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Submitting To God
By Malcolm B Heap, Midnight Ministries
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Jesus’ statement about truth and being set free by it is well-known. (It’s in John 8:32.) What is not so widely seen is its fulfilment in Christians’ lives.
A lot of Christians have some truth and some spiritual freedom. But most do not have enough truth, nor enough spiritual release. They are to a large extent still in bondage to demons.
There are various views or approaches to ‘truth’. Some regard ‘truth’ as the intellectual appreciation of what Jesus said. In other words – Bible knowledge and the human grasp of that knowledge by your intellect.
Others interpret Jesus’ words as a reference to His person, or His ‘being’ or spiritual nature. He is the embodiment of pure spiritual truth as He said:
I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through Me (Jn 14:6, NIV).
But, in repeating His words, they can tend to spiritualise away the importance of careful obedience to His Word. They say, "If you have Jesus living in you, then you have the truth in you." They infer that you don’t need to literally live by every precept in the Bible.
There are two dangers here. The first is one of ritualism or legalism – strictly adhering to ‘the law’ laid out in the Bible in commandments and ancillary teaching – but done by human effort that denies the Spirit life within. And, the second danger is that of liberals, who accept the Spirit but deny the more rudimentary outworking of biblical principles in a literal way.
The truth is you need both. You need both the Spirit and a practical obedience to biblical precepts and commands. This brings complete freedom.
The two ‘sectors’ of believers might seem poles apart, but the problem facing both polarities is actually the same. It is to do with submission to the Spirit. One side wants to do it only one way; the other side wants to do it only the other way. You need to do both.
Submission has both internal and external ramifications in your life. It is both listening to God internally, and obeying His literal commands externally. If you only want one option, God’s Spirit will leave you.
This is the overwhelming problem of the Church in our age. Christians only want part of the whole. They want Jesus on their terms, not on His. They are glad to accept Him for what they want, but that’s kids’ stuff. You’ve got to grow up and stop being selfish. You are called to lay down your life and do whatever He says. You are to be a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1; Gal 2:20).
Please don’t just gloss over those references. Look up those texts and think deeply about them. They will be your life, if you submit... or they will bring your death, if you refuse to obey.
Laodicea is verbally rebuked by Jesus for not accepting the rest of Him. They’ve got some of Him – some of what He taught or brought – but they shut the door when He comes again (Rev 3:14-22). They leave Him outside, knocking (Rev 3:20).
They are lukewarm, no longer on fire – willing, eager, receptive – to further truth and its incorporation in their life.
The Christian life is one of continual progress, not merely something you accept at baptism, and then lapse back into complacent mediocrity. You only have a downpayment of the Spirit to begin with. You then have to go on, higher and higher with God, until He takes you to be with Him in His divine dimension.
So you start with initial repentance, baptism in water, and beginner’s faith. Then you must progress to a Spirit baptism, with a demonstration of the Spirit’s presence in your life through spiritual gifts. (If you are not familiar with this, please read An Introduction To The Spiritual Gifts, and Holy Fire!) And from there, you go from one level of faith to another. (Explained in Faith – Raising Our Level of Expectation.) You are not to be static, for each one who is static is actually backsliding, because His Spirit is constantly advancing. So must you. Proverbs outlines the approach we need:
...if you accept My words, and store up My commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, THEN you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God (Prov 2:1-5, NIV).
Those words don’t just mean that you find an intellectual knowledge about God. They mean that you come into an experience of KNOWING Him. The ones who really fear God are those who have an awe that comes from appreciating His love, His nature, and wanting that, too. With that desire within you, He comes to live in you. You then become part of the temple of His Spirit (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16) –
....a holy temple in the Lord... a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit (Eph 2:21,22, NIV).
The Church of God is not about physical organisations. It’s a living spiritual organism. The things that matter are spiritual, not physical. And you must seek those things that are at God’s right hand (Col 3:1,2) like the proverb stated – like hunting for buried treasure. Jesus hates lukewarmness!
Turning You Around
The problem is, people don’t. They don’t seek Him with all out desire. They seek their own things, physical things, with that kind of effort and desire. Their minds are on those things, but not on His things, with fire and desire.
