November 15, 2019
Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.” (John 6:43-45)
God has been drawing me out of Egypt for some years now. Egypt represents all of me – my thoughts, my ideas, my words, my plans, my actions, etc… Recently I sense He’s led me up and out of the Jordan River of self, to exit on the other side.
Ever since Adam and Eve fell in the Garden, severing fellowship with God, we’re all born serving self. It’s only natural to do whatever it takes to fulfill whatever self wants. It’s quite a task to learn to focus on others instead of self. None of this comes naturally because we’re each born with a totally corrupt sin nature, with self on the throne of our heart.
Jesus came and lived the perfect life we could not. He humbled Himself, came down from Heaven as a man, lived, died, resurrected and ascended so we could be restored to right relationship with God, through Christ alone. He did what we could never do. He lived the only perfect, sinless life, God’s requirement – the perfect, complete, final sacrifice, as payment for all the wrong ever done by those who would surrender their lives completely to Him.
Only by God’s grace, He gave me an insatiable hunger to know and follow Him. This led me from completely self-obsessed sinner, to half-hearted, professing “church”-goer, to truly surrendered, born-again disciple of Jesus. This process took forty-seven years.
For twenty-five years I attended and even served in churches, thinking I was ‘ok,’ but not truly experiencing the victory there is to be had in and through Jesus Christ. God is gracious and patient and merciful though. Even though I was offering false fire on the altar, lukewarm, mixing sin with service, He patiently continued drawing me to Himself with kindness. Only the one, true God could do this. I completely deserved death, yet instead, He gave me mercy.
The LORD is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9)
Over the last few years, God has revealed to me more and more of the error of my own ways…the faultiness of my thinking…the vanity of my desires. He made my own choices detestable not only to others, but also to myself. Finally, He brought me to a point of desiring NOTHING besides Him. I realized then that every thought, word and action from that point on must be from HIM, no longer from me.
I’d almost reached the end of myself, but was still holding onto one friendship that wasn’t pleasing to the LORD. In wrestling that through, I realized I just didn’t want any of MY own ways anymore. I was done… done trying to figure things out… done trying to have a plan for MYSELF and make it work… done trying to be, or do, or get things for MYSELF… just done. Death of SELF is crucial. We cannot have God in our life unless we DIE to everything else.
In February of this year (2019), the LORD led me to truly and fully repent (turn completely away from sin and my own ways), be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and be filled with His Holy Spirit.
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)
The old me died. The new me came to life. “Born-again” finally made sense, and I experienced it to the core of my being, all glory to God! I knew nothing would, or even could, ever be the same.
After that, He began bringing people and opportunities alongside, and proving more of His Word true.
Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick and they will recover. (Mark 16:15-18)
For the last five months I’ve tried to maintain the responsibilities I’d committed to at the local church building but realize I just can’t. The LORD has mercifully given me deeper understanding, and time to redeem, and I am convicted that every moment I have left belongs completely to Jesus Christ. I must allow the Holy Spirit of God to move me when and where and how He wills, every second of every day, and daily He’s been bringing hungry souls into the picture. His harvest truly is plentiful and laborers few. There are lives to touch, soldiers of God to disciple, and work to do. I realize I can’t just sit where I was anymore. More and more, the choice to either “rise up and walk” or “sit” arises, and each time, I am convicted that “rise up and walk” is the correct choice. Also, my beliefs have changed. I now understand that “having faith in Jesus” is not simply saying a prayer, but actual whole-hearted surrender and obedience to His command to truly repent, be baptized in water and be filled with His Holy Spirit. I know this is truth. I’ve lived through it. I’ve lived the results of both. One is defeat and one is victory. I know, with everything in me, the former is not the complete Gospel leading to salvation, but the latter is. We need both God’s Word and God’s Spirit to be His people, and to do His will.
I love the people I’ve served with, so it has been hard thinking through these things, inasmuch as I wish to be able to continue helping them. On the other hand, I desire to obey what I now know, and follow the LORD into this next season. There really is no other choice but to obey.
For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)
God always confirms what He’s doing…. Recently, as opportunities have arisen to help others, I missed a couple traditional “church” services. When I stood up from where I was sitting and started following in Jesus’ footsteps, some “church” members around me rose up in anger and accused me of being “in a cult,” and “following every wind of doctrine.” One person, whom I considered a best friend, even said he was done with me.
I’m coming to realize how prevalent and destructive religious spirits are. It makes no sense if we read God’s Word about going out to make disciples, and then come against the ones being called to go out and do so. Jesus Himself shared the Gospel, healed the sick, cast out demons and set captives free. He also told us to go out and do the same. Does it not seem strange that it’s the organized “church” rising up against these things? Actually, it isn’t strange at all, because it was the religious people of the time, who did the same to Jesus.
I read that a spirit of religion is evidenced by legalism and carnality, and that is the truth. I’ve seen and lived both. When the LORD drew me to Himself, and to get my heart right with Him, I had to flee. Legalism and carnality bring DEATH. Jesus Christ came to bring us LIFE. Both cannot exist at the same time.
People who are trusting in their own understanding of God and His Word do not recognize the workings of His Holy Spirit because we must come to the absolute end of ourselves in order to even be indwelt by Him. He doesn’t play around, and He won’t share space with prideful self. If we take any confidence in the flesh whatsoever, the Holy Spirit will have no part with us.
This walk with Jesus is no joke. We need to be willing to sacrifice absolutely everything and cast it down at His feet. He is worthy of it all. He is worthy of any and every cost. It’s not until we count no expense too great that He gives Himself fully to us and moves us up and out of a life of false comfort, ease, status quo, blindness and defeat, and into a life full of His presence, His voice, His leading, His comfort and His victories.
