The events of the week that began with Jesus’ humble-but-triumphant entry into Jerusalem and culminated with the crucifixion are unspeakably precious.
The overturning of the moneychangers’ tables in the Temple apparently followed His arrival in Jerusalem. Every one of His recorded acts during this pivotal week is spotlighted by the world-changing events that would subsequently unfold. This story of the cleansing of the Temple comes to our ears and hearts on its surface as revealing Jesus’ desire to re-establish God’s sacred intent for the Temple. To put the emphasis back on prayer and take it away from financial gain. “It is written: ‘My house shall be a house of prayer.’ — but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”
This level of purpose comes across clearly. Perhaps nothing is more important in this world than prayer. But Yeshua was accomplishing more than this with His decisive and fearless disruption of the status quo.
He knew that He would fulfill the Passover later that week, once and for all, as the sacrificial Lamb for whom God had been preparing the way through the Temple’s sacrificial system. God had instructed Abraham to sacrifice animals. And the specific practice of sacrificing a spotless lamb at Passover had been divinely instructed as the Israelites prepared to depart from captivity in Egypt for the Promised Land. We remember John the Baptist’s clarion announcement: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” And Revelation’s describing Yeshua as “the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.”
His overturning the tables that had been used for the business of selling doves and pigeons to Jews wanting to make ritual sacrifices signaled the end of the centuries-old sacrificial system. Fully knowing the price He would very soon pay to deliver Himself up to redeem lost humanity and restore us to His Father and our Father, no one was more appropriately qualified to upset these tables — notwithstanding the indignation of the Temple elites who stood by. This was His way of signaling the new and better covenant; the new dispensation of grace that He, the spotless Lamb, would provide through His voluntary sacrifice of His own sinless blood. He showed us in a way that we cannot forever miss how profoundly God loves every one of us. “For God so loved the world . . .”
Matthew 9:13 is a wonderful, instructive verse. The Torah teachers or scribes had just asked Jesus’ disciples why their teacher ate with marginal people like tax collectors and sinners. Yeshua the great communicator replied, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (NLT; italics added) This is a direct reference to Hosea 6:6, among other passages. Jesus revealed that God never liked the idea of killing animals to sacrifice their blood. But He instituted this practice to paint a picture of Yeshua’s ultimate atonement. Down the long centuries God had worked through a concrete example that He hoped would provide the clear insight to enable Israel, forever the beloved seed of Abraham, to recognize Yeshua.
In Dr. Brown’s The Real Kosher Jesus, he provides several rabbinic texts that speak of the atoning sacrifice of a tsadik (righteous one) as a means of saving the people. He points out that this concept is not a Christian construct; it had for centuries been part of Judaism. As one example, “. . . the Zohar states, ‘As long as Israel dwelt in the Holy Land, the rituals and the sacrifices they performed [in the Temple] removed all . . . diseases from the world; now the Messiah removes them from the children of the world.’ ”
In addition to providing several rabbinic sources for this fundamental Jewish teaching, Dr. Brown details discussions from rabbinic literature associating the deaths of righteous people with atonement. Miriam and the sons of Aaron are examples.
These insights help to clarify the initially-opaque John 18:14, among other verses, which indicates that Caiphas, because he was “high priest that year,” explained the need for one person to die for the people — as the dark events surrounding Jesus’ illegal trials unfolded. While Caiphas undoubtedly had his own misguided reasons for citing this Jewish teaching in support of the outcome of the bogus hearing that was perfunctorily extended to Jesus, Caiphas’ doing so clearly reflects that an understanding of the power of the death of a single person to benefit all the people was present in Temple instruction.
Dr. Brown’s life-long focus on sacred content that matters is deeply appreciated. Its power to enlighten our understanding is considerable.
Who has heard such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children. (Isaiah 66:8)
This is what the Lord God says: Look, I will lift up My hand to the nations, and raise My banner to the peoples. They will bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters will be carried on their shoulders. (Isaiah 49:22)
They will bring all your brothers from all the nations as a gift to the Lord on horses and chariots, in litters, and on mules and camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the Lord, “just as the Israelites bring an offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord.” (Isaiah 66:20)
“However, take note! The days are coming”—the Lord’s declaration—“when it will no longer be said, ‘As the Lord lives who brought the Israelites from the land of Egypt,’ but rather, ‘As the Lord lives who brought the Israelis from the land of the north and from all the other lands where He had banished them.’ For I will return them to their land that I gave to their ancestors.” (Jeremiah 16:14,15)
“ . . . the nations will know that I am the Lord. For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land.” (Ezekiel 36:23,24)
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach appeared recently on a Sid Roth television debate with Dr. Brown (Viewable at: http://www.sidroth.org/site/News2?news_iv_ctrl=-1&abbr=tv_&page=NewsArticle&id=11373&security=1041).
Shmuley recited a list of reasons that Jesus “can’t” be the Jewish Messiah that was, to say the least, less than persuasive. One of his “reasons” seemed particularly strange; Shmuley cited the “unfulfilled” Messianic prophecy that Israel’s Messiah would “restore the kingdom to Israel.” He asked, with his characteristically-intense, rising volume, pitch, and speed, whether anyone thought this prophecy has been fulfilled.
Surely Shmuley is aware of the massive return to Israel in recent decades of people of Jewish ancestry from Russia, Africa, the U.S., and other parts of the world. Christians (and perhaps other people of faith from around the world) have financially supported the return of those who couldn’t have “made aliyah” otherwise. Even if Shmuley refers to the restoration of military power and superiority to Israel, rather than the restoration of its lost tribes and scattered citizenry, these military objectives have also been accomplished by tiny Israel in recent decades!
Yes, Rabbi Shmuley, many viewers are absolutely certain that these amazing prophecies have been — and are still being — fulfilled before our eyes.
The prophetic verses above (and there are many more on this topic) become so powerful and precious in light of recent history, with regard to the return of the lost tribes or scattered citizenry of Israel. But the statement at the end of Isaiah 66:20, which is about Israel’s children being brought back to her in every possible type of conveyance, is deeply intriguing: “as the Israelites bring an offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord.”
Could the “clean vessel” be a new Israel (“Messianic” Israelis), whose citizens’ eyes will increasingly be freed from the “scales” that have blinded them (also foretold in prophecy), and whose people will at long last see the One who has so long been obscured from her understanding and recognition — and finally requite to the Lord the offering of love and recognition that He so richly deserves?
May it increasingly come into manifestation before all rejoicing hearts. Maranatha!
Zola Levitt taught that while the Book of Job tells the story of a man — his story parallels the larger story of the country of Israel.
We remember early glimmerings of the important ideas in Job. For example, its raising the question “Why do the righteous suffer?”
And that most-beautiful statement of faith that Job managed to voice in the midst of his grievous trials: “I know that my Redeemer lives.”
As we read to see if there was anything in Job that opened the door for dark experiences, we consider his realization “The things that I have greatly feared have come upon me.”
We might even have gone so far as to look deeply at why God, rejoicing in Job’s righteousness, more or less paraded Job before Satan for him to consider — and ultimately take aim at. We heard one analyst observe that God’s boasting over Job to Satan was done with the hope that after Satan had taken all of his best shots, God would then be able to bless Job even more. We appreciate this opinion, because it arrives at the same enormously-loving Father that Jesus “walked” before us.
But Zola’s teaching that in Job, as in other scriptural stories, there is a parallel between the central figure’s story and Israel’s story is particularly helpful.
God knew that while Satan’s worst arrows would bring Job — and Israel — very low, even close to despairing — that Job and the Jewish people would never turn their backs on God. He knew that the crusades, the pogroms, World War II — all the horrific anti-Semitic experiences — would leave Israel an emaciated, disenfranchised state of “dry bones.” But He also knew, and even prophesied for Satan to see, that the dry bones would come together again, the scales would fall from Israel’s eyes; that the second time Yeshua appears, His own beloved brethren would run to embrace Him. That like Job, God’s beloved Israel will finally come into her own.
