Give us Barabbas!

Barabbas

I recently read a blog post (this teaching was written several years ago) by Deborah over at Discerning the World where she mentioned the fact that there were two Jesus’ in the New Testament:

A while ago I had a discussion with my mother about Jesus’ trial where He was condemned to be crucified and Barabbas was set free – Matthew 27 v 11-26. And my mother said to me, ‘did you know Barabbas’ name was also Jesus’. I said, ‘you’re kidding me!’ I didn’t know this and had over looked it and so off I went to do some research. Low and behold folks his name was Jesus Barabbas. Even more amazing is that Barabbas means, ’son (bar) of the father (abba)’. Two Jesus’, one who’s father is God and one who’s father is Satan. The people condemned Jesus the Son of God to be crucified and set free the Jesus who is a son of Satan.”

This made me a little more than curious so I did some investigating. In Matthew 27: 16 – 17 the Bible states:

16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”

There was only one English translation that I could find that mentioned that Barabbas’ first name was Jesus, but it IS there in the original Greek:

Mt 27:17

Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?

sunhgmevnwn ou\n aujtw’n ei\pen aujtoi’ß oJ Pila’toß, Tivna qevlete ajpoluvsw uJmi’n, Í*jihsou’n to;nÑ Barabba’n h^ #Ihsou’n to;n legovmenon Xristovn;

Í*jihsou’n means Iesous or Jesus in English.

So the literal translation would read “”Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus who is called Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”

What happened to Barabbas’ first name?

His full name was probably Jesus Barabbas, which appears in in the Syrian and Armenian versions of Matthew 27:16-17. A number of scholars, including William Barclay, D. A. Carson, Robert Gundry, and Klaas Schilder, seem to accept this reading. D. A. Carson wrote, “On the whole it is more likely that scribes deleted the name [Jesus from Jesus Barabbas] out of reverence for Jesus [Christ] than added it in order to set a startling if grotesque choice before the Jews,”1 and I agree with that reasoning. If Barabbas was also called Jesus, he had a very common name in the New Testament times. Jesus is the same as Joshua, and we read of another Jesus in Acts 13 in the account of a Jewish sorcerer Elymas whose family name was Bar-Jesus, meaning the son of Jesus.” [1]

Matt 27 goes on to say in verse 21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered.

In his sermon entitles “The Clear Choice: Jesus or Barabbas” By P. G. Mathew, M.A., M.Div., Th.M. says:

Jesus Barabbas and Jesus Christ, represent a clear choice as far as our spiritual destiny is concerned. Each represents a different kingdom and a different way of entering that kingdom. Jesus Barabbas represents the kingdom of this world, meaning trying to find salvation in this world. This kingdom is entered through human efforts, specifically through the use of human power, including violence. Jesus Christ represents the kingdom of God which we enter in meekness through faith. We must realize that there are no other alternatives for our spiritual destiny. Every person who ever lives will either choose the one called Barabbas–the kingdom of this world–or the one called Christ–the kingdom of God.”

His name and nature.

Barabbas” is a family name, “bar” meaning “son of”. Just as Peter is called Simon bar Jonah, Barabbas means “son of the father”.

The nature of Jesus Barabbas was sinful and fallen in that he led an insurrection or riot (Mark 15:7), He was a murderer and caused a rebellion (Luke 23: 18 – 19) and he was a robber (John 18: 40).

According to Josephus the word used for robber, lestes, refers to members of the nationalist movement called Zealots, (political freedom fighters whose goal was to free the nation from Roman occupation) who supported themselves by robbery. Barabbas may have been a member of that movement.” [2]

This Jesus Barabbas had the very nature of the “anti, or “instead” of Christ as he manifested the nature of his father. The Bible tells us the Satan is a murderer. Barabbas was of his father the devil.

Joh 8:44 “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”

Ezekiel 28: 15 “You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.”

Joh 10:1 – “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.”

Jesus the Messiah, said that he was the doorway to the sheepfold and the only way to the Father. He came to establish a kingdom that was NOT of this world. He came in humility and only did what he heard the Father tell him to do.

Their missions:

Barabbas sought to bring liberty to the Jews through National Zionism. Jesus Christ brought liberty to all men through his humbling himself unto death and thereby establishing his Kingdom in the hearts of men, redeeming them from this fallen world.

The liberation that anti (instead of) Christ brings comes through the political systems of this world “He was a political animal who believed in self-redemption, not in redemption through a messiah. The Bible calls him an insurrectionist, using a Greek word that means one who rises up against the existing authority and institutions–a seditionist, in other words. Barabbas had no interest in trusting in the coming Messiah. He wanted to become the savior of the Jewish people through rebellion and attempted to liberate them from the yoke of Rome through political means.” [ 3]

This is the motivation behind the Dominionist theology that is popular today.

Dominion theology is the belief that Christians have a divine right to fill, and if necessary seize positions of power in the society and government. For most of them, in the end times (which, they believe, we are in or on the brink of), God will create special leaders who will overcome the world, destroy the enemies of Christ and attain ruling power (‘dominion’) throughout the world, ushering in the Kingdom of God. Some of the leading Pentecostal preachers use elements of dominionist ideas when preaching, and use terms inferring that such leaders will come from their own ranks. … It’s sometimes referred to as “Kingdom Now” or “Christian Reconstructionism” (although the latter term is sometimes used for earlier and less strict movements that have little to do with today’s dominion thinking.)

Modern Dominion believers envision a future where the “manifest sons of God” (sometimes known as ‘Joel’s Army’), a spiritually-empowered elite, will be armed with supernatural power for the purpose of wresting control of the world from the hands of Satan’s slaves. Their predecessors today are the “mighty men of God” who, while not quite of the same level of power, are nonetheless the ones faithful Christians are to take their marching orders from. They are to exercise “heavenly” dominion over whatever aspects of life they can. In some versions of this concept, the manifest children will already have perfected new Kingdom-bodies, and they will be able to stride across the earth with the power of gods. The manifest sons will have a “Joshua Generation” or “Caleb generation” as followers, the faithful few whom God will greatly empower. The manifest sons and Joshua generation would exercise dominion over society, establish the Kingdom, complete the Church, and (a few even whisper) perhaps even complete Jesus, who up until their success is a head without a Body. The organized bodies of Christianity (denominations, seminaries, inter-church agencies, most para-church groups, and most especially the Roman Catholic Church), so dominion theory goes, are controlled by the spirit of the Anti-Christ and thus will be among the first to be vanquished by the new order.” [4]

In John 18 when asked which Jesus they wanted the people cried: “No, not him! (the Messiah) Give us Barabbas!”

There is a false teaching in the church today about Christians taking the 7 mountains. One of them is the political mountain.

We all agree that the society to be transformed is not just one big conglomerate, but a unified whole that is made up of several vital pieces,
each one of which must take its own path toward transformation.
These segments of society should be seen as apostolic spheres.”

–C. Peter Wagner, The Church in the Workplace, (Regal, 2006), p. 112 [emphasis added]. [5]

They believe that by taking over the political institutions of the world that we can bring about righteous government. This is a false teaching, because only in the Kingdom of God do we have righteous government. The governments of this world are fallen.

