Who Are You? - George H. Warnock
CHAPTER 7 - THE WISDOM OF THE CROSS
"For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:21-24).
The Jews... those who believe in God the Creator, the God of power. God's answer to them is the Cross!
The Greeks... the intellectuals, the seekers after wisdom: God says to them, Behold the Cross! And they scoff, What foolishness!
But to you and me who believe (whether by nature Jew or Greek)... Christ crucified becomes the POWER of God, and the WISDOM of God. And the world is yet to discover, in the Day of the LORD that this whole world system is going to come to NOUGHT by a people who have embraced the way of the Cross.
The choice is clear: if we want to realize the potential for success that lies within us, there are any number of best-sellers in our local Christian book-stores to help us along. But if we truly want to be a part of that company of people who are going to invade the world of darkness and the heavenly realms with the wisdom of God, and bring release to the captive souls and spirits of men... you and I are going to have to set our faces as a flint toward the pathway of the Cross. There are many schools and colleges of religion that will teach you how to become successful in ministry. But only the School of Obedience will teach you how to become weak, that you might become strong; how to become fools, that you might become wise; and the heroes of faith that we read about in the scriptures will no longer be our heroes, but companions of the Cross.
Then will we be able to identify with the left-handed Ehuds, who do not FIT in our society, nor in our churches, because they are always wanting to use the left hand instead of the right. But they will also learn the secret of overcoming the oppressing Eglons who sit in their parlors in high places, secure and content, with "their goods in peace" because the people of God are under their dominion. They will be able to identify with the poor in Manasseh... with Gideon and his little band, whose only weapons were a pitcher that had to be broken, a lamp that had to shine, and a trumpet that had to be blown. And they will know that the sword of their warfare is nothing less than the Sword of the Lord. They will begin to identify with Deborah and Barak, and the little army who "jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field" ...and stirred the very heavens into action on behalf of the people of God. They will be able to identify with Jehoshaphat, who went forth into battle without the use of sword or spear, and saw the enemies of God routed. They will be able to identify with Hezekiah, who had no strength to resist the invasion of Sennacherib, but when morning came they rose to behold 185,000 stalwart Assyrian soldiers scattered "like leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown".
But above all, we will be able to identify with our Lord Jesus, and with saints and martyrs of the Church age, who followed the Lamb in battle, and overcame the hosts of Evil "by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony".
The Cross, a New Way of Life
Perhaps we would like to persuade ourselves that in some theoretical way we were crucified with Christ on His Cross, and so now all we have to do is appropriate His life. But if we are going to truly know this new life, we are going to have to know an experiential day-by-day identification with that Cross, in order that we might walk continually in the power of His resurrection.
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh" (2 Cor. 4:7-11).
True, Jesus died on the Cross once and for all. But in actual fact He was born under the shadow of the Cross, lived and moved in the reality of it, and in the fullness of obedience to the will of God, He died upon it. So it must be with His people. We must embrace that once for all Sacrifice. But in doing so, we must take up our cross daily and follow Him.
The Mystery of the Cross
God give us insight and revelation to see the depths of the WISDOM and of the POWER of the Cross. Satan has extended his dominion over the whole human race ever since the Fall. His weapons of destruction have been revealed in Fear, Hate, Torment, Strife, Pride, Conceit... all these negative traits that have harassed the whole human family from the beginning. Where did it all come from? Who created it? We have already pointed out the secret of the origin of Evil: It was THE EXCLUSION OF GOD that brought it about. If God is excluded, there it is. God is LOVE and LIGHT and TRUTH. If men deny God a place in their lives, and so cut Him off... there is HATRED, and DARKNESS, and ERROR.
Now in the fullness of time Christ comes on the scene to undo the curse that engulfed the human race because of Adam's disobedience. He walks in total harmony and obedience to the will of God. And because He walks in total LIGHT the opposing forces of Darkness become even more intensely DARK. Because He is LOVE, and walks in total harmony with God who is LOVE, the forces of Hate become more and more intensely hateful. Because He loved righteousness and hated iniquity, the forces of Evil rose up against Him in greater and greater opposition. Because He lived a totally holy life in the very presence of sin, He reproved the sins of men who "loved darkness rather than light".
Now the mystery of the Cross is revealed in this: that He accepted all the reproof, all the hatred, all the bitterness, all the strife that raged against Him. He bore it all, and in the Wisdom of God which seemed so negative to the world, and even to His own disciples... He dies on a Cross. As it were, He becomes THE NEGATIVE THAT CANCELS OUT THE NEGATIVE. He suffers the DEATH that cancels out the DEATH. He becomes the CURSE that cancels the CURSE. He becomes the SIN that cancels the SIN. "For God hath made Him to be SIN for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ crucified becomes the PLAGUE... THE PLAGUE THAT PLAGUES THE PLAGUE OF DEATH:
"O death, I will be thy plagues;
O grave, I will be thy destruction"
What can we say to these things?
"O the depth of the riches
Both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are His judgments,
And His ways past finding out!"
The Romans said the Cross was the most despicable of all forms of capital punishment. In the Wisdom of God the world is yet to see, in the consummation of the working of the Cross in the lives of His people, the eradication of SIN, and DEATH, and the CURSE from the face of the earth. God has given us the secret of overcoming the Evil that is rampant in the world about us:
We overcome HATE with LOVE.
We overcome PRIDE with HUMILITY.
We overcome CURSING with BLESSING.
We overcome EVIL with GOOD.
We overcome DARKNESS with LIGHT.
We overcome ERROR with TRUTH.
These are not intended as some idles, poetic words. This evil world of sin and rebellion and hate is yet to be totally subdued by an army of overcomers, who use the weapons of the Cross as their only weapons. Beloved, let us submit ourselves to the outworking of the Cross of Christ in our lives. Let us, in union with Him and His Cross, come to know the beauty of the Lord upon our lives, that we might lift the curse that has engulfed the hearts and minds of men. Creation is waiting for this, even for "the manifestation of the sons of God".
God's Judgment of the World
Jesus said, "Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out" (Jn. 12:31).
The Cross is God's judgment of this world. It appears to have been the other way around: that is was the world that judged Christ. But in the Wisdom of God it was God who judged the world.
Paul was able to boast, therefore, in the Cross. "God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal. 6:14).
Who really killed Jesus? Historically, yes it was the Jews who handed the Son of God over to the Gentiles for crucifixion. But the Cross is more than a historical event. It was a timeless event... an event that belonged to the ages. Who killed Jesus! It was you and I... and all of us, that killed Jesus! It was the priests and the religious leaders that killed Jesus. All of us are responsible, because it was your sin and mine... sins that we inherited from Adam, and the sins of Adam that we have multiplied over and over again in every generation... it was the sins of the whole world that killed Jesus.
Let us see the Wisdom of God revealed in all that transpired that dark day on Golgotha:
The proud and the haughty said, We have Him in our grasp! But God said, when you nailed My Son to the Cross, it was there and then that I stained the pride of all your glory!
The political rulers said, We have eliminated the trouble that is disturbing the people, and making them restless and uncontrollable. But God said, It was there at the Cross that I brought down the whole political systems of Rome, and of the world, to the dust.
The soldiers said, We have overpowered You, ...You are now secure on the Cross. But God said, when My Son hung on the Cross I destroyed the military might and glory of all nations.
Religion said, We have put an end to your heresy and your fanaticism. But God said, When you crucified My Son, I put an end to all the religions of men that refuse to bow at the foot of the Cross, and recognize the Lord Jesus as Lord of all.
Sin that reigned supreme in the hearts of men said, He is a sinner, and this is the end of Him. But God said, It was there on the Cross that I condemned SIN in the flesh of my Son, that My people who receive Him as their sin offering, might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Death boasted, I have destroyed the Last Adam, even as I destroyed the first one. But God said, When My Son hung upon the Cross, it was you O Death, that was brought to destruction.
When the Cross was erected on Golgotha (which means the Place of a Skull), God had ordained it so; for it was here, in the FOOLISHNESS OF GOD that He would bring the wisdom of man to a skull, and show forth the infinite heights of His wisdom.
The Triumph of the Cross
The Cross is God's JUDGMENT OF THE WORLD! And in that great and terrible Day of the LORD, God is going to execute the sentence of judgment that He decreed at Golgotha. We may be inclined to believe that Christ came as a Lamb to redeem us, but that in His resurrection and enthronement He is now ruling on the throne of glory as a Lion. This is not exactly right; and it is yet to be revealed and made manifest in the earth, that He who conquered over sin and Satan and the world by His sacrifice of the Cross, is now ruling and reigning as THE LAMB on the throne. The Lion of Judah is only mentioned once in the Book of Revelation, and twenty-eight times as the Lamb! When no one was worthy to open the book and loose the seals, one of the elders said, "Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof" (Rev. 5:5). But when John turned to see this mighty Lion... "Lo, in the midst of the throne... stood a Lamb as it had been slain" (vs. 6). It is significant that John the beloved never saw "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" as a powerful lion, either here or elsewhere in the Book of Revelation. Why?--we might ask. Because this "Lion" was still the Lamb in heart, in nature and in character; and God wants His people to always see Him and worship Him as the Lamb on the throne, and to "follow the Lamb" of meekness, rather than the Lion of power. These wounds in His hands and feet and side are no longer the bruises inflicted upon Him by sinful men, but badges of Honor and Glory! And if we would reign with Him, He wants us to know it is only as we "suffer with Him".
"The book" sealed with the seven seals, that was given to the Lamb, is the record of God's righteous judgments in the earth and in the heavens, and the unfolding of His purposes to rid the earth of its curse and its evil. How do I know? Because when the Lamb opens the seals, that is what He reveals. It is the story of the Triumph of the Lamb over all the forces of Evil. He alone is worthy to administer these judgments, because He triumphed over Evil with Good when He went to the Cross; and God has placed all things "under His feet". I know the apostle Paul said, "we see not yet all things put under Him" (Heb. 2:8). But God has declared the decree of His Lordship over all creation, and He is yet to be revealed as the conquering LAMB in the "day of His power" (See Psa. 2:6, 7; 110:1-7).
And so it is the Lamb "as it had been slain", who is honored and worshipped because of His sacrifice (Rev. 5:6, 8).
It is "the Lamb that was slain" who receives "power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing" (vs. 12).
It is the Lamb that is exalted and honored by all creatures "in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them" (vs. 13).
It is the Lamb who takes the book, and opens the seals of God's purposes and releases His righteous judgments in the earth (Ch. 6:1, 3, 5, etc.).
It is the "wrath of the Lamb"...not the wrath of a Lion, that strikes fear into the kings are great men of the earth (Ch. 6:16, 17).
It is the Lamb before whom the redeemed of the Lord stand, washed in His blood, and clothed in white garments (Ch. 7:9, 10, 14).
It is the Lamb "in the midst of the throne" who shepherds and leads His flock "unto living fountains of waters" (vs. 17).
It is "by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony" that His people overcome, because they like their Master "loved not their lives unto the death" (Ch. 12:11).
It is in the book of life of "the Lamb that was slain" that the names of His redeemed are recorded in Heaven (Ch. 13:8).
It is the Lamb who stands on mount Sion with the "redeemed from the earth" (Ch. 14:1, 3); and these "follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth", and are "firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb" (vs. 4).
Those who worship the beast and his image are tormented "with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb" (vs. 10).
The overcomers stand on the sea of glass, singing "the song of Moses... and the song of the Lamb" (Ch. 15:3).
Political Babylon, in alliance with religious Babylon... together "make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them", for it is the Lamb who is "Lord of lords, and King of kings" (Ch. 17:4).
It is the Lamb who receives the reward of His sacrifice, when "His wife hath made herself ready" and is presented to Him as His spotless Bride. She is "arrayed in fine linen, clean and white"; and together they sit down at "the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Ch. 19:7-9).
And then John saw "the bride, the Lamb's wife" pictured as "that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God" and "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Ch. 21:2, 9, 10).
In the twelve foundations of the city are written "the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (vs. 14). In this city there is no temple, for God has found His eternal habitation in the Lamb, a home of supreme joy and delight. "The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb" are the temple of this city (vs. 22).
"And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof" (vs. 23). The Lamb is the lamp, from which the light of God shines forth upon the redeemed.
The inhabitants of the city are those "which are written in the Lamb's book of life", ...clean and holy and without defilement (vs. 27).
"A pure river of water of life, clear as crystal" flows forth from "the throne of God and of the Lamb"...from ONE throne of God, not two... with the Lamb in the midst of the throne (Ch. 22:1, 3; See Ch. 7:17).
It is THE LAMB who opens the seals, because it is THE LAMB that has conquered by the blood of His Cross... and it is the LAMB we see all through the book, ...ruling and reigning and shepherding His people, and executing God's righteous judgments in the earth.
AND THE LAMB IS YET TO RECEIVE THE FULL REWARD OF HIS SACRIFICE!
