Armageddon Today

Rev 16:1-16

INTRODUCTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE TIME IS NEAR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PLACE

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

There is no physical mountain anywhere near Megiddo.

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

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

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

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

THE BATTLE IS SOON

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

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

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

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

THE POWER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REALM OF BLOOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TODAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: Date. Month, 2018 

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References   [ + ]

The Days of Noah or the Days of Elijah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REFUGEE FLOOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EXCUSES

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

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

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

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

And Noah said: “It will be so.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALERT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOD CONTINUES TO REACH OUT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE COVENANT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOW MUCH?: How much chutzpah do you have?

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

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

THE DAYS OF NOAH &  DAYS OF ELIJAH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Ron Ross

Original Sources:

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

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

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

Plump Skeleton

INTRODUCTION

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

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

Only a Church under pressure will come together.

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

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

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

FAT CHRISTIANS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE UNITY OF THE DESPERATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE IMAGE OF THE BRIDEGROOM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“NO! NO!”

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

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

OUR CONDITION IS DESPERATE.

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

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

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

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 29th, June, 2018

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: N/A  

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Where has the Spirit Gone? Part 2 The Spirit of Righteousness

Part 2: The Spirit of Righteousness

Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.

Key Text 1 Tim 3:16 ESV

INTRODUCTION

Last week I suggested that the decline in the manifestation of gifts of the Spirit in the Church was essentially a problem of the heart; we have become disconnected from the spiritual liveliness Christ brought into the world through his resurrection, “But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.(Rom 8:10 ESV).

When people heard the apostolic preaching there was a profound power encounter between the righteousness of God manifest in the gospel and the unrighteous forces at work in their sinful idolatrous hearts.

Deeply convicted of sin the hearers were constrained to open their hearts to the salvation offered in Christ and so were filled with his Spirit to overflowing. Tonight I want to establish in more detail the link between the resurrection of Jesus as the ultimate manifestation of God’s righteousness and the power of the Holy Spirit.

GRACE SURPRISES

The way God’s grace saves us is surprisingly different from our cultural expectations. Whereas the love of God is never preached in the sermons in Acts accompanied by the outpouring of the Spirit (chs 2; 8; 10; 19), there’s a categorical link between the resurrection and the saving righteousness of God. vs.30God…commands all people everywhere to repent, vs.31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”” (Acts 17:30-31 ESV). The good news is that when God shares with us his righteousness in raising Jesus from the dead we need have no fear of the Judgement.

Whilst God shows his love for us by Christ dying for us (John 3:16 ESV; Rom 5:8 ESV; 1 John 4:8 ESV) this demonstration doesn’t of itself save us. Only through Jesus’ resurrection can we be made right with God; Jesus “was handed over to die because of our sins and raised for our justification/make us right with God.(Rom 4:25 ESV)

As the place where Jesus takes God’s wrath against our unrighteousness (Rom 3:25 ESV; Rom 4:25 ESV; 1 Pet 3:18 ESV) the cross is God’s “No” against our sins; but the resurrection is God’s “Yes” to Jesus’ righteousness on our behalf.

The cross wipes away the negativity of our sin (Isa 44:22 ESV; 2 Pet 1:9 ESV) but the resurrection makes available a perfectly positive righteousness before God.

Without a revelation of this we can’t live an ongoing Spirit-filled life. Why?

Anyone who feels guilty before God will harden their hearts through fear of condemnation (Heb 3:12-13 ESV), but where faith is quickened to accept Christ’s righteousness the heart will remain open to the working of the Spirit.

The lack of spiritual manifestations across the Body of Christ is a sign that hearts are closed to God because we are not continually living in the revelation of Christ’s complete righteousness for us.

Many Christians focus on the Lord’s provision and power but very few delight in the righteousness of his risen life.

This is a sign of broken fellowship with Jesus.

THE LOVE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

It is said prophetically of Jesus, “vs.8Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of your kingdom. vs.9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”” (Ps 45:6-7 ESV; Heb 1:8-9 ESV).

Jesus love of righteousness and hatred of wickedness; took him to the cross, so that raised from the dead the Father anointed him with the Holy Spirit’s joy in immeasurable intensity.

This indescribable joy is a repeated experience of Christians who encounter the Spirit throughout the New Testament (Luke 24:4 ESV; 1 Pet 1:8 ESV).

An unquenchable joy independent of circumstances is a primary sign of a Spirit filled life witnessing to the resurrection power of God’s kingdom (Acts 16:25 ESV; Rom 14:17 ESV; Gal 5:22 ESV).

Paul reminds the Thessalonians, “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit(1 Thessalonians 1:6 ESV).

I remember a few weeks after I came to Christ seeking what I would then have called “the baptism of the Holy Spirit”.

When the Spirit of God filled me the love and joy was so intense I was crying for hours.

Such experiences are truly wonderful but they often evaporate because they become self-centred and disconnected from enjoying Jesus’ own life.

Some years ago a book titled “The Cross is Not Enough” argued that many Christians had downplayed the significance of the resurrection. This is true, but in correspondence with the authors I raised with them something they’d neglected, what the resurrection meant for Jesus. The resurrection transforms our lives in the Spirit because by resurrection the Spirit first transformed Jesus’ life.

RESURRECTION TRANSFORMATION

Jesus is always the complete fulfilment of his own teaching. He taught, ““Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.(Matt 5:6 ESV).

Since on the cross he was absolutely “hungry and thirsty for the righteousness of God” his desire was perfectly “satisfied” by resurrection. Jesus longed for the righteousness of resurrection because only by it could his Father be completely glorified.

When Paul says Christ was “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father(Rom 6:4 ESV) it means the Father returned to his Son, by the power of the Spirit (Rom 1:4 ESV; Rom 8:11 ESV), the glory they shared in eternity (John 17:5 ESV; 1 Pet 3:18 ESV). This is own salvation.

1 Timothy 3:16 expounds in a very potent way how the Spirit accomplished this glory when it says of Christ’s resurrection, “He was…vindicated by the Spirit”. More literally translated Jesus was “justified by the Spirit”.

In what sense could the sinless Christ be “justified”?

Taking on the condition of our sin on the cross as an apparently cursed man (Gal 3:13 ESV) only a resurrection could establish Jesus perfect righteousness.

Jesus doesn’t keep this justification/vindication by the Spirit keeps to himself; in the “spiritual body” of his resurrection he has become “a life-giving spirit.” (1 Cor 15:44-45 ESV).

When Jesus fills us with his Spirit (Mat 3:11 ESV) he gives us a share in the imperishable life of the new creation (2 Cor 5:17 ESV). “But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.(Rom 8:10 ESV). The Spirit in whom we are baptised (Luke 3:16 ESV) is a Spirit filled with the power of the resurrection righteousness of Jesus (Acts 16:7 ESV; Rom 8:9, 11 ESV; Phil 1:19 ESV).

LONG FOR THE SPIRIT

The power of Christ’s righteous glory will be manifest in the Church when we fulfil the condition of John 7:37-39 ESV, vs.37Jesus…cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. vs.38 …‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” vs.39he said this 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.” Once Jesus had been glorified in resurrection the Spirit is available to all those who thirst to share his righteousness. This is great, but there’s much here that’s also misunderstood.

At the head of the exposition of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14 ESV Paul comments, “no one can sayJesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:3 ESV cf. Acts 2:32, 36 ESV; Rom 1:4-5 ESV). The work of the Spirit through his gifts (e.g. Rom 12:6-8 ESV; 1 Cor 12: 8-10 ESV; Eph 4:11 ESV) serves the great purpose of manifesting the saving Lordship of Christ established by his resurrection. The issue for the Church today is our openness to the Spirit revealing Jesus as the Righteous One of God established in the power of his resurrection (Acts 3:14-15 ESV).

FINAL RIGHTEOUSNESS

The extraordinary boldness of the early church to pray, preach, perform healings, cast out demons etc. in the name of Jesus was a sign that they knew they were right with God (Rom 4:25 ESV) . They were free from the binding power of shame, guilt, accusation and rejection and inspired by the Spirit who loves righteousness and hates wickedness they did the works of the kingdom of God (e.g. Acts 3:6-8 ESV; Acts 4:29-31, 33 ESV; Acts 8:7, 12 ESV etc.).

Their lives reflected a famous contemporary song; “No guilt in life, no fear in death—This is the pow’r of Christ in me”.

