Feast of Tabernacles
Head in Heaven Feet on earth: the relationship between Jesus our Head and His Feet on Earth (His Body, His People). God sees the Body of Christ and Christ as the same. We must learn to discern and esteem His Body just as we do the Head, Christ Jesus. Supernatural revelation is necessary to discern Jesus and His Body.
Having a Dread for the House of God
Jacob spoke about a “dread” when he said, “How dreadful is this place” (Genesis 28:17). The question was asked, “What does dread have to do with anything? Why is the word ‘dreadful’ used to describe the House of God?” There are other ways to translate the word “dread,” such as, “How awesome is this place.” But the point is: there is a right view of the Body of Christ that has to include a certain sort of dread or awe of the House of God. Otherwise, you are missing it, and you will make major tactical errors in your life if you don’t see the House of God properly. If you see the Body of Christ as something that angels ascend and descend to, if you see the House of God, Bethel, as being the very gate of heaven (everyone wants heaven, right?), then there is going to be a certain sort of dread in your heart.
Many of us grew up having religious experiences that gave us a certain perspective of “church.” We concluded, “This ain’t nothing. This doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a bad organization. The organization I go to and attend on Monday morning from nine to five is far more organized, far more professional, with far more intelligent people performing their functions far more proficiently and usually with more integrity than what I see in this thing called ‘church.’ But I know I’m supposed to do this ‘church’ thing because it’s in the Bible.” Somewhere in the back of our minds and hearts we have different memories of our religious experiences. I grew up seeing my “pastor” coming over to my house and getting drunk on Saturdays while watching football with my dad. We all have our own stories that somehow discredited this thing called “church” in our minds.
Somewhere back in our conscious we lost respect or awe for this thing called “church,” and in a sense, rightfully so, because most of what we saw didn’t really deserve respect. It was a contradiction. You ask the average pagan or unbeliever, “Tell me everything you know about church.” Usually, they could sum it up in one word. What would that be? Hypocrites. Boring. Both words are the same thing, really. Those words would be the very first things on the average unbeliever’s mind. And for most of us, we grew up with those same sorts of concepts about the “church.” If we were on the inside because our parents were, then we would see the hypocrisy but think that, first, we need to work from within and try to help. Second, you can get accustomed to just about anything. You feel guiltier for not being there than for being there, so you begin to accept the hypocrisy as normative while thinking, “We’re all just sinners saved by grace,” and you create a theology to explain it.
Seeing God Affects the Way You See Others
But in truth, God means for the Church, the Body of Christ, to be viewed with a dread or awe, and if we aren’t, we are not seeing it properly. “And all the believers were filled with awe” (Acts 2). There was some sort of transition that took place the moment they saw the Church in Acts 2. Something very dramatic happened in their lives to the extent that all the believers were together and had everything in common. It’s not just, “Yeah, yeah, I know. They loved Jesus. They gave their life to the Messiah who they realized had come. They repented of acts that lead to death,” but something else happened too. They were devoted to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to prayer, and to the breaking of bread—all these things have to do with other people and have to do with the Church. They instantly had a regard for Ecclesia. It was not just about praying in their prayer closet and then acknowledging these other people, “Well, they are Christians, too. I’m going to live for God, and they are going to live for God, and so we ought to at least try to get along and attend something together regularly.” That isn’t how the believers in Acts 2 viewed the Church.
The way they viewed the Church affected every ounce of their being. When they saw the House of God, Bethel, the gate of heaven, something radical happened in the way they began to function with one another to where this person owns my chariot as much as I do, and this person owns my house as much as I do. That isn’t just simply, “I believe the Messiah has come.” Something happened in the way they viewed other people. This people who were once not a people, now are the people of God. They saw that. Something about Christ with His Head in heaven and His feet on earth was awe-inspiring to them and had a dramatic effect on their life. It was a dreadful thing, not in the negative sense, of course, but there was something very awe-inspiring about that, and they responded to it.
Not Discerning the Body Brings Judgment
In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul spoke about not discerning the Body, and he went on to say that this simple fact of not discerning the Body brings judgment from God and so much anger from God that He wants all men to be redeemed of it. There is an energy in God that He’s willing to even kill people over it. “That’s why some of you are sick and others are falling asleep—dying,” Paul wrote. God has a lot of energy in His heart that there be a dread or an awe about the Body of Christ. So much in fact, that He’s willing to take people out of the physical realm and remove them entirely from the lives of other people—mothers with young children, if necessary, grandmothers and children growing up. He’s willing to destroy life, as men see it at least, in order that the Body of Christ would be discerned. That’s why He said that many of you are sick and some are dying. It’s because you don’t discern the Body of Christ. You don’t see it the way God sees it. You are running ahead of each other and not caring for each other’s needs. Some of you are well fed, while others are going hungry. You are living independently. You are living selfishly. You don’t have awe when you see the Body of Christ, and that’s why some of you are sick and others are dying. God takes that very seriously.
Jesus took it seriously when He said, “Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Well, Paul regarded his actions as making havoc of the Church, but Jesus regarded Paul’s actions as making havoc of Jesus Himself. Head in Heaven feet on earth—there is no distinction, and so it is with Christ. God sees the Body of Christ and Christ as the same. That is scary because it involves people like us, but it’s still true, and it was true back then, too. Those guys weren’t all just perfectly mature on day one either. They were humans who were made perfect, and being made holy. They were washed in the blood and therefore perfect in God’s sight, but there was still a lot of growth that needed to take place for them to grow into Jesus’ character. Nevertheless, they were still the Ecclesia, the House of God, the very Gate of Heaven, and they had to be regarded with an awe and a reverence.
Defining things God’s Way
From Jesus’ standpoint, for me not to discern the Body, is also not to discern Christ. For me to persecute the Church or minimize the Church or not esteem this thing called the Church is in turn doing the same to Christ. As I said before, we all grew up not esteeming the thing we called “church” because what we were not esteeming was an institution. It was an organization. It was a religious group with some “belief system” that grew them together, but in the average “church” more than half of the attendees were not even new creations. If you were to go down any street in America, you’ll find that probably very few people in these “churches” who profess Christ and claim to be Christians are truly Christians—if the Bible is the definition that is. The Bible defines Christians as ones who have forsaken all in order to be His disciple. They’ve lost their life in order to find it. They’ve turned from sin and therefore can come to be called new creations because the old has been given away. They’ve died to sin and then buried it under the water. Most people wouldn’t come anywhere near a description like that. They want to live for themselves. They do love the world and therefore the scriptures say that they are enemies of God. They love the world. They’ve not died to sin therefore, 1 John 3, they are children of the devil. So, most of the thing that we’ve always historically called “church” really isn’t Church, from a biblical standpoint.
Now again, it’s not a measurement of maturity. It’s a measurement of what is the standard. Is the standard the Word of God? Is the standard the Life of Christ and the teachings of Christ? Is that what we live for? Is that what we are willing to die for, or are we going to make little loopholes for ourselves? Are we going to try to create some other standard? “Well, let’s not take that too seriously. That’s not practical. If we do that, we will probably get sued.” Those sorts of human reasonings, which are wisdom from below, unspiritual, and of the devil, as James said, are what most religious bodies are built on, or at least they make great room for worldly wisdom. Worldly wisdom says, “Let’s do it this way. Since it works for Proctor & Gamble, maybe it will work for us. He has a cloak—let him be our leader. Because he’s a good businessman, he can be an elder.”
Just recently we heard a story about a leader of a religious group that said if Ted Kennedy gave his life to Christ, they would immediately exalt him into a position of leadership over a large number of people because he has natural leadership skills. Well, that sort of thinking is not the mark of the Church of Jesus Christ where even to wait on tables a person has to be full of the Holy Ghost and full of wisdom. Being a respecter of persons and valuing carnal things that are of this world, of this present age, are not the mark of the Church.
The House is Built in the Light
The Church must be built on the right foundation of obedience to Jesus and lives that are devoted to following Christ, not claiming absolute perfection, but striving for it and accepting nothing less while walking in the light between here and there. So, if I see this particular sin in my life, it’s not the end of the world. If that sin has occurred in my life today, the end of the world, spiritually speaking, is if I say, “I don’t care. That doesn’t matter. Mind your own business. Get the log out of your own eye.” When I refuse to walk in the light, rather than humbly submitting to the Word of God and turning to God and my brothers and sisters, if I turn away from the light, that’s when it’s all over. This is the verdict: Some love the light; some love the darkness. That’s the issue that divides.
When the House of God is built on walking in the light and a willingness to hear the Word of God and respond to the Word of God with Jesus as the standard, then there is nothing in heaven or on earth that can hold us back. If at any point, regardless of how mature we may be, we decide that we don’t really need the standard of the Word of God and the teachings of Jesus, when something less than the character and the full measure of the stature of Christ is acceptable to us, and we push away from any light that shines on the discrepancy between where Jesus is at and where we are at, when we begin to push away, that terminates our existence as the people of God, at least as Ecclesia, as a Church, as a foundation that God can build His House on. That reverence and awe for the Church, the Head in heaven and the feet on earth has to be restored. That’s the point.
