Faith and Righteousness

Hab 2:2-14; Ps 119:25-32; Romans 1: 8-17; Mark 6:30-34

INTRODUCTION (Bibles Rom 1:8-17 ESV)

Donna was telling me the other day about how our 8 year old twin grandchildren were fighting over something their mother said, disputing who was in the right and who in the wrong, like all of us they no doubt learned the crucial importance of being in the right from the arguments between mum and dad.

Global warming, refugees, abortion, homosexuality, Donald Trump activism is stoked by a desire to have a satisfied conscience about being in the right. People today long so much to feel good about themselves and to be free from accusation, blame, shame or guilt.

The foundational problem for our culture, and even across the Church, that after 500 years of resting on a message that proclaimed rightness with God through faith the gospel message is increasingly marginalised. Someone came back recently grieved from a cathedral service recently because the message was all about how to be a “good person”.

In other places you’re more likely to hear a sermon on leadership, ministry, gifting, prosperity etc. none of which is God’s good news. Youth suicide, self-harming in children, substance abuse, escalating anxiety and depression and a general groundlessness about life will keep growing without a recovery of the gospel.

No person, young or old, should ever have to live with the torment of being their own judge and jury. The biblical message of the righteousness of God is the remedy to this dread condition.

People may be well meaning but about the deeper matters of the human condition they are often foolish.

All these programmes being backed by government, just think “Question Time” shouting in parliament, programmes to stop bullying through social media, in the workplace etc., will fail because only Jesus is powerful enough to deal with sin, righteousness and judgement (John 16:8-10 ESV) Paul is passionate about God’s righteousness because by it the Lord has vindicated his own reputation (Rom 3:25-26 ESV) and liberated humanity from enslavement to evil powers?

Paul knew that the fledgling church in Rome needed the encouragement of this message, which dominates the first half of Romans (Rom 2:16 ESV).

The power of the gospel is that it puts us in the right with God/justified by faith (Rom 1:17 ESV).

The New Testament expounds we are right with God not by anything we contribute but by sharing in Jesus’ own righteousness (1 Cor 1:30 ESV; 2 Cor 5:21 ESV; 1 John 4:17 ESV; 1 Tim 3:16 ESV).

Knowing that we will stand before God the Judge (Rom 5:2 ESV; 1 Cor 15:1 ESV) blameless on the Day of Judgement (Eph 1:4 ESV; Phil 1:10 ESV; Col 1:22 ESV) means we can withstand the judgement of mere mortals, whether other people or our own faulty consciences (Heb 13:6 ESV; 1 John 3:20 ESV)!

EXPOSITION 

LETTER TO THE ROMANS

Romans 1:8-17 ESV:

vs.8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. vs.9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you vs.10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. vs.11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— vs.12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. vs.13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. vs.14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. vs.15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

vs.16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. vs.17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” 

He starts this section of the letter with joyful thanks to God (v.8) for the faith of the Roman Christians, and in so doing acknowledges faith is a gift from heaven (cf. Rom 10:17 ESV; Phil 1:29 ESV). He longs with his whole heart (vv.10) to visit the Church of Rome so that they may become spiritually stronger through his ministry.  This is a zeal (v.11) we should share (Acts 14:22 ESV; Acts 18:23 ESV).

The spiritual strength Paul has in mind isn’t measured by numbers but by an ability to faithfully obey God in all the circumstances of life (Rom 1:5; 16:26 ESV). Helping others grow in faith is always an encouragement among Christians (v.12).  

This leads to some sharp questions. “Is St Marks a ‘strong’ Church……?”; and are you praying for opportunities to help others grow in faith? Any inability to confidently answer the second question exposes a need to grow in the power of the gospel.

Paul’s “obligation” and “eagerness” to preach to the Romans (vv. 14-15) doesn’t make him like some of the preachers that frequent Hay St Mall or the young men in white shirts who knock uninvited on the front door to evangelise us. Since his gospel proclaims the free gift of guiltlessness before God he wasn’t motivated by guilt to tell people about Jesus.

His inner constraint to “preach the gospel(1 Cor 9:16 ESV cf. 2 Cor 5:14 ESV; Jer 20:9 ESV) comes because its message has so seized his heart that he couldn’t be keep silent about such great things (Phil 3:12 ESV; Col 1:28 ESV).  

Anyone without this inner compulsion of grateful love to share Jesus is either unconverted or a Christian who doesn’t understand the greatness of what it means to be right with God.

Hopefully our next two verses, which present the theme of Romans, will clarify where we stand.

vs.16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek [everyone]. vs.17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.

We know that Paul was not “ashamed of the gospel” because everywhere he went he spoke it out. I love this quote from Charles Spurgeon, the greatest of all Baptist preachers, “Do you not know…what God’s estimate of the gospel is?  Do you not know that it has been the chief subject of His thoughts and acts from all eternity? 

He looks on it as the grandest of all His works.”  If God thinks his gospel is so great he can we be so quiet about the message of Jesus (Rom 1:1 ESV). In our hearts we already know the answer, guilt and shame silence us.

David’s life provides a wonderful testimony about how God’s righteousness in forgiving sin breaks the power of the guilt and shame (cf. Ps 32:1 ESV). After committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering her husband he called out desperately to the Lord; “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.(Ps 51:14 ESV).

When the conscience stricken cry out to God he does graciously pardon and they do freely speak of his righteous ways in forgiving sin (Acts 4:20 ESV). Anyone liberated from sin’s guilt and shame spontaneously testifies of divine goodness.

This is the outworking of “the power of God for salvation”.

What’s the past sin whose dark memory you can’t get free of?

Cry out to the Lord (don’t be moderate) about your condition in the name of Jesus and he will cleanse you (cf. Isa 1:18 ESV).

How big is the salvation the gospel brings…?

Is there anyone here today who is partly saved; are some of us saved by the skin of our teeth?

Do you need to wait until you die to find out if you’re saved?

These are very human questions but they all deny the limitless measure of the righteous power of God in the death and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor 1:18 ESV; Eph 1:19 ESV).

The salvation the gospel of Christ brings delivers us from the final power, penalty and pollution of sin and from the judgement and wrath of God (Rom 3:21-25 ESV; Rom 5:9 ESV).

The gospel saves us from our lost, hopeless state (Luke 19:10 ESV; 1 Cor 1:18 ESV; Eph 2:12 ESV) and by its power always changes lives for the better.

I was asked to give a testimony at a meeting on Tuesday night. Part of what I shared described how Jesus healed me from being a paranoid depressive suffering from a range of psychosomatic illnesses.

This powerful salvation, Paul tells us, if for all who “believe”. But what is faith?

First, what faith isn’t. “Faith” isn’t mere mental agreement to a set of ideas, James says of this sort of nominal faith, “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this…” (2:19).

True faith involves submission to the will of God; ““not what I will, but what you will.”” said Jesus in Gethsemane (Mark 14:36 ESV). Most basically faith is heartfelt trust in Jesus to be the Lord of your life (Rom 10:9 ESV). When I was a young believer I used to hear a lot of teaching about having more faith, but they never seemed to tell me how I could grow in faith.

This caused me a lot of anguish feelings of spiritual inferiority as I never seemed to measure up to the faith of the preachers. But I will never forget what my theological college lecturer used to say, in rather academic language, “Faith is conditioned by its object.

The reality of faith comes from who you put your faith in; a chair to support you, a friend to there for you or a spouse to love you to the end. The all sufficiency of Christian faith derives from the revelation of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The gospel revelation of “the righteousness of God” communicates what he has done to savingly bring us into a right relationship with himself (Mic 6:5 ESV; 7:9 ESV; Isaiah 46:13 ESV; Isaiah 51:5–8 ESV). It’s what he’s done in sending Jesus to die and be raised for us that our sins might be forgiven and we are justified in his sight (Rom 4:1-8 ESV).

The Father didn’t do the right thing by us in Christ and then leave us to work things out from there by our own intellectual comprehension. The good news of God’s righteousness “is revealed from faith for faith”. “Revelation” happens when God unveils to us his just saving plan (Gal 1:12 ESV).

All you need to do to be right with God is to believe the gospel.

Why only faith?

Why not faith plus good living? Because true faith is a heart level trust with brings with it the whole of a person’s life (Eph 2:8-10 ESV).

Paul ends with a quotation from Habakkuk 2:4 ESV about the radical graciousness of God’s righteous saving work; “as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Those whose righteousness is expressed in faith find life in God, now and forever.

APPLICATION AND CONCLUSION

Everyone is already in a relationship with God; it’s just that the vast majority are in a wrong relationship with God.

In an age where the prevailing social conscience has been so corrupted as to call evil good and good evil (Isa 5:20 ESV) we desperately need an outbreak of the revelation of the righteousness of God.

Only by exposure to the inexpressibly wonderful truth of what God has done to save us in Christ can people realise that they have wrongfully rejected a relationship with the true God and placed themselves under his judgement (Rom 1:18-32 ESV).

The leading edge of the gospel is the marvellous death and resurrection of Jesus, but following it is the command to turn and have faith in God’s promises (Acts 2:38 ESV; 17:30-31 ESV).

A true response of faith excludes what the New Testament calls “works” as a basis for salvation.

In Paul’s time these “works” included circumcision, food laws and keeping the Sabbath (Rom 3:20 ESV; 27-28 ESV; 4:2 ESV ff. etc).

Today we must not think being good living, or going to church, or reading the Bible, evangelism, social justice etc. contribute to our salvation. “Faith plus” thinking denies the all sufficiency of the death and resurrection of Jesus and shows we urgently need a revelation of the unlimited justice of God in Christ.

To be converted and to keep growing as Christians we all need revelation of the righteousness of God in the gospel. As a practical response to this part of Romans we would be wise to act on the counsel of Martin Luther, “Ask God to work faith in you, or you will remain forever without faith, no matter what you wish, say or can do.

In the power of the gospel let us not be ashamed to ask God for faith – now! 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 22nd July, 2018

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 22nd July, 2018 

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Under the Canopy of Heaven 6. Heaven and the Holy Spirit 

INTRODUCTION

In tonight’s teaching on “the canopy of heaven”
I want to pick up a neglected topic, Heaven and the Holy Spirit.

We naturally think of our “heavenly Father”, and Jesus is obviously no longer on earth. But we struggle to locate the Holy Spirit in any way.

This thinking has some biblical support, e.g. vs.7Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? vs.8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” (Psalm 139:7-8), but overall lacks careful investigation of the text of scripture..

Peter finds it important to tell his readers of, “the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven” (1 Pet 1:12).

An expression which reminds us of the events on the Day of Pentecost; “And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house….And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:2, 4).

In the narrative of Acts, the Spirit now linked heaven and earth because Jesus had ascending into heaven (Acts 1:11) as the exalted Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36).

THE SPIRIT OF JESUS

THE PROMISE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Peter’s preaching at Pentecost doesn’t dwell on the ministry of the Spirit but on that of Jesus. Explaining the source of the phenomenon of tongues he restifies, vs.32This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.vs.33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit,he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.” (Acts 2:32-33)

That Jesus is the giver of the Spirit is taught throughout scripture (Matt 3:11; Luke 24:49; John 7:39; John 20:22; Acts 2:33; Acts 8:17). It is much rarer however to ask why this us.

The unique relationship which has come into being between the glorified humanity of Jesus and the Spirit is clearly conveyed in John’s words, “as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (Jn 7:39). The glorified Christ will send the Spirit because as Geoffrey Bingham wrote, the Holy Spirit “has become ‘the Spirit of the man’ (ie. the man Jesus, the man now exalted and glorified).”

The Father has given the Spirit to the exalted Jesus to glorify him and establish him as Lord of all (John 3:34-35; Acts 2:36; Acts 10:36; Rom 10:12; Rev 17:14; 19:16). This is why it is Jesus unrestrainedly poured out the Spirit on the Church.

THE GIFT OF THE SPIRIT

The gift of the Spirit is an expression of the Lordship endowed upon the Son by the Father. (Phil 2:6-11; Rom 14:9; Acts 2:36). It is also a sign of his deity, because n the Old Testament it is always God who pours out the Spirit (e.g. Isa 32:15; Isa 44:3; Ezek 39:29; Joel 2:28-29; Zech 12:10).

That the exalted Jesus is the “director” of the Spirit is most pronounced in the visions of Revelation which use the expression “7 spirits (of God)” (Rev 1:4; Rev 3:1; Rev 4:5; Rev 5:6) to emphasise the fullness, power, purity and holiness of the Spirit located before God’s throne in heaven.

The background is the “seven eyes” in Zechariah representing the eyes of Yahweh (which range throughout the whole earth Zech 3:9; Zech 4:10b cf. 2 Chron 16:7-9). The promise is of a divine deliverance, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” (Zech 4:6).

The expression “7 spirits of God” makes it clear that the Spirit is in full unity with God and not part of the creation. The Spirit in fact lovingly watches over all creation.

At the commencement of the letters to the seven churches Jesus is introduced as “the one who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars” (Rev 3:1).

Jesus has the seven-fold anointing (Isa 11:2) which is the  source of the fire which burns on the lampstands of the churches (Rev 1:20) so that they might bear illuminated witness to his truth.

In chapter 4 John is taken into the heavenly throne room of God and sees, “before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God” (Rev 4:5).

Fire is a regular symbol for judgement in the Old Testament (Isa 4:4; Isa 33:14; Malachi 3:2) and John the Baptist had prophesied that Messiah would “baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt 3:11; Luke 3:17).

The Spirit is heaven’s agency to bring divine judgement on the earth.

This is supported by various biblical texts; “he (the anointed one) shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath (ruah) of his lips he shall kill the wicked.” (Isa 11:4); “then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath (pneuma) of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.” (2 Thess 2:8).

SWORD OF CHRIST’S MOUTH

The sword of Christ’s mouth when he returns is a sword of judgement (Rev 1:16; Rev 2:12, 16; Rev 19:15), and it is “the sword of the Spirit…the word of God” (Eph 6:17).  

It is important to note that the fire in Revelation 4 is released upon the earth in response to the prayers of the saints (Rev 8:4-5).

But he does this at the behest of the Lamb; for we read of John’s vision of God’s throne room in Revelation 5, “I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” (Rev 5:6). Having been victorious in death and resurrection the Lamb now directs the eyes and spirits of God. In a dynamic sense the Spirit of God has become the Spirit of the Lamb.

