“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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A person God turned around many times.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Four levels of self-denial

 “Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it.” (Matt. 16:24,25).

There are different levels of self-denial that fall in the categories of justification, sanctification, redemption, and beyond. And each form of self-denial is mandatory for salvation. Salvation is God’s reward, His fulfillment of a promise for the condition of denying self of its idols and taking up His cross.

The first kind of self-denial comes in the form that we see in all of these beautiful YouTube testimonials—the full-hearted confession of Jesus saving them from a lifetime of sinning. It’s what we see in the prodigal son “when he came to himself” (Luke 15:17). While he was in the pig pen, starving for the slimy food that the hogs were eating, eternal realities finally hit home.

After a long, nightmarish life the YouTube publicans and sinners, like the parable prodigal, admitted to Jesus their wrongs done to everyone they knew, and especially to God. “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants….  And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” (Luke 15:18,19,21). And like the prodigal son, before these publicans and sinners could say their words, Jesus covered them with His Spirit; His Spirit washed over their hearts. More than once the YouTube witnesses described their experience as Jesus putting His arms around them, just like the father in the parable falling on his prodigal son’s neck and kissing him. Then out flowed confessions infused with the power of God unto salvation.

Recognition and admission of sin, deep-hearted repentance and whole-hearted confession for wrong-doing, is the denying of self Jesus spoke of, “If any man come to Me, and hate not … his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26).

The pride that had driven their life of reckless abandon, was finally overcome through the grace of God and His powerful providences for their conviction of sin. Like King Manasseh, Jesus punished them, and in their restriction of every joy-giving idol they finally loved heaven’s justice.

“The LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken.
Wherefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon.
And when he was in affliction, he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers,
And prayed unto Him: and He was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD He was God.” (2Chron. 33:10-13).

God worked with Manasseh, as He works with each one of us. What Jesus did to this king in the spotlight was written for everyone in the world at that time, for God has always so much loved the world. Everything that was written in the Bible to them so long ago, whether it happened to an individual or a tribe or the whole nation of Israel or other neighboring nations, was a message to us today. “Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever.” (Isa. 30:8).

Isn’t Jehovah’s punishment exactly what we hear from all of these YouTube testifiers? The tough method of saving us today was laid out during Israel’s wilderness wandering.

“And they that are left of you shall pine away in their iniquity in your enemies’ lands; and also in the iniquities of their fathers shall they pine away with them.
If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against Me, and that also they have walked contrary unto Me;
And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity:
Then will I remember My covenant with Jacob, and also My covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.” (Lev. 26:39-42).

Despite the harsh scourges of God, these born-again YouTube testifiers chose to not rebel against His punishments that He sent for their sake, just as King Manasseh did. They were willing to talk it over with God; they were willing to be reasoned with. After all the pillars of smoke cleared, they were desirous to interact with Jesus; they desired to be accepted by Him. Slowly they had begun to recognize Jesus’ jealous, fatherly love in all the punishment He caused them to suffer. They saw the goodness of God in Jesus’ spanking. This is exactly the same response we hear from Ellen Harmon.

“While bowed at the altar with others who were seeking the Lord, all the language of my heart was: ‘Help, Jesus, save me or I perish! I will never cease to entreat till my prayer is heard and my sins forgiven!’ I felt my needy, helpless condition as never before. As I knelt and prayed, suddenly my burden left me, and my heart was light. At first a feeling of alarm came over me, and I tried to resume my load of distress. It seemed to me that I had no right to feel joyous and happy. But Jesus seemed very near to me; I felt able to come to Him with all my griefs, misfortunes, and trials, even as the needy ones came to Him for relief when He was upon earth….  My life appeared to me in a different light. The affliction that had darkened my childhood seemed to have been dealt me in mercy for my good, to turn my heart away from the world and its unsatisfying pleasures, and incline it toward the enduring attractions of heaven.” Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 17,19.

They came away from His afflictions and pain feeling unworthy of His least mercy. They saw their sin as it was—theirs. And they were humbled by the knowledge. They blamed no one else but themselves. They left God completely inculpable. Therefore, their mouths could be filled with nothing but thanksgiving for His mercy. Not a single sound of resentment toward God escaped them. We hear the thanksgiving of David in their personal testimonies.

