Spirit Life

Ezek 37:11-14 KJV; Ps 119:129-136 KJV; Rom 8:5-11 KJV; Mark 10:46-52 KJV

Introduction      

According to Paul there is an infallible criterion for telling if a person is/is not a real Christian or not? “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” (Rom 8:9 KJV). He sidesteps question of ethical and religious practice to declare that Christians are people in whom the Holy Spirit lives.

People are not on some sort of spiritual scale with especially wicked people on one end and especially saintly on the other with one end headed for hell and the other headed for heaven. In Paul’s categorical language if you don’t have the Spirit you are “in the flesh”. By flesh he doesn’t mean “body” but the power of a sinful nature that opposes the will of God.

Jesus himself explained, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit….(John 3:6 KJVIt is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is useless. (John 6:63 KJV). You either have a wholly natural life shaped by this world or a supernatural life shaped in the Spirit of Christ. Life “in the flesh” means death life “in the Spirit” is eternal life.

Exposition

v.5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

Fleshly people think fleshly thoughts without concern for the thoughts of God (cf. Prov 23:7 KJV).

Their outlook on life is never Christ-centred and they just don’t “get the vibe” of godly things (1 Cor 2:14 KJV). I’ve met so many people, often on planes, who seem to have resonance at all with spiritual realities. They’re not especially bad people in a moral sense but as people of the flesh they’re spiritually dead people. Unlike genuine believers there’s no struggle within them to lead a holy life, no evidence of the Holy Spirit fighting against their worldly desires (Gal 5:16-17 KJV).

People “in the flesh” simply obey their baser nature without a struggle.

Would that it were that simple. Paul was exasperated by immature Christians in Corinth, “brothers and sister… I could not talk to you as I would to spiritual people, but as I would to people of the flesh, as infants in Christ(1 Cor 3:1 KJV).

Are you an “infant in Christ”?

If you are a young person who spends more time worrying about your image on social media than reflecting the image of God then you are a spiritual infant. If you are an older people obsessed with your health or your grandchildren rather than being zealous for the kingdom of God then you are a “pygmy” in Christ.

Most Christians spend too much time thinking about food, finances, coffee, gossip, television and so on.

The common refrain “I know I should spend more time praying and reading the Bible.” is a good intention but useless until your mind controlled submits to the Holy Spirit.

vs.6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. vs.7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. vs.8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Those who “set their minds on the flesh” live as though this world contained the meaning of life. Paul’s says such a self-indulgent person “is dead even while she lives(1 Tim 5:6 KJV). Looking back on his pleasure seeking days without Christ, St Augustine commented, “Such was my life – was that life?

Men and women “in the flesh” do what they think seems best to them and adopt a way of life “hostile to God”.

They are, to quote from Romans 1, vs.29filled with every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarrelling, deception, malicious behaviour, and gossip. vs.30 They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful….disobedient to parents. vs.31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.(29-31 cf. Col 1:21 KJV). Forget about the particular sins listed, the bottom line is that people of the flesh are self-centred.

In John Piper’s memorable words, they have a “suicidal love affair with independence from God.”  only the Holy Spirit can turn our self-centred thinking into Christ-centred living.

but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” we are told. Moses declared, “the Lord your God…he is your life” (Deut 30:20); Jesus proclaimed, ““I am the resurrection and the life.”(John 11:25 KJV). Most Anglican churches each Sunday recite these words from the Nicene Creed, “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life”. On the walls of the catacombs under Rome some oppressed Christian had inscribed these Spirit-inspired words in Latin, vita vita vita, “life, life, life”. Hallelujah. (Can you sense His (Spirit’s) presence even now?) Everything that the Spirit touches is infused with life and harmony with God – something inexpressibly wonderful.

The gift of the Spirit is absolutely indispensible to a spiritual life because in Paul’s sober estimation those “in the flesh cannot….submit to God’s law (and) cannot please God”.

Apart from the grace of the Spirit of God lost people have no ability1)See Biblical References John 6:63 KJV; John 8:34 KJV; Rom 5:6 KJV; (to please the Father of Jesus because they have no desire to obey him)2)See Biblical References 1 Cor 2:14 KJV; Eph 2:1-3 KJV. Now our passage turns to the positive by turning to focus more pointedly on the Spirit.

vs.9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

It is by entering the realm and rule of the Holy Spirit that natural people are turned into supernatural people who know and love Jesus.

When Paul says “the Spirit of God dwells in you” this could be translated as “makes his home in you”; the Spirit is intimate and influential inside the Christian (John 14:17 KJV).

One of the things that sends me crazy is hearing people refer to the blessed Holy Spirit as an “it” when as personal as the Father and the Son. Anyone who talks about the Spirit as if he were simply some power needs to grow in love with the Spirit.

We love the Spirit by trusting him to work powerfully in our lives as he worked in the life of Jesus when he was on earth3)See Biblical References cf. John 7:37-39 KJV; 1 Cor 2:10 KJV. The Spirit’s great goal is to repeat in us what he did in Christ.

Christians stop growing into Christ-likeness when they resist the working of the Spirit. 

Jesus was quite categorical about the ministry of the Spirit, “he will glorify me by telling you whatever he receives from me(John 16:14 KJV). The test of whether we are trusting the Spirit is not some vague “spiritual” feeling but if Jesus is becoming greater and greater, constantly more glorious, in our estimation. I believe this is true for me, is this true for you?

vs.10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness

The “but” which begins this verse translates us out of uncertainty into the realm of sheer spiritual confidence. Born in the line of Adam we must still die bodily (Rom 5:12 KJV) but adopted into the line of Christ we will live forever – because it’s all about Jesus.

The “Spirit is life” not because we are good living people but because in justifying us, making us right with himself, God has shared with us the righteousness of Christ (1 Cor 1:30 KJV). Because we share in the scale of things as they are “in Christ” this is an utterly remarkable reality. Now comes the highest concentration point of the passage.

vs.11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

As the Holy Spirit gave eternal life to Jesus’ body by raising him from the dead so the same Spirit who lives in us will impart everlasting life to our weak mortal bodies.

The mighty power of the Spirit who breathed eternal life into the broken body in the tomb now indwells us (Eph 1:19-20 KJV) as a guarantee of sharing the eternal life he has given to Christ.

To appreciate, enjoy and be transformed by such a profound reality demands however a mind shaped by the Spirit.

If you focus on how you feel when you are sick and tired these spiritual truths will seem like fantasies, but if you believe that the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you he will give you immeasurable consolation, encouragement and empowerment – to live for Jesus (cf. 2 Cor 1:3-11 KJV).

By faith your “life in the Spirit” will stand out amongst those who “live in the flesh” and have no hope.

Conclusion

True spirituality isn’t some set of religious beliefs or practices but living like Jesus did in the power of the Holy Spirit4)See Biblical References Matt 12:28 KJV; Luke 3:22 KJV; Luke 4:10, 18  KJV etc..

The only spirituality that counts is the spirituality of Jesus and only the Holy Spirit can teach and share such deep things with us (1 Cor 2:11-13 KJV).

The power of the Spirit was the secret of the right living of Jesus and the final explanation of how God raised him from the dead.

If we are “in Christ” the Spirit offers us nothing less than the quality of the presence and power of the resurrected life he gave to Jesus. Every believer and every congregation has a call of God on their life which can only be fulfilled through becoming more like Jesus which means constantly growing in the Spirit.

Let me try to explain something I sense in the Spirit but am finding difficult to explain.

How do you think Jesus felt when the Holy Spirit was outpoured into his mortal body in the tomb giving him new and indestructible life? He was overwhelmed with a sense of the goodness of the Spirit’s power.

Since the work of the Spirit was such great news for Jesus the Lord deeply wants to share with us the good news of the gift of the Spirit today5)See Biblical References Acts 2:38 KJV; Heb 2:3-4 KJV.

If you want to be free from habits and thought patterns you know shouldn’t be in your life the Holy Spirit has power for breakthrough.

If you want to speak to people about Jesus but get paralysed the Spirit will empower you. “In Christ” the Spirit offers us the quality of the presence and power of the resurrected life he gave to Jesus.

God gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask for him in Jesus’ name and for Jesus’ sake6)See Biblical References Luke 11:13 KJV; John 4:10 KJV; Acts 2:38 KJV.

Over the decades I’ve personally seen or heard countless testimonies from believers who were struggling in their Christian life and then called out to God and were encountered by a power to live for Jesus which made an enormous difference.

Some call this breakthrough the “second blessing” in the Spirit, some being “filled/baptised in the Spirit”.

Forget about the name for such an experience, all that matters is that the name of Jesus is exalted – which is the supreme passion of the life-giving Holy Spirit. Let us pray. 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 28th October, 2018 Location: St Mark’s

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

28th October, 2018.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References John 6:63 KJV; John 8:34 KJV; Rom 5:6 KJV
2. See Biblical References 1 Cor 2:14 KJV; Eph 2:1-3 KJV
3. See Biblical References cf. John 7:37-39 KJV; 1 Cor 2:10 KJV
4. See Biblical References Matt 12:28 KJV; Luke 3:22 KJV; Luke 4:10, 18  KJV etc.
5. See Biblical References Acts 2:38 KJV; Heb 2:3-4 KJV
6. See Biblical References Luke 11:13 KJV; John 4:10 KJV; Acts 2:38 KJV

Common Feet

Text: Acts 4 vs.32 – vs.37 

vs.32 “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. vs.33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. vs.34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold vs.35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. vs.36 Thus…Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, vs.37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 4:32-37 ESV)

Background

EVERYTHING IN COMMON.

Acts 4:32-37

Very occasionally something happens which can cause a truly radical change in the spiritual landscape of the Church as we know it. This teaching describes one such opportunity.

In prayer early Tuesday I sensed that the beautiful but very rare dynamic of the early church in Acts 4 was something the Lord wanted to repeat in our midst.

He was speaking to me about laying Perth Prayer (PP) , our non-denominational weekly prayer meeting in the CBD, at the feet of some leaders of the Church in our city. The background to this is important.

Some months ago the leaders of (PP)  sent out an unusual plea for help.

We weren’t requesting assistance to bolster our ministry, but believing that through the sharing of worship leaders, testimonies and pray-ers from across the city the life of (PP)  could be fundamentally re-constituted.

From being an event in the city it would organically become an expression of the shared life of the whole Church in Perth. (Just as in the Trinity the life of each of the Persons is made up from their mutual sharing of everything without exception).1)See Biblical References John 17:21-22 ESV; Eph 4:4-6 ESV

Sadly, our overture for such a working together into oneness was not understood.

Whilst we believe (PP)  can be a catalyst for unity in Perth we do not envision this as a standalone entity but an expression that draws its life from across the whole Body of Christ.

Laying (PP)  at the feet of leaders in the city as a gift would be a sign of letting go of any possible control on our part.

This is a very radical step. How would Barnabas have felt if the apostles rejected the gift of land he laid at their feet! To enact what Acts 4 is describing (PP)  must be willing to die.

But this teaching isn’t about PP; God is already doing something extraordinary in our city far bigger than us.

It’s Already Happening

EVERYTHING IN COMMON.

Acts 4:32-37

Later on Tuesday the city of Belmont pastors’ network met with a senior officer from the Salvation Army. The Salvo’s have a property in Rivervale (as in Subiaco) that they are offering, not for sale or rent, but as a gift to the churches in the city of Belmont as a hub for cooperative ventures to minister to the broken in our community.

The spiritual DNA in this offer is amazing; it really looks like Jesus and has the potential to revolutionise the life of the Australian Church and its image across the nation.

In effect the Salvo’s have come like Barnabas and laid their resources at the feet of the spiritual elders of the Church in Belmont (Subiaco) for them to use for the purposes of the kingdom of God.

The Holy Spirit testified in our pastors’ meeting that the Salvo officer was anointed for practical apostolic service; this is why the spiritual energy in the room as he shared was quite unlike anything I can recall in our network.

The Lord is revealing a kingdom DNA pattern (or fractal) which can catalyse a movement of prayer, unity and missions breaking down territorial boundaries between Christian groups in a way unprecedented in the history of the Australian Church.

The teaching of the scriptures is foundational for any such a move of God.

Everything in Common

Humanly speaking the sort of total sharing we see in Acts is impossible, but “all things are possible for God(Matt 19:26 ESV) because he never holds back anything as if it were exclusively his own.

This is the power of the cross, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?(Rom 8:32 ESV).

Grace without limit means that when Father and Son jointly poured out their Spirit on the day of Pentecost2)See Biblical References Luke 3:16 ESV; Acts 1:4-5 ESV; Acts 2:33 ESV the early Church was immersed in the life of God.

They understood that through Jesus laying his own life down at the feet of the Father (Matt 26:39 ESV) they now had all things in common with the life of God.

As an overflow of this miracle they shared all they had with one another; “no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own3)See Biblical References Acts 4:32 ESV; 2:42-47 ESV.

In such an atmosphere of selflessness the Lord Jesus manifested his resurrection power in proclamation and healing (Acts 4:33 ESV). In seeing his own generous likeness in the Church he was more than pleased to pour out signs and wonders.

So much for the testimony of the scriptures, but how can this be real amongst us today?

TODAY

EVERYTHING IN COMMON.

Acts 4:32-37

We need to embrace the promise of Jesus to all who follow him on the costly road of discipleship, vs.29 there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, vs.30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.(Mark 10:29-30 ESV).

The common life of the people of God is the norm for every place and every age.

