The Beauty of Adversity

by Dan Stone

 

Taken from a message given by Dan Stone in Alexandria, Virginia on May 16, 1981

 

Our relationship to Christ has many facets, not all of which we see at once.  Initially we see our salvation in Christ, our freedom from condemnation, and the effects of sin, Later we begin to understand our freedom from sin itself.  And with that firm assurance of our godliness, we finally move out of ourselves and into the lives of others.  We become intercessors. 

 

Paul's letter to the Romans describes this three=part growth pattern.  Romans 1-5 emphasizes the blood of Christ as an atonement for our sins, Romans 6-8 shows how the body of Christ takes care of the person of sin; and Romans 9-15 deals with Christ's life in us as co-saviors for others.

 

Let's talk first about the blood and the body of Christ.  When we take communion, we are meant to see beyond the elements, "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread" (I Cor. 10:16). This is expanded on in Colossians 1:13-14: "[God] has delivered us from the power of darkness and has translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son, in whom we have redemption through His blood which is forgiveness of sins."

In verse 20, "Having made peace through the blood of his cross, by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven; and you who were sometimes alienated and enemies in mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death: to present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in His sight."

On one side of the cross you see the blood of Christ providing justification for the sins of the world. On the other side of the same cross you see the body of Christ and us in Him, made holy, blameless and unreproachable because of our new position in Christ.

Let us create a scene to demonstrate the blood side of the work of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. As part of a large audience, observers of a tremendous drama, we see the man Jesus being crucified. Someone walks up and lays around Jesus' neck the chain of adultery. Someone else walks up and lays around His neck the chain of fornication, another the chain of uncleanness. Others lay on Him lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, strife, seditions, envyings, murders, drunkenness, and so forth. As this picture of Jesus develops, we see draped on Him every expression of sin-and then we watch Him die.

The Holy Spirit steps forward and says to us, "Everything that you've done, I've laid on Him." An invitation is extended to all: "Will you receive this gift of mine? I've laid on Him all your sins which means they are not laid on you. If you will accept that transference as my love-gift to you, you're justified. You will be to Me as though you'd never committed them. "

All positively respond, "We accept that. As mere spectators all we can do is sit in the audience and hear someone tell us what all this means and accept it. In this analogy Christ pays the price for the sins of the world, and all we can do is receive the gift and, say "Thank you." Now if you are like I was for so many years, this was the only side of the cross you knew. But Paul turns the cross around and says, "Now wait a minute, don't go away too soon. We have another scene."

In this second scene, we are more than spectators-we are participants in Christ. To imagine this scene we must draw a big mental circle around the audience and see ourselves as one. We are all in Him. Paul, in describing the Lord's Supper says that we received the benefits of the blood, but we partake of the body of Christ (I Cor. 10:16-17). The body is all of us, so whatever is happening to the body is happening to us. We are not just observers of a drama on stage; we are the drama. It is as if Jesus loses His identity and becomes us.

The blood side of the cross expresses the glorious fact of our forgiveness, but the body side is a deeper truth. Paul shows us that we became Him, and He became us. We've put a lot of emphasis on Christ being in us, and rightly so. What Paul is teaching now is that we're in Him, so that we ourselves are on the cross.

The people standing watching Christ die are really on that cross themselves. What is happening is a death. We are not dealing with the human body which the Spirit lives in, but with what's happening to the Spirit when it leaves the body. When a body dies, the Spirit leaves and is no longer a part of the body.

The realm of God is the realm of spirit. God looks on the heart. That is why Jesus said to those people whose actions were supposed to be good and righteous, "You do what you see your father the Devil doing" (John 8:44). There are two fathers: God and Satan. We express one or the other.

Hebrews 2:14 says, "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, Jesus also Himself took part of the same, that through death, He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil." Satan has been destroyed as a person who can reign in our lives, captivate us, motivate us and keep us under control. When Christ died, we died-we participated in His death and lay in the grave three days, and were raised with Him on the third day.

