What Should I Tell You?

If I could stand before you and speak of the things of God, what should I tell you? What would be on my heart, as it is upon my mind now, is this one question: “Why are you here?”

There could be many answers to that question, ranging from the flattering “We are here to hear what you have to say” to the more mundane “I love the food that appears at Church potlucks” (assuming that there would be one for the occasion).

OK, lets talk about food, then. For that is the best reason of all for gathering together. Jesus told the Jews, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” (John 6:53)

George Fox commented on this passage, writing:

…but in the new covenant Christ tells you, ‘Except ye do eat my flesh, and drink my blood, ye have no part in me:’ for as by Adam and Eve, their eating that which God forbad, came death; so if Adam and Eve’s sons and daughters have life again, it is by eating of that which Christ commands; and as by eating came death, so by eating cometh life, and not by talking; no, not by talking of the son of God… (Works of Fox, VIII:155)

Much of Christendom claims that in partaking of bread and wine they are eating Christ’s body and drinking his blood. But this is not what I am talking about, and neither was Jesus. He was talking about something drastically different from such rituals.

Do you know the first commandment? If you grabbed your Bibles and looked in Exodus 20, you see the list of the 10 commandments, the first of which says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” However, that is not the first commandment. Look in Exodus 19 and again in Jeremiah 7.

Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. (Exodus 19:5-6)

For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you. (Jer. 7:22-23)

This word “obey” used in the two passages above can also be rendered “hear,” but there are connotations that must come along, which ever word you choose. “Hear” carries with it the absolute necessity to respond in obedience. “Obey” comes with the understanding that we are obeying a word from God, which we have heard. There is no room for a blind obedience to an inherited legal code. This is a command for a continual, dynamic relationship with the Creator who speaks to his people and demands a response.

“[S]o if Adam and Eve’s sons and daughters have life again, it is by eating of that which Christ commands;…” What does Christ command?

Jesus, commenting on the John 6:53 statement, told his disciples:

The flesh profits nothing. It is the [breath] that gives life. The words which I speak/have spoken to you, these are [breath], these are life. (John 6:63)

Why is this important? Food is one of the major contributors to sustaining life, whether we are speaking biologically or of our life in God. Jesus’ statement in John 6:63 puts it succinctly: hearing his voice is the food that gives us life. (Again, “hear” comes with the understanding that we respond in obedience.)

So, you see, this question of “Why are you here?” is a matter of life and death, one that must take precedence over all other questions. Without this food, you cannot live. There is no substitute. There is no second course on the menu.

Isaiah 54 speaks of those who are taught by the Lord giving these details:

  • their peace will be great
  • they will be established in righteousness
  • they will be free from oppression because they will not fear
  • they will be free from terror because it will not come near them
  • all who rise against them will fall because the Lord, who is their teacher, controls all

Isaiah sums up this portion saying:

No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD. (Isaiah 54:17)

Then comes the turning point. Isaiah, in effect, asks, “Are you hungry for this?” and invites those who are hungry and thirsty for this experience of being taught by the Lord to a feast of fatness of hearing the voice of God.

Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people. (Isaiah 55:1-4)

When I was in grade school, maybe 3rd or 4th grade, a visiting missionary was speaking to the church about Africa. To impress us about the conditions there, he asked for a show of hands of all present who were starving. It had been a long time since breakfast and there was food waiting in the basement, and I was starving!

There was more truth to that story than indicated by the amusement rippling through the congregation. In the midst of all religion can offer, there is not one shred of food. Religion is about stimulating and manipulating emotion, which is not the same thing as hearing and obeying the voice of Christ. Many people raise the objection, “But we hear Christ through the ritual, the sermon, the hymns….” But, I tell you, “No, you hear Christ within you. He IS the mediator between God and man and needs no other intermediary.” Yes, God can speak through other people or through circumstances, but if you do not receive that speaking within yourself it does you no good. It is that encounter with the living Christ within you that brings about the resurrection from death to his life that you must feed upon.

Hear again Isaiah’s question, “Why do you spend yourself for that which is not food, for that which does not satisfy?” Hear again his prescription, “Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.” Christ is the covenant God has made with His people. He is the leader and commander God has given. God’s command is “Hear him!”

Are you hungry? Come to the light of Christ within you. There, waiting and watching in that light, is your heavenly food. Are you starving? Turn from all that which is not food, from all that which does not satisfy. Such is but the husks fed to swine. In Christ’s house there is bread aplenty.

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Faith or Religion

Faith is built upon experience; religion upon presumption.” These words came whispering to my ear one evening and state succinctly the difference between faith and religion. Common usage would tend to blur this distinction and make these two concepts interchangeable. So we must ask the question, “Does it matter?”

Jesus answered the question with the familiar illustration:

Not every one who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many m ighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you evil doers.” Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and b eat upon that house but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.” (See Matt. 7:21-27)

Luke began his rendition of this passage with,

And why do you call me, Lord, Lord, but not do the things which I say? Whosoever comes to me, and hears my sayings, and does them… (See Luke 6:46-49)

This is an understanding that goes back to the beginning of holy history. Adam and Eve did not do what the Lord said. Their house did not stand. Noah obeyed the voice of God and was preserved from the flood. Then there was Abram who looked for a city having foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee… (Gen. 12:1)

Faith is bidirectional. God speaks. His people hear and respond. Without this interchange, there is no faith. Religion is unidirectional. It is the a-priori assumption of the religionist that “We know what God wants” no dynamic concourse is required.

The scriptures state, Abraham (i.e. Abram) believed God, or had faith in God. (See Romans 4, Galatians 3, and James 2.) How do we know he had faith? Because he packed up and followed the voice of God. For this reason Abraham is called the father of faith. There was religion a plenty in Ur of Chaldea, Abraham’s home, and in Haran where he sojourned with his father. Yet the call of God was and still is “Come out from among them.”

Experience is something we can understand. Those who stand on faith have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, that his hand has upheld and still upholds them. They have experienced the purifying light of Christ at work within them. This is the foundation upon which they have built. They know and act by the command of the Lord. Here stands faith. But what of presumption?

