Holiness and Victory
One evening several months ago, the Holy Spirit seemed to say, "Without holiness there will be no victory." Prior to that I had been taken through two distinct occasions where the Lord showed me that my own impurity, in the form of thoughts and gazes that had not been taken captive, was a contributing cause of ministry failure as evidenced by the inability to overcome Satan. Where Satan is not overcome, the prisoners remain bound.
God continues to speak daily that without holiness, there will be no victory. He is saying, "Be holy, for I am holy." There is no acceptable alternative. We have been given everything we need to live holy lives by appropriating His precious promises. Ultimate victory at the end of the age will demand ultimate holiness, both individual and corporate. God is not planning to demonstrate His wisdom through a compromised Church mired in the clutches of sin, but through a holy and glorious Church. The extent of this goes beyond deed to include thought and glance and attitude, the hidden things of the innermost places. We should not try to justify anything less than perfection. God is probing into all areas of question in our lives and asking, "Would anything less be perfect?"
...seeing that His divine power has granted us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust (2 Peter 1:3-4).
When the Male Child Goes Up, Satan Comes Down
And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne...And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night" (Revelation 12:5, 9-10).
When the male child of Revelation 12 is snatched up to heaven and to God’s throne, Satan is thrown out of heaven to earth. It is no coincidence that these two events take place one after the other and in that order. God has elected to use His Church to defeat Satan, seemingly first by getting him thrown out of heaven to earth, and then by overcoming him on earth. It appears to be a two stage process. Remember, it was Satan falling from heaven to earth like lightning that Jesus envisioned after the victorious return of His seventy disciples. It was the result of this initial victory of His fledgling Church that prompted the vision of Satan’s fall. The Bible says that after the appearance of the male child in heaven, "there was no longer a place for him [Satan] found in heaven." Michael and his angels do the actual fighting, but the fight seems predicated on the arrival in heaven of the first fruits of the harvest, the perfected male child for which all creation has been awaiting. Satan is displaced by the authority of the male child. And he is overcome on earth by a people who are victorious over him by the Blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and by loving not their lives unto death. We can now begin to see why all creation is groaning for the revealing of the sons of God. It is the revealed sons of God who are given the authority of Jesus Christ to set all creation free from the bondage of Satan. Creation is not going to be restored until Satan is defeated, and the Church has the responsibility to carry out that defeat.
All Authority in Heaven and on Earth
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (Matthew 28:18).
And He said to them, "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall injure you" (Luke 10:18-19).
And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it. "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matthew 16:18-19).
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus. And His disciples have in turn been given authority over all of the power of the enemy, both in heaven and on earth. What is bound on earth will be bound in heaven. All aspects of the victory over Satan which Jesus gained on the cross have been turned over to His Church for completion. Hence this victory in heaven over Satan has to await the maturity of the Church, and that maturity is first evidenced by the arrival of the perfected male child on the throne established and waiting for him from which to rule and reign.
The sequence is unmistakable. First comes holiness, then victory. It is the holy people of Daniel 12 whose power is shattered who are victorious and inherit the Kingdom. Our victory over Satan depends on our appropriating by faith all of the tools for godliness that God has provided for us through His precious and magnificent promises. Without faith, we will never believe God’s promises and apply them to our sinful natures and situations. We will remain trapped in our sin, prisoners of the devil, and of no use in God’s end-time purposes. We will be in danger of falling away, because Satan will have something in us, and with that hook he will reel us in.
Jesus died for us so that we could live pure and holy lives by escaping the corruption that is in the world. We are counseled to purge the leaven of sin from our lives and walk holy and blameless before Him. To the extent that we walk this out, we will escape the need to be purified during the fires of great tribulation. The sinners in the church at Thyatira were given time to repent, but they would not. Therefore, they were thrown into great tribulation. Those who seem to avoid great tribulation, and show up in heaven as first fruits of the harvest at the beginning of Revelation 14, are holy and blameless. They didn’t start out holy. None of us do. But they have repented of their sins and allowed the cross to do a cleansing work in their lives. Satan has nothing in them. He has been displaced from their lives. There is no longer any place in them found for him. They have risen to that call to which each of us is called.
