Apostolic Conversion 2


?Well Art, you don?t understand, I?m a professional, I?m a doctor, I?m not some off-the-wall ?Jesus freak? like Saul. He didn?t have much to lose. You have to realise that I have a family and professional responsibilities.?

Saul was the prized student of the Rabbi Gamaliel, and if there is any man who committed religious suicide by the raising of that question and forfeiting an entire career that would have won him a celebration to this day in Jewish orthodoxy, it was Saul. But he forfeited all that, and counted it as dung, as we know, by raising the only question, the right question, that any creature can raise before its Creator, ?Lord, what would You have for me to do?? Whatever the consequences, whatever the loss, You are Lord, and if You are not the Lord of that question, then anything I would presume to speak in that name is a mockery and a travesty and a religious exercise that even at best falls short of the glory of God!

The irony is, and mark my words, if you continue in such an exercise, in the last days you?ll find yourself, not among the persecuted, but among the persecutors! Centrifugal force continues to work, ever bringing us into the one orbit or the other - into that which is apostolic or that which is finally apostate! ?For the love of many shall grow cold,? and the last days shall be marked by the great apostasy and falling away of many who could not bring themselves to follow the Lord withersoever He would lead them, but who found themselves in a vortex of a kind less than that which is apostolic and themselves offended by those who are apostolic and ironically opposing and persecuting them! This is the end of those whose ?thou? is yet before His ?Me.?

We must not ask, with Saul, ?Who art thou, Lord?? and receive the answer, ?I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest.?

Do we really know Him until we do? Lord, give me grace, I don?t know how to say this, I have been trying to say it for two nights,. ?Who art thou Lord?? Even the revelation of You as Lord so much waits on our ?pulling out the stops?, that You are not going to squander and give us such treasure of the revelation of the knowledge of Yourself in truth until You see a people of truth willing to serve You in truth, but who are presently labouring with a truncated and inadequate understanding of God. If we really recognise it, we would see it crippling our spiritual life; we cannot rise above our inadequate vision of Jesus that we have subjectively internalised for our own purpose. We need to ask, really and truly, ?Lord who art Thou??

I have myself been guilty of mouthing that word glibly in a facile way. Who hasn?t? But I have to acknowledge in the light that is shining down on us from above tonight - I really don?t know as I ought to know! ?Who art Thou?? The answer is, ?I AM. IAM THAT I AM THAT I AM. I will be who I will be. I am Jesus. I?m not your ?buddy boy? and I am not the one to help you along the way and patch up your marriage, though I do all those things. I am above your need. I AM JESUS.? Unless that revelation comes, and comes when our faces are upon the ground, what kind of apostolic service can we perform? For it cannot exceed, but must necessarily reflect whatever our knowledge of God in truth is. Is that not why we ourselves are victims of inadequate ministries? Is not that why we have been invited to ?accept the Lord? and repeat a prayer? Praise God for the measure in which He honours that, but look now how stultified our lives have been, banging around, divorced and remarried, doing the kinds of things that reflect not having a true beginning from the first. We never knew Him as we ought, and yet we are ?singing His praises,? or think we are! And the powers of darkness, brooding over us, relish the continuation of just this kind of thing that causes them no perturbance at all! There is nothing here that alarms them. Go ahead, continue your round of services; continue your programs. It in no way jeopardises the kingdom of darkness, because you cannot rise above and exceed your inadequate knowledge of God. Even the use of His name is a kind of ?nomenclature,? a formula, a shallowness that does not invoke much.

Only that one who is deeply converted, that one who has gone down on his face and must be raised up from it as blind, who can see no man and must be lead away as a child, is the one with the potential to threaten the kingdom of darkness! And how many of us want to be so led away by the hand? Here was Saul, the prize student of the Rabbi Gamaliel, he who could quote you yards of scripture with rabbinical interpretation, lying utterly blind, utterly devastated by the word that came to him in the voice that called him by name. And when he arose, he could not see because of that light and had to be led away, and he saw no man. And I don?t think he ever saw men in the way we see, evoking in us fear and intimidation and compromise. The fear of man is so powerful, so repressive an element in our Christian living because we have never gone down and been brought up in blindness by that light that never again permits us to see man, even ourselves in our own humanity.

Now I want to tell you the last and cruellest of our deceptions - it is our concern to be understood and to be perceived in the way we would like men to acknowledge us spiritually. And until we are blind to men, even to the ?spiritual man? that we think ourselves to be or who we desire to be known as, we cannot serve God apostolically . We must come to such a selflessness, such a mindlessness about this last man, this last cruel deceiver, who, after we have given up every other form, yet retains this kind of power by which we are traduced and compromised; the necessity to be understood by men in the way that we would wish ourselves to be seen and to be approved! We need to come to place where we see no man, even our own man, even our own seeing!

That is why Paul could say, ?Follow me as I follow Christ,? without an iota of arrogance or audacity. Is it not we who think that he is arrogant because we project upon him the ego in which we still live, not having fallen on our face upon the ground upon which he had fallen, and been blinded by the light of God, which blinded him? You project on him your own idea of ?man? and assume that he must mean by that some kind of egotistic statement because you cannot understand a man who sees no man, and in which the element of self is therefore not a factor. He does not have to be recognised, he can be despised, he can be cast out, he can be the offscouring of the world, without so much as blinking at it, for he sees no man. The light that has come down has blinded him once and for all to that last crippling seeing, even the seeing of ourselves that makes us spiritually self-conscious and therefore compromised.

?And he, trembling in astonishment asked, Lord, what would You have for me to do?? I?m a little suspicious, even to give an invitation tonight, and have you say now, ?Lord, what would You have for me to do?? Of course you?ll say it, but you will leave unchanged because it must be said ?with astonishment and trembling.? God forbid that we should make of this the last and worst and cruellest of deceptions in an altar call that we can glibly fulfil. Aren?t we doing that already, with our so called ?repentance?s and confessions? and other kinds of statement that are just a little too easy for us to pronounce? You?ll know it is authentic when you die a thousand deaths in making it. Beware of anything that is fascicle, that is easy, that is glib, however correct. The cruellest delusion is to find ourselves in a lie about the very thing that is correct. It is with an utterness of astonishment and trembling that we need to say, ?Lord, what would You have me to do??

And you can know that if you will say that tonight, the God who inspired this word also will hear your word, and take you at that word. Your life will be changed, from this night and from that speaking. Things will be released that have been held in abeyance, waiting for the pronouncement that must come from you, but may rightly come only if it is true and not just a religious reflex, but made with astonishment and with trembling. This is the point of ?crossing.?

Many of us have said, ?Lord, what would You have me to do?? but only in a particular moment of distress or need. But who of us asked it foundationally in a once and for all way, in utter abandonment of something never again to be taken back? Once you say this, the words are irretrievable. Something has been registered and recorded in the annals of heaven and has been heard in the hearing of witnesses and before the principalities and powers of the air. It is once and for all! It requires an utterness that nothing in this world has prepared us to perform.

This is the world of relativism; this is the world of ?Easy come, easy go.? This is the world of ?maybe,? ?I guess,? and ?I suppose.? This is the world that shuns and despises the absoluteness of God, and therefore cannot meet Him on that ground. To meet Him on this ground, with that absoluteness, with ?all the stops pulled out?, is once and for all to be brought out of that relativistic world of compromise into the ?absoluteness? of the kingdom of heaven!

That is the reason I?m fasting today as well as praying. I know there is something of a transaction that can be performed tonight with astonishment and with trembling that will shake the earth, that will release in the earth such things that will take eternity of eternities to celebrate. This is the kind of thing that is beyond any man to perform. This thing itself must be given by God, but it must be spoken by men who are willing to ?go down.? Be assured, you will never come up again in the same way. TO LIVE A WHOLE LIFE CONTINUALLY REITERATING THAT QUESTION IS CONVERSION.

What is your condition tonight? What is your status? Are you just ?saved? - or are you converted? The moment God, Who has waited so long, hears your response, He will answer, ?Arise and go, and it will be told you what you must do.? But before it is told you, before there is an explanation, before there is any assurance, arise and go. That rising is in the strength and power of the resurrection life itself! That coming up from that death into that which you have gone, like one struck dead from that light, is not you pulling yourself together, it is the force of the life of the Lord Himself. For the rising and the going is a call to things beyond any capacity in yourself to perform and to do. It is entirely a resurrection requirement! That is what makes apostolic doing a glory, and that is why Paul himself, the Chief of the apostles, was the one who most frequently punctuated his prayers with the cry, ?Lord, who is sufficient for these things?? As I say this, I know that I am looking out on a congregation of very sufficient human beings, very skilled, very capable, very well ordered lives, who could make a very impressive show of things. But God is calling you, dear saints, to a dimension of service beyond any capacity in yourself to perform, and says, ?Arise and go.? And when He says, ?Arise,? it is not just an invitation, but an impartation of life, waiting for the one who has forfeited any hope in himself in any possibility of serving God on the basis of his own ability.