The Meek shall Inherit the Earth
Let us make no mistake about this. There are a lot of glory-seekers in the Church today. There are a lot of power-seekers. There are a lot of success-seekers. There are many who are talking about Kingdom truth, and about reigning with Christ with rods of iron. But how many of these are advocating identification with the Lamb, in order that they might qualify to sit with Him in His throng? Let us be assured that it is not those who know and embrace Kingdom truth, who will reign with Christ in His throne. It will be "the poor in spirit" who take the Kingdom. It will be "the meek" that "shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:3, 5). The word "meek" implies a total lack of self-interest... one who surrenders his own will to the will of another. Jesus couples "meekness" with "lowliness" when speaking of Himself. He bids His disciples to get into His yoke if they would discover the rest and peace that He enjoys in the yoke of the Father: "I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls" (Matt. 11:29). Because He is meek, He has no need to defend Himself; and therefore He is considered to be weak in the eyes of men. A meek person has known the chastening and discipline of the Lord, and has proven God's faithfulness in the fiery trials that have burned away the strength of the human heart and will, and replaced this with great confidence and faith in the One who humbled him.
"The fear of Isaac" seems like a strange title for a man who walked away from the wells he had dug, when the Philistines strove for them and took them by force. But somehow they began to detect the strength of the man, and came to him to make a covenant that he would not hurt them. "Why do you come to me," Isaac asked, "when you hated me so much?" They replied, "We certainly saw that the LORD was with thee" (Gen. 26:28, 29). Lord, may our strength be only in this, that Thou are with us! In later years his son Jacob was very much aware of the godly fear of his father Isaac supporting him, when his uncle Laban mistreated him. Then the two men made a covenant of peace, "And Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac" (See Gen. 31:42, 53).
Moses was said to have been "very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth" (Num. 12:3). He fled in fear from the face of Pharaoh when he was a strong and mighty prince in Egypt. But 40 years later he was back in Egypt with his brother Aaron to deliver the nation of Israel from their bondage. Can you imagine how mighty Pharaoh felt when this humble shepherd walked into his royal courts one day with a stick in his hand, and commanded "Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go..." (Ex. 5:1)? Why didn't Pharaoh arrest him right there, and put an end to the whole matter? Pharaoh didn't dare flock to God, through this meek and humble shepherd, we see Pharaoh begging for mercy several times, and finally asking Moses to remember him in prayer.
Samuel was a meek man. When God told him to go to Bethlehem and anoint one of the sons of Jesse to be king, he was afraid of Saul. He was a weak, old man, and he knew it. But when the elders of Bethlehem heard he was on his way to their town they "trembled at his coming, and said, Comest thou peaceably?" (1 Sam. 16:4). They were quite aware that this old prophet was moving in the authority and power of God.
Paul came to Corinth "in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling" (1 Cor. 2:3). Herein lay his strength... not just that he was anointed to preach the Gospel of the Cross, but that he walked in the weakness of the Cross. He rejoiced that when he was weak, then he was able to put on the strength of the Lord: "for when I am weak", he said, "then am I strong" (2 Cor. 12:10).
Jesus Himself did not put on a face of strength, or try to appear mighty, in the face of opposition. He was a Lamb throughout His ministry in the earth, and He continues to reign on the throne of glory as "the Lamb that was slain". He took His disciples and withdrew from Jerusalem when they faced severe opposition. Was it weakness? He was neither brave, nor yet a coward. He was meek! He just lived and moved in the yoke of the Father, learning obedience in all that He suffered. Then He came back to Jerusalem, walking in that same yoke, to die in weakness at the hands of a powerful Roman governor. Paul said our Lord was "crucified through weakness" (2 Cor. 13:4). This is what Paul meant by "the weakness of God". It is "weakness" from the viewpoint of men who consider meekness to be weakness. The apostle tells us that this kind of "weakness" is "stronger than men" (1 Cor. 1:25). He laid down His life as a bleeding Lamb. And now He is reigning, and will continue to reign eternally, as the Lamb upon the throne.
Why a Lamb on the Throne?
Now we know that Christ is indeed "the Lion of the tribe of Judah", with all power in heaven and in earth at His command. Why then does the Spirit emphasize, all through the Book of Revelation, not once but 28 times, that it is the Lamb that is reigning, and the Lamb that is shepherding the flock of God? And whoever heard of a Lamb shepherding the flock? Or a Lamb striking kings and potentates of the earth with fear, and crying out for the rocks to hide them?
HE REIGNS AS THE LAMB, BECAUSE IT IS HIS INTENTION TO BRING FORTH THE CHARACTER OF THE LAMB IN US, THAT WE TOO MIGHT REIGN WITH HIM, IN HIS THRONE (Rev. 3:21).
