Compromising with and giving respectability to evil

ETHICS

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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

Proclaiming Truth – Confronting Evil, Real and Fictional

Sometimes the horror of evil is too much for the mind to take in and more than we need to know. But the knowledge that such exists is enough to provoke action. Remember the Army general who, upon being confronted with the horror of German extermination camps at the end of WWII who said “take photos, lots of them” because there will come a time when people will not believe us.

It was out of that and the other horrors of Nazism that the nations of the world met together in 1948 to ensure that these atrocities would never again be repeated and that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was formed and speaks to us so clearly today e.g. in article 18

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. see… (UDHR)

Similarly, article 18 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1976 (ICCPR) declares the right to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching. see… (ICCPR International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) particularly noting that Article 4 states this to be a non-derogable right – one that cannot be overridden even in national emergency.

For further detail on this and the relevance to freedom see submission to The Expert Panel on Religious Freedom by Medicine with Morality Org. 

• THERE are times when we need to understand the times and know what to do, like the Men of Issachar (1 Chronicles 12:32).

• THERE are those that need to be informed, those that need to inform (yes, our preachers included) and those that need to participate in the confrontation even at the risk of being, in turn, condemned by others for the proclamation of truth.

It is here then, this sometime, this horror, that the realisation is obvious – THIS IS NOT OK.

We try not to dwell on the detail but the horror compels action.

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.

CONFRONTING GRATUITOUS, FICTIONAL EVIL

In contrast then is the use of gratuitous, fictionalised violence that is in some literature, frequently not essential to the plot (in that sense, gratuitous) and even when it is essential, the detail is not. We must also say, in this instance THIS IS NOT OK.

However, the reality is that it is frequently presented as BEING OK and is included to attract and titillate.

Reading about sexual violence in history – rape in war, sexual slavery (even today) – should drive us into action against such.

But reading, and watching, gratuitous detailed sex – and yes, violence as in sadomasochistic sex – has the potential because it is presented as fictional to attract us into the story as fantasising participants – and ultimately acting out the story.

Such images destroy innocence and can lock in to neural pathways with life-long consequences in sexual thought and behaviour, demeaning of sex as God gave it, and to the wonder of marriage. It is far more than we need to know.

The inclusion of such fiction in a reading list in a Christian school represents a “failure to protect” – the condemnation of the church by the Royal Commission – and a “leading of little ones into sin”, the condemnation by Jesus in Matthew 18:6. To justify such on the grounds of artistic merit or the real world or preparation for exams is wide of the mark.

We have an obligation to ourselves and to the world to think of “good things” – as a man thinketh, so is he – aware of the fact that both “good and evil increase at compound interest” (CSLewis).

The Message expresses it well

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Philippians 4:8.

The consequences if we ignore this kind of advice are both psychological and spiritual. We need to acknowledge that what we fill our minds with influences our thoughts and actions. Violent thought that we deliberately let into our minds fuels further violent thought. Truthfully, deep inside ourselves, we are aware that such exposure does us no good – it is not uplifting; it does not spur us on to greater things; it does not facilitate our enjoyment of people or the simple pleasures of life.

There is a world of difference between understanding and acting on real world evil and evil presented as fiction. The latter – even if meant to awaken re real evil – should not be detailed and should not be presented to immature minds.

Lachlan Dunjey 26 April 2018.

Cities of Blood

INTRODUCTION

Whilst attending the usual mid week prayer meeting in the CBD I was struck by the scarcity of city-workers to intercede for the welfare of our city (Jer 29:7). The people of God will gather to hear a famous speaker, and in some places assemble in large groups to “worship” i.e. sing, but I don’t know of a single Spirit-inspired ongoing mass prayer gathering in Perth.

When Billy Graham visited Australia in 1959 preparations for a move of God were laid by hundreds of prayer meetings across involving over 40,000 prayer partners from all denominations and prayer meetings of up to 5,000.

This from a population of 10 million!

The spiritual need is much greater today, why then so little prayer? 

The immediate answer is the huge increase in wealth in our country over the last 60 years; but there are much deeper issues. Basically, the life of the godless city has invaded the Church; examining the origin of the first city will disclose how the Western Church has been taken captive by the City of Man.

The City built to satisfy the needs of fallen humanity always opposes the City built for the glory of God. The inability of believers to resist the seduction of the City of Man is the root cause of the prayerlessness engulfing the Church today.

BLOOD TAKEN

The City of Man is founded on the shedding of innocent blood. As punishment for murdering his brother Abel, Cain was sentenced to be “a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth(Gen 4:12). But leaving God’s presence he disobeyed the divine verdict by settling in the land of Nod, where he built the first city (Gen 4:16-17).

The secular city is an invention of man to relieve the pain of the loss of God’s glorious presence.  

Luther summed up the dark dynamic of city building by describing Cain’s city as “the first foundation stone of the kingdom of the world, in which the beast bears sway”. Cain’s city was a point of unity, security and protection for his family as a substitute for fellowship with God.

As rebellious humanity’s greatest achievement the city is the site of its supreme rebellion. All the great cities of the Bible, Nineveh, Babylon, Rome, bear the same blasphemous trade mark, “I am and there is no other” (Gen 11:4; Isa 47:8; Zeph 2:15; Rev 18:7).

Idolising their self image proud cities feel no need for God. In their ruthless lust to expand such cities always shed innocent blood (Nah 3:1). Australian cities grew through shedding of the blood of our Indigenous inhabitants.

Its wealth and power render the fallen city tremendously seductive (Rev 14:8), but because fear is in its foundation this city it is always restless. vs.20the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. vs.21 There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”(Isa 57:20-21). In contrast to the City of Man the true rest of the City of God is the natural state of the Church.

BLOOD GIVEN

Since the blood of Christ brings universal peace (Col 1:20) Hebrews makes Christ’s blood central to the life of the City of God; “you have come…to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem….and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.(Heb 12:22, 24).

Taken by violence Abel’s blood cried out to God for vengeance leaving Cain the city builder with an ineradicable sense of guilt. Through price gouging, profiteering, back stabbing, ladder climbing and self-selling God’s wrath and guilt penetrate the life of all secular cities.

But Jesus’ blood freely shed cleanses from guilt, releases from fear of judgement and delivers peace in the face of death (John 10:17-18). With hearts sprinkled by this blood the Church partakes of an eternal peace the secular city, whatever its wealth, cannot enjoy (Heb 12:22; 1 Pet 1:1-2).

In Christ we know, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

Julian of Norwich

In the End God’s uninterrupted presence will fill all things (Hab 2:14).The light of Christ which daily shines on our lives is nothing less than the radiance which shall forever illuminate the heavenly Jerusalem, “the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.(Rev 21:23). The restfulness of the Church reveals to a disturbed world that the only place of true refuge and security is the City of God.

CHURCH UNRESTED

When the contemporary Church seeks to harmonise the City of Man with the City of God, by political alliances, or using business principles and the practices of the social sciences, it necessarily loses its peace.

This exposes the heart of our contemporary prayerlessness.

For whilst the City of Man labours for a living (Gen 4:12) the City of God manifests itself through prayer for a coming kingdom (Matt 6:10). The Church is called to be a sign of a Kingdom which builds a lasting City (Heb 11:10).

Only the power of the cross can renew the people of God according to this divine vision.

On the cross Jesus was stripped of all earthly benefits so that he could only pray; his blood crucifies all personal desire. Consequently, the absence of prayer in the Church is a sign that it has fallen prey to desiring he pleasures and comforts of the City of Man (Rev 17:4). Dazzling as these enticements may be they can never impart rest.

God’s way for his people out of this bind is the paradoxical form of the cross.

THE PERSECUTED REST

Only a Body whose unity, security and protection are exclusively in Christ can enjoy true rest and unconditional peace.  

Such a Church is always an afflicted Church.

Revelation expounds this marvellous reality.

Imprisoned for Jesus, John is “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day(Rev 1:10).  On the Day that is when God terminates this present world order (Joel 2:11, 31; Amos 5:18-20; Zeph 1:14; Mal 4:5; Acts 2:20; 1 Thess 5:2; 2 Pet 3:10).