“When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them.
The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.
Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the south.
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” (Ps. 126:1-5).

“The right hand of the LORD is exalted: the right hand of the LORD doeth valiantly.
I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD.
The LORD hath chastened me sore: but He hath not given me over unto death.
Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the LORD:
This gate of the LORD, into which the righteous shall enter.
I will praise thee: for Thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation.
The Stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.
This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Ps. 118:16-24).

Their hearts are washed in His anointing, the internal baptism by water.

However, another, greater form of denying self comes later in their sanctification. When they are tempted to sin against God and others, they must deny self. It is pleasing self that causes their temptation. Therefore self-denial encompasses the life of sanctification, as they learn deeper lessons in self-denial that build on their first lesson of inner water baptism at their justification and new-birth.

Their new birth gave them power to become sons of God, who are born of the will of God. As long as they remain joined with Jesus and His grace, temptation has no power over them. Jesus is infusing them with grace and love, upon which all the commandments of God hang. Their justification and right-standing before God keeps them obedient and willing to die to self. The burden of His yoke is easy and light. Old sins easily disappear and fall off and disappear. They will forever need to come higher and higher into Christ’s character, and for that great enterprise sanctification will need to encompass their whole lifelong efforts. But, for them sanctification is easy. Self-denial is a cinch because Jesus is keeping them justified by His Spirit, and acceptable to God, the great Source of the new Spirit in them.

“If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.
Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Rom. 8:10-14).

Through the power of the Spirit of Christ they mortify the deeply rooted sinfulness that wants to come out of their body to defile themselves and everyone around them.

“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
Who by Him do believe in God, that raised Him up from the dead, and gave Him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.
Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:
Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1Pet. 1:18-22).

But, if they temporarily lose sight of Jesus then they immediately fall back into every species of temptation that comes their way. They disconnected from the power of the Highest, and they quickly deviate in some direction, moving off track farther and farther away from Him. His standard is high and never wavers, that “the just shall live by faith” (Heb. 10:38). But they are no longer just, as they are quickly losing all sight of Jesus. And like their worst nightmare, they can’t catch up to Him because they have accepted a sudden mountain of idols, which has made their love for righteousness difficult and heavy. They are back under the power of Satan just like before their first love with Jesus.

For His children’s sake and because He knows the wiliness of sin in them, Jesus must be a harsh disciplinarian. While this doesn’t change His love for them, He must let Satan have his abusive way with them. Simultaneously, in order to deliver them from Satan, Jesus must bring very strong language against them, and against Satan who is dwelling in them. This also was explained in the wilderness wandering.

“And it shall come to pass, that as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you; so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought; and ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it.
And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone.
And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind:
And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life:
In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see.
And the LORD shall bring thee into Egypt again with ships, by the way whereof I spake unto thee, Thou shalt see it no more again: and there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen and bondwomen, and no man shall buy you” (Deut. 28:63-68).

Their only option to have Jesus again is to do the first works. They must go all the way back to the drawing board and retrace their steps that led to their first conversion. It will be a trying process because the devils were quick to bring their heart to divest themselves of all loyalty to Jesus, without them knowing it. Like Eve and Adam justifying themselves in Eden, their souls have been poisoned and their first, great justification has been completely tainted. They are in the same condition as before they were converted the first time. Will they admit to their treason? Will fear of the loss of Jesus desperately drive them to need the mercy and acceptance of Jesus, like they needed Him in their original recognition and admission of sin at their first conversion?

The inculcated seed of pride from Satan quickly has grown back to full fruition and it wars against their willingness to fully repentant. Like a lion the devils pace the ground, and influence them to defend their first conversion. “You aren’t such a bad person as Jesus says you are! You don’t need to repent like you did back when you were very deep into drugs and spiritualism and the other things. You’ve been saved and sanctified! Jesus is exaggerating in order to make you feel bad, just to make Himself look better at your expense. You aren’t bad. You are a good person. He must be out of His mind if He keeps calling you a hopelessly lost sinner, if He keeps saying, ‘Ye must be born again’. He and God are just big bullies, a pack of wolves!”

