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Lowell Brueckner

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Awakening to Spiritual Reality


There is an idea these days that deceives a lot of Christians. More or less, this is what it has to say:  “It’s not so important that we know and understand a lot about the Bible. What is important is that we live it, because there are people, who study a lot, but don’t live it.” Of course, any faithful Bible expositor will teach that it is not enough to be a hearer of the Word, but also a doer. That is truth beyond question, but here is the problem. There are deceiving spirits that can take a portion of truth, but apply it incorrectly, adding a few examples to support their claims. In this case before us, they create an impression that one will be a better Christian, if he doesn’t study very much, and those who are diligent students, possibly are religious hypocrites.  The result is that they create a dangerous prejudice in the heart and mind against an intensive study of the Word and also against the person who is studious.

This mentality had been formed already in the 1980’s and Martyn Lloyd-Jones became aware of it. He was an old man, when he visited the United States for the last time and one of the final messages that he ever preached was against this error. He showed how Paul indoctrinated the Thessalonians, raw Gentiles and idolatrous pagans. He wrote of the “reception” (1:9) that they gave him, meaning their response to his presentation of the gospel. He had to begin by teaching them of the one true and living God and demanded that the repent of their idolatry… the worship of many gods. After that, he taught them concerning the person of God’s Son, Jesus. Because he was the Son, He was equal to the eternal God, but He was made flesh and lived among humanity. He spoke of His death and resurrection and also of His second coming from heaven to earth. He taught them of the wrath of God and coming eternal judgment. Oh yes, Paul’s converts were well informed about good theology; they knew and understood important doctrine (see  1 Thess.1:9-10).

The truth of the matter is that the person who gives himself to Bible study, but does not live accordingly, is an exception, not the rule. Likewise, the person who does not give himself to a serious study of the Scripture is an impoverished Christian, if he is a Christian at all. How can he know if the life that he lives is, according to the Bible, the Christian life, if he has not launched a serious study? I think, he really needs to examine himself to see if he is in the faith at all, because he has certainly been exposed to a monstrous lie.

An awakening to spiritual reality

One night, I packed and prepared for a trip and it got very late. I was thinking of speaking the next evening from the very well-known text, Zechariah 4:6, “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” I was displeased to awaken the next morning at 5:30 and my only wish was to get back to sleep for a while. But persistent thoughts, not about verse 6, but the first verse of the chapter, were going through my mind: “The angel… roused me, as a man who is awakened from his sleep.” Finally, I had to get out of bed and write some new notes into the message, which I preached that night. I want to share them with you.

“Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you,” Paul said (Ep.5:14). I had no pleasure in awaking so early and it is always unpleasant to be awakened during the night or before we would like in the morning. How unwelcome is the bright light of spiritual reality that awakens us and calls us to repentance and abrupt changes in our own ways and manner of thinking! Zechariah however, was a man with a great longing to comprehend spiritual mysteries and, at least in this situation, it cost him sleep. I count ten questions that he asked in the first six chapters. God gives His secrets to the one, who is involved body and soul in His business, so it pays to listen to the man, who hears from God.

Eternal, spiritual things are the only realities to be found. The visible, material world was brought into being by more powerful and enduring invisible things. Earth’s people are asleep to them today, enchanted by sweet dreams from a physical, natural world. Their dreams are deceitful and time-consuming, distracting human interest from reality. When the Spirit of God begins to speak to man, his thoughts on heaven and hell become intensely vivid and the natural world begins to fade. This is what has happened in times of classic revival.  

God wants a conscious encounter with His people. I have experienced personally that the voice of God can get through to me by dreams while I am asleep, but I tend to think that is an inferior way of communication. It is too easy for the angel of darkness to invade our sub-conscious mind with counterfeit divinations that can twist our discernment and even influence our theology.

The prophet Jeremiah had something to say about God’s people forgetting His name (their concept of His character) “by their dreams, which they relate to one another.” Taken up with concepts in dreams, they began to ignore God’s true character. He wrote of the dreaming prophets of his day, and then drew a comparison between them and the ones that “speak My word in truth”. The difference, he revealed, is comparable to straw and grain. A conscious encounter with the powerful word of God would have saved Israel: “‘Is not My word like fire?’ declares the Lord; ‘and like a hammer which shatters a rock?’” (Je.23:27-29) - but dreams were only deepening their spiritual slumber.

We have already considered the situation, when Jesus walked into Gethsemane and called three of his closest disciples to watch with Him. They were not able to participate in the spiritual realities of that moment. “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation,” Christ warned (Mk.14:37-41). The superficial Christian, who does not heed the warning, will easily leave the purposes of God and yield to the flesh when tempted. Certainly all the disciples had been living a deception as to the depth of their discipleship and the quality of their love. When they awoke from their sleep, they saw the reality of their spiritual state, individually and corporately.

Paul wrote of “the fellowship of His sufferings”, but these men were in no way ready for that.  They were too entrenched in the mentality and ways of the flesh to have intimate contact with Him. How many of us are like them, thinking that our little circle of Christian fellowship is superior to others and that we have insight, teaching and activities that outshine most, at least? It’s time to awake to reality and let Christ expose our lukewarmness, blindness, nakedness, and poverty! He stands at the door as He did before the church at Laodicea. Open to Him and let others go where they will. 

The cock woke Peter out of his dream world and what a rude awakening it was! He had been so sure of himself, convinced that his love for Christ was deep and true. He even felt that he was somewhat superior to the others in his commitment: “Even though all may fall away, yet I will not… Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” (Mk.14:27-29). Now remember, this is the man who left his boat and fishing and followed Jesus faithfully for 3½ years. He was no coward, either. He took out his sword and was ready to enter a fight to the death, when the band came to arrest Jesus. However, he was living an unreal dream that burst, when confronted with spiritual truth. He wept bitterly upon awakening. Do you think we are better than he?

The church of Laodicea was in dire need of a truthful reevaluation of their spiritual state. Like Peter, they were convinced of superior spirituality and felt that they lacked nothing: “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.” These professing Christians had totally accepted a deception, which was just the opposite of their actual state: “You do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Re.3:17).

Hear these words now, written to Christians, apply them to your personal life, and look through them into your circle of Christian fellowship: “Knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep… the night is almost gone, and the day is near…” (Ro.13:11-12). We need to give an honest assessment of the Christianity that thrives in our day. God’s problem is not with the world of unbelievers. It is with His people. Modern evangelism produces many spiritual bastards. Their mother may be the church, but she has adulterated with every kind of worldly trick and persuasion to draw people into her house. Even true converts tend to be superficial. They are easily drawn aside from divine purpose, as temptation presents itself, appealing to their ego, and natural desires take priority. The first threat of financial difficulty activates their instincts of self-preservation and, for all practical purpose, faith in God’s care is thrown out the window.

I believe that it’s time to ask ourselves some wide-awake, soul-shaking questions. The first is vital: Am I a true Christian? The second comes right behind the first: If I am, is my Christianity on thin ice? Does it break under the smallest weight?
The question is answered
in the final pages of
"We Have an Altar".
A young Scottish preacher, who never reached his 30th birthday, Robert Murray McCheyne, made this profound observation: “What a man is on his knees before God, that he is and nothing more.” In that position, his opinion of himself and the favor and respect of others, fade into oblivion. His success and achievements are no longer enough proof of spiritual life. They become cruel, unreal dreams. Before God, only truth matters – naked, divine light, not eclipsed by sweet, but false, dreams.       

Now, with eyes wide open, knowing our true state and the situation, in which we find ourselves, let us go on to consider the following question: What can we do or what steps can Christians take, if we are awake and sincere and want to be faithful, giving glory to God, while we live in a time of more deceitfulness, than the world or the church has ever seen before?


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