With the glorification of the Lamb the Spirit is no longer confined to the throne room in heaven but is “sent out into all the earth” to act powerfully on behalf of the Lamb’s beleaguered people (cf. 2 Chron 16:7-9).

Whilst Jesus and the Father remain enthroned in heaven the Spirit is commissioned is to enact the Lamb’s victory in the world through the Church by fullness of divine power. This is particularly true through the Spirit’s gift of prophecy.

SPIRIT OF PROPHECY

Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

John 15:26

As we saw last week God has a plan to unite heaven and earth (Eph 1:9-10). Prophets are called to declare the plan (Jer 23:18, 22; Am 3:7) and to warn the people of God against the idolatries, injustices and deceptive teachings which would prevent them from carrying out the plan.

This relates especially to beliefs and behaviours which would incite the judgement of God e.g. Deut 28:15-68. This order is clear from the letters to the 7 churches in Revelation, with its warnings of judgements against sin unless the people repent e.g. Rev 2:5; 16; Rev 3:3, 19.

In the very broadest sense prophecy has to do with “the testimony of Jesus” (Rev 1:2, 9; Rev 12:17; Rev 19:10; Rev 20:4). Best understood as primarily Jesus’ witness to himself rather than our testifying to Jesus. It is the essential nature of the Holy Spirit to bear witness to Christ.

The Spirit of God has always been the inspirer of the prophets (Num 24:3-4; 1 Sam 10:6-10; 2 Sam 23:1ff; Micah 3:8; Joel 2:28ff; Acts 11:28; Acts 13:2; Acts 21:4, 11;1 Cor 12:10; Eph 3:5) enabling them to speak about the death and glorification of the Anointed One (1 Pet 1:10-11).

Jesus himself said, ““But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” (John 15:26).

The Word of God and the Spirit of God are in the closest possible relationship, a relationship that is communicated to inspired men and women because the Spirit has been taken into Jesus.

This is not to be thought of as some external transaction, for the Spirit has been perfectly internalised in the humanity of the Son of God through his sacrificial obedience (Luke 24:26).

Since the glorification of Jesus what the Spirit says is what the exalted heavenly Christ is saying. What Jesus heard from the Spirit he spoke on earth, now what the Spirit hears from Jesus in heaven he speaks to the Church.

The order of the relationship between incarnate Son and Spirit is reversed from what it was in the Gospels. In the letters to the 7 churches in Revelation, Jesus addresses each congregation, then we are told, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 29; Rev 3:6, 13, 22).

Whilst the whole of Revelation is a testimony of heavenly things seen “in the Spirit” (Rev 1:10-11; Rev 4:2; Rev 17:3; Rev 21:10) it is Jesus who makes the contents of the book known to the apostle John. “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John” (Rev 1:1; Rev 22:16).

The Spirit is not a part of the chain of revelation, God-Christ-angel-John. He makes possible the visionary experience of the seer by suspending his normal consciousness enabling John to receive the revelation.  John’s normal sensory experience was replaced by visions and auditions given him by the Spirit in a “trance” (cf. Acts 10:10; Acts 11:5; Acts 22:17).

The Spirit creates a state in which a believer is open to the revelation and reception of divine truth (Which is signified by the image of light in scripture e.g. John 1:4-5, 9; John 3:20; John 8:12; Acts 13:47; Acts 26:23; 2 Cor 4:6; Eph 3:9; Eph 5:8; Phil 2:15; Rev 1:20; Rev 3:1.). The result is faithful witness to Jesus carried out “in” the Spirit (e.g. John 15:26-27; Acts 1:8; Rev 1:2, 9; Rev 6:9; Rev 12:11, 17; Rev 20:4).

Inspired prophetic oracles in which John speaks Christ’s words to the churches are “in the Spirit”, even where he is not mentioned (Rev 16:15; Rev 22:7, 12-13, 16, 20). Likewise, where the Spirit speaks words to the churches it can only be “in Christ” (Rev 14:13b; Rev 22:17a).  To “be filled with the Spirit” and to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” are interchangeable because of the communion between Christ and Spirit (Eph 5:18; Col 3:16).

SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS

SPRINGS OF LIVING WATER

John 4:13-14

It is in the Spirit that we enjoy all the blessing of the new life of Christ. (Christ’s own new and glorified life is the basis for our new life in him.)

When Paul thanks “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:3), he means blessings that belong to the realm of the Spirit of God. (cf. Rom 1:11; 1 Cor 12:1; 1 Cor 14:1, 37; Gal 6:1; Eph 5:19; Col 1:9; 3:16).

Whatever blessings Jesus has from the Father have been imparted to him by the Spirit (cf. Rom 1:4; Rom 8:11; 1 Tim 3:16; 1 Pet 3:18) and then in the Spirit to us.

The riches of the love, joy, peace etc. that come to us in the Spirit are a share in the heavenly life of Jesus (John 15:11; Rom 5:5; 1 Pet 1:8). “Spiritual” doesn’t mean ethereal or non-material in opposition to “earthly”.

We are spiritual people because we belong to the Spirit. So “spiritual songs” (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16) are songs inspired by the Spirit, and the “spiritual body” (1 Cor 15:44-46) is a real body but one suited to the supernatural eternal life of the Spirit etc..

The blessings of such rich life in the Spirit are sometimes conveyed symbolically. In John’s writings water is a symbol for the communication of the Spirit.

In John 7:37-39; vs.37Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. vs.38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” vs.39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (Cf. John 4:13-14; “springs of living water”).

It should not be forgotten that in John the death of Jesus is a turning point in his glorification (John 12:23-28; John 13:1; John 17:1-5).

The various references in Revelation to the Lamb guiding his beloved sheep to “springs of living water” and the “the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Rev 7:15-17; Rev 22:1) should be understood as references to the Spirit giving life eternally.

It is the life of the heavenly, glorified God-man Jesus which is poured out by the Spirit into the hearts of believers (cf. Rom 5:5).

HEAVENLY INTERCESSION OF THE SPIRIT

SPIRIT AND THE BRIDE SAY, “COME.”

Rev 22:17

The heavenly Lamb with the “seven horns…seven eyes…the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth” (Rev 5:6) possesses the fullness of God’s power and discernment for the Church’s mission in the whole world. Prayer is central to this mission.

Since the Bible tells us that the heavenly Jesus is interceding for us (Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25) and that “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Rom 8:26) be the  deepest possible communion between the glorified Jesus and the Spirit in the prayer life of the Church.

This is borne out by the prominence of prayer immediately after the Lamb takes the scroll from the hand of God in heaven; “And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” (Rev 5:8-10).

When the Spirit prays in us he is plumbing the depths of God and praying the complete prayer, the one that is offered in the perfected humanity of Christ (1 Cor 2:10ff; Heb 5:7 –10). The Advocacy of the heavenly Jesus and the Advocacy of the indwelling Spirit turn us into advocates for the cause of Christ’s kingdom on earth (John 14:16). Such prayers will not fail (1 John 5:14-15).

Since “the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.” (1 Cor 2:10), this must include the Spirit searching the deep prayers of Jesus. E.g. in John 17, in Gethsemane, and on the cross.

When we come to the end of the Bible we have a picture of the complete unity of Spirit and Church in their mutual longing for the consummation of the cause of Christ; “The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” (Rev 22:17). It is not as though there are two intercessors following one after the other, but a united prayer in love for Jesus. The implications of the presence of the heavenly Spirit in the Church are immense.

“What the Spirit prays through the Christian prophets is what the Church in her eschatological purity, ready for the coming of her husband the Lamb (cf. 19:7-8; 21:2) should pray, and so the prayer is ascribed to ‘the Spirit and the Bride’.” (Bauckham)

CHURCH

THE SPIRIT BRINGS HEAVENLY REALITIES TO EARTH

As we are conscious of the Spirit as the pledge and guarantee of our heavenly inheritance (Eph 1:13; 2 Cor 5:5) our heavenly identity becomes real to us. In being “children born of promise… born according to the Spirit” (Gal 4:28-29) we relate to “the Jerusalem above… our mother” (Gal 4:26).

Regeneration by the Spirit is the essential foundation of any real spiritual insight into heavenly things. “vs.3 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God…. vs.6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit…. vs.12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”” (John 3:3, 6, 12)

In Christ the Church is being built as “a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph 2:22). as she enjoys communion with the heavenly temple, a temple whose worshippers are witnesses (Rev 11:1-3) charged with the task of being built up in the faith and expressing the Lordship of the ascended Christ in all things (Eph 4:7ff.).

That the two witnesses in Revelation 11 stand for churches is clear because they are called “lampstands” (cf. Rev 1:20; 2:5).

The Church as a witnessing temple is a prophetic community making known the presence and power of her King through proclamation, sign, suffering-death, resurrection and ascension (Rev 11:4-14). The Church recapitulates the life of Jesus in the glory of the Spirit making all of God’s people prophets (Rev 11:18).

Every dimension of the life of the Church is to be Spirit-filled. The Spirit builds (1 Cor 3:16f; 1 Cor 14:12); inhabits (1 Cor 6:19); directs (Acts 13:2 -4; Acts 15:28; Acts 16:6 -7); appoints leaders (Acts 20:28); gifts (1 Cor 12- 14; Eph 4:7- 14); unifies (1 Cor 12:4, 7; Eph 4:3) and extends (Acts 8:29) the Church.

The shape of the life of the people of God is faithful testimony through suffering and apparent defeat. This form of life bears effective witness to the whole world (Rev 11:9-13; Isa 24:6; Isa 26:21) as a communication of the gospel of Christ. It also provokes repentance in a remnant of humanity (Rev 11:13 cf. Rev 16:9).The Spirit works with Christ, the Father and the Church rather than working alone.

(In Revelation  he prefers to work with other characters (God, Jesus, the apostle John, the churches). His co-agency, actively Rev 3:1; Rev 4:5; Rev 5:6, or passively Rev 1:4, 10; Rev 4:2, Rev 17:3; Rev 19:10; Rev 21:10, appears much more frequently than his personal action (Rev 11:11) or being acted on (Rev 5:6).). The one place where the Spirit acts directly is in raising the faithful witnesses who have been killed for their testimony to Jesus; “after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet” (Rev 11:11). This is a resurrection.

An afflicted Church desperately needs the words of end-time comfort and ethical injunction that comes from the Spirit to strengthen her obedience; vs.12Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. vs.13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labours, for their deeds follow them!”” (Rev 14:12-13).

Through Christ the Spirit is our wonderful Counsellor (cf. Isa 9:6). He is also a motivator to evangelism and mission.

It is as the Church hears the longing of the Spirit that she joins in inviting others to come to Jesus.  “The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” (Rev 22:17). The Spirit is the one who in answer to the prayers of the Lamb and his saints creates a thirst in the lost for the things of God.

CONCLUSION

SONS OF NEW OIL

Zech 4:14

From the perspective of the throne of God in heaven at the centre of all things is “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” (Rev 5:6).

This threefold 7 (horns, eyes, spirits) means that the crucified and glorified Jesus has all power, wisdom and fullness of Spirit to enact the plan of God on earth through the Church.

It is the Spirit who is the agent of all the works of Christ e.g. regeneration (John 3:5-6; Tit 3:5) adoption (Rom 8:14-16; Gal 4:6) sanctification (Gal 5:22-23; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2) and glorification (1 Cor 15:44, 46).

He incorporates us into the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13), empowers prayer (Acts 4:23-24; Rom 8:26; Eph 6:18; Jude 20) and enables worship (John 4:23-24; Acts 10:46; Eph 5:18-19; Phil 3:3).

As members of a Church raised, seated and blessed with Christ in the heavenly realms (Eph 1:3, 20; Eph 2:6) we are called to share in the fullest possible extent in the glorious life of Jesus.

for one who is ‘in Christ’… his human nature …exists not just alongside of the Creator, but in such a way that his human being is anchored in the very being of God. The breath taking import of all this … is that our human nature has been taken up and in Jesus to the top and summit of being, and that with him and in him man is located in the very centre of all things!” (T.F. Torrance).

To appreciate such glorious things comes through a revelation that we have been given the Holy Spirit from heaven. Only the Spirit can reveal to us that in Christ we now share in the inner relationships of God (1 Cor 2:10f; 2 Pet 1:4).

We know God by indwelling God, and being indwelt by God, this happens through the gift of the Spirit “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” (1 John 4:13)

If we “have the Spirit” (Rom 8:9; 1 Cor 7:40) it is because we are in communion with the glorified Jesus in his having of the Spirit (Rev 3:1; Rev 5:6). This means that all that the Spirit imparted to Christ can flow through our lives; the Church is essentially a place of heavenly revelations, prophetic witness, worship and prayers and empowerment to take the gospel to the whole world.

As at the End rivers of life flow from the throne of God and the Lamb to bring healing to the nations (Rev 22:1-3), Jesus prophesied such waters of the Spirit’s restoring power would flow through us (John 7:37-39) bearing witness to the glorification of Jesus. This is our essential testimony.

In fulfilment of the prophecies of Zechariah, we are in Christ, the fully anointed one, “sons of new oil” (Zech 4:14) signifying by life and deed the coming of a new creation.

If what the scriptures teach about the heavenly Holy Spirit and the life of the Church seems largely untrue to our experience we need to ask in what way do we not believe in Jesus (John 7:37).

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 26th August, 2018 Alive@5

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 26th August, 2018  

The real question that needs an answer Fri 17 Aug 2018

Open Letter:

To all objecting to UWA hosting Dr Quentin van Meter re Transgenders Fri 17 Aug 2018

(venue now shifted for security/safety reasons)

The real question that needs an answer now is when your two-year-old boy tells you that he is a girl, what are you going to say? Will you tell him that’s OK and that no one should tell him otherwise, or will you pick him up, love him and tell him he is welcome to like girl things and pretend at times he is a girl but that you love him as “your boy” and he will always be your boy and that you are so proud of him?

And when your six-year-old girl tells you that because she has so much fun with boys that she thinks – like the school teacher told her she could – she is really a boy, what are you going to say? Will you say “of course, that’s OK and you can continue to work that out for yourself” or will you say that you love your tom-boy little girl and you are so pleased she can do boy things and even think like a boy, but “you will always be my precious beautiful, wonderful little girl” and that she may even grow up into a beautiful queen and yet always be adventurous and mischievous in the way she can think.

