Category Archives: Holiness: You shall be perfect

Jesus is coming for a perfect, spotless bride; and until He returns the Holy Spirit seeks to dwell in a Holy place. Holiness is not an optional extra in our walk of discipleship; it is central to Kingdom living, and its fruit is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

By Your Patience Possess Your Soul

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1: 2-4)

Can we honestly say that we welcome the trails that come our way? Do we say: “What an amazing trial I am going through! I am so looking forward to what the Lord is going to do in me through it! Thank you, Lord! Bring it on!” Because that is the attitude that James is exhorting us to take on, right at the outset of his letter. And just in case we want to file those verses for later reference, the Holy Spirit gives us another reminder in 1 Peter:

 “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,  (1 Pe 1: 6-7)”

Trials are not a popular subject – we prefer healing, grace, faith; in fact anything that focuses on the blessings of our inheritance rather than the hardship of the cross.  Resurrection trumps death every time. But the New Testament is peppered with expressions of the joy felt by the early church as they lived under the hammer of persecution, and the inescapable logic of James’s statement is that, through the development of the fruit of patience in  our lives, we become people who “lack nothing” as a direct result of the trials that we undergo. So do you want to be perfect and complete? Do you want to lack nothing? The good news is that the perfect work of patience that will bring that about. The bad news is that you need to “fall into various trials” for it to happen.

“Isn’t there an easier way?” I hear. “Can’t I just receive this perfection by faith? Can’t I just be imbued with the perfection of Jesus as I spend time in His presence?”

Unfortunately that is not what my Bible says. Yes, we must spend time in His presence, and yes, we receive our inheritance by faith, but it appears from Scripture that the development of a Christ-like character can only come about one way, and that is when patience is forged in the crucible of our trials. Jesus set the pattern himself when, speaking prophetically about the persecution coming on the church He said: “”By your patience possess your souls.” (Luke 21:19) He gave us the extreme example of patience when, “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame…” (Heb 12:2) The word  (Greek “hypomonē ,”also translated as endurance and perseverence) used as a verb here by the writer to the Hebrews is the same as that is used by James, when talking about the “perfect work” of patience; and by Jesus when he tells us how to  “Possess or souls.” Patience certainly had its perfect work in Him, and because He endured the cross and sat down at the right hand of the Father we too can possess our souls and be seated there with Him.

What have You done?
How can we relate this to our own trials? If you are reading this article you are almost certainly not facing life-threatening persecution, unlike James and Peter. You are not about to be crucified for the sins of the world. But I think that we can find a useful lesson if we look at the actual trial of Jesus before Pilate. The person who sat in the Judgement seat was in the position of the “prince of this world” in terms of worldly authority over the man Jesus. As we know, Jesus referred to Satan as the prince of this world in John 14:30. Here is the exchange between Jesus and Pilate as recorded in John 18:35-36, when Jesus Christ stood before His worldly judge and was challenged to give an account of Himself:

“What have You done?” (asked Pilate)
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here. Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”
(John 18: 35-36)

When we face judgement and we feel that we have done nothing wrong, what are the thoughts that we are likely to give voice to? “It wasn’t me/my fault!” “I didn’t touch it!” “Well, you said…” And so on. We all know the script, and we know the sense of indignation and hurt that goes with the injustice of false accusation and blame. But not so Jesus. For the joy set before Him and through His absolute confidence in His identity and His mission, he endured not only the temptation to justify Himself, but also all the mocking, the slaps and the scourging that he suffered even before walking the final path to Calvary; and He spoke only of His Kingdom and its eternal truth. Patience had its perfect work in Him, and He possessed not only His own soul but yours and mine for eternity.

Peter expressed it like this:

“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps “Who committed no sin,
Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.”
(1 Pe 2: 21-24)

It is likely that Peter wrote this letter, and the second one, when he was living in Rome under Nero, not long before his death. Just a few verses earlier, he said: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men…” (1 Pe 2: 13-15) Peter was submitting himself to the ordinances of Nero. This is New Testament patience: the mindset of a man totally sold out to the Kingdom of God.

