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Beauty for Ashes: Introduction

 

George Warnock say so gracefully and plainly what I have been trying to say, in my stumbling way, that we need an awakening to the deep things of God. What we have learned to be content with, in our forms and programs, George brings to the forefront and shines the bright light of truth squarely into its darkness.

I pray that you will be blessed as I was with the reading of Beauty For Ashes.

I will be publishing, for FREE, in PDF format, George Warnock's entire Beauty For Ashes series in our new store front, so be looking for it.

Steve Blackwell

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George H. Warnock

I am confident the time is at hand when our Lord will arise in the midst of the Church with eyes as a flame of fire, with feet as of polished brass, with a sharp twoedged sword proceeding out of His mouth… to cleanse and purge and prepare His people for His Appearing.

l am confident that any ministry in this hour that does not hear what this One is saying, and does not minister what this One is ministering, will be heaping up wood, hay, and stubble for the furnaces of God.

I am confident that there is a people in the land whom God is preparing, disciplining, and refining… who are going to minister in this hour out of the heart of God; and who, because of this, will work and minister in harmony with Him and with one another, as God sends His fire into the midst of the Church to accomplish His cleansing and purifying work.

We have come to the end; and no longer can we merely prophecy about end-time events, and teach end-time truths. We must begin to minister in union with the End-Time Lord.

Is He not the One who is the Same yesterday, and today, and forever? Ah Yes He is! But He has a special End-Time Name, and that Name is the OMEGA… which is the last letter of the Greek alphabet. I know He is the Alpha, and He changes not. But in this hour He stands in our midst as the OMEGA. He is bringing to a conclusion. He is bringing to a consummation. He is finishing what He started. He is completing the Building, for which He has laid the foundation. He is about to gather the Harvest, for which He planted the Seed. He will reconcile and join together in harmony the Family of God, for which He sent His Son to be the "firstborn among many brethren." He will bring forth the LOAF in His people, even as He was the Manna that came down from Heaven. He will effectually join His beloved ones unto Himself in one BODY, even as He was the BODY through which the Father expressed Himself in the earth many centuries ago.

The Vision is high, and we must keep it high. Man has obscured the Vision, because it seems too high for attainment. But in reality it is because man does not want to go God’s way, and yield himself as clay in the hands of the Potter. For this is God’s work… this is God’s creation.., it is not the work of man.

God is going to do what He said. But He is going to do it in a manner far different from, and far beyond, what any of us have imagined. He is going to bring to desolation everything, every church structure, every planting, every gathering together in His Name, every ministry.., everything that is NOT THE PRODUCT, that is NOT THE FRUIT OF HIS OWN SPIRIT EXERCISING HIS LORDSHIP IN THE MIDST OF HIS PEOPLE.

And then out of the ashes of all this desolation He will bring forth the very Beauty of the Lord!

And so I can think of no better title for this series of messages that I feel the Lord has laid on my heart, than this beautiful phrase from the prophet Isaiah, where God promised He would give His people "BEAUTY FOR ASHES."

Our hope is that we might rekindle the vision in the hearts of God’s people, and make it clear and plain… lest in the face of all the disappointment and disillusionment that has overtaken the people of God they begin to take the course that has been so tempting to take: either to forsake the Vision entirely, or to so dilute it with human reasoning and manipulation that there is really nothing left but a vision for some humanly devised project for promoting programs of various kinds, or amassing large congregations of people together in one building, under the guise of gathering together the Body of Christ in "the unity of the Spirit." In so many, many cases the Spirit of God is left completely out of the picture.

Invariably this seems to happen when God comes on the scene and makes His way known. Call it a vision, a revelation, a promise, or whatever. God may well have given it. But as we wait for it to come to pass a weariness sets in, a certain sense of perplexity, of disappointment, of frustration. Then little by little we find some strong leader who presumptuously begins to tackle the problem with his own wisdom and understanding. All in the name of "faith," of course. All in the name of "Christ." All in the name of "edifying the Body of Christ." And so there comes into being another church structure, another system, another outreach, another plan for accomplishing what God would accomplish in and through His own Spirit in the earth. And God gets the credit (though I should really say "the blame") for the new machinery that has come into being for the purpose of fulfilling the Vision of God.