The Head and The Body are One
When they persecuted the Church that was filled with mortals having various levels of maturity, Jesus took it personally. He didn’t say, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute My Church?” He said, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” Jesus saw Himself as connected. And if He does, surely we should.
There was a brother who one time told a man all about this dream the brother had dreamed concerning the man. It turned out to be the same exact dream that the man had dreamed repeatedly the whole time he was growing up! We were all in awe of how God had exposed that thing that no one could have ever known about, yet the man dismissed it. He mocked it. And after being disfellowshipped, he didn’t sleep for two years. He didn’t have a good night’s sleep for two years, by his own admission. There was something that happened in the heavenlies that he hadn’t counted on. He had mocked something that God views as supernatural.
The point that Jacob was making in this dream that he had was this House of God, this Bethel that is a ladder to heaven, the very Gate of Heaven, has to be held with a dread and with an awe. No one is above that. There has to be a passionate love and respect for the House of God. Jesus himself said, “Zeal for the Father’s House consumes Me.” There is something about the House that requires that there be a dread and an awe as we regard it. This selfish, independent, not discerning the Body sort of lifestyle says, “Well, they think this, but I think that.” Or, “They do this, but I don’t think I really like that.” That is an attitude of sitting in judgment and thinking you’re above all that. “Well, they are just people like me.” It’s not just people if it’s the House of God. It is not just people. You have to get that idea out of your head. If you won’t discern the Body of Christ and if you think of it as, “Well, they are just people,” if that’s how you view it, which is not how God views it, then you will find yourself sick and dying because God is very upset with people who do not discern the Body. They are not seeing the Head if they are not seeing the Body. The Head and the Body are one.
“Saul, Saul, Mary, Mary, Fred, Fred, why do you persecute Me?” is what Jesus will say when we view ourselves as above the Body of Christ by the way we act, by the judgments we have, by the distance that we hold, by the lack of joining, by the lack of pursuing, and by the lack of abandoning our life into the Body of Christ. We’ve judged the Body of Christ and made ourselves to be gods. It’s not just individuals and opinions and methods that we are judging. We are actually judging Christ himself because Jesus takes those things personally when we don’t discern the Body.
A Call To SEE the Body
Now in Corinth you could say, “Man, these guys had every right to be judgmental of the people around them. Some people are taking each other to court, and other people don’t believe in the resurrection. Man, these guys are a mess. Well, I sure wouldn’t join my heart to something like that either. I would sit back in judgment. I would distance myself, have a skeptical eye, and be above all that, too.” Even in that terrible environment, Paul said God was judging them and causing some even to die because they didn’t see the Body of Christ in spite of the errors in human character and even belief systems—some not believing in the resurrection.
This is a call to see the Body of Christ. Wherever you may live or whatever you may do for the rest of your life, you had better see the Body of Christ as God sees it. It is the House of God and it’s a dreadful thing. It is the very Gate of Heaven. It’s not just a bunch of people that “kind of believe the same thing, maybe, and we will kind of keep our distance and kind of skeptically eye them and sort of have it our own way.” That attitude brought judgment from God himself: “Why do you persecute Me?” So, keep that in mind lest you think that even the discussion of the House of God is some secondary, irrelevant issue of secondary relevance. If you think, “Oh well, let’s not get all wrapped up in this,” keep in mind a couple of things.
David: “Your House! Your House!”
David, for example, loved God with all of his heart. Now who would ever compare themselves, in terms of love for God, to David? Anyone who would dare to view themselves as loving God more than David did is a very arrogant man or woman. That would be arrogance to the extreme. Well, what was on David’s heart? What did he want to do before he died more than anything but couldn’t do it? Build the House! Read Psalm 84: “God, your House, your House!” David loved God with every fiber of his being, just read the Psalms. Yet, the very obvious overflow of a man who loves God with all of his heart, all of his soul, all of his mind, and all of his strength, is that there’s something about a love affair with God that cries, “The House! The House! I would rather be a doorkeeper in God’s House than anywhere else in the universe.”
There is something about the House for everybody who loves God. Now someone would say, “Well, I love God. You can worry about the church if you want to, but I love God.” I would say to that man, “You don’t know how to love God. If that love doesn’t automatically, like David, a man after God’s own heart, come into a place of loving the House, then it’s not true love of God. It can’t be. It’s a counterfeit. Jesus loved the Father more than anything. How can you dare say that you love a God whom you’ve not seen if you don’t love the House that you can see? How can you say that you love the Head whom you’ve not seen if you don’t love the Body whom you have seen? You are a liar, and the truth is not in you. If you say you love God desperately, don’t you dare try to undermine or underplay the relevance of loving the House of God, loving the work of God’s hands, loving the extension of God’s heart, loving the visible of the invisible God, as Colossians would say. So it is with The Christ.