We do of course face many and varied trials in this life. We are promised persecutions. Illness, poverty, injustice, pain – these are all realities, and in all of them it can be said that when Christians succeed in keeping their hypomonē through them Jesus is glorified, as Peter writes in the second of the opening scriptures. But the trials I am thinking about are not physical hardships, but the emotional trials we can face on a daily basis where our minds are buffeted by negative, defensive reactions to the comments of other people – often loved ones. These may seem insignificant when compared to the trials of cancer or the prospect of martyrdom, but they are part of the very fabric of our relationships; and if part of the preparation of the spotless bride of Christ is for us to be in unity before He comes back for us, we need to deal with it.

Trial by argument

Jesus’s mission was to bring the victory of Love into the world through the cross. When He was on trial His choice was to defend Himself or hold onto His mission. When we are on trial, and the voices that come from the prince of this world are goading us to defend ourselves, we too can make the choice that Jesus made: we can remember that we belong to a kingdom that is not of this world and choose our mission of unity and love over our protestations of innocence. The Lord is our strong tower: if we can hold onto the author and finisher of our faith instead of fighting our corner, we will eventually see His love prevail – because it always does – and patience will have its perfect work.

Love always builds. Love does not focus on self, but on the other. There can be many times in a trial by argument when we know that what we are saying is true; but unless we speak that truth in love the words will be destructive, because the enemy will twist them into a weapon of attack for his own purposes. What is truth? Truth spoken in defensiveness only serves to puff up self, and self will always fall sooner or later; whereas truth spoken in love is what causes us to “grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.” More than anything, this is what we all want. We know it in our spirits, but it is hidden from our flesh. So if we want to possess our soul we need to listen to the quiet voice speaking into our spirit and ignore the loud ”defend yourself!” clamour of the flesh. We have got used to weddings being postponed because of Covid; we don’t want ours to be put off because of our discord.

The Leaven of the New Creation

The DNA of the Kingdom of God

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.” (Gal 5:6)

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.” (Gal 6:15)

When we preach Christ, we preach the new creation. When we receive Him, it is the New Creation that we step into. Jesus is King of the New Creation: in His Kingdom, all things are made new. On his first missionary journey, Paul had preached the gospel to the Galatians, and now the “Judaizers” were trying to lead them away from the Life of the Spirit and back under the law. This was the first of Paul’s epistles, and his message rings clear: the life that is ours in Christ comes by the Spirit, and not by the law. Paul stresses that there is just one characteristic, ‘the only thing that avails,’ in the New Creation, and that is faith working through love. This is the hallmark of their new life in Christ. “Faith working through love” is the very DNA of the Kingdom of God.

In the shortest parable that He gave, Jesus said:  “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” (Matt 13:33) In the Kingdom of God, the New Man is charged with the same command as was the first Adam: “Go forth and multiply.” We are instructed to go into all the world and make disciples, multiplying this Kingdom that we are part of, as disciples make disciples and pass on the DNA of the new creation until, like the stone that destroys the kingdoms of the world, it becomes “a great mountain and filled the whole Earth” (Daniel 2: 35). The Kingdom of God is like yeast, because yeast multiplies. The yeast that multiplies – this DNA of the Kingdom – is faith working through love.

The writer to the Hebrews tells us that “The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) The book where I think we can see the Word of God dividing between soul and spirit more than anywhere else in the New Testament is the letter of James, the brother of Jesus and one of the “pillars” of the Jerusalem church. James “divides” heavenly and earthly wisdom, wealth and poverty, trials and perseverance, sensual and spiritual prayer requests, empty faith and fruitful faith, the untamed tongue and “perfect” speech, pride and humility, judgement and grace. He lays out clearly the blueprint of the Kingdom of God, where faith flourishes in the context of a loving, Christ-centred lifestyle, and he succinctly wraps it up in a single verse: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16) The “works” of faith that are central to James’s message (James 2:18) are both the supernatural results of Elijah-style prayer that this verse refers to, and the grace-filled lifestyle of the “righteous man” who prays them – faith at work in a setting of love.

James makes it clear that a fruitful Christian life requires full commitment to the Kingdom of God, because a “double-minded man” is “unstable in all his ways” and will “receive nothing from the Lord.” (James 1:8). His epistle progresses from portraying various characteristics of the “carnal Christian” whose faith is fruitless, to the picture of Elijah, who “was a man with a nature like ours” and whose faith both stopped and started the rain. In the new creation, where faith works through love, the prayer of faith raises up the sick person, the hungry are fed, and the needs of “widows and orphans” are met.  Elijah is praying in faith, and people are being loved.