In his second epistle, George Fox exhorts:

Friends, The children of the devil, how expert are they in evil, in all deceit in his kingdom; and yet they may speak of the things of God: but no vulturous eye or venomous beast ever trod in the steps of the just, though they may talk of the way. For who have their conversation [i.e. behavior] in this world, and only mind the things of this world, in vain do they profess godliness. (Works of Fox, VII:16)

The presumptuous assume they know what God wants. Perhaps they base their assumptions upon scripture, perhaps upon other ancient writings, perhaps upon the words of ecclesiastical authorities. Their Christianity consists of adhering to certain rules and procedures laid down by the church. But God’s command is: “This is my chosen one, hear him.” (See Luke 9:35)

“Hear him” is crucial to faith, but a hindrance to religion.

Fox goes on to to point out the clear distinction between faith and presumption:

But the children of God, who are conceived and begotten of him, are not of this world, neither do they mind only the things of this world, but the things which are eternal. But the children of this world do mostly mind the external things, and their love is in them, and the other live by faith; the one is sanctified by the word, the other painted with the words….when the trial doth come, ye will find a cross to that will which doth meddle with the things of God presumptuously; that man may live in joy, but the spirit is in bondage. (VII:16-17)

The one is sanctified by the Word, by him that was in the beginning with God, through whom all things were made, who is the light of mankind. This light tries all things, makes manifest all things, and reproves all that is contrary to God in thought, word, and deed. This is the experience of knowing the foundation of our lives to be shaken till nothing remains but that which is eternal, which cannot be moved.

The other, those of religion who are not sanctified by the Word, what of them? To be painted by words changes only the veneer that the world sees; whitewashed tombs who appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead man’s bones and all manner of filth. When the storms come, and come they will, their foundation of words painted on the outside gives way. They have nothing left upon which to stand.

The answer to my question, “Does it matter if we make a distinction between faith and religion?” is yes it matters. How can you come out of religion and into faith if you see no difference between the two? Come, stand with Abraham, called out of your father’s house, called out of the culture and religion of your nativity. Take up your abode in faith instead of religion. And, like Abraham before you, rejoice to see the day of Christ appear within you.

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Shoes

There, do you see it? The bush that is burning and not consumed?

Moses turned aside to have a closer look. We are never told if afterward he longed for the simple days of a shepherd. But we do know something happened in that encounter that altered forever his direction of life. Yes, he received God’s command to return to Egypt and lead the Israelites out of enslavement to the most powerful nation on Earth at the time. But that was not the significant event.

“Moses, put off your shoes for the ground upon which you stand is holy ground.”

This is a story I have known since early childhood. I was 59 before it occurred to me to ask, “Why put off your shoes?”

God’s answer was, “There is to be no barrier, no separation between you and the holy ground.”

I am sure Moses wore his shoes going back to Egypt and on to the promised land. But the holy ground was now within him for he had removed his shoes and stood upon that ground of hearing and obeying the voice of the Lord.

Let’s jump forward in time.

  • The Israelites are running low on food. They grumble against Moses and against God. Why?
  • Moses goes up the mountain to receive the law. The Israelites despair of his return and make a golden calf to be their god. Why?
  • Standing before the mountain hearing the voice of God, they cry out, “If we hear this voice any longer we will die.” Why?
  • 12 spies are sent into Canaan. Two return saying, “We can do this by the power of God.” Ten return saying, “God has led us on a fool’s errand to die at the hand of these giants.” The people listened to the ten rather than the two. Why?

There is one word that answers all these questions: SHOES

For forty years the Israelites wandered in the desert until that generation died. The scriptures tell us that for forty years they walked and “their shoes did not wear out.” For forty years their barrier of separation remained intact; they refused to stand barefoot upon the holy ground.

The same fire that burned in the bush in front of Moses sheds its light within you. Do you see it? All men, women, and children are enlightened with this light. Do you hear the voice saying, “Put off your shoes, remove the barrier between yourself and the holy ground?”

What does it mean to “remove the barrier, to put off our shoes?” The barrier, “the shoes,” that must go is our unwillingness to hear and obey the voice of the Lord. This is what it means to “believe in the light that you may become children of the day.” Look at the text of John 3: 19-21 and consider it in the light of putting off your shoes to stand on the holy ground.

“God did not send the Son to judge the world, but that through Him the world might be saved. But this is the judgment that the light has come into the world and men have loved the darkness, loved the barrier, loved their shoes, because their deeds were evil…But those who do what is true come to the light, put off their shoes to stand in direct contact with the holy ground, that it may be seen their deeds are wrought in God.” (My liberties taken with the text.)

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Do You Believe…

Ellis, do you believe in…?” I have been asked this question concerning many different “objects of belief:” God, Jesus, scripture, etc. But when I was recently asked “Do you believe in the Devil?” as an admonition to look at scripture as our safeguard against the wiles of Satan, I deemed it appropriate to make a thorough explanation.

So, first, lets look at that phrase, “do you believe in…?” To believe in Jesus, for example, means to encounter his power and authority (as creator) and to accord him his authorized right of command in my life. I don’t mean just to consent that, “yeah, Jesus has ultimate authority and if I ever hear from him I’ll jump to and do it.” I mean that I accord him his authorized right of command of my life now by hearing and obeying his voice in all things. Thus to say that I believe in Jesus carries with it a history of me yielding to his rule and learning what that means, learning the security of walking on the foundation of his command, even though there is nothing else but water beneath my feet.

Now given that understanding of “believe in” I can take up the question of “Do you believe in the Devil?” The answer is: “No, I do not believe in the devil. It is not possible to both believe in Jesus and believe in the devil. I have experienced the work of Jesus to destroy the devil and his works within me. The devil has no authority, no power, and no right of command in my life.

