“ON EAGLES”WINGS MINISTRIES”
“See how I bare you on eagles’ wings and brought you unto myself.” Exodus 19:4
Royce Kennedy ◊ 909 Whistling Duck Drive ◊ Largo, MD 20774
“For I know whom I have believed.” 2nd Timothy 1:12. December 2011.
We have been studying the life, exploits, and dedication of the apostle Paul, especially to learn how specific his views were. We could not help being impressed how he applied certain truths to himself in a literal sense. It seems to me that it becomes less imposing, less demanding, and almost vague for us to offer biblical truths in the abstract, or in spiritual terms. After all, one cannot be asked or expected to show real tangible results to spiritual matters; that boils down to belief or unbelief in the concepts being offered.
Paul was pragmatic enough to insert himself into the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ; in so much that he counted himself as “dead” and the only life he had left was Christ who is our life. The apostle was not threatened or intimidated by having to produce proof of what he believed. From our vantage point we are faced with only two perspectives or two views. Concerning Jesus our Savior, we either have heard “him” or “about him” the first, meaning that we have “heard him and have been taught by him.”
These two perspectives offer two different kinds of results. Hearing about Jesus Christ or about God our Father depends entirely upon how articulate and eloquent the “story teller” is in that craft. As a result, one’s faith becomes the sum total of what one hears.(faith comes by hearing) Perhaps the ministers who can tell the story of Jesus and Calvary most eloquently, managed to build the most successful congregations. Be that as it may, learning a story that is being told by another person means that what we digest and accept as truth depends on the one telling the story.
Notice that in the text quoted above, Paul did not say that he knew in whom he believed; because believing “IN” and “KNOWING WHOM” are two different realities to say the least. Simply because we believe in Christ, does not necessarily mean that we have come to “KNOW HIM.” Being taught about Christ is completely different from being taught by him. Paul puts it this way!
“But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him (Paul did not say heard about him) and have been taught by him (not about him) as the truth is in Jesus.”Ephesians 4: 21. Notice the last part of the verse! “As the truth is in Jesus!” Why is this so very important? Simply because each person will teach what he or she believes to be the truth; but in reality, it does not necessarily mean that their views correspond with the truth that is in Christ.
Let us use a simple illustration! Jesus administered what we call the Lord’s Supper by blessing the bread and the wine and shared with his disciples. Riding down the waves of time, we have ended up with arguments in Christendom as to whether it should be bread bought from the super market, or it should be without salt baked by a member of the church. Others argue whether we should serve the wine out of a single cup or many cups. Some insist that after supper we MUST take a basin and wash the saints’ feet; and the bottom line embraced by many is the statement: “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” John 13: 17. Many large and well established religious organizations simply pass this practice off as being a lesson in humility, and there is no need to actually go around with a basin with water and towel washing feet. The essence of what we are saying is that being taught about Jesus cannot be as impressive and productive as being taught BY Jesus himself as the truth is in him. He does not open the package, examine the contents and make all or any adjustments that he deem necessary. For instance, your pastor or bible teacher can read a verse of scripture and quickly add; “Well it doesn’t really mean that.” But the truth that Christ himself imparts needs no clarification or added promptings; but are we listening to him?
Paul headed in a direction that very few, if any in his time had dared to travel. He was aggressive in his search for truth; and he was not afraid to explore depts. and heights that were never before known by man. From the deepest recesses of his innermost being the apostle groaned: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” Philippians 3: 10.
In his quest to know Christ on a personal basis, Paul counted the cost and determined that if it required the sufferings of Christ, and even his death, he was ready to be made conformable unto his death. He was not looking for a joy ride into eternal bliss, because there are no free rides in our world. Of Christ it was written, Lo I come to do thy will O God, and that will included sufferings and death. Esther said, “If I perish, I perish, but I must see the king.” Paul likewise is saying whatever it takes for me to know him, even his sufferings and his death, I am ready to be molded and fashioned into that same image.
There is a unique quality that the apostle possessed, and even as Saul of Tarus persecuting the church, the Lord saw that quality that would serve his gospel and his kingdom mightily. This man did not embrace mediocrity and it was not a part of his DNA. Even while he was wrong (unknown to him) he was wrong in a big way. He gave it his all for whatever it was worth and excelled above his equals in the Jewish religion, being exceedingly more zealous than they. Those are the qualities God sized upon and the rest is history; this man is being acclaimed as the greatest apostle.
The relationship with Christ that he hungered and was thirsty for is summed up in this statement. “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 mortal flesh.” 2nd Corinthians 4: 8-11. Now, contrast that with the happy-go-lucky, carefree, celebrity lifestyle of the clergy today. I think the ball is in your court on a personal basis, and if the thirst and burning desire to establish a personal one-on-one relationship with Christ isn’t in you, no lecture, no amount of bible classes will attract and impact you. Whether in politics, in spiritual or secular matters, when we are satisfied in our comfort zone, we do not clamor for changes.
In total abandonment to his life that was now in Christ, Paul issued a glaring statement: “From henceforth (from now on) let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Galatians 6: 17. The Phillips translation renders it this way: “Let no one interfere with me after this. I carry on my scarred body the marks of Jesus. The N.E.B. translation offers this: “In future let no one make trouble for me, for I bear the marks of Jesus branded on my body. This is high octane, highly flammable, completely potent issues as they pertained to Paul. Here is a man who pushed well beyond the limits of human reasoning and logic.
So what lessons did Paul write for us in the shifting sands of time? Does his actions echo through the glen and o’er mountain tops, resonating even across the ocean wild, insomuch that you and I cannot help but feel its impact as if he lived a short while ago? You see, Paul was as a man “born out of due time” meaning his was a pre-mature birth. He lived in a time that was not exactly his, and we believe that the path he paved is really meant for us today. The expedition of Lewis and Clark (1804-1806) proved that it was possible to engage upon trans-continental travel to the Pacific Coast of the United States.
The adventures, lifestyle, and accomplishments of the apostle Paul should serve as a living testament of what is possible to achieve in Christ Jesus. But here is the difference! Paul desired above life itself, to know Jesus by becoming a part of his sufferings, a part of his resurrection, but he knew that without death there can be no resurrection, so he wished to be made conformable unto his death, thus experiencing the power of his resurrection. In a convention in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1956, a young minister from Texas told of his experience as a young aspiring minister who was about to graduate from Bible College. A tent crusade had come to his town and what he saw and felt as he sat sort of disguised in the back, trigger a burning desire in him to pray for whatever it was that these people had. After a couple visits he was sure that he had to acquire whatever it was that made these people so different. He did not understand it, but he knew he wanted it!
He went home and fell to his knees and prayed that God would grant him what those people and that preacher have. Along the way, the Lord replied and said to him: I will grant your request, but here is the price you will have to pay. You will not graduate from college! You will not get to pastor the church that is being lined up for you! And you will not marry the girl you are in love with! He shook to his very foundation and cried, “Lord the price is too great for me to pay.” Nevertheless, he went back to the tent meetings and as usual, he came back home asking God for what those people had.
Each time he prayed, each time God’s reply was the same. Finally, during one of his fervent prayer, God said to him, “Son, pray for surrendering grace.” He did and when that grace flooded his soul, he cried, Lord whatever the price is, I am willing and ready to pay it. Sure enough, he received the blessings he sought. But also, sure enough, he did not graduate! He did not get to be pastor of the church that was slated for him; and sure enough, he did not marry the girl he was in love with!
There are numerous churches in every city in these United States, and in many big cities across the world. You are free to do comparison shopping for the church of your choice, possibly where no one will ruffle your feathers or step on your toes, as the saying goes. But sooner or later, you will have to decide what value is being placed on your life. Are you prepared to join a king in saying, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, and that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord forever?”
After looking through all the pros and cons of your life, and carefully assessing the values involved, are you ready to join the apostle in announcing publicly, “For me to live is Christ?” Of course, that would mean that nothing else matters, and to be quite frank with you, not many serious and devoted Christians are prepared to go that far in their commitment to Christ. Like the wedding vow, this is not to be taken lightly or to be entered upon inadvisably.
You need not travel far out of your comfort zone to hear words designed to soothe and rock you to sleep. But there are those who are entrusted with the responsibility to declare the whole truth of God’s word. I am trying to paint a picture of reality the way I think it really is. In school back home, we learned of Buckingham Palace, and based upon how well the teacher described it, we formed a picture in our mind what the actual building looks like. Of course, years later when I had my first look at the palace I was less than impressed.
As a youngster I used to sing, “There’ll be blue birds over the white cliffs of Dover.” Again, in my mind I knew exactly what those cliffs looked like. But when the afternoon came that I was able to run up to the deck of the ferry plying between Calais and Dover to get my first look at the white cliffs of Dover, my heart sank and I quickly headed back to the lower decks. I have said that to illustrate the fact that what we see and believe about Jesus largely depends on the person telling the story. However, our personal relationship with Christ is not a mere story that says, “Once upon a time in a country far, far, away, lived a man named Jesus.”
The bible is not God! The bible is not Jesus Christ! It is an introduction and a sort of gateway that we can tread upon in our quest to find that man from Galilee. In fact, the bible is not God’s actual voice; rather, it is a record of what he said. My former presiding bishop in the City of Baltimore, in one of his Sunday morning sermons said; “When the Catholic Church failed to find the Holy God, they invented a Holy Book. But until we find the God of the bible, we will continue to live in a dream world.”
The bible does not work miracles by itself. It cannot say to you, John, tomorrow you must go down to Home Depot and apply for a job. Paul said that the letter kills, but the spirit gives life. The words written in the bible are dead letters, in so much, if you should put a torch to the bible it would burn like any other book. It is simply ink on paper. It is when the Holy Spirit adds life to the written word that amazing things happen. In fact, Sundar Singh who became one of India’s most flamboyant and dedicated missionary even burned the bible before his conversion to Jesus Christ. He was born 1889, and raised in the Sikh religion, and in his early years attended a primary school run by the American Presbyterian Mission. He refused to read the bible at the daily sessions even though the love taught in the gospels attracted him; he still thought it was a false religion.
His mother died when he was 14 years old throwing him into a faith crisis. In his anger, Sundar burned a copy of the gospels in public. Here is what he concluded: “Although I believed that I had done a very good deed by burning the bible, I felt unhappy.” Within three days Sundar Singh could bear his burden no longer. Late one night in December 1903, he rose from bed and prayed that God would reveal himself to him if he really existed. Otherwise, he planned to throw himself in front of the train that passed his house. For seven hours Sundar prayed: O God, if there is a God, reveal thyself to me tonight.
The next train was due at five o’clock the next morning, and the hours passed. Suddenly the room filled with a glow. A man appeared before him and a voice said, “How long will you deny me? I died for you; I have given my life for you.” He saw the man’s hands, pierced by nails. Amazed that his vision had taken the unexpected form of Jesus, Sundar was convinced in his heart that Jesus was the true Savior, and that he was alive. He fell to his knees before him and experienced an astonishing peace which he had never felt before.
In a conversation with the Archbishop of Canterbury in London, Sundar said: “If I do not see my mother in heaven, I shall ask God to send me to hell so that I may be with her. There are many more people among us in India who lead a spiritual life than in the West, although they do not know or confess Christ. It is of course true that people who live in India worship idols: but here in England people worship themselves, and that is still worse. Idol worshippers seek the truth, but people over here, so far as I can see, seek pleasure and comfort. The people of the West understand how to use electricity and how to fly in the air. The men of the East have sought the truth. Of the three Wise Men who went to Palestine to see Jesus, not one was from the West.”
During his short life, Sunda visited many parts of India and Tibet, preaching the gospel of a Christ who was alive and well. In the summer of every year he visited Tibet. In 1929 he visited that country again and was never seen again. He was just about 40 years old. I feature this story because many of us can identify with Sundar who belonged to our time and circumstances. His life was short lived, but he lived it well, in the service of Christ our Lord, and he will certainly hear the Master say, “Well done!”
Let me end the story of Sundar Singh with one of his quotes. “He was searching for me before I sought him. Christ whom I had never expected came to me. I was praying, “If there be a God, reveal Thyself to me..I was praying to Hindu gods and incantations. But when he came there was no anger in his face, even though I had burned the bible three days before. None of you have ever destroyed Scripture like me. He is such a wonderful, loving, living Savior. There is a great difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing him..If we only know of Jesus as a good man, a great example, it is no help to us. Those who know him—who he is. When we know him everything is different and we are living in a new world—a new atmosphere. Heaven begins on earth for us. Those who know him know that Jesus is everything to them.
For the first two or three years after my conversion, I used to ask for specific things. Now I ask for God!
Paul lamented, “O that I may know him!” Suppose there is a tree full of fruits, you will have to go and buy or beg the fruits from the owner of the tree. But if you can make the tree your own property, then all the fruits will be your own. In the same way, if God is your own, then all things in heaven and on earth will be yours, because he is your Father and is everything to you. Salt, when dissolved in water, may disappear, but it does not cease to exist. We can be sure of its presence by tasting the water. Likewise, the indwelling Christ, though unseen, will be made evident to others from the love which he imparts to us.” Listen to this nugget of truth which I am hearing for the very first time, but it sounds good to me!
“From my many years experience I can unhesitatingly say that the cross bears those who bear the cross.” While sitting on the bank of a river one day, I picked up a solid round stone from the water and broke it open. It was perfectly dry in spite of the fact that it had been immersed in water for centuries. The same is true of many people in the Western world. For centuries they have been surrounded by Christianity; they live immersed in the waters of its benefits. And yet it has not penetrated their hearts; they do not love it. The fault is not Christianity, but in men’s hearts, which have been hardened by materialism and intellectualism.” These words spoken by Sundar Singh back in the 1900,s ring true today, as if it they were spoken for our time.
The idea we are conveying in this study, is that there is a dimension that one can achieve and experience, depending on one’s personal desire and appetite for more of the realities that can only be found within the context of a closer walk with God. We often refer to the fact that Jesus had twelve disciples, but on certain occasions he took only three, and of the three, there was one that rested upon his bosom. Let us consider the case of Moses for a moment who came down from the mountain and found that the people and sinned and worshipped a golden calf.
At this point, God refused to go up with the people, but instructed Moses to move forward and go up. In essence, Moses said unto God, if you do not go up with us, count me out; I am not going up either. “And he (the Lord) said unto him, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest. And he (Moses) said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. And the Lord said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.” Moses went further in his requests by asking the Lord to show him his glory. As the saying goes, “shouldn’t Moses quit while he is ahead? First God said he wouldn’t go, then he relented to the wishes of Moses and decided to go after all.
Now Moses is pushing the envelope to the edge by asking to see God’s glory. The Lord replied: “I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy, but, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live; I have an idea; Moses, how about this? Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and I will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.” Exodus33: 13-23.
Here is a combination of desire, trust, faith, and persistence on the part of Moses. Many alternatives were on the table for Moses to choose from, and God did not put him under pressure. Rather, it seems that it was Moses who applied pressure and insisted on obtaining his heart’s desires. He laid out the terms on how events would unfold, and as we have seen time and again in the case of Moses, he usually got his way with God. He knew God was faithful and kept his promises, but he wanted more in terms of knowing and even seeing God. God’s presence as a feeling or a sort of mist cooling the brow was not sufficient for Moses.
Notice that Moses got God to move the goal post in changing his mind in going up with Moses, based upon the words of Moses. “I will do this also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thy name.” Observe two huge reasons why Moses seemingly had his way with God: First, he found grace in God’s sight, and secondly, God knew his name. This latter point suggests more than an awareness that Moses existed and was busy leading Israel out of Egypt. Knowing his name is synonymous with having a personal relationship together, and it suggests a relationship that extends far beyond being an acquaintance, or someone he meets occasionally. This is the essence of what this study is all about. It is going beyond the “born again experience” and going beyond the status as a good and faithful servant. Jesus indicated that a servant does not dwell in the house forever, but a son does. He also said, I call you not servants but friends, for a servant knows not what his master does, but because you are my friends, whatsoever I receive of the Father I show it unto you.
This takes us back to Paul’s assertion, “I know whom I believe” and “for me to live is Christ.” His concepts were not elementary stuff. He refused to dwell on the lower plains where people struggle and fight over titles and positions, and high seats in the synagogues. What is your personal choice as it stirs in your heart?
Are you content to sit in the Court of the Gentiles, or do you wish to join the high priest as he stands in front of the Ark of the Covenant in the Most Holy Place? I used to say in sermons that there are three types of Christians. The living room type, given in being social; there is the dining room type who are always happy with a meal. Finally, there is the bedroom type. They stop briefly in the living room to be social, and they linger for a moment in the kitchen for a morsel, but they enter the bedroom for that kind of special relationship. What kind do you consider yourself to be? Are you satisfied with a drop in the bucket? Are you seeking a mere “Double Portion” when Jesus offered one hundred fold? You must make the call on your own behalf. Again, it amounts to personal choice! Jesus himself went a little farther! You can stand a notch above the rest!
Royce O. Kennedy