Our fellowship with one another or together is as a consequence of our first or primary fellowship with God through Christ by the Holy Spirit. This sequence is ordained by God because He seeks to accomplish in our fellowship one with another that which is impossible without Christ. In other words, there is a fellowship with one another that is achievable without Christ Jesus.
So, a fine relationship or fellowship can exist between friends, marriages, parents and children, unions, communities, religions and countries without it being the kind God seeks or the type that Jesus Christ prayed to His Father about on behalf of His body on the earth in John 17. It is insightful that He prayed to this effect before He returned to His former glory which He laid down in order to found His Kingdom in the earth.
It remains a fact that through leadership skills, rules and regulations, justices, fear of the consequences of breaching governmental laws, zeal to attain ambitions etc the world may have fellowship or live in harmony (the tower of Babel comes to mind Genesis 11).
The saints are exhorted in the bible to pray ‘for kings and those in authority—so that we may live harmonious lives’ 1 Timothy 2:2. God’s intention through the prayers is to save those who have not received His Son, Christ Jesus—the only way to eternal life. The “harmonious living” which some people who reject and mock the return of Christ may enjoy differs from the “peaceful lives” marked by a pure and blameless call on the body of Christ 2 Peter 3: 3, 14.
The importance of the above is this; we who claim to be born again by and into the Spirit of Christ need to soberly examine what we are fervently building as fellowship on the earth today. We need to see through the eyes of the scriptures by the Holy Spirit if indeed we’re part of and participating as precious stones in the ongoing temple Christ is building through His ceaseless intercession in heaven Matthew 16:18, Romans 8:34.
What about the churches— that is, the gatherings, assemblies or fellowships of those professing Christ? Though this may alarm many people, the truth is that the churches are not the body of Christ. Please calm down! Read on and judge what is written by scriptures like the Bereans Acts 17:11.
The ekklesia popularly referenced as the Church or saints not churches is the body of Christ Ephesians 1:1, 22-23. In I Corinthians 11:16 Paul said, “…nor do the churches of God”. Here, the word is not just churches but the “churches of God”.
To understand Paul’s usage of the term “churches of God”, we have to read 1 Corinthians 11: 17-19 in which he indicates that he was writing to the church. It is on this ground that what Paul wrote then is seen as written also to all believers in all of the church ages which includes us today.
Without neglecting to be contextual, we also notice that in mentioning their specific bad manners with regards to the Lord’s Table and the factiousness, Paul was addressing it as a thing that will keep authenticating “the church” as different from those just professing Christ within the Churches.
In 1 Corinthians 11:22, Paul uses the term “the Church of God” as referring to Christ’s body. And scriptures clearly state that the body of Christ is one though made up of many individual parts not corporate parts 1 Corinthians 12:12, Hebrews 6:11.
The emphasis being; in the churches scattered all over the world, individuals within each of the churches that have received and are abiding in the Spirit of Christ, form His one body as lively stones being built up as one spiritual temple 1 Peter 2:5. So, Christ’s body does not have types e.g., evangelical, charismatic, reformed, multicultural, institutional or house churches etc.
Truly, no one has ever been or will ever be a part of the body of Christ because they belong to any of the churches no matter how well the churches presume to fair in Christ.
Paul the apostle therefore says, “But, of course, there must be divisions among you so that you who have God’s approval will be recognized!” 1 Corinthians 11:18-20. That is, “you” (who are part of His body) approved of God as genuine may be manifest—a manifestation which even creation longs to know—that is, His body, the sons of God or the “church” (not churches) of the living God Romans 8:19, 1 Timothy 3:15.
God has but one church or body of which there are no grades! Her individual parts are functioning differently for one purpose and one crown not many crowns. Each individual receives a crown equal in every way as it fulfils that which God had assigned Matthew 20.
While the individual parts that constitute the “one church” Ephesians 4:4 are still clothed with mortal bodies, our comprehension of crown and rewards is affected Ephesians 1:18. The perception of a lesser crown is mere thinking. Because all the crowns constitute one crown, no one will regret not doing enough that could have enabled them receive a better or more glorious crown. Christ is the reward awaiting the saints in all her sufferings! Hopefully, that means more than enough for us!