EVEN NOW ON THE THRONE OF GLORY HE IDENTIFIES HIMSELF WITH A SUFFERING LAMB-PEOPLE IN THE EARTH.
He hears and feels those blasphemous attacks against His suffering Church in the earth, because He is joined unto them by one Spirit. What a shock it must have been to Saul of Tarsus, when he heard the voice of the Lord of Glory saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?"
May the Lord open our eyes to see "the Lamb that was slain" on the throne of Glory, that we might be transformed into His image by seeing Him AS HE IS. Only then will we be able to reign with Him in life, overshadowed in our weakness by His mighty power.
The Travail of God
Why did God permit Evil to come into the world? Surely He could have prevented it if He had wished to do so. Why, at least, did He not put an end to the reign of Evil long before now? The apostle answers hard questions like these by asking another one: "What if God...?" What if He purposed to bring greater glory out of it all? What if He had a better plan?
If we could only sense the heart of God we would realize that it has been with great PAIN that God has restrained Himself, as He has witnessed the terror and reign of Evil these thousands of years. This is one side of God we can very easily lose sight of in all of those theological arguments as to why God the Omnipotent has permitted this horrible reign of evil. We know about human suffering; but we fail to realize that God IS SUFFERING, AND THAT HE HAS SUFFERED LONG with the evil of men's hearts. He has ENDURED patience and long-suffering beyond our ability to comprehend.
"What if God, willing to shew His wrath, and to make His power known, ENDURED WITH MUCH LONG-SUFFERING THE VESSELS OF WRATH FITTED TO DESTRUCTION?" (Rom. 9:22). He has longed to rise up in vengeance on behalf of His chosen ones, as He has witnessed the evil perpetrated against them. He has heard the prayers of saints and martyrs, who cry out: "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell in the earth?" (Rev. 6:10). God is pained with their pain, and He tells them, "You must wait yet a little while. I have other sons whom I am preparing for glory... they must know the sufferings of the Cross, even as you have..." And so the apostle explains a little concerning His purpose in enduring the evil in this world. Again we must emphasize that God has been suffering pain beyond our ability to comprehend:
"What if God... ENDURED WITH MUCH LONG-SUFFERING THE VESSELS OF WRATH FITTED TO DESTRUCTION: AND THAT HE MIGHT MAKE KNOWN THE RICHES OF HIS GLORY ON THE VESSELS OF MERCY" (Rom. 9:22, 23). That's God's answer, dear ones, when we question Him this way. He is preparing still other VESSELS OF MERCY! He will bear the pain a little longer. I recall a certain woman (as they discussed the horrible pains of womankind) remarking, "God has to be a Man..." She was saying, God just does not know what the pain of childbirth is all about. Beloved, He knows all about it! Hear what He says, "I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry LIKE A TRAVAILING WOMAN; I will destroy and devour at once" (Isa. 42:14). There is something almost explosive in God's heart. The prayers and the cryings and the travail of saints and martyrs have been stored up in the vials of Heaven, even in His own heart. He likens Himself to a travailing woman at the hour of her birth.
Who are we to say, Why Lord have you waited so long? God said He would never hold His peace till this people came forth in the light and in the splendor of His salvation:
"For Zion's sake I will not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth" (Isa. 62:1). And because this is the burden of His heart, He puts the same burden upon His people:
"I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem," and the Spirit encourages them to "Give Him no REST, till He establish, and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth" (vs. 7).
A Manchild is to be Born
God has refrained Himself, and restrained Himself, throughout long ages. Suddenly there comes forth in the endtime a manchild, and the prophet is amazed how quickly it seemed to have happened.
"Before she travailed, she brought forth: before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child" (Isa. 66:7). "Who ever heard of such a thing?" Isaiah asked. A holy nation born in one day? I think the prophet is emphasizing that no longer will there be an extension of the age-long yearning in the heart of God to rise up on behalf of His people in the earth; for he goes on to say, "As soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children" (Isa. 66:8). Notice that the one who is called the man child in vs. 7, is called Zion's "children" in vs. 8. It is ONE but many... a corporate MAN... the corporate MAN that Paul speaks about in Eph. 4:13, a "perfect MAN"... a people walking in such union and harmony with Christ, that they are seen as ONE MAN. It is the people born of the woman that was "clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars" (Rev. 12:1)... Coming forth in the end-time because God's precious ones of all ages have cried and travailed before God for the triumph and victory of His people. We may wonder why God did not come forth in the early days of the human family, in the time of the prophets... But He said in His heart, "I must bring forth other Vessels of Mercy, prepared unto Glory".
