I just love the way God speaks through parables and the things that come our way in everyday life! Last weekend, I visited the Lourensford Wine Estate which I mentioned in part 2 of this message, and there had been some interesting changes which spoke to me in the Spirit. Firstly, the ancient stone pathway had been completely covered over by a fancy new brick pathway. There was no sign of what was hiding underneath in the foundations of this smart new walkway. This speaks to me of the fact that in these times in Church history, there have been so many layers laid down over the good old paths in the name of aesthetic improvement and keeping up with the times, that it will take some digging in order to find that path that brings rest to your soul again. What struck me most about the difference between the old and new paths was the width available to walk on. The good old path was narrow and almost hidden by the hedge it ran next to. One could only walk single-file. The new brick path was decorative and wide and imposing. It invited people to walk on it by the size of its visual impact. How similar to what the Church offers to believers today – a wide, easy path that many choose to stroll on! But the Word says ‘narrow is the path that leads to life, and few find it’.
The round smooth stones that were originally laid cheek by jowl in a path leading to the winery speak of ancient living stones which had laid their lives down as a living sacrifice right in the path of that river of Life spoken of in Ezekiel chapter 47. Wherever that river flows, everything lives but in order for one’s life to be a carrier of that ‘double river’ as verse 9 calls it, death has to be at work in us. So easy to write and yet so difficult to stay positioned in that place...
2Co 4:10 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. 2Co 4:11 For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. 2Co 4:12 So then death works in us, but life in you.
The stones that make up that ancient foundation of the river path became smooth by allowing the force of the river to grind them one against another – until all the rough edges were taken away. Picture a continual turning day after day against the other stones the hand of God has chosen to be pressed up against the edges of your life and remember that the river to swim in is not a gentle lazy river that strokes the jagged fleshly edges of your soul. It is a surging, powerful, determined washing with the water that flows from under the throne, sent purposefully to work on the specific rough edges we each possess. Some stones shrink from the grinding motion and find themselves carried to the river’s edge, where there are only waters to the ankle. It takes courage and an extraordinary hunger for more of Jesus; an unquenchable desire for the purposes of God to be manifested in the earth, to keep a stone in a place of painful surrender to the work of specific grinding stones appointed by the Father at this time. But in that surrender, there enters a profound rest in the deepest heart of that stone; a place of letting go and letting God truly have His way, no matter what He asks or how great the personal cost. It is the place of being conformed to the death of Christ, where what we want, what we think and what we feel are nailed to the pierced hands and feet of the One Who desires to bring many sons to glory.
I love the words Paul uses in the verses cushioning and surrounding this concept of death being at work in us. It can surely be no accident that these beautiful strengthening words cradle on both sides this naked truth of our need to be conformed to His death. They are such a salve to our hearts as we reel from the work of the continual grinding stones in the river:
2Co 4:7 However, we possess this precious treasure [the divine Light of the Gospel] in [frail, human] vessels of earth, that the grandeur and exceeding greatness of the power may be shown to be from God and not from ourselves. 2Co 4:8 We are hedged in (pressed) on every side [troubled and oppressed in every way], but not cramped or crushed; we suffer embarrassments and are perplexed and unable to find a way out, but not driven to despair; 2Co 4:9 We are pursued (persecuted and hard driven), but not deserted [to stand alone]; we are struck down to the ground, but never struck out and destroyed;
2Co 4:15 For all [these] things are [taking place] for your sake, so that the more grace (divine favor and spiritual blessing) extends to more and more people and multiplies through the many, the more thanksgiving may increase [and redound] to the glory of God. 2Co 4:16 Therefore we do not become discouraged (utterly spiritless, exhausted, and wearied out through fear). Though our outer man is [progressively] decaying and wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day after day.
Yes, our outer man, our flesh, is progressively being diminished exceedingly but in the process MORE grace is extending to MORE people, so that MORE thanksgiving can be offered to the glory of God! Jesus for the JOY set before Him, endured the cross. He saw the incredible flow of saving grace reaching those bound in sin and it gave Him strength to endure and press through to the final moment of being able to say, “It is finished” – job done, price paid in full, assignment accomplished. Beloved, you are hedged in and pressed on every side BUT you are not crushed! You may be unable to find a way out of this very tight situation God has engineered you into, but you will never be driven to despair because the grinding only hurts when there are jagged edges, and you are becoming smoother by the day. When the stone is smooth, it becomes a tumblestone, a polishing stone bringing out the beauty of the stone next to it as they roll easily against one another. You may be struck down to the ground but rejoice, precious living stone, because this is the very location of being pressed into your place in the ancient path, that honorable company of saints who know the power of the door of death to self and joyfully slip into place, as they have all done before you in centuries past. Become a foundation stone, carrier of the double river that brings life from the dead. Become a sluice gate of Heaven in the earth. Let the mighty roar of the overwhelming grace of God abound through you to the many. There is a very great number fish about to be brought to shore, all along the river.
Eze 47:9 And wherever the double river shall go, every living creature which swarms shall live. And there shall be a very great number of fish, because these waters go there that [the waters of the sea] may be healed and made fresh; and everything shall live wherever the river goes.