Let’s beware of the mentality of the elder brother of the repented prodigal son. Matthew 25:30 sheds spiritual light on Matthew 25: 24-29, indicating that the talent is not skills but the redemption (Christ) God has given to us.
Think about it, God will not throw anyone into outer darkness because he or she did not use their skills. Unequivocally, the passage is actually speaking about the foolishness of burying, trampling under feet or crucifying Christ the second time Hebrews 6:6, 10:29.
The incentive to continue to abide in Christ, in His commandments by faith working through grace in our inner most being is not to get a better crown but to be redeemed to the utmost. This is the reason to submit to God, one another and resist the devil. It is not to win applause in heaven and receive a more superior crown than the others who are also redeemed.
The prize, reward or crown is Christ Jesus whom we have and will have!! For His sake and through Him, we are to continue laying down our lives that His glorious life might crown His temple for all eternity 2 Timothy 4:8, James 1:12, 1 Peter 5:4, Revelation 2:10, 3:11 “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown”.
Notice! We already have the crown. Treasure Him that no man seduce or lead you away from Him 2 Corinthians 11:3.
Rather, through Christ by the Holy Spirit’s power we are to individually grow in our fellowship with God and one another or together in the one faith, love and hope. At the consummation of all things, God himself shall be our exceeding reward Genesis 15:1NIV.
This article is geared towards encouraging you and me to submit to be led by God. It’s what our faith in Christ Jesus entails inevitably.
The perverseness of Samuels’s sons revealed the distaste Israel had over God leading their lives 1 Samuel 8:1-9. Once the opportunity presented itself, Israel used it as a ploy to demand for a king as opposed to judges. Despite the Prophet’s warning, they insisted on having a king and appeared better off than when God was their King who led them. This became the start of Human kings reigning over Israel (the people of God). They now felt like other nations whose lives were not governed by God!
But in actuality both spiritual and temporal, Israel was far better off being led by the King, the God of their forefathers. They eventually learnt in hard ways that they were better off being led by God even though it necessitated them hearing His voice that they dreaded so much because of its correcting and purifying effect.
As Christians today, learning to be led by God as our King is fraught with many “risks”, so to speak. There is the perplexities, pains, wilderness etc and as such, the temptation is to ask for kings we can see and touch (persons we can blame when things go pear shaped or praised when the outcome is fine). As a result, we always have people to accuse and punish or give the glory which is duly due to God. This accounts for why what we can see and touch is always easier for mere humans to handle but it shouldn’t be so for the spiritual people of God. For, it is given to us to understand the things of God and walk in it with Him. Once we start being led by Him, to settle for anything less becomes suicide.
So, why are an overwhelming number of us Christians more comfortable with being led by kings today as opposed to Romans 8:14? This anomaly has created an ever increasing ambition for the position of kingship (nicknamed various religious titles) serving as a source of sophisticated, subtle and deadly power tussles in the churches.
“Mere men’s” affairs! Who is the greatest?! This problem was seen among Jesus’ disciples when they had not known Him after the manner of the spirit but only according to the flesh Matthew 18:1, 1 Corinthians 3:3-4. After Christ’ resurrection and Him indwelling them by the Holy Spirit, that carnal mindedness was renewed. And, so it is today with all who truly come to know Christ Jesus in spirit and truth.
Like Israel of old that appeared to have direction and respect resulting from having kings, we too assume the same will be true of us. In all sincerity, though deceptive, those being led today by “good and smart leaders (kings)” seem to make better and steady progress so long as they continue to be led. When one leader is out, they must move to another leader who serves as their guide and protector. Obviously, the benefits are huge—riding on the back of or, progressing based on the good will of the kings.
Unfortunately, this kind of progress is not exactly the same as making progress in learning to walk in and with the King of kings and Lord of lords, our savior, Christ Jesus.