The chief work of the devil is to bring inward death to humanity and to then feed upon the dead. There is only one power that is greater than the power of death: the power of life. Jesus told the Pharisees, who searched the Scriptures because they thought to gain life through them, that the scriptures testified that He was the fountain of life. But they refused to come to Him that they might live. (See John chapter 5) Isaiah wrote of the sons who are taught by the Lord. He then asked “Are you hungry and thirsty for this well being, this life?” “Incline your ear, listen to me that you might live. Delight yourself in abundance [of listening and of living]” was Isaiah’s prescription. (See Isaiah chapters 54 and 55) Jesus continued in John 5 saying, “The hour is coming and now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

Jesus, who IS the Word of God, IS the life. His life is the light of mankind. He instructed and instructs those who would follow Him to believe in the light that you may become children of the day. (See John, chapter 12) Here we have that phrase “believe in” again. Just as before, it is to be understood as acknowledging the supreme authority of the light of Christ and granting it the right of rule in our lives. Those who believe in the light have no occasion of stumbling. We receive the life by believing in the light. And it is this life that destroys Satan and undoes all his works of death.

Jesus told his followers, “all authority, all power, all jurisdiction in Heaven and Earth is given unto Me.” There is no secondary authority; not scripture, not priesthood, and not Church tradition. We do not need to consult a second opinion. If you are not walking in the light of Christ within you, you may quote the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation, but you have no authority and no power over evil. Where His light reveals evil within the heart, there is His power revealed to enable us to turn from evil to righteousness. Where ever mankind turns from that light, there is His power present condemning them for loving the darkness, for loving death. Where He commands, there is his power and authority given us to obey. There is neither legitimate excuse nor legitimate plea for sin as in, “I know what I ought to do, but I don’t have the power to do it.”

The proclamation that “Christ is come to teach his people Himself,” is a proclamation of Christ being present in and among us in all His authority, all His power, and all His jurisdiction to teach, lead, and direct his people. “Christ in you, the hope of glory” is not a diminished Christ shorn of his authority and power, it is the revelation of Him who was, who is, and who will be to all eternity.

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George Fox and Romans 7

During a lengthy discussion, Xxxxxxxxxx, asked me to look into what Fox had to say concerning Romans chapter 7. Did Fox consider this the normal Christian experience? Is it the portrayal of an unbeliever coming to Christ? I searched the eight volumes of The Works of Fox for “Rom. vi” or “Rom. 7” but turned up very few references. So I turned to searches for the concepts or phrases Fox used when he identified Romans 7 in his writing. Here is what I found.

Fox does not deal with Romans 7 exclusively but brings together concepts from chap. 6 (“newness of life”), chapter 7 (“oldness of the letter”), chapter 8 (“the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death”), chapter 10 (“Christ is the end of the law for righteousness’ sake.”), and many other parts of the Bible. Fox’s associations of scripture passages range the full gamut of the scriptures. See for example:

And as Moses in the old covenant sprinkled the people with the blood, the life of beasts; so Christ our high priest sprinkles the hearts and consciences of his people in the new covenant with his blood, his life, from their dead works, that they may serve the living God in newness of life:’ and as the blood of the old covenant was the life of the beasts, so the blood of the everlasting covenant is the life of Christ the Lamb, ordained before the foundation of the world, who is the great shepherd of his sheep, through the blood of his everlasting covenant he makes his saints perfect in every good work to do his will, working in them that which is well pleasing in his sight.’ (Works, Vol. V, pp.362-363)

Here we have the Pentateuch, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Hebrews, and Romans all rolled together to form the picture of the distinction between the newness of life and the oldness of the letter. Fox used this distinction over and over, portraying the contrast between those who live by the law of life in Christ Jesus and those who live by some other law. In Vol. 7 of his Works, Fox stated:

For ye may see, how far many may go, and did go, and were led out of many things; yet did turn again into the world. So mind your present guide, and your present condition, and your call, what ye are called from, and what ye are called to; for whom the Lord hath called and chosen, are the Lord’s freemen. And so, abide every one in your calling with God, where God hath called you, and there walk in newness of life, and not in the oldness of the letter; for he that turneth from him that calleth, walks not in the life of God. Therefore, all Friends, walk in the truth and in the love of it up to God; and every one in particular mind your guide, that ye may grow up in wisdom, and improve your own talents, and the gift which God hath given you. And take heed of words without life, for they tend to draw you out of the power to live above the truth, and out of your conditions; which nature will not have peace, except it have words. But every particular submit to that which is of God in you, to guide you to God. (pp.88-89)

Paul contrasted life under the law (portrayed in Romans 7) with life under Christ who is the end of the law for Righteousness sake (Romans 8 and 10). His rhetorical question and answer, which many quote as proof that man can’t live righteously before God, that sin will be taken care of finally at some future time, is:

O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. (Rom. 7:24-25)

But for Fox, Romans 7 is not the end of the story. Like Edward Burrough, Fox could say, “But of that birth are we which hath no crown, no glory, nor rest under the sun: a birth is brought forth amongst us which is heir of another kingdom, and possessor of another crown, whose glorying is in the Lord all the day long; and he is our refuge, our rock, and our fortress against all our enemies.” (Vol. III, p. 6) In epistle CIV, Fox exhorts Friends to dwell in the power of God and to know (that is, to experience) the power of God to keep you. In epistle CV, he spells out how this is to be done.