So, for our children’s sake

Personality vs. Gender.

According to most surveys 60-90% of children with “gender confusion” will, without interference, revert to or choose their biological/anatomical/genetic sex by adulthood.

According to Dr Quentin van Meter, with treatment before puberty, this figure is 98%.

We want to reassure parents that this is so and that giving hormones to delay puberty is not good medicine.

We want parents to be able to reassure their children – who have been confused by people, including through public schooling, insisting that they not be known as he or she – that they really are the biological sex they are and anatomically and physically apparent.

We want children and the parents of these children to rejoice and take pleasure in the sex that they are and that masculine and feminine traits in their personality are in fact normal and do not determine gender.

We do not want to see them going down the track of double mastectomy or penile amputation.

Yes, if as adults, they have made such a transition we will accept and respect them as they now are. Likewise, we will accept and respect someone who has had a leg amputation because they were convinced that they should not have that leg – a state or condition that we would usually put into the bracket of

Body Dysmorphic Disorder and would seek to persuade from such a course of irreversible action. Further we would regard such mutilating surgery as being unethical.

And although we now receive criticism (and hate) and accusations that we are in fact hateful (how weird is that) we still regard such states of mind as being disturbed and of psychological origin – and therefore, despite the recent re-classification of gender dysphoria, a disorder of psychology.

I call upon the students of UWA to uphold science above dangerous and damaging social theory and I do hope in their own parenting of their children they affirm and take delight in their children’s natural sexuality.

For parents – and all of our society: reassure our children they are what they obviously are and to take pleasure in this obvious fact and that they are not to listen to anyone trying to confuse them.

By: Lachlan Dunjey Date: 17 August 2018 Title: The real question that needs an answer URL: chooselifeaustralia.org.au

PS from an Article:

Title: I’m a Pediatrician. Here’s What I Did When a Little Boy Patient Said He Was a Girl.

If a girl who insists she is male has been on testosterone daily for one year, she is cleared to get a bilateral mastectomy at age 16. Mind you, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently came out with a report that urges pediatricians to caution teenagers about getting tattoos because they are essentially permanent and can cause scarring.

But this same AAP is 110 percent in support of 16-year-old girls getting a double mastectomy, even without parental consent, so long as the girl insists that she is a man, and has been taking testosterone daily for one year.

To indoctrinate all children from preschool forward with the lie that they could be trapped in the wrong body disrupts the very foundation of a child’s reality testing. If they can’t trust the reality of their physical bodies, who or what can they trust? Transgender ideology in schools is psychological abuse that often leads to chemical castration, sterilization, and surgical mutilation.

By: Dr Michelle Cretella | Date: December 11, 2017 | URL: dailysignal.com

Under the Canopy of Heaven 4. Heavenly Worship in Hebrews

INTRODUCTION

Despite initial appearances, the dire situation of the recipients of Hebrews is strongly related to the spiritual crises of the Church today. In the thought world of Hebrews to “fall away from the living God(Heb 3:12 ESV) is to fall away from a “heavenly calling(Heb 3:1 ESV). A high calling expounded in this letter by its unique focus on Jesus the high priest ministering on our behalf in the holy places in heaven.

The expression “holy places” is the plural form for the entire temple complex (Lev 21:23 ESV; Ezek 7:24 ESV; Jer 51:51 ESV). Hebrews’ focus is on the holy of holies cf. Heb 9:3, 8 ESV; Heb 10:19 ESV; Heb 13:11 ESV .

Access to God is the spiritual concern of this epistle, and by repeatedly exhorting his readers to “draw near(Heb 4:16 ESV; Heb 7:19, 25 ESV; Heb 10:1, 22 ESV; Heb 11:6 ESV) the writer is confident that acceptable worship (Heb 12:28 ESV) can be offered in these “last days(Heb 1:2 ESV; Heb 10:25 ESV). But only through the new way God has provided in Christ (Heb 9:8; Heb 10:20).

To enter God’s presence is the chief end of human existence, and the means by which the worshipper is consecrated (Heb 2:11 ESV) and made fit for the service of God (Heb 9:14 ESV).

Rest

Hebrews is the book which sums up all of the benefits of salvation with the term “rest”. We are invited to enter into God’s own rest (Heb 3:11 ESV; Heb 4:1 ESV cf. Gen 2:2 ESV). Since this rest is God’s it can only be entered into through his ways in obedience to his Word (Heb 3:7, 15 ESV; Heb 4:7 ESV; Heb 12-13 ESV). This is the word of the cross, that Jesus has made purification for sins and has sat down in heaven (Heb 1:3 ESV). This is prophetically pointed to by the statement that the Day of Atonement is a day of “solemn rest(Lev 16:31 ESV).

Any other way of access to God involves works which are themselves “dead” or lead to the punishment of death as separation from God (Heb 4:10 ESV; Heb 6:1 ESV; Heb 9:14 ESV). These works may be the sins familiarly listed throughout the New Testament e.g. Gal 5:19-21 ESV, or works of the Law.

Central to Hebrews argument is the notion that to enjoy God’s rest means being where God is. In this letter this is a scene of a victory celebration in worshipful joy in the heavenly sanctuary.

The Old Testament has a theology of rest that understands it to flow out of God’s presence, concentred in the tabernacle/temple (Ex 33:14 ESV; Ps 95:11 ESV). Hebrews continues this tradition.

The rest of which Hebrews speaks so potently (Heb 3:7- 4:11 ESV) is not the final state of the believer in heaven (cf. 2 Thess 1:7 ESV; Rev 14:13 ESV)

but “a state of spiritual rest and deliverance from every thing that was grievous or burdensome unto the souls and consciences of believers”.

John Owen

A rest now entered into by faith (Heb 4:3 ESV) in Christ and the gospel.

Where the law and its worship brought bondage and servility we enter into God’s own rested glory in Christ.

The heavenly tabernacle/holy place is the epicenter of this rest.   

Rest is not blissful inactivity, but participation in Christ’s ever constructive activity in heaven.

TYPES

Hebrews is dominated by an intense prophetic understanding of the Old Testament tabernacle and temple.

The tabernacle was of foundational importance for Israel; from the wilderness wandering until the construction of the temple of Solomon it served the purpose of providing access to God. Especially through the rituals of atonement. It was God’s dwelling in the tabernacle in the midst of Israel that made her holy.

God commanded Moses on Sinai to “vs. 8 make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midstvs.9 Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.(Ex 25:8-9 ESV cf. Ex 25: 40 ESV; Ex 26:30 ESV; Ex 27:8 ESV; Numbers 8:4 ESV; Acts 7:44 ESV).

Prophetically, Moses saw the reopening of the Edenic sanctuary, the way into heaven and the beginnings of the new creation filled with glory of God (Ex 40:34 ESV ff).

God’s dwelling in the earthly tabernacle made it a pattern that communicated the greater things which were to come in Christ. It was “a copy and shadow of the heavenly things” (Heb 8:5 ESV) where Christ ministers as high priest “in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man” (Heb 8:2 ESV). The realities of “the greater and more perfect tabernacle” (Heb 9:11 ESV) in heaven now revealed through Christ made possible and gave power to the Old Testament rituals related to the temple.

Where the Jewish readers of Hebrews were attracted back to the physical structures of a temple, priesthood and sacrifices in this world they needed to understand that the real, eternal and unshakable sanctuary is in heaven. Where “Christ has entered… heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.(Heb 9:24 ESV).

They had failed to understand was that Jesus is the reason for the existence of both the earthly and the heavenly temple; “something greater than the temple is here(Matt 12:6 ESV). Everything that the tabernacle pointed to, i.e. the divine dwelling place, holiness and communication with God are fulfilled in Christ (John 1:14 ESV). Jesus has personally completed the heavenly world by his own personal presence there.

Since the present heavens and the earth will perish and everything that is of this creation shall be shaken out of its place (Heb 1:10-12 ESV; Heb 12:26-27 ESV) attachment to the forms of old covenant religion is useless. There’s no place for another physical temple. We look forward to possessing an unshakable kingdom which is the abode of God himself (Heb 12:25-28 ESV cf. Haggai 2:6 ESV; Rev 21:3 ESV).

The power of the heavenly tabernacle where Jesus resides is that through perfect self-offering and complete obedience (Heb 5:9-10 ESV) he has fulfilled the purposes of atonement that the Old Testament rituals could only point to.  

Unlike earthly priests Christ has gained access to the most intimate presence of God in heaven. He “entered once for all into the holy places… by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.(Heb 9:12 ESV; cf. Heb 10:19 ESV; Heb 12:24 ESV).

He remains in the holiest place in perfect communication with his Father on our behalf. As the true priest-king reigning and worshiping in the heavenly temple the ministry Jesus is currently conducting is the centre-point of Hebrews.

The themes of such a ministry run throughout scripture. Adam was a king in the sanctuary of Eden called to bring God’s tabernacling presence in Eden to the whole world (Gen 1:26-28 ESV; cf. Psalm 8 ESV).

The language of Genesis 2:15 ESV, “to tend and watch over”, is used elsewhere exclusively of priestly duties around the sanctuary (Num 3:7-8 ESV; Num 8:26 ESV; Num 18:5-6 ESV).

Worship meant mission.

Israel was called to be, “kingdom of priests and a holy nation(Ex 19:6 ESV) with a holy vocation to stand out as a light to the nations.

In using Old Testament language about kingship (Heb 2:6-9 ESV) and priesthood of Jesus (Heb 2:10-17 ESV) Hebrews teaches that Jesus fulfils everything Adam and Israel were called to be.

This vocation is later applied to the new people of God, the Church e.g. 1 Pet 2:5, 9 ESV; Rev 1:6 ESV; Rev 5:10 ESV; Rev 20:6 ESV

HEAVENLY MINISTRY 

“Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.” (8:1-2). Exalted to the right hand of God (4:14) Jesus serves his community on earth from a sphere where there is nothing partial, temporary, unreal or unclean. This text tells us that Jesus is a leitourgos, a word used in the Old Testament of the role of priests and Levites in the tabernacle on behalf of the people (Neh 10:39; Isa 61:6; Jer 33:21 cf. Ex 28:31, 39; 29:30; Num 16:9; 1 Chron 16:4, 6). Jesus is the worship leader of the present assembly of God’s people on earth, the Church.

So we read, “vs.11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, vs.12 saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” (Heb 2:11-13 ESV).

Congregation” is ekklesia, i.e. church.

These words are taken from Psalm 22, a psalm he spoke aloud from the cross (Mark 15:34 ESV). With a joy and victory achieved through great tribulation Christ is from heaven preaching the gospel in our midst and singing the praises of his Father. Paul’s language of “be filled with the Spirit” and “the Word of Christ(Eph 5:18 ESV f; Col 3:16 ESV f.) about worship express the same reality. The subject of Jesus’ preaching and singing to us is the delivering power of God that took him to the cross and raised him from the dead (5:7-8).

Such thoughts appear elsewhere in the New Testament. “Therefore I will praise youamong the Gentiles, and sing to your name.”” (Rom 15:8-9 ESV). The quotation is drawn from two near identical psalms (2 Samuel 22:50 ESV = Psalm 18:49 ESV).

These record David’s exalting in God after the death of his enemies and his successful military campaigns.

Ultimately, this is Christ singing his triumphs to the glory of God; “sing with a free and loving heart the praises of his Father and He would set apart many brethren who would join Him in the chorus.” (Bingham).

As our priest Jesus is preaching, singing and also praying for us. “vs.25 exalted above the heavens ….he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.(Heb 7:25, 26 ESV). Cf. Isa 53:12 ESV; Luke 22:32 ESV; John 17 ESV; Rom 8:33-34 ESV, for Jesus’ intercessory life.

In unity with the glory of God whatever Jesus asks of his Father will be granted (cf. John 11:41 ESV), for his enthroned triumphant life in heaven is his prayer (Swete).

Proclamation, praise and prayer should fill the Church because it is in union with Christ in the heavenly tabernacle.

The heavenly temple and the earthly temple, the Church, are distinguishable but inseparable (cf. Rev 13:6 ESV). 

This is a mystery, but one which is an outworking of our union with Christ.

As Paul says, “vs.2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. vs.3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.(Col 3:2-3 ESV).

THE CHURCH TEMPLE

Under the old covenant there was highly graduated access to worship in the sanctuary of God, from the outermost court being for Gentiles through to only the high priest entering into the holy of holies but once a year (9:7). Now through the full forgiveness of sins in Christ (8:8-13; 10:16-18) “we (all) have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh” (10:19-20).

Since the new age (1:1) of apocalyptic realities has arrived the Church is the new end-times temple of unfettered access to God (1 Cor 3:16; 2 Cor 6:16; Eph 2:21).

Our access to the heavenly realms is dramatically expressed, “you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly/church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” (12:22-23). This “coming” into heaven is a permanent condition (Greek perfect tense) by which God’s people enjoy communion with him in a continuous liturgy of proclamation, praise and prayer.                                                                                                                                   Robert Jenson refuses to separate Church and heaven. “Any picture of God ruling the hearts of believers from the church’s table, font and pulpit, and ruling the rest of creation from someplace else called heaven…is radically   inappropriate.”

PRIEST-KINGS

The worship of the Church unites us with heaven where Christ is both our worship leader Heb 2:12 ESV; Heb 8:2 ESV and the worshipped One Heb 12:22-24 ESV.

We are priests and kings in him (Cf. 1 Pet 2:5, 9 ESV; Rev 1:6 ESV; Rev 5:10 ESV; Rev 20:6 ESV). “because of Christ’s ascension and because I am tethered to Him and He to me, my prayers are ascending into heaven and the presence of God…in the corporate worship…our singing goes into heaven itself.” (Bertolet).

We are one with the glad worship of the thronging angelic hosts in festal assembly(Heb 12: 22 ESV cf. Rev 7:9 ESV ff.).

A picture drawn from the festival gatherings of worshippers in great numbers at the feasts of Israel (Ezek 46:11 ESV; Hos 9:5 ESV; Amos 5:21 ESV). Here with fervour and exultation the people expectedly sought the face of God in his temple (Ps 27:4 ESV; Ps 42:4 ESV; Ps 122:1 ESV cf. Rev 21:2-4, 22-27 ESV).

As a cloud of incense shielded the entry of the high priest into the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement so that he did not die (Lev 16:12-13 ESV), through the blood of Christ in the holy place our prayers are united with his heavenly intercession forming a cloud of fragrant incense between heaven and earth. In unity with Christ who “loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God(Eph 5:2 ESV) we are called to “ offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe…. ii Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God… the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.(i Heb 12:28 ESV; ii Heb 13:15-16  [v.16 includes sacrificial sharing]). This is our priestly service in the likeness of Christ.

From the vantage point of heaven this is clearest in Revelation (Heb 5:8 ESV; Heb 8:3-5 ESV) where the “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” arise before the throne of God.

These prayers of the persecuted saints have a powerful impact on the actions of God against the wicked dwelling on earth (Rev 8:13 ESV; Rev 12:12 ESV).

Something of this reality is expressed by Paul when he describes the Christian presence; “vs.15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, vs.16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.(2 Cor 2:15-16 ESV).

APPLICATION AND CONCLUSION

There are signs all around us that the contemporary Church shares the problems warned about in Hebrews.

The plunge in the regularity of church attendance amongst committed Christians must ultimately be attributed not to the busyness of modern life (communion with God drowned out by “the babble of distractedness” (Bingham)) but by the inability of contemporary Christian communities to follow Jesus into the presence of God (Heb 9:24 ESV). If with Jesus we were consciously participating in the rich heavenly worship nothing could keep us away from gathering together (Heb 10:25 ESV).

Like the Israelites in the wilderness, and the intended recipients of Hebrews, we seem unable to hear our high priest constantly calling us to worship (Ps 66:1-2 ESV; Ps 81:1-3 ESV; Ps 95:1-2 ESV; Ps 100:1 ESV). We are struggling to share with him in the bursting joy of his having realised complete communion and unlimited access to the Father in heaven (Ps 12:2 ESV).

As a teaching priest Jesus preaches to us the gospel reasons why we should join with him in celebrating the victory of God (cf. Deut 15:2-11 ESV; Deut 27:9-10 ESV; Deut 31:9-13 ESV; 2 Chron 17:7-9 ESV; 2 Chron 20:13-17 ESV; Mal 2:7 ESV).

Hebrews focuses (Heb 3:7-11, 15 ESV; Heb 4:7 ESV) on one particular psalm where the priest exhorts the congregation to ecstatic delight:

Ps 95 “vs.1 Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! vs.2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!”, which then gives a dire warning;  vs.7 Today, if you hear his voice, vs.8 do not harden your hearts(Ps 95:1-2, 7-8 ESV).

Any teaching that fails to teach grace alone (Heb 4:6 ESV) For example, many churches which would be considered dynamic worship assemblies teach “tithing”.

An old covenant principle nowhere found in the New Testament. will leave its worshippers with hard hearts (Heb 3:11 ESV; Heb 4:3, 5 ESVcf. Ps 95:11 ESV) making it impossible for them to enjoy the Sabbath rest for which Christ shed his blood and entered the holiest place on our behalf (Heb 6:20 ESV; Heb 9:24 ESV).

With unperfected consciences such worshippers cannot render to God the worth that is his due and will remain plagued by dead works (Heb 9:9, 14 ESV; Heb 10:22 ESV).

Performance based church meetings that offer spiritual principles to solve problems are contaminated with the professional of secular culture and cannot communicate heavenly things that lift us out of superficialities.

Hebrews also warns against various causes of defilement common today, e.g. division, bitterness, sexual immorality,  which being unholy dilute the potency of priestly service (Heb 12:14-15 ESV).

The exhortation to “vs. 28 be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, vs. 29 for our God is a consuming fire.(Heb 12:28-29 ESV) is a warning to turn away from a vision for prosperity in the visible world to the invisible (Heb 11:1-3, 27 ESV) unshakeable heavenly world. 

A vain covetous grasping of the things of this creation brings the judgement of God on his people (Heb 12:16 ESV).

Hence the various warning passages of Hebrews (Heb 2:1-4 ESV; Heb 3:7-4:13 ESV; Heb 5:11-6:12 ESV; Heb 10:19-39 ESV; Heb 12:14-29 ESV).

It is not too much to consider that the terrible moral state of Western society is a sign that judgement has been “going out from the household of God(1 Pet 4:17 ESV).

This would spiritually fulfil the vision of Ezekiel and God’s command to his destroying angel:

vs.3 Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub on which it rested to the threshold of the house….vs.5 Pass through the city after him, and kill…. vs.6 And begin at my sanctuary.”” (Ezek 9:3, 5-6 ESV).

If the Church fails to be salt and light (Matt 5:13-15 ESV) societal decay is a consequence of a divine handing over.

The New Testament knows nothing of a passive God, it expects he will actively judge his people lest they completely fall away e.g. Acts 5:1-11 ESV; 1 Cor 5:1-5 ESV; 11:27-32 ESV; 1 Tim 1:20 ESV; Rev 2: 6, 16, 22-23 ESV; 3:3, 16 ESV).

The discipline of the “Father of spirits” is designed not to destroy but to perfect the Church so that we might enjoy “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” in the heavenly sanctuary where Christ is interceding on our behalf (Heb 12:9, 11 ESV cf. James 3:18 ESV).

Let us therefore exhort one another to assemble with Jesus (Heb 10:24-25 ESV) pressing in to enter the sanctuary in heaven as priests offering “acceptable worship, with reverence and awe(Heb 12:28 ESV).

For A Regression To Old Testament Patterns Of Graded Worship.
See:  Structures of Shame in the Church Today (Posted on 23 April 2005 by  John Yates)

For A Prophetic Picture Of The Rest We Need.
See:   A Prophetic Picture for Perth (Posted on 30 July 2009 by  John Yates)

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 12th August, 2018 | Alive@5

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: n/a

No Reputation: the Humble Father

INTRODUCTION

Times of great uncertainty are typically paired with great moves of God.

Globally, “the Donald” is the Lord’s Trump card to whip up political instability and fear of economic meltdown.

Nationally, conservative believers remain in trepidation about the rising power of ant-Christian sentiment.

Can the teachings of, say, the conservative Centre for Public Christianity, prepare us for the coming tsunami. Or do our very Pentecostal friends in the Awakening Blaze Prayer Movement and Awakening Australia hold the key for revival.

With a host of prayer groups for different spheres of culture bubbling up across Perth will all this somehow hold together?

Or in a few years time will we look back at a firestorm of spiritual activity that will have burnt out after a couple of years, like the Welsh revival (1904-1905) or Lakeland “revival” (2008), leaving little long term gain?

At present the inflexible wine-skins of many leaders hearts mean any outpouring of the Spirit would surely split the skins and the new wine would be lost (Mark 2:22). Since humility safeguards unity what revelation will safeguard the work of God amongst us?

Surprisingly, it is the humility of the Father.

A HUMBLE FATHER

What It Means To Be In The Form And Likeness Of God’S Own Being.

The scarcity of teaching on God’s humility is a sign that most of our spiritual leaders do not believe this.

Even Bible translations reflect such a bad heart attitude.

Many English versions of Philippians 2:6 have, “though he was in the form of God…. (Christ) humbled himself” (ESV, NLT, NRSV, RSV, TPT).

But the Greek text has no word for “though”.

It is because Jesus shared the “form of God” with his Father that he humbled himself. Everything Jesus knew about humility was taught by his Father. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are essentially and equally humble. If seeing Christ in the way of lowliness you see the Father (John 14:9 ESV).

The father who runs to the returning prodigal is the humble God (Luke 15:20 ESV).

The Father defers to the Son by answering his prayers, granting him authority, and testifying on his behalf (John 3:35 ESV; John 5:22-23, 26-27 ESV; John 6:37, 43-44 ESV; John 11:41-42 ESV; John 12:26 ESV; John 14:10 ESV; John 15:2, 8 ESV).

All wonderfully true, but only the witness of the cross will change our unbelieving hearts.

The despised cruel cross of public humiliation and experienced abandonment meant for Jesus a place of “no reputation(Phil 2:7 ESV; Heb 12:2 ESV).

But we must see it is God’s reputation as a loving Father which is in tatters as Jesus experiences dereliction (Mark 15:34 ESV) before evil angels and an unbelieving world.

No one at the time looking at the Son’s immeasurable suffering could continue to give the one Jesus called “Father” a good reputation (Luke 24:19-21 ESV).

The Father however was willing to lose his standing in the eyes of creatures because it is his standing in the eyes of his Son alone which counts, whom he will raise from the dead into glory (Heb 2:9 ESV). If Father, Son, and Spirit (where was he when Jesus was in agony?) willingly sacrifice their reputation for us why do we cling to our self-esteem? 

We just don’t understand what it means to be in the form and likeness of God’s own being.

ABSOLUTE ORIGIN

EVERYTHING COMES FROM THE FATHER

All that Jesus receives from God flows from his humbly recognising his absolute origin is in his Father

He declared without embarrassment, ““the Father has granted the Son also to have life in himself…. I live because of the Father…the Father is greater than I”” (John 5:26 ESV; John 6:57 ESV; John 14:28 ESV).

His commitment to be the Way to the Father, the Truth of the Father and the Life of the Father comes out of a grateful heart of Father-consciousness (John 14:6 ESV). And it means the Father can bestow on his Son his own “name above all names(Phil 2:9 ESV).  That everything that Jesus has comes from his Father has massive implications for our lives. In his dependence on the Father the Son always speaks of him in the Church.

LISTENING TO JESUS

Our Humility Comes From The Cross

To becoming humble minded like Jesus (Phil 2:5 ESV) we must listen to what he is saying.  

Listening to Christ the Word of God means will grow in his image of lowliness (Matt 11:29 ESV).

Here is his testimony, “For he who makes holy (Jesus) and those who are made holy (Christians) are all of one/have one Father…. So Jesus says, “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”” (Heb 2:11-12 ESV).

Jesus keeps telling us that with him we owe our origin absolutely to the Father.

As he was sent “from above(John 3:31 ESV) so we are “born from above1)The usual translation of the relevant Greek word in John’s Gospel, John 3:31 ESV; 19:11 ESV.(John 3:3 ESV).

Knowing this we will like Jesus claim nothing for ourselves and follow him in the humility of the cross (Phil 2:6-7 ESV). What then is blocking the Church as we know it from living in the unity and solidarity such radical humility brings?

LIKE FATHER LIKE SON

“Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

John 5:19-20

Christian leaders who badge themselves with “apostle”, “prophet”, “my church/ministry/vision” cannot breed humble children of God.  

The infallible mark of a true father/mother in faith is the production of spiritual offspring stripped of selfish ambition.

James’ is especially helpful; “every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…. the meekness of wisdom…is from above”; this wisdom is opposed to “jealousy and selfish ambition” which bring “disorder and evil of every kind(James 1:17 ESV; James 3:13 ESV ff).

Only the spiritual children of humble men and women of God can manifest that unselfish freedom from personal ambition which is a prerequisite for lasting revival.

Paul contritely says; “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.(Phil 4:9 ESV).

Such “peace” preserves the unity of the Spirit (Eph 4:3 ESV).

Where are our humble peace-makers to lead the Church today?

CONCLUSION

The endurance of a move of God in Australia hinges on a deeper revelation of the radical humility of God.

As sent by Father and Son the Holy Spirit never profiles himself (Luke 11:13 ESV; John 14:26 ESV; John 16:7 ESV).

The Son’s radical humility in never claiming anything as his own stems from the knowledge that his absolute origin is the Father (John 14:28 ESV).

Finally, the Father knows he cannot be Father without the Son.

To share in the humility of the Father perfected in the humanity of Jesus by the power of the Spirit is a core part of what it means to be conformed to the image of God (Col 3:10 ESV).

This is integral to our reason for being.

All of God’s promises are so that we might “become partners in the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4 ESV).

When the leaders of the Church stop telling us we can be influential, gifted, healthy, wealthy, socially righteous etc, and image and teach the humility of God we can be confident that any emerging revival will not end in divisions and confusion.

But we will only be in that place when we see the Lord raise up fathers/mothers in faith who have lived through a trashing of their reputation or are quite happy for that to happen for the glory of God.

Please pray for such radically humble servant leaders. 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 02nd August, 2018

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: N/A

References   [ + ]

1. The usual translation of the relevant Greek word in John’s Gospel, John 3:31 ESV; 19:11 ESV.

Under the Canopy of Heaven 1. The Throne of Joy

INTRODUCTION 

At a foundational level the spiritual impoverishment of contemporary Australian Christianity can be traced to our inability to enter the worldview of the first followers of Jesus. They were seized by a sense of being on the edge of eternity with Christ coming “soon(1 Cor 10:11 ESV; Rev 1:1, 3 ESV; Rev 22:10, 22 ESV) and believed that the veil between heaven and earth had been lifted.

God’s plan for the reconciliation of all things was now revealed in Christ (Acts 3:21 ESV; Eph 1:10 ESV; Col 1:20 ESV). They knew that everything “in heaven and on earth” had been made through and for Jesus as the “the Beginning and the End” of all God’s eternal purposes (Col 1:16-17 ESV; Rev 22:12 ESV).

Compared with this limitless horizon most teachers in today’s Church are fixated on the horizontal, they have much to say about a better life on earth but little testimony about the heavenly world.

We may rightly decry the progressive exclusion of godly values from the arts, education, commerce, justice, medicine, government and so on [UCA this week re SSM] but we ourselves have largely lost the plot of living under a sacred heavenly canopy which gave centuries of European civilisation a sense of order and meaning in everything.

Sexuality, for instance, was once about conformity to the design of the Creator but today it’s been reduced to a coveted expression of personal identity. Everything is being desacralised, stripped of sacredness e.g. euthanasia and defacing human dignity in the image of the eternal God.

The Church will remain powerless to halt the advance of dark cosmic powers in the heavenly places (Eph 6:12-13 ESV) unless it receives a revelation of the reality that heaven was made for Jesus so that he rules from there now (Acts 2:32-34 ESV). In the urgency of the hour this series is about what it means for us to be under Christ’s heavenly canopy (cf. Isa 4:2-6 ESV).

