Faith in the Night Seasons
Intimacy - Worshiping God in the Spiritby Nancy Missler
Over the last several months, we have been talking about faith-faith in the "night seasons." Faith, we said, is accepting a situation that we cannot fully understand, and no longer being troubled by it. This kind of "naked" faith is developed through night seasons-times where God teaches us by depriving us of the natural light we have always been used to (our seeing, feeling and understanding), so that we will learn to walk by faith.
God wants to strengthen our faith so that He can bring us to an intimacy with Him that we have never before known. If we understand this and trust Him, then we can weather the storms or trials that He allows. If we don't understand what He is doing and we don't really trust Him, then we'll either fall away in the darkness and lose our faith, or we'll end up frustrated and defeated as we try to battle harsh events in our lives in our own strength and ability.
The Release of the Spirit
The majority of our troubles seem to arise because our outward man and our inward man have become so entangled. What influences us outwardly (in our soul) usually disturbs us inwardly (in our spirit). God wants these two areas separated so that nothing on the outside will be able to move or disturb us on the inside. In order to accomplish this, God must allow circumstances into our lives that bring about the breaking of our outward man and, thus, the release of His Spirit (Acts 2:38; Ezekiel 36:26; Romans 8:15-16; 1 Corinthians 6:17).
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
Death of the outward man must precede life in the Spirit. In nature, if we take a corn of wheat, drop it into the earth and cover it with soil, it will eventually die. The elements in the soil, the heat of the sun and the moisture all work on the outer shell of that seed. Soon, the outer shell breaks open and a little green sprout pushes its way out. The seed then disappears and a stalk of grain appears. Charles Stanley points out, in his wonderful book entitled Brokenness, that if we replanted the fruit from that one grain of wheat, a million acres of wheat could be the result.
This is such a great analogy because it's so true: As long as Jesus' Spirit is tucked nicely away behind the outer shell of our soul, we can do nothing-no spiritual life will be able to come forth. In other words, without death, there will be no life! Our soul needs to be cracked wide open in order for Jesus' Life to come forth and for us to sow much fruit.
When we speak of brokenness, we simply mean the breaking of our "soulish" powers-our own strength and ability, our own self-love, self-exaltation, self-acknowledgment, self-reliance, self-cleverness and pride. God's Spirit will be released only according to the degree of brokenness (the removal of the above things) in our lives.
God breaks our outward man (our soul) by means of the dark night of the soul, which is a slow process and usually involves discipline by the Holy Spirit. He also wants to separate and cut away our inward man (our spirit) by means of the dark night of the spirit, which usually happens quite quickly and involves revelation by His Word.
Once our spirit has been separated from our soul, then God's Spirit will be freed to continually come forth. In other words, we'll see and experience His power and ability in our lives. This is what Ephesians 6:19 means when it says, "be filled with the fulness of God." In other words, we will be filled inside and out with God's Spirit.
One of the main reasons we so often lack power, even after we have been born again, is because we are not totally surrendered to the Lord. When we follow our own will and desires, even just a little bit, God's Spirit in us will be quenched. Just like God had to bring Moses to the end of his own abilities before He could use him mightily, it's the same with us. Only when Moses was forced to look away from himself and trust God alone, did his life change drastically. And, again, it's the same with us.
An Example: Charles Finney
When I think of the supernatural power of God, I can't help but think of Charles Finney and how he was filled with His power from on high, but only after he became totally surrendered to God.
Charles Finney was a schoolteacher who came to a crossroads in his life at the age of 29. He believed in the Word of God but had much concern about his own salvation. He thus determined to settle this issue, by reading and praying more. His heart, however, continued to be cold. He told God that he accepted His free gift of salvation. Still he felt nothing. Again, he tried to give himself to God, but he couldn't. His cold heart was dead. Thus, a great discouragement came over him, and he sunk so low that he broke into convulsive sobbing. This breaking is what allowed the Holy Spirit to finally show him his own sin.
Charles had always intellectually believed in the Word of God, but he had never understood that faith is a voluntary trust, not an intellectual step. This particular time, however, was different. He knew God was speaking directly to him and so he cried out and relinquished himself completely to Him. That night, when he got home, he fell down on the floor and, again, completely abandoned himself to God.
While lying on his face before God, he met Jesus face to face. The room in which he was praying had no natural light. The fire had gone out in the fireplace and the lights had not been lit, yet the room was ablaze with the radiance of the sun. He said the way Jesus kept looking at him broke him apart. God's Spirit began to wash over him like "liquid Love." Fire seemed to go right through him like waves of electricity. He began to weep like a baby full of joy and love. The waves kept coming and coming, till he thought he could bear no more. They continued all night long.