Recently, I had lunch with a young couple and their two-year old. The child kept grabbing for the paper napkin on my lap. She finally got it and began to tear it up into little bits, but she couldn't put it back together again. Her mother went to the kitchen and tore off a paper towel. She handed it to me and said, "This is your new napkin." It wasn't a napkin. It was a towel. But she made it a napkin.

That's what God did. He made Jesus to be sin. Jesus wasn't sin, but God made Him to be sin. The girl's mother said, "This towel is now a napkin." God said, "This precious Son of Mine is now Mr. Sin." In other words, God made Jesus to be us.

Paul says, "He died for all that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them and rose again" (II Cor. 5:15). We never live for self again. If we only look at self, we will often appear to be living for self. Likewise, when we were lost and self-oriented, we sometimes appeared as if we weren't living for self. But the realm of appearance is not the place where the battle is fought-it is fought in the spirit realm. As a result of that battle, Paul says, "You were an expression of that person regardless of what the outcroppings were. But now you are an expression of another person, Christ." We need to get that point home, and we need to know who we are, before we start worrying about conduct.

For years we spent time dealing with our conduct, not knowing who we were, but this did not bring us to a consciousness that "Christ is my life." Instead it brought confusion about who we are related to. This confusion fostered the big lie of two natures. Reasoning from actions back to truth is dangerous, for we may or may not reach truth. But if we start from truth, which is spirit-reality-from "He and I are one"-the conduct is His. Starting from conduct, we are not sure who is in control, and it never brings any of us the awareness of union with Christ. The blessed love of God is to let us worry about conduct until it kills us. It produces the "Oh, wretched man that I am" in a man who was anything but wretched. That is its glory. Paul says, "If there is a glory in the ministry of condemnation, there is a greater glory in this ministry of grace." So let's praise God for misery in the believer.

Recently a woman told me that her marriage was on the rocks. Her husband had a girlfriend, etc. God was showing the wife a lot of things, and she didn't like any of them. She said, "You know, I think I'm going insane."

I said, "No, darling, you're not going insane. You're real close to God though, because you're almost at the end of self."

She had said about her husband, "He's my god," so I said, "Well then, you're not going to get him back, because God isn't going to share you with anybody. You're close to getting God, so keep on being miserable."

"Misery" is the name of the door that moves us from the self room to the spirit room. More people come into the union life through misery than through any other door. In fact, I don't know of anybody who hasn't come through some kind of personal misery. The point I made with this woman was that the very end of herself, which she was afraid was insanity, was really where she was going to meet God.

Paul says that we can cease to live for ourselves now. We may appear to be living for ourselves, but if you take the stand that we and He are one, no matter what the appearance looks like, then we are not living for self. Something may look in the first two chapters to be all self, but the final chapter's going to be for the praise and glory of God, because we can never live for self-and the fact is, we don't want to live for self !

The Dan form of Satan died in 1949 and a brand new creature emerged, a Dan form of Christ. Never before has there been a Dan like this. And the same happened to you. Put your own name there-a new creature in Christ. You began to operate from a new person, a new energy, a different approach, and a whole new excitement. You've got a new "wanter" in you. You don't want sin anymore. You may find yourself sinning occasionally, but you don't want to. What you want is God. I often tell believers, "I know your heart. Your heart's for God. Your thoughts and your emotions may not always be, but your heart's for God l" Go with your heart. When you go with God, you're safe, because all He's after through you is the privilege of loving someone else by means of you.

Paul says in Colossians, "It's through the blood side of the cross that we come to the forgiveness of sins." That's the knowing side of the cross. Turn the cross around and we'll see something that to the natural mind is unbelievable. We'll see all of the attributes of God have been poured into us.

We come to the awareness of our perfection in Christ through the operation of choice. God means His creatures to have choices and the consequences of those choices. He means us to have the consequences of whatever we attach ourselves to. If we attach ourselves to the flesh He means us to have the consequences of that attachment.