The goal of discipleship, as expressed by Paul to Timothy, is “that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” This is a recurring theme in the New Testament, revisited from different angles. Paul prays that the Ephesians will be “filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:19). James exhorts his readers to “let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:4) Paul prays that the Corinthians “may be made complete” (2 Cor 13:9), and his final exhortation to them is, again, “Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete…” (2 Cor 13:11) He tells the Colossians that “Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” (Col 4:12) The writer to the Hebrews prays that his readers “may be made complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. ”

Finally, Jesus tells us “therefore be perfect, just as your father in heaven is perfect” (Matt 5:48). Throughout the epistles, the Holy Spirit takes these words of Jesus and makes them known to us (John 16:14) so that we can see the goal of His discipleship programme. If the Kingdom of Heaven is like leaven, then faith working through love should be multiplying “perfect”, “complete” believers in our churches, as double-minded, carnal, babes in Christ learn to “crucify the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal 5:24)

This is the trajectory of discipleship: the babe in Christ who walks after the flesh becomes complete, like Elijah, and walks after the Spirit, as the DNA of the Kingdom multiplies in his or her heart. It is the bottom line of what it means to make disciples. It is what God will be seeking to restore in the church when He pours our His Spirit in the coming revival. He has been seeking it since Pentecost.

Paul said to Timothy: “Those things you heard from me, commit to faithful men who are able to teach others also.” (2 Tim 2:2.) In one verse, we see the leaven of the Kingdom multiplying three times: from Paul to Timothy; from Timothy to “faithful men,” and from those faithful men to “others also.” I see three questions arising out of this scripture:

  1. Are we training up “Timothys?”
  2. If we are, are they hearing from us the same things as Timothy heard from Paul?  
  3. Does our church model promote multiplication of that leaven as far as the “others also,” who will in turn eventually be reaching Timothys of their own?

The new wine is coming, so that as we drink of it the double-minded babe can become, like Timothy, the complete Elijah. He has poured it out many times before, and every time it has stayed around for a little while, then the wineskin has broken and the wine has drained away. If the next revival is going to be different, it won’t be the wine that has changed; it will be because the wineskins don’t break.

We’ve all had a chance over the last year to inspect our wineskins. Have we got the new ones ready? Or are we going to ask God, yet again, to pour the new wine into our old wineskins? Because we know what will happen if we do.

The Cygnet and the Broken Egg (A prophesy)

I was talking recently to someone who has been prominent in leading worship since the early days of charismatic renewal. He was telling me about a time when he watched a cygnet breaking out of and egg. I felt at the time that the Lord was saying “this is prophetic.” The next day I found myself reading the account of Josiah’s temple reforms in 2 Chronicles 34-35.  I believe the Holy Spirit has given me the following, that connects the two.

The Cygnet has broken out of the eggshell. At the moment she is small and vulnerable, but she will grow, for this is the beginning, the birth, of the one that will become the White Swan, the spotless bride of Christ. As the world systems are breaking she Is emerging from all that has kept her concealed: secularism, tradition, and religion. But now the egg has broken and its supply is exhausted, and she will feed on the Lord: Jehovah Jireh will be her source. She is not yet recognisable as the one that she will become, but as she grows she will take on more and more of the characteristics of the beautiful White Swan.

It is the sound of worship that has broken her shell, and it is the sound of worship that is the atmosphere in which she will grow and mature. As King Josiah restored the true temple worship in his day, so the Lord is restoring true worship in His temple now, free of all that has contained it. And as Josiah’s restoration of true worship was followed by the greatest Passover that had ever been known in Jerusalem in all the days of the kings, so the greatest Passover ever known among men will follow this time of restoration as the young Swan emerges. For it will be a true Passover: while those in the temple rejoice and celebrate under the covering of the blood of the lamb, those outside will know only the devastation of the broken shell left by the collapse of world systems. They will run around, picking up pieces of broken eggshell, saying “Is this what we cling to? Or is that piece over there what we cling to?“ while those in the temple celebrate in the presence of the One that they cling to, Jesus, the rock that is higher than them all. And just as the priests in the time of Josiah took their places at the altar where they were busy until night, meeting the needs of the many people bringing their sacrifice; so it is time for the priests of the Lord today to take up their positions, ready for the many that will come to the temple from miles around.