Obviously not every saint will qualify for the first-fruits harvest. It seems many of the Body of Christ will experience great tribulation to the extent necessary to be purified to the standard of the bride. There is leaven in our lives, which if not purged, will leaven the whole. We have not applied the tools of godliness to our lives in the form of the cleansing power of the cross to the degree that it was available.
There is no indication, however, that the two witnesses, or those in the church of Smyrna who are forewarned of imprisonment and death, are so destined because of sin in their lives. I think we have to be careful and not relate sinlessness or sinfulness to an exact destiny. We know that some in the church of Thyatira will be thrown into great tribulation because of their unwillingness to repent. However, the martyrs of Smyrna and the two witnesses are also on earth during this time. Remember, Jesus told Peter to follow Him and not worry about John. There is no indication that residual sin in Peter or Paul or Stephen was a direct cause of their martyrdoms. Certainly that was not the case with Jesus. Martyrdom is not a judgment; it is a crown of life. Some are destined to suffer because of sin; others are destined to suffer because of righteousness.
A Leaven Detector
One of the best ways to detect residual leaven in our lives is to look at our relationships with our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. We are to be living stones snugly fitted against the other living stones around us. Problems in relationships and discerning of the body indicate that there is leaven in our lives that must be purged. Paul said that because we do not properly discern the body, many of us are sick and some sleep. This is serious business. There is a clear warning and teaching here with application to our participation in the Lord’s Supper. Our relationships with our brothers and sisters are a litmus test as to the condition of our spiritual walks. We can only relate to our brothers and sisters as Jesus lives through us to do so.
The Lord’s Supper is an excellent time for reflection and repentance. All leaven must be purged. We can identify it now and take it to the cross, or it will be identified for us later amidst the fires of great tribulation. It’s our choice. The words that Jesus speaks to each of us alive at the end of this age are, "And all the churches will know that I am He who searches minds and hearts and I will give to each of you according to your deeds." All of us who consider ourselves His disciples still have the option of deciding how we will finish this race. Will we embrace the cross now and be broken at its base, offering ourselves as living sacrifices and drink offerings to be poured out? Are we willing to let the alabaster flasks of our lives be broken and wasted on Jesus so that our testimonies can also be heard wherever the gospel is preached? Or are we practical and wise like Judas, concluding that the money could be better spent elsewhere?
There will be no anointing without holiness. Without anointing, there will be no ministry in the power and authority of Jesus. Without such ministry, there will be no setting of the captives free. There will be no victory over Satan who is keeping them bound. The gates of hell will not prevail over Jesus’ Church. The gates of hell will prevail over those who are not holy and anointed in the power and authority of His name. The sons of Sceva will be prevailed over by the devil even though they mouth the name of Jesus and claim works in His name. "I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" The devil will know you when you have authority over him and his gates.
There is no place for leaven in such a war. There is no place for compromise. We either finish this race as winners or we lose and fall away. All of creation is awaiting our decision and the results of the race we will run. And Satan is awaiting our every flinch --- our every drawing back, every chink in our armor. The deeper we go in the things of God, the greater is the surrounding pressure of the enemy trying to penetrate our shields. The closer to the front lines we choose to live --- and it is a choice --- the greater will be the firepower of the enemy. He will doggedly pursue us, picking away at our areas of weakness, bringing temptations into those areas in which we are most vulnerable. But God has given us the weapons to be victorious. Can we overcome the flesh and the devil by looking to Him for the victory?
Truth in the Innermost Parts
God is interested in truth in the innermost parts. I asked God several years back about a questionable area of conduct in my life and He replied, "Would anything less be perfect?" His standard is perfection, not achieved by self-generated discipline, but by the transformation and resulting life of the indwelling Spirit, without Whom we can do nothing. It is not that we become loving, or that we become holy, or that we become this or that. It is as He lives in us that His qualities emerge through us, and good fruit is borne.
"Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness," Jesus said. There is an order here. There is no point in seeking righteousness until we have first sought the King. Righteousness is an outworking of our relationship with Jesus. He doesn’t make us righteous; He is our righteousness. As we appropriate Him, we evidence His righteousness. It will save us a great deal of time if we set aside attempts to imitate His character and instead seek Him Who is the essence of that character. We don’t need to be reformed; we need to die and be resurrected in the newness of His life. There is no place on the white wedding garment for spots caused by the flesh. "By My Spirit," says the Lord. Watchman Nee refers to flesh buried shallow that still stinks. Our flesh must be buried so deep that no residual odor lingers. Our flesh has only one acceptable place and that is six feet down and dead. It may not stink to us because we have gotten used to it, but it is a stench to God. Flesh will not stand in His presence. Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.
It is a holy people in the book of Daniel whose power is shattered and who receive the Kingdom for eternity. It is not a compromised, defeated people who fall away at the last minute. The two witnesses are not overcome because they fall into sin before the finish line. It is a victorious Army of God that walks to the cross, not a bunch of whimpering, defeated saints who trip and drop the baton on the last lap. These are holy and powerful and glorious saints who have the vision of Jesus before their eyes and who are marching in the ranks of His call. Remember, this is not about us but about Him. The appropriate sheep to be slaughtered is without blemish. These are those of whom the world is not worthy. The closer we rise to that standard by His grace, the more worthy we are as sacrifices for His end-time purposes. This is a holy calling for which His most precious saints are reserved. May we be found available, ready, and willing for this most honored of calls at the end of the age. Many are answering it today. Many are the ranks who have already answered it and found their way to eternal glory. But, unfortunately, many are those who will fall away.
"Lord, help us to rise to this call. Help us. Give us the strength to stand before kings and governors and testify of You. Let it be our testimony that overcomes the evil one and sends the gospel to the ends of the earth."
The Fuel to Endure
Are we passionate about this pursuit of holiness? Without passion, we will just be trying to do a job and we will fail. It is our love for Him that must fuel us. And we love Him because He first loved us. If we do not have a revelation of His fiery love for us, we will not be able to embrace the cross in the fullness required. We will not fully understand that God disciplines only those He loves. It is for noble or ignoble purposes that we are at this time being shaped on the potter’s wheel. What is our choice?
God’s passion and jealousy burn for us like a jealous lover. His hot love is the substance from which passion is modeled between a husband and a wife. When we look with lust at another thing, be it another person or an idol, we break His heart, for He is jealous for our single eyed affection. He is jealous for our time, for our silence before Him in waiting, for our hunger for His whisper. He calls us to the secret place behind closed doors, the place where lovers go. He woos us with quiet whispers and intimations, but we are often focused on other things. Still He comes, patiently, softly knocking.
We must see that the events touching us to transform us are a result of God’s passion for us, not just ordinary love, but passion! We must understand this when we go into the lion’s den or the fiery furnace or the prison or the hospital bed. We must lay down our lives with the full knowledge of, and direct consequence of, God’s passion for us. "God must hate me because He is allowing this" has no place in our outlook. God disciplines only those He loves. God allows these things into our lives to purify us for an eternal weight of glory in His Kingdom.
Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives." It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons (Hebrews 11:35-12:8).
Suffering and Holiness and Salvation
For the last three years the Lord has allowed something very remarkable to happen on my birthday. The first time it happened, I was shattered. I thought to myself, "What kind of birthday present is this?" I have had the joy and privilege in the last three years to lead three people to the Lord. These are the only three people to date that I have actually led to the Lord. All three accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. All three were terminally ill patients --- two with advanced cancer and one a stroke victim. All three faded away over a long process of gradual deterioration. All three suffered. All three, one each year, died early on the morning of my birthday, April 21. Lilia died in 1997, Harry in 1998, and Francis in 1999. During those three years, the Lord was taking me through a teaching on the redemptiveness of suffering out of which came Chapter Six of this book.
When I visited Francis for the last time on April 20, 1999, his blood pressure was down to below fifty and dropping. He was suffering, but I l could not grieve for him, because he had come to Jesus for salvation and had received it. God’s fiery passion was brooding over him bringing forth eternal life as he lay there in that hospital bed with tubes running in and out of him. I felt led to bend over and whisper in his ear that angels might come to visit him that night and that it was okay to go with them. Sometime early the next morning they came and took him.