But the question remains. If He must have "vessels of mercy" ...well and good--but why does He not destroy the "vessels of wrath"? And God's answer is, "I am going to overcome the Evil with the Good--so I will use the vessels of wrath to polish and refine the vessels of mercy... and by the very love and mercy and truth that they walk in, they will be My weapons to destroy the Evil". And so He endures "with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath" in order "that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy" (Rom. 9:23). When we see "vessels of wrath" pouring out their hot flames against the people of God, let us remember this. God is at the same time using them to prepare "vessels of mercy" for His own glory. Satan may stoke the flames and add fuel to the fire, and if God sees fit, He may urge him on. For He knows Satan does not understand the wisdom of the Cross--he does not know that God is using him to refine the gold... using him to prepare another "vessel unto honor", a vessel approved of God. Using Satan, yes, to bring about his own destruction.
When God chose a "brand plucked out of the fire" to be the high priest of the restored temple in Jerusalem, the opposition was strong and heavy. Satan stood there beside Joshua to resist him. Here was a brand in the fire. It ought to have been burned along with all the other sticks in the fire. God knew that. So did Satan. But God saw fit to pluck it out! Some Christians do not like God's autocratic ways. And Satan didn't like it either. But Michael the Archangel fully approved, and rebuked Satan in the Name of the Lord. (See Zech. 3:1, 2).
And so we rejoice that God lets us see the other side of His seemingly strange and arbitrary ways. He doesn't show us too much... but enough to cause the pure in heart to...
Rejoice in the midst of tribulation, knowing God's intention is good...
Recognize that God is pained with their pain, and continues with much long-suffering to postpone the day of His vengeance...
Be assured that God is using those fiery trials to defeat the Enemy who is adding fuel to the fire, and stoking the flames...
His glorious design being that after He has suffered age-long endurance, He will bring forth "vessels of mercy" for the eternal praise and glory of His Name.
In the fullness of time God brought forth His Only Begotten, whom men slew and hung upon a tree. And there and then God condemned the world, and with it all the hate, and the murder, and the strife, and the violence that existed in the hearts of men. But God said, I have yet many more Vessels of Mercy that I must bring forth, for my glory. And so He has waited, and waited, and all the while He has known and experienced great LONG-SUFFERING, anticipating the day of glory when His people of Mercy would arise in the earth, to put an end to the reign of TERROR AND EVIL, by overcoming the Evil of the world with Mercy and Truth and Love.
Who is this manchild, that is caught up to God and His throne? They are vessels of Mercy. They overcome, even as their Lord and Saviour overcame. They walk in Heaven, even as they move upon the earth... as Jesus did when He was here. They are known in heavenly places, because they love even as He loved, live even as He lived, show mercy even as He showed mercy, forgive even as He forgave, are meek and lowly even as He was meek and lowly. And because they live as He lived, they are hated even as He was hated. Yet in the end they overcome EVIL with GOOD, even as Jesus overcame EVIL with GOOD.
And so we stand on the threshold of the Day of the LORD, when the sentence of the Cross shall be executed in all its Fury and in all its Mercy, in all its Darkness and in all its Light, in all its Deception and in all its Truth. For the truth of God will crowd all men into one of two areas: into the DARKNESS AND DEATH of a world that hates God, or into the LIGHT AND THE GLORY of a people who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, and bow in submission at His feet.
The Burnt Offering
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Rom. 12:1).
Do we desire to identify with the Cross... and thereby with the WISDOM and the POWER of God? This is the only way we can do it. Bring to Him your burnt offering.
"He shall offer it of his own voluntary will (or, for his acceptance) at the door of the tabernacle" (Lev. 1:3).
Unlike the Israelites of old, we can't go to the flocks and get something to die in our place. Jesus did that for us, that is true. But there were five offerings that Moses instituted for the people of God; and as the sin offering Jesus fulfilled that in a very unique way. He only could die for the sins of the world. But the burnt offering was different. It speaks of a life of obedience unto the will of God; and you and I have a part in this offering as we present our bodies "a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God". In this offering we must "present ourselves" and not merely some of our valued possessions. And we are not going to discover a dying out to sin, until there is truly a dying out to SELF, on the Altar of Burnt Offering. (Rom. 12:1, 2).