To foster this culture of mutuality we must trust that the Lord has appointed a spiritual oversight/eldership in every geographical area (Tit 1:5 ESV).

These are the men and women at whose feet the gifts God has given to his Body may be laid for the progress of his kingdom.

These overseers are not mini-popes sitting on thrones at the top of a hierarchy.

But they do share with Peter some of “the keys of the kingdom” given to build the Church (Matt 16:18-19 ESV). They are Spirit-filled ministers committed to serving the world in the widest possible way.

Like Jesus in his descent from heaven they possess an “inside out disposition”. You will not recognise them by the size of “their” churches but by their humble submission at the feet of the Master.

CONCLUSION

EVERYTHING IN COMMON.

Acts 4:32-37

At the height of the Jesus Movement when prophetic musician Keith Green stopped running ticketed concerts and setting fees for his albums he provoked reactions of admiration, confusion and hostility amongst his peers.

Many were shamed by his gospel ethos4)See Biblical References Matt 10:8 ESV; 1 Cor 15:34 ESV.

As Jesus provoked like reactions by his grace-filled living we should expect the same from God’s people today when we start laying things down at the feet of today’s apostles.

Revolutionary generosity in the Church will be opposed by the Church.

But nothing less than genuinely offering something for nothing for the sake of a broken world can restore the reputation of Christ’s people in Australia.

Q: How much are we willing to lay down in order that the honour of the name of Jesus may become great in our land.5)See Biblical References Ezek 20:9, 14 ESV; Acts 17:7 ESV

Let’s rise up and confess that our current spiritual poverty cannot be healed by a business as usual approach in conferences, programmes and performance.

Only radical gospel giving can soften the hard heart of Australia, and praise God such giving is beginning to happen amongst us. 

Q: What have you been given to lay at the feet of the servants of the Lord

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 5th. Oct, 2018 Location: St Marks

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

Date. Month, 2018.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References John 17:21-22 ESV; Eph 4:4-6 ESV
2. See Biblical References Luke 3:16 ESV; Acts 1:4-5 ESV; Acts 2:33 ESV
3. See Biblical References Acts 4:32 ESV; 2:42-47 ESV
4. See Biblical References Matt 10:8 ESV; 1 Cor 15:34 ESV
5. See Biblical References Ezek 20:9, 14 ESV; Acts 17:7 ESV

Fear’s Gift of Humility

Introduction

It is usual for Christians to say that more than anything else they want to be like Jesus; often however we desire exaltation without humiliation and glory without lowliness. I am convinced that there is a very deep reason for this which needs to be exposed.

We lack the fear of God deep in our hearts1)See Biblical References Deut 5:29 ESV; 2 Chron 19:9 ESV; Ps 86:11 ESV; Jer 3:39-40 ESV.

I have written plenty on humility in the past but in recent times the Lord has been speaking to me about lowliness of life in unusual ways. The first way he has been doing this is through the spiritual encounters of others.

In one instance a prophetic friend told me she saw in a vision the elders of our city prostrate in prayer. She was overcome by a sense of their corporate humility. And because they were face down before the Lord she couldn’t identify who they were.

They were a group of “nameless and faceless” men and women. In the second instance a mature brother spoke of an astonishing failure of a ministry over which he had oversight.

Here are his own words; “When this happened I said to The Lord, in deepest anguish, “That’s it for me, I’m not getting involved in anything ever again, because how will I ever know I’m FAILING ?.. this all looked so good and turned out to be Rotten at the Core”.

And as I said that in my heart, I saw ‘like a wall plaque in my mind’s eye; “FAILURE BEGINS WHEN YOU GET OFF YOUR FACE”.

In other words kingdom success in ministry depends upon self- abasement before God.

All good, but how does this happen, and in such a way that it becomes a manner of life, not only for a few extraordinary individuals or rare occasions of life but as a part of the culture of the Church for which we long? Well, after the above testimonies here is how the Lord helped me recently. 

AN UNEXPECTED GIFT

Kalbarri is a town about 500 km north of Perth and when I go there to rest and pray I enjoy walking along the edge of its famous steep cut river gorges. Moving off the beaten track beyond the sight and sound of others I fell from a ledge into the river and was soaked from head to foot.

I was immediately thankful to the Lord I hadn’t taken the plunge at a spot where the rocks beneath shallower waters would have cracked my skull. Things were about to become much more intense however. Confronted by sheer cliff faces along the river I had no choice but a climb to the summit, and in soaking clothes that made it hard to bend my knees.

These are wilderness gorges with little vegetation, littered with loose stones and peppered with overhangs. Falling from any point of the ascent could have been fatal, and I am not fond of heights! I tried for about half an hour to steer a way out of my predicament but there seemed no end of slippery slopes and impassable rock faces; death by misadventure was presenting itself as a distinct possibility.

Knowing these gorges have a recent history of claiming the lives of climbers my fears became deeper and deeper, sharper and sharper; but so did my prayers! T just didn’t feel right that I should finish my spiritual journey perishing alone in the wilderness.

Finally, helped in part through following feral goat tracks, I managed to clamber exhausted to the top. Bedraggled, somewhat bloodied, covered in spider web but richly grateful to a prayer answering God. “If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence. When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.” (Psalm 94 verses 17 to 18). This wasn’t just a needless adventure in the life of someone old enough to know better, it was an in-depth spiritual lesson.

THE HELP OF FEAR

Given that fear doesn’t feel good the contemporary Church has often copied the world in speaking of fear as something always to escape. The Hillsong musicians assure us, “Grace dissolves every fear in me”. This might seem to echo the famous words from Amazing Grace, “T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear And Grace, my fears relieved”, but this speaks of a pre-conversion fear and not the righteous fear of the converted.

There is an essential difference between the everyday fears of life and the healthy fear which the scripture encourages, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight(Prov 9:10 ESV). The difference is the quality of fear in the life of Jesus.

God is the Fear of Jesus

One of the most strikingly prophetic stories in the pages of the Old Testament is the “sacrifice of Isaac”. How in obedience to the divine command Abraham took his beloved son up the mountain to offer him to the Lord (Gen 22:1-19 ESV).

Whilst the angel of God provided an animal substitute at the last moment this was a soul shaping experience for the young Isaac. So much so that the next generation could simply describe the Lord as “the Fear of Isaac(Gen 31:42, 53 ESV).

A new title for God; the God who Isaac fears. Fear wasn’t some mere emotion but embodied in Isaac’s relationship with the covenant God.

Since Isaac and his sacrifice is a type/symbol of the cross, this means that fear is embodied in Jesus’ relationship with his Father. If we were to coin a title for God it could be “the Fear of Jesus”.

Prophetically speaking through “the fear of Jesus” (Jesus’ fear of his Father) God is revealed as “Abba! Father!

Thinking of fear as a Person can liberate us from limiting it to an emotion so that we recognise its power to transform our whole way of living.

Sharing the Son’s insight into the character of the Father is the key to understanding the true God-pleasing character of spiritual fear. By faith we can share in Christ’s own fear of the Lord for fearing God in union with Christ is part of our salvation experience.

As we share in the perfect faith of the Son of God (Heb 12:2 ESV), as Jesus isour righteousness, holiness and redemption(1 Cor 1:30 ESV), as he said “my peace(John 14:29 ESV) and “my joy2)See Biblical References John 15:11 ESV; John 17:13 ESVI give to you” so too we can share in the pure fear of God that Jesus had. This makes the topic of growing in fear quite exciting.

That the coming Messiah would have a pure spiritual fear is clearly prophesied; vs.1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. vs.2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. vs.3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.(Isa 11:3 ESV). This immensely challenging description about Jesus is especially affirmed in his prayers to the Father in Gethsemane.

THE PLACE OF FEAR

“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).

Only in this place of suffering terrible dread about God’s coming wrath does Christ utters the intimate words, “Abba, Father”. For here in the Garden his human “holiness is perfected in the fear of God(2 Cor 7:1 ESV).

In speaking of the agonies of Gethsemane Hebrews makes it clear that true spiritual fear is the fear a Son has of his Holy Father.

vs.7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. vs.8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. vs.9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,(Heb 5:7-9 ESV).

The perfect Son possesses perfect fear which releases the fountain of perfect obedience (Prov 14:27 ESV). For Christ’s fear is not self-protective but God-directed, not aimed at preserving his place in the world but bringing glory to God.

Only this fear drives him deep enough into the heart of the Father so he can fulfil his will through the dereliction of the cross. 

The Son’s fear of not experiencing the Father’s intimate presence in what is coming at the cross is an accurate one, yet it is exactly through this fear that the pleasure of God will break into his life in resurrection.

The Old Testament sage understood, “The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honour and life.(Prov 22:4 ESV), but we see this fulfilled in the scenes of Christ’s resurrected and ascended glory in heaven. ““Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!”(Rev 5:12 ESV).

How is the God-glorifying fear of the Lord Jesus released through our lives into the world?

THE GOSPEL OF FEAR

The wisdom writers of the old covenant grasped that God’s gracious mercy intensified godly fear; vs.3 “Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? vs.4 But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you.” (Ps 130:3-4 ESV). 

If the Lord were to execute justice upon all, there would be none left to fear him, or those left would harden their hearts against him. Gratitude for pardon inspires reverence and awe.

This is clearest at the cross.

One thief abuses Jesus, the other says to his blasphemous companion, ““do you not fear God…? i.e. God as revealed in Jesus”” (Luke 23:40 ESV)

This man’s hear was softened to fear God because he heard Christ’s word of pardon, ““Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”” (Luke 23:34 ESV).

vs.6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth… vs.7 Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth”(Rev 14:6-7 ESV)3)See Biblical References cf. Prov 19:11 ESV; 1 Tim 1:11 ESV.

When the glory of God in the gospel is revealed we know him through Jesus as our own “Abba! Father!(Rom 8:16 ESV; Gal 4:6 ESV). The Spirit induces in us the wonderful sort of holy fear that only adopted sons can possess.

As mercy triumphs over judgement grateful believers willingly fear God as their God4)See Biblical References Luke 1:50 ESV; James 2:13 ESV and “submit to one another out of fear of Christ(Eph 5:21 ESV).

Sharing the Fear as Sons

 “The fear of the Lord” is a “treasure(Isa 33:4 ESV) realised in Christ (Col 2:3 ESV).

Rare as they may be, A.W. Tozer’s words image a sharing in the fear of the Son of God in Gethsemane;

“The only fear I have is to fear to get out of the will of God. Outside of the will of God, there’s nothing I want, and in the will of God there’s nothing I fear, for God has sworn to keep me in His will….”

A.W. Tozer’s

It is holy spiritual thing to fear God as Father; “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,5)See Biblical Reference 1 Pet 1:17 ESV cf. Mal 1:6 ESV.

Paul’s spirit stands in unapologetic contrast to that of the proud Corinthians, “I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling”, because his great dread was that through self-confidence “the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.6)See Biblical Reference 1 Cor 1:17 ESV; 1 Cor 2:3 ESV.

This was an expression of the apostolic maturity characteristic of the earliest Church; “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.(Acts 9:31 ESV).

A church that has stopped growing, especially spiritually, needs to ask for a restoration of the fear of the Lord. A church powerful in the fear of the Lord, like Jesus, will see the powers of evil submit to their kingdom authority in terror (Mark 5:7 ESV).

Resurrection life mingles “fearand great joy (Matt 28:8 ESV), fear and trembling” co-exists with God’s “good pleasure.(Phil 2:12-13 ESV).

A.W. Tozer speaks almost ecstatically;

“I believe that the reverential fear of God, mixed with love and fascination and astonishment and adoration, is the most enjoyable state and the most purifying emotion the human soul can know. A true fear of God is a beautiful thing, for it is worship; it is love; it is veneration. It is a high moral happiness because God is!” 

A.W. Tozer

a Body with such fear must be a humble Body.

Fear and Humility

Fear and overconfidence cannot coexist in the same soul. The presence of a sharp fear induced by overwhelming circumstances (2 Cor 1:8-11 ESV) is a sure remedy for a self-sufficient spirit. 

This is how the sovereignty of God works to press us into the likeness of Christ so that we share even in the intimacy of the Son’s fear of his Dear Father.

Without such fears spiritual depth is impossible.

To acknowledge this is the first step in humility, to pray for it the second step to confess it before others the third. As Jesus publically expressed his fear in Gethsemane so those who would lead God’s people, as pastors, apostles, husbands, mothers, kids church coordinators…. should never be embarrassed to be pressed down on their faces before the Lord.

In such desperation to know and do his will our prayers will be answered.

Conclusion

To be truly conformed to Christ is to have the Spirit place the Lord’s heart inside us so we are united with Jesus in the movement of his Passion. Becoming one with him who “fell on his face(Matt 26:39 ESV) in the most utter humility, rose up to go on to death and the exultation of resurrection power. To be like Jesus means a repeated spiritual dying and rising again7)See Biblical References 2 Cor 4:7-12 ESV; Gal 2:20 ESV; Phil 3:10 ESV.

When we have a company of men and women wise enough to be moved by holy fear to join with Jesus in his humiliation then there will be released a great company of spiritual fathers and mothers across our city leading the people of God into the ways of God with great power.

As the Father gifted Jesus with the terrors of Gethsemane and Calvary to “perfect” his Sonship (Heb 5:8 ESV) may the Lord grant us great fear-inducing encounters so that we are pressed into spiritual depths previously unimaginable.

All to his glory. 

