Himself.
Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: appearance, Good News, gospel, greed, hearing, Holy Spirit, hypocrisy, jealousy, Jesus, judgment, Paul, Reality, romans, spirituality
One need not have special revelation or any particular spiritual belief to know that what happened in Arizona was wrong in the worst way. We instinctively and rightly recoil from the thought of it, no matter where and how our morality is founded. Yet whether we consciously intend to or not, we not only react with revulsion, but also a question… what does this mean? Just as we know instinctively that it is wrong, we also know that it carries meaning. We want and need to interpret this event and what it means in our time, as well as what our response should be.
To the New York Times’ Paul Krugman and other similarly minded thinkers, the meaning is to be found in calling out right-wing political commentators for creating a climate of “hate” towards Democrats that is so dreadful that folks like Krugman “expect[ed] something like this atrocity to happen.” Our response to these murders, we are told, should be to call “all decent people” to “shun” the “likes of [Glenn] Beck and [Bill] O’Reilly.”
FoxNews and Drudge Report, on the other hand, seem to interpret this event as an anomaly we can safely attribute to the strange delusions of one mentally disturbed individual (while also throwing in that he was a “left-wing pothead” in order to curb the attacks coming from outlets such as the NYT). How is one supposed to react to the “Scary Freak” shown in the screenshot below taken from the Drudge Report homepage? Obviously, the intent is to disassociate this man not only from conservatives, but seemingly from all of us! The response they are advocating seems to be a very practical one, that we should improve our governmental mental health system so that people like this are identified, hospitalized, and (perhaps) medicated before they act out in this way.
While the conservative reaction described is more to the point (and certainly better factually attested and reasoned), I believe that the liberal attempt to interpret the event as part of a larger reality is right on, even if their conclusions are not. The NYT’s Krugman was right when he said:
It’s true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled. But that doesn’t mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate.
Yet he was wrong in his analysis of what it is in the national climate that bred events and minds like this. The problem goes much deeper than right-wing rhetoric aimed at the left (as an aside, it should be noted that the left is often as bad as or worse than the right in their demonizing of the opposition, as discussed on yesterday’s Line of Fire episode). In fact, it goes much deeper than the New York Times, or FoxNews, or the Drudge Report are willing (or trained) to go. Krugman is right that there is “sickness” permeating our society, but the sickness is not only in “them” (to Krugman, the right), and it is not only in “him” (to Drudge, the shooter). No, the sickness is in us, all of us!
The nation’s sickness is an evil more real and devastating than any of us realize, and when events such as what happened in Arizona occur, we must discern that rather than some anomaly perpetuated by one angry or disturbed soul so utterly different from the rest of us (some “Scary Freak”), this evil is a public manifestation of a larger reality. We are in a sin-sick society that has cultivated a loveless, godless, and purposeless culture that provides its youth with precious little reason to live beyond the pursuit of immediate pleasure and the numbing of one’s pain. Is it any wonder that it is in the midst of this sort of environment we find young men that for whatever reason (be it mental instability, social rejection, or beliefs/ideologies) are neither enticed by the allure of pleasure, comfort, or societal status, nor intimidated by the punishments that can be leveled upon them by society’s social and governmental structures, turning their inward rage and hostility outward? While we ought to be shocked by this act, we ought not be shocked that a deluded young man living a meaningless, purposeless life in a meaningless, purposeless society, committed an act of meaningless, purposeless violence.
In addition to the immediate, visceral, and pragmatic response we should have to a tragedy such as this, there is a deeper reality we need to enter into in order to extract the meaning of something of this horror. What is the meaning of this tragedy? And what should our response be? Whatever the specifics of this particular case may end up being, and to whatever extent Jared Loughner was affected or unaffected by this age in the midst of his apparent delusions, I would submit that to look into the face of the “scary freak” pictured on Drudge above, or at the pictures of Virginia Tech shooter Seng Hui-Cho or Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold below, and look away without sensing a need to desperately change the culture we’ve nurtured is to see but not understand, to hear but not perceive. These were not individuals motivated by greed, or ideology, or so many other things that make (at some level) sense to us. There’s something desperate, something pathetic in their lives and actions.
There’s a deeper response called for, and it starts with a call for all of us to repent before the living God for cultivating the culture we abide in, asking the author of life to change us from those that sit idly by as generation after generation comes through the societal “system” we’ve set up without having any sense of meaning and purpose beyond the things of this world. There is a stream of true life available to all, and we must be ones that testify to its reality in our generation. We must be the “salt-seasoning” of our society, with a “saltiness” born from deep and real encounters with the Messiah. “The heavens are the heavens of the Lord, but the earth He has given to the sons of men.” This is our divine responsibility… let’s not miss this.
Posted in Culture, Featured Articles, News Tagged with: arizona, congress, conservative, depth, drudge report, foxnews, killing, Krugman, liberal, line of fire, matt drudge, messiah, murder, New York Times, prayer, repentance, spirituality