Of course, every man has to "prove his own work," and this is not a wholesale condemnation of all that goes on in the Name of Christ. But this seems to be the general pattern; and for a season God seems to go along with it (if you understand what I mean). He knows the course that man will take, and He is not quick to abandon them because of their failure, or their lack of understanding. He just says nothing, and goes along with them. He does so in His great wisdom and love. To stop them short in their tracks would only frustrate them further (if they are determined to go their own way)… so God lets them do it. "God you said you wanted this… now I am trying to bring it into being… why do You hinder me?" So He usually just goes along… and blesses… for a season.

It doesn’t mean He has approved what man is doing… or that He has changed His mind about anything. And it doesn’t mean that He is going to incorporate man’s puny efforts into the grand scheme and design of His own purpose. It is simply a case. of the God of all wisdom and knowledge giving man the opportunity to do what He knows He alone can do; and then when man has become aware of his own failures, and the futility of his own works… God Himself comes on the scene… and in the background of human failure and desolation, and in the fullness of time, He gives… 

"Beauty for ashes, 

The oil of joy for mourning, 

The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness" (Isa. 61:3).

It is really the story of the Old Covenant and the New. Not that there was inherently anything wrong with the righteous requirements of the Law. But when God gave it, man grasped it in his own hands, and confidently cried, "All that the LORD hath said will we do…" You might even say that God enticed them into it. He offered it to them. Paul says, "The Law entered that the offence might abound" (Rom. 5:20). The thought seems to be it "crept in unawares." One translation reads, "The law slipped in…"

God knew it would. It was never part of His eternal purpose for the Church; but it would have a temporary purpose: namely, to "make sin exceeding sinful"… and to "shut up all men unto disobedience"… to imprison all men in one prison-house of sin and disobedience, that one day the Keeper of the prison might walk in and pronounce the message of free Grace: "If you realize now that you are in prison… if you know for a certainty that you are helpless and undone, and utterly hopeless before God, you may go free… I open the prison-door, and set you free, by the blood of My Cross."

And so this matter of justification by faith has become an established truth in the Church ever since the Reformation; and many congregations throughout the land rejoice in the fact that they are "not under the law, but under grace." But this whole matter goes much deeper than having the right theology; and the fact remains that most congregations of God’s people are living under Law, though loudly boasting of their deliverance from it. For the Scriptures make it plain that "IF YE BE LED OF THE SPIRIT, ye are not under the law" (Gal. 5:18). Only the ministration of the Spirit of God in our midst can deliver us from Law. Only as we "walk in the Spirit" are we really free from the Law.

All we have to do is to take a glance across the scene of Christendom, and what do we find? All kinds of laws and by-laws for running the Church. Elders and deacons and pastors and church workers of every kind are ELECTED by the popular vote of the people. It would be too tedious a matter, and too devastating to carnal ambition, to seek God so earnestly that the Spirit of God might come forth and say, "Separate unto me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them," as He did in the early Church. (See Acts 13:2.) Who needs that in this day and hour? It is much easier and more practical to have a missionary program of our own, and send out the ones we think are qualified for the task.

We could go on and on in this; but we are just illustrating the fact that God’s people as a whole continue to function according to LAW, human LAW… whether it be the Law of Moses, or their own. They have a certain organizational procedure, and all the while they boast they are "free from the Law."

Ishmael, Child Of The Flesh

Of course, if God were to come forth in our midst and say, "Now I want you to set apart this young couple for a special work for Me…" we would perhaps be quite prepared to submit to His choice, But if we wait and wait for Him to do it, and He remains silent in the matter, obviously we have to do something about it ourselves. (Of course, we are not suggesting that the Antioch experience is to be the formula for the Church. We are only emphasizing that if and when the Spirit of God is Lord in our midst, He will indicate His will and His way for the people of God.)

And so we have the story of Ishmael repeated over and over again in our various churches and fellowships that abound in the land.

"We have the Word… we have His promises… it’s up to you and me to get in there and make it work…"

And so the "Promise" that God gives us as a Word to embrace and cherish and hold, a promise that we must guard and nurture in our spirits, until it becomes a living and "pregnant" Word within us… we take it rather as a challenge to act upon, in the name of faith, in the name of Christian zeal, only to end up in frustration.

And God seems to go along with it for a season. So long, in fact, that we finally are able to convince ourselves that God DID use our plans after all.

And so Ishmael grows up in the household of Sarah and Abraham, as the beloved son that God had promised. God does not whisper in Abraham’s ear the day Ishmael is born, "Now look, Abraham… Ishmael is your son, and I will bless him… but he is not really the heir that I promised you." As a result Abraham comes to consider God’s silence to be His consent and approval… this year, and next, and next. Time rolls along, and Ishmael becomes the beloved of Abraham’s heart.

