December, 2004 - Do We Know Him?
By: Billie Marie Zal
We think we know the Lord. We know who He is, His life history, His wonderful deeds. We know about His miraculous birth and His life of ministry until He died on that terrible cross. We know all about Him, but do we really KNOW HIM? To know Him spiritually, we must have entered into a covenant relationship with Him, forever. And many of us never heard of a covenant relationship before we finally met Him, by spiritual revelation, revealed to us by His Father God.
We begin to get to know Him by "unlearning ourselves". God is merciful and He will use our circumstances to give us a good idea that He is almighty God, and we are but men.
Actually, we begin to learn who WE are the moment of our entrance into the world about us. We must have an identity or we could never survive, so it is necessary that we learn who we are by association.
We begin to recognize our mother's voice or her touch and instinctively know that when she is near we will be fed, or rocked, or comforted. Our very first knowledge of who we are is made clear to us by our mother. Later on, we begin to build our identity through other associations: fathers, brothers, sisters, relatives.
I actually recall how happy I felt when my parents' friends came over to play "Rook". I was only two, but they let me lie in a huge buggy near them; I was part of something ! We get to know who we are, then, by the people around us. They, in a way, tell us who we are.
Later on, we step outside the family circle, we must become a part of society and if we are fortunate, we again discern who we are through our social relationships. I say "fortunate" because so many of us are set on the wrong path from birth, and survival becomes difficult to almost impossible in a world of strangers.
This happens to all of us. We are born into a world where we must build an identity entirely upon our associations with people, with places, and with things.
But when we are BORN AGAIN, we are born into a new world where the identity we have so carefully built and maintained over the years must be broken down and a new identity established--an identity with the Son of God. It is an overwhelming experience and most devastating to the order of our old lives. Life is simply never the "same" again when we heed the call of Jesus. God's loving compassion is with us from the beginning of our new nature. He knows how difficult it is to "unlearn" ourselves and get to know who we are through spiritual relationships in the family of God. Sometimes we feel that there are few families left in this dark world where each child of God can even begin to get the right associations and become a mature, grown up Christian.
But if we determine right from the beginning of our new life in Christ to let HIM rule us by His Word, then he will carefully tear up all of our own plans and place us in such bewildering circumstances that our only recourse is to seek Him, thus getting to know ourselves in and through Him.
Therefore, the Christian life from the very start is not easy. Those who quote how "light the burden is" can be right to a degree. But if a person is mountain climbing, that doesn't help much. The climb is hard and the going is tough and only the good climber will stick it out. So it is with the new life in Christ.
Certainly my history with God does not indicate easy living. He was very, very hard on me and I thank Him. For the first six years of my new life, I had nothing except naked faith in His Word to keep me going. He had asked something of me that He does not often ask of individuals. And that was, to leave my position and depend entirely upon Him for my daily needs, Not telling anyone what I lacked, and never asking anyone for money for myself.
I am sure that those who ask for help are precious in God's sight if He has led them to do so. For me, it was "no".
You would think that my obedience would be so pleasing to God that He would open the doors of heaven and blessings would pour in. But blessings did not pour in: often there was just no money for the things I needed. I remember picking up pop bottles once, just to have a few pennies to buy my son a treat. I was told time and again by other believers, "There is no virtue in poverty, you are making a fool of yourself by leaving your work and living as you do". But I was no fool. I was in the perfect will of my Father in heaven: I had no material wealth but I possessed His favor, and His presence no matter how difficult the circumstances became.
God must undo all the harm that was done to our nature through the rule of satan before our salvation. He put me into a one room basement, buried deep within the earth and during the Chicago winters, I had to wear two pairs of socks, shoes, long pants, and heavy shirts and jackets to keep warm.
I drove a car that did not run (but it DID RUN, miraculously, for days when the tank read "EMPTY"). I spent half my time lying flat on my back, so sick I could die, and the other half not caring if I did. I had mumps which went down to my pancreas: I was accidentally hit on my head
by a heavy car door and had a blood clot in my head and no doctor or hospital. I had headaches that all but ruined my efforts to do anything. But I learned that God is who He says He is, and the "light affliction" was but for a moment and afterwards, "I would come out as gold". I do know that satan could never have touched me without God's permission.