He had suffered, but his suffering was redemptive because it had brought him to the place where he had set aside his resistance and bitterness and received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. He continued to suffer after that decision up until the day the Lord took him. Perhaps he was being purified during this time. Perhaps he was filling up his quota of additional suffering allotted to the Body of Christ. For whatever reason, God let him suffer as a member of the Body of Christ until the morning the angels came and took him.
After going through this identical scenario three years in a row, I have lost most of my fear of death. Death is a defeated foe. I have lost most of my confusion over suffering, which might otherwise seem needless and cruel. When I was born in 1946, April 21 was Easter Sunday, resurrection morning. I know the Lord is speaking of salvation and resurrection and eternal life in all of this. Suffering for the King is glorious and life-giving. Francis and Harry and Lilia know that now. Let the testimonies of their suffering be an encouragement to all of us. They have paid a price to demonstrate this lesson for our instruction.
For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren (Hebrews 2:10-11).
It is going to be His Body, perfected through suffering, that fulfills the call at the end of this age to lay down their lives for His redemptive purposes. How could it be otherwise? We are called to follow Him.
Song to the Bride
Only the glance and woo of a lover can draw the bride to the heights that she is destined to skip freely on. And it is on such heights where He dwells. It is there where He dwells that we are called. "Come, My precious bride, come up higher. Let the fiery passion of My glance wake you from your bed of slumber to seek Me on the heights. It is as you seek Me that you will find Me. I am constrained to remain hidden if you will not seek Me. It is your very unrest that reveals your spirit crying out for Me. I made your spirit that way. It can be satisfied with no other lover, because your spirit is pure. It is only Myself that I have made you hunger for, though you may not know it. Your longing cannot be fulfilled by all of the pleasure, power, and wealth the world has to offer. You have chased all of that and not found the satisfaction that you long for. Not if you had all of it would you be satisfied. I know. Solomon knows. Because I have made you to be unsatisfied with any or all of that. All the longings of your heart are designed to bring you home to Me. Why do you seek so many distractions and side trips on the way? The intimacy of a wife and husband are only a shadow of the intimacy I desire with you. I have had to dilute My passion for you to represent a shadow of it in the intimacy of first love on earth between a maid and her lover. But this is only a shadow. You may not understand this because you can only relate to passion on earth, because you have no other comparison. Do you want a comparison? Do you want to know the real thing? Here I am. I stand at the door and knock. You may be a prodigal, but I am the Father of prodigals, and I am waiting to run and meet you when I see you coming. I will put a ring on your finger, a robe on your shoulders, and we will celebrate! When My Son taught the parable of the prodigal, He was revealing My heart toward you as your Father.
"Father, we do not see these things as we ought to see them. Open our eyes, Father, and give us visions of glory, of eternal things. Give us the precious gift of revelation concerning how much You love us, how passionate You are to dwell in and possess the innermost parts of who we are. Father, Your ways are above and beyond us. Our thoughts are not Your thoughts. We rely on You to bring us into the understanding and the fullness of these things for You have chosen us since before time began to be conformed to the likeness of Your Son. Thank You for this gift that is beyond our ability to measure or comprehend or express the wealth of. And when our time comes, with Your grace, we pray that we might stand and set our faces like flint to endure for our sakes and for Your glory.
"Father, perfect us through the crucible fires of Your passionate love and mercy and then slay us on Your altar for Your glory and Your glory alone. Only in this way will we achieve the eternal joy for which we are designed and long. We ask this in Jesus’ name. May it be so."
The Morning Star
"Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth, and deep darkness the peoples; but the LORD will rise upon you, and His glory will appear upon you. And nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising" (Isaiah 60:1-3).
And he who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS; AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO PIECES, as I also have received authority from My Father; and I will give him the morning star (Revelation 2:26-28).
The overcomers in the church at Thyatira (as opposed to those of the church at Thyatira who are thrown into great tribulation) are promised to rule and reign as well as be given the morning star. The morning star becomes visible in the heavens before the sun comes up. It is actually not a star, but a planet reflecting the light of the sun. It is a precursor of the sun, an announcer of its soon coming. It is the sign that night is almost over and that dawn is about to break. It may be a picture of the first fruits of the main harvest who are snatched to the throne of God from which to rule and reign. Their first job upon arrival will be to boot Satan out of heaven to earth. Those of us still on earth will crush him underfoot by the wisdom of the cross. He’s on his way to the fires of hell. Don’t let him convince you otherwise and don’t let him drag you with him.
