Copyright - Zac Poonen (1977)
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1. God's Purpose For Man
2. Living In Humility
3. Living In Holiness
4. Living In Love
5. Living In The Spirit
6. Living In The Will of God
7. Living By The Power of God
8. Living For The Glory of God
9. The Bride Of Christ
GOD'S PURPOSE FOR MAN
God did not create man because He needed a servant. He already had millions
of angels to serve Him. He created man because He wanted someone who would
manifest His character and His nature.
If we forget this truth, it is easy to get sidetracked into imagining that
service for God is the primary purpose of our salvation in Christ. This is the
mistake that many believers have made.
When God was about to make Adam, His words were, "Let us make man in
our image, according to our likeness" (Gen.1:26)
When Adam sinned, God in His foreknowledge, had already made provision for
lifting man out of the pit of sin into which he had fallen. The incarnation of
Christ and His death on the cross were in God's mind, before Adam was even
God's intention in the redemption that He has provided for us in Christ, is
that we might be brought back to the place where we can fulfil His original
purpose for man - to manifest His nature.
Our salvation is through faith in Christ. But faith can be based only on a
divine revelation of the Person of Christ. It is only such faith that will
allow the Holy Spirit to transform us into the likeness of Christ.
An intellectual or a partial knowledge of Christ, apart from divine
revelation, can leave us as blind as the Bible-scholars of Jesus' day were.
Their understanding of the Scriptures led them to look for another Christ, who
would have different characteristics from what Jesus of Nazareth had.
The Jesus found in the pages of the Bible is One, Who being God, equal with
the Father, "emptied Himself" and became a man (Phil. 2:6,7).
Here is where we need to understand the truth carefully. In His Person,
Jesus was still God when He came in our flesh, for God can never cease to be
God. The clearest proof of Jesus' Deity in the days of His flesh, is seen in
the fact that He received worship. Seven times in the gospels we are told that
He accepted the worship that men offered Him (Matt.8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25;
20:20; Mk.5:6; Jn.9:38). Angels and God-fearing men do not accept worship (Acts
10:25,26; Rev.22:8,9). But Jesus did - because He was the Son of God.
What did He empty Himself of then? Of His privileges as God.
Consider two examples. We know that "God cannot be tempted"
(Jas.1:13). Yet the Scripture states that Jesus was tempted (Mt.4:1-11).
We also know that God is omniscient (knowing everything). Yet the Scripture
says that Jesus had to come near a fig-tree once, before He could find out
whether it had any fruit (Mk.11:13). Once Jesus said that He did not even know
the date of His own second coming to earth (Mk.13:32).
So, it is crystal clear that Jesus had emptied Himself of the privileges of
Deity, when He walked on this earth in our flesh.
"The Word was God......and the Word became flesh" (Jn. 1:1,14).
Both these truths concerning the Person of Christ - His Deity and His
humanity - must be believed equally, if we are to avoid heresy.
No truth in Scripture can be ignored without suffering spiritual loss. And
so, if equal emphasis is not given to the Deity and the humanity of Christ, in
our understanding and in our ministry, we will end up believing in an
incomplete Christ - "another Jesus" than the one revealed in
Scripture. This will result in corresponding loss in our Christian life and
ministry. We are called not only to worship Christ as God, but also to follow
Him as a Man.
Jesus has not only redeemed us through His death, but also shown us through
His life on earth, how God intended man to live. He is not only our Saviour but
also our Forerunner (Heb. 6:20). He has given us an example of how to live at
all times and in all situations, in perfect obedience to God.
Forgiveness of sins, the fullness of the Spirit and all the means of grace
that God has provided, are all meant by Him to lead to one final goal - that we
might be conformed to the likeness of His Son. In fact, every doctrine in God's
Word can be understood in its proper perspective only as it is seen in the
light of God's eternal purpose for man - to make Him like Jesus.
The chief ministry of the Holy Spirit is twofold, and is described thus:
"We behold as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, and are transformed into
the same image from glory to glory, by the Spirit" (2 Cor.3:18)
The Holy Spirit constantly seeks to show us the glory of the Lord Jesus in
the Scriptures (the mirror) - and then seeks to change us into that likeness.
God the Father in His sovereignty, also orders all our circumstances to this
same end. "God causes all things to work together for good to those who
love Him.......for whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to
the image of His Son" (Rom. 8:28,29).
Every event and circumstance in our life is meant by God to mould us and
transform us a little more into the likeness of Jesus.
And so we see, that our Father in heaven and the Holy Spirit in our hearts
are both working towards one goal - that we might become like Jesus.
The more we partake of our Lord's nature, the more we will live on earth as
He lived. This is the Spirit-filled life.
Jesus did not come to earth as an angel, but like us. The Bible says,
"He was made like His brothers in all things" (Heb.2:17) (His
brothers are His disciples - Matt.12:50). If He had not been made like us (His
brothers) "in all things", He could not have become our Example.
Neither could He have commanded us saying, "Follow Me," for we
obviously could not follow One Who did not have our limitations, even as an
angel cannot teach us to swim, since he does not experience the downward pull
of gravity as we do.
Then Paul's exhortation in 1 Corinthians 11:1, to follow him as he followed Christ
would also become meaningless, for Paul could not possibly have lived as Jesus
lived. Then the life of Christ becomes a life that we can only admire, but
But praise God that Christ did come in our flesh, and having accepted the
limitations of our flesh, has given us an example to follow.
Since it was as a man, that Jesus lived a holy, pure life, there is no
reason now why we too cannot "walk as He walked" (1 Jn. 2:6).
Because we are weak as human beings, God offers us the same power of the
Spirit that was given to Jesus when He lived on earth as a man.
What God did for Jesus He will gladly do for us, for "He loves us as He
loved Jesus" (Jn. 17:23). But His power is made available only "to
those who believe" (Eph. 1:19). So it is because of lack of faith in God's
Word that believers today are impotent and powerless against sin and Satan.
The excuse that the Devil would have us make when we are commanded to
"follow in His steps who committed no sin" (1 Pet. 2:21,22), is that
being human we cannot but sin occasionally. But when we see that Jesus came in
our flesh and did not sin, then TWO things happen:
(1) We no longer have any excuse for sinning.
(2) We have faith that we too can live in victory over sin as Jesus did.
And so Paul's prayer is mine too, as you read the truths of Scripture in
this book: "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of Him
(Christ)...and...that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory,
to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man." (Eph.
It is only through the full knowledge of Christ that we can know the power
of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the perfect example of the Spirit-filled man.
As we look at His life and see how He lived on
this earth, we can understand unmistakably what the characteristics of a
Spirit-filled life are.
LIVING IN HUMILITY
The greatness of God is seen by the world in the marvels of creation (Psa.
19:1). The universe is so vast that the human mind cannot comprehend it.
Galaxies of stars have been flung out across space, billions of light-years
apart. At the same time, each bit of matter in this universe is made up of
atoms, so small that the naked eye cannot see them, yet containing hundreds of
electrons rotating within them. How great is our God!
But to the disciple of Jesus Christ, the greatness of God is seen, not
primarily in these wonders of the universe, but rather in the humility that
made the Son of God empty Himself and come in our flesh and identify Himself
with our fallen race.
"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His
glory," said John the apostle (Jn. 1:14). And we can add - "such
glory, that far outshone the glory seen in creation."
The great King of Heaven came and dwelt as one of us in our flesh. And He
came, not in a condescending, patronising sort of way, but with real humility,
making Himself one with us in every way.
We see the glory of the Lord Jesus in a far greater way in His humility than
even in the wonderful miracles that He did.
It is this pathway of humility that the Holy Spirit desires to show us first
of all, so that we might learn to walk in it all our days. It is here that we
are to follow Jesus primarily.
Before Jesus lived that pure and love-filled life on earth, as a man, He
humbled Himself. That was the first step. And that is the first step for us
Many thousands of years before Jesus came to earth, God had created an angel
called Lucifer who was perfect in wisdom and beauty. Lucifer was appointed by
God as the head of the angelic order. But, being lifted up with pride and
discontented with his appointed lot, Lucifer sought to go up and to exalt
himself (Ezek. 28:11-17; Isa. 14:12-15). Thus he brought sin into God's
creation. God cast him down immediately - and he became Satan.
Pride is therefore the root of every sin and evil in this universe.
When Adam sinned, he too became infected with this Satanic pride.
Every child of Adam is now born with this infection.
To redeem man from this poison, Jesus humbled Himself.
As sin originated in the pride of Lucifer, so our redemption originated in
the self-humbling of Jesus. We have as much of the mind of Christ as we have of
His humility. This is the infallible gauge of spiritual growth.
The very coming of Jesus to earth from the glory of Heaven is in itself a
marvelous demonstration of His humility. But we are told further that, even
"as a man He humbled Himself" (Phil. 2:8). "Made like His
brethren in every respect" (Heb. 2:17), He took His place before God as
all other men. He became nothing so that God might be everything. This is true
Worldly glory and greatness are measured by a person's position, wealth,
accomplishments, family status, etc. But how different is the glory of God as
seen in Jesus Christ!
Jesus was the only person ever born who had the opportunity to choose the
family into which he was to be born. None of us had that choice.
Which family did Jesus choose? An unknown carpenter's family from a place
called Nazareth, of which town people said, "Can any good come from
there?" (Jn. 1:46). Joseph and Mary were so poor that they could not even
afford to offer a lamb as a burnt offering to God (cf. Lk. 2:22-24 with Lev.
Further, Jesus was the only person ever born, who could choose exactly where
he would be born. Having the opportunity to determine the place of His birth,
which place did He choose? A cattle food-box in a lowly stable!
Notice further, the family-line that Jesus chose for Himself. Four women are
named in the family-tree of Jesus, mentioned in Matthew 1:3-6. The first one,
Tamar had a son through committing adultery with her father-in-law, Judah. The
second one, Rahab, was a well-known prostitute in Jericho. The third one, Ruth,
was a descendant of Moab, who was born as a result of Lot committing adultery
with his own daughter. The fourth one was Uriah's wife, Bathsheba, with whom
David committed adultery.
Why did Jesus choose such a shameful family-line to come through? So that He
could identify Himself totally with Adam's fallen race. There we see His
humility. He did not desire any pride of family or genealogy
Jesus identified Himself totally with man. He believed in the essential
equality of all human beings, irrespective of race, family, position in life,
etc., and became one with the least and lowest in the social strata. He came
below all, that He might be the servant of all. It is only the one who gets
beneath others who is able to lift them up. And that is how Jesus came.
The Holy Spirit transforms us through the renewal of our mind (Rom. 12:2).
It is in our thoughts that the seed of true Christ-like humility is sown. It is
not by our actions or by our behaviour before others but rather by our thoughts
(when we are by ourselves) that we can ascertain whether we are being
transformed into Christlikeness in this area or not - our thoughts concerning
ourselves and about how we compare with others.
It is only when we are truly small in our own thoughts, that we can
genuinely "regard others as more important than us" (Phil. 2:3), and
consider ourselves as "the very least of all the saints" (Eph. 3:8).
Jesus always considered Himself as a man to be nothing before His Father.
Therefore the glory of the Father was manifested through Him in all its
Because Jesus took this position of nothingness before the Father, He could
joyfully submit to anything that the Father ordered for His life, and obey all
the Father's commandments wholeheartedly.
"He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death"
Total obedience to God is the unmistakable mark of genuine humility. There
is no clearer test than this.
For thirty years, Jesus submitted to an imperfect foster-father and mother -
because this was His Father's will. He knew far more than Joseph and Mary; and
was sinless, unlike them. Yet He submitted to them.
It is not easy for man to submit to those who are intellectually or
spiritually inferior to him. But genuine humility has no problem here - for one
who has truly seen himself as nothing in God's eyes, has no difficulty in
submitting to anyone whom God appoints over him.
Jesus chose a fairly unimpressive profession - that of a carpenter. And when
He entered into His public ministry, He had no prefixes or suffixes to His
name. He was not `Pastor Jesus.' Much less was he `The Reverend Doctor Jesus!'