The world out there is not waiting for a new definition of Christianity but a new demonstration.
“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. “ (1 Cor. 2.4,5)
Demonstration: “the action of showing the existence or truth of something by giving proof or evidence.”
The Gospel is not a verbal argument for the existence of God. It is above all things a demonstration of God Himself. It is the evidence of who He is in His love and power.
I believe “LOVE AND POWER” evangelism is the only evangelism that there is. The reason is simple; we don’t want the faith of individuals to rest on the cleverness or wisdom of our arguments but on the demonstration of God’s love and power. We seek to embody these things to the world, first of all in our lives, and then in our outreaches.
Love is the greatest demonstration of power that there is; in Christ’s love He went to the cross, and through His death He destroyed the power of the enemy.
Power is the undeniable demonstration of God’s love. We have seen men who have little to no belief in God encounter Jesus when their torn ACL was completely and supernaturally mended before their eyes. In that moment, there is nothing that a man can say other than, “God is love.” For they had done nothing to earn the privilege of being supernaturally healed, but His care for them was extended to them even in their rebellion and ignorance.
Love still holds the key to His power, and His power showcases His love; love and power embody the gospel of Jesus Christ.
BE IN LOVE
“Do everything in love” (1 Cor. 16.14).
We ought to have no agenda but to love. God’s agenda has always been to love, His reaching out to humanity reaching its climax in His Son, Jesus Christ. 1 Corinth 13:1-8 states, “Without love we are nothing, love never fails.” So let us drop all other agendas and expectations we may have, in order to be free to simply love people.
We are bound by our agendas and drained by our expectations, but love is freedom, for it is not something to do, but be. Let us focus on the love of God and let love melt the hearts of men. Even if they don’t receive the gospel that day, they will never be able to shake off the fact that we loved them and told them of His irresistible love.
Jesus did not come to shame sinners but to save them. Evangelism is spreading the good news of Jesus’ salvation of our souls from sin, which is the greatest expression of love. So how empty is the testimony of God’s love if it be void of love itself? Love’s presence during evangelism shows that we not only believe, but also care that men are literally walking toward an eternal fire. God’s word says, “the fruit of the Spirit is love,” (Galatians 5) and “for the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5.5);” therefore, the result of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives will be love. We should never forget that God makes men like Jesus, and Jesus laid His life down for others.
Love is best defined as “selflessness,” since “greater love has no man than this, that He would lay down His life for His friends” (John 15.13). This is why “Perfect love casts out all fear ” (1 John). Fear is based out of self-consciousness, and love is being conscious of others before ourselves. We are slaves to fear to the degree that we love our lives, and to the degree that we love our lives, we will fail to be witnesses; we will simply be restrained by fear and self-interest from the love that makes us true witnesses. Our Christianity is silent to the degree that we love ourselves. But if we will allow the Holy Spirit to be a constant presence in our lives, His love will expand in our hearts and self-consciousness will burn away. God will be free to extend His hand to the world through us. Love is the goal. Love is the incentive. Love is the inspiration. Love is the power. Love is the gospel. Love never fails.
WALK IN POWER
When God made it possible for the Spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead to live in you, He made powerlessness inexcusable.
Jesus did not leave us powerless. He never desired us to go without power. To do God’s work we need God’s power. There is no witness without power. A good news without power is not good.
The power of the Holy Spirit is for the preaching of the gospel (Isa. 61.1). It is for the delivering of the captives (Acts 10.38). The gospel is the “power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1.16. Paul shows us that he was not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God. Many people are ashamed of the gospel because they have never seen it as the power of God. To see the gospel as the power of God will destroy this shame.
A demonstration of power forces a decision by those who witness it, because it shows God to the individual in an undeniable way. We see the sick healed on the streets, and it is such an arresting moment in the individual’s life. Even in their shock, they are stuck with the evidence that God has just touched them. Even if they are not sick, we seek to pray for them in an attempt to usher the presence of God into their hearts. As they sense He who is the desire of the nations, they break internally. Power is irreplaceable.
