Some believe that knowledge is power. They glean any tidbit they can and try to get the goods on their competition at all times. Satan tempted Jesus to use His power for His own gain and notoriety, but He refused. Jesus did not come to rule over the earth as a king, though He could have used His power to bring that about easily. He came, rather, to die as a sacrificed lamb for the sins of all. When John saw Him in resurrected splendor, what did he see?
And one of the elders said unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. (Revelation 5:5-6 KJ2000)
Yes, John saw a lamb that had been slain. The angels saw a Lion. Why this difference? God knows that man can't handle power, so He provided us an example of His power in a life that is denied and laid at His feet. A slain Lamb is not a powerful sight to our normal way of thinking about power. We would expect to see a powerful Lion that could pounce and kill in a single bound, especially in the One who rose again from the dead. But power to God is made perfect in weakness. Paul prayed for strength and God answered, "And he [the Lord] said unto me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather boast in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Corinthians 12:9 KJ2000)
When the disciples were arguing over who would have positions of power in Jesus' kingdom, Jesus said, "You see that the rulers of the Gentiles are lords over them, and their great ones have authority over them. Let it not be so among you: but if anyone has a desire to become great among you, let him be your servant; And whoever has a desire to be first among you, let him take the lowest place: Even as the Son of man did not come to have servants, but to be a servant, and to give his life for the salvation of men." (Matthew 20:25-28 BBE) Servanthood for Jesus was laying down His life for others in humility, having faith in His Father alone to do the work even when it cost Him His life--this is the wisdom of God.
Jesus exemplifies the logic of God. Christ's every word and action revealed the logic of God -- logic that defies human logic, death and hell itself, thus breaking the hold of Satan's corrupted wisdom (Ezekiel 28:17) on mankind. It makes the death of our old man on the cross the door to our victorious entry into the bosom of the Father. "And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto death." (Revelation 12:10-11 KJ2000) Power, strength and overcoming in weakness; in loving not our lives unto death, this is the power and wisdom of God.
Yes, we more than over come when we abide in Christ Jesus, following the example of the Pattern Son.
The Principle of Decrease and Increase
Jesus' teachings go totally crossways to human thinking. He said, "For whosoever exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted." (Luke 14:11 KJ2000) This is the life that Jesus lived out before us for our example. He came to the earth not in a display of His heavenly riches and prowess, but rather He took on the form of a human servant. Paul wrote of Him:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not a thing to be grasped to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11 KJ2000)
Ministers who make themselves of no reputation are a vanishing breed these days. Everyone seems to be grasping for greatness in the eyes of their fellow Christians. How rare it is to find just one who is so willing to be obedient to their Father to the point of death! He who finds his life will loose it. We say unto you, they have their reward.
It was not always this way. When John the Baptist' disciples saw that his popularity was swinging over to Jesus they were quite upset and complained to him. To this John said, "He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30 KJ2000)
It is interesting, this principle of decrease that God takes His people through. Jesus speaking of Himself said, "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone." John the Baptist ministered in this law of decrease and he meant it, pointing his followers away from himself to Jesus. John still had followers that would not turn to Christ out of loyalty to him. Just before the oft quoted verse above, John told them, "You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that has the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled." (John 3:28-29 KJ2000)
Have you ever wondered what picking a fight with Herod had to do with being the forerunner to the Messiah pointing the way to Him? John was determined to see all who followed him turn to Jesus. The one sure way to end his own cult following was to die. He knew what the outcome would be if He spoke against Herod and Herodius' (his brother Philip's wife) love life.
Even Jesus had a loyal following He ministered to throughout Israel, but they all knew Him after the flesh, a healer, a man of wisdom doing miracles, feeding the crowds. They almost always sought after Him to meet their temporal needs and desires. Can you think of anyone in the gospels who came to Him wanting to be delivered from their sin nature? They did not know Him after the Spirit (they wanted to make Him king because He fed them). These were what you might call "loaves and fishes Christians." Paul wrote, "Therefore from now on know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet from now on know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5:16-17 KJ2000) To follow the Spirit one must be centered on those things eternal and the temporal things of this life must lose their appeal.
In the gospel of John we read about Jesus telling the disciples that He must leave them to make way for the Holy Spirit, His Spirit, to come and abide in them. The grain of wheat must die or it would abide alone. The disciples were quite shaken because of this. Even after Jesus rose from the grave, they still didn't get it. Their thoughts were summed up in the words of Cleopas who spoke with him along the road to Emmaus, "But we hoped [that He would save Israel]." It was after receiving the Holy Spirit and being severed from His fleshly life that disciples could come to know Him after the Spirit, and worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth. So what did Jesus do to bring this about, He headed for the temple and sacked Annas' (the high priest) animal market and chased out the money changers. He touched their idol, money, and that will always get you killed in a den of thieves.
Paul also understood the need to decrease or else become more harm to the kingdom one preaches than the good you were sent to do. He had a personality cult following as did Peter and Apollos. (See 1 Corinthians 3) He rebuked the Corinthians for claiming to be of one of these three, saying that they themselves were nothing but laborers in God's vineyard. He ends the chapter by pointing them to Jesus saying, "Don't you know that all things are yours and you are Christ's and Christ is God's?"
Then there was the time when Paul and Barnabas were walking through Lystra and they prayed for a lame man and he got healed. Well, the next thing you know the people were calling them gods, Mercury and Jupiter, and the priest of Jupiter dragged out the fatted calf and garlands of flowers to offer sacrifice to them. How did the apostles handle this? They tore open their garments and ran in among the people and said, "Sirs, why do you these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that you should turn from these vanities unto the living God." (Acts 14:15 KJ2000) All too many of today's ministers are taken with the adulation of men and refuse to come down from their pulpit and stages and affirm to their congregations that they, too, are mere servants like them.
Finally, after many years of establishing the ekklesia among the Gentiles, Paul came up with a solution to the cult following problem, he headed for Jerusalem saying, "It is not right that a prophet should die, except in Jerusalem." On the way three different church prophets warned him what would happen to him if he persisted, yet Paul went on obeying His Lord, praying, "That I may know Him, the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His suffering, and be conformed unto His death." His prayer was answered. His trip to Jerusalem was the beginning of the end of his earthly stay. He was taken prisoner and finally delivered to the court of Caesar and executed in Rome.
Paul would preach Christ and see the people were filled with the Spirit and would not hang around, but moved on. He did not want them dependent on him or anyone else save the Spirit of Jesus who is our only sufficiency. The Judaizers and the Gnostics on the other hand did all they could to bind people to them and their teachings and raised great havoc among God's people.
The last god to go (if it ever does) in most who call themselves "ministers" today is "My Ministry." Even the Holy Spirit does not speak of or elevate Himself, but gives all glory to Jesus.
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. John 16:13-15
The Spirit of Truth is our guide. He speaks what Jesus gives Him for us to hear. And Jesus gives the Spirit what the Father has given unto Him... all things. The goal of the true gospel is all about putting us in relationship with the Father (of whom Jesus said, "call no man father, for one is your Father who is in heaven"), not a bunch of human fathers and mothers. When we loose site of that goal and see ourselves as mentors, fathers and mothers in the faith and permanent fixtures in the lives of the saints, we have robbed the very life of God from the people and that is why the churches are dead today. Being established in the Spirit of Jesus was why the early church was alive unto God and grew and became as those who turn the world upside down. Are we going to settle for anything less?
In chapter 16 of Andrew Murray's book, The Two Covenants, we read:
The ministry of the Spirit! What a glory there is in it! What a responsibility it brings! What a sufficiency of grace there is provided for it! What a privilege, to be a minister of the Spirit!< blockquote>What tens of thousands we have throughout Christendom who are called ministers of the gospel. What an inconceivable influence they exert for life or for death over the millions who depend upon them for their knowledge and participation of the Christian life. What a power there would be if all these were ministers of the Spirit! Let us study the word, until we see what God meant the ministry to be, and learn to take our part in praying and labouring to have it nothing less.
To minister in the Spirit is to serve in compliance with the heart of our Father. We do not act or speak from our own wills, but His. We don't seek our own glory, but along with Jesus we seek the glory of our Father who is in heaven. This is the principle of decrease in lives that seek His increase among men.
We pray with Paul for all who seek to live in the fullness of God in Christ,
[For I always pray to] the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, that He may grant you a spirit of wisdom and revelation [of insight into mysteries and secrets] in the [deep and intimate] knowledge of Him, By having the eyes of your heart flooded with light, so that you can know and understand the hope to which He has called you, and how rich is His glorious inheritance in the saints (His set-apart ones), And [so that you can know and understand] what is the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His power in and for us who believe, as demonstrated in the working of His mighty strength, (Ephesians 1:17-19 AMP)to top