To make progress in God through the Holy Spirit calls for faith, grace, and patience—this comes only by the increasing knowledge of Jesus Christ in our daily walk with Him 2 Peter 1:2, 3:18. If I may quote George H. Warnock and T. Austin-Sparks, ‘increase in the knowledge of Christ is utterly practical’.
Paul the apostle calls it “your moderation or reasonableness”. The exhortation is for us to read through the scriptures, praying as we confront our daily situations through the Holy Spirit’s instructions Isaiah 30:21, John 10:27. By taking one step at His instruction, the knowledge of Christ is gained. By continually keeping in step in this manner there is movement in the knowledge and glory of Christ attended by stability in His peace that passes all understanding 1Peter 2:21KJV, Galatians 5:25, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Philippians 4:5-7.
God has designed that through many trials and tribulations; the straight and narrow way should be walked and finished well by keeping this mind of Christ under all circumstances Philippians 4:8.
No shortcuts or hop, skip and jump! It is precept upon precept—meaning, step by step even if it is quick paced. The glory from this kind of progress can only be ascribed to the Spirit at work in and with the believer in Christ. This is why it is hugely accompanied with a repentant lifestyle (fruit of the spirit)
Note it is not “fruits but fruit” because it is being produced by the one spirit that indwells all true believers and all the fruit is one or, summed up as one (love). It is not surprising then that there are many progresses that are not progress in love but in fig leaves Matthew 21:19. This deception of fig leaves and its doom is what God is saving us from by leading us—even taking us through Jordan’s thickets and the valley of Baca Psalm 84.
Truly, by faith, with the hope that does not make ashamed, we must appear before the presence of God with love (Christ) 1 Cor 13:13. Nothing less will do. Therefore, even in the face of enormous wickedness rampaging both in the world and churches, we must submit to be led by God in Christ’s footsteps through the Holy Spirit’s power to the end Psalm 23:2, James 4:7.
If there be truth and light in this meditation, may the Holy Spirit help cause it to burn in our hearts and give us even richer truth and light to bless others.
Lively and rich exhortation from T. Austin-Sparks of blessed Memory
Brother I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened. (Ephesians 1:18 NIV)
“The eyes of yourheart enlightened…” discerning love. Love is as far removed from blindness as heaven from earth. “Love is blind”? No – not true love. The fact is that true love sees everything, but transcends everything. The love of Christ for His disciples was not blind love that did not know His men, love that was duped, deceived, misled, but eventually found out that they were not the men He thought they were. No, “He… knew what was in man” (John 2:24). His love saw everything and could tell them beforehand exactly what they would do; but love persisted in face of it all. Love is a great seeing thing.
If you are consumed with a burning love for the Lord, you will be very quick of scent as to what is doubtful and questionable. You will not need to be frequently and continuously told when a thing is not right. No, love for the Lord will bring you quickly to see and to sense there is something that needs to be adjusted. You may not know what it is at the time, but you have a sense that all is not well. Love will do it. All the instruction in the world will not bring you to it. You may have the Word of God brought to you on all such points, and you might even say, “All right, because you say so, because it is in the Bible, I will do it, I will be obedient.” Do you think that is good enough? Such a thing has never come to you through the eyes of your heart. But, mark you, if this love, this discerning love, has really filled your heart by all the intelligence of the Holy Spirit indwelling you, you will sense it without being told; or if it should be brought to you from the Word, that within you will say, “Yes, I know that is right, the Lord tells me that is right.” Do you not think that is the kind of Christian that is needed, and what the Lord needs at the end? That is what He has had in mind from the beginning and He calls that first love that is quick of scent to see what needs to be cut off or added, what adjustments are necessary, and does accordingly. You do not have to follow round and say, “Please do this; have you never taken note that you might be helpful in this way?” You do not have to do that where there is devotion, love watchful all the time, aliveness, alertness, perception, readiness to do without being all the time told to do it. Real devotion to the Lord is something that far outreaches legality. First love is discerning love.
