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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

23-Dec-1987 — "Thou Hast Possessed My Reins"

Commentary on Psalm 139, by A. Marsnik
Transcribed from a session of morning devotions
December 23,1987

I was impressed by that one verse (verse 4) in the hymn that we just sang, Burn, Fire of God:

Burn, fire of God! with seven-fold refining,
Till mirrored from my deeps Thine eyes shall see
In purest gold Thy perfect image shining:
Thy Christ revealed in clear irradiancy.

And I just saw what a tremendous picture that was: God, as it were, from the foundation of the world — from before the foundation of the world, really — in thought, looking, looking at His creation that had not yet come into being, through which and from which would be mirrored back to Him the image of His Son. And I’ll tell you, there is something that is absolutely thrilling, awesome and astounding over that reality. There is God, entertaining in His heart His plan of creation. And He has no other real purpose to create, except that that creation will in some way mirror back to Him His Son.

And so we look at God in terms of the triple aspect of His ministry: We see God as Creator, bringing something that is not Himself into being; but nevertheless this thing that is not Himself He will identify with in a way that will cause there to be a union between Himself and creation. We see God securing that for Himself, of course, in the creation of man — man, being the one who would have the heavenly energy breathed into Him, when God breathed into the dust and there was Adam. There was a heavenly energy then imparted to the earth to bring an otherwise scattered, chaotic world back to God.

And yet we see what happened: we saw that man, that Adam, endued with this tremendous heavenly energy, did not use it to bring creation back to God; but horrible thing as it was, he used the heavenly energy to go against God. Do you know that nothing in the realm of nature knows anything of the fall? They did not have enough energy in them, they did not have enough life in them, to ever affront God. Never. But Adam was the recipient of the heavenly energy, and the awfulness of the fall was that the God-given energy and life that God bestowed upon creation through Adam was in turn used against God.

So we see God in His creative contemplation, thinking of a world that, had it remained totally in line with His purposes, would have mirrored back to Him the image of the living Word, namely Jesus. Then we see the next aspect of God’s ministry in the Incarnation, when the Word became fully flesh. I say that because I believe there is a sense in which even with the creation of Adam the Word became flesh. That was the beginning of the incarnation. But with the Incarnation there was a commitment on the part of Christ to become, as it were, more flesh than even Adam was, than the Word becoming flesh in Adam — because there were other layers, there were depths of flesh now that Adam partook of after the fall that he did not partake of before the fall.

And so the Word of God coming in Jesus Christ, identifying with flesh and blood, goes deeper. The Word takes on all of flesh, every bit of it; and unto the end that the flesh, every single layer of it that the Word identified with, could be in some sense renounced on the cross. There had to be a renunciation of the flesh in order for the flesh to be brought into alignment with the purposes of God, and so when Jesus died on the cross there were two things involved. It was basically a saying “no” to the flesh that would be governed by flesh, but it was a saying “yes” to a God who would order flesh. Hallelujah!

And so we find the third aspect of the ministry of God in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ on the cross. And I realize that until we grasp the depth to which God had to go, leaving not one atom untouched by the presence of the Word, there’s going to be something missing in our perspective, and we’re going to try to fill up the gap between God and man with something else. But Jesus is the one who is the Filler-up of the gap. Praise the Lord! And I was again quickened to read, in connection with God’s overall view of creation, I was just drawn again to those precious words in Psalm 139.

I would like as we read this psalm to consider it as the speaking of man, the speaking of creation, to God. This is how creation, particularly in its spokesman man, is speaking to God.

“O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me.” I believe the tremendous search-light of God was progressively moving into every stratum of human flesh as the Word became flesh. Jesus said He is the Light of the world, and as the Light of the world took on those layers of flesh, He was a light that was searching out the darkness. But I think I had occasion to minister, on another occasion, that God just doesn’t search us out to make us look bad. He searches us out with a light in order that when the impurities are discovered, they not only are changed, but the light provides a strength and a guide for us to break away from the inconsistencies and be gathered unto the light. There’s a gathering power in the light of God. There’s a gathering, there’s a unifying influence in the life of Jesus. And layer, after layer, after layer of humanity has been searched out by that light of God in the person of Jesus — who is not the light of just some of us, but He’s the Light of the world. Keep that in mind!

Now, some people may not acknowledge it, but God’s not going to change His theme. He’s not going to change His story. Jesus is the Light of the world. Now, if we want to arrive at the end of our course imperfected [sic], we can very well choose some other light — light that has no ability to work any change in us. Or, we can submit, mournfully yet gladly, to the all-searching light of His presence, and the all-searching light of His countenance, the Word of God. “The entrance of thy word giveth light!” (Ps. 119.130) Let me tell you, there’s no way we can envisage the involvement of Jesus, the living Word, in this world as non-eventful. His coming meant that forever there was a light shining in the darkness, and the darkness would not be able to put it out. We might think we’ve put it out, and say, “Well now, that’s great, I don’t have to worry about that any more,” but the light shines, and it’s there to do its searching work.

So, let’s read some more. “Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.” Can you imagine that the thought that no doubt God understood afar off was the thought, entertained by Adam, to live independently of God? Now that’s an awful thing. You see, that kind of thought, the thought entertained by Adam to live independently of God, is the thought that, when incarnated in Adam’s life, would put Adam at opposite poles from God: in the realm of darkness, as opposed to the realm of light. And that was the thought that God knew of. Far removed, when that thought that was being generated in Adam’s heart was being glimpsed at by God, I can well imagine God began to say, “I shouldn’t have done it. I shouldn’t have done it; I should never have created him.”

But no; thanks be to God for the eternal provision of the Lamb. Hallelujah! Thanks be to God for the provision of the living, sharp two-edged sword that is able to divide asunder all of those intricate workings of the mind of man. Thanks be to God for the piercing of the heart of Mary — and I believe there is a sense in which Mary is symbolic of the whole earth being pierced by the Word, in order that the thoughts of many might be made manifest to God. (Lu. 2.35) The Word comes sharply, the Word comes to break us up in our false unity, the Word comes to shatter us in our natural existence, the Word comes as that which tells us in one way or another that a unity short of the unity with God the Father is not a unity at all, but it’s deception. And the Word comes shooting into the dark, breaking it all up, and revealing our hearts unto God. That’s the function of the Word. And we may not like it — none of us likes to be shattered, none of us — but it’s coming.

And so there was that thought entertained by man: “Oh, I could live independently of God, I could do it.” Verse 3, man speaking to God: “Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.” Thou has beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Now what does that mean? You know, people, we are positioned, as man, between the Lamb that was slain from before the foundation of the world, and a Lamb that died historically on the cross. And here we are in the middle; God has compassed us about with His presence: God’s thought in eternity — of a Lamb to match, and more than match, the self-centered thought of Adam that would suggest to Adam that he could make it on His own — and the Lamb, on Calvary, pouring out His life unto death. There’s man, somewhere in the midst of these two polarities, but it’s the Lamb on either side, hallelujah! Before, and behind.

“Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.” Thank God! “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.” God, you’re everywhere! You’re in heaven, and I find you in the depths of hell! I find you in the person of your Son, identified with every layer of flesh, even a flesh that was corrupting in hell. But God sent His Holy One into that realm where corruption was reigning, and God saw to it that His Holy One would not see corruption. Hallelujah! And so we see, as it were, a light coming out of the bright heavens into the dark earth. All the way to where man was in full bondage: hell. And you can imagine the elation in the heart of God when God begins to perceive the flickers of that light coming up out of hell — hallelujah! — the Word of God being returned to Him, not just with Himself this time, but gathered by those who would be willing to be His body. Hallelujah! The Dayspring from on high! (Lu. 1.78)

“The path of the just is as a shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” (Pr. 4.18) Do you know what God is looking for? He’s all light, but he’s looking for there to come forth from the earth a light of such intensity that will match the light that went out from heaven. And what will be born back to God will be the “children of the day” (1 Th. 5.5), shot through with the very light of God’s presence. Oh, it’s wonderful, absolutely wonderful! My, I can’t think of it! David had nothing on me — it’s “too wonderful” for me!

“If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.” Aren’t you glad for that? We who live, for the most part, in opposites, in states of opposing situations... As far as God is concerned, He identified with everything in us that is contrary. The darkness that would seek to hide God’s Adam all of a sudden begins to blaze with the light of the presence of the Word of God; and He’s saying, “Father, I’m coming home. This time not alone! I’m coming, bringing many sons with me.” What a splash of glory! What a splash of light!

But unless we really lay hold of this, people, we’re going to go on living just like everybody else is living, and prefer our stupid darkness, and think that’s our situation. Our selfishness, our self-centeredness... God help us! There’s a light that wants to break through from you today. We’re always saying, “O God, let your life break into me.” I want to tell you, if God the Father isn’t beholding the light in the clarity that He would like, it’s not God’s fault. We’re the people who are keeping the cloaks of darkness around us, because we’re off-center. But as we get centered, the light of the Center, who is Jesus, begins to break through our flesh; and God, looking from His heaven, sees the world all aglow with His presence. But every time we deviate — and I think I need to say this, people — every time we deviate — oh, I’m speaking this to myself — every time I deviate and in some way turn in on myself, I am basically creating a shadow, and the light of God cannot come forth.

“For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.” And I thank God that there has been the possession of the reins. I thank God that the reins, or the kidneys, which are those organs which purify the body of all of the impurities, have been possessed by God. “My ransomed soul,” we say, “my ransomed soul possessing...” It’s one thing for God to have ransomed our soul, and He did that — Jesus paid the price on Calvary. But we can resist now the work that goes beyond the ransoming, and that is the possessing by God of our reins. God has ransomed us, the price has been paid, but we can resist being possessed by God. And so we wander in darkness, and we’re no good for anybody, we’re no good for ourselves, we’re no good for one another, and we’re no good for God.

And going on in that condition, we soon begin to serve again the enemy. It’s a choice all our own, because the price has been paid. But if we neglect so great a salvation, God can’t do anything more with us, and into hell we go — and this time hell is not going to provide that kind of light which leads us out. This time it’s going to be a hell that is ever permeated with the life of God in such a way that we will be eternally ashamed. He came once, to lead a people out of darkness, and people who prefer the darkness now are condemned. Herein is the condemnation, that though the light is come, men prefer the darkness because their deeds are evil. (Jn 3.19)

You see, it’s an awful thing to be involved in evil deeds, because every evil deed we perform puts a preference within us. Do you know that? Every evil thing we do begins to work a state of preference in us, and the more evil I am, the more evil things I do, the less I prefer God. I wish it were the other way around, but it’s not. It really isn’t. And this time, there is a hell that those who have chosen the darkness will have a right to inhabit.

“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” God brings the world into existence, looking out over it: waiting, waiting, waiting for the formation of His Son in the earth. I can envisage the Father and the Son enjoined in an embrace that has to take place because the earth is coming up with something of equality with God Himself — that which the earth is bringing forth has the quality of God, and God must take it to Himself. That was the thought God was entertaining for His creation, and He never gave up on that thought, even though it meant that He Himself had to experience tremendous suffering in allowing His Son to be identified, closed off, shut up from the land of the living, separated from Him, in order that we can be joined to God.

“My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.” Let me tell you, people, it’s in the final stay of degradation, which is death — for the wages of sin is death; sin is dark, but death is darker, and so Jesus could not just come to forgive sins. Jesus had to taste death for every man, because that is where man was — and there was the curious work being wrought of the new creation! Hallelujah! Somewhere in that — I don’t want to say time span, because it’s so concentrated with eternity, those events of Calvary, and the tomb and the resurrection, that you almost can’t talk about it as an event in time. Though it is an event in time, it’s packed full of life and eternity! — and there was the arena for a new race. The new creation was being born, with Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, at its head, coming out of darkness, bringing with Him a train. “I see the Lord, I see the Lord, He is high and lifted up, and His train fills the temple...” We’re His train.