Which is the power of the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead to render men and women righteous before God (Rom 8:10 ESV).

Since the resurrection of Jesus is the first instillation of the Last Judgement and Jesus himself is the justice of God then in Christ we stand inside the justice of God (Forsyth).

Since the decree of the Last Judgement has already been passed on the believer (Rom 8:33 ESV) nothing that can truly harm us, no-one/no-thing can rob us of resurrection life (John 4:25 ESV).

CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION

The passion of the Holy Spirit is to pour into us the mighty revelation of the righteousness of God he pre-eminently manifested in the resurrection of Jesus. Every time the Spirit moves to heal, deliver, break demonic strongholds, release the wisdom and knowledge of God etc. he testifies to the perfect justice of Christ’s kingdom (John 15:26-27 ESV). We are called to share in the Spirit’s passion.

Paul exhorts us to be zealous for spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:31 ESV; 1 Cor 14:1 ESV), “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent (dzeo) in spirit” (Rom 12:11 ESV).

Christians are to be like water set boiling by the fire of the Holy Spirit praying zealously “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth…” as we seek first God’s kingdom righteousness (Matt 6:10, 33 ESV).

Why don’t the wonderful songs we sing, “No guilt in life, no fear in death”, match the average Christian experience in our prosperous nations.

Why are our congregations filled with people whose risk free lives show they don’t believe sacrifice for God’s kingdom will release Christ’s resurrection life in the power of the Spirit (2 Cor 4:7-12 ESV).

Why don’t we believe that the gospel revelation of the righteousness of God will in the End transform the whole universe in the same way it transformed the life of Jesus in his resurrection (Rom 1:16-17 ESV; 2 Pet 3:13 ESV). To ask these questions will prove futile unless they provoke us to pray.

We can ask the Lord to grant us repentance for our belief that he is not an all just Father. We can ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13 ESV) with God moving in our hearts so that we burn with zeal for the cause of his kingdom (John 2:17 ESV). If not do all these things the Spirit will remain largely missing from the life of the Church. 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 27. May. 2018 | Alive@5 St Mark’s

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 06. June, 2018 

  

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Where has the Spirit Gone? Part 1: Groaning is a Gift for Glory

Where has the Spirit Gone? Part 2: The Spirit of Righteousness

Where has the Spirit Gone? Part 3: In the Spirit

Where has the Spirit Gone Part 4: Laying on of Hands

Riot, revival and the Leadership Crisis in the Church

Ps 2:1-12 ESV | Acts 4:23-31 ESV

INTRODUCTION

Through a series of prayer meetings recently I believe the Lord has been sharing with me insights into his plan to revive the Church (cf. Am 3:7 ESV)This unveiling started when someone shared a story about God’s transforming work in Indonesia. In 1998-99 there were riots across the country which included the burning of churches.

Then during a large Christian gathering in Jakarta the Holy Spirit spoke prophetically about who should be set aside in an eldership team to oversee a national movement in prayer and unity (cf. Acts 13:1-3 ESV).

As Psalm 133 testifies agreement opens up a well of blessing, “how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity….For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.(vv.1, 4).

Jesus’ great prayer in John 17 connects unity with glory; “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.(vv. 22-23).

The Church in Indonesia is experiencing healing, miracles and conversions because through unity it radiates glory.

As long as the Church across Australia refuses to gather to pray and agree on God’s appointed leadership it cannot enjoy such continuous signs of divine favour.

THE DIVINE ORDER

Jesus instruction to pray “your kingdom come…on earth as it is in heaven(Matt 6:10 ESV) means that the pattern of Church leadership should image the order of heaven.

Having come, as Hebrews 12 puts it, “to… the heavenly Jerusalem… the church of the firstborn… and to Jesus(v. 22-24 cf. Gal 4:26 ESV) the ordering of the earthly assembly should mirror that of the heavenly world. 

In Revelation God is seen on his throne (Rev 7:17 ESV) circled by 24 elders (Rev 4:4 ESV), symbolising the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles, leaders of the whole community of God’s people.

As the heavenly elders are equidistant from God’s a similar non-hierarchical spiritual eldership should lead the Church.

When Christ alone is at the centre of his people and we hold fast only to him as Head (Col 2:19 ESV) he will build his Church (Matt 16:18 ESV).

A Church clogged up by programmes and contradictory visions will never witness the spontaneous expansion we read of in the New Testament and hear of in non-Western nations today.

God’s strategy to enforce uncompromising Christ-centredness is to release a “riot”.

RIOT

Psalm 2 is a prophetic lens through which can view the crises the Lord repeatedly releases to provoke repentance and revival among his people (cf. Acts 11:19-21 ESV; Rev 6). To see how heaven is moving earth we must understand Psalm 2 as an ongoing dialogue between Jesus and the Father.

The early Christians understood the crucifixion of Jesus by Jews and Romans (Acts 4:27-28 ESV) as a riot that fulfilled this Psalm, vs.1Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? vs.2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Christ, saying, vs.3Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”” (vv.1-3; Acts 4:25-26 ESV).

Expecting such violent rebellion the prayers petitioned God for power to fulfil the rest of the psalm, that the nations be converted to Christ as his promised inheritance (Ps 2:8 ESV). They believed and witnessed that by the proclamation of the gospel Jesus would subject the riotous nations to his rule (Ps 2:7-9 ESV; Acts 13:32-33 ESV).

Through such a prophetic lens we can discern God’s purposes in Australia today.

The moral revolution of abortion, the normalising of living together, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, unbridled greed, the heartless treatment of refugees, the looking down on aboriginal people and so on is appalling. And whilst there’s lots of energy at the political, intellectual and ethical level in response to such depravities e.g. ACL, Love Makes a Way. 

There a vast lack of seeing and speaking from heaven “in the Spirit(Rev 1:10 ESV) about such things. We are in the midst of a riot as real as the uproar that intimidated Pilate into killing Jesus, attacked the apostles and burned the churches of Indonesia (Matt 27:22-24 ESV; Acts 19:40 ESV; Acts 24:5 ESV; 2 Cor 6:5 ESV).

But find me a church that spiritually senses it’s surrounded by a bunch of hostile rebels that wants to bring it down. Why do we lack spiritual leaders with the insight and authority into the dynamics of national evil to mobile persistent prayer and fasting?

I was talking to a Christian from the Congo recently about the difference between the demons there and here. The demons there demand your body, your money or your goods by possessing armed rebels.

Our demons however are “civilised demons” manipulating politicians, entertainers and academics who in an age of political correctness are rarely named for what they are (cf. 2 Cor 4:4 ESV; 1 John 5:19 ESV; Rev 12:9 ESV; Rev 16:13-14 ESV).

This means the dark forces controlling our nation are largely invisible and effectively unopposed (Eph 6:12 ESV).

Behind the Church’s spiritual blindness is her idolatry. Whoever makes any “thing” more important than God is handed over in judgement to the senselessness of such “things(Ps 115:4-8 ESV; Isa 44:9 ESV; Ez 12:2 ESV etc.).

Since so many Christian leaders are in love with the present form of ministry and Church and the comfortable lifestyle it brings them (cf. Rom 12:1-2 ESV) they cannot see the depths of our need for reformation and revival. Like those “at ease in Zion(Am 6:1 ESV) they are insensible to the judgements of God. Let me use a very contemporary example.

Many, me too, were heartened when Kenyan born Pentecostal Lucy Gichuhi entered the federal senate and became a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage.

Then last week I was watching the news and they showed a clip where Lucy says to an African interviewer about her salary, “Two hundred thousand Australian dollars — in a whole year that’s not a lot of money,

The story ended with a note that she’s in the process of paying the government back several thousand dollars for flying family members to her birthday party. Lucy’s testimony to this nation is finished.

The cynical public will never forgot and forgive her; she’s become just another compromised Christian leader. Only the blameless can stand and lead in this evil hour (1 Tim 3:7, 10 ESV). At a natural level these things are depressing, but by faith we can see them as signs of a great shaking preparing the Church for a great spiritual transformation.

SHAKING

Hebrews 12 (Hebrews 12:26-28 ESV citing Haggai 2:6 ESV) prophesies, vs.26… he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.vs.27 This phrase,Yet once more, indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. vs.28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken”.