Without power we can end up as phony as the door to door salesmen whose products do not work when he is asked for a demonstration. Power is God coming into the lives of men. What love! Power is love. Power is the gospel. Power is the demonstrated presence of God.
Eric Gilmour is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Revival & Evangelism.
“The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him…” -Dan. 9.9
The mercifulness of God is so contrary to the revenge-driven nature of humanity, that if we see Him rightly in light of the Gospel message we are overcome by His kindness and shocked to the core with how delightful He is.
We ought to be suspicious of a brand of Christianity that is so solemn that it removes us from the joy of His salvation, puts us under the weight of religious performance, and causes our souls to be continually downcast. There is a valid place for the burden of the Lord, and for weeping after His great intentions, but the mainstay of sonship, the foundation of our union with Him must always be found in a vital and active union with the God who is merciful.
Eugene Peterson has written:
“If we get our information from the biblical material there is no doubt that the Christian life is a dancing, leaping, daring life.”
There is something dubious about a version of the faith which lacks the spontaneous joy that results from the reality of salvational experience. If we are gripped with a burden in prayer, it is meant to be unburdened right there, in the place of intercession. The burdens are not always to be carried in a public way or placed on the shoulders of other saints. There may be times when the Lord calls you to communicate that burden as the prophets of old, but if you carry it in such a way that the Lord has not intended, you will convey something in the name of God that is not marked with the Spirit of God. If the Lord gave it to you in the place of prayer, enjoin your soul immediately with His until the burden lifts and you have done your part as His co-laborer. If you parade the burden before men, and fail to pray it through to the satisfaction of God’s heart, you will defeat the purpose of the burden itself.
The Church is in a radically anemic place, and while much of the lack can be traced back to a casual, irreverent corporate disposition toward the Lord, one great source of our malnourishment is that we are not rightly receiving His good mercy and holy affection. We are in great need of the Spirit of the fear of the Lord, and we need ever to live in a consciousness of the judgment to come, but there is great need also for new and fresh immersions in the mercies of God.
We chase after material possessions, the preservation of our reputations, or religious and ministerial status improvements only because we are still functioning on carnal grounds, and we have not adequately received and delighted in the God who is merciful.
Consider these words from the great Puritan writer, Richard Sibbes (1577-1635):
Among the things that are to be taken heed of, there is among ordinary Christians a bold usurpation of censure towards others, not considering their temptations.
… we should not smite one another by hasty censures…
… Christ, for the good aims He sees in us, overlooks any ill in them, so far as not to lay it to our charge. Men must not be too curious in prying into the weaknesses of others. We should labour rather to see what they have that is for eternity, to incline our heart to love them, than into that weakness which the Spirit of God will in time consume, to estrange us. Some think it strength of grace to endure nothing in the weaker, whereas the strongest are readiest to bear with the infirmities of the weak.
… The Holy Ghost is content to dwell in smoky, offensive souls. Oh, that that Spirit would breathe into our spirits the same merciful disposition!
(The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes; Banner of Truth Trust: Carlisle, PA; pp. 32-33)
When we lose touch with the merciful nature of God and His distinct kindness, immediately we become that brand of Christian that receives power (albeit a false power) by searching out the shortcomings of others. The evidence that our smiting of “one another by hasty censures” is not prompted by the Lord is shown in the fact that rather than giving ourselves to secret intercession on the behalf of the weak ones, we harbor thoughts of superiority against them. If we are more apt to speak negatively about men, or to think ourselves superior to them, rather than giving ourselves to merciful prayer on their behalf, we can be sure that we are operating under the influence of darkness.