I?ve seen grown men tremble and weep when they heard this astonishing word. They were sailing along marvellously, serving God with adroitness and ability when they heard a word like this that cut like sword through their hearts and brought them down as dead men, trembling on the ground. Later, when they were physically lifted up and seated in a chair in astonishment, with hands clapped over their mouths, each one would say to me, ?But Art, I have been encouraged in the Church to perform on the basis of my Ph.D. and my expertise, and I have been solicited to serve and do things on that level, and have until now succeeded marvellously.?

But now something has come clear beyond any capacity in the individual; there is no rising, no walking away except in the power of that indestructible life that raised Jesus from the dead, and will raise us also who are willing to be struck dead, brought down into that earth and entirely blinded to the thing that we perceive as capable and celebrated as correct. Must we, like Saul, wait for someone to lay hands on us to confer to us our seeing and an understanding as it is only mediated through a lowly member of the body of Christ?

How classic this conversion is; its every element so formed in heaven, its wisdom so eternal that this great Saul, this giant in himself, was so reduced by the light that had fallen from heaven, greater than the noonday sun, that he was taken like a child by the hand in total helplessness and dependency lying as one dead. Blind for three days and nights, neither eating or drinking, he reviewed his entire ?charismatic? understanding. All of the principles of the faith, all of his ?New Testament? understanding, the Lord totally put to death. For if he was to be God?s gift to the Church, it had to be by an understanding conferred by God and is received by the laying on of hands by the simplest of the saints, Ananias. In the total dependency to which God brought him, Saul was grateful that there was an obedient servant, who, however great his personal fear, obeyed God and came, laying his hands on Saul, that he might see. God had to teach this apostle, the Chief apostle to the Church, the genius and mystery of the Body of Christ from the very inception of his whole apostolic walk, a lesson that many of us have never yet understood and have not yet seen, though employing its terminology! It must be conferred by revelation to those who would otherwise be blind to it.

However much we mouth the particulars of the ?Body of Christ,? (as if a new fad or a new vogue and a new vocabulary with which we can play and express ourselves), if it has not come to us by revelation, it has not come to us. Maybe that is why we are in our current condition. It is only ?terminology,? and awaits a receiving of something utterly humiliating that can only come to us through the operation of the lowly Body, or it will not come at all.

This ?Arise and go,? saints, that will come for some of us in this hour, need not mean that any factor of our life is in any way outwardly changed. You will still go to work tomorrow, you will still come home to your same house. In fact, nothing of our circumstances will in any way be externally altered, and yet, at the same time, profoundly, everything will be altered. This ?Arise and go? sets in motion the whole heavenly dynamic by which in one day that to which we will return may not always be there.

So it is not for you to posture and for you to deliberate what you need to do once you have made this response. Having made it, the arising and going, having been set by God, will have its own logic, its own unfolding. ?It shall be told thee what thou must do.? Like Abraham, you will hear, ?Get thee out into the land that I will show you.? There is always a future dimension that requires this trembling and cleaving to the God who will show us what is required the next day, even the next moment. That is not the way we have been groomed by our society to live. We want to know; we want to have assurance; we want to have a firm grasp on what we are doing and why we are doing it and what will be the consequences of our doing. But God says, ?I will show you what you must do.?

And I?ll tell you, for men who hear the kind of word that the Lord is pleased to give me, it is a ?will show you? even for the very next sentence! It is the very next word. I don?t know what follows this one. ?Where do I go from hear Lord?? Your notes are not going to be your dependency. There is a necessary cleaving to what is given moment by moment by the God who has called us, and calls us into an utterness of dependency upon Him that violates every strength and confidence in which the world would have us to be established. It is a pilgrim way and you?ll never get used to it.

Yesterday?s success will not suffice today. Now, the consequences are even greater; life and death are at stake, eternity is in the balance, and who is sufficient for this kind of speaking? Once you arise and go, that is, begin to speak, it will be told thee. But you need to live with the tension of it, just as Abraham did, as every true saint who has ever responded to such a call, because there are things you must do. Thing that no one else can, that no one else is intended to do. It is explicit; it is appointed; there is a must that is for you. And God is bound up for the revelation, for the releasing of it, until He has heard your, ?Lord, what would You have for me to do??

?It shall be told thee,? God says, ?when you?ll tell Me that you are willing to put your ?thou? beneath My ?Me? once and for all.? Now your purpose and calling can be revealed; now it can be released. And it will not be what you thought it would be, but what the Lord has intended it to be and will now show you. It is here where God makes the apostolic appointment, the eternally significant purpose for our being. This is the antidote to religious boredom and is the highly serious faith that persuades even our own children.