He never sought nor desired any earthly position or title that would exalt Him
above the common people whom He had come to serve. He who has ears to hear, let
When the crowds once flocked after Him, wanting to make Him their king, He
quietly slipped away from their midst (Jn. 6:15). He desired to be known only
as `the son of man.'
He never sought nor cared for the honour of men. He lived before His
Father's face alone, and was quite content to go all through life ignored and
despised by men. The Father's approval alone mattered to Him.
Whenever Jesus healed someone or did a miracle, He was keen that no one
should know about the healing, for His miracles were acts of compassion done
for needy individuals, and not publicity stunts. Even when He raised Jairus'
daughter from the dead, He gave strict instructions that no one should be told
about it (Mk. 5:43). Only after Jesus had left this earth, was the record of
His life made public by His apostles.
When He took a basin of water and washed His disciples' feet, on the last
night before He was crucified, it was typical of what had been true of His
entire life. He had been a servant of all men. He was quick to note that the
disciples' feet were dirty and was equally quick to pick up the basin and to do
the needful, instead of waiting to see if someone else would do it. That action
was symbolic of a lifetime of service to others. Jesus did not wait to be asked
to do something. He found out the need and did the needful.
Jesus associated intimately with the lowest strata of society and moved
among them as their equal. And yet, although He was sinless and perfect, He
never made others feel awkward because of their imperfections. He had no
patronizing air about Him when He moved around with His disciples. In fact, He
moved so freely with them that they felt free to rebuke Him and even to give
Him advice (Mt. 16:22; Mk. 4:38; 9:5).
We see the humility of Jesus in His seeking for the fellowship of His
disciples in prayer. In the garden of Gethsemane, He asked Peter, James and
John to pray with Him, because His soul was "deeply grieved to the point
of death" (Mt. 26:38). Jesus was conscious of the utter weakness of the
flesh that He had taken on. That was why He sought their fellowship in prayer.
It is because we are not honest enough to acknowledge our nothingness, that
the manifestation of God's power through us is limited. Jesus has shown us the
way of humility. It is to acknowledge the weakness of our flesh, and our
nothingness as human beings.
Because Jesus humbled Himself, therefore God exalted Him to the highest
position in the universe (Phil. 2:9). Those who go the farthest along the way
of humility will sit with Jesus on His right and left hand in glory.
All through Jesus' life He kept going down. He came down from Heaven and
kept going down, down, down all the way to the cross. Never once did He reverse
this direction and seek to go up.
There are only two spirits operating on the earth today. One, the spirit of
Satan (Lucifer) urging people to go up - whether it be in the world or in
Christendom. The other, the Spirit of Christ leading people to go down like
their Master. Like the corn of wheat, Jesus went down, and all His true
disciples can be identified unmistakably by this characteristic.
The humility of Jesus is seen in all its brilliance in His death. There
never was a more unjust trial than the one Jesus went through. Yet, He
submitted to injury, insult, injustice, humiliation and ridicule, in silence.
He did not call down curses on His enemies. He neither threatened revenge nor
called for angelic assistance. He gave up all His rights as the Son of God.
The `clenched fist' is an appropriate symbol of the human race - signifying
both the desire to hold on to one's rights, powers and possessions, as well as
the desire to fight back when attacked.
Jesus on the other hand, willingly opened His palms to receive the nails on
the cross. His palms were always open, giving, giving and giving. Finally He
gave up His own life as well. This is true humility. And this is true `manhood'
as God intended it to be.
The disciple of Jesus who wants to manifest the divine nature must be
willing to suffer injustice without complaining.
The Bible says, "If you bear patiently with suffering when you do right
and that is undeserved, it is acceptable and well-pleasing to God. For even to
this were you called - it is inseparable from your vocation. For Christ also
suffered...leaving you His personal example, so that you should follow on in
His footsteps.....when He was reviled and insulted, He did not revile or offer
insult in return; when He was abused and suffered, He made no threats of
vengeance; but He trusted Himself and everything to Him Who judges fairly"
(1 Pet. 2:20-23 - Amplified).
The humility of Jesus did not permit Him to judge anyone. God alone is the
Judge of all men; and any man who judges another thereby occupies the place
that God alone is entitled to occupy. As a man on earth, Jesus said, "I do
not judge anyone" (Jn. 8:15). He committed all judgment to His Father. There
too we see the beauty of His humility.
Jesus willingly submitted to the humiliating death that His Father planned
for Him. Beyond the human instruments that planned and executed His
crucifixion, He could discern the Father's hand and He willingly drank the cup that
"the Father gave" (Jn. 18:11).
"He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil.
This is the real Jesus of the Scriptures. Unlike modern evangelists, He was
not honoured as a celebrity or a film-star. On the contrary, He was despised
and rejected by men; and the world of His day got rid of Him by nailing Him to
a cross. The world today is no different; and the disciple is not above His
Master. A Christianity that is popular and that attracts the honour of the
world is a counterfeit of the true faith. The entire life of Jesus - from birth
to death - demonstrated the fact that "that which is highly esteemed among
men is detestable in the sight of God" (Lk. 16:15).
"Learn of Me," Jesus said, "for
I am humble of heart" (Matt. 11:29). Humility was the main thing that
Jesus asked His disciples to learn from Him. And that is what we must learn
from Him too.
LIVING IN HOLINESS
God is Light and Love (1 Jn. 1:5; 4:8). He "dwells in unapproachable
light" (1 Tim.6:16). Because He is holy, He calls us also to be holy.
But holiness, for a human being, can come only through temptation. Adam was
created innocent, without even the knowledge of good and evil. God wanted him
to be holy; and for this, God allowed him to be tested.
The tree of knowledge of good and evil had been created by God Himself and
was not evil in itself. It existed in a world over which God pronounced the
words, "Very good" (Gen. 1:31). It was very good, because it afforded
Adam the opportunity to be holy, by resisting temptation.
The Bible says, "Consider it all joy when you encounter various
temptations" (Jas. 1:2), because temptations give us the opportunity to
partake of God's holiness (Heb. 12:10) and become "perfect and
complete" (Jas. 1:4).
As we look at the holiness of Jesus, we do not look at that inherent
holiness that He had as God, for that would be no example for us. We look at
Him as one "made like His brethren in all things" and "tempted
in every respect as we are, yet without sinning" (Heb. 2:17; 4:15).
Jesus is our Forerunner (Heb. 6:20), Who ran the same race that we have to
run, paving the way for us to follow. And so He says to us, "Follow
Me" (Jn. 12:26). And looking unto Him Who has run the race ahead of us, we
too can run with endurance, without fainting or losing heart (Heb. 12:1-4).
Jesus endured every temptation that can ever come to any man. He was tempted
"in every point, as we are". This is clearly taught in Hebrews 4:15.
And this is our encouragement. Jesus exercised no power that is not offered to
us by God today. He met and overcame temptation, as a man, in the strength
given to Him by His Father through the Holy Spirit.
Satan has always told man that God's laws are burdensome and impossible to
be obeyed. Jesus came as a man and exposed that lie of Satan by His life of
perfect obedience. If we had any temptation to overcome, or any command of God
to obey, that Jesus did not face, then on that point we could have an excuse
for sinning. And if Jesus had lived that perfect life, without the weakness of
our flesh or with power unavailable to us, then His life could not be an
example that we could follow, nor could it be an encouragement to us in the
moments when we are tempted. But Jesus demonstrated through His life as a man
on earth, that the power God makes available to us is sufficient to meet the
demands of His law that we see in His Word.
"We do not have a High Priest Who cannot sympathize with out weakness,
but one who has been tempted in all things as we are" (Heb. 4:15). The
sinless life of Jesus is God's demonstration to the world that it is possible
for man through the power of the Holy Spirit to have full victory over sin and
to obey God joyfully. If we abide in Him, we CAN "walk even as He
walked" (1 Jn. 2:6).
Jesus faced all the enticements to sin that we face everyday, and was taken
by His Father through every temptation that can ever come to any man. Thus He
was equipped to be our Leader and our High Priest (Heb. 2:10,17,18; 5:7-9). In
all those situations, He denied Himself and mortified the desires of the flesh
that tempted Him to sin. Thus He consistently "suffered in the
The Scripture points to Him as our example: "Since Christ has suffered
in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has
suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time
in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God" (1
Pet. 4:1,2). Jesus demonstrated through His life of "obedience unto death"
that it is a far lesser calamity to suffer anything that may befall than to
disobey God in even one point.
The essence of all sin is found in doing one's own will. And the essence of
holiness in a human being is found in denying one's own will and in doing the
will of God. This is how Jesus lived. He said:
"I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him Who sent Me....I have
come not to do My own will, but the will of Him Who sent Me.... Not as I will,
but as Thou Wilt" (Jn. 5:30; 6:38; Mt. 26:39).
Jesus offered up His own human will as a perpetual sacrifice to His Father,
even when it meant intense suffering. We are told that "in the days of His
flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and
tears" (Heb. 5:7).
Jesus had warned His three disciples in the garden of Gethsemane that since
human flesh was weak, it was only through watching and praying (that is through
seeking help from God) that temptation could be overcome (Matt. 26:41). He
Himself prayed and only thus did He overcome.
Jesus told His disciples just before going to Gethsemane that the day would
soon come when they too would be able to do the works that He did, for the
Father would give them the Holy Spirit to be their "Helper" (Jn.
14:12,16). Jesus did not come to make us miracle-workers, but to make us holy.
His works were works of holiness, works of obedience to the Father and these
are the works that He has promised that we shall be able to do as well. He did
them all, as a Man filled with the Holy Spirit.
When the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost,
they too received the power to do the works of obedience that Jesus did. During
Jesus' life on earth, they had received the power to heal the sick, raise the
dead, cleanse lepers and cast out demons (Matt. 10:8), but not the power to
overcome sin. For that, they had to wait until they were filled with the Holy
Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
The fullness of the Spirit is meant to enable us to do "the works that
Jesus did," or in other words "the will of God" (See John 4:34).
This is the glorious life that God offers us under the New Covenant.
"What the law could not do weak as it was through the flesh, God did:
sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin.
He condemned sin in the flesh, IN ORDER THAT the requirement of the Law (`the
will of God') might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk (live) according to the
flesh, but according to the Spirit" (Rom. 8:3,4).
The significance for us, of Jesus facing temptation and overcoming it lies
in the fact that thereby He has opened for us a Way wherein we may follow Him.
The Way that Jesus has opened, is called, "the new and living way"
in Hebrews 10:19,20: "We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by a
new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His
It was in the Most Holy Place of the Temple that the glory of God dwelt.
This is the place into which Jesus has opened the way for us to follow Him, so
that we may partake of His holiness. He is the Forerunner Who has entered
through the veil of the flesh, first of all (Heb. 6:20). We are to run the race
now, looking at His example (Heb. 12:1,2).
We don't have to rend the veil, for that has already been rent by our Lord,
once and for all. But we do have to follow Him along that way of the rent veil
- the way of the cross, the way of death to the flesh and its lusts.
It was through death to the flesh that the glory of God's holiness was seen
in the life of Jesus. And there is no other way for us. If we bear this
"dying of Jesus" in our body, then and then alone will that pure and
holy "life of Jesus be manifested in our body" (2 Cor. 4:10).
The Holy Spirit in us will lead us, as He led Jesus, always along the way of
the cross. And this is the way along which we shall be able to increasingly
partake of His holiness. It was thus with Jesus Himself, and it will be thus
for all who follow along the same way.
Jesus came to make us partakers of the divine nature, so that the same life
that was in Him might be in us too.
"His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and
godliness... He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises in
order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature" (2
God has not promised to make us sinlessly perfect on this earth. We are to
press on to perfection. But we can live in victory over conscious sin.
We have seen that Jesus was tempted in all points as we are. Some of our
strongest temptations are those which come to attack our thought-life. So too
it must have been with Jesus. Yet He never sinned. We can overcome in our
Jesus' speech was pure. No filthy word ever escaped His lips, and no idle
word either. He always spoke the truth. There was no deceit in His mouth. No
one could ever engage Jesus in a conversation about how to make more and more
money (beyond one's needs). He was just not interested in such matters. His
mind was set on things above and not on things on earth. No doubt, He used
material things, but He did not love them, nor was He attached to any of them.
The holiness of Jesus was inward. It was not an external piety manifested in
food, dress or association. He was no ascetic or hermit. He lived in the midst
of the workaday world, wearing the clothes that others of His social level
wore, and eating and drinking normally (Lk. 7:34), enjoying the good things
that God has given man to enjoy in this world (1 Tim. 6:17). Yet He was never
self-indulgent in the matter of food, for He would discipline Himself not to
use His miraculous powers to turn stones into bread, even after forty days of
fasting. He associated not just with religious people, but even with the worst
types of sinners, and remained spotless. His holiness was essentially inward.
It was not only sin that Jesus avoided. He also gave up many legitimate
pleasures that were unprofitable, or that could not be indulged in without
sacrificing some part of the Father's business which He had come to complete. (1
Jesus' holiness came out of a life of meditation on the Word of God. He knew
the Word thoroughly by the age of 12, because of laborious mental toil in
meditating upon the Scriptures, seeking for the light of the Spirit upon the
Word. He knew more than the learned doctors of theology, because He sought for
the revelation of the Spirit. Jesus did not go to a Bible-school. He learned
under the hand of His Father, as the true prophets in Old Testament times did -
Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, John the Baptist etc., No true prophet in the
Bible ever came out of a Bible-school. Let us remember that!
Jesus studied the Word and then obeyed it. Thus the Word became a powerful
weapon in His hand, not only in His battle against Satan (Mt. 4:1-11), but also
in His preaching ministry. He spoke with authority, and His preaching ran
counter to the popular traditions of His day proclaimed by the scholars and
doctors of the law.
He exposed the hypocrisy and worldliness of the Pharisees, and told them
that they were hell-bound, despite their doctrinal fundamentalism (Mt. 23:33).
At the same time He exposed the doctrinal errors and the wrong interpretations
(of Scripture) that the Sadducees held (Mt. 22:23-33).
Jesus never sought popularity in His preaching. He would gladly accept
torture and agony rather than yield one iota of truth. He did not believe in
"peace and unity at any cost." Even His enemies acknowledged,
"We know you are very honest and teach the truth, regardless of the
consequences, without fear or favour" (Mt. 22:16-Living).
The holiness of Jesus was also seen in His zeal for the purity of God's
house (Jn. 2:14 ff.) When He entered the temple and saw men making money in the
name of religion, righteous anger burned in Him and He drove them out with a
The Bible commands us to be angry without sinning (Eph. 4:26). When the
Roman soldiers beat Jesus and whipped Him in Pilate's hall He patiently bore it
all. He was never once angry where it concerned His own person. Such anger
would have been sin. But where it concerned the purity of God's house, it was
different. There, to refrain from anger would have been sin.
He used the whip that day, unconcerned about whether people would
misunderstand Him and think that He had lost control of Himself and given in to
the flesh. He did not live before the face of men in any case. He had come to
bring a sword (Mt. 10:34); and He used it unsparingly. It cut, wounded and
hurt. And thus the Father's glory was manifested.
Jesus' life was the most beautiful, the most orderly, the most peaceful and
the happiest life that this world has ever seen. This was because of His total
obedience to God's Word.
Consider the order there is in the physical universe. The stars and planets
move about in the heavens in such perfect order, that we can set our time
accurately to the millionth of a second, by them. Such is their dependability
that astronomers can calculate the position of any star or planet for any date
in the future. What is the secret of such perfect order? Only one thing: They
obey the will of God exactly, revolving in the orbits laid out for them and at
the pace set for them by their Creator.
Wherever there is obedience to God, there is perfection and beauty. And
wherever there is disobedience to God, there is chaos and ugliness.
Even the stars are a mute testimony to the fact that God's commands are the
best for us, and that His commands are not burdensome.
Jesus' life bore witness to the fact that godliness alone of all things is
profitable both in this life and in the next (1 Tim. 4:8). No man can be more
happy, more peaceful or more content than a godly man. "The fear of the
Lord is a fountain of life" (Prov. 14:27); and Jesus obeyed the command to
"live in the fear of the Lord all the day long" (Prov. 23:17). God
heard His prayers, because of His godly fear (Heb. 5:7). Heaven was always open
over Jesus, because, He lived in the fear of God. "I reverence My
Father" (Jn 8:49-Amplified), He once said. And He demonstrated by His life
the truth of the Word that says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of
wisdom" (Prov. 9:10.)
Jesus' prayers were heard, not automatically because He was the Son of God,
but because of His godly fear (Heb. 5:7). He was anointed with the joy and the
authority of the Holy Spirit - "the oil of gladness" - not
automatically because of His being God's Son, but because He loved
righteousness and hated sin (Heb. 1:9). God can commit Himself only to a man
who is morally pure. This is the secret of spiritual authority.
The religious world of Jesus' day, however, did not share God's view of the
holiness of Jesus. Jesus' holiness provoked their hatred, because He pointed
out their sin fearlessly (Jn. 7:7). And so Jesus suffered hostility, rejection,
hatred, criticism, excommunication by Jewish religious leaders and finally
death itself - all because He preached holiness. They would not have crucified
Him if He had merely lived a holy life. But He denounced their hypocrisy and
exposed their sin through His preaching. Therefore they were determined to
Jesus said, "Their sentence is based on this fact: that the Light from
heaven came into the world, but they loved the darkness more than the Light,
for their deeds were evil. They hated the heavenly Light because they wanted to
sin in the darkness. They stayed away from that Light for fear their sins would
be exposed" (Jn. 3:19,20-Living).
The `Christian' religious world of today is just the same; and the disciple
is not above his Master. Walking in holiness will not bring us the acclaim of
lukewarm Christendom. "All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will
be persecuted" - in any country and in any age (2 Tim. 3:12); and that
persecution will come primarily from the religious world, as in the case of
If any man will follow the Lord, let him sit
down first and count the cost, and then let him "go forth to Him, outside
the camp, bearing His reproach" (Heb. 13:13).
LIVING IN LOVE
We have seen that God is both Light and Love. The glory of God was seen in
the Lord Jesus, full of Light as well as of Love. Light and Love are
inseparable. True holiness is full of love and true love is perfectly pure.
They are distinguished here only for purposes of our own understanding.
If one claims to have holiness but does not manifest divine love, then what
he has is not genuine holiness but Pharisaical `righteousness.' Those on the
other hand, who claim to have great love for everybody but who don't live in
purity and righteousness, are also deceived into mistaking their wishy-washy
sentimentality for divine love.
The Pharisees had a `righteousness' that was starchy and dry. They were like
bony skeletons - hard and repulsive. They had some truth, but all warped and
out of proportion.
Jesus had all the truth. He stood for every jot and tittle of the law of God
more than the Pharisees did. But He was not just bones. The bones were covered
over with flesh, as God intended human beings to be - the Light was enveloped
by Love. He spoke the truth, but He spoke it in love (Eph. 4:15). His words had
authority, but they were gracious too (Lk. 4:22,36).
This is the nature that the Holy Spirit desires to communicate to us and to
manifest through us.
God IS Love. It is not that He just acts lovingly. He IS in His very essence
LOVE. The glory of God as seen in Jesus, manifests this clearly. Jesus did not
just perform acts of love. He went about "doing good" (Acts 10:38).
But that was because the love of God flooded His whole being.
Love has its origin, like holiness and humility, in our inner man. It is
from the innermost being of the Spirit-filled man that the rivers of life flow
(Jn. 7:38,39). Our thoughts and attitudes (even if never expressed) give an
odour to our words and actions and to our personality. And others can easily
detect this odour. Words and acts of love count for nothing, if our thoughts
and attitudes to others remain selfish and critical. God desires "truth in
the innermost being" (Psa. 51:6).
Jesus placed a high value on all human beings and therefore respected all
men. It is easy to respect the godly and the cultured and the intelligent. We
can even think that we have attained to great heights when we love all our
fellow-believers in Christ. But the glory of God was seen in Jesus' love for
all men. Jesus never despised anyone for his poverty, ignorance, ugliness or
lack of culture. He specifically stated that the whole world and all that it
contained was not as valuable as one human soul (Mk. 8:36). That was how He
valued men. And so He delighted in all men. He saw men deceived and bound by
Satan; and He longed to set them free.
So great was this longing born of love, that He was willing to pay the
ultimate price to free men from sin's grip over their lives. And because He was
willing to die for men to save them from their sins, He earned the right to
preach against sin forcefully. We have no right to preach against sin, if
either we have not judged that sin in our own flesh and overcome, or if we are
unwilling to die (if need be) to save others from the sin that we preach
against. This is what it means to "speak the truth in love" (Eph.
It is the warmth of love in the words that we speak that produces fruit for
the glory of God in others. Although there is plenty of light at the North and
South Poles, nothing grows there, because of the lack of warmth.
Jesus saw clearly the relative value of people and material things. He knew
that people had been made to be loved, and things to be used. Due to the
perverting influence of sin, that order has been reversed in the world, and
things are loved and people used (for one's own ends).
Jesus saw that people were far more important than things. He loved men so
greatly that He identified completely with them, and made them feel wanted. He
shared their burdens and had words of kindness for the downtrodden, and words
of encouragement for those defeated in life's battles. Never would He consider
any human being as worthless. They may be crude or coarse, but they were still
people who needed to be redeemed.
Things, on the other hand, mattered nothing at all to Him. Material things
have no value at all unless they are used for the benefit of others. One can
imagine that if a neighbour's child walked into Jesus' carpenter-shop and broke
something expensive, it would not have disturbed Jesus in any way, because the
child was far more valuable and important than the thing broken. He loved
people, not things. Things were to be used to help people.
The Holy Spirit renews our mind so that we might "see things as it were
from God's point of view" (Col. 1:9-Phillips). To love a person is to see
him as God sees him - with compassion.
God rejoices over His people with singing (Zeph. 3:17). And since Jesus was
filled with the Spirit of God, He shared His Father's joy over His children. So
too will it be with all whose minds are renewed to look at people from God's
point of view. The thoughts that Jesus thought of other people were always and
consistently thoughts of love - never thoughts of criticism for their
awkwardness or their crudeness. People were therefore able to detect the sweet
fragrance of His spirit, "and the common people heard Him gladly"
(Mk.12:37-KJV). This is the love that God floods our heart with when we are
filled with the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5).
Jesus was constantly moved with compassion towards the sick, the needy, the
hungry and the shepherdless. He made their misery His, and thus was able to
comfort them. We can comfort the misery of others only in the measure in which
we have identified ourselves with it. Jesus was sensitive to the unspoken needs
of others, because He used His imagination to put Himself in their situations
and thus was able to understand their problems. He was greatly grieved once,
when He saw men so hardhearted that they did not have any compassion for a
needy man (Mk. 3:5).
In His relationships with men, Jesus constantly died to Himself. He was
never offended by anything that anyone did or said to Him. Nor was He ever
offended by the failure of others to do something for Him, for He never
expected anything from others. He did not come to be served but to serve.
Because He bore the cross daily, Jesus was never irritated with anyone,
however crude or stupid he might be. The slowness of others never got on His
nerves, nor did untidiness, disorderliness and carelessness in others, ever
make Him impatient. The perfect man can easily bear with imperfect people. Only
imperfect people find the imperfection of others to be intolerable! Patience is
one of the greatest manifestations of our love for others.
Consider the glory of Jesus' love, in His speech.
Jesus never belittled others or passed remarks or jokes about them that hurt
them. He never made any subtle wounding statements. He never discussed the
shortcomings of His disciples behind their backs. It is truly amazing that in
three years, He never exposed Judas before the other eleven disciples - for
even at the last supper, the eleven could not guess who was going to betray
Jesus used His tongue to encourage and admonish others, thereby making His
tongue an instrument of life in God's Hand. He used His tongue to speak
soothing words to the weary (Isa. 50:4), and also as a sword to cut down the
proud and the haughty (Isa. 49:2).