In a chapter entitled “Apostles in the Workplace,” Wagner details the “strategy for war” for marketplace transformation, and puts out a plea for leaders to “standardize our terminology” for the “7 spheres” or “7 mountains” or “7 gates” of society that must be transformed. Wagner suggests “using a list that can be traced back to Loren Cunningham, founder of YWAM, and Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade.” (p. 112)

As the story goes, Cunningham and Bright each had a spiritual experience in which the vision was imparted to them by God of “seven chief categories of society” where the church needed to “concentrate” to “turn the nations back to God.” Wagner quotes a portion of Loren Cunningham’s book Making Jesus Lord (YWAM, 1988, p. 134), where he recounts this experience. Cunningham wrote:

“Sometimes God does something dramatic to get our attention. That’s what happened to me in 1975. My family and I were enjoying the peace and quiet of a borrowed cabin in the Colorado Rockies. I was stretched out on a lounge chair in the midday warmth, praying and thinking. I was considering how we Christians – not just the mission I was part of, but all of us – could turn the world around for Jesus.

“A list came to my mind:
categories of society which I believed we should focus on in order to turn nations around to God. I wrote them down, and stuck the paper in my pocket.

“The next day, I met with a dear brother, the leader of Campus Crusade For Christ, Dr. Bill Bright. He shared with me something God had given him – several areas to concentrate on to turn the nations back to God! They were the same areas, with different wording here and there, that were written on the page in my pocket. I took it out and showed Bill and we shook our heads in amazement.

“Here’s a list (refined and clarified a bit over the years) that God gave me that sunny day in Colorado:

1. The home
2. The church
3. Schools
4. Government and politics
5. The media
6. Arts, entertainment, and sports7. Commerce, science, and technology

These seven spheres of influence will help us shape societies for Christ.” [emphasis added]” [6]

The theocratic right seeks to establish dominion, or control over society in the name of God. The late D. James Kennedy, former pastor of Coral Ridge Ministries, called on his followers to exercise “godly dominion … over every aspect … of human society.” At a “Reclaiming America for Christ” conference in February, 2005, Kennedy said:

“Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost. As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors — in short, over every aspect and institution of human society.”

Twenty-five years ago, dominionists targeted the Republican Party as the vehicle through which they could advance their agenda. At the same time, a small group of Republican strategists targeted fundamentalist, Pentecostal and charismatic churches to expand the base of the Republican Party. This web site is not about traditional Republicans or conservative Christians. It is about the manipulation of people of a certain faith for political power. It is about the rise of dominionists in the U.S. federal government.

Today’s hard right seeks total dominion. It’s packing the courts and rigging the rules. The target is not the Democrats but democracy itself.” [7]

Jesus and Barabbas are direct opposites

Unlike Jesus Barabbas, Jesus Christ refused to use raw political power to destroy existing institutions. He told Pilate his kingdom is not of this world. His mission was to save his people from their sins, from their guilt, from death, from the dominion of Satan, and from hell. Jesus came to liberate his people from slavery to sin, not from slavery to human institutions. In Matthew 1:21 we read, “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” And why can Jesus Christ alone save sinners? He can do so because he was not just a man, but he is also truly God. He was perfect man and perfect God–God incarnate.” [8]

The Crowd Responds to Jesus

But the Jerusalem crowd that gathered that day before the Sabbath did not want a humble Jesus. They wanted a Jesus who would use raw power to give them political salvation. We see this problem today even among evangelicals who think that they should get a piece of the pie also. They engage in tremendous political action, but such activities will not bring salvation.” [9]

In this we clearly see the spirit of antichrist manifested.

And the people cried to Pilate “give us Barabbas”!

This crowd had a clear choice. They could choose salvation by self-interest, violence, and exercise of power, or salvation by faith. They could choose Jesus Barabbas or Jesus Christ, and we are told they all chose Jesus Barabbas. Now, this is always the truth. I am using Barabbas as a metaphor for any choice other than Jesus Christ. Even today the vast majority of people choose Jesus Barabbas, meaning they choose salvation by any other means than by faith in Jesus Christ. They want salvation by exercise of power.

Therefore, such people would say, “We believe in Jesus Barabbas. We affirm materialism, this world and the kingdom of this age. We affirm this life only, and so we want salvation and power now.” These people chose Barabbas. They spared him. And they went and knocked at his cell and told him, “You are saved at the expense of this Jesus called Christ.” [10]

  1. The Clear Choice: Jesus or Barabbas” By P. G. Mathew, M.A., M.Div., Th.M. http://www.gracevalley.org/sermon_trans/Jesus_or_Barabbas.html

  2. Ibid

  3. Ibid

  4. http://www.spirithome.com/dominion.html

  5. http://herescope.blogspot.com/2007/06/seven-apostolic-spheres.html

  6. Ibid

  7. http://www.theocracywatch.org/

  8. The Clear Choice: Jesus or Barabbas” By P. G. Mathew, M.A., M.Div., Th.M. http://www.gracevalley.org/sermon_trans/Jesus_or_Barabbas.html

  9. Ibid

  10. Ibid

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The Dabar of the Lord

The following is something I wrote a few years ago.   After a conversation with a friend this morning I wanted to repost it here.   I hope it blesses you!  

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“The word dabar means “word” or “talk” in Hebrew.Dabar occurs in various contexts in the Hebrew Bible. In the Hebrew Bible, dabar is sometimes used in reference to the “Divine Word”, and in an active sense as a “word event”, or prophetic words.: Wiki

The Dabar of the Lord

Matthew 11:12 “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.”

For the past several months the Lord has been having me look at the science of physics as it relates to prayer, faith and intercession. Physics is the science of matter and energy and their interactions. It is the study of nature in the broadest sense.  (all physics definitions are from the physics classroomhttp://www.physicsclassroom.com)

What I’m going to touch on is the area of physics called “Kinetics”, which is the study of motion. The motion of objects can be described by words – words such as distance, speed, velocity acceleration, and displacement.  These are mathematical quantities, which are used to describe the motion of objects.

  • Displacement is defined as a quality, which refers to “how far out of place an object is”; it is the object’s change in position. 

According to Isaac Newton’s first law of motion: An object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

Now remember we are talking about the Kingdom of Heaven forcefully advancing!

A force is a push or pull upon an object resulting from the object’s interaction with another object. Whenever there is an interaction between two objects, there is a force acting on each of the objects. When the interaction ceases, the two objects no longer experience a force. Forces only exist as a result of an interaction.

Motion can also be approached from the perspective of work and energy. In physics, work is defined as: a force acting upon an object to cause a displacement. There are three key words in this definition – force, displacement, and cause. In order for a force to qualify as having done work on an object, there must be a displacement and the force must cause the displacement. There are several good examples of work which can be observed in everyday life – a horse pulling a plow through the fields, a person pushing a grocery cart down the aisle of a grocery store, a freshman lifting a backpack full of books upon her shoulder, a weightlifter lifting a barbell above his head, etc. In each case described here there is a force exerted upon an object to cause that object to be displaced.

To Do Work, Forces Must Cause Displacements

In studying the Hebrew definition of the word, “word”, I found that there is always motion, velocity and advancement when the Lord speaks forth his word. In Greek it is the word “Rhema” and in Hebrew the word for “word” is Dabar. This word has a dual meaning. It indicates the word spoken but can also represent the action that is produced out of the spoken word. The prophetic word or the word from the Lord “Dabar” means to “get behind something and drive it forward to completion”.

