ECHOES FROM EDEN
A RIVER OUT OF EDEN
"And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and came into four heads. The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium (pearl) and the onyx stone. And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia. And the name of the third river is Heddekel: that it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates" (Gen. 2:10-14).
In these articles on the River of Life I am endeavoring to show that the primordial river which once flowed from the heights of Eden's fair garden to the breadth and length and depth of the whole earth is but a representation of the out-flowing of God's incorruptible waters of Spirit and Truth which proceed forth from A PEOPLE who abide in the spiritual heights of the Kingdom of Heaven realm unto the vast multitudes of peoples who sit in the valley of the shadow of death. The river was not reserved for Eden alone; there was truly a super-abundant overflow! The languages of earth do not contain words descriptive and meaningful enough to adequately describe the power and work of this mighty River, for it is the power and work of the eternal, incorruptible, and omnipotent LIFE OF THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY. In this River GOD HIMSELF has flowed out and is still flowing on this earth into humanity AS LIFE.
According to the divine and eternal nature of God Himself, God is life. But if God does not flow out, although in respect to Himself He is life, yet to us He is not life. He must flow out; then He will be life to us. Thus the life we receive from God is the flowing out of God Himself. This life flowing into us, His apprehended ones, from our side, is the flowing in of God, but from God's side, it is the flowing out of God. Then, when this life flows out of us, it is again the flowing out of God. This flowing out of God began from His throne: first it flowed into Jesus of Nazareth; then it passed through the cross and flowed into the apostles; then it flowed out of the apostles as rivers of living water (Jn. 7:38); it has flowed through the holy saints of all ages, and eventually it has flowed into us. Out from us it will flow to millions more and on to eternity, flowing forever without ceasing, just as is spoken in Rev. 22:1-2 and Jn. 4:14. These incorruptible waters of God's divine and eternal life are more real and sparkling and alive than any river of earth. They pulsate with righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit and vibrate with the sheer, exquisite beauty of the divine nature of our great and glorious God. It's resplendent glory is seen upon the countenances and in the lives of those men and women who have been quickened, renewed, and transformed INTO THE IMAGE OF GOD by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.
WHY JESUS WENT AWAY
This treasure of God's divine life flows within the riverbed of our earthen vessels. The vessel itself is not the treasure. The treasure is the Christ life within the vessel. The alabaster box in the hands of that devout woman of Bethany may have been very beautiful indeed, but the treasure was the ointment within. When Our Lord Jesus Christ walked the dusty paths of this earth, the people recognized Him only as a man. The inhabitants of Nazareth of Galilee knew Him as the carpenter's son. Others saw Him as a very ordinary Jew, while the Scribes and Pharisees saw Him as a dangerous man and one to be feared - a deceiver and a man possessed by demons. But others had fleeting glimpses of revelation as one might through a gap in the mountains catch a glimpse of the coming scene. Thus it was with the old prophet Simeon who in the temple held the tiny infant in his arms and moved upon by the Holy Spirit of God proclaimed, "Mine eyes have seen the Salvation of God!" (Lk. 2:30). Years later came the day when Simon Peter, with a conviction as fresh as the winds of heaven affirmed, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mat. 16:16). Nathaniel, too, upon hearing the words of Jesus testified, "Master, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel" (Jn. 1:49). And Thomas, who with questioning mind had walked and talked with the Saviour through out the more than three years of ministry, now for the first time seeing beyond the cloak of His human flesh, with astonishment frozen upon his countenance, with body trembling like a leaf stirred by a summer breeze, burst forth with the ecstatic cry of jubilation, "My Lord and my God!" (Jn. 20:28). Hear now the devoted Mary of Magdala, out of whom Jesus cast seven devils, tell how with unrestrained grief she wept until He spoke her name. "Rabboni!" she cried as she fell in worship at His feet, and she, who had known Him only as Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth, now knew Him as the Mighty God, the resurrection and the life. Yea, He was life itself. The incorruptible life, long concealed within the alabaster box of His human flesh, had now at last burst its bonds of death to manifest itself in the magnificent glory of the resurrection, its life-giving power released to flow as the glorious River of God unto the whole creation.