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References Deut 5:29 ESV; 2 Chron 19:9 ESV; Ps 86:11 ESV; Jer 3:39-40 ESV
2. See Biblical References John 15:11 ESV; John 17:13 ESV
3. See Biblical References cf. Prov 19:11 ESV; 1 Tim 1:11 ESV
4. See Biblical References Luke 1:50 ESV; James 2:13 ESV
5. See Biblical Reference 1 Pet 1:17 ESV cf. Mal 1:6 ESV
6. See Biblical Reference 1 Cor 1:17 ESV; 1 Cor 2:3 ESV
7. See Biblical References 2 Cor 4:7-12 ESV; Gal 2:20 ESV; Phil 3:10 ESV

Inheritance is Christ

inheritance

Rom 8:12-17

1 Cor 3:21-22

Eph. 1:11-14

Heb 1:1-4

Rev 21:1-8

INTRODUCTION

It’s a funny thing to find yourself quoted, this happened last week as I was looking through a manuscript prior to its publication.

The citation was, “The ultimate question about everything is this, “Is God a Father, and if so, what sort of a Father is he?

In a conference on Knowing the God of the Bible it’s more helpful to begin with an assertion. “God is the sort of Father that will do whatever it takes to make sure his children receive their full inheritance.” 

The importance of inheritance as the revelation of Fatherhood came to me recently in working on Revelation 21, where in the climactic vision of the book God speaks from his throne and says triumphantly, ““The one who conquers will have this inheritance, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”(Rev 21:7 ESV).

The “inheritance” described is the new heavens and the new earth, the holy city of the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:1-4 ESV). Outside this inheritance there’s nothing worthwhile only an outer darkness and anguish, for the godless are completely dispossessed1)See Biblical References Rev 21:8 ESV; Rev 22:15 ESV cf. Matt 8:12 ESV; Matt 22:13 ESV; Matt 25:30 ESV; 2 Thess 1:9 ESV.

In Christ our inheritance is not of some things, or great things, but all things.

Without a revelation of the amazing scope of the believer’s inheritance there is no personal insight into the character of God as Father. Being saved we know that our God is “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”2)See Biblical References Rom 15:6 ESV; Eph 1:3, 17 ESV; Col 1:3 ESV but most human beings haven’t had this revelation and the cost of not knowing the Father’s inheritance can be devastating. Let me use some illustrations of the terrible cost of not knowing a F/father’s inheritance.

When Australia was forcibly colonised by the British Empire generations of Indigenous fathers were stripped of land, language and culture t pass on to their children. One outcome of this is (2015-16) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 25 times more likely to be in detention and 17 times more likely to be under some form of youth justice order than non-Indigenous children.

Recently we had the tragic situation of two Indigenous teenagers drowning in the Swan River as they tried to swim across away from police. I wasn’t the least surprised to hear the mother of one of them, who lives in our area, say her son never really knew his father. When he was born his dad was in prison.

Years ago a Christian woman from our district said to me, “You see all these young guys’ streets wandering the streets of Belmont; none of them has a father.”

But the problem isn’t restricted to Aboriginal Australians. At our last men’s breakfast our speaker, who used to work for the ambulance service, talked about the high number of publically unreported male suicides through hanging. People only kill themselves, or turn to drugs, alcohol, crime etc., when they feel their lives are empty and they’ve nothing to look forward to.

If you know you have a wonderful inheritance, an inheritance not even death can take from you, your life will have about it a sense of fullness. Cf. vs.9For in him the whole fullness of God dwells in a human body, vs.10 and you have come to fullness in him(Col 2:9-10 ESV).

It’s impossible to understand the vastness of our heritage from an ordinary human perspective, but to get some sense of proportion about “what God has prepared for those who love him(1 Cor 2:9 ESV) it’s important to start with a sense of who God is in himself.

To do this we don’t start with the creation story in Genesis but with the prayers of Jesus the eternal Son of God3)See Biblical References John 1:1-3 ESV; Col 1:17 ESV; Heb 1:2 ESV.

ALWAYS AN INHERITANCE

Unlike other faiths who believe in a Creator the unique Christian understanding is that the substance of our inheritance isn’t some “thing”, like the Paradise Muslims long for, but a share in the Son of God’s eternal relationship with his Father. Our inheritance is secure and unending because their relationship is everlasting. The Father has always been Father and the Son has always been Son.

So in John 17 Jesus prays, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.(John 17:5).

This eternal glory is not something he will keep to himself; so later he goes on to pray, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.(John 17:24 ESV).

Since Jesus could say, “All that the Father has is mine(John 16:15 ESV), this means all that the Father has is ours.   It was always the plan of God to share the riches of his inheritance in Christ with all his children.

This is especially clear from the first chapter of Ephesians; God had “a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him/Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.” (v.10) to include us in this plan he “chose us in him/Christ before the foundation of the world” (v.4) so that “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will(Eph 1:11 ESV)

To be secure in our inheritance we need to be centred on Jesus as the deserving heir of God accepting that by grace we share in his blessed relationship with the Father. Whenever we think we have to be in some sort of spiritual state to earn, merit or deserve the inheritance God has for us we will always become proud or discouraged (cf. Matt 25:34 ESV). Christ must always be the centre of our spiritual vision (Eph 1:18 ESV).

CREATED HEIRS

When God created he was excited by what was being brought to birth. The end of Proverbs chapter 8 is one of my favourite parts of the Bible; vs.29when he marked out the foundations of the earth. vs.30 Then I (wisdom) was constantly at his side.  I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, vs.31 rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.4)See Biblical References Prov 8:29-31 ESV cf. Job 38:7 ESV.  

Eden itself meansdelight” and creation was an occasion of joyful expectation where God anticipated sharing the riches of his wise, good and just Fatherhood with humans as he had always shared with his Son in heaven.

The original creation story anticipates an expansion of humanity in ever widening circles across the earth under the favour of God’s fatherly hand; vs.26Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.vs.27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. vs.28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”(Gen 1:26-28 ESV)

The destiny of Adam and Eve to inherit the world flowed from their being in the divine image, but it becomes even clearer why such a sense of destiny was stamped on the soul of Adam when he read in the genealogy of Jesus in Luke that he’s called, “the son of God(Luke 3:38 ESV).

Adam was meant to look like his Father, represents his Father, undertake his Father’s occupation and so on.

When we read of Adam “working and keeping” the Garden (Gen 2:15 ESV) we see he knew he was called to do what he saw his Father doing; God must have taught him how to be employed (cf. John 5:19 ESV).

There could have been no doubt in the man’s mind that he would receive the inheritance of his Father because he was indisputably his son. This was a natural state of affairs as long as he was the worthy son of his Father.

The divine inheritance however wasn’t mechanical or passive, it involved a dynamic filling of all things with God’s presence and power. Adam was called to pass on the glory of what he already had as an inheritance from God and if he did so he would have grown further in the divine image and likeness. Increasing in wisdom, knowledge, justice, peace, love and so on he would have advanced in glory.

In the beginning everything was wonderful as the Father looked forward to sharing the rule of the world with sons ever growing in understanding of his will and purpose. But to fully enter into their inheritance as holy and righteous children of God the first human beings needed to be tested.

SONS NOT HEIRS

In his parable of the sheep and the goats Jesus sets in total contrast two final states.

The King says to those on his right, “‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world….’” and to those on his left, “‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.(Matt 25:34, 41 ESV cf. 2 Pet 2:4 ESV).

The ancient serpent Satan (Rev 12:9 ESV) and his evil followers have a destiny of destruction which is hell, a place that was never intended to be an inheritance for any human beings, no one “belongs” in hell no matter how evil they may be.

Since in the Old Testament the angels are called “sons of God”5)See Biblical References Gen 6:1-4? ESV; Deut 32:8 ESV; Job 1:6 ESV; Job 2:1 ESV; Job 38:7 ESV the devil and his angels must be fallen sons enraged by their loss of inheritance (cf. Rev 12:12 ESV).

They know that for them there is no marriage supper to look forward to, no eternal city, no final joy, no future hope; nothing but the lake of fire and brimstone (Rev 19-22 ESV).

In abandoning their sonship with God the rebellious forces of evil have no inheritance because they have no true F/father. Hating the divine likeness they work to destroy all of the blessings that belong to God and his children wanting to rob the Lord of the joy of sharing all things with his sons and daughters.

A FALSE LEGACY

The primary inheritance which Adam and Eve had in Eden wasn’t the splendours of created things, wonderful as they were, but the Word that God had spoken to them.

This Word needed to be treasured in the heart for them to be the full grown children worthy of the divine inheritance; cf. “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.(Ps 119:11 ESV).

God’s command “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”(Gen 2:17 ESV), was the warning of a loving Father that if you do not live like my son then you will not receive my inheritance.

When Satan appeared in Eden (Gen 3:1 ESV) he represents God’s command as the very opposite of an inheritance bequeathed by a loving Father who will give all things to his children.  The devil contests that the Creator is a Father desiring a limitless inheritance to his children.

God’s purpose in allowing the devil into Eden was a great one. The intrusion of Satan into the Garden was ordained by God so that under the pressure of a temptation too great to humanly resist Adam and Eve would look to God’s Word and promise by faith alone.

Had they done so the Word of God would have dwelt in their hearts more intensely (cf. Eph 3:17 ESV) and the “eyes of the heart” of the first couple would have been open to see the vast expanse of their rich inheritance in God who created all things6)See Biblical References Eph 1:18 ESV; Eph 3:9 ESV cf. Luke 24:32 ESV. Cf. “Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty; they will see a land that stretches afar.(Isa 33:17 ESV)

The Satanic word, “vs.4You will not surely die. vs.5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”(Gen 3:4,5-6 ESV) was not a part of the human inheritance prepared by the Father but a seed of destruction.

For Adam and Eve to desire immortality would have pleased God (Rom 2:7 ESV), but to seek it in the way they did was fatal. They sought to enter into the realm of divinity without union with the Word, deceived into thinking that possessing for themselves the knowledge of good and evil apart from a heavenly Father could be bearable.

In discarding the Word of God they lost communion with the Word which holds all things together and gives them unity, direction and purpose (Heb 1:3 ESV). They were plunged into disorder, misdirection and purposelessness.

Instead of eternal life they inherited death from their new father the devil (John 8:44 ESV) and became his fallen children7)See Biblical References Matt 13:38 ESV; Eph 2:3 ESV; 1 John 3:10 ESV. Naked and ashamed they were stripped of the glory of legitimately inheriting the world (Rom 3:23 ESV).   

It had become true for them that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.(1 Cor 15:50 ESV). Cast out of Eden and banned from accessing the tree of life (Gen 3:22-24 ESV) Adam and Eve must have felt that their disinheritance was final.

But the Father was always working to a plan to bring his perfectly mature son to earn an inheritance much greater than anything that could have been possessed by the first children of God8)See Biblical References cf. Gen 3:15 ESV; Rev 2:7 ESV. This would come in stages.

ISRAEL’S INHERITANCE

God chooses a line of sons for himself to restore the promised inheritance to humanity. vs.1Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. vs.2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. vs.3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”(Gen 12:1-3 ESV)

In leaving his family home Abraham accepted God as his Father.

Paul interprets the call of Abraham as something far greater than possessing the land of Canaan, “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.(Rom 4:13 ESV).

Abraham’s offspring would inherit the world as a sign of his sonship. Ultimately, this is about Jesus the true Son of God.

When Moses is commanded to declare to Pharaoh about Israel, “ vs.22 ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, vs.23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.”(Ex 4:22-23 ESV), he was providing for his people the same inheritance that he had promised to Abraham their father.

The extraordinarily intimate bond between Israel and the Lord comes through in the covenant language of the Old Testament; they are his chosen “treasured possession9)See Biblical References Ex 19:5-6 ESV; Ex 34:9 ESV; Ps 135:4 ESV; Mal 3:17 ESVetc., “a people of his very own possession(Deut 4:20 ESV)“Israel my inheritance.”(Isa 19:25 ESV); “For you separated them from among all the peoples of the earth to be your heritage(1 Ki 8:53 ESV).

Just as important is the declared reason for Israel being the inheritance of God, sheer covenant love; vs.6For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. vs.7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, vs.8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.(Deut 7:6-8 ESV).

In keeping with this sentiment God especially acts on behalf of the downtrodden poor those who have made him alone their inheritance10)See Biblical References Ps 12.5 ESV; Ps 37 ESV; Ps 41:1 ESV; Ps 86:1 ESV; Ps 113:5-9 ESV.

The nation was meant to radiate the glory of her divine inheritance.

Israel was called to be a “light to the nations11)See Biblical References Isa 42:6 ESV; Isa 49:6 ESV; Isa 51:4 ESV; Isa 60:3 ESV drawing the world into the covenant inheritance.

This never happened because despite all her advantages Israel turned repeatedly to idolatry.

Such ingratitude brought great pain to the heart of God;  vs.19 “‘I said, How I would set you among my sons, and give you a pleasant land, a heritage most beautiful of all nations. And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn from following me. vs.20 Surely, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband, so have you been treacherous to me, O house of Israel, declares the Lord.’”(Jer 3:19-20 ESV).

With time the prophetic Word became concentrated on the promised Messiah and son of God who will be the heir of all the promises; “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.(2 Sam 7:12-14 ESV).

This figure will not only inherit the land of Israel but the nations; vs.7 “I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your father. vs.8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, and the ends of the earth your possession.” (Ps 2:7-8 ESV).

