Lessons From the Underground Church in China

As the People’s Republic of China recently celebrated it’s 70th anniversary (October 1, 2019), I wanted to focus a post on the underground church in China that has endured intense persecution under this repressive, communist regime.  As the Chinese government continues to develop and employ powerful, ubiquitous tools of mass surveillance and is implementing it’s dystopian “social credit” system as a means of social control, there has never been a greater time or need to pray for our faithful brothers and sisters in Christ who are living and laboring for the Kingdom of God there.

The purified, overcoming testimony of the underground church in China also serves as a powerful witness to the Church in the rest of the world.  It is the informed belief of many that China is the pattern of the global governance system that is being advanced and the technological systems of social control that are being rolled out there will soon be implemented in more and more nations around the world.  The Church in the West is largely unaware and unprepared for the level of surveillance, control, oppression, and persecution that could possibly be forced upon us.  It is time for a great awakening and a sober preparation for what lies ahead, no matter what that may be.  We would do well to learn from those who are presently living in such repressive nations as China and be encouraged by the overcoming nature of their faith.

Below is a section from the book, Principles for the Gathering of Believers Under the Headship of Jesus Christ, that I have hosted as a free resource on this blog.  The section is called: “Lessons From the Underground Church in China”.  For this post, I’ve assembled the audio files for this section into a continuous playlist for your ease of listening.  Below that are the PDF and mp3 files for the chapters that can be downloaded.  I pray that these powerful writings by those closely connected with the underground church in China, and elsewhere around the world, will greatly stir your faith and also be an impetus to pray for the saints of God in China and for the advancing of the gospel in that land.

~ ~ ~

PRINCIPLES FOR THE GATHERING OF BELIEVERS
UNDER THE HEADSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST

PRINCIPLES FROM THE UNDERGROUND CHURCH IN CHINA

Principle 36 – Dependence on the Moving of the Holy Spirit (pdf)  (mp3)
Principle 37 – Jesus Christ as Lord and Head (pdf)  (mp3)
Principle 38 – The Spirit of Martyrdom (pdf)  (mp3)
Principle 39 – God Actually Answers Prayer (pdf)  (mp3)
Principle 40 – The Body of Christ is the Church (pdf)  (mp3)
Principle 41 – The Back To Jerusalem Movement (pdf)  (mp3)
Principle 42 – The True Mission of the Church (pdf)  (mp3)

For the full resource page of this book, with all the chapters and various means of downloading/obtaining it, please see the following page:
PRINCIPLES Book (Complete – PDF, mp3 and more)

I also have another post where I share my familial connection with the work of God in China and a powerful video of footage of the underground church there.  Please see the post:
A Grandfather’s Poem and Rare Footage of the Underground Church in China

God bless you as we join our hearts and prayers with the Body of Christ that is in this land.  May God strengthen them and us through our mutual faith and fellowship in the Spirit in this critical hour in which we live.  -David


Further related:
The Great Acceleration and the Overcoming Church

FREE AUDIOBOOKS

Posted in Audiobooks, Christ-Centered Gatherings, Christ-Centered Resources, Mission, The Cross, The Ekklesia, The Holy Spirit | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Holy Spirit in “3D”

Today, Christians around the world celebrate the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church on the day of Pentecost. (See Acts 2) In honor of this celebration, and as an ongoing tribute to the Holy Spirit, I would like to offer some spiritual resources for your consideration and edification.

It has been my long-standing conviction and burden that in large portions of the church, the Holy Spirit has become what I would call “the marginalized member of the Godhead.” The Father we revere, the Son we exalt, but the Holy Spirit is quite often treated with sanctimonious suspicion and religious reservation. If we do honor and seek Him, we generally do so in a measured way within the confines of our religious, traditional, and institutional boxes. Rarely do we give Him the full honor and submission that He is worthy of as an equal member of the Godhead with the Father and the Son. In failing to do so, we, in reality, diminish, limit, and thwart the effectual working of the Father and the Son among us, who carry out their work only through the manifest operation of the Holy Spirit.

In this post, I am offering two substantial resources and an original post that together, I believe, will provide a “3D” perspective on the Holy Spirit that will work to increase our revelation of and reverence for the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the church. Only then will we be able to truly know the Father and the Son and experience their manifest working both within us and among us!

May we earnestly seek to restore the Holy Spirit back from the margins to His rightful place as GOD in our midst!

All blessings!
-David

[For the full pages for these resources, please click the links of the titles below.]

The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit – by R. A. Torrey (free audiobook)

The Full Blessing of Pentecost – by Andrew Murray (free audiobook)

“Wind Dies in a Box”

“Wind dies in a box.”

In Scripture, the Holy Spirit is likened unto the wind.

Jesus said, The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) We also know that on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out on the disciples in the Upper Room that: Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting… All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:2,4). This was a primary manifestation of the Holy Spirit as He was given to the Church after the ascension of Christ.

So why is the Holy Spirit likened unto the wind?

Here are a few similarities that I can see:

The Hebrew word for “spirit”, “ruach”, literally means “wind”, “breath”.

Wind is an unseen force, the effects of which can be seen, but not the force itself. The same is true of the Holy Spirit.

Wind is from above, a “heavenly” force. The same is true of the Holy Spirit.

Wind is “sovereign.” It “blows wherever it pleases.” The same is true of the Holy Spirit.

Wind is unpredictable. “You cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.” The same is true of the Holy Spirit.

Wind is uncontrollable. It can be harnessed and utilized to a degree, but it cannot ultimately be controlled by man. The same is true of the Holy Spirit.

Wind is unstoppable. When something obstructs it, it either blows the obstacle out of the way, or it finds another way around it. The same is true of the Holy Spirit.

Wind can be gentle and refreshing. The same is true of the Holy Spirit.

Wind can be powerful and forceful. The same is true of the Holy Spirit.

Wind derives its movement and force from the Sun. The same is true of the Holy Spirit (and the Son.)

Wind drives atmospheric changes which affect all life on earth one way or another. The same is true of the Holy Spirit.

… and one last thing,

Wind needs a lot of space to do what wind does. It doesn’t do well in a box. The same is true of the Holy Spirit.

Boxes

Boxes are man-made containers meant to hold, store, organize, sort, transport and protect all sorts of things. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are used for all manner of tasks and purposes. Pretty much everything that we manufacture, use or consume at one time or another spends time inside of a box. Boxes are a staple of our consumeristic society and lifestyle. It is hard to imagine life without them! We love and need our boxes.

The crazy thing about “boxes”, too, is that they are not only physical. They can also be mental. We have “boxes” in our minds made of our personal and collective beliefs, understandings, concepts, philosophies, preferences, biases, habits and traditions. We live out our lives inside these mental “boxes”, feel safe inside them, and defend them when they are challenged. On the other hand, we also tend to admire those who have the creative ability to “think outside the box.”

Of all of the incalculably vast array of items, objects and even ideas that we have put into “boxes”, I think it is fair to say that NO ONE has ever seriously tried to put WIND in a BOX! Most of us know instinctively that is foolish.

So why is it that when it comes to the WIND OF GOD, the Holy Spirit, we lose all of our human instincts and common sensibilities, and seek to confine the Unconfineable? We build our “boxes” out of our experiences and expectations, our capacities and comfort zones, our preferences and prejudices, our agendas and aspirations and then we expect the Holy Spirit to come and nestle down inside of them. We treat Him as a product for our consumption and reckon that in order for “it” to be contained, controlled, preserved and portioned out, we need “it” in a “box.” The Holy Spirit, however, is not a consumable “it”, but a Sovereign “Him”, and He needs a lot of space to do what He does. When we “box Him in”, we, more often than not, end up “boxing Him out.”

God in a Box???

Many religious leaders and Christian congregations have the appearance of great reverence and respect for God the Father and God the Son, Jesus Christ, but have little esteem, in reality, for the Holy Spirit. They may speak of Him reverently with their lips, but their true esteem is shown by their actions towards Him, not their words. The Holy Spirit, if acknowledged or sought at all in the assembly, is often treated as a something of an accessory, an accent, a nicety, a condiment, a garnish. He is welcomed and allowed just enough room to bring a hint of grace and life, and possibly even a few gifts or manifestations, but these are usually only allowed to the degree that they fit nicely into the particular “box” the assembly regularly lives in. Rarely is He treated as Who He truly is….GOD!

He is as much GOD, however, as the God the Father and God the Son are, and is inextricably One with them in Divine essence, purpose and presence. The Triune God cannot be separated. The degree to which we show the least esteem to any one Person of the Godhead, therefore, is the degree to which we actually esteem all of them. Likewise, when we “box in”, and in the process “box out”, the Holy Spirit, we “”box in” and “box out” the Father and the Son as well. It cannot be otherwise.

The Holy Spirit is that member of the Godhead Who has been given to the Church as the Operative Power to carry out the will of the Father through the Headship of the Son. He is, therefore, indispensable to the existence, life, purpose, functionality, ministry and mission of the Church. The will of the Father cannot be fulfilled and carried out in and through the Church without the manifest Headship of the Son, and the manifest Headship of the Son cannot be inwrought and outworked in and through the Church without the full and unhindered work of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is “boxed up”, so is the Headship of the Son, and, consequently, so is the will of the Father. It is just that simple.

Ultimately, the will of the Father in creation, redemption, the Church, and the Kingdom, is, “that in all things He (Christ) might have the preeminence.” (Colossians 1:18) The Holy Spirit is ever working with that end in view. Wherever the Holy Spirit is “unboxed”, Christ will be brought to center stage in all of His fullness, centrality and supremacy, that the Father may be ultimately glorified and satisfied. Wherever the Holy Spirit is given full rein in the life and assembly of the ekklesia, the governance of the church will shift from the overlording control of men and from the lifeless, rigid, forms of religious practices and protocols and placed back in the hands of Him to Whom it belongs. Wherever the Holy Spirit is fully honored and submitted to as GOD in the midst of the church, He will administer the will of the Father, through the Headship of the Son, to and through a many-membered body yielded to His leadings, giftings, ministries and workings. Wherever the Holy Spirit is free to be Himself, He will not seek to glorify Himself, but will direct all attention and glory to the Father and to the Son. These will be the marks of the “unboxed” work of the Holy Spirit.

~ ~ ~

We love the wind for what it does, but the wind can also be scary. The wind is beyond human control, and sometimes it is mighty and even violent. We cannot direct it, we cannot contain it, and we cannot predict it. When it comes to the Wind of God, the same is true as well. The question is, will we trust that the Wind of God, if given full and free rein, will always act in perfect submission to the Father and the Son as their appointed Agent to carry out Their perfect will in and through the Church? If we cannot fully trust and surrender to Him, we, in reality, cannot fully trust and surrender to the Father and the Son, as well. If we, collectively, cannot yield the reins of our corporate life and gatherings to the Holy Spirit, then we, in actuality, are wresting the reins from both the Father and the Son. Brothers and sisters, this ought not to be! It is time that we “unbox” the Wind that the Father and the Son may once again have Their way in Their Church.

For all the good that we think we may be doing by keeping everything in a nice, neat BOX, we must never, ever, forget that…

“Wind DIES in a box.”


Related:
The Cross in “3D”

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“We’re Going Up”

Many years ago I taught an Old Testament Survey course in the local church fellowship we were a part of.  As I was preparing for my class on the book of Joshua, I was musing on the spiritual typology of the Israelites as they cross the Jordan River and go up and possess the land of Canaan under Joshua’s leadership.  As significant as this time in Israel’s history was, it was merely a type and shadow of something much greater that would one day be ushered in by a greater “Joshua”.

The spiritual reality that the book of Joshua points to for the church in Christ, the spiritual Israel, is best captured for us in the epistle to the Ephesians.  The land of Canaan can be rightly described in New Testament spiritual terms as “the heavenly realms”, in which we have been “blessed…with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Eph. 1:3)  Furthermore, as the land of Canaan had inhabitants who were under God’s judgement and had to be dispossessed through natural warfare, so also, these “heavenly realms” are entrenched with spiritual enemies who need to be dispossessed through spiritual warfare: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12)  Christ Jesus Himself, then, in all of His heavenly fullness, including His heavenly Kingdom realm, is our Promised Land as new covenant believers.  The natural land of Canaan was just a meager, earthly shadow of this glorious, heavenly inheritance that is ours to fully possess in Christ Jesus.

As I was musing on these thoughts back then, I felt led to pick up my guitar.  As I began to play, a song was birthed in me.  I grabbed pen and paper and began to write as the melody and lyrics flowed almost effortlessly.  Within a short while, I had a complete song that captured what was in my heart concerning these spiritual realities.  The song, We’re Going Up, is the first and only ballad-type of song that the Lord has given me.  I believe it was a prophetic gift from the Lord at the time, and all these years later, believe it still speaks poignantly and prophetically to the Church.  These are timeless truths for the Church of Christ at all times and in all places!

I have had the lyrics of this song posted on the blog for a number of years now, but, recently, at the request of a reader, I decided to make a simple recording of it (using a smart phone and minimal editing techniques.)  I then included an audio player with the recording on the existing page.  I have now, also, recreated that page below for this post, for your enjoyment and encouragement!

So, find a quiet place for meditation, put on some headphones and give a listen.

* * *

* * *

We’re Going Up

All the way in this barren wilderness

We muttered, we grumbled and we wept

And though God had sworn His good promise to us

We doubted His word would be kept

Now all across the desert sands

There lie the bodies of unbelieving men

Consumed by the wasting wilderness

The final reward for the faithless

***

But now God has brought us to Jordan’s shore

To bring us to the land of our dreams

And He calls us to rise up in faith once more

For we face an uncrossable stream

For He has promised to make a way

If we would simply trust and obey

The Ark of the Covenant shall go before

And Jordan’s waters shall flow no more.

***

We’re going up

To possess the land

We’re going in

At Joshua’s command

We’re going up

On God’s Word we stand

The good Lord has given it into our hands

***

And though there are giants and walls in the land

We shall not fear, nor dread

For wherever the feet of Joshua shall stand

The Land shall be given to us instead

It’s a land of bounty

A land that is blessed

A land where God’s children shall dwell and find rest

A land where the God of Israel

Shall set up His Kingdom and forever dwell

***

We’re going up

To possess the land

We’re going in

At Joshua’s command

We’re going up

On God’s Word we stand

The good Lord has given it into our hands

We’re going up…

***

Now ages have passed since that glorious time of old

When Joshua took the Promised Land

But the Church now stands at this same threshold

With yet a greater Canaan at hand

For we have been promised the high, holy ground

Where all spiritual blessings in Christ are found

An heavenly Kingdom for all who believe

And will lay down their lives that they might receive

***

So let us not waver, nor shrink back in fear

And own the wilderness as our grave

But let us arise and in faith draw near

To our God, who is mighty to save

For our Heavenly Joshua has gone on before

He’s reigning now in glory, a mighty Man of war

O, now is the time to arise and possess

The fullness of His Kingdom as our inheritance

***

We’re going up

To possess the Land

We’re going in

At JESUS’ command

We’re going up

On God’s Word we stand

The good Lord has given it into our hands

The good Lord has given it into our hands

The good Lord has given it into our hands

We’re going up!

* * *

©1992 Words and music by David Bolton. All rights reserved.

______________________________

“Creative Expressions” page

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Blog update and two new free resources

Hi friends,

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted. In fact, yesterday was the one year “anniversary” of my last post. Ugh!!  I’ve had to put blogging on hold this past year to focus on the ever pressing and sometimes overwhelming responsibilities of life, family, homeschooling, work, and local spiritual pursuits/commitments.  All of these have been overshadowed and crowded in on by the laborious and time-consuming work of estate settlement that I’ve been deeply involved in for nearly three years now. I have also had two unrelated worker’s comp. issues that have involved rather prolonged and intensive physical therapy/medical/chiropractic treatments throughout the year! It’s been quite a time! 🙂

I wanted to let you know that I am still here, though, and I’ve not resigned from blogging altogether.  In fact, I hope to begin posting again occasionally, and am looking to resume regular blogging again sometime in the new year!  That is my hope and desire going forward!

With that being said, I’d like to share with you more than just a blog update in this post and also give you something of spiritual substance and benefit.  Since I posted last, I’ve added a few new resources to the blog that I’d like to share with you.

