Outside the Gates
*Scriptural references taken from the New King James Version.
Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate (Heb. 13:12).
Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach (Heb. 13:13).
Traditionally and historically, the contemporary Church has been content to let Jesus do all the suffering—while She herself goes about Her business, doing Her own thing, and avoiding situations that might otherwise cause discomfort. In this way She has sought to enjoy all the benefits that go with the Christian walk, while also removed from the trials and tribulations that often accompany it.
We rarely take into consideration that Jesus’ physical pain was only a small part of his suffering as He hung on the Cross outside the gates. The unbearable shame and disgrace that was connected with a Roman Cross in particular, was the height of rejection and considered an utter curse in the eyes of society. It is for this reason the disciples fled when it dawned on them that their Master would not evade this horrific disgrace—allowing Himself to become open shame for all to see. If He being the figurative green tree was to suffer in this manner, what may we expect to experience, seeing that we are a figurative dry or dead tree? (Luke 23:31).
The disgrace of the Cross is painful, and will usually lead us where we do not want to go—in the natural man. There are many ways to avoid these painful paths, but it will always be at the cost of our witness of Jesus, and very often includes the betrayal of a brother or sister in Christ.
When Peter was confronted concerning his association with Jesus, the fear and the extreme pressure of the moment caused him to deny Him. The test always comes during a time of unavoidable pressure. Natural man will without fail, seek an escape route in moments like these, and very often at the cost of others.
Many times over many years, I have been told by suffering Christians who had been under communist regimes, that the physical suffering paled in comparison to the shame and disgrace that was inflicted by the betrayal of a brother or sister in Christ. This is especially magnified when such scenarios come through trusted friends or leaders in the Church. The biographical portrait of Brother Yun in the book entitled The Heavenly Man, paints a contemporary picture of a man who has endured unspeakable torture at the hands of communist prison guards. Medically speaking, he should have died on numerous occasions on the count of the severity of his torture. The book is truly heart-wrenching to read, even for those among us who have suffered severely ourselves. One particularly sobering excerpt of Brother Yun’s story is that which occurred near the very end of the book. For it so happened that not long after Brother Yun had made a full recovery from his severe physical abuse, he was invited to speak at a conference in North America. When he arrived at the ministry venue, discernment told him that something had gone terribly wrong. In short, a Christian Brother had circulated a slanderous report that Brother Yun’s story was largely fabricated, and contained little merit. Subsequently a large number of Believers associated with his visit believed the slander. Brother Yun goes on to say that of all the physical torture he endured at the hands of communist torturers in prison; it paled in comparison to the indescribable pain of slander within the Body of Christ. It literally brought him to his knees with anguish.
In the Amish culture where I grew up, a bishop was considered to be the shepherd of the flock, which is also a biblical standard (Titus 1:7:9). However, apart from few exceptions, these shepherds often became rulers, if not dictators, using the people to shield themselves from disgrace, often done under a cloak of holy concern for the flock. The temptation for any leader in any capacity is extremely great, to use those under them as manipulated subordinates rather than respected equals. The definition of a shepherd is that of a willingness to lay down one’s life when the sheep are at stake—precisely what Jesus did for you and me. He bore the shame that belonged to us. He bore it outside the safe confines of the Church; He was fully exposed, with no one coming to His aid, or sharing the deep shame and disgrace with Him, apart from some women who chose to serve Him in his hour of need.
The disgrace associated with bearing the Cross always comes when we refuse to use others, or even Jesus Himself. To save ourselves while under pressure, is the folly of the ages, something men have been doing since the initial fall of man. If at any time we chose not to use others, it invariably takes us outside the camp, where we become fully exposed, which is always painful. We may choose to pay now, or we may chose to pay later (1 Tim. 5:24). The tragedy lay in the consequential deception lurking in the shadows of situations that we are unwilling to face. Our unwillingness will, sooner or later, come back to haunt us. It is for this reason that many Christians who have started out well, will end up with a seared conscience. Many become slanderers and traitors, cloaked in a form of godliness (2 Tim. 3:1-5)—a mask which dully hides indigenous sin.
