3. The Humility of Christ
I fear God. And I love Him. The Church does not belong to me; God's work in the earth does not belong to me; you do not belong to me.
3. The Humility of Christ
He humbled Himself. Philippians 2:8
I would like to make these words very, very large to you, but that would defeat the whole point, wouldn't it, for these words are very, very small. He humbled Himself is hardly worth noticing; few ever do.
These next couple of letters do not fit into the curriculum of a teaching on the feasts of Israel to my mind, yet here they are, thrust in by God and by reality.
I fear God.
In a very recent letter, “Victory,” I wrote these words: “I sit here in the knowledge of how special I am to Father, filled with Father, enveloped by Father, carried by Father, as I have never known.” In the midst of this love, in the full knowledge of its absolute invincibility, this Rock in whom I live, I fear God as I never before have feared Him.
God is love, and that love is a consuming fire. God covers us with tenderness as He draws us into Himself. Then, utterly encased in His love with never a thought otherwise, we look out.
And in one blinding flash, we are stricken with fear.
Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear. . . Hebrews 5:7
It is easy for me to confess my faults to you. When I do stupid things, when I blow it, it is no loss to me to state publicly that I am wrong, to ask forgiveness, and to humble myself before you, that is, before many people. Just this last weekend, I made some more dumb mistakes. I waxed self-righteously against my wife and hurt her heart badly. When I was no longer caught in the vanity of “being right,” I had to ask her to forgive me. But then we offended some people we did not even know, mildly, yes, but entirely out of our own thoughtlessness. Our thoughtlessness did not completely mar a nice vacation time with our kids, but it did cast a shadow on it.
You see, I lose nothing by confessing these faults to you or to those whom I have offended with my unending foolish and embarrassing mistakes, humbling myself, and walking away as the “little one.” I lose nothing because Christ is my only life. There is simply nothing else to lose, and I cannot lose Him.
Let me clue you into a hidden secret.
ALL ministers of the gospel make their own stupid and embarrassing mistakes, just as I do. ALL! You make your own stupid and embarrassing mistakes as well, different in particulars from mine, but horrifically embarrassing nonetheless. Yet at the present moment, God's hand is heavy upon me concerning any thought that I would minister to His people.
Why does it seem that most who present themselves to God's people as ministry are never embarrassed by their own foolishness? And thus appear never to make mistakes?
They simply don't have a clue.
When Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” He was not being condescending. He was simply speaking the hard facts of reality.
People do NOT know what they do. If they actually did, all in a flash, they would be so stricken with shame, they would stop breathing. And I am making, here, an understatement.
Now, most of our NOT KNOWING our own foolishness, that fact is swallowed up entirely into Christ living as us. He carries all of that inside of Himself, and we rejoice entirely inside of Him in complete disregard of our own ignorance and our own blindness. We know that He never embarrasses us, but carefully enables us to see our folly, just a bit at a time, to reinforce our continual fleeing only into Him.
I say it this way, over and over.
Only the lost know Salvation; only the forgiven wash His feet with tears.
Our own sense of lostness, kept in its proper place, is the very jewel of Christ by which we cast ourselves utterly and only into Him with all glorious abandonment of ourselves as a lost cause, thrilled that Jesus allows us, then, to call Him our only life and our only Self.
Notice, however, that I said “most of.”
There are three kinds of ministry in the body of Christ. First, there is the general sharing of Christ with Christ coming from all. Then, there is the ministry of pastoring, of encouraging and teaching, of gently guiding. In all of this, Christ carries all, swallowing up all of our foolishness in Himself, allowing us to continue on in spite of ourselves in the wonderful knowledge of Christ living as us in this world.
But there is a third type of ministry in the body of Christ. That ministry is what would seek to lift you up into a level of knowing God as you have never known Him before. For the purposes of this present word, I will call that the ministry of the Third Feast.
As a brother with you in the Lord, as a guide seeking to encourage you and to teach you the wonderful goodness of Christ, I live and walk entirely in Christ carrying all that I am. In all that I am, in all that I do, inside those two realms, I sit utterly and only inside the Love of Father for me, Father filling me full with all of Himself.
But something else has been happening over the last couple of years, something I may have hoped for, yes, but had no real idea of, something that, I must confess, is deeply gratifying to me, though I can hardly believe it could be happening. – The Lord Jesus has been using some of the words that I write to catapult some of you into a knowing of God filling you full and into the revelation of Jesus Christ as you had never known before.
