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“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.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Laying down the life

“And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might.” (Jdg. 16:30).

I awoke under the curse of the Law, but very happy to know that Jesus took the time to commune with me. In His presence is fullness of joy. The thought was of the first principle, the very essence, of His kingdom, and how I wasn’t fitting that principle. That principle is self-sacrificing, self-denying love.

Then came to mind the verse, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13).

I had miserably failed at that yesterday. My friend, who is stuck in the New Age, needed me to clean up the insulation and plaster that had fallen in from the attic and cover the 4 foot diameter hole in her dining room ceiling. I had worked all day cutting Azek trim, which left me with nasty Azek dust in my hair, on my face and arms, and on my grimy clothes. I was tired and grungey. The Sabbath was coming on. I so much needed a bath and a restful Friday evening with Jesus. I wanted to please my friend by quickly doing her favor, and then end the work week looking unto Jesus. I wanted to see the week end in a blaze of glory in the heart of my friend by an uncomfortable labor of love, and for the greater glory of the Jesus that the New Age doesn’t know. And then I wanted to be alone with my heavenly Friend, while relishing the grand finale of the work week—a blessing and happiness in the heart of my earthly friend.

As I drove to her house anticipating victory, Bible verses of mercy and love floated around in my head, and I appreciated that communion with Jesus. But I was grimy and tired, and growing increasingly less inclined to lay down my life for my friend. Yes, I remembered about pulling an ox out of the ditch on the Sabbath; everyone knows that one. I could profane the Sabbath and still be guiltless, as Jesus said of the Hebrew priests. I know the Bible pretty good—but, too often only intellectually. Too often I don’t see the truth and the truth as it is in the Son.

The communing in my head was going south rapidly. I began to remember how she subtly dumped this request on me without asking if I was able to do it, how she gave me a bag of veggies (as a reward) before she informed me that she wanted me to do this job. Not exactly above board (but love was in her heart somewhere). She didn’t consider me and my needs. ME, of all people! You don’t do that to me! I deserve better! I deserve better! And the devil beat that drum and dribbled that ball in my head as long as he could, once again driving me down court for yet another two points for self and the devil. My selfishness reminds me of something an angry little four-year-old kept sometimes cried out, “What about me?! What about me?!” At least that little girl was honest. “Surely they are My people, children that will not lie.” (Isa. 63:8). “The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth” (Zeph. 3:13). “So He was their Saviour” (Isa. 63:8).

I allowed into my thoughts that my friend needed to learn patient endurance. She needed to suffer for Christ’s sake, (then I wouldn’t have to be patientlyoh so patiently—enduring her situation and suffering her issues and bearing her burdens, which is a despicable, gross idea.)  I thought, “Let her New Age personalities help her.” Being God-sized, I claimed for my wounds the scripture, “And He shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted, which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offerings? let them rise up and help you, and be your protection.” (Deut. 32:37,38). (The pope spoke the truth, albeit unwittingly, that the word of God is a dangerous book when possessed by the wrong spirit, holding the truth in unrighteousness.) “What about me?!” had taken me over. I deserve better! The longer I entertained that thought, the more I was being filled with regret that I had partially agreed to cover the hole. I was no better than the heathen.

She had told me about plastic bags for holding the attic debris. I found the plastic in my friend’s crowded basement, but couldn’t find the tape that she had described. As soon as I couldn’t find the tape that she described I realized I was caught in a quagmire that would take me more than an hour to get out of. Her disorganized life was going to drag this 15 minute victory into the Sabbath hours and I would not get into bath and bed before 10 pm. Ugghhhhh!

Patient endurance was out of the picture. The morning’s vision was gone from me. Jesus laying down His life was far from my mind. How could mercy enter into my heart while self was eclipsing my merciful Saviour? It never can happen. No man can serve two masters—especially two diametrically opposed masters—the beautiful Son of God and ugly, selfish self. So, when the box tape—that is, Scotch tape—didn’t stick to the plaster ceiling longer than a second, I gave up trying to help my friend. The day was over. The sun was sinking. My friend was just going to have to live in her disaster-ridden dining room until early Sunday morning, which I texted her was when I would return to cover the hole. By the time she called me to say she would be home in 40 minutes to get me the tape, I had already made my escape. Homeward bound! Victory for self!