We have presently reached a point in history, wherein the greatest potential for deception lurks around every corner. Never before, than at any point in the history of the ages, have spirits of deception so boldly marched among our ranks. Even the very elect may not always have correct discernment (Matt. 24:24). To go looking for false prophets is not the answer to this dilemma, as we will likely not find them. Dangerous levels of deception will at times come through some of the finest Christians we know.
It is when we become lax in our dedication to intimacy with Christ (see Rev. 3:16), and as God subsequently allows it, that Satan will be granted permission to place a veil of extreme deception over our hearts and minds, a deception that can then be manipulated through some of the best giftings we have been given by God. We will then use these giftings to our self-destruction, and the destruction of others—all in “the name of Jesus.” This is the spirit that Job dealt with, and only God could reveal its deception, for we of ourselves do not have the capacity to discern it. (Job 41:33-34). It is for this reason that we can no longer remain independent from other parts of Christ’s Body. It will take every part to bring together the full picture of revelation, where no deception remains uncovered. This takes a level of humility that few have attained, yet which all can obtain, through a heart-posture of brokenness, humility and contrition before the Lord.
I have often heard some say that they want everything God has for them, and that they are “ready to pay the price.” I am delighted to hear such things, yet I often cringe when I hear such a statement, for we never truly comprehend the depth of testings this will bring. The things we do wrong will never be the issue with God, for He always foresees our blunders way in advance. The issue is rather when we begin evading the Cross that is waiting “outside the gates.” It is here, in and through complete exposure of our hearts, that God will sanctify us from all inherent blemishes and deceptions, our spiritual “blind spots.” This is the essence of Grace.
God’s infinite grace is not without its painful moments; in fact it is through God’s chastening that He will elevate us from being illegitimate children to becoming His loving sons (Heb. 12:5-14). A son, unlike an illegitimate child or a servant, comes into the full inheritance of Christ; nothing that God has is withheld from him (John 15:15).
True nobility is found in those who open their hearts to others, and in a posture of Christ-likeness, cover their shame.
The Master’s Call
*Scriptural excerpts are drawn from the New King James Version.
“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness…” (Isaiah 58:6-9).
Do we presently grasp the urgency of repentance? In pondering this question, let’s more closely examine the above excerpt of Isaiah 58.
In verses 6 and 7, the Lord is clearly revealing the “fast” which He has chosen for us. Then, in verses 8 and 9, He tells us what we’re promised—our light will break forth, healing will come speedily, our righteousness will go before us, His Glory will be our rear guard, and we will call and He will answer. In the same verse (9), He says IF you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness.
Through recent and personal prayer and fasting, God has revealed His heart in a way that I have never before experienced. It brought about a chastisement that resulted in a new measure of peace and freedom, as well as a new sense of urgency to heed God’s call within the context of Isaiah 58. The accuser of the brethren presently has a tremendous impact in the Church abroad. For in and through the accusing of one another, we open the door of our hearts to the critical spirit, to engage our hearts. This demonic engagement then becomes a part of us, and it grows rapidly, unless we choose to walk in the context of Isaiah 58:6.
Proverbs 18:21 says that “death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those that love it will eat its fruit.” Have we fully weighed the consequences of eating the fruit of our tongue? The fruit which Solomon speaks of will come about; God’s word does not return void. Consider Hebrews 4:12-13, which reads, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
Consider why it is that we see so little healings or seemingly unanswered prayer; or hurting, depressed people, and the world going from bad to worse? Is this not a reflection of the condition the Church at large? The warnings we have in God’s Word are not for the lost, they are for we Christians. God knew that the lost wouldn’t be reading His word. God’s promise in Isaiah 58:8-9 is conditional—our light will break forth, healing will come speedily, the Lord’s Glory will be our rear guard, and we will call and He will answer—IF we take the pointing of the finger and the malicious talk from our midst. Take special note of the word “IF”.
We have multitudes of hurting and wounded people around us. If we would choose to walk in God’s principle of not slandering, and pointing of the finger, we would in turn walk in the fullness of our callings, and our impact upon those around us would be so much more fruitful, even profound. However, overcoming these demonic influences and strongholds, is a choice—we must choose to overcome. Let me expand a bit on just what I mean.