And in an instant, sitting here entirely in the love of my Father, I see three very large and bony, very sharp and demanding fingers pointing straight at me, straight between my eyeballs. And in the midst of all the love of God, I fear Him as I never have.
The first bony finger cries, “Daniel, don't you ever mess with My woman.”
The second bony finger cries, “Daniel, don't you ever disrespect My Spirit.”
The third bony finger cries, “Daniel, don't you dare to speak against My anointed or to do My prophets any harm.”
And I place my forehead upon the ground before the Holy with nothing whatsoever to say or to give answer to Him, not even a “Yes, Lord.”
In a recent letter I said I believe that I have “plummeted” (should have been “plumbed” :-) the depths of Adam's rebellion concerning God's purpose for us now. I would like to bring those “depths” up to practical reality. Adam was God's champion in the earth, thus he represents each one of us as individuals.
There were four people in the garden.
Walk into any room with three other unfamiliar people. Think about all the dynamics going on. There are smiles and warm handshakes, certainly, but in the midst of all the faces, everyone is sizing up everyone else, positioning each against her or himself. – If you are a woman, think of three other women, if a man, three other men. Then, replace one of those women with a handsome, winsome, wealthy man, just your type, or – replace one of those men with a beautiful, lush, vivacious woman, just your type.
In the garden it was three men and one incredible woman, and I mean incredible. Fellows, no woman on earth would drop your jaw, take away your breath, and make you stutter foolishly like Eve in her glory and her beauty.
All three of the men in the garden wanted her; nothing else existed for each one of them. You can be sure of this, mixing three men of any sort together with one stunning woman EQUALS some dynamics going on underneath the surface, underneath all the plastic faces.
Those three men were Adam, the serpent, and Jesus. Yes, Jesus was in the garden. Just as the serpent entwined himself around the law of God, so Jesus hung naked, bloody, bruised, and unashamed upon the tree of life. Both Adam and the serpent saw Him there, though Eve did not.
Listen, Adam was a red-blooded man. Eve was his already. As I said, lots of dynamics going on, particularly inside of Adam. Jesus loved Eve far more than Adam ever could, but as the express image of God's person, He had already turned His back on her for her sake. The serpent had no care whatsoever for Eve, but he was more than willing to make use of her affect on Adam. Psychopaths love to win the eyes of a pretty woman, though she means nothing to them, except as an object of abuse.
Inside the dynamics I am describing, Adam always represents each one of us as an individual, whether male or female. (I am speaking of an innocent Adam inside the role in which God had placed him before his sin.) And Eve represents ALL other individuals inside each one of our arenas.
Adam did not want to impress or win the serpent. Adam did not want to impress or win Jesus.
Adam wanted to impress and win Eve for himself in the face of these dangerous competitors.
All other people in your life, all people you know and interact with, whether in the church, in the world, or in your own family, are Eve to you.
However, with many individuals we have developed a working relationship. People in the world we typically hold at arm's length and thus are not mesmerized by them. People in our family we know well and they know us and thus we neither try to fool them nor are fooled by them.
But not so the church. In her innocence, in her appeal, in her desire, Eve represents the church to us, especially those of us who operate in any form of ministry beyond the simple sharing of Christ with Christ in the fellowship of love.
The importance of impressing God's people with the fact that “I am a man of God,” is more important than life or breath. This need to impress goes in both directions at the same time, both to those I deem “above” me in the Lord, and those I “deem” are my “congregation.”
I want you to think that I am somebody. And in the dynamics of all my emotions going on underneath whatever face I wear, I do not consider the serpent as my competitor, not at all. Man is the master, the serpent but a servant.
My most dangerous competitor for your esteem is Jesus. Thus it is imperative for me to keep your eyes on me, seeing Jesus only through me and my great ministry to you. Thus “I” represent Jesus to you.
Now, you may think in these last lines that the “I” is satirical, that I am being facetious, saying, “I” as if I am all those others out there who should know better. If you thought that, you would be mostly wrong. I am a little, little man who has wanted all of his life to be somebody in other people's eyes, yet I can hardly keep some of my dinner from dribbling down onto my shirt.
And thus right now, at this present moment in which we live, in the times of greatest darkness in human history, in the press of the greatest consequence, as all are being driven into the valley of DECISION, I can assure you of this, the terror of the Almighty that I hold inside the love of my Father for me is the most precious treasure I know.
