A Tale of Three Disciples, and an Invitation
Treasured friends and fellow disciples,
The following article written by John Marquez (Follow Me Ministries’ Dad John) chronicles his personal journey of faith and reviews similar journeys taken by fellow disciples Stephen (see Acts 6), and Saul/Paul (see Acts 9). What follows their stories is an open invitation to all who are yearning for something (or, more accurately, Someone) far exceeding all that we will ever encounter in this realm of time and space… in other words, the realm of Eternity. If you wonder whether you are one of those who actually have that same yearning, I invite you to read and meditate on this passage from Ecclesiastes 3:11, Amplified Bible:
“He has made everything beautiful and appropriate in its time. He has also planted eternity [a sense of divine purpose] in the human heart [a mysterious longing which nothing under the sun can satisfy, except God]—yet man cannot find out (comprehend, grasp) what God has done (His overall plan) from the beginning to the end.” (Emphasis added.)
And if you wonder if the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe is truly inviting you – personally – to enter into a relationship with Him at a deeper level than you can even imagine, listen to the voice of Holy Spirit in Isaiah 55:1-3 below, taken from the Passion Translation, which should erase any doubt:
“Listen! Are you thirsty for more? Come to the refreshing waters and drink. Even if you have no money, come, buy, and eat. Yes, come and buy all the wine and milk you desire—it won’t cost a thing. Why spend your hard-earned money on something that can’t nourish you or work so hard for something that can’t satisfy? So listen carefully to me and you’ll enjoy a sumptuous feast, delighting in the finest of food. Pay attention and come closer to me, and hear, that your total being may flourish. I will enter into an everlasting covenant with you, and I will show you the same faithful love that I showed David.”
And one more confirming invitation from Yeshua Himself found in Matthew 11:28-30, Amplified Version:
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.”
Both Dad John and I invite you to join the ever-growing family of faith Holy Spirit is raising up for the glory of our Messiah in these Last Days. He is the One who is already receiving all praises in heaven, and we here on earth have the opportunity to add our voices to all the others in Creation who are exalting Him for Who He Is, not just for what He has done on our behalf.
And for those to whom worship is still somewhat ‘unfamiliar territory,’ here are songs of worship found in Revelation chapters 4 and 5 in the Tree of Life Version, a good starting point as you begin to declare His greatness in your own words, or those found in Scripture:
4:8 “Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh Adonai Elohei-Tzva’ot asher haya v’hoveh v’yavo! Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of Hosts, who was and who is and who is to come!”
4:11 “Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, For You created all things, and because of Your will they existed and were created!”
5:9 “And they are singing a new song, saying, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals. For You were slain, and by Your blood You redeemed for God those from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”
5:10 “You have made them for our God a kingdom and kohanim, and they shall reign upon the earth.”
5:12 “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
5:13 “And I heard every creature in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea and everything in them, responding, “To the One seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and power forever and ever!”
5:14 “And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.”
And now one final reminder that this invitation is for you… for now… from the Phillips Translation of 2 Corinthians 6:2:
“As co-operators with God himself we beg you then, not to fail to use the grace of God. For God’s word is — “In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Now is the “acceptable time,” and this very day is the “day of salvation.”
And now, Beloved, here are the testimonies and teaching. May the entire content bless you and plant within your souls and spirits a fresh revelation of our magnificent Messiah, for your benefit and His Glory
Love, Mum Nancy
Beloved Family… ever since I started to become familiar with some of what is in the Bible, during the year 1965, there were several areas that always caught my attention. But I would continually ignore and bypass the other parts, I’m sorry to say. So, I failed to develop the habit of thorough ‘systematic’ Scripture study. My tendency was always to ‘pick and choose’. And so, my foundational exposure left a lot to be desired, and, in those early days, I missed out on a lot of the Treasure that is contained therein.
Then, after I went through my personal ‘meltdown’ and ‘faith implosion,’ I determined to forget the whole thing and leave the Christian God, Israel, the chosen people, whatever pertained to Scripture and what is commonly known as, ‘organized’ religion, behind me. I was convinced that my personal story with that strife-riddled world was ended for good. And I was determined to try to find another, totally unrelated path, to follow from that point onward.