Dabar: as a noun means: word; matter; something. It is also the Word, which creates, as God created the world by His word (Genesis 1:1; Isaiah 48:13; Psalms 33:9).

The root of the name Deborah, is Dabar. Deborah means “bee” and comes from the root word: Dabar from its sense of orderly motion.  “Bee Line”

The Dabar of the Lord carries with it the ability to accomplish what it is sent out to do. 

Isaiah 55:11 ~ Young’s literal translation:  “So is My word (Dabar) that goeth out of My mouth, It turneth not back unto Me empty (void), But hath done that which I desired, And prosperously effected that [for] which I sent it.”

And the amplified version:

Isaiah 55:11 “so shall my word (Dabar – to speak, declare, converse, command, promise, warn, threaten, sing) be that goes out from (to go out, come out, exit, go forth, to go forth (to a place) to go forward, proceed to (or toward something) to come or go forth (with purpose or for result) my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, (Void: vainly, emptily, in empty condition, empty), but it shall accomplish (to do, fashion, make, to do, work, make, produce, effect, act with effect, to produce, to acquire (property), to appoint, ordain, institute, to bring about, to be done) that which I purpose, (Please: to delight in, take pleasure in, desire, be pleased with) and shall succeed (to rush, to advance, prosper, make progress, succeed, be profitable, to make prosperous, bring to successful issue, cause to prosper) in the thing for which I sent it.”

When the Lord speaks a word to us it is a word of demonstration and carries with it the momentum, and velocity in order to cause displacement in the natural order. 

Some examples of displacement:

In the book of Joshua chapters 5-6 we read about The fall of Jericho in 1400 BC: The Lord gave Joshua the Battle plan and when it was executed the walls of the city fell:

Joshua 6:20 “So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. When the people heard the sound of the trumpet, they raised a great shout, and [Jericho’s] wall fell down in its place, so that the [Israelites] went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.  The walls of the city fell! DISPLACEMENT FOLLOWED OBEYING THE WORD OF THE LORD!  

When Jesus died on the cross, the end of his life was punctuated by a severe earthquake on April 11, 32 AD, following a strange three-hour darkness covering the land,   “…Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe, and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!'” (Matt. 27:50-54)

A second great earthquake occurred on Easter morning according to Matt. 28:2 at the time of the resurrection.

Matthew 28:2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.”

Many of Jesus’ miracles resulted in the dabar of the Lord causing displacement:

Mark 5: 35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

36 Overhearingc what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

The word of the Lord that Jesus spoke to Jairus’ daughter caused death to be displaced!

JESUS’ DEATH AND RESURRECTION CAUSED the utmost DISPLACEMENT . . . that of the kingdom of darkness.

Colossians 2:15 “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him through the cross.”

An earthquake is a trembling or a shaking movement of the Earth’s surface. Earthquakes typically result from the shifting of the earth’s plates resulting from the movement of faults. This is displacement!!

Another “providential” earthquake recorded in the Bible was the Lord’s means of releasing Paul and Silas from jail in Philippi, as recorded in Acts 16.   This is one of my favorite passages of scripture.

Paul and Silas are:

Attacked by the crowd; beaten with rods on their bare backs with many blows; thrown in prison; put in the inner prison; and put in the stocks.

Under these circumstances they had every right to complain, get discouraged, feel like giving up. They are beaten, sore, bleeding, hurting, and sitting in the deepest darkness with their feet in shackles! These are leg irons.  So, not only were their circumstances seemingly hopeless they couldn’t get out of them if they wanted to.

Instead of crying and complaining they were praising the Lord.  Instead of talking about their circumstances, they are speaking the Word of the Lord!

 

Acts 16: 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, “

They were filled with praise!! They kept their eyes on the Lord, not their circumstances.   Not only that, but the other prisoners were listening to their praise!

The breakthrough comes when: Acts 16:26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundationsof the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.”

The foundations of their bondage were shook loose and not only did Paul and Silas get set free but EVERYONE’S BONDS WERE UNFASTENED!!

It is important to note that in Numbers 14 when the 10 spies gave the bad report that the meaning of the Hebrew word murmur that is used in that scripture actually means: to abide or dwell (see Num 14). I believe that if we agree with the natural circumstance we will never change them; and if we grumble against the circumstances we will only empower them to remain the same and we will abide there!! The breakthrough comes when we praise God no matter what is going on around us!

Give thanks in ALL circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus!

Paul and Silas got more than a double portion for the kingdom of God as not only did they get set free, but also all the prisoners were released and the Jailer and his whole family got saved!!

The Believers Pray for Boldness

Another earthquake took place when the believers prayed for boldness: Acts 4:29-31 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants  30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus. 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.”

Also, the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai was also accompanied by a frightening earthquake (Exodus 19:16-18).

THE LAW IS CALLED THE “DABAR OF THE LORD” AND THE GIVING OF IT TO MOSES CAUSED DISPLACEMENT!

We, as Christ’s body, are God’s voice on the earth today.    The bible tells us that the voice of the Lord is powerful:

Psalm 29:

1 Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of hisa holiness.
3The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is majestic.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon leap like a calf,
Sirionb like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord strikes
with flashes of lightning.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
11 The Lord gives strength to his people;
the Lord blesses his people with peace.

When we speak the dabar of the Lord into the earth we are speaking as the very voice of God.  There is power to displace any darkness when we speak forth the Rhema word of God!

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His Thoughts; His Ways

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Most of us are familiar with the scripture, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God; how unsearchable are His judgments and His ways, past finding out” Romans 11:33

There is another familiar scripture that says, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isa 55:9

When we first come to the Lord He treats us like what we are, spiritual babies. As babies he comforts us, meets our needs and cares for us, even though we are pretty much self centered, and self indulged, like the babies we are. But because He loves us God will move us on toward maturity. This process often requires our cooperating in our own “death”. Jesus said, “He who would come after me must first deny himself, then pick up his cross and follow Me”

Notice our position in the process: WE must deny OURSELVES and WE must pick up OUR cross. Every day we either follow Him or not, based on the decisions we make. His way is often difficult, lengthy and trying. Putting others ahead of ourselves, sacrificing with no expectation of return, being a blessing instead of asking for one, carrying each other’s burdens with love, looking to the interests of others and not just to our own interests, these are the way of the cross.

Doing these things with consistency is the mark of a “true” Christian. “You’ll will know them by the love that they have for one another.” But this kind of love can only come from Christ and not from ourselves. The love that brings life can only thrive to the degree that we’ve allow the death of our selves and the life of Jesus Christ to take over.

A contrite heart and a broken spirit are a result of God’s work in our lives, and it is a work that is required. It is also a work that must be RECEIVED! God’s dealings in our lives are meant to cause us to seek Him earnestly. It’s in that earnest search for Him that He can then speak into our lives. His thoughts can become our thoughts as we learn to accept and submit to His ways. As John the Baptist said, “He must become greater, I must become less”. Christ must be formed in us! The Potter must break and reshape the clay as is needed for His intended purpose.

As Christians we all like to believe that we are ok. But OK isn’t good enough. If we sincerely want more of God, He will send His purging fire to burn off the dross in our lives. That fire can be hardship, failure, sickness, trial or crisis. All of these things are meant to drive us into His presence and produce Christlikeness in us, which glorifies God and is the ultimate goal of our salvation: To bear fruit for Him until His thoughts are our thoughts and His ways are our ways.