And so the Cygnet will grow in the house of worship until the white swan, the bride, is revealed.

“So the service was prepared, and the priests stood in their places, and the Levites in their divisions, according to the king’s command.”  (2 Chron 35:10)

Entering the Land 3: Gilgal (Teaching)

We are the new generation, and we are camped between the Jordan and the Promised Land. We have not been this way before. Some of us feel we have been here a long time, waiting for everyone else to catch up; others are just arriving. Ahead of us we see the promise of many prophetic words for this coming season being fulfilled. But as we look into the promised land we see the walls of an enemy stronghold before us. Each of us is facing a wall: it may be in our ministry; it may be in our personal lives; it may be the strongholds we are seeing in the nations, and it may be any combination of these. But the Lord says: “Because you are seeing Jericho, it means you are about to enter the Land.”

And we ask: “Lord, how?”

And He answers: “Gilgal. I will roll away your reproach as I did at Gilgal. Make yourselves vulnerable Me, and rest in my presence. And then in that place of peace I will bring you my word, and you will move out on my word to enter the land with a trumpet sound and a shout of victory, and you will see the walls of the stronghold collapse. Where is your reproach? I will roll it away. What stronghold do you face? You will see its walls collapse.”

And some of us might say: “Lord, I’ve been staring at that stronghold for years, even for all of my life. How come I’ve never yet seen the victory in this?”

And He replies: “Because only now are you at Gilgal. But you need to take off your shoes, for you stand on holy ground.”

Whatever shoes we have worn to take us to this point must be removed: from here we move forward in the holiness and the beauty of His presence. When that stronghold collapses it’s because of the unassailable victory of the cross. It is not about us, it’s about Jesus. And if it’s taken us most of our lives for him to get the glory, that’s fine, because that is our purpose and the point of our lives. It doesn’t matter how long it’s taken to get to this point: it’s the glory of the cross that counts.

Entering the Land (teaching)

(Adapted from my new book, “Two Seconds to Midnight,” scheduled for publication in the Spring.)

Many of us believe that a season of harvest is coming soon, and that it will be greater than anything that the church has yet experienced; that we are about to enter a “promised land” of revival. We read about God’s people entering the Promised Land in the book of Joshua, and the principles that we see there speak to us today. If we pick up the story at the beginning of Joshua 5, we can find four main points: the men were circumcised; they celebrated Passover; they ate unleavened bread; Joshua worshipped the Lord and took his instructions from Him.

Circumcision
When they had all crossed the Jordan and set up camp at Gilgal, the Lord commanded Joshua to make flint knives and circumcise all the men of Israel: all those old enough to bear arms had died in the wilderness, and the new generation had not been circumcised with the sign of their covenant relationship with God. When this had been accomplished, God said to the Israelites through Moses: “This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” (Jos 5:9) The reproach of Egypt was the yoke of slavery that they had been under: now, through this act of consecration to the Lord, this yoke was broken.

Under the new covenant, we, the Church, are that new generation, born not of the flesh and the will of man, but of the Spirit of God (John 1:13). Each one of us is a new creation. There is a Land of Promise waiting which the “faithless and perverse generation” of the flesh cannot enter. but there will be another Jericho facing us as we come up against the godless systems of the world.

Paul reminds us (Romans 2: 29) that  “he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter.” To face the end-time Jericho we will need hearts that are totally open and yielded to the Lord. It’s easy to gloss over the use of the word “heart” in this sort of context. But if, in biblical terminology, the heart is the seat of the emotions, this is exactly what must be yielded to the Lord. It is so often our unyielded emotions that cause damage and disunity, and consequently defeat; whereas it is the unity that commands the blessing, as we well know. Only with “circumcised hearts” can we be free of all that ties us into the old, binding us to the yoke of slavery to sin, and be free to take the yoke of Jesus and rise up in the spirit.