Sad state of affairs. Pitiful! Christian? Where was the Spirit of Christ? In my heart? Couldn’t be.

“LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am. Behold, Thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before Thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah.” (Ps. 39:4,5).

Therefore, at 3:23 a.m. I awoke under the Law. Thankfully, as many as Jesus rebukes and chastens He loves. “And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” (1Tim. 1:14). And His Spirit gave me a Bible study as I came to. He shall be called, Wonderful! Peace-giving! Life-giving! Surely,

“It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.
The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him.
The LORD is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him.” (Lam. 3:22-25).

I saw the self-sacrifice of Jesus. I saw that the principle of self-sacrifice was the basis of His every thought and energy. That principle was the key point of His every lesson to His disciples. I saw that if I am to be a disciple, I must learn this lesson, I must own this principle. Laying down the life will one day mean prison, torture, death for the gospel. Martyrdom won’t be a stranger to the 144,000 and the great multitude of their followers out of Babylon.

“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days [years]: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10).

Am I getting ready for Christ’s return? Am I really, if I am not learning to lay down my life? How can I be a martyr for Jesus if I can’t overcome self-pity in the simplest tests today? How can I lay down my life literally, if I am not striving to the utmost every second of every day to lay aside my comforts and convenience for service to others? It won’t happen. If I am not suffering now, I won’t suffer then. If I am not putting self down today, why should I think I will put self down in the future? If I can’t pass easy tests, how can I pass the ultimate test—facing the prospect of death?

Laying down His life is what Jesus thought about every day. This was His daily bread. The shadow of the cross affected His life ever after age 12 when He was wandering in the temple and realized that He was the Lamb of God. “For even Christ pleased not Himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached Thee fell on Me.” (Rom. 15:3). Jesus “pleased not Himself” is an understatement if ever there was one. He never pleased self. He always pleased His Father. He feared to not please His Father. Not until His Father gave the permission to eat did Jesus eat. Not until His Father gave the OK to rest from His hard labors did Jesus rest, as a carpenter, as a neighbor, as a lamb before her guilt-laden, shame-ridden penitent owner. “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth.” (Isa. 53:7). Ever ministering, ever serving, ever laying down His life, ever doing so quietly, until He bowed His head and let the full destruction of Judgment Day fall upon Him. And thus, as a greater than Samson, He slew more devils in His death than He did in His life (see John 5:39).

I saw again with clearest sight that self-sacrifice is the whole purpose for receiving the promised Spirit. [Truly, “every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him,” “hath everlasting life.” (John 6:40,47)] The peace that passeth all understanding wasn’t used by Paul to indulge in, but so that he could use it to lay down his life for the uncircumcised Gentiles, the heathen outcasts of heaven.

“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.” (Rom. 8:13). If ye live to save yourself ye will die. But, if ye through the Spirit do kill the selfish, self-pleasing habits, ye shall live.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Rom. 8:14).

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Rom. 8:16-18).

Paul was Christ’s best representative in the church. The apostle was driven to the ends of the earth, constantly facing death. He pushed the envelope of safety and dependence on God to the utmost, trusting Christ and knowing that he was pushing the principle of self-sacrifice, the principle of heaven, expanding the knowledge of God among the descendants of Adam.

“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Rom. 8:15).

“And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.… I have fought with beasts at Ephesus.” (1Cor. 15:30-32).

“Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.” (2Cor. 11:23-28).

And he could not do all that he did without the vision of Jesus’ self-sacrifice every instant plastered on the forefront of his brain, sealed in his thinking, branded upon the stained glass window of his soul. “For he endured, as seeing Him who is invisible.” (Heb. 11:27). Christ crucified was Paul’s constant message to the world, and his constant pattern of life.

“God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8).
“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Rom. 5:6).

The self-sacrificing Son of God consumed this man who had been given a new heart and spirit. He believed that if a person was not presently laying down his life, then he didn’t have the Spirit of God. Such a person wasn’t saved and under grace, and under the power and protection of God. Such a person was reprobate or going toward apostasy, and needed rebuke.

“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.” (Gal. 2:11,12).

“I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise…. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” (Rom. 1:14,16).

“Scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” (Rom. 5:7).

The gospel was Paul’s gospel. It was his clothing and daily fare. His message was all that encompassed his life, and the message that Christ on His throne desired His children to be.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (Rom. 12:1-3).

“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.
Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.

Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:6-21).

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