Invasion of Light

Discovering God's Glory One Day at a Time

Category: Chapter 6

The God of the Third Day – Day 82

The third day reminds us of Jesus’ journey to the cross and his resurrection. Just as the earth emerged through the waters, so Jesus was born on earth through the water of Mary’s womb. He wasn’t born circumcised, rather had to be circumcised. He went through thirty years in the “wilderness” of the earth where he grew “in wisdom and in stature, in the favor of God and man” (Luke 2:52). After his time of obscurity was over he went through the waters of baptism. Then immediately he was sent into the wilderness of temptation as the ideal representative of Israel. He came out of the wilderness in the power of the Spirit: bearing good fruit and making the Promised Land once again a place flowing with “milk and honey.” Three years later he again became like a seed and died for our sins. After three days of suffering and obscurity he rose from the dead. He became the firstfruits of the resurrection, pioneering a new harvest that had its initial burst on the day of Pentecost when three thousand people were gathered into the Kingdom in one day. The multiples of three that parallel with the third day of creation are outstanding. Jesus Christ is truly the seed who brings resurrection to those who trust in him. Our only reasonable response is to worship him who is the same “yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

Prayer: God, you are the God of the third day. You are the God of both the cross and the resurrection, of the dry ground and the fruitful Promised Land. Help us to press into all the realities that the third day presents to us, in Jesus’ name.

The Cost of Discipleship Part II – Day 81

Discipleship means a break from every earthly attachment so that we may be completely bound to Christ. It is not that family, money, possessions, careers and vision are bad in and of themselves. But they do have an extraordinarily controlling influence that keeps us from following Christ with all our hearts. When I was saved Jesus took everything—some things he gave back (sanctified and whole), other things he completely got rid of. What matters the most is that he is Lord and that there are no idols restricting his lordship.

Jesus calls us to become like a seed because he became like a seed. As the source of everything he humbled himself and became a seed—a seed growing in the womb of a virgin. He became a root growing out of dry ground (Isa. 53:1-3). “The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed” because Jesus is like a mustard seed (Matt. 13:31). After he grew and blossomed on earth he went down into death. And not just any death, but death on a cross! The grain of wheat fell to the ground and died. And because it died it bore much fruit (John 14:24). Why did God create the seed? Because it speaks of himself and his vulnerable humility.

There is nothing strange about God becoming a child. Yes, it is amazing and wonderful, but it is not inconsistent with his nature. It is only hard to comprehend when we have a wrong concept of God, when we think God is like an old man in the sky with a big long beard. Even though God is from everlasting, there is nothing “old” about him. Age cannot affect him. It does not cause him to get wrinkles and go grey. God himself is eternally young and by nature he is like a child. He surely is not cynical, lacking energy and disengaged––the product that sometimes age brings about. He is a constant renewal—every “day” he is full of boundless energy and joy. Like a child he loves repetition—he cannot get bored. He is pure in heart and innocent of evil. The corruption of age has not crept into his “bones.” He is new every morning.

God is not a control freak. He is not afraid to become like a child because by nature he is child-like. He has no problem with learning and being led. He is not afraid of being lowly and humiliated. Because God is more than one––a tri-unity––he can be at the same time limitless and limited; he can be lowly while still lofty. In Jesus we actually see the fullness of God. There is nothing contradictory about being weak and strong at the same time. In Jesus God is weak, but that weakness is his strength.

Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes a humble place—becoming like a child—is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me” (Matt. 18:2-5, TNIV).

Prayer: Father, may I become like your Son Jesus. Make me into a seed that is willing to be humble, lowly and inconspicious. May I be willing to leave all to follow you and be your disciples.

The Cost of Discipleship – Day 80

The seed is one of the most extraordinary things God created. It teaches us the ways of the Lord and his Kingdom. The life of the seed cannot be unleashed unless it goes into hiding. Once it is hidden in the darkness of the earth it breaks open and dies. The seed has all the potential of life, but without being broken it remains unable to reproduce. So it is with each one of us. The very thing that we resist the most––brokenness––is the very thing that reproduces life.