Passover
The second heading is Passover. There is only one way to be yoked to Jesus Christ, and that is under the power of His blood. I believe that the Church needs a restored understanding of the power of the blood, and especially of the truth that “the life is in the blood.” Whenever we take communion as Jesus commanded us to do “in remembrance of Him,” we reaffirm not only the covering of the blood and all that it means in terms of forgiveness of sin and shelter from its consequences, but we affirm also the life of the Spirit that courses through it in our renewed hearts.
After Passover comes Pentecost. Our preparation for an end-time outpouring has to be a season of Passover. Many Christians the world over have felt that coronavirus lockdown has been, and still is, a taste of that season, shut off from the world and reaching out for the protection of the blood of the Lamb. We know that many Christians, sadly, have not survived the virus; but we also know that there are many testimonies of genuine divine healing that were granted through the power of the Blood.

Unleavened bread
The deeper significance of unleavened bread has always been a bit of a mystery to me. I’ve always felt that there is more to it than it being a reminder of leaving Egypt without having time for the bread to rise. Jesus talked about the “leaven of the pharisees,” for example, when He was warning the disciples to keep away from their deceptive doctrines; and it is a positive symbol in the parable of the leaven, which is probably (I haven’t done a word-count) the shortest parable in the New Testament. So what might be the symbolism in its Old Testament usage?

Just the other day the Holy Spirit gave me my personal revelation. This may not be the same for you, and I’m not saying it is what He has breathed into the scriptural significance of unleavened bread for everyone to receive, but the following is what He gave me. A negative reaction to something was rising up in my soul. The Lord said to me: “That thing rising up in you is leaven. Get rid of it.” Having “circumcised our hearts” we need to keep them soft.  Paul writes: “For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.” (1 Cor 10:17). To move forward into our Promised Land we need to deal with any leaven in our souls that causes us to rise up emotionally and undo the work of the cross in our lives. The children of Israel “ate of the produce of the land on the day after the Passover, unleavened bread and parched grain, on the very same day.”  The grain of our land consists of the seeds of truth sown into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, and these are what we must feed on as we advance. We cannot arise in the spirit if we let negative emotions rise up in our souls: the best way to keep unleavened our corner of  the “one bread” that we are part of, is to make sure that we are feeding on the truth.

Worship in Holiness
And so, with hearts soft and sensitive to God, covered in and fully grasping the power of the blood of Jesus, and feeding on the living truth of His Word instead of the leaven of our emotions as our spirits are filled with His, we come into the Holy Ground where the Commander of the Lord’s Army is standing, and we worship Him. In this place, we can say, like Joshua, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” (Jos 5:14). And His commands to us will be of the same order as His words to Joshua: first, respond to His Holiness (Take off your shoes), and only then move in to defeat the enemy.

Prepare the Way of the Lord

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the LORD;
Make straight in the desert 
A highway for our God.

Every valley shall be exalted
And every mountain and hill brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough places smooth;

The glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
And all flesh shall see it together;
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’”
(Isaiah 40: 3-5)

Scripture is clear about where the glory of the Lord shall be revealed: “Unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever;” (Eph 3:21) or as Jesus Himself puts it: “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (John 17: 22-23)

However, the highway by which He chooses to come is by way of the desert. The world is becoming more like a desert on a daily basis, but it is precisely when the world is in a desert place that His glory will be revealed in the church,  and “all flesh” will see it. Luke quotes Isaiah to declare four areas in which the Holy Spirit will “prepare the way” while this is happening and before the world sees the Glory of the Lord.

Every valley shall be exalted.

Luke renders this as “every valley shall be filled,” when he quotes the prophet in Luke 3:5. What are our valleys? When we lose sight of the place that we have been lifted to; whenever our souls are cast down; when the Victory of the cross is on the far side of the mountains – these are that the Lord is going to fill. A particular valley we read about in Scripture is the valley of Achor, where Achan and all his family were executed for keeping back some of the plunder from Jericho. It’s the place of judgement, condemnation and death. It’s where the accuser will always seek to bring us. However there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), so Isaiah 65:10 says:

Sharon shall be a fold of flocks,
And the Valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down,
For My people who have sought Me.”