This is what is called FAITH. Faith in a God who permitted all these things, and which produced obedience without question to His divine will.
I remember once some friends who throwing away some old furniture for new things. They call me and said, "If you want this old stuff, we are setting it out on the curb for the garbage man, so you can come ahead and pick it up before he gets here". Did I hurry up and beat the garbage man to it? You bet I did! I acquired a rather nice easy chair (with places on the arms worn off, of course), and an old desk that had been carved up by their son, who was schizophrenic. At least I had some furniture now. I had given all of my beautiful furniture away when God asked me to "forsake all, and follow Him".
I grew to love that basement. I felt sheltered beneath God's arms, and even though I had no kitchen and no bath, there was a sense of holiness where He dwelled. And He was sharing my poverty WITH me. How else could Jesus Christ have ever known us intimately unless He had shared our human natures, feeling what we feel, and hurting when we hurt? God was teaching me to be like His Son. And the only way is through denial of self and suffering.
I heard a famous Christian say once that "God never permits a child of His to be hungry". I was surprised. People who love Him are hungry, and no one cares. I remember once when I walked past a cafeteria in downtown Chicago, I saw some trays laden with food on tables where people had eaten, and left most of their meals. I was actually tempted to go in there and eat the left overs. Of course I didn't, but that food surely looked delicious.
Now these were the foundation years of my new life in Christ. Strange that the Lord should give me such years--but not so strange. I thank Him for them. I thank Him for every blow that sent me reeling and cause me to drop to my knees with the knowledge that I was a rebellious, sniveling, self centered individual with no thought of anyone except myself.
This is because I had never really known who I was, before I was born again. I thought I did. I admitted that I was a sinner but somewhere in the recesses of my mind was the thought that I actually had a few "redeeming" qualities. I thought I didn't lie, but I did. If nothing else, I stole God's glory by putting His glory to shame, claiming it for myself. I told myself that I never stole a thing except one Magnolia blossom from a lady's garden when I was attending college. I took great pride in confessing this to her. But magnolia blossoms are nothing. I stole, by stealing affections.
God, in love, had to do something drastic to make me realize that "All my righteousnesses were as filthy rags..." I had to be made to see that I was helpless, hopeless, headed for hell, and I needed a new nature. I needed a new righteousness and that was possible through the mastery of His Son's Spirit who had come down to indwell my heart.
And so-- God struck at my pride, my ego, my flesh--by putting me down. This is the only way He CAN put us down. He doesn't even save us to "reach others." I never have felt His one purpose in saving me was so that I could reach others.
This doctrine is blown up out of all proportion by believers just so they can boost their spiritual egos and point to all the souls they have "led to Christ." I know if God never had one person to testify of His Word, He would somehow reveal His Son to a seeking heart. Or else he wouldn't be God.
God's purpose in saving us is to make us conformable to the image of His dear Son. For if we are members of the Lord's own Body, then we MUST become like the Lord. And as far as "winning the world for Christ", the world is not going to be won to Him. According to Scripture it is going the other way as quickly as it can.
God knocks the stuffing out of us , and satan's work in our lives before our salvation goes with it. All is "self". We have nothing to offer God except our cry, "God have mercy on me, a sinner".
We can always "go back" if we choose to. God doesn't want puppets, He wants those brave individuals who choose of their own accord to accept His discipline and to glorify Him. If we go back the Bible tells us that "we recrucify the Son of God afresh and put Him to an open shame". We are never forced by God to do His will. That is why I love Him so. And that is why very, very early in my spiritual infancy I knelt in my basement room and committed myself wholly to doing His will, thus becoming a bondslave of Jesus Christ.
The result has been this: when I get up in the morning I can face the day because I know that it is God's day. When things get tough (and they still do, almost daily), I can say with confidence, "It is the Lord". When heartbreak comes (as it inevitably does, time and again in this life) I can accept it and live with it. When people disappoint God's love in me, I can go on without them--wishing they would stay--but refusing to be bitter.
I can do all of this because Jesus Christ is real to me, and I know Him in a covenant relationship and I can call Him "Lord".
When Jesus stood on the seashore (after His resurrection) and told His disciples who did not recognize Him in His glorified Body where to find the fish, they obeyed. They took His advice and caught so many fish the nets broke. John immediately said, "It is the Lord." I looked up the meaning of the word, Lord, in this sentence and it means, "One who is in absolute authority."
But in another Scripture, a man asked for healing, calling Jesus Lord. And the meaning here implies only a term of respect.
And so we must be very sure when we say, "Lord," that we know what we are saying. There is a vast difference between the two meanings--the difference between heaven and hell. No matter how hard believers have tried to torture the Scriptures, the "Lord" I know must have absolute authority or He has none at all. I cannot find any excuse that would give me liberty to treat the Lord only as an honored guest in my heart. He must be Master.
The wonderful thing about it all is this: now I know who I am. By carefully working away at it, the Lord made me quit thinking of myself in relation to people--for the first birth is of the earth, earthy. And the second birth is of the Spirit, and heavenly.
I sometimes look back upon the person I used to be and am amazed that this person is now a "stranger" to me. I can't imagine thinking the thoughts that I thought, or doing the things that I did. I was never forced to quit them. I was simply made to see that I did not need to be that kind of person anymore. I had inherited something far more precious, and I would be very foolish if I did not reach out and gladly receive my new identity. I feel very, very safe because I know that I am me--I belong to someone forever. And I have eternity to enjoy my brand new life.
Why do I write such a story, and then send it to you? It is because I long for all of you, no matter if you are in prison or the free world, to know Him and commit to Him, and thus begin to know yourselves. He is here, today, in power and authority and ever willing to make Himself known to you, even as you have always been known to Him. He will pick you up, cleanse you with His own blood, settle your inheritance in heaven, and then begin the work of sanctification so that you will eventually know how much He loves you, and who you REALLY are.
May you become a recipient of that magnificent grace and when He comes you can say with surety and adoration: "IT IS THE LORD"
Written in December 2001
I wrote the message,"Do We Know Him", so that each of you might understand where to find Him. Many times ,once we are born again and know it, we have a great longing for others to be saved: what we do not realize is that God "knows those who are His", even before they are saved, and He will see to it that they find Him.
This is why you have experienced circumstances in your lives which led to prison. It was no mistake. You were not "in the wrong place at the wrong time", if you are indeed one of God's "elect". He let you go your way even though it brought Him great pain, and then when you needed Him most, He brought you to the very place right now in which you find yourself. He does not make mistakes. I was deeply touched by a poem written by a young missionary in China who was executed during the Boxer Rebellion. She had a baby, and she wrapped the baby in warm clothing and blankets, laying it on a bed in her home and went out to be beheaded. She asked God that someone find the child and it would be unharmed. Later, other missionaries found them and the child was safe and happy, cheeks red with a healthy glow, even though no one had fed it. I believe the Angels were sent by God to attend the child. But anyhow, she wrote a poem, "He maketh No Mistake," and I never forgot it.
I encourage all of you to seek Him above all else in the coming year: if you have not yet committed your life to Him, pray that you will somehow find it possible to do so. There is no life at all, apart from Christ. That is why He came on that night, heralded by a host of Angels, singing praise unto God for His wondrous Gift, the Lord Jesus Christ. Only the shepherds heard and saw the Angels. But now God "dwelt among us". Sometimes, on starry nights, I gaze into the heavens and think of what a miracle it was, to see and hear Angels singing !
VICTORIES TO GAIN 2005
I urge all of you to make this coming year a joy to our Father in heaven by laying aside "every weight" that hinders your communion with Him. We are so beset with the "things that are in the world" that we must be cautious not to fall into the traps or snares which Satan sets for us. If we SEE the snare, we don't fall into it: but Satan is so subtle you can be ensnared by lust ,jealousy, anger, gossip, greed, disrespect for authority (including the guards who work among you), and everything that vaunts itself against the Perfection of the life of Christ which can be formed within us.
May God's Love be with you, always.
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