“Thine eyes did see my substance, being yet unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee. Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men. For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain.” What does that mean? What does it mean to take the name of God in vain? It means to say, “I am of God, I am a Christian, I am born again,” but never allowing the Lord to possess the reins. And so we take the name in vain. We take the name in vain! We must recognize that the vast majority is only nominal. It doesn’t do us one bit of good to say that we’ve taken the name of Jesus, because, for the most part, we draw nigh with our lips, but our hearts are far removed. (Is. 13.13) And so we take the name in vain. In fact, we take the name unto our destruction if we’re not willing to let God do His work in us.

“Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am I not grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.” I used to read this psalm and never want to read to the end; I just didn’t like it. It speaks of a perfect hatred. There is a perfect hatred; it’s a hatred against the total enemy of God, who is duping so many in this hour, holding out the allurements of darkness.

And then, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Hallelujah!

Clothe me now with linen bright and shining
Anoint my head with precious healing oil
Take my hands and use them for Your service
Take my hands for Thy dear kingdom’s toil
Cleanse my lips with coals from off the altar
Wash me now with water by Thy Word
Purge away my dross, blessed Holy Spirit
Prepare me for the coming of the Lord

That’s the idea: the preparation that will be of value to the degree that we’re serious about the coming of the Lord.

Our lives, O Lord, are not our own
You have purchased them with the shed blood of Your Son
Who laid down His life so willingly for us
Now we lay our lives down for You
With singleness of heart one purpose burns within
Our only desire: to magnify Your name
Possess our reins and purify our hearts
We abandon ourselves to You
____________________
Please feel free to view or download a PDF version of this article.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Vol 2, No 1 - March, 1993 - "Lord, Teach Us to Pray!"

Lk 11.1-4: And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceaseth one of his disciples said unto him, Lord teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

There are two instances in which the above prayer is given in the Gospels; the other is in Matthew 6. Most Bible scholars tell us that there really were two different times that Jesus taught on the subject of prayer. In both cases, He showed this as a pattern - "When ye pray, say...", and "After this manner therefore pray ye..." - which we must embrace if we are to learn to pray. To desire to pray is not enough! We must learn to pray, and we must pray! If prayer came naturally to us (it does not!), it would not be necessary for us to be taught. Not all will go on in the hard instruction that God must give us; but if there is a hunger, if there is a thirst, if there is an open heart to every Word that God would speak to us - then we may trust God that He is able to make clear His instructions.

The Setting
Since there were two instances of instruction, we should look at them both. In the first, the "Sermon on the Mount" (see Mt 5.1, 2), Jesus was confronted with the multitudes, and, seeing them, He went up into a mountain; there, His disciples came to Him. Notice the distinction here between the many and the few. When He taught among the multitudes, He spoke in parables, but here He used plainer speech. It was not to the many that He delivered this teaching for they did not follow Him up the mountain; only the few were at hand. Beloved, the true Gospel always causes a separation! We are so concerned with "attracting" the right people to church, so that they can hear the Sunday message, that pretty soon the message changes. There is a price to be paid for attracting the kind of people that must be catered in order to be kept. We want to make it easy to follow Jesus, but He made it hard to follow Himself, and this is a pattern followed throughout the Word. This same instance is recorded in Luke, where He "lifted up his eyes on his disciples", and began to speak. Again it is made clear whom He addressed, and it was not the multitudes. It is not that He rejected the crowds; instead, they rejected Him: the way was too straight, too full of obstacles, too hard, required too much commitment. At every progression deeper into the heart and will of God, there is a narrowing.

In the only other recorded instance where our Lord taught on this subject (see our text), we find that discipleship was also involved. He was praying in a certain place; His disciples were present. At no other time in the Scriptures did His followers witness that intimate communion that He had with the Father in prayer. What ensued was both a drawing and a testing. Their hearts were drawn by the relationship that He showed. At the same time, however, they had to "endure" to the end. The Scriptures do not say how long Jesus prayed, but He was accustomed to long periods of communion, many times continuing all night. They dared not interrupt Him, and He did not cut short His devotion: they simply had to wait. If they had known it at the time, they were already in the school of prayer, for much of prayer is not presenting our petitions, but simply waiting and beholding - waiting on His Presence and Will to be manifest, and bebolding His Face and Character. When the time was right - when He ceased - one of His disciples dared to voice the petition that is before us now: "Lord, teach us to pray!"

You may notice in the Gospels that Jesus often seems to ignore a question, or the answer seems to be on a different level entirely. But not so here: He was waiting for that very question, and the time was proper for both the asking and the answering. The disciples had passed the test - the narrowing - and the very heart of God would now be disclosed to them.

Beloved, are you a disciple? If so, you are following Him in all things, and in the best way that you know how. There are weapons that are at your disposal for warfare, but they are not for the carnally minded. The Spirit Himself will lead you, but you must, in the power of that same Spirit, be willing to mortify the deeds of the flesh. There is a cost of discipleship which most Christians underestimate, and which none overestimate. God Himself must come and show us that cost. And He loves to hear the heart cry from a disciple: "Lord, teach us to pray!"

He Is Not As We Are
With some understanding of the heart setting and preparations necessary to instruct us in this matter, we can now turn our attention to the prayer itself. How gracious is our Lord to give us a pattern, by which we might be taught! And how necessary that we take it in. This prayer, spoken by the lips of the Master, is not given to be recited by rote (though I certainly have no problem with that), but for an intrinsic understanding of what prayer is and how we are to approach our Father.

