Beloved Family… you’ll surely recognize the following Scripture text when you read it. That’s because I refer to it many times in my writings. I never tire of delving into it. Nor can I ponder it enough, because, no matter how often I try to penetrate its depths, I’m always left with a sense of the enormity and depth that is packed into it and so it leaves me stunned, and in awe of God’s Grace. There’s much packed into this text… more than any of us will ever be able to grasp in this life. And, I sense that the Holy Spirit wants us to keep looking at it so that He can unpack and amplify more and more of the endless marvels it contains. It is so utterly Heavenly and supernatural in content and intention that it also fills me with a profound sense of gratitude to our Heavenly Father:
“Therefore if you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, sharing in His resurrection from the dead], keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind and keep focused habitually on the things above [the heavenly things], not on things that are on the earth [which have only temporal value.] For you died [to this world], and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in Glory.” (AMP. Emphasis added.)
‘Since you have already been raised up with your resurrected Messiah…’ WOW, WHAT A STATEMENT ABOUT THE TRUE MEANING OF A BLOOD COVENANT BOND THIS IS! Beloved friends, ponder what this tells us about us, and who we are as New Covenant disciples! Paul is taking it for granted that the disciples to whom he is writing already know that they have the seed of our Messiah’s Resurrection Life deposited within them! That’s the Life that our risen Lord already enjoys in its fullest form right now, as He sits beside His Heavenly Father in God’s Eternal Glory! And that’s the very same Life that also already exists, in seed form, within our regenerated spirits!
And so that means that we are already ‘sanctified’ or ‘set apart and reserved’ for God’s personal service! The seed of Eternal Life is already within us. Therefore, we’re no longer part of this fallen world in which we must continue to live for the time being! We’re already citizens of God’s Kingdom, sons and emissaries of our Heavenly Father. And we’ve been placed strategically throughout the regions of this temporal, Sin-loving world as part of His tremendous Plan of Salvation and Restoration for all of Creation!
This was true of the New Covenant disciples to whom Paul wrote in the first century, and it is true of those of us who have been set apart and commissioned to be part of the Final Fulfillment of God’s New Covenant Era during these Last Days! So beloved, God’s Grace has made us all to be the most awesome, tremendously gifted beings that anyone could possibly imagine! We are Spirit-regenerated and blessed Blood Covenant friends of Almighty God! We have been made to be one with the risen Son of God, and that makes us to be also one with the Father and His Holy Spirit… forever!
So, the Holy Spirit is telling us that, regardless of how the world may see us and think about us, He is revealing to us the way in which Almighty God views and regards and describes those that really and truly are one with His beloved Son! This is what it means for disciples to be yoked together with God’s Living Word made flesh! Scripture is letting everyone know that we New Covenant Last Days disciples are truly part of God’s own Personal Family… a different and utterly unique class of human beings! We are not at all any longer part of what the other, still unredeemed race that populates this world are condemned to be. We have a purpose and destiny that nothing that concerns the unbelieving, humanistic, radically independent fallen humans that surround us, could possibly equal or surpass! That’s why Cain became enraged at his brother Abel, who had God’s Living Word living within his heart. That drove Cain, ultimately, to murdered him! And that’s also why our unbelieving human brethren of our generation continue to despise and persecute us too!
But there’s a rub, a disturbing point of friction, to all of this. It’s the critical factor that determines whether or not this marvelous revelation will ever be truly and discernibly applied to, and become real with, and in, each one of us who have been called to follow our risen Lord. The factor is this: Even though God has given this Gift to us, it can’t become real and obviously true in us UNLESS we first believe and take it to heart and consider it to be our own personal possession. We must believe the truth of it so much, that we are actually able to OWN it and display it in our thoughts, imaginations, actions, reactions and interactions!
So, Beloved, in light of this essential factor, let us prayerfully consider these questions:
- Who among us really and truly believes, embraces and lives according to what Paul wrote in this text? Who among us is really and truly convinced that he or she is actually one with, and is actually abiding and interacting with the resurrected Messiah of Israel, IN GOD? Who dares to believe this and act accordingly?
