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The School of Christ by T. Austin-Sparks

T. Austin-Sparks, one of the most influential voices, in regards to The Eternal Purpose of God, and living by the indwelling life of Jesus Christ, has a series available called The School of Christ.  It is one of the deepest looks into pursuing Jesus Christ I’ve ever read.  I hope you enjoy!

Chapter 1: The Foundation of Spiritual Education

Chapter 2: Learning The Truth

Chapter 3: Learning by Revelation

Chapter 4: The House of God

Chapter 5: The Light of Life

Chapter 6: An Open Heaven

Chapter 7: Learning Under the Anointing

Chapter 8: The Governing Law of Divine Love

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The Lord Told Me To Share This

Ok, so…The Lord didn’t really tell me to share this message or that message with you today.  But I wonder, did you feel the weight behind the title of this post? Did “The Lord Told Me…” give you an added thought, burden, or draw to read this post?  If so, this is the exact reason I’m writing this post.

A brother in the Lord once encouraged us to use caution and discernment when people seek to add authority or power to what they say by prefacing their statements with phrases like “The Lord told me,” “God wants me to tell you,” “The Lord gave this to me for you,”or something similar.  When someone speaks using these types of phrases it is typically out of a desire to speak a word with authority.  But the simple truth is that authority may or may not be present in the words they are speaking.  In speaking a word to people, to declare, “Thus sayeth the Lord,” in such a way actually puts those who hear what is being said in a difficult position.  It puts them in a position, by their response to what was spoken, of having to choose between either validating what the person said to be ‘the word of the Lord’ for them, or of seeming to judge whether or not that person has actually heard from the Lord.  I’m sure anyone who has ever been in this situation would agree, it is a difficult and awkward position to be in.

So if/when we find ourselves in that position, we can choose to 1) validate what they spoke, essentially going along with what they said, without questioning or weighing it against the scriptures and the Spirit of the Lord; 2) question what was said, potentially causing them to feel like we are questioning their  ‘spiritual ability to hear from the Lord, or 3) go against what was said, risking the same results as option 2.

Option 1

When someone seeks to bring this added weight to their words, if we go along with what was said because we were told it was from the Lord, we do ourselves an injustice, for this is not the way the Lord intended it to be in His Body.  He intends for us to know Him more, to hear His voice and recognize it, to live by His indwelling life.  Taking everything a person says is from the Lord and treating it as such robs us of such learning and knowing of Christ.  We must allow Him to work His life into us in this way.  We must allow the Lord to cultivate that relationship within us so that when He speaks, whether it be through a brother/sister, the scriptures, or another avenue, when the Spirit quickens us inwardly, we recognize it as the Lord and we align our lives with it.  This is not something most of us just learn over night.  It takes time, faith, and sometimes we miss it.  Sometimes we get it wrong.  But the Lord is gracious and will call to us again, and again, and again.  He is constantly working in and through us to strengthen faith, give hearing, understanding and knowing of His life and leading.

Options 2 & 3

But what happens when we question what is being spoken or go against it?  If we choose to question or go against what was spoken, we are essentially telling the person who spoke they may have gotten it wrong, or they did get it wrong.  Which, would be the same as telling them we don’t think they heard from the Lord correctly, or they didn’t really hear from the Lord at all.  I don’t know many people (any really) who want to be the one to tell someone they didn’t hear from the Lord correctly, or they didn’t hear from Him at all.

As I’ve seen many times, either option doesn’t typically sit well with the person speaking the ‘word of the Lord’ to others.  It usually involves pride, anger, hurt, uneasiness, frustration, resentment, and a myriad of other feelings.  Many times parties on both sides of this coin experience the same frustration or difficulty in trying to deal with the situation as best as possible, with one trying to re-explain what they meant, the other trying to maneuver around it without offending them.  Often times, as things are examined and weighed in light of the scriptures and the Spirit within, we begin to see or understand the person who spoke ‘thus sayeth the Lord’ may have indeed received something of the Lord, but in their humanity (which we all deal with) may have added their own thoughts to the mix, or may have only received something in part, and so they have tried to piece the rest of it together based on previous experiences or situations.  Examples could go on and on.

Humble Suggestions

In all of this, I see a couple of options that may help avoid or resolve these situations in the future (I’m sure there could be more, but I’m starting with these).

First, in anything, it is wise to search the scriptures to find Christ, to be mindful of the ‘inner quickening’ of the Spirit within, showing us the path to Life, revealing the Lord to us.  This is the responsibility of every follower of Jesus.  I can not emphasis this enough.  For too long people have been taught that being a Christian means attending a service/meeting, listening to a sermon, or sponging off of others who speak in meetings.  So many people have learned to rely on others to hear from the Lord for them, or to pursue the Lord passively, and to choose what they think to be right or good.  This is not what the Lord intends for His Body.  We must move beyond passivity when it comes to knowing the Lord and expressing His life to others.  As members of the Body of Christ, we must take the responsibility upon ourselves to seek the Lord, pursue His mind, and express His life.  We must become a people who learn, hear, understand, receive and discern the Lord’s life for ourselves.  Then we share our portion of Christ with our brothers and sisters in a way that encourages them to do the same and Christ is expressed in a fuller and broader way.