The definition of “cult” is “a religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object”. In that case, the “object” of my devotion is Jesus Christ, whereas it seems the “objects” of those who get angry at Spirit-led followers of Christ, seem to be “religion” (“a popular system of faith and worship”) and “tradition” (“the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation”). “Staying in the system,” and “not missing church,” are expressed by them as “integrity,” and when someone does otherwise, rage is the result. Oddly enough, intimidation, manipulation and domination are all traits of witchcraft.
I’m realizing more and more, it’s one thing to read the Word of God, but another thing altogether to obey and do it. I don’t know how we can spend so much time in a building talking about “God,” going through motions, while at the same time scorning and rejecting those following Jesus outside the four walls, seeking to obediently walk out what He’s called us all to do?
“Religion” has its people caged inside a man-made structure, and it’s rendering the Gospel impotent. A bird in a cage is in an unnatural state. You don’t see birds in cages flying like God created them to, or even moving much at all. The life and movement are missing from religion because the Holy Spirit and obedience are missing. We see a religious system today where people are relying on “the Word alone” but simply taking pride in their own knowledge and understanding, not hearing AND doing, putting the Word of God into action. We cannot love God and high-mindedly scorn others.
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)
We cannot obey the first of God’s greatest commandments but not the second…
“And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:30-31a)
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power… (II Timothy 3:1-5).
Paul said, “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit…” (I Thessalonians 1:5a).
When the Holy Spirit indwells a person, that person surrenders to God completely, through Jesus Christ, and desires what GOD wants more than ANYTHING else. The Holy Spirit then moves that person where and when and how HE wishes. There is NO man-made preference, list, system or regulation upon the process. The person is simply given up to the LORD, to do with whatever HE wishes, ANY thing, ANY way, ANY time, ANY place, at ANY given moment. The person himself does not try to interfere, rule or reign over that process, nor should any other person.
By God’s amazing grace, He led me out of all I thought I knew, and brought me to the END of me, to the end of the SYSTEMS I was bound to, to the end of SELF-WILLED or MAN-MADE ANYTHING, and to the understanding I needed to cast ALL at His feet, holding NOTHING back. At that place, the fear of GOD replaced the fear of man.
Recently, I’ve been studying the organized “church.” This quote struck me, “The church started out in Israel as a body (a living body of believers). It came to Greece and became a philosophy. It came to Rome and became an institution. It came to Europe and became a culture (a philosophy). It came to America and became an enterprise (a business). If you make a business out of a body, isn’t that prostitution?” (The Last Reformation, Torben Sondergaard)
This may sound a little harsh, but if we pause and look at how things are functioning within much of the traditional church system, it might not seem so harsh.
When we understand followers of Jesus are His church, His body at large, called to seek Him, obey His commands, and walk as He did on earth, we must wonder what is going on inside these buildings sometimes, when we’re ok to just go, sit, listen, and not do what He’s called us to do, to reach and touch others, and to perpetuate the kingdom of God outside the building.
I realize something now. I am not a Catholic. I am not a Presbyterian. I am not a Baptist. According to II Corinthians 5:17, I am “in Christ, a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” The word “new” in this verse is “kainos,” which means “something just made which is unlike anything else in existence.” In Christ, we are made an entirely new creation, just as God created the heavens and the earth originally – He made them out of nothing, and so He does with us. He does not merely clean up our old selves; He makes an entirely new self.
Reading the Word and not acting on it is like looking in a mirror and not remembering who we are – our identity in Christ comes from hearing and doing the Word, whereby through this obedience, He molds us and makes us into who He created us to be. It grieves me that much of my time in today’s “church” was spent like the “walking dead,” consuming the Word, but not contributing to the body of Christ or the Kingdom of God in much of a meaningful, productive way. As branches attached to the One True Vine, we shouldn’t be exhibiting no life or bearing no fruit.
God is so good. Man may look at this and tell me I’m being swayed with “every wind of doctrine.” My argument to that would be, “All I’ve done is surrender EVERYTHING to Jesus, trading it ALL in for ONLY HIM. It’s Him drawing me closer to Himself and to His ways, nothing else.”
The Holy Spirit of God lives inside of me, by His amazing, gracious plan. He tells me I’m in right standing with Him. His peace and rest surround me on all sides. His truth prevails over all falsehood. His voice speaks through His Word to my soul. “You may have tried things on your own to no avail, but I have greater things in store. Rest in Me, and I will bring it to pass.”
I am Yours alone, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, through the blood of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Have YOUR way in and through me… all the way….
For YOUR GLORY ALONE, in Jesus’ name.
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy, and gathered out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses. And He led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city for a dwelling place. Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness. Those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, bound in affliction and irons – because they rebelled against the words of God, and despised the counsel of the Most High, therefore He brought down their heart with labor; they fell down, and there was none to help. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and broke their chains in pieces. Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He has broken the gates of bronze, and cut the bars of iron in two….. He sets the poor on high, far from affliction, and makes their families like a flock. The righteous see it and rejoice, and all iniquity stops its mouth. Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the LORD. (Psalm 107:1-16,41-43)
Stubbornness and disobedience are rebellion and idolatry. Rebellion is as witchcraft/divination. We are not guaranteed another day, or even another breath or heartbeat.
All the other things I’ve busied myself with until now have narrowed down to one simple question I find myself wanting to ask every person I encounter….
ARE YOU FREE?
What would you be willing to do, to be free of whatever is afflicting you? The answer is to surrender to Jesus Christ in true and thorough repentance, casting down your own ways in exchange for HIS, be baptized in water in the name of Jesus Christ, and be filled with His Holy Spirit.
Time is short. Please don’t wait!
If everything “hits the fan,” please cry out to JESUS!!