All that was lost through the sin of Adam would be restored through the triumph of Messiah.

Towards the close of the Old Testament the prophets realised that the bounds of God’s call couldn’t be limited to the world as they knew it. Hope grew of a new heavens and earth full of righteousness12)See Biblical References Isa 2: 2-4 ESV; Isa 11:6-9 ESV; Isa 60:5, 11 ESV; Isa 61:6 ESV; Isa 65:18-20 ESV;  Ezek 40-48 ESV; Joel 3:20 ESV; Mic 3:7 ESV cf. Isa 14:32 ESV; Isa 28: 16 –17 ESV; Isa 60: 3,8,11 ESV; Zech 8:3- 5.

THE HEIR HAS COME

Through the coming of Jesus the New Testament opens up a perspective on sonship and inheritance beyond anything imaginable under the old covenant. Being the perfect image of God the Son of God is the heir of all creation. He is the eternal Son through whom God created the ages.

He is also the en-fleshed/incarnate Son who has revealed the Father.

And finally he is the end-times/eschatological Son who has now inherited the name that is exalted over the angels. All the promises of God are concentrated in Jesus. The introduction to Hebrews puts this in a very concentrated form.

vs.1 “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, vs.2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. vs.3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. vs.4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” (Heb 1:1-4 ESV)

All path of Jesus to his inheritance became publically true from the time of his baptism. vs.21 when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, vs.22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”(Luke 3:21-22 ESV).

In quoting his own words from Psalm 2:7 ESV to Jesus at his baptism, ““You are my Son””, the Father is personally promising the inheritance of the nations to Christ. This is at the centre of his prayers.

The gift of the Spirit from the Father is the witness to Jesus of the presence of God with him to bring in the kingdom of God with power; “if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you(Matt 12:28 ESV).

vs.34For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. vs.35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.(John 3:34 ESV)

The Spirit without measure brings in the inheritance without measure.

Jesus must constantly be filled with the Spirit to win back the nations for God’s kingdom and to resist the attacks of the devil.

This is why immediately following his baptism he is “full of the Spirit(Luke 4:1 ESV) and led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Because the Father’s voice from heaven has identified Jesus as the messianic Son of God and rightful inheritor of all things the devil’s first point of attack against Christ is his status as Son. ““If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.””(Matt 4:3 ESV).

As he deceived Eve in Eden so he seeks to manipulate Jesus into treating the world as a rightful possession rather than a gift from his Father.

Ever mindful of the priority of the command of the Word of God Jesus readily resists the satanic lure, ““It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”(Matt 4:4 ESV).

Raising the stakes, vs.5the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time,vs.6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. vs.7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”” Satan is offering Jesus the inheritance of the nations if he honours him as a father and god. vs.8 “And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” (Luke 4:5-8 ESV).

But whatever might seem to be lost as the faithful Son Jesus refuses to inherit from the devil.

Submitting to the Word of God as his delight13)See Biblical References Ps 40:8 ESV; Heb 10:5-7 ESV Jesus will not be great apart from his Father.

Through obedience he remained ever-filled with the Spirit and conscious of inheriting the world, “he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said….All things have been handed over to me by my Father…”” (Luke 10:21-22 ESV).

On the eve of his crucifixion he already knew by faith that “the Father had given all things into his hands(John 13:3 ESV) for he alone understood that he must inherit not despite suffering but through suffering.

The rulers of the Jews believed that as custodians of the Law of Moses the inheritance of God’s people was in their hands, and so they deeply resented Jesus’ popularity with the crowds14)See Biblical References Matt 23:2 ESV; John 12:19 ESV.

In response Jesus told in the parable of the wicked tenants in the vineyard about his coming death at the hands of the chief priests and Pharisees.

The punch line comes when he recounts, “But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’(Mark 12:7 ESV).

The settling of the question as to who is the true heir of all God’s promises soon comes to a climax at the trial of Jesus before the Jewish High Council.

THE TRIAL OF JESUS

vs.53And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together…. vs.61 But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” vs.62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”(Mark 14: 53, 61-62 ESV).

As soon as Jesus claims to be the Son of Man “at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” his hearers know he is identifying himself with the end time ruler of Daniel 7, “vs.13I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a Son of Man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. vs.14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.(Dan 7:13-14 ESV).

Jesus’ implied claim to be the heir of the world threw his interrogators into a fit of uncontrollable rage so they immediately condemned him to death; vs.63And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? vs.64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death.(Mark 14:63-64 ESV).

 But we must not look at this trial merely in terms of flesh and blood. 

Against the background of the visions of Daniel 7 the trial of Jesus is a concentrated attempt by the forces of darkness to destroy God’s plan to share the world with humanity (Dan 7:2-7 ESV; Dan 10-12).

The sentence of death passed on Jesus is an attempt to de-createall things(Gen 1:2 ESV) and to rob the Father of his plan to bring everything to a final joy by annihilating the Son in whom all things hold together (Heb 1:2 ESV).

The crucifixion of the Word made flesh (John 1:14 ESV) is a demonic attempt to destroy God’s pride and joy and with him the foundation of humanity’s inheritance in the world to come.

I think this interpretation of what was happening when Jesus was being tried makes sense of some of my more bizarre experiences over the years.

Occasions when various groups of people simply lied about my intentions and motives in ministry, or publicly accused me of sins that were dominant in their own lives, some stated that I had an evil spirit (Jezebel), or was a false prophet.  Sudden bursts of accusing anger from civilised and educated people – at the doorsteps of the church building, in prayer meetings or in church services were surely demonically inspired.

Satan designed the cross to cut Jesus off from his claimed inheritance, but it would prove to be the means by which he entered his heritage.

CROSS

In the Old Testament most serious crimes were dealt with by stoning, but when someone was deemed to be a covenant breaker they were cast out of the fellowship of Israel and hung. “vs.22And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, vs.23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.(Deut 21:21-23 ESV) 

A person so killed could not pollute the inheritance of God’s people because they were separated from the family of God. 

They had been formally and finally disinherited.

In the thinking of the enemies of Jesus as a crucified man he couldn’t possibly be God’s Son and heir.

So they mocked him; ““He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!”(Luke 23:35 ESV); and to all outside observation it seemed like they were correct.

When Jesus cried out from the cross, ““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(Mark 15:34 ESV) the divine Word is being “made sin” for us (2 Cor 5:21 ESV), entering the outer darkness of worthlessness15)See Biblical References Matt 8:12 ESV; Matt 22:13 ESV; Matt 25:30 ESV the place of the absence of all God’s pleasure as Father (Ezek 33:11 ESV).

Jesus enters into a hell completely cut off from his rightful inheritance in God.

All this however was part of the plan of God, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us(Gal 3:13 ESV) Paul says.

Martin Luther famously described the sacrifice of the cross like this:

“All the prophets of old said that Christ should be the greatest transgressor, murderer, adulterer, thief, blasphemer that ever was or ever could be on earth. When He took the sins of the whole world upon Himself, Christ was no longer an innocent person. He was a sinner burdened with the sins of a Paul who was a blasphemer; burdened with the sins of a Peter who denied Christ; burdened with the sins of a David who committed adultery and murder, and gave the heathen occasion to laugh at the Lord. In short, Christ was charged with the sins of all men, that He should pay for them with His own blood. The curse struck Him. The Law found Him among sinners. He was not only in the company of sinners. He had gone so far as to invest Himself with the flesh and blood of sinners. So the Law judged and hanged Him for a sinner.”

Luther

In dying as an outcast despised and rejected by men (Isa 53:3 ESV) Jesus carried away in himself everything which would disqualify us from sharing the inheritance God promises (2 Cor 1:20 ESV). The sign of that this had been accomplished was the resurrection.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the declaration of the end time  Sonship of Jesus that he has entered into the inheritance of the nations first promised to Abraham (cf. Rom 1:4-5 ESV).

GLORY INHERITANCE

By virtue of his faithful obedience in all things as a Son to his Father Jesus has merited eternal life for himself and all who obey him.

He is the true image of his Father who has succeeded in all things where all previous sons of God had failed.

On account of his complete obedience Jesus deserves the inheritance that God had promised him as Son.

As such Christ “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord(Rom 1:4 ESV); “Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father(Rom 6:4 ESV).

 We must never think however that Jesus has merely recovered what Adam lost or entered into the scope of the promised inheritance known to the prophets of Israel. 

As he tried to explain to his puzzled disciples who could not connect his death with his future, ““Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26 ESV).

When we get to the pictures of the promised eternal inheritance at the end of the book of Revelation they are filled with the glory of God and of the Lamb (Rev 21:23 ESV).

The weightiness of heaven is the love, righteousness, peace etc. that radiates from the sacrifice of the cross (Rev 5:6 ESV). This is far greater than anything that could ever have been achieved without such a sacrifice.

The writer to the Hebrews puts the same thing from a different angle; God now speaks to us through “his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world(Heb 1:2 ESV).

And the measure of the Sonship of Jesus is his willingness to suffer the loss of everything for this Father.

After quoting from Psalm 2 about Jesus, “vs.5 “You are my Son, today I have begotten you””, the writer goes on to say, vs.8Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. vs.9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him(Heb 5:5, 8-9 ESV)16)See Biblical References cf. Heb 2:10 ESV.

The perfection of Jesu’s sonship comes in his reversing the grasping sin in Eden, he recovers and increases humanity’s inheritance by willingly losing all he rightfully possessed.

The new heavens and earth which emerge at the end of the biblical story are saturated with an indestructible joy grounded in Christ’s triumphant resurrection, vs.1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. vs.2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. vs.3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,and God himself will be with them as their God. vs.4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. vs.5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”(Rev 21:1-5 ESV)17)See Biblical References cf. Isaiah 65:17 ESV; Isaiah 66:22 ESV.

Our eternal inheritance forever emerges in the resurrection space of joy between the Father and Son. Just as he prayed in John 17, “All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.(John 17:10 ESV)

HIS INHERITANCE IN US

Having an inheritance in Christ is a consistent part of the teaching of the New Testament, Paul puts this in a very elevated way, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will(Eph 1:11 ESV).

This places our inheritance within the framework of eternity and God’s plan for the whole creation. We are graciously embedded in the totality of the wisdom and work of God in all things. Even more remarkably, not only do we have an inheritance in God he has an inheritance in us.

vs.16I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, vs.17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, vs.18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, vs.19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe(Eph 1:16-19 ESV).

The Father’s inheritance in us is “glorious”, where “glory” means light and brilliance and conveys a sense of weightiness (kabod) and intensity.

This comes through in what Paul teaches the Colossians about vs.12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. vs.13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son(Col 1:12-13 ESV).

The saints of God, that is the Church, shine into a world darkened by sin (cf. Phil 2:15 ESV). Peter echoes this radiant picture, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, ca holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.(1 Pet 2:9 ESV).

As in the Old Testament it is especially the weak and downtrodden who God has chosen to be his heirs.

Jesus was anointed “to proclaim good news to the poor”, and in a way that restores the original blessing of creation testifies, ““Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”, he can summarise his own ministry with the climactic, “the poor have good news preached to them18)See Biblical References Luke 4:18 ESV; Luke 6:20 ESV; Luke 7:22 ESV.

The inheritance of the kingdom is for the small rather than the strong; ““Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.(Luke 12:32 ESV).

The apostles echo this emphasis, vs.26For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. vs.27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; vs.28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are(1 Cor 1:26-28 ESV); “Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?(James 2:5 ESV).

In the parable of the sheep and the goats Jesus describes the destiny of those who ministered to “the least of these my brothers’(Matt 25:40 ESV), which are his dispossessed followers.  vs.34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. vs.35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, vs.36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’” (Matt 25:34-36 ESV).

Identification with the weak and helpless is a way of life that immerses the people of God in the life of Christ himself and the inheritance which is ours in him.

In the present age, until Christ comes again, we live as “as in a foreign land…. strangers and exiles on the earth” travelling through to another destination19)See Biblical References Heb 11:9, 13 ESV; 1 Pet 1:1, 17 ESV; 1 Pet 2:11 ESV being ready to lose all for Christ to gain all in Christ (Phil 3:8 ESV).

SONS INHERIT IN FULL

In Christ there are no degrees of inheritance, with the same Father and older brother we all share together in the same heritage.

Paul simply calls this “the inheritance20)See Biblical References Acts 20:32 ESV; Acts 26:18 ESV; Eph 1:14, 18 ESV; Col 1:12; 3:24 ESV but when it is defined it is inheriting the kingdom of God21)See Biblical References 1 Cor 6:9-10 ESV; 1 Cor 15:50 ESV ; Gal 5:21 ESV; Eph 5:5 ESV.

All nations and the whole creation under the rule of Christ as King are ours in the Lord. In dramatic language to a divided and sectarian church in Corinth Paul testifies; vs.21 all things are yours, vs.22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, vs.23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.(1 Cor 3:21-22 ESV).

God’s inheritance is not divided but shared equally by all his children because it is based on promise and not deserved through merit. “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.(Gal 3:29 ESV). The Abrahamic promises fulfilled in Jesus are ours by the grace of God to be received by faith alone (Rom 4:13-14 ESV).

More potently, the inheritance is ours because we are all equally sons of God in the Son of God; vs.14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. vs.15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” vs.16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, vs.17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.(Rom 8:14-17 ESV) Cf. “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.(Gal 4:7 ESV).

As there are no degrees of sonship, there are no degrees of inheritance.