In the Parable of the Sower Jesus proclaims: “The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11). At salvation we receive that seed into our hearts and it produces new life. But not only do we need to receive God’s Word as a seed, we ourselves need to become a seed! This happens when we hear the call to discipleship and when we realize that the purpose of salvation is to follow Christ. Salvation liberates us to follow, to be his disciple. Without salvation it is impossible to follow Christ no matter how hard we try. Salvation has a greater purpose than giving us a ticket to heaven: the reason we come to Jesus is so that we become yoked to him as a learner and co-worker (Matt. 11:28-30). And Jesus is the one who said, “If any man come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Clearly there is a cost to discipleship, and it is the cost of becoming a seed like Christ.

In the early days of our ministry we went through some excruciating trials—bitter opposition, little finances, betrayal, long seasons of barrenness, rejection, exhaustion and a host of other hardship. During those times I said to a friend, “I feel like dirt!” How did he respond? “Good! That’s God’s way. God must be in this thing.” Then I remembered Jesus’ words, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:24, NKJV). I realized that I was like that grain of wheat—I was in the dirt and dying. It’s painful, but it’s the only way to fruitfulness.

This is why baptism is so crucial. Baptism is submitting to becoming like a seed. The one being baptized falls into the darkness and hiddenness of the water. For a few moments we lose our sight of them. What is critical is that they have not dunked themselves, instead this is something God initiated and it takes place in community. The community witnesses their submission to God through the church. The community also witnesses their disappearance. But that is not the final thing! They also see their resurrection—their sprouting and bearing of fruit. In a few moments the community beholds, and the baptized one experiences, what will take a whole lifetime to unfold: the baptized one comes out of the water. This outward act will now mark the daily inward experience of this new child of God.

It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who first said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him to come and die.” He goes on to say, “It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call…In fact every command of Jesus is a call to die, with all our affections and lusts.”

Prayer: Father, may we become like that seed that falls to the ground and dies. Let us realize that this is the cost of discipleship. But there is more to the story: there is the springing up of new life. May we also bear the fruit of being your disciples, in Jesus name.

You Reproduce Who You Are – Day 79

On the third day God designed the plants and fruits. The sweetness of an apple, the tanginess of an orange and the beautiful scent of a rose were all created on this day. The might of the oak tree, the grass’s vulnerability and the tenacity of the vine all came into being. The vegetation God created was unique, there was nothing like this on the first and second day. Land cannot reproduce. Water cannot be multiplied. But plants and fruit can continue to live on and leave a legacy. “The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:12, NIV).

Though plants and trees are unique and more complex than anything that was made before, they also are dependant on what was created before them. Through the land vegetation was produced. And in this we see God has bound plants and trees to the land. There is no way to separate them. Vegetation without soil cannot live. And we also cannot grow and reproduce without a land that God has given us. The Lord wants us to be settled in a place, especially a local church, where we receive nutrients, stability and water to grow.

Unfortunately many people are not content to dwell in the place God has given to them and thus cannot grow. Consequently, they never bear much fruit. Others do not want to move an inch even though where they are planted hardly gives them nutrients and water. They wither away and die because they are not willing to be like Abraham and go to the land God has chosen for them.

On this third day God creates the power of reproduction and teaches us the law of reproduction. Reproduction occurs only according to its kind. If you plant orange seeds you do not harvest apples, and if you sow mango seeds you are not going to be picking lychees. This principle is true for fruit as well as for animals and human beings. I always remember Richard Crisco teaching us during the Pensacola Revival, “You teach what you know but you reproduce who you are!” As a church we cannot expect radical on-fire disciples if we are lukewarm. If we are worldly we will produce worldly converts. Conversely, if we are holy we will not produce a propunderance of worldly converts. In the end God is not going to measure the quantity of our fruitfulness as much as the quality: he is looking for good fruit, fruit that will last. I believe many churches and ministries will be surprised when the vastness of their ministries and the multitude of their disciples really amount to something very small in God’s eyes.