The Reality Of Heaven On Earth


For Jesus heaven was a concentration point of attention and the source of his guidance, inspiration and empowerment. Before breaking the loaves and fishes to feed the 5,000 Jesus “looked up to heaven(Matt 14:19 ESV) and he was moved to do the same at the tomb of Lazarus and as he commences his great prayer in John 17 (John 11:41 ESV; John 17:1 ESV). This was an action of conscious communion and dependence on “my Father in heaven(Matt 7:21 ESV etc.).

Of particular significance for tonight’s message is Jesus’ ecstatic response to the news that the demonic powers were subject to the authority of his disciples, “vs.20 rejoice that your names are written in heaven.vs.21 he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said,I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth…(Luke 10:20-21 ESV).

As communion with the Father in heaven was totally real to Jesus when on earth it can be real for us because he is now in heaven on our behalf (cf. Rom 8:34 ESV; Heb 7:25 ESV).

The power of Paul’s exhortation to the Colossians flows from this realisation, “vs.1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. vs.2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. vs.3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. vs.4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.(Col 3:1-4 ESV).

Why am I (and the pastor I spoke with yesterday etc.) constantly hearing of the fragmenting of the lives of individuals, marriages, families… churches.

It’s because this saying is wise saying is as true as it is tragic, “Unless there is within us that which is above us, we shall soon yield to that which is about us.” (P. T. Forsyth).

Without a living witness in our hearts of the unity/solidity of the heavenly world disintegration here below is inevitable.

Thankfully for us the New Testament writers frame the existence of the Church in terms of Jesus’ heavenly journeys.

Ascending And Descending


Baseline God’s place and man’s place

Luke’s account of the ascension at the start of Acts is completely clear, “vs.9 And when he (Jesus) had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. vs.10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, vs.11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”” (Acts 1:9-11 ESV).

Jesus left for heaven, is in heaven, and will come back from heaven (Phil 3:20 ESV; 1 Thess 1:10 ESV; 1 Thess 4:16 ESV; 2 Thess 1:7 ESV). In terms of saving history our life in God is surrounded by heaven and knowing this magnifies our sense of who Jesus is.

A living consciousness of Christ’s ascension into heaven frees us from thinking of him, as Paul puts it, “from a human point of view(2 Cor 5:16 ESV). Jesus’ triumphant entry into the heavenly world where “all God’s angels worship him(Heb 1:6 ESV; Rev 5 etc.) marks his exaltation in a way that this earthly sphere could not contain.

The difference, for instance, between the way the resurrected Jesus talked, walked and ate with his disciples (e.g. Luke 24:13ff ESV; John 21 ESV) and the glorious revelation of Christ from heaven which blinded Paul and caused John to fall down as dead is immeasurable (Acts 9:1-9 ESV; Rev 1:12-20 ESV).

Jesus is no longer “the bearded sandaled one of the Gospels” (Ortiz). A Christian classic was titled, “Your God is Too Small” (J.B. Phillips), our crisis is that our Jesus is too small. We fail to be grasped by the breathtaking reality that by ascending into heaven Jesus has transformed the essential nature of heaven on our behalf.

The psalmist made a categorical distinction between God’s place and man’s place, “The heavens are the LORD’s heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man.(Ps 115:16 ESV). Now however Jesus has humanised heaven and heaven is where Christ is. Heaven and earth are now essentially united in Christ as God-and-man.

Through the ascended Christ the glory of heaven visits earth.

Pentecost was the first sign of this all embracing union.

Peter tells us that having received the Holy Spirit from the heavenly Father Jesus “has poured” him out(Acts 2:33 ESV).  The “wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below” he describes are prophetic signs of the cosmic significance of Jesus’ heavenly lordship gathering up all things (Acts 2:17, 35 ESV cf. Eph 1:10 ESV).  

Peter spoke boldly of these things because filled with the Spirit he is filled with a sense that having arrived in heaven Jesus began to reign over all things (Acts 3:21 ESV). As he says in his letter, “vs.21 through …resurrection…Jesus Christ, vs.22 …has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.(1 Pet 3:21-22 ESV).

The sovereign heavenly reign of Christ is expressed in its most concentrated form in the New Testament in relation to the throne of God.

ONE THRONE:
The Throne Is The Centre Of Heaven.

Everything proceeds from the throne (e.g. 1 Kings 22:19-23 ESV; Isa 6 ESV; Ezek 1 ESV; Rev 1:4 ESV) because the One who sits there is God (Rev 4:9 ESV; Rev 5:1; 7, 13 ESV; Rev 6:16 ESV; Rev 7:15 ESV; Rev 21:5 ESV).

When the apostles preach the elevation of Jesus “at the right hand of God(Acts 2:33 ESV; 5:31 ESV; 7:55 ESV; Rom 8:34 ESV etc.) they do not mean that the throne of God is partitioned in two with Jesus to the side of the centre of all things.

By quoting Psalm 45 about “the Son”, Hebrews testifies that the glorified Jesus shares completely the rule of God with his Father ““Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of your kingdom.(Heb 1:8 ESV citing Ps 45:6 ESV).

There’s is a communality of enthronement in a shared glory (cf. John 1:18 ESV; 10:30 ESV). Revelation makes this transparently clear where Jesus says having “I…conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.” (Rev 3:21 ESV). The Lamb is in “the midst of the throne(Rev 7:17 ESV cf. Rev 5:6 ESV), and “him who sits on the throne and…the Lamb” are consistently paired (Rev 5:13 ESV; Rev 7:6 ESV; Rev 22:1,3 ESV). The vision of the End is that the glory of the intimate familial throne relationship between Father and Son will irradiate the whole new creation (Rev 22:1-5 ESV). Such visions have great power, power that is to make us more like Jesus.

This is what happened to Stephen; “vs.55 full of the Holy Spirit he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. vs.56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”…. vs.58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him…. vs.59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” vs.60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.(Acts 7:55-60 ESV).

The spirit of the all forgiving sacrifice of the cross was poured into the heart of Stephen because he saw the glory of the heavenly Lord (cf. Rom 5:5 ESV). The power of the enthroned Christ we need to see and receive today has, I believe, a particular tone.

Hebrews chapter one continues its citation from Psalm 45 with, “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”” (Heb 1:9 ESV from Ps 45:7 ESV).

The rapturous reception of the Son into heaven (Heb 1:6 ESV) is the perfect fulfilment of the delightful familial scene about God and wisdom in Proverbs 8; “vs.30 I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always,vs.31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.(Prov 8:30-31 ESV).

Having completed the atonement of the world in the death and resurrection of his Son the Father took Jesus back into heaven and sat him down on his own royal throne immersed in infinite joy (cf. Heb 2:10 ESV; Heb 5:9; Heb 7:28 ESV).  

HEAVEN RULES” In The Affairs Of Men

Enthroned by the government of God Christ is himself the perfect reality of the supreme sovereignty for which we pray,  “vs.9 Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. vs.10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.(Matt 6:9-10 ESV). “heaven rules” in the affairs of men (Dan 4:26 ESV cf. Ps 110:1 ESV, cited 17 times in NT) because it rules through the one who was illimitably ruled on our behalf.

Contrary to human thinking the throne of God in Christ is a throne of joy because it is a throne of righteous rule (Matt 6:33 ESV). The Old Testament wisdom writers pair righteousness withshouts for joy six times (Job 33:26 ESV; Ps 32:11 ESV; Ps 33:1 ESV; Ps 35:27 ESV; Ps 68:3 ESV; Ps 132:9 ESV) and righteousness with having joy five times (Ps 97:11 ESV; Prov 10:28 ESV; Prov 21:15 ESV; Isa 64:5 ESV; Rom 14:17 ESV).

It is to Jesus seated in heaven that the psalmists expectation of a joy saturated life properly belongs, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.(Ps 16:11 ESV).

Filled with joy at the completion of his good work in Jesus (Gen 1:31-2:3 ESV; John 19:30 ESV) from his throne ourAbba! Father!” has initiated a reign (John 20:17 ESV; Rom 8:14-17 ESV; Gal 4:4-6 ESV) from heaven for the Church (Eph 1:22 ESV).  Jesus and the Father cannot and will not keep their joy to themselves (John 15:11 ESV).

Church Renewal


Filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4 ESV) and communing with the heavenly Lord Peter preached at Pentecost, “vs.32This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. vs.33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.”” (Acts 2:32-33 ESV).

Surely as he proclaimed the outpouring of the heavenly life of Christ in the Spirit Peter’s own heart was filled with “joy unspeakable and full of glory(1 Pet 1:8 ESV). A joy which when communicated through the gospel bound the first church in a common life filled with the gladness of the Father-Son relationship in the heavenly world (Acts 2:44-47 ESV).

Pentecost may be unrepeatable but the fruit of the Spirit filled gospel preaching is reproducible. To the degree we are caught up in the Spirit sent from heaven (1 Pet 1:12 ESV) to adore the one who sits on the Father’s throne in heaven, “the man Christ Jesus(1 Tim 2:5 ESV), we will share his boundless joy.

This is intensely powerful and practical.

Standing before his disciples pronouncing the liberality of his Father, ““All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me”” (Matt 28:18 ESV cf. Dan 7:14 ESV) Jesus is filled with the joy of the righteousness of the gospel (Rom 14:17 ESV), a righteousness empowered joy that makes disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19-20 ESV). This is what he would impart from heaven to us.

As the Father has happily shared his authority with his Son so the resurrection joy of the Lord is the power by which our own lives are transformed and the power by which we share Jesus with others (cf. Neh 8:10 ESV; Luke 24:41 ESV).

A righteousness empowered heavenly joy is the only solution to the dearth of discipleship that’s overtaking the Church. I was talking this week with a young adult’s pastor who’s mourning the problems of alcohol, pornography and so on amongst Christian young people. I said to him there’s only one solution, an outpouring of the life of Christ from heaven.

Conclusion


For Christians “heaven” stands for the superiority of the newness that’s come in Christ over the brokenness of present earthly existence (2 Cor 5:17 ESV).

The present heavenly dimension is as real as the fact that Jesus has been raised from death. An enduring spiritual revival hinges on the recovery of the revelation of heaven as the place where Jesus lives today.

In an age when personal fulfilment is thought of only in terms of this world a vision of the heavenly man will fill us with a sense of the limitless dignity what it means to be in the image of God in Christ (1 Cor 15:47-49 ESV).

P. T. Forsyth did put it wisely, “Unless there is within us that which is above us, we shall soon yield to that which is about us.

Without a vision the “things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God(Col 3:1 ESV) the world will (continue to) dominate your life.

The psalmist said, “I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy(Ps 43:4 ESV). Our altar is in heaven (Heb 13:10 ESV) and Jesus is our superlative joy. Let us come to Jesus “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God(Heb 12:2 ESV) and let us ask him to pour out on us his “joy unspeakable and full of glory(1 Pet 1:8 ESV cf. Ps 51:12 ESV).   

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 15th July 2018 | Alive@5

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 15th July, 2018 

     

Related Link: Nil

Armageddon Today

Rev 16:1-16

INTRODUCTION

The legalising of same-sex marriage, the passing of euthanasia laws and the prosecution of anti abortion protesters have left many Bible believing Christians in Australia feeling besieged.

Some Christian spokesmen are saying it’s no longer possible to have reasoned dialogue with non-Christians about the meaning of life (Eternity magazine 14.6.18). None of this should depress us for as “God does nothing without revealing his plans to his servants the prophets.” (Am 3:7) he will give us a witness from heaven about his plans in the circumstances of our time.

As external pressures from the world on the Church intensify the Spirit of God is working to enlarge “the eyes of our hearts” (Eph 1:18) so we see in new depth the intensity of the struggle in which we are immersed.

Despite our immaturities (1 Cor 3:1; Heb 5:13) we have been placed on a steep learning curve concerning the clash between the dominion of darkness and the kingdom of Christ (Col 1:13).

Unlike us the first Christians believed they were living within the “end of days” (Dan 12:13 i.e. eschatology) on the edge of the consummation of the age long cosmic struggle between Satan and God (1 Cor 10:11).

As followers of Jesus they believed they could see into this spiritual world because through Christ the veil between heaven and earth has been lifted and God’s plan for all things was now revealed (Eph 1:10 i.e. apocalyptic).

The book of Revelation is the part of the Bible that speaks most directly to an oppressed Church like our own and for its message about Armageddon is especially significant.

But certain scales must be removed from our eyes if we are to understand how Jesus is speaking to us today.

THE TIME IS NEAR

Revelation opens with a message that its visions “must soon take place…. for the time is near” (Rev 1:1, 3 cf. Rev 22:10) and Jesus’ ends the book with words of tremendous assurance, ““Surely I am coming soon.”” (Rev 22:20).

Everything in Revelation is going to happen soon because for the New Testament writers knew that the “last days” embraced their own time. As Peter expounded the events on the day of Pentecost by saying, “in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (Acts 2:17)

Hebrews starts with, “in these last days God has spoken to us by his Son” (Rev 1:2). With the coming of the Word of God in Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit of God the Church is by nature in the last days when, as Paul says,  “the world as we know it is passing away” (1 Cor 7:31).

The whole message of Revelation is (cf. Rev 1:4) in some important way relevant to our day and its atmosphere of urgency applies to us NOW.

Its final battle called “Armageddon” could happen any time soon for its only the last in a series of battles stretching across the history of salvation. When evil angels trespassed onto earth (Gen 6 ff; Jude 1: 6) God destroyed their schemes through the Flood (cf. Matt 24:38-39; 2 Pet 2:5 ff.).

Through the many conflicts threatening the existence of Israel to tyrants like Herod the Great and the emperors of Rome and throughout Church history beast powers rise up whose goal is to exterminate the people of God (Ezek 38-39; Dan 7:21, 22; Matt 2:16; Rev 20:7-9).

There is no armistice, truce or peace in their unholy war.

The conflict between the deceptions of Satan and the Lordship of Messiah simply comes to a climax at Armageddon. This is straightforward and beyond our control but Revelation’s testimony to the Armageddon event is to a Church beguiled by seducing powers and unprepared for the End; vs.13And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. vs.14 For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. vs.15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”) vs.16 And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” (Rev 16:13-16). These words are a warning to us.