"Our Father!" What a privilege that when I kneel in prayer, these words should be given to me to say. Whose Father? His Father, and mine. Only those who have experienced being born from above can really appreciate the magnitude of what is provided for us here. Did you know that, by the power of Calvary, we have been delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of His dear Son [Col 1.13]? In any true coming to the Father, we come in the Son, and, in addition, the Son is in us. This is new creation life, and can only be done by the power of the Son. This should settle for all time our coming unto God, whether we are "in the mood" or not. The Son delights to come; He delights to commune. He treasures the presence of the Father. And He comes in the authority of a new kingship, in His own kingdom - the kingdom of the dear Son - where nothing is loved so much as the Father, and where the power and authority of lesser kingdoms is kept at bay by the strongest force in the universe. This is not based on our feelings, but on the sure foundation of the Word of God. And, in this kingdom, we are heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.

So it is that, when we confess Him as our Father, we confess our own new nature, no longer the nature of the old man. Men suppose they may approach God in many ways; but when we know Him as our Father, we acknowledge the Son as our only entrance into His glorious Presence. As He is our Father, so we are His sons, and we confess the nature which is of the Father. That new nature is the nature of Christ, which delights to do His will. It is the heavenly nature. "Our Father, which art in heaven!"

Where is the Father? He is in heaven. Why is it important for us to confess this? Because it affects us at the very core of our beings, and opens our hearts to the revelation of His Person. It is a sad fact that most Christians believe God to be like something which they know and with which they are familiar; they never allow themselves to be touched by His otherness. Therefore, they believe His concerns to be the same as theirs, and all their petitions are based on their own perceptions of value and need. His nature is a heavenly one; His concerns are heavenly concerns; His thoughts are heavenly thoughts; His actions are based on Eternity. Is it any wonder that we do not understand prayer, when we base our judgments of need and value on what we can see and hear now? - while the Father to whom we pray sees the consequences of every divine action many ages into the Eternal future. But we cannot know this until it is revealed to us.

His otherness. He is what we are not but are commanded to be. He is holy; we are commanded to be the same, but we are more human than divine. His Name - that which is highest in His Mind and Heart (save only His Word - see Ps 138.2) - is hallowed. Beloved, we are not asked to confess His holiness in our prayers because He needs reassurance, but because He wants to reveal it unto us. We are unlike Him, but through Christ we partake of the divine nature; then that which eye cannot see and has not entered into our hearts can be shown unto us by the Spirit. His otherness. He is that which we fear, and rightfully so, because He is a consuming Fire of holiness (He 12.28-29). And yet the same Fire - the Holy Spirit, released by Calvary, sent by the exalted Son, with the nature of God, because He is God - is our only Comforter in this world. And the fierce wrath that would have been our infinite portion has fallen upon the lamb - Hallelujah! - and now, there is forgiveness with Him, that he should be feared (Ps 130.4). Therefore, we come boldly to His Throne, and there find mercy with grace.

His otherness. He is what we long for but cannot express. He, with the Son, desires to come and make His abode in us, even as He has prepared for us a place in Him. We do not yet see the fulfillment, Beloved, but it is real, and cannot be taken from us by this world, because it is not of this world. His otherness. He reveals His glory to us in the face of Jesus Christ: look on that Face, and love and desire it. There set your affection; there see yourself dead to this world, and alive unto God; there find your life. You can understand when I say that this does not happen quickly. It is the result of a lifetime of giving ourselves over to prayer.

Nothing more clearly demonstrates this to my own heart than the continuation of the prayer: "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth." As all about God is other to the natural man, just so is His Kingdom. When we pray for His kingdom to come, we do not realize what we are asking. Jesus, in response to Pilate's question, "Art thou the King of the Jews?", answered: "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. [Jn 18.36]" Consider this closely: to establish an earthly kingdom, even one in which Christ would reign in righteousness, it would have been necessary to save His life. But for God's heavenly kingdom to come, it was needful that He die. If we would be honest, we all have an idea of what the Father needs to do to establish His kingdom, and our place in it, and it usually entails saving our lives "for the glory of God." How sadly we can be mistaken on this! The servant is not greater than his Master. To pray for His kingdom to come is to ask to lose our lives, and in so losing to gain Him. Let His will be done in your lives, "as in heaven, so in earth": instantly, perfectly, gratefully. This is the essence of the coming Kingdom, and the nature of the King.

Our Rightful Petitions
In all of the confessions which He requires of us, we are allowing Him to change our hearts. It is in light of this that we may finally consider the nature of our rightful petitions; and the fact is that we do not know what to pray for until He has dealt with our hearts. According to James (chapter 4), we err in two ways: we fail to request what the Father wants us to have; or we ask correctly but amiss, desiring to consume the expected answer upon our own lusts. We will pray effectively only when we are in a state of yieldedness. Have you ever gone to God with an agenda, only to find that things looked totally different after you had been in prayer for some time, and your heart was quieted? Beloved, the true nature of prayer is to enter the heart of God, and become one with His desires. Then He may use us, in prayer, to work much Divine and lasting good.

Are there petitions that are rightful and needful? They are few: to receive our bread, day by day; to have our sins forgiven and have His nature outworked within us; to be kept from evil. The daily bread refers to our need to be fed from His Word, the Living Bread. These are requests which He will not withhold from us, and all of our rightful supplications will fall into these categories, whether for ourselves or others. But until we are fully brought into His wisdom and nature, we will make mistakes because of sin and misplaced or unchecked desires. In all things, therefore, we must know from Him what to pray; and we must allow ourselves to be overruled: "Nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done." We are to make our petitions known, but to realize that the greatest purpose of prayer is not supplication, but oneness with Him.