If there is a singular burden that I feel is most urgent at this unique period of time we are living in, it is the need to press into prayer and intercession as the Body of Christ for our ourselves, our families, the Church, and the nations.  We are living in truly epic, Biblical times, and prayer and intercession lie at the heart of our ability to rise up to our ordained place and purpose in Christ in the midst of all that is transpiring.  There is also more vying for our time and attention than ever before that is continually distracting and hindering us from these most vital spiritual pursuits.  Our only hope is that we meet this onslaught of diversion and disruption with renewed conviction and intentionality that we might gain new ground in this area of our lives.

To help in this regard, then, I have added two audiobook resources by an author that I hold in the highest esteem, Andrew Murray. These are truly classics! Please see the links below to access the resource pages for these books which include a continuous audio player as well as links to online print versions.  (I have also included the link to the Free Audiobooks main resource page for the entire list of audiobooks that are hosted on this site.)  I pray that you are strengthened and blessed by these excellent resources! -David

With Christ in the School of Prayer – by Andrew Murray

The Ministry of Intercession – by Andrew Murray

Free Audiobooks” page

Posted in Blog Updates, Christ-Centered Resources, The Inner Life | Tagged , , , , | 21 Comments

T. Austin-Sparks on the Headship of Christ

The following is a chapter excerpt from the book, A Way of Growth by T. Austin-Sparks.  The focus of this selection is on the headship of Christ and the church’s submission to it as the way of growth into the fullness of all that is in Christ.

There are few who compare with Bro. Sparks as to his revelation of the eternal purpose of God and of its practical outworking in and through the Church.  As a follow-up to my last three posts on the headship of Christ, I offer this clear and compelling teaching on this subject for your consideration and edification.

PDF available here

 ~ ~ ~

A Way of Growth
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 3 – Subjection to Christ as Head

“In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and in him ye are made full” (Col. 2:9-10).

“And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Col. 1:18).

“Who is the head of all principality and power” (Col. 2:10).

“…not holding fast the Head, from whom all the body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands, increaseth with the increase of God” (Col. 2:19).

“…where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman; but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11).

Christ’s Absolute Headship

Colossians 1 is the greatest and most magnificent statement in the Bible concerning the Lord Jesus, and, in a word, it sums up all things in Christ.  It is a very wonderful unveiling of the place which Christ occupies in relation to all things, and of course that is the standpoint from which everything has to be viewed as to the Lord Jesus – His relationship to all things; and what the Apostle is seeking to make very clear, because of that which had arisen to call forth this letter, is that Christ is at no point, in no way, second in God’s universe.  He does not come in the slightest degree below the place of absolute pre-eminence, however great might be the position accorded Him by those against whom the Apostle was writing.  They were quite prepared to say very good and great and wonderful things about Him, and to accord Him a very high place; and yet that place was less than absolute pre-eminence.  So the Apostle wrote this letter in the first place to reveal and declare that the Lord Jesus is in every realm supreme.

You notice the above passages touching upon His headship, and that headship is seen in the several connections as complete.  There are no two heads or three heads in God’s universe; only one head is possible, and Christ occupies that in every realm.  So it is stated here – “that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.”  You cannot get outside of that. When you say ‘all,’ that is final.  He is head over all things.

Our Position in that Headship

Chapter 2 brings us firstly to our position in that headship.  Verses 9 and 10 are a statement of our position.  “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and in him ye are made full.”  Now, that is a positional fulness. That simply means that, by our being in Christ, we come into the place of fulness, and we are made to stand in the fulness of Christ; we are positioned there.

Our Progress in the Position

But when you pass to verse 19 of Chapter 2, it is a matter of progress, progress in the position and by reason of that relatedness.  “Holding fast the Head, from whom all the body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands, increaseth with the increase of God.”  “In him ye are made full,” but in Him you have got to increase.  That is not a contradiction.  Made full by reason of your position, but increasing in that fulness by reason of your spiritual progress.  Progress is a matter of making good all that is in your position.  We see in Ephesians the correspondence between that letter and the book of Joshua.  When the people came into the land, they were in the land flowing with milk and honey, they were in the place where all the fulness dwelt, but they had to do something about it; and so we find that it was a matter of making good all that was theirs, progressing in the fulness into which they had been placed positionally; and that is exactly what is here.  “Increaseth with the increase of God” is a matter of going on in that position to appropriate, apply and make ours the fulness which we have inherited in Christ; or, to put it more closely to the figure of the Body and the Head here in this letter, it is taking everything from the Head.

Now the temptation which was being presented to these Colossian believers was to let go of Christ as supreme, and the Apostle made it perfectly clear that to let Christ’s supreme position go was to let the fulness go, and that only as they held fast, not simply to Christ personally – all these people were prepared to hold fast to Christ and not to let Him go – but also to Him as Head, and so recognized that everything came from the headship of Christ, only so would they come experimentally to His fulness.

The Practical Application of Christ’s Headship

That is a statement, but what it means is shown in Chapter 3 –

“If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth.  For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.  When Christ who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory.”

That is the practical application of headship.  “Ye died” – that is necessary to put Christ in His place.  “Ye were raised together with Christ” – not apart from Him; not leaving any place for self-government, self-direction, self-sufficiency, self-assertiveness, or any other expression of self at all.  “Ye died”; your own headship of your life died with you.  All other governments of your life died when you died.  You died to all other authorities, to all other rule; to every other kind of direction, government, headship in principle; you died to all except to the headship of Christ; and, being raised, you were raised with Christ.  It is “together with Christ”; and now in resurrection it is Christ Who is Head of the Body, the Church.