How greatly encouraged the Roman centurion and the Syrophenician woman must
have felt when they heard Jesus praise them for their faith, publicly (Mt.
8:10; 15:28). The sinful woman who was praised for her love (Lk. 7:47) and Mary
of Bethany who was praised for her sacrificial offering (Mk. 14:6) would never
have forgotten the words of Jesus.
How strengthened Peter must have been through Jesus' assurance that He would
pray for him (Lk. 22:32). Just a few words, but what strength and encouragement
Many others must have heard words from Jesus' lips that lifted their weary
spirits, for it says in Isaiah 50:4 that Jesus listened daily to His Father's
voice so that He might have an appropriate word for the weary souls that came
across His path each day.
The righteousness of Jesus was not one that gave Him a gloomy appearance.
No. He was anointed with the oil of gladness (Heb. 1:9). He had such
overflowing joy on the eve of His crucifixion, that He could say to His
apostles, ".....that my joy may be in you" (Jn. 15:11). He went
everywhere spreading that joy to joyless, dreary souls.
He was gentle with all men, never breaking a battered reed or quenching a
dimly burning wick, (Mt. 12:20). He saw the good points in weak, sinful people
and hoped for the best in everyone. He was the sort of person one longed to be
with, for He was understanding, kind and gentle. Only the proud and those with
secret sin avoided Him.
The love of Jesus was not sentimental. It sought the highest good of others.
And so He did not hesitate to give a word of admonition where He saw that there
was need for such a word. He rebuked Peter for trying to turn Him away from the
cross - and that too with such strong words as, "Get behind Me,
Satan" (Mt. 16:23).
He rebuked James and John for seeking places of honour and for wanting to
take revenge on the Samaritans (Mt. 20:22,23; Lk. 9:55). And He rebuked His
disciples seven times for their unbelief.
Jesus was never afraid of speaking the truth, even if it hurt others, for
His heart was filled with love for them. He was not concerned whether His
reputation for kindness would be lost by speaking strong words. He loved others
more than Himself and so He was willing to sacrifice His reputation in order to
help them. Therefore He spoke the truth firmly, lest men be ruined eternally.
The eternal welfare of men mattered far more to Him than their opinions of Him.
Peter described the ministry of Jesus as "going about doing good"
(Acts 10:38). Truly, this summed up His life. He was not just a good preacher,
nor was He just interested in winning souls. He loved the total man, and did
good wherever He went, both to the bodies and the souls of men.
His enemies, taunting Him, called Him, "a friend of tax-collectors and
sinners" (Lk. 7:34), and that was exactly what He was, a friend of the
most despised people in society.
It is not natural for man to go around doing good and befriending the
outcasts of society. Even when this is done, it is often done with self-centred
motives. But Jesus' love for the outcasts and friendless was selfless and pure.
We cannot manifest the nature of Christ by cultural refinement, but only by
dying to that which is natural, and receiving that which is divine from the
The love of Jesus enabled Him to serve His disciples joyfully, and to do
dirty jobs for them - like washing their feet. This was not done to impress
them with His humility, but was the natural outflow of His love for them.
Human goodness and love invariably have some ulterior motive, such as
seeking honour or some other selfish reason. It is corrupt at its source. It is
divine love alone that is uncorrupted. Jesus did not do good with any thought
of personal gain. His goodness was a manifestation of the nature of His Father
Who "gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good and sends rain on
the just and the unjust too" (Mt. 5:45-Living).
God's nature is to do good and to give and give and give. That is as natural
to Him as it is for the sun to shine. This was the glory manifested in the life
of Jesus. He constantly did good, served others, helped others and gave
whatever He could to others.
The words in John 13:29 indicate what the disciples had seen of Jesus' use
of money throughout His public ministry. They had seen that Jesus used money for
two purposes alone: To buy what was needed AND to give to the poor.
Jesus had taught His disciples that "it is more blessed to give than to
receive" (Acts 20:35), and demonstrated by His life that the happiest and
most blessed life that a man can live on this earth is one lived totally for
God and for others, where he gives himself and his possessions to bless others.
Jesus wept and prayed for those to whom He preached. He wept over Jerusalem,
when they would not receive the Word of God. He had wept for the hypocrites in
the temple, before going in to use the whip to drive them out (Lk.19:41,45).
Only he who weeps is qualified to use the whip.
No man on earth ever had a more important job to fulfil than Jesus. No man
ever packed more useful labour into 3 years of public ministry. Truly, He must
have been busy day and night. Yet wonder of wonders, He never appointed a
secretary to regulate the access of people to Him! When His disciples tried to
act as secretaries for Him, He rebuked them (Mk. 10:13-15).
He made Himself freely accessible to all people at all times, though He had
a miracle-ministry far exceeding any man's (which fact alone would have made
many people make demands on His time).
His relatives thought that He was out of His mind to allow such a situation
where He would even ignore eating, in order to have time to minister to people
in need (Mk. 3:20,21).
People knew that Jesus was freely approachable. That was why Nicodemus felt
free to visit Jesus late at night, after Jesus had finished a busy day of
preaching. Nicodemus knew full well that he would be most welcome. Jesus gave
that impression to people - that they were welcome to come to Him for help, day
The sick were brought to Him one day after sunset - a great number of them -
and Jesus laid His hands on everyone of them (Lk. 4:40). That must have taken
Him many hours. But He did not try to shorten the process by praying a mass
prayer for them. He was interested in each one of them and wanted to give them
individual attention. The fact that He was going to thereby miss His dinner and
many hours of His sleep did not matter to Him.
Jesus did not consider His time His own. He gave Himself to people wholly.
People in need could feed on Him, His time, His possessions, His everything
(Isa. 58:10). He was willing to be inconvenienced, and He was never upset when
inconvenienced, or when people intruded into His privacy.
The mighty supernatural gifts of the Spirit that were manifested through Him
blessed the people, because the power of God in Him was insulated with God's
love and compassion. Miracles without love and compassion can bring spiritual
death, like an uninsulated electric wire.
The love and concern of Jesus extended to His relatives according to the
flesh, too. He did not have that warped idea of "the Lord's work"
that the Pharisees had, who encouraged people who had gone into "full-time
ministry" to disregard their needy parents, because they had to "love
God more than their parents" (Mk. 7:10-13). On the cross, as Jesus was
dying, He was thoughtful enough to make provision for His mother's future (Jn.
Jesus lived so utterly for God and for others that, even when dying, He
found time to lead a thief to salvation. Hanging there on the cross, He was
unmindful of His own sufferings and of the jeering and hatred of others, and
was more concerned that those who crucified Him should have their sin forgiven
Jesus always overcame evil with good. The
floods of the hatred of others could not quench the flaming fire of His love
(Song 8:7). This is the love that He gives us by His Spirit whereby we can love
one another even as He loved us (Jn. 13:34,35; Rom. 5:5). Thus we too shall
manifest the divine nature.
LIVING IN THE SPIRIT
In the last three chapters, we have seen the way Jesus lived on earth - in
humility, holiness and love.
The danger now is to think that we can imitate Jesus in these areas and thus
become like Him. The glory of God is to be manifested through us, not through
an imitation of Jesus, but through our partaking of the divine nature.
Many non-Christians in the history of the world, who have had an admiration
for Jesus, have tried to imitate His humility, purity and love, and have done a
fairly good job of it. But it is like the painted fire, that gives no warmth.
Imitation diamonds can look so much like the real gems, that only an expert
can detect the difference. But they are only pieces of glass, worthless in
comparison. And man is an expert at imitation - even in the realm of imitating
How then are we to escape deception? How are we to know whether we are
merely imitating Jesus or actually partaking of the divine nature?
There is only one way, and that is by allowing the Holy Spirit to use the
Word to expose and separate the soulish from the spiritual in our lives (Heb.
4:17). If we do not distinguish between the soulish and the spiritual we can be
utterly deceived and not even know that we are deceived.
What believers need to understand most of all in our day, is how the power
of their mind, emotions and will can hinder the working of the Holy Spirit.
Where we do not distinguish between soulish and spiritual activity, not only is
there the possibility of our being deceived by our own hearts, but also by evil
spirits, who counterfeit the work of God.
Most believers are totally ignorant about the difference between soulish and
spiritual activity, because they have not developed in their spiritual lives to
the point where further progress becomes dependent on differentiating between
the soulish and the spiritual.
A 9th-standard student may not know the difference between differential
calculus and integral calculus (and probably considers them both to be the
same), because he has not advanced far enough in his study of mathematics, to
the point where further progress is dependent on distinguishing between these
two forms of calculus.
If you are content with being considered upright and kind and gentle and
compassionate by man, then you will not go beyond being a `soulish' Christian,
and beyond a mere imitation of Jesus.
Paul divides Christians into three categories:
(i) the spiritual man (1 Cor. 3:1);
(ii) the soulish man (1 Cor. 2:14-literal translation); and
(iii) the carnal man (1 Cor. 3:1).
This corresponds to the threefold division of man's being, mentioned in 1
Thessalonians 5:23 - spirit, soul and body.
When we are ruled by the desires of the body, we are carnal. But we can
overcome those desires and yet be only soulish - ruled by the desires of the
mind and the emotions. The spiritual man is the one who is ruled by the Holy
Spirit and whose soul and body are under the Spirit's control.
Although the soulish man may not necessarily be "hostile towards
God" as the carnal man is (Rom.8:7), he still cannot receive or understand
spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14), for they are foolishness to him. Even the
distinction between soul and spirit when presented to him will appear as
foolishness and unnecessary splitting of hairs, because he is soulish and is
content with being soulish, for he has a good testimony before men. He who
seeks the honour of men can never advance beyond being soulish.
In these days of large-scale deception in the Christian church, with
multitudes of voices and manifestations, all claiming to be from God, it is
essential, as never before, that we distinguish between soulish and spiritual
activity, if we are to keep ourselves from the wiles of the evil one.
"The first man Adam, became a living soul. The last Adam became a
life-giving spirit" (1 Cor. 15:45).
We who have been delivered from the headship of the first Adam and
transferred to the headship of Christ (the last Adam), need to understand what
it means to cease living from the soul and to live in the Spirit.
It is not enough that the carnal element of our flesh be rendered inactive.
The soulish element, though less ugly, is just as dangerous to spiritual
growth, and must be dealt with too. We must seek to be saved increasingly each
day, not only from the power of sin but also from the restless activity of our
Soulish people will never be able to understand why Jesus spoke as He did on
certain occasions. Once, when He was in the midst of a crowd and was told that
His relatives wanted to meet Him, Jesus pointed to His disciples and said that
they were His closest relatives (Mt.12:49,50).
His relatives and others must have considered that to be a hard and
inconsiderate statement. But Jesus did not desire to have any soulish
attachment to His relatives.
His disciples too could not have understood why Jesus had to be so hard in
His rebuke of Peter, when He said to him, "Get behind me, Satan."
Soulish people can never make such statements, for they are always wondering
what others will think of them.
We may have overcome the sins of the flesh. But the question that comes to
us now is whether we are going to live by the resources of our human, soulish
life, in seeking to be like Jesus, or by the power of the divine life.
Are we going to be made perfect by our own abilities or by the Holy Spirit
Soulishness is a hindrance to spiritual growth. When Peter tried to turn
Jesus away from the cross, he was doing so with intense human love for Christ.
But Jesus identified it with the voice of the Devil. He said to Peter,
"You are minding what partakes not of the nature of God (spiritual) but of
men (soulish)" (Mt. 16:23-Amplified). The soulish Christian is one whose
way of thinking is still governed by the `life of Adam.' There may be intense
human love and even a desire for righteousness, but it is not divine.
When God made man, He made him spirit, soul and body (1 Thess.5:23). Man was
made to be the temple of God. And when God gave Moses the pattern of the
tabernacle, the same threefold division was seen in it - for it symbolised man
as the dwelling-place of God.