We remember, that, had the disciples known it, they were already in the school of prayer when they requested that which the Father very much wanted to do: "Lord, teach us to pray!" They desired it because they beheld the Son, and saw Him in communion. Is that cry within your heart? If so, it is from God, and your eyes have already been opened to some extent. Prayer is not learned in the prayer meetings; it is learned in the closet. It takes time to wait on God until He answers our heartfelt pleas. That is the narrowing. There is much hidden work in it, and, therefore, not all men will persevere. But if you do, God will come, and Himself teach, and Himself reveal to your searching heart.
-GHS
____________________
Please feel free to view or download a PDF version of this article.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Vol 1, No 2 - October 1992 - "A Key to Understanding"

In keeping with what the Holy Spirit has laid upon our hearts for this issue, it seems that there is an abiding theme of the planting and the harvest. The planting of the Lord that grows up before the face of the Father, and the treasure hidden in the field: both are examples of the sacred principle which is stated for us so graphically in the sixth chapter of Galatians, that we will all reap what we sow. God sowed into the earth a Divine Seed; therefore, He will reap a Divine Harvest. And, make no mistake, we will reap that which we sow, as well: everlasting life if we sow to the spirit, corruption if to the flesh. In the words ofthe precious hymn by W. Y. Fullerton:

I cannot tell how He will win the nations,
How He will claim His earthly heritage,
How satisfy the needs and aspirations
Of east and west, of sinner and of sage.
But this I know, all flesh shall see His glory,
And He shall reap the harvest He has sown,
And some glad day His sun shall shine in splendour
When He the Saviour, Saviour of the World, is known.

In a way that no mortal mind can understand because of its wonder, its glory, its power and cosmic scope, God will reap the harvest of a people made in the fashion and image of His only Son. And, though we cannot take it fully in while limited by our own mortality, we should know this: our Father speaks to us in the Scriptures to bring us to a place of true understanding concerning His eternal purposes which are in Christ Jesus. Those purposes can only be realized in the union between God and man: both in Jesus as head of the new creation, and in us as we come forth in new creation reality. This realization sets the scope for two Scriptures that we will consider briefly:

1 Tim 3.16: And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh...

Mk 4.13,14: And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? The sower soweth the word.

In all of God's overtures to us, He speaks of things that we have not seen and cannot understand: He speaks of heavenly verities, while we are steeped in the lesser realities of a fallen creation. It takes a deep inner working for us to be trained and equipped to hear the Voice of the Spirit clearly. And, even when we hear, how can we understand? The language of heaven -- the language of the Spirit -- has no basis of translation into our speech. It is as though a man blind from birth is told of the wonders of vivid color!

But thank God that He has bridged the infinite chasm between us in Christ! Thank God that there is now a Man after His own nature, and we have a kinship with the Father, and can now be introduced to heavenly things.

All that God does is necessarily shrouded in mystery to us. In fact, the whole of the Scriptures can be viewed as a parable, given to us by God, because we cannot yet bear plain speech. By this I don't mean that the Scriptures are merely symbolic or interpretive, or that there is no literal truth or historical accuracy in them. What I mean is that through them he introduces us to much higher realities and a more real, more substantive plane of existence. And what He has been gracious to speak to us in these precious words is absolutely necessary, because, without them, we cannot arrive at our destination or fulfill our eternal purposes.

God was manifest in the flesh! What a wonderful paradox that both reveals and enhances the Mystery of His Being. That God came in the flesh is the beginning of the disclosure to us of His nature, but also reveals unto us the "so much more" that we have not yet comprehended of His Majesty and Glory. Paul is saying to Timothy that God, coming to us in human flesh, wrapped in mortality, tabernacling among us, is that which both initiates us and draws us ever deeper into the wonder of His Being. In fact, this is the basis of all that God says to us through the Spirit (read 1 Jn 4.1-3).

"Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow." So begins the parable of Jesus to His followers in Mark 4. And before He discloses it, He says: "Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?" There are other parables He wants to tell us as well, but this one is the key to our understanding, and a comprehension here will open the door to all of God's future speakings to us. This emphasis is His, not mine; if we do not take this in, receive it and believe it, dwell upon it and live from it, we will always struggle and will open ourselves to deception. "Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God [v. 11]" to them "that were about him with the twelve," when He was alone. This means you and me, if we will come, not merely the select group signified by the twelve. But we must come when He is alone. This parable is only revealed in the closet.

"The sower soweth the word." This is why God will reap a divine harvest from the earth. Divine seed has been sown! The Word of God, most precious of all seeds, sown into the earth! That seed is our connection with a different order, and is, of all treasures, the most precious and costly that we could possess. The parable makes clear that it must be nurtured and protected above all else, lest that seed should be snatched from our hearts by the Evil One, or wither in tribulation, or simply be forgotten among our other concerns. If given reverential place, and treated as the wonderful treasure it is, it will -- wonderfully, mysteriously! -- bring forth much fruit.

Think of it! The seed of the Word, God's Son, and the Brightness of His Glory, in us! Christ in us, the hope of Glory! No wonder that we are now partakers of the divine nature; nothing less would be fitting repast for the King who dwells within. Did you know that when Paul wrote those words to Timothy -- "God was manifest in the flesh" -- the context was the church? He manifested Himself in Christ; just so He intends to manifest Christ in us.

If the wonderful possibilities of our union with God in Christ come alive to us, we will become true worshipers. If we see this glorious salvation in its reality -- the poverty from which we have been delivered, and the abundance of our new place in Him -- we will give God ten thousand thanks. And so we shall, for endless ages to come.

-GHS
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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Vol 1, No 2 - October 1992 - "A Heart Fixed on the Treasure"

Ps 57.7: My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.

Our text finds David in the midst of dire circumstances. His soul is "among lions," and "bowed down." He is surrounded by men who "have dug a pit" for him, "whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword [vv. 4, 6]." And yet he is able to cry to God that his heart is fixed. Marvelous stability! What does it mean experientially to have a heart that is fixed? What can so stabilize our hearts?