Harassed and Spirit-filled, John is enjoying a foretaste of the end-time transformation of everything. He expects his hearers in the persecuted churches to experience something of the same prophetic presence of the soon returning Jesus (Rev 1:3; 22:7, 12, 20).

Jesus promises that on the Christian who conquers this world he will inscribe,

the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which descends from heaven”.

The power of this reality can be imparted in the Spirit now.

The triumphant Lord of the Sabbath rest has delivered us from the seductive powers of the cities of this world (Mark 2:28 cf. Deut 5:15; Ezek 20:10-12).

The peace which the people of God are called to enter is liberty from the pressures to conform to the City of fallen Man (Heb 3-4).  

The blood of the Lamb has conquered all these powers (Rev 5:5).  

CONCLUSION

  Stop shopping for satisfaction, including shopping for an ideal church

  Stop striving for success, influence or promotion.

  Stop trying to be someone for God.

ASK THE SPIRIT TO HELP YOU MAKE JESUS YOUR ONLY DESIRE and you will come to know, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” Such insights are incomparably more wonderful than anything the secular city can give you, and they will move you to……pray.

May the Lord grant us this wisdom, which is a share in the wisdom of the work of the cross whose blood alone builds a City that can never fail our needs. Hallelujah, what a Saviour! 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 22nd. April, 2018

Author: Dr. John Yates

Related Link: Nil

Unbelief

Scripture Reading: Num 13:25-14:4, Ps 78:9-22, Heb 3:12-4:2 & Mark 6:1-6

 

INTRODUCTION 

In the Gospels, Jesus is said to be amazed only twice; at the great faith of a Roman centurion who believed he could heal his sick servant at a distance and at the unbelief in his hometown synagogue of Nazareth (Matt 8:10, Mark 6:6).

Given this reversal of natural expectations we shouldn’t be surprised that mass conversions are taking place amongst religious groups long opposed to the gospel e.g. Muslims, Hindus, but almost nowhere in the established churches of the Western world.

Familiarity with the Jesus message usually seems to breed unbelief.

Whilst doubt is a state of mind where a person with a divided heart (Ps 86:11) wants to believe but struggles to trust God (cf. Mark 9:24), unbelief is stubborn resistance to believing.  Unbelief is a conviction that God won’t keep his word.

The magnitude of the unbelief that confronted Jesus in Nazareth is extraordinary. This was the town where he grew up, played as a child, walked the streets, attended weddings, worshipped with the community and built some of their houses and furniture. If “familiarity breeds contempt” how have we become immunised against the profound reality of Jesus in our midst (cf. Rev 3:14 ff.)?

THERE ARE VARIOUS SURE SIGNS OF WHEN A PROFESSING CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY IS AFFLICTED BY UNBELIEF.

1. A lack of expectation that the Lord will speak to us through scripture and in prayer; this is reflected in the huge decline in these devotions across the Australian Church.

2.  A lack of expectation that the Lord can convert anyone, even people close to us; this is reflected in the malaise of evangelism in the Anglican Church.

3. Low anticipation that the Lord will dramatically change our own lives when we come to church; hence the irregular attendance patterns across all brands of Christianity.

Unbelief is a powerful problem amongst us that urgently needs to be addressed.   Inexplicable

JESUS THE FOCUS

Our story in Mark 6 follows on a list of healings performed by Jesus so by the time he arrives in Nazareth everyone knew his teaching was extraordinary and his miracles astounding; “many who heard him were astonished, saying,Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands?(Mark 6:2). Then follows a turn of events that illustrate the baffling evil of the human heart.  The conversation rapidly descends from what the Nazarene’s don’t understand to what they clearly comprehend; “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?And they took offense at him.(Mark 6:3).

Jesus is just too ordinary; we know this guy’s occupation, his mum, his brothers and sisters are with us; the tone turns dismissive, contemptuous and hostile.

Jesus’ status as an itinerant preacher and miracle worker doesn’t fit in with the man they are familiar with, so they exclude him from their village fellowship and worship. (In Luke’s version of this story they even try to kill him (Luke 4:28-30).)

These harsh judges of Jesus were decent religious people who lived good lives, worked hard and took care of their families. But when it came to Jesus they were “know alls” closed to heavenly revelation about the identity of their fellow Nazarene. Familiarity had bred a dreadful contempt for the Saviour of the world.

These Nazarene’s were country folk who couldn’t imagine someone with the status of a prophet could be raised up by God from amongst them and manifest himself in such ordinary circumstances. Perhaps they knew the opinion of the famous teachers of the day quoted in John, “Search the Scriptures and see for yourself—no prophet ever comes from Galilee!”” (7:52). They were scandalised by Jesus’ apparently everyday appearance and origins. This is the offense that will come to its completion at the cross (1 Cor 1:23).

In the progressive rejection of Jesus in Nazareth we are witnessing, to quote Hebrews, a “hardening of the heart by the deceitfulness of sin(3:13). The harshness of their verdict upon the blameless Son of God was the consummation of a long history of rebellious Israel refusing to believe in the word of the Lord (Num 13:25-14:4; Ps 78:9-22; Ps 95:8; Heb 3:8, 12, 15, 19; Heb 4:7)

Like their fellow Jews under Roman rule they were desperately seeking a Messianic deliverer, but when he was sent in the form of their own lowly flesh and blood they couldn’t conceive Jesus was this Saviour (John 1:11).

In the synagogue of Nazareth, and finally on the cross, the Jews could not believe that this ordinary looking man was “the Lord of glory(Mark 15:32; 1 Cor 2:8). Their hearts were closed against the Word of God (Acts 28:27). Now Jesus has something to say, and what he says should strike fear into the hearts of all easy going believers.

“A prophet is not without honour, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”(6:4). Hometown, relatives, family –  all those naturally close to Jesus dishonour him. In refusing to accept Jesus’ status as a prophet God’s covenant community in Nazareth showed itself ashamed of her Lord (cf. Mark 12:4).

Therefore upon this proud, prejudiced, disrespectful congregation fell this Old Testament warning, “those who honour me I will honour, and those who despise me shall be despised(1 Sam 2:30 cf. Mal 1:6). Because they dishonoured Jesus “he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them.(Mark 6:5)

Surely these orthodox Jewish worshippers who knew Jesus in the flesh had a heart of unbelief deeper than that of Pharaoh at the time of the Exodus; if the mighty works of God progressively hardened his heart (Ex 7:13, 14 etc.); any dazzling display of the supernatural by Jesus in Nazareth would have aggravated the crowd’s stubbornness and intensified their guilt.

If the scarcity of the God’s mighty acts of power in Nazareth 2000 years ago was an act divine judgement it must be the same amongst the churches of Perth today. But there are exceptions. I can think of three groups who are seeing the mighty hand of God in Australia today; outback Indigenous communities, Iranian refugees and drug addicts.

Like the revival that broke out through Jesus’ conversation with an immoral woman amongst the despised Samaritans (John 4), none of these folk take up a lofty place and look down on the lowly country carpenter from a tiny town crucified in weakness on a cruel cross (cf. John 1:46).

The simple trust of these broken communities means they are honoured by the Father with wonderful works of power (cf. 2 Cor 10:5). Coming to the end of our story in Nazareth we are confronted with a provocative testimony to Jesus’ personal state of mind.

And he marvelled because of their unbelief.(Mark 6:6). Jesus was astonished, shocked, and stunned that his own people would reject his witness. If only they had the humble faith to see Jesus as the almighty Lord-in-flesh they could have been saved. But their image of God didn’t fit with the true image of God who stood before them (Col 1:15).

Nothing has changed.

Most Australians are apathetic about God, which means they think that God, if he exists, is apathetic about them. Where people exhibit a spiritual hardness it’s because deep down they believe that God’s heart towards them is hard (Matt 25:24-25). Can we conceive that Jesus is astonished at our unbelief? Or are our hearts so hardened to the tender reality of the humanity of the Son of God as to deny this could be?

Can we hear Jesus saying to us, as he did to his disciples who because of their unbelief could not heal a sick boy, ““O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?””.