Yet if the “Holy Ghost is content to dwell in smoky, offensive souls,” and if “the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him,” far be it from us to reject a brother in his struggle and inconsistency! This is not to make light of sin, for we are called to purity, and to “speak the truth to one another in love.” Rather, we are to make much of His mercy, and we need to remember that His kindness is itself an expression of His holiness. His righteousness and His gentleness are not in opposition to one another, but are intrinsically linked attributes of the only true God. If He were not a merciful God, neither would He be a holy God.
Has your experience of “faith” driven you into a continually solemn place, where there is no longer any “dancing, leaping, or daring” in your spirit? Is the garden of your life overgrown with the weeds of criticism, superiority, and the continual examination of others? Dear saint, He did not save you to induct you into a life of lackluster seriousness, suspicion and censure, or depressive discipleship. His desire at the time of your salvation, and His desire today, is that “your joy may be full.” (Jn. 15.11b)
Delight in His goodness then, weary soul! Lay down your chapped and calloused frame of mind regarding yourself and those around you. Let it die and go into the ground, that new life and a God-centered perception might be your portion. Bask in the His mercies, for they have been extended to you. They are intensely available to all who would call on the name of the Lord.
Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely . . . . Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in his beams. Feel his all-seeing eye settled on you in love. And repose in his almighty arms. -Robert Murray McCheyne
In Acts chapter four we see the disciples standing on trial. They are commanded to stop preaching Jesus. Look at part of their response. They said, “we can’t stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” There seems to be the reverse effect today in the American church, because we can’t start speaking (for the most part).
The reason that there is a divide between the apostles, who couldn’t stop speaking, and the modern American church, who can’t start speaking, is because the issue of speaking lies in the issue of seeing and hearing. Jesus said, “What you have heard in the dark speak in the light.”
Many modern American Christians haven’t been hearing the voice of God and very rarely see anything in God. Their spiritual eyes are darkened and because of this, they having nothing living inside of them to speak out. Not only that, but because they don’t speak out they don’t see anything happen that would build their faith. As Bill Johnson noted, “The first step to growing in miracles is to pray for the sick.”
I believe that if we really spent quality time in His presence, consistently depending on Him for life, our ears would pop open. I believe here, in the place of hearing, our eyes would be unveiled to see. And having seen and heard from the Lord we would have a bursting spring of the love of God inside of us for a lost and dying world. We would be leaking deliverance to our surroundings.
Brother, if you have an issue getting yourself to speak, take care of the root issue and go get with Jesus. Let Him show you His heart and place it inside of you. I promise like the apostles of old, you will have a hard time passing people on the street because you are burning to tell them of His wonderful love for them.
Today I was walking around the park with a friend of mine talking about the wonderful revelation of Jesus that has been burning in the secret place of His presence. We saw a man sitting on a bench by himself. We figured that he was waiting for us. So we brought the gospel to him. Not only did he give his life to Jesus as we told him of the wonderful Savior who didn’t come to shame sinners but to save them, but he told us that he had a torn cartilage in his knee and it was in a lot of pain and as we prayed for him, all his pain left his knee. Also, a word of knowledge about his religious past broke his heart and his eyes filled with tears as the presence of God came upon him in power and love.
Let’s get alone with Jesus. He will speak and show us Himself. This is the only inflow for such an outflow!
I was teaching two classes in Manhattan, one on Philippians (as a window into Pauline theology) and the other on God’s love. What I taught on God’s love was apparently irrelevant to one student until we happened upon this verse in the Philippians class:
For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of [Messiah] Jesus. (Philippians 1:8)
Suddenly, the eyes of her heart opened to the nature of God’s love. Ever since, this has been one of my favorite verses.
The most important words from this verse for this exhortation are “long” and “affection.”
Quickly, epipotheo, translated “long for,” means “to pursue with love, to long after.” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)
The word translated “affection” is one of those messy words having to do with internal organs, in this case, the intestines. At the risk of a bad pun, let’s mention that applying this to the transcendent and glorified Son of God is “gutsy.” It is not the well thought out concept of a theologian. Instead, it is a word (splangchna) which indicates feeling. This word describes a “visceral” emotion. It is often translated, “compassion.” Louw-Nida (a lexicon used in translation work) puts it like this: the deep, inner seat of tender emotions in the whole personality. That works for me.
