LIVING CHRIST

Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God—Romans 15:7

Many religions have high standards, Christianity has impossible standards. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who use you. Turn the other cheek. Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect. Without divine intervention living the Christian life is unthinkable. Only one has accomplished it, no one else even came close. Augustine had come to the same conclusion, that living the high standards of the Christian faith was beyond the realm of human possibility. Augustine’s solution? “Lord, command what you will, but give what you command”. Did you get that? The only way for us to follow the Lord fully is Christ Himself living and doing it inside of us. It’s is not us but Christ in us that lives that incredible life. That’s why Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.” A. B. Simpson spoke about this high calling with Christ living the life in us, check Simpson’s thoughts out.

“Our text (today’s verse) sets forth a sublime principle, and it will give sublimity to all of life. It is stated elsewhere in similar language, ‘Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus’. Col.3:17 This is our high calling, to represent Christ and act in His behalf and in His character and spirit under all circumstances and toward all persons. “What would Jesus do?” is a simple question which will settle every difficulty, and always settle it on the side of love. But we cannot answer this question rightly without having Jesus Himself in our hearts. We cannot act Christ. This is too grave a matter for acting. We must have Christ and simply be natural and true to the life within us. Then that life within us will act itself out. How easy it is to love everyone and see nothing but loveliness, when our hearts are filled with Christ. How every difficulty melts away and everyone we meet seems clothed with the Spirit within us when we are filled with His presence.”

This teaching is actually very practical. Christ in us is a better parent, a better student, a better teacher, a better spouse, a better employee; He lives the standard in us that His word requires. What an amazing God. I have to agree with Augustine. Lord, require anything at all of me but you must fulfill that requirement in me.

UTTERLY HELPLESS

Rom.5:6 – When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.

I wonder who really believes this verse? I wonder if you believe this verse? Utterly helpless; really? Have you thought of yourself as utterly helpless. These are the ones Christ died for, those who have no way to ever help themselves out of their dilemma. Several people come to my mind when I think of this verse. First, The demonized man in the cemetery in Gadara. Why would they chain this man up in the cemetery? Obviously he was left there to die. His life was over, he had no hope. That is until Jesus stepped off of His boat and onto the shore. “Come out of him”, Jesus cried. The foul, dark spirits came out and that man began a new life. What about Lazarus? He was pretty helpless, rotting in his tomb. Jesus stood outside of Lazarus tomb and cried, “Lazarus, come out!”. In a moment, Lazarus was hopping out of the dark cave into the glorious light of a brand new life.

If you think about it, all of us are utterly helpless. We are born in a state of sin, separated from God, with no way to save ourselves. Sin has dominated and destroyed us and we were perishing until we too heard the cry of Jesus’s voice, “Come out of darkness, step into the light”. Here is how Adam Clarke described this powerful verse.

“They were without strength; in a weak, dying state: neither able to resist sin, nor do any good: utterly devoid of power to extricate themselves from the misery of their situation.

They were ungodly; without either the worship or knowledge of the true God; they had not God in them; and, consequently, were not partakers of the Divine nature: Satan lived in, ruled, and enslaved their hearts. They were sinners, aiming at happiness, but constantly missing… And in missing the mark, they deviated from the right way; walked in the wrong way; trespassed in thus deviating; and, by breaking the commandments of God, not only missed the mark of felicity, but exposed themselves to everlasting misery.”

Yes, we were all aiming for happiness but happiness escaped our grasp. We had no way to come out of misery, we were utterly helpless until… Until the day He called our name. Christ died to save sinners. His help is available when you realize you need Him desperately.

WAITING ON THE LORD

Psa. 27:14 Wait for the LORD;

be strong, and let your heart take courage;

wait for the LORD!

One of my big challenges throughout my Christian experience has been waiting on the Lord. I have a natural tendency, like many of us, to take matters into my own hands. How many times do I have to be reminded that the Lord doesn’t need my help? Taking what we perceive as the Lord’s work into our own hands can be quite deceptive. We mask our own motives behind a spiritual facade. How do I know? I have been guilty too many times. Waiting on the Lord brings us to a place of total dependency on the Lord, gives us greater clarity, and makes room for His power and glory to be displayed. As Isaiah says, “they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. Here are some thoughts from A.B. Simpson on waiting on the Lord.