The story goes on to record the plea of the boy’s father whose faith had been shattered by the powerless of the disciples, ““I believe””, he cried out to Jesus; “help my unbelief!”(Mark 9:19, 24).

Why are we not hearing such a desperate cry across the churches in our city today?  

Are we are too Anglican to call out to Jesus like this, too proper, too self-controlled, too deaf to the one who cried out so loudly for us on the cross (Mark 15:34). Too unbelieving to think our cries will make any real difference!

CHRISTIAN DISBELIEVING

Who are the people most likely to deny their unbelief….the most unbelieving.

In praying about this incredibly stubborn spiritual problem, from which we all suffer, I have come up with an “index of unbelief”.

If unbelief expresses itself in the dishonouring of Jesus then signs of unbelief are present in every action where we appear ashamed of the Lord.

Our unbelief manifests itself whenever we hold back from helping people hear about, meet and grow to be like Jesus.

These outward signs are pretty obvious, but our Bible readings for today point to an even more profound level of unbelief, one residing in the deepest interior of the human heart, the place where both belief and unbelief originate (Rom 10:9; Heb 3:12).

The most profound sign of unbelief, one which I encounter again and again in ministry to people from across the Body of Christ, is an inability to enter the rest of God (Heb 3:12-4:2).

God’s rest not some passive state whereby we wait for a mysterious outpouring of the Spirit.

It is the opposite of a spiritual activism which seeks to make things happen (something from which I suffered terribly as a young preacher). The true rest of God in Christ is entered by faith and is an unforced expectation/assurance that God is going to act in the presence and power of his kingdom to reveal the honour of his Son amongst us (cf. Heb 11:1).

CONCLUSION

If those in Jesus’ home town who knew him in the flesh couldn’t see God in him, and if his first disciples could not believe that God would have his Son crucified in order to raise from the dead, what hope is there for us in our unbelief (Luke 24:25-26)?

Unbelief is a power, a power so deep and invasive that only God’s mercy in Christ can overcome it.

It’s not hard for us to believe that God works miracles in other times and places and through other people; but we have little to no expectation he can do these things here and now through us.

We can believe that “someone else somewhere else” can evangelise, pray for the sick and see them recover, cast out demons in Jesus’ name, intercede with great authority, sacrificially give of finance, time etc. (James 5:16; cf. “Mark 16:17-18”) but we can’t see ourselves doing these things.

The way forward out of such a spiritually stuck condition does NOT involve a focus on our own locality and wretched state of unbelief (Rom 7:24). Such self-initiated self-examination is never helpful. 

The healing that our hardened hearts need can only come from heaven, we must ask our Father to send us his Spirit to stir us up to plead for the honouring of the name of Jesus (Luke 11:13; John 16:14).

As there are signs of unbelief and divine judgement, so there are signs of the favour of God upon a people.

Any congregation which makes it their first priority, however great the cost, to uplift and honour the name of Jesus will see mighty acts of power so that many lost and broken men and women come to marvel at the revelation of Almighty God made flesh (Heb 2:9). 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 15th. April, 2018 @ St Marks

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 15th. April, 2018 |   

Related Link: Nil

The Cross in Hebrews

• Isa 55:1-9 ESV  

• Ps 37:23-26 ESV  

• Heb 9:23-28 ESV  

• Mark 10:35-45 ESV

INTRODUCTION 

The booming popularity of the gay pride parades testifies that we are living in the midst of an unprecedented cultural revolution; but it takes the sort of discernment given to us by the book of Hebrews to recognise that the ultimate goal of this revolution is not political, social or moral but to take our eyes off Jesus as the only one who can deal with guilt and shame (Heb 12:2 ESV etc.).

Only those who consciences have been cleansed by the sacrificial blood of Christ to enjoy intimacy with God can truly distinguish good from evil (Heb 5:14 ESV; Heb 9:14 ESV).

The author of Hebrews establishes this bold claim by contrasting the new covenant (Heb 8:8,13,15 ESV; Heb 9:15 ESV; Heb 10:24 ESV) with the old sacrificial system that “made nothing perfect(Heb 7:29 ESV).

The repeated sacrifice (Heb 7:11,18-19,23 ESV; Heb 10:1,4 ESV) of bulls and goats could never “take away sin(Heb 10:4 ESV) but constantly reminded the convicted conscience (Heb 9:9 ESV) that sin was still blocking fellowship with a holy God (Heb 12:14 ESV). And where there is guilt there is always a fear of death and judgement (Heb 2:14-15 ESV; Heb 10:27 ESV).

The old covenant worshippers were left with what Hebrews calls in one place the “consciousness of sin” and in another a “guilty/evil conscience(Heb 10:2,22 ESV). Hebrews speaks to the struggling inner world of human beings suffering from guilt and shame about the power of Christ’s blood to liberate us from bondage.

Real guilt is about past sins; and “sin” is much more than a “mistake” or “bad choice”. Sin brings a sense of a seemingly unbridgeable distance from God.

Guilt is “entire impotence with God” (P.T. Forsyth). 

Guilt is a negative power that disconnects the human spirit from the Spirit of God, destroys intimacy with the heavenly Father and leaves a sense of impending judgement.

True guilt possesses such depths that no earth bound religion can bring intimacy with “the majesty on high” (Heb 1:3 ESV).

To know peace with God sinners must have access to heaven (Heb 13:20 ESV).

Hebrews teaches us that Jesus gives us this access; “we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places…(Heb 8:1-2 ESV). Jesus is the priest who has provided his people with unlimited access to God in heaven.

WHO IS THE SACRIFICE

One of the reasons Hebrews is such a great book is that it shows a profound understanding of the connection between who Jesus is and what he does, between Incarnation and Atonement.

The power of the sacrifice of Christ hinges on the status of Jesus as the one through whom all things were made, the one worshipped by angels and the enthroned God who rules the universe forever(Heb 1:1-12 ESV)

This exalted understanding of the person of Christ under-girds how he is able to save frail humanity by becoming one of us e.g. “Jesus for a little while was made lower than the angels. Since the children (of God) have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil –”(Heb 2:9,14 ESV)

Jesus enters into our wretched state so we might share in his exalted state; “because he himself has suffered when tempted…. yet without sinning…. he is able to help those who are being tempted….” .(Heb 2:18 ESV; Heb 4:15 ESV)

To deliver us from “lifelong slavery” to “fear of death” (Heb 2:15 ESV)

Jesus entered into our “fleshoffered up prayers and pleadings to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard…” (Heb 5:7 ESV). Having been delivered from the authority of death through resurrection Jesus can liberate us from the terrors of dying.

What we might call the shape of the gospel is extraordinarily clear in Hebrews.

Jesus became as we are that we might become as he is.

The Son of God took on weak mortal humanity to perfect it; “In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that Godshould make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.(Heb 2:10 ESV cf. Heb 5:9 ESV).

This language of perfection is repeated throughout Hebrews, even about us; “by one sacrifice he (Jesus) has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy(Heb 10:14 ESV cf. Heb 10:1 ESV; Heb 12:23 ESV).

The word “perfect” will trigger off unhelpful thoughts in the mind of anyone whose conscience is not clear; I struggled for years to understand how a perfect God could relate to my weaknesses and confusions.

Every time I thought of God’s perfection he seemed a long way away.

Thankfully “perfection” in Hebrews isn’t about ethical blamelessness but about authority to approach God.

The word Hebrews uses “perfect” comes via the Greek Old Testament where it refers to the consecration of priests and their right to draw near to God’s holy presence to present an acceptable sacrifice (Ex 28:41 ESV; Lev 8:33 ESV; Num 3:3 ESV etc.)

As Jesus is the consecrated High Priest to God in heaven (Heb 2:17 ESV; Heb 3:1 ESV etc.) so believers are set apart to share in his uninhibited priestly access to God (Heb 3:1 ESV).

This is our “perfection”.

The key to our entry into this glorious state is the blood sacrifice of the cross.

Hebrews pronounced emphasis on “blood” (20x) has nothing to do with an outdated primitive way of understanding the world but an unrivalled insight into the workings of the guilty conscience.

