God in Fire and Light – Part One
by Fred Pruitt
(Much of this was published previously in more than one article. It has been extensively reworked and expanded from those older works. 04/18/2019.)
First – A Review of the Basics
What is love’s goal? That Christ be formed in the object of that Love! And anybody who has lived into adulthood knows that one aspect of love is difficulties with sorrow. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). Once we realize that the “peace” Jesus gives us is not soul-peace, i.e., “outer” emotional peace, but the inner peace of the Spirit which is steadfast and our true inner dwelling-place, we begin to live in light and joy, even in the midst of difficulty and sorrow.
That is the key. If we live in the world and have anything to do with other people, we are going to experience the sorrows and troubles of this world. EVERYTHING we experience is life-for-others, that is, that our problems and hardships are intercessory in nature, that they are the “bread of heaven” for others. It is just here we find our whole purpose in life. And because we know our purpose, we are then able to live in the light in joy and glory, instead of in the fire, in the torment and anguish, BECAUSE we know in our doing so the Spirit brings forth life out of death. Jesus, as our forerunner in all things, invites us into a Cross life, which Hebrews describes thus: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Are we not the “joy set before Him?” It was His love for us, even while we were enemies of God in our own minds, that enabled Hm to endure the Cross even though He despised the shame. The “Goal” was not to die and rise again just to get back to the Father and Heavenly bliss. He might as well have never forsaken Heaven for a time to be the Son of Man if that had been all He had come to do. If He didn’t come back WITH US as His Gift to us and to the Father, what would’ve have been the point?
But God …. The Truth is, as I said above, WE are the joy set before Him, which made Him willing to go into the deepest depths of darkness in His own bodily death on the Cross, to capture captivity, thereafter to ascend to the highest heights in the heavens, bringing His captured captivity with Him where He sat down on the Right hand of the Majesty on High (Heb 1:3).
So, it is on that basis that we understand the Life of Christ within us – its intercessory nature. Therefore, to further clarify that all our experiences, negative and positive, are intercessory in nature, consider a fuller meaning of Romans 8:28. We are always relieved when we remember that verse, especially as to how it relates to “me and mine.” Though I’ve always seen something of the universal nature of that truth, still, its center has always been “me.” Everything works together for good for me! Which is as much as saying, the entire universe and everyone in it works in an intercessory way for my ultimate good. And that is correct.
But let us go further, exclusive to those in Christ. First, the promised effects of Rom 8:28 are for those, said Paul, who, “love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” I know there is much controversy these days as people are questioning some of the most basic issues that Christians have believed for 2,000 years. There is a great move on the part of many, who are wanting this verse, and others like it, to have no “exclusivity” in it. It would be better for that point of view if Paul had stopped at, “And we know that all things work together for good.” Period.
Left like that, the promise includes everyone, believers or not. But Paul did not stop there, and we are left with the second part of the verse as truth, also. This promise, according to Paul and not me, is not for those who dwell in the darkness of self-for-self. Nothing of the kingdom of God is for those who still live in the darkness of self-will, self-might, self-arrogation. That is the kingdom of the enemy, which includes the enemy as prince, and all those who have yet to come to the light who are held in the enemy’s grasp, as the “children of disobedience.”
“Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” [Eph 2:2,3])
Until we are drawn by the Spirit and come into Christ by grace through faith, the above passage is our reality. We were, as others still are, servants of unrighteousness, of Sin (the “prince of the power of the air” – the devil). I started out that way just like everybody else. I know it was the Spirit’s wooing long before He caught me on His hook, that stirred up a great wave of uneasiness in me about all of life. I didn’t know it then, but that all-pervasive wave of dissatisfaction that came over me in my late teens was the Spirit’s calling card.
I was about to go on a grand lifelong adventure. However, in those early searching days I hadn’t a clue. It was one day at a time. The reason I know it was REAL is because I was there! All I know is, after that wonderful Christmas Day when our friend Cary called from California and led Janis and I in a prayer that Christ might come into our lives, the whole cosmos changed for us. It was like somebody turned on all the lights. It was an initial almost overwhelming realization that went on for days and weeks, in which I kept telling myself, “I was dead, and now I’m alive! Hallelujah!” Like the scales that dropped from Paul’s eyes, they dropped from mine, too.
Some make light of the new birth. However, the True Church consists only of those born the second time, of the Spirit. Those who have yet to come to that second birth, are not yet fully of the household of faith. Jesus plainly said that to Nicodemus in John 3. (John 3:5-7). Paul makes that clear distinction in this second chapter in Ephesians quoted above. To further underline the difference between those in Christ and those still in the world, Paul exhorts the believers to not be too deeply partnered with those not of the faith, with those who Paul (not me), called “Belial!”* Here is how Paul put it: “For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial?” (2 Cor 6:14). *Belial = Devil.
I write these things that our (yours and my) eyes might be open and seeing of the ways and meanings of God. When I mention these things about our being of the “wrath nature” prior to our new birth, that the world still walks under the spell of Belial, I am not meaning to be “dogmatic” about it. I might speak or write in theological terms about these issues which to me are the way the Father has caused me to understand the world, but I don’t see the world and other people through that “description.” The description is fluid. When I meet you and we chat a bit, I’m not trying to size you up and see what cubbyhole I can put you in. I almost never think of things like that when I’m just “with” people. People just “are,” and on my end, “I” just “be.”
Do others coming to me have ulterior motives for this or that? What does it matter if they do? I saw recently where a certain minister “had” to have a private jet, because if he rode commercial his presence on the plane might cause all the demons in the unbelievers to be agitated and perhaps even violent. C’mon! Give me a break!!! Here’s what David wrote, and it’s been serving me well for several decades now –
“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. 3 Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. 4 One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple. 5 For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock. 6 And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD.” (Ps 27:1-6).
Why have I written the past few paragraphs? Maybe for this. Even though as I said the Scriptures and the Spirit present this reality that there is no mingling between light and darkness, and the Spirit gives us discernment in all this, still, we cannot go apart and shut ourselves off from the world so that that “world” doesn’t taint us. Get over that. Get established in Who you are, then you go out and taint the world. We love all. We especially love the brethren because only those with Whom we are one in the Spirit can fully love with the Father’s love. But there’s enough love available in God that spills out from believers even without realizing it, so that we have no need to be unfriendly with anyone from our perspective (from God’s Spirit Who IS Love), and we can freely share God’s love with anyone and everyone. Even if they don’t know it yet, a moment’s recognition within can open up the already promised and provided reconciliation between them and God. We are always purveyors first, of God’s love. That’s the calling card. I “forget” about the divide in the Spirit that might exist between us, and see through (from my side) the wall of partition.
Now, getting back to Rom 8:28. I have said all that, so that we can see more clearly the second part of what I saw about Rom 8:28, and the fact that our lives are always intercessory even when we do not know it. What I saw, was that even while I am considering everything in the universe “outside” of me to be working for “my” good, at the same time in the most perfect sense I can convey, everything in MY life is working that same good for all the other folks out there! That is why we can say with confidence that our lives are not for ourselves any longer, but given to Him to be His expression in the world, that He, as us, might continue to lay down His Life for others. That is a “general” sense of our lives, though our individual lives are much more specific than that.
What then of the unbelievers, if this promise is not positive toward them? The promise would change in a heartbeat and become Eternal should they enter in by grace through faith, something we all earnestly desire for everyone. I don’t mean to sound flippant or nonchalant about this because what I am saying sounds so dogmatic. It is simply that this is a completely serious issue.
But until then the same thing applies. Before we know redemption in ourselves, our lives are used as vessels by God also, but as what Paul called, vessels of dishonor, whose lives work the plan of God by their oppositions, such as Pharaoh, Joseph’s brothers, or Esau, called vessels of dishonor by Paul in Romans 9. The vessels of dishonor, or of wrath, receive the wages of dishonor and wrath – Paul even called them, “vessels of wrath fitted for destruction.”
God would not have it so, as any father’s attitude would be. God’s purpose in all the negativity and sinfulness, is that those who perpetrate those deeds and attitudes would be brought to the Light through their difficulties. Just as He would’ve gathered the inhabitants of Jerusalem as He said –
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” (Matt 23:37-39).
“How often would I have gathered thy children together … and ye would not.” Not, “could not,” but “would not.” Meaning, they sensed the “drawing” of the Spirit, but they said, “No!” Jesus does NOT say at that point, that later on the Spirit will come and change their “No,” to a “Yes,” without even involving them. It is the same in Nazareth when He visits, and “And they were offended in him … And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” Was it because Jesus’ hands were tied, and their unbelief cancelled His faith? No, of course not! It is more a case of not casting His pearls where they are ridiculed and mocked, and counted for nothing. A waste of His time as long as they had that outlook.
A great error is rising in the Body of Christ in our time, and that error is that faith is passé, something from the old days, and that it counts for nothing in our new modern “gospel” era. Grace accomplishes everything; that it is error (some say) to think our “faith” has anything whatsoever to do with our entrance into Christ. Amazingly, some with this outlook have stripped the New Testament to bare bones by insisting God is not seeking a “response” from us and does not need one. Because I find the Spirit interacting with people from Genesis to Revelation, and most especially in the New Testament, where the “preaching of the Word” and the human response to it is at the inner core of the human side of the Gospel.
“Grace” and “Faith” in Gospel terms are two sides of the same coin. There’s a lot of theological trouble these days over this issue.
The grace side at its most extreme wants to stamp out anything like “faith” because it seems to some that to express faith, cancels grace. God/Grace is sovereign and does everything there is to do. There is nothing whatsoever for man to do, nor could do, nor may do, to obtain salvation.
Therefore, there’s no real reason to attempt some level of fulfillment of the “Great Commission,” – in case some don’t remember, it’s where Jesus, “said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mk 16:15).
No more reason to “[go] forth and with weeping, bearing precious seed.”
Nor will we ever need to, “come again with rejoicing, bringing our sheaves with [us].” (Ps 126). We won’t have to drag those heavy sheaves home anymore. Why? Because Jesus sent the angels to sort it all out before we got there. We got a notice saying no need to go out to the field, Jesus did it all, already. When we got back from the field that was already harvested, there was a parade going on. There was only one Person in the parade, and one float upon which to ride. The float was the largest the universe has ever seen, since it had to be big and sturdy enough to carry all the harvested sheaves Jesus had brought with Him from the beginning and the end.
On the “faith” side, the question is always raised, “What if our faith doesn’t work?” Preachers really hit this hard, hoping to inspire believers to ever greater vistas of faith. It’s their own fault they are often told, when they don’t succeed. It was your faith, or you believed wrongly, or you were trying to get ahead of God, etc.
I think Paul sank this nail with one hammer blow. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph 2:8). In a “Word” as concise and meaningful as Galatians 2:20, Paul to me sums it up perfectly.
Who does what? Who is the only source of grace? Who, only, IS grace? Well, God, of course! Nowhere in any verse does it say man is a dispenser of grace. Grace is a Quality of God Who IS Love. Grace is God working at the highest levels of His Word and Being. Grace is purely the domain of God. It is ours to dispense only as we are conduits and transmitters of what He has given us. Grace is God being God.
Faith is the “human” side. Faith is how humans live. Faith in what has been provided and also the Provider. Even as “Grace” is the natural “being” of God, (Grace which also is Love), faith is the natural being of humanity. Grace is Who God is and what God does. Faith is agreement with and acceptance of the gifts of God.
Or anything else? Do we not understand that we walk in faith each and every day about everything. In the natural we express faith by choosing in which chair to sit (with the unspoken faith-certitude that it will not collapse under our weight). Choosing “that chair” is expressing faith that the chair you selected will uphold you when you sit. As we sit in the chair, eventually relaxing in it letting the chair uphold us, faith has become solid substance.
First, I “took” (or chose) the chair and made a decisive choice to go sit in it. The chair was available to me and I expressed my faith when I crossed the room to sit in the chair. As soon as we relax, we find that what we took (the chair), “took us.” That is, the chair proves it to be worthy and holds us up. It (the chair) has taken us and as the object of our faith, now holds us up.
That is the simplicity of faith. And human beings cannot get along without it. Faith is receiving what is given. In our case, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder.” (Isaiah 9:6). The ultimate of human life is to receive the life of the Lamb which has been given for us, allowing that same life, to grow up within us!
Do we not understand temptation? Temptation demands a response. It started with the first folks. What does temptation do? It draws me out to consider “me” and to realize “I” am a person; I have ways of looking at things; I have desires; I am. The “pull” into what isn’t (who I am not) brings into sharper focus my current “what is,” (Who I am). It is about being a live person! Not the great Aryan hero! Maybe along the lines of the “Velveteen Rabbit,” chewed up ear, dangling to one side, but by the power of grace, we’re PERSONS, too!
Look at the whole New Testament. From beginning to end, it’s about God coming to live with and in His people. And He couldn’t accomplish that by remaining “Spirit” up in heaven in a separate existence from ours. It couldn’t just be a “theology” that says, “It is finished,” and “I and my Father are One,” along with all the other stuff, in some cerebellum in the sky. There HAD to be an incarnation. The Christ had to become Man and live in humanity, and overcome death by taking it head-on and defeating it. Not just a theological point we accept in our catechism but have no clue as to its real meaning. It is instead facing into our own personhood by a real live encounter with Someone Who at first seems “out there,” but as time goes on, the gap for many grows ever smaller, and for some goes away completely. It’s a LIFE we live, living THE PERSON in our person.
END PART ONE