Adam was created as a son of God in the midst of an original creation that could be corrupted, but in Jesus and by regeneration through the Spirit a  new and far more glorious imperishable form of sonship has come into the world, vs.3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, vs.4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, (1 Pet 1:3-4 ESV)22)See Biblical Reference cf. 1 Pet 1:23 ESV.

This new race of sons is a part of God’s plan for a coming new creation for his family to dwell in23)See Biblical Reference Rom 8:18-30 ESV cf. Heb 2:8-18 ESV.

That we are all equally joint heirs with Christ also follows from the equality of our justification in Jesus. Heir-ship is a natural result of justification: “He saved us,so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life(Titus 3:5-7 ESV).

These realities become real to us only by faith. John Calvin says:

“The godly have a taste of this in the present life, for however often they may be oppressed by difficulty and want, yet because they partake with a peaceable conscience of those things which God created for their use, and enjoy earthly blessings from a favourable and willing Father as pledges and foretastes of eternal life, their poverty does not prevent them from acknowledging earth, sea and heaven as their right. Although the ungodly devour the riches of the world, they can call nothing their own, but rather snatch what they have by stealth, for they usurp it under the curse of God.”

Calvin

SANCTIFICATION and INHERITANCE

 

QUALIFIED

HEIRS

 

There is an intimate association throughout scripture between inheritance and sanctification/holiness of life. The primary meaning of “holiness” is to be set apart to God.

We have seen this in the language used of the election/choosing of Israel (Ex 19:5-6 ESV; Deut 7:6-8 ESV) and of our election in Christ (Eph 1:3 ESV).

Paul makes the connection categoricallyAnd now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.(Acts 20:32 ESV).

He does not mean we somehow qualify for an inheritance by leading holy lives, but God’s word of grace working in us grants us a share in the inheritance. The “Father has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.(Col 1:12 ESV).

Grace transforms us into the likeness of Jesus as the “the firstborn among many brothers(Rom 8:29 ESV). All is a gift.

A passage in Hebrews ties together the bond between sanctification, sonship and inheritance in terms of painful discipline, vs.5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. vs.6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. vs.7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? vs.8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.[The point being that illegitimate sons are not heirs!] vs.9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits land live? vs.10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. vs.11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.(Heb 12:5-11 ESV)

By going on to say, “Strive … for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.(Heb 12:14 ESV) the writer illuminates the reality that the holy sons are the heirs of the Holy Father.

Those believers who live an unholy lifestyle cannot carry a sense of eternal inheritance.

Yet none of this is possible however without the presence and power of the one who made possible every aspect of Jesus life and ministry, the Holy Spirit.

THE SPIRIT and POWER to INHERIT

The gift of the Holy Spirit makes real to us our sonship and the inheritance that comes from the Father of Jesus.

Before ascending into heaven Jesus described the Spirit in this way, vs.49behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high…. vs.4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; vs.5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.(Luke 24:49 ESV; Acts 1:4-5 ESV).

In his Pentecost preaching Peter also lined up this connection between the Father and the Spirit, ““Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he (Jesus) has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.”(Acts 2:33 ESV).

It is the Father who through Jesus giving us the Spirit testifies that we are his sons and so heirs; vs.6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” vs.7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.(Gal 4:6-7 ESV)24)See Biblical Reference cf. Rom 8:14-17 ESV.

Paul puts this directly in explaining to the Ephesians, vs.13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, vs.14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.(Eph 1:13-14 ESV)25)See Biblical Reference cf. 2 Cor 1:22; 2 Cor 5:5 ESV.

By testifying to our sonship the Spirit makes our inheritance real, that if God the Father has given himself to us in the gift of the Spirit he will give us all things without measure, all the future blessings of the kingdom of God are ours (cf. Eph 1:3 ESV).

It is the role of the Spirit to help us to see what will be ours, “vs.9 What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— vs.10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.(1 Cor 2:9-10 ESV). As well as illuminating our future the Spirit gives power for mission.

Mission as Sharing the Inheritance

As the Spirit was given at his baptism for the Son’s inheriting of the nations, so Jesus’ requests the Father to give the Spirit to the Church at Pentecost for the same reason (Acts 2:33 ESV). Jesus deeply desires that men and women of all nations (Matt 28:19 ESV) share in his universal inheritance to bring honour, glory and praise to the Father. The Father’s plan is for the greatest number of people to inherit his greatest possible joy for the greatest stretch of time.

To preach the gospel of the death and resurrection of Jesus is a Spirit led encounter opening up the possibility that its hearers will have a revelation of the identity of God’s Son (Acts 17:3 ESV).

It is an invitation to join with Christ in inheriting all the good things of God. The scope of the gospel is far wider than signs, wonders, healings, personal forgiveness of sin etc. 

As “the Word of the Lord grew and multiplied(Acts 6:7 ESV; Acts 12:24 ESV) the presence of the life of Jesus was expanding into the cultures of the earth. (A blessing which is far greater than anything that could be communicated from the likeness of Adam in Eden.) But it is suffering for Christ that binds all the dimensions of inheritance together.

SUFFERING and INHERITANCE

Paul states this categorically, vs.14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. vs.15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” vs.16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, vs.17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.(Rom 8:14-17 ESV).

This glorification will include sharing in the power of the resurrection life of Jesus (Rom 8:22-23 ESV).

Willingly suffering as sons reverses the ways of fallen humans introduced by Satan into Eden. It is conformity to “the image of his Son…the firstborn of many brothers (Rom 8:29 ESV).

Suffering is not in itself joyful but when submitted to the crucified Lord it becomes a source of resurrection joy.

As with Christ himself suffering reveals the quality of true sonship.

The more you sacrifice for Jesus the more intense the presence of the Father’s Spirit of inheritance; “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ(Phil 3:8 ESV)

That suffering releases glory (Luke 24:26 ESV) is a theme running throughout the New Testament.

In Acts, those who seem disinherited in this world are intensified in the joy of the revelation of their inheritance in the world to come cf. vs.40 when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. vs.41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name. (Acts 5:40-41 ESV).

PAUL testifies, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake(Col 1:24 ESV) and, “I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory(Eph 3:13 ESV)26)See Biblical References cf. 2 Cor 1:6 ESV and “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.(2 Tim 3:12 ESV).

PETER agrees, vs.13But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. vs.14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.(1 Pet 4:13-14 ESV)

As Hebrews recounts, we must look “to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, 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).

PAUL’S prayer, “that…. vs.18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saintsvs.19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe(Eph 1:18-19 ESV) reflects an understanding that spiritual insight comes from living a life shaped by Jesus’ death and resurrection. vs.8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; vs.9 persecuted, but snot forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; vs.10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. vs.11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. vs.12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.(2 Cor 4:8-12 ESV)27)See Biblical References cf. Phil 3:10 ESV.

The indestructible joy of resurrection life as a foretaste of the inheritance of the kingdom of God only comes through affliction and deliverance28)See Biblical References Rom 14:17 ESV; 2 Cor 1:8-10 ESV.

“If there were no afflictions and difficulties and troubles and pain, our fallen hearts would fall ever more deeply in love with the comforts and securities and pleasures of this world instead of falling more deeply in love with our inheritance beyond this world, namely, God himself. Suffering is appointed for us in this life as a great mercy to keep us from loving this world more than we should and to make us rely on God who raises the dead. “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God””

Piper (Acts 14:22 ESV)

After listing the hostile powers of tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword Paul can confidently declare, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.(Rom 8:35, 37 ESV).

This theme of conquest over evil forces forging the way to the inheritance runs through the book of Revelation; “ (i) To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God….. (ii) The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels….. (iii) And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.’29)See Biblical References (i) Rev 2:7 ESV; (ii) Rev 3:5 ESV; (iii) Rev 12:11 ESV cf. Rev 15:2 ESV.

Until finally we come to the climactic promise of the Bible concerning inheritance, “The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.(Rev 21:7 ESV).

The followers of Jesus should expect opposition to the call of God on their lives precisely because they are sons and heirs.

JESUS said, ““Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”(Matt 5:10 ESV),

PETER cautions, “do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.(1 Pet 4:12 ESV).

Knowing that “his time is short!”” we should expect the raging Satan (Rev 12:12, 17 ESV) to stir up human beings in their insecurity over inheritance to oppose us the true heirs in Christ just as Jesus himself was opposed. As this happened in the times of the New Testament through envy, jealousy and competition30)See Biblical References Mark 15:11 ESV; Acts 5:17-18 ESV; Acts 13:45 ESV it must happen today.

Conclusion

“The concept of the believer’s inheritance highlights the dignity of the family relationship of the believer in Christ.

No higher position or greater wealth can an individual acquire than to become an heir of God through faith in Christ.”

William E. Brown

The greatest part of our final inheritance will be God himself, 

“…“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.(Rev 21:3 ESV)31)See Biblical References cf. Ps 73:25-26 ESV; the God that is revealed as the Father of Jesus.

To the degree we know that we are heirs of the world everyday sins such as ambition, self-protection, stinginess, fear, anxiety, selfishness…. will melt away. Knowing that the gifts and graces of our brothers and sisters in Christ are part of our shared inheritance as God’s family no space is left for competition.

The biblical teaching on inheritance puts everything in perspective.

After telling us that suffering is a prelude to sharing Jesus’ inheritance Paul declares, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.(Rom 8:18 ESV). Let me close with a pointed illustration from the famous hymn writer John Newton.

Suppose a man was going to New York to take possession of a large estate, and his carriage should break down a mile before he got to the city, which obliged him to walk the rest of the way; what a fool we should think him, if we saw him ringing his hands, and blubbering out all the remaining mile, “My carriage is broken! My carriage is broken!”

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 05. Oct, 2018 Location: St Marks

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

05. Oct, 2018.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References Rev 21:8 ESV; Rev 22:15 ESV cf. Matt 8:12 ESV; Matt 22:13 ESV; Matt 25:30 ESV; 2 Thess 1:9 ESV
2. See Biblical References Rom 15:6 ESV; Eph 1:3, 17 ESV; Col 1:3 ESV
3. See Biblical References John 1:1-3 ESV; Col 1:17 ESV; Heb 1:2 ESV
4. See Biblical References Prov 8:29-31 ESV cf. Job 38:7 ESV
5. See Biblical References Gen 6:1-4? ESV; Deut 32:8 ESV; Job 1:6 ESV; Job 2:1 ESV; Job 38:7 ESV
6. See Biblical References Eph 1:18 ESV; Eph 3:9 ESV cf. Luke 24:32 ESV
7. See Biblical References Matt 13:38 ESV; Eph 2:3 ESV; 1 John 3:10 ESV
8. See Biblical References cf. Gen 3:15 ESV; Rev 2:7 ESV
9. See Biblical References Ex 19:5-6 ESV; Ex 34:9 ESV; Ps 135:4 ESV; Mal 3:17 ESVetc.
10. See Biblical References Ps 12.5 ESV; Ps 37 ESV; Ps 41:1 ESV; Ps 86:1 ESV; Ps 113:5-9 ESV
11. See Biblical References Isa 42:6 ESV; Isa 49:6 ESV; Isa 51:4 ESV; Isa 60:3 ESV
12. See Biblical References Isa 2: 2-4 ESV; Isa 11:6-9 ESV; Isa 60:5, 11 ESV; Isa 61:6 ESV; Isa 65:18-20 ESV;  Ezek 40-48 ESV; Joel 3:20 ESV; Mic 3:7 ESV cf. Isa 14:32 ESV; Isa 28: 16 –17 ESV; Isa 60: 3,8,11 ESV; Zech 8:3- 5
13. See Biblical References Ps 40:8 ESV; Heb 10:5-7 ESV
14. See Biblical References Matt 23:2 ESV; John 12:19 ESV
15. See Biblical References Matt 8:12 ESV; Matt 22:13 ESV; Matt 25:30 ESV
16. See Biblical References cf. Heb 2:10 ESV
17. See Biblical References cf. Isaiah 65:17 ESV; Isaiah 66:22 ESV
18. See Biblical References Luke 4:18 ESV; Luke 6:20 ESV; Luke 7:22 ESV
19. See Biblical References Heb 11:9, 13 ESV; 1 Pet 1:1, 17 ESV; 1 Pet 2:11 ESV
20. See Biblical References Acts 20:32 ESV; Acts 26:18 ESV; Eph 1:14, 18 ESV; Col 1:12; 3:24 ESV
21. See Biblical References 1 Cor 6:9-10 ESV; 1 Cor 15:50 ESV ; Gal 5:21 ESV; Eph 5:5 ESV
22. See Biblical Reference cf. 1 Pet 1:23 ESV
23. See Biblical Reference Rom 8:18-30 ESV cf. Heb 2:8-18 ESV
24. See Biblical Reference cf. Rom 8:14-17 ESV
25. See Biblical Reference cf. 2 Cor 1:22; 2 Cor 5:5 ESV
26. See Biblical References cf. 2 Cor 1:6 ESV
27. See Biblical References cf. Phil 3:10 ESV
28. See Biblical References Rom 14:17 ESV; 2 Cor 1:8-10 ESV
29. See Biblical References (i) Rev 2:7 ESV; (ii) Rev 3:5 ESV; (iii) Rev 12:11 ESV cf. Rev 15:2 ESV
30. See Biblical References Mark 15:11 ESV; Acts 5:17-18 ESV; Acts 13:45 ESV
31. See Biblical References cf. Ps 73:25-26 ESV

Under the Canopy of Heaven 8. “The End of Heaven”

Text: Revelation 21:1-27 ESV

Introduction

City of God

Tonight’s title, “The End of Heaven” refers principally to heaven as the goal or destiny of all the works of God.

