The Higher Life

light poster bkgd only“Why are you always judging me?”

“Jesus said, ‘Don’t judge, lest you be judged.’”

“I just want to be encouraged. You’re always focusing on my sin.”

These are just three out of a myriad of statements I hear in the course of my day, working with a man in a discipleship relationship. In fact, there is a mindset throughout the church in America that believes there is no place for the Christian to judge; everything we say from the pulpit or to one another should be loving encouragement that never highlights sin, erroneous thinking, or plain rebellion to God. I honestly have to ask myself if people are even reading the same Bible. Have they read even one of Paul’s letters, or Proverbs, or the Prophets, or the words of Jesus?

The ministry verse of New Brothers Fellowship is 1 John 1:7, which reads:

“But if we walk in the Light as He is in the Light we have fellowship one with another and the Blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.”

I selected that verse 12 years ago to be the core passage for this ministry, but I had no idea then what significance it would have for the vision and purpose of New Brothers Fellowship. I simple picked it because of the word fellowship, and because it spoke of being made clean. However, life and testimony would slowly reveal just how deeply these few words of God would affect my life personally and ministerially.

Walking in the Light. What is it? What does it have to do with judgment, and why do so few people understand that it is desperately what God and Christ want for us? For me today there is no other way to live.

The Word of God speaks about the principle of judgment in many different places, but there are two in particular that stand out for me that I use to teach men how to walk with Christ. The first is found in Jeremiah 17:9-10, and reads:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? ‘I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.’" (Jeremiah 17:9-10, ESV)

Here we have a condition and a solution. The condition is the heart of man, bound in deceit, wickedness, and every subtle thing that opposes God and man. If you’re struggling in any area of your life, your problem is rooted here. Every wicked thought, word, and action flows from this place. Jesus, Himself, said so in Mark 7:21 and Luke 6:45.

However, this condition runs so deep in the heart of man that he is constantly deceived into thinking that it doesn’t. What The Lord is really saying here is that man has a judgment problem, and is incapable of judging circumstances, life, and relationships properly. Therefore, man cannot successfully walk in righteousness, power and, love.

Jeremiah asks, “Who can understand it?” What is he really saying? For me, in my personal experience, he is speaking of an unruly wickedness of heart that is capable of producing the most vile and despicable thoughts, words, and actions. All the while, in the midst of this wickedness, the unruly heart convinces itself that it is justified and acceptable.

What is God’s solution to this condition? Who can understand such a desperate and wicked heart? “I CAN,” says The Lord!

“I, the Lord, search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:10) 

This is God describing what it means to walk in the Spirit. If we only understood the goodness of God, the power and authority of His Word, and His incredible love and mercy towards us who believe! God says that He alone is able to judge every detail, nuance, and subtlety of my heart. Even more than that, though, He is able to minister to me what I need to produce good fruit. If I will hear and accept the judgment of God, then I need only to yield, submit, and obey. Remember, The Lord tells us above, “I, the Lord…give every man according to his ways.” James expounds on this:

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17)

It all comes down to one question. Are you willing to be judged?

Jesus gives us the principle of judgment and illustrates its great depth in the Gospel of John, just after He tells of the Father’s great love that gave His Son for the whole world.

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:17–21, ESV)

In short, what Jesus is telling each of us here is that through Him we no longer need to fear the judgment of God. You may know and understand that already, but I’m talking about a radically different understanding of judgment. I’m speaking of a judgment that discerns every thought and every intent of the heart. This is the searching Light of Christ that exposes any and everything that can lead us to destruction. 

It is this in-depth and intimate exposure which causes so many of us struggle. Yet, there is no greater freedom than living and walking in the Light of God’s judgments. And, that is the call of 1 John 1:7, to walk in the Light as He is in the Light. The man who does so finds a constant cleansing stream of the Blood, washing his heart, washing his mind, and even his body of all sin. This is genuine transformation. This is the Word, written on the table of our heart and mind. This is Christ fulfilling His Covenant promise to cleanse us of all filthiness and idols. Oh, what joy it is to know this kind of searching, this kind of cleansing and washing, and this creation of a new heart and mind!

But, what of the man who rejects the Light? What of the man who always has an excuse? “It’s her fault. It’s his fault. It’s God’s fault.” What of the man, confronted by God’s Word and Spirit with the truth of his sinful heart, who still stands in defiance? “That’s not me!” This man will be left to himself, relying merely on his own effort to produce divine life, love, and good fruit. As no man can produce these things outside of God, he is destined for ruin. Only repentance will repair the breech, and allow the Holy Spirit to do the work that will yield abundant life in God.

I shall leave you with this important passage from Deuteronomy:

“The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in His ways and by fearing Him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land He has given you.” (Deuteronomy 8:1–10, ESV)

Meditate on these words, dear Friends. Let them sink into your heart and bring understanding. The Lord wants to feed you with manna that you know not---bread that comes down from heaven. This is the higher life, the abundant life we have been promised.

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:48-51, ESV)

I pray for you, as I pray for myself. May we all plunge headfirst into the glorious and searching Light of Christ. May we receive His abundant mercy and love, and then be changed by the power of the Spirit, from image to image, and glory to glory.