But you can’t get the things of God with a drifter’s mentality. You will get spat out of His mouth with that approach! (Rev 3:16.) Only when you realise that without Him you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked (3:17) will you let Him in through your door once again, to give you the rest of what He offers.
So, submitting to God "ain’t no easy road." Hardship must come first, to awaken you to your need and your lacks. Then, when He has broken you through the trials of life, He can pick you up in His loving arms and give you the rest of what you need, because you will be willing then. That’s what the Great Tribulation is all about to the modern Church.
Preachers have tried to reconcile the awful privations of this time with the love of God. Because they couldn’t, they reinterpreted Jesus’ words about His coming to mean a secret rapture, to steal away His Bride. But Jesus didn’t mean that at all. He meant what He said in Revelation 7:9-14 about a massive harvest being brought to conversion in the coming time of trouble, not kept from it, but brought to Him through it.
Jesus has to break your dependence upon the physical, upon the things of this world, upon the things you like in preference to Him, for you to willingly submit to Him. And He will do that. The work He has begun in you, He will complete. He is the Author and Finisher of your faith (Heb 12:2).
People don’t see their incompleteness. None of us do. I remember speaking out a prophetic word in one of our meetings. It was from Philippians 1:6, and I spoke it by the Spirit to a man who was meeting with us at that time. It was to the effect that God would complete in him the work He had begun.
You might say "that was a bit redundant or trite." But with prophetic words, what is implied is often of far greater significance than what is actually said. The man thought he was entire, complete and had no more need of God. He was lukewarm and closed the door on the rest of what Jesus wanted him to accept.
He didn’t get the message then. I hope he’s getting the message now. We all have a need to move on. Jesus is urging us on to full union with Him. That only comes with a willing heart to accept ALL He offers us from His Word.
There is a call going out to prepare the Bride. Those who want to be counted worthy to be in this number must accept ALL He is offering us. If you read the booklet The Ten Virgins, you will see that Jesus’ ingenious parable contains the inference that we must accept:
Jesus reveals ‘new’ truth to His prophets in the NT just as He has used prophets as His mouthpieces of revelation in former days.
There are those who, because of human pride and stubbornness, throw out the prophets and reject them as irrelevant. Those rebels will find themselves thrown out and considered irrelevant to the Kingdom of God!
It may not be clear, but it is true, that NT prophets are still the vanguard of the faith. Just read Ephesians 4:11-12 and ask yourself, "Is the Church mature yet? Is it totally united?" If the answer to those questions is "No", then prophets are still part of Jesus’ scheme to get her ready for His coming.
And a quick reference to what Paul said before that, in Ephesians 3:5, will put the cap on it for you. He said that spiritual truth, the mystery of God:
...has NOW been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets (Eph 3:5, NIV).
He didn’t say it had been revealed in the OT. It is a NOW thing. And ‘now’ is continuing, because we are still part of the NT era. The Bride is not yet ready, and God is still busily preparing her for Jesus.
Who Will Be In The Bride?
Helena made a comment not long ago that made me think a bit more deeply. I had glossed over who will be part of the Bride, even though I had written about it. But I forget things, and it seems the older I get the more I forget. And when you write with an open mind, letting the Spirit drop things in as you go, you tend to be like a scribe. It’s not my writing. It’s His. So I have to read it again to learn what He is saying.
Helena reminded me of what I had forgotten. It’s not all Christians who will be part of the Bride. It’s only those who accept the fulness of what He is revealing through the prophets whom He has appointed with the work of restoring the full teaching in this end time.
Many simply won’t accept it. Many will reject the prophets (as the dream opposite infers), and cling to the traditions of their church, instead of to the true tradition of THE Church! That is why Jesus urges:
I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire... (Rev 3:18, NIV).
He’s not merely offering you silver. But the gold He is offering comes at a high price, and most are simply not willing to pay that price!
Learning To Listen And Follow
An incident that happened on July 24, 2005.
Sent in by a lady correspondent in the USA.