CV.—Concerning the Light. (To be read amongst Friends.) All Friends every where, keep your meetings waiting in the light which comes from the Lord Jesus Christ; so will ye receive power from him, and have the refreshing springs of life opened to your souls, and be kept sensible of the tender mercies of the Lord. And know one another in the life, (ye that be turned to the light,) and in the power, which comes from the Lord Jesus Christ, who is your light, who is your life; that ye may all in the life see Christ to reign in you, who is the truth, from whence ye have light. Here the old serpent is chained, and put into the bottomless pit, and Christ is known to reign, and ye to reign with him; heirs with him, joint-heirs, and heirs of God. Here is the dominion received and witnessed of the world that is without end, and the promise of life from the Father of life to you, who are turned to the son, who to the Father is the way, who is the mediator between the Father and you. All wait to receive the everlasting priest, the everlasting covenant of God, of light, life, and peace; into which covenant no sin, no darkness, nor death comes, but the blessing of the only wise God, the Father of life, here is known, where no earthly man can approach. But he that is of God knows God’s truth; and he that is of the devil, doth his lusts, who was a murderer from the beginning, in whom is no truth, who in it abode not. So he it is that speaks a lie, and speaks of himself, and not God’s word; for he is out of the truth. But ye that are turned to the light walk in the light, walk in the truth, where no darkness is; with which light, that never changeth, ye may come to see that which was in the beginning, before the world was, where there is no shadow nor darkness. In which light as ye wait, ye will come to receive into your hearts the word of faith, which reconciles to God, and is as a hammer, to beat down all that is contrary; and as a sword, to divide the precious from the vile; and as a fire, to burn up that which is contrary to the precious: which word is pure, and endureth for ever; which was in the beginning, and is now again witnessed and made manifest. Therefore wait in the light, that ye may all receive it, the same word that ever was, which the scriptures were given forth from.

Thus, with Fox’s admonition, we do not find ourselves in a state of impotency having to wait for some future time when Christ will take away sin. Neither are we consigned to struggle and failure until some further work of grace descends upon us. Fox wrote in Vol. III:

Every man that cometh into the world, though they be in the first Adam, have a light from Christ the second Adam, the bishop of their souls. So every one being turned to the light which Christ the second Adam hath enlightened them withal, they shall see the bishop of their souls, Christ the power of God, which is immortal, and brings the immortal soul into the immortal God. Christ is their sanctification, who sanctifies their spirits, and bodies, and brings the soul up into God, from whom it came, whereby they come to be one soul. For in the lusts of the world, and the affections of it, is the war against it, and there are the powers of wickedness. The soul must be in the higher power, higher than the flesh, which stains the man, spirit and body, and the powers of wickedness. So the light being turned to, man receiveth the spirit of God, which sanctifies him, the spirit of sanctification in Christ Jesus the sanctification and redemption. So every man that cometh into the world has a light from Christ Jesus, the way out of the fall, the second Adam, and receiving the light he receives his redemption and sanctification, whereby his spirit, body, and soul are sanctified. (p.168)

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The Power of Good

There came a man to Jesus who said to him,

…”Good teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:17-18)

This may seem a rather abrupt challenge in view of the deferential salutation of this man. Jesus’ response may seem out of proportion compared with the serious nature of the man’s request. However, as usual, Jesus has put his finger on the crux of the matter. Either you accept my instructions because I and the Father are one and I teach with the authority of the Father (and I am, therefore, good). Or you reject what I say because you do not believe that I come from the Father. These are Jesus’ terms to the man upon which the rest of the dialog is based.

“You know the commandments,” said Jesus, “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.”

“Teacher, the man responded, [dropping the “good”], I have kept all these things from my youth up.”

…”One thing you lack,” said Jesus. “Go and sell all you possess, and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Mark 10:19-21)

“What must I do?” queried the keeper of Moses’ law, “I want life.” However, because he had moved away from good teacher, he lost hope that Jesus’ difficult demands were of any use.

This episode portrays the head on clash between two opposing ideas: revelation and religion. Revelation begins with a relationship with a teacher, a revealer. Religion begins in the codified precepts of the past and engages in a form of ancestor worship. Whether or not those past precepts were true revelations of the character of God is irrelevant, they cannot be the cornerstone of life. “Go sell all you possess, and give it to the poor…” is the lifeline Jesus threw to this man. To discard all your possession flew in the face of popular religion. “I am rich because God favors me. You are poor because God does not accept you” was the idolatry of the day. Jesus asked the man to sell his religion and start again from square one!

This story further demonstrates that you cannot participate in revelation and hold onto religion. Participating in revelation does not invalidate the revelation given to our predecessors, but now you have fellowship with them. You have come under the tutelage of the same teacher. Their insights now have meaning in relationship to your own openings and insights. Jesus did not discard Moses’s law, “You know the commandments…” Rather he pulled the discussion back to the first commandment:

Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. (Exodus 19:5-6)

The writer of the book of Hebrews poses the question: How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him… (Heb. 2:3) He then continues with this theme, admonishing “If today you would hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” (Heb. 3:7-8, 15, and 4:7) The exchange between Jesus and the keeper of the commandments demonstrated the futility of religion. The man was conscious of a lack of life within. The writer of Hebrews calls us to revelation, to life (i.e. salvation) based upon hearing the voice of the Lord. The man went away from Jesus in sorrow because he neglected to hear the voice of the good teacher.

Jesus spoke many things by way of parables about the kingdom of heaven, including:

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. (Matt. 13:44-46)

As with the man asking what he needed to do to gain eternal life, Jesus’ instruction in these parables is sell all you have that you may buy the field containing the treasure or buy the pearl of great price. Either you recognize that this treasure is worth more than all you have or you depart in sorrow because you can’t both hold onto part of your possessions and buy the field or buy the pearl.

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A Question of Authority

Note: Some of this material first appeared as comments on Steven Davison’s blog post, Scripture–Picking and Choosing.

Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matt. 18:18-20)

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. (John 14:12-14)

There are 22 incidents of the phrase “in my name” in the King James Bible. Possibly the most often quoted in-my-name passages come from the above texts. The first occurrence, and perhaps the least understood, is in Deut. 18:19, speaking about the prophet like Moses God is promising to raise up. Some of those probably are better understood as actually “in my name,” but many have to do with speaking or acting in the authority of God or the authority of Christ. The Deut. passage illustrates the change of meaning when one phrase or the other is used. I quote it here using “authority”.

I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee [Moses], and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my [authority], I will require it of him. (Deut. 18:18-19)

Anyone can invoke the name of Jesus Christ or God, and many do in all manner of circumstances; some as a curse, others as the ending to a prayer. But usually such invokers do not speak with authority. To speak or to act in the authority of God or the authority of Christ implies prior arrangements and an existing relationship that makes such a thing possible. You can’t speak in the authority of the government without having that obligation conferred to you by some commission.

