Excerpts from "Heart Breathings"
Perhaps this is the echo of an eternal question which has resounded in the ether of this creation ever since the words came from God's lips in the garden. "Where? ... where? ... where?..."
This is a question which can only be answered in relation to things other than ourselves. (We cannot say, "I am with myself." We must say, "I am behind the house," or "I am under the oak tree," etc.) Where are we with regard to the kingdom of God? What are we "behind" or "before" or "within" or "without" or "above" or "below"?
My father used to quote, "Beyond the sacred page, I seek Thee, Lord; my spirit pants for Thee, Thou Living Word." We live in an age which, like the Greeks, seems to have exalted reason and devalued everything which has to do with the more important inner aspects of being. In doing this we have cast down that which has to do with the true essence of spiritual life. It is not so much that we have become worshipers of the Word as that we have taken the Word of God as if it were a painter's palette -- a base from which we mix and match our own concepts without discerning the true nature of the Spirit speaking the words. We have the words about the Spirit and think that we have the Spirit, and yet we only possess the death of words. The written word has become a substitute for the word spoken by the Spirit, the "Logos" for the "Rhema," with the result that we, as the Jews before us, have become slaves to our interpretations, bound by our own concepts and imprisoned in the darkness of our own fallen understanding.
Paul says, "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature." What does It mean to be "in" Christ? It certainly does not mean that we can be "in" (or "into" as we like to say nowadays) other things at the same time. We can only be in one place at one time- is this too difficult for us to understand? We live in the place of our hearts, not the place of our minds, and in the place of our feelings, not the place of our religious theory. Solomon had all the theory -- he had inherited all the psalms of cry and prayer and worship from his father. He systematized all of his knowledge into his three thousand proverbs and taught with a stunning exactitude, and yet died with "his heart far from God." Do we see him displayed for our example? Does it make us tremble? Does it humble us? Sometimes it seems today that we have "out Solomoned Solomon" in our trying to understand and explain God.
Geographically speaking we can only come to a true understanding of where we are in this world in the measure in which we have become acquainted with other places, races and cultures. Spiritually speaking God must expose us to a full gamut of experience if we are to really know the place in which He would have us to dwell. We cannot see the light unless our eyes have beheld the darkness. We can only see the light of God to the degree that we have met the horrific depths of that darkness which is a foretaste of death and the dwelling place of the unclean powers of a satanic empire. Only as our souls have felt the crushing powers of evil which move over the face of the nations to rob, to kill and to destroy, can we reach forth to the power of His Resurrection.
The trouble with our age is that it wants light without having known darkness, happiness without having known pain. We live in a generation which wants only the positive and never the negative -- healing without hurt, salvation without damnation, hope without despair, power without weakness, maturity without aging, knowledge without the price of learning, fullness without emptiness, joy without sorrow. The gospel has been turned upside down as we have become conditioned to possess the kingdom without poverty of spirit, to possess comfort without mourning, and to possess the earth without paying the price of meekness.
Our problem today is that we have tried to make it all too easy. We have done with the Word as the ants do in their storing of seeds; we have killed the germ so that we might keep the seed sterile without the inconvenience of having it shoot forth in growth to upset our plans. We have avoided the hurt and pain and loss and invented a "contemporary" (cursed word) Christian culture. God won't have it and so we are left, as the people in Isaiah, to wither "by the hand of our iniquities." Our mental games will not hold up in exposure to reality, and in choosing the theory of a man-engendered Christianity we find that we have chosen death. This is not a static state but rather a kingdom of falsehood which drags us down into an ever-deepening morass as we struggle to build for ourselves and for our contemporaries God's true house on a shattered foundation.
Only as we return to the presence of the living God can we hope to find reality. In the beginning was Reality, before there was anything false or evil. I believe God's call for us is to go beyond the physical world, beyond the world of man's thoughts and fears and imagination. We are called to Reality, beyond all the sham and shame and sickness and sin which the enemy has built up around mankind and around the church. We are called to live and breathe, to abide and to walk in the realm of the life of the Spirit of God.
I believe the day is coming, and now is, when God will start to call forth a people formed in the mold of the original purpose of God -- a people who have tasted the joy of that kingdom which is not of earth, and have counted all else but dross. "We" can never fight and overcome the earthly -- we are the earthly. Liberation and transformation, the heart of the gospel message, are possible only as the kingdom of God in its true spiritual essence takes root in our lives and springs up overwhelming every other presence, every other influence.
I believe that there is a principle involved when Jesus says to Peter, "Upon this rock I will build..." Peter has seen and declared Jesus to be the Son of the Living God and, in effect, Jesus is saying, "Peter, everything you have seen in Me I give to you... You see Me with the keys of heaven and earth, you see Me with the power to bind and loose -- Peter, the keys and the power which you see in Me I give to you. As you see me and My power, your portion will be to share in My kingdom and to participate in the outworking of its power."
Perhaps we have been taught too much to look upon the negative in all our looking at the Bible. We have stood with Adam as he fell and lost a kingdom and inherited a curse as judgment, but we have never seen or stood with Adam in the glorious majesty and victory of the day when he stood before God and all created beings, and in total dominion could answer God's question, "What is this?" We have not seen him, I say, when he stood, and discerning the heart of God he discerned the nature and named the name, one after another, of every living creature that walked the face of this whole vast earth. We have not thrilled with his triumph, nor felt the call of God in our own spirits to discern and to name every part of the whole nature of our own world.
We have read of Noah, but do we feel the immensity of the pathos of the world-ending judgment and the overwhelming glory of the resurrection purpose of God locked in his breast and paid for in his life throughout one hundred and twenty years? We read of Moses and of David and the prophets, but have we ever heard the question within ourselves, "understandest thou what thou readest," shocking us into living awareness?
Some day we will stand before God, and before the Word of God, and in that moment we will see all as it really is in the clear light of eternity. The power and the passion of the world to come will be absolutely clear to us then, in that morning without clouds. Yet God is the same today; His will and His purpose will not be any different then from what they are now. Maybe the land is yet "afar off," but His call to us, and His Spirit's call through us, is ever for the fulfillment -- "Thy kingdom come..." There is nothing more glorious for this old earth, nor is there for the child of God, than the attaining to the Presence of the One Who reigneth for ever and ever and being a living part of His Kingdom.
Excerpts taken from "Heart Breathings"
by Leonard Ravenhill.
Used by permission.
Copyright 1995 by
Harvey Christian Publishers, L.L.P.
United States Address: