"Yes We Can!"
The Boast of the Laodiceans
Yes we can? Sorry, looks like "no we can't". But this isn't a political message even though it comes at a time of economic crisis in America and the rest of the world. This is - as the title suggests - a message to the Church, to Christians, who are suffering from the same condition.
Not just relying on SELF, which let's face it most Christians recognise as foolish and unscriptural or they ought to at least - but a much deeper, a hidden, and almost universal problem. That is, not realising that EVERYTHING outside of Jesus is pointless anyway.
Are You Really IN HIM?
Jesus reserved his harshest words, in the letters written to the seven churches of Revelation, for the seventh church, the Laodicean one. (Rev 3:14-22) He said that, although they saw themselves as prosperous, well-fed, happy, settled, secure, wise and able they were in God's eyes "wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked".
The very word Laodicean translates from Greek as "the word or the will of the people". It is the very essence of "yes WE can!".
These people were saved, they were Christians, they were a genuine church but yet they had something so vitally wrong about their lives, and from their condition we need to learn how to face the challenge of today, when truly Jesus IS saying "Behold, I stand at the door and knock...". His coming is near. We MUST be ready.
I'm not doing anything wrong!
But what's so wrong with self-confidence and a can-do attitude? That is what many pride themselves on: "I'm a self-made man; I've risen from nothing and achieved something for myself; I've pulled myself round and made something of myself..." do you notice the word repeating over and over - SELF. That is what God condemned and he still does.
At this critical hour for the world as I believe it to be, I want you to look at the illustration below and ask yourself some sobering questions:
FIRST STEP: Look at Jesus. Because of his perfect righteousness and total submission to God's will (even to death on the cross) he became the ultimate Sacrifice for the sin of mankind, the Second Adam, who personifies IN HIMSELF the redemption, the righteousness that brings salvation.
ONLY JESUS is worthy! ONLY JESUS pleased the Father! In HIM is righteousness, in HIM is the forgiveness from sin, in HIM is authority, power, wisdom, victory - his name JESUS means salvation!! JESUS IS SALVATION. He is everything else besides; everything is IN HIM.
In HIM is LIFE and although it appears otherwise, all outside him is death! He is light, he is truth, he is everything that is.
Jesus (who is God incarnate) is the embodiment of all things. Look at the image on the left hand side and realise this truth: JESUS IS ALL THERE IS that pertains to life and godliness. Where do you fit into this scenario??
SECOND STEP: Now look at the nice person on the right-hand side. Perfectly nice, decent man, kind, loving, moral - and also one who believes in God and Jesus.
Ask yourself, where is salvation in that lovely Christian man? Is it in his attempt to obey God's word? Is it in his worship, his love of God? His ministry? His morality? Is it anywhere at ALL? No. It's not anywhere at all in that man (nor in you) because outside of Jesus there IS NO SALVATION. Nor anything else. [And I'm talking about Christians here.]
Where is that man's righteousness? Does he please God? He tries hard, and has managed to be an outstanding citizen, faithful partner, good parent, wise and strong... in fact he's the very model of a good Christian, but where is his righteousness? It isn't anywhere in him - because all the righteousness is in Jesus. THERE IS NO RIGHTEOUSNESS OUTSIDE OF JESUS, in fact there is nothing at all that is acceptable to God.
As long as the man on the left and the man on the right are not the same person, they do not represent the same things and are in fact pulling in opposite directions. This is a recipe for failure.
The Secret is Spiritual Union
Do you see where I'm going with this? The Laodicean church was probably the best of the bunch when it came to generosity, kindliness, worship, doctrine and all that Christians should do. But it was all of no avail because they'd totally missed the point! Outside of Jesus, nothing exists that counts for anything. "The flesh does not and cannot please God". They had risen to status by their own powers, self-reliant and therefore no longer in need of God.
Are you thinking: "I must therefore strive harder to obey God's will in my life and be more submitted to Jesus, less selfish and self-reliant"? NO. It's good to show willing, but all that represents is another self-effort to be something that the flesh can NEVER be!
What you really should be thinking is: "God help me, I've come to the end of myself! If all that I DO, all that I AM and all that I've ACHIEVED is useless then where do I go from here? I may as well be dead!"
Precisely. Now you're getting it.
Jesus said: abide in ME, and I in YOU, for apart (separated) from me you can do nothing. (Are you hearing this? YOU can do NOTHING! How much of something is there in nothing?)
John 15:5-6 "He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing".
BUT, how - in practical everyday terms - can we abide in him? If you read on you will discover the second scripture that shows you HOW we are meant to do it.