- Who among us is equipped and ready to demonstrate, by the supernatural Fruit that our risen Lord, who made Himself to be one with us, is now willing and able to produce from within our yielded and crucified flesh?
- Who among us have truly yielded ourselves to His Dominion?
- Do our lives prove to all observers that Yeshua truly did rise from the dead and that He is actually free to live His glorious Spirit-empowered Life in and through us, according to His Father’s will and Plan and Purposes!
- Who among us is truly ready and able to represent and demonstrate the Reality and Truth of Yeshua’s Resurrection Presence? Who among us consistently manifests the effects of His Triumph over the Serpent, and over the bondage that Sin, and the World System, and our own fallen flesh once had over all the children of the First Adam?
- Which of us can do this with supernatural authority and power, even in the midst of terrible and excruciating circumstances and virulent opposition and persecution?
- The supernatural Reality of the New Covenant was very obvious in the midst of the first century believers that were following and learning from the risen Lord’s apostles. But how real and obvious is it in our midst?
If you begin to think deeply about this, you will realize that Paul’s words are truly packed with implication and they also force us to face some troubling questions. If the Lord truly abides with us and is dynamically interacting with us continually in the way He did with His first century disciples in the Book of Acts, shouldn’t we also be bearing His awesome Fruit in even more obvious and world-changing ways? Shouldn’t the people that are around us be at least a little bit afraid and in awe of us, even if they still currently refuse to believe and embrace our Message? Shouldn’t they be wondering what to make of us, and how they should react and behave while they are in our presence? Shouldn’t we fill them with an unexplainable and undeniable sense of awe and reverence?
“At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders (attesting miracles) were continually taking place among the people. And by common consent they all met together [at the temple] in [the covered porch called] Solomon’s portico. But none of the rest [of the people, the non-believers] dared to associate with them; however, the people were holding them in high esteem and were speaking highly of them. More and more believers in the Lord, crowds of men and women, were constantly being added to their number, to such an extent that they even carried their sick out into the streets and put them on cots and sleeping pads, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on one of them [with healing power]. And the people from the towns in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing the sick and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all being healed!” (AMP. Emphasis added.)
Apparently, what was taking place in the midst of the post-Ascension New Covenant Jewish disciples of Yeshua was strikingly new and unexplainable, as far as their unbelieving Israelite relatives, neighbors and friends were concerned. Now, all of a sudden, thanks to these amazing supernatural changes that the populace was detecting in them, the people around the disciples didn’t know what to do, or say, or how to act. What they were seeing was light years removed from the ‘ho-hum business as usual’ Mosaic and rabbinical routines they had gotten used to seeing and participating in throughout the course of their lives. Now, they were in touch with something that was radically new and different! Now, all they could think of doing was to bring the neediest among them to wherever these amazing people might be gathered, knowing they were going to be healed and set free!
Despite the awe and fear they instinctively felt, unbelievers nevertheless continued to approach these disciples of Yeshua because it was obvious that the Spirit of Almighty God was in them and God’s astounding Life-giving Power was circulating in their midst! The unbelievers could not yet see what they saw or agree with what they proclaimed… but they could not deny that Almighty God was in their midst!
So I ask you to ponder this: is this the way the modern day world is reacting to those of us that claim to be believers and disciples of the risen Lord? I’m afraid the answer to this question will be embarrassing to most of us. And it should also fill us with a sense of conviction and deep disturbance and a burning sense of urgency that forces us to admit that, somewhere along the way, the latter day generations have ‘slipped off the tracks’ and have left the narrow path that the Lord set before His original disciples.
And that sense of conviction that arises in our hearts must force us to question ourselves:
What are we doing, and why do we keep doing it? Is our current status quo condition all there is to the Gospel of our risen Lord? Is this what the Torah was leading up to? Are we truly presenting to the world what we were chosen and commissioned to bring into the misery and desolation and emptiness that enshroud this fallen world?