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Faith Unto Enlargement Through Adversity Chapter 2 by T. Austin Sparks

Faith Unto Enlargement Through Adversity
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 2 – The Key Of Faith

Reading: Genesis 15:1-6; 17:1-8; Romans 4:16-25; Hebrews 11:8.

In these passages, we find five things. One, enlargement; two, establishment; three, life; four, faith; five, consummation. All this is to be brought into fulness at the end of the dispensation. The Word of God gives us to understand that at the end God will have a state of Divine fulness corresponding to the word ‘enlargement’: at the end, God will have things established, fixed: at the end, God will have things wholly characterized by life: and all this will be through tried and proved faith. You will recall how this end is brought into view in the symbolism of the city – the holy city, new Jerusalem, seen as coming down from God out of heaven in the last chapters of the Bible. Here is Divine fulness: everything brought to a state of finality, establishment, and all characterized by life – illustrated by the tree of life, the river of water of life, and other symbols. But leading up to this, all the way along, is the matter of tried and proved faith.

As we look at the Christian world in our time, we realize that these are the great things which are supremely necessary. There is need for spiritual, Divine, enlargement – things are so small spiritually; for spiritual establishment – things are so weak and uncertain, so variable and inconsistent, without assurance, without certainty; for Divine life – how great is the need for more life, heavenly life, a greater fulness of life amongst the Lord’s people! But, while we recognize these things to be the crying needs, we should probably all be prepared to admit that the only way to these things is for the Lord’s people to be really tested, really tried. We do not like the idea, but we realize that everything needs to be put to the test, to be proved, in order to be established. And we are in fact already very conscious of a new movement of God amongst His people really to test their faith, to try their faith, to bring faith to maturity.

Now this would seem to have been God’s pathway for His people all down the ages: by tried, tested, proved and established faith to bring to enlargement, establishment and life more abundant. These are laws of the ways of God, principles of His dealings with His people. Let us, then, in the first place, take a comprehensive view of this matter, before coming to the practical applications. The Bible has many angles. If you take it, and look at it from one standpoint, you may think that that is all that the Bible is about. You seem to be able to gather up the whole of the Bible into that one thing. It might be sin, judgment, death – it is an aspect, an angle. Or it might be righteousness and life – it is another angle. Give the Bible another turn, and the same thing seems to be true again. It has many such angles, and every one of them seems to be comprehensive. If the Bible is like that, you can see the whole of it by just turning it a little from one angle to another.

Faith The Key To Life And Enlargement

Now, you will see how true this is in the very clear instance that we have before us – the matter of enlargement by life through faith. It would be very easy to gather all the Bible into that, and to say that is what the whole Bible is about. Of course, it is not, but it is one very comprehensive angle. You will at once see how that theme runs right through. But suppose we change the metaphor, and say that there is a whole bunch of keys to the Bible – quite a large bunch of keys – every one of which seems to be a master key to open the whole of the Bible; and on this large bunch of keys there seem to be three that are linked together, so to speak, on their own separate ring. Those three keys are – faith, life, enlargement.

Faith opens the first door. That door leads to the next, which is life, and through life to the next, which is enlargement. Those three things always go together through the Word of God. Of course, this is clearly seen by the opposite. Unbelief is always shown in the Scripture to result in limitation. Where there is unbelief, you just do not get any further – you stop short and stop dead: there is no enlargement, and therefore there is no life, no greater, fuller life, beyond. You cannot separate these things; they always hang together – faith, life, enlargement.

All the great crises in the history of God’s people, as recorded in the Scriptures, had these three features. Beginning right at the beginning, with Adam, in the first chapters of Genesis, it is perfectly plain there that the whole question of establishment, of enlargement and of life hung upon faith, and that when he refused, or ceased, to believe God, that was a dead stop, a full stop. There was no more. At that point death entered in. The possibility of fellowship with God, and of all that God can mean in the life, hung entirely upon his faith – or upon his refusal to believe. If only he had believed God, the way would have been wide open to enlargement, establishment and life, continuous and unceasing.

Moving on in the Book of Genesis to chapters 15 and 17, some passages from which we have placed at the head of this meditation, we come to Abraham. The Lord comes in with Abraham on this line of enlargement, of establishment and of life. Those are the three great things that sum up Abraham’s life with God. And everything hung upon faith. All that God said about this multiplying, this tremendous increase and enlargement; about the finality of things – establishing him in the covenant for ever; and about this wonderful principle of life – so apparent in the case of Abraham, when death would argue that there was no prospect at all in himself or in Sarah or any situation, yet life is in view in spite of it all – all those things just hung upon faith. He believed God. If he had not, there would have been nothing.

In the Book of Exodus, we find the great crisis in the national life of Israel – the deliverance from Egypt. Chapter 12 of Exodus just rests upon this: ‘The whole question here is that of your release with a view to your enlargement; it is a question of your being established and brought to finality, to fullness; and it is a question of your life.’ The central thought of that chapter is perhaps life, is it not? The slaying of Egypt’s firstborn, on the one side, and the deliverance of Israel into life through death, on the other. But it all hung upon this matter of faith – faith in action: whether they would take the lamb, whether they would sprinkle the blood, whether they would gird their loins and take their staff in their hand. Everything depended upon an attitude and spirit of believing God.

Passing through Numbers into the Book of Joshua, we find that here it is the land that is in view–the land of promise, with all that it meant to them historically and all that it means typically and spiritually. What a matter of enlargement that was! From the wilderness, with all its emptiness and ‘pent-upness’, into the largeness, fullness and liberty of being established in the land. There was never, in God’s mind, any thought or purpose of permanence in the wilderness at all. That was only a phase of things to be got through quickly as the spiritual condition of His people would allow. His thought for them was – into the land and established for ever. The promise to Abraham was that the land was covenanted for ever: finality. And then through Jordan, running there between Numbers and Joshua, between the wilderness and the land, and overflowing all its banks, speaking of death to be overcome in its fulness, in its depths; and into the land: here is life triumphant over death. But again, everything hung upon their faith. Would they move in faith? One generation could not do that, and perished in the wilderness. It was left to the next generation to enter the land. These three things rested upon faith.

Passing over the terrible four hundred years covered by the Book of Judges – the most terrible book in the Bible, I think – into the Books of Samuel, we find a transition toward a new state of enlargement. This phase will end with David and Solomon, with the enlargement of the kingdom beyond anything that had ever been before, with establishment and life. Again, it is all on the basis of faith. It was faith in Samuel’s mother, for instance, that brought in Samuel. But we cannot stay with all the detail. At last, as we know, faith was lost, and unbelief prevailed. Once again we see a return to limitation, to bondage, to uncertainty, to spiritual death. It all hangs upon faith.

As we take up the New Testament, we find that the issue is still that of enlargement, of establishment, and of fulness of life, and the question now is – Believe it! – a question of faith. These are the things, for instance, governing the first chapters of the Book of the Revelation, where the churches are dealt with. It is a matter here of spiritual enlargement or spiritual limitation: either of being established, or of having the lampstand moved out of its place, with nothing established, nothing final. It is a matter of life, through the Living One Who became dead and is alive for evermore. The challenge is on whether it is to be life or death, and it is focused in the one question of faith. Finally, as we reach the last chapters of the Revelation, we find these things brought to fulness, in the great City as a symbolic representation of the Church. How great it is, how full, how enlarged, how solid! It is established. How living it is, too! Abundant life is its most central feature. And it is the very embodiment of tried, tested and proved faith.

