Click here for a link to this MESSAGE (Recorded at The International House of Prayer Kansas City)
We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not destroyed – always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:7-11)
God Has Placed a Treasure in You!
God has placed a great treasure in you! The apostle Paul writes that this treasure is “the Knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).
The treasure that Paul spoke of is nothing less than the real, living presence of Jesus Christ within every born-again believer. Jesus promises, If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. (John 14:23) Paul writes to the Galatians: I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you. (Galatians 4:19) Paul also writes about this stunning reality in his letter to the Corinthians: Do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? (2 Corinthians 13:5) Every sacrifice we make to pursue the increase of this treasure within us testifies to His great worth and value.
The Treasure in You is Vibrant!
People who intentionally and sacrificially position their hearts before the burning revelation of Jesus’ glory, with a “yes” in their spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18) are made increasingly brilliant; transformed by an intensifying weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17). While it is more fully manifested in the next age, this treasure is meant to shine ever brighter (Prov. 4:18) in this age within our minds, spirits, emotions, will and loving attitudes toward others.
The Treasure in You is Viral!
Around the world, God is expanding His Kingdom and filling believers with His brilliant presence in ways that can only be described as “viral”; meaning, in ways that are very free from the mediation of human agency. We are sober to carry Jesus’ primary mandate to go and “preach the gospel” – but we rejoice (Acts 10:40) whenever we find that Jesus is doing so much of the work ahead, and often, completely independent from us.
Jesus promises to build His Church. (Matt. 16:18) And it is God who commanded light to shine out of the darkness, who has shone in our hearts. (2 Corinthians 4:6) Each of us are recipients of His mercy and none may take credit for the gracious, transformative activity of His Spirit.
In my opinion, the House of Prayer movement has exploded in sovereign, viral ways. My own introduction to the wealth of IHOP came through a series of God-orchestrated events; not through the strategic intervention of man, or my own deductive reasoning.
In the Fall of 2001 I received a prophetic word from the Lord that took me two days to receive and has taken 15 more years to materialize. In the prophetic word God told me of a movement that would emphasize singing and result in a great harvest, even while much of the rest of the evangelical culture struggled in barrenness, and our nation experienced terror and collapse. The two days that I received this major word from the Lord were September 9 & 10, 2001.
Two weeks later God gave me a dream about Lou Engle leading young adults through a shopping mall praying over closed shop-gates, while Larry Tomczak, a man that I respected as a powerful evangelist, waited to preach. Two days after the dream, I received an advertisement for a One Thing Conference that was held in Kansas City. Two of the main speakers were to be Lou Engle and Larry Tomczak.
Over the next several years, I would write, teach, promote, develop prayer classes and programs with the aim of stimulating individuals to embrace prayer and the Bridegroom paradigm. In spite of my zeal, my advocacy was not the persuasive element that won people to the movement. Often, an individual would show up to a meeting and tell us that they had a dream, a visitation, or an inexplicable burst of passion to pursue Jesus in prayer and worship. Over these years God drew scores of people to His extravagant love. They hungered for Mike’s Song of Song’s teachings, attended IHOP conferences and entered internships as the Spirit kindled their hearts with love for the Bridegroom.
In 2006, I wrote about what I was experiencing with the House of Prayer: “The Spirit is incubating a supernatural (Ezekiel 37:10) army in the House of Prayer that He will release into an asthmatic church and a distressed world. The DNA of this work is viral (Acts 10:44) and it is being borne on the very breath of God.”
In less than 20 years, the growth of the Prayer Movement around the word has been nothing less than viral!
God Cultivates and Enriches His Treasure Within Us in Unconventional Ways
It also pleases God to put His treasure in obscure places. Consider the context of God’s decision to put His treasure in you. There are more galaxies in the universe (300 billion), than there are stars in our galaxy (200 billion). And our God, fills the whole universe! (Jeremiah 23:24) He chooses one solar system on the spiral arm of one galaxy; and then chooses one planet (not even the largest) in that configuration where He chooses to shape little, clay pots; and then he declares: “This is where I will put the treasure that I plan to cultivate and reign with, forever!” Anyone who considers the macro-context of God’s work in us must ask the question: “Why?” From our human perspective God’s choice seems very curious.
He Places His Valuable Treasure within Fragile Vessels in Turbulent Conditions
Receiving the gift of Jesus’s presence in our lives is not the beginning of a sheltered and sanitized lifestyle. Although Jesus operates in a consistently faithful manner, saying yes to His presence is most often like saying yes to a whirlwind. He is lovingly and relentlessly committed to restructuring and refining our hearts to magnify His presence.
In 2006, on my way back from the House of Prayer in Kansas City, God spoke in an audible in-my-ear voice and declared my twenty-plus years of ministry to be breathless. He also placed a weeping burden in my soul (in a very-crowded Phoenix airport) declaring that the evangelical church in America was breathless. I didn’t fully understand it then, but I was entering a turbulent season of radical renovation.
It pleases Him to put His treasure in vessels who are prone to being crushed, perplexed and persecuted so that we learn, as Thomas a’Kempis elegantly observes: “how to trust under His wings and not trust in our own.”
In 2007 Barb, my wife of 23 years, contracted stomach cancer. In a matter of days hundreds of people were praying for her healing. Friends from the churches in our community started to pray 24 hours a day in a little camper trailer outside of our home. Nonetheless, in two, short months, Barb died. Abruptly, I was a 48 year old widower with two twelve-year-old girls – and a very breathless pastor.
Still, it took me another year and a half before I yielded to the changes the Holy Spirit wanted to make in my life and begin a work of liberating “self -less-ness”. In the Spring of 2009; very weak and breathless, I resigned from 20 years of professional ministry to simply meet with Jesus in a tent of meeting.
He Cultivates His Treasure in You through Weakness
One of the first lessons that Jesus taught me in this tent of meeting was the “blessedness of being poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). The Holy Spirit told me that He could not give me this blessedness because in nearly every aspect of my life I was striving to be rich.
We don’t do weakness well, and we bristle at the admission of our own inability. We want to be a Forerunner, yet we chafe at being forged through weakness.
It pleases the Father to hide His treasure; the formation of His Son, within human weakness for several reasons.
- He wants to hide us in weakness, because He loves us and longs to heal our wounds as our weakness rests in His strength.
- God’s treasure hides well in weakness. Satan can smell pride a Solar System away. Weakness is where we learn to trust the depth and breadth of His perfect protection.
- Weakness is where we learn to trust Him and the strength of His grace. He brilliantly cultivates His treasure in weakness. Even though I didn’t enjoy it in my flesh, two weeks after a recent 21 day fast I wrote about the wisdom of making ourselves weak for His sake: “After the fast I have a deeper awareness of my own barrenness and inability to unlock & release and increase the power & glory of God. I also have an even deeper and growing sense of how much God desires to increase His glorious presence in my barrenness & inability.”
- He hides His treasure in us in weakness because it’s the way of Jesus. No one had more of the treasure of God within them, than the God/Man Jesus Christ.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God … made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond-servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man…HE HUMBLED HIMSELF… and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a CROSS. – Philippians 2:5 & 8
He Enriches the Treasure within Us as we Bear His Cross
Ultimately, the Holy Spirit brings us to weakness, in order to bring us to death on the cross. The way of increased glory and manifestation of Kingdom power through a believer’s life always comes through our participation in the cross! Bob Sorge notes: “If it were so for Jesus, should we expect to find increase through an alternative route?”
Let’s return to our passage in 2 Corinthians 4, where the apostle Paul declares: “We always carry about in our body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” The grammar and syntax of this statement gives believers one function in their pursuit of manifesting the life of Jesus. The active role of the believer is not to generate a resurrection. Indeed, we cannot! Paul explicitly says that our role is to always carry about in our bodies the dying of the Lord, Jesus. If the apostle Paul said he always did something wouldn’t you want to what that is?
“Carrying about in our bodies the dying of the Lord, Jesus” is a mystery of the highest level; and yet, one way that we practically live it out is by heeding Jesus primary command in (Matthew 16:24) “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
“We often speak of our abiding in Christ. But we forget that that means the abiding in a crucified Christ. Many believers appear to think that when once they have claimed Christ’s death in the fellowship of the cross, and have counted themselves as crucified with Him, that they may now consider it as past and done with. They do not understand that it is in the crucified Christ, and in the fellowship of His death, that they are to abide daily and unceasingly.” – Murray, Andrew The Secret of The Cross
We have wanted a church without a real cross and a cross without a real grave. We’ve wanted a glorious Christianity, but we have cared little for the refining fire (Revelation 3:18) through which such a treasure is produced.
Too often, the church has presented the cross as a tool unto self sacrifice, when Jesus taught that bearing the cross is primarily about the sacrifice of self. Consequently, the church has left the idols on the high places of the human heart and failed to teach disciples how to apply the cross to their opinions, attitudes, priorities, mores, ministry plans and ambitions. Bearing the cross is about more than curbing wanton acts and enduring rigorous disciplines; it’s about killing the intrinsic ways of the self!
Five Ways of the Self the Holy Spirit Puts to Death through the Cross
1. Self-Glorification and Making a Name for Ourselves:
It’s essential that we let the cross crucify our ambitious pursuit of the world’s definition of success (applause, material wealth & comfort and credit etc.) Putting the craving for self-glorification to death also includes dying to self-promotion that does not wait on God’s timing, contends with others and/or falsifies self to achieve it’s objective. Self-glorification
is antithetical to meekness.
Our whole culture is obsessed with securing inordinate wealth, security, comfort and fame. This preoccupation has greatly consumed the church so that too often we treat the gospel as a self-help or life-management tool that merely has as it’s end-result, to make lives work. Cultivating the treasure of Jesus in our lives involves renouncing a self-absorbed lifestyle of unchecked self-gratification.
We, like Paul, are BOND-SERVANTS of Christ, Jesus. (Romans 1:1) As a “bond-servant” we are not free to choose our own way. The way of a Christ-bearer is the way of Christ, our redeemer; our Lord; our Master. (1 Corinthians 6:19) “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit Who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”
One of the most difficult areas to discern and bring to death is our unbridled reliance upon the wealth of our human ability (ie. Expertise, Wealth, Institutionalism, Sophistry & Religious Zeal etc.) The can-do American Church has an endless amount of resource, ability, energy and creativity to extend the Kingdom of God. Without carrying about in our bodies the dying of Jesus, the American Evangelical community remains hyper-reliant upon her own power to minister, evangelize, build churches, and nourish mature believers. With no parameter, she can build structures and programs that are un-empowered by the Spirit and may even detract from the brilliance of the true treasure of the Church.
“Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the LORD of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6)
(1 Corinthians 4:3, 5) “For me it is a minor matter for me to be judged by you, or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself… So then, do not judge anything before the time. Wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the motives of hearts. They each will receive recognition from God.” Paul writes that he does not judge himself; he does not evaluate himself along the way. He has given up the right to determine what is valuable; what is of merit; what is worthless, and what is futile within himself. The Lord is free to use it all; the great and the small; the gifts and the weaknesses – for His good. What counts is not our estimation of what we give Him, but His. The wisdom of bringing our self-evaluation to death is that dying to this foul, critical way liberates us from both a haughty spirit and a self-deprecating spirit.
Uncrucifed, these five ways of the self diminish the glory of God, debase the value of the treasure in our lives, attempt to domesticate and subjugate the Spirit, profoundly short-circuit the dynamic power of the church and delude believers into blind allies of self-empowerment.
Too often believers have turned a blind eye to these self-idols, and have raised up ministries that, after seasons of wonderful increase, discover they are plateaued, obstructed and perplexed (2 Corinthians 4:8) rather than fruitfully fulfilling the Spirit’s purposes.
Cross-Bearing 101 for the Forerunner
If weakness unto cross-bearing and death-to-self is where the Holy Spirit is leading the Church, then a chief task of the forerunner is to die first!
In this hour, we dare not spare any part of our lives and our ministries from the scrutinizing fire of the Holy Spirit. The fact is, much of what has been left uncrucifed in our culture has not been crucified simply because the Holy Spirit wields the power of the Cross against so much of our best stuff. And for too long, it’s precisely “our best stuff” that’s been hindering us from receiving God’s I AM stuff. The crucifixion of Jesus tells us that the cross is ruthless in what it brings to death. It not only kills what is objectionable and offensive – but it also brings to death that which looks grand and glorious. Crucifixion of self requires a spiritual violence (Matthew 11:12).
Our primary focus must be our Magnificent Obsession: the manifestation of Jesus (our spiritual treasure) within our lives. John the Baptist’s moniker was not I must decrease and He must increase. He stated the dynamic in it’s right order. His pre-occupation was the increased revelation of Jesus, not on what needed to be decreased in his own life. John says, “He must increase and in the increase of His revelation we find the power to decrease and die.” The revelation of Jesus within our lives must remain the forerunner’s incessant obsession! We cannot allow our conscience to become fixated on what we think needs to be crucified next. That’s the Holy Spirit’s work, not ours!
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, revelations of Jesus can actually help put us to death!
- Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a specific REVELATION about Jesus (ie. Holy Spirit, reveal Jesus to me as the One Who was pierced. [Revelation 1:7])
- Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what inside you RESISTS, or is perplexed by this revelation of Jesus. (ie. Holy Spirit, show me where there is any resistance or inhibition to my receiving Jesus as the One Who was pierced.)
- RENOUNCE (and REPENT if necessary) those aspects of your life that struggle with the appropriation of this dimension of Jesus in your life. Yield all that is not in agreement with this aspect of Jesus to the cross! (ie. Crucify the part of my heart that is slow to believe that He loves me that much. Crucify the coldness within me that fails to cherish the magnificent worth of His sacrifice.)
- Crucify the aspects of your heart that are indifferent, or opposed to Who He is. (Galatians 5:24) Bring these thoughts and attitudes to a merciless end.
- REQUEST that Jesus, the treasure inside you, increase (Proverb 4:18) His RADIANCE within you!
Remember, the Holy Spirit’s phenomenal purpose in giving us increased revelations about Jesus is so the incarnational treasure of Jesus, is actually manifested within us.
And it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him. (1 John 3:2)
JSB • December, 2013