And Hosea writes:

“I will give her her vineyards from there,
And the Valley of Achor as a door of hope;
She shall sing there,
As in the days of her youth,
As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.”
(Hosea 2:15)

In Christ, the valley of condemnation becomes the place of peace, hope, and the joy of our salvation. If we bring our valleys to the Lord, He will “exalt” them as He lifts us again, and He will fill them with His presence as we praise Him for our deliverance from bondage.

Every mountain and hill shall be brought low

Just as the Holy Spirit can’t “prepare the way of the Lord” until He has dealt with our valleys, we also need Him to deal with our peaks – our mountains and hills.

Proverbs 29:23 tells us exactly what our peaks are: “A man’s pride will bring him low.” When Mary magnifies he Lord, she says

He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.”
(Luke 1 51-52)

These and many other scriptures make it clear that the Lord will deal with any areas where we seek to exalt ourselves before His glory will fill our lives. The flesh wants to promote itself, protect itself, control and be noticed; the Spirit seeks only to Glorify God, love and serve. Our example of course is Jesus, who “humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:8)  If the Glory of the Lord is going to come in, there can be no peaks in the way. They have to die with Jesus on the cross.

The crooked places shall be made straight

Jesus calls The Holy Spirit “The Spirit of Truth,” and He Himself is, of course, the Truth. When Jesus saw Nathaniel coming towards Him, He said: ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!’ (John 1:47). Revelation 21:8 says categorically that “all liars” are destined for the lake of fire. Satan is the “Father of Lies,” the creator of crooked places. The Spirit of Truth will come and purge every tendency to conceal the truth. Where we have believed a lie, He will reveal it; and where we have let others believe a lie He will bring us to repentance. Wherever the father of lies has brought his distortions into our lives, the Holy Spirit will make those crooked places straight, so that we can all, like Nathaniel, be “Israelites indeed.”

And the rough places smooth

What are our “rough places?” Where are we abrasive? Are we gentle in our dealings with others? Are our relationships made smooth by the fruit of the Spirit being manifest in our lives, or do we have rough places here people are hurt or damaged if they bump into us? If Christ is going to fill our lives with the glory of God, these rough places need to be confessed and submitted to Him. If people have been hurt by them we need to repent and seek their forgiveness. We cannot be rough with one another and love one another at the same time.

The Glory of God will fill the Church when He has dealt with judgement and pride in our lives and has made us pure conduits of truth and love.  When that happens “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:6)

Sweep the Floor (2)

We have a large paved patio which I look out on when I am having my prayer time. I was thinking again about sweeping the floor to prepare for the Lord to come and fill it with his presence (see earlier post: “Sweep the Floor“); and then I was in the spirit, trying to sweep the patio outside. But there were lots of little bits of straw lying around: I was trying to sweep them up but they got caught in the cracks between the paving stones and got stuck on the bristles of the broom. No matter how hard I tried I could not sweep the bits of straw out from between the paving stones. Then the Lord said to me: “You will never sweep the straw out from between the stones. You need a complete new surface.“ And He reminded me of the floor around the throne that Ezekiel and John saw, like a sea of glass. He said: “You need a floor like this, where every single strand of straw stands out, where you hate to see it, and where you can sweep it away immediately and with ease. It’s the floor that I laid down for you by my blood. It’s the floor of grace and forgiveness. There is no other foundation.

But where there is division in my church rubbish will always gather, and your broom cannot sweep it away no matter how hard you try. In many places the floor of my church is like that patio, with lots of individual paving stones, marked by division and unforgiveness where the rubbish gathers. But my mixer lorry is ready. It is just outside, with the engine running, waiting to pour out a new floor of grace and forgiveness in your lives and in your churches that will shine with the beauty of holiness. You will not even need a broom to keep it clean: if you see any little bits of rubbish you will just bend down to pick them up, because you will say “that doesn’t belong here!” You will love one another and prefer one another, and then you will see me in your midst and the world will see my glory, because you will be gathered in my name.

God’s Building Materials

Are we building with God’s materials, or ours?

Jesus has called us to join Him in the work of building His Kingdom. The question is: do we build with His materials, or ours?

