Friday 20 May 2011

Life in the Melchizedek Order XII : Maurice Smith - I know who I am

From 20th Century Pilgrim by Maurice Smith Chapter 8The darkness was lifting and as the springtime emerged I realised that I had been through what is commonly called today, an identity crisis. Many years previously, around the early days of my new experience in the Holy Spirit, I well recall hearing my eldest son, David, playing his guitar in the bedroom. He was a fine lad and a good son to me. He was a practising Christian and seemed to have some experience of the Holy Spirit. For some time he had been more and more absorbed with the music scene and was engaged in the coffee-bar evangelism we'd set up in the city of Canterbury. Now he was singing, what seemed to me, weird words 'Who am V 'Won't somebody tell me who I am?' It was all beyond me then. I thought everyone knew who they were. I knew who I was: Maurice Louis Smith, Sales Manager, gifted speaker, ex-Indian Army Officer, father of four, with few problems! Looking back it seemed that No. 1 son was certainly a few steps ahead of his dad at the time, for it was to be a full ten years before the same words would issue forth from my own mouth when under extreme pressure. I desperately wanted to know who I was, as a permanent awareness. For years I had been feeling in-and-out of the spirit, or in-and-out of Christ, like the weatherman on the clock. All going fair equals 'in Christ'.' All going wrong, not in Christ. Of course it was the cursed results of living under law , living by standards. As Paul wrote to the Galatians, when they lived under law they

removed themselves from the grace of God.' Either he'd got to be their life, or they had. He and they couldn't live it together or they'd be a split personality. Roger Davin from Minnesota, once delivered some ministry to our fellowship of Christians, and he entitled it: Identity Precedes Function. Marvellous I thought; but it became costly to discover that identity, and to learn to live believing in it. That meant coming to an end of my own living, to find my all in him; to find that he and I were truly one.
A few years ago it was my good fortune to spend a few days in the beautiful home of Derek Prince in Florida. Derek seemed as much at home in the deep comfort of his home as living in Israel, or previously I believe, in the scrubland of Africa in a hut. I spent a good part of the day languishing in his pool, as the temperature was high and the humidity incredible. It was all a far cry from home in Romford and most enjoyable. At the end of our stay, Derek -gave me an autographed copy of his book 'Appointment in Jerusalem', which was really the life story of his late wife, Lydia, and her great work in Israel. Try as I may, I could not get into that book. Several times I took it from my bookshelf and stoically tackled it. But no, I could not get interested. In the midst of my troubles however, I had nonchalantly taken it in hand again and was absorbed from the first moment.

Either he'd got to be their life,

or they had.

He and they couldn't live it together

or they'd be a split personality.

From this book I learned more of how easy it is to function when you are just being yourself, doing what you want to do, and not forever worrying about your identity. Lydia had heard that, 'to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good's properly translated really meant 'God has a special task for everyone!' Having come
through my identity crisis, I could begin to see that my place is unique. There was no point envying who someone else was, or wanting to do what they were doing. I could just trust God. A vessel unto honour, a vessel unto dishonour? 6 'Of him, and through him, and to him, are all things." I suppose some will now have to add 'fatalist' to their list of designations, but it's not that at all, because I am speaking not with resignation but with faith. I can't escape from the sovereignty of God, and I want to respond! Once again I'm caught holding two seeming irreconcilables, one in each hand. It's a comfortable position to be in when you've nothing to prove.