A Closing Prayer
"Father, we praise You for the incompetence of the flesh that You allow us to demonstrate that drives us to You in poverty of spirit, bankrupt of all anointing. Thank You, Father, that in many things we were not overnight successes, but rather overnight failures. Thank You for Your grace. By the very nature of the failures that You have allowed us to walk through, You have demonstrated Your love for us, in that to think that without You we can do anything is a deception of grave peril. Thank You for Your chastenings, Father. By them we are identified as sons. Truly we see that we have reason to rejoice in all things, even in our shortcomings, for out of them You create blessing in order to make all things work for our good. Please continue to refine us, Father, so that we may become worthy vessels to contain Your glory at the end of the age. Transform us into those of the bride company without spot or wrinkle. No one comes to You unless drawn, Father, and we pray that You would prompt us to seasons of dedicated prayer and seeking so that we can be ambassadors of the Kingdom and not betrayers.
"Heavenly Father, may these words glorify You and present this teaching as I believe Your Holy Spirit has given it. If these words are a helpful teaching of Your plan for the destiny of Your Church, may they be fruitful and find audience as You see fit. May they bring forth much fruit to Your glory. Otherwise, may they come to nothing, and may You have mercy on this poor teacher.
"Heavenly Father, we praise You for Your master plan which is far beyond our ability to understand. Through us, Your Church, You have said that You will demonstrate Your wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. Give us Your Spirit of wisdom and revelation to properly discern truth from deception in these matters and to understand the nature and importance of this call.
"In the authority and power and in the name of Jesus, I pray to bind the efforts of the enemy to establish and maintain deception in this critical area of our knowledge and vision. I pray to bind his efforts to trap the Church with deceptive and misleading doctrine concerning the course of end-time events, those events of which You have warned us in advance so that we would specifically not be deceived. I pray to break the power of the enemy presently blinding the eyes of the Church to Your clear teachings. I pray to loose a spirit of wisdom and revelation upon a sleeping Church.
"Father, we seek Your mercy, grace, wisdom, and revelation so that we do not fall away in these upcoming times due to any deception the enemy has sown. We pray that our love may not grow cold due to the increasing lawlessness around us. May You grant us Your grace and strength to stand before You in these times, and may we be found worthy of the Kingdom. May we, if appropriate, be found worthy to be kept from the hour of testing at the end of the age granted to the overcomers of the church of Philadelphia and as described in Luke 21:36.
"May we learn to seek only You and Your direction for our lives. May we all be brought to full stature through the purifying crucible of the times before us as required. Father, we desire to walk before You in the power and authority of Your Son. Embolden us and strengthen us and be for us the source of all things for without You we can do nothing. We strip ourselves empty and bare before You for this purpose. We lay all things on the altar which would interfere with Your eternal plan. We offer ourselves as living sacrifices. Lord Jesus, create in us such burning passion that we have no other thought than to follow You wherever You go. May Your passionate prayer of John 17 be fulfilled within us. Give us the grace of the strength of the joy of bridal love without which we would surely fall away.
"We say, ‘Yes, Lord!’ to each of our individual and corporate destinies that will one day realize the fulfillment of Your plan and the transformation of each of us into Your likeness. We desire to enlist in Your army with You as our Commander-in-Chief. May all glory and honor and praise in these things be eternally Yours. May we, by Your grace, allow the demonstration of Your wisdom through us, and we praise You and thank You for such honor and privilege. May we please You in our service. May we all overcome and hear those joyous words, ‘Well done good and faithful servants!’ Praise and glory and honor to You, Father, for the gift of Your Son and for the transformations He is working within each of us to conform us to His likeness and bring us to Your ultimate destiny for each of us. Let nothing prevent us from reaching those final ultimate destinies. Let us all finish the race well. Father, we, like Paul, want to know Jesus and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.
"In trust of Your everlasting mercy and grace to those who call upon Your name, we lay these things before You and await the glorious return of Your Son to rescue us, to transform us, and to transport us into Your glorious presence. May You come quickly, Lord Jesus!! The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’ Amen."