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This is a lengthy post. I am told that most folks won't read anything that takes more than five minutes. This article may take a bit longer, but you may find it worth the time. It is in some ways, a record of the last few years of my life as I have grown in Christ to deeper understanding of what it means to be "in Him."

I have over the years (more than 60 now) come to understand that to walk with Him requires a great deal more of a man than I had imagined in my youth. I do understand more clearly now what Paul meant when he said, "He has predestined us to be conformed to the image of His dear Son." mkg

 Broken and spilled out, just for love of you, Jesus

My most precious treasure lavished on thee

Broken and spilled out and poured at your feet

In sweet abandon let me be spilled out

And used up for Thee 

Steve Green

Broken - A thing broken; shattered, twisted, batteries dead, springs sprung -- no longer wanted, useless.  A person broken; shattered, twisted, scarred; broken trusts, broken dreams, hope gone, victimized and deeply, deeply bruised.  No one wants to be broken.


Yet, if one reads the Scriptures carefully, he will see that brokenness is precisely what God is seeking of us.  Or, as Watchman Nee writes in Release of the Spirit, “there is just one basic dealing which can enable man to be useful before God: brokenness.”


Jesus said in Matthew 16, “If any man will come after me, let him first deny himself and daily take up his cross and follow me.” Only now do I begin to feel the weight of His words, “for whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but the one who will lose his life for my sake, will find it.”  Jesus promised that I could have life, and “that MORE ABUNDANTLY.”


There is a dilemma is this:  It is only as I die to myself that I can apprehend that more abundant life that Jesus gives.  Jesus didn’t come to save me, but to kill me, and then raise me up - a new creation.  He puts it this way: “Except a grain of wheat fall to the ground and die it abides alone, but if it dies it will bear much fruit.”


When King David was confronted with his sin by the prophet Nathan regarding his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, he fell on his face before the Lord, broken under a great weight of guilt and remorse.  He cried out to God, "You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; nor are You pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Ps 51:16-17).


On another occasion David declares: "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Ps 34:18) In Matthew 5:3, Jesus said: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The "poor in spirit" are those who are spiritually broken.


We resist brokenness. I don’t want to be broken. You don’t want to be broken. We feel pity for those we see as broken. We set up programs to “heal” the broken; little realizing that it is our brokenness that presses us against that thinnest of membranes separating us from life in the flesh and living in the spirit.


It’s really alright to be broken. God’s Word says that He is very near the brokenhearted, and He saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18) If we allow Him, Jesus will pick up the pieces of our broken lives; the shattered dreams, the violations, the wounds and scars of abuses, the broken trusts, the abandonment and rejection, no matter how horrible or ugly; and cause them to be a sweet aroma of healing and restoration in countless lives. If we continue to hate the brokenness it will become a foul-smelling stench that pushes everyone away from us.


While Jesus was visiting some friends, a woman of some questionable character entered the house where he sat, carrying a flask filled with a very rare and precious ointment. To the shock and dismay of those watching, she broke that beautiful flask and poured the expensive ointment over the feet of Jesus and as she wept in an act of extravagant worship, she dried His feet with her hair. (Matthew 26).  In this extraordinary act of humility and devotion this woman became the unwitting symbol of great spiritual truth: The outward must be broken to release our inward, or spiritual man. I am challenged again by the words of Nee:


“The Bible tells of the pure spikenard. God purposely used this term "pure" in His Word to show that it is truly spiritual. But if the alabaster box is not broken, the pure spikenard will not flow forth. Strange to say, many are still treasuring the alabaster box, thinking that its value exceeds that of the ointment. Many think that their outward man is more precious than their inward man. This becomes the problem in the Church. One will treasure his cleverness, thinking he is quite important; another will treasure his own emotions, esteeming himself as an important person; others highly regard themselves, feeling they are better than others, their eloquence surpasses that of others, their quickness of action and exactness of judgment are superior, and so forth. However, we are not antique collectors; we are not vase admirers; we are those who desire to smell only the fragrance of the ointment. Without the breaking of the outward, the inward will not come forth. Thus, individually we have no flowing out, but even the Church does not have a living way. Why then should we hold ourselves as so precious, if our outward contains instead of releases the fragrance?”      (Watchman Nee, Release of the Spirit)


Oh, I am so guilty of treasuring the alabaster box, but the treasure held in my earthen vessel is contained and not released. Men may see me, admire me, envy me, follow me; but I am hiding Christ and He is not seen because of me, because I remain unbroken. We talk a lot about the cross in the church. It is so familiar a symbol to us that we lose its meaning. But what is the cross really? It is the cross that destroys our alabaster. The cross is an instrument of death; death to the outward man so that the inward man, the aroma of Christ can be released. The cross kills the outward man and all that belongs to him—our opinions, our ways, our cleverness, our self-love, our all.


From The Epistle to Diognetus, c. AD 130


The author is not known, but we know it was written a hundred years or so after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. In this brief paragraph, we have a beautifully preserved and magnificent description of Christian living in those early days of the church. It strikes a radically different image than many who follow Christ today. Listen carefully:


“They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all others; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death and restored to life. They are poor yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things and yet abound in all; they are dishonored and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of and yet are justified; they are reviled and bless; they are insulted and repay the insult with honor; they do good yet are punished as evildoers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred. To sum it all up in one word -- what the soul is to the body, that are Christians in the world.”