Here, then, is the whole Bible gathered into this, and our Christian lives are based upon the Bible, the whole Bible. What does that mean? It means this, that our lives are concerned with spiritual fulness, as we shall see as we go on; with our being established to eternity, and not carried away with time; and with the great matter of Divine life brought into complete triumph over the last enemy, death. And the thing that governs and comprehends the Christian life in these three aspects is the whole matter of faith: tried faith, proved faith, established faith, perfected faith.

God’s Reaction Against Emptiness

Let us now look for a few minutes at these words, these terms, that we have been employing. We will take for the present just this matter of enlargement. We can use the alternative word ‘fullness’ – and we shall do so, quite extensively – but I have here a special thought in my mind in preferring this word ‘enlargement’. This whole matter of enlargement, whether the Lord is going to enlarge us, whether we are going to be enlarged, is a very living question and issue, for enlargement is a governing thought of God. All the way through the Bible, as we have seen, God’s thought is enlargement. God is always thinking in terms of enlargement, of increase, of final fullness. God never finds any pleasure at all in emptiness and in smallness. God dislikes emptiness, and always reacts against it.

As we open our Bibles at the first page of Genesis, what is almost the first thing that we read? After: “In the beginning God…”, and then a few words more, we read: “And the earth was without form and void” – that is ‘waste and empty‘ – “and the Spirit of God…” The earth was empty, and the Spirit of God – did what? – reacted against the state of emptiness. It was as though God said, ‘This is not My mind at all; this is altogether contrary to My thought. I am against this, and I am going to do something about it.’ God would have everything in Divine fullness – that is, in abundance. That is His thought for the earth, and for His people. And so the Spirit of God, brooding over this void, this emptiness, begins to work, and every stage and phase of the Divine activity is to fill. He fills the earth with the vast range of the vegetable kingdom – seeds in abundance and life within the seeds capable of endless production and reproduction. He fills the earth with the immense variety of the animal kingdom. He fills the sea, and says: “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures” (Gen. 1:20). And then, creating man, He says: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (v. 28). ‘I am against this emptiness, this void’. And on He moves on that principle, governed by that thought. Reaching Abraham, He says: “I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore” (Gen. 22:17). Comprehend that, if you can! That is Divine thought. Beyond all comprehension, God thinks in terms of enlargement.

How much can be gathered up in the Bible on this matter! The Lord Jesus, for instance, came to express the thoughts of God in practical terms, and, amongst many other things, He spoke of a great feast which was made. The guests were bidden, but they did not come – they made excuses. And so the man who gave the feast said to his servant: “Go out into the highways and hedges, and constrain them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:15-24). Here we see Christ bringing God’s thoughts into this world – ‘That my house may be filled.’ But perhaps in the New Testament the day of Pentecost is the greatest example and expression of this Divine thought. When the Spirit came, a mighty, rushing wind “filled all the house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:2). And then it is applied to each believer: “Be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).

The Danger Of Passivity

It is thus clear that enlargement is a governing thought with God. But the Lord Jesus has not only pointed out that this is what God would have, but He has said on the other hand that it is exceedingly dangerous to be empty. He spoke of a certain ‘house’, which was a man, possessed of a demon, an unclean spirit; and He visualized the casting out of the unclean spirit: but, although the house is ‘swept and garnished’, it is left empty; and, because no other occupant takes possession, the unclean spirit comes back to his old home, taking seven other more evil than himself, and fills the empty house (Matt. 12:43-45). It is a dangerous thing to be empty, to leave a void. If God does not fill, the Devil will. Beware of negative conditions, of not being positive and not being definite. Beware of vacuums in your heart, in your mind, in your life. David was one day on the house-top in a state of ‘vacuum’, at a time when kings go out to war (2 Sam. 11:1-2) – and he was a king, and a warring king. But instead of being occupied in a positive way, he was in a passive state, and we know the disaster that overtook him, from which he never recovered all his life. It is a dangerous thing to be empty. The Devil will see to the filling up of any space that he can occupy. The Lord wants to fill to the exclusion of all else.

The Fulness Of God

The ultimate word in this matter in the Bible is: “that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God” (Eph. 3:19). Think of that! This is said to believers together in their corporate, related life – to the Church, which is “the fulness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:23). Think of it: the fulness of God! – that is, God coming in such a way that there is no room for anything else. It was like that at the dedication of Solomon’s temple, in the Old Testament. When the priests moved out of the sanctuary, the glory of the Lord moved in and filled the house, and the priests could no longer stand to minister (1 Kings 8:10-11; 2 Chron. 5:11-14). When the Lord fills, there is no room for anything or anyone else. That is the fulness of God.

Emptiness The Result Of Judgement

Returning to that word ‘void’ or ’empty’ that we find at the beginning of the Book of Genesis, it seems to me that this represents the result of a judgment. That, of course, has already been surmised on other grounds. But the following considerations are perhaps confirmatory. When the Lord sent His people Israel into Babylonian captivity for seventy years, the land became waste. The land fell into a state that could well be described in the terms used to describe the state of the earth at the beginning – void, waste and empty. Now, the Babylonian captivity of Israel was a judgment upon their unbelief and their idolatry, and the waste state into which the land fell was surely a part of that judgment; and it would therefore seem that “in the beginning”, also, the desolation was the result of a judgment upon a former creation.

But what is the point of this? The issue must have been this – as it has always been–that God was not allowed to fill all things. God’s place was either shared with other things, or God was driven out. The end of this present world, as is shown to us in the New Testament, is going to be like that. There will be a point at which God will be finally rejected by this world, and will have no place. We are moving fast toward that time. What will be the result? It will be the burning up of this world – judgment, destruction – and a longer or shorter period of desolation before there is a new heaven and a new earth, and all things are created anew. Judgment is always upon this one thing – as to whether God is all and in all, or not. Therefore enlargement – the fullness which is God’s thought – rests upon this matter of God having full place; and that is the basis of all testing of faith. God presses this point closer and closer as we go on: whether we will believe God sufficiently to let Him have His place in an impossible situation.

The Fullness Of God As Light

Now, what do we mean by the fulness of God? It is nothing less than the nature of God filling all things. “God is light”, the Scripture says (1 John 1:5): then where God is there is no darkness, there is no room for darkness; and when God comes in in fulness there is “no darkness at all.” It is all “light in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8). And the Lord is moving on this line with you and with me. He is seeking to get us completely out of our darkness into His light; to bring us into the light as He is in the light. And how great a factor is faith in this matter of coming into the light of the Lord, coming to know the Lord, coming into understanding, or whatever expression you may use for light. It is seeing, it is knowing, it is understanding.

But you and I never come into one additional ray of real light – I do not mean information, I mean spiritual light – except along the line of tests of faith, faith really tested. A sister in the Lord, who felt that she was far too short-tempered, too quickly provoked, said to a dear servant of God, ‘Oh, I do need more patience – do pray for me that I may have more patience!’ The servant of God said, ‘All right, let us get down and pray now’, and so they knelt down and he prayed, ‘Lord, do please send more tribulation into this dear sister’s life.’ And she stopped him and said, ‘No, I did not say I wanted tribulation – I want patience.’ ‘Ah, but’, he replied, ‘the Word says: “tribulation worketh patience”!’ (Rom. 5:3).