A couple of years ago a sister in the Lord shared her side of a story pertaining to a grievance against her husband. Considering what she shared, I could see why she was frustrated. But Mark 10:9 says, “Therefore what God had joined together, let not man separate.” I knew that no matter how bad the situation was, I simply could not feed that wound. So, I gave her biblical admonishment, and said, “If you walk where you need to walk, according to Ephesians 5:24, God will bring him back in line, if in fact he is out of line.” Ephesians 5:24 reads: “Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be subject to their own husbands in everything.” Later, I asked her how she was doing and I got the same story, so I gave her the same admonishment. And that was it—she never confided in me again, but turned to other sisters who, sad to say, fed her wounds. To this day, that sister’s marriage is still hurting. Feeding a wound against someone’s spouse is going against God’s word, just as it says in Mark 10:9, “What God has joined together, let not man separate.”
In the Old Testament, the people had to literally break God’s commandments in order for judgment to ensue. On this note, consider Matthew 5:17, wherein Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law and the prophets. I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” Breaking a commandment is just as much a heart-condition as it is that of performing it outwardly. Matthew 5:27-28 says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Can we see that it is just as much a condition of the heart, than a condition of outward action?
This same principle applies when brother is pitted against brother. If we are not willing to render biblical admonishment when it is called for, we will feed wounds with the wrong medicine—bringing judgment on ourselves. If we could all walk according to God’s word within this principle, countless hurting souls would be empowered to overcome. Consider the foundation of Thessalonians 2:4, which reads: “But as we were allowed of God to be entrusted with the Gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which tries our hearts.”
Isaiah 58:7 calls us to share our bread with the hungry. We need to apply the appropriation of this bread to the natural, and in the spiritual. In John 6:35, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” So why not share this bread with a brother who is offended and spews venom against another brother? This could bring life to his soul and bring blessing upon our own life, versus that of separating ourselves from God with a wrong response. This may sound like strong language, but let’s take a look at Isaiah 59:1-3, which reads: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue has muttered perversity.” Furthermore, James 3:8-10 says, “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.”
One writer wrote that criticism is the number one way by which we release the spirit of poverty into our own lives. This can be financial and spiritual poverty. How do we expect answered prayer and blessings, if we judge, criticize and tear each other down? Matthew 7:1-2 reads, “Judge not that you be not judged; and with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” This does not mean to compromise and to call evil good. Look also at Matthew 18:15, which reads: “Moreover, if a brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” This does not say to accuse him to another brother and sow discord.
Let’s be ever mindful to first remove the plank in our own eye so we can see clearly to remove the speck in our brother’s eye, as reflected in Matthew 7:5. I think that God is saying in this passage that if we remove the plank in our own eye, which is the critical spirit, then we will look differently at our brother, and, if need be, we will be able to admonish him in Christ’s spirit and bring life to him. We are also admonished in 2 Corinthians 10:5, in this way: “Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
We may question the harm of mere thoughts. We may ask ourselves what possible harm our secret thoughts have on our environment. What we do with our thoughts is a driving force behind the contents of our heart. If this were not true, then why would Christ have put this passage in His word for us? This shows us again what Matthew 5 says about commandments. Before Christ came, they had to literally break the commands, but since Christ came our heart-conditions can bring about the same results of outwardly breaking commandments. If for example, I hate a brother and never mention it or physically do anything to him, I’m still a murderer. If I’m critical in my thoughts and never voice it, I’m still an accuser. Adultery is no different—we may see it unfold with our eyes outwardly, but how much adultery does God see in our hearts?
By taking all thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (notice the “all”), and walking in this way ongoing, we take a profound step in further rendering ourselves a pure and spotless Bride for Jesus.
As we have pondered the implications of Isaiah 58:8-9; is there anything we’d be lacking if we put from our midst the pointing of the finger and malicious talk? God is showing us great mercy and grace in this last hour as the end-times rapidly unfold. And with intensity He is placing His probing finger upon our hearts—challenging us to purge our lives of all that hinders us from remaining in His constant embrace.