While this has a personal and individual application, it is the Church which is in view again.  This elect body of people called the Church died to all other governments, just as Israel were set aside and buried in Babylon.  It was the crucifixion – the death and the burial – of Israel when the captivity took place.  They were sent away, out of the place of covenant blessing, the place where the Lord was, the place of the inheritance, the place where everything had been provided for their very existence.  They were sent right out of it and were for that time dead and buried, simply because they had let in other headships.  Idolatry was the cause; that meant that another headship, that of Satan mediately through the gods of the nations round about, had taken God’s place, and God would not tolerate any other headship of any kind at all.  So He slew them and buried them in Babylon, and when there was a raising from that grave of a company that came back, it was under the absolute headship of the Lord, and that alone.  That is the principle of it.  It was a corporate thing, a corporate resurrection, and under one head.  From that time, whatever Israel became, however they failed, never again was idolatry found among them.  There is that about it; it cured them of idolatry – that is, of another headship.  You see the principle.

Now here it is the Church, an elect people, having died and been buried to all other headships; and to be in the Church in resurrection carries with it that which is not optional at all.  It is not an option – whether we like it or not, whether we will have it or not – it is an established thing, that you cannot be truly in the meaning of the Body of Christ and have any other government than the government of Christ, any other headship than the headship of Christ.  It is implicit in resurrection.  So then, “If… ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God.”  Here Christ as Head is seated at the right hand of God.  That means He has taken the seat of absolute authority.  There is nothing more to be done about this, nothing to be added to it.   It is finished, it is final.  He sits down in the complete authority which is His.  He is on the Throne.  And that is the position of the Church, and the Church in every part has to be brought to that place where all direction, all government, all decisions, are taken from the Head, everything is referred to the Head, the whole life has to come right under the Head.  There is to be no self-will, no self-choice, no self-direction, nothing at all that comes out from any other quarter.  There is no division in the mind of God between our natural will and the will of Satan – they are the same.  Satan has put his very will into the fallen creation.  It is a self-willed creation working against God, and it comes from the devil.  So everything now has to be transferred to the Head and taken from the Head if there is going to be any spiritual enlargement.

It is practical. “Ye died”; “ye were raised”; “Christ who is our life.”  Those are statements of fact, utter and absolute.  Therefore “seek the things that are above”; therefore “put to death your members which are upon the earth… seeing that ye have put off the old man and have put on the new man” (Col. 3:5-10).  You see the things that are to be put away because you put on the new man.  It is a new position with a government altogether in all matters, and a complete subjection to Him at every point.  That is the way to progress in the fulness to which we have been brought positionally.

~ ~ ~

In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks’ wishes that what was freely received should be freely given and not sold for profit, and that his messages be reproduced word for word, we ask if you choose to share these messages with others, to please respect his wishes and offer them freely – free of any changes, free of any charge (except necessary distribution costs) and with this statement included.

~ ~ ~

For the complete text of  A Way of Growth, by T. Austin-Sparks, please see here.

For the complete Online Library of T. Austin-Sparks, please see here.

_______________________________________

Related:
Holding Fast to the Head

The Headship of Christ and the “Heartship of Christ” (part 1) and (part 2)

The Headship of Christ In the Gathering of the Church

T. Austin-Sparks (“Author Excerpts” page)

Posted in Author Excerpts, Christ-Centered Gatherings, The Ekklesia, The Eternal Purpose of God, The Headship of Christ | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Headship of Christ and the “Heartship of Christ” (part 2)

[For Part 1 of this two-part post, please see here.]

Union with the “Heartship of Christ”

When it comes to developing a deeper union with the “heartship of Christ”, we need to understand that there are both general and specific aspects of His “heartship.”  The general aspects relate to the eternal virtues of Christ’s heart that never change, while the specific aspects relate to the immediate, situation-specific workings of His heart that are ever dynamic.  The key to discerning and responding to the immediate workings of His heart is to first come into a deeper union with the eternal virtues of His heart from which they spring.

Of the many virtues that fill Christ’s heart, there are three that are supreme when it comes to His union with and submission to the Father as His “head” (1 Cor. 11:3) and, subsequently, of our union with and submission to Christ as our “head” (Col. 1:18).  The more that we encounter, embrace, and embody these virtues, the more we will come into spiritual union with the deepest springs of His “heartship” and, thus, of His headship.  This is how we position ourselves at the very headwaters of the manifest headship of Christ within His Body!

Faith – Of all of the virtues of the heart, faith is the most foundational.  Through faith we initially come into relationship with God, and through faith we daily live out our relationship with Him.  Scripture says, “The righteous will live by faith” (Rom. 1:17b), and that faith is “…from first to last.” (Rom. 1:17a)  If we seek to come into a deeper union with the “heartship” of Christ, we must begin with and perpetually cultivate this primary attribute of faith.

In much Christian teaching, a primary emphasis is placed on the intellect and thought life when it comes to the cultivation of faith (along with its related virtues of belief, trustassurance, etc.).  As important as the mind is in this regard, according to Divine order, faith is, first and foremost, a virtue of the heart.  Consider the following verses in this regard:

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him” Ps. 28:7

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;” Prov. 3:5

“Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.” Mark 11:23

” If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are saved…” Rom. 10:9-10

“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.” Heb. 3:12

“…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,” Heb. 10:22

As is seen in these verses, faith, along with“trust”, “belief”, and “assurance”, all find their source within the heart.  These virtues, along with additional related ones such as “confidence”, “reliance”, “dependence”, and “faithfulness”, all form a cluster of virtues that spring from the root of faith and when cultivated together bring our hearts into deeper union with the faith-filled “heartship” of Christ.