Yes: we want more of the Lord, but we are not always so ready to go the way that He would take us in order to have more of Himself. But it is that way – the way of tribulation; and what is tribulation if it is not the testing of faith? We are put into situations where only faith in God will enable us to live and to go on. Yet it is possible – it is so possible. Early last year, during my visit to California, a brother there proposed that we should go to see some dear friends, living about sixty miles away, who had begged that we should visit them. These dear children of God were living in perhaps one of the most worldly, unpropitious, impossible situations imaginable – the week-end resort of all the Hollywood stars. I cannot describe the utter abandonment to the flesh. Our two friends were living in a large trailer, or caravan, right at the centre of a great trailer park, surrounded by all these worldly people in their luxurious trailer homes, in an atmosphere of the utmost sensuality, fleshliness, indulgence. We went in, and had a most blessed afternoon with them on the things of the Lord – a most precious time, with a real touch of heaven – and when we had spent the whole afternoon with them, a brother said: ‘Perhaps you will not believe it, but there are sixteen out-and-out Christians in this trailer park. I am going to fetch some of them’. He went across to another trailer, and brought back two dear children of God, elderly, saintly people; and, without any going round matters at all or talking on generalities, we were right on the things of the Lord instantly, and we could have gone on all night. The brother told us, ‘We all meet here in this trailer, sixteen of us, and have most blessed times of fellowship.’

Why am I telling you about this? In the most unlikely place on earth – yes, the most impossible place for anything of a spiritual character, for anything really of the Lord – there, right in that terrible place, are saints walking in white raiment, in living fellowship with the Lord. Do not say, ‘Oh, the place I have to live and work in is impossible for any spiritual life or spiritual growth – everything is against me.’ Remember that the Lord can enlarge you anywhere if He calls you to be there. Never use the argument of the impossible. Just think of Abraham and the impossible. He came into enlargement, but not because everything was propitious, not because everything made it so easy and was so helpful. No, there can be light in the darkest place if the Lord is there. When I first heard of that situation, I had expressed the wish that those dear friends could have been got out of it, but when I left them I changed my view entirely. I do not know that they would really be the better for getting out of this. This is the thing that is enlarging them spiritually: it is throwing them on the Lord, it is making them prove the Lord. There is nothing here for them but the Lord; everything else is against Him.

The fulness of God is in terms of light, even in darkness; of love – for God is love – in a realm of hatred; of life in a realm of death; and of holiness in a realm of unholiness. “That ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God.”

There is much more about this matter of enlargement. It was the governing thing in the sovereign gifts of the ascended Lord. “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men… and He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets;… and some, pastors and teachers” – for what? – “for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a fullgrown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph. 4:8, 11-13). Every Divine gift in ministry has fulness as its object and its governing motive.

Let me close with this for the moment, that the test as to whether a thing is of God is always spiritual measure. It is not the measure of our doctrinal knowledge, nor even the measure of our Bible knowledge as such. It is not the accuracy or correctness of our technique in form and procedure. It is the measure of God. We can have all those other things, without there being really any measure of God. That is what counts.

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Faith Unto Enlargement Through Adversity

Faith Unto Enlargement Through Adversity
by T. Austin-Sparks

skysunrise

Chapter 1 – Introductory

Reading: Psalm 118.

The real title of this Psalm is the ‘Passover Hosanna Psalm’, and its theme is faith unto enlargement through adversity. Martin Luther called this Psalm his Psalm, and I think his life is a very good commentary upon it. We know why he made it his Psalm. He might well have been the originator of it, so true was his life to all that is here. It is just an explanation and a summing-up of all his experience. ‘This is my Psalm’, he said.

This Psalm was really born out of experience, and it is that that makes it live. There lies behind it very deep history, especially in two particular connections.

The Background Of The Psalm

In the first place, this Psalm, whose composer no one seems to know, was at least adapted to, if not composed for, the Passover after the dedication of the second Temple. You are probably acquainted with the history of the second Temple. You have to turn, of course, to the Book of Ezra, and alongside of it to the Book of Nehemiah, and then to the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah; and when you have read those four books, you have the setting of Psalm 118. Read again verses 5 to 16 of the Psalm in the light of that, and you will see what light is thrown upon these verses. Or take a fragment – verse 10: “All nations compassed me about: in the name of the Lord I will cut them off. They compassed me about…” And turn to the Book of Ezra, chapter 4, verses 9 and 10. Here you have a whole host of nations all gathered against Ezra and the building of the second Temple. They compassed him about – all these nations compassed him about – they compassed him about like stinging bees. Thus this description of adversity, of opposition, gives this Psalm a very real, practical application: for the remnant which had escaped from captivity had returned to the land with the building and dedication of the Temple in view, and if this Psalm is a description of things as they were then, it is indeed the story of life out of death.

Life Out Of Death

We must remember that the ‘I’ and the ‘me’ repeated in this Psalm represent the personification of the remnant or of the nation. It is as though the nation were speaking as an individual; it is a collective ‘I’. The nation is here saying: “The Lord hath chastened me sore” – how true that was for the seventy years in captivity – “but He hath not given me over unto death” (v. 18); “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord” (v. 17): so that the remnant speaking in these words does really embody this great truth of life out of death and life triumphant over death.

The Lord had promised His people, when they were in that far-off exile and captivity, that He would ‘open their graves’ and bring them out (Ezekiel 37:12-14), and here it is. They are out – out of that grave of captivity; and a grave it was. There is no singing in the grave. “The dead praise not the Lord” (Psalm 115:17) is a phrase of Scripture, and how true it was away there. “Upon the willows… we hanged up our harps… how shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Psalm 137:2-4). ‘The dead praise Thee not.’ But listen! “O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good; for His lovingkindness endureth for ever” – four times repeated at the very beginning of the Psalm, and then added as the crown at the end. It is a new Psalm on resurrection ground. So the Psalm, to begin with, is one of life out of death.

Release From Bondage

And then quite clearly it is one of release from bondage. These people are so rejoicing in this aspect of their position by the lovingkindness of the Lord, that they are reminded of their earliest great deliverance, and you will see here in the Psalm a reference to the great deliverance from Egypt, and a quotation from the Book of Exodus. They bring the two together – deliverance from Egypt and deliverance from Babylon – and the deliverance from Egypt is always, in the Scripture, termed deliverance “out of the house of bondage”. The Psalm, then, is the Psalm of release from bondage.

Now, bringing that into the rebuilding of the second Temple, you can see how the remnant were straitened, were pressed, by the nations represented by these people who had been brought into Samaria. What a time Nehemiah had from these people in building the wall! He was pressed on every side. What a time Ezra had! How those prophets suffered! The work was held up for more than a decade by reason of this opposition and adversity all around. But the point is that the Temple was built and finished and dedicated, and this Psalm was sung at the Passover which followed the dedication. It says: ‘Let men do their worst, let them oppress from every side, let them oppose as they will. The thing is done: the Lord has done it in spite of everything, and we are out.’