If we can serve God from the flesh, then why does He strip us down? If all the teaching about performance, doing, attaining, and striving from the flesh is right, then why did God strip Moses? If it is true that we can serve God from the flesh, why did He take Jacob across the brook Jabok and wrestle with him all night and leave him with an outer sign that he had been with God? If he could have served God from the flesh why did Joseph go through what he did? Why was Jesus Himself led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil? Even our Lord had to get fixed so His whole life was a Spirit life.

Let's take the case of Moses. There was nothing wrong with Moses' intention. He got the call-he knew what life was all about. Exodus 2 says: "It came to pass in those days when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked upon their burdens. And he spied an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew, one of the brethren, and he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no man, he killed the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand." What's interesting is the parallel account in Acts 7, long after Moses. The Holy Spirit told Stephen some things that Moses did not tell us.

The Holy Spirit told Stephen to say that this was to be the sign of Moses to the people that he was the deliverer of Israel, "by this sign you will know that I am this deliverer that you've been awaiting." And yet the next day Moses encountered two of his own brethren striving together, and they said, "Are you going to do to us what you did to that fellow yesterday?"

In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit doesn't hide anything about anybody's flesh. But in the New Testament, He sees the same people from the point of view of perfected faith. So in the Old Testament we see that Moses fled because he was afraid of Pharaoh. But when we read Hebrews, we see that wasn't the case at all. He forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king, says Hebrews 11. But Exodus 2 says that he was afraid of the king.

Moses had plenty of dedication, but he needed to change his method. Or rather, he needed to quit his own methods and let God take over. That's when things began to happen. That's when the Lord said to Moses. "See, I've made you God to Pharaoh" (Ex. 7:1, literal). "When Pharaoh sees you, he's going to know he's dealing with Me. I'll make you God to Pharaoh."

That's what Moses wanted all along. Of course he had his share of weaknesses, and God needed every one of them. God gave him somebody to speak for him, gave him a staff to lean on, and then Moses learned what his forty years in the wilderness were for. In less than three months the Hebrews began to wander around in the same area, and Moses needed to know where all the water holes and oases were, as well as everything else that is necessary for desert life.

We have dedicated our lives many times. We have worn out altars by laying our bodies down on them. God says, "I know you're dedicated. I know your heart. I am your heart." The struggle is not over dedication but over methodology. God does us a favor to let us collapse. That is hard for us to comprehend. Why? The world doesn't appreciate failures.

Norman Grubb, writing in the book Rees Howells, Intercessor, saw the glory of the man, yet as far as England was concerned, Rees Howells was discredited in his last word of faith. In other words, if that final word of faith had been realized on the appearance level, everybody would have glorified Rees Howells. Real intercessors may well die in their last intercession.

Don't ever again take anything in your life as from Satan. Don't see him. It's God. Every negative experience that comes your way is a privilege if you turn it over and call it God. If you don't you'll get disturbance and discouragement. Turn it over, and you'll get a blessing.

At Passover, when the head of the family gathers his children around him, the emphasis is not on how Moses delivered them, but on how God delivered them. If Moses had taken them out when he was forty, they would have talked about how Moses delivered them. But when Moses got to the Jordan and wanted to cross over, God said, "You're not going over. I'll take them over. But you've laid down your life for them." This is not literal; it's figurative language. It's as if Moses laid down his life, with his heels on one side of the Jordan and his head on the other, and the Israelites walked across his body.

When we know who's doing it, we can lay down our lives for the joy set before us, and watch people walk over us. When we know who we are when the Prince knows he's the Prince then we lean be paupers in the situation. When we know we've already won, we can look like losers. But if we don't know we're the Prince, and we don't know we've won, it tears out our hearts. Thank God that He lets us have those miseries in our flesh.

There isn't any crash that's too embarrassing or too difficult or too horrible if we come through to knowing who we are. It is God's love to let our flesh collapse that He may establish us in spirit-knowing about who He is in us as us. And then we can move out and be a person. No more, "It isn't me, it's Jesus." Now we can go out, and call ourselves the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, because we are. We have been bought with a price. And we've been accepted in the Beloved.