The tabernacle had three parts. One part was open - the outer court - and
this corresponded to man's body, which can be seen. The other two parts - the
Holy Place and the Most Holy Place - were covered; and these corresponded to
the invisible part of man - soul and spirit respectively.
The presence of God was in the Most Holy Place. From there He talked with
man. In regeneration, it is our spirit that the Holy Spirit makes alive, making
us one spirit with the Lord (1 Cor.6:17) - even as a husband and wife become
one flesh. God's intention in this is that through His Holy Spirit He might now
rule over our redeemed soul and body. If we see this and submit to God in this
His purpose for us, we can become spiritual men.
Man's soul consists of his mind (thinking faculty), his emotions (feeling
faculty) and his will (deciding faculty). He cannot contact God with any of
these, just as He cannot touch God with his body, for God is Spirit (Jn.4:24).
As the material world can be touched only with the body, so too the
spiritual world can be contacted only through the spirit. If we do not
distinguish between soul and spirit, we can be deceived by the counterfeits of
Satan in the soulish realm that masquerade as the work of the Holy Spirit.
With our soul by itself, we cannot know God. A clever mind has no advantage
over a dull mind when it comes to knowing God, for the capacity of a man's soul
gives him no advantage when it comes to what has to be received in his spirit.
The spirit and soul are totally different. So, to try to know God through one's
soul is as foolish as trying to see through one's ear!
Consider how we study the Scriptures. We use our body (eyes) and our soul
(mind) when we read God's Word. But our spirit can still be dark as midnight,
if the Holy Spirit does not grant revelation on the meaning of the Word.
Bible-knowledge only proves that you have a good mind - a powerful soul. Your
spirit can still be blind. God hides His truth from the clever and the intelligent,
and reveals them to the humble (Mt. 11:25). The blindness of the theologians of
Jesus day is the clearest proof of this (1 Cor. 2:7,8).
Our emotions also are a part of the soul. God cannot be felt by the
emotions. Emotional exuberance is not spirituality, but merely the excitement
of the soul. It can exist side by side with the deepest sin in an individual,
even as intellectual sharpness can co-exist with sin.
The prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel were highly emotional, shouting and
raving and dancing (1 Kings 18:26-29), but they were not spiritual. Such
expressions can be found in highly emotional Christian meetings too, but they
have nothing to do with true spirituality.
Judas Iscariot was probably the cleverest of the disciples, but his soul-powers
did not help him to know the truth of God. The scholars in Jerusalem also could
not understand what Simon Peter, with his lack of education, understood by
Divine revelation (Mt. 16:17).
We cannot know God by the power of the soul. The soulish Christian is the
one who attempts to do so.
The soulish Christian can appear to be humble, but he is always conscious of
his humility. True humility is unconscious of itself. The soulish Christian has
to make an effort to appear humble, whereas true humility is always spontaneous
and effortless, for it flows from within.
The soulish Christian can also appear to have a zeal for righteousness. He
can take the whip and chase people out of the church, and even thunder away
against sin, imagining himself to be a prophet. But he seeks the honour of men
for his actions. He always has one eye on the opinions of men. There can also
be a more subtle variety of soulishness, where a man may say, "I don't care
what anyone thinks about me." But the fact that he wants others to know
that he does not care for their opinions reveals his soulishness.
The soulish Christian can appear to have great compassion too. But it will
always be human and unwise. For example, a soulish Christian may, in seeking to
be loving, send regular material aid to a needy man, who may actually be a
prodigal son, being disciplined by God. Such help will actually be a hindrance
to that man's turning to God. The soulish Christian however will get a
satisfaction, imagining that he is serving God, not realising that he is
actually fulfilling the Devil's purposes by his `acts of love.'
The above are just a few examples among many possibilities. But it should
suffice to show us the desperate need of distinguishing between soulish and
Soulish fruit can look like the fruit of the Spirit, and many have been
deceived. We can be deceived ourselves.
Plastic oranges and bananas have fooled many people sitting at a dining
table. But they are only decorative and have no nutritive value. So too with
soulish imitation of the virtues of Christ.
All that has been said thus far does not mean that our soul is of no use.
God Himself created the soul of man, and He has appointed a function for it. We
do need to use our mind and our emotions, but true spirituality begins with our
humbling ourselves under God's mighty hand, and yielding our will (which is the
door to our spirit) to God utterly. It is outside this door of our will, that
Jesus stands and knocks for entrance (Rev. 3:20).
When we are willing to say as Jesus did in the days of His flesh, "Not
my will, but Thine be done," only then can we live as Jesus lived. Then
God can rule our spirit. And our soul will become the servant of the Spirit of
God. And then our body too will be brought under the control of the Holy
Spirit. Only such a man can be called `a spiritual man' or `a Spirit-filled
Conversion, being baptised in the Spirit and the exercise of spiritual gifts
do not make a man spiritual, as is amply evidenced by the example of the
Corinthian Christians. They exercised all the gifts of the Spirit, yet they
were in bondage to the sins of the flesh, and gloried in their intellectual
knowledge and their emotional raptures. They were not spiritual.
We have seen that in the tabernacle, the presence of God was in the Most
Holy Place. Between the Most Holy Place and the Holy Place hung a thick curtain
(veil). It was this that cut off the glory of God from shining through into the
Holy Place. This veil symbolised the flesh (Heb. 10:20). It is as the flesh is
crucified (the veil rent) that God's glory shines through into our whole
personality (our soul).
If we faithfully walk along the new and living way through the flesh that
Jesus has inaugurated for us, then the life of God will shine through our
personality and will be manifested through us more and more.
Then the Scripture will be fulfilled in us, which says, "The path of
the uncompromisingly righteous is like the light of dawn that shines more and
more - brighter and clearer - until it reaches its full strength and glory in
the perfect day (when Christ returns)" (Prov. 4:18-Amplified).
It is thus that the Holy Spirit transforms us from one degree of glory to
another (2 Cor. 3:18), until we become fully like Jesus on the day that He
returns (1 Jn. 3:2).
We have seen that Jesus never did His own will. In other words, He never
lived by the guidance of His mind or His emotions. He lived in the Spirit, and
His human soul was subservient to the Holy Spirit. Jesus used His mind and
emotions extensively, but always as servants of the Holy Spirit, Who was Lord
in His life. Thus the glory of God shone through Him, unhindered in all its
The Bible teaches that all our life and labour will be tested by fire, in
the day that Jesus returns to earth (1 Cor. 3:10-14). The test of fire will
determine whether our work was soulish or spiritual. We are exhorted to build
with gold, silver and jewels that can survive the fire, and not with wood, hay
and straw that will be reduced to ashes.
What does it mean to build with gold, silver and jewels?
Romans 11:36 gives us the answer. There we are told that all things are
"from God, through Him and to Him."
All creation originated in God, is upheld by His power and is meant to
glorify Him. But Satan and man have violated this law.
However, only that which originates in God, and is done in God's power, for
God's glory, is eternal. All the rest will perish, being reduced to ashes at
the fire of the judgment seat of Christ.
So, that which originates in man's soul (from man) and is done through human
power, for man's honour, is wood, hay and straw, even if it is called Christian
On the other hand, that which originates from God, and is done through His
power, for His glory, will be found to be gold, silver and jewels in the day of
The final day of testing is not going to test the quantity of our work but
the quality. The material we have used will matter more than the size of our
structure. The origin, power and motive of our labours are going to be far more
important in that day than how much we did or sacrificed.
Jesus is our Example in this matter of not living by the soul, but living in
the Spirit. He never acted on His own initiative, or through His own human
abilities or for His own glory. He did only that which originated in God, and
did that in God's power and for God's glory.
He repeatedly told His disciples, "Whoever wishes to save his soul-life
shall lose it: but whoever loses his soul-life for My sake shall find it."
These words of Jesus concerning hating (or losing) the soul-life are repeated
seven times in the four gospels (Mt. 10:39; 16:25; Mk. 8:35; Lk. 9:24; 14:26;
17:33; Jn. 12:25).
Surely this must be one of the most important things that Jesus taught if
the Holy Spirit has seen fit to repeat it seven times in the four gospels. Yet,
very few believers have understood what Jesus meant.
How are we to distinguish between the soulish and the spiritual in our
lives? The answer is: By looking unto Jesus, the Living Word, as revealed to us
by the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures, the Written Word.
We are to judge ourselves, not by the light of our own soul, but by God's
light (Psa. 36:9). And that light is found in Jesus (Jn. 8:12) and in the Word
of God (Psa. 119:105).
Jesus, the Word made flesh, says, "Learn from My example.....and you
will find rest from your soulish activity" (Mt. 11:29-Paraphrase).
We also read that "The Word of God divides and shows us what is soulish
and what is spiritual" (Heb. 4:12-Paraphrase).
And so it is to Jesus, our Example (Forerunner)
and to the Word of God as our Guide, that we are to look for light in this
area. Perfection is found in the earthly life of Jesus and in God's Word. So let
us look at these carefully.
LIVING IN THE WILL OF GOD
"From Him are all things" (Rom. 11:36)
Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven belonged to the poor in spirit (Mt.
5:3). He also said that only those who do the will of the Father would enter
that kingdom (Mt. 7:21). The kingdom of heaven is eternal, and only that which
has been done in the will of God will be found there. The poor in spirit are
those who are conscious of their human insufficiency and who therefore submit
to the will of God completely.
In this sense, Jesus was perpetually poor in spirit. He lived as God
intended man to live - in perpetual dependence on God, refusing to exercise the
powers of His mind apart from God. Consider His words:
"The Son can do nothing of (out from) Himself......I do nothing on My
own initiative, but I speak as the Father taught Me.....I have not come on My
own initiative, but He sent Me.....I did not speak on My own initiative, but
the Father Himself Who sent Me has given Me commandment, what to say and what
to speak..... The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative,
but the Father abiding in Me does His work" (Jn. 5:19,30; 8:28,42; 12:49;
Jesus never acted merely because He saw a need . He saw the need, was
concerned about it, but acted only when His Father told Him to.
He waited at least four thousand years in Heaven, while the world lay
desperately in need of a Saviour, and then came to earth when His Father sent
Him (Jn. 8:42). "When the right time came, the time God decided on, He
sent His Son" (Gal. 4:4-Living). God has appointed a right time for
everything (Eccl. 3:1). God alone knows that time, and so we won't go wrong if
we seek the Father's will in everything, as Jesus did.
And when Jesus came to earth, He did not just go around doing whatever He
felt was good. Even though His mind was perfectly pure, yet He never acted on
any bright idea that came to mind. No. He made His mind a servant of the Holy
Although He knew the Scriptures thoroughly by the age of twelve, yet He
spent the next eighteen years as a carpenter, staying with His mother, making
tables and chairs, etc., He had the very message that dying men around Him
needed, and yet He would not go out into the preaching ministry. Why? Because the
Father's time had not yet come.
Jesus was not afraid to wait.
"He who believes will not be in a hurry" (Isa. 28:16).
And when His Father's time came, He went out of His carpenter's shop and
began to preach. Often thereafter, He would say concerning some course of
action, "My hour has not yet come" (Jn. 2:4; 7:6). Everything in
Jesus' life was regulated by the timing and the will of the Father.
The need of men, by itself, never constituted the call to action for Jesus,
for that would have been acting out from Himself - out of His soul. The need of
men was to be taken into account, but it was the will of God that was to be
done. Jesus made that very clear in John 4:34,35.
The need (v.35): "Look around you! Vast fields of human souls are
ripening all around us, and are ready now for reaping....."
The principle of action (v.34): "My nourishment comes from doing the
will of God Who sent Me, and from finishing His work." (Living)
Jesus did not do the many good things that His friends suggested, because He
knew that if He listened to men and did the apparently good, He would miss the
best that His Father had for Him.
Once, when men begged Him to stay in a particular place, He said He could
not, because He had heard His Father's voice calling Him to go elsewhere.
Humanly speaking there were very good reasons for staying where He was, because
of the unusual responsiveness of the people to His message. But God's thoughts
are not as man's thoughts and God's ways are not as man's ways (Isa. 55:8).