Easy way now, or hard way later?
Brothers and Sisters! We can either wake up to this fact now and avoid the crisis that is coming, or wait and end up rebuked like the Loadiceans. They were told to get down on their knees, shamefaced and contrite, and surrender themselves to GOD the TRUE source of wealth and success. Walk fully in him - owned by him, directed by him, in humble submission to his will - or walk in the world by yourself, that's the only choice before us now.
Western Christians have sailed along in peace, freedom and prosperity thinking their success and blessing comes from God. In fact most of it came from the same source as everyone else, human effort and human self-willed desires. Nobody has noticed the difference because most of us have lived our entire lives in an atmosphere of opportunity, prosperity, comfort and ease.
But when all that is taken away, how much will remain?
The shaking that will shortly come will either leave you standing on a ROCK, with your life hidden with Christ in God, or it will reveal the sand of your own self-worth on which you built your entire life.
Yes, that self-worth is very good and nice, presentable and acceptable to yourself and your family and church! But how much of it is Jesus, and how much of it is YOU?
What must we do? What did Jesus say to the Laodiceans? REPENT!
God is calling us to repentance. Now, before you think "Oh, I know all about this repentance, feeling ashamed for the things that didn't work out in my life, and saying sorry and getting forgiven so I can do better next time..." STOP. I am not talking about that. That is called REGRET, not repentance.
The repentance that is needed is a surrender to death, not improving on yourself, but forsaking youself entirely.
It's totally coming to the end of yourself so that you fall before the Lord admitting that much of what you do has been your OWN decision, your OWN ideas, your OWN wisdom and strength and you're not even that clear on what God wants of your life because he's got so little of it available to him that he doesn't get a look in.
Repentance of this kind is hitting the brick wall of yourself and not being able to find a way round; being at a total loss. Actually, it's where we should have BEGUN, not travelled this far before arriving here.
Repentance of this kind is admitting that all you've done so far is a waste because it hasn't been at the direction of God; ALL your victory over sin has been invalidated because sin still lurks round every corner and you are being controlled by your feelings and desires. ALL your progress has been invalidated because you have done nothing of eternal worth for the Kingdom. ALL your supposed sanctification is "filthy rags" because it's been you controlling the flesh, not surrendering it as you ought to have done.
The fruit of your Christian life, that seed you planted and watered and watched over so carefully, has come to nothing and is worthless as you stand in the majestic glory of God and consider yourself in his light. You have failed; you have nothing, you ARE nothing.
This moment of abject failure and loss, where all is bleak and dark, is the moment where everything turns around and goes in a different direction! Repentance means just that, turning around.
Your life begins only at death
Romans says, present your BODIES a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom 12:1-2) This "service" is the Temple Service, the sacrifices to God.
What did the OT priests do - they took a substitute animal or bird that represented themselves, laid it on the altar before God and (in the day when God the Shekinah Glory dwelt with them) the fire came down and consumed that sacrifice, showing that it was acceptable to God.
What was left of that body laid on the altar? NOTHING. Did it still have its own life? NO. Did it still have a will of its own? NO. Could it get up and continue living its natural life in the forest or plains? NO. Everything was over and the animal no longer existed under its own terms, but it existed only in God. It was consumed in God. God and the sacrifice were now ONE.
1 Cor 6:15-17 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? ... he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
If you consume a slice of beef, the essence, atoms, molecules, chemicals of that meat become part of you. This is a crude earthly way of demonstrating the point. And what did Jesus Christ say - causing great offense even to his followers - unless you EAT me, unless you DRINK me, you are not ONE with me.
John 6:49-58 "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. ... unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.... He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him."
How to abide in him
Now here we have it, the answer to the question, how do I abide in Him and He abide in me? It is by "eating" and "drinking" [ie, becoming spiritually one with] the Son of God.
[We don't cease to exist, nor do we "become god" but we are one in a similar way to a man and woman in an earthly marriage.]
You might say, well I'm a Christian! Jesus is my Saviour! Ten years ago I gave my life to the Lord! But don't you realise? God doesn't want your life!!! It's rotten and useless and even you couldn't make anything out of it - why would the God of the Universe want that? He doesn't want your life, he wants your DEATH. He doesn't want to take your own natural earthly life and clean it up and make it wonderful, he wants to nail it to the Cross and REPLACE it with something that works properly - the life of Christ in you.
