Stop considering the world precious with the result that you love it, and the things in the world. If anyone as a habit of life is considering the world precious and is therefore loving it, there does not exist the love possessed by the Father in him. Because everything which is in the world, the passionate desire of the flesh, and the passionate desire of the eyes, and the insolent and empty assurance which trusts in the things that serve the creature life, is not from the Father as a source but is from the world as a source. And the world is being caused to pass away, and its passionate desire. But the one who keeps on habitually doing the will of God abides forever. – John the Apostle (1 John 2:15-17; An Expanded Translation by Kenneth Wuest)
Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD, till He comes and rains righteousness on you. (Hosea 10:12, emphasis added)
A.W. Tozer in his book Paths to Power has a chapter entitled Miracles Follow the Plow. This blog is entitled The Plow and has been inspired by this writing of Tozer. This and some subsequent blogs will rely heavily upon the points which are made by Tozer. Tozer comments on two types of ground, and subsequently two kinds of lives lived. There is fallow ground and the life it generates and there is ground the broken by the plow, ground that yields it’s kind of life. We see both kinds of lives in our Christian experience, and you and I need to understand the choices which are implied. Unfortunately the Western Church is too full of examples of the fallowed ground type of life and it appears one has to read about others, without experiencing, the life that is being upset by the plow.
We will first discuss the points made by Tozer of the two types of ground, and then the two types of lives they produce. The choice of the Revolutionary will become evident because only the life that has been broken by the plow will be able to heed the command to make disciples and to teach the Word of Jesus. Miracles follow the plow and the life of the disciple is a miracle given to the Church through the servants who are empowered for the Revolution.
Concerning the fallow ground Tozer says it is, “Protected from the shock of the plow and the agitation of the harrow.” This ground always remains the same, a plot of land overcome by weeds and inactivity. It is always satisfied and fully content. It is safe and undisturbed. It is the picture of stability, never does it change. This ground never sees the miracle of growth, the motions of creation, or the wonders of the seed springing to life. This land will never see fruit because it is afraid of the plow and the pain it brings. This land puts up a fence to surround it and never lets the Farmer in to work the land.
In contrast Tozer has this to say about the plowed ground, “In direct opposite to this, the cultivated field has yielded itself to the adventure of living. The protecting fence has been opened to admit the plow, and the plow has come as plows always come, practical, cruel, business-like and in a hurry.” On this ground peace is shattered, the field is upset, turned over, bruised and broken. This is where the process of God’s creative work can be observed in all its grandeur. Here, “New things are born, to grow, mature, and consummate the grand prophecy latent in the seed when it entered the ground. Nature’s wonders follow the plow.” Miracles indeed follow the plow.
We believe that each and every person who states that they are followers of Jesus Christ are presented a choice of which type ground they want their respective life to be planted in. Will it be fallowed ground or ground ready for the upset of the plow? Do you want easily living or the painful reality of the plow? There is no middle ground (pun intended). Let us next examine the lives produced on these two pieces of ground.
The life of the fallowed ground is content where it is as if it has attained the height of its ascent to godliness and closeness to His Creator. This life glories in fruit produced in times past and speaks of it often. This life wants to be left alone and without a care at all. This life considers itself faithful and conservative. But it is a life that bears no fruit and hides from the pain of the plow. Tozer stated that this life has the wrong focus for, “To be has taken the place of to become.” (Italics in the original) There is no growth because this life believes it has arrived or aspires to be no closer to the work of God than where it finds himself in the present. The people who embrace this life will surely stay the same and will keep God from working in their life by way of the plow.
The life of the plowed ground is a life in which repentance welcomes the plow. Those who embrace this life know they fall short of what God desires in their life and turns to the hand of God to move by way of the plow. In their lives you will find no fences, no safety, but lives which know and accepts the pain of the plow. Tozer stated this life is, “Discontent, yearning, contrition, courageous obedience to the will of God: these have bruised and broken the soil till it is ready again for the seed. And as always fruit follows the plow.” The fruitful life is the plowed life. It is a life which starts with a desire to draw closer to God, willing to change everything, to become fruitful. You cannot get fruit without first enduring the pain of the plow.
In the Biblical record and throughout Church history we see these very principles in play. Men and women who call out for the plow are able to fulfill their calls. Tozer summed up the choice presented to us from the backdrop of history as follows, “God works as long as His people live daringly: He ceases when they no longer need His aid.”
Now that Jesus has finished His earthly ministry we must appropriate the promises given to His disciples working for the Kingdom Revolution:
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to the Father. And whatever you ask in My name, I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you will know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:12-18, emphasis added)
Greater works are promised to the Church. No works can ever be greater than the works that Jesus did, but the works that His Church will accomplish will be greater in effect. There will be more people who hear about the gospel. More people who will be brought into the Kingdom. More lives will be touched. The ministry of Jesus was small in scope compared to the ministry of the Church. As part of the Revolution we will stand upon this promise that Jesus made to disciple and teach the multitudes, and with much power and effect.
In Andrew Murray’s book With Christ in the School of Prayer he said the following concerning Jesus’ promise of greater works:
And how true it was! Jesus during three years of personal labor on earth, gathered little more than five hundred disciples, most of whom were so powerless that they weren’t much help to His cause. Men like Peter and Paul did much greater things than He had done. From the throne He could do through them what He Himself in His humiliation could not yet do. He could ask the Father, receiving and bestowing new power for greater works. And what was true for the disciples is true for us: as we believe and ask in His name, power comes and takes possession of us also to do the greater work…It is this power alone that the believer can do greater works. To every complaint about difficulties or lack of success, Jesus gives this one answer, “He that believeth on me…greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do.” (emphasis in the original)
Because I go to the Father. A new dispensation on earth occurred when Christ ascended unto heaven. The Church age had begun and a new work of the Holy Spirit has begun. The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament would come upon God’s agents as the situation called for and a work of God was accomplished upon mankind. Now the Holy Spirit is indwelling His people and man can be empowered continually, being equipped for the Revolution. Why can the Church be the disciple makers and teaching instruments of Christ? Because Jesus ascended on high and the Spirit dwells within!