It was on the solemnest of nights that Jesus spoke one of the most marvelous truths concerning the River of God. Some months previous, on the last day of the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles, He had stood in the temple and cried, saying, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" (Jn. 7:37-38). This He spake of the Spirit which they that believe on Him should receive. On the night before His crucifixion Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples. The supper was over; but the band of friends had much to say to one another that night, and they lingered long around the table. They did not know it was the last supper, never dreamed of it; but there had been an unusual sweetness in their intercourse, and they talked on and on. The entire conversation is recorded in the Gospel of John, chapters 13 through 17. The hour grew late, but John still leaned on his Master's breast, and the others, grouped around in the twilight, drank in the solemn gladness of the Passover evening.
Suddenly a shadow falls over this scene. "Little children," Jesus says to His disciples, "yet a little while am I with you. Ye shall seek Me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you" (Jn. 13:33; 16:7). The hour is late. With their unspiritual minds they think He is getting tired. He means to retire to rest. But Peter asks straight out, "Lord, whither goest Thou?" Into the garden? back to Galilee? It never occurred to one of them that He meant the Unseen Realm. "Whither I go," He replies a second time, "Ye cannot follow Me now, but ye shall follow me afterward." Afterward! The blow slowly falls. In a dim, bewildering way it begins to dawn upon them. It is separation.
This truth fell upon the disciples like a thunderbolt startling a summer sky. Three and thirty years He had lived among them. These past three years they had learned to love Him. Day after day they had shared together the sunshine and the storm, and their hearts clung to Him with a strange fascination. And just when everything was at its height, when it seemed He would soon be hailed as the King of Israel, when their association with Him was now pledged indissolubly in the most solemn sacrament, the unexpected words come, "I must say goodbye; it is expedient for you that I go away!" It was a crushing blow to the little band. They had staked their all upon that love. They had given up home, business, friends, pleasure, and promised to follow Him. And now He says, "I must go!"
Let us see what He means by it. Why did Jesus go away? We all remember a time when we could not answer that question. In fact, we wished He had stayed, and had been here now. Your understanding will be greatly enlightened when you are able to grasp this simple truth I now bring to your attention: the reason Jesus went away was so He should be very near! It seems a paradox, but He went away to be very near, He ascended far above all heavens THAT HE MIGHT FILL ALL THINGS!
Suppose, again, He had not gone away; suppose He were now. Suppose He were still in the Holy Land, at Jerusalem. Every ship that started for the East would be crowded with Christian pilgrims. Every airplane flying through Europe to the Middle East would be loaded with people going to see Jesus. Every mail-bag would be full of letters from those sick and afflicted, those in difficulty and trial, and gifts of homage to manifest men's gratitude and love. You yourself, let us say, are on one of those planes. The airport, when you arrive after your long flight, is blocked with planes of every nation. After circling the airport for a dangerously long time you land, and board one of the multitude of tourist buses headed into Jerusalem. Far as the eye can reach, the traffic moves over the highways in an endless stream. You do not mind the scorching sun, the choking dust, the rude drivers, the elbowing crowds. You are in the Holy Land, and you will see Jesus! Yonder, at last, in the far distance, are the glittering spires of the Holy Hill, above the burnished temple dome beneath which He sits. But what is that dark seething mass stretching for miles and miles between you and the Holy City? They have come from the north and from the south, and from the east and from the west, as you have, to look upon their Lord. They wish that His hands might be placed upon their head; that His arms be thrown around them. But it cannot be. You have come to see Jesus, but you will not see Him! They have been there weeks, months, years, and have not seen Him. They are a yard or two nearer, and that is all. The thing is impossible. It is an anti-climax, an absurdity. It would be a social outrage; it would be a physical impossibility.