It is my opinion that something major and vital is missing. And that’s probably why I can’t stop pondering the text we’re considering today… and why I can’t stop asking God to unpack it for us and burn it into our heart of hearts. Should not the absence in our daily lives of what is actually contained in that text not compel us to examine critically the status quo spiritual condition and habitual attitudes, mindsets and daily practices we have adopted for ourselves and habitually pass along to our children and display before our neighbors?
Beloved friends… are we really and truly abiding with, and interacting with, and drawing everything we are and have and do, from the Perfect and spine-tingling electrifying Presence of our risen Lord? Do we believe and own the Reality of His Presence? Or, have we fallen into that same deep pit of monotonous sameness and perfunctory religious routine that the unbelievers of the first century were embracing? Are we just indulging in a bunch of meaningless time-wasting practices that are not at all impacting and forcing the people of this fallen world around us to question themselves, their heart motives, and lifestyles to significant and personally disturbing degrees? Do we truly understand what the New Covenant is, and what it means, and what people look and sound like when they truly own it for themselves? When was the last time anyone approached us in desperation and grabbed hold of us, asking, “What must I do to be saved?”
The static ‘deadness’ and monotony, and ritualistic routine that so many of us have casually fitted into the weekly schedules and routines we insist on managing and controlling, brings into question the enormous variety of ‘Gospels’ that are being promoted and disseminated throughout Christendom’s enormous ‘Shopping Mall.’ There are thousands upon thousands of different denominations, groups, sects and cults that incessantly vie with each other for the attention, time, devotion and money of as many people as they are able to attract and draw into their competing spheres of influence. But what does that avail? What do such people have to offer to the people that are drawn into their spheres of influence? Do they offer the electrifying, shockingly REAL PRESENCE of our risen LORD OF GLORY… or are they merely presenting an array of dead, powerless religious museum artifacts and dusty tomes for their consideration and involvement?
So here’s my question: what are all of these groups telling their hearers about what we have to do to ‘be right with God’ or, ‘to be saved’, or, ‘how to be a Christian’? What does it take, and how do we accomplish it? Is it the same things Paul required of the Colossian and Ephesian believers? And what is our answer to that heart-piercing, haunting question, that that very desperate and Sin-convicted jailer in Acts 16 once asked Paul and Silas? How can such a Spirit-convicted man be effectively and accurately answered and guided and directed? What kind of disciples will it take to give him the Life-giving answer and the spiritual transformation that God Himself was ready to place within his heart?
“But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened!
“When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, “SIRS, WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?” (Emphasis added.)
That was the same question that those Judean Jews were asking after they heard Peter speak and explain to them the meaning of the marvelous things that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was displaying before their astonished eyes in Acts chapter 2. That was a day of awesome Fulfillment for Israel. It was the anniversary of the day when God ‘married’ Israel at Mt. Sinai, in the days of Moses, and now it was the day when God began to pour out His Holy Spirit upon those Israelites that believed He was now truly launching the New Covenant Era, by the Authority of His beloved risen Son, and fulfilling promises that He had made to Israel, through
their prophets, centuries before:
“Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus, God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this, which you both see and hear. For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says:
‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”’
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified!”
“Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “BRETHREN, WHAT SHALL WE DO?”
“ Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”
“And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (NASB. Emphasis added.)
So, dear friends, if we do not really have the same awesome Power that flows out of the Reality of having the Holy Spirit of God Himself… surging and pulsating and proclaiming the Resurrection Reality from deep within us and flowing out of us… the people around us will not see what the crowd saw coming out of Peter and his companions, or what the jailer and all the prisoners in that jail saw coming out of Paul and Silas!
“It happened that while Apollos was in Corinth, Paul went through the upper districts and came down to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed [in Jesus as the Christ]?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he asked, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John performed a baptism of repentance, continually telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, [to confidently accept and joyfully believe] in Jesus [the Messiah and Savior].” After hearing this, they were baptized [again, this time] in the Name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in [unknown] tongues (languages) and prophesying.” (AMP.)