Consider the following questions concerning the above passages of scripture:

    • What would it mean to hear this prophet raised by God who speaks the words of God in God’s authority?
    • Why is it important to hear this prophet today?
    • How would our meetings or gatherings change if we gathered in the authority of Jesus Christ?
    • What is required in order to gather in Jesus’ authority?
    • Does merely getting together constitute/guarantee Jesus’ authority?
    • What would be required to request something from the Father in Jesus’ authority?

The Deut. 18 text is pivotal to understanding the work of Christ, and to understand the issue of authority. A brief glance at the background will show why.

At the mountain, in Deut. 5, the people heard the voice of God speaking from the cloud and saw the fire. They cried out, “Now therefore why should we die? for this great fire will consume us: if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, then we shall die.” (Deut. 5:25) They requested that Moses be the intermediary between them and God. Even though God says they have spoken well, he does not leave them there. Moses tells them that God has humbled them and let them be hungry that they may know and understand that man “does not live by bread alone. But by every word proceeding out of the mouth of God shall man live.” (Deut. 8:3) This is the import of the prophet like Moses. The prophet, speaking with the authority of God, is the mediator of life. Jesus picks up on that theme in John 6:63 saying “The flesh profits nothing, the breath gives life. The words I speak/have spoken to you these are breath, these are life.” As there is no life without hearing the voice of this prophet raised up by God, so there is no speaking or acting in the authority of Christ without obeying that voice.

George Fox had a lot to say about the offices or actions of Christ Jesus as he is present in the midst of those gathered in his authority. Chief among these offices is the fulfillment of the prophet-like-Moses promise of Deut. 18. This understanding did not come out of thin air. When Fox had come to the end of all his resources and was on the point of despair, he received an opening that was central to his preparation for a life of ministry and was central to all that his ministry was about. He wrote in his journal:

But as I had forsaken the priests, so I left the separate preachers also, and those called the most experienced people; for I saw there was none among them all that could speak to my condition. And when all my hopes in them and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could tell what to do; then, Oh! then I heard a voice which said, ‘There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition.’ When I heard it, my heart did leap for joy. Then the Lord let me see why there was none upon the earth that could speak to my condition, namely, that I might give him all the glory. For all are concluded under sin, and shut up in unbelief, as I had been, that Jesus Christ might have preeminence, who enlightens, and gives grace, faith, and power. Thus when God doth work, who shall let it? This I knew experimentally. My desires after the Lord grew stronger, and zeal in the pure knowledge of God, and of Christ alone, without the help of any man, book, or writing. For though I read the scriptures that spake of Christ and of God, yet I knew him not but by revelation, as he who hath the key did open, and as the Father of life drew me to his son by his spirit.” (Works of Fox, Vol. 1, p.74)

There are several things about this passage that are remarkable, but I only mention the following. First is identification of Christ Jesus as the one who can speak to Fox’s condition. There is no ambiguity about whom he is dealing with. Second is Fox’s growth in the “pure knowledge of God, and of Christ alone, without the help of any man, book, or writing…I knew him not but by revelation.” Third is a substantial portion of that “knowing by revelation” occurred as “the Father of life drew me to his son by his spirit.

Now, when Fox was preaching to people such as at Firbank Chapel, the principal component of his message was:

I declared God’s everlasting truth and word of life…directing all to the spirit of God in themselves; that they might be turned from the darkness to the light, and believe in it, that they might become the children of it, and might be turned from the power of satan unto God; and by the spirit of truth might be led into all truth, and sensibly understand the words of the prophets, of Christ, and of the apostles; and might all come to know Christ to be their teacher to instruct them, their counsellor to direct them, their shepherd to feed them, their bishop to oversee them, and their prophet to open divine mysteries to them; and might know their bodies to be prepared, sanctified, and made fit temples for God and Christ to dwell in. In the openings of the heavenly life, I opened unto them the prophets, and the figures and shadows, and directed them to Christ, the substance… (Works of Fox, Vol. 1, pp. 142-143)

In his Sermon XIV, Stephen Crisp stated:

How do we like that government, to be ruled by the devil, and to be led captive, and to be made to do his will, and to rebel against God that gave us our life, and breath, and being?…I hope we do none of us like it. It was so with me; and they that are under the tyrannical government of satan, have many cries and wishes in their souls, that they were freed and delivered from it, and brought under the government and obedience of Christ Jesus…

But may not some say, how shall this great work be wrought? For it is a great work, and we verily think that nothing but an Almighty Power can effect it. For there are many in this assembly have been trying to no purpose, and done what they could in their own strength, to deliver their own souls from death, and yet they find themselves in bondage still; nay, they have called in the help and assistance of those that they thought to be stronger than themselves, and all have failed, and they are yet weak and entangled, and they cannot find themselves at liberty to serve the Lord as they ought to do.

I am of this mind, that nothing but the Almighty Power of God can do it; and when you have come to my experience, to know this as I have done, then I hope you will seek after that, and you will see good reason for it; and you will then come to this profession, if the Lord puts not forth his Almighty Power, I must then perish, for there is no other power can deliver me. When you come to know this…you must wait for the revelation of that power that will take you off from all trust and confidence that you have ever had in any thing else:…

When a man or woman comes to this pass, that they have nothing to rely upon but the Lord, then they will meet together to wait upon the Lord: And this was the first ground or motive of our setting up meetings;…we should use them as poor desolate helpless people that are broken off from all their own confidence and trust, and have nothing to rely upon but the mercy and goodness of God; and if he pleaseth to reveal his power among us, we know that he is able to save us. (Scripture Truths Demonstrated, pp. 158, 159)

This was the foundation upon which the Quaker movement was built; a building solidly fitted and joined together in and by the revelation of Jesus Christ present among them fulfilling all his offices. When the early Friends gathered, two or three or hundreds, they knew they were gathered in Jesus’ authority because they experienced him in their midst performing his functions or offices among and within them.

