The Closed Door
    Gateway to Spiritual Fullness
                                                                        The Lost Ox  

"You shall not see your brother's ox or his sheep straying away, and
pay no attention to them; you shall certainly bring them back to your
brother.  And if your brother is not near you, or if you do not know him,
then you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall remain with
you until your brother looks for it; then you shall restore it to him"
(Deut. 22:1-2).  

One of the amazing things about the Old Testament is the depiction of
spiritual things of Christ in metaphors or pictorial forms.  The centrality
of Christ constitutes the basis of the Scriptures and links together both
the Old Testament and the New.  Often, the key to unlocking these
interesting metaphors is to see Christ in them.  

Throughout the Scriptures, one theme keeps repeating is God’s burden
to restore the lost back to Him.  Since Adam’s tragic departure from the
Lord, the unfolding drama of redemption and restoration has been a
constant refrain sung from the deepest reaches of God’s heart.          

Since man is lost without Christ, he is desperately in need of a Savior
to restore him back to a rightful position with God.  On the other hand,
the redeemed man still lacks divine temperament and is in need of
being tempered through daily circumstances until Christ is constituted
into his disposition in increasing portions over time.  

Salvation doesn’t stop with man being restored to a rightful position
with God.  It continues to effect life-changing paradigm until Christ is
restored into his disposition.  

God had intended that Christ be man’s source of life, joy, inspiration,
contentment and All in All; instead, man sought happiness and
satisfaction elsewhere thus triggering a long series of failures and
losses.  From the loss of Eden, loss of Canaan, loss of birthright, loss
of the ark, loss of inheritance, loss of kingdom all the way to the loss
of first love and being the lost sheep, lost prodigal, lost coin … the
Holy Spirit again and again points us to the danger and seriousness of
our waywardness which results in forfeiting our chances at gaining
increased portions in Christ.  

Then on the positive side, the Holy Spirit reveals His most significant
responsibility – restoring man’s lost portions of Christ back to him.  
The Lord engineers circumstances and often uses spiritually minded
brothers and sisters to restore Christ to the ones who have allowed
their portions of Christ to slip away.  

Paul is clear about man’s need to gain Christ: “more than that, I count
all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ
Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and
count them but rubbish in order that I may
gain Christ” (Ph. 3:8).  

Regrettably, many believers have neither the concept nor the desire of
gaining Christ.  They are happy to continue pursuing their “American
Dream.”  This brings us to our considerations in Deut. about the lost
ox.  

Deut. 22 opens with "You shall not see your brother's ox or his sheep
straying away….”  The “ox” and “sheep” in this verse signify the
experiences in Christ that have the potential of becoming precious
portion, or as Paul puts it,  “surpassing value,” of Christ being wrought
into our inner being.  

The lost “ox” or “sheep” suggest in spiritual terms a believer’s moral
failure, spiritual deception or degradation which turn into a “loss” of a
portion of Christ.  And, depending on the severity of our moral failure,
deception and declension, the loss can be of gigantic proportions,
hence an “ox,” or it may be a “sheep” which may be breaches in our
relationship with Christ in less serious manner.  Many saints who have
walked with the Lord for a good number of years and are seasoned in
the ways of the Lord have no problem admitting to having lost an ox or
two, and most likely more.  

This loss is generally very evident to those who maintain normal
relationships in pursuit of the Lord.  It is not at all uncommon for older
and more matured brothers and sisters to "see" our lost ox or sheep.  
Clearly, the ability to "see" predicates man’s burden to restoring his
brother’s lost portions of Christ.  

Many are those who can see problems of Christianity, the church, or
individual deficiencies.  Even unbelievers have a clear view of the
problems of the church and Christians in general.  There is no lack of
zealous brothers and sisters with eloquent diagnosis and strong burden
to attempt a cure.  Shortages occur, however, when seeing is not
supported by maturity; bigger problems will then result when attempts
are made to remedy a brother’s loss.  

There is a tremendous need among Christians to see, first and
foremost,
Christ!  

Unless we learn to fix our eyes upon Him and allow the Holy Spirit to
interpret, illuminate and expand Christ in our inner being first, our
seeing falls very short, problems of the church or a brother’s “lost ox”
notwithstanding.  And this process takes a long time.  It has been
said, “The conversion of sinners takes a moment in time, the
construction of saints takes a life time.”  

Mountaintop visions and revelations are much touted by today's
enlightened Christians, but they are only a small component in learning
to see Christ.  Seeing Christ has much to do with our day-to-day
experiences of Him and learning to submit to His dealings.  And much
of this type of seeing takes place not on mountaintops, but in the
valleys.  Moses spent his first 40 years trusting in himself, his abilities
and his zeal.  The Lord used another 40 years to rid him of all his self-
trust, abilities, even zeal.  When man finally comes to his end, God
joyfully makes His move.  

May the Lord grant us true ability to see our brothers’ lost ox and
sheep with a seeing that is centered on Christ and issuing from Christ.  

The problem, too, is that those who incurred the loss usually either do
not recognize it or are too proud to admit it.  Brothers and sisters in
this unfortunate predicament cannot have their lost portions of Christ
restored.  At least not for a while.  Notice the interesting dilemma, “if
your brother is not near you.”  The first thing about a brother who does
not accept his lost ox or sheep is, “he is not near you.”  For the brother
to be “not near” the one who found his straying livestock, two things
have to happen: he has no consciousness of his ox and sheep, and his
ox or sheep must have wandered away quite a long time ago and over
a very long distance.  