Someone said that Jesus is as far from us as our next thought about Him. How very true! However, have you noticed that it is very hard for us to stay constantly connected to Him in the spirit? We tend to ‘come’ to Him in prayer once or twice a day and while reading the Bible, but then we just switch Him off, as a radio! This, I believe, is a reason for many troubles we have in our lives.
This story is an example NOT to follow.
I have a ‘gypsy bug’ in my blood. When it hits me, I must get it out of my system! In the past we used to go to the mountains once or twice a year. I would get lost in the woods for a couple of days, and that would give me relief for a while. In the worst case scenario, when we cannot go to the mountains, I go to the High Falls National Park about 60 miles north from us. Last Sunday I finally had both time and weather conditions to spend half a day hiking there.
I have noticed that my day does not go well if I do not start it with prayer. That day, to catch some of the pleasant morning coolness, I decided to postpone my prayer until I got to the High Falls. Bad decision! Because of it I was not tuned in with the Spirit. Looking back at everything that happened on that day, I can see that I ignored a number of promptings of the Spirit, and nearly got into serious trouble.
Still at home, getting my back sack ready, I had a thought to take a cap. Then I remembered that my hair tends to get wet under a cap, so I decided against it. I thought that I would take a trail in the woods, and would not need it. However, when I parked my car at the registration office near the falls, I forgot all about my initial intention. I saw a road I had never hiked. It seemed to be going around the ‘lake’ and I decided to walk it instead. A small voice whispered to me about the danger of taking roads in unknown areas, but I dismissed it.
I did not have a map of the area and I did not even know what kind of a lake it was. The road was called Lakeshore Drive, and I assumed that it would take me around the lake and back to the starting point.
I soon discovered that the road was going mainly through a residential area. Most of the time I could not even get near the shore. A few times, however, I had a chance to come close to the water between two neighboring pieces of property. Each time it struck me as very peculiar that I could not see the end of the lake. Several times I had a prompting: "Turn around, go back!" Unfortunately, each time I ignored it.
It began to get hot. I had four bottles of water with me and had enough common sense to drink it the whole time. After about forty minutes, the road ended at another two-lane road. Even though I received another prompting to turn back, I took a right on this new road and went on.
Another hour went by and the falls were nowhere in sight. I went over a bridge once, thinking that it was one of the lake’s branches. Needless to say, I did not see the lake after that. I wondered, "What kind of a lake is it that one cannot go around?" Finally, I found myself approaching an exit to Interstate 75. I realized that I was lost and would have to go all the way back.
The prospect of two more hours of walking was not attractive. By now it was about one o’clock on a hot July afternoon. I was exhausted after the long walk in the heat without a cap, and there was no shade on the road. I was worried. I recalled the reports I had heard on TV about heat-related deaths.
I saw a woman mowing her lawn. Hoping to find a shortcut, I stopped to ask her about directions to the High Falls. Her explanation confirmed that I had to take the same road back. In my mind I cried out: "I cannot do it! If only I could have a ride for at least part of the way!" No more than 30 seconds later, a truck passed by and stopped just a few yards from me. The driver, a black man between 35 and 45, asked me if I needed a ride. I was not sure what I should do. A voice inside of me said: "Here’s your chance. It’s OK, take it." This time I listened to the Spirit. Relieved, I got in the truck.
The man asked me where I was going. I told him, and he said he’d drop me off at Lakeshore Drive. The drive was short, less than five minutes, but it saved me over three miles of walking in the scorching heat. The man passed the Lakeshore Drive and stopped a dozen yards further, next to another road. He told me that it would also take me to my destination, but I was afraid to get lost again. Then he turned his truck around and drove off in the direction from which we had just come.
Walking back, I thanked the Lord for being merciful to me. On the way, I passed the road the man had recommended. I think it was a shortcut I had wanted so badly.
When I got to the registration office, I looked at myself in the mirror. My face was as red as a boiled lobster. I realized then that I had just been saved from a heat stroke.
I don’t know whether I had an angelic encounter, or the Lord used a man to get me out of my self-inflicted trouble. However, I am absolutely sure that His hand orchestrated my rescue. Everything that happened after I wished for a ride was simply too much for a mere coincidence, if you ask me.