Though our experience with God happens within the context of our life experiences, it is not exactly the same thing. Life experiences shape us in a different way than our experience with God.
Experiences of life help shape the majority of people who pass through this world and accounts for why our world is fast decaying in God’s perspective and that of His people. Some good has come out of the life experiences of man such as having learnt how to do many things differently to improve man’s existence on earth. However, when it comes to the way man lives with his fellow man, hardly can it be said there has been improvement.
The reason for the lack of improvement is highly related to what man takes out of his life experience with others. Even for many Christians, this is still true.
The Bible clearly says that the heart of man is desperately wicked and highly deceitful Jer 17:9. Given that what man does visibly comes from this same heart of wickedness and deceit, I guess it is no surprise that man’s experience with his fellow men is but wicked—and deceitful.
Most times, when statements like, “I have learnt my lesson” are made, both by Christians and non Christians, it is usually in reference to— I have learnt how to deal with man better. Better in the sense of I now know what man is like and I must deal with man according to man’s fallen nature.
The essence of this short article is to encourage Christians to rather deal with man by our experience with God. To non Christians it is an invitation to come accept Christ—without whom it is impossible to participate in God’s divine nature. The Christian’s experience with God starts with regeneration of the heart, the sprinkling of the mind with Christ’ Blood and imputation of righteousness. The importance of this initial experience cannot be overemphasized. It is the foundation upon which God calls anyone to deal with life and its experiences.
Without the foundation of God’s nature made alive in man, men may pretend to be good until pushed beyond the limit of human goodness. But, when God’s nature is made alive in man, heaven’s ministration comes upon the heart—sanctifies the mind and empowers it continually to participate in divine living like the Lord from Heaven (Christ Jesus). It is on this basis that the will of God in heaven is done on earth. It has no limitation, for that which is impossible with men is made possible in man by God.
So then, as Christians our light or good (that is Christ) shines before men only when we let our experiences with God govern us. Then, praise is given to God in heaven by men on the earth Matt 5:16. Let us be reminded, those nicknamed “Christians” in Antioch got the name because; they displayed Christ’s nature and not just their belief in Him Acts 11:26. By the Holy Spirit, their lives were a blessing to those of the household of faith and to all men.
What can you say has truly shaped the person you are—is it your God experience or life experience?
So, who are we reacting to according to what they deserve and not according to Christ’s grace? Think soberly about it. The soberness this creates in our hearts can’t fail to lead to repentance, forgiveness—and ultimately, reconciliation unless, we have become reprobates.
Think also about this; God is the One who forgives first and seeks reconciliation with sinful man. This is how I know that God is spiritual and full of love. How do you and I show we are spiritual and having the love of Christ in our hearts not our mouths? The spiritual man ought to be first in good deeds and serving others. Let him who will be the first be the servant (not leader) of all men Mark 9:35. Do you agree with Jesus?
There’s a difference between having discernment and having the gift of discernment of spirits. The understanding of their difference is getting narrower in the Church today. Yet, the importance of keeping them wide apart and praying God to bless the church with both is needed now more than ever before.
A simple definition of discernment is, to have the ability to distinguish between things—knowing the difference between a male and a female (so we don’t marry a man thinking he is a woman and vice versa), a plane and a helicopter, an ocean and a creek, facial expressions, economies etc. To this extent, every human has discernment though, at varying levels especially when the distinction required gets more technical e.g., the ecology of an ocean compared to a creek or reading humans beyond facial expressions.
So, the more complex and technical a thing is required to be discerned, the more the depth of knowledge required to accomplish the task of discerning. Besides the intuitive knowledge all humans are born with which is limited, education plays an important role to condense and deepen our knowledge in specific fields e.g., while we may have a basic understanding from biology about the human body, medical doctors know far better.
Discernment for God’s people
Consistent heart involvement in reading the bible educates us to know or discern between good and evil ordinarily. This leads us to loving, praying and reverencing God and helps us to obey God in the things He instructs. It teaches us to love others and do right by them and to receive love from them as they do right by us. To this extent, all Christians know right from wrong.