Thus began the ‘Humanist chapter’ of my biography. And it was such a dark, desolate era, that today, many chapters later, I can only recall faint bits and pieces of what was taking place within and around me during those painful years. And it was only by the Grace and Mercy of God, that this Dark Era suddenly ended. One day, toward the end of 1981, the risen Lord sought, and ‘tracked me down.’ And that of course has proven to be a totally unexpected, and unmerited blessing for which I will be eternally grateful.
So, in the sense of knowing what it’s like to think and live as an enemy of the Lord, I was probably a lot like what Saul of Tarsus must have been… up until the day he set out on his fateful trip to the city of Damascus. Like him, I had no idea what was about to hit me like a bolt out of the blue on that unforgettable day… in my forty-second year. Nor did I have any idea of what my days on Earth would turn out to be like from that point forward.
Saul’s knowledge of God’s written Word was light years beyond mine. He had a profound grasp of Scripture even though he was actively living as an enemy of God’s Living Word. So for him, as is the case with many other Jewish people, knowledge of the written Word, and Jewish traditions, had not predisposed him to recognize and embrace his Messiah. Only later did he realize that God’s written Word was actually given to lead us into the eternal embrace of His Living Word who became flesh!
“Now before faith came, we were being guarded under Torah—bound together until the coming faith would be revealed. Therefore The Torah became our guardian TO LEAD US TO MESSIAH, so that we might be made right based on trusting (in our Creator, and not at all in ourselves or other created things).
“But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. For you are all sons of God through trusting in Messiah Yeshua. For all of you who were immersed in Messiah have clothed yourselves with Messiah. There is (therefore,) neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua. And if you belong to Messiah, then you are Abraham’s seed—heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:23-29 TLV. Amplification and emphasis added.)
So after God’s Living Word revealed Himself to Saul, and he had time to realize all the areas in which he was required to repent, and to learn what it meant to be Spirit-filled, led, and empowered, he came to be known by his Roman name, ‘Paulus’, or, ‘Paul’. And he developed a wonderfully rich and complete grasp of how the written and Living revelations of the Word of God, actually blend into one awesome Reality!
But during my Humanistic period, I knew next to nothing of the written Word, and had no contact whatever with the Living One. But, by Father’s sovereign Grace (despite my profound arrogance and self-adoring ways) … the Living Word suddenly invaded my space and made His Presence known to me. And that caused me to begin to move in the direction of eventual life-changing transformation. And, as happened to Saul, the shift in my attitude was progressive, agonizing… and eventually, enormous.
So that deeper level of personal knowledge and understanding of my Lord was not magically completely ‘downloaded’ into me when He first came after me. It took several years before I finally began to receive a deeper, heart-wrenching understanding of what the revelation of my Messiah was going to cost me… by way of true, profound, crucified repentance. And since then, after having been included by the Lord and commissioned to assist many other people… as they agonized through their personal salvation struggles… I’ve not seen those magnificent growth stages and personal changes that follow, take place magically and instantaneously. No… those growth levels take time, patience and perseverance to develop before they finally reach their eventual stages of obvious fruit-bearing.
You might assume, from a cursory reading of chapter 9 of Acts, that Paul transformed right away. But I know from bitter personal experience, and from that of other disciples that I have known, that the fullness of repentance doesn’t take place right away, as if by magic. No… it takes time, and exposure to the kind of suffering that comes from grueling ‘boot camp level’ discipline, training, and ‘reprogramming’. Only after that ‘learning curve’ is experienced, can the necessary significant changes ‘take deep root’ and finally appear, bearing their fruit on the exterior surface.
Saul was ‘gung-ho’ and ready to turn the world upside down right after Ananias brought the Lord’s Presence to him so that His risen Lord could restore Saul’s sight and immerse him into the Holy Spirit. And, as is the case with many of us… Saul’s newly regenerated spirit was willing to serve the Lord immediately, but… the wiring in his ‘flesh’ (that is his brain and nervous system)… and the programming in his mental and emotional ‘onboard computer’ (habitual reflex, thought and reaction patterns), still remained what they had always been. And so, the mental and emotional map he had by which to navigate was woefully ‘outdated’, to say the least!
All of the stored ‘pre-Yeshua’ information and ‘muscle memory’ he had acquired in his earlier days, had been great for making him a ‘superstar’ among the unbelieving religious Jewish elite of his day. But none of that equipped and predisposed him to understand what submitting to Yeshua was truly going to require of him in the days to come. Yes, he had every good intention of serving His newly discovered Lord. But the truth was that the best he would naturally be able to do at first, would be to come across like a ‘bull in a china shop’! And, sure enough, without hesitation, Saul instinctively charged right into the task of ‘saving Israel’. He began to do his utmost to ‘prove’, by astute intellectual arguments, that his recent well-known position and attitude that he had so recently been championing and trying to force down other peoples’ throats, was now dead wrong. Now, he was suddenly proclaiming the exact opposite… that the Messianic Message concerning Yeshua, to which he had been so vigorously opposed only days before… was the real Truth that came from the God of Israel! And, of course, that was a bit much to swallow in one gulp… even for many disciples!
“When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he made attempts to join up with the disciples—but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him in and brought him to the emissaries. He described to them how Saul had seen the Lord on the road and the Lord had spoken to him, and how he had spoken boldly in the Name of Yeshua.
“So Saul was with them, going in and out in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the Name of the Lord. He was speaking AND ARGUING with the Hellenists, but they were trying to kill him. When the brothers found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.” (Acts 9:26-30 TLV. Emphasis added.)
So, Saul’s first attempts to ‘serve as the Lord’s disciple’ didn’t go over too well with his unbelieving Jewish brethren. Now that he was proclaiming Yeshua, they reacted to him with the same murderous rage he had recently spewed at Stephen! So… to prevent Saul from being torn apart limb from limb… the other disciples whisked him out of town, and sent him back to his original home turf in the Tarsus area of what is known today as Turkey.
Saul needed time to ‘cool off’ and focus on becoming refitted for his unforeseen and shockingly new future! He had to be refitted… from his ‘standoffish Pharisee mannerisms’… to that of an apostle designated by God to reach out to, and love, and include even uncircumcised Gentiles into God’s Covenant Family! So, naturally, there had to be a span of time for his brain, nervous system and mind to properly adjust to all of this. The Spirit had to take him through his own personal and rigorously thorough ‘boot camp training course’. Some scholars and commentators I’ve read estimate that from that initial period in Damascus, (when for his own safety Saul was sent to Tarsus) … until the time Barnabas was led by God’s Spirit to locate and bring him back with him to join the Messianic believers in Antioch… there could have elapsed a period amounting to up to fourteen years!
“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come with excellence of speech or wisdom, proclaiming to you the mystery of God. For I decided not to know about anything among you except Yeshua the Messiah—and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of (His supernatural) Power—so that your faith would not be in the wisdom of men but in the Power of God!”
“We do speak Wisdom, however, among those who are mature—but not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. Rather, we speak God’s Wisdom in a mystery—a Wisdom that has been hidden, which God destined for our glory before the ages.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-7 TLV. Emphasis added.)
So we see that Paul’s ‘before and after’ transformation was not an overnight event! It takes significant ‘oven time’… especially for those future titans the Lord calls and raises to the level of apostolic discipleship! Their personal boot camp training has to be even more rigorous, intense, prolonged and costly than is normally the case! Such servants of the Lord will, of necessity, be required to undergo an exceptionally intense level of training! The Spirit must prepare us all for total cleansing of our Adamic Self-life! Our God-given calling will require that… to prepare us for our future showdowns with the powers of Evil. And that’s why Ananias cautiously pointed this out to the Lord:
“But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man—how much harm he has done to your kedoshim (saints) in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the ruling kohanim (priests) to tie up all who call on Your Name!”
“But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a choice instrument to carry My Name before nations and kings and Bnei-Yisrael (children of Israel). For I will show him HOW MUCH HE MUST SUFFER FOR MY NAME’S SAKE.” (Acts 9:13-16 TLV. Amplification and emphasis added.)
So despite Saul’s eagerness to get started serving His Lord as soon as possible, the Reality was that none of us can truly become fit to ‘follow’ our Lord and learn to abide by, and in, His ways, until we’ve had sufficient time to be ‘melted down’ and ‘completely reforged’ in the Blast Furnace of cleansing, training, setbacks, disappointments, correction, disillusionment, and profound levels of personal repentant reconfiguration. Only then can we actually be made ‘fit and ready’ to fulfill our commissions properly and effectively… in the glaring exposure of this world’s Arena of Testimony. The Holy Spirit must prepare us painstakingly… until we finally ‘die’ to our former radically independent, selfish, lazy, cowardly ways of seeing, thinking, willing, acting, reacting and interacting… FOR REAL!
The reality was that Saul had to receive the same ‘grinding and polishing’ regimen of boot camp combat-preparation training from the Holy Spirit, that Stephen (the young disciple in whose murder Saul had so recently participated) had previously been required to receive. Now Saul would have to ‘pay his dues’ and undergo the same ‘trial by fire’ level of preparation that the other apostles and disciples had received. Saul’s own apostolic calling would require him to follow the same crucifixion trail that His Messiah had previously blazed… for him… and for all the rest of us.
“But they covered their ears; and crying out with a loud voice, they rushed at him with one impulse. Driving him out of the city, they began stoning him, and the witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of A YOUNG MAN NAMED SAUL. They went on stoning Stephen as he was calling out, “Lord Yeshua, receive my spirit!” Then he fell on his knees and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” After he said this, he died.” (Acts 7:57-60 TLV. Emphasis added.)
“Now great crowds were traveling with Yeshua; and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters—AND YES, EVEN HIS OWN LIFE—he cannot be My disciple. WHOVER DOES NOT CARRY HIS OWN CROSS AND FOLLOW ME CANNOT BE MY DISCIPLE!
“For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and figure out the cost, to see if he has enough to finish it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and isn’t able to finish everything, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘THIS MAN BEGAN TO BUILD… AND WASN’T ABLE TO FINISH!’
“Or what king, going to make war against another king, won’t first sit down to consider whether he is able with ten thousand to confront the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If not, while the other is still far away, he sends an ambassador and asks for peace. So in the same way, WHOEVER DOES NOT RENOUNCE ALL THAT HE HAS, CANNOT BE MY DISCIPLE!” (Luke 14:25-33 TLV. Emphasis added.)
So now we’re at the crux of what I want to impart through this message. After reading what has been said up to this point, no doubt unbelieving Humanistic people would say, or think the following:
‘What is wrong with these people? Why do they insist on wallowing in all of this crazy stuff? Why would anyone with any sense even consider going through all the ‘hell and high water’ that they have to go through? How can they be so dumb as to take Jesus up on His command to forsake themselves, and all the delights, pleasures and ‘perks’ this world has to offer, and be insane enough to ‘pick up their crosses and follow Him into such a life of self-denial? This doesn’t make a bit of sense! THEY HAVE TO BE CRAZY!’
So… in light of those inevitable and reasonable-sounding questions worldly people always bring up… I ask you to come up with your own personal answer! Are people like Stephen, Paul, and the rest of the disciples as crazy as the unbelievers think they are? Have we somehow gotten disconnected from Reality? Did we ‘lose all of our marbles’? Or… are we just ‘playing games’? Why have so many before us been willing to suffer and endure the same kinds of trials and hardships that Stephen and Paul both embraced so willingly? Were they cursed with a ‘Death Wish’? Or… could it be that they had some kind of ‘inside information’ that the rest of the world, and even perhaps some of us, do not yet know anything about?
I would submit that the answer to the question about disciples having inside information, is a most definite: YES… THEY KNOW SOMETHING THE REST OF THE WORLD KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT:
“When they heard these things, they became enraged and began gnashing their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Ruach ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit), GAZED INTO HEAVEN AND SAW THE GLORY OF GOD—AND YESHUA STANDING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD! And he said, ‘I SEE the heavens opened and THE SON OF MAN STANDING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD!” (Acts 7:54-56 TLV. Amplification and emphasis added.)
Beloved ones… how’s that for ‘game-changing inside information’? It wasn’t a bunch of created ideas that saw Stephen through his ordeal! It wasn’t how much he knew… it was THE PERSON that he knew… who was operating from within his innermost being! It was He who was so powerfully and completely blotting out all of the hatred and chaos that was pelting Stephen’s body to death from the outside! Stephen was completely engrossed with the Reality of the Lord’s indwelling Presence inside of him. The Lord was captivating him… in Living Color and high-resolution clarity… despite the tumult that was raging all around his body!
But that mob, including Saul of Tarsus… didn’t have a clue about anything we’re discussing! It was only later, as Saul was transforming into Paul, that he too began to be able to know and see the Glorious One that Stephen was able to behold on the day of his ‘ultimate promotion’:
“But whatever things were gain to me, these I have considered as loss FOR THE SAKE OF (knowing and becoming one with) THE MESSIAH. More than that, I CONSIDER ALL THINGS TO BE LOSS IN COMPARISON TO THE SURPASSING VALUE OF THE (INTIMATE) KNOWLEDGE OF MESSIAH YESHUA MY LORD. BECAUSE OF HIM I HAVE SUFFERED THE LOSS OF ALL THINGS; AND I CONSIDER THEM GARBAGE IN ORDER THAT I MIGHT GAIN MESSIAH AND BE FOUND IN HIM not having my righteousness derived from Torah, but one that is through trusting in Messiah—the righteousness from God based on trust.
My aim is TO KNOW HIM AND THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION AND THE SHARING OF HIS SUFFERINGS, BECOMING LIKE HIM IN HIS DEATH—IF SOMEHOW I MIGHT ARRIVE AT THE RESURRECTION FROM AMONG THE DEAD!
“Not that I have already obtained this or been perfected, but I press on if only I might take hold of that for which Messiah Yeshua (first) took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself as having taken hold of this. But this one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal for the reward of the upward calling of God in Messiah Yeshua. Therefore let all who are mature have this attitude; and if you have a different attitude in anything, this also God will reveal to you.” (Philippians 3:7-15 TLV.)
Beloved… it’s clear that Stephen and Saul ended up becoming totally captivated by, and with, their risen Lord, and the indwelling Presence of His awesome Resurrection Reality! They were able to forsake all earthly pursuits, pleasures and satisfactions for His sake, because… the Holy Spirit was abiding in them continually TO MAKE YESHUA’S PERFECT PRESENCE GROW AND BLOSSOM UNTIL IT BECAME A VERY PRESENT, REAL, AND DYNAMICALLY ALIVE INNER TREASURE… THAT COMPLETELY TRANSFORMED THE HEARTS OF THESE TWO MEN!
As the Holy Spirit kept revealing the risen Lord to them, from within them, they gradually developed the ability to actually behold and interact with THE RESURRECTED ONE! They were taken to a brand-new level… after which they would never be the same again! Now they could see, hear, experience and interact with Him in very personal and intimate ways… on an ongoing basis. Yes, they REALLY became intimately familiar with the Son of God and His ways! And finally they saw that this temporary fallen world is the realm of Death! Death is the domain of the Evil One! But YESHUA IS THE LORD THAT TAKES US INTO THE GLORIOUS REALM OF RESURRECTION FAR BEYOND OUR FORMER STATE OF DEATH!