It’s essential that you see the connection between loving God and loving His Body. Don’t pompously think that you love God, but loving His Body is secondary in importance. It’s the natural overflow, as it was for Jesus and David. I think you could say indisputably that if you had to pick two men out of the Old and New Testament, which is the whole scope of God’s written word, who obviously loved God more than anybody ever could, I don’t think you could squeeze anybody in between Jesus and David. Yet, for both of those men, the House was their passion beyond words.
True Love Expresses Itself
If there is someone you love desperately, what do your mind and your heart want to do? You have to find someway to express that love. If I love someone, my mind is going to be creatively finding ways to express it by always thinking, “How can I wash their feet? How could I do something special for them that would make them smile or take a load off their shoulders? How could I creatively find a way to get into their heart, into their life and to just do something special, with no need for anything in return? I just want to give.” When you really love someone, you just want to give. That’s the way it is with God, too. If you really love God, there is no way you can draw some line between loving Him and expressing that love in His House—with a zeal for the House. If you really want to wash His feet, there aren’t a lot of ways to do that with a God whom you can’t touch, and whom no one has seen or can see, as the scriptures say—the only immortal, invisible, great, and awesome God. How can you wash His feet? How can you love Him if you don’t love His House and are not consumed with zeal for His House as David was, as Jesus was?
So, loving His House is not an irrelevant point. To be captured by the vision of loving His House is not a replacement for loving God, it’s the overflow of loving God. Don’t you dare replace loving God with loving His House, but understand that they are inseparable. Loving His House is the overflow of loving God. If you are really a worshipper of God, you will worship Him like David did and zeal for the House will consume you. There is no way to separate that.
Be Willing To Wrestle
If this is a supernatural issue, and it is, then it brings up another point. To have a revelation of the House of God, of the Body of Christ like Jacob did in his dream, you have to be willing to wrestle for it like Jacob did. He wrestled to turn Jacob the deceiver into Israel, the nation of God. He wrestled until dawn. He wouldn’t let God go until He blessed him. In order to turn from Jacob to Israel, there is a price that has to be paid. You have to wrestle till dawn. You have to say to God, “I will not let You go until you bless me.” Then the angel of the Lord says, “Because you were willing to pay this price, Jacob the deceiver, the mortal, can become Israel the immortal—partakers of the divine nature.” There is a wrestling process involved in the whole thing. Because it’s a supernatural transaction from Jacob to Israel and because it is of supernatural importance to God, it makes sense that there would be supernatural opposition to it. And this revelation—that you must have of the Body of Christ—is going to be opposed violently by satan. The closer you get to seeing it, submitting your heart and your life to God’s vision about it all, the more opposition you are going to find.
The Body of Christ is something that, truthfully, people do hate who are enemies of the cross. They despise this idea of the Body of Christ in any sort of tangible way. When one part suffers the whole Body suffers. They have all kinds of names for it. They want to put all kinds of guilt and fear on people to make them shy away from this revelation of the Body of Christ.
No “Church Directories”
We had a phone list that said in the upper right hand corner: “This is absolutely not the church directory. It is in fact a list of people that we are to devote our lives to and that we’ve agreed together in our hearts that we would lay down our lives and be loyal to the point of death.” Why did it say all of that? It said that because if there is such a thing as a “church directory,” then immediately there are also such things as periphery, and confusion, and frustration, and deception, and hypocrisy. The minute there is a “church directory,” those other things come automatically. Because now, in my naiveté, I look at a list and say, “Oh, this is the church.” I don’t have to use my spiritual eyes anymore. When I walk into someone’s home, I don’t have to use my spiritual eyes because I think, “They are on the list. They’re a part. They are obviously in God’s blessing. They are obviously woven into the Body of Christ because it says so right here in alphabetical order. They are part of God’s heart and life.”
As soon as I allow this thing of man to quantify that which can only be discerned in the Spirit, I’ve immediately cut off my Senses. I’ve blinded myself to spiritual reality by accepting something as a substitute for spiritual discernment. That’s why “church directories” are dead wrong. When it’s based on the “church directory,” I walk into a house and my discernment is not based in the Spirit. We can’t tolerate that. We can’t allow that to come into play. I need to view each person, each moment, through the eyes of God and respond to them exactly that way—nothing more, nothing less. I can’t view them based on previous experiences with them or hobbies or personalities or because I like their spouse or because I love their children or because I’ve known them for fifteen years or because they know a lot of Bible. All that stuff is chaff. I need to be able to see them just as God sees them right now or else I am useless to them, and I’ll probably even harm them by feeding something in them that is not proper. The “church directory” thing is wrong—dead wrong—for spiritual reasons.
The rest of the remark that was in that box on the phone list was, “…these are instead relationships that we have agreed to be loyal to the point of death.” What does that mean? Obviously if someone chooses to walk outside of Christ, there are commands about that like: “Treat them as a tax collector or a pagan. Don’t associate with them. Don’t eat with them. Expel them from your midst.” That doesn’t mean that I would rather die than obey Jesus. But the point is: Will I see the Body of Christ? Will I be loyal to them to the point of death?
You Will Be Mocked
Some enemy of the Cross in this city got a hold of one of those phone lists and said, “See, it says ‘loyal to the point of death.’ This is terrible. This is so dangerous. This is ugly.” That idea was so radically harmful to their flesh that they had to lash out at that and call a bunch of names. That simple remark just drove them insane because they don’t discern the Body of Christ. They would rather live a selfish, individualistic life. They would rather be gods to themselves and judge everyone rather than give their heart and life away. So, they despise anybody else who wouldn’t do that. If we are supposed to be one as Jesus and the Father are one, did Jesus love His Father to the point of death? Are we to be one in the same way Jesus and the Father are one? Are we then not to love each other to the point of death?
It’s a very simple Biblical idea. It’s not a deep, far-fetched concept, but people despise this revelation of the Body of Christ. They despise this idea of being joined one to another, being members of one another. These are gruesome terms to people who want to live selfish lives. They have no desire for the House of God. Zeal for themselves consumes them, and they are not going to lose their lives. That’s a repulsive idea to them. They want to have what they want. They want to be gods who control their own destiny and perhaps others’ destinies. But to lose their lives as Jesus did, to make themselves nothing, to become a slave to others even to the point of death if necessary, those are despicable, scandalous ideas. Not only will they not do it, but they will also mock and blackmail anyone else who desires to.
If you see this revelation of the Body of Christ in your lifetime, and give your life to this heart that God has for His House, you will be mocked and persecuted beyond belief. You will be called every name in the book, and it is something very supernatural because satan despises that sort of agape love. To lose your life for the sake of others is a terrible idea to those people. They think, “You can believe what you want to believe, but don’t you dare love people even to the loss of your own personal identity, possessions, and even life. Don’t you dare do anything terrible like that. But if you want to believe a certain set of things, that’s fine. Just make sure you live selfishly, loving worldly sort of lifestyles like everybody else does, and it will be fine. Just plug into this socially acceptable, cultural, normative, satanic american lifestyle, and don’t you dare ever love anybody, and you will be fine.”
Discern the Body—Have an AWE!
You can see now why this word “dread” isn’t such a bad translation after all. “Awe” might be okay, but “dread” is not a half-bad word because it implies an energy that has to go into this vision that God has of Head in heaven, feet on earth, and being able to respond to people as the Body of Christ. “Where two or three are in My name, there I am in the midst” is a discussion of conflict in Matthew 18. If I am in the midst of this conflict, where two or three people come to me in the name of Jesus, I had better see Jesus sitting there too or I’m going to make a bad mistake in how I handle it. I’d better see it the way God sees it. “I don’t think Jesus is here”. “Well, I’ve come to you and you alone, and now I’ve brought two or three witnesses with the best of integrity and the sincerest desires. We want to work this out. We believe we see sin, and we are doing what Jesus told us to do.” “Well, okay look. I don’t believe you. I don’t trust you. I don’t respect you. I disagree.” That sort of attitude is not discerning the Body.
Jesus said He was coming with them when two or three came, and if I don’t recognize that Jesus is there too because I don’t see the Body of Christ the way God sees it, then I’m going to make some bad mistakes. I’m going to be very pompous in my response because I think I know something and that I have the right to my opinion. I have the right to not violate my conscience in the sense that I don’t just have to roll over and play dead, but I do not have the right to mock and not have a dread when something like that happens. I must have an awe when something like that happens. If two or three have come to me, I better have an awe because Jesus is there. That was His Word. He didn’t say that you should have an awe if two or three people of apostolic maturity come to you. He said, “Two or three in My Name”. I don’t care how wise they may be because if they’ve come sincerely without an agenda to the best of their ability to do what Jesus said, I’d better see Jesus there too and respond accordingly.
Again, that doesn’t mean I have to roll over and play dead: “Yeah, right. I see it.” If I don’t see it, I had better not say that I see it. But what I better do is have the kind of awe that says, “I respect what you are doing. I know that Jesus is with you. I don’t see it yet. I do not have a grasp of what you are trying to say.” Or, “I disagree with what you are saying, but I respect that you have come in the name of the Lord and Jesus, and He is with you, and I want to see it. I’m going to do everything in my power to see it. I will not despise or mock what God is doing in this thing. Pray and fast for me because I want to see it—whatever it takes—I want to see it. I respect what you are doing. I discern the Body of Christ: Head in heaven, feet on earth. I discern the Body of Christ.” That is dread. That is awe, and that is appropriate because that’s how God sees it. If we don’t see it that way, some are going to be sick and others are going to die. God isn’t going to tolerate, particularly in the last of the last days, a oneness other than the kind of oneness that He and the Father had with one another. That’s what He is after and nothing short of that is acceptable.
Ask for Revelation
So, paint that picture in your heart. Sow those seeds in your heart. Ask God to give you revelation that flesh and blood cannot reveal. Jesus only used the word “Church” twice, as far as we know in the gospels. He used it once in Matthew 18 and the other time in Matthew 16 He was saying, “You have to have a revelation, because that’s what the Church is made out of. The Church I’m building is built on revelation.” So make sure that you are asking God desperately for a revelation of the Head and of the Body and what that means practically to your particular life: How you spend your evenings, how you respond to individuals, what opinions you hold in your head, how you respond to the least, and how you respond to the greatest. You must see the Body of Christ as not just individuals and ideas. Make sure that you see what God sees and demand of yourself to see what God sees with an awe. That’s very appropriate.
Position Yourself for a Miracle
Dan: How exactly do you position your life rather than strive—preparing your life for Christ to do that work as opposed to you taking the reigns and trying to do that work?
Mark: It breaks down a lot more practically and simply than it might sound like at first thought. If I have a problem with eating, while I would like to be able to change my heart so that this is not a problem anymore, and I would like to be able to overcome this thing beginning this instant, that may not be possible. It might be my honest, sincere desire that I never have another problem or temptation with making my belly my god, and that self-indulgence would never be a temptation for me again, but I can’t change my heart on that. In the end, that’s something God would want to get all the glory for. “I, God, changed your heart.” Praise be to God! He changed my heart. He got all the glory for it.
What is my part? My part is to say, “God, please change me. What I do I hate” (Romans 7). Somehow I have to be very clear in confession and call it exactly what God calls it. And in so doing, I’m positioning myself. I’m choosing to hate it. I’m choosing to identify it. I’m choosing to confess my sin one to another and ask them to pray for me so that I might be healed. I’m positioning myself for God to do a miracle. I can’t change my heart, but I can make the right choices. I can even have some stopgap measures of letting someone else do my grocery shopping for me because I’m just not wise when I do it. I put stuff in the house that’s going to kill me later on. I justify it by thinking, “Well, I am going to buy this in case we have guests over.” I’m being foolish, and I need someone to help me not be foolish. I’m positioning myself. I’m not justifying my sin. I can’t conquer it, but I can make the right choices to surround myself with Truth and with people who are praying for me. With a very clear declaration, I will not justify this thing. It is sin. It must die. God help me. I know that God is the only one that ultimately can.
The other side is, “Well, only God can do it. I can’t do it, so someday maybe God will change me.” And that lack of positioning ourselves is basically insincerity. It’s dishonest. “Knock and keep on knocking (present tense) and the door shall be opened. Ask and keep on asking and you shall receive. Seek and keep on seeking and you shall find. I’ll be found by those who search for Me with all their heart.”
Can you “get” God? “God come here. Come.” You can’t do that. You can’t make God reveal Himself to you. But you can search for Him with all your heart like the pearl merchant, like the hard-working farmer. You can do your part by pursuing Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. “I will be found by those who search for Me with all their heart.” “Draw near to Me,” God said, “and I’ll draw near to you.” Notice the order that He put it in: “Position yourself, and I’ll be found by you. You draw near to Me, and I’ll draw near to you. You can’t find Me, no matter how hard you draw, but if you’ll do that, I’ll do the rest.” He’s looking for that sort of heart, that sort of attitude. He is searching to and fro throughout the earth to find men who will have a single eye towards Him and put away the things that are unnecessary.
Son of David, Have Mercy on Me!