Scripture tells us, in Matthew 6, that where our TREASURE is, our HEART will be also. The treasure is the key. Yet we all know the disappointment of finding our hearts drawn off course. "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love." Have we not all felt the sorrow of knowing Jesus to be worthy of unfailing devotion and undying love, and finding our affections falling short of the mark and our flesh responding to lesser pulls?

There is help for this condition in the 13th chapter of Matthew, as the Holy Spirit would open up to us the parable of Jesus concerning the man who found a treasure hidden in a field. Notice here that the treasure is hidden. Perhaps it is buried somewhere in the field, as we most often picture. But perhaps it is distributed throughout the soil, as nuggets of gold that must be mined from the earth, or even hidden to the eye, as the powerful treasure of fruitfulness is hidden in the seeds in the ground. Once the treasure is recognized, however, the whole field is bought for joy, even at the price of this man selling "all that he had."

Now this field represents the seemingly nonessential things in our life that we have to go through in order to come to the treasure. Jesus is the treasure; and He is of a different order than the natural order through which we must move in coming to Him. Are we willing, for the excellency of the treasure, to buy the whole field? God doesn't just "plop" Jesus into the midst of circumstances that are always pleasing to us! A field has to be worked -- tilled, cultivated -- in order to gain its yield. This speaks of the crucified life. We have to move through the field, pressing against the world, sowing to the Spirit daily, realizing that we are in the world, but not of it.

This is where Christians need to understand that our coming into possession of the treasure will demand a heart that is fixed! A heart that is absolutely convinced that its real treasure is Jesus, and will be willing to go through whatever is necessary to possess Him. We will find ourselves fainting quickly if there isn't worked into us, by the power of the Holy Ghost, an absolute persuasion that Jesus is worth it all. No natural wisdom, no intellectual endeavors, no amount of study will persuade us of the magnificence of the great treasure which is ours in Christ Jesus. It must come under the power of the Holy Ghost! If our hearts are wandering hearts, going from one thing to another in an effort to attain satisfaction for our being, we need to cry out for the stabilizing, steadying influence of the Holy Spirit, Who will ever do the thing He is best at doing: making the things of Christ real to our hearts. When those things are real, it will be amazing how much extraneous activity will fall by the wayside.

Now on the level of intellectual understanding, of theoretical knowing, none of us has a problem with this; but it is an altogether different thing when this truth actually begins to take hold in our lives. For God doesn't present Himself as Truth in the intellectual realm; He presents Himself as Truth in the inmost part of man: in our hearts, in our flesh-and-blood experiential definition, where we have to work through some things in order to come to Him Who is our treasure. Perhaps we've been inspired by the treasure, and yet nonetheless, the world through which we have to move could still be a trap. If the enemy can succeed in clouding over the vision of the beauty of the treasure that is ours in Christ Jesus, then all too soon we will find the world holding out for us its own beauties. So often we say that all we want is Jesus, but if we are honest, we find that we try to dictate to God the terms in which Jesus will come to us. There is always the danger that the crucifixion required will not be to our liking, and we will settle down. This is why we are admonished to the stirring up of the gift within us.1

Ultimately, our only safety from the enemy's tactics, and the deceitfulness of our own hearts, is to be totally taken over by the Spirit of God. We need God's divine operations, until every area of our mind, every area of our emotions, every stratum of our being is under the influence of Him Who gave Himself for us that we might be made alive unto Him! Then, out of the stability of a heart that is fixed, will be true spontaneity of the Spirit. It will come to pass, what is spoken of in the Scriptures, "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit."2 Divine elusiveness is our portion! The enemy will not be able to keep up with us!

Notice the thought that comes immediately after David's testimony that his heart is fixed: "I will sing and give praise." Not, he will sing and then his heart will become fixed! When we can say with David, "My heart is fixed," we will have a joy in the Holy Spirit which we have never yet known. We will cease to dwell on what we are enduring, and will instead be taken up with Him.

If you are at all bogged down over the seemingly non-essential things you are going through, read prayerfully the 32nd chapter of Jeremiah. Ask the Holy Spirit to open up to you the Gospel truths of this prophetic action on the part of Jeremiah, in buying a field. Take in the hopelessness of the prophesied inevitable captivity. Take in the tremendous faith required to purchase a field at God's instruction, when the circumstances contradicted any hope of possessing it. Take in the glorious promise of God, regarding future purchases of fields to follow, showing Jeremiah's act to be but the earnest of a great inheritance. See herein the One Who bought a field at such a great price, for the sake of His Chosen. Consider the risk He took, as the field was infiltrated with the seed of Satan, the tares already sown under his dominion. And now the Spirit answers to the blood, telling us to follow where He has trod. As Jesus bought the field by the shedding of His blood, so we possess God by dispossessing ourselves.

God has a treasure now in the earth, because of Jesus' obedience. Jesus was the first One to buy the truth and sell it not, and now we can come along in His train, buying up, buying up, redeeming the time. As we now take His yoke upon us, putting our hands to the plow, and learn of Him, we will praise Him for the wisdom with which He has chosen to hide the treasure in the field. We will praise Him for the glory which is His in concealing the treasure, and the grace with which He enables us to have the honor of searching it out!3 For there is no limitation in God; He has purchased the whole field. "We're marching through Immanuel's ground!" The way may not be easy, but it is sure.

-From teachings by Annette Marsnik,
edited and compiled by DLS.
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1. 2 Ti 1.6
2. Jn 3.8
3. Pr 25.2

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Vol 1, No 2 - October 1992 - "Growing Up Before Him"

Is 53.2: For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
There is a wonderful truth in this, not only for the historical unveiling of Jesus Christ to the world, but also for the operations of God in the lives of His saints. For He is the "pattern son"; and, as we are expressly told in the letter to the Hebrews, both He that sanctifies, and we who are sanctified, are all of one: one in suffering, one in His work in our lives, one in glory. We are told by Paul that we are called, by the gospel, "to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ [2 Th 2.14]." Does this thrill you?

