Tag Archives: Be holy as I am holy

Holiness is not an optional extra for the fruitful Christian; it is a requirement. It cannot be achieved in the flesh, but is an attribute of life in the Spirit.

Ready to give a defense…

When we are talking about sharing our faith, we often quote the apostle Peter, who wrote “Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” (From 1 Peter 3:15). Many people who don’t know the peace and blessings of knowing the love of Jesus Christ have been turned off Him by well-meaning Christians who have been so focussed on the first part of this scripture that they have ignored the second: they have been given the reasons why it’s so good to know Jesus without ever having asked for them. Peter is basically saying that we should always be ready to answer questions about our faith to everyone who asks them. The challenge here, as I see it, is not so much having reasons that answer the questions that people ask, but to give people a reason to ask the questions. If they don’t ask the questions, they aren’t ready for the answers. If the hope that is in us isn’t evident to the people we are with, why should they be asking about it?

The fact is, that we tend to only quote half of the scripture. The full verse is this: “But sanctify the Lord God  in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15) Being ready with answers to questions about our faith goes alongside a mindset of holiness (having the Lord God “sanctified” in our hearts) and an attitude of meekness towards others and reverent fear towards the God who has commissioned us with this task.

I am not the greatest living example of these attitudes, but I do have a story of one occasion (there aren’t many…)  where I definitely had “sanctified the Lord God in my heart,” and as a result was asked a question about my faith which led to an opportunity to minister to some strangers. I have written about it in “Two Seconds to Midnight,” so if you have read the book you will recognise it. Here’s the extract:

“I sat down to start this chapter on January 4th; my eldest daughter Shelley, her husband and their three children had gone home two days earlier after spending ten days with us. Lisa, our middle daughter, her husband and their two-year-old were also with us for three days over Christmas. So the holiday was noisy and messy, with lots of clearing and washing up, governed very much by the routines of the children and punctuated by the sound of their unwillingness (the older ones anyway) to comply with them. Now I love my family, and Anne loves to be surrounded by them; but I also like to spend time in quiet solitude, reading, writing, birdwatching, doing photography or listening to music. As you can imagine, there is a clash of interests here, and I have to confess that at times in the past I have let my irritation at the level of mayhem in the house when my grandchildren are roaring around get the better of me. So I had really been asking the Lord to help me, and particularly to give me wisdom throughout the day if any tensions or difficulties arose, so that I didn’t get bad-tempered and spoil the atmosphere for everyone else.

In my morning quiet time I had been reading through the gospel of Matthew. About a week earlier I had been struck by Jesus’s words to a would-be follower: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest His head” (Matthew 8:20). The Holy Spirit showed me that as soon as things got noisy I was looking for somewhere to “rest my head”, but that this wasn’t an option for me any more than it was an option for Jesus. Instead I was to seek His peace, which as we know is “not as the world gives” (John 14:27). This verse became a great support for me in the ensuing days, and when the family had gone Anne remarked how well I had coped with everything, and (although she didn’t specifically use the word) how much more pleasant I had been on this visit than on some previous occasions. God had sent me His word as I spent time with Him reading through Matthew, and it had been living and active through my circumstances, bringing His peace into my spirit when my flesh could find no rest:  “Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace.” (Prov 3:17)

But the story doesn’t end there. Anne had seen some furniture on eBay that was perfect for her plans to do some redecorating in our living room. The complication was that it was in London, and I would need to drive our company van (not my favourite driving experience) down to pick it up – three hours each way. In addition, it became clear that I needed to go immediately. It was the weekend, and I had planned to spend it recovering from the busy week before going back to work on Monday. But after Anne and I had discussed it, I was able to give the whole thing to the Lord, and I had an assurance that it was right to go. I felt a real peace about the trip which dispelled all my anxieties (I drive an automatic and the van is manual; I was worried about driving the big van through London streets; I was worried about getting too tired to drive safely, etc.), and I even started to look forward to it. A total turnaround.

Bear in mind here that I had been reading, thinking and praying about God’s peace for this chapter of the book. The furniture (it was a three-piece suite) was being sold by a Greek family. I spent six months in Greece in my backpacking days before I met Anne and had learnt to speak it fairly competently, so it was a touching point that I was able to say a few words to them in their language. Soon we were sitting down and drinking tea in the kitchen. One of the first things that the man I had been dealing with (I’ll call him John) said was how much more peaceful I seemed than other people. (Interesting, I thought. “My peace I leave you . . .”) We chatted a little more, and soon they were telling me how John’s sister had died suddenly, aged 21, less than two years ago. The mother – I don’t know her name, so I’ll call her Mama – was fighting to hold back tears as she talked. I told them about our baby Miranda who died at ten weeks. I began to feel that this visit was not just about a three-piece suite. Then Mama said something really unexpected. She said, “As soon as you came in, I saw that there was something about you, and I got goose-bumps all down my arm!” John then repeated to Mama what he had said to me earlier about the peace that he saw on me. I explained that what they felt was the presence of the Holy Spirit, and soon I was praying with them, asking the Lord to comfort them in their grief, and that they would know His presence. Then I was on my way home.” (Adapted from Two Seconds to Midnight by Bob Hext, Malcolm Down Publishing)

The chapter goes on to develop other points, but I think this is a helpful real-life example of 1 Peter 3:15 in action. Because I had sought God to put my heart right in an area where I knew my behaviour could easily become ungodly, the light of sanctification that shone in me as I submitted to the word of God also shone out of me onto other people.  I’m not aware of any other occasions when the presence of the Holy Spirit on me has given anyone goose-bumps, but one is a start… The point is this: we are called to be light in the darkness, but unless we have our light switched on nobody is going to ask us why we are shining. Being a witness is drawing others into our light; witnessing is shining a torch in their faces.