PLACE

Armageddon” literally means “mountain of Megiddo” but the fact that in the Old Testament Meggido is described as a “valley” (2 Chron 35:22; Zech 12:11) indicates John is speaking in symbolic not literal terms.

There is no physical mountain anywhere near Megiddo.

Most likely Armageddon means “mount of assembly” (cf. Isa 14:13)1)See https://www.worldslastchance.com/appointed-feasts/why-does-wlc-claim-that-qarmageddonq-is-har-moed-when-the-word-is-actually-har-megiddon.html for detailed arguments about Hebrew roots.; but which mountain?

The mountain in the Old Testament at which the anti-God forces gather against God’s people is always the temple mountain, Mt Zion, (Pss 47; 48; 102; Joel 3:2; Zeph 3:8; Zech 12:3; 14:2 cf. Ezek 38-39).

In Revelation itself (Rev 14:1, 20; Rev 20:8-9) “the beloved city”, Jerusalem, is the location of the final end-time conflict.

Since in the New Testament the “Jerusalem above is our mother” and we have “come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem [mountain of God]” (Gal 4:26; Heb 12:22 cf. John 4:21-24) Armageddon stands for an attack on the whole Church across the world as it worships Christ in heaven. This final assault will climax at some future time but that time is always impending.

THE BATTLE IS SOON

Jesus’ own words sandwiched between the two references to this last battle make the immediacy of the danger crystal clear, “(“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”)” (Rev 16:15).

This is the language he used in one of his Gospel parables, “vs.39Stay dressed for action….if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. vs.40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”” (Luke 12:35, 39-40).

Throughout the New Testament the thief image always describes an unexpected sudden Return of Christ as Judge (1 Thess 5:2, 4; 2 Pet 3:10). The first hearers of Revelation would readily recall these words of Jesus to the church of Sardis; “Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.” (Rev 3:3).

It is absolutely clear that the outpouring of the plagues described in Revelation 16 consummating in Armageddon could happen at any moment! The power which lulled the church of Sardis to sleep and has sent most Australian Christians into a dangerous spiritual slumber is the power of deception.

THE POWER

Revelation repeatedly warns of a global campaign of deception by the forces of evil (Rev 16:14, 16; Rev 19:19; Rev 20:8). vs.13And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs.vs.14 For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty.” (Rev 16:13-14).

Frogs are unclean animals (Lev 11:9-12; 41:47) and by the plague of frogs in Exodus (Ex 8:2-11; Psalm 78:45; Psalm 105:30) the Lord proved his power over heqet the Egyptian goddess of the resurrection who was pictured as a frog (Ex 12:12; Num 33:4).

From ancient religion to religions like Islam to communism and Nazism and the contemporary doctrine of gender fluidity seducing spirits entice humans with wondrous promises of a re-creation beyond the bounds of their present humanity,  but in the end “destruction” will come (Ps 78:45; 1 Tim 4:1).

Dragons and the beasts are noisy creatures easy to spot (Dan 7:8, 11, 20, 36; 2 Thess 2:4; Rev 13:5-6) but “false prophet” is an expression always used of evil within the Church (Matt 7:15; 24:11, 24; Mark 13:22; Luke 6:26; Acts 13:6; 2 Pet 2:1; 1 John 4:1).

Revelation warns repeatedly that the Church of the last days will suffer from demonically induced idolatry and immorality (Rev 2:14; 20-21; Rev 17:2 ff.). God’s response to such compromise is uncompromising.

Throughout the Old Testament the Lord exposed the shameful idolatry of Israel by assembling hostile nations against them to strip their cities bare through battle;  symbolically, to quote, he lifted up the skirts of Israel to expose their fornication with false gods (Ezek 16:36-39; Ezek 23:29; Isa 20:4; Jer 13:22, 26; Nah 3:5).

Such actions of holy jealousy are not restricted to the old covenant. As we have seen in Revelation (Rev 16:15) Jesus warns his Bride to stay clothed lest she be found “naked” and “exposed”. Only a people blinded by idolatry (cf. Psalm 115:4-8; Rev 3:17) could fail to see that the Lord Jesus is exposing the shameful spiritual state of his Church today.

By uncovering the depravity in institutional Christianity the royal commission into child abuse should have provoked agonising lament and ongoing 24/7 prayer across the nation!

But through centuries of compromise with the Babylonian harlot/false religious system Western Christendom seems to have lost the ability to conceive that God Almighty is exposing her nakedness by judgement (Rev 17:6).

Whereas a holy Bride is on constant spiritual alert we must accept Christ’s witness to his church in Laodicea applies to us; ““you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”” (Rev 3: 14, 16-17).

Even Adam and Eve could recognise their shame and nakedness (Gen 3:7) but mainstream Western Christianity is too blind to see she’s been stripped bare!

Let me use a contemporary illustration of our spiritual sightlessness. Lots of “Bible-believing” Christians appreciated the vigorous preaching of the African-American bishop at the royal “wedding of the century”.

A man who speaks so passionately about love and Jesus must be a Christian, mustn’t he? The truth is that he leads a “church” famous for celebrating same-sex relationships and which cruelly offers poor Africans development aid on the condition that they change their traditional views on marriage.

Was his preaching inspired by the Spirit of God or some other spirit? Wolves in sheep’s clothing look like… sheep (Matt 7:15)! Thank God his Spirit has instructed us how to recognise deception, by looking through the blood of the cross.

REALM OF BLOOD

The garments which Jesus places on his Bride (Matt 22:11-13; Rev 16:15) are robes ““washed…and made…white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Rev 7:14).

By symbolising our “righteous deeds” (Rev 19:8) in Christ these spattered garments incite intense satanic warfare against “the saints” i.e. against us (Dan 7:21; Rev 13:7).

Yet in God’s purposes as we remain faithful under attack our discernment of spirits becomes sharper and sharper (1 Cor 12:10; Heb 5:14) so that the great acclamation belongs to us, “they have conquered him (the devil) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Rev 12:11).

This victory in spiritual conflict is a share in Christ’s victory because it is a share a share in his own righteous life (Isa 53:11; Acts 3:14; Acts 7:52; Acts 22:14; 1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:7). God’s justice is revealed on earth as his people triumph over evil.

In the Old Testament the Lord revealed his righteousness by his warring against evil nations (Isa 11:4; Ps 96:13) but in Revelation it is the Lamb of God who conquers supernatural evil by “making war in righteousness” in the power of his own shed blood (Rev 19:11).

The sacrificial blood of Jesus stands for his righteousness, his complete obedience to the Father to the point of death in order that lost people might be saved. When we trust in the death of Jesus his righteousness becomes ours through grace; to be “washed in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7:14 cf. 1:5) is to “have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ” (Rom 5:9).

Satan no longer can justly accuse those who are washed in the blood of Christ (Rev 12:9-10 cf. Rom 8:33-34 cf. 1 John 2:1-2). With Christ’s blood as our covering (Rom 3:25) by faith we stand righteous fearless and unashamed before God’s tribunal (cf. Heb 12:2).

The battle preparedness of the Church is rarely experienced today because most preachers have no biblical understanding of how the blood of the cross revolutionises the human conscience.

how much more”, says the writer of Hebrews, “will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our conscience from dead works…. let us draw near (to God) with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from a guilty conscience” (Heb 9:14; Heb 10:22 cf. 1 Pet 1:2).

When the Word of the cross (1 Cor 1:18) penetrates cleanses our consciences from idolatrous thoughts spiritual realities become more and more transparent.

Those with a blood cleansed conscience see the conflict in the heavenly realms and are not deceived by the designs of the devil (2 Cor 2:11).

Seeing in the Spirit (Rev 1:10) means seeing that the real warfare in our culture is not driven by social, moral or political forces (Eph 6:12) but by powers that can only be overcome in the way of the cross; by sacrificial obedient love for the sake of others, even unto death (Rev 12:11). 

This is the righteousness that makes manifest the victory of the Lamb. This call of God is great but it is not glamorous or easy.

From the shedding of the blood of the righteous Abel (Matt 23:35) to the martyr Antipas named in Revelation 2 there have always been those chosen to suffer more severely than others for the sake of the victory of God.

Only those who see that we are in an end-time cosmic conflict that could consummate at any time can be a part of this elect and privileged group (Matt 5:10-12; Acts 5:41).

If to suffer for Jesus is to be gloried with him (Luke 24:26; Rom 8:17; 1 Pet 4:12-13) why aren’t there lines of Christians queuing up to enlist for the fight; wanting that is to be Christ’s disciples?

It’s because deceived by demonic wisdom much of the Church has placed itself outside of the biblical plot (James 3:14-16).

TODAY

To engage seriously with the revelation that we are already in a clash of spiritual kingdoms which will conclude in Armageddon is folly to mainstream Australian Christianity.

Few feel an urgency to examine their consciences checking if they are washed in the blood of the Lamb (2 Cor 13:5 cf. 1 Cor 11:27-32).

We have been deceived in a way that a most famous tale of Hans Christian Andersen lays bare.

In The Emperor’s New Clothes counterfeit tailors promise a vain emperor a new suit of clothes invisible to those who are unworthy of their positions. In reality, they make no clothes at all. But when the emperor parades in his new “clothes” no one dares to say that they do not see any clothes on him for fear that they will be reckoned unworthy. Finally, a child in the crowd cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!” and the truth is exposed.

Much of the Church today is trying to clothe itself in programmes, celebrity ministries and political activities as if these could ward off the assaults of the devil. The sin, divisions, psychological disorders, disturbed marriages, family strife and prayerlessness amoungst believers expose these devices as defenceless before the powers of evil.

Just as God promised Israel that he would put none of the diseases of the Egyptians upon them if they were faithful to his covenant (Ex 12:13; Ex 15:26) so in parallel form the plagues of Revelation are designed to come upon the world (Rev 3:10; Rev 6:10; Rev 8:13) and not on the Church.

But today Christians seem to be as plagued by disease and disorder as anyone else. Jesus warned that people would be carrying on with life as normal right up until his sudden coming to judge (Matt 24:38-39). This is necessarily true of the world, but it is also largely true of the Church!

Karl Marx spoke as a secular prophet when he described religion as the “opium of the people”.

Look up many websites of larger churches and their home pages picture a brightly lit stage with a worship band and a host of ecstatic worshippers. Many Christian meetings are like opium dens producing a self-intoxicating emotional high lifting the spiritually weak to get through to the next Sunday fix.

There is no corporate lament, no anguished intercession for a world lost, and looking through the lens of Revelation, hurtling downhill to the final conflict when God’s fiery wrath will consume his enemies (Isa 66:15-16; Mal 4:1; 2 Thess 1:7-9; Rev 20:7-10 etc.)

CONCLUSION

Armageddon stands both for the decisive final battle at the End of history finally separating good and evil and also for a conflict which even NOW is separating a naked compromised idolatrous “Church” from a Church of righteous uncompromising witness (Rev 19:8-9) whose garments are dazzling white and beautiful in the sight of Christ (Rev 3:4-5 cf. Luke 9:29).

To have such a spotless Bride (Eph 5:26-27) is very dear to the heart of Jesus and why he prayed to his Righteous Father, ““keep them from the evil one”” (John 17:15, 25).

Decades later the same Jesus promised the afflicted but faithful little congregation in Philadelphia, “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.” (Rev 3:10).

This promise of spiritual protection is not made to all the churches in Revelation. To how many congregations in Perth can Jesus make this promise? How many even care?

This dreadful situation should incite in us holy fear and urgent intercession (Phil 2:12).

We need to be praying for a visitation of the Spirit to apply the power of the blood of the cross to the conscience of the Church; “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Heb 9:14).

In our present state of war with casualties littered all over the battle field the Church can no longer afford to tolerate her own dead works (Rev 3:1).

May God’s Spirit unveil to us that the time is near (Rev 1:1, 3) so that longing for more of Jesus we might come into a much richer share in the righteous victory of the blood of the cross.

Apart from answers to such prayers the state into which both nation and Church will plunge is too dreadful to imagine. Let us pray for the manifestation of the victory of Christ through the Church i.e. us, whatever the cost. 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 8th. July, 2018 | Zion Fellowship

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: Date. Month, 2018 

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Related Link: Nil

References   [ + ]

Under the Canopy of Heaven 3. The Will of Heaven

 Rev 4:1-11; Mark 14:32-42

Introduction


Over the last few weeks I’ve emphasised that the heavenly world which once belonged exclusively to God has now been united to the earth in the God-man Jesus Christ (Ps 116:15 ESV).

Now by faith we “ vs.2 set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. vs.3 For we have died, and our life is hidden with Christ in God

Col 3:2-3

If our life is hid with Christ in God then our wills should be directed from heaven.

This is where we need much help today. Much popular preaching assumes we have the power to will whatever we choose, but our failure to choose holiness exposes this as untrue. I know I don’t have it in me to move my will into a greater godliness (cf. Rom 7:15 ESV). The will is the steering wheel of life; if God has our wills he has all of us.

P.T. Forsyth made a correct pastoral observation when he remarked, “our will is our deepest life, the thing we cling to most”, or, “our will alone is our ownest own”.

Even on their death bed some people who should know better refuse entrust to entrust their wills to Christ choosing to possess their own wills to the very last. Whatever philosophy, psychology or neurology may teach us about us about the nature and meaning of the will only a revelation of the character of the will of God can turn our wills to conform to his will.

To say the same thing from the opposite angle, a rebellious will always flows from unbelief concerning the goodness of the will of the heavenly Father (Jer 16:12 ESV).

Q: What do we know from scripture about the overarching will of God for his creation?

God’s Will


When John was taken through the open door into heaven he beheld the heavenly host around the throne of God glorying in his will, “vs.1 the twenty-four elders… vs.10 worship him who lives forever and ever… saying, vs.11Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”” (Rev 4:1, 10-11 ESV)

Heaven is where the will of God is always done; this is what makes it a place of supreme blessedness. The heavenly beings however are praising God not only for their heavenly locale but for his creation of “all things”.

They exult in the will of God not simply for the “very goodness(Gen 1:31 ESV) of his original creative acts but in all things across history.

This language echoes the praise of God in Daniel 4:35 ESV, “he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?””.

Not all things on earth are good but the will of God for all things is “good and acceptable and perfect(Rom 12:2 ESV).