The question before us is whether we will allow the work of the Son -- which is to say the operations of the Father toward the Son, bringing Him into full perfection -- to take place in our lives, even as Jesus allowed that work in His life. Many people in the church are confused on this point, and have become passive, no longer pressing toward the mark for the prize; but we want to be clear on it from the outset. We are called to obtain, and yet there are conditions which you and I must meet, if we are going to obtain all that God has purchased for us at Calvary. "If we suffer, we shall also reign with him [2 Tim 2.12]." Note the very clear requirement. The fact is that we must be prepared by God's own operations to bear that eternal weight of glory. This preparation takes place here, and now, while we occupy these mortal bodies, and experience time. We need to live this short time in the eye of God's Eternity. Let your moments be your preparation; let them tell for Eternity, with God having His full work of deep cleansing and regeneration! It is in light of this that I want to consider our subject text.

Let us look first at the historical unveiling of Christ to the world and to His people. "He grew up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground." These words paint a vivid picture of the condition of Israel into which Jesus was born. It was a condition of total hopelessness, with all past glory gone, and no prospect of revival short of the miraculous intervention of God Himself -- and God had not spoken to His people in 400 years. According to Alexander Maclaren, the "tender plant" meant a sucker, and the root was more properly a shoot from the original root of a great tree which had been felled. If this was so, what a desolate condition it was, one contrived to break the heart of all who would see the glory of God. The tree was the house of David, humiliated and stripped of all its former grandeur. It was the same house that God promised to build for David, upon whose throne His seed would be established forever. That house was originally one of great splendor, and had swiftly grown into a mighty tree, a great kingdom which overshadowed all of the known civilized world in the times of David and Solomon. And what glory there was in the righteous reign of God through David and his rightful heir! I cannot now take the time to describe the glory, but would refer you to 2 Chr 9.27 (but read the whole chapter): "And the king made silver in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar trees made he as the sycomore trees that are in the low plains in abundance." Note also verse 6, quoting the queen of Sheba: "...behold, the one half of the greatness of thy wisdom was not told me: for thou exceedest the fame that I heard."

But consider! At the time of the incarnation, there was no glory left. It was not just that there was no glory, but that all of the former greatness had been laid waste. This state of total humiliation was infinitely worse than one of expected dryness. Beloved, it's not just the difficulties: it's the disappointments and the shame, the broken hopes and dreams, that cause the worst sufferings. The splendor had departed; Ichabod was written on the door of the temple; Israel, God's Chosen, and the Guiding Light of the world, had become a slave to the ruling kingdom of that age. It was into such a hopeless situation that the Son of God was made flesh.

"For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant." Note that it was not before the eyes of man that He grew and prospered. Natural man could not discern the divine potential in this tender shoot. There is no beauty in Him from our natural, carnal point of view. Only Calvary can truly show the nature and fullness of the glory of God, and the preaching of the Cross is foolishness and a stumbling block to the carnal mind. We cannot see Him in His glory until an operation of God has taken place within us, and we are born again. Just so, no man noticed or suspected the true nature of the young man who was the Son of God; no man expected anything out of Him. Do you remember what Nathanael said: "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth [Jn 1.46]?" He was rejected of man, but accepted of God, and grew up before Him. His life was one of tremendous activity, but an activity that was hidden from the eyes of man, for it was initiated by the Father within Him.

Very little is recorded in the scriptures of the childhood of Jesus, save that He "grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him [Lk 2.40]." This is God's testimony of Him, not man's. One incident occurred when He was twelve, in which He was found in the temple, astonishing the scribes with His understanding. We remember that when His parents found and rebuked Him (though there was no sin in Him; He was only going about His Father's business), He returned to Nazareth and was subject to them. And that is the last we hear of Him for eighteen years.

What happened in this time, hidden from the eyes of man? The deepest works of preparation are always secret works. Men could not witness the intimate communion between Him and the Father, nor would such communion have any meaning for the natural mind. There were men around Him, but they could not guess, and would not have liked, the true nature of His life, hidden, as it was, in the bosom of the Father. There was no beauty that we should desire Him; no form nor comeliness that would attract us.

Such was the state into which Jesus as born, and in which He was prepared for His ministry. It was one of hopelessness and lost glory, and only the Father knew that it was the perfect environment in which to nurture His only Son.

And now consider the condition of the believer: your condition, perhaps, or mine. Have you had any deferred hopes, or broken dreams? In your walk with God, have you received all that you expected? Have you experienced conflict with the world, and suffered loss? Many have, and some have almost lost hope altogether. Some are even embittered, feeling that God has ignored or forgotten them. The psalmist cried: "Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore [Ps 77.8]?" But it is never the fault of God if we find ourselves in dry situations, and we must not lose hope. Open yourself up to the reality of the Word of God: it was into such a situation that God spoke His Son, His final Word concerning you. Are you willing to let God's view of the situation prevail over yours? There is no scene so hopeless that God is not able to yet bring forth glory unto His Name.

Do you want to see Jesus come forth more in your life than you have yet known? There is a work that must be done in you, and that work is hidden from the eyes of other men. Don't be afraid of the quiet periods in your life when nothing seems to be doing: those are times that God has given you to experience the deep operations that concern His Son. Every believer must go through this hidden working if he is to come forth in the likeness of Jesus. You must experience the victories of the Word of God within yourself, and no man may witness these sacred transactions; and no man will, for they are too deep, and too tender, for any to see. Do not worry about the length of this period: it must not be rushed, and cannot be. Too many are too hasty. They never receive the full benefit of the private dealings of God; they want something more tangible, more public, more "real." But what a gift these times can be if we give ourselves over to these working that take place in the very presence of God, hidden from the prying eyes of men. Do you become impatient? Remember that eighteen years was not too great a time in the life of Jesus.