This must be centred on Jesus, for “by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him(Col 1:16 ESV). Heaven wasn’t first of all created for humans like us but for the Son of God as the Word made flesh (John 1:14 ESV).

Heaven was created to be inhabited in the presence of God by embodied beings; principally Jesus.

The union of God and humanity in Christ means the separation between heaven as the realm of God and earth as the realm of humanity has come to an end at the deepest level of being (Ps 115:16 ESV).

At the End of “the present evil age(Gal 1:4 ESV) the heavenly City “comes down from God” because in graciously descending to “the lowest regions, the earth” the Son of God has glorified the destiny of all things1)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 21:2, 10 ESV; Eph 4:9-10 ESV cf. John 3:13 ESV; John 6:33, 41, 42, 50, 51, 58 ESV.

The New Testament is clear that the goal of heaven is a City e.g. Heb 11:10, 16 ESV; Heb 12:22 ESV; Heb 13:14 ESV and it is the imagery of Revelation 21 which uniquely unveils that this City is also the Church.

vs.9 Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb. vs.10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, (Rev 21:9-10 ESV).

At the consummation of God’s eternal plan the Church birthed on earth will be indissolubly one with the heavenly City in love radiant with the sacrificial glory of the Beloved2)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Heb 1:3 ESV; Rev 21:11 ESV.

This intimate unlimited union of God with his people as City-Bride-Church without is the answer to the prayers of Jesus in John 17 that his people be one with him in the eternal love and glory of the Father.

That the Church is a Bride and a City is rarely understood. In some eras the Church has looked down on worldly pursuits and elevated an inner mystical spiritual journey to attain the afterlife.

DUALISM

The separation between the earthly/temporal and the heavenly/eternal is referred to as dualism.

Often traced back to the Greek philosophy of Plato, who conceived of an eternal transcendent world beyond space and time of which this world is but a poor imitation. The purpose and meaning of life were found in a realm removed from this world. The cultural influence of Plato on Western, including Christian, thought is undoubtable, but its attractiveness must be traced back to the root of sin.

But turning away from a holy and prayerful approach to the structures of life and work here on earth means the Church will be taken captive by contemporary cultural forces.

In practice the earthly takes primacy over the heavenly through forms of idolatry that are disguised as “blessings from heaven” (cf. Col 2:23 ESV).

Despite the alleged influence of Augustine’s City of God, which distinguished between ecclesiastical and temporal power, the medieval Western Church elevated itself into a political position.

Whereas Augustine critiqued the power and virtue of the Roman Empire, Church tradition claimed the ability itself to sacralise the political realm.

For instance the Holy Roman Empire became a worldly power directly authorised by God. Christian civilisation, Christendom, became a mode of culture that dominated Europe for centuries.

Though on the wane, it still persists in, for example, the American “civil religion” of a patriotic “In God We Trust.” variety.

Slabs of the contemporary Church has been ensnared in the realms of politics, where Christians often polarise to the Right or Left claiming this is supported by their faith. Or more subtly are taken captive by renouncing such political allegiances in any form, as in some schools of Anabaptism.

Refusing to embrace the eschatological and apocalyptic view of the New Testament; seeing things from the End and from heaven contemporary Western Christianity is progressively being overcome by the world.

In practice, larges sectors of the modern Church function as if the heavenly City does not exist and faith in the unseen realm is sidelined.

The intrusion of psychology into the realm of healing and spirituality e.g. the latest fad of “emotional health”, the dominance of pragmatic business principles in the realm of Church governance and finance, preaching motivational messages, music as a form of entertainment etc. are all signs of secularisation.

The most vulgar form of secularisation has been the “health and wealth” movement. There are more insidious contemporary forms, e.g. Joel Osteen’s popular book, Your Best Life NowThis is a perspective stripped of eschatological and heavenly insight.

The Image of the End

the beginning is found at the end

Through “reading the Bible backwards” it becomes plain that the foundational image of God is not Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden but the Lamb of God in the City from heaven.

The Father established his original Image in eternity; “a lamb without blemish or spot… chosen before the foundation of the world…. the Lamb who was slaughtered before the world was made (1 Pet 1:19-20 ESV; Rev 13:8 ESV). 

Rev:
vs.21And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. vs.23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

This City was always God’s original plan as a place fit for his Son to live forever with his Bride, the Church.

An eschatological-apocalyptic perspective recognises that as the created image of God (Gen 1:26-27 ESV) draws its substance from the coming of Jesus, “the image of the invisible God3)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Col 1:15 ESV cf. Rom 5:14 ESV; 1 Cor 15:44-49 ESV, and as human marriages are made possible by God’s plan to have a Bride/Church for his Son4)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gen 2:24 ESV; Eph 5:32 ESV, so the existence of earthly cities is a type of the eternal City of God.

In each case in human history the reality comes after the temporal symbol (image, marriage, city) which is purposefully related to what is manifested at the End. The corruption in human nature, marriages and cities doesn’t alter this essential divine ordering.

Although humanity will only fill the City after Jesus’ Second Coming the heavenly metropolis existed with its celestial inhabitants before the creation of the world.

This is suggested when the Lord commands Moses to build the tabernacle according to the pattern revealed to him on the mountain5)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ex 25:9, 40 ESV; Num 8:4 ESV cf. Ps 78:69 ESV.

This implies a heavenly temple pre-existed the earthly sanctuary as part of a heavenly city.

Some of the dimensions of the life of this city are sketched in Hebrews 12:22 ESV ff.

From this perspective the Lord who appeared from time to time in the Garden of Eden6)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gen 2:15 ESV ff., Gen 3:8 ESV was a Father nurturing (Luke 3:38 ESV) Adam and Eve with all wisdom and care to be prophets, priests and kings fit to rule with him forever in the City of God.

“As first created by God, man was made to be prophet, priest and king…endowed with knowledge and understanding, with righteousness and holiness, and with dominion over the lower creation.”

The command to ““Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion(Gen 1:28 ESV) was a mandate to spread beyond the Garden and fill the world with the glory of the image of God.

This mission would have involved the development of cities. The rise of technology from Eden onwards is a manifestation of the image of God7)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gen 3:7 ESV; 4:22 ESV.

Without sin, these would have been cities radiant with the presence of God for history was designed to be a going forward to a much more glorious future than the limits of Eden.

That the precious stones in Eden adorn the foundations of the City in Revelation8)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gen 2:12 ESV; Ezek 28:13 ESV; Rev 21:19-20 ESV indicate continuity between the beauty of the pristine first creation and the perfected new creation.

Cities were called to be places of spiritual growth, communion and the advance of God-given creative imagination. Places of economic vibrancy, justice and social peace. Places leading to human discovery of truth, beauty, and goodness in the created order. Places where humans imitated the Creator through the creation of godly culture filling the earth with the glory and knowledge of God9)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES cf. Isa 11:9 ESV; Ps 72:19 ESV; Hab 2:14 ESV. (Darrow Miller)

Unfallen, cities would have been places in which God would be pleased to dwell10)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES John 14:2, 23 ESV; Rev 21:3 ESV.

This will be true of the City of God, but only by Christ undoing the effects of the Fall.

THE FALLEN CITY

TEMPORAL substitutes ETERNAL

When Adam fell his communion with the heavenly City of God was lost and the building of the cities of this world became substitutes for the eternal.

His communion was in the Word of God spoken to him and which created all things in heaven and earth. The split between heaven and earth was a disaster for humanity’s’ understanding of the meaning of the city.

Some commentators e.g. Jacques Ellul in his influential, The Meaning of the City, have taught that the city is essentially a counter-creation, humanity’s agent to separate self from God.

The cities of earth are empty and vampiric on the living world because God did not build them.

Since the city is man’s greatest work it is his greatest piece of rebellion. They are seductive, saturated with idols, cursed by God and irredeemable.

This is why the prophets always attack the city.

This perspective is understandable under the aspect of time, but it is tragically pessimistic from the perspective of eternity. Its suggestion that God somehow mercifully revised his original plan to incorporate a City as the final place of human destiny is unbiblical.

The great secular cities of the Bible are consistently portrayed as focus of evil.

Babel is the archetypal city of this world.

Instead of seeking to impart the blessings of God beyond themselves As in the primal commandment of Genesis 1:28 ESV, often called the “cultural mandate”, by which humanity is given stewardship over the world so that the civil, social and personal dimensions of life accord with the will of God for maximum human flourishing.

This might include economic engagement, scientific inquiry, literary exploration, and creative conservationist responses to the natural environment (Ps 8:3-8 ESV), the city builders represent a concentration point for pride and self – reputation.

Their “Let us make a name for ourselves(Gen 11:4 ESV) turns the city into a site of judgement.

The characteristic statement of the mega-cities of the Bible becomes, “I am and there is no other” Babylon Isa 47:8 ESVNineveh Zeph 2:15 ESV Rome Rev 18:7″

Their proud self reliance, “she glorified herself(Rev 18:7 ESV), is a rejection of covenantal fellowship with God and means such cities of evil must be destroyed by divine wrath11)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Isa 14 ESV; Ezek 28 ESV; Rev 18 ESV etc..

All Earthly Cities Are Places Of Depravity.

The city intensifies everything, and this includes devotion to false gods.” (John Dawson)

The end-time Babylon is adorned with the same splendid attire, “gold”, “precious stones”, “pearls”, as the New Jerusalem12)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 17:4 ESV; Rev 18:12, 16 ESV; Rev 21:18-21 ESV.

This is a part of her seductive power to lead all nations, and if possible, even the elect, astray13)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Matt 24:24 ESV; Rev 14:8 ESV; Rev 18:3, 23 ESV. The Whore of Babylon is an economic persecuting agent14)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 14:8 ESV; Rev 17:2 ESV; Rev 18:6, 12, 16 ESV fused with idolatrous religion.

Contextually in Revelation this is the Roman Empire and the worship of its emperor. Today it might be Islam, or the state capitalism of China.

THE ELECT CITY OF GOD

The one city called to be an exception to these corruptions is the “city of God”, “the city of the great King (Ps 48:1- 2 ESV etc.), Jerusalem (Ps 46:4 ESV; Ps 87:3 ESV).

She alone is elected by God15)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1 Ki 8:44, 48 ESV; 1 Ki 11:32, 36 ESV; 1 Ki 14:21 ESV etc. and called to be holy16)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ps 87:1 ESV; Ezek 20:40 ESV; Dan 9:16 ESV as the site of God’s dwelling place on the earth17)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1 Ki 8:27 ESV; 2 Chron 6:2 ESV; Ezra 6:12 ESV; Ps 68:16 ESV etc..

The centrality of Jerusalem to Israel’s faith comes out especially in the so-called Zion Songs

• Ps 46 ESV • Ps 48 ESV 

• Ps 76 ESV • Ps 84 ESV 

• Ps 87 ESV • Ps 122 ESV cf.

• Ps 137 ESV 

Here Jerusalem is exalted in extravagant language drawn from sources as diverse as the creation story18)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ps. 46:4 ESV; cf. Ge 2:10 ESV; Eze 47:1-12 ESV, the famed patriarchal city of Salem19)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ps. 76:2 ESV; cf. Gen 14:17-20 ESV and Canaanite mythology (Ps. 48:2 ESV).

Zion is simply incomparable in beauty (Ps. 48:2 ESV). Of special importance for the Church is the triumph of Yahweh over all the hostile nations that come against Zion, “because God is in the midst of her she shall not be moved (Ps. 46:5 ESV).

In its oneness with the heavenly Jerusalem, to which she has come20)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Heb 12:22 ESV; Rev 21 ESV, the Church on earth is ultimately invincible because Christ and his Spirit indwell her21)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1Co 3:16 ESV; Eph 2:19-22 ESV; 1 Pe 2:4-5 ESV.

The behaviour of the chosen city is to image to the nations the glory and praise of the one true God.

This would happen through all the spheres of life regulated by law and cult. God however always warned his people that should they rebel against him Jerusalem would be destroyed22)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 2 Ki 21:23; 2 Ki 23:27 ESV.

Despite the warnings of the prophets, who were characteristically stoned23)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 2 Chron 24:20-21 ESV; Neh 9:26 ESV; Matt 23:29-39 ESV, Jerusalem’s unrepentant pride in its own divine election meant inevitable destruction24)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Jer 7 ESV; 13:9 ESV etc..

A city full of idols had to be broken and the glory of the Lord had to depart from its abominations (Ezek 8-10 ESV). Punishment is to Babylon, the supposed antithesis of Jerusalem and the epitome of idolatry and ungodliness. Here the people were cleansed finally of their false worship.

The return from Babylon however did not restore the former glory of the divine presence in land, city and temple25)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES e.g. Ezra 3:12 ESV; Hag 2:3 ESV.

The far-seeing prophets however envisaged exile and return in more than natural terms; they prophesy not only a more glorious city and temple but a divine presence enduring forever in a new heavens and earth26)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Isa 2: 2-4 ESV; 11:6-9 ESV; 60:5, 11 ESV; 61:6 ESV; 65:18-20 ESV; Ezek 40-48 ESV; Joel 3:20 ESV; Mic 3:7 ESV cf. Isa 14:32 ESV; 28: 16 –17 ESV; 60: 3,8,11 ESV; Zech 8:3- 5 ESV.

It was against this prophetic and eschatological expectation that Messiah came. Yet “the city of the great King(Matt 5:35 ESV) did not recognise its own Lord because their hearts remained far from him (Mark 7:6 ESV).

Arrogant confidence in their election through Abraham and their favour before God through Moses was their true ruler27)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Matt 3:9 ESV; John 8:33 ESV. For Jerusalem to become “the joy of the whole earth(Ps 48:2 ESV) she would have to be the site of the most evil action of any earthly city.

Only by the killing of her own Husband and God could her salvation and that of the world be brought about. Through the sacrifice of Christ she would become the light to the nations the Lord had decreed and the redemptive mother of the cities of mankind.

No one at the time, except Jesus, could understand that grace works through judgement and that God would take the judgement on himself. An eternal foundation for a city in which both God and humanity could peacefully dwell forever depended on the slaughter and resurrection of the “designer and builder” himself (Heb 11:10 ESV).

The Cross and the City

When Jesus came preaching, ““The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18 ESV ff.) he was expounding Isaiah 61, a passage set within an eschatological vision that embraced the transformation of heaven and earth.

This was the goal of his coming and he longed for his friends to be able to join him in the coming kingdom of God.

In Christ’s prayer, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.(John 17:24 ESV), the shared residence he had in mind for his friends was the eternal City of heaven.

He will “go and prepare a place(John 14:1-3 ESV) for them in the way of a true Prophet of God; “he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.28)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Matt 16:21 ESV cf. Luke 24:26 ESV, “for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’(Luke 13:33 ESV).

He is the rejected prophet who will be crucified on common ground outside the holy city’s gates 29)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES John 19:20 ESV; Heb 13:12 ESV.

The economic and religious power of the city of Jerusalem was concentrated in the temple, not as a house of prayer for all nations but a den of robbers.30)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Isa 56:7 ESV; Jer 7:11 ESV; Mal 3:1 ESV; Matt 21:12 ESV; Mark 11: 15-17 ESV.

The powers that be understood that for the corruption of the holy city to continue unabated Jesus must be crucified (John 11:48 ESV). This action will combine the Gentile powers with the rulers of Israel so that both Jew and Gentile might be redeemed through Christ’s sacrifice31)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ps 2:2 ESV; Acts 4:25-28 ESV.

The blood and water flowing from the pierced Lamb of God are powerful to forgive the sinful city and to cleanse it from its pollutants bringing to birth a new creation32)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES John 1:29 ESV; Gal 6:15 ESV.

The water flowing from the cross is one with the water of life which will nourish and heal the nations in the City of God33)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES John 19:34 ESV; Rev 22:1-3 ESV.

Through the cross thee New Jerusalem is saturated with the presence of Christ. It comes down from heaven only as “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”(Rev 21:9 ESV), its twelve foundations are named after “the twelve disciples of the Lamb(Rev 21:14 ESV) and its inhabitants are those “written in the Lamb’s book of life(Rev 21:27 ESV).

In this City the glory of God is inseparable from that of the Lamb (Rev 21:22-23 ESV).

The City is full of dynamic activity as “the kings of the earth will bring their glory…. and honour….  into it34)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 21:24, 26 ESV cf. Isa 60:3, 5, 11, 16 ESV; Isa 61:6 ESV.

This is only fitting as Revelation is the testimony of “Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.(Rev 1:5 ESV).

These are the rulers who have continually opposed the true “King Of Kings35)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 6:15 ESV; 17:2 ESV; 18:3 ESV; 19:19 ESV but are conquered by his power (Rev 17:14 ESV).

The kings who enter the City of God with their tribute stand for the peoples redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and established as priests and kings before his throne willingly worshipping him forever36)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 5:9-10 ESV; 7:9 ESV.

The glory of the nations which the kings bring into the New Jerusalem is one with the wealth of the City because in the union of heaven and earth all things are filled with the image and life of Christ.

All things are Christified. The manifest glory of the final City is continuous with the life of the Church as the Bride of Christ, the household of God and the temple dwelling place of the Spirit now37)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1 Cor 3:16 ESV; Eph 1:22-23 ESV; 2:19 ESV; 1 Tim 3:15 ESV; 1 Pet 4:17 ESV.

Years ago as I was praying on the streets of Lausanne in Switzerland I was overcome with grief at the sight of row upon row of shop windows peddling beautiful things, gems, leather goods, clothes etc, with no acknowledgement of God as the giver38)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Acts 17:16 ESV; Rom 1:20-21 ESV.

Then suddenly I was totally overcome by the SPARKLING presence of Christ in everything, as the indwelling source of beauty in all things. I laughed aloud with exuberance.

For those with eyes to see it, the glory of Christ is in everything everywhere39)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Isa 6:3 ESV; Heb 1:3 ESV.

To sense such beauty is to be aware of the final destiny of all creation, which is the beautifying of humanity in the image of God/Christ. Such a Spirit of ultimate beauty is the presence that makes a marriage beauteous, which has the power to beautify the transparency in a commercial transaction or the relationships between office staff.

God’s vision for his Church in every city, is to bring his beautifying Spirit into all the spheres of existence- business, politics, art, education, law, media, science, health etc. The Spirit calls us to a holy and total war in which Jesus is presented through us as an object of attraction and desire more alluring than any worldly thing.

The Church for the City

When Jesus ascended into heaven he entered the City of God and sent his Spirit (Acts 2:33 ESV) to build the Church as a community fit for the beauty of the heavenly metropolis (Eph 5:26-27 ESV).

It is the relationship between the heavenly City and the Church as God’s dwelling on earth that empowers us to transform the temporal city. On the one hand this involves strongly disavowing the allure of the economic and religious structures of the cities of this world which are doomed to perish.

This is a great theme represented in the prophets, whether the destruction is of Nineveh, Tyre, Sidon, Babylon or Rome40)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Nah 1-3 ESV; Isa 47 ESV; Jer 51 ESV; Ezekiel 26:4,12,14 ESV; Rev 18 ESV.

Let us then go out to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the one to come.(Heb 13:13 –14 ESV).

We inherit a City with eternal foundations whose architect and builder is God and it alone is unshakeable41)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Heb 11:6, 10, Heb 12:25 ESV ff..

The proud cities of this world can never reconcile their mortality.

For example, after the attacks of 9/11 on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, the United States simply depended on its financial and military might to strike back in “the war on terror”. It seemed quite unable to receive God’s prophetic message; despite a professing Christian in the Whitehouse!

In their worldly ambitions and lifestyle most contemporary Western Christians refuse to be grasped by the Word spoken to those who overcome this world (cf. 1 John 5:4 ESV); ““The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”(Rev 21:7 ESV).

Few understand the inheritance of God’s sons is his City.

The deep biblical background to this is a foundational messianic promise vs.13He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. vs.14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.(2 Sam 7:13-14 ESV).

This promise is fulfilled in Jesus (Heb 1:5 ESV). Sharing an inheritance with him of all the good things of God42)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rom 8:16-17 ESV; 1 Cor 3:21-22 ESV we partner with Christ in God’s work upon the earth directed towards the coming down of the heavenly City.

To change this we must to look upwards to receive insight that the City nurtures the Church; “the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother43)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gal 4:26 ESV cf. Heb 12:22 ESV.

This insight has a special focus on suffering because the heavenly Church that populates the City is comprised of those who have “come out of the great tribulation(Rev 7:14 ESV).

These saints inherit the kingdom44)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 1:6 ESV; Rev 11:15 ESV through faithfulness to Christ though the beast is “allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them…. and kill them45)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 11:7 ESV; 13:7 ESV.

Ordinary mortals are qualified as overcomers inheriting the City of God and the Lamb46)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26 ESV; Rev 3:5, 12, 21 ESV; Rev 12:11 ESV; Rev 15:2 ESV in their union with the suffering of Christ for the lost cities of this world.

As we pray, serve, forgive and bless the fallen city in the name of Jesus47)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Matt 5:44 ESV; Rom 12:14 ESV; 1 Pet 3:9 ESV the power of the blood of the cross and the living waters of Jesus prepares the life of the fallen city to participate in the City of God.

By grace all dimensions of life, work and culture are reckoned worthy to be continuous with the life of the eternal City. Everything is being made worthy through and for the Lamb (Rev 5:2-5 ESV).

As the Church loves the city that persecutes and kills those who hold fast the testimony of Jesus48)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 16:6 ESV; Rev 17:6 ESV; Rev 18:20, 24 ESV; Rev 20:9 ESV the radiance of the New Jerusalem begins to break in on the streets of the earthly city.

The things presently obscured in the City above become shared very much in part with the cities in which the Church abides below. In the transparency of the City of heaven (Rev 21:11, 18, 21 ESV) eternal things become visible, people are saved and social structures are renewed.

Since Job 28:19 ESV compares wisdom to “pure gold” perhaps the transparent gold of the streets of Revelation speaks of the exceeding value of the wisdom displayed in the sacrifice of the Lamb.

The treasures which the kings of the earth bring into the City of God (Rev 21:24-26 ESV) are the “good works” that “follow” the saints into heaven49)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 14:13 ESV cf. Eph 2:10 ESV.

This may be taking in the homeless, feeding the poor, providing justice through the legal system, incorruptibility in representative government, holistic truth in education, sound work for a fair price in the trades, the provision of equal access to medical help, healing creativity in the arts etc.

Presumably the Garden-City contains all the glories and wisdom God has imparted to humanity, both the horticultural skills of Eden, nurturing, tending, working with nature, and those of the metropolitan life, arts, education, finance, law etc. The Church is called to be a Church for the city with a breadth and depth of loving wisdom that only a city space can actualise. For a statement that captures such a vision. see “Our Vision For Tasmania

Conclusion

When in the brilliance of the light of Christ (Rev 21:23-24 ESV) the glory of the Lord fills the earth (Hab 2:14 ESV) it will be clear that this splendour was always designed to be a divine-human glory.

In the cleansing power of his sacrifice the Lamb of God will draw all the goods, artefacts and instruments of human culture to himself.

As the power of the blood of Christ is expressed cosmically the purpose of the “cultural mandate” shall have reached its goal and the Church in Jesus will fill all in all50)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Eph 1:22-23 ESV; Col 1:19-20 ESV; ?2:9-10 ESV.

The power of this vision is immeasurable but deeply resisted by human flesh and evil powers.

The New Jerusalem will be a commercial, cultural and aesthetic hub with corporate structures beyond our imaginings.

The power of the Spirit in the River of life flowing through the innermost being of the faithful witnesses to Jesus who have mingled their blood with his (John 7:37-39 ESV) will have cleansed every sphere of social and cultural existence, business, politics, arts, education, health, justice, media, sport, government, this is the glory and treasure they will present before God in heaven.

This is the wealth of nations(60:5, 11 ESV; 61:6 ESV), considered in the broadest possible sense, freed from all its idolatry released into the service of the Lord’s eternal kingdom.

If such wonders are beyond our awareness it is because the economic and religious power of Babylon has invaded the Church, for the seductive inducements of the city of man corrupts the Church’s vocation to image the City of God again and again.

The insidious power of the harlot city described in Revelation derives from its counterfeiting/counter-parting the true City of God;

TEMPORAL

ETERNAL

• Immorality (Rev 17:1-2 ESV; Rev 18:9 ESV) “vs”  Chaste Bride (Rev 21:2,9 ESV)
• Kings Of The Earth Submit To Babylon (Rev 17:18 ESV) “vs”  Kings Bringing Their Glory Into The New Jerusalem (Rev 21:24 ESV)
• Babylon Extorts The Wealth Of The World (Rev 18:12-17 ESV) “vs”  Riches Freely Brought Into The City (Rev 21:24-26 ESV)
• Babylon Is Impure, Abominable And Deceptive. (Rev 17:4-5, Rev 18:23 ESV) “vs”  The New Jerusalem Is Inhabited By Only Those Who Have Forsaken Such Impurities. (Rev 21:8, 27 ESV) 
• Babylon Slaughters And Sheds Blood (Rev 17:6, Rev 18:24 ESV) “vs”  Healing And Life (Rev 22:1-2 ESV)
• Judgement On Those Who Don’t Separate From Babylon (Rev 18:4 ESV) “vs”  Blessing On Those Entering The New Jerusalem (Rev 22:14 ESV)
• Babylon Seek To Reach To Heaven (Rev 18:5 ESV) “vs”  The New Jerusalem Comes Down From God (Rev 21:2 ESV)
• Babylon Is Split Into Parts (Rev 16:17-18 ESV) “vs”  The Bridal City Remains Forever (Rev 21:6 ESV)
• The Names On The Foreheads Of The Inhabitants Differ (Rev 17:5 ESV; Rev 22:4 ESV), The Names Not Written (Rev 17:8 ESV) “vs”  Written In The Book Of Life (Rev 21:27 ESV).
• Babylon Glorifies Itself (Rev 18:7 ESV) “vs”  Reflecting God’s Glory (Rev 21:11, 23 ESV)
• The Dwelling Place Of Demons (Rev 18:2 ESV) “vs”  A Dwelling Place Of God (Rev 21:3, 11, 22-23 ESV)

Personal examples of this corrupting power come to mind. Paul/David Yonggi Cho powerfully impacted my life with a testimony about prayer and revival in the late 1980’s. In 2014 he was convicted of embezzling $12 million from the church.

Then there are number of Australian ministries I can think of who have been ruined by chasing dollars; “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim 6:10 ESV).

All spiritual triumphalism e.g. dominion theology and triumphing over the Seven Mountains of culture hates the message that the people of God must suffer seemingly terminal defeat before receiving resurrection power51)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 11:1-13 ESV cf. 2 Cor 4:7-12 ESV ; Phil 3:10 ESV etc..

Those addicted to church growth not understanding that God’s kingdom builds the Church, not the other way around e.g. Matt 16:18-19 ESV cannot acknowledge that all the forms of Church in this world will be succeeded by the life of the City from above.

It is impossible for them to be whole heartedly committed to ministry beyond the congregation.

It is only the cross which makes everything beautiful in its own time, and reveals “what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Eccl 3:11 ESV); that as the Lamb of God Jesus is the alpha and omega of all God’s purposes52)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1 Pet 1:20 ESV; Rev 13:8 ESV cf. 2 Tim 1:9 ESV.

The spiritual crisis afflicting the dominant mode of Church in Western Christianity is that an attractional/“seeker” church cannot market the cross to today’s city-dwellers demands a revolution in church practice.

The problem is wider than the obvious Pentecostal and Evangelical candidates like Hillsong, Lakewood or Willow Creek.

Walking past the Southern Territorial Headquarters for the Salvation Army in Melbourne last week I noticed that their building was covered with words like words like Hope Love Others Dignity Justice Compassion. But the name Jesus was nowhere to be seen!

Remembering that it is the Lord himself that has a heart to transform the cities of this world our city Hebrews speaks to us today, vs.13Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. vs.14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” (Heb 13:13-14 ESV).

If we are willing to suffer with Jesus for the city in serving it and to bear the ostracism of the power systems of organised Christianity, God will indeed release the resurrection power of the new creation in our midst. This is the gospel promise.

Years ago the Lord spoke to me in a Catholic chapel in Buenos Aires airport through a small pamphlet with the Spanish heading, “Fifteen minutes in the Company of Jesus”. This contained a very unusual map of the world. Transposed across it were the airport runways, at the centre of these was the heart of Jesus from which were lines radiating through each continent, the one place in Australia where the two met was over Perth.

This was a message from the Father that if we sought his suffering heart in Christ (John 1:18 ESV) we could see revival in our own city. 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 16. Sep, 2018 Location: Alive @5

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

16. Sep, 2018.

References   [ + ]

1. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 21:2, 10 ESV; Eph 4:9-10 ESV cf. John 3:13 ESV; John 6:33, 41, 42, 50, 51, 58 ESV
2. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Heb 1:3 ESV; Rev 21:11 ESV
3. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Col 1:15 ESV cf. Rom 5:14 ESV; 1 Cor 15:44-49 ESV
4. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gen 2:24 ESV; Eph 5:32 ESV
5. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ex 25:9, 40 ESV; Num 8:4 ESV cf. Ps 78:69 ESV
6. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gen 2:15 ESV ff., Gen 3:8 ESV
7. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gen 3:7 ESV; 4:22 ESV
8. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gen 2:12 ESV; Ezek 28:13 ESV; Rev 21:19-20 ESV
9. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES cf. Isa 11:9 ESV; Ps 72:19 ESV; Hab 2:14 ESV
10. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES John 14:2, 23 ESV; Rev 21:3 ESV
11. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Isa 14 ESV; Ezek 28 ESV; Rev 18 ESV etc.
12. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 17:4 ESV; Rev 18:12, 16 ESV; Rev 21:18-21 ESV
13. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Matt 24:24 ESV; Rev 14:8 ESV; Rev 18:3, 23 ESV
14. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 14:8 ESV; Rev 17:2 ESV; Rev 18:6, 12, 16 ESV
15. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1 Ki 8:44, 48 ESV; 1 Ki 11:32, 36 ESV; 1 Ki 14:21 ESV etc.
16. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ps 87:1 ESV; Ezek 20:40 ESV; Dan 9:16 ESV
17. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1 Ki 8:27 ESV; 2 Chron 6:2 ESV; Ezra 6:12 ESV; Ps 68:16 ESV etc.
18. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ps. 46:4 ESV; cf. Ge 2:10 ESV; Eze 47:1-12 ESV
19. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ps. 76:2 ESV; cf. Gen 14:17-20 ESV
20. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Heb 12:22 ESV; Rev 21 ESV
21. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1Co 3:16 ESV; Eph 2:19-22 ESV; 1 Pe 2:4-5 ESV
22. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 2 Ki 21:23; 2 Ki 23:27 ESV
23. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 2 Chron 24:20-21 ESV; Neh 9:26 ESV; Matt 23:29-39 ESV
24. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Jer 7 ESV; 13:9 ESV etc.
25. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES e.g. Ezra 3:12 ESV; Hag 2:3 ESV
26. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Isa 2: 2-4 ESV; 11:6-9 ESV; 60:5, 11 ESV; 61:6 ESV; 65:18-20 ESV; Ezek 40-48 ESV; Joel 3:20 ESV; Mic 3:7 ESV cf. Isa 14:32 ESV; 28: 16 –17 ESV; 60: 3,8,11 ESV; Zech 8:3- 5 ESV
27. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Matt 3:9 ESV; John 8:33 ESV
28. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Matt 16:21 ESV cf. Luke 24:26 ESV
29. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES John 19:20 ESV; Heb 13:12 ESV
30. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Isa 56:7 ESV; Jer 7:11 ESV; Mal 3:1 ESV; Matt 21:12 ESV; Mark 11: 15-17 ESV
31. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ps 2:2 ESV; Acts 4:25-28 ESV
32. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES John 1:29 ESV; Gal 6:15 ESV
33. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES John 19:34 ESV; Rev 22:1-3 ESV
34. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 21:24, 26 ESV cf. Isa 60:3, 5, 11, 16 ESV; Isa 61:6 ESV
35. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 6:15 ESV; 17:2 ESV; 18:3 ESV; 19:19 ESV
36. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 5:9-10 ESV; 7:9 ESV
37. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1 Cor 3:16 ESV; Eph 1:22-23 ESV; 2:19 ESV; 1 Tim 3:15 ESV; 1 Pet 4:17 ESV
38. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Acts 17:16 ESV; Rom 1:20-21 ESV
39. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Isa 6:3 ESV; Heb 1:3 ESV
40. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Nah 1-3 ESV; Isa 47 ESV; Jer 51 ESV; Ezekiel 26:4,12,14 ESV; Rev 18 ESV
41. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Heb 11:6, 10, Heb 12:25 ESV ff.
42. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rom 8:16-17 ESV; 1 Cor 3:21-22 ESV
43. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gal 4:26 ESV cf. Heb 12:22 ESV
44. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 1:6 ESV; Rev 11:15 ESV
45. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 11:7 ESV; 13:7 ESV
46. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26 ESV; Rev 3:5, 12, 21 ESV; Rev 12:11 ESV; Rev 15:2 ESV
47. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Matt 5:44 ESV; Rom 12:14 ESV; 1 Pet 3:9 ESV
48. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 16:6 ESV; Rev 17:6 ESV; Rev 18:20, 24 ESV; Rev 20:9 ESV
49. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 14:13 ESV cf. Eph 2:10 ESV
50. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Eph 1:22-23 ESV; Col 1:19-20 ESV; ?2:9-10 ESV
51. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 11:1-13 ESV cf. 2 Cor 4:7-12 ESV ; Phil 3:10 ESV etc.
52. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1 Pet 1:20 ESV; Rev 13:8 ESV cf. 2 Tim 1:9 ESV

Warning, Warning (teachability & relational dependency)

INTRODUCTION

teachability

Scripture promises us advance insights into God’s plans; “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets…. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.””” (Am 3:7 ESV; Rev 2:11 ESV etc.).

But what we think we are hearing from heaven depends on who we are listen to and whether we obey the command to “test everything that is said(1 Thess 5:21 ESV). Few congregations are taught by their (insecure) leaders to test in this way. But let me start with a story.

In Argentina years ago I learnt of a mighty work of God that saw 10% of a city population turn to Christ; but after a year 90% of these had fallen away. The lead pastor in the city explained, “There were too many holes in the net.”

Under the weight of the miraculous catch of souls the relationships between Christian leaders frayed and broke. Many major moves of God, e.g. the Protestant Reformation, the Evangelical Revival, the Welsh Revival, the birth of Pentecostalism, follow this pattern of division. 

But it can be prophetically true for us, “the net was not torn(John 21:11 ESV). This will however require unprecedented teachability.

WHO CAN TEACH US?

Every successive generation seems to think it has something more to offer God than the one before. Perhaps it’s because young people haven’t had enough time for failures to strip them of natural youthful arrogance (Ps 25:7 ESV)?

But neither youth nor seniority hold in themselves keys to the longevity of a move of God. 

The scripture describes the spiritual condition we need, “little child shall lead them”, and as Jesus prayed, ““I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children”” (Isa 11:6 ESV; Luke 10:21 ESV).

Whatever their natural age the childlike of the kingdom are those open to be “taught by Godthrough others (John 6:45 ESV).

Here are two very recent examples as to whom the Church should be listening:

I was recently in a meeting to plan a conference with leaders of 4 ethnic churches, Egyptian, Iranian, Indonesian and African. They decided that with a lot of conference fatigue around the place we would be better off to create space and time to deepen relationships with each other rather than running an event.

I personally didn’t like this outcome but have submitted to the Lord’s wisdom though our non-Western brothers and sisters.

Then yesterday I was part of a gathering with a mob of Indigenous people.

Outwardly it might have seemed quite unordered, but inwardly it was very relational.

The dominant note was beyond the political aspects of reconciliation, real reconciliation depends on friendship.

Non-Indigenous and Indigenous Christians need to walk the road of justice as friends. These are the sorts of people logical hurried Westerners need to listen to.

STRATEGIC THINKERS

There’s talk about today, and to my personal embarrassment not for the first time See Article : “City Reaching – Overview  presented at (YWAM School of Evangelism 2001 + updates 2003, 2005), about strategies to reach our city.

Such strategising can only be biblical if subordinated to genuine kingdom relationships. Jesus’ word about an ex-centric gospel movement to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8 ESV) isn’t a strategy but a prophecy.

The sending out of the first apostolic missionaries to the Gentiles shows no sign of human strategising, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said,Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”” (Acts 13:2 ESV).

These apostles had been learning to love one another for years before the Lord reckoned them ready for mission. Paul’s ongoing travels show a sensitivity to which his strategies must bow; seeking to enter 3 major Roman provinces, “the Spirit of Jesus prevented them(Acts 16:6-7 ESV).

This unique language points to a relational intimacy with the Godhead which guards against confidence in our own abilities to plot God’s ways for him. Such spirituality echoes sound practical theology.

PERSONS ARE RELATIONSHIPS

relational dependency

Ancient theologians stressed that the very essence of the Trinity is relationship by employing the expression, persona est relatio, “Person is relationship”.

This means the Father, Son and Holy Spirit first  exist and then relate, they only exist in their relationships. Their mutual interdependency is absolute.

God does whatever “he” does because of whom he is in relationship within himself. So any prayer to God as “Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier”, rather than to “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”, is a sub-relational prayer. God cannot be reduced to what he does; any more than a human “being” can be reduced to a human “doing”.

The pure relational dependency of the three Persons of the Godhead on one another is the secret of why “God is Love(1 John 4:8 ESV).

Where is such love amongst us?

NETS OF WISDOM

Only an immersion in the unconditional love of God for one another (1 John 4:20 ESV) can stop the net of relationships the Lord is building across our city from tangling itself.

Without this love self-strangulation will bring about the demise of any movement of God amongst us.

The ministry demands and intense spiritual warfare of revival conditions will always shatter untested relationships. As in a marriage testing is a prerequisite for strong Christian unity.  

This is a Christ-centred truth. Jesus promised to share us the glory he’d received from the Father in order to make us one (John 17:22 ESV).

In John’s Gospel the essence of such glory involves deep relational suffering, including betrayal and misunderstanding by Christ’s closest friends (John 12:27-32 ESV; 16:32 ESV).

Tough as it sounds, this means that if Jesus needed a Judas to perfect him (Heb 2:10 ESV) no Christian can fully mature without suffering betrayal.

Struggle, illness, burn out, betrayal, misunderstanding, poverty etc. are used of God to strip from us all self-sufficiency (Prov 11:14 ESV; Heb 12:5-11 ESV) so that the imprint of Christ crucified becomes our sole strategy and security (1 Cor 2:1-5 ESV).

CONCLUSION

A Teachability Refresher

In an age marked by the commoditisation of Christianity only godly partnerships based on pure love will survive the testing of God. Any movement whose foundation is less than this will be undermined by selfish ambition (James 3:13-18 ESV). (In prophetic language a “sandgroper spirit” will eat away at the roots of a crop prepared for a great harvest. See Article:Jealous ‘ME’”   Posted on 26 May 2012 by John Yates

Vision and strategy have their place, but a place in submission to the new quality of human relationships for which Jesus died; ““By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”” (John 13:35 ESV)

The early Christians lived out such love. Amidst the oppressions of the Roman Empire the Church Father Tertullian boldly asserted that the pagans had to confess of believers, “Look . . . how they love one another… and how they are ready to die for each other …””.

Only a revival of such love can give us great confidence that any looming movement of God will survive the generations. “Lord please move us to love one another. In Jesus’ name. Amen.” 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 12th. Aug, 2018

Author: Dr. John Yates

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  

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.