When Fox spoke in Ulverston Chapel in 1652, much of what he had to say concerned this authority. Margaret Fell reported,

And then he went on, and opened the scriptures, and said, ‘The scriptures were the prophets’ words, and Christ’s and the apostles’ words, and what as they spoke they enjoyed and possessed, and had it from the Lord:and said,Then what had any to do with the scriptures, but as they came to the spirit that gave them forth. You will say, Christ saith this, and the apostles say this; ‘but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of light, and hast walked in the light, and what thou speakest, is it inwardly from God?&c. This opened me so, that it cut me to the heart; and then I saw clearly, we were all wrong. So I sat down in my pew again, and cried bitterly; and I cried in my spirit to the Lord, ‘We are all thieves, we are all thieves, we have taken the scriptures in words, and know nothing of them in ourselves.’ (Works of Fox, Vol. I, p.50)

Today, many Liberal Quakers speak of “the Spirit,” but that “Spirit” does not lead to the son nor does it bring glory to Jesus Christ as the only one that can speak to the human condition. Evangelical Friends, and evangelicals in general, have a lot of words about Jesus Christ, but those words do not bring people to know God and Christ alone without the help of any man, book, or writing. They are not gathered in Christ’s authority to partake of his offices as he is present in the midst.

By acting and speaking without the authority of God and Jesus Christ, we prove ourselves to be thieves. But being thieves, we deny Jesus Christ and negate the gift of life, grace, faith, and power, which he would give us if we were not intent on stealing them.

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Faith and Culture

But as I had forsaken the priests, so I left the separate preachers also, and those called the most experienced people; for I saw there was none among them all that could speak to my condition. And when all my hopes in them and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could tell what to do; then, Oh! then I heard a voice which said, ‘There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition.’ When I heard it, my heart did leap for joy. Then the Lord let me see why there was none upon the earth that could speak to my condition, namely, that I might give him all the glory. For all are concluded under sin, and shut up in unbelief, as I had been, that Jesus Christ might have preeminence, who enlightens, and gives grace, faith, and power. Thus when God doth work, who shall let it? This I knew experimentally. (Works of Fox, Vol. I, p. 74)

Faith does not grow in the comfortable situations where we are in control. Fox’s experience of the priests, separate preachers, and most experienced people was that they were all miserable comforters. Many people prefer to hold onto miserable comfort rather than to admit that such comfort is worthless. But in so doing they are never brought to that impasse of “I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could tell what to do.” It is this impasse, where we have reached the end of all our resources, that is the seedbed of faith. From Fox’s “then, Oh! then I heard a voice which said, ‘There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition.’” to “This I knew experimentally.” is the process of faith growing within.

The world was, and yet is, immersed in a culture of looking upon “priests, separate preachers, and most experienced people” as the avenue through which God will send help if ever we are to receive any help. The effect of this culture is that we have many voices to listen to. Fox’s opening was that it was not the many voices that could speak to his condition, and in that realization he was cut off from all contemporary Christianity. From their point of view, he was now beyond help, beyond redemption. Today, we are again assailed by a barrage of voices; even among those called Christian. The common refrain is, “God speaks to me through the preacher, through Bible readings, through the songs, through circumstances,” etc. If you follow these voices you always end up in the ditch. You can say, “I have faith that God will someday pull me up out of this ditch.” But that is not the good news. That is not faith. The good news is that there is one voice that is to be heard while it is called “today” that does not lead into the ditch. That voice does not speak “through…” but speaks to your inward ear. Faith grows as we hear and follow that voice. This faith causes our hearts to leap for joy. We know by experience that by following this voice we are brought to life and made conformable to the image of the Father.

This experience was the center piece of Fox’s preparation for his life of ministry. Thus in his summary of his message at Firbank Fell he said:

It was judged there were above a thousand people; to whom I declared God’s everlasting truth and word of life freely and largely for about the space of three hours; directing all to the spirit of God in themselves; that they might be turned from the darkness to the light, and believe in it, that they might become the children of it, and might be turned from the power of satan unto God; and by the spirit of truth might be led into all truth, and sensibly understand the words of the prophets, of Christ, and of the apostles; and might all come to know Christ to be their teacher to instruct them, their counsellor to direct them, their shepherd to feed them, their bishop to oversee them, and their prophet to open divine mysteries to them; and might know their bodies to be prepared, sanctified, and made fit temples for God and Christ to dwell in. In the openings of the heavenly life, I opened unto them the prophets, and the figures and shadows, and directed them to Christ, the substance…I showed also the state of the apostacy that hath been since the apostles’ days; that the priests have got the scriptures, but are not in the spirit which gave them forth; and have put them into chapter and verse, to make a trade of the holy men’s words; that the teachers and priests now are found in the steps of the false prophets, chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees of old, and are such as the true prophets, Christ and the apostles cried against, and so are judged and condemned by the spirit of the true prophets, of Christ, and of his apostles: and that none in that spirit and guided by it now could own them. (Works of Fox, Vol. 1, pp. 142-143)

Not only was turning from the many voices to the one voice, even Christ Jesus, central to Fox’s preparation, it was central to what he called all people to experience for themselves. This shared experience is the basis of the community of faith, or else we have no faith; only wishful thinking. Without this faith, we are blown about by every wind of cultural doctrine. This faith is either the center of our culture or else culture becomes our “faith.”

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Introduction to Fox’s Teaching on the Holy Spirit

Note: This first appeared as a blog post on the New Foundation Fellowship website.

There are two compelling reasons for devoting a whole session in this series to Fox’s teaching about the Holy Spirit. The first is that Quakerism is now being categorized as belonging among the many Christian movements that make the Holy Spirit central to faith and experience. The other reason is that those who are now being called to re-proclaim the everlasting gospel will encounter many Quakers, and many Christians in all denominations, who make the Holy Spirit central. I have found in my own experience that where the charismatic or Pentecostal movements have established themselves there is a built-in resistance to the gospel that Fox preached. Therefore we have to study these movements and be prepared to respond when they say there is nothing in Fox’s understanding of the gospel that they do not already have.