Not by might nor by power

We know that “nothing is impossible with God,”  and that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. We also know that it’s “not by might nor by power” that the Kingdom of God is established on Earth, and we know that we walk by faith and not by sight. The stories and the imagery of Scripture is full of the opposition between flesh and Spirit, or the kingdoms of the world and the Kingdom of our God and His Christ; Saul and David; Babylon and Jerusalem; Egypt and the promised land. We only have to spend a few minutes reading the news headlines to have an idea of what is happening and, sometimes, what to expect in the world of the flesh. But there are headlines being published in the spiritual realm as well, and if we pay attention to them we can also have an idea of what is going on in that dimension, which is important as It will directly affect what we see on the news. As Amos 3:7 says “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants the prophets.”

The headlines in the spiritual realm

Just as we don’t believe every newspaper headline we read, there are some “prophetic messages” that have more credibility than others. Nevertheless there is a clear narrative from recognised individual prophets and groups that has two main threads. One is that we are moving into an unprecedented time of darkness and chaos, most probably that which Jesus prophesied in the “wars and rumours of wars” passage recorded in Matt 24: 4-25. Woven in with this thread is a second one, announcing that a great revival is coming onto the Earth as prophesied by Smith Wigglesworth in 1947, and that it this outpouring will be unlike anything hitherto experienced. Both these headlines can be found in Isaiah 61:1-3:

Arise, shine;
For your light has come!
And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you.

For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
And deep darkness the people;
But the LORD will arise over you,
And His glory will be seen upon you

The Gentiles shall come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising…”

The point is not that these words have been around for thousands of years, but that, as Peter declared in Acts 2 when he preached at Pentecost, “This is that which was spoken of.” The headlines of prophesy today are essentially this: now is the time that was spoken of by Isaiah in verse two. It’s now. And in this context, it’s imperative for the church to separate itself from the darkness. Just as God separated the light from the darkness at the dawn of creation; just as Jeremiah – and the voice from Heaven heard by John (Rev 18:4) – called God’s people to “come out of the midst of Babylon” (Jer 51:45), so it is time for the church to separate itself from the world and be serious about consecration to a holy God.

Swept up, or swept away

As we allow God to reveal more of His holiness to us, so He reveals more of His majesty, and as He reveals more of His majesty so He reveals more of His love. The attributes of God are bound up in His identity, and we find them all in Jesus, “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), and equally in the Holy Spirit, whom the Father “sends in the name (the identity) of Jesus” (John 14:26). The Kingdom of God is established “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit” (Zech 4:6), and His Spirit is holy. Holy comes before Spirit: as the Holiness movement preceded the Pentecostal revival at the beginning of the last century, so the “story” behind those prophetic headlines today is that God is calling the Church today to wake up to His holiness: those who do will be swept up by the power of His Spirit, but those who do not will be swept away.

Under the Old Covenant, the only route to holiness was through obedience to the many external requirements of the Law.  In Christ, holiness dwells within us by His Spirit and we are given just two commands to obey: to love God, and to love one another. When we obey these two, we “obey the whole of the law,” (Romans 13:10) and the holiness that dwells in the immortal part of ourselves, our spirits, can reach out through our mortality to bring light and life to a dying world. In calling the church to holiness, God is calling us to love: to worship Him and to love one another. It is where “lawlessness abounds” that “the love of many will grow cold,” (Matt 24:12) and it is because of that lawlessness that “darkness shall cover the earth and deep darkness the people;” and it is when we separate ourselves from that darkness by submitting to the Royal Law of love that “The Gentiles shall come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising.”

There is no other way. It is not by might, nor by power, but by the Holy Spirit that this prophesied revival will come. To bring these thoughts to land in Scripture, 2 Cor 3:18 spells out exactly how it will come about:

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

We will see the Holy Spirt at work through us and the light of Christ reflected in our faces when we remove the veil that separates us from His holiness.

Our eyes will see the King


The river of God’s mercy flows from Cross, and because we stand in that river we are able to come before a holy God. But as we stand there God is doing a new thing in us: He is bringing us to a higher level of sanctification. He is bringing us to a place where He will say “Take off your shoes, for the place where you stand is holy.” Our shoes have walked in the dirt of the world, but His presence in us will become so strong that we will be able to separate ourselves from the sin that has stalked our lives and so often overpowers us.

When that time comes we will be able to say with David: “I was also blameless before him, And I kept myself from my iniquity,“ but it will not be because of our own righteousness, but of the righteousness of the God that dwells within us.  Our eyes will see the King, and conviction of sin will be strong in all who are submitted to Him, as it was in the days of Azuza Street; but the Lord says that Azuza Street was just a forerunner of what is to come: as we stand in that place of sanctification He will lift our eyes to new heights of love that only a very few prophets and apostles have known until now. What a few have just glimpsed, many will grasp, and those who do will know His power going before them and into the fallen world to establish His Kingdom.

We are standing before the walls of Jericho, and He says to us now “I am drawing you into the Holy Place, where I will give you your instructions and prepare you for moving into the land ahead.” For when we obey the commander of the Lord’s army we will see the walls come down.

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
The whole earth is full of His glory!” And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. So I said:

“Woe is me, for I am undone!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King,
The LORD of hosts.”
(Isaiah 6: 1-4)

“And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?”
So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” Then the Commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so”
(Joshua 5: 13-15)

“For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
And have not wickedly departed from my God.
All his judgements were before me,
And I did not put away his statutes from me.
I was also blameless before him,
And I kept myself from my iniquity.“
(Psalm 18:21-23)

Buckle up the Belt of Truth (Teaching)

When God spoke through his prophets to his old covenant people he repeated the same message many times and in many different ways: “Return to me or face the consequences!”

The same God speaks through his prophets today. He continues to say the same thing to different people in different ways. His heart of love for His people has not changed: He continues to say “Return to me!“  And the call hasn’t changed: He said to the first Adam “where are you?“ and today, although the context may be different, He still says to us, the brothers and sisters of the second Adam: “Where are you?“

Because He still is longing to walk with us in the garden of His promises, and many in His church are still nowhere to be seen. He has a plan and a purpose, and He wants to see that plan and  purpose fulfilled in our lives; but this will not happen unless we walk with him, close to him, yoked to him.

The message that He is giving to many of his prophets today is clear: the vision is “written on tablets so that he may run who reads it!” (Hab 2:2) There is a great shaking coming on the world; and there will be much upheaval; but in and through this we will find safety under the shadow of his wings; we will be a light in the darkness as we walk in his light, and as His light arises on us so many will come out of the darkness to seek Him. There have been pictures of earthquakes, of storms, of avalanches; there have been words of the lion roaring, of light shining, of a strong tower standing, but the message is fundamentally Isaiah 60: 2-3, and ultimately the deepest symbolism of the Book of Revelation:

For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
And deep darkness the people;
But the LORD will arise over you,
The Gentiles shall come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising.
And His glory will be seen upon you.

Nevertheless there is a new emphasis now, a new note that hasn’t been heard before. In summary, what I feel the Spirit is saying to the Church is this:

“Buckle up for a bumpy ride, because this really is about to happen soon. Buckle up the belt of Truth, because this is what will keep you safe. But pay attention, because it will be the new thing I am doing, and not the old thing that you have been doing. Listen to me and learn from me and you will tread the high places of the Earth in my presence. But if you refuse to listen you will seek me but you will not find me; you will see my light shining over the mountains but you will continue to stumble through the undergrowth of the valley that I want to lead you out of; and your heart will be in danger of growing bitter and critical towards those who are experiencing my glory.”

Our response.

Prophesy requires a response. When Agabus prophesied a famine, “ the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea” (See Acts 11: 28-30) So how do we do to prepare for what is coming? Here are a few suggestions.

Intimacy with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus tells us that His sheep hear His voice – but it’s only through the Holy Spirit that He speaks, whether this is directly into our hearts or via the Bible, so unless we are familiar with that voice we will not recognise it when it comes, and we will miss His directions. This doesn’t just mean spending a fixed period of time every day praying and reading the Bible; it means staying close to Him all day so that we can hear his whisper as we walk, that “voice behind us, saying this is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)

Openness to change.
God is doing “a new thing.” This doesn’t mean that it’s not in the Bible, because it is. It will either be prophesy that is now coming to fulfilment, or aspects of new testament church life and ministry that God is only now restoring to the church. We need to make sure that our openness to what God is doing today is is only shaped by what He did when He first established the church 2,000 years ago. and just not by what we, our fathers, or our Bible teachers saw God doing yesterday.

Practical love
Are we free and generous in our giving? As the financial systems of the world become more shaky, the best place to invest our money is in the Bank of Heaven, where “moth and rust do not corrupt, and thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matt 6:19) As we shovel out, God shovels in – and His shovel is bigger than ours.

Holiness
Friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4). Jesus is coming for a bride without spot or blemish. God judged idolatry and compromise among His Old Covenant people and He has not changed today. We all need to ask the Holy Spirit if we have any idols ourselves, and what we need to do for our “houses” to be an acceptable dwelling place for Him. We must recognise that when Peter meant what he said when he wrote “Just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”.

None of these – or other principals of discipleship – are new ideas. I think that the “new thing” that God is doing today is to allow unprecedented erosion of the sandy foundations that the world’s civilisation is built upon, so that what is build on the Rock of Jesus Christ is the safe haven that can be seen by all, more clearly than ever before. His call to us today is to make sure we are in it and are not wandering around outside.

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)