These three bony fingers are my deepest consolation. I cannot imagine living or writing or ministering Christ to you without them ever present, right there, before my eyeballs.
I fear God.
And I love Him.
The Church does not belong to me; God's work in the earth does not belong to me; you do not belong to me.
Jesus was not “humble.” Jesus humbled Himself.
No one can be “humble,” not even God. Humbling one's self is something one must do.
God is weighing heavily upon me right now to convey somehow to you His definition of a ministry of the Third Feast. To do that, we will begin with Israel's journey, with this man God called the meekest man in all the earth. I have been placing before us the humility of Christ as the express image of God's person for some months now, but sometimes we don't quite grasp the meaning of the picture God placed of Himself before us. Sometimes we need God to take us through another picture before arriving back at His image.
That other picture is Moses. We have not known Moses very well.
What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it (the law) was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. Galatians 3:19
I was reaching for this understanding, but I had no idea the power and impact of Paul's words.
The law did NOT come through Moses but through angels. Moses, a man who lived only by grace through faith, stood as the mediator between the children of Israel and the awfulness of approaching God by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Most people have no idea what Moses did.
God taught me what Moses did twenty years ago in the midst of the strong reality of church life. What Moses did has been as a knife at my throat from then until now.
The fear of Moses, the fear of Christ, causes my fingers to tremble even as I try to convey to you this picture of what God calls a mediator. Rather than bring in “Bible” verses, let me give you the story. You can read the accounts for yourself in Exodus 19, 24, & 32, Deuteronomy 4 & 9, and Hebrews 12. Here I am reaching for affect.
The mountain burns with fire, not flame fire, but thunderbolt fire like great plasma arc torches; dark, boiling clouds roll across the heavens blocking all light from the sun. Two million people press together against the base of the mountain. They are terrified.
Moses stands above facing them with Joshua unnoticed just behind him. He hears God speaking out of the convulsions, “Don't let them break out trying to look at Me; it will kill them.” Suddenly, the mountain shakes, many fall to the ground as the rocks beneath their feet buckle. In that moment smoke billows up from the mountain and an apparition appears to them, a voice speaking words in their own language.
“Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.”
At this moment, everyone in this great crowd of petrified people will do anything they are told.
Then Moses calls 70 leaders out from the ranks including Aaron and his two older sons. They ascend up the mountain a little ways with Moses and discover there a great table set with food and wine. They sit and eat and drink just in front of this billowing fiery apparition that has absolutely scared the tar out of them.
But God is not just fear; in the midst of all that awesome display, they see His glory, they know His presence. For seven days the glory and love of God rests upon the entire camp of Israel. Then Moses, followed only by Joshua, disappears up into all the smoke and doom to go “talk with God.” A week goes by, then two, then three and four and five. Nothing. Five weeks and nothing.
What happened to Moses? What happened to God? There is just fire, smoke, an empty desert, and nothing. You know the story. They convince Aaron to make a god for them out of their own gold jewelry, a golden calf. “They made me do it, Moses.”
You see, not one of those two million people knew what happened next; they had no idea. And Moses did not tell them until forty years later. Forty years later, as Moses was recounting the story to them, he inadvertently let out a little secret. Here are his words.
So I turned and came down from the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire; and the two tablets of the covenant were in my two hands. And I looked, and behold, you had sinned against the Lord your God—had made for yourselves a molded calf! You had turned aside quickly from the way which the Lord had commanded you. Then I took the two tablets and threw them out of my two hands and broke them before your eyes. And I fell down before the Lord, as at the first, forty days and forty nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all your sin which you committed in doing wickedly in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger. For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure with which the Lord was angry with you, to destroy you. But the Lord listened to me at that time also. And the Lord was very angry with Aaron and would have destroyed him; so I prayed for Aaron also at the same time. Deuteronomy 9:15-20
Two million people should have and would have died that day, the day Moses shattered the law before their eyes. Yet look at the smallness of his words. “But the Lord listened to me. . . I prayed for Aaron also.”
Forty more days Moses endures without food or water, eighty days total, and Joshua with him. Through those forty more days of sleepless hunger and wretched thirst, Moses pleads with God for the sakes of all these rebellious and foolish people. And God Almighty listens to Moses.
But in the camp of Israel there is a young man, a righteous young man. This young man is there among the seventy, eating and drinking before the presence of a holy God. This young man rises instantly to stand by Moses after he shatters the law upon the mountain side. This young man gives his sword in full honor to avenge the evil polluting the camp. This young man is Moses' first cousin, a great grandson of Levi.