Most American Christians don’t understand the concept of martyrdom. It is an altogether foreign, and honestly, terrifying concept to us as a people who have lived in relative ease and freedom from consequences of faith. Few western believers are aware that Christians are the most persecuted of all people groups.  Roughly 100,000 Christians are slaughtered each year, because they are Christian; a number that is trending steadily upward, especially with the rise in militancy of the Islamic movement. 100,000 a year . . . that is roughly one Christ follower beheaded, burned alive, beaten or hacked to death, or crucified EVERY SIX MINUTES.


The enemies of Christ continue their march, driven by a bloodlust against those who follow His teachings; determined to exterminate all who swear allegiance to the Cross. This is not a new development, a new wrinkle in the advance of evil in the earth. It is as it has always been. What may be more shocking to the comfortable, nominal Christian is that it is not going to stop. Those darkly driven forces are sweeping across the globe with a frantic hunger to silence the voice of Christ.  What is the Christian to do?  We must embrace the spirit of martyrdom.


We have forgotten (or were never taught) that to follow Christ is to die to self, to die to the world; ultimately, to die to this life. Jesus said that to follow Him means to “deny oneself, to take up a cross daily and follow Him.”  Many are eager to follow Christ through the gates of pearl to walk on streets of gold, but few realize that the pathway to heaven is by way of the cross.


Jesus said in Acts 1:8: “After the Holy Spirit has come you will receive the power to be my witnesses; first in Jerusalem and then Judea, and then Samaria and unto the farthest reaches of the planet.”  It is a well known verse familiar to most Christians. However, most Christians do not know that the Greek word most commonly translated as witness can also be translated as martyr.


For the early believer, his death was his witness, while for the modern believer witnessing is pretty much limited to handing someone a tract or posting a Scripture on social media.


In many nations, faithful men and women are offering up their lives as a witness to Christ. They are sharing in the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 4:13). They have understood that to share in His glory, we must also share in His suffering. (Romans 8:17). To inherit His Kingdom, I must drink from His cup. When James and John wanted to share Jesus' throne, he asked them, "Can you drink from the cup from which I drink?" 


For many, to acknowledge Christ is to invite death. In many places the cross is not a piece of jewelry, it is a mark of death. To embrace the life of Christ is to release any hold on life in this world. To be a “witness” under many flags is a sure pathway to martyrdom and to offer the life of Christ to a man in spiritual bondage often comes at the price of one’s own life; giving new meaning to the Scripture that declares, “Greater love hath no man than this, that he would lay down his life for his friend.” (John 15:13)


What is most remarkable is that in the places where suffering is the greatest, men are coming to Christ in unprecedented numbers. In his work called Apology, the Latin apologist Tertullian made this now-famous comment: “The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.”  Tertullian lived during one of the most violent periods of Roman persecution, but he noticed that paradoxically, the more Christians died for their faith, the more their numbers grew. The astonishing courage and love shown by the early martyrs inspired many pagan Romans to embrace Christianity.


Somehow, the suffering of some Christians spurred others to more faithful living. The apostle Paul noted that “most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear” (Phil. 1:14). Through all the terrible persecutions of the early centuries the church continued to grow.  When faith is forbidden, it comes to life; and rather than killing it, persecution energizes the church.


Conversely, when dwelling in safety Christianity becomes sedentary. The resulting obesity renders us moribund, totally lacking in vigor or vitality and unwilling to stretch ourselves for anything but the next “meal.”  Wherever believers languish in relative ease and free of persecution, we stagnate and our zeal wanes. We have become increasingly comfortable with the flow of the culture and often, are relatively indistinguishable in heart from the culture around us; content to co-exist with the world.


One percent fewer Americans each year associate in any way with the church.  Most denominations and congregations report declining membership and attendance. More and more congregations are closing their doors forever. And now, the youngest generation is the least inclined to engage in the life of the church.  That marks a decline likely to have lasting impact.  Despite the presence of huge, mega-churches with multiplied thousands in attendance, the church is clearly having little impact on American life and culture.  Why is this?Because we are too alive to self.  

The martyr does not die when a bullet pierces his heart, or when the sword is put to his neck. No! The martyr dies when he sells out to Christ. He dies to his own self, considering this life to be a passing moment en route to his ultimate home with Christ, and not worthy of clinging to.  It is said of the early church fathers, “they loved not their lives unto death.”  


When the executioner comes, he is helpless to take the life of the martyr because that life has already been given to another. Therefore, Paul could cry out, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”


Leonard Ravenhill, in his great work, “Why Revival Tarries” declares, “The early church was married to poverty, prisons and persecutions. Today, the church is married to prosperity, personality, and popularity.”  Sharing in the sufferings of Christ is not on our radar, and the thought of embracing that possibility stands at an even greater distance. Despite the explicit warnings of Jesus and the apostles to the contrary, the possibility of being confronted with death or denying our faith has not been permitted within our collective consciousness. Martyrdom has little audience in health and wealth theology.


Without doubt, persecution will come to America.  Lives will be taken and families torn apart. Christ followers will be thrown into prison, beaten, and tortured because of their allegiance to Christ and His Kingdom. Many will recant in the face of it all unwilling to endure, because they are too alive to self.  The only way to survive the coming holocaust is to not survive; but rather, to die.  We must die to ourselves so that when they bring the sword to take life, there is nothing there to take.


Persecution will come in the relentless effort to stamp out the body of Christ, but it will succeed only in scattering the seed. Those who vainly seek to kill, will only watch as they see the true Bride of Christ emerge; glorious in her beauty, perfected through her suffering, and adorned for her husband. Many will gaze upon the spectacle and be drawn to Christ because of the blood of the saints, for as Tertullian proclaims, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of faith.”




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