We are never tempted beyond what we can bear. We are always given a way out. Some people will take that way out because they are conscious of God. Others won’t take that way out because they are looking for excuses. They don’t love the Truth. They are loving darkness. It’s not weakness or strength; it’s not holiness or sinfulness. It’s loving the light and calling it what God calls it and then positioning ourselves with all our heart, seeking with all our heart that He might be found by us. But ultimately, when everything shuts down, when it’s the real thing, you will know that your part was just simply saying, “God, help me. Son of David, have mercy on me.” How much work did he do to get healed? But he did say what he said. He had his eyes in the right place, so to speak. “Son of David, have mercy on me.” Did he heal himself? No. But God saw his bodacious request and the way he was willing to humiliate himself to get it, in spite of the fact everybody was saying, “Be quiet. Sit down. You are ruining this thing.” He was just a fool enough to position himself where Jesus was willing to heal him.
That’s the heart that Peter had, too. Peter was always a fool: “Tell me to walk on water, and I’ll come to you.” He was always stupid by saying things like, “Let’s build a house. We’ll build a tabernacle” But God loved that. Peter was one person on the face of the earth whom God chose to pour into in a spectacular way, beyond any other singular man. He was a man who was a fool like Bartamaus, like Zaccheus, who was willing to just be crazy and make a fool of himself in order to position himself so that God could reach out and touch him. That’s the craziness that God’s calling us to for His sake. That’s the positioning. John the Baptist was willing to eat bugs for a lifetime in order that God could use him in a way that no mortal man had ever been used to that point in time. He positioned himself, and the Word of the Lord came.
Strongholds—Needing a Genetic Transformation
Daniel: Regarding heart issues and struggling with food, one believer’s heart is, “God I hate struggling with food.” I think they could honestly say in good conscience, “My heart is pure with that. I hate struggling with food.” But it seems like it’s almost a matter of the will. Sometimes you will sit down at the table and have no problem with food while a whole feast is in front of you. Maybe the hedges are high or for some reason nothing is bothering you about food. But other times, the refrigerator and the leftover steak dinner are drawing you. At that point I cry out to God, “God help me.” It’s not a matter of my heart being off. Is it will at that point when I can say with a good conscience, “I hate struggling with food”? My heart is totally pure. I talk about it with everyone, but at different times I just have to go for that extra piece of candy. It seems like it’s more of a will or something else that’s drawing me toward food.
Mark: Issues are really not usually so small as just simple case-by-case things. Now, what was just described above is one believer’s relationship with food. Some people’s relationship with food is grotesquely larger than that, and it’s a stronghold for them. It’s a passionate thing, and they wake up in the morning and it’s already “eating” on them, so to speak. But couldn’t they, even at that point say, “But my heart is that I want to get rid of this”?
The nature of a stronghold is that there is something inside of you that says, “But I want it.” And then you have to question your heart at that point; this heart that is deceitful above all things. At some point you have to say, “How good is my relationship with God if I have such a deep affection for self-indulgence in whatever form. If I really had a relationship with God, would I really be having this consuming desire for sensual indulgence?” The fact is that if the prince of this world has come and he has nothing in you because you’ve so starved the flesh that there is nothing controlling in it for you and it is case-by-case temptation—then that’s fine. Many temptations, in fact, most temptations for most of us, would fall into that category.
But there are other whole issues that are very powerful and even very deceptive, and it comes at you from every direction. Oftentimes it’s much more deeply rooted and does involve issues of the heart, areas of the heart, like the rich young ruler. “One thing you lack.” That wasn’t just a temptation. He didn’t just look at his camel train and say, “No, I think I want to be worldly. My heart’s good, but I think in this case I’ll choose…” No, there was something very deep in his genetic make-up that said, “This is who I am. I don’t want to leave that.” That’s the thing that you cry out to God for—the things that require healing, the things that require a genetic transformation in you. There are areas in everybody that require not just the ability on a case-by-case situation to overcome temptation by willpower, but there are things where you have to cry out to God and He purposefully leaves us in situations where this is true: “I need a genetic transformation. I don’t just need my sins forgiven. I don’t just need Your spirit in me. I need You to change my heart.” That is part of the New Covenant. He promised that He would put His commands and decrees within us and that He would change our hearts of stones into soft hearts. He will actually change our hearts.
Serving the God of the Red Sea
There will be circumstances in your life; maybe somebody someday will betray you in a way that is just beyond belief with terrible consequences like losing your children. You’re going to have to deal with this thing, not as a fleeting temptation, but as something that is far bigger than anything you can handle, and it’s not because you’re not a christian. It’s not because you haven’t traveled a long way down the road to maturity, but things happen that just incite these riots inside of you, and you’ve got to say, “Son of David, have mercy on me. Change my heart.” That’s the kind of thing that I’m talking about. I’m not just talking about dealing with classic petty temptations, but the things that require miracles. How do you position yourself to get miracles in your life, things as large as the Red Sea parting? How do you position yourself so that impossible things change because God Himself has touched you, not just a matter of the discipline of living the christian life, but miracles like the blind man who can now see?