In God’s order a shaking of the political, economic, social and religious order precedes a time of reformation and revival (cf. Heb 9:10 ESV). This is most pronounced in the New Testament. 

When Jesus came from heaven as the new temple, the great High Priest and the one true sacrifice and the new Israel (John 1:51 ESV; John 2:21 ESV; Heb 2:17 ESV; Heb 9:11-14 ESV) all the old covenant structures defining the identity of Israel were shaken out of their place.

Instead of repenting the old Israel raged against him had him crucified and persistently opposed the apostolic preaching of the gospel (e.g. Acts 4:3-22 ESV; Acts 5:17-42 ESV; Acts 6:8-8:1 ESV; Acts 8:3 ESV; Acts 9:2 ESV; Acts 12:1-5 ESV; Acts 14:19-20 ESV; Acts 17:1-15 ESV; Acts 18:12-17 ESV; 2 Cor 11:24 ESV; 1 Thess 2:14-16 ESV; Rev 2:9; 3:9 ESV).

In the midst of this a multitude, Jew and Gentile, turned to Jesus as Lord and Messiah (Acts 2 ESV).

If there needed to be, to quote from the time, a moral and religious collapse ‘to a degree that was never before known in any Christian country‘ (Bishop Berkeley) to spark the eighteenth century Evangelical revival in the UK (Wesley’s etc.); if there needed to be a turning away of youth from the churches before the 1857 prayer revival in America and the Welsh revival 1904-1905 to provoke genuine believers to unceasing intercession, if, and I have been there, Argentina needed to be defeated in the Falklands War so a punctured national pride would open the nation to the gospel, then we must see the moral insanities of our day, especially over sexuality, as signs, as Acts 4:28 ESV puts it, that the hand of God is shaking everything. The real condition of the human heart is being laid bare before our eyes (cf. Heb 4:12-13 ESV).

Sexual perversion in the churches exposed through The Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, inexcusable levels of greed exposed in respected financial institutions by the financial Royal Commission.

Rampant sexual abuse unveiled by the #Me Too campaign and I could go on and on about domestic violence, mental illness, child self-harming, youth suicide and the plight of Indigenous Australians. What’s the message from heaven when between 1991-2013

The Uniting Church in Australia saw a drop-in attendance between of 40%, and the financial death throes of many Anglican parishes in Perth.

There are numerically thriving “power churches” but they are so impotent in making disciples that together with us we are image this dreadful prophetic truth “in the last days there will be very difficult times. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly.(2 Tim 3:1, 5 ESV).

Blaming the forces of cultural Marxism, post modernism, secular humanism, the LGBT lobby, theological liberalism and so on won’t bring revival; it’s the Lord’s anointed who rules the nations with a rod of iron it’s the Lamb on the throne of heaven we have to deal with (Ps 2:9 ESV; Rev 2:27 ESV; 12:5 ESV; 19:15 ESV) he is shaking our world (cf. Hag 2:6 ESV ff.) and he responds only to…. prayer.

LAYING HOLD

During a clip about the 1840 revival in Parramatta at Perth Prayer recently (see left) I was struck by a reference to men “laying hold of God” in prayer.

Isaiah laments (Isa 64:7 ESV), “There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you”.

Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord for a blessing (Gen 32:22-32 ESV), Jesus wrestled to obey the Father’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-36 ESV; Col 2:15 ESV).

Paul describes “Epaphras… always wrestling on your behalf in his prayers(Col 4:12 ESV).

Ephesians 6 (Eph 6:12 KJV) tells us; “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against… spiritual wickedness in high places.

But until the people of God lay hold of his promises so that the evil powers taking lost minds captive to pinned down over this city there can be no great move of the Spirit (cf. 2 Cor 10:3-5 ESV).

Let us lay hold of God petitioning him to break the hold of demonic powers controlling our nation in its rebellion against the Lord’s Christ (Deut 32:8 ESV; Ps 2:1-2 ESV; Acts 2:36 ESV).

Thankfully there are signs that the passive spirituality of our churches is coming to an end for things are stirring up in the spiritual realm.

Satan has become unusually visible in recent days. When my own wife is suddenly attacked via an evil apparition whilst I’m preaching something is certainly going on. And the disorder in some recent prayer meetings with some of my own physical lethargy goes beyond the merely natural.

On the positive side, as Mathew Henry truly said, ‘When God intends great mercy for his people, he first of all sets them praying.’ I have been encouraged to see an acceleration of intense prayer breaking out around us.

Prayer meetings are “spontaneously” springing up to intercede for the various spheres of society.

The Australian Prayer Network have been stunned by the thousands of people who have gone through their Watchmen School of Intercession courses over the last 5 years; 400 attended at Mt Pleasant Baptist recently.

So I see a move of God coming which is the exact opposite of the passive school room mentality dominating our churches.

When the Spirit is outpoured all the people of God, male, female, young, old are flowing in the gifts of God (Acts 2:17-18 ESV).

If a man as biblical as Spurgeon could pray, “Lord, send us a season of glorious disorder” so should our leaders.

CONCLUSION

To move into the conversation between Jesus and the Father recorded in Psalm 2 Christian leaders must let go of their comfortable visions and be overcome by the Father’s vision for his Son (2 Cor 5:14 ESV).

They must stop quoting the mistranslation of Proverbs 29:18 ESV; “Where there is no vision, the people perish”, as a pretext for driving the church by their vision and be humbled by what it really says “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint”.

The sinfulness inside their congregations is a sign to them they have not spoken from heaven there is a rebellion inside the Church against the Lord’s rule.

For a long time God has been handing us over to a “famine… of hearings the words of the LORD(Am 8:11 ESV cf. Rev 6:5-8 ESV)!

Until preachers, and congregations, want God’s Word at whatever cost such rioting against Jesus will continue whilst his Spirit stays withdrawn in grief (Eph 4:30 ESV).

The urgent need of the hour is to seek to see by faith through the lens of the shaking of the Jesus on the cross, and his resurrection to glory, that all shakings in heaven and earth are for our sharing in this glory (1 Cor 2:7-9 ESV). In Christ we can pray for a greater shaking that we might enjoy greater glory.

Paul’s, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling(Phil 2:12 ESV cf. Isa 66:2 ESV), Wesley’s “Enter every trembling heart” must be taken literally!

The only explanation for the terrible spiritual state outside and inside the Church is that God has withdrawn his protective hand over Australia (cf. Matt 23:37-38 ESV) and handed us over to a mighty shaking because only through such a shaking can he purify for himself a people centred solely on the kingdom of Christ (Ps 2 ESV; Tit 2:14 ESV; Heb 12:27 ESV).

This agonising shaking almost weekly brings me news of the grief of Christian households where children are “coming out” as gay or professing to have lost faith in God.

This is not yet however the shaking Jesus promised, when “a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.(Matt 10:36 ESV).

If in today’s tensions between the demands of Jesus and contemporary values many “Bible-believing” Christians are compromising it’s clear that when the Lord releases a more intense shaking there will be a great falling away (Matt 24:10 ESV ff.).

Only a revelation that the shakings of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that comes through the shaking of the cross and the resurrection can prevent this catastrophe (2 Cor 4:16 ESV).

Only the true power of the gospel can reveal that the foundations of this present order of creation are being shaken away for a new creation coming in Christ (1 Cor 7:31 ESV; Gal 6:15 ESV; 1 Thess 2:13 ESV).

Only the gospel can teach us that all earthly shakings were taken into Jesus on the cross and transformed in their purpose by his glorious resurrection (Matt 27:51-52 ESV cf. Ex 19:18 ESV; Ps 18:7-9 ESV).

Only a Christ-centred revelation of such things can sustain revival movements from burning out after a few short years.

Two emotions have come over me in preparing this sermon.

I have felt totally out of my depth for the spiritual shaking I am speaking of (cf. Neh 5:13 ESV; Jer 23:9 ESV; Am 9:9 ESV) reminded me of a shaking a missionary friend endured in China when she was caught in a 7.2 Richter scale earthquake that killed 192 people.

She is still recovering from the trauma.

Who is prepared to cope with such things?

But as I was out praying yesterday my spirit became unusually settled. I came across an orange tree which when gently shaken dropped a huge amount of fruit.

When in God’s time the Spirit moves a harvest of souls will come in without any frantic human exertion (Rom 9:16 ESV cf. Zech 4:6 ESV). And he will get all the glory. 