Next, "he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering". We are saying in effect: I accept the judgment of God upon my HEAD. I accept the fact, O Lord, that I cannot serve you acceptably unless you deal with the thoughts of my mind, which are at enmity with your thoughts. I must be renewed in the "spirit of the mind" if I am going to know Your mind, and walk in Your ways. And then I look aside at the Cross on which my Lord Jesus died, and I see that His head was also smitten, and they placed a crown of thorns upon His brow... thorns which grew in the earth because of Adam's sin. He suffered it all that I might know the mind of Christ, and walk in the Spirit, and be delivered from the law of sin and death. And therefore we pray, "O Lord, take my mind, and let it know the bruising of Your crown of thorns that I might henceforth think your thoughts, and love your ways"
"And he shall kill the bullock before the LORD... and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar" (vs. 5). He did all that for me, that I might live. But in the Burnt Offering I must know that I can only know this life as I too find myself hanging there with Him. I must learn the same obedience.
"And they overcame him (the Dragon) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony. And they loved not their lives unto the death" (Rev. 12:11).
"And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces... and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire" (Lev. 1:6, 8).
The pieces... the parts. All the inner thoughts and workings of the fleshly nature totally exposed and laid bare before the priest. Only God can do this. Only our High Priest can do this. But we have to present ourselves to Him, that He might do it in us.
The parts... the head... the fat... O, if we could only know the longing of God's heart to take us and cleanse us, to bring to light the hidden things of darkness, cutting asunder soul and spirit, the joints and the marrow, and discerning... discovering... exposing "the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb. 4:12). We do not really know ourselves until the piercing sword of God's Spirit begins to divide and cut asunder and expose. What an exposing of the heart there will be when He with eyes as a flame of fire accepts our offering, and begins to uncover and lay bare the PARTS before His searching, purifying, cleansing eye!
And so may we understand the implications of our Burnt Offering. Our hands must be nailed to the Cross, that when I begin to serve Him from the fire of the Burnt Offering, it will no longer be my hands, but His, that I lay upon the bodies and souls of men for their healing. My feet must be fastened securely to that Tree, that henceforth I might walk with the "beautiful feet" of the risen Christ, upon the mountains of anointing and victory, bringing the gospel of peace to the captive souls of men. My side must be pierced, that blood and water might flow from my broken heart... if I am going to know the release of living waters from my heart... living waters that are saturated with the precious blood of Jesus, and flowing forth in healing, life-giving streams to the nations of the world.
How many of us have searched through the writings of the famous overcomers in Church history, hoping to discover the secret of living the life of Christ! And then when we came to the five easy steps to victory we would underscore them, and go about trying to make it work... only to discover a few days later that somehow the work had not been done. And so we would turn to another book, and still another... hoping to discover the secret of life, only to suffer disappointment over and over again.
What are we saying? Simply that the Burnt Offering is entirely through the working of our great High Priest in the heavens. The Israelite of old would bring his offering to the priest, lay his hand on the head of the bullock and slay it. Perhaps He understood nothing of what it all meant, but without knowing it, he was saying, "I identify myself with this offering that is slain". Then the priest would take it and do all the rest. The priest would be responsible to arrange the wood on the fire, and lay the parts on the wood, and stoke the fire that would cause the offering to ascend to God "as a sweet savor unto the LORD".
And so I must leave you with but one requirement, and I must accept it for myself. As we bring our offering unto the Lord, our great High Priest, we must leave it there for Him to finish the work! (Just remembering, of course, that our "bullock" has four legs, and our "turtledove" has two wings.) I mean, when we bring our offering to Him, we must decree the sentence of death for the whole man... and stay before the Altar until we are sure the Priest has us under His control. We must ask Him to do it for us, and in us:
"Lord, bruise my head, my hands, my feet, my side, my heart. Expose my inward parts completely to the sword of Your Spirit, and to fires of Your Altar... that out from the futility of a life that I have lived in the energies and carnal strivings of my fleshly nature, You in Your grace and power and in the wisdom of Your Cross, might consume my sacrifice with Fire from off the Altar, that it may ascend as incense before the Lord..."
'An offering made by fire,
Of a sweet savor unto the LORD.'
"And rather than fearing the cost, and shrinking from the reproach of it all, grant us, Lord, such a revelation of Thy glory that we might willingly count all but dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord".