Early that morning, Jesus had gone out alone and prayed, and He had heard His
Father's voice (Mk. 1:35-39), before He heard Peter and the others with their
suggestions. Jesus did not rely on human reasoning. He obeyed the Word which
said, "Do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge
Him and He will direct your paths" (Prov. 3:5,6). He leaned upon His
Father for guidance in every matter.
In a prophetic reference to the Lord Jesus in Isaiah 50:4, we read,
"Morning by morning, He (the Father) wakens Me and opens My understanding
to His will." That was Jesus' habit. He listened to His Father's voice
from early morning and throughout the day, and did exactly what His Father told
Him to do. He did not have discussions with men, to decide on what to do, but
had prayer-meetings with His Father. Soulish Christians plan through
discussions with men. Spiritual Christians wait to hear from God.
Jesus lived by His Father (Jn. 6:57). To Jesus, God's Word was more
important than food (Mt. 4:4). He had to receive it many times a day, straight
from the Father. Having received it, He obeyed it. Obedience too was more
important than His daily food (Jn. 4:34). Jesus, lived in dependence on the
Father. His attitude throughout the day was, "Speak, Father, I am listening."
Consider His chasing the money-changers out of the temple. There must have
been many occasions when Jesus was in the temple with the money-changers there,
when He did not chase them out. He did so, only when led to do so by His
Father. The soulish Christian would rather chase out the money-changers
perpetually or never at all. He who is led by God however, knows when, where
and how to act.
There were many good things that Jesus could have been done, that He never
did, because they were outside the scope of His Father's will for Him. He was
always busy doing the very best things. And those were enough. He had not come
to earth to do good things, but to do the will of His Father.
"Did you not know that I had to be in the things of My Father," He
asked Joseph and Mary, at the age of twelve (Lk. 2:49-Literal). Those were the
only things that He was interested in accomplishing. When He came to the end of
33-1/2 years on earth, He could say, with real satisfaction, "Father, I
have done everything YOU told Me to do" (Jn. 17:4).
He had not travelled around the world, He had not written any book, His
followers were few, there were still many unmet needs in many parts of the
world, etc., etc., But He had finished the work that the Father had appointed
for Him. That, and that alone, matters ultimately.
Jesus was a servant of the Lord Jehovah. And "the most important thing
about a servant is that he does just what his master tells him to" (1 Cor.
4:2-Living). He spent His life listening to His Father, and thus accomplished
all His Father's will, without exhaustion or frustrated `busyness.' He put His
own human interests to death. He was not soulish. He was spiritual.
Jesus gave high priority to prayer in His life. He would often slip away into
the wilderness and pray (Lk. 5:16). Once He spent a whole night in prayer to
know the Father's will concerning the choice of the twelve disciples (Lk.
6:12,13). The soulish Christian considers time spent in waiting on God, as
wasted time, and prays only to ease his conscience. Prayer is not a desperate
necessity in his life, because he is confident of himself. The spiritual man,
however is dependent on God perpetually for everything, and is thus driven, out
of sheer necessity, to prayer.
Jesus said that the one thing needful was to hear His Word (Lk. 10:42). Mary
of Bethany was an example of this. Martha, on the other hand, though busy in
unselfish service was restless and critical of Mary. In those two sisters, we
see the contrast between spiritual and soulish activity. Martha was not
committing any sin in serving the Lord and His disciples. Yet she was restless
and critical of Mary. This is a clear picture of soulish service. The soulish
Christian is restless and irritable. He has not ceased from his "own
works," and has not entered into God's rest (Heb. 4:10). His intentions
are good, but he has not realised that his own works however good they may be,
are still "filthy rags" in God's eyes, even after conversion (Isa.
The good sheep of Amalek (the flesh) are as unacceptable to God as the bad
ones (1 Sam. 15:3,9-19). But human reasoning cannot understand this. It appears
foolish to throw away the good sheep, when they could be given to God. But God
requires obedience, NOT sacrifice. "To obey is better than sacrifice"
(1 Sam. 15:22). But how can we obey if we do not hear what God has to say?
Hearing has to precede obedience. Hence Jesus said that the one thing needful
was to hear His voice. Everything else was dependent on that.
Those who `serve' like Martha, however sincere, are really only serving
themselves. They cannot be called servants of the Lord, for a servant waits to
hear what his master tells him to do, before serving.
If we are emptied of self-sufficiency, we shall pray like Solomon did,
"O Lord my God, give Thy servant a listening heart to discern between good
and evil" (1 Kings 3:7,9 margin). Jesus knew that He had to listen to His
Father, if He was to discern between what was good (in its highest sense) and
what was not good - between what was His Father's will and what was not.
Outside the Beautiful Gate of the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus often saw a
lame man begging for alms. But He did not heal him, because He had no leading
from His Father to do so. Later, after He had ascended to Heaven, Peter and
John brought healing to that man - in the Father's perfect time - and that
resulted in many people turning to the Lord (Acts 3:1-4:4). That was the
Father's time to heal that man, not earlier. Jesus would have hindered the
Father's will if He had healed that man earlier. He knew that the Father's
timing was perfect, and so He was never impatient to do anything.
Jesus' life was a life of perfect rest. He had enough time in 24 hours every
day to do all His Father's will. But if He had decided to do what appeared good
to Him, then 24 hours a day would not have been enough and he would have ended
up in unrest on most days. Jesus could rejoice in every interruption that came
to Him, because He accepted the fact that a sovereign Father in Heaven was
planning His daily schedule. And so He was never annoyed with interruptions.
The life of Jesus will bring our inner beings into perfect rest too. This does
not mean that we will do nothing, but that we will do only what is in the
Father's plan for our lives. Then we shall be more eager to finish the Father's
will than our own pre-determined programme.
Soulish Christians are so intent on doing `their own thing' that they are
frequently irritable and restless. Some of them end up having a nervous or a
physical breakdown finally.
It was impossible for Jesus to have a nervous breakdown, because He was in
perfect rest in His inner man. He says to us, "Take My yoke upon you and
learn from My example, and you too will find rest in your souls" (Mt.
11:29). This is the glory of Jesus that the Spirit of God shows us in the Word
and that He desires to impart to us and to manifest through us.
The Lord is our Shepherd and He leads His sheep into pastures of rest. Sheep
do not plan their own programme or decide which pasture to go to next. They
just follow their Shepherd. But one has to be emptied of self-confidence and
self-sufficiency to follow the Shepherd like that. Jesus meekly followed His
Father. But soulish Christians do not want to be sheep, and are therefore led
astray by their intellects. Our intellect is a marvelous and most useful gift
of God, but it can become the most dangerous of all gifts if exalted to the
place of lordship in our life.
The Lord taught His disciples to pray, "Father, Thy will be done on
earth as it is done in Heaven." How is God's will done in Heaven? The
angels there do not run around trying to do `something for God.' There would be
confusion in Heaven if they did that. What do they do? They wait in God's
presence to hear what He commands, and then do exactly what they are
individually told to do. Listen to the words of the angel Gabriel to Zacharias,
"I am Gabriel who stands in the presence of God; and I have been sent to
speak to you..." (Lk. 1:19). This is the position that the Lord Jesus took
as well - waiting in His Father's presence, hearing His voice and doing His
Soulish Christians may labour hard and sacrifice much, but the clearer light
of eternity will reveal that "they toiled all night and caught
nothing." But those who took up their cross daily (denied their soul-life
and put it to death) and obeyed the Lord, will have nets full of fish in that
day (Jn. 21:1-6).
"Anyone who lets himself be distracted from the work that I plan for
Him," said Jesus, "is not fit for the kingdom of God" (Lk. 9:62
-Living). "Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord,
that you fulfil that" (Col. 4:17).
"Every plant which our Heavenly Father did not plant will be rooted
up" (Mt. 15:13). The question is not whether the plant is good, but who
planted it. God is the only legitimate Originator of anything. The Bible begins
with the words, "In the beginning God." So must it be with all our
actions: They must have originated in God, and not in our minds, if they are to
"He who does the will of God will abide forever" (1 Jn. 2:17). All
the rest will perish.
So, let us ask ourselves this question:
AM I LIVING AND LABOURING IN THE WILL OF GOD?
LIVING BY THE POWER OF GOD
"Through Him are all things" (Rom. 11:36)
Adam was created by God with fantastic powers in his soul. He could give a
name to every animal and bird that God had made (Gen. 2:19). We find it
difficult to remember even a few of those thousands of names. Adam could give a
different name to each. That is just one indication of the power of Adam's
soul. These powers that God had given him were meant to be used in dependence
on God. But Adam chose to develop them apart from God, and after that fatal
choice in Eden, began to live by his soul.
We must know something of the difference between Holy-Spirit power and
soul-power, if we are distinguish between soulish and spiritual activity, and
escape being deceived by the counterfeits of Satan.
Consider one area, where human soul-power is being used extensively in
Christendom today - the area of healing.
Since the nineteenth century, science has begun to discover something of the
tremendous powers of the human mind. The science of hypnotism has made great
advances, and it is amazing to see what is possible through mental powers. The
principles of hypnotism are now being imported into Christianity under the
label of `the gifts of the Holy Spirit.'
This is not to despise the genuine gifts of the Spirit, which will always
lead to the building of the church and the glory of God; but rather the
counterfeits, which look so much like the genuine, but which lead to the
exaltation of human personalities and to the building up of their own kingdoms
and their financial empires!
Much of what passes for Divine healing these days at the hands of
`faith-healers' (Christian and non-Christian), is merely the using of these
powers of the human mind - convincing oneself that one is healed, even when the
symptoms are still there. Since a very high percentage of illnesses today are
psychosomatic (that is, physical diseases having a mental or emotional origin),
it is true that `positive thinking' and a changed attitude to the sickness
itself, does often produce healing in the body. But this is just a result of the
functioning of the natural laws of the body and mind. It is not supernatural
healing at all.
Jesus still heals people today miraculously, but not by such psychological
tricks. Wherever the genuine gift of healing is manifested, there will be no mental
struggle to believe - for faith is the gift of God, and is based on the
promises in His Word, and not the product of `positive thinking.'
By practising the principles of hypnotism (even unintentionally), men can
have power over others in a way that God never intended them to have. This too
can often be mistaken in Christian circles, for the authority of the Holy
Spirit, in an individual.
There are grave dangers in developing one's soul powers, apart from God. God
gave us those powers to be yielded to Him for His use.
This was how Jesus lived. He put His soul-life to death, and refused to live
by the powers of His human soul. He lived instead in entire dependence on His
Father and sought for the power of the Holy Spirit constantly both for His life
and His ministry.
We have already seen that He frequently withdrew into the wilderness to pray
(Lk. 5:16). During His last days, before the crucifixion, He would teach in the
temple during the day and retire to the Mount of Olives during the night - no
doubt to have extended times of undisturbed prayer (Lk. 21:37,38).
To live by faith is to live in such perpetual dependence on the Father.
Only that which is done through God's power is eternal. All else will
perish. The Bible compares the man who lives in dependence on God to a tree
that draws its sustenance from an underground river (Jer. 17:5-8). That is how
Jesus lived - perpetually drawing His spiritual resources, as a man, from the
Holy Spirit (the river of God).
Jesus' victory over temptation, was not through human determination, but
because He drew strength from the Father, moment-by-moment. The way of
self-denial as exemplified and taught by Jesus is not one where the soul
attempts to master itself. No. That is Buddhism, and yoga, and is as different
from the teaching of Scripture as earth is from heaven.
Jesus taught that as human beings we do not have the power to live and serve
God as we should. He said that we were like helpless branches entirely
dependent on the sap supplied by the tree for fruitfulness. "Apart from
Me," He said, "you can do nothing" (Jn. 15:5). And so, what we
do manage to do, without the help of the Holy Spirit can be considered to be
Herein lies the vital necessity to be "filled with the Spirit
continuously" (Eph. 5:18).
Jesus Himself was filled and anointed with the Holy Spirit (Lk. 4:1,18), and
He lived and laboured for His Father in the Spirit's power. But this was
possible, only because as a man, He was poor in spirit.
