Janet Smith – 9-4-2020 ©gardenministries.org
Very difficult times are upon us and in the midst of it all, the Bride of Jesus Christ will emerge—shining with the message of hope and light. As she emerges, this treasured Bride will be persecuted for her faith and love for Jesus and that’s why her preparation is so important.
When Jesus addressed the 7 churches in Revelation 2 and 3, He ended with, “whoever has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” This means that one of the most important factors in the Bride’s preparation is to recognize, listen to, and obey the Voice of the Holy Spirit. We are to focus our efforts on distinguishing His Voice from a religious counterfeit or from our own soul’s attempts to convince ourselves of what we want, more than what God wants.
Learning God’s Voice is relationship-based and includes the daily study of Scripture and the leading of the Holy Spirit living within us. As our relationship with Jesus Christ deepens, the Holy Spirit, as the Teacher, leads us into the Psalm 23 Valley of the Shadow of Death. This is the valley of the cross where we get to apply what we learned in study hall. It is a valley where death always leads to life.
Knowing God’s Voice and what He said to do, and then doing it until it’s done, is how we come into completion. Knowing what to do, but doing our own interpretation of what we really want to do, will not bring us into completion. If we are avoiding the restrictions of God’s narrow path, we may just be spinning our wheels and not maturing. What’s really exciting is that when we do get on the track God wants us on and the fruit of Holy Spirit starts manifesting, we wonder why we ever pushed back in the first place. Never mind the regret though, everyone is invited to humble themselves like this.
Most of us avoid God’s way because we know it involves death-to-self and will take us into a fiery trial that we don’t want to face. Thankfully, God brings us many opportunities to embrace the cross and follow Him. He gives us solid proof of how things work out for those who say, “Yes.” Daniel and his comrades were taken captive and then promoted to positions of significant leadership during difficult times. Above all else, their faithfulness to God in the face of death was paramount to their success.
When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, Father declared over Jesus, “My Beloved Son.” Right afterward, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness where He would endure the discipline of testing. The one led to the next and teaches us that Christ’s sonship process is directly connected with His time in the wilderness. Like Jesus, the Holy Spirit trains us in the wilderness of testing so that we can grow up and become mature sons of God and fellow heirs with thee Son, Jesus.
As our human example, Jesus was discipled and comforted by the Holy Spirit as He underwent the hardship of testing. We too undergo the Spirit’s discipling through hardship and testing, comfort and nurture. This is a part of the purifying process of building intimacy with Jesus. We need what Jesus needed so we can stand faithfully in love with Him through the times ahead.
God wants us to succeed and never condemns us when we stumble. He is faithful to lovingly convict us of our self-centered thinking that causes us to treat others poorly and reject ourselves. As soon as we genuinely confess our sin of unfaithfulness and ask for forgiveness, God is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from the negative effects of our sinful mistrust and willful disobedience (1 John 1:9).
But we must go beyond confession and make ever-increasing choices to turn away from sin.
2 Timothy 2:19 Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”
Preparation for Bridal union with Jesus is really just learning how to die to our own way of doing life, turning to Jesus in submission to His authority, and choosing to rely on Him instead of others. Jesus showed us how to do this when He walked the earth. He emptied Himself of all of His personal rights and yielded His will in complete obedience to His Father—even unto the Father’s call for Him to bear the painful consequences of every single human being’s sin, and then die with it on the cross.
While we will not be asked to go where Jesus went for us, we will learn trust and submission in the same way He learned it. We too, are called to empty ourselves of our own initiatives and grand designs and ask God to sanctify each and every desire before we take matters into our own hands and lead the charge to nowhere!
Hebrews 5:8 NASB Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, 10 being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
1 Peter 4:1-2 NASB Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.
Jesus learned obedience through suffering and we follow Him by learning obedience in the same way. Jesus showed us that fallen humanity needs a completion process so He went through it Himself to help us learn by example how the process works. In Hebrews 5:9, the Greek word teleios means “perfect” and refers to a process of becoming complete. God’s discipline, though grievous for the moment, produces eternal fruit. If we stay with Him in it, He promises to lead us out of the Valley of the Shadow of Death-to-Self and into resurrection joy!
There is no human being exempt from needing discipline. Therefore, it’s time to hunker down and let God’s love in like we’ve never let it in before. Can we accept that there is no way around the painful embrace of the cross? Will we finally, just lay down our way of taking care of ourselves and yield to God’s way? Fixed on Jesus, the Author and perfecter of our faith, will we let Him complete us His way?
Proverbs 22:15 NASB Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.
The Hebrew word for “foolishness” in Proverbs 22:15 actually comes from the root word for “evil.” Scripture is not saying children are evil. It is saying that because we are all born with a sin nature, even innocent children will naturally choose to disobey their parent’s leadership until they receive enough consequences to motivate them to make the right choice. The process of learning this doesn’t make them bad kids. They’re just acting out what is going on inside and need confident and consistent direction as they learn how to manage their emotions amidst everyday challenges.
As much as we all wish we were perfected without painful discipline, scripture tells us that humanity is born with foolishness bound up in our hearts and and we need corrective discipline to remove it far from us (see also Hebrews 12, Revelation 3:19).
Children aren’t born trained to love like God loves. They don’t yet know how to respectfully cooperate with others. They need their parental caregivers to raise, nurture, and train them in these matters. Parents who refuse to discipline and correct their children are not acting “more loving” toward their kids.
Life on earth is painful and sweet. Children need to learn how to process the painful side of life within the context of a loving parent’s tutelage. Without learning how to process painful consequences from loving parents, children will incur pain from being in a broken world and be ill-equipped to deal with it.
Bridal preparation means we need to be heart-strong in the face of the great challenges ahead. Without developing the fortitude that Christ’s imparts as we embrace the cross, we will remain weak and fall over at the first sign of persecution. How can we disciple spiritual newborns if we ourselves are not being discipled? Disciple is another way of saying disciplined. Without confident and consistent discipling, children grow up weak and insecure; unable to deal with the hardships of life.
No matter what our age, when love comes to us in the form of discipline, it’s good to bow and endure until the point of it is attained. Discipline aligns us with God’s Truth so we can effectively and unselfishly love others from a humble heart. Because the Truth sets us free, we will soon learn the comforting benefits that come from discipline because the fruits of the Holy Spirit have ripened within us and start to spill out.
Sometimes we need multiple corrections to keep us on that Truth track, but if we stay with it, our mind will be renewed and freed from the lies that pull us off the Truth track. Abiding in the Spirit of Truth keeps us from veering off into ditches and yields a sense of peace and comfort exclusively available to followers of Jesus Christ.
Falling in love with Jesus and seeking to intimately know and obey Him will bring us into open-access to the Living God! (John 14). Without intimacy, we may think His principles and grace are all we need and miss the bigger reason we were created—that is, to respond to the Bridegroom’s wedding invitation and marry Him. And while we may still be saved from eternal death in hell, without yielding our vain imaginations and ego-driven soul life in obedience to the commands of Jesus, we will not become complete—ready to marry the King of kings! True love for Jesus manifests in selfless, sacrificial love for God and others, and always manifests in a willingness to go the way of the cross.
While it may be easier to love “perfect Jesus,” it’s not always easy to love our imperfect family. The first great commandment always yields the fruit of the second commandment (Matthew 22:37-39).
The wholeness of God’s Love has two sides. There is His kindness and there is His severity; His comfort and His correction. The Psalm 23 Shepherd’s Rod strikes our self-centered egos and judges our poor decisions by delivering consequences to turn us away from them the next time. The Psalm 23 Shepherd’s Staff tenderly pulls us out of sin’s dark ditches and nudges us back into the fold. Our Good Shepherd wields both sides of God’s perfect love. We don’t just get the half of God we want. We get all of God. He doesn’t come piecemeal.
1 Corinthians 13 describes how love is the distinguishing factor between the real or counterfeit use of spiritual gifts. Without the love of God, the Harlot religion’s counterfeit use of gifting means nothing and receives no eternal benefits. Conversely, God’s love will shine out from within a cross-hugging, self-sacrificing Bride as she patiently endures hardship, is kind to those who revile her, will not envy or compete for attention, and she will not covet, simply because of this—she doesn’t have to. She belongs to the King!
1 Corinthians 13 NASB If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.