This young man's name is Korah.
A year and a half goes by. Moses has turned his back on the promised land. He refuses to take God's good people into the land promised to them by God. Moses has lost his way; Moses has lost the vision. Moses has nothing further in sight than just wandering around in emptiness and futility.
Korah wrestles with his righteous heart. Moses has clearly lost touch. It's up to Korah to rescue God's people.
Out of deep concern for Moses, out of deep concern for all these poor people aimlessly wandering without a purpose, Korah confronts Moses and Aaron before all. Korah is correct, and he corrects.
“You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” Numbers 16:3
Moses is terrified. Korah has no idea of the weeks of intercession through which Moses had persuaded God to back off. It's not Korah that Moses is afraid of, but God.
Here's what happens next.
And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” Then they fell on their faces, and said, “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and You be angry with all the congregation?”
So the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the congregation, saying, ‘Get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.’” Numbers 16:20-24
Then the ground splits apart and a whole lot of people go down real fast.
Just after David brings up the Ark of the Covenant to the new big ugly tent he had erected for it just behind his house, David sings his heart out in joy before the Lord. In that first song sung in that new place of worship, David says these words:
When they went from one nation to another, and from one kingdom to another people, He permitted no man to do them wrong; yes, He rebuked kings for their sakes, saying, “Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.” 1 Chronicles 16:20-22
Touch not Mine anointed and do My prophets no harm.
Paul says it this way in 2 Corinthians 5, “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” He is not speaking of unending hellfire, but of Christ. He says those words just before he speaks the new creation. He speaks those words as a minister of the third feast: “I know the terror of the Lord.”
Time and again over many years, I have watched God break those who would mess around with His woman, stripping from them their ministry and their place – and those are the fortunate ones. The horrible thing is that they never see it, they never see what they have done, they never look in the mirror. Always they blame others for stripping from them “God's great work through them.”
Those whom He chooses not to break away from place and position are not so fortunate.
On the other hand, those who do see and who do fear become gentle and tender and kind. I know.
Of the many I know who abused God's people, bringing hurt to many, and who were stripped by God of place and honor, I will speak of two. I will not name the first, though he died in peace. The second I must name, for his refusal to see his own iniquity has brought the name of Christ into disrepute before the world and endangers the safety of many precious saints of God. The first I will speak of here, the second in the next letter.
You see, Sam Fife was Sam Fife. On the one hand he was the most anointed visionary I have ever known. On the other hand, his ham-fisted ways, his lack of knowing the gentleness of God, his wrong definitions of the human, brought so much grief into the lives of so many. Sam Fife went around setting all sorts of people into places of ministry and responsibility over others in the church. He used as his primary measurement of who was ministry and who was not, a mixture of the outward appearance of spiritual giftings with the outward appearance of natural leadership. Much of the time he was right and much of the time he was wrong.
In other words, he provided for those with a heart to be taught by God the perfect laboratory to know the church all through the centuries of her existence. In the first few years after Sam Fife's death, Buddy Cobb, with care and in the wisdom and firmness of God went all through the communities carefully reviewing each person's place in ministry.
Quite a few were asked to cease being “ministry.” Most, those who really needed to be removed, were not grateful. Yet so much damage had already been done. So much damage. So much damage.
Please understand. I am speaking from years of my own experience. I KNOW little, little men or women who do have an outward spiritual gift or natural assertiveness, who could use that gift as a blessing to others. But rather, they want to be somebody in other people's eyes, both those “beneath” and those “above” them. Thus they use their true gift of the Spirit of God to create a “place” for themselves among God's people.
How many people they hurt. How many people they hurt.
Only a few of those removed continued on in the move fellowships. I will refer to one.
For over three years I walked with a brother under my care. I was responsible for him, and that often was some doing. He had been a traveling ministry under Sam Fife. He had been the head elder of a large community farm. He could preach up a storm. He had a good word, usually about 15-20 minutes long. Then he would preach the same word over and over for two hours. He was full of too much bluster to care genuinely for people. Under the pressure of being a ministry, he would sometimes sneak out and get totally stone-cold drunk.
I can speak of this, my brother, because I knew him so very, very well. And because I loved and honor him. You see, when given a choice, he was one of the few who submitted to the loss of his place and humbled himself under the guidance of others. Yet that surrender was not complete. In the press of my walking with him, when the chips were down and his back was against the wall, then I heard the mutterings of his heart.
He hated those who had stripped him of his great ministry before God's people.
Yet no one who knew him believed he had been wronged. He was a little, little man, behind a big, big bluster. But all who knew him also were more than willing to bear with his bluster and his sneaky ways, because we also knew that underneath all of that was a tender and good heart.
This, my brother, ended up in Atlanta, no longer in move community, participating in a Christian outreach to needy and homeless men, having found the true meaning of his gift, just being a blessing to others, and letting Christ alone be the Man. He died in peace, and I am so glad that he found his true place before he went.
Yet I am fully aware as well, that many have reason to curse God because of the abuse this man did when he was the “man of God” hiding behind his spiritual gifts.
God is a God of mercy. Mercy is a terrible thing.
There is one God, the Father, and one Mediator between God and man, the Man, Christ Jesus.
Do we understand what that means? Do we fear God?
My son is being trained as an electrician by an older gentleman with great breadth of experience in the field. A very large part of what his teacher attempts to impart is that they first FEAR electricity. Then, in fearing it, they can know it and make use of all of its goodness to bless people's lives. It's not that electricity will punish you if you are bad. It's that it is what it is, and you cannot violate what it is without instant impersonal consequences.
An electrician friend of mine shared that he and another were assigned the task of working in the control boxes for the huge electrical generators in an hydro-electric dam. To access the control panels, the generator rotor, bigger than a house, had to be utterly stopped. The other man became impatient with the “rules.” As far as he was concerned, the vast rotor had stopped. However, though its movement was imperceptible to the eye, it was still moving.
The other worker's fried body was blown clear across the cavernous hall.
You cannot mess with electricity without the proper buffers between yourself and it AND between the appliances you want it to run and it.
This really is the picture of a mediator.
God is God, absolute and uncontrollable power in ways far beyond what any created being can even conceive. No one can get near Him without being blown to pieces. It's just the way it is, nothing personal. The law was meant to keep people safe around this dangerous Being. But God's true heart cannot come through the law. God is love, yet that love is a consuming fire. The word “consuming fire” is an incredible UNDERstatement.
We live in the warmth and light of the sun, yet we teach our children never to look at it. The electrical-arc power of the sun is just too much for direct contact. There are many buffers of differing kinds between the sun and us, all of which are required to keep the sun from killing us instead of showering us with warmth and light. God's purpose for the sun is to give us warmth and light, but if we break those buffers, the sun can do nothing more than kill us. It's not that we are “bad,” it's that the sun is simply dangerous.
We cannot know this God, we cannot get near this love, without the right buffer, the go-between, the equipment in place that translates that immeasurable and dangerous FIRE down to human, bite-size portions.
His name is Jesus.
This gives us, then, a clearer view of the express Image of God's person.
And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:8
Do you see the buffer? He humbled Himself.
You know, I thought I was just going to traipse into a joyous unveiling of the wonderful truths to be known by a study of the Feast of Tabernacles. Instead I find myself feeling in the direction of the man that got thrown across the room by the fearsome power of something he had not regarded.
All I can say right now is that you do not want to mess with God. You do not want to mess with God.
We draw near to God only through Christ our only life. And in doing so we are absolutely free to dance in His presence. But we never ever imagine we are going to manipulate His power for our own place in the sight of Eve.
Adam secured Eve's attention by manipulating Spirit-power and gifting for his advantage in her sight. Adam imagined that by using the laws and principles of God, he could secure Eve for himself against his competitors. Adam's action was to throw cords of religious manipulation and control over Eve.
You see, Eve, though ravishing, was now entirely vulnerable. She had sinned. She needed redemption. Adam, who was NOT deceived according to Paul, understood that perfectly. But Adam knew that the tree of life meant that Eve would belong to Jesus and not to him. Thus Adam chose the means by which he could manipulate the power of God over Eve to secure her for himself.
Adam was a sick jerk.
Jesus humbled Himself, turned His back on His bride, and laid down His life for her.
And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
I now understand completely the words “ought to.”
We dare approach God no other way. God can be known safely by this means alone.
Yet Tabernacles is all about God becoming seen and known, touched and handled.
You don't touch electricity without the right buffers in place.
You don't reveal God without continually laying down your life for others, humbling yourself, giving yourself away, attaching nothing and no one to yourself, ever.