From Limitation To Enlargement

So “the Lord answered me and set me in a large place” (v. 5). From death to life, from bondage to liberty, from limitation to enlargement – into a “large place” – and this represented a very great thing on the Lord’s part. Consider all that the Lord had to cope with – though of course it is putting it in a wrong way to say the Lord ever has to ‘cope with’ anything, for He is so supremely superior to every situation. Yet what was against His people was no small thing. To bring them out into this enlargement meant the overcoming of tremendous difficulties. “The Lord answered me and set me in a large place.” We are reminded of another word, so familiar to us: “Thou broughtest us into the net… Thou didst cause men to ride over our heads. We went through fire and through water; but Thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place” (Psalm 66:11-12). It is a Psalm of triumph over limitation, bringing into enlargement.

God’s Faithfulness Over His People’s Unfaithfulness

The version from which I have quoted uses the word ‘lovingkindness’. The version which is perhaps more familiar has the word ‘mercy’ – “His mercy endureth for ever”. I think there is a note about ‘lovingkindness’ – God’s lovingkindness’ – that touches the heart, when you think of the failure and the unfaithfulness of His own people. What a story it is all the way along, right through the lives of the major and the minor prophets. It would seem that if ever the mercy of God, the lovingkindness of God, could have been exhausted, it would have been so with these people, so terrible were their reactions to the mercy of God. How far they went against the Lord! But here in the end – and with Nehemiah we are in the last Book of the Old Testament in historical order, we are at the end of a dispensation – the great note is: “His lovingkindness endureth for ever”. When they used that language, these people knew what they were talking about. It was not just poetry or sentiment.

It is, therefore, a Psalm of tremendous consolation. We know our weakness, we know our unfaithfulness, we know how we have failed and do fail. The end of the story is – “His lovingkindness endureth for ever”. You see, this is the experience – and, out of the experience, the testimony – of a people who have proved the Lord to be faithful over against all that men could do against them. It is a Psalm worth having. No wonder Luther said, ‘That is my Psalm!’

Sung By The Lord Before Gethsemane

But there is something even more than that. The second thing about this Psalm is that it is believed to have been the Psalm sung by the Lord Himself and by His disciples on the Passover night. Before I knew this, I used to say, ‘I wish I knew what it was they sang when it says that after the supper, “when they had sung a hymn, they went out”‘ (Matt. 26:30). I have discovered that, on very good grounds, it is strongly believed that this was the Psalm that they sang. The Lord Jesus actually sang this Psalm! And His disciples sang it with Him – I wonder if they really knew what they were singing? Let us look at it.

There is no doubt that this Psalm is very largely, if not altogether, related to the Lord Jesus, because it is quoted in immediate connection with Him in several places in the New Testament. For instance: “Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord: we have blessed you out of the house of the Lord” (v. 26). But the titles of the Psalm, the ‘Passover Hosanna Psalm’, is not based upon that incident of the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem, when they cut down palm branches and went before Him singing out of this Psalm: “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord”, but upon other grounds. And then you know that on several occasions in the New Testament the words are quoted: “The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner” (v. 22). The Lord Jesus used them concerning Himself (Matt. 21:42), and Peter used them concerning Christ (1 Pet. 2:7). So this is in a large sense what is called a ‘Messianic’ Psalm. It is related to the Lord Jesus.

The Triumph Of Faith

Now, if the Lord did sing this Psalm on that dark night of the Passover and betrayal, what a triumph of faith it was! “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord” (v. 17). Going straightway to Gethsemane, the trial and the Cross – “I shall not die, but live”. In faith He has leapt the garden, He has leapt the trial, He has leapt the Cross, right over into the resurrection. “I shall not die, but live.” What a triumph of faith through adversity, through suffering! But oh, what a meaning this gives to Gethsemane. Look at the Passover. “This is My body, which is for you” (1 Cor. 11:24). “This is My blood… which is shed for many unto remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28). And they sang a hymn; and after the hymn, the next thing – Gethsemane. Look – “Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar” (v. 27). What was Gethsemane? They bound Him and led Him away from the garden, but His interpretation of that binding was of “a sacrifice… even unto the horns of the altar”; not tied to the horns of the altar, but bound with a view to being led toward the altar. That is the meaning here: ‘Bind and lead to the altar.’

This puts a new light upon Gethsemane, upon the bonds, the captivity, does it not? This is not man’s prevailing, this is not man overcoming, this is not man’s triumph. This is the Lamb of God allowing Himself to be led to the altar. For that is the next thing after the singing. He has sung: “Bind the sacrifice… even unto the horns of the altar”; and forthwith He goes. He goes to Gethsemane, then to the betrayal, then to the judgment hall, and then to the Cross. There is the Divine side of all that, but here you see faith taking hold of this human side, as men regard and interpret it, and turning it into the redemption of the world.

The Lord’s Enlargement Through The Cross

In verse 5 again – “Out of my distress I called upon the Lord: the Lord answered me and set me in a large place.” Are these words of the Lord Jesus? Yes: out of His distress He cried: “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from Me”. “And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly…” “Father, if this cannot pass away, except I drink it, Thy will be done” (Matt. 26:39, 42; Luke 22:44). “Out of my distress I cried…”; and, although it does not seem that the Lord answered and delivered, an Apostle says that He was heard (Heb. 5:7). And how was He heard? Have we the proof that He was heard and answered? “The Lord answered me and set me in a large place.” A large place? Yes, a very large place He is in. How enlarged was our Lord through His Cross! “How am I straitened”, He said–“how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” (Luke 12:50). This was enlargement through suffering: His passion meant enlargement, release from limitation. But it is the voice of faith. As He goes to the Cross, faith goes beyond the Cross and claims the answer of life, not death; enlargement, not limitation. We could dwell quite a long time upon the enlargement that has come to the Lord Jesus through suffering by faith, and this we hope to do in later messages.

Life, Liberty And Enlargement For Us In Christ

But what a testimony this is to the mercy of God. This is the point. I said a little earlier that this ‘I’ of the Psalm is an inclusive and collective ‘I’. In the first place, it is the nation speaking in this personal way, using this personal pronoun “I”. Now it is taken up in relation to the Lord Jesus – “I shall not die”. But, you see, it is not just personal. We know that the Lord Jesus had no need to go to the Cross for Himself. It has often been pointed out that those words used much later by an Apostle – “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2) – should be translated: “Who, instead of the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despised shame, and sat down…”, and it takes you to the mount of transfiguration.

The mount of transfiguration was the seal to the perfection of His moral character. There is no transfiguration or glorification apart from moral perfection, and so God gave Him the great witness that He was perfect, that He saw no fault in Him, that He had passed the scrutiny of the eyes of Divine holiness, and there was not a flaw or a blemish in Him: He was perfect. Therefore He had a right to go from the mount of transfiguration right through to the glory for aye. The glory was His: it was declared His, it was shown to be His, it was His. But instead of the joy that was set in front of Him, He turned round and came down and endured the Cross, and if you will look at the context of these words in Hebrews, you will find that it was all because of ourselves – that He was not going to glory without us. Bringing many sons to glory necessitated His coming down, foregoing for the time being His right, His immediate right, to the glory, and enduring the Cross. You remember how, in that same letter to the Hebrews, it is put into the mouth of the Lord Himself: “I and the children whom God hath given Me” (Heb. 2:13). “He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (2:11).