Because the virtue of faith was so foundational in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, we can easily take its presence and perfection for granted.  His earthly life, however, embodied the purest expression of faith, trust, and assurance in the Father’s sovereign working that has ever been attained and expressed by man.  He epitomized the inner attributes of confidence, reliance, and dependence upon the dynamic workings of the Holy Spirit as He submitted to the Father’s sovereign leading.  He lived out a humble, obedient relationship with His Father in unwavering faith in and faithfulness to His manifest headship (1 Cor. 11:3).  Now His perfectly virtuous heart has been resurrected and sent to dwell within the hearts of His beloved people.  His faith-filled ” heartship” abides deep within us drawing and urging us to, likewise, have faith in and be faithful to His sovereign headship among us as His Body.

When we, as the Body of Christ assemble, then, the most foundational virtue that we must cultivate is that of faith.  This faith must be especially cultivated and exercised in relation to Christ’s manifest headship in our midst!  We must continually reckon on the dynamic reality that Jesus Christ is personally present within and among us as our sovereign Head.  We must collectively believe and trust that He is wholly able and willing to lead us as His Body according to His Divine wisdom, will, and ways.  We must cultivate a corporate reliance upon the Holy Spirit as He administers Christ’s headship and not turn to the arm of the flesh or to the ways of the natural man, be they religious or otherwise.  All substitutes for Christ’s headship, which inherently spring from unbelief, must be surrendered to the cross, and only that which springs from faith in the present working of Christ’s headship must be held onto and yielded to.  Even as Jesus of Nazareth was utterly cast upon His Father from birth (Ps. 22:10) and could do nothing out from Himself (Jn. 5:19), so we must be utterly cast upon our resurrected Lord and do nothing out from ourselves as we gather in His name.  Only as our “collective heart” comes into a deeper union with the faith-filled “heartship of Christ”, can our “collective body” come into a deeper union with the faithful headship of Christ!

Faith, then, is the most foundational virtue of the heart that we must collectively cultivate when we come together in His name and under His headship.

Humility – The second virtue of the heart that must be diligently cultivated in order to come into a deeper union with the “heartship of Christ”, is humility.  “Heartship” implies a moral union with Christ, while “headship” implies a functional union with Him.  All that separates us from a moral union with Him has at its root the exaltation of “self”.  (Scripture sometimes calls this “vain conceit” –Phil. 2:3.)  All that separates us from functional union with Him has at its root the independence of “self”.  (Scripture sometimes calls this “selfish ambition.” Phil. 2:3; James 4:14,16)  It is both the exaltation and independence of the self-life that is the ultimate divider and destroyer of both the “heartship” and the headship of Christ within His Body.  If this is to be overcome, humility must be embraced in both our moral being and in our functional doing.

The origins of self-exaltation and self-independence trace back to the heart of the archangel Lucifer. Scripture says:

“How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn!  You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!  You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.  I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’  But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit.”  (Isaiah 14:13-15)  

It is Lucifer’s “I will ascend” spirit, which he later injected into the human race through the temptation and sin of Adam and Eve to “be like God” (Gen. 3:5) that is the root of all rebellion against both the “heartship” and the headship of Christ.  In contrast, it is the utter rejection of this “I will ascend” spirit that is at the root of all restoration of both the “heartship” and the headship of Christ within His Body.

Here, as in all of the virtues, Christ is the supreme example as well as the transforming power within us to conform us to Himself in both our being and our doing.  This humility was, first and foremost, towards His Father, and secondly towards humanity whom He came to serve and to save.  Nowhere are these two aspects more purely and powerfully demonstrated than on the cross.  (See Phil. 2:5-8)  Through the incarnation, suffering, and death of Christ, the complete opposite spirit than that of Lucifer’s “I will ascend” spirit was perfectly embraced and embodied.  It was through the utter self-emptying, and self-sacrificing of Christ, in both His being and His doing, culminating in the cross, that He triumphed over all Luciferic and Adamic self-exaltation and self-independence.  In this way, He qualified as the only one worthy to be given the headship over all principalities and powers (Col. 2:10) and over redeemed humanity, the church, which is His body (Eph. 1:22-23, Col.1:18).  The humility of His “heartship” qualified Him for the sublimity of His headship.  Thus, humility and headship are eternally bound in and through the person and work of Jesus Christ.  

Christ’s perfect heart of humility is now resurrected and come to dwell within us, transforming and causing us to, likewise, deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him. (Lk. 9:23)  Through this daily working of His indwelling Spirit, He is rooting out the Luciferic “I will ascend” principle within our hearts and bringing us into a more perfect alignment with the humble nature of His “heartship”.  This in turn will prepare us for more a perfect union with the dynamic workings of His headship.

When we assemble under the headship of Jesus Christ, then, humility is the second virtue of the heart that we must diligently cultivate and exercise.  The more humility there is before God and one another, the more union there will be with both the “heartship” and, subsequently, the headship of Christ.  Conversely, the more “‘I will ascend” spirit there is before God and one another, the more union there will be with both Satan and the flesh which jointly hinder and oppose the heartship and the headship of Jesus Christ in the midst of the church.

When we gather together, therefore, we must all learn to humble ourselves before God, submit to the living headship of Jesus Christ, and yield to the manifest working of the Holy Spirit in our midst.  Concurrently, we must all learn to humble ourselves before one another, even as the apostle Peter exhorted: “…all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” (1 Peter 5:5)  Paul likewise exhorted: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…” (Phil. 2:3-5)

The degree to which we embrace this Christ-imparted humility within our gatherings, is the degree to which we will be prepared as a body for the Lord Jesus to manifest His headship in and through us by the Holy Spirit.