But none of this becomes obvious to us at first glance! it gradually develops within us… the way that dawn quietly and gradually emerges in the Eastern sky. At first it penetrates the darkness of night at one small point… imperceptibly… but then it gradually begins to spread and light up and transform the entire horizon! That’s how it was for Stephen and Paul. The Awesome Reality of Yeshua’s Perfect Presence gradually drew and eventually captivated them away from this world. After repeated, ever-deepening levels of interaction between the Lord and these disciples, He filled their horizons and their inner being, more and more, like the blazing sun progressively seeps into the dark night sky at one end of the horizon and gradually takes over the entire vista of the world, until it reaches high noon intensity! So by the time their earthly lives crossed their respective ‘finish lines’… THEY ONLY HAD EYES FOR HIM!
Disciples come to know their Lord at deeper and more intensely personal levels. It’s an ongoing journey of discovery… from ‘glory to glory’, and from one level to another, to another. And, when they reach a certain level, the Lord wins them over entirely! After that, absolutely nothing else in Creation matters. His Beauty and overwhelming Majesty blot everything else from their awareness. And it drives every other created consideration, affection, priority, and pursuit out of their minds, hearts, affections, and priorities.
Stephen and Paul received the awesome Grace and Privilege of being able to personally see and experience their Master’s Resurrection Presence… And after that initial contact level was established… He kept beckoning to them… to follow and join Him in the enjoyment and Glory of this awesome Mystery and Miracle. And, as they persevered in following Him… He brought them to the point where they were inevitably drawn into His ‘gravitational pull’… closer and deeper into their own participation in His Resurrection state of being! Yes, they were transported, or transferred… from Death to LIFE… from their original time and space dimension… into His eternal Heavenly dimension of GLORY!
“Therefore, if you have been raised up with Messiah, KEEP SEEKING THE THINGS ABOVE—WHERE MESSIAH IS, SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD! Focus your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Messiah in God! When Messiah, who is your LIFE, is (sufficiently) revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him, in GLORY!” (Colossians 3:1-4 TLV. Emphasis added.)
In due time, they began to see and experience what it means to be with our risen Lord on the Resurrection side of His Cross. Their souls finally ‘crossed over’ and caught up with where their spirits already were… on the other side of that chasm that separates earthly time and space from the awesome Realm of God’s Eternal Kingdom of Heaven. The Holy Spirit transported them spiritually first… and then He drew them mentally and emotionally… from the confines of this fallen world… into the dimension of Eternity and all that ordinarily lies beyond normal human reach. The Cross kept stripping away from them all the fleeting attachments and affections that were keeping their fallen flesh ‘Earthbound’. And He set them free from the imprisonment created by the maddening pursuit of temporary and inevitably disappointing ‘delights’ that earthly people find so fascinating and irresistible.
“But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the GLORY OF THE LORD, ARE BEING TRANSFORMED INTO THE SAME IMAGE FROM GLORY TO GLORY—JUST AS FROM THE LORD, WHO IS THE SPIRIT.” (2 Corinthians 3:18 TLV.)
Once Stephen and Paul saw enough of what lies on the ‘other side’… there was no doubt as to which of the two alternatives they would forsake, and which one they would forevermore embrace! They were absolutely captivated and entranced by the Brilliance that was beckoning to them from the Resurrection Side of the chasm. And this is what our Master offers to every one of His disciples when He says to one of us:
“If anyone wants to follow after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it! For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is about to come in the Glory of His Father with His angels, and then ‘He will repay everyone according to his deeds!’” (Matthew 16:24-27 TLV. Emphasis added.)
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, FOR THE LIVING GOD! When will I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day: “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng, walking with them to the House of God, with a voice of joy and praise, a multitude keeping a festival. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why are you murmuring within me? Hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, FOR THE SALVATION OF HIS PRESENCE!” (Psalm 42:2-6 TLV. Emphasis added.)
Eternal Salvation means you’re finally permanently locked into the Eternal Presence of the Lord! When you finally enter in wholeheartedly… you can behold Him at that Stephen and Paul level, and then, THAT’S IT!… YOUR SEARCH IS OVER! Once you’ve come to know Him at that depth, you’re totally finished! Now you know the One who designed and created you FOR HIMSELF! And when you experience Him, you know you have finally arrived at your ETERNAL HOME!
“We pray that you may be strengthened with ALL the Power that comes from His Glorious Might, for you to have all kinds of patience and steadfastness. With joy we give thanks to the Father, who qualified you to share in the Inheritance of the kedoshim (saints) IN THE LIGHT. He rescued us from the domain of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son whom He loves. In Him we have Redemption (Resurrection)—the release of sins.
He is the Image of the invisible God, the Firstborn of all Creation. For by Him all things were created—in Heaven and on Earth, the seen and the unseen, whether thrones or angelic powers or rulers or authorities. All was created through Him and for Him. He exists before everything, and in Him all holds together.
“He is the Head of the Body, His Community. He is the Beginning, the Firstborn from the Dead—so that He might come to have FIRST PLACE in all things. For God was pleased to have all His FULLNESS dwell in Him and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, making peace through the blood of His cross—whether things on Earth or things in Heaven!
“Once you were alienated from God and hostile in your attitude by wicked deeds. But now He has reconciled you in Messiah’s physical body through death, in order to present you holy, spotless and blameless in His eyes…” (Colossians 1:11-22 TLV. Emphasis added.)
Beloved friends… Paul couldn’t stop proclaiming, exalting, and drawing all attention to His beloved Lord! Why and how did he change so much after his time spent in Tarsus? What had changed by the time Barnabas found him and brought him with him to join the saints at Antioch? What was it that was so dazzlingly brilliant that it blinded him to everything else? What did the Spirit of God teach and school him in, during his years of ‘boot camp preparation’… that finally got him ready to follow His Lord in the fulfillment of His God-given apostolic commission?
He saw, in progressive stages of communing and interacting with the Spirit of Yeshua, more and more of the magnitude of the infinite depths of the Presence of the Glorious Resurrected Son… the Living Word of God… AS HE REALLY IS! And that’s why his disciple training could not be instantaneous. It had to be given in stages, so that his human systems could have time to gradually absorb and get used to the overpowering Immensity of God’s Living Creative Word, and be able to survive and function amidst the Blinding Brilliance of His awesome INFINITE HOLINESS!
And, thanks to the Gift of the Holy Spirit that we have received… the risen Lord is actually abiding within each one of us in the very same way. And He continues to offer to bring us closer and closer to Him so that we too can one day be KNOWINGLY immersed in the Glory of His Eternal Resurrection state of being… as sons and co-heirs of our Heavenly Father… in Him and with Him!
This fallen world thinks very little of true disciples. Nevertheless, the disciples know enough about their Master that… once they abide in that knowledge of Him… they have no regard for this broken, fallen, invariably disappointing, world. And that drives poor Earthbound people crazy! They can only operate in the flesh. That’s all they can understand! So they assume that disciples are stupid… because they have no clue of the stupendous depths of the Wisdom with which God’s own have been endowed. No one can know what disciples know and have… until they too are able to finally break away from the earthly things that keep tying them down. They must first believe God’s Word enough to be willing to lay down what they currently idolize. Then they are free to come and see for themselves what the disciples are so enthralled with and so excited about.
“Philip finds Nathanael and tells him, “We’ve found the One that Moses in the Torah, and also the prophets, wrote about—Yeshua of Natzeret, the son of Joseph!”
“Natzeret!” Nathanael answered. “Can anything good come from there?”
Philip said to him, “COME AND SEE!” (John 1:45-46 TLV. Emphasis added
So those who go through the same level of boot camp training that all authentic disciples of the Lord must endure… will one day be able to say with the psalmist:
“When my heart was embittered and I was pierced in my heart, I was brutish and ignorant. I was like a beast before You.
“Yet I am continually with You. You hold my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and AFTERWARD You will take me INTO GLORY. Whom have I in Heaven but You? On Earth there is none I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but GOD IS THE STRENGTH OF MY HEART AND MY PORTION FOREVER!” (Psalm 73: 21-26 TLV. Emphasis added.)