In the morning, the love bath began all over again. He got down on his knees and wept even more. The Spirit kept saying to him, "Will you ever doubt Me again?"
From this encounter and this foundation, Charles Finney went on to become one of the world's greatest evangelists and preachers. He wrote that he felt that his "spirit was wedded to Christ." When he preached, the Holy Spirit would not only empower him, but would fall upon the entire congregation. Thousands were converted to Christ. Revival began and spread abroad. Power seems to be the distinguishing mark of a disciple of Christ (Acts 1:8).
God's power, however, can often be concealed in weakness. Weakness simply means yieldedness, relinquishment and abandonment to God's will. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9, "...My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, [so] that the power of Christ may rest upon me." In other words, when we are weak, yielded and submitted, then we can be strong because it will be Jesus' resurrection Power flowing through us, just as it was with Finney.
Our Example: Jesus
The Bible tells us that Jesus Himself was crucified through weakness (2 Corinthians 13:4). Weakness again means yieldedness or relinquishment of all our soulish strength, so that the Holy Spirit can direct our lives. As Zechariah 4:6 so beautifully expresses, "Not by [my own] might, nor by power, but by My Spirit...."
Jesus was endowed with supernatural Power to heal and preach, yet He did everything in His ministry only by the Power of the Holy Spirit working through Him. At any time, Jesus could have called down all the legions of heavenly angels to do His own will. But He loved us so much that He chose, instead, to lay aside His own strength and His own power, so that through the Cross, He could give us His Life.
This kind of supernatural power is available to every one of us when we surrender ourselves to God in faith. Only through weakness can the unspeakable dunamis power of God be enabled to come forth. Those who evidence God's power in their lives are those who have allowed God to separate their soul and spirit, freeing God's Spirit to come forth and direct their lives.
The whole purpose of being sanctified body, soul and spirit is to outwardly reflect Christ in all we do, and inwardly to commune, fellowship and experience intimacy with Him. Part of this intimacy is the privilege of worshiping Him in the spirit.
Once our spirit has been strengthened and God's Spirit set free, we can begin to truly worship God "in the spirit." As Jesus declared, "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him" (John 4:23).
Worshiping in the spirit simply means adoring, praising and loving God in the same nature that He is. God is a spirit and only that which is spirit can abide in His presence.
The Greek word for worship is proskuneo, which means to bow, to stoop down or to prostrate oneself. Worship is not necessarily something we do on the outside, but something that we do on the inside-in our spirits. It's prostrating and bowing down our inner man before God. Worship is asking nothing of God, but losing ourselves in adoration, reverence and homage to Him.
Worshiping God in the spirit is an attitude we should have on all week long. How sad it is when we hear someone say, "I worship God on Sunday mornings at 9:30 A.M." If we truly love God, what happens the other six days of the week? Being in church, singing and raising our hands to God does not make us true worshipers. True worshipers are those who worship Him "in Spirit" and in the "beauty of holiness" all the time (Psalm 29:2). This is the adoration and the communion that God desires-genuinely worshiping Him from the depths of our being-in our spirit all the time.
Beauty of Holiness
Worshiping in the beauty of holiness means that we have chosen to put off and deal with any sin and self, so that Jesus' image-His Love and Power-can come forth from our hearts.
It's important to understand that "the beauty of holiness" spoken of here is Jesus' holiness, not our own. Just as God's supernatural Love is not our love and His supernatural Power is not our power, so also this holiness is not our holiness. We are simply clean and purified vessels, so that He can shine forth His holiness through us. Jesus is the One who is holy and He is the One who makes holiness beautiful. In other words, we are simply "partakers of His holiness" (Hebrew 12:10).
Holiness is heaven's term for happiness. The world is slowly finding out that happiness does not come from other people, from their circumstances or from their accomplishments. Happiness comes only from abiding in Christ and being all that He wants us to be. He is our Creator and only He knows what it will take to make us happy and fulfilled.
As C. S. Lewis puts it: "God knows that our happiness lies in Him. Yet, we will not seek it as long as there is any other resort where it can be looked for. When our life remains agreeable, we will not surrender it to God. [So] What can God do but make our life less agreeable...When He can love [through us] without impediment, we shall, in fact, be happy."
Holiness comes through brokenness. Unfortunately, there is no other pathway to attaining holiness other than constantly setting aside our own passions, our own possessions and our own abilities, and depending upon God for everything. The more complete our submission and our abandonment is to Him, the greater our holiness and, thus, our happiness. May we all cry out as David did in Psalm 73:25, "There is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee."
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