Over time, consistent fellowship with the Holy Spirit, study of the scriptures and both pleasant and unpleasant practical experiences within and outside of the community of the faith, we acquire discernment at the level of our individual walk with God.
In Acts 17, the Berean Christians exercised discernment by checking the scriptures after Paul and Silas (Apostles) taught them the word of God. They understood that the word of God is light and it exposes lies and darkness. Every child of God is commanded to study consistently and meditate always on God’s word because it reveals God’s will for man. It renews the mind and a renewed mind is en-graced to do God’s good and perfect will which is the essence of all discernment.
This kind of discernment that comes from a relationship with Christ, study of His word and fellowship with the saints is used for one’s benefit and for others. A person with spiritual discernment gains protection and blessings for him or herself and others.
How does it benefit others?
By sharing the same insight with others—this is possible because Christ speaks to His sheep and speaks through them by the power of the Holy Spirit Heb 3:13.
Negative sources of discernment
Many people undertake studies and practical training to acquire dark knowledge within and outside religious circles to enable them gain discernment. The fields mostly used to gain this dark knowledge are rooted in ESP (extrasensory perception).
Those who subject themselves to these studies and its practical exercises acquire skills which can enable them discern or read people beyond the surface and so know how to predict them and possibly gain mastery over them for whatever purpose! More often than not, it’s used primarily for gaining power and control and only secondarily for material gain. The point I’m making is this; most of the people who get involved in this craft, are not so much money hungry as much as they’re hungry to have control of souls to rule. Discernment is a big thing with rulership or leadership. Those seeking discernment from sources other than God understand the preciousness of the soul and know that to have one soul under them is to advance over that soul as its god, master or guru. The god or master status can be nicknamed any circular or religious title depending on the purpose of the persons involved. Those in the business world take on the title suited for them and those in religious empires take on religious titles and mix their theology with HPM (human potential movement) teachings or its latest versions.
To achieve their objective, they can sacrifice and endure anything knowing that whatever they lose in the short term can be gained even much more if they chose to be materialist after souls are under their control. It’s for this reason, that some become super rich through fooling and exploiting others or their congregations without any application of force. Still, others will even chose to be modest but have multitudes all over the world follow and worship them as their guru. For those sitting over religious people, their words carry more weight than even God’s word in the bible to their subjects. They become the source for authenticating the truth of God’s word and not the word itself. Regrettable disaster!
Though there are limitations to this type of discernment, I just want to state its two major limitations which are:
It deals primarily at the mind level (the soul realm). It works by influencing people’s minds. This is why both the people who practice it and those it is practiced on get demonized.
It can’t discern the mind of God.
The Gift of Discernment of spirits
The difference between the gift of discerning spirits and having discernment is like the distant between continents. Majorly, it does not just deal with the mind realm and its motive but detects the kind of spirit in operation. It bypasses whether the motive is good or bad. This is an important point to note. A deceived person may have good intentions but is controlled by satanic spirits. It’s for this reason God has gifted some in His body with the gift of discernment of spirits which travels deep into a thing or being to discover if the propelling spirit is of God or the devil. People who have this gift can be uneducated because it has nothing to do with intellect.
The scripture warns believers to discern the body of Christ. In other words, we’re to recognize Christ’s Spirit in the midst of the gathering of saints and reverence His presence by sincerely loving and honouring one another. This includes esteeming God’s word above ourselves and subjecting everyone’s teaching and service to a healthy scrutiny through God’s word.
Having this gift does not make the bearer a Prophet. However, a Prophet not just a prophetic person carries this gift. All those with ministry gifts have it— especially Apostles and Prophets for the sake of their foundational work in God’s great house (Church) in the earth. While Simon had a bitter spirit and bond in iniquity which separated his heart from Jesus and denied him any portion with Christ though a believer, he was active in evangelism with Philip the Evangelist till, an apostolic team arrived to strengthen the gathering of the saints who were seeing new believers added to them. Please see Acts 8:9-25. Jesus knew when Satan entered Judas though he was participating in breaking of bread John 13:27. Also, Jesus knew when Satan spoke through Peter though Peter had good intentions Matt 16:23. By discernment, Peter knew that Ananias heart was overtaken by Satan—not that he made a slip of tongue Acts 5:3.