So this glorious Psalm, with its wonderful background in the life of the Lord Jesus and by the Cross of the Lord Jesus, gathers us in. We are in this collective ‘I’. We come into the good of this. “I shall not die, but live.” “The Lord answered me and set me in a large place.” It is true, is it not? It is true. We have that life triumphant over death. He has given that life to us; it is ours. It is not only ours in that general way – “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23) – but it is a testimony for all our life, something for now. It is a life which has come out of His death, and has overcome death in Him. It is for us. Do not let us lose the force of that by familiarity. It is to be a testimony every day. What we have in Christ is to be experienced and manifested every day, and it can be.

But then – and upon this we shall dwell very much more fully – what enlargement we have in Christ from our limitation! How infinitely great is the place into which we have been brought, how immeasurable are the resources, how vast are the ranges, how potent are the forces into which we have come in Christ through His death!

I close by reminding you of this – that while it is all concluded in Him, that where He is concerned there is nothing more to be done in this matter: it is full and it is final, and He has entered into His rest, has sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens; nothing through which we go can add to that, nothing which we experience can take from it; nevertheless, in a sense – not vicariously, not atoningly, not in the sense of His great redemptive work – but in a sense of fellowship with Him while He is still rejected in this world, and of humiliation in fellowship with Him, the principle still remains: that is, that life and enlargement come through adversity and faith’s triumph therein. It is the law of life. Faith’s triumph in adversity issues in life and enlargement.

We shall see more fully how true that is. The Bible is just full of it. Given a real test of faith, much adversity and opposition, everything hemming in, circling round – ‘all nations compassed me about, they compassed me about, they compassed me about’ – you see, it is reiterated, it is very real – nevertheless, nevertheless, that only constitutes the challenge to faith. Faith looks upon that as its opportunity, and when faith comes out in its declaration over against all that, and says, “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord”, that is the highway to a new experience of life and a new range of fullness – to enlargement by way of faith’s challenge and faith’s victory.

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Some Reasons Why The Church Lacks Effectiveness

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Many people like myself, get saved and are told that going to and being part of a church is what is needed for growth in the Christian life. My wife and I got saved in 1982 and have now “been around the block” a few times. While working hard to support my family I studied part time to receive my Bachelor’s Degree in Theology. We spent 6 years pastoring a small multi-cultural church in NYC and have spent many hours in evangelistic efforts. During the past 30 some years we have been to many different churches and been a part of several “apostolic” organizations.

I know that today there are many who have dropped out of the local church or been disillusioned by it too many times. People often feel unloved and neglected by the church and I believe the heart of God is grieved all too often by this.

What follows are some observations about seeming shortcomings and resolutions regarding how many churches are founded and how they function. Hopefully this may explain why in many ways “the church” doesn’t always work the way we expect it to and why so many people are leaving organized Christianity.

  1. Often a church gets founded by a man and his wife, who may or may not share the same vision. This man often holds down a full time job and tries to minister in his “spare time”. The stress and strain of this load often leads to burnout, as this minister attempts to do more than God intended for him to do.

This stress usually has sort and long term negative effects upon the man, his marriage and his family. Recent literature I cam across says that most pastors struggle with depression, and some 1500 pastors resign from ministry weekly in the U.S. God did not call a man to destroy his life in the process! We should look to God and the scriptures as the pattern for church planting.

  1. Biblically, outreach was an apostolic function and church planters were people who had God’s hand upon them in all 5 ministry functions: apostle, prophet, pastor, evangelist and teacher. True apostles have this anointing. These men were to be financed by the church, wherever possible, in their church planting efforts.

The word “apostle” literally means “one who is sent”. What God ordains, He sustains. Alongside these men should be people who volunteer a year or two to help in the church planting effort. People who are “wings, not weights” who can help in the work of the ministry, as Timothy was to Paul.

I believe “well begun is half done”. If true apostolic men were released, supported and helped, churches would be stronger, more vibrant and have much more impact upon our communities.

  1. I also believe that church funds are often misused. By this I mean that too much money is going for building structures, rather than building people. When do we ever see the apostle Paul laying the cornerstone of a building? Most businesses would never have a facility that was used so sparingly. Drive through many older towns today and see how many church buildings are abandoned or hardly used!

    Facilities can easily be rented for meetings that are held only once or twice a week for congregational gatherings. Many times homes can be used for small group meetings. In the early church funds were used for apostolic outreach and for helping the poor. Our government has now taken over the alms giving that is the church’s true call, not supporting buildings and church staff.

  1. The development of the whole five fold ministry is missing for the most part in the local church. Church leaders need to know and understand their gifts and function within them. According to scripture the “office” of pastor simply didn’t exist in the early church. Paul’s letters were sent to the “saints” at Rome, or the “church” at Corinth, but never were addressed to “the pastor”. Leadership of a church was by a group of elders, not just by one man.

Apostles helped strengthen the churches, helped lay foundations and identify those in the church with a true call of God on their lives. Prophets would speak God’s heart for the congregation or individuals within the body. They would also help oversee the development of future ministers.

A strong evangelistic effort is required by today’s church. While ministering in NYC I spent time on the streets almost daily handing out tracts or ministry letters. I was the only Christian minister out there, while the cults were very busy trying to gain converts on a daily basis. Consequently, very influential community leader told me, “This area has many churches, but no impact”. You can’t catch fish unless you go fishing!

Our nation needs effective churches that function properly and have anointed ministers who truly reflect the love of Jesus Christ. I once sat in a meeting with a well know pastor in our area who said to me, “money, it’s what makes it all go around”! It’s been hard for me to shake loose the effect these words have had upon my desire to be a part of the established church. The Church of Jesus Christ needs leaders who have true servant’s hearts, are humble and who reflect His character.

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A Call to Repentance

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Tomorrow is Thursday, November 20th and next week will be Thanksgiving. The following day will be what has become to be known as “Black Friday”, the first major shopping day of the Christmas season. This day was invented by retailers to “get out of the red and into the black”. In other words they get out of the negative and into the positive.

It seems ironic that a day which was created to be a day of reflecting on God’s goodness and being grateful for it, is followed by a day of “materialistic insanity”. Jesus said, “you can not love both God and money”. And in Matthew 6: 20 “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”. And, “In the last days people will be lovers of money.”

Yet, on November 28th millions of Americans will flock in a frenzy to stores to spend money and gather “things” as an expression of love. It will be the biggest shopping day of the year, as Americans worship their god mammon. But the Bible tells us that the “love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” People will get up at the crack of dawn and wait on lines for hours to get the best bargains. Yet why do we think that buying gifts should be as important to us as it is? This has nothing to do with the real meaning of Christmas! We are being controlled by Madison Avenue and professional marketers.

I deliver newspapers in our area every morning and it is amazing how many people go crazy over coupons. Everyone is trying to get a deal. Yet, our money still says “In God we Trust”, but we have to wonder if this is still true. Are our priorities misplaced? Have we lost our first love? The first commandment is “love the Lord our God with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength.”

Is there anyone who doubts that our nation has been and continues to be going in the wrong direction for quite some time? Yet, the Bible also gives us the solution to this: “If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and heal their land.”

I suggest that all Americans boycott “Black Friday”, and spend the day in repentance and fasting and prayer. If we turn back to God, he will turn back to us!

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