Fruit tells us much about the tree itself. It reveals to us whether the seed as well as the soil is good or bad. Jesus also taught us that by examining spiritual fruit we would be able to discern the true from the false. “Every tree is recognised by its fruits” (Luke 6:44). We really need to guard ourselves from testing things by financial and productivity reports. We also need to keep ourselves from judging a ministry by their doctrinal confessions. These things have their place; I sure do not want to go to a church that does not believe salvation is by grace through faith. But everything can be made to look good on paper but not hold much weight when the fruit is examined. What type of disciples are our churches producing? What kind of ministries are our Bible Schools birthing? If we are fixated on numbers and outward performance they also will have the same problems. But if our goal is that the love of Christ is formed in their hearts, no matter how large our ministries are, we will produce good fruit. And in the long run good quality always leads to greater quantity.

Prayer: Father, may we be rooted and planted in you and the place that you have called us so that we may bear much fruit for your glory. We repent for our lack of fruitfulness. Make us into good trees that bear good fruit, in Jesus’ name.

Don’t Fall Alseep in the Wilderness – Day 78

The dry land is good. But if we’re not careful we may abide in this goodness instead of pressing forward. As human beings we have a tendency to latch on to what is good and stay there. We also have a propensity to take the part as the whole––to only hear a part of God’s message and not listen to the rest. We gravitate toward certain themes and subjects that agree with our nature and personality. Those who are melancholy may even want to dwell in the wilderness when God says, “Move on!” On the other hand, the sanguine wants to run immediately when God gives a mission or vision.

After Jesus told his disciples, “Therefore go and make disciples,” He said, “Wait until you are clothed with power from on high” (Matt. 28:19, Luke 24:49). If the disciples went into the Promised Land without waiting they would have encountered utter failure. If they only heard the first word without the second they would have gone out naked.

Just because we have read or heard something does not mean we should run out to do it, even if it is a good thing. When God speaks to us, it is time for us to ask him specific questions like, “Is there anything more? How do you want me to carry this out? When do you want me to do this?”

Before we carry out any command we need to wait, allowing the Spirit of the Word, the very Spirit of God, to saturate us. Without the Spirit of God filling and clothing us we cannot really carry out God’s Word. We cannot just be content with the letter of the Scripture, or even the God’s outward command, we must be soaked with the very nature of God (2 Cor. 3:6). Obedience is something inner not just outer, and it flows out of those who wait in the presence of God and live in the baptism (immersion) of God’s Spirit.

The infilling of God’s Spirit is essential to being a witness. Why? Because being a witness is much more than “witnessing” or preaching. The true witness is one that emanates from our spirit, it is a fragrance and a light that communicates more than words. Words will always follow this witness, but it transcends our verbal articulations.  This type of witness means that our presence brings the Presence of God. We are clothed with God, but not only that, God has also clothed himself with us (Jdg. 6:34).

Jesus said to his disciples: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NIV). Moses also knew this way of God. When Yahweh threatened not to go with him (but rather send powerful angel) Moses sought the Lord (Exo. 32:1-2). The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then Moses said to Him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (Exo. 33:14-16, NIV).

True fruitfulness stems from the fullness of the Spirit. This is why the experience of Pentecost, both individually and corporately, is necessary if we are going to put into practice Jesus’ words. It is possible for us to have success, the fulfilling of a vision and a measure of blessing without the fullness of God’s Holy Spirit. But the disciple who is hungry for Jesus will not settle for anything less than abiding in his manifest presence by holding on to his Word and living in his love.

Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing…You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain” (John 15:5, 16a, NASB)

Father: Let us not stop in the wilderness, but take hold of everything you have taken hold of us for. Fill me with your fullness, Holy Spirit. We only want to go as your presence saturates us, in Jesus’ name.