Thus Lewis Benson began lecture #9, Fox’s Teaching on the Holy Spirit, of his 10 Moorestown Lecture Series, given in the fall of 1982. His contention is that rather than making the Holy Spirit central, the early Quakers knew/experienced Jesus Christ as the center of their life and worship. Is this really the case? To answer that question, I went to Epistles from the Yearly Meeting of Friends, Held in London, to the Quarterly and Monthly Meetings in Great Britain, Ireland, and Elsewhere, From 1681 to 1817, Inclusive: With an Introduction, Comprising an Account of several preceding Epistles, and of the Early Records of the Yearly Meeting; Also An Index Of Some Of The Principal Matters. (Available from archive.org.) Following are some examples of what I found.

The Lord, who is the Ancient of Days, the unchangeable, and Holy One of Israel, that was, and is, and is to come, our Rock and Strength for ever, hath graciously brought us together by his own power, and is with us, yea, and hath covered us with his love and Spirit, and filled our hearts with his undeclarable kindness; the sense of his mercies hath exceedingly overcome us, and the remembrance of his ancient goodness has even melted and cemented us together; and blessed, and sweet, and very precious to our souls is the heavenly unity of life among us, wherein at this meeting the Lord our God hath crowned us with glory, dominion, and peace: blessed for ever be his pure name! (p. xi, From a Meeting Held at Ellis Hookes… 1677)

…In the ancient pure and precious Truth…is the very endeared salutation of our tender faithful love to you all, in which is the blessed fellowship of life felt, enjoyed, and maintained…O! blessed be his Eternal Arm of power, that hath made us sensible of this unity, and gathered us out of this worlds’ spirit…into this sweet, pure, and peaceable society…Dear Friends, his dew descendeth, his rain falleth, and the light of his heavenly countenance is lifted up, and shineth upon us; our hearts are affected, our souls are overcome, he hath filled us with his blessing, and caused our cups to overflow; he hath spoken such peace to his people, as the world can neither give nor take away, and therefore, they dare not return to folly… (p. xvi, from The Yearly Meeting Paper, 1678)

WE dearly salute you in our Lord Jesus Christ, who is our prince peace, our head, our life, and lawgiver; being truly comforted and refreshed in his continued presence and blessing with us, and with our meetings and christian care in the affairs and concerns of Truth and churches of Christ ; truly rejoicing in the living sense and accounts we have at this Meeting of Truth’s prosperity… (p. 1, Epistle 1681)

…Finally, dear Friends and Brethren, “we commit you to the Lord God, to be ordered by his divine wisdom and counsel; and therein continue your love and tender care one for another, and for Truth’s prosperity. All dwell in the love of God, in unity and peace in Christ Jesus, the prince of life and peace; and therein go on in his service, and keep your habitations over all that which is contrary, or would hinder you therein, or disturb your peaceable societies. (p. 3, Epistle 1681)

And this from George Fox’s Epistles:

…so in his name keep your meetings, in whom you have salvation; and these are the true meetings and true gatherings who feel Jesus Christ in the midst of them, their prophet, their counsellor, their leader, their light and life, their way and their truth, their shepherd that laid down his life for them, that has bought you, his sheep, who feeds you in his pastures of life; and your heavenly bishop to oversee you, that you do not go astray again from God. And so it is that through him you overcome, and he that overcomes shall go no more forth out of his fold, out of his pastures, who shall sit down in heavenly places in Christ Jesus who is your priest that offered up himself for you, and sacrifices for you and makes you holy and clean, that he may present you blameless up to the holy and pure God and here you come to witness him and to know him in his offices, by his light, sprit, and power;… (Works of Fox, Vol. viii, p.77)

Those early epistles were not written to appease someone looking over their shoulders, scrutinizing their words. Neither are modern epistles afflicted with any dread that I would look critically at their wording. Therefore, the differences in mood, in attribution, and in language indicate a real difference in experience. It is not so much that the early Friends refrained from mentioning the Holy Spirit, but in reading through their epistles I sense the critical importance of Jesus’s presence in all his offices.

Finding modern Quaker epistles is not so easy, but let us look at a couple of statements from a group that proclaims themselves to be “passionately Christ-centered” and “passionately Quaker.”

Their definition of Christ/Christ-centered is:

Friends use the word Christ to refer both to the historical Jesus, and the present Spirit that “has come to teach His people Himself” (Fox)… (http://www.freedomfriends.org/FF-WGloss.htm#Chr)

And the body of Christ is defined as:

This term has multiple meanings. The most simple is that all Christians, regardless of church affiliation or lack thereof, are the physical presence of Christ in the[sic] this world . Since Jesus left the planet in physical form, being present to us in spirit, we have to be his eyes and ears, his hands and feet… (http://www.freedomfriends.org/FF-WGloss.htm#bo)

And then there is the epistle from a recent gathering of Quaker ministers and elders from several Yearly Meetings which contains the following:

Twenty-nine of us gathered at the Cenacle Retreat Center in Chicago October 6 – 9, 2017. Experienced ministers and elders were invited from a number of the branches of Quakerism, the diversity of which enriched the gathering. The two planners and one of the group leaders fell sick at the last minute. Other Friends stepped up at a few minutes’ notice. Those of us who like everything planned were a little cranky, but we marveled at the miracles and mischief of the Holy Spirit manifested among us…

And

In the opening worship one Friend shared a heartfelt message saying the Society of Friends is in deep trouble because we are not surrendering to the Holy Spirit.

The two definitions quoted from Freedom Friends above are markedly different from statements made by Fox and other early Friends expressing the reality of Jesus Christ’s presence, rather than a representative spirit, in and among them. The epistle from the gathering of ministers and elders makes no mention at all of Christ’s presence among them fulfilling his offices.

The expression of the centrality of Christ’s presence and function is what first drew me to the message of the early Friends and gave me an understanding that in that message is something that the rest of Christendom lacks. Many things have changed in the 48 years since I first read the Journal of George Fox, but the need for this message has intensified rather than diminished. Lewis Benson’s lecture #9 is essential for understanding the distinctions between the early Quaker message and the various “gospels” presented today.