Jesus was conscious of the weakness of the human frame that He had taken on.
Therefore He was perpetually looking for opportunities to get alone and pray.
Someone has said that, as tourists look for good hotels and for important
sights to be seen, when they enter a city, so Jesus looked for solitary places
where He could pray.
He sought for power to overcome temptation and put His soul-power to death.
No man was as conscious as Jesus was, of the utter weakness of the flesh, and
so He sought the Father's face in prayer for help, as no man ever did. He
prayed with "loud crying and tears" in the days of His flesh. The
result was that He was mightily strengthened by the Father, much more than any
other man. Thus, Jesus never once sinned and never lived out from His soul
(Heb. 4:15; 5:7-9).
Isn't it significant that 25 times in the gospels, the words
"pray" or "prayer" are used in connection with Jesus?
Therein lay the secret of His life and His labours.
Jesus not only prayed before the great events of His life, but also after
some of His great achievements. After feeding the five thousand miraculously,
He withdrew into the mountains to pray. This was no doubt to guard against
temptations to pride or complacency over the work accomplished, and to renew
His strength by waiting on His Father (Isa. 40:31). We usually pray only before
we have some important task to do for the Lord. But if we would develop the
habit that Jesus had, of waiting before the Father after we have finished our
task, we would preserve ourselves from pride and thus be equipped to do greater
things for the Lord.
The busier Jesus' life became, the more He prayed. There were times when He
did not have time to eat or even to rest (Mk.3:20; 6:31,33,46), but He always
took time to pray. He knew when to sleep and when to pray, for He obeyed the
promptings of the Spirit.
Poverty of spirit is a prerequisite for effective prayer. Prayer is the
expression of human helplessness, and if it is to be meaningful and not a mere
ritual, there must be a constant recognition of the inadequacy of human resources
either to live the Christian life or to serve God.
Jesus continuously sought for the power of God in prayer, and was never
disappointed. Thus He accomplished things through prayer, that even He could
not have accomplished in any other way.
The one who is strong in self-confidence will continue to depend on
"the arm of flesh" for victory over sin. Such a person has to be
broken, before he can know the power of God unto victory. And so God permits
him to be repeatedly defeated, month after month, till he comes to a
`zero-point' and acknowledges His impotence. Then God pours out on him the
Spirit of grace and leads him into a life of victory, and the glory of God
begins to be manifested through His life.
It is when we become weak that we are truly strong (2 Cor. 12:10).
Abraham produced Ishmael in the power of his natural strength, but God would
not accept Ishmael, and asked Abraham to send him away. (Gen. 17:18-21;
21:10-14). At the judgment-seat of Christ, when we present our well-meant
efforts, produced through our human abilities without dependence on God, He
will tell us too that they are unacceptable. All of that wood, hay and straw
will then be reduced to ashes.
Only that which was done "through God" will remain.
When Abraham came to the place of impotence - when his, natural ability to
produce children had ceased - then Isaac was born, through divine power, and
this son was acceptable to God.
One Isaac is worth more than a thousand Ishmaels, as far as God is
concerned. One gram of gold is worth more than a kilogram of wood - after the
fire has tested them both. A little done in the power of the Holy Spirit is
worth far more than much done in our own strength.
Our good works and our own efforts to serve the Lord will always be filthy
rags both before and after conversion. But that righteousness which is produced
by faith, and that service which has been done in dependence on the Holy Spirit
- will form our wedding garment on the day of the marriage of the Lamb (Rev.
19:8). What a difference - either filthy rags or a beautiful wedding dress! It
all depends on whether our life is lived in our own soul-power or the power of
Jesus depended on the power of the Spirit for His ministry too. He did not
dare to go into the preaching ministry without first being anointed by the Holy
Spirit. For thirty years He had already lived in perfect holiness through the
power of the Spirit, so that the Father could testify, "This is My beloved
Son in Whom I am well-pleased" (Mt. 3:17). Yet He needed to be anointed by
the Spirit for service. And so He prayed to be anointed, and He was (Lk. 3:21).
And because He loved righteousness and hated sin more than any man that ever
lived, He was anointed more abundantly than any other man (Heb. 1:9). As a
result, people were delivered from the captivity of Satan, through His
ministry. This was the chief purpose and the primary manifestation of the
anointing (See Lk. 4:18 and Acts 10:38).
God's work is not done through human talents and abilities. Men who are
highly gifted naturally, when converted, often think that they can now use
their intellectual and emotional powers to influence others for God.
Many Christians even mistake their eloquence, logic and clarity of utterance
for the power of the Holy Spirit. But these are only the powers of the soul,
and they will be a hindrance in the service of God, if any dependence is placed
on them. Work done through human soul-power can never be eternal. It will
perish, if not in time, then at the judgment seat of Christ.
Jesus did not depend on the power of eloquence or of emotion to move people
towards God. He knew that any work done through such soul-power would only
reach the souls of His audience, and never help them spiritually. He did not,
for the same reason, use musical entertainment of any sort to draw people to
He did not play on the feelings of His audiences and work them up to
feverish excitement to get them to surrender to God. In fact, He used none of
these and other soulish methods that are so common with evangelists and
preachers today. He did not use emotional passion and soulish fervour to
influence people. These are the methods of the politician and the salesman, and
He was neither of the two.
As the Servant of Jehovah, Jesus depended entirely on the Holy Spirit in all
His labours. The result was that those who followed Him came into a deep life
in God themselves.
Jesus did not use soul-power to manipulate others to His way of thinking. He
never imposed Himself on others. He always gave others the freedom to reject
Him, if they so chose. Soulish Christian leaders dominate their flock and their
co-workers by their strong personality. People are awed into subjection to such
leaders and adore them and obey their every word.
Multitudes may flock around such a leader, and they may even all be united,
but it is only a unity of devotion to the leader. Such leaders may even delude
themselves into thinking that what they have is the power of the Holy Spirit,
because they are not able to distinguish between soul and spirit. Their
followers are also similarly deceived. But the clear light of the judgment-seat
will reveal that it was all human soul-power and that it hindered the work of
There are political and non-Christian leaders too who have such a human
charisma about them, that they are able to draw large crowds by the power of
their personality and oratory etc.,
Jesus was no such leader. Neither should any Christian be. We should dread
to use our soul-power, for it is a violation of God's laws for man, and cannot
but be a hindrance in His service.
Soul-power may be able to produce superficial changes in others and bring
about a form of godliness in them, but there will be no deep devotion to God
nor victory over sin in their private lives.
A truly spiritual work can never be done by the power of the human soul, but
only by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus knew this; and so He constantly put
His soul-power to death. Thus He was able to do a deep and abiding work in
those who followed Him in a very short time.
He never imposed His personality on others, never domineered over anyone,
and never awed people by His language or His intellectual powers. He did not
seek to impress men but to help them.
Soulish Christians are more interested in impressing others than in helping
them. Soulish Christian leaders cannot build the true church, because they
unite people to themselves and not to Christ the Head.
Those who have strong soul-power have to minister the Word in fear and
trembling (as Paul did - 1 Cor. 2:1-5), lest the faith of their hearers rest in
the speaker's human wisdom rather than in the power of God.
Jesus remained at all times conscious of His human weakness. He said,
"The Son can do nothing of Himself..." (Jn. 5:19). Hence His intense
prayer-life. Therefore the Father was able to do all His works in Jesus (Jn.
It is such an attitude of dependence on God that will keep us from using
that which God has forbidden and which Jesus told us to hate - our soul-life
and its powers. Then the Holy Spirit will be able to manifest the glory of the
Lord through us.
If we live by faith (in dependence on the Lord) and our work is a work of
faith, then we shall indeed build with gold, silver and jewels.
And so, let us ask ourselves this second question:
AM I LIVING AND LABOURING BY THE POWER OF GOD?
LIVING FOR THE GLORY OF GOD
"To Him are all things" (Rom. 11:36)
God is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the
Last. And so, as all things of an eternal nature originate in Him, they find
their consummation in Him too.
All things were created by God to bring glory to Him. This is not because
God selfishly desires our glory. He is completely self-sufficient in Himself,
and there is nothing that we can offer Him that can add to His sufficiency.
When He calls us to seek His glory, it is because that is the way for our own
highest good. We would be self-centred and miserable otherwise.
To be centered in Him is a law that God has built into creation. That law can
be violated only by moral creatures with a free will. Inanimate creation
joyfully obeys its Creator and glorifies Him. But Adam disobeyed that law, and
we see the consequences in the misery of humanity.
In the prayer that the Lord taught His disciples to pray, the very first
request is, "Hallowed by Thy Name." This was the primary longing in
the heart of the Lord Jesus. He prayed "Father, glorify Thy Name,"
and chose the way of the Cross since that was to the Father's glory (Jn. 12:27,28).
One supreme passion governed the life of the Lord Jesus - the Father's glory.
Everything He did was for the Father's glory. There were no separate sacred
and secular compartments in His life. Everything was sacred. He made stools and
benches for the glory of God as much as He preached and healed the sick for the
glory of God. Every day was equally sacred to Him; and money spent on the
necessities of daily living was as sacred as money given to God's work or to
Jesus lived in perfect rest of heart at all times, because He sought only
the Father's glory and cared only for His Father's approval. He lived before
the face of His Father and did not care for the honour or praise of men.
"He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory," said Jesus (Jn.
The soulish Christian, however much he may appear or pretend to be seeking
the glory of God, is really, deep down, interested in his own honour. Jesus on
the other hand, never sought any honour for Himself.
That which originates in man's cleverness and is carried out through human
ingenuity and talents, will always end in glorifying man. That which begins in
the soul will only glorify the creature.
But there will be nothing in heaven or in earth in the ages of eternity that
will bring honour or glory to any man.
Everything that survives time and enters the portals of eternity will be
what was from God, through God and to God.
It is the motive behind an action that gives value and merit to that action,
as far as God is concerned.
What we do is important, but why we do it is far more important.
We have seen that Jesus waited on His Father to receive His plan, and also
waited on the Father for the power to carry out that plan, so that He did all
the will of His Father in the power of God. But that was not all. As we saw in
the last chapter, Jesus went to prayer after some of His greatest achievements
- to give the glory to His Father. He offered up the fruit of His labours as a
sacrificial offering to His Father. He neither sought honour for Himself, nor received
it when it was given Him (Jn. 5:41; 8:50). When His fame spread far and wide,
He retired to the mountains to glorify His Father (Lk. 5:15,16). He was
determined never to touch that glory Himself.
The result of such an attitude consistently held, was that at the end of
Jesus' life on earth, He could honestly say, "Father I have glorified You
on earth" (Jn. 17:4).
He had come to earth to glorify the Father as a man. He lived each day with
that as His aim. He prayed earnestly that the Father alone would be glorified,
whatever the cost to Him. And He finally died that the Father would be honoured
and exalted and glorified on earth as He was in heaven.
Paul says that in the day of testing by fire (1 Cor. 3:13) everyone will
know "WHY we have been doing the Lord's work" (1 Cor. 4:5-Living).
Motives will be exposed and examined by the Lord in that day.
Soulish service exalts self and draws people to ourselves instead of to God.
The crowds come to hear us and are impressed and come back to hear us again and
honour us and speak well of us. When we leave the place, they fall back to
their former spiritual condition, no better for all the preaching that they
heard. The real test of a man's labour is the condition of the people to whom
he ministered, after he himself is dead and gone. Then it will become evident
whether his service was soulish or spiritual.
All labour that draws others to ourselves will be proved to be wood, hay and
straw in the final day, for it only glorified man.
The ministry of Jesus was spiritual. The proof of that is seen in the fact
that He left behind a number (small though it be) who also became spiritual,
and not soulish. To manifest His glory, we must follow in His footsteps here.
Soulish service and living are paving the way for the arrival and the
worldwide acceptance of the antichrist - the totally soulish man. He will exalt
himself above others and will draw crowds to himself, even using miraculous
powers to do so (2 Thess. 2:3-10).
Drawing the attention of people to ourselves and to our work is therefore of
the essence of the spirit of the antichrist. To have power over the consciences
of men, so that we tell them what to do and where to go, is soulish. To give
advice to others is a spiritual thing to do but to exercise control over them
Jesus never compelled any of His followers to do anything. He respected the
freedom of choice that God had invested man with.
And so He was the servant of all men, and ministered to them instead of
ordering them around.
It is very easy to preach with the spirit of a ruler and a lord and not with
the spirit of a servant (2 Cor. 4:5). We can use our soul-power to impose our
views on others. This results in people being brought into bondage to us.
A person who is zealous and is ignorant of his own strong soul-power will
not even realise that he is winning people to himself and not to Christ. The
work of God is not done by human power or might but by the Holy Spirit. And one
mark of the Spirit's working is liberty (2 Cor.3:17) - perfect freedom given to
Consider how a servant conducts himself in a home. He serves quietly and
having done what needs to be done, withdraws into the kitchen. He does not come
in with pomp and show, neither does he tell those at the table what they should
do. How many are willing to serve the Lord like this?
As one has said, "There is only one thing that a servant has a right to
rule over, and that is over his own flesh. To the degree that he rules over his
own flesh, he can lead others forward in the spiritual life. A spiritual
servant serves only by the power that is given to him by God, and this power is
given to him only to minister to the needs of others. If however we use that
power to domineer over a person and to force him in any way, he may become
discouraged and finally go his own way. The task of a servant is to work in
such a way that souls come into a living connection with God Who works
everything - and not into a connection with himself (1 Cor. 12:6)"
Jesus so sought the glory of God that He Himself was quite prepared to pave
and prepare the way for His apostles to do something greater than He ever did,
after Him (Jn. 14:12). This greater work was, no doubt, the building of the
church, with the members therein becoming one as the Father and the Son are one
(Jn. 17:21-23). During Jesus' lifetime on earth, not even two of His disciples
had become one as the Father and the Son are one. They all sought their own.
But after the day of Pentecost, many of His disciples have become one as He
desired. This was the greater work.
Jesus paved the way for others to do a greater work. He died and laid the
foundation and His disciples built on that.
There was no self-interest in Jesus. It did not matter to Him if someone
else got the credit for what He did, provided the Father was glorified.
It is this spirit that has to animate us, if we are to minister life to the
church, the Body of Christ, today, and if we are to build it, to the fullness
of the stature of Christ.
Jesus lived so utterly and totally before the Father's face alone, that He
did not care to be vindicated before those who crucified Him, after He rose
from the dead.
In the eyes of the world and the Jewish leaders, Jesus' ministry was a total
failure. If Jesus had been soulish, He would have longed to go back and present
Himself before those leaders after His resurrection to confound them and to
vindicate Himself. But he did not do that. He presented Himself after the
resurrection, only to those who believed on Him.
The Father's time for the vindication of Jesus had not yet come - and Jesus
was prepared to wait. That time has still not come.
Jesus is still misunderstood in the world, and most people consider His life
to have been a failure. He began life (as a man), in the ignominy of a cattle
food-box and ended His life on earth in the humiliating death of the cross,
with two criminals of the worst order. And that was the last that this world
saw of Him.
Jesus was quite prepared to appear a failure before men, provided the Father
was glorified. He did not live or serve, to be admired by men, and therefore
one day the Father will vindicate Him publicly with great glory and honour; and
in that day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ
is Lord - but even that will be for the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:11).
And so the third question that we must ask ourselves is:
AM I LIVING AND LABOURING FOR THE GLORY OF GOD
THE BRIDE OF CHRIST
In the closing pages of Scripture, we find the result of the Holy Spirit's
work - the Bride of Christ. We also see there the result of Satan's counterfeit
work - the Harlot church.
John says, "I saw the HOLY CITY, THE NEW JERUSALEM, beautiful as a
BRIDE, descending from God. It was FILLED WITH THE GLORY OF GOD and glowed like
a precious gem, crystal clear like jasper" (Rev. 21:2,10,11-Living).
Before seeing this vision of the Bride of Christ, John was given a vision of
the Harlot - the spiritual adulteress, who claimed to love God but actually
loved this world (Jas. 4:4). This is spurious Christianity, having a form of
godliness (correctness of doctrine), but no power (no divine life) (2 Tim.
John says, "I saw a woman, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS,
and a voice saying "Babylon the great is fallen. See THE SMOKE OF HER
BURNING. Her smoke rose up forever and ever" (Rev. 17:3,5; 18:2,9; 19:3).
The contrast is striking. Whereas the Bride comes through the judgment fire,
"glowing like a precious gem," the Harlot is reduced to ashes
completely, her smoke ascending to the skies, because she was made of
Jerusalem the Bride, and Babylon the Harlot are two systems - one from God
and the other "earthly, soulish and demonic" (Jas. 3:15 margin).
Let us look at Babylon first.
Babylon originated with the tower of Babel, which was built according to
man's plan, in man's strength and for man's glory.
"They said to one another (FROM MAN), `Let us build for ourselves a
city (THROUGH MAN) and make for ourselves a name (TO MAN)" (Gen. 11:3,4).
Years later, King Nebuchadnezzar, having built the great city of Babylon,
capital of his great world empire, looked out one day over the city and spoke
in the same vein: "Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have
built (FROM MAN)..... by the might of my power (THROUGH MAN)..... for the glory
of my majesty (TO MAN)" (Dan. 4:30).
The tower of Babel ended in judgment. Nebuchadnezzar's boast also brought
down on him the immediate judgment of God (Dan. 4:31-33). The final end of all
that has been produced by human wisdom and human power for man's glory will
also be judgment by God. That which is done through human soul-power will
perish, even if it is called `Christian work'.
"The wide walls of Babylon shall be leveled to the ground and her high
gates shall be burned; THE BUILDERS (`Christian' workers?) FROM MANY LANDS HAVE
WORKED IN VAIN - THEIR WORK SHALL BE DESTROYED BY FIRE" (Jer.
Jerusalem, on the other hand, is the City of God (Heb. 12:22). In the Old
Testament this was where the Temple of God was. Jerusalem, God's dwelling
place, had her origin in the Tabernacle, built by Moses (Exod. 25:8).
The Tabernacle was built exactly according to God's plan:
".....according to all that the Lord commanded" (Exod. 40:16)
It was built by men endued with the power of God:
"Bezalel...I have filled him with the Spirit of God..." (Exod.
31:1-5) (THROUGH GOD).
It was built for the glory of God:
"The glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle" (Exod. 40:34) (TO
That which originates in God and is done through Divine power for the glory
of God alone will remain forever. It will come through the fire, glowing like a
gem, because it is built of gold, silver and jewels.
As we compare the opening pages of Scriptures with its closing pages, we
find that the two trees (the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and
evil) have produced two systems, by the end of time - Jerusalem and Babylon.
That which is truly born of the Spirit - from God, through God and to God -
remains for ever; whereas that which was born of the flesh - from man, through
man and to man - perishes.
Today, we are living between the pages of Genesis and Revelation. And whether
we realise it or not, we are being caught up in one of these two systems - one
determined to exalt and glorify God, and the other out to glorify and exalt
man; one following Christ and the other following Adam; one living in the
Spirit and the other living in the flesh and the soul.
Both Jesus and Adam heard the voice of God - the difference was only in the
fact that one obeyed and the other disobeyed. So too, Jesus said, it would be
with those who hear His voice - one would obey and build on the rock,
unshakable for eternity, while another would hear but not obey and thus build
on the sand, ultimately to perish (Mt. 7:24-27).
These two houses that Jesus spoke of are Jerusalem and Babylon.
There are those today who are truly justified by faith and enter into the
new covenant, sealed by the blood of Jesus, and follow Jesus in a life of
obedience to God's will (particularly as described in Matt. 5 to 7), who build
on the rock and have a part in Jerusalem. One has only to read Matthew 5 to 7
to discover whether he belongs to this company or not.
Equally there are others (and this is by far the majority), who hear the
words of Jesus in Matthew 5 to 7, but having a false understanding of
justification, faith and grace, live in a false security, not caring to obey
the words of Jesus, and thus build on sand - Babylon - finally perishing
These are `Christians' in their own eyes, for Jesus said that the man who
built on sand was one who heard His voice, and therefore obviously, not a
heathen, but one who read the Bible and went to `church.' His only problem was
that he did not obey and therefore could not partake of eternal salvation
promised to all who obey Jesus (Heb. 5:9). His faith was not genuine, for it
did not have works of obedience to perfect it (Jas. 2:22,26).
Those under the headship of Adam follow their head in disobedience to God's
revealed will, but are persuaded by Satan that they "will not die"
(Gen. 3:4), because they claim to have `accepted Christ.' Thus they live in
false security in Babylon.
Equally, those under the headship of Christ are identified by the fact that
they "walk as Jesus walked" (1 Jn. 2:6) in obedience to God's will.
These are the brothers and sisters of Christ (Mt. 12:50), and are a part of
The interesting thing about the parable that Jesus spoke at the end of
Matthew 5 to 7, is that both the wise man's house and the foolish man's house
stood for some time, as both Babylon and Jerusalem stand today - until the
rains and the flood came. While the foolish man was only concerned about the
external appearance of the house (the testimony before men), the wise man was
more concerned about the foundation (the hidden life in the heart, before the
face of God) primarily.
But when the floods and the rains came (the judgment of God), it was the
foundation that was tested first.
"For the time has come for judgment to begin with God's household; and
if it starts with us, what will be the destiny of those who disobey the good
news from God? And if the righteous person is saved with difficulty, what
chance have the impious and sinful?" (1 Pet. 4:17,18-Berkeley).
"Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of
heaven; but he who does the will of my Father, who is in heaven. Many will say
to Me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your Name, and in Your
Name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, `I never knew you
(for "no one who sins knows Him"- 1 Jn. 3:6).Depart from Me, you who
practise lawlessness (disobey God)'" (Mt. 7:21-23).
Notice here that there will be many who are Christians in their minds
(calling Jesus "Lord") and in their emotions (calling Jesus
"Lord, Lord!"), who yet do not yield their wills to do the will of
God in their lives. The Lord rejects them as unknown to Him.
The distinctive feature of Jerusalem is holiness. It is called "the
HOLY City" (Rev. 21:2). Babylon however, stands out for its greatness. It
is called "the GREAT city" (Rev. 18:10). It is called
"great", eleven times in Revelation.
Those who live in true holiness, in obedience to God and have partaken of
the nature of Christ by grace through faith, are built together into Jerusalem;
whereas those who are looking for greatness here on earth (the testimony and
the honour of men) are built into Babylon.
For nineteen hundred years, the call has been coming to God's people,
"Come out of her (Babylon) MY PEOPLE; do not take part in her sins, or you
will be punished with her" (Rev. 18:4-Living).
The call is even more urgent today, as we approach the end of the age. It is
truly unfortunate that even God's people can be mixed up with Babylon and thus
share her punishment - if they do not take heed to this call of God which is so
clear. Having held on to an evangelical doctrine, or having made a `decision
for Christ' will not help anyone in that day, if they have not lived a life
that corresponds to the true doctrine, or brought forth works of obedience that
are the identifying marks of a genuine faith.
How intense was God's desire when He made man in His own image that man
should partake of the divine nature and manifest His glory.
And when man fell, how great a price God was willing to pay, "sending
His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and as an offering for sin,
condemning sin in the flesh" (Rom.8:3), so that a Way might be made
whereby man might be restored and brought back to the place where he could once
again fulfil the divine purpose.
The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all together involved in this work of
redeeming man and transforming him. And although, many men and women in their
foolishness will not respond to God, yet the divine purpose will be fulfilled
in a remnant (the few who find the narrow way to life), who submit to God, like
Jesus did, and through whom the glory of God will be manifested, not only here
in time, but also in the ages of eternity, when God will show forth through
them, the surpassing riches of His grace that they were made partakers of
through Christ Jesus.
To Him be all the glory, now and forever.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Copyright -Zac Poonen (1977)
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