“Wait on the Lord. How often this is said in the Bible; how little understood! It is what the old monk called the “practice of the presence of God”. It is the habit of prayer. It is the continual communion that not only asks, but receives. It is this that renews our strength until we “mount up with wings as eagles, run and are not weary, walk and are not faint.” Our hearts are too limited to take in His fullness at a single breath. We must live in the atmosphere of His presence till we absorb His very life. This is the secret of spiritual depth and rest, of power and fullness, of love and prayer, of hope and holy usefulness. Wait, I say, on the Lord.

Waiting on the Lord is how my calling to New Orleans was confirmed to me so many years ago. I was zealous for foreign missions. I had built my zeal reading about missionaries like Hudson Taylor, C.T. Studd, Jim Elliot, and David Brainerd. I wanted to make my mark on the nations. As I was preparing to go, the Lord spoke to me by various means all saying the same thing, “Be still and know that I am God”. As I reluctantly waited on clarity from the Lord His direction became crystal clear, I was to return to my home in New Orleans. Yes, I was called as a missionary; a missionary to the city of New Orleans.

CURSE OF PROSPERITY

Lk.15:14-16 – But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.

I often think of the last time I had a private conversation with Dr. David Cho, founder of the great Yoido Full Gospel Christian Church in Seoul, Korea. It was in April of 1994 and Dr. Cho had seen major change in his nation and his church since he pioneered his tent church in 1958. There had been a huge spiritual awakening accompanied by a shocking economic explosion in Korea. What he told me at that breakfast meeting caught me by surprise. He said that prosperity had become a great curse on the Korean Church. What could he possibly mean? Dr. Cho built his church on 3 John 2, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers”. Prosperity had always been a major part of his message. What he had seen in the Korean church was this, their poverty had caused many to call upon the Lord. Their prosperity had masked their need for the Lord and the results was a new spiritual poverty that grew as they prospered financially. This is not new, John Trappe made these same observations in the 1600’s about the curse of prosperity in his comments on the parable of the Prodigal Son.

“And when he had spent everything, and left himself nothing at all except for air to breathe and earth on which to tread, he made his own hands his executors and his own eyes his overseers, swallowing much of his patrimony through his throat and spending the rest on harlots, who left him as bare as crows leave a dead carcass. Ruin follows riot at the heels.”

William Cowper made similar observations in the 1700’s.

“This is seen daily in our unfortunate experience, for human hearts are most empty of thankfulness and their mouths are most filled with blasphemies of God’s name when their stomachs are most filled with God’s benefits. Thus this forlorn son went away from his father just when his father was most beneficial to him and had given him his portion.”

It doesn’t have to be that way. If you are experiencing lack, look to the Lord the source of all our provision. If you are experiencing financial abundance, look to the Lord and acknowledge your total dependence on Him.

IN HIS HAND

Jn10:27,28 – “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.

How could I ever be afraid if this verse is true. Whose hand are we in? According to this verse if I belong to the Lord I am literally in His hand. I am in His hand when things are going well and I am in His hand when my world seems to be falling apart. He has my past, present, and future; after all, they are all the same to Him. Whether it is enemies, trials, or just everyday needs, I am in the hand of the Lord. Jesus was talking to disciples about the resistance of the Pharisees that would soon turn to violent encounters. Jesus was telling His disciples no one could stop the plan of God for their lives, His plans were unstoppable. His plans were sure and their success was guaranteed. Here is how Matthew Henry describes this verse.

“They cannot be kept from their everlasting happiness; it is in reserve, but he that gives it to them will preserve them to it. (a.) His own power is engaged for them: Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. A mighty contest is here supposed about these sheep. The Shepherd is so careful of their welfare that he has them not only within his fold, and under his eye, but in his hand, interested in his special love and taken under his special protection (all his saints are in thy hand, Deut. xxxiii. 3); yet their enemies are so daring that they attempt to pluck them out of his hand—his whose own they are, whose care they are; but they cannot, they shall not, do it. Note, Those are safe who are in the hands of the Lord Jesus. The saints are preserved in Christ Jesus: and their salvation is not in their own keeping, but in the keeping of a Mediator.”