Longing for You with Jesus’ Affection
Now, it seems that there are a few possible explanations for this radical expression. If I’ve left something out, please write me and let me know. Meanwhile, let’s take a look at some of our options…
Maybe Paul’s reference to the Messiah’s affection is about his experience of something alien to his own soul. A temple is not the same thing as the God who indwells it. Was he perhaps like a temple and Jesus’ affections like the manifest presence shining from a human holy of holies? Was he, perhaps, like a riverbed and the affections of Jesus, the river?
“Philippians, I am experiencing something that is way more than I could ever have in and of myself. I am experiencing Jesus’ own longing and affection towards you.”
Was Paul overwhelmed by Jesus’ affection, similar to a revival phenomenon of spiritual inebriation? Was this like experiencing a flame of fire, burning over him, which had no relationship to the apostle at all? (Acts 2:3) Sort of like a burning candle? The candle is not the flame.
“Brothers and sisters, I am experiencing the Messiah’s affections for you, not my own.”
Is it possible that this was a spiritual enhancement of Paul’s human affection? Is this a description of Paul and the Messiah’s spirits being united? After all, “he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” (1 Corinthians 6:17) Is this what the apostle meant?
“My affection for you is like a glove and the fullness of this longing and affection I have for you is like the hand in the glove.”
Orthodox Churches have a doctrine of sanctification called “theosis.” They explain that a sword in a fire ends up with similar qualities, yet remains a sword. So the human soul which abides in the Lord “may become partakers of the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:4b) I think of it more like a carton of milk being put in a refrigerator – it eventually shares the same temperature.
“My soul has been in communion with the Son of God so intensely that I have come to share His affection for you. My affection is like His because of His presence in my life.”
Or perhaps it has to do with the quality of Paul’s sanctified and empowered emotional attachment. (Romans 5:3; Galatians 5:22-24) Paul might be saying,
“My longing and affection for you is just like the longing and affection of Jesus. When you experience my longing and affection, you are experiencing that which is analogous (just like) to the Son of God’s heart for you.”
At the risk of wearing you out, we’ll stop exploring these possibilities. One way or the other, Paul is saying something he expected believers to believe: Jesus longs for them; Jesus is affectionate towards them.
Whole, Full, Powerful Longing
It is important to know that the Lord’s emotional life is whole, full, and powerful. This includes “longing” as well as “affection.”
In this instance, Paul is connecting to, and conveying, an emotion which we call “missing.” The reason someone longs for something, or someone, is a sense of incompleteness. When you miss something, or someone, you have a longing – which can become a pining. Paul wasn’t pining away for the Philippians, he was oriented towards knowing Jesus, but in the depths of his heart he longed to see them. Isn’t it amazing that this emotion is paralleled by Jesus’ heart towards us?
“Longing with affection” feels similar to homesickness. Doug Collins, a chaplain in Iraq, wrote (in the Gainesville Gazette, 11/14/08), “…homesickness. It is probably the No. 1 (sic) issue that I deal with here. Homesickness also is the hardest thing to deal with … I have nothing that can take away the longing in the heart to be at home with family and friends…”
In Light of This
There is warmth radiating from this verse that can provide comfort and reassurance. To think that the Lord’s heart is affectionate towards these believers provides emotional and spiritual security. These Philippians weren’t perfect. They had problems with pride and schism which provoked apostolic adjustment. Yet, they warranted affection from the Lord – as do you. Jesus thinks of you with affection; you stir His emotions in the direction of loving affection. He enjoys your company and longs to be with you. In his emotional motivations towards the Philippians, Paul was like Jesus.
In the light of this, let’s close this meditation with Paul’s prayer found in the next verse:
it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of [the Messiah], filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus [the Messiah], to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)
David Harwood is a prophetic teacher and worship leader, and author of the book God’s True Love.
“…. 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?
“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 fromthe 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.”