Whatever you ask in My name I will do. This phrase has to do with authority. We can ask for anything that we need in order to fulfill the Great Commission if we ask in the authority of The Name. The Name has all authority in heaven and on earth. When we ask in The Name we are asking as representatives of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. When we ask for reinforcements for battle they will come. When we ask for power to disciple and teach it will come. Headquarters will send all we need to get the job done. We just need to requisition supplies from the top.
In With Christ in the School of Prayer Andrew Murray spoke of the power of the Name:
The name of Christ is the expression of everything He has done and everything He is and lives to do as our Mediator. What does it mean to do a thing in the name of another? It is to come with his power and authority, as his representative and substitute. Using another’s name always presupposes a common interest. No one would give another the free use of his name without first being assured that his honor and interests were as safe with that other person as with himself. What does it mean when Jesus gives us power over His name – the free use of it – with the assurance that whatever we ask in it will be given to us?…
Jesus solemnly gives to all His disciples a general and unlimited power to use His name at all times for everything they desire. He could not do this if He did not know that He could trust us with His interests and that His honor would be safe in our hands.
The free use of someone else’s name is always a token of great confidence and close union. Someone who gives his name to another stands aside to let that person act for him. Someone who takes the name of another gives up his own as of no value. When I go in the name of another, I deny myself. I take not only his name, but himself and what he is, instead of myself and what I am.
When the Lord Jesus went to heaven, He left His work – the management of His kingdom on earth – in the hands of His servants. He also gave them His name to draw all the supplies they needed for the due conduct of His business. Christ’s servants have the spiritual power to use the name of Jesus only insofar as they yield themselves to live only for the interests and the work of the Master. The use of the name always supposes the surrender of our interests to Him whom we represent.
If you love Me keep My commandments. This means exactly what it says. The proof is in the pudding. Obedience is our loving response to the commands of Jesus. Fruit is shown in our obedience that is visible to all (this will be covered in detail later in the book). When applying this to the Great Commission we as the Church need to be disciple makers and teaching vehicles for the Kingdom. Revolutionaries follow commands, and following commands wins battles, and winning battles wins wars.
He will give you another Helper. The apostles were surely stunned at the events surrounding the death and resurrection of their Savior. They still expected Christ to ascend to the throne of David at this point. But the Revolution was only beginning. Jesus’ earthly ministry was concluded and the war was yet to be completed. A new Field General was being sent to the frontlines of battle. The Holy Spirit would now lead the Church into war. Just as Jesus taught and led by example, the Church would now have this same ministry on earth. But now empowered from within the Church could grow. With growth the field of operations could expand the entire world. This was the most efficient way to win and God always uses the best plan for His will is perfect and His ways miraculous and fruitful.
Forever. This reminds us of the promise from the Great Commission in Matthew 28:20, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Forever is the end of the age; the end of the dispensation of the Holy Spirit as the Field General and the Church as His troops in the Kingdom Revolution. Jesus will be in control of all spheres of war operations until victory is won. The Revolution will come to an end. This period of time is an open window of opportunity for the Revolution. The Kingdom will be built person upon person, disciple upon disciple. The Church has a door of opportunity to make disciples and to teach. You are called into battle. Fight on!
I will not leave you orphans. Jesus reassured His apostles of His presence. They were used to the companionship and leadership the Messiah gave them and the love and fellowship they shared. This would not end for them and it is our promise as well. He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). We can rest in His promises.
I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
Morning by morning and day by day and hour by hour and step by step – in every work – I have to go out to abide before Him in the simple, utter helplessness of the one who knows nothing. I must be as one who is nothing, and can do nothing….If I am something, then God is not everything; but when I become nothing, God can become all. The everlasting God in Christ can reveal Himself fully. That is the higher life. We need to become nothing….Workers, here is your first lesson: learn to be nothing, learn to be helpless.
This selling all, Academicus, is the Measure of your dying to Self; all of it is to be given up; it is an apostate Nature, and stolen Life, brought forth in Rebellion against God; it is a continual Departure from him. It corrupts everything it touches; it defiles everything it receives; it turns all the gifts and Blessings of God into Covetousness, Partiality, Pride, Hatred, and Envy. All these Tempers are born, and bred, and nourished, in Self; they have no other Place to live in, no Possibility of Existence, but in the Creature which is fallen from a Life in God, into a Life of Self. – William Law (emphasis in the original)
But as our Body on Earth is to last to the End of our Lives; so to the End the end of our earthly Life, every Step we take, every Inch of our Road, is to be made up of Denial, and dying to ourselves; because all our Redemption consists in our regaining that first Life of Heaven in the Soul, to which Adam died in Paradise. And therefore the one single Work of Redemption, is the one single Work of Regeneration, or the raising up of a Life, and Spirit, and Tempers, and Inclinations, contrary to that Life and Spirit which we derive from our earthly fallen Parents. To think therefore of anything, but the continual, total Denial of our earthly Nature, is to overlook the very one thing on which all depends. And to hope for anything, to trust or pray for anything, but the Life of God, or a birth of Heaven, in our Souls, is as useless to us, as placing our Hope and Trust in a graven Image. Thus saith the Christ of God the one Pattern, and Author of our Salvation: “If any Man will be my disciple, let him deny himself, hate his own Life, take up his daily Cross, and follow me.” – William Law (emphasis in the original)