But, Jesus keeps reminding them what they have read, “If any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him.” (Heb. 10:38). Will they do like King Saul and listen to the lying, deluding devils? Or will they do like David and Peter when they got surprised by an unexpected earful of jaw-dropping condemnation from Nathan (see 2 Sam. 12:1-12; Matthew 16:23)? If they say like David, “I have sinned against the LORD” (2Sam. 12:13), then they will hear, “The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.”

And they have their justification back again. But, with David, they keep hearing Jesus’ warning resounding in their minds, “Thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme” (2Sam. 12:14). Nevertheless, they have been humbled into the dust, and they again possess Jesus’ blessed presence.

They are self-possessed, and again have the power to be self-denying. Like Peter above the billowing sea, they walk with Jesus trembling at the suddenness of the deceptive and destructive power of Satan. They walk hand in hand with the Saviour, stunned by the awareness of the invisible rage of Satan against every human being, stunned by their susceptibility to their flesh. Their self-confidence is desolated by the reality of their close scrape with eternal extinction. They are sobered at the no-respecter-of-persons/hands-off policy of their Saviour to refrain Himself from saving every soul who is unwilling to confess and repent. And they are refilled with confidence at the Saviour’s love to save them in their wickedness.

In a deeper way they learn again, “He will speak peace unto His people, and to His saints: but let them not turn again to folly.” (Ps. 85:8). They are redeemed from the grip of Satan. They are again filled with the peace that passes all understanding and are self-denying again. They are amazed at the power of Jesus, His patience, and His tender love.

They are on the path of sanctification again and are relearning the deeper issues of self-denial. When they were originally born again, they had their inner baptism by water. The greatest burden of grace came from Jesus, for all they had to do then was receive His powerful grace and be born. But, once they were justified and converted and delivered into new life, now the new life of sanctification involves their being Christ’s conduit of powerful grace to others, for the others’ reception of grace/their inner baptism of water.

“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” (Matt. 3:11).

We must allow others to crucify us, so that we can then speak the words of our Master, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” As Paul taught us, “Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.” (Rom. 11:31). The unconverted receive the Spirit at our expense, as we received our washing at Jesus’ expense. But, now when we die before the unconverted so that they can have their inner washing, we are cleansed by the Spirit in a greater, deeper way. The unconverted’s internal baptism by water comes via our spiritual death for them, our baptism by fire. But our baptism by fire gift of the Spirit is greater and better than their baptism by water gift of the Spirit, even as the delivered mother’s trauma and joy out-shines her newborn’s.

Opportunity after opportunity arises for us to be gracious to others, in order to give them grace and a foretaste of their spiritual baptism of water, the greater outpouring of grace from heaven if they would turn to their Creator and Redeemer, Jesus. And each of our acts of grace/baptism of fire reinforces His grace to us. Deeper grows our certainty of His authority and happy willingness to forgive us. And happier and more authoritative we become in our knowledge of Jesus. Others’ crucifixion of us is doing to our self, in a small degree, what our crucifixion did to our Master, the great Burnt Offering.

The mockery, the suspicion, the distrust, our betrayal by others, crucifies us with Jesus; it is our baptism by fire. To forgive others’ damage against us is our baptism of fire, and their baptism of water, if they know what damage they have caused us. But, what if they never admit to their damage to us? More often than not, they don’t admit their damage. But, it does happen sometimes. Over time they see the damages they have caused, if we are consistent in our gracious baptisms by fire. The eleven disciples were blind to all that they did to embarrass and endanger their beloved Master before the wily Pharisees and priests. But eventually, at the cross and afterwards, the disciples saw it all at once. The result was that their repentance and confession rose up in a tidal wave of humiliation and sorrow. And their hand of faith reached for mercy from the throne of Christ and He launched them into the Early Rain of His Spirit.