Paul says, ‘always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus’. There is a daily way to find release in this place of grinding you are assigned to. It is the place where you are able to yield your spirit into God’s hands with satisfaction, knowing you have done all that was needed each day, just by staying positioned where you are and breathing the prayer, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” in spite of the personal cost to yourself. The easy path is to flee. The sensible path is to seek a more comfortable, painless existence - but it is at the cost of the purposes of Heaven. The mystery of the cross is the incredible power released by being CONFORMED to this death to self always. However, all you need to endure is this one day you are living through. Not tomorrow or all the days that stretch ahead. You have received grace to live this day displaying Christ. All the tomorrows will have their measure of grace supplied. What usually overwhelms us is the thought that we may need to endure today’s circumstances for a long time to come. Then our heart fails us. Do what Jesus said – live today in Heaven’s grace. Take no thought for tomorrow. God is already there waiting for you. All you have in your hand is an opportunity to display Christ today. Use it to the glory of God. And sleep well tonight, cushioned on the bosom of your Father.
Remember that the water and blood flowed from the side of Jesus after His death. It was released from his heart which was pierced by the lance of the Roman soldier. Beloved the powerful flow of the water of the Word and the Blood, the double river, is released through you AFTER you have become conformed to His death in the situation you are in. And it is the process through which the great number of fish are brought into the net.
That Roman soldier proclaimed that Jesus was the Son of God by witnessing with his own eyes the way He died. Precious saint, your conforming to the death of Jesus before the onlookers who have helped nail you to this very cross, releases more power than you realize to bring them to the place of truly seeing Christ in you. The glory of God is displayed in the face of Jesus Christ – but I don’t believe it is the unmarred visage of the Son of God, with neatly combed beard, which shows us the Father’s love. Rather, it is the piercing look of Love in the eyes of the bleeding thorn-pierced, beardless face of our Older Brother as He willingly pays the price for our sins, which had the power to remove the scales off the eyes of that soldier’s heart. And, that same river of Love is available to you, to enable you to endure the cross until those watching have seen Jesus for themselves. The truth is Heaven is looking for those who are willing to open their hearts wide enough to carry the length and the breadth and height and depth of the love of God. Listen to Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians:
Eph 3:16 May He grant you out of the rich treasury of His glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty power in the inner man by the [Holy] Spirit Eph 3:17 May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love, Eph 3:18 That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God's devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it]; Eph 3:19 [That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!
Become a body wholly flooded with God Himself! The power that is constantly at work in us is not the power to live, but the power to die daily! When we grasp this, the rest becomes so much easier. The modern Church spends so much time teaching the saints how to live. Rather let us learn the spiritual principles of dying daily with grace, in order that the sluice gates of the reservoir of dunamus power may be opened in our lives. Read the life stories of the apostles and some of the 2nd and 3rd century saints and absorb the impartation of wisdom and grace their tales hold. You will be strengthened abundantly to face any situation currently trying your soul. Their lives form a ‘Lourens-ford’, a narrow crossing place to victory. I neglected to mention in part 2 that a ford is a narrow passageway through a river. Beloved, if you want to reach the other side of death to self; the place where the release of the power of the Blood occurs daily in your life, then traverse the path of smooth polished living stones, the good old path that the ancient saints have formed for you to follow. They could truly say with Paul, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”
The other change that I noticed, on visiting the Lourensford Wine Estate was the building of a pool and fountain underneath the huge sculpture of the vine root. Jesus called men to come to Him and drink freely. Psalm 36 says, ‘ with You is the fountain of Life and in Your light, we see light’. You will be able to drink of the fountain of Life by abiding in the True Vine, positioning yourself at the feet of Jesus, like Mary, who chose the good portion. You may be thirsty and dry after this long shaping season, but as you yield and allow the ancient path to be worked in your own heart, you will again access the life-giving source of the River of Life. It is in resisting the work of the river in removing our rough edges, that we close down our access to the water of Life.
Once the highways to Zion are forged in your heart, you become a part of the great company of laid-down lives pointing people to Jesus, just by being continually conformed to His death - and resting exactly where He has chosen to place you.
Psa 84:5 Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. Psa 84:6 Passing through the Valley of Weeping (Baca), they make it a place of springs; the early rain also fills [the pools] with blessings.
The Valley of Weeping is the place where death has been at work, where the mourning veil is in place; the valley of the shadow of death. But psalm 84 says that if the highways to Zion are in your heart, you pass through this place and actually cause a release of living water in this very valley where you laid down your life for the purposes of God. This means anyone else who passes through this way is able to quench their thirst at the spring which your willing surrender unearthed! That pool underneath the Vine Stock of Christ is filled with living water to quench others’ thirst. YOU are that pool being fashioned beneath the Vinestock of Christ! Within your heart the gushing fountain is being formed. The Hebrew word for ‘early rain’ also means ‘teaching’. Your life becomes a living letter which teaches others how to get the highways to Zion forged in their hearts and releases a blessing that makes rich and adds no sorrow to it.
Your life can either become a watering station in the Valley of Weeping or you can continue to remain a jagged stone cast aside on the edges of the river, only causing pain to the feet of travellers on their way to Zion. The difference is in the yielding; in ALLOWING yourself to be CONFORMED. May God grant you the overflowing grace you need at this time to work with the urgent purposes of Heaven and yield to Him in your area of influence. Dig deep beneath the trappings and neat wide paving of modern Church life and uncover the good old narrow path which have been leading saints home to Zion for generations.
Psa 84:7 They go from strength to strength [increasing in victorious power]; each of them appears before God in Zion.
(Pt 4 to follow)