Possessing this gift doesn’t mean one can’t be tricked by people with wrong motives. Paul had this gift yet he suffered in the hands of false brothers 2 Cor 11:26.
Its focus is discerning which spirit is at work and not reading people’s minds or motives. Having a wrong motive is not always a sign of the presence of an evil spirit. For example, many zealous Christians want to eradicate poverty from the world. So, they work harder and smarter to make lots of money for charitable purposes than they devote themselves for intimacy with God. If the example startles you, it means you need to study and meditate on the scripture more and devote yourself to a lifestyle of prayer.
Today, we’re fighting the deceiving spirits the early Church fought with an added tilt. While, one of the major focuses of the early church was to withstand those who wanted to take the church back to Judaism, ours is the infiltration of occult teachings by many false teachers with loads of doctrines to mislead the undiscerning. With so many occult words becoming increasingly acceptable for Christian leaders to use, the lines are vanishing fast.
The depth of the mixture of truth and error is showing that the end is nearer than any other prophetic sign I know in the bible. They have succeeded in misleading many vibrant and good intentioned Christians who have the trust of God’s people. Therefore, the danger has become even more wide spread and harder to detect. In time past, a Christian has to deliberately go out of his or her way to be able to join occult organizations but now, one can easily imbibe occult teachings and even practice it while in a supposedly decent Christian community. Think of yoga, the different forms of transcendental meditation, crowd or mind control techniques blatantly used in the Church today.
In the early Church, those who exercised their spiritual gifts and those with the five-fold ministries, especially the Apostles and Prophets fought against these dangers with all they had—but in our time, there has been a lot of failing to do this. As a result, diviners and sorcerers are now ministering in the camp and are even highly respected as they do so!! Acts 16:16, 8:9-21 and 5:3, 1 Tim 1:19-20. Voo doo doctors are springing up in the gatherings of saints all over the world. They have abandoned their dressing styles by which they are usually known and are now dressed in clean suits or stylish modern jeans and T-shirts with leather bibles in their hands. It would have been marvelous if they had also dropped the spirit of their trade but no, they haven’t—they don’t have the Spirit of Christ.
There are many young and vibrant men and women (26-50 years old) in the church now who have imbibed occult teachings and are perfecting blending it with Christian doctrines. These are leadership minded folks who’ll do anything to sustain their ambition. Now and in no distant time, they are causing and will yet cause the church such problems as never before. There is much need now to stop the mouth of some people in the church. The leaders who have nurtured these people should have been stopped decades but it didn’t happen. No one wants to be seen as a trouble maker. No one wants to lose their reputation. Most people want acceptance, great following and to accomplish some great things for God—all at the expense of God’s pleasure. A pleasure God sacrificed His only Son to purchase.
We’re in need of not only discernment but also the gift of discernment of spirits.
If you have the gift of discernment of spirits (not the gift of suspicion), may the Lord our God strengthen you to speak out in the community of saints where God has set you Isaiah 62.
Exposing the false spirits that have come into the church gatherings and warning and sharply rebuking those who may have unknowingly been ensnared is within the context of the word edify. And those who’ve understood their error but are bent on travelling that route must be handed over to Satan by the church that they may be ashamed and repent—turning again sincerely to the Spirit of the Lord of glory, Christ Jesus.
2 Tim 3:16, tells us that the word of God is the substance of discernment and edifying as His Spirit through His sheep use the instrumentality of teaching, reproofing, correcting, and training in righteousness (participation in divine nature or character). The prompt application of these instruments of God is crucial for the assemblies of God’s people to abide in the mind of Christ (have one mind) Rom 15:5, enjoy unity of the spirit Eph 4:3 and its attendant benefits Ps 133:1-3.