Now Christ foresaw all this when He said it was expedient that He should go away. Observe He did not say it was necessary - it was expedient, a means to an end. The objection to the plan was simply that it would no have worked. So He says to you, "It is very kind and earnest of you to come so far, but you mistake. Go away back from the walls of the Holy City, over the sea, and you will find Me in your own home. You will find Me where the shepherds found, doing their ordinary work; where the woman of Samaria found Me, drawing the water for the noon meal; where the disciples found Me, mending nets in their working clothes; where Mary found Me, among the commonplace household duties of a country village." Yes, the visible Incarnation of Christ must of necessity be brief. Only a small circle could enjoy His actual presence, but a great and glorious and universal kingdom like the Kingdom of God needed a risen and glorified Lord. It was expedient for the whole body of its subjects that He went away. He would be nearer man by apparently be further. The limitations of sense subjected Him while He stayed. He was subject to geography, locality, space, and time. But by going away in glorification He was able to return as the Spirit, the incorruptible River of God's divine and eternal life, to flow and flow and flow, age after age, unceasingly and untiringly into humanity AS LIFE. MY soul shouts a thousand hallelujahs that He went away!
He went away that the Comforter might come. Oh that the eyes of men might be opened to see that it was expedient that He go away in His visible body of flesh that He might return as the invisible Spirit in order that we might know Him by the Spirit and receive Him as our very life!
FROM FORM TO ESSENCE
I do not hesitate to say that the strongest temptation to every man is to guide himself by what he can see, and feel, and handle. This is why the disciples wanted Jesus to remain. This is the core of all ritualism and ceremonialism, of all the blinding creeds and traditions of the Church systems, of all the foolishness of candles and crucifixes and incense and altars and images and robes and temples and programs and ordinances and prayer books. It is the essence of idolatry. Men want to see God, therefore they make images of Him, or an object or ceremony or ordinance that He can present in. I do not laugh at ritualism; it is intensely human. It is not so much a sin of presumption; it is a sin of mistake. It is trying to undo the going away of Jesus the Christ. It is trying to make believe that He is still here IN THE FORM. If men cannot have Jesus in the flesh then they create some fleshly thing to represent Him. And the fatal fallacy of it is that it defeats its own end. He who seeks God in tangible form misses the very thing he is seeking, for GOD IS A SPIRIT. The desire burns within man to see God and this desire is given him to make him spiritual, by giving him a spiritual relationship; and he cheats himself by exercising the flesh instead of the spirit! Hunger and thirst after God are given us by the gracious hand of our Creator to raise us out of realm of the seen and the temporal. But instead of letting the spiritual appetite elevate us into the realm of the spirit where God dwells, we are prone to degrade the very instrument of spiritualization and make it minister to the flesh.
It was expedient in order that the disciples of Jesus should be SPIRITUALIZED that Jesus should become A SPIRIT. This a hard to grasp, we are so earth-bound, used to visible forms and appearances, and the very word "spirit" leaves one groping for something more tangible. Yet because of His inner moving and the unfolding revelation of Himself within, I have come to realize that to settle for a "form," ANY FORM, is to possess the alabaster box without the higher experience of knowing the fragrant ointment within. It is not the box we want, it is the ointment! Thus we refuse to cling to the "form" for our hearts are crying out for the "essence." God has often accommodated His people in their childishness and for a time provided a "form," but later He shattered the form that they might become aware of the essence. The hour has arrived when every man and woman of God who would follow on to KNOW THE LORD must experience a total breaking forth from every structured form and encrusted tradition, that we might KNOW HIM, the essence. Yes, it is a shattering process, most sever as the forms of rituals, ceremonies, religious systems, creeds, ordinances, ministries, and religious exercises of many kinds are literally swept away that we might now come to KNOW CHRIST ALONE as the inner Reality and Life.
You can be absolutely sure, my brother, my sister, that if you are being drawn in this hour by the Spirit of God unto the blessed reality of Sonship to God then you can look into your own heart and mind and life and see how you are moving steadily from DORM to ESSENCE. The word "essence" is from the Latin "esse" which means "to be." Webster defines it as: that which makes something what is; fundamental nature; the consecrated flavor, fragrance, etc. of the plant, drug, food, etc. from which it is extracted; true substance. How long we have messed around in the superficialities of the forms of religious exercises while deep in our heart there was a cry for REALITY, for the very ESSENCE OF WHAT CHRIST IS, an insatiable thirsting after the incorruptible WATERS OF LIFE.
II Tim. 3:5 reads, "Having a FORM of godliness (godlikeness), but denying the POWER thereof: from such turn away." One has aptly commented on this verse, and I quote: "The word "power" comes from the Greek word "dunamis" meaning ABILITY or POWER , and is the root word from which we get "dynamite." I dare say, we have all seen far too much of this FORM OF GODLINESS without any dynamic life in it. Pious rituals and ceremonies that never disturbed our carnality, never shook up our placid flesh-loving ways, but only provide a false soothing of our conscience, because we had supposedly taken time to worship the Lord together. But there is even more, for "godliness" implies a life of holiness, reverence, or piety. The form of godliness might be viewed as that spiritual sounding word or testimony given in a special meeting, that circumspect appearance with emphasis upon dress, outward looks, actions, speech, shrouded in an array of good works. But the essence of godliness is the inner substance of HIS LIFE abiding in us, daily working its powerful transformation. Our heart cries out for this to be our portion, that we might truly become a partaker of the divine nature. Then, bless His name, there comes the realization that He is removing the psuedo-forms of godliness that we thought made us appear so spiritual, and He implants within us that substance of His divine nature, powerful, sustaining, transforming life."
Form - how we cling to it, how we demand it, our mind grasped for a boundary, so long has it cherished the alabaster box, oh yes, all the time esteeming the value of the unseen and unknown ointment within, but yet unwilling to BREAK THE BOX that the pure ointment itself might be EXPERIENCED!
Nothing has changed since the days of Jesus when He said to the religious leaders, "You garnish the sepulchres of the dead prophets - but kill the living ones!" (Mat. 23:29). All that the Church today possesses of truth was given to her out of the anointing of God, imparted to her through anointed men, from the days walked the paths of discipleship - and these men, Peter, Paul, John, Luther, Wesley, and all the rest of bygone generations, she admires. However, the anointed Word has been so dogmatized, so organized, so programized, so set in concrete in the Church systems, and like the REPHAIM - the physicians - of no value who EMBALMED Israel, so have the Church systems EMBALMED THE CHRIST - fixed Him in a static position so that He can move no further. Holding the very FORM OF TRUTH, the Church systems deny the ESSENCE and LIFE of that truth...and boasts of her visible wealth of temples, services, pomp and power, yet, the Lord says, "Because thou sayest, I am RICH and increased with goods and have need of nothing (not even the anointing) and KNOWEST NOT that thou art wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked," because of all this, "I will spue you out of My mouth!" (Rev. 3:16-17). Even now she holds the HUSKS which have long ago been emptied of the corn! She treasures the alabaster box, little realizing that the essence has dissipated into the air long before this time.
Rom. 2:20 speaks of the legalistic teachers of Paul's day and he describes each of them as "an instructor of the foolish. a teacher of babes, which hast the FORM OF KNOWLEDGE and of the truth of the law." How well we are acquainted with these who like walking encyclopedia of religion are able to recite by rote the dead letter of the Word, a form of knowledge, yes, head knowledge, but knowing so little of the Spirit, the essence of the Word. This is what Isaiah meant when he said, "The bed is SHORTER than a man can stretch himself upon it and the covering NARROWER than he can wrap in it" (Isa. 28:20). The FORM of truth always falls just a little short of the glory, provides a place of rest just a little too small for comfort, and an anointing that leaves some part of our nakedness exposed. A doctrine or ritual, a program or method - these are not sufficient to task of covering the nakedness of man's carnal mind which has been exposed in the fall. But, blessed be God! "A MAN shall be a covert (covering) in the time of storm" (Isa. 32:2) says the prophet, and that man, of course, is THE CHRIST, the ANOINTED ONE, THE LIVING WORD! Covered with ESSENCE - isn't that what happens when the alabaster box is broken?
Ah, yes, there is an inner essence, His divine nature, incorruptible life, the CHRIST WITHIN which needs to ultimately become in all to every of God. It is a powerful life, dynamic and full of vitality, rich and fragrant, free and flowing, bursting through the rigid forms of fleshly concepts of spirituality - the River of Life itself! How many of the Lord's precious people still have their source of life ON THE OUTSIDE. So many are still trying to pray something down from heaven, or are constantly seeking out some meeting, some minister, some prophet, some healer, some new experience from which to DRAW LIFE. And after all their running too and fro, they're still thirsty and needy.
We see these Christians coming to meetings all the time with their "buckets." "Brother Eby, fill 'er up! I've got to have a whole lot. I've got some real tough problems to face this week and I've got to get enough to carry me through. Fill 'er up! Pray for me, impart to me, I've just got to get a "touch" from God! Oh, I'm so hungry, so thirsty, help me!" These have no life in themselves, they have never discovered the INNER ESSENCE OF HIS LIFE, so they are always reaching out, grasping about, trying to find the flow of life, hoping to find someone who can share a little water with them. Then there are those saints who have come to KNOW HIM, the inner essence, as all in all. You can tell who these are because you never catch them talking about what they need. You'll never hear them talking about how they need a touch from God! They are not centered in their needs, they are centered in HIS FULLNESS. Now don't misunderstand me! I don't mean that these never experience weakness, problems, pressures, and all those infirmities that are common to each of us. Certainly they do. Jesus did! But one thing they know quite well...the source of life, the answer to the problem, the sufficiency for the need, the strength required is not to be found on the outside, its ON THE INSIDE, the essence in the box, the river of life within. We praise God for the times of gathering, when the saints come together in precious fellowship, praising and worshiping in one spirit, sharing with one another that which God has been speaking and revealing of His Word, but those who are growing up into Him come finally to that place where they do not need to depend upon what they receive in those moments to assure their victory, for CHRIST, OMNIPOTENT, OMNISCIENT lives within.
God has said that IN CHRIST we have eternal life, the more abundant life. There comes now to our inner spiritual ear the sound of His voice sing, "I live, and ye shall live also." Christ is declared to be our peace, our joy, our strength, our righteousness, our sanctification, our salvation, our hope, our victory over every enemy, He who brings us into the fullness of God. Moving from form to essence our motto becomes: Everything made subject and swallowed up into Him "that God may be ALL IN ALL." Let this desire possess your whole heart and life. In those areas where you fall short let GOD take His place in your heart and life. Luther often said to people when they came troubling him about difficulties, "Do let God be God." Oh, give God His place. And what is that place? "That God may be all in all." Let God be ALL in every day, from morning to evening. Let God be ALL in your problems, in your distresses, in your temptations, in your weakness, in your disappointments, in your circumstances, in your hopes, yea, let God be ALL IN ALL. I pray God that He may give us such a revelation of the inner essence, His divine nature, His incorruptible life, the CHRIST WITHIN that in the awe-inspiring wonder of His fragrance and glory all else may disappear.
No words of mine can fully reveal this wonderful glory reserved and kept unfading in store for all who follow on to know the Lord. Even now there is a first-fruit company which is breaking through ALL form into the very SPIRIT OF THE WORD, an ESSENCE-MINISTRY that the Father delights to make known in this hour of the approaching Kingdom. God has apprehended a remnant to be conformed to His image, to BECOME ONE ESSENCE IN HIM, and it requires the smashing of all the old forms in our lives that we once thought so spiritual and holy.
THE BREAKING OF THE ALABASTER BOX
Twice, during His life on earth, the body of Jesus was anointed with costly oils, emblems of the fragrance, preciousness and perfection of His character and attributes emanating from the incorruptible life within. The first to thus anoint Him near the beginning of His ministry, was the one to whom He had forgiven much because she had sinned much. The second who anointed His was Mary of Bethany, who sat at His feet and listened to His words; this was near the end of His ministry, an anointing for His burial, bespeaking His death. Can we not see this that the alabaster box typified Jesus being crushed out of His FLESHLY FORM as a means of releasing the inner essence of His marvelous life?
Why are we so slow to grasp the revealing truth, "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit?" (Jn. 12:24). Can you now see from the things we have stated the absolute necessity of the death of God's Son and His departure from the earth realm? How else but by death could He release the inner essence of His incorruptible life to the millions who would in the future believe on Him? Had He not died, the living stream of divine life would have been forever locked up within Himself, but the moment He died, His eternal Spirit - yea, His eternal life - was released to go abroad into the hearts of an innumerable multitude of believers who would drink freely of that the perfume of the ointment filled all the house where they were sitting; and it was not until that alabaster box of His earthly body was broken in bruising and death upon the cross that His Spirit was released to the Father to be sent forth by Him into every believing heart, bringing eternal life, incorruptible, immortal, and unfading. How my soul rejoices with joy unspeakable and full of glory that I, too, am drinking of that exhaustless fountain of eternal life! And those who drink shall never thirst again, but the water that He gives is a fountain WITHIN THEM, a well of water springing up into life full and eternal.
This is the blessed secret of the Christ life: A life poured out. "If any man thirst, let come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. This He spake of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was NOT YET GLORIFIED" (Jn. 7:37-39). They could not receive His Spirit until He was glorified, and He could not be glorified until His Spirit was released by death. With what wonder and admiration do we behold THE GLORIFIED CHRIST as He appeared in vision to the beloved John who penned this awe-inspiring record of what He saw by the Spirit of revelation: "And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow: and His eyes were as a flame of fire; and His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters" (Rev. 1:12-15). Rev. 3:4 indicates that His garment was white. Now here is an interesting thing! The word "Adam" is a transliteration of the Hebrew word that means "ruddy" or "red." Furthermore, it comes from a root which means "to show blood in the face, to flush or turn rosy." Thus Adam, when he came forth from the hand of the Creator, was unique among all the creatures that God had made in that he received his color from the blood flowing in his veins and this could be especially pronounced in moments of intense pleasure, excitement, or embarrassment when the blood rushed to his face giving him a crimson tone.
There is a deep meaning behind all this. There is a profound and marvelous significance in the meaning of Adam's name and the marked contrast between Adam's REDNESS OF FACE and Christ's WHITENESS OF HEAD - and may the Holy Spirit give understanding as I explain. In the Scripture the blood always stands for the life and a person's name always stands for his nature. The face, in symbolic terms, speaks of the deepest parts of man's being - what we would call the heart, or nature. Here we have a man named Adam, which means "to show blood in the face!" Thus Adam's color and his blood and his face all reveal something about his NATURE - what kind of person he is! The understanding of this one point should make it easy for us to grasp why it was that Adam turned so soon from the way of his Creator to follow after the darkness of THE CARNAL MIND, why he did not live in the garden for at least twenty years, or a hundred years, or a thousand years before succumbing to temptation and plunging headlong into the dismal abyss of self, sin and death. Now since we have seen by divine wisdom that blood represents life, it should not be difficult for any to see that Adam's RED FACE reveals that from the day he breathed his first breath upon earth there was deep-seated within his being this nature to CLING TO HIS LIFE, to exalt HIMSELF, and so he is seen as RETAINING THE BLOOD which represents his soul or his SELF-LIFE. Sin and the fall were the natural result of this condition.
But, the GLORIFIED CHRIST, on the other hand, is always depicted as WHITE: hair as white as snow, head as white as snow, garments as white as snow, everything white, like an albino. Why? Because HIS LIFE is poured out...released by means of death! Upon this truth hangs the eternal hope of billions of mankind who have inhabited this earth, and it is even now the wellspring for all those blessed ones upon whom God has breathed the spirit of understanding from on high and quickened together in Christ Jesus. The truth is this: Blood retained is Adam and is therefore death; blood poured out is life! Or, as the apostle Paul stated it, "To be carnally (self) minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Rom. 8:6). Jesus stated it this way: "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it" (Lk. 9:24).
This poured out life of Christ, eternal and incorruptible, is the River of Life flowing bountifully from God's garden of the Kingdom of Heaven. The mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was the outpouring of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the reservoir of the living water, released His life and the Father pours forth that eternal and incorruptible Spirit into the waiting, thirsting hearts of all who believe. While our Lord Jesus Christ walked upon earth, He alone had eternal life. That eternal life was in His blood and that blood was confined to Himself. Nowhere in Scripture do we have any record or evidence that Jesus Christ ever imparted eternal life to any man before His blood was shed. It should not be difficult for any man to see that if Jesus had RETAINED HIS BLOOD, as Adam did, if He had CLUNG TO HIS OWN WILL rather than becoming obedient unto death, Eden's gates would still be closed and the riverbed of the River of Life would today be as dry as the desert sands of Arabia.
Well did our Saviour know that, as long as His life blood still flowed in the veins of His own body, all the rest of humanity must remain dead in trespasses and sins. Well did He know that, until His blood was shed, there could be no resurrection and no outflow of life to the world. When His disciples mourned at the thought of His death and departure, He told them plainly, "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you" (Jn. 16:7).
THE RELEASE OF THE RIVER
I do not wish to close this article without emphasizing an eternal principle that applies to each and every one who has been made a partaker of the incorruptible life of Christ. It is not enough to understand with natural minds the wonderful truth that the fleshly body of God's firstborn Son was broken in order to release the eternal stream of God's essence unto mankind. Behold! I show you a mystery: Know ye not that ye are the body of Christ? May the Holy Spirit give you understanding that, wonderful as is the truth that we are partakers of the divine life of Christ, and glorious as is the fact that the precious fragrance of His essence-life is within us, that life must remain sealed up within us even as it was in Jesus until we, like Him, embrace the cross. When death worked in Jesus Christ, then life worked in me; and when I am delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, then life works in you. In II Cor. 4:7-12 Paul shows clearly how it is that the things which lead to the destruction of the self-life are the very things that cause the incorruptible life within us to be released to work life in other members of the human race. "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then DEATH WORKETH IN US, BUT LIFE IN YOU."
From reading these inspired words can we not see that, just as the crucifixion and death of our Lord Jesus released the eternal Spirit, so now the same divine principle is working in us who have received His life? For, as Paul said, it is when death works in us that life works in others. Matters not how much of the Christ life you have received, nor how deep the inworkings of His nature; the final step in the process of the revelation of Christ through many Sons is in those Sons being BROKEN! There must be a dying and a breaking before there can be a FLOWING. Why? Because it was the carnality of man's fleshly self-life that BECAME THE DAM shutting off the flow of the pure River of Life from Eden's fair garden so long ago. And now, beloved, the dam must be demolished! Self must be brought to the cross and destroyed. Ah, F-L-O-W-I-N-G time has come. Are WE, I, YOU, ANY, ALL, R-E-A-D-Y? What a treasure the Father has deposited in these earthen vessels, these alabaster boxes!
Alabaster was anciently a stone found near Alabastron, Egypt. The alabaster is usually white, and due to a stalagmite formation, sometimes has streaks of various colors. It resembles the likeness of marble and is capable of a fine polish. The solid alabaster was bored or drilled out to contain as much as a pound of liquid. It was usually fashioned with a narrow neck that could be effectively sealed to prevent the escape of the precious scent. The thing to which the Spirit of God would now draw our attention in this story of Mary of Bethany is found in Mk.14:3 where we read, "And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she BRAKE THE BOX, and poured it on His Head."
When I read how this devout woman broke the alabaster box I must confess that I thought, as most folks do, that she had broken a seal on the box which kept it air tight so the contents would not evaporate. But how very important and full of truth are the simplest sayings of inspiration! The word for "brake" in the Greek is "suntribo" which means "to crush completely, to shatter, to break in pieces and to be broken to shivers!" No, friends, Mary did not merely open the box, nor did she simply break of the neck, she completely crushed and shuttered it, broke it to pieces and destroyed it, thus totally releasing the fragrant ointment within. There was, in fact, nothing left to be appreciated by anyone but the pure essence that FILLED ALL THE HOUSE. Who can fathom the depths of truth set forth in the words of the sweet singer of Israel, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise" (Ps. 51:17). Broken and contrite means BROKEN AND POWDERED, made so small it can never again come together in its first shape. The more broken and contrite we become, the more abundantly are the fragrant oils of His divine life sent forth to bless and quicken those around us.
Why has the expression of Christ been so limited in us? Why has the outpouring of love, mercy, goodness, wisdom and power been merely a trickle rather than the gigantic river it is supposed to be? What draws the barrier? It is SELF which says, "I am not going to suffer any more, I am not going to give any more, I am not going to put up with this any more." Jesus' secret of the life of Sonship was: "If any man will be My disciple let him DENY HIMSELF." Not: Protect, defend, uphold and promote himself, or feel sorry for himself. How can you love anyone else if you are busy doing all that? Nor did Jesus say: Deny Hollywood, the liquor store, the dance hall, the card games and the slot machines. Our problems lie not with the theatre, or the television, or the liquor store, or the gambling dens, but "If any man will be My disciple let him deny H-I-M-S-E-L-F!" Here is the root of the corrupt tree. Nor is it giving up things, whether they be houses, lands, businesses, jobs, servants, family, friends, refrigerators or swimming pools. The problem is not with the things, but with the importance you place upon them and the power they have in your life. In yet another vein, or the unreasonable boss, or the nagging wife, or the insulting neighbor, or the offensive brother or sister, but with the anger and bitterness and frustration in your own spirit as a result of these things. So men divorce their wives, women divorce their husbands, they deny the problem, but they never DENY THEMSELVES!
Why was it that the love of Jesus had no limit and His grace had no measure? Because nowhere in Him could self rise up and say. "I have had enough of it." Nowhere in Him could self say, "I should not have to suffer so much." When Judas betrayed Him, there was no place in Him where self could rise up and say, "I trusted this man to be the treasurer and now he denies Me." He could truly say, "The prince of this world cometh, and HATH NOTHING IN ME" (Jn. 14:30). There was no ground in Him on which the devil could do His work.
If it was true in the Pattern Son then it must be true in all the many brethren who come to His glory. Someone may say, "I do not believe that God can have a people today that have love without limits." Or, "I do not believe that anyone could pray: 'Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.'" Well, Stephen did! While the angry mob dashed the stones againts his body He said, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." There was no limit to Stephen's love, even though it meant his death. Like Jesus, he was full of grace.
Some people believe in grace this way: Any mistakes they make, or sins they commit, are forgiven, but there is no forgiveness in them for others whose doctrines, ways, or successes offend them. But Paul has told us, "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound" (Rom. 5:20). Ought not the nature of God also be the nature of His Sons? If there is grace enough to cover my sins, then there must be grace enough to cover other's men sins. The grace of God has no measure. The love of God has no limit. But, beloved brother, sister, you will never in a million years convince people of God's love until that love begins to become a true expression in your own life.
We need to be deeply impressed with the kind of death Christ died to self, the very death that carried Him to the cross. It was the breaking of the alabaster box, the shattering of self all the way, both in life and death. Only thus can the essence flow out. This is why we must experience it. All that we have, all that we are, all that we do and all to which we are related must be brought to the cross. The cross is the end of self and therefore the end of all things related to us, for a dead man owns nothing, has nothing, clings to nothing, protects nothing, upholds nothing, promotes nothing and claims nothing. We have to put all things to the cross: our knowledge, our wisdom, our rights, our ability, our hopes, our ministry, etc. This is the principle of the cross. There is no other ground. The box must be so broken to shivers until there is nothing else to be seen or known but the pure spikenard of HIS LIFE. THIS is the River of Life. It is F-L-O-W-I-N-G time!
J. PRESTON EBY
J. PRESTON EBY
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