“There are plenty of Christians to follow the Lord halfway, but not the other half. They will give up possessions, friends and honours, but it touches them too closely to disown themselves.”
(Eckhart, 15th century mystic)
Not every blessing appears in the open. Perhaps the greatest miracles are hidden, concealed, veiled.
The blessing of God’s mercy and His grace are often unseen until, unanticipated, Amazing Beauty appears in the midst of life’s hard trials. And often, what we interpret as misfortune is, in fact blessing from heaven.
Paul’s own imprisonment, his constraints and his pains at Philippi would “fall out rather for the advancement of the gospel.” What appeared to be cursed was in fact the favor and the benevolence of God
When Paul tells the Roman church I have longed to visit you so I can share a spiritual blessing with you that will help you grow strong in the Lord, few, if any of those disciples of Jesus would have understood the hidden blessing in Paul’s heart and mind
The Face of God appears in the mists of elusiveness, shrouded in mystery and in the company of death. From his earliest moments on earth, man has desired to “see,” to behold, to look upon that which God declared would produce his decease: “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.”
Yet never in history has there been a scarcity of those who, in spite of the knowledge that looking upon the divine will bring their demise, will always cry out with Moses, “I beseech Thee, show my Thy glory!”
And today, in the midst of so much hysteria & propaganda, the hyperbole of a religious structure that calls itself “the church” but in so many places has become deception personified, in the midst of so many counterfeit tributaries that label themselves as the authentic, flows the river of God’s presence and His eternal purpose in the earth.
And there are those in abundance who have determined to remain near God, to move with Him, and these must find a way through the lure and the entrapment of carnal, religious Christianity until they find and appropriate for themselves the transforming power of the heart of Jesus.
More than forty years of walking, running, stumbling, falling and getting up to run again with Jesus have taught this writer that it takes more than a sermon to change eternal souls: We are changed by the impartation, by the conveyance of the Spirit of the living God; mysteriously, eventually, immediately, He works His wonder of conversion: He changes us or we are not changed at all.
Spiritual transformation, the amendment from one form and substance to another cannot be the result of study or of learning or of absorbing and performing flawlessly the requirements of a set of religious rules or qualities.
Pop Christianity advertises life without challenge, change without pain, transformation without struggle, but the butterfly emerges only after effort; he must free himself of the burden, the dreariness of the caterpillar if he is to put on the beauty hidden and potently, patiently awaiting within.
God’s sermons are delivered from the pulpit of pond and forest and desert and sky. He preaches in full-glorious hues of majesty and profundity. While we await a word from God, all His creation preaches ceaselessly to those who have an ear.
Challengeless faith, comfortable and therefore impotent faith is not any faith at all. Trial and tribulation are assigned purpose. Bad things happen to good people to reconstruct good people into God’s people.
God intends His children to receive the impartation of Himself, and not of some substance, some sentiment, some cheap toy, some plastic bauble imitating pearls. Radical impartation is not achieved when a sermon is preached, but when the Word of God is received in the very core of one’s being. Spiritual life does not consist in memorized spiritual-sounding cliché or in whimsical pseudo-praise or in three-step spirituality.
The Consequence of Impartation is Transformation
Impartation comes when truth pierces the soul and the result of impartation is transformation.
Multitudes desire impartation, but few are willing to endure transformation, since the latter requires the incision, the piercing, the pain.
When we all will stand on That Day before the great Adjudicator of all that exists, we will be judged not by how much we heard, but we will be discerned by how much we were changed into the image of Christ.
The great task of evangelism is never simply to scatter seed but to see fruit growing from the effect of implanted seed. It is a process Jesus identified as “discipleship.”
James encouraged us all to receive with meekness the engrafted word which is able to save your souls. He insisted that we become doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
Impartation comes only as we receive the Word of God. Nature describes the process: As the tree admits the foreign branch to be grafted into its life, so we are changed when He enters us and when we enter Him. The gardener learns the surgical procedure: To graft another limb to a living tree, he employs the knife to cut into the flesh of the living tree and pulls open the wound in its side – exposing the cambium, the living, cell-producing tissue of the tree.
And the branch is implanted inside the wounded place. The gardener then wraps cloth around the limb, binding together tree and grafting. Even so, they wrapped His body, both sealing and concealing, bringing us with Him, binding us to Him, “to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.” “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”
The cloth is soaked as the tree weeps. Its sap, the lifeblood is poured out; unless it weeps, there will be too little sap to support the life of the newly engrafted branch.