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Do We Live by Life or by Death

Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.

Not every one who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.” (Matt. 7:13-23)

In his blog post, Is Your “Justice” Really Just Revenge, Micah Bales indirectly raised a very important question: “Do we live by death or do we live by life?” You can read his post by following the link above, but I want to explore further the implications inherent in this question.

Live-by-death strategies may enable one to make some outward changes; the greater your willpower the larger the change. But in spite of those changes, there remains an unyielding core of death within. Our encounters with that inward death and our inability to produce life are a continual source of frustration. Often someone will try to appease those frustrations with such statements as “The blood of Jesus, shed for us on the cross, has the power to take away the sins of the world.

This has been the approach of much of Christendom throughout history and is exemplified by current Protestant and Catholic theology. I can think of three things wrong with this live-by-death statement. First it leaves the adherent without the necessary power to know and do the will of the Father. Second, the blood Jesus shed on the cross is an historic event that reaches neither forward nor backward through time. And third, the sin of the world, not sins of the world, that Jesus takes away is not what their statement implies. Where mankind is in sin they are in a state of death and are trying to come to life through their own effort. Even Jesus’ death is not a remedy for mankind’s inward deadness. That condition can only be cured by life.

In his Preface to The Scattered Sheep Sought After (Works of Isaac Penington, Vol. I, pp.102-104), Isaac Penington made the following statements:

“My people have committed two great evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” This was ever and anon the complaint of the Lord concerning Israel…The Lord did delight to beget, nourish, and bring up that people for himself; but they were almost continually revolting from him, and rebelling against him…In plain terms, they got what knowledge they could from him into their own vessels, and then they would set up for themselves, live of themselves, without fresh bubblings-up of life from the spring, from whence their knowledge came…they lived upon such things as once came from the life; but, being separated from the spring, were dead, and nourished but the dead part in them…though their professions were great, and they multiplied prayers, sacrifices, and fasts, and drew nigh to God with their lips, yet their hearts were far from him. They had forsaken the fountain; they drank not of the waters of the spring, of the rock that followed them; but they drank of the waters of their own cisterns. They set up that knowledge of the law for their light which they had hewed out with the tools of their own understanding, without the spirit that wrote it…they drank very zealously of the waters of the law; but they drank it not from the spring, but out of the cisterns which themselves had hewed.

…The Christian Israel hath been always backsliding…still getting what they could from him to live of themselves, but refusing to live on him: getting what knowledge they could from the scriptures without him; getting what they could from their exercises and experiences; but neglecting the spring of their life…For though they speak great words of their God; yet they themselves are but as the heathen…unacquainted with the virtue and power of life like them; always striving against sin in that which cannot conquer…

…how hath the spirit of the Lord mourned after his people, often reproving them for their backslidings! but they have been…justifying themselves, and complaining against the witnesses of God…who from the Lord testify against them. And it cannot be otherwise; for the dead waters in Israel’s hewn cisterns will never agree with the waters of the living fountain, but will withstand their testimony.[emphasis added]

When the scripture speaks of the blood of Christ, the reference is to his life. The resurrection, the triumph of Jesus’ life over death, is the death shattering event that does reach throughout history. This life is being poured out and is available continually, bubbling up like springs of living water. Jesus told his disciples,

The flesh profits nothing, it is the spirit that gives life. The words I am speaking/have spoken to you, these are spirit, these are life. (See John 6:63)

So, what must we do? We must come to hear and follow this voice, speaking life within us, if we are to escape that unyielding core of death within. The writer of the book of John stated: “In the beginning was the Word…In him was life and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:1,4) This is the narrow gate, to live in this light and by the word Jesus speaks to us. It is quite different than reading the Bible and trying to do what it says.

George Fox stated the difference thus:

The Lord had said unto me, ‘If but one man or woman were raised by his power, to stand and live in the same spirit that the prophets and apostles were in who gave forth the scriptures, that man or woman should shake all the country in their profession for ten miles round.’ For people had the scriptures, but were not in the same light, power, and spirit, which those were in who gave forth the scriptures: so they neither knew God, Christ, nor the scriptures aright; nor had they unity one with another, being out of the power and spirit of God. (Works of Fox, Vol. I, p.140)

The early Quakers exemplified live-by-life. Edward Burrough, writing of the rise of the Quakers in the north of England, stated,

And by this light of Christ in us were we led out of all false ways, and false preachings, and from false ministers, and we met together often, and waited upon the Lord in pure silence from our own words, and all men’s words, and hearkened to the voice of the Lord, and felt his word in our hearts, to burn up and beat down all that was contrary to God… (Works of Fox, Vol. 3, p.13)

And when Stephen Crisp decided that it was not possible for him to control his wandering mind during worship, he determined to give up. He rose to leave, whereupon the voice of God thundered within him, “That which is weary must die.” (Crisp’s Works, p. 30)

It is we that must die to the ways of this world, to the ways of self, that we may live by the voice of Christ alone. We must experience the voice of the Lord and feel His word in our hearts burning up and beating down all that is contrary to God. Again quoting from Edward Burrough,

And in all things we found the light which we were enlightened withal, (which is Christ,) to be alone and only sufficient to bring to life and eternal salvation; and that all who did own the light in them which Christ hath enlightened every man withal, they needed no man to teach them, but the Lord was their teacher, by his light in their own consciences, and they received the holy anointing. (Works of Fox, Vol.III, pp. 12-13)

The holy anointing Burrough wrote about is not an outward application of oil, but receiving the gift of Christ’s life within such that they became living beings. No longer was there that unyielding core of death that accused them before the living God.

When we have come to this, we experience within ourselves the Teacher who teaches us the Father’s will, we find within the willingness to receive the power of Christ that enables us to live according to that will. By this process we are remade into the image of God and are set free from the image of the serpent. It is an inward work of God that we must not grow weary of, but wait in the hope that He will bring it to conclusion as we yield to what He requires of us. In that willingness, we will find possible what we had known to be impossible before.

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