Our wilful disobedience is a sign that we do not believe God’s will is for our best. One of the worst decisions I ever made as a young Christian was to consciously shut off from the presence of the Lord.

This caused me great inner grief and distress for quite a long time.

When Paul speaks of, “the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will(Eph 1:11 ESV) we must accept that even in his dealings with suffering and evil God has a good will.

The question of the alignment of heaven and earth in the will of God raises sharply the problem of an evil will.

Satan’s Will


The battle between God and the devil for humanity is centred on the human will, a will designed to centre on the revelation of God’s will in his Word.

In Eden Adam and Eve were deceived into exchanging obedience to God in his Word for submission to Satan in his word (Gen 3:1-6 ESV)

This was a total choice to turn away from the God as a faithful Father (Luke 3:38 ESV) to trust in a lying father.

As Christ said to the Pharisees, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.(John 8:44 ESV).

To sin means to share in the satanic nature (Matt 13:38 ESV; 1 John 3:10 ESV).

Luther used this analogy; “the human will is placed between the two like a beast of burden. If God rides it, it wills and goes where God wills…(Ps. 73:22 ESV f.)If Satan rides it, it wills and goes where Satan wills… the riders themselves contend for the possession and control of it.

When God’s will rules our wills we are truly free, but Satan’s will brings enslavement.

When “Satan entered into Judas… Iscariot(Luke 22:3 ESV) he was rendered impotent under the power of the devil.

Paul isn’t embarrassed to use such strong language about the bondage of the will, “God may perhaps grant them (opponents of the gospel) repentance…and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.(2 Tim 2:26 ESV cf. 1 Tim 1:20 ESV cf. 1 Cor 5:5 ESV).

We were not created to have a self-standing will; we were created with the goal of being filled with the love and knowledge of God and being irresistibly moved to submit to our creator as our true end.

Failing that we will be ruled over by a “strong man” stronger than us (Matt 12:29 ESV). God said, “‘I have found in David… a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’” (Acts 13:22 ESV).

But when “Satan stood against Israel and incited David to take a census of the people of Israel(1 Chron 21:1 ESV) David sinned and judgement fell on the nation. Only Jesus defines his existence in terms of infallibly doing the will of his Father in heaven.

Jesus and the Kingdom of God


ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN

The Son of God came down from heaven and was born in order to keep God’s will and give him pleasure in a way we never could. “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your willO God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”” (Heb 10:6-7 ESV).

Complete obedience to the will of God is at the heart of Jesus’ identity as God’s Son, ““My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”(John 4:34 ESV cf. John 19:30 ESV).

This line from the Lord’s Prayer is justly famous, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.(Matt 6:10 ESV).

God’s will is done perfectly in heaven because his throne is there, and the complete earthly expression of the will of the Father is the Son’s obedient words and works.

The will of Jesus is held within the will of the Father in a constant communion between heaven and earth. By “seeing” and following what his Father is willing in heaven (John 5:19 ESV) the kingdom of God breaks into earth through Jesus in an unprecedented way.

No wonder the crowds that welcomed him into Jerusalem supposed that “the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.” (Luke 19:11 ESV).

Being “of the earth” rather than “from heaven(John 3:31 ESV) they were grossly mistaken, mistaken because they could not see that the will of heaven was that Messiah “must” die (Mark 8:31 ESV; Luke 21:7 ESV).

The Will Of The Cross


The will of God brings together joy and suffering in a way that only makes sense through the life of Jesus. Christ was baptised into the “pleasing will” of the Father at the Jordan but at the same time this is a baptism to “fulfil all righteousness” through atoning death (Matt 3:15-17 ESV).

Only as he approaches this hour are there signs of a struggle between Jesus’ human will and the will of God; “ vs.27Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. vs.28 Father, glorify your name.”(John 12:27-28 ESV).

His struggle to will the will of God progresses until he prays in Gethsemane, ““Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”(Mark 14:36 ESV).

The “cup” stands for the wrath of God (Isa 51:17 ESV; Jer 25:15-17 ESV; Rev 14:9-10 ESV) and Jesus is recoiling at the knowledge that obedience to God’s will bring separation from the life of his Father.

This prospect was so dreadful that when Jesus says to his disciples, ““My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.(Mark 14:34 ESV) we must take this literally.

Jesus is dying in Gethsemane and needs to be helped on by “an angel from heaven(Luke 22:43 ESV).

It was impossible for the will of Jesus as a human being to say “Yes” to the impending prospect of the dereliction and darkness of the cross (Mark 15:33-34 ESV) without heavenly help of the profoundest kind.

The anguish in Christ’s heart is unimaginable to us sinners but the insights of Karl Barth are helpful, “The will of God was done as the will of Satan was done. The answer of God was identical with the action of Satan. That was the frightful thing…. What shook him (Jesus) was the coming concealment of the lordship of God under the lordship of evil1)CD IV/1, 59 p.268f..

That the Father would use evil to destroy evil was something to which Jesus had to submit and it would mean the complete obscuring of the will of heaven, ““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(Mark 15:34 ESV).

How was it possible for Jesus to embrace the humanly impossible?

This is a mystery only scripture can point to.

The will of God symbolised by the cup Jesus accepts in Gethsemane is one with the will of God praised by the angelic host in Revelation 4.

The good pleasing and perfect will of offering up his body as a living sacrifice to redeem creation (cf. Rom 12:1-2 ESV; Heb 10:5-7 ESV).

The heavenly will Jesus receives in Gethsemane is one with “with the precious blood of… a lamb without blemish or… chosen before the creation of the world(1 Pet 1:19- 20 ESV), one with “the Lamb who was slaughtered before the world was made(Rev 13:8 ESV).

The intelligibility and unity of heaven and earth of God and humanity is found in the agreement of the will of Jesus with the will of his “Abba, Father,(Mark 14:36 ESV) to be crucified for us.

Through the obedience of the cross (Phil 2:8 ESV) the willing of heaven and of earth are united indivisibly and eternally in Christ.

In him our earth bound human wills have been taken up into the will of God in heaven (Col 3:3 ESV).

The outworking of this in the life of the Church is both marvellous and difficult.

The Will in the Church


Since “ vs.9 God has now revealed to us the mystery of his will… which he set forth in Christ vs.10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.(Eph 1:9-10 ESV) we should be able to discern God’s reconciling will in all the circumstances of life (Col 1:20 ESV).

Whereas under the old covenant God willed our wills (Prov 21:1 ESV) through dwelling in us through the new covenant he wills in our wills.  Born “from above” our wills are being recreated according to the will of heaven (John 3:3 ESV cf. Phil 2:13 ESV).

The more powerful the will of God in us the more powerful our wills become in ever deeper communion with the heavenly Lord. This has a deeply practical outworking.

Jesus said to Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be/shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be/shall have been loosed in heaven.”(Matt 16:19 ESV).

Peter will pass on decisions that will have already been made in heaven (cf. Matt 18:18-20 ESV).

This possesses great authority. For example, communion with the heavenly dominion when Peter says to Sapphira, “vs.9Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” ……. vs.10 Immediately she fell down… and breathed her last.”” (Acts 5:9-10 ESV cf. 1 Cor 5:3-5 ESV).

The heavenly-earthly connection explains why the healings in Acts involve declarations rather than petitions, “vs.4 Peter directed his gaze at him…vs.6 In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”…. vs.8 And leaping up, he stood and began to walk”….vs.9 And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, 10 said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking.(e.g. Acts 3:4, 6, 8 ESV; 14:9-10 ESV).

In these examples the healings are preceded by a “stare”, where a Greek word is used that indicates a revelatory experience, an epiphany of divine power (cf. Acts 7:55 ESV).

Insight into heaven means that deeds performed on earth have the power, right and validity of the will of God in heaven.

In a way that is more real than anything in this age those who receive the presence and power of the kingdom of God are seen in the light of the End where everything in heaven and earth will be united in Christ (Eph 1:9-10 ESV cf. 1 Cor 3:21-22 ESV).

Their healing occurs not because faith influenced God’s will but by an agreement in Christ between an earthly human will and God’s will in heaven. As a church community we are always called to manifest this end-time rule of God in Christ living out the rule of the heavenly dominion.

I remember listening to Yonggi Cho recount a time when a sick person was carried into his office. He was so convicted that it was God’s will to heal them he simply told them to get up, and they did! I remember praying for someone in Argentina in a way that pronounced God’s power over them, and it happened.

Conclusion


Having a heaven’s eye view of the will of God assures our faith in the knowledge that God’s purposes cannot fail. Why then are we so often confused about what is the will of heaven and then are afraid to do it?  

I believe an answer is found in the teaching of Philippians 2 about the humiliation and exaltation of Christ.

It was the will of God that Jesus empty himself, die on the cross and be exalted so that the worship which the Father receives might be his also,that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord(Phil 2:11 ESV cf. Isa 45:23 ESV).

This is Paul’s way of saying that the will of God praised by the heavenly host in Revelation 4 shall be realised in Christ.

He then goes on to apply this exalted theology in a way to how we should live, “vs.12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,vs.13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.(Phil 2:12-13 ESV).

God is working his will out in our lives by the same means and for the same purpose as he did in Jesus; suffering for glory, humiliation for exaltation and all for his “good pleasure” which he delights to share with us (cf. Eph 1:5, 9 ESV).

We have something more wonderful than the angelic powers ceaselessly worshiping the will of God for creating (Rev 4:11 ESV), for they can only do so only from some distance (1 Pet 1:12 ESV).

For unlike us they cannot “suffer in the flesh” as Jesus did (1 Pet 4:1 ESV) that God might be glorified in all things. 

This is our unique privilege in the will of God beyond all other creatures.

The Church as we know it today struggles to know and obey the will of God because it is put off  by the struggles and suffering that following Jesus will always bring.

This is understandable; but more fundamentally the people of God are held back because they lack a heavenly revelation that such suffering is more than worth it (2 Cor 4:17-18 ESV).

Let us ask God for an unveiling of the greatness of the heavenly realm in Christ, which is our destiny in him, in order that our hearts might be moved to a deeper and deeper obedience.

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 2nd July, 2018 | Alive@5

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 2nd July, 2018  

References   [ + ]

1. CD IV/1, 59 p.268f.

The Days of Noah or the Days of Elijah

The Days of Noah or The Days of Elijah? (1)

“Much of the church has acted, and still acts, as though it has been grafted into a Christmas Tree – flashing its attractive lights and decorations, but unconcerned about its loss of roots and wondering why it is spiritually drying up and dying.” Those challenging words came from Chuck Colson, in his book “Roots of our Faith.”

Roots are vital to our faith. Roots hold us safe and secure and dig deep into our foundations and protect us from the mudslides of life. They draw sustenance for us. Through their vital action our faith grows.

A few thousand years ago, God spoke to Noah and told him a massive flood was on the way. He told Noah to warn the people and to prepare an ark for their safety and survival. But the warning was ignored. As a result when the flood arrived only Noah and his family were rescued along with an Ark load of animals.

Noah must have felt severely pressured by the disinterest and stubborn ignorance of the people.

Despite the lack of support He put the rejection from the people behind him and chose to trust the Lord.

Jesus whose Hebrew name was Yeshua summed it up. “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely on account of Me.” (Matthew chapter 5, verses 10, 11).

REFUGEE FLOOD

In the Middle East today there is a very obvious flood. It has already arrived and hundreds of thousands of Christians are being murdered, abused and painfully treated. This is what observant believers would see as a sign of the times.

Among the flood of refugees spreading throughout Europe and elsewhere, Christians are seeking a safe place. Strong’s Concordance says that persecution means ‘to pursue, follow after, or press toward.’ Vine’s Expository Dictionary says it is ‘to put to flight or drive away.’

Yeshua specifically indicated that times to come, would be like The Days of Noah! “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Matthew chapter 24, verses 37b to 39.

Noah knew a storm was coming. Amazing to learn, at this point in history there had never been rain. Noah could only imagine what was this thing called rain would be. Nevertheless he was certain he had heard from God, and he went about building the ark despite the negativity and derision he received.

Jesus declared: “For the a coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.” (Matthew chapter 24, verse 37) He may have simply said, “Don’t miss the boat!”

We should all be living with a sense of expectancy for His return. We have never experienced such a tumultuous event before but if He said it, we can believe it.

Just like Noah wondering about the rain, when it arrived he understood why the Lord told him to build an ark.

EXCUSES

This story comes from the Journal of Royal Institute of British Architects It’s called:
The Hopeless Story Of Noah

“And the Lord said unto Noah: “Where is the ark which I have commanded thee to build?”

And Noah said unto the Lord: “Verily, I have had three carpenters off ill. The gopher-wood supplier hath let me down—yea, even though the gopher wood hath been on order for high upon 12 months. What can I do, O Lord?”

And God said unto Noah: “I want that ark finished even after seven days and seven nights.”

And Noah said: “It will be so.”

And it was not so. And the Lord said unto Noah: “What seemeth to be the trouble this time?”

And Noah said unto the Lord: “Mine subcontractor hath gone bankrupt. The pitch which Thou commandest me to put on the outside and on the inside of the ark hath not arrived. The plumber hath gone on strike. Shem, my son who helpeth me on the ark side of the business, hath formed a pop group with his brothers Ham and Japheth. Lord, I am undone.”

And the Lord grew angry and said: “And what about the animals, the male and the female of every sort that I ordered to come unto thee to keep their seed alive upon the face of the earth?”

And Noah said: “They have been delivered unto the wrong address but should arrive on Friday.”

And the Lord said: “How about the unicorns, and the fowls of the air by sevens?”

And Noah wrung his hands and wept, saying: “Lord, unicorns are a discontinued line; thou canst not get them for love nor money. And fowls of the air are sold only in half-dozens, Lord. Lord, Thou knowest how it is.”

And the Lord in His wisdom said: “Noah, my son, I knowest. Why else dost thou think I have caused a flood to descend upon the earth?”

ALERT

God has spoken. He has warned us, and He tells us to obey His wisdom.Are we living in the Days of Noah or the Days of Elijah?

I have no problem with joy-filled, Spirit inspired praise and worship but if we are the family of God, I believe the Lord requires that we have heartfelt concern for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Previously I wrote about ‘the Saturday people and Sunday people.’ In the second part of this series, I will attempt to reveal the evidence has become a present day reality and wise believers will not ignore the signs

21.3.18  –  The Days of Noah or the Days of Elijah (2)

Are we seeing the biblical signs, described by Jesus’ disciple Matthew?