We walk by faith and not by sight. If we aren’t walking “after the Spirit,” we are walking after the flesh (Galatians 5:16), and since the flesh and the Spirit “are contrary to one another” (Gal 5:17), we have no choice but to ensure that we only build with what comes to us from above. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights.” (James 1:17) Like snow…

The snow is beautiful, and it comes down from above. it’s also inconvenient: it stops us from doing many of the things that we normally do. In addition it is good for the soil, as it kills off a lot of unwanted pests and therefore makes the ground more fruitful. Finally, it’s fun to play in: if we wear the right clothes we can enjoy it and we can build with it. Holiness is like the snow: it comes from above, and it is beautiful; but it also stops us from doing some of the things that we would otherwise do. God wants us to draw near to Him and worship Him in the beauty of holiness. He wants us to enjoy His presence, dressed in our robes of righteousness, and to stop doing some of the things that we habitually do. He wants to kill off some of the pests in our soil, so it becomes more fertile for growing the fruit of the Spirit. If we will do this we will be equipped to do what He is longing for, which is to bring in many more people so that they too can play, and build, in the snow.

Away in a Manger

“O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you?” (Luke 9: 41)

If you have been fortunate enough to have done some international travel, you will probably have experienced a bit of culture shock when moving between different cultural norms. Attitudes to considerations such as punctuality, work ethic, loyalty, hospitality, debt and much more can vary between nations, and can be quite difficult to adjust to while we are away from home. But while the tinsel of “civilized behaviour” can be draped across – or pulled off – any number of different practices depending on where they are performed, the common strands of acceptability are still enough to enable, say, an American Indian, an English nobleman, and an Maori tribesman to recognise and accept each other as members of the Human family. Moving between them might be a bit awkward at times, but the obstacles aren’t insurmountable. However there are two societies where the gulf between the cultures  is so enormous that the consequence is all-out war, and that is the culture of Heaven and the culture of the world.

Jesus said: “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.” (John 8:23). He refers a few times to “this generation,” notably in Matthew 24:34, when He is talking about the events of the last days: “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” The word used in Greek is just ‘what it says on the tin’ – a line of descent from common ancestry. There are differing interpretations of the text, but  I think that the “generation” that Jesus refers to is, quite simply, the generation of Adam that is born of the flesh. It is the generation that will finally pass away when He ”makes all things new.” Until then, there are two generations in the world: the generation of the first Adam, born from below; and the generation of the second Adam, born (again) from above, born of the Spirit, alive in Christ. Faith is from Above. It can only be received and exercised in the Spirit, which is why the generation of the first Adam is faithless. The Greek word diastrepho, translated as “perverse,” means diverted from the right path and specifically opposing the saving plan and purposes of God. The flesh has been perverse since the first Adam perverted it in the garden of Eden.

God said “Let there be…” and there was. The universe was created by the Word of God (Hebrews 11:3), and that word became flesh in the Incarnation. The Son of Man Himself is the perfect and complete expression of faith. The faith by which Love of God brings creation and its redemption into existence is the very atmosphere of Heaven. Jesus left that atmosphere behind to dwell among us, in a culture that was totally and fundamentally in opposition to everything that He was. When we consider the lowly conditions of the Lord’s birth we traditionally see a great disparity between the surroundings that one would expect for the baby King of Kings and the environment of the stable. But the distance between these two extremes is just a pinprick when compared with the great gulf that exists between the world “below” and the world “above.” It wouldn’t be surprising if there were times when all He wanted was to go back home.

What about us? We are born from Above; we are no longer “of the world” any more than He is (John 17:16). In Christ, we have “places to walk” among those who stand in the courts of Heaven, (Zech 3:7) where we are also seated. (Eph 2:6) As descendants of the second Adam, we are also “conformed to His image” (Romans 8:29) and therefore restored to the image of God as we were originally created. Spiritual things can only be spiritually discerned, yet we so often fall into the snare of trying to understand our spiritual heritage through the clouded eyes of the flesh, and grapple with the impossibility of trying to reconcile our self-image as creatures of this earth (below) with the idea of our inheritance in Heavenly places (above). But as I wrote in my last article (we shall be like Him), not only will we be like Him when He returns, but we already are like Him in the Spirit.