Second, we must lay down our desires and tendencies to have what we speak carry the weight and authority of the Lord.  Understand that does not mean we are to begin speaking our minds and spouting off the first things that come to mind in a given situation.  No, we are still responsible for what we speak.  We should always strive to speak Christ, to have His life flow through our words.  Doing so brings life, Christ’s life.  But we must stop being a people who act on the feeling of needing to add a ‘thus sayeth the Lord’ to our own words, thoughts or interpretations.  We must seek to reveal Christ when we speak, but offer it as plainly as possible and allow those who hear to discern or recognize Christ in what we speak.  To put it simply, we are to learn and know the Lord and then allow His life to speak to others, allowing Him to add His authority and weight to what we speak because His life is in it.  In reality, if the Lord is truly speaking in and through you, the person/people you’re speaking to will recognize it because there will be life in what you speak.  In such times, most people will affirm what you’ve spoken on their own accord.  If there is not life in what you’re speaking they will recognize that as well.  In either case, you will have done them a service by allowing them, another opportunity for the Lord to bring His life and to grow within them.  I would dare say you will experience a little humility in doing so, as well.

On Being Dependent (Part 2)

This is a two part series On Being Dependent.  I encourage you to read the first post in this series before going on to read this post.  You can find On Being Dependent (Part 1) here.

Picking up where I left off, there are two other aspects of being dependent I would like to briefly touch on.  Both parts involve the Body of Christ, those with whom we are being fitted together, formed into one new man, having been reconciled “in one body to God, through the cross” (Eph. 2:11-22).

The first aspect has to do with those who are dependent in a given situation.  In Part 1, I touched on how we are completely and utterly dependent on Jesus to reveal Himself to us and how life in Christ begins by us being completely dependent on Christ for everything.  Salvation, redemption, justification, sanctification…none of these are works we bring about in ourselves.  Only Christ can bring them about.  When we recognize this, we begin to understand, in part, the sufficiency of Jesus Christ.

Another aspect of being dependent.

Many saints will labor and toil before the Lord because of a need in their lives, pleading and begging for Him to meet it.  They will spend hours of days going before the Lord on some issue they need resolved or some decision they need guidance on.  But in all of their toil, in all of their prayers, they do not consider turning to the Body of Christ, the Church, for any kind of assistance with their need.

There may be many reasons why saints would not turn to the Body of Christ, the Church, to have their need met, whatever that need may be.  But regardless of what the reasoning may be, if we are unwilling to turn to the Body of Christ, we are doing a great disservice to our brothers and sisters in the Lord.  We are missing out on an experience with the saints that the Lord fully intended us to experience for the benefit of all involved.  That benefit being one of coming to know the Lord more through sharing the need and as well as sharing burden of meeting the need with one another.  If we turn to others, bringing our need for help, guidance, or support, we are acknowledging our lack, our inability to handle things on our own, our inadequacy to figure it out or resolve the issue.  We must humble ourselves to come before a brother/sister and confess we are not able, we have no means in or of ourselves to be provision.  Truly, isn’t this what we are admitting when we turn to the Lord in any matter?

The reality is…this is a very healthy place to be.

So we must be willing to turn to our brothers and sisters in the Lord.  We must be willing to share our needs with one another and give each other the opportunity to know the Lord more through these experiences.  We must be willing to allow the Body of Christ to express His life to us.

The other side of the coin.

On the flip side of being willing to confess our needs to our brothers and sisters in the Lord, there is the position of being willing to be approached about a need.  There is the position of being willing to help, being willing to listen and understand the scope of a situation.   And we must be willing to consider what the Lord’s way is to be provision to those in need and allow His life to be lived in and through us to those who have expressed their need.

This “position” is one of humility.  But we must understand, we do not arrive at this point simply by telling others they can come to us if they have a need.  No, instead it is a recognition, a realization that we are in the exact same position as everyone else; in need.  Granted, the actual need we have may look different than the need of another, but that is beside the point.  The point is we are all in need and the only way our need will ever be met is by the person of Jesus Christ.

He is the all sufficient.

He is the supply and the provision.  All lack, all want, all need can and has been met in the person of Jesus Christ.  Our recognition of Christ as all, as well as that of our common ground of being in need is what brings us to the point of humility.  In Christ we see and understand He alone is provision.  In our brothers and sisters we see and understand that we each have the same inadequacy, incapability of being able to attain provision or supply the means to meet our own need or anyone else’s need.  We see that we all have the same need, though it may look different in any given situation.

He is provision.

All need is met in the person of Jesus Christ.  When we realize this, we understand that when someone shares their need with us we can and must rely totally on the person of Jesus Christ to express His life in and through us in order for that need to be met.  We have nothing in and of ourselves to meet any need.  But Christ, this glorious Christ who loves us and gave Himself up for us, is the provision, the supply, the fulfillment of all we will ever have need of.