This incident has taught me three very valuable lessons:
1. It is easy to claim to be a Christian, but it is not so easy to live one’s life as a new, spiritual being – constantly in tune with the Spirit.
2. Jesus is always with us, just as He promised. We are the ones who shut Him off.
3. Jesus is faithful. Despite our stubborn self-will and self-reliance in everyday life, He is always ready to help. We just have to give Him a chance. All we have to do is stay tuned, listen, and obey!
Jesus says that He is the good vine, and we (His disciples) are His branches. A branch that does not receive sap from the vine withers and dies in a matter of days! Also, if a branch received sap only sporadically, not continually, it would wither as well. That is why He tells us to remain in Him! His Spirit is our life-giving sap. But do we really take His warning seriously? Do we stay connected with Him in the Spirit at all times? Unfortunately, most of the time we don’t, and we simply forget that He is ALWAYS with us. May the incident that happened to me teach us all to remember that we are no longer old beings of flesh, but new, spiritual beings in a cocoon of flesh. [End of correspondent’s account.]
Jesus Is Waiting To Help You
The examples of Jesus’ omnipresence and His complete care for us are many. I would like to relate just one recent instance in my own experience.
I find most computer work rather difficult. Having been a builder, and doing a totally different kind of work for 17 years – manual and very physical – most computer work for me is like learning to walk all over again! By contrast, Tonya is quick and proficient at it, and when there is something I can’t do, I ask for her help. She often does things with the PC that I can’t.
But on this occasion, Tonya was away. I was having to do a computer task that I was not familiar with, and I was bashing my head against a brick wall with it. I couldn’t ask for her help.
I was getting really frustrated, trying time and time again to get the programme to work. Something that should only take a couple of minutes was taking me over an hour! I banged the desk in my frustration – not that it would help, but it did express my despair.
At my wits’ end, a little thought came to ask God for help. So I did. "Father, please show me what to do." In the next second, a thought came into my mind. I was staring at the screen and the thought drew my attention to an icon. I clicked on it and it opened up the very part that I had been looking for.
I persevered for a few more minutes, but again I was soon flummoxed and couldn’t go any further. But, as stubborn and independent as we humans are, I still didn’t ask God. I kept trying in my own strength, using my own intellect. The trouble was, my intellect was not up to the task. I was way out of my depth, being somewhat computer illiterate. (I can type, because I did a typing course at college 33 years ago and was trained to touch-type.) Frustrated, I banged the desk again. (I’m good at that!) Then the same thought to ask God came back again, and I submitted myself to Him again. I should have been doing that before, instead of trying with my own strength alone.
"Father, please help me!"
Again, without a second’s delay, a thought came into my mind that pointed me to something on the screen. There again, was the answer to my problem!
My prayer had been answered immediately. How often do we try to do things by ourselves? Probably 99% of the time!
Such an example may be trite, I know. But it illustrates the human problem of independence. We all have it. Do you realise it denies God?
God is omniscient and all-caring. He is so good. But if we don’t acknowledge our need for God in our times of trouble, no matter how ‘insignificant’ they are, whom are we relying upon? Ourselves, not God. He is not our God then. We have taken His place, and that’s idolatry! It hurts Him terribly if we don’t rely on Him.
Now I realise that He expects us to use our intellect, and to do all we can with our own abilities. I’m not suggesting we abrogate our own responsibilities.
But, when we are unable to do something by our own ability and know-how, He is always ready and waiting to assist, especially if it is something to help another – which it was in this case. And when it’s something to further His Work on earth, He never lets you down!
As the little experiences above show, He is there for you, right at that moment! All you have to do is to call upon Him.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your care upon Him because he cares for you (1 Pet 5:7,8, NIV).
In the bigger crises of life, He may seem to take longer to run to your rescue, but He won’t fail you if you stand firm, resolute in doing His will. So, wait upon the Lord. Malcolm B Heap
(This article first appeared in MM Newsletter 32, September 2005)
The Bible Speaks, Vol 2 (TBS1)
Listening To God (Lis)
The Missing Dimension in Christian Living (Mis)
An Introduction To The Spiritual Gifts (ISG)
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