For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.

At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.

Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” Matthew chapter 24, verses 7-13

This is not airy fairy bible talk is it? “And they were unaware until the flood came and swept them away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew chapter 24, verses 32-33)

I previously wrote about the flood of Noah. People laughed when Noah was building the ark. They ignored the warnings and they perished.

The New King James Bible translation of Isaiah chapter 59 verses 19-20 says this…… “When the enemy comes in like a flood, The Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him. The Redeemer will come to Zion….

Bible believers know a day of reckoning is at hand. We often moan and decry the brutality that seems to strike despite the best intentions of governments and security services.

How big a bomb do we need to contain the onslaught? How great an army?

Some reading this may say I am beginning to preach. So what? Noah did too. He was ignored and the outcome was tragic.

The Prophet Isaiah announced – The Sovereign Lord will come with power (Isaiah chapter 40 verse 10). The Teachers Commentary points out from Isaiah “The Holy One of Israel will bring judgment on the earth. (Isaiah chapter 41 verses 14-15)

The English Standard Version Bible translation of Isaiah chapter 59 verses 19-20 says: “So they shall fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun;for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the LORD drives. And a Redeemer will come to Zion.

A redeemer is one who buys back property. A redeemer is one who buys back a family member who has fallen away. The word go’al translated ‘redeemer’ means avenge, revenge, do the part of a kinsman.

David says in Psalm chapter 71, verse 1, “In you O Lord, I have taken refuge. Let me never be ashamed.” That word has been steadfast proven time and time again in the survival of the Jewish people”.

How is it they continue to be successful? Even prosper? Over 300 years ago, King Louis XIV of France asked Blaise Pascal, the great Christian philosopher, to give him proof of God. Pascal answered, “Why the Jews, your Majesty, the Jews!”

Mark Twain, an agnostic and self-acknowledged skeptic, penned this in 1899 in Harper’s Magazine:

Other peoples have sprung up, and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out and they sit in twilight now or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal, but the Jew. All other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?

Winston Churchill – Prime Minister of Great Britain “Some people like the Jews, and some do not. But no thoughtful man can deny the fact that they are, beyond any question, the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has appeared in the world.”

I researched the amazing contributions by Jewish men and women and found them in Chemistry, Physics, Medicine, Economics, Computer – Hardware and software, Agriculture, Energy – of course defense and even in water conservation.The evidence comes as no surprise to believers.

God spoke to Israel saying:”And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, And so you shall be a blessing.” (Genesis chapter 12 verse 2)

Jews and Christians are children of Abraham. Today more than ever we share together in persecution.

Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, was once 90% Christian. Today it has a 65% Muslem majority.

GOD CONTINUES TO REACH OUT

The only place in the Mideast where Christian communities continue to grow is in the Jewish State of Israel.

Non-believers may deny and ignore the Bible but that does not give them immunity.

David summed it up at the very beginning of Psalms. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm chapter 1, verse 1)

Think about the many who ignored Noah. They missed the boat. God continues to reach out in troubled times and He always offers a new beginning.

28.3.18  –  The Days of Noah or the Days of Elijah (3)

The Jewish wise man Maimonides said, “Each and every Jew should strive to become as great as Moses.“– (Maimonides, Laws of Teshuva 5:2).

Christians are instructed to grow each day to be more like Jesus! (Ephesians chapter 4, verse 15)

Rabbi Noah Weinberg wrote: Here’s the real secret of success: Regardless of our mortal limitations, our potential for greatness is unlimited when we have the power of the Almighty behind us.

Do we seek to do mighty things?   Do we see our full God-given potential?

The Jews have always had a ‘God-code.’ They trace their faith, their future and their destiny in systematic study of the Torah. They seek their identity, goals and dreams in the promises of God.

The word Torah means ‘teaching.’ They believe it to be the wisdom of heaven revealed and shared with the world.

This God-code has been handed down from Jewish father to son for more than 40 generations. The unbroken link of reading, teaching and instructing has brought success in secular, social, civil and spiritual life from generation to generation.

The Israelites were given a covenant and they embraced it despite the problems, the challenges, the setbacks and the enemies.

THE COVENANT

While Abraham (then called “Abram”) was living in Ur of the Chaldeans, God appeared to him in a vision instructing him to leave home and move to the land of Canaan.

At age 75, Abraham followed this vision. During his journey, God appeared to him several times, revealing His divine purpose for Abraham and his future heirs.

God Told Abraham That:  he would become a “great nation” (Gen. 12:2)  he would be a “father of many nations” (17:4)  nations and kings would come out of him (see 17:6)  in his seed all nations of the earth would be blessed (see 22:18).

I believe a study by Christians of the continued prosperity and success of Israel and the Jewish people will be a great guide for us to succeed in the face of the persecution now aimed so vehemently at us.

Richard Booker is an author who’s significant work is published through The Sounds of the Trumpet, Institute of Hebraic Christian studies. He called for Christians to return to our Roots. He wrote: “We are living at a time when the Lord is calling both Jews and Christians back to their biblical roots.

“The biblical root of Christianity grew from an everlasting covenant God made with Abraham. Christians become part of that covenant through faith in Jesus (Yeshua). The more we can learn about our Hebraic / Jewish roots, the more blessed we will be in our Christian lives.”

CHUTZPAH: headstrong persistence, brazen impudence, unyielding tenacity, bold determination

Maybe in this hour we must learn to understand a famous Jewish word – ‘chutzpah!’Yiddish dictionary: “Chutzpah (pronounced huuts-pah) is a Yiddish word that is used by Jews and non-Jews alike to describe someone who is particularly audacious or has a lot of “guts.”

I like what Dr Brad Young wrote about chutzpah: “The word chutzpah is difficult to define in a single word. It means headstrong persistence, brazen impudence, unyielding tenacity, bold determination or what in current English terms might be referred to as raw nerve.”

Do we Christians have chutzpah where our faith is concerned?   Do we stand with Paul saying ‘I am not ashamed of the Gospel?

Dr Brad Young in his book ‘Jesus, the Jewish Theologian’ wrote: ‘Jesus viewed the Kingdom of heaven as an active force in the world, a force energized by God’s power.

Jesus responded when he saw people making faith-filled choices.

He ‘saw’ their faith and healed the paralytic (Mark chapter 2 verse 5).

He again observed their faith in Luke chapter 5 verse 20 and said to them ‘my friends, your sins have been forgiven.”

Right now the world needs to ‘see’ our faith. We are not meant to live quietly and unobtrusively as Christians. Some good old-fashioned chutzpah will put our faith on display.

We do not need to be doing spectacular things. People observe when we say thanks. They notice when we give someone our spot at the supermarket checkout.

HOW MUCH?: How much chutzpah do you have?

In many places Christians seem to be the secret agents in society. Instead we are called to be the city on the hill, observed by everyone. Jesus said, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.” (Matthew chapter 11 verse 12)

Take it by force‘ means ‘they seize it for themselves.

THE DAYS OF NOAH &  DAYS OF ELIJAH

Dr Brad Young points out a deeper understanding of what Jesus said. He argued that the translation ‘the kingdom of heaven suffers violence‘ the phrase should say ‘the kingdom of heaven breaks forth.

In the King James Bible the Hebrew word ‘biazo’ is translated ‘suffers violence.’ But the NIV translates the same word as ‘forcefully advancing.’

The reason for the difference is simple. The KJV is a passive translation but the NIV is active.

Dr Young said: “Moreover, the Hebrew background of this saying of Jesus actually denotes an action of breaking out with strong force.

My question to the Church today is this – Are we being lulled into something other than an active faith?

In fact, have we been trapped into passivity and even surrendered to the fallen world standards in which we live?

In an absorbing study Young said of Christians who respond to the Lord – ‘they actively pursue the divine purposes in life with all their strength.

Are We Living In The Days Of Noah Or The Days Of Elijah? BOTH!

Rejoice in the power and the anointing provided for you as overcomers in the world today. Be aware of the events taking place around you and at all times be ready to make a stand for the Gospel.

In these amazing days we should all be those who ‘pray without ceasing.’ And rejoice for the day of the Lord, is at hand.

About Ron Ross

Original Sources:

14.3.18  –  The Days of Noah or the Days of Elijah (1)

21.3.18  –  The Days of Noah or the Days of Elijah (2)

28.3.18  –  The Days of Noah or the Days of Elijah (3)

Plump Skeleton

INTRODUCTION

During a Perth Prayer meeting recently a woman fervently asked that God bring together the different parts of the body of Christ. This is not an uncommon prayer, and one supported by some familiar biblical texts (e.g. Ps 133 ESV; John 17 ESV)Whilst I wholeheartedly support such passionate prayers they are often rather naive. After decades of promoting practical Christian unity at the local, city and national levels I still see massive spiritual obstacles to a truly functional oneness in the Church that would manifest the glory of God to the world.

The individualism, personal ambition and self-reliance of modern Western culture is a big barrier to Christian cooperation.

Only a Church under pressure will come together.

When I asked a brother from Czechoslovakia where he learned the importance of Christian unity his reply was unforgettable. “When the communists persecuted the Church it didn’t matter to us whether we were Lutheran, Catholic, Orthodox or Pentecostal, we needed each other.” 

Much the same point was made by Pope Francis concerning an “ecumenism of blood”; militant Islam (etc.) should stimulate all varieties of Church to recognise one another in Christ.

The teaching of this article seeks to promote unity by illuminating some internal pressures that exist on all Australian believers. It endeavours to shine a light on a shared spiritual condition that should powerful move us to unite. For as our fervent intercessor at Perth Prayer asked God for Christian unity I saw in the Spirit some very unpleasant things.

FAT CHRISTIANS

First, an ugly image from a memorable Old Testament text came to mind. Moses prophesied that the fruit of divinely given material prosperity in Canaan would be an obese nation in rebellion against God. ““But Israel grew fat, and kicked;you grew fat, stout, and sleek; then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation.(Deut 32:15 ESV).

We might mock little fat Buddha statues but internally the Western Church commonly carries such a self-image in its heart.

We are like the Laodicean Church of whom Jesus spoke, “For you say, I am rich,I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.(Rev 3:17 ESV).

We of course will deny that we hold a plump and sleek spiritual self-image, but our failure to work together across the Church testifies against us.

It is rare to find a local churchgoer who is not in some significant way inwardly bloated, “puffed up”, by the inherited tradition of great theology, spirituality, liturgy, mission, revival, art, music etc. of Western Christianity (1 Cor 8:1 ESV).

As the Pharisees proud descent from Abraham held them back from genuine repentance (Luke 3:9 ESV) so our rich inheritance blinds us to our real condition before the Lord.

Whilst a few churches may be accused of overfeeding their members we are actually all gorged on “empty calories” and spiritually malnourished. This relates to the second image I perceived during Perth Prayer.

THE UNITY OF THE DESPERATE

When the Lord showed Ezekiel a valley full of scattered bones he commanded, “vs.4Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. vs.5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.”” (Ezek 37:4-5 ESV).

The prophetic declaration is the power of the Word and the breath is the ruah-Spirit of God. As the bones come together bone on bone God adds to them flesh and muscle and they become a mighty army (Ezek 37:7-10 ESV).

This resurrected Body goes on to reclaim the land that belongs to the Lord (Ezek 37:11-14 ESV).

Ezekiel 37 is a prophetic picture of a dried up lifeless Church which however can be powerfully revived by the Word of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

When we turn away from the self-contentment of our satisfied spirituality and see ourselves as scattered and separated dried up bones we will be urgently motivated to come together in the Spirit of God.

Effective Christian unity depends upon a vision of the Church as broken and impotent.

Yet without a further vision such discernment of our brokenness can only lead to legalism, resignation or despair.

As in all things, we must first of all see JESUS.

THE IMAGE OF THE BRIDEGROOM

Christ did not die to marry an obese Bride nor is he returning for a skeleton.

He will come to enjoy eternal intimacy with “a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault(Eph 5:27-28 ESV).

The emerging beauty of the fully formed Church is assured because vs.29no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, vs.30 because we are members of his body(Eph 5:29 ESV).

The Church falls into the deformities of obesity or leanness whenever it takes its eyes off the cross and resurrection of Jesus.

In seeing Christ’s disfigured form on the cross, where  “he had no form ormajesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Isa 53:2 ESV), we are persuaded of the measureless sacrificial love he has for us.

In seeing his resurrection we are persuaded of the power of God to reshape his broken Body.

Such revelations motivate us to take whatever decisions we must to be shaped more like Jesus. In the natural course of marriage we all know only a wicked and lazy husband could sit idly by and allow his wife’s body to become distorted into obesity or become skeletonised. 

Do We Really Think Jesus The Husband-Saviour Of The Body Is Like That (Eph 5:23 ESV)?

“NO! NO!”

The Church Of Christ Cries, But Our Current Lack Of Unified Actions Betrays Us.

CONCLUSION

Those who see themselves as prosperous will never feel the need to fast, but those who have a revelation that in the eyes of God they are “living skeletons” pray and fast that the Lord sends forth his Word in the power of the Spirit to form us into a beautiful Bride. And they pray that he does this quickly.

When we see a chain of 24/7 prayer-and-fasting across Perth revealing a bridal love for Jesus revival will already be upon us.

Until that time we are mostly like the Laodicean community, bloated on rubbish teaching.

As the old covenant people was taken into the wilderness to hunger for God’s Word alone but fell away in time of plenty (Deut 8:2-4, 17; 32:15), and as the confessing Christians in Laodicea were blinded by their affluence, so it is with us.

Only a clear vision of ourselves as like bones separated and broken up can move us to come together as members of the body of Christ powerless apart from each other (cf. Rom 12:5 ESV).

OUR CONDITION IS DESPERATE.

The great prophet of the Spirit could only answer the Lord’s question, ““Son of man, can these bones live?””, with his own question, ““O Lord God, you know.”(Ezek 37:3 ESV)

But our sure hope is that the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead can fill us with a vision of the One who has breathed life into his dead Church again and again (Rom 8:11 ESV). Jesus can do this.

Let us in humility pray that bone be joined to bone across our city and nation. 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 29th, June, 2018

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: N/A  

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