The Sufficiency of Christ

“The land of Canaan is the greatest single picture of Christ in all the Old Testament. Everything that Israel needed to live, move, and have its being was contained there. Israel simply had to work the land, mine its riches, and live off of it.” (Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, pg. 35)

If we as followers of Christ are finding our supply in things other than the person of Jesus Christ, we are working the wrong land, mining for riches that will perish, and living off of a false source of life, that will soon cause us to burn out.

Christ is Life. He is ALL.

Changing The Way We Eat

Our family has changed the way we eat.  For the past month and a half we have been doing a candida free cleanse.  This wasn’t my idea, nor was I even all that excited about it when we first started discussing it.  It was my wife’s idea, and she asked me if I would do it with her so that it would be easier for the meal planning as well as helping to eliminate most temptations for her to eat something that isn’t “on the list.”  I wasn’t against doing it, I just wasn’t thrilled about it.  My approach was, “if you’ll prepare the food, I’ll eat it.  There has to be stuff in the fridge for me to grab whenever I get the munchies and need something to hold me over until the next meal.”

So, I agreed.  I agreed for one simple reason.  I love my wife.

Now, I will admit to you, on the very first day we started this, I freaked out.  I was at work and lunch time was closing in as I began to realize my wife was at work and we didn’t really have anything that was “on the list” at home for me to eat.  So I began texting her and our friend, Eric, about what I could possible do for lunch.  We are sharing our home with Eric and Andrea for a time, but that’s a whole other story.

So, back to freaking out.

I wasn’t getting enough of a response from either of them to satisfy my panic until Eric finally chimed in with, “I can go to the store to pick up a few items and throw a salad together for you, then we can figure other things out for the days you’ll be at work and won’t have time to come home and make something.”  This was enough to calm my panic for the day.  Everyone survived and I didn’t starve like I thought I would.  In the coming days, several trips were made to several grocery stores as we began to explore the many options of what we could and could not eat during this time.

Now, one thing you need to understand is that I am not much of a cook.  To word it that way is even giving me more credit than I deserve when it comes to cooking.  I typically don’t cook.  Especially stuff that doesn’t have a recipe for me to follow.  Suffice it to say that over the past month and a half, I have not cooked one single meal.  To be as honest as possible, we have done this whole candida thing with very little effort on my part.  But, would you like to know what’s been so crazy about it all?  I have lost 20 lbs.  TWENTY POUNDS!

That’s right, 20 lbs. lost without doing anything.  I haven’t cooked, I haven’t exercised, I haven’t jogged.  The truth is, I have been simply eating, and eating very well!  Most days I get a second helping of whatever we’re having because the food that has been prepared is simply that amazing.  So picture me stuffing my face with a second helping of dinner and waking up the next day only to find out that I have lost another pound.  This is brilliant.  BRILLIANT, I tell you!

I share all of that with you in order to share Christ with you.  Jesus revealing Himself to us in our everyday lives and in some of the simplest ways is one overflow of His life we have been sharing with the saints in the Gainesville church.  Here is how Christ revealed Himself to me through this candida free cleanse.

Christ invites us to join in His life, not for our own purpose or desires, but for His purpose and His desire, much like my wife invited me to join her in this candida free cleanse.  She has a purpose in doing this and it has nothing to do with my purposes or desires.  It’s about her and what she hopes to accomplish.  With Christ, since He is all, it is about Him, His glory, His purpose, what He desires to bring about.

And so, we agree to join Him in His life, often times simply because we love Him.  We love Him for no other reason than that He loves us first.  His love and His life are abundant and we simply respond to His life and love by joining Him.

As we join Him, He has been and is at work, preparing and executing His desire to accomplish His purpose in everything.  And really, this requires no effort on our part.  We have joined Him in what He is doing and His life is now living in and through us, accomplishing His desire and purpose.  Because we are no longer living for ourselves, in fact, we have been crucified with Christ and the life we now live is Christ’s life in us and through us, our desires, agendas and purposes are no longer being driven or pushed forward.  In fact, they die off and His desire and purpose is where we find our true desire and purpose.  In His life is where we find our true life.  Just as I have done nothing to bring about this candida cleanse or cook the food, but have simply sat down to feast every day, we do nothing to bring about Christ’s desire or purpose.  He does it all.  It is His life living in and through us, all He asks us to do is to partake of it, to sit at His table and feast every day upon Him.

The beauty that comes out of us joining His life, I’m sure, is more evident to Him than it is to us, but still we experience it.  I didn’t set out to lose weight, I didn’t have some big exercise routine in mind, nor have I started one, yet.  In this candida free cleanse, I am experiencing the joy of losing twenty pounds, with no effort of my own, except sitting down to eat.

In Christ, we are experiencing His life, love and joy as His Body, Bride and Family as we are being built together in the community of believers.  In His life and love, we learn that what we become a part of in Him is ultimately for our good as well.  What He does, He does perfectly and it overflows into the life of every believer that has been called according to His purpose.  That is how abundant His life is.  We lose our lives, our agendas, our desires, our plans and we gain His life, His purpose, His desire and it is so enjoyable, so wonderful that we can do nothing, but consider it all joy.  I am confident at this point in our journey, we have only scratched the surface of all He is.  Here’s to twenty pounds (and counting)!

What a Christ!

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