We want to see victory, success, joy, we want to experience the full blessings of God, but so seldom do we understand the process of impartation. There must be the cutting, the pain, the weeping, the death if there is to be engrafted life.
In order for Adam to be made complete, to have life, to have companionship, he first must be wounded. Something must be taken from him if he is to enjoy an Eve. She must watch her beloved being injured. She shudders beneath His cross, observing the pain. She hears his strained voice: “I thirst.” The One Who had said, “If you knew the gift of God, you would have asked, and He would have given you living water” now thirsts so that we should never thirst.
In order for Christ to have a church, He must first be wounded. Blood and water must pour from His side and drain into the earth. He must be laid down in death before He will ever have a Bride.
For impartation to occur, something must be wounded for something else to be grafted in.
There must be travail before there can be birth – loss before gain, death before resurrection.
So God approaches us in our desiring. He answers us in our asking. He comes, and we anticipate, we desire the embrace of heaven, but He comes, not to provide us with a scepter of authority but He comes with the sharpened blade of a knife. He would cut through the bark of our souls, He will saw a gash through the self-protection we have devised to cover, to conceal to shield ourselves. We want to become His righteousness, but first He must pierce through our self-righteousness until He reaches the tender, weeping part of us, that place in our lives where impartation happens. The place where the soul bleeds and where the heart seeps is where God will carve a gorge through which self will escape & the Spirit of God may gain entrance.
God’s purpose in wounding is invading, entering, becoming from two, one, but the wound is first in Him, and He demonstrates the wound by receiving the first gash.
God does not create the wound to bring us pain, but it is only through the broken open places in our souls that He can instill His power and plant His purpose in us.
The Genesis account enlightens us. Jacob is alone; a Man appears, wrestles with him until the breaking of day. And the Man does not prevail against Jacob, so He touches the socket of his hip, “disjointing” Jacob.
On that day Jacob becomes Israel and obscure wilderness becomes Penuel, “For (Jacob) saw God face to face, and his life was preserved.”
The change did not appear until an impartation was accomplished that brought transformation, grace, blessing.
We call the experience “The dark night of the soul.” We avoid gross darkness, we hide from pain, we delay the appointment, postpone the inevitable, but out of the shaking and the disruption, the pain in our lives, God opens the mysteries of His being to our languishing and thirsting hearts.
Jacob wondered from whence he had been attacked. God’s face remained in darkness. He could not know with whom he struggled. We cannot always distinguish why, who what causes the wounding, yet in the battle we must hold out for the impartation.
Jacob wrestled until he was changed. How many times have we heard the Word of God, yet we were not moved? How many times have we felt the shaking of God’s presence but we refused to tremble at His word?
We too commonly allow ourselves to hear enough to be touched, but not sufficiently to be changed.
Intuitively, we know that in order to be transformed, we must be wounded. We long to touch the royal robe of Deity, but we refuse to allow God to come too near, for fear that He may cripple our carnality. And all the while we know that if we desire to save our lives we must lose them; if we want to walk with God, we must adjust our gait to the limp.
The question beckons, as the yawning horizon breaks forth inviting us to come, to immerse ourselves in the mystery, the unknown, the unseen of its atmospheres.
Are we willing to lose everything, everyone in order to await divine visitation that may come in the black night of unknown possibility?
Are we willing to be crippled by the great Healer and to be forever wounded by the touch of the Hand that knew the shrieking pain of Roman nail? Are we willing never to be normal again, embracing all of God until the dawn of eternity, and to allow the impartation to transform our lives forever and for Him?
In our wounding, God will create sensitivity, like the war-wound of the old man who anticipates the coming rain by the pain he feels.
In the touch of God will be planted the branch of His blessing. In the impartation of His life, we are forever changed in beholding His face.
If we are willing to be wounded, if we are unwilling to let go divine visitation until we receive impartation, we will experience transformation.
Jesus said to them, If any comes after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever saves his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”
He told us, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
Penuel – the Face of God. Jacob’s coming to the end of self – the end of trusting his own wisdom, his own ability, his powers of conniving, manipulating, deceiving.
Confronted with an enemy who swore he would kill him next time they met, Jacob ran out of schemes. And though Yahweh had informed Moses, “no man shall see My face, and live,” and looking thereupon would mean Jacob’s certain demise, there remained no place to run but Penuel, the face of God, there to “disown” himself; there to die in order that he might truly live.
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“There are plenty of Christians to follow the Lord halfway, but not the other half. They will give up possessions, friends, and honours, but it touches them too closely to disown themselves.” (Eckhart, Just once again . . . )