The helpful pilgrims were crowding in now, I'm glad to say. At one time I seemed surrounded by Job's comforters," but now the appointments have a sort of divine timing about them. Six years had elapsed since my visit to Florida, and now I was preparing to go back to the States to the home of Peter and Brenda Parris. They were an English couple who had gone, with their children, to live in Little Rock, Arkansas. Eileen and myself, along with Matthew our youngest son, needed a break, and we jumped at the offer to visit the slow-moving Southern State. We found the advertising to be true, 'Arkansas is a natural'. We spent lazy day after lazy day by the pool at the 'Y', and soaked in the sun and the surroundings. The home was a haven of rest to us and I could almost feel myself being done good to.
There was just one small enigma hanging over the trip. Earlier in the year I had toured South West England briefly with a prophetic team of men under the leadership of Graham Perrins from Cardiff. It had been a most instructive time for me, when I had received several words of prophecy myself. All of them had a distinct ring of truth about them and seemed to me both complementary and progressive. One man in the team was Lattie McDonough from Joplin, Missouri, and he asked me one day when I was coming to America again.
'I'm not,' I replied, and he looked puzzled. 'Are you sure?' he persisted.
'Well, I'm not coming to minister-, but I do have a holiday booked and I really need that. I don't need a ministry tour!'
He smiled knowingly and said,
'When you come to the U.S.A., the doors will open wide for you!'
You could have blown me over, for it was the last thing I had in mind, and I had come to know that Lattie was usually spot on with his words from God.
So here we were, near the end of our time in the United States and no doors had opened, well, cer-tainly not wide. We'd shared a little with our friends in Little Rock, Russelville, and New York, but nothing you could call a fulfilment of such a specific word. Just two days to go and Peter asked me if I'd like to accompany him to a small house meeting on the other side of town. Eileen stayed home whilst Brenda and we men went off together. I'd already expressed that I'd rather sit and listen that evening and Peter said he had some thoughts he'd like to share. We arrived and settled in, and I met up again with some of the folks who were getting to be just like family to me after only a few weeks. First a short time of singing together, then Peter started to speak. He has always been an excellent communicator and brought a natural sense of God's presence with his delivery. This was different; it sounded just like a familiar tune - but now being played by the greatest musician on earth. I guess the setting was just right. It was perfect timing. Peter was telling us how seeing ourselves as separate from God, was the main problem with Christians today. This dualistic type of thinking had robbed us of our inheritance. I won't attempt to emulate it, because I couldn't. Every word was going home and revealing and confirming all God had been impressing on me over the recent months and years. He and I were one.Feelings were secondary not primary. The fact was our union." The performance in no way affects the fact. The reverse was the truth. Believe that and there would be a difference. I guessed Peter had learned all this in the hard school of experience. Then he suddenly stopped and said,
'If I continue we'll just have a good evening, but God wants to do something special here tonight.'
He then asked me to add anything if I could. I sensed that what he had spoken had had more effect on me than on many of the others. Briefly I recorded how many years ago I had seen myself as dead (to sin) I in Christ, and that I had enjoyed one year of ecstatic high flying when nothincy worried me. Then I had crashed from a great altitude and experienced gross darkness and confusion. How could I get back to that place when I saw I was dead with nothing to worry about: How could I rest continually and abide in the promised land? The fact that I had now died to the law also, was established in me. No more trying to be a Christian. I knew that didn't pay off. I thought secretly, 'But what a shattering experience it's all been, and what havoc all my self-effort has caused to myself and especially to others. My family had been through hell on earth really, and bore the marks caused through an insecure and immature father. Oh yes, my pilgrimage had been sincere enough, but at what cost to others?' The past concerned me.
'I think we should pray now,' said Peter and we were quiet for a while and a few took part in the same quiet spirit. To me we were on holy ground, I sensed the weight of God's presence more intensely than I've ever known it. I actually took my shoes off, nothing else seemed appropriate." It was a hot night so I guessed no one would think it strange, but I knew something special was happening. Then Peter started to read from Daniel and suddenly a phrase penetrated right into me, as though driven home by a divine arrow; 'Those that have revelation shall be brought down, in order that they might be purified . . . " 5 1 asked Peter to read it again. It was too good to be true. I had been brought down. Brought down! God had done it, not me. Not all my selfish struggling and striving. Not just my insecurity and self-centredness. God!
God was in everything. In all my failures, in all my circuitous route into the promised land of rest. No doubt I'd have to stand and declare that glorious positive fact in the face of many negative feelings and appearances in the days ahead, but no need to worry about that. This is now. This is God speaking again. I could explore at leisure, but this was a time for truth to do its work."
It was then that Brenda began to prophesy. 17 1 had shared nothing of Lattie McDonough's original prophesy with her, so you can imagine my surprise
was considerable when she said something like this:
'Your life has been one of doors. You have come up to a beautiful door and gone through it, full of expectation. Then you have found yourself in a corridor, and have walked the length of this and found another door. You have been delighted and gone through again and found another corridor. This has been repeated through all your experience; doors and corridors. But tonight in this place, the doors open wide for you and you walk through and into freedom.'
Word for word! 'The doors will open wide for you.' I could hardly believe my ears. They were Lattie's words exactly. And I had been thinking of doors of ministry! All through the years I had been coming to beautiful doors of revelation and walking through them and finding a confined space; but now the confinement was over. The death blow had been struck to separatist thinking. Christ and I were one. I knew it. He was in me; I was in him; we were in the Father. That long-loved chapter seventeen of John was coming true in my life. Not by the organisation of a super church, not by getting our structures all correct, but by his glorious way! By the mystery of. 'I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one,' and 'Christ in (us), the hope of glory.' Christ in us all, as the be-all and the end-all. The mystery hidden for so long —God's eternal purpose, to sum up all things in Christ — had edged forward a notch, as I acknowledged my place in him. Now by letting Christ live through me, in good times and seemingly bad times, I had found my identity. I really was a permanent part of the body of Christ. I was Maurice
Christ. He was living as me. Jesus Christ was the unique son of God and my Lord, and to say I was Jesus Christ would be blasphemy; but now after years of trying to find my identity in myself, I had found my identity in him. These two words, 'in him', or similar, seem to appear more than any others in the New Testament. And, of course, they contain the secret of consistent living. The Good News Bible translates the phrase as 'in union with him' time and time again. I find that very helpful. Now the identity is fixed. Wherever I wake up, I wake up as myself. I don't have to do anything to become me. I am me. If I feel bad, I'm a new man in Christ, part of the second man 2(not the second Adam). The last Adam has gone, buried with Christ. If I don't behave like the usual me, it's an off day, but it's still me.
Perhaps it would be helpful here to repeat that, of course it never really was 'us' that were at fault anyway. We are always containers of someone else, expressers of one God or another. Previous to our receiving the life of Christ, the son of the living God, we did the works of our father the devil," the god of this world;" but now that one who so misused us has been dealt the death blow at the Cross." We see now that he was the trouble all the time, not us. You may object that not all works previous to conversion are evil, and I would agree; but they do all stem from the forked tree of the knowledge of good and evil and it doesn't matter whether we were up the good fork, or the evil fork –neither were the Tree of Life. We were not living by the faith of the Son of God" but faith in ourselves, and the fruit of that wrong tree was, and is, the law of sin and death . Once again we're back to
that old basic sin – independence. That was the life that Satan expressed through us, whether nicely or horridly; we were doing our own thing, producing fruit from the wrong tree." Now the axe has been laid to the root of that tree in our lives." But no more are we fooled into thinking separation. We are one with Christ and totally dependent upon his living out his life as us. From time to time we may forget who we are, but more and more we become fixed in our understanding that Christ is formed in us."
We can't really function properly, as Roger Davin says, until we know who we are; identity really does precede function. Once we do know, we stop worrying about ourselves and start living for others. Now I'm not referring to some obviously sacrificial life-style necessarily, but it just starts to be natural, because we've been released from concern with ourselves, and our own progress and performance. We are now depending on the one who cares, who lives in us.

At last those two confusing verses at the end of Romans seven held meaning for me. Hitherto they had ruined the whole argument; now they upheld it and gave it total credence. After Paul has ranted on desperately about not doing what he wants to do, and doing what he doesn't want to do, he concludes that it's not the real him that's doing all this, but an intruder called sin . 'O.K.' he says, `it's not really me; but who is going to deliver me from this dead body of sin ' which I continually carry around?' With a final shaft of divine revelation he shouts, 'I thank God through Jesus Christ!' He sees before that the blood of Christ has cleansed him from his sins 11 and now the dying body of Christ has really freed him from the sinner. Paul saw he was,Buried with Christ, and raised with him too; What is there left for me to do?
Simply to cease from struggling and strife, Simply to walk in newness of life.
Glory be to God!
T. Ryder (Hymn)
They are the facts. Then he goes on to say, 'So, then, with the mind I serve the law of God; but with the flesh, the law of sin' . . . and . . . 'there is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christl` There were no dividing chapter headings in his letter; it's all one flowing argument. He's totally free from condemnation and up into the promised land of rest at last. Whether he sins or not is not the issue. He is in Christ. Full stop! He has been set free by the death of Christ. He's free to sin or not to sin. Of course the new man in him hates sin, but he is no longer thrown because of his performance. He is completely dead to the law of pleasing God. He lives by faith. He takes it at absolute face value that he is in Christ, and Christ is living in him and as him, whether he observes sin in his members or not.
If you now try and interject, 'Oh, well then he will not sin'; you are going too fast. You have to simply believe what he says regardless of your performance. We die with our eyes closed. We do not keep opening one eye to peek at our performance, or continually dig the 'old man' out of his grave. Dangerous? It's dynamite. It'll set you free. Remember if we deep, deep down want to live in sin, we're not Christians at all. God just never condemns us, sin or not. The law will, and the religious people may stone us; but Christ will always say, 'I don't condemn you,' as he did to the woman when the stoners were all ready to go into action." He was condemned that we might never be. We were included in his judgement and death, and should not now judge ourselves . This will only ring true in those like Paul, and like me, and like countless others, who have ached and longed to live a holy life. They get the hymn-writer's revelation: 'Holiness by faith in Jesus, not by effort of my own.' We consent to the law that it is good, but find the only way to keep to it is to die to it! Even then it's not a set of laws we're referring to, but the higher 'law' of love.
It all finally locked into place for me when I returned home from a week's holiday with my wife. I nonchalantly asked if there was any news of my son, who was in Spain for the World Football Cup. Within moments I had learned that he'd had his money stolen and all his match tickets were taken too. With all else that was going on, this was the final straw. I was inwardly furious, but quickly covered up my anger with a graceful murmur of 'Praise the Lord' and forced myself to insincerely mouth, 'all things work together for good'. I quietly made my way to my garden office. Once inside I felt I wanted to rant and rave. I'd come to the end of this plastic attempt to be gracious and somehow trying to let a Christ-like image be squeezed through my raging emotions. On holiday, I'd just read an article by an American called Bill Volkman who had met a man who had said that he was free to swear, and Bill had at first reacted and felt the danger of it all. Now swearing was all I wanted to do. So I did. Not the one single expletive which I'd uttered all those years ago, when God came and showed me that he collected failures. Oh nol This was the works. I went on and on, letting God have my full-bridled vocabulary. Another son, Jason, looked into the office and I gave him a piece of my mind and shouted,
'Don't expect me to be nice; if God can't keep his eye on my family for just one week, he can't expect me to walk about like a Holy Joe!' My wife got an earful too and I never shouted at her, I was too nice a Christian. Daughter Josslyn was next In line.
`You've seen the last of gracious Maurice,' I stormed. I kept this up for two whole days. If Christ didn't come through without my help then he wouldn't come through at all, and I'd be like this for the rest of my life.
Gradually I noticed two strange things were happening. First I wasn't worrying at all about my son in Spain, whereas I had worried about my family ever since they were born. Secondly, I felt God's smile was on me continually. I sensed he was winking at my sin. I remembered vaguely the Archbishop who said, 'Oh that men would vent their anger into the bosom of the Lord who is well able to bear it!' God just would not condemn me. 'You're in Christ son,' was all I could hear. The price was paid, the slave set free. Absolutely free to do what I wanted. 'I didn't break your chains of iron to bind you up again. Any chains I put on you now, are chains of gossamer' – that's how a family friend, Doris Barton, expressed it so beautifully to me when I visited her in Aberdeen. 'You can break free whenever you want.' All of a sudden there was no point in swearing. The law was dead and sin had lost its power." Abuse turned to quiet praise. The superior law of life of being in Christ Jesus had
set me free from the law of sin and death." I could full-bloodedly sing the last two verses of Romans seven with Paul at last, and I leaped joyfully straight into Romans eight. (Do excuse anv theo-logical jargon but after so many years struggling in
those chapters, it's how I think now.) All I can do now is cry with the freed slaves of old, I love my Master. Make me a bond-slave Lord; pierce my ear at the door!" Having been set totally free I find I want to serve on; but it must be that way round. I know what the ancient hymn-writer meant now: 'In whose service is perfect freedom!' I can do what I like now; I'm really one with St. Augustine when he said, 'Love God, and do as you like.'
Dave Bryant, in one of his latest songs, sings these words:
There are no prison walls of religion and law that could ever hold the life we share; The bond of peace and irresistible love Are the only chains that we'll ever wear ...
and who could encapsulate our imprisonment to love more poignantly or poetically?
I do not care to debate with you the conse-quences of all this. If you say, 'Do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature"'; then my re-joinder is simply, 'Who wants to?' But 'It is for freedom that Christ has set us free' not to start keeping the law again." Whew! What a long haul it has been to take God at face value and trust in his son's complete work at Calvary. This was glorious and good news. It is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me. 'and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God'. I never knew those words. 'and the life which I now live' were in the text. Truly now, 'For me to live is Christ. "' Passivity is gone; I'm back with a bang, enjoying 'the life which I now live'. I know the revelation of this chapter of the book is all mixed up with that of the previous chapter, but that's how it happened with me. Not all chronological and clinical; but like mists clearing away. Getting a glimpse and losing it, until finally the light of day is breathtakingly clear. The fresh morning air cries out: 'Everest fills all'; or Christ 'fills all in all'. A continuous fixation has come. All is of God."'

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