Scripture makes it clear that we must be continually filled and fueled by the Holy Spirit. Only He can make God’s Living Word real and present and active in us in ways that testify to this fallen world that Yeshua truly is the Resurrected Messiah of Israel and that He is proving the Truth of His Resurrection by His obvious Presence and Interaction in the lives and in the midst of His New Covenant disciples. Scripture also makes it clear that it is absolutely impossible for anyone to fake his or her way through, by ‘going through the motions’ while pretending that they’re actual Spirit-empowered Real Life disciples of the risen Lord of Glory.
“But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the Name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified.” (NASB.)
We too MUST receive what the original New Covenant apostles and disciples of Yeshua received. We too must be equipped to set the Spirit-filled example and give the Yeshua- revealing testimony of the original apostles. We too must learn to abide and interact with, and live entirely FROM, our risen Lord the way the Holy Spirit empowered and taught them to do! When Paul and Silas were scourged and imprisoned and put into the stocks of that prison, they would have quickly caved in and would have been reduced to mere heaps of bloody quivering self-pitying flesh if they had not actually been ‘real New Covenant Resurrection-embodying disciples of Yeshua! They had to know Him and be able to demonstrate exactly what God requires of each and every New Covenant believer in order to truly ‘cross over’ from radically independent Self-life that is all this fallen world can know… to the awesome Power-packed, Life-transforming, New Covenant, Electricity-filled, Spirit-imparted Presence of God’s risen Son, who was obviously present to empower and sustain these two disciples who had been so severely mistreated and who had nothing at all going for them, according to the natural way of judging things!
These men were obviously abiding in the Presence of Almighty God. And God was obviously upholding and strengthening and equipping them to continue to embody their risen Lord. This fact was clearly obvious, even to the brutal, worldly, crass and sadistic jailers and prisoners that were fortunate enough to be around them! God was with these two bruised and bloodied men and He was obviously operating through them! And everyone who was around them, without exception, KNEW that it was so! What was apparently working from within Paul and Silas was so obvious and unquestionable, that the jailer and his household had no trouble knowing with certainty that the one True, Living God was present in their house that night! And for that reason, they must have hung on every word that came to them from Paul and Silas, after the jailer asked them the question that always spontaneously comes out of anyone who is suddenly put in touch with the electrifying Presence of Almighty God: “Please, for God’s sake, tell me: What must I do to be saved?”
“And they answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus [as your personal Savior and entrust yourself to Him] and you will be saved, you and your household [if they also believe].” And they spoke the word of the Lord [concerning eternal salvation through faith in Christ] to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their bloody wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. Then he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, since he had believed in God with his entire family [accepting with joy what had been made known to them about the Christ.]” (AMP.)
Beloved friends… can you sense the awesome atmosphere that must have been present in the jailer’s house that night? Can you see how everyone had been perfectly ‘set up’ or prepared and predisposed to receive whatever Paul and Silas chose to explain and unpack for those incredibly curious, spiritually starving people? They wanted to know all about the ‘Electricity’ and ‘Power’ and heart-piercing conviction that God’s Self-Revelation in their midst had caused to well up inside of Paul and Silas! They had seen all that God had just done for them in the midst of their most excruciating and impossible human circumstances! They had seen Life coming out of Death! And that was nothing less than THE RESURRECTION! So, of course they wanted to have what Paul and Silas had, and to know what they knew. And whatever that was… was the Message and the Testimony that we too are commissioned to give to the world that surrounds us. It isn’t a bunch of religious facts and head knowledge they’re starving for… IT’S THE RISEN LORD HIMSELF THAT EVERY HUMAN BEING WAS CREATED TO SEEK AFTER! And we have been blessed and entrusted with the task of embodying and revealing and sharing Him with whomever the Holy Spirit may draw into our spheres of influence!