BLOOD SACRIFICE

The sacrifices of the Old Testament involved a threefold movement. Firstly the animal needed to be killed to obtain its blood, then the priest took the blood into a holy place, finally the blood is sprinkled on the altar/mercy seat (Day of Atonement)/congregation before God to purify the people of sin and seal the covenant (Lev 5:9-10; 16 cf. Ex 24).

So Jesus, who is uniquely priest and victim in one, having been crucified “offered himself(Heb 7:27 ESV; Heb 9:14,26 ESV)by means of his own blood” in the “holy placesin the presence of God on our behalf(Heb 9:12, 24 ESV).

Hebrews uniquely testifies that beyond the realm of earthly religion (Heb 9:22 ESV)heavenly things” have been purified “once for all(Heb 7:27 ESV; Heb 9:25-26 ESV) by the blood of Jesus.

The contrast between the old sacrificial system and the new couldn’t be stronger. Through “the eternal Spirit(Heb 9:14 ESV) an offering has been presented in heaven, not earth, God’s own Son was offered, not a dumb beast.

The perfectly willing obedient Son who placed himself in solidarity with us (Heb 2:10-11,17-18 ESV; Heb 4:15 ESV) was “offered once to bear the sins of many(Heb 9:28 ESV; from Isa 53:12 LXX). Since the heavens have been cleansed we can spiritually join Jesus there in the worship of his Father (Heb 8:1-2 ESV; Heb 13:15 ESV).

It’s easy to understand why earthly things need cleansing, the world’s always a mess, but why do heavenly things need purification?

The reason isn’t completely clear.

Perhaps the blood of Christ needed to purge away the traces of the angelic rebellion which started in heaven (Rev 12)?

Perhaps “purify” means something like “dedicate” the heavenly sanctuary so that it is made accessible to previously unclean sinners (cf. Ex 29:36 ESV; Lev 8:15 ESV; Rev 21:27 ESV).

Whatever the exact explanation these words ring true;

“As the blood was brought in every vestige of a thought of sin was removed out of God’s presence; the heavens are now clear and bright, and the love of God can shine out in noonday glory.”

A. Murray

This means something wonderful.

If you have asked Jesus to forgive you whenever the heavenly Father looks at your life he is not the least bit focussed on your sin.

To put this another way; the conscience of God has been satisfied/put at peace by the blood of the cross (Heb 13:20 ESV).

NO WORRIES

Unlike the Old Testament faithful (e.g. Heb 11:13,39-40 ESV) the great privilege of the Christian is  the ability to “draw near to God(Heb 4:16 ESV; Heb 7:19,25 ESV; Heb 10:22 ESV; Heb 11:6 ESV) freed from “the consciousness of sin(Heb 10:2 ESV).

Because of the blood of the cross guilt is no longer a real problem.

As by faith we follow Jesus who passed through the heavens (Heb 4:14 ESV; Heb 7:26 ESV) into “heaven itself” (Heb 9:24 ESV) we have “come to”, as Hebrews 12 tells us, countless angels, a joyful assembly, and a place without fear because of “the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”.  

The blood of the murdered Abel cried out from the ground for vengeance (Gen 4:10 ESV), but the blood of the cross speaks to our consciences from heaven about full forgiveness (Heb 10:22 ESV).

The blood of Christ cleanses away troubled memories in the presence of God.

What God has promised to forget we must not remember (Heb 8:12 ESV; Heb 10:16-18 ESV).

If guilt means spiritual impotence the cleansing blood of Christ imparts spiritual boldness.

Through our ascended priestly mediator (Heb 8:6 ESV; Heb 9:15 ESV) heaven is accessible; “we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus…. with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need….” (Heb 4:16 ESV; Heb 10:19 ESV).

Satan’s incapacitating accusations about past sins have been rendered powerless by the blood of Christ

(Heb 2:14-15 ESV).

We can say to the Lord, “I love you.” And unselfconsciously pray, prophesy and testify about Jesus in the presence of others (cf. Heb 11).  In a day when people are crazily obsessed with being proud of themselves, e.g. the social media phenomenon, we are called to declare that only Christ crucified is worthy of our Pride.

CONCLUSION

If Hebrews’ portrayal of the sacrificial work of Christ heralds an unprecedented religious revolution why is there so much spiritual paralysis and passivity in our churches?

Our core problem cannot be, to quote Hebrews 5:2 ESV, that we are “weak, wayward and ignorant” (Heb 5:2 ESV) because these are the very frailties for which Jesus our heavenly High Priest is interceding (Heb 7:25 ESV; Heb 9:24 ESV).

Neither is our root problem that we are an ethically unholy people.

If moral blamelessness was a prerequisite for the presence of God then many churches in the New Testament would have never experienced the miraculous e.g. Corinth (1 Cor 12:1-14:40 ESV); Galatia (Gal 3:1-6 ESV).  

Any believer who understands that in Jesus we have been set apart from impurity to purity to fellowship with God will move in spiritual authority (Heb 1:3 ESV; Heb 2:11 ESV; Heb 3:1,14 ESV; Heb 6:4,12 ESV; Heb 9:14 ESV; Heb 10:14 ESV; Heb 13:12 ESV).

Our ‘Core’ ‘Root’ Problem

Let me tell you what I think our root problem is.

Feeling they are not good enough to get close to God masses of sincere Christians are suffering from a sort of “spiritual performance anxiety”.

This is just another way of saying guilt is holding back the release of God’s presence in the churches. And underneath guilt lies the deadliest sin of all, unbelief (Heb 4:2 ESV).

You cannot cleanse away unbelief by any human action– by serving the church, praying more, reading the Bible more, giving more, trying harder….the remedy for guilt is to believe in what God has already done for us in Christ (Heb 11:6 ESV).

By faith we draw near to God and enjoy the benefits of the cross (Heb 10:22 ESV).

But, you might be asking, how does faith grow?

As a young Christian this is a question that just about drove me nuts. Thankfully Hebrews has an answer to this question; vs.1let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, vs.2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:1-2 ESV).

Having believed for us, been tempted for us, suffered for us, shed his blood for us and gone into heaven on our behalf Jesus has once for all dealt with shame and guilt!

If guilt and shame are alive in you – stop looking at yourself, stop trawling over your past, stop comparing yourself to others….come confidently to Christ to find grace, mercy and full forgiveness in time of need. (Heb 4:16 ESV)

He will never fail you(Heb 10:23 ESV) 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 4th March, 2018 | @ St Marks

Author: Dr. John Yates


MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 4th March. 2018 |       |


Related Link: messageofthecrossau.com

Groaning is a Gift for Glory

INTRODUCTION

Like the prophets I go through periods where things are exceptionally bitter for my spirit (Isa 22:4 ESV; Jer 13:17 ESV; Lam 3:15 ESV; Ezek 3:14 ESV; Zeph 1:14 ESV). In several public meetings last week I was left despairing at the dullness of Christian leaders concerning what the Lord is doing in the world (Heb 5:11 ESV).

Western civilisation is in the midst of an accelerating and unprecedented transition from a Christian to a post Christian society. Much is being written about this, but it’s hard to find someone speaking God’s word to the spiritual roots of our cultural crisis.

Secular humanism, radical feminism, cultural Marxism and the LGBTI lobby are easy targets for Christian apologists, but in the end its God we have to deal with. It’s the strong hand of the Lord in his wrath and fury which is handing our culture over to its many moral insanities (Ex 6:1 ESV; Neh 1:10 ESV; Jer 21:5 ESV).

As the Lord sent plagues upon the Egyptians and an army on Babylon to move his people out of cultural captivity, so he is releasing a plague of indecencies today for the same purpose. Bob Chapman defines discipleship as, “Extreme lives for extreme times.” Extreme times surround us, but extreme lives are rare. Thankfully there is a great plan in God’s heart to extremise our responses to the wickedness of our days.

A SELECT HISTORY OF GROANING

Under the deepest pressure the soul groans (Job 24:12 ESV) and its Maker has compassion on intense pain. When the Lord heard the groaning of the people of Israel in Egypt he “knew” their condition and delivered them (Ex 2:23-25 ESV; 6:5 ESV).