Finally, consider this: What happened at the end of this hidden time? Were those years of outwardly silent communion merely to prepare Jesus for a successful ministry? Or were they the first part of a continuing operation of God that would take Him all the way to Calvary? The deep work of God to prepare Jesus for the Cross was not over, but the surroundings did change. Men mistook Him in His public life as thoroughly as they misunderstood Him during His silent years. His suffering continued, as did His training in obedience, until the Father, knowing that His preparation was complete, graced Jesus to taste death for every man. And as with the pattern Son, so with us: the Father knows what we need to prepare us for Eternity, and He knows when we need it -- and we do not. We can trust God to provide just the right atmosphere and circumstances which will most enhance our growth. We must never believe that we know a man until we have seen the end of the matter, and that man's true character and nature are revealed by God. And we must never allow the opinions of men to define and limit us, but submit to the Father's dealings with us in Christ Jesus.

Are you willing to allow the activity of the Son to take place within you? Your true life is hidden with Christ in God, and you must go there, hidden from man, to find it.

-GHS


"So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how." - Mar 4.26-27

How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is giv'n!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His Heav'n.
No ear may hear His coming;
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

From O Little Town of Bethlehem

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Vol 1, No 1 - June 1992 - "Led By the Spirit"

Ro 8.13,14: For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
There is much talk and teaching, there are many testimonies in the Church today, about how to be led by the Spirit. This is rightfully so, because the Scripture makes it clear that only those who are led by the Spirit are the sons of God. It is a crucial issue, both in the lives of the individual saints, and in God's plan and purposes in the earth. The creation waits for the sons of God, groans for their manifestation, and will remain in the bonds of corruption until the sons of God experience and make available "glorious liberty." Even the sons of God groan, though they have experienced the firstfruits of the Spirit. And the very fact of the groaning and travailing shows that it is neither easy, nor trivial, to be perfectly led by the Spirit.

Again, much is said; but not all is to the point. The role of the Spirit in leading us is very misunderstood. He does not lead by a "voice," at least not fundamentally. Nor does He lead by "gifts of the Spirit," at least not fundamentally. Thank God that He does speak to us, and that He does gift us. But we hear other voices as well as His: voices that appeal to our carnal nature, yet deceive, because they appear to bring light and order. How can we know, and how can we be led?

The text gives us much valuable insight, if we will receive it, although we rarely hear verse 13 ministered along this line.

The Spirit will lead us if the flesh is under control. But to ask God to lead us by the Spirit, while expecting to gratify our flesh, is never to the point. The natural man "receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned [1 Cor 2.14]." The relationship between the Spirit and the flesh was never meant to be an equal one, and there is constant conflict until we learn to mortify the deeds of the flesh. We all want to be led of the Spirit, but it is easy to become confused by all the influences of the world and the devil, which work in union with the sharp longings of the flesh. We think many times we are led by the Spirit when actually we are deceived, and cannot know the things of God. In such a state, where the flesh is allowed to reign, we cannot be led by God; "the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be [Ro 8.7]." And yet, God intends for us to understand His Mind and Will, and for us to know what it is to be truly led of Him.

The above picture is not intended to dismay. If we were left to ourselves, we truly would be without hope or resource. But we have been given the Spirit -- that blessed witness of the crucifixion and the resurrection; that Power of God; the Spirit of Him who raised up Christ from the dead -- and by Him we are able to mortify the deeds of the flesh.

How we have cheapened the place and ministry of the Spirit! He is given to us to reveal Christ, and to guide us into all truth. He does not speak of Himself, according to Jesus, but instead, "He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you [Jn 16.14]." We must thank God for every true leading of the Spirit, but always realize that His place and function is first to empower, and to show us Christ Jesus in all His fullness and glory. And so important is this ministry, that Jesus said it was better for us that He should leave, "for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come unto you." Through the power of the Spirit we are able to mortify the deeds of the flesh; and, when the flesh no longer controls, we can live, we can see, we can hear. It is only then that we can truly be led by the Spirit.

How is it that the Spirit gives us power to subdue the demands and deeds of the flesh? People so often want procedures and steps, and many are available on Christian bookshelves today. Yet, Godliness is a mystery. Our faith cannot be in knowing what God will do next, but in committing our way to Him in the midst of uncertainty.

Here is something for our meditation: the first direction in which Jesus was led, after He received the Holy Spirit, was into the wilderness. In fact, Mark uses even stronger language: "And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness [Mk 1.12]." He was not at first led to ministry, or to great works; all these would follow later. He was led to the place where the wayward tendencies of His flesh could be mastered. His flesh was no different than ours, though He had not once allowed this flesh to dictate His actions and style of living. No doubt, He was all His life led by God; but when the Spirit came to Him in a new way, descending upon Him, it was time to win a great victory. He endured all the temptations of the evil one, through the power of the Spirit. Here again, the Spirit did not speak of Himself, but led our Saviour to the bedrock of the Word. His answer to each guile of the enemy? "It is written!" He triumphed, gloriously, for you and me, though weakened by hunger and forty days of relentless temptation; for He found God's strength to be perfected in weakness. When He emerged from that wilderness, He came out in new strength, new understanding, and with new light. Thereafter, not much is said of Jesus being "led by the Spirit," but we know that He was led, and perfectly, over every mile He walked toward His ultimate accomplishment at Calvary.

Are we greater than our Master? We must be empowered by the Spirit to mortify the deeds of the flesh if we are to be led by the Spirit as the sons of God. I can't tell you how He will do this in your life, but i Know that He intends to do it. As you come before Him in prayer, cry for the empowering presence and indwelling of the Holy Spirit -- understanding your hopeless condition without Him -- and He will surely come to your aid. He will drive you into the wilderness, so do not become discouraged. He intends to see you victorious through His power.

-GHS
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