It's wonderful that you have come into the knowledge of the cleansing blood of salvation! Yes, praise God. But that is far from the practical every-day experience of abiding in Jesus - that level of surrender can only (like a human marriage) be consentual. God isn't going to barge into your life and take over, he will wait patiently for your consent, and until that time you will become more and more disillusioned with yourself. That's all part of the plan!
Given to one another
The spiritual consumption (or can we say "consummation" if we are using the marriage analogy) goes two ways - we present ourselves to be consumed by God, and at the same time we consume him and the two become one.
Thereafter, you - the sacrificial offering - exist only in communion (common union), in fellowship, partnership and cooperation with God.
NOW the righteousness of God and you co-exist, and move together in unity. God's will is your will. God's word in in your mind and on your tongue. God's ways are your ways, his thoughts are your thoughts. Everything changes because you ARE DEAD TO YOUR OWN WILL, you no longer give yourself the right to a separate existence; your self-will has come to an end.
Can you accept (as a very real and effective thing) your death in Christ? Can you lay yourself down and abdicate all rights to the life that you claim to have given to God when you were saved? Can you make Jesus Christ LORD as well as SAVIOUR over your life?
Can you bring yourself to admit that all that remains of you must die, in order to allow God to rule and reign in you, by his Holy Spirit? Can you voluntarily lay yourself down on that altar and invite God the Holy Spirit to consume you and possess ALL of you with his holy fire?
It's a tough call. Pride and self immediately raise their heads and give you all kinds of excuses why it isn't necessary, it's even a "false doctrine" and - "nobody else is doing it and they are good Christians". But if you can get beyond all the suggestions that divert your mind and grasp the central point, you will do as Jesus commanded the Laodiceans - repent, have a total change of mind, see yourself as God sees you, and weep for your shameful lack of submission to God.
Beg him to show you the way, but even more, ask him to fill you UTTERLY and COMPLETELY so that all of yourSELF is flooded over and hidden in him. Ask him to take and consume the sacrifice of your body soul and spirit, and replace it with his holy fire, with HIMSELF. Then you might still be standing when the world shaking comes.
I will not lean
upon the arm of flesh
And down to Egypt
I will no longer go;
For I have seen
The Saviour's loveliness,
And how He gave
His life to make me whole
Oh, I was trusting in what my strength could do
To win the battles of my life, to heal my soul;
But now I lay down my body at His feet
And say, my God, make my sacrifice complete!
Although I trusted
in salvation long ago,
was the only part I'd seen
Oh I have been
So foolish and so slow
That He's all-in-all to me
Oh I was trusting in what my faith could do,
Using the power of His Name to fight my foe
But now I lay down the weapons of my fight
And say, my Saviour, be the Victor of my life!
For many years
I have struggled in my mind
Seeking His help
And His healing for my need;
How can it be
That I was oh so blind
I did not see
His very life is health indeed!
Oh I was trusting in what my mind could know
Using my knowledge to cause His life to flow
But now I come empty-handed to His throne,
And say, my God, I trust in you alone!
You made Yourself
Of no account for me,
That You might give
Your life, Your love, Your grace,
Your health and strength,
Your entire ability,
To take my sin,
And my judgement in their place!
And now no longer do I call my life my own
He lives in me and I trust in Him alone;
For I have died, and my life is hid in Him
I'm crucified, and in Jesus born again!
Why should I prize,
Or seek to modify
That which is cursed
To be for ever foul?
The flesh is doomed to die
And if I live
In the flesh, my soul will rule.
Oh, it is Jesus who died and rose again
And only He is the Victor over sin;
Foolish my striving to make that victory mine
For eternal life is the sap of just one Vine
My thoughts, my prayers,
Now I lay them all to rest,
I know the ways
of the flesh are bound to fail;
So many years
I have missed the path that's best
In which I die
And the life of God prevails!
And oh the joy that accompanies this release!
To know that He is my life, my strength, my peace!
I gladly turn from whatever feeds my soul
For in my spirit is the Life that makes me whole!
Come take my being
Become my life within;
I will not lean
On what is doomed to die;
I am believing
My life can now begin,
Be all my strength, Lord
On You I will rely
Oh Lord of all, how I praise Your love for me,
That caused You gladly to go to Calvary!
I leave my self at the place of Jesu's shame
And walk away, in His life to live again!
© 2013 Tricia Tillin-Booth. All rights reserved. Birthpangs Website: http://www.birthpangs.org/ This document is the property of its author and is not to be displayed on other websites, redistributed, sold, reprinted, or reproduced in printed in any other format without permission. Websites may link to this article, if they provide proper title and author information. One copy may be downloaded, stored and/or printed for personal research. All spelling and phraseology is UK English.