Love – Finally, the third virtue of the heart that must be diligently cultivated within our gatherings is that of love.  Love is the quintessential attribute that most perfectly defines the “heartship of Christ.”  Love is the supreme motivation that underlies all of the workings of the headship of Christ.  As we come into a deeper union with this consummate virtue, we come into a deeper communion with the heart of Christ and are able to more readily and regularly discern what He desires to do in and through us as we gather in His name.

So much can be said about love, but please consider for a moment just a small selection of Scripture verses concerning this supreme virtue:

“A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

“Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves.” John 12:10

“…knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” 1 Cor. 8:1

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Cor. 13:1-3

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.” 1 Cor. 13:4-8a

“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.” 1 Cor. 14:1

“Do everything in love.” 1 Cor. 16:14

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Gal. 5:13

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Eph. 3:17b-19

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Eph. 4:2

“…speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Eph. 4:15

“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” Eph. 4:16

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” Phil. 2:1-2

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.    And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Col. 3:12-14

“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” 1 Pet.1:22

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Pet. 4:8

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

“We love because he first loved us.  Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar.  For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.   And he has given us this command:  Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”  1 John 4:19-21

The gatherings of God’s people, therefore, ought to be marked, above all else, by this supreme virtue of love.  When we come together, the underlying motivation in all that we say and do is to be the Spirit-imparted love in our hearts for God and one another.  Our love for God will cause us to seek Him with all of our heart and lovingly yield to His desires and intentions for our gathering as He leads us by His Spirit. The nearer that we draw to Him in faith, humility, and, ultimately, love, the nearer we will draw to His faithful, humble, loving “heartship”, which in turn leads to His life-giving headship.

Our love for one another will, similarly, cause us to seek one another’s benefit and blessing above our own. Our motivation will be to speak and do all things for the encouragement and edification of our brothers and sisters, and not for our own selfish interest. As we honor and prefer one another above ourselves, we will become fit channels through which both the “heartship” and the headship of Christ can flow to His body.  In this way, we will become a body that “grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work.” (Eph. 4:16)

Conclusion

If we belong to a body of believers who desire to see a restoration of the headship of Christ within our collective life and gatherings, we must be a body who, first and foremost, seeks a deeper union with the “heartship of Christ” in faith, humility, and love.  These three supreme virtues bring us to the deepest springs of the headship of Christ.

In contrast, all hindrances and obstacles to His headship begin with a deficiency in one or more of these spiritual attributes.  Unbelief, pride, and self-love are the three greatest enemies of Christ’s corporate governance and spiritual ministry within His people.  Wherever these are found, the headship of Christ will invariably be ignored, substituted for, obstructed, hindered, resisted, derailed, controlled, counterfeited, and/or co-opted for self-serving ends.  Only a people who purposefully put off these carnal attributes and attitudes and instead are clothed with the opposite virtues of faith, humility, and love, can begin to experience and express the practical headship of Christ in their midst.

To pursue a life together of seeking and surrendering to the imminent headship of Christ, then, requires a walk of perpetual and repeated exercising of faith, humility and love…faith, humility, and love…faith, humility, and love… Where Christ’s “heartship” and headship are persistently pursued along these lines, the Lord Jesus will not fail to manifest His presence, His power, and His providence in leading His people according to His Divine wisdom and loving intention.

May God raise up a people in these last days who are willing to pay the price to see such a glorious restoration come to be…and may we, by God’s grace, be counted among them!

Posted in Christ-Centered Gatherings, Christ-Centered Restoration, The Ekklesia, The Eternal Purpose of God, The Headship of Christ, The Inner Life | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Headship of Christ and the “Heartship of Christ” (part 1)

In my last post I shared how essential it is for the Body of Christ to be “holding fast to the Head” as it gathers in His name.  In this and the next post I’d like to share one of the most important insights I’ve gained as to how the Body can most readily and regularly experience Christ’s headship as it gathers in His name.

For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am among them.”
Matthew 18:20 ESV

When we assemble as the church, Jesus Christ is personally present with us.  This is the most significant aspect of our gathering.  His presence changes everything, for He is not there merely as a spectator, a cheerleader, or even a sideline coach.  He is there in the fullness of all that He is, to be all to His people.  When we gather “in His name”, we gather under His authority to carry out His specific desire and purpose for our gathering.  Jesus Christ is personally present to lead us and to carry out His work in and through us by the power of the Holy Spirit.  He is there as our indwelling Life and as our living Head.

Gathering under the immediate headship of Christ, however, is not something that the Church at large has been accustomed to or is generally expectant of.  Ever since the middle of the second century, when the Church universally accepted the intermediary headship of the monepiscopacy (single bishop), Catholic and, later, Protestant streams of Christianity have primarily assembled under the headship of a set-apart man/woman and been directed primarily by a predetermined liturgy or program.  The open, participatory, Spirit-led gatherings of the first century church (see 1 Cor. 14:26-40) have been mainly carried on throughout history by an “outside-the-gate” remnant who were determined to maintain the freedom and fullness of the early church by gathering under the immediate headship of Christ as His functioning Body.

In this last day, that “outside-the-gate” remnant is increasing as an end-times witness to the unchanging purpose of God for His Church.  The immediate, functional headship of Christ is being restored as the He is being lifted up once again to His rightful place as the unrivaled center and uncontested Head of His Body.  This restoration is advancing with great struggle, however, as remnant expressions of the ekklesia are seeking to overcome layers of age-old patterns, religious preconditionings, entrenched traditions, and inflexible structures and mindsets.

I have personally experienced that struggle and yet through it have learned from both the “successes” and the “failures” of what I’ve been a part of.  Through the “school of the Spirit” and also of “hard knocks”, the Lord has taught me some deep lessons and given me some precious insights as to how the headship of Christ can be most readily and regularly experienced within his Body.  In this post, I’d like to introduce what I consider to be one of the most significant of these, and then go into more detail and practical application of it in a follow-up post.

The “Heartship of Christ”

The greatest secret that I have learned in this regard is in what I’ve come to know and describe as the “HEARTSHIP of Christ”.  In fact, I don’t believe that any gathering of believers will ever truly come to know the manifest “headship of Christ“, until it truly comes to know the manifest “heartship of Christ“.

The Priority of the Heart

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
Prov. 4:23 NIV

In the innermost being of both God and man there is a vital connection between the head and the heart.  Neither of these function independently of the other.  Of these two aspects, though, the heart holds the primary place according to the Divine order.

A strong indication of this is that in Scripture, wherever the words “heart” and “mind” are found in context together, the word “heart” consistently appears before “mind”.  This regular ordering indicates the spiritual priority of the heart before the head.  (See 1 Samuel 2:351 Chronicles 28:9, Psalm 26:2Psalm 139:23Proverbs 2:10, Proverbs 3:5Jeremiah 3:15Jeremiah 17:10Acts 4:32 as examples.)  There is one consistent exception to this pattern, however.  The word “mind” appears before “heart” when fallen, sinful man is being described or referenced.  (See Deuteronomy 28:65, Psalm 64:6, Isaiah 1:5Isaiah 46:8 as examples.)  According to divine order, then, the heart is ordained to have priority over the head, yet when sin enters in, the order reverses and the head takes priority over the heart.

Another consistent pattern in this regard is that the word “heart” always precedes the word “soul” when found in context in Scripture.  Numerous times the phrase “heart and soul” is used, for instance, but never “soul and heart”.  The soul is commonly understood to be comprised of the mind, the will, and the emotions and so the aspect of the mind is also implied in the word “soul”.  The important thing to understand is that the seat of all of these three aspects of the soul are found in the heart.  Therefore, when God wants us to seek Him (Deuteronomy 4:29), return to Him (2 Chronicles 6:38), trust Him (Proverbs 3:5), love Him (Deuteronomy 30:6), serve Him (Deuteronomy 11:13), obey Him (Deuteronomy 30:2) keep His commandments (Deuteronomy 26:16), and the like, He directs His word first to the “heart”, and then to the “soul” /”mind” which will naturally follow after it.

Probably the most well-known example of this Divine order is found in the “great commandment”: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the first and great commandment.”  (Matt. 22:37-38)  Here we see that the “heart” is mentioned first, followed by the “soul”, and then the “mind”.  This is the proper order for man to both experience and express the love of God.

According to the nature of God, and of His Divine order for man, then, the heart is to have the priority in all matters, followed by the soul and the mind.

The Priority of “Heartship”

By having an understanding of this Divine order as it exists in both God and man, we can gain a key insight into how the headship of Christ works within His corporate Body.

In the natural body, the head is the highest, most intelligent member that governs the rest of the body.  The term “headship”, in its common usage, speaks of both the position and function of the chief, governing member of an organism or organization.  The dictionary definition includes: “the position of head or chief; chief authority; leadership; supremacy.” (Dictionary.com)  We know from our natural body, and from human institutions, that “headship” is both positional and functional.

In the spiritual Body, the Head (Christ) is, likewise, the highest, most intelligent member Who governs the rest of His Body.  Scripture says that Christ is, “… the Head of [His] body, the church…so that He alone in everything and in every respect might occupy the chief place [stand first and be preeminent.]” Col. 1:18 AMP  Drawing from the “body” analogy, we understand that spiritual “headship” is, likewise both positional and functional.  Christ has both the place and the power of governance over His Body as its living Head.

That being said, then, we can further ask, what, if anything, holds the place and the power of governance over the thoughts and intentions of the Head?  From what we have seen in Scripture, we know that the heart holds the place of prominence and the power of influence over the deepest workings of the mind.  This place and power of governance that the heart holds over the head, according to the Divine order, is what I call “heartship”!  This is the heart’s rulership over all of the inner workings within both God and man.  Because of this inner supremacy of the heart, heartship precedes headship, and headship proceeds from heartship!  All that Christ desires to do for, in, and through His Body as its ruling Head, finds its origins, first and foremost, within His reigning heart.  This is the vital relationship that exists between the headship of Christ and “the heartship of Christ.”

This understanding though rather simple in its essence, is profound in its implications.  It is one of the most important “keys” to our entering into and experiencing Christ’s manifest headship both individually and corporately.  The more we encounter, embrace, and embody the heartship of Christ, the more we will be able to encounter, embrace, and embody the headship of Christ that springs from it!  That is the simple truth that I hope you will take from this initial post.

In the follow-up post, I will share in greater detail how we can come into a deeper union with the “heartship of Christ” and thus position ourselves to most readily and regularly experience Christ’s headship in our midst as His Body.

In the meanwhile, I encourage you to follow some of the above Scripture links and take some time to study more fully this matter of the supremacy of the heart in spiritual matters.  It is a most beneficial and enriching study!


Related:

Holding Fast to the Head

The Headship of Christ In the Gathering of the Church

The Church Gathering Simply in the Name of Christ and Under His Headship – A Historical Account by C.H. Mackintosh

Posted in Christ-Centered Gatherings, Christ-Centered Restoration, End-time remnant, The Ekklesia, The Headship of Christ | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments