Whenever God is Moving Among a People, This Will Happen

When the Lord is having His way in a body of believers, God’s enemy will be sure to attack. Nothing so threatens the enemy’s kingdom than the church of Jesus Christ being expressed and standing for God’s timeless purpose and Christ’s fullness and headship.

Four things to keep in mind when such attacks occur (notice that I said “when”):

1. The enemy virtually always uses uncrucified flesh as the ground for his attack against a body of believers.

2. Those who are giving ground to the enemy aren’t aware that this is what they are doing: giving ground to him via selfishness and self-gratification.

3. The only way to close the gap is to die to self. God’s enemy has no ground by which to work then. Remember Jesus’ words: “Satan has come, but He has nothing in me.” There was no ground in Him for the enemy to use.

4. The enemy uses lies and deception to hold ground. He’s a master at it. The Scriptures wielded by crucified hands and in the Spirit are a force to break that deception.

Here are priceless words from T. Austin-Sparks on this score:

But this thing is very deeply rooted in us; the subtlety, the imperceptible desire of the flesh for gratification. If we were asked straight out whether we wanted to please ourselves, whether we were after our own personal gratification, whether it was our pleasure and satisfaction that was motivating our lives and directing us, we would at once most vehemently repudiate the suggestion, and probably be very offended with whoever made the suggestion; and yet, beloved, deeper than our deepest honesty, deeper than our truest sincerity, there is that subtle constituent of fallen nature which so often unperceived by the believer himself or herself does just love to be gratified, personally satisfied, and which does not like to be emptied out and have nothing.

Gratification and glory is the very essence of the flesh even when we are engaged in the Lord’s work. To set up something FOR THE LORD, yes, but men point at it and say: “That is his work and her work,” and how we like that! Something that will be a good testimony to faith, a great monument – yes, but subtly the monument to OUR faith. Such is this horrible thing that is always reaching out from beneath, under cover, and, quietly and imperceptibly, taking the glory of the Lord to itself.

The remedy for that is the Body of Christ practically applied in principle. Yes, it is! That is why it is so difficult to live a corporate life with other believers, because you have to be so thoroughly crucified. There is nothing that demands crucifixion more than to live with other Christians all your days. You say: “That is a terrible thing to say,” but you know what I am talking about. You have to defer, refer, consult, submit, let go. In a thousand and one ways you have to put your own likes and dislikes aside if the Lord is to get His end. Oh yes, it is the Body of Christ that is the saving thing.

It is corporate life that is the remedy, but O beloved, that is the way of triumph, the way of victory. It is! It is a mighty remedy for the flesh, a mighty remedy for the work of the Devil, but it does represent the mighty power of God working in us. You see, you can never come into the Body of Christ until you have been crucified. It is because uncrucified flesh has impinged upon the corporate life of believers that there is such contradiction and denial, because the Body represents the exclusion of man, in himself – flesh.

(The Centrality and Supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ, p. 32)

See also Organic Church Life Doesn’t Work . . .

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Comments

  1. says

    FROG? Whatever. :)
    I’m really struggling with this. I have creative artistic gifts that I feel God is pulling me to use for Kingdom purposes, but don’t see how this is possible without drawing some measure of attention to myself or receiving satisfaction from it. As desperately as I would love for Christ to get the glory from it, people still know who put the art on the wall. I don’t feel like He gave me this gift to shove under a bushel basket either. But I can certainly see how my sense of satisfaction has destroyed many of my previous efforts. I suppose I could just become a hermit and paint in a cave, but I don’t see how that is going to help anyone see Jesus.
    Do you get a sense of satisfaction when you write a book that is received well? How do you juggle that? You are a creative type. Would love to know your thoughts.

    • says

      To my mind, finding satisfaction in fulfilling God’s will through a creative work and encouragement when others benefit from it is a very different thing than self-glorification or creating something for personal gratification and the desire to be admired and praised. One is unto God, the other is unto self.

      • says

        Artistic temperament is a strange thing for others that don’t think this way to understand. To me, it’s a real struggle for an artistic type to be a Christian. Satan loves to get in our heads and mess with the praise. We can be our own devils when we receive criticism. So I just paint stuff nobody understands but God and me, and if somebody gets blessed looking at it, that’s cool by me. My last work came from a dream that woke me up in the night. Didn’t know what it was until I finished. :) I kinda like watching folks try to figure it out.

  2. Fred says

    I understand that Christians can walk after the flesh (I’ve been in church and a pastor for over 30 years and seen plenty of it.) Based on Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ…” and Philippians 3:3, “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” and Colossians 2:10-12, “And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” and Galatians 5:24, “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (notice the past tense “have crucified”) I would say that Christ’s death in the flesh became my death of the flesh when I believed in him. I can still walk “after” the flesh but the remedy is not to compete with the efficacy of Christ’s crucifixion by trying to crucify myself. His crucifixion was good enough. I believe the remedy is to walk by faith in that finished work, that is, in the operation of God. If I walk after the Spirit (since I am now “in the Spirit”) I will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Like Paul said, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” No mention of crucifying uncircumcised flesh in that verse (Galatians 5:16) No doubt living in a community of close believers forces us to deal with areas where we do walk after the flesh but I cannot crucify myself better than what Christ already did. I just need to walk after the Spirit instead.

  3. says

    Some of what I have experienced in regards to this post is that when disagreements happen and things get a bit rough among members of the body we tend to assume that something is wrong and sometimes people leave the group when in fact the tension is often a necessary part of growing up together. If we overreact to this tension or misinterpret it then we rarely receive the benefits from it.

  4. says

    Thanks, Frank. I hear you. I guess one could say that a true community does not dis-assemble when they are not gathering, and so the body-dynamic is certainly not dependent on meetings. It sure takes a while to fully grasp that when you come out of many years of traditional pastoral ministry.

  5. says

    Chase – you’re on the money, bro!

    “This crossroad is such a important moment. If we yield to His Life He will recover, heal, renew, restore, teach and manifest Himself. If we resist our way becomes very hard and our soul lean. “

  6. says

    Thanks Frank, what a magnificent quote. I’ve never thought of it before until I read your post, but perhaps the immunity system of the body kicks in when it is assembled (makes biological sense!) and reveals that which is not supposed to be a part of it. If this is true, then the manifestation of the flesh in our gatherings should perhaps be seen as a blessing and opportunity, not a curse.

    • says

      Natural: Paul says “there must be heresies among you so those who are approved may be manifest.” But he also said that division, the flesh, etc. bring great harm to the believers. I wouldn’t call it a blessing, as the flesh hurts others, sometimes in a devastating way. But God writes straight with crooked lines. Note the focus of my post was not on “meetings” but on the community. Goes much deeper than a gathering.

  7. Jackie Paulson 1966 says

    Thank you I did need to hear this today. It’s always good to know that the devil is in our lives because that means we are closer to God.

  8. Lauraselvak says

    Another great post. I’m working on the crucified life in my own little life….but this is in a whole new sphere, a crucified body! What a challenge and inspiration.

  9. julian graham says

    Austin-Sparks, a blessed saint, who God continues to use in our lives, though he is now with the Lord, his theme “The Centrality of Christ” will remain forever. Thanks Frank.

  10. Nathan says

    Very powerful stuff Frank thanks for the post. So true, where confusion, envy , selfish ambition (jam 3:15) every evil thing is there. I have learned that we can even focus so much on not being selfish (sin) that it becomes a distraction, but just yeilding (wisdom from heaven, jam 3:17) to the Lord’s life, and allowing him to live through us because nothing in us can do anything righteous I find freedom. I find a lover who is kind, and compassionate who beats our advesary any day of the week. To partake of the Tree of Life, not the knowledge of good and evil is so key, and only he can do it.

  11. says

    Ain’t that the truth!

    In reality, when we enter the body of Christ, whether we like it or not, we give up our rights to our own desires. We simply don’t have the right to demand that our needs/ways/desires are met above the needs/ways/desires of others. It is hard because the flesh is stubborn. We strongly resist sacrifice. When we trust Christ and elevate others above ourselves, the mind of Christ is made known.

    Jesus said, “you must lose your life to gain it.”

  12. says

    There are times more often than not that I become aware of my selfish and self seeking nature even and especially in the things of the Lord. I become almost paralyzed not wanting to do anything out of or for myself- seeing myself that way I cannot move. But then on the other hand I sense the Lord wanting me to do or say something I then hoping against myself share or act being aware that my motive is probably tainted and praying Lord have mercy on me. This is a strange paradox. I don’t always feel this way but at times I do. It usually leads me to lean hard into the Lord trying to be careful not to do anything out from myself. At last though I am learning to trust Him with the motives of my heart knowing He is more capable than I to not only judge my heart but also change it. (Well, rather live by His heart, the new heart He has given)
    This post really really speaks to what has been on my mind lately. I don’t want to simply live out of the romantic idea of Christ and His church in organic body life but to truly on the ground level live by His life not being deceived by myself thinking because I am in body life that in fact all is well. Only to the degree that the revelation comes to the reality of my experience which is by a full embracing of the cross and embracing of the life of Christ at the same time can this be a reality. The old man cannot enter in. Christ is the door and we meet Him at the cross and burial waters rising to live now by His resurrected life. We so often bring our old lifestyle, way of doing, deciding, reacting, etc… into the things of the Lord.
    Lord help me, help us, to know you in REALity and live by that which you are, the truth.

  13. says

    I’m just about to start a group that will, we intend, operate on the organic / simple church lines. The group will sit within an existing church but we’ve been given a lot of freedom to try out this different way of meeting and being community.

    So, this post is a timely reminder that I must put aside my own wishes and needs, in order to deny the devil a line of attack…

  14. Chase says

    Amen to the “when”. I have often thought that the times when a brother or sister is upon a the crossroads ( the point where uncrucified flesh has allowed access to our adversaries schemes and we have landed in a bit of a jam & the point where our Lord is revealing this and pointing us to His loving cross as the remedy)

    This crossroad is such a important moment. If we yield to His Life He will recover, heal, renew, restore, teach and manifest Himself.

    If we resist our way becomes very hard and our soul lean. At that point we also have to become deceptively creative whether we know it or not…usually not. We now must create a story, a “revelation”, explanation or “new insight ” to justify our position. I have been there saints….It is a very lonely road to take.

  15. Robyn G. says

    Frank, this is the very reason organic church as you have presented it is so crucial and I am so glad to be learning more and more…the more we get the visible things out of the body of Christ, the easier it is to exerience peace, unity and community. The assets, position, programs, ideas, schedules, events that are so visible are often the greatest footholds for Satan. I have no doubt there are other footholds as we take these away, but if we can serve and move through the world with less of the visible and more of the unseen assets…we will be better protected from attack. Still learning…

  16. MichaelO says

    When I read this piece taken from T Austins book, it was in his voice in my head, just as he would have said it. It made feel good. He is right you know in what he said, it takes a Body.
    It reminds me of the other day when John Zens was talking about the Bible being written to a plurality, the Body is needed to truly mine the truth from it and walk in it.
    Strangely perhaps Hillary Clinton hit upon something perchance when she titled her book “It Takes A Village To Raise A Child”, although I don’t subscribe to all of the details contained therein, but the title is intriguing. One could say it takes a Body to raise a child.
    Lately I have been reading Wolf’s Starfish Manifesto and he says the same thing that it is vital in this time to be connected in the Body for every aspect of life.
    But when we rub against one another like pebbles in the swift stream to become smooth and well rounded with no sharp points, it becomes the most challenging.
    I wish the devil wasn’t allowed to the gathering. In uncrucified flesh. Sometimes, it’s me.

  17. says

    Oh, wow, good stuff! Thanks for the reminder, Frank (and Mr. Sparks). Many times have I wanted to retreat back into seclusion, but many times has Christ called me back out by my brothers and sisters. True community with the Body is difficult, yet beautiful.

    I once heard a very wise man call it the glory and the gore of the Body of Christ. Funny, his name was Frank, too. ;)

  18. says

    What an excelent, insightful blog! I love the Austin-Sparks quote, especially the last two paragraphs. Thanks for including it.

  19. says

    In some ways I am, in others I am not looking forward to this truth becoming a reality in our gathering. We are just getting our feet wet at this point and God is doing a marvelous work! Satan must hate that. I know he is planning, scheming, and waiting for the right time to attack. Pray that we not give sin a foothold and that Christ will have his way in us.

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