Who can separate us from the love of God. Paul said “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”

Our future is secured, our eternity is purchased, and we are safely tucked away in the hand of the Lord

MANNA

John 6:35 ¶ Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

We were made to live off of God. This is the lesson of communion, God is the very food for our souls. What is really troubling is what we try to fill the hunger of our souls with. It often proves to be nothing that really satisfies. Recently there have been many reports of the suicidal epidemic related to opioid use. There are people from every social group, ethnic group, and age group that are falling prey to drug abuse and actually thousands who have died as a result of overdosing. What would cause someone to resort to such drastic measures? Actually the answer is spiritual; we were made to live off of God. When we look to other things as the source of life and pleasure the results become catastrophic. Man has a basic need for God in his soul, that is the way we were made. Our capacity for happiness is God sized and nothing else can fill that God sized hole. Here is how Jonathan Edwards describes our need for spiritual food.

“This excellency of Jesus Christ is the suitable food of the rational soul. The soul that comes to Christ, feeds upon this, and lives upon it; it is that bread which came down from heaven, of which he that eats shall not die; it is angels’ food, it is that wine and milk that is given without money, and without price. This is that fatness in which the believing soul delights itself; here the longing soul may be satisfied, and the hungry soul may be filled with goodness. The delight and contentment that is to be found here, passeth understanding, and is unspeakable and full of glory. It is impossible for those who have tasted of this fountain, and know the sweetness of it, ever to forsake it. The soul has found the river of water of life, and it desires no other drink; it has found the tree of life, and it desires no other fruit.”

It’s funny that no matter how much man advances his basic need is still the same. We need the Lord. He is our food and our drink. In Him alone we find life and in Him alone will we find peace for our souls.

STRUGGLING WITH THE GOD

Col.1:29 – For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

Paul was all about the anointing. He knew better than anyone the calling on his life could not begin to be accomplished by human effort alone. Paul knew that in order to really touch the world it could only be done by the power of the Holy Spirit. His words were totally saturated with the power of God. How did that happen? Why were Paul’s words different than others? It comes down to the word ‘striving’ in today’s verse. Now this is not talking about striving in the flesh or trying really hard to accomplish something. This is something other than that, something totally different. Paul was describing his agonizing with the Holy Spirit. The picture being painted is like Jacob wrestling with the Angel of the Lord. Paul was engaged in the agony of struggling with God the Holy Ghost. Here is a description of Paul’s struggle from the Life in the Spirit Commentary.

“Paul’s commitment to ministry entailed labor, struggle, and suffering….The noun dynamis is a: “I labor,” says Paul, “struggling according to his energy [or ‘power’] that is at work in me in power [or ‘powerfully’]. Undoubtedly it was this “energy” of Christ powerfully at work in him that gave Paul the strength to carry on in the face of many hardships. In giving testimony to his dependence on this divine enabling, he was merely putting into practice what he had earlier prayed for on behalf of the Colossians. In 1:11 he prayed that they would be “strengthened with all power according to his glorious might” in order to display “great endurance and patience.” It was a dynamis that Paul many times had had to depend on (he refers to it again in Eph. 3:7). And as it was available to him, so it was available to the Colossians and to all other believers and Christian workers who would follow.”

To the natural man this struggle doesn’t make sense. Only the renewed mind can grasp this struggle. Paul knew he needed divine power to accomplish anything. He had discovered the secret to the Christian life, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens (empowers) me”. So no matter what you are facing, look to the struggle for divine power. The striving with God will produce supernatural power in your life.

POWER TO GET WEALTH

Deut.8:18 – And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

Recognizing our dependence on God is the beginning of wisdom. I’ll never forget a breakfast meeting I had with Dr. Cho in 1994. He told me prosperity had become acurse to the church in Seoul. If you know the story of the Korean church you would understand his statement. Dr. Cho’s church had been birthed in poverty in the 1950’s. His message was the goodness and blessing of God. The church exploded and the people prospered. From Dr. Cho’s perspective the people had stopped looking to the Lord in 1994 and had put confidence in themselves. To Him, prosperity had gone from being a blessing to a curse. Today’s verse reminds us that the ability to prosper comes only from the Lord. Here are comments from Matthew Henry and the Adam Clarke on today’s verse.

“Forget not God’s hand in thy present prosperity. Remember it is he that giveth thee wealth; for he giveth thee power to get wealth….. therefore to him we must give the praise and consecrate the use of it.”