The Happy Medium
At this present time there are three classes of people in the Church: Those who are given over to Christ, those who are given over to their own ways... and those who live on the little Island of Neutrality. It is a small island, and it is getting smaller every day, but it is still crowded with people. Jesus speaks of these in His letter to the Church at Laodicea:
They are not really HOT, but not really COLD.
They are not really heavenly-minded, but not really earthly-minded.
They want Heaven when they die,
but they do not want to walk in Heaven while they live here.
They talk about the Cross, sing about the Cross,
but they do not want to die upon it.
THEY JUST WANT THE HAPPY MEDIUM!
But this little Island of Neutrality is built of sinking sand; and when the storms of the Day of the LORD begin to break upon us, it is going to dissolve. The people of the world and of the Church are going to be pressured into one camp or the other. We will have to come out for Christ: out from the world, out from its politics, its religious systems, its pleasures, its warfare, its whole way of life... Or we will become engulfed in the domain of the Dragon, the political realm of the Beast, and the religious systems of the False Prophet. It may sound unreasonable and illogical that good respectable "Christians" could ever get involved with demonic cults and systems, with witchcraft, and with religions that are structured under Satanic principles. But it is happening now, and it will continue to take on momentum as we approach the Day of the Lord, when there will be but TWO CAMPS:
"And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him (the Beast), whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8).
When the Lord tells us that He is going to release the "spirits of devils, working miracles" in order to gather together the forces of Evil to Armageddon... to that great day of God Almighty, take notice once again of that little parenthesis that immediately follows:
"Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame" (Rev. 16:15). God is saying very clearly, Be Prepared! Lest in that day you are found naked, and not clothed upon with the Armor of Light... the Armor of Righteousness!
The Sons of Sceva
"Then certain of the vagabond (traveling) Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, JESUS I KNOW, AND PAUL I KNOW; BUT WHO ARE YE? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded" (Acts 19:13-16). (Remember how Jesus warned His people concerning the Day of Evil: to "WATCH... to KEEP HIS GARMENTS... LEST HE WALK NAKED, AND THEY SEE HIS SHAME").
Activity of this kind from the world of darkness may sound like a very unusual situation; and of course it would be if it happened today. But beloved, we are going to see some awesome things happen when the people of God begin to walk in heavenly places, and the Wisdom of God begins to penetrate the heavens. Heavenly forces will once again recognize the company of JESUS AND PAUL. Those who dabble in religious services, and talk about the "Jesus that Paul preacheth", but entertain the people with all kinds of religious garbage... and know not the Way of the Cross... are going to suffer disaster in that day. The sons of Sceva were of the priestly order, and there were seven of them. They were part of the old and apostate priestly order, but they were moving under a false spirit. There is a FALSE CHURCH out there that understands the correct terminology, and know about Paul and Jesus... but not walking in the Way of the Cross and in the Light of Jesus. They are not known UP THERE, and their mission is going to end in disaster DOWN HERE. Many of these people are getting away with it right now. But when God's people walking in the Wisdom of the Cross, and in the fear of the Lord, begin to penetrate the world of darkness, those evil powers are going to be greatly upset and perturbed. The forces of Evil know nothing about honor and truth; and though they will cooperate with evil men for a season, they will eventually destroy them. When the Lamb on the throne is worshipped and adored by a redeemed and holy people, the powers of evil are terrified. They cannot harm those who are walking in the Light, but they are going to lash out against those who are playing Church, and experimenting with holy things. We can expect to see some ugly, demonic attacks against those who use the Name of Jesus to glorify themselves, or to entertain the people... but are dishonoring the Lamb upon the throne.
God wants His people to begin walking on the streets of their heavenly heritage in Zion: "For ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb. 12:22). He wants us to be a vital part of that company, for the day and hour when He shall "roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem" (Amos 1:2).
He wants us to be in the JESUS AND PAUL company, rather than in the "JESUS WHOM PAUL PREACHETH" company.
The world of evil spirits in heavenly places... THEY KNOW THE DIFFERENCE, whether we do or not.
Satan does not fear our humanly devised schemes for evangelism, our programs that are organized to bring in the people and entertain them, nor our involvement in the political forum.
BUT HE TREMBLES WHEN HE SEES A PEOPLE BEGINNING TO WALK IN THE WAY OF THE CROSS!
Let us make sure of our identity. Our identity with any race or culture or religious system will profit us nothing. But let us make sure we are of the number that are born in Zion, and registered in Zion, and walking in Zion, and are clothed upon with the Armor of Zion.
"Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?"&
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