In the terrible time of the Judges “the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning” and repeatedly saved the nation (2:18). As real people the psalmists unashamedly present their broken hearted groaning as a ground for divine deliverance (Pss. 5:1 ESV; Pss. 12:5 ESV; Pss. 32:3 ESV; Pss. 38:8 ESV; Pss. 79:11 ESV; Pss. 102:5, 20 ESV).

Revelation concerning the apostasy of Israel makes the prophets groan, ““As for you, son of man, groan; with breaking heart and bitter grief, groan before their eyes.(Ezek 21:6 ESV cf. Jer 45:3 ESV).

Only those who sigh and groan over the idolatries and immoralities of Jerusalem will be spared from the coming wrath (Ezek 9:4 ESV).

Groaning is something normal for God’s people in this wicked world.

When the Lord allowed the communists to conquer China and the radical Moslems to take over Iran the little churches in these nations groaned in despair. The result has been an unprecedented spiritual renewal because their cries of agony were a share in the power and wisdom of the cross (1 Cor 1:24 ESV). But few seem to value the gift of groaning today.

NEW CHURCH, OLD CHURCH, CRUSHED CHURCH

New Church,
offers a total spiritual experience; but its failure to move the saints to leave worldliness behind shows it is not putting people in touch with the power of the new creation. Someone sent me a Hillsong clip recently. I actually liked the song, but, to speak dramatically, since there was “no blood on the stage” it really was a rather powerless spectacle.

Old Church,
on the other hand panders to the safety of theological and political conservatism; but the apostolic preachers “turned the world upside down …acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”” (Acts 17:6-7 ESV cf. John 12:19-15 ESV).

Both forms of Church fail utterly to grasp, or, to be grasped by, the present crucifying of Christianity as we have known it for centuries.

Both forms of Church are substitutes for the utterly uncompromising kingdom power of God. I despair of folk unwisely praying for revival, asking God to do a work in the world when his priority is to more intensely bring the power of Christ’s death upon the Church (1 Pet 4:17 ESV).

If groaning is truly spiritual it must come to us from heaven (John 3:27 ESV).

THE SPIRIT GROANS

Paul teaches, “the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth(Rom 8:22 ESV). Most potently “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words(Rom 8:26 ESV).

God himself is groaning in order to bring in the new creation, the centre point of which will be “the revealing of the sons of God” by resurrection from the dead (Rom 8:19-23 ESV).

Groaning is an essential part of what it means to be an adopted child of God in the likeness of Christ himself. 

If groaning is strange to us we need to go back to the source of all holy groaning, the cross. It is commonly observed that Jesus’ cry from the cross, ““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34 ESV), is a quote from the first part of Psalm 22:1 ESV.

What we often miss is that the psalmist goes on to describe his cry as, “my groaning”. Jesus and the Spirit were perfectly united in groaning from the cross for the birth of the new creation.

The time when there will be cause of groaning (Rev 21:4 ESV).

Jesus groans on the cross were not for himself, but for the salvation of the world. They were vicarious glorious groans, groans heard by the Father and answered by resurrection from the dead (Acts 13:34 ESV Rom 1:4 ESV).

Whoever groans in the Spirit of Christ will certainly receive an answer to their prayers.

GIFTED TO GROAN

Groaning in the S/spirit is a sign and share in our future glorification. vs.16The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, vs.17… heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.(Rom 8:16-17 ESV).

Spirit inspired groaning over this ageing creation is a sign not of defeat but that we will inherit the whole world (Rom 4:13 ESV). Such mourning is a share in Jesus’ grief for a lost race and a witness to a genuine maturity in Christ (2 Cor 12:21 ESV).

The absence of mourning in our Church meetings is a sign that we have been desensitised to the absence of the presence of God.

True spiritual intimacy is much deeper than knowing the Bible, exercising spiritual gifts, growing to Church or being blessed. The intimacy the Father seeks involves us embracing groaning in the Spirit of Christ to his glory (John 4:23-24 ESV). How can this ever happen?

CONCLUSION

Holy groaning is supernaturally birthed.

No one can initiate a groaning in “the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings” (Phil 3:10 ESV). We need the strong hand of the Lord on us to move us to groan (Isa 8:11 ESV; Ezek 3:14 ESV).

Through Jesus we understand this is the sacred weight of a crucified hand that may crush but will never destroy us (2 Cor 8:1 ESV).  More than this, through the travailing Spirit we can receive a vision of the new creation coming through our afflictions that makes all our struggles seem worthwhile (cf. Luke 24:26 ESV).  

Only insight into these majestic eternal purposes can wean us off both “New Church” and “Old Church”.

Whilst surrounded by Christian bodies who by their size, success or dullness  will keep resisting the Lord’s crucifying  work the Lord has a remnant called to be radically different (2 Cor 4:10-11 ESV; Gal 2:20 ESV).

The strange wisdom of the cross (1 Cor 1:25 ESV) beckons us to call on our heavenly Father for the gift of groaning in Christ.

This would be a genuine Spirit-filled experience (Rom 8:26 ESV).

When the Father answers this prayer, when we begin to hear shameless groanings in prayer in our churches, the revival we need will have begun.

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 25th Feb, 2017 |

Author: Dr. John Yates


MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: n/a |       |


Related Link: Nil

Serving the Lord over the Powers

Dan 10:1-21 ESV

Eph 1:15-22 ESV

INTRODUCTION

Last week Dale focussed on how the death and resurrection of Jesus delivers us from sin and death; this week we want focus on the Lordship of Christ over the supernatural realm of evil.

Our readings illustrate that that these powers are engaged in a cosmic war against the kingdom of God (cf. Col 1:13 ESV).

In Daniel, an angelic messenger reveals to the prophet that the answer to his prayers for Israel has been opposed by an evil prince in the heavenly places controlling the Persian Empire and which is in conflict with the angels of God.

These are the sort of beings in Paul’s mind when in Ephesians he describes Jesus as raised “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named(Eph 1:21 ESV).

The Lordship of Jesus over the powers is twofold, but only its second form can help us.

Jesus is Lord over the powers as their creator; “by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.(Col 1:16 ESV).

Christ is sovereign as God but this isn’t something he can directly share with sinful human beings.

What really matters to us is how Jesus conquers the evil powers as a human being.

The New Testament testifies this was a central purpose to Christ’s coming. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.(1 John 3:8 ESV).

And that he achieved this victory by depending upon the Holy Spirit; “if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.(Matt 12:28 ESV cf. Acts 10:38 ESV).

Jesus deeply longs to share his triumph over the powers of evil with his people. To understand how he does this we first need to examine the basis for the devil’s power over sinners (Luke 4:6; Luke 22:53 ESV).

ACCUSATION

This exists inside the realm of guilt and the accusation which gave it birth.

All human beings live under a web of constant judgements.

From parents to children, spouses to each other, in the workplace…; take blame out of politics and what would you be left with?

The origins of blame and shame began when the serpent accused God of lying about the penalty for sin, and promised we could become our own judges of good and evil.

The results are disastrous and unavoidable; accusation out of control. (Quite unexpectedly I was accused on 3 separate occasions of character failure this week; by Christian brothers. I believe it was connected to what I was preaching this morning, and tonight.)

When Jesus described the attitude, “Let me take the speck out of your eye.”, he knew we are all natural accusers.

Matt 7:4 ESV

From Eden on Satan has endlessly accused God of failing to properly care for his children, and few people fully reject his lies. He mercilessly slanders fallen humanity in its shame and lost glory of being “losers” without a destiny. (Social media bullying….).

Two apocalyptic visions bring this out dramatically.

1. Zechariah is given a vision of the heavenly courtroom with “Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord”, Joshua is clothed with filthy garments (3:3) symbolising his shame and uncleanness, “and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.(Zech 3:1 ESV).

2. Even more graphically the devil’s role as the Accuser appears in John’s vision of heaven in Revelation 12:1-17 ESV; but this scene thankfully pictures the overthrow of the satanic basis to accuse.

Because of Jesus’ ascension into heaven, “the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.(Rev 12:7-9, 10 ESV).

Through the work of Christ no evil power has access to the tribunal of God to convict us of guilt. Paul excitingly puts it like this, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?….neitherangels, principalities and powers” can “separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus(Rom 8:33, 36-37 ESV).