And so, while Paul and Silas shared the meal that the jailer’s household was providing for them, what do you suppose they were stressing and emphasizing to these people, since they were only going to be together for a few hours? What was the most important thing they could have left for their listeners to ponder and absorb and digest, after their departure? How did Paul and Silas explain the awesome World-changing Power of God that had just recently been displayed before the eyes of the people in that prison? And what did they share with their hosts about what was now possible for them to enter into, and enjoy for themselves, even after Paul and Silas were gone? Was it not YESHUA HIMSELF, THE RESURRECTED LORD OF GLORY who would remain with them, to abide in them, just the way they had seen Him abiding in Paul and Silas? Was it not the risen Messiah of Israel who was to be the New Covenant Treasure and Legacy that God had promised to give to Israel… and also to all the families of the earth? Was He not the One with whom they too would learn to abide and feed from after Paul and Silas were long gone?
Yes, it was Yeshua! HE IS THE MESSAGE! HE IS THE ANSWER TO THE ‘WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED’ QUESTION!
Can you begin to fathom the depths of what Paul had to share with people about the meaning and impact of the Resurrection and about abiding in the Presence of the Glorious Messiah that was here to share His Glory with them, and with anyone else who would believe and receive the awesome New Covenant Gift of becoming one with the Living Word of God made flesh? This is what makes the New Covenant so different from anything that came before it!
“I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that continues to bear fruit, He [repeatedly] prunes, so that it will bear more fruit [even richer and finer fruit]. You are already clean because of the Word, which I have given you [the teachings which I have discussed with you]. Remain in Me, and I [will remain] in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself without remaining in the vine, neither can you [bear fruit, producing evidence of your faith] unless you remain in Me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him bears much fruit, for [otherwise] apart from Me [that is, cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.
“If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown out like a [broken off] branch, and withers and dies; and they gather such branches and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you [that is, if we are vitally united and My message lives in your heart], ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified and honored by this, when you bear much fruit, and prove yourselves to be My [true] disciples. I have loved you just as the Father has loved Me; remain in My love [and do not doubt My love for you]. If you keep My commandments and obey My teaching, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love. I have told you these things so that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy may be made full and complete and overflowing.
“This is My commandment, that you love and unselfishly seek the best for one another, just as I have loved you. No one has greater love [nor stronger commitment] than to lay down his own life for his friends. You are my friends if you keep on doing what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you [My] friends, because I have revealed to you everything that I have heard from My Father. You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed and placed and purposefully planted you, so that you would go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit will remain and be lasting, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My Name [as My representative] He may give to you. This [is what] I command you: that you love and unselfishly seek the best for one another.
“If the world hates you [and it does], know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love [you as] its own and would treat you with affection. But you are not of the world [you no longer belong to it], but I have chosen you out of the world. And because of this the world hates you. Remember [and continue to remember] that I told you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” (AMP.)
Beloved Family, authentic disciple life is light years removed from the monotonous and dead existence of those who are satisfied with trying to come across as religious pretenders. We cannot truly begin to follow our Master if we bypass the very first two steps in the disciple-making process:
“And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to follow Me [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross daily[expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me]. For whoever wishes to save his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it [through death], but whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake, he is the one who will save it [from the consequences of sin and separation from God]. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world [wealth, fame, success], and loses or forfeits himself?” (AMP. Emphasis added.)
And so our opening text, to which I cannot stop referring, begins to have more and more meaning and impact to people who are really and truly serious about knowing and interacting with, and following, our risen Lord in Spirit and in Truth. And it forces me to examine and pose disturbing questions to myself and to ask the Holy Spirit to search my heart and expose whatever remains in me that is getting in the way of the working out and Fulfillment of our Heavenly Father’s Will and Plan, insofar as I am concerned…
“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on Earth. For you have died; and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our Life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in Glory.” (NASB. Emphasis added.)
“If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch,” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.” (AMP.)
1 Corinthians 4:18-21
“Now some of you have become arrogant and pretentious, as though I were not coming to see you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord is willing, and I will find out not just the talk of these arrogant people, but [evaluate] their [spiritual] power [whether they live up to their own claims]. For the kingdom of God is not based on talk BUT ON POWER!
“Which do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod [of discipline and correction], or with love and a gentle spirit?” (AMP. Emphasis added.)