We have been accused of setting the Vision too high… too high for people to grasp. If only we could convince the people of God that the Vision is much higher than we have ever taught or expressed… and that it is not something for them to "grasp," but to nurture in their hearts until by the Light of His countenance we are "changed into the same image." For though the Vision might be spoken of in many ways (as we anticipate doing in this series of writings)… in the final analysis the Vision is NOTHING LESS THAN THE VISION OF HIS OWN GLORY AND PRESENCE, coming to abide in the House of God.

Then why do we not stop right here, and leave it at that? Because it is the Vision of Him… and there are so many facets of His Being, so many rays of His glory, so many aspects of His beauty, so many unfoldings of His secrets, that unless we see Him in the full expression of His Being we are not really seeing Him AS HE IS. And God forbid that we should, in this writing or in any other, become so taken up with the chemistry of the living Word that we rejoice in our scientific knowledge of spiritual things, and fail to eat of Him who is the living bread sent down from Heaven for the life of the world. We must not take our place at the table of the Lord as a scientist: able to clearly analyze the food that is on the table, and know for a certainty that there is carbon in this, and sulphur in that… and hydrogen in that over there… all the while being totally accurate, but NOT PARTAKING OF THE LIVING TRUTH and allowing it to bring life and health and strength to our spiritual man.

God waits about thirteen years, and then He comes on the scene and reveals Himself afresh to Abraham, and announces: "This shall not be the heir… Sarah shall have a son…" Abraham’s immediate response is one of surprise, and frustration, as if to say, "Impossible, Lord. But we have Ishmael already… Why not Ishmael Lord?"

We see an awful lot of the Ishmael in the Church today… in church structures and programs, and in the individual lives of God’s people. Not away out there in the apostate church… but in the midst of the anointed people, the people of God who profess to have the Spirit and to know His ways. God continues to bless, and God’s blessing is taken as a sign of His approval. But in the midst of it all there is the Abraham people of God, who are aware that God is coming on the scene… and they are hearing Him announce as He did to Abraham and Sarah: "My covenant will I establish with Isaac…"

In other words, God is bringing us back to the clear Vision that He announced in the Word; and we are going to have to forsake our own initiatives and all the schemes that we have devised to bring forth the true Body of Christ in the earth. For instance…

"God wants His people to be ONE. Just forget your differences and come together, and worship with us… forget your doctrines, they only divide the Body of Christ, and they don’t really matter all that much… just praise and worship together with us, and learn to love one another…"

And so we have a very sentimental display of what they call love and unity, and a systematized form of worship and praise, something you just do, something you just perform, something you even do in the flesh if need be, just as long as you do it.

Or we have a more practical, a more structured way of doing it…

"We have true leadership in our church. We have the apostolic and prophetic order established by God. We are authorized to establish the church on its proper foundation. Come under this covering, get on this sure foundation… and you will come into true relationship with the Body of Christ…" And so, acting under the delusion that because God did something wonderful away back there in history, whether it be so many centuries ago or so many years ago… and because they have continued on in that particular "movement" in an unbroken line of succession, therefore, it just must be RIGHT to try to continue and perpetuate what God started. The Spirit of God may have left the whole thing centuries ago… or even just a few years ago, as the case may be… but because God started it we are supposed to try to perpetuate it.

God help us to learn the lesson of Eli, of Saul, of Bethel, of Jerusalem, of Rome, of Constantinople… and we could go on and on in this; places where God’s glory once rested in power and authority, but which have long since ceased to be anything more than an empty shell, just a memory of what HAS BEEN. Hear what God has to say about Bethel, the House of God, the place of God’s visitation to His chosen Jacob… but which God forsook because the people had gone into apostasy and idolatry:

"For thus saith the LORD unto the house of Israel, SEEK YE ME, and ye shall live: but SEEK NOT BETHEL, for… BETHEL SHALL COME TO NOUGHT. SEEK THE LORD, and ye shall live" (Amos 5:4-6).

God help His people to understand that places, things, gifts, enablements, ministries, men of God, movements, whatever He might have anointed and used for His glory, THESE ARE NOT TO BE HELD IN VENERATION BY GOD’S PEOPLE; and that for their day and hour they are to be received and honored only as channels of His grace to LEAD HIS PEOPLE INTO RELATIONSHIP WITH HIMSELF. Then having served their purpose, God removes them from the scene, that He Himself might have all the glory.

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