As I have quoted in that article, John writes: we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2). The apostle goes on to say this, in verse three: “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:3). I strongly believe that Jesus is calling His bride today to purify herself. Do we settle for the norms of the “faithless and perverse generation” that we live among? Or are we straining our spiritual lungs to breathe in the pure atmosphere of faith, in which the Word of God can bring about the purposes of Heaven? Do we seek the Kingdom of God above all else? Are our lives an incarnation of Love? Do we hunger for the bread of Heaven? Do we thirst for the living water of the Holy Spirit and cry out with the sons of Korah:

“As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God
?  (Psalm 42:1-2)

I wonder how many times Jesus prayed these verses Himself when He was alone on the mountain with His Father.

We are no longer of “this generation” because we have been born from Above, but we dwell among those who are, with the King’s work to do, for as long as the King wants to keep us on Earth. So as long as we remain here, let’s remember who we are and where we come from; because until we leave this tent for our permanent residence we too are away in a manger.

We Shall Be Like Him

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2) 

I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands,… and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band… And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” (Rev 1: 12, 13, 17, 18)

John, the author of the Book of Revelation, was the “disciple that Jesus loved.” He was the one who rested his head on the chest of Jesus at the last supper; he walked with Him for three years; he saw Him on the cross, he saw Him after the resurrection, he saw Him ascend to Heaven and he even saw Him transfigured on the mountain. What John saw on those occasions was the Son of Man in a form that his eyes could behold and his brain could – at least to a degree at the transfiguration – comprehend. And then John saw Him again, on the Isle of Patmos. He saw the same Jesus, but with His glory undimmed, and he fell at His feet “as one dead.” Whether or not he recognised the Jesus that he had seen on the Earth is not clear, but what is clear is that he responds to Him on an entirely different level.

I think it’s clear that John saw the glorified Jesus “as He is” while he was in the Spirit on Patmos. When Jesus went from Earth to Heaven he went in his earthly form; but when He comes from Heaven to Earth we can expect Him to be much as He appeared to John on Patmos: “One like the Son of Man.” John’s vision gives us an image of the Risen Lord in His heavenly glory, and his epistle tells us that when He returns we will be like Him too. So we read these verses, and look forward in our minds to the time in the future when they are fulfilled. Maybe we dwell for a few moments on the thought that one day ‘we will be like Jesus,’ then move on in our devotions or whatever we are doing. But do we ever think of ourselves as being like Him now?

Yet we, His brothers and sisters, are seated with Him in heavenly places. What are we wearing as spiritual beings in the courts of Heaven? Jeans and jumpers? Or maybe we too have shining robes and sashes of gold round our chests. Do we have bad hair and tired eyes? Or do we too have hair as white as wool and eyes as flames of fire? John says clearly that “we will be like Him” when Jesus returns, and Paul uses similar language when he looks forward to that long-awaited time: “The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” (Romans 8:19)  What seems inescapable to me is that what we will be on Earth then – when “this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality-” (1 Cor 15:53) is what our immortal spirits are in heavenly places now. Like actors on a stage waiting for the curtain to be pulled back, the children of God – you and I – who will be “revealed” when Jesus returns are already seated in heavenly places today, waiting for the time to come when we will reign with Him on Earth. (Rev 5:10)

If we are praying in the Spirit, worshipping in the Spirit, and walking in the Spirit, we need to see ourselves in the Spirit as well. We talk and teach about knowing “who we are in Christ,” and being clothed in “robes of righteousness,” so when we see our spirit selves in the heavenly mirror of the Word of God, what is the image that we behold? Our spiritual DNA is the same as the Christ who revealed Himself to John. He is our brother. We have the same Father. Is it too fanciful to believe that in Heavenly places, where our immortal spirits, “the spirits of the righteous made perfect” (Heb 12:23) by His blood, are seated with Him, serving as kings and priests to our God (Rev 1:6) we may have similar eyes as well?

We have His name. We have His Spirit. We have His word. It’s time we looked at Jesus as He is now and recognised ourselves in Him, because I think that many of us would fall on our faces, just as John did before our older brother, if we saw with the eyes of the flesh who we really are in the Spirit. But once we had told ourselves not to be afraid because we too were dead – we died with Christ – and now  we are alive for evermore, we would be much less troubled by the temptations and trials of this passing mortal realm, and our faith would be on another level.

“Awake, awake!
Put on your strength, O Zion;
Put on your beautiful garments,
O Jerusalem, the holy city!
(Isaiah 52:1)