Jesus’ words about the victory of the cross have come to fulfilment, vs.31Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. vs.32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”” (John 12:31-32 ESV). The work of Christ totally removes any judicial/legal basis for Satan to slander us.

THE VICTORY OF CHRIST

Hebrews doesn’t hold back in describing the power of the devil, and his defeat. vs.14Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he (Jesus) himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might bring to nothing the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, vs.15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.(Heb 2:14-15 ESV).

People quite often think about dying and death, and even when they don’t all anxiety is a precursor of death. Psychology can never completely comprehend these things for the fear of death is a sign of lost glory.

Paul Tillich put this well,

We have lost our eternity … we have lost it by sinful separation from the Eternal; and … we are guilty of this separation…
We are slaves of fear, not because we have to die, but because we deserve to die!”

Paul Tillich

And it is the relentless accusations of the devil, usually directed through other fallen humans, which keeps the fear of death alive.

To push into this realm more deeply 1 John tells us, “fear has to do with punishment”, or in J.B. Phillips dynamic translation, “fear always contains some of the torture of feeling guilty”. And ultimately this is fear of “the day of judgment(1 John 4:16, 18 ESV).

Paul closes the circle for us, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.(1 Cor 15:56 ESV).

Law breakers are made to feel guilty and worthy of death by the endless accusation of their own consciences and by those around them (cf. Rom 2:15 ESV) – all sown into the world by Satan.

Only Jesus was never caught up in this web of sin, law, guilt and death because he could never be justly accused of anything.

He was tempted by the devil (Matt 4:1 ESV; Heb 4:15 ESV) but as a sinless person his conscience was perfectly free of guilt before God and others (John 8:46 ESV). There was in the guiltlessness of Christ a weightiness of glory so wonderful we cannot yet comprehend (cf. John 1:14 ESV; John 2:11 ESV).

This was at the root of the Lord’s supreme authority over evil.

Approaching the time when he knew the devil would to deliver him to death (John 13:2 ESV cf. Luke 22:3 ESV) Jesus speaks with the utmost peacefulness; “the ruler of this world is coming and he has nothing in me.” i.e. nothing on me (John 14:30 ESV).

The devil had no claim on Jesus because he was blameless.

Since Jesus is the completely obedient Son the crucifixion of “the Lord of glory” by evil forces is devoid of all lawfulness (cf. 1 Cor 2:8 ESV).

In Christ “suffering for our sins… the righteous for the unrighteous(1 Pet 3:18 ESV), in his enduring the fullness of the penalty of sin and wrath in our place, the devil is stripped of any basis to accuse God’s people.

As Paul puts it about the victory of the cross, God vs.14forgave our trespasses…by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. vs.15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in the cross. (Col 2:14-15 ESV).

Before the tribunal of God the accusations of powers of evil have been rendered empty by the blood of the cross. More than this, believers in Jesus are located in a new identity.

ABOVE

We have no trouble confessing that Jesus is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named(Eph 1:21 ESV), but we struggle to accept that we are “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus(Eph 2:6 ESV).

We feel ashamed and guilty so we reckon in some way we must be and can’t comprehend our identity is heavenly!

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

  A person who has died with Christ cannot be condemned, i.e. “condemned again”

(Rom 6:8 ESV; Rom 7:4 ESV; Gal 2:20 ESV).
  Since we are raised up with Christ no power can legitimately accuse us of sin before God

(Rom 8:33-34 ESV).
  We accept all this by faith, but faith has certain tangible fruit.

PEACE

When you came to Jesus you exchanged fathers. Jesus described the devil as a father figure who has been murdering people “from the beginning”, this is a consequence of our sin (John 8:44 ESV; Rom 6:23 ESV). But when the Father of Jesus becomes your Father you are taken out of the realm of death-as-a-punishment and can live free of fear (Rom 8:15 ESV; Gal 4:7 ESV).

The fruit of this great salvation is peace.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.(Rom 5:1 ESV). Peace with God means sharing in Christ’s reign of peace. Our Father is “the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant(Heb 13:20 ESV).

The blood of the cross has reconciled all things to Godmaking peace(Col 1:20 ESV).

Many believers rightly love this scripture, “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.(Rev 12:11 ESV), but they don’t quite seem to understand how this victory it is to be practically outworked.

Paul exhorts the Roman Church, vs.19I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. vs.20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.(Rom 16:19-20 ESV).

This is a reversal of the Genesis 3 story of how false wisdom about good and evil destroyed humanity’s peace, and it appropriates the ancient promise that a messianic deliverer would crush the head of the serpent (Gen 3:15 ESV; cf. Rev 12). Christ’s victory takes place amongst the people of God as they live cross-shaped lives and “strive for peace with everyone(Heb 12:14 ESV).

The New Testament repeatedly exhorts us to “pursue peace” (Rom 14:19 ESV; 2 Tim 2:22 ESV; 1 Pet 3:11 ESV) as a sign that before the throne of God the powers had been pacified by the blood and victory of the death of Christ.

What this means for our lives is made blatantly clear by Paul’s pastoral counsel; vs.10Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, vs.11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.(2 Cor 2:10-11 ESV).

By imaging its identity in Christ as a people beyond accusation (Col 1:22 ESV; Jude 1:24 ESV etc.) the Church enforces Jesus’ victory over evil powers in this world. We must as a body prioritise being “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace(Eph 4:3 ESV).

CONCLUSION

Because Jesus deeply wants to share the glory of his victory over evil the testimony of the triumph of believers is a constant theme in the New Testament (1 Cor 15:56-57 ESV). We are “more than conquerors through him who loves us(Rom 8:37 ESV; cf. 1 John 2:13-14 ESV; Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26 ESV; Rev 3:5, 12, 21 ESV; Rev 12:11 ESV; Rev 15:2 ESV; Rev 21:7 ESV). God has continued to allow Satan and the powers of evil to keep wreaking havoc on the earth (1 John 5:19 ESV; Rev 12:12, 17 ESV) so that through the Church testimony might be given to the world, and to the principalities themselves, of the all sufficient triumph of the cross (1 Cor 4:9 ESV; Eph 3:10 ESV).

How should we respond to these things?

Let me start with an example that hopefully illustrates some spiritual truths.

It was the first night of an Indigenous Christian convention in Alice Springs on an oval with a sizeable crowd many of whom didn’t speak much English, and as soon as the event started all hell broke loose. The first thing that happened was that a young lady stood up in full view of everyone and started to strip, then two very big drunken men began to brawl.

I felt well and truly out of my comfort zone but seeing no one was dealing with these blokes and sensing I needed to act like Jesus I went to these guys and gently escorted them off the oval.

When I laid hands on them and prayed for them in the name of Jesus, they both fell to the ground under the power of God, twice in succession. When they got up they were like peaceful lambs.

Unfortunately the next night security was brought in to keep the peace by enforcing the law, so the trouble-making stopped and with it the manifestations of the victory of Christ.

This is a bit of a parable about the history of Western Christianity.

Where in the New Testament when the power of the Spirit is present evil powers involuntarily manifest themselves e.g. Mark 1:23 ESV; Matt 8:28-34 ESV; 10:1 ESV; Luke 4:41 ESV; Luke 10:17 ESV; Acts 8:7 ESV; Acts 16:16-18 ESV, over the centuries the Church has cultivated a well regulated society where people know the difference between right and wrong and are duly rewarded and punished.

We have forgotten how it was that when Jesus and the apostles came to town they spoke with power and authority to the root of evil and the results were remarkable (Mark 1:27 ESV; Luke 10:19 ESV).

Across the Third World believers natively understand spiritual conflict, but for us to embrace Jesus as Lord of the powers will mean radical re-discipling.

This is something only God can give us, and will give us if we are willing to pursue the victory of Christ and his peace.

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 18th Feb, 2018 | Alive@5

Author: Dr. John Yates


MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 18th Feb, 2018 |       |


Related Link: messageofthecrossau.com

Renaming “God”

Text: Ezek 16:8-22 ; Ps 104:14-35; Acts 14:8-18; John 13:1-15

INTRODUCTION 

“GOD”
MEANS WHAT?

There’s something dreadfully wrong when we hear Christian people talking a lot about “God” and not speaking much about “Jesus”, for scripture teaches us that whatever we truly know about God we know only through the gospel of Christ (John 17:3; Acts 17:29-31).

In our multicultural post-Christian society “God” can mean almost anything.

Many people will tell you they believe in “God” but their lives show no evidence of it; they’re what we call “practical atheists” (Ps 53:1); “Oh My God!” (OMG) has become a popular exclamation today but it certainly isn’t a prayer. And common language shouldn’t deceive us into thinking that the “God” of the Muslims is the Father of Jesus. In fact the Koran goes out of its way to deny Allah has a son.

There are places in the New Testament where even demons testify that there’s one God but that won’t keep them out of hell (Mark 5:7; Acts 16:17; James 2:19). The apostolic message is crystal clear, “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”” (Acts 4:12). The groundwork for a spiritual revival today must begin with a revival in speaking about Jesus! Such a transformation will never come unless we move beyond a spirituality tied to creation.

NATURE AND GOD

Ours is a land greatly blessed, I can recall the brilliant starry skies of outback Australia, the beautiful white beaches of northern Queensland, the grand vistas over the desert from the top of Uluru and the majestic forest as it comes down to the sea at Denmark. But no one turns from their wicked ways to worship the Father of Jesus (John 4:23) through contemplating nature.

We are like the pagans to whom Paul preaches, “he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”” (Acts 14:17). As a nation we have turned away from the Master Designer (Acts 17:27) living increasingly lawless lives. Against the backdrop of our marvellous climate and geography our spiritual dullness marks us out as an especially wicked people.

The other week a devout Christian friend and I, he’d grown up in one of those cold Eastern European countries, walked out of his house into the sunshine and brilliant blue skies over Perth and he spontaneously exclaimed. “This is paradise, and anyone who doesn’t think that is wrong.” Cf. Korean Christian arriving in Australia; “This place is like the Garden of Eden, no wonder people here don’t believe in God.”

Instead of a nation of grateful worshippers we are a country of complainers; we whinge about politicians, hospitals, schools, the police force, public transport… We are the people of whom Paul speaks in Romans who see God’s “eternal power and divine nature in the things that have been made” but “without excuse” wickedly refuse to “honour (God) him as God or give thanks to him” (Rom 1:18, 20-21).

Our rank ingratitude in the face of our material blessedness surely places Australia under a far more severe judgement than almost anywhere else in the world (Luke 12:47-48).

This terrible state began with a profound corruption concerning the identity of “God” in Eden.

WHAT’S IN A NAME? 

WHAT’S IN A NAME? That which we call a rose By any other word would smell as sweet;”

This might be true of roses but it is insidiously false when it comes to how the God of the Bible reveals himself in the foundational chapters of Genesis. Where in our English versions we find the word “God” used throughout Genesis 1 this is a translation of a Hebrew word (Elohim) that would be recognised by people outside of Israel.

From Genesis 2:5 on however we find the name “LORD God” (Yahweh Elohim) used, a name unique to Israel’s covenant relationship with their Redeemer, the personal name specially revealed to Moses (Ex 3:14). So when we read in Genesis 2:17; “the LORD God commanded the man, “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.””, we can see that Adam had an intimate personal knowledge of the divine will.

Then suddenly in Genesis 3 Satan enters the scene and with brilliant trickery debases the Word of the LORD by saying, ““Did God (Elohim, not Yahweh Elohim) actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”” (3:1).

By distorting language, the devil undermines the personal character of the commandment of the LORD.

When the dulled damsel replies, “God (Elohim) said”, not “Yahweh Elohim said” (Gen 3:3), Eve has already begun her Fall.

We know the rest of the story, Adam and Eve desire to be like “God” (Elohim) and lose the glory of intimate communion with the LORD’s (Yahweh’s) personal presence (Gen 3:7ff.; Rom 3:23).

Fallen human beings will always try to reduce “God” language to something manageable.

So it is that Indigenous peoples all over the world believe in a great Creator, but knowledge of such a distant deity never has power to save them from their idolatries.

Even Israel exchanged the glory of the LORD for the worship of other gods (cf. Ps 106:20). In deep pain the LORD/Yahweh exclaims; “she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal.” (Hos 2:8; cf. Ezek 16:8-22; Rom 1:23).

The sin of ingratitude is timeless. Before they entered the Promised Land the LORD warned his people, vs.17Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ vs.18 …remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth” (Deut 8:17-18). In our world children are taught, “You can be anything you want to be.”, you can construct your own gender, fashion your own identity. Adults stream to life coaches to “reinvent” themselves.

All such follies stand as signs of the judgements of God (Rom 1:21ff.). We should expect these sorts of things of the world. But when professing Christian people face retirement with a self-centred attitude, even a “bucket list”, which says, “We deserve it, we’ve worked hard for it.” we’ve conveniently forgotten we could never achieve anything apart from the gifts God has given us (1 Cor 4:7). Things are bad, really bad. So let’s turn to Jesus.

JESUS

Unlike us Jesus never forget who he was, where he had come from and where he was going. We read today in John’s Gospel, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God…” (John 13:3). Satan has led all humanity on a path to usurp creation from God (cf. Luke 4:6), but Jesus knew everything he had given to him by his Father (Matt 28:18; John 17:2). But he also knew his inheritance would come in a way radically counter to all the cultures of humanity, the way of the cross.

The depths of the sufferings of Jesus expose and challenge to the core all abuses of God-language. Have you ever heard another believer casually call the Father of Jesus “Abba”, or even “Dad”? Quite frankly I am not sure who’s these folks are talking to for their is a weightiness in calling God “Abba, Father” that is immeasurable.

The only place where Christ says “Abba, Father,” (Mark 14:36 cf. Rom 8:15) is in Gethsemane where he is being crushed to death under the sorrow of bearing the cup of God’s wrath on the sin of the world. In the utmost existential crisis of identity (Heb 5:7-8) Jesus’ soul understands that bearing the cup of wrath (Isa 51:17, 53:3; Jer 25:15; Rev 14:10) means losing the intimate personal covenant presence which has always empowered him to name God as “Father”.

The cross’s cry of dereliction, ““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34) is a revelation that under our judgement God the Son can no longer discern where he has come from and where he is going and it seems like nothing has been given into his hands. On the cross Jesus must embrace all of humanity’s distortion, misuse, and manipulation of the name “God”, in whatever language. An abuse for which we all deserve eternal condemnation (Ex 20:7). But the good news is since Christ’s death is a death in our place it means the death of our inability to truly speak of God.

When he was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father (Rom 1:4; 6:4) Jesus naturally began to speak of his disciples in a relationally supercharged way; “go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”” (John 20:17). A band of brothers and sisters who gather together, pray, and ministry in the name of Jesus immersed by the Spirit in the love of the Father is the very essence of the Church. A Jesus-centred Church is a normal Church, but this is a body formed only in the way Jesus own God-language entered perfection, through obedient suffering (Heb 2:10; 5:9).

CRUCIFIED EYES

A Christian friend visited me recently who has had a painful divorce a host of family problems a long history of depression. In conversation he shared with me his daily routine; thanking God for life and another day when he awakes, for food on the table, the car he has been given to drive, the friend he is on the way to see…..and on and on.

Beyond all human diagnoses he has power to live like this because being humbled by the Lord over many years he has come to see “God” through crucified eyes. He has been released from his own religious imagination and the distorting lens of culture, tradition and family influences to see Jesus and the Father more and more as they really are. He can testify that above all God is a crucified God. Only those who possess a vision of life (Acts 17:25) through the lens of the cross (crucivision) can understand and name “God” as he really is (cf. 1Cor 3:21-23).

Someone rang me the other day as part of a pastoral search for their church, and wanted to know what I could tell them about a certain minister. I don’t know the man personally but counselled they ask him what has been the most painful experience of life and what he had learnt about Jesus through it.

The revelation of who God is does not come through intelligence, personality, giftedness or achievements, but submission in suffering.

Many of us at St Marks have suffered in deeply painful ways, yet many of us find it difficult to talk to one another, let alone non-Christians, about JESUS. How can this change?