We have been as blind and callous to our damage to the Son of God as others around us have been to us. But, as we accept our baptisms by fire, eventually our minds open to the innumerable times when we crucified Jesus afresh; and hopefully minds will also open in those who crucify us. If we surrender to Jesus in our baptisms by fire we will receive ever fuller baptisms of His Holy Ghost. Our heart will be filled with the goodness of God. We will increasingly be “enlightened” and taste “of the heavenly gift”. We will increasingly be “made partakers of the Holy Ghost”, and will taste “the good word of God and the powers of the world to come” (Heb. 6:5). We will grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour. Jesus will become our shield and our exceeding great reward. Jesus will become our wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. All of this from our baptisms with fire and the Holy Ghost for the sake of other’s inner baptism with water and the Spirit.

We will quickly climb Peter’s ladder, adding to our faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity. We will come to our end with the words of David, even after his great transgression, “The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: Thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” (Ps. 16:5,6). Continual, ever-deepening surrender to the will of God in our fire baptisms will give us such an experience in the things of God that we will never regret anything of it. We will not close our life, laying down our head in sorrow. We will look back at it all and exclaim, “According to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought!” (Num. 23:23).

Rather than focusing on our painful baptisms of fire, if we will focus on the potential baptisms of water that will wash over the hearts of our errant brothers and sisters, and transform them, removing their abuse and insensitivity of others, then we will walk happily beside our Master who has endured an infinitely greater baptism of fire, for our sakes and for the sake of the whole world.

But, even more than that, even greater than suffering abuse and insensitivity, there is a denial of our self in a denying that many would call the ultimate self-denial—that is, mortal death for the sake of another. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). Will we go that far in self-denial? Faithfully enduring our daily baptisms of fire will be our preparation for this ultimate baptism of fire. “And they overcame [the accuser of the brethren] 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).

Even if we “bestow all [our] goods to feed the poor, and though [we] give [our] body to be burned” (1Cor. 13:3), we cannot complain or boast. “When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10). It was our duty because we are only responding to what Jesus did for us.

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously: who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1Pet. 2:21-24).

“I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51).

“The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:26-28).

We are walking in His steps. We have an eternal obligation to our Saviour. Yet this ultimate baptism by fire for others still can never compare to His for us. He went down into death without any hope. He went down without any answer from above. He was made to look like, and be treated as, the most disgusting sin. And accordingly His beloved Father had to turn away from Him. All by Himself Jesus trod the winepress of the wrath of God to purge our sins. “I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with Me.” (Isa. 63:3). “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46).

“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted His raiment, and cast lots.
And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided Him, saying, He saved others; let Him save Himself, if He be Christ, the chosen of God.
And the soldiers also mocked Him, coming to Him, and offering Him vinegar,
And saying, If Thou be the king of the Jews, save Thyself.
And a superscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on Him, saying, If Thou be Christ, save Thyself and us.
But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this Man hath done nothing amiss.
And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.
And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:34-43).

Now because we are reconciled and justified, at peace with God and man, even if we must die at the hands of those we are trying to save, we still aren’t dying like Jesus died. Because we aren’t dying alone. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me.” (Ps. 23:4). We die in hope. We die having peace with “the God of my life” (Ps. 42:8). The Life-giver, who all during our lifetime has kept our soul filled to the brim, we know will remain present in our soul until our last conscious thought. At that moment our prayer will be said in full confidence, “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46).

But, Jesus died alone. He heard no acceptance from the Dearest to His soul. He gave up an eternal life with His Father so that we could be reconciled to God, His Father. He gave up His throne, not knowing that He would ever be raised again and be able to commune with His Father, so that we could sit in His place of everlasting communion with the holy Spirit of our Father. His dying to self was an ultimate death to self on a whole different order than ours will ever be. His was the eternal death, as the great Recipient of our damnation. He died alone so that we would never have to die alone. Therefore, if He so chooses for us to die for others, His horrific death makes ours palatable. We have His sacrifice for us in the blackness to lighten our dark time, because He had no light and no hope, yet forged the way for us.

“God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8).

“He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (2Cor. 5:21).

“And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit.” “It is finished.” “And He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.” (Luke 23:44-46; John 19:29,30).


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