It is especially characteristic of the ones caught in spiritual
degradation, lukewarmness, obsession and idolatry to let down their
guards of proper spiritual exercises, which always result in the
wandering away of their “ox” or “sheep.”  And this loss always begins
in seemingly harmless ways, but over many years the damage can be
very significant to the extent they no longer can recognize the
heartbreaking loss of precious portions of Christ!  

I distinctly remember the day I came into a zealously and singularly
church-centered sect of believers, the wife of a respectable brother told
me in no uncertain terms that I was to undergo baptism again so that I
could “bury” all the spiritual treasures, revelations, intimate
experiences of the Lord I have accumulated in the past, so that I could
have a proper “new beginning” in this church.  

Eager to prove that I meant business about fully entering into God’s
eternal purpose of “Christ and the Church,” I acquiesced.  This was the
beginning of my letting down the guards.  And it took a few years
before I realized, by the Lord’s great mercy, that my “ox” and “sheep”
had indeed wandered away!  

Sixteen years later, when the Lord delivered me and my dear wife from
this bondage, one of my first overwhelming regrets was that I have
allowed the “locusts and cankerworms” to eat away my precious
portions of Christ.  I felt like a spiritual dwarf in a new company of
precious brothers and sisters who have been maintaining proper
relationships with the Lord.  To this day, I have great respect for that
company of believers who brought back our lost ox and sheep.  They
did it by bringing us back to the Christ from whom we have strayed
away in the former church-centered and one-man dominated sect.  

As I look back, the straying away of my “ox” began with a tremendous
desire to enter into God’s eternal purpose of “Christ and the church,”
not knowing that Christ had become just a cliché with this group,
church had become the center instead.  Now my heart goes out to
many precious brothers and sisters who are similarly afflicted with the
spiritual obsessions in which the centrality of Christ is only given lip
service.  

We should be burdened for those who have suffered the loss of
precious portions of Christ.  If the Lord has granted us a seeing, it then
becomes our responsibility to restore their loss.  “You shall not … pay
no attention to them.”  The command is very clear, don’t be oblivious
to your brother’s abnormal spiritual condition.  Then two exceptions are
given: if he “is not near you,” or if you “do not know him.”  In the latter
case, it is indicative that
relationship with the brother who incurred the
loss has to precede our burden to help.  It would be a mistake to
indiscriminately confront anyone and subject them to a strong dose of
our restoration attempt.  Friendly relationship requires love, time and
some sacrifices.  We cannot expect it to come into being overnight.  
How we need the Lord to grant us a shepherd’s heart for each other!  

Then there is the former exception, “if your brother is not near you.”  
The spiritual implication is that there is a “remoteness” to their loss.  
The more obsessed they are with their unbalanced visions, mesmerized
by their own abilities and blinded by a loyalty to their spiritual idols,
the more callous and oblivious they become of their loss – their ox and
sheep have wandered too far to be brought back.  This has to be one
of the saddest things that happens to our beloved brethren who have
fallen into spiritual deception and bondage without any awareness.  

The only thing we can do in this case is, “bring it home to your house,
and it shall remain with you until your brother looks for it; then you
shall restore it to him.”  Repeated bombardment about their losses
does no one any good.  

Sad to say, many dear saints who have been granted a seeing and a
burden to restore the lost ox and sheep to their brethren have
embarked upon a crusader’s mission to rescuing them.  I’ve seen this
recently in online forums where their restoration attempts quickly
degenerate into arguments, verbal assaults and bitter feelings.  When
these attempts fail, frustration, discouragement and bewilderment set
in.  

Admittedly, it is very difficult to let go of a burden that comes from the
Lord.  Those that can easily drop a burden probably did not receive it
from the Lord in the first place.  

Now comes the most crucial point of the whole exercise: “bring it home
to your house, and it shall remain with you until your brother looks for
it; then you shall restore it to him.”  The real lesson of the cross is to
recognize that the Lord has meticulously and patiently prepared us for
a task, commissioned us to doing it, then yanks us right out of it
without giving us a good reason – not even a bad one.  Are we going
to argue with Him?  Are we going to clutch our “God-given ministry”
and continue to minister restoration to the one who has lost his ox or
sheep?  Many no doubt will do just that.  Some know better and bite
their tongues in acquiescence.  

Which one is taking the cross?  Neither, unless we come to be fully at
peace with Him – no reason required.  After much struggles, of course.  

Many dear ones have a misconception about the cross.  They mistake
suffering for the cross.  There may be some of that, but suffering in
and by itself does not constitute the cross.  Worldly people suffer all
the time and are nowhere near experiencing the cross.  Many believers
suffer in bitterness or deep inner turmoil, and never come close to
experiencing the cross either.  

The cross is seeing the headship of Christ and yielding to Him in
peace.  Struggles are allowed, and we always do struggle, but full
surrender must be the outcome – if we learned to let go and let God.  

Here comes the most amazing aspect of the experience of the cross:
“bring it [ox or sheep] home to your house, and it shall remain with
you.”  When we learned to lay down our God-given burden in obedience
to His voice, guess what, extra portions of Christ will be added to us!  
If our experience of yielding and surrendering to the Lord does not
result in an added portion of Christ (our brother’s lost ox) being
“brought home” to us, we still may not have experienced the cross.  

There has to be an
enlargement of Christ in us when the cross is fully
experienced.  There has to be a joyous aspect when the cross is truly
grasped.  Christ, “for the joy set before Him, endured the cross,
despising the shame, sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”
(Heb. 12:2b).  

Finally, “until your brother comes looking for it.”  The power of the
cross lies in “no longer I, but Christ.”  When we learned to lay
ourselves down in surrender, we cease from any labor; extra portion of
Christ is added in us, and the resurrection power of Christ takes over
and brings our brother to us looking for his lost ox – Christ.  

Oliver Peng
June 20, 2008