What Seems to be a Curse, May Be a Blessing – Day 77

“God called the dry ground ‘land,’ and the gathered waters he called ‘seas.’ And God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:10, TNIV). God saw that the dry ground and the restricted waters were good. How do we see the wilderness God brings us through? How do we interpret the boundaries God has established in our lives? Until we see them as good we cannot progress any further; neither will we hear the next word that brings fruitfulness.

All through our lives God is working so that we see like him. He is continually saying, “Do you see what I see?” Our vision is often in conflict with the Lord’s. What we often label as a curse, God sees as a blessing, and what God sees as a curse we often claim as a blessing. To see as God sees is critical to spiritual growth and it is our blindness that causes us to wither away in the wilderness.

God sees the light as good, even though it startles and blinds us. God sees the dryness as good, even though it exposes our true nature. God also sees boundaries as good, even though they limited what we can do. The word “good” in Hebrew is a very simple word––tov. It does not primarily mean something that we like, rather it means something that is beneficial. A Rabbi explained it to me like this, “If the doctor needs to cut off a gangrene-infected leg, it is tov. It is not pretty, but it is necessary and beneficial.” Medicine is tov even though it may not taste good.

We are reminded of Paul’s classic words: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). All things may not be good in and of themselves. But because we are in Christ, God redeems each thing we experience and every situation we are in ––there is nothing in our lives that will ultimately harm us, it is all for our benefit. The devil can launch his greatest attack against you and God will turn it for the good. The Lord is the redeemer!

At issue in all this is the cross. The fact that both Jews and Gentiles joined together to murder the Son of God was not good. Yet the greatest of evils was turned for the good. There is nothing greater than the cross. There has been no experience––and there will never be one––where more goodness has flown out of. We are saved by Christ’s blood! His blood is good!

Prayer: Father, today let me see as you see. Open my eyes to see your goodness. Let me delight in the things you delight in. Transform my vision, in Jesus’ name!

The Epic Conflict Between Two Kinds of Fruitfulness – Day 76

There are two main ways of fruitfulness. The story of Hannah and Peninnah effectively demonstrates these two paths. Peninnah is a woman who is naturally successful. She continually gives birth to new children and in pride she points the finger at Hannah because the Lord has closed her womb. The Scripture says, “And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her” (1 Sam. 1:5-6).

I see this happening in the church today. There are Peninnah churches that are very successful and always seem to be adding new members. However their success is from people’s natural gifts and talents rather than something that is sent down from above. People in “Peninnah style” churches are often called on to use their talents for the Lord even though they may not be living sanctified lives. These types of churches will always get puffed up in pride and look down at other churches that seem to have no fruit. They may even go as far as saying to Hannah churches, “Obviously what you are doing is not working. Follow us, we will show you how to be successful.” Yes, it is true that we can apply certain principles to any organization and see it grow; but are these principles meant to be the source of our fruitfulness?

Hannah churches are those churches that are resolved not to bear fruit by their own natural abilities. Of course, God can use our abilities, but our fruit must come from God through prayer. Hannah churches are desperate to see that which comes down from heaven and not what comes from below. They often weep, and even the religious may think they are drunk (1 Sam. 1:14). But really they are heavily burdened for true fruitfulness. Like Hannah they do not even want to bear fruit for their own benefit. They are willing to give their fruit back to the Lord.

What a difficult and radical decision Hannah made when she dedicated Samuel to the tabernacle. After he was weaned, Hannah could only see her son once a year.

It all boils down to this: will our fruitfulness come from our natural abilities or will it come from a divine Word that proceeds out of the mouth of Yahweh? ‘Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so” (Gen. 1:11, NIV). The fruitfulness was the fruit of God’s Word. Like the third day, all fruitfulness must have its origins in God’s present Word otherwise it will not last––it will only rot in the fields.

Prayer: Father, give us courage to be a Hannah church not a Peninnah organisation. May our fruitfulness come from your Word. May it be sent from above and not be the product of our flesh (natural abilities), in Jesus’ name.

 

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