Do you know what the measure of having come to apostolic verity is? It is that we are able even to persuade our own children of the truth and seriousness of that which we are about. These children have the uncommon facility for sensing just how earnest their parents are together with other adults. They are asking themselves, ?How much does this also make a requirement of me, though I am young? Is it something to which they (the adults) subscribe, because they like that kind of thing??

We will know that we have arrived at apostolic verity and reality corporately, when we will have persuaded our own children! And the fact that we haven?t, as yet, has had a toll beyond anything that we can conceive. Our present satisfaction and willingness to abide in something less than the sacrificial intention of God has come about because we have languished in and have loved the wrong side because its grasses are flourishing that feed our flesh. This has cost the kingdom of God incalculably in virtually every home.

Until we have come to this, have not our best religious efforts been a ?persecuting of the saints,? by means of lulling them into a lesser place, even ironically in the name of that which is apostolic and prophetic? Jesus said to Saul, ?In that you have persecuted the Church, you have persecuted Me.? Are we not guilty of persecuting the Church if we are measuring out to it something less than that which is heavenly? Is it not a depriving of the saints in encouraging then to equate doctrinal correctness and the verbalising of truth as being truth itself? Is it not fancying that we ourselves are there, while all the while we have not yet entered the land of promise, let alone taken its cities? Are we still not on the wilderness side? Have we not persecuted the Church, short-changed it, and liberally gilded our acts with words ?apostolic? and ?prophetic,? though we have condemned our hearers to languishing on the wrong side without even the awareness that that is their condition?

So Saul arose from the earth, and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man. He never again saw men or feared men, but found that key to apostolic boldness and uncompromising audacity that regards God Himself only. From this time forward, everything is for the Lord?s sake and not for one?s own. You?ll find that in Paul?s writings. You never hear any reference to, ?for my sake.? There is no ?my.? It is for their sake and the Lord?s sake. And what kind of Church would we have today if men of this kind were our ministers? Until we have such men, we are suffering a kind of deprivation that is tantamount to persecution, and those who have been its ministers need to recognise this and fall before the Lord.

So then, the one who persecuted the Body, failing to recognise its Head, receives sight, receives apostolic seeing, through the laying on of hands by its simplest member. From the very first, the Chief apostle was instructed about his dependency upon the Body and what the genius of that organism is - that alone is glory to God. And unless we ourselves lie blind, ?neither eating nor drinking for three days,? (i.e., putting aside even our traditional categories) we shall not see, but be condemned to employ the terminology of the Body of Christ while living effectually independent of it, yet all the while lauding it, thinking that we are doing God?s service!

?and immediately he arose and there fell from his eyes as it had been scales.? I trust this is happening now.

?And straight away he preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the son of God.? And straight away, equally, he opened himself to the opposition and persecution of men who have a particular vitriolic hatred for that which is apostolically authentic. Who cannot abide is challenging reality!

?Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live! And they cried out and cast off their clothes and through dust into the air.? What is there about a converted man that makes the powers of darkness so fulminate and foam and rage that men are besides themselves with a fury, and filled by the spirit of it, and cannot abide that ?such a man? live?

What a man - what a heavenly man! What a servant to the Church, for the Church?s sake and for the Lord?s sake! It is this kind of selflessness that labours day and night and brings the whole counsel of God without fear that it will be understood, accepted, or rejected, or cause offence. Such a man does not anticipate the consequences for himself, because he lives in the resonance of one great statement, continually, ?Lord, what would You have for me to do??

Let?s bow before Paul?s God at this hour, who is the I AM and JESUS still. Many are called, but few are chosen, he tells us. Remember; Many saved, but few converted. Conversion is to the uttermost, or it is not conversion. It is an utterness to God by the Spirit, that the world cannot abide and will forever oppose, even unto death. But the works that such a man will do are eternal in their consequence.

So, in the name of Jesus, and as the minister of this word, I call upon you to respond with fear and trembling and astonishment to the God whose light has shone round about you. Bring down to earth every lesser thing, however correct, however applauded by men, however much it delights your own soul, that He might raise you up for the works that you must do when you arise and go in the power of the life given you once you have gone down into the death of everything less. Let Him hear you from that place one statement only, ?Lord, what would You have for me to do??

I think the Lord is being literal; He means that explicit statement; He means a real coming down. Don?t deceive yourself that you can make a private, silent, seated transaction saying, ?The Lord understands? and is accepting. It is just that kind of thing that has kept us from apostolic truth, reality, authority, and power. No respectable, private, polite transaction on your terms. One transaction only, on His terms, with an utterness that requires even your bodily coming down, and these explicit words spoken - ?Lord, what would You have for me to do??


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