GOD"S DEALINGS WITH US
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.. (2 Corinthians 1:8,9)
Despite what our traditions infer regarding teaching and learning, we will never learn,nor grow spiritually in a life sustaining way by becoming parrots regurgitating accumulated intellectual acumen and perspicacity alone. Here lies much of the failure in traditional churchianity, of which I was a part for a large part of my life.
Many of us have realized, after a long life, what the apostle Paul said in the passage above, that we really only begin to taste the richer flavors of life in Christ by coming to a place where we have experienced being "utterly burdened beyond our strength", in all of the difficulty and extremes that statement implies
God's dealings with us, in developing us to mature servant-hood are more often than not, imperceptible, and over a long term, as He develops our spiritual lives, and our understanding of spiritual truth and reality.
When I write,.”.long term”, that's exactly what I mean. I have observed, in quite a few men and women of God, that the time comes, towards the end of our lives that, like the blind man in John 9:25, we are enabled to say, "One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see."
For so long we have proudly, yet blindly, relied on our professors, our historic gurus, our training, our commentaries, our intuition, our intelligence, and our traditions, all of which will, sooner or later, prove as insufficient and peripheral to that time when we really can be open to be shown.
Real spiritual growth, true spiritual development has little to do with intellectual acumen, and takes time, a lifetime.
Our eyes begin to be opened to begin to see that a central principle of our Lord's own life while He was among mankind, is a cardinal factor for our development. Something that is not even mentioned among our traditional flotsam and jetsam, and I use that description advisedly.
" So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise."(John 5:19).
See what Jesus is saying? Jesus did everything in obedience to the Father, and everything He did was from the mind of His Father, not from Himself!
So many of us spend a lifetime of “my” effort and struggle, “my” planning and doing, “my” using every tool and thought process, every bit of knowledge “I”,or,”we” were taught and gleaned, as mentioned above, such an opening of ones eyes saps the remaining dependence on what “I” can achieve, using what pitiful knowledge “I” have acquired,and a realisation of how much effort has been expended, quite vainly.
I have come to realise that there are many old gray heads (bald ones also) “elders”,who have come to recognise Biblical truths from a less convoluted understanding than our natural wisdom, intellectual prowess, and traditional training can ever teach or grasp.
A wise man once spoke the most profound of truths, which seems to disagree with much of the philosophy of modern (and not so modern) theological understanding, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.."
Why can we not see that the multitude of activities, that our intellect assures us is for the Lord is, in many cases, and maybe the majority, for our own satisfaction and reputation, NOT the the Lords desire of us, no matter how good and sincere the motives?
How many of us have begun a lifetime “to do the Lord's work” instead of realising that we ought to have come to the place where He does His own work through us.
What a difference! The psalmist hit the nail on the head: “ Unless the LORD builds the house,those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
I know I am not alone in coming to this point of expressing the reality of something tradition gives lip service to, that unless the Lord initiates, and does every bit of the work through willing servants, it will never be done.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the model of what God intends us to be, one who says, "The works that I do, I do not out from myself, it is the Father doing the works." That is the attitude of John who declared, “He must increase, but I must decrease”
The reality of Paul's words to the Corinthian Christians about their life as believers will become obvious to us, " Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. ." Traditions prevent the old from passing away . As a result the views of natural man rule.
There can be no doubt that "is in Christ," means to be united to Christ by faith. If we think about it, to be in Him, is what Jesus was speaking about in John 15:4, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me."
To be "in Christ" is much more than membership in a religious club, much more than saying we believe a systematic theology, or a statement of faith. Being “in Christ” denotes a lively relationship in which everything that proceeds from the one who is joined to Christ (“in” Him) is initiated by, and comes from Christ. As the sap and nutrition keeping a branch alive and allowing it to flower and bear fruit comes from the vine, so every ounce of strength, and fruit bearing exhibited by the genuine follower of Christ, flows from him, Not from us.
In the same way as the branch shares the bearing of fruit with the vine, so those who are totally reliant on Christ, by His Holy Spirit, share in His fullness, and His relationship with the Father, and all that implies, including His dependence on the Father's direction.
That's what Paul shows us in Galatians 2:2 when he and Barnabus went up to Jerusalem,”I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel.”
He did not go because he thought it would be a good idea, or because he had accumulated great theological knowledge. The Spirit of God had revealed the need for him to lay the gospel he was preaching before his peers for their examination.
So often, when a work of true spiritual significance has been achieved, as rare as that is, our tendency is to grasp hold of that as a model to emulate, and, even worse, transplant, often with huge financial demands being placed on faithful adherents.
Sadly, seeking to achieve the desired ends results in worldly actions and activities being put in place, which reveals that the plan was not conceived in the mind of God.
My own experience during my younger years has taught me that the so-called “work of God” of so much traditional church activity has become a ground for the natural man to give expression to ambition, and gain personal, or, corporate kudos.
We have “Christian enterprise” which is modeled on natural, worldly enterprise, ruled by ambition, acquirement of property, competition, ad infinitum. We claim ownership of it all calling it “ours”; “our work,” “our church”, “our area”. commensurate with these attitudes comes jealousy, rivalry, backbiting, rumors, and the evil one is pleased.
A wise quote from some man of God from some years back, which I currently have on my desktop is:
”The utter emptying of all self-resource is the only way to have "all things of (out from) God" (2 Cor. 5:18). On this basis, even Christ elected to live. We need not remind you of Moses' "I am not eloquent" (Exo. 4:10), and Jeremiah's "I am a child" (Jer. 1:6), and Paul's "that we should not trust in ourselves" (2 Cor. 1:9). These were of a school in which the great lesson of the difference between natural and spiritual was taught experimentally.”