“God-giveth thee power to get wealth. Who among the rich and wealthy believes this saying? Who gives wisdom, understanding, skill, bodily strength, and health? Is it not God? And without these, how can wealth be acquired? Whose is providence? Who gives fertility to the earth? And who brings every proper purpose to a right issue? Is it not God? And without these also can wealth be acquired? No. Then the proposition in the text is self-evident: it is God that giveth power to get wealth, and to God the wealthy man must account for the manner in which he has expended the riches which God hath given him.”

The second part of today’s verse is critical in order to keep blessing from becoming a curse to us. We are clearly shown that we are blessed to be a blessing. The Lord is looking for faithful vessels to use as a conduit for the blessing of God to supply resources for His kingdom. We become the channel the Lord uses. What is the outcome? We are blessed, the work of God is funded, and God is glorified by His provision and the grace of liberality in us.

THE SUDDENLYS OF GOD

Acts 2:1,2 ¶ When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.

I have had sudden experiences with the Lord several times in my life. First was my salvation experience. In one sense you could say it took a long time; I had been on a search for the reality of God for about a year when I experienced my first “suddenly”. Christ came into my life on a summer night in 1973, suddenly everything in life began to change. Again in 1994 I had been praying for a visitation of the Spirit for a number of years. Suddenly the wind of God began to blow in our church. One day there was nothing and suddenly all of that changed. The very atmosphere became charged with God as He suddenly appeared in His house. Here is how Dick Mills describes this sudden aspect of our Christian life.

“Suddenly is a word ripe with possibilities of meaning. It has an air of spontaneity about it. In the Bible it is also translated: straightway, immediately, then and there, from that moment on, and in an instant. Suddenly is a word almost exclusive in concept to the Bible. There are not many places on the planet that offer changes that occur suddenly….. In 1890, A. B. Simpson, founder of the Missionary Alliance Church called his message, “The Four – Fold Gospel”. Aimee simple McPherson called it “The Foursquare Gospel”. Salvation is not an inch at a time incident. It very much has the suddenly factor involved in it. The Apostle Paul’s conversion showed us how instantaneous salvation is. Acts 9:3 states, “As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.” He fell to earth as Saul of Tarsus, and rose to his feet as Paul the Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. It happened that quickly.”

One of the foursquare doctrines that Sister Aimee preached was the sudden return of Jesus Christ. Paul said Jesus would appear in an atomic instant, in the twinkling of an eye. The signs of His soon appearing are all around us. Don’t be lulled to sleep by the apparent delay of His return, He will come suddenly, like a thief in the night. Make sure you are not sleeping because everything is about to change.

LOOKING INTO HEAVEN – THE FATHER’S BLESSING

 

Matt. 14:19 Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes.

Have you ever tried to do things on your own without the help of God? Actually that is probably a pretty silly question, all of us have. The problem we run into in doing the Lord’s work is this, our limited human resources could never possibly be enough. At the end of the day, only God can do the work of God. Human effort is never adequate. I have had to learn this lesson the hard way far too many times. One example of this is our production Beyond the Grave. In the early years of our ministry we tried again and again to produce productions. We would work on them for months and use all of our available resources for one or two performances. Church people enjoyed them but the altar calls were meager at best. Then Beyond the Grave Happened. Our first performance was put together at the last minute but the results were shocking. The first performance led to another and another. Many years have come and gone, and Beyond the Grave continues. Many thousands have come to Christ, the results have been staggering. What was the difference between BTG and the earlier productions? The only explanation is the blessing of the Lord. Here is how Watchman Nee describes this phenomenon.
“Five loaves and two fishes proved more than sufficient to feed the five thousand people who followed Him to the desert because He blessed the food; but ten times that amount, or a hundred times, would have been insufficient without His blessing. No matter how many the gifts or how great the power we may be able to produce from our store, the need of the multitudes will not be met by these alone. The blessing of the Lord is the determining factor. When this truth breaks upon us we shall hand over what we have to Him- whether it is two loaves or a hundred – and shall acknowledge: “Lord, it is Thy blessing that matters.” Whether our loaves be few or many is of little consequence. If a man’s hunger is to be satisfied only one thing is needful. That one thing is the blessing of the Lord.”
So here we are; totally dependent on God. When we see it the striving and pressure stops. The blessing of the Lord is more than we could ever need. He is able to incredibly above and beyond all we can ask or think.