We will encounter things like that throughout our lives, and thanks be to God that we do because it becomes a testimony of the miraculous. It becomes an overflow of praise and thanksgiving and worship that wouldn’t happen if it were just a mundane, mechanical, overcoming simple temptation kind of life. We need Red Seas that need to part. We need to be lead out into the wilderness in order to have no water and then only bitter water. We need God to lead us down that path so that He can do miracles, so that the rock, which is Christ, can follow us and water can come from the rock at the very last minute, at the time when we would worship Him most, rather than the normal flow which we would learn to take for granted. You tend to take for granted the things that result in maturity. But the things that are genuinely strongholds or immensely large problems, those are the things that cause us to be overwhelmed with worship. So, He allows those things to happen so we won’t lose touch with the God of the Red Sea, instead of just the God of daily bread.
Being Selfless—Glorify Yourself Through Me
Brandon: How do we cry out to that extent for revelation or for changing or for healing for ourselves, without failing to see that others are fed? We’ve talked before about how when we see that others’ needs are met, and we believe that if we will do that, God will met our own needs. I do not want to consume too much passion on finding salvation for myself in a sense.
Mark: The key to all of that is selflessness. Jesus wasn’t embarrassed about the fact that He could walk on water, multiply the loaves and fishes, and give sight to the blind. He wasn’t ashamed of that. All of those things were selfless things; they were things to bring glory to God, to bring blessings to God’s people, and were a testimony to the inquirers. They were all things that were about the Father’s business, not about himself. If I desire something simply for myself, if I am the end of the road in this request that I’m making, then I am obviously out of the spirit because it’s making ourselves nothing that allows God to be exalted. “Therefore God highly exalted Him and gave Him a name above every name,” because He made Himself nothing and took on the form of a slave.
That’s this idea of crying out to God for deliverance or for salvation for myself. That’s not the end of the matter. This thing isn’t just simply for myself. The thing that Jesus said after he healed so many people was, “Now go tell all the great thing that God did for you. Show yourselves to the priest and offer the sacrifice that was commanded, and tell all the people.” In Samaria, the result was: “Hey, we believe not just because of what she told me, but now we’ve seen with our own eyes.” Our testimony, like David said, is: “If you will forgive me of my sin and will make my sins as white as snow, I will declare Your praise in the midst of the assembly.” It’s the overflow. “If You will take not Your Holy Spirit from me, if You will renew in me a clean heart, I will declare Your name in the midst of the assembly. I will declare the forgiveness of sins to the multitudes. I will declare Your greatness to the nations.” It’s a conduit. We are asking for cleansing so that we can be a conduit, not so that we can be at peace with ourselves. It’s outward focused, not inward.
Laura: The thought I had about that was having the heart that says, “Jesus, this thing in my life really shames You. Please glorify Yourself, and take it away. Make a name for Yourself in my life.”
Mark: Similar to what Moses said, “God, if You’re not going to go before us and be our rear guard, if You’re not going to demonstrate Your greatness, if You’re going to allow us to just suffer the same fate as all the other mortals on the earth, You are losing out God. What would distinguish us? You’ve given us Your name. What distinguishes us from all the peoples of the earth? If You won’t bless us, how will You get the glory that You deserve, the praise that You deserve? You need to bless us. Not for our sake, but so that others can declare Your praises as we’ve been called from darkness into Your marvelous light, so that the gentiles will praise God on the day of Jesus’ return because of the lives that we lead as a result of Your mercy, Your sovereignty, the hearts that You miraculously changed. For Your sake. What else would distinguish us from all the peoples of the earth? If You won’t miraculously change our lives, if You won’t prepare a table for us in the presence of our enemies—not for our sake, but for Yours—then the rest of these things, all of these truths that you’ve commissioned us with are for not. If You won’t follow us with signs to confirm Your Word, if You won’t bless us and protect us and care for us, if you don’t allow our children to find the revelation of the Son of God so that their lives would also change and the peace would be upon us, if all those things aren’t there in some sort of way that even a pagan would see something more than just ideas floating around and a certain sort of lifestyle—big deal. The hippies did that in the 60’s—big deal. If something supernatural and of God isn’t seen and able to be witnessed, then what would distinguish us from the other peoples of the earth? Why, God, should we even pursue these things if You’re not going to confirm Your word?”
So, that’s the reason that we would pray for those things—for His own greatness as well as other lives being touched, not us as an end in ourselves. Simon tried that and God was not pleased. Simon was an end in himself: “Let me buy the ability to give the gift of the holy spirit.” He wanted to have the power and that wasn’t a pretty sight.