LET US PRAY.

MESSAGE DELIVERED:  24. June, 2018 | East Vic. Park. Baptist

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 24. June, 2018 

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Where has the Spirit Gone Part 4: Laying on of Hands

Key Text:

Matt 19:13-15; Acts 4:23-31

INTRODUCTION

Last week we saw that being “in the Spirit” meant sharing in the end-time reality that had arrived in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Baptised into Christ’s kingdom the first Christians knew themselves to be involved in a constant struggle with evil spiritual powers (Col 1:13 ESV etc.).

In this hostile environment various gifts of the Spirit were needed to establish the Lordship of Christ (1 Cor 12:3-11 ESV).

Western Christianity has largely lost this dynamic, but there’s a foundational biblical practice which when exercised in faith can activate spiritual restoration. This is the laying on of hands as an expectant sign of God’s presence and power.

Hebrews 6 goes so far as to say that part of the “foundation” for “maturity” in Christ is the instruction “of …the laying on of hands(Heb 6:1,2 ESV). The text goes on to describe Christian experience as a very last times reality; being “enlightened…tasted the heavenly gift…shared in the Holy Spirit…tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come(Heb 6:4-5 ESV).

This suggests that the laying on of hands somehow initiates people into life “in the Spirit”.

As the “maturity” connected with laying on of hands in Hebrews 6 is deeply connected to how this language is used about Jesus in the book (Heb 2:10 ESV; Heb 5:9 ESV; Heb 7:28 ESV; Heb 12:2 ESV) it must have been that when new believers received prayer with the imposition of hands they had a powerful transforming experience in the Spirit as part of his bringing the universe to its completion in Christ (cf. Eph 1:10 ESV).

To understand the biblical importance of the laying on of hands we need to start in the Old Testament.

OLD TESTAMENT

God’s own hand creates heaven and earth (Job 34:19 ESV; Ps 8:6 ESV; Ps 102.25 ESV; Isa 45:11-12 ESV; Isa 48:13 ESV; Isa 66:1-2 ESV); and his acts of in history (Isa 5:12 ESV; Ps 111:7 ESV) to redeem or judge are by his hand (1 Sam 5:6, 11 ESV; Isa 25:9-10 ESV; Isa 26:11 ESV; Jer 6:12 ESV; Jer 15:6 ESV; Jer 16:21 ESV; Jer 51:25 ESV).

This is emphatically true of the redemption from slavery in Egypt by the Lord’s “strong hand(Ex 3:8, 19-20 ESV; 13:3, 9 ESV).  

In other places when the hand of God is laid on people they are set aside to an anointed prophetic ministry (2 Ki 3:15-16 ESV cf. Jer 15:17 ESV; Ezek 1: 3 ESV; Ezek 37:1 etc.).  And the spiritual “revival” under king Hezekiah is attributed to “The hand of God…on Judah(2 Chron 30:12 ESV).

In the Old Testament laying on of human hands imparts blessing (Gen 48:14-16 ESV), sets aside to the priesthood (Num 8:5-15 ESV) and when Moses places his  hands on Joshua he becomes his appointed successor ( Num 27:18-23 ESV).

Since Joshua is said to be “full of the spirit of wisdom” through this ritual the idea of a spiritual impartation is clearly present (Deut 34:9 ESV).

Most commonly hands are laid on animals in order to set them apart for a sacrifice for atonement ( Exodus 29:10, 15,19, 33 ESV; Lev 1:4 ESV; Leviticus 4:4 ESV Leviticus 4:15 ESV Leviticus 4:24 ESV ; Leviticus 8:14 ESV Leviticus 8:18 ESV Leviticus 8:22 ESV ; Leviticus 16:21 ESV; Num 8:5-15 ESV; 2 Chron 29:3 ESV ).

The New Testament takes the laying on of hands in powerful and exciting new directions.

THE HANDS OF JESUS

Whilst Jesus imparting a blessing to children through placing his hands on them (Mark 10:13-16 ESV) is a lovely act, this is quite within the Old Testament framework.

What is new is that in the Gospels Jesus repeatedly heals people through laying on his hands (Mark 5:23 ESV; Mark 7:32 ESV; Mark 8:23-25 ESV; Luke 4:40 ESV; Luke 13:13 ESV).

Given some of Jesus’ other healings it’s likely “power went out from him” through his hands (Luke 6:19; 8:46).

(I remember when I have having extremely painful kidney stone attacks that went on for some months and was scheduled to go in for surgery on a Monday. On a Friday night some members of a home group prayed for me and that’s what one of them experienced power flowing through her arm/hands. The next morning I passed a stone nearly a centimetre in length.).

Everyone upon whom Jesus laid his hands experienced the blessing of the hand of God.

The power Jesus had to bless through his hands during his earthly ministry was however limited. For this ministry to be perfected his hands needed to be crucified. Psalm 22 ESV, from which Jesus quoted on the cross (Mark 15:34 ESV), speaks prophetically of the piercing of his hands (v.16).

After his resurrection Jesus showed the disciples his hands (Luke 24:39 ESV) which still bore the scars of his wounding. Finally, in going back to the Father we read, vs.50he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them.vs.51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. vs.52 And they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, vs.53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.(Luke 24:50-51 ESV).

The high priestly blessing had placed them under the covering i.e. atoning presence of the Lamb of God who’d taken away the sin of the world (John 1:29 ESV) so they were overcome with happiness. Since the crucified and healed hands of Jesus were glorious “gospel hands” what comes next in Acts shouldn’t surprise us.

THE CHURCH OF THE SPIRIT

The healings characteristic of the Gospels continue under the apostles through the laying on of hands (Acts 5:12 ESV; Acts 9:12 ESV; Acts 9:17 ESV; Acts 14:3 ESV; Acts 19:11 ESV; Acts 28:8 ESV cf. “Mark 16:18 ESV”).

These were signs of the blessings of the presence of the kingdom of God. What’s new in Acts, even compared to the Gospels, is the impartation of the Holy Spirit through “the laying on of hands.(Acts 8:14-17 ESV Acts 9:17 ESV; Acts 19:6 ESV).

The believers who imparted the Spirit in this way had tremendous confidence in God; knowing they were “in the Spirit/in Christ(Rom 8:9-10 ESV) they believed that the power of the future was in their hands.

They knew they had entered into the sphere of unlimited unconditional blessing sealed by the gift of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 1:22 ESV; Eph 1:13 ESV; Eph 4:30 ESV)

They were not distracted by the political, economic or social powers of this world, but following Jesus recognised that the authority to bless in healing and imparting the Spirit was in their hands.

Understanding that they were raised up and seated with Jesus in heaven (Eph 1:19-22 ESV; Eph 2:6 ESV)Blessed” by “the…Father with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” they moved in an atmosphere of imparting blessing (Eph 1:3 ESV).

Knowing they had received from Jesus authority over evil forces manifestations of healing and the gift of the Spirit as signs of the coming new age were inevitable through their hands.

No human opposition could frustrate the outworking of such powers.  “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 4:14 ESV)

The Spirit saturated the broader life of the early churches; not the least because their leaders had received the impartation of the Spirit at their commissioning. When Paul says to Timothy, “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you…. fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands (1 Tim 4:14 ESV ; 2 Tim 1:6 ESV cf. Acts 6:6 ESV; Acts 13:3 ESV; 1 Tim 5:22 ESV), his faith was connected to a past tangible experience.

CHURCH TODAY

This prayer in Acts 4 is especially relevant for today, “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”” (Acts 4:30 ESV).

The disciples had seen Jesus stretch out his hand and heal (Mark 1:41 ESV), they’d seen desperate people beg Jesus to lay his hands on the blind, deaf and dead and helpless i.e. children (Matt 9:18 ESV; Mark 5:32 ESV; Mark 8:22 ESV; Mark 10:13 ESV), and Jesus had never failed the suffering in their hour of need.

They were totally persuaded that the Lord delighted to stretch out his hand and so they prayed and acted in faith so we read, “Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles(Acts 5:12 ESV).

Following Jesus as someone totally set apart by the Holy Spirit from the world, especially through the cross, they knew themselves to be set apart to a new creation of blessing (John 17:15-19 ESV etc.).

Whether in serving, healing, or releasing gifts for leadership they were blessed to be a blessing and in the laying on of their hands they stood in the place of God (cf. John 20:23 ESV).

This powerful sense of special purpose bound the early congregations together in the midst of a world they knew to be perishing (1 Cor 15:50 ESV). This sense of separation from the world in order to bless the world is where everything has gone wrong in Western Christianity.

From scandals as public as institutional child abuse through to what every pastor knows of the conduct of congregational members, the average lifestyle and behaviour of Christians is no different from that of unbelievers. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever(Heb 13:8 ESV) so it must be that the Lord surely wants to stretch out his hand to change this dreadful state of affairs.

CONCLUSION

Last week I spoke of how God is inciting mainstream Christians to jealousy, moving us to humbly seek the revelation of his glory through acts of the Spirit (Acts 2:33 ESV) at any cost. Donna and I were visiting some Iranian converts from Islam the other day and in the course of discussion they described how in one of their meetings a man with a crippled hand asked for prayer; when several people laid hands on him he had immediate full recovery.

If such an atmosphere of expectant faith is lacking in our hearts we can confess that sin without fear of condemnation (Rom 8:1 ESV).

I think we are in a situation like the father in the Gospels struggling to believe that his epileptic son could be healed because the efforts of the disciples had failed.

In anguish he cried out to Jesus and said, ““I believe; help my unbelief!”” (Mark 9:24 ESV).

Many of us have witnessed unsuccessful attempts to heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons and impart the Spirit.

Thankfully Jesus delivered the boy from his demon with a word of command and went on to explain what was lacking in the life of the disciples, ““This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer (and fasting?).”” (9:25, 29 ESV).

[If as I suggested last week the Lord has withdrawn the Holy Spirit from the Church, and there’s no such thing as a spiritual vacuum, then the evil powers which have come into that space definitely will not come out apart from much prayer-and-fasting.]

Prayer that the Lord stretches out his hand through our hands is the order of the day. This is surely the will of God; if we ask (Luke 11:13 ESV; James 4:2 ESV). 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 17th. June, 2018 | Alive@5 St Mark’s

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 17th. June, 2018

  

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Where has the Spirit Gone? Part 1: Groaning is a Gift for Glory

Where has the Spirit Gone? Part 2: The Spirit of Righteousness

Where has the Spirit Gone? Part 3: In the Spirit

Where has the Spirit Gone Part 4: Laying on of Hands

Sharing in Christ 1. Humanity

TEXT: Isa 7:1-14; Ps 40:1-10; 1 Tim 3:14-16; John 1:1-14

INTRODUCTION


From New Testament times every Church failing is grounded in a failure to share fully in the life of Christ (Col 2:9-10 ESV)The Corinthians were in disorder because they trusted in human wisdom rather than the cross (1 Cor 1:18-2:5 ESV), the Colossians were entangled in legalisms because they thought spirit beings other than Christ could connect us to God (Col 2:8-23 ESV), the church in Ephesus had fallen because they had abandoned Jesus as their first love (Rev 2:2-5 ESV).

The catastrophic powerlessness, immorality, division and decline in Western Christianity is a sign we are not trusting Christ as our sole foundation (1 Cor 3:11 ESV; Eph 2:20 ESV). When Paul says, “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus(1 Tim 2:5 ESV) he pictures Jesus as the sole saving point of contact between God and humanity.

As a divine-human person Jesus alone can tell us who God is and what it means to be a human being. Jesus personally is the solution to the age old lament articulated about God by Job, “There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both.(Job 9:33 ESV).

That the one true God exists as a human being in Christ is inexpressible wonderful news that cries out for communication. We should always be talking to others about Jesus, inside and outside of the Church.

Two personal experiences come to mind that explain why this isn’t happening.

The first is when a theology tutor reminded our class that Jesus went to the toilet.

The second is when after a week of prayer for revival the Holy Spirit brought indelibly to my mind these words for the Athanasian Creed; that Jesus is God and Man “not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by the taking of humanity into God”.

In Jesus humanity has become a part of God forever.

But rarely are Christians gripped in their hearts by the fullness of the reality of the humanity of God because we are confused about what sort of a human being God has become.

NATURE AND SIN

 
When John 1
(John 1:14 ESV) says, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” it uses a word for “flesh” which never has a positive meaning in this Gospel. In John 3 Jesus sets “flesh” and “spirit” in contradiction; “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit….‘You must be born again.’(John 3:6-7 ESV).

In John 6 (John 6:63 ESV) Christ says, “It is the Spirit (of God) who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.” At the very least the humanity which the Son of God took on was a useless weight to the divine purposes.

Even more forcefully, when Hebrews says “in every respect (Jesus) has been tempted as we are, yet without sin(Heb 4:15 ESV), it means that in order to fully identify with our struggles Jesus took up our weakened human nature.

Christ’s temptations are usually misunderstood. “You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later…bad people… have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means…”

C. S. Lewis said

This insight should humble us into a deeper appreciation of what Jesus endured to save us. But the scriptural testimony to the incapacitating character of the humanity the Son of God took on for us is even more penetrating.

Romans 8 (Rom 8:3 ESV) says, “God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.” In coming to transform us as we are Jesus took on a nature essentially the same as ours, a nature disposed to rebel against God.

His victories over temptation came not from his being God or possessing some “super-humanity” but by totally depending on the Holy Spirit. I’ll come back to this a little later as it is the key to our salvation.

A GROWING NATURE

 
To be a real person Christ had to grow and develop. So Luke tells us the young Jesus “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and people.
(Luke 2:52 ESV).

It’s easy to envisage Jesus growing physically and mentally but the Bible teaches he also grew spiritually. Hebrews tells us twice that Jesus was “made perfect” through suffering (Heb 2:10 ESV; Heb 5:9 ESV). This doesn’t mean Jesus ever sinned but indicates he needed ongoing empowerment to keep on obeying his Father’s commandments (John 15:10 ESV).

He was strengthened in grace through prayer, reading the scriptures, sharing in the fellowship of the people of God and so on (e.g. Luke 4:16 ESV; Luke 11:1 ESV). If you are struggling to pray, ask Jesus to share with you how the Father taught him to pray, if the Bible is dull, ask Christ to share with you what the scriptures mean to him… Christians grow to be like Christ by ever deeper communion with his humanity.

Jesus delights to share with us everything that’s truly human. For example, we increase in joy as we receive more of Jesus’ own joy; as he said in John 15:11 ESV, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.(cf. John 17:13 ESV; 1 Pet 1:8 ESV).

A FEELING NATURE

 
People think that God doesn’t understand them, but in Jesus God is completely familiar with human feelings, from the inside. When the Gospels tell us that Jesus felt compassion it uses a word related to the troubled movement of the intestines (Matt 9:36; 14:14; 15:32). An experiential state so potent it is used only of Jesus and of God in the New Testament. To feel compassion for someone you have to sense in them something you identify with in yourself; the compassion of Jesus is an outstanding evidence of his fully perfect humanity. And since Jesus alone never hardened his heart to the broken condition of lost humanity his sensitivity to our suffering was limitless.

Jesus’ “fellow feeling” with lost people is far more important than what we might first imagine. Remember the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

The empathy of the Son of God imparted a tremendous sense of dignity to those broken people around him.

Sinful, suffering, struggling men and women felt limitlessly honoured by the feeling heart of God in Christ. They knew that God was not “out there” on the other side of some divide but that in Jesus God was “found on the same side as humanity under distress” (Ray S. Anderson).

Do lost people see God as on their side through our lives?… If the answer is “No” then you know what the problem is; we, the Church, don’t really believe in the humanity of God in Christ.

All this could sound very sentimental but the biblical account of the humanity of Jesus is all embracing.

Confronting the legalism of the Pharisees Mark tells us Jesus “looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart(Mark 3:5 ESV).

Christ is the perfect lens through which both God’s sorrow and wrath are revealed in equal measure (cf. John 14:9 ESV). When Jesus was confronted with taking the cup of God’s wrath in the Garden of Gethsemane (Isa 51:17 ESV; Jer 25:15 ESV; Rev 14:9-10 ESV) his soul was in such turmoil that in prayer “his sweat became like great drops of blood(Luke 22:44 ESV). This was his perfect fear of taking on the judgement of God which we all deserve.

Life was never easy for Jesus.

Born into relative poverty (Luke 2:24 ESV), fasting for 40 days in the wilderness (Matt 4:2 ESV), rejected by his own home town (Luke 4:18-30 ESV), not believed in by his own brothers (John 7:5 ESV), unsupported and then abandoned by his closest friends (Mark 14:32-50 ESV), betrayed, beaten, crucified. In Christ God’s sensitivity to the human struggle is complete.

Only the sacrificial love of God can explain why the Son of God left the beauty of heaven to enter into the realm of our tortured humanity (John 3:16 ESV ff.). In love God took into himself the sinfulness of the human race in order to destroy the power of sin (Rom 8:3 ESV). In Jesus a complete victory for humanity in humanity has taken place.

VICTORY

 
When Paul proclaims triumphantly, “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Cor 15:57 ESV), he means that we overcome sin, death and the law by the power of Jesus’ own victorious humanity.

Christ is not a mere teacher of the ways of God or a perfect example to be imitated. He is the Way of God who recreates our hearts and minds from the inside (John 14:6 ESV cf. Col 1:15 – 3:10 ESV).

As one theologian puts it, “Christ does not heal us as an ordinary doctor might, by standing over us, diagnosing our sickness, prescribing medicine for us to take and then going away, leaving us to get better as we follow His instructions. No, He becomes the patient.” whose own humanity was transformed by an all obedient life, death and resurrection.

This is why there are no “Christian principles”. God doesn’t have any “truths” to share with you he only has his Son to give to you who is the Truth (John 14:6 ESV; Eph 4:21 ESV)

I was appalled during the week to read a well known Christian writing that the Islamic proclamation, “In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful” was the best perspective on God of any religion and Jesus embodied this perspective.

But we cannot know anything final about compassion and mercy outside the revelation of who God is in Jesus. Jesus is not the embodiment of some “principle” but the substance of everything God ever wanted for humanity.

The Christian faith really is scandalous to ordinary human reason and religion for we worship a human being who has revealed the one true God through his own struggling but victorious humanity.

CONCLUSION

 
Anyone who would be saved
(Matt 1:21 ESV) know God as he is (John 17:31-32 ESV)… know the truth which sets us free (John 8:32 ESV) must come to Jesus. Have you come to Jesus?

Are you asking Jesus, daily, constantly, to share his life with you?  In Christ God became human, suffered and died and was glorified so he might give himself to us as we give ourselves to him.

It’s all about Jesus; he’s the centre and circumference of all the Father’s purposes for creation. As the mathematics teacher would say, “Jesus is the whole point.” Or as I would tell to my students, “It’s Jesus, the whole Jesus and nothing but Jesus so help me God!

Do you know that the Father whom we worship in the power of the Spirit has only one aim for your life because he has only one aim in his life, now and forever, to fill everything with his all lovely, excellent, honourable and praiseworthy Son (Gal 1:16 ESV; Eph 1:10 ESV; Phil 4:9 ESV).

If you are not Jesus centred in this way then you are centred on something else; you’re self-centred, family-centred, money-centred, pleasure centred or even (how dreadful) church-centred. Today let us run to Christ and implore him to share his life with us so that we might our lives with him, whatever the cost… 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 3rd. June, 2018 | St Mark’s 

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 3rd. June, 2018

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Where has the Spirit Gone? Part 3: In the Spirit  

vs.17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!vs.18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. vs.19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. vs.20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

vs.21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “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; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.vs.22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Luke 10:17-22 English Standard Version (ESV)

INTRODUCTION

The shift from lots of religious talk (2 Tim 3:5) to the manifest power of God’s kingdom in signs, wonders and gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 4:20; Heb 2:3) is a change most congregations in Australia are unable to make. Perhaps because such lively manifestations of the resurrection (Rom 8:10) have nothing to do with our efforts but depend exclusively on faith in Christ who has become our rightness with God (1 Cor 1:30).

In New Testament terms this confidence with God doesn’t depend on how we feel or think but is a sign of a radically new state of life. A Christian is no longer “in the flesh” dominated by powers of evil but “in the Spirit” ruled by the Lord Jesus (Rom 8:9).

Christianity is “naturally supernatural” because the Father has given the Spirit to Jesus (John 15:26-27; Acts 2:33) to manifest the presence and power of the kingdom of God through his people.

As Jesus loved to show off the Father by submitting to the indwelling Spirit to do the works of God (John 14:10; Matt 12:28) so the Spirit loves to show off the Lordship of Jesus by distributing gifts through the Church (Heb 2:3-4).

A Transition of the Ages

The Day of Pentecost marking the transition between the old age of law, sin and death and the new age of righteousness and eternal life in Christ (Rom 6:20-23; 1 Cor 10:11; Heb 6:5) opening up the power of the Spirit to all the people of God (Acts 2:17-18).

This was a refreshing gift brought to the Western Church from the early Pentecostal and Charismatic movements.

Today however instead of new wineskins fit for new wine we have increasing spiritual conservatism and hierarchical pastoral control across professedly Spirit-filled denominations (Matt 9:17).

The longing of the Spirit to raise up radically new-life communities manifesting the gifts of the Spirit as signs of Jesus resurrection Lordship (Acts 2:36; 1 Cor 12:3), and his coming again soon to renew the whole creation (1 Cor 1:6-7), has been deeply quenched (1 Thess 5:19). In so many churches the Spirit has become an agency “sent from God” to help us enjoy a prosperous life in the here and now. 

What scholars call the “apocalyptic and eschatological” framework of the New Testament has been abandoned as alien to present concerns. Instead of the resurrection marking the beginning of the End of the world it becomes reduced to our individual hope for future personal salvation, instead of the Spirit bringing encouragement to a group of tiny, poor and persecuted churches (1 Cor 1:26) our congregations have been radically conformed to this age.

Revelation is particularly important in jolting us back to the “apocalyptic and eschatological” we need today. John repeatedly tells us that it was “in the Spirit” that he had “the revelation of Jesus Christ” which makes up the visions of the book (Rev 1:1, 2, 10 cf. 4:2; 17:3; 21:10).

From Pentecost on we are all called to see “in the Spirit” and live out the dimensions of the end-time kingdom come in Christ.

When, for example, Peter heals the cripple by the temple gate his sermon doesn’t stay fixated at the level of this man’s personal restoration by faith in the name of Jesus but he goes on to preach that it is by the power of Christ that God will restore order to the whole creation (Acts 3:16, 21).

Such life transforming perspectives “in the Spirit” (Acts 4:8) are barely comprehensible today and Paul testifies why in Romans 14:17. In saying, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking” he picks up words Jesus used to indicate ignorance of the imminent Second Coming; as in Noah’s day people will be “eating and drinking” as normal when the flood of divine judgement bursts upon the world (Matt 24:38-39).

Go to your average reasonably sized church and check out their nice cafe, our preoccupation with “creature comforts” is incompatible with the presence of the other half of Romans 14:17, “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” We shouldn’t expect foretastes of the  eternal kingdom which has broken into history in the resurrection if we are devoted to this world. We need a new encounter we the one who was always living “in the Spirit”.

Jesus the End Man

After his Spirit-anointed baptism (Acts 10:38) Jesus was “led by the Spirit in the wilderness” where the devil showed and offered him “all the kingdoms of the world” (Luke 4:1, 5).  But being “in the Spirit” Christ vision by faith of the Father’s future gift of the whole universe was far sharper than anything visible in this world (cf. Heb 11:1ff.). An incident in Luke 10 gives us further insight into Jesus life “in the Spirit”.

When the excited disciples return with joy from their mission trip saying, ““Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”, Jesus straightaway replies, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.””

Then he “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth…All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.””  (Luke 10:17ff.).

Jesus is powerfully aware in the Spirit that he shares the universal Lordship of his Father. But he also knows this Lordship can only be realised by his death and resurrection.

Only in taking away the old order in the cross and rising in the new creation (Acts 17:31; Rom 8:10; Heb 9:14; 1 Pet 3:18) can Jesus himself be absolutely immersed “in the Spirit” as the apocalyptic “last Adam” (1 Cor 15:45) who has become a “life-giving spirit” imparting to the Church a share in his own unlimited everlasting new life “in the Spirit”.

The Church in the Spirit

In Christ” every part of the Christian life is to be conducted, “in the Spirit” (Rom 8:9). Paul’s comment, “no one can sayJesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:3) is expressly set in a culture where there were multiple gods and lords demanding submission (1 Cor 12:2).

This ancient problem of divided loyalties between the true Lord and idols has re-emerged with particular potency in our time (1 Cor 8:5-6; Isa 26:13 cf. 1 John 5:21).

Whilst to “worship in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24) in the New Testament refers to inspired charismatic worship united with the heavenly assembly in the context of a life and death struggle with the forces of evil (1 Cor 11:10; 14:26; Eph 5:18-19; Col 3:16-17; Heb 12:18-24; Rev etc.), the famous “worship” churches of our day are noted for their worldiness.

Whilst in the Paul and Jude “praying in the Holy Spirit” is set in a situation of a bitter last time conflict with evil powers demonic and heresies (Eph 6:18; cf. Jude 17-20) in our time it has been reduced to some sort of help from the Spirit to pray. Whilst for Paul Christian “fellowship” and “love” “in the Spirit” (Phil 2:1; Col 1:8) are fruit of the power of the gospel victory of Jesus and a sharing in the heavenly family, weekly church going today has become just another an option.

There’s little sign that we believe in the Spirit “sent from heaven” (1 Pet 1:12). What is lacking amongst us; the New Testament answer is surprising.

What is Lacking

The Corinthians were a messed up group but they were “not lacking in any gift” (1 Cor 1:7) in a supernatural way that embarrasses our orderly church meetings. The Galatians were on the verge of heresy but God “giving them the Spirit and working miracles” amongst them (Gal 3:5).

What ties these accounts together with the powerful manifestations of the Spirit in the book of Acts is faith (Acts 3:12-16; cf. 4:9-12; 14:9; Rom 12:3, 6; Gal 3:2-5). Not faith in general but in the resurrection of Jesus.

The outpouring of the Spirit to those who believe makes perfect sense when we remember the promise of Jesus. ““vs.37 If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. vs.38 Whoever believes in meOut 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.”(John 7:37-39)

When Jesus was mightily preached as “glorified” through death and resurrection (John 12:27-33; Acts 3:13) the hearers put their faith in someone who was presented by the Spirit as the beginning of the restoration of the whole universe (Acts 3:21; 2 Cor 5:17).

With such a vision the hearers “saw” that in Christ God is “bringing to nothing things that are” (1:28) that “the appointed time has grown very short… the present form of this world is passing away.” (7:29-31). As Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 7 buying, selling, marrying, mourning and rejoicing about this world has become completely secondary to the Spirit-filled life of the kingdom of God. This is the vision you receive “in the Spirit” and it’s this vision which has been lost to our churches today.

Whereas in the New Testament the space between the resurrection and the anticipated Second Coming is filled with the presence of the Spirit to comfort, guide, correct and empower its worldly weak socially marginalised churches (Acts 9:31; 19:21; 20:22; 1 Cor 5:3-4; 1 Pet 4:14 of the day (1 Cor 1:26), the churches we know have conformed to this age (Rom 12:1). As such they cannot live and see “in the Spirit”.

CONCLUSION

In working on this series on the “disappearance” of the manifestations of the Spirit in the Western Church I have come to a very unpalatable conclusion.  

God is judging us because we have fallen away from a faith-filled heart that the Father has glorified Jesus in the resurrection as the display of his righteous power.

We have turned away from the righteousness of God in the gospel to be received by faith (Rom 1:16-17).

Because of this the Spirit has been withdrawn (cf. Isa 63:10; Rev 2:5; 3:16).

This withdrawal of the Spirit is of great consequence but it cannot possibly be permanent (Rom 11:29), for the absence of the glory of the divine presence is for a greater purpose.

As the Lord has done many times over the millennia the withdrawal of regular supernatural manifestations is a corrective on the Western Church today to make us jealous (cf. Deut 32:21; Rom 11:11, 14).

Jealous for what though?

Firstly for what we know the Spirit did in New Testament times, secondly for what he has done in past revivals, thirdly for what he is doing in non-Western nations today.

This jealousy isn’t designed to move us to try to imitate these moves of God, but to humbly seek the glory of the risen Lord who is doing such marvels (Acts 2:33), to grant us repentance and faith for the outpouring of the Spirit no matter what the cost (cf. Acts 11:15-18). 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: Alive@5 St Mark’s | 27th  May, 2018

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 27th  May, 2018

      

Related Link: 

Where has the Spirit Gone? Part 1: Groaning is a Gift for Glory

Where has the Spirit Gone? Part 2: The Spirit of Righteousness

Where has the Spirit Gone? Part 3: In the Spirit

Where has the Spirit Gone Part 4: Laying on of Hands

Call and Gifts

Jeremiah 1 vs.4-10 (ESV)

4 Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,

5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” 7 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
and whatever I command you, you shall speak.

8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.”

9 Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.

10 See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Romans 12 vs.3-8 (ESV)
3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Luke 3 vs.21-22 (ESV)
21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 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.

I used to teach that God calls us to perform a particular task and gives us the gifts to perform that task. This is true, but such a task-centred approach is hopelessly inadequate to express the depths of what it means to be called in Christ. 

For example, in giving instructions about marriage and singleness Paul says, “I wish that all of you were as I am (unmarried). But each of you has your own gift (charisma) from God; one has this gift, another has that…. let each person lead the life… to which God has called him.” (1 Cor 7:6, 17).

A Christian is called and spiritually gifted to be either single or married but this is not a call to a mere task but to a profound state of life.  Marriage and singleness, like every part of life, are a “call” to serve God’s great “purpose… to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (8:28-29), many brothers and sisters just like him.

The subject of the call and gifts of God is so intimately related to Jesus that only the Lord can teach us about them in depths of our being (cf. Ps 42:7). In outlining Israel’s rejection of the gospel Paul can still say about who they are, “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Rom 11:29).

The call and gifts of God stamp us with an indelible identity. For us they reside in the core of what it means to follow Jesus.

A Brief History of Calling

God’s original call, ““Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion” (Gen 1:28), established the life vocation of humanity. Adam and Eve were to communicate God’s communication across the world by means of his supernatural gifts and presence.

When however Satan deceived human beings to seek their own glory and purpose (Gen 3:5) they abandoned the glorious call of God and no longer sought his spiritual gifts to fulfil this call (Rom 3:23).

This has left lost people with a “future shaped blank” inside them, a blank which they will try to fill in with all sorts of optimistic hopes infinitely less wonderful than the purposes of God e.g. big win on Lotto, job promotion, holidays, retirement. The Lord of all however cannot be silenced and keeps issuing a call which shapes and reveals the character of our true human identity.

The Bible has many famous call stories. Abraham called from his homeland to a land of promise (Gen 12:1- 3), Moses at the burning bush (Ex 3:1- 12), the boy Samuel (1 Sam 3), Isaiah in the temple   (Isa 6:1- 13), the prophets Jeremiah (Jer 1:4 – 10), Ezekiel (Ezek 1:1ff.) and  Amos  (Am 7:14 -15), the apostles  Peter, James, John  by the Sea of Galilee   (Mk 1:16- 20; Luke 5:1-11), Saul (Paul) on the road to Damascus  (Acts 26:12 – 18).

There is no record of any human qualification, initiative or legitimate objection to God’s call in these stories. Strikingly, in almost every case the called person expresses a deep sense of inadequacy. I’m a poor speaker says Moses, a sinner says Isaiah, too young says Jeremiah and so on (Ex 3:13; 4:1,10,14; Isa 6:5; Jer 1:6- 8; Am 7:14; Luke 5:8).

When confronted by a genuine call of God we naturally feel shamefully disqualified from, as Paul puts it, “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14). When the great Scottish Reformer John Knox received a call to be a pastor he burst forth into tears ran out of the room and withdrew from society for days.

When called to ordination the famous preacher George Whitfield exclaimed, “I am unfit to preach in thy great name, send me not, pray, Lord.” We are all incompetent to be called of God but the call itself contains a grace which enables us to accomplish it (cf. Rom 1:1; 1 Cor 1:1; Phil 2:13).  To best understand the inner reality of calling and gifting we must talk about Jesus’ own call.

The Call of Jesus

The Old Testament prophesied of the coming Servant of the LORD called from the womb of his mother to bring light to the nations (Isa 42:6; 49:1). Jesus’ calling may be from eternity but it is first manifested at 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).

Jesus’ own call story echoes multiple Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah; the language of sonship drawn from Psalm 2:7 confirms to Christ he has a vocation from the Father to rule the nations; the expression “beloved Son” from Genesis 22:2 testifies that he must complete Isaac’s call in Gen 22:2 to be a sacrificial lamb (cf. John 1:29).

The gift of the Spirit identifies him as the empowered Servant of the LORD of Isaiah 42:1 who in the delight of God will bring justice to the nations. Every dimension of the life of Jesus marks him out as called and chosen and faithful (cf. Rev 17:14).

As soon as Jesus obeys his own call at baptism he manifests authority to call others to be his disciples; an authority reached completion when he was raised from the dead following his great obedience to the call of the cross (Mark 1:9-15, 16-20; Matt 28:18-20).

The Call of the Heart

To be called by Jesus involves a full sharing of his life and supernaturally gifted ministry; “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor 1:9).

This inclusive communion with Christ explains why the New Testament frequently links our calling to glory; “To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thess 2:14 cf. 1 Thess 2:12; 1 Pet 5:10; 2 Pet 1:3).

Our call is as extensive as the identity of Jesus himself; “do not be ashamed”, Paul says to the Thessalonians, “vs.8 of the testimony about our Lord…but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, vs.9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Tim 1:8-9). Whilst we experience the call of God at a certain point in our lives the origin of our call is as ageless as Christ himself (cf. Eph 1:4).

Looking at our call through the lens of Jesus own call is the key to understanding; as Jesus was called the holy Son of God from his conception (Luke 1:32) it follows that prophets and apostles had an overwhelming consciousness they were set apart by God before birth (Jer 1:4-5; Gal 1:15).

This foundational reality is not limited to special saints; Psalm 139 testifies God formed all of us in our mother’s womb and laid out the course of our lives (Ps 139:13-16). To have insight into these realities will amaze and overwhelm us.

Christian service through the gifts of God is not a part of life but an expression of the life of Christ. Called to be like Christ our lives are not our own but lives on a mission (Rom 8:28 – 29; 1 Cor 1:9). Immersed in prayer Hudson Taylor had a sense that God had accepted him for some special service, “A deep consciousness that I was not my own took possession of me which has never since been effaced.” (1 Cor 6:19-20). He was called to be the pioneer of Protestant mission in China. The call of God is deeper than life itself.

I remember some years ago going through a period of unease about where I “fitted” in the Church. Just before an appointment I received a card which had a picture on it of a flower unfolding and with multiple coloured stripes on its side. (This reminded me of a revelatory experience I had years before concerning the wisdom of God.)

Then in the appointment I was given a prophetic word to the effect; “None of us know who we are, God is opening to you who he knows you to be”. Immediately I had a profound sense this was true and the Lord was going to give revelations to open my heart to express his glory. God’s call is a call to do good to others through the gifts he gives us, in obeying this call we discover who we are in Christ.

We receive the gift of our true identity and discover that the Lord has already formed our hearts in relation to the particular task to which he has entrusted us. Which is why the task is not a “job to be done” but an expression of our/Holy Spirit’s passion for Jesus.

We are joyfully astonished to find that the call and its gifts perfectly fit, not what we think about ourselves or what others think of us, but how from eternity the Father has seen us and how he has planned to form us in the likeness of the beloved Son with whom he is well pleased and to whom he has given the Spirit. All so wonderful! But only the suffering God’s call brings can teach us these things.

Call and Comfort/Suffering

The cost of all ministry is an involvement in the work of the cross e.g. 2 Cor 4:7-12. The struggle to obey the call to discipleship is not just the resistance of our rebellious humanity but a special sharing in the struggle of Jesus in Gethsemane to obey the will of the Father (Mark 14:36).

The glory of exercising the gifts of God is that while they are costless to their recipients they always involve a cost to the bearer of the gift. Genuine pastoral care in the likeness of the crucified Christ involves empathetic pain (cf. Gen 1:26; Heb 5:2), bringing words of judgement involves a pain in having to cause pain to others (e.g. 2 Cor 13:1-10), there’s agony when men and women reject the gospel (cf. Luke 13:34-35), and so on.

Such pains are unavoidable because we share in the calling of Jesus, who said; ““Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”” (Luke 24:26 cf. Eph 3:13)

CONCLUSION

In a wickedly deceptive hour when people are taught they can define their own identity the difficult but glorious truth is that God’s call alone establishes our true self-understanding.

The man in the Gospels who confidently said to Jesus, ““I will follow you wherever you go.”” (Luke 9:57) failed to become a disciple.

But when it is revealed God’s call in Christ is overwhelming and irresistible; “the love of Christ leaves us no choice, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. But for Christ, who died and was raised for them.” (2 Cor 5:14-15).

Obedience to the call of God in Christ is his glorious remedy for the shame of originally rejecting his vocation for our lives. And we can rest in the truth, as Luther put it, “If God has need of you he will surely call you.

If all these things are so wonderfully true so why then do we find such passivity in relation to the presence and power of the call and gifts of God across the Church?

Some haven’t been taught that all believers are called and gifted (1 Cor 7:7; 1 Pet 4:10), others are tangled up in a worldliness that excludes paying heed to the difficult call of God (Matt 6:21).

The most inwardly destructive opposition to living in the call and gifts of the Lord is our inclination to listen to the voice of our own conscience and the opinions of others about who we are rather than listening to the voice of God.

Let’s turn aside from every evaluation of our ability to perform a task that God might put before us, and turn to the one who alone has all the ability to call and gift us for a ministry tailored to our true identity, Christ. 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: Alive@5 06th May, 2018

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 06th May, 2018  

  

Related Link: Where has the Spirit Gone?

Part 1: Groaning is a Gift for Glory

Part 2: Call and Gifts

Part 3: In the Spirit

Part 4: 

Compromising with and giving respectability to evil

ETHICS

Click to enlarge

I Watched “Taking Sides”, a 2001 movie telling the story of the investigation and trial of Wilhelm Furtwangler, the famous conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, who naively or willingly helped to support Hitler by giving a civilised, respectable, artistic face of Nazism to the world with Nazi hierarchy attending concerts – just like other civilised peoples.

Art/music has nothing to do with politics Furtwangler said. And so he was silenced and was silent in a time of crisis.

But it would have been better if, at some point during a broadcast concert, for him to have suddenly stopped and condemned Hitler and the others to their faces.

He says he didn’t know but the fact is that he also did not want to know.

He knew that people who disagreed disappeared.

Could such a stand have alerted the world and the German people earlier? Could it have resulted in a wider revolution among the German people? He wasn’t married. Yes, he also might have just “disappeared”. Could he have made such a sacrifice for the honour of his country?

Maybe only if he was a Christian.

What relevance does this have for today with the Church?

Do we need a “Confessing Church” that will resist, confront and even condemn? How best might we do that?

…… Sometimes you just gently teach
…… 
Sometimes you preach with invitation
…… 
Sometimes you confront and challenge
…… 
Sometimes you have to condemn
…… 
Sometimes you have to drive the money-changers out of the temple
…… Sometimes you have to walk with Christ to Calvary.

How, in the context of the sometime, do we make such choices?

How do we evangelise when we fail to tell truth?

How do we evangelise when we fail to warn of approaching danger to our kids? When we fail to protect?

SOMETIMES WE HAVE TO MAKE CHOICES.

Do I remain silent in this situation?

Do I say “this is wrong”?

Are there times when I have to say “this is evil”?

And if I am unable to make such declarations (for myriad reasons) then can I hold up the need for choices? Here is a crossroad – I have to make a choice in my own mind as to which is right and then when it becomes necessary in my speech and behaviour. (Sex, drugs, stealing, abortion, suicide etc)

But then we need to know what and where the crossroad is. Where there are crossroads in Christian behaviour we need to know what they are and we need teachers/mentors/pastors to inform us and in a changing world continue to inform us – the watchmen. And we need to know the principles on which we can make such choices. And we need to be equipped, prepared and strengthened to face the consequences of those choices – to lose our family, our friends and to be hated as Jesus was hated.

The King of Kings is born in Bethlehem and the heavens are open to wide-eyed shepherds.

Sing, dance, exchange gifts and good wishes. Forgive, be at peace with one another. There is something bigger than ourselves.

The King of Kings is born in Bethlehem.

 L Dunjey