CONCLUSION

Firstly we must want to witness a dramatic shift in our speech. Satan has progressively encouraged the use of relatively inoffensive “God” language inside and outside of the Church to push out the name he hates above all other names, the only name to which he must submit, the name of….. (Mark 9:38; Acts 4:12; 16:18; 19:13; Phil 2:9).

Only the name of Jesus is filled with prophetic power to revive the Church and converting to save the world (Luke 24:47; Rev 19:10).

As I walked into a bookstore the other day which has 100’s of “God” titles, I spotted a book upon whose spine was, ‘LORD JESUS CHRIST (Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity)’.

I was instantly excited because the name of Jesus is inexhaustibly wonderful (Eph 3:8).

I had to pause when someone sent me a Spurgeon quote the other day; “Jesus- a gathering up of the hallelujahs of eternity in five letters”. Is that how you want to feel and speak about Jesus and is this the sort of Church we want St Marks to be?

Shortly we will set up our ministry teams for 2018; what they achieve for the kingdom of God in Bassendean and beyond will totally depend on their naming God in the way he has named himself, the God and Father of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2; 1 Pet 1:3 etc.). May it be our prayer to think and speak of God only in this way. 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 11th February, 2018 | St Marks

Author: Dr. John Yates


MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 11th February. 2018 |       |


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Driven Mad

“The LORD will strike you with madness and blindness and confusion of mind”

Deut 28:28
 

evil appears as good in the minds of those whom gods lead to destruction.(Sophocles c. 441 BC)

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.  [The Second Coming] (Keats)1)Poem “THE SECOND COMING”
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) “The Second Coming”

The Second Coming was written in 1919 in the aftermath of the first World War. The above version of the poem is
as it was published in the edition of Michael Robartes andthe Dancer dated 1920

INTRODUCTION

The gospel has power to convert pagan societies, and nominally Christian countries have experienced many revivals. No one however quite seems to know God’s plan for mass conversions in a post Christian nation like our own. For sure however there is no going back to the sort of society I remember in the 1950’s full of people who believed they were “good Christians” headed for heaven. I have long been teaching that the death of Western Christianity needs to be accepted as part of great divine design, but what might come next? “Surely the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7). So here is one of my expectations. Given that our nation will only turn to God through some terrible national crisis, the crisis coming, and in fact already upon us, is mental illness. This is a very painful subject, as there is mental illness on both sides of our family.

A MENTAL CRISIS

The Beyond Blue website testifies that “3 million Australians are living with anxiety and depression”.

In each year approximately one in five Australians will experience a mental illness, there are increased rates of psychological distress in youth and children, and so on. This is a crisis whose roots secular culture dare not diagnose.  What does it do to the stability of a child’s mind to be told gender is purely a choice and there are no boundaries to having sex, as long as the partner is consenting?

Such manifest moral insanity is escalating.

Pro-choice advocates insist that as the foetus is part of a woman’s body she has a sovereign right to terminate. With proposed Queensland legislation allowing for abortion up to nine months discussions emerged as to whether the cut off point to kill or save the child is when the head or head-and-shoulders have emerged from the mother’s body.

All around us addiction to social media is a breeding ground for pathological relationships in the place of genuine human intimacy. “Living on line” is a form of self-medication with “likes hits and clicks” an effort to self construct personal significance. This is a recipe for misery as humans created in the image of God were made for unmediated face-to-face relationships. The sociology is straightforward, the spirituality very difficult.

IDOLATRY AND JUDGEMENT

The prophets see idolatry as a crazy action creating a form of spiritual insanity, “A drought against her waters… For it is a land of images, and they are mad over idols….7 Babylon was a golden cup in the Lord’s hand, making all the earth drunken; the nations drank of her wine; therefore the nations went mad.” (Jer 50:38; 51:7 cf. Hos 4:7; Zech 12:4).  

Paul is categorical on the consequences of idolatry, vs.23they…exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man…. vs.24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to (all manner of moral and mental confusions)” (Rom 1:23-24).

When humans attempt to remake themselves after their own preferred image they are severely punished by the wrath of God.

The biblical writers are not ashamed to testify that insanity can be a sign of direct divine displeasure; “The next day a harmful spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house” (1 Sam 18:10). All this is rather general, but beneath so many of the mental troubles of our time is a primary act of rebellion.

Starting with cultural elites and popularised through the media “manhood” has become a symbol for domestic violence, sexual harassment, oafishness and a controlling patriarchy. The real target in this spiritual battle is God the Father.

Since it is through “the Father…every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:14-15) the ultimate source of all personal identity comes from God’s Fatherhood. Defame F/fatherhood and we are left floating about untethered from the eternity of our destiny.

Post-modernisms heavy burden of having to create your own identity, to “name oneself”, is too much to bear; it will drive you strange. Neither progressive nor conservative values can heal our heads, only Jesus gives a “sound mind” (1 Cor 2:16; 2 Ti 1:7).

JESUS

Jesus was so filled with the presence of his all loving Father that his godliness even led to his family wanting to seize him, saying, ““He is out of his mind.”” (Mark 3:21). Christ’s power to return crazed demoniacs to their “right mind” however proved that he alone is the true Normal (Mark 5:15).

But it is his death-and-resurrection that alone can restore our moral, mental and spiritual soundness. Jesus’ cry of dereliction, ““My God…why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34) is the cry of a perfectly whole person enduring the maximally distressed state of mind of those in “the outer darkness where men…weep and gnash their teeth” (Matt 8:12).

Christ takes into himself the horrors of hell. I have friends who when involuntarily admitted to insane asylums knew they were not alone in their cells. But Jesus had to suffer his mental torments cut off from the true source of all identity, the Father.

For empower our re-identification Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, the Son forever perfected in wholeness of mind on our behalf (Rom 1:4; 6:4). This has profound implications for life and ministry in the coming decades. I foresee a paradoxical/strange move of God.

TRUE STUPIDITY

With the intensifying fear of global warming, uncontainable epidemics and nuclear conflict, with a persistent drug problem, ethnic violence, and melting sexual identities etc., the mental disturbances of our time can only accelerate.

The ungodly have always accused the saints of stupidity.

“The prophet is crazy!

The ‘man of the Spirit’ is nuts!” (Hos 9:7, The Message);

“Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.”” (Acts 26:24.)

I foresee a time coming when only a Church whose values and lifestyle is utterly weird in the eyes of the world can provide a safe sanctuary for those being driven out of their minds by a demented culture under the wrath of God.

Once Western men and women slept soundly in the “simple” knowledge that God’s in his heaven/All’s right with the world. (Robert Browning). We can never return to that time, but in Christ we can know for sure who we are and where we are going.

By turning a mad world “upside down” the gospel message can once again impart sanity to the perishing (Acts 17:6). However something very difficult is required of us.

The coming of the Spirit in power brings a dreadful mental anguish of conviction of sin (Acts 2:37; 16:29-30; 2 Cor 7:9-11).

The Church will only become a sanctuary for the crazed when it willingly accepts a mental agony from the Lord breaking her from comforts, controls and worldly securities (1 Pet 4:17).

Then the resurrection power of the Father will heal many minds, inside and outside of the community of God.

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 7th February, 2017 |

Author: Dr. John Yates


MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: N/A |       |


Related Link: Nil

References   [ + ]

1. Poem “THE SECOND COMING”
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) “The Second Coming”

The Second Coming was written in 1919 in the aftermath of the first World War. The above version of the poem is
as it was published in the edition of Michael Robartes andthe Dancer dated 1920

Fighting On with the Lord of Hosts

INTRODUCTION

Christ is calling us to the spiritual warfare of prayer, fasting and suffering for his sake (Acts 5:41). Such militant action will only happen however as we are convinced that Jesus is truly the Warrior God (Ex 15:3; Jer 20:11). 

The Lord has recently been helping me overcome a personal resistance to talking about the Church as an army. 

First there has been the “defeat” of mainstream Christianity in the same sex marriage vote. On a natural level this seals the opinion of those in power that the leaders of God’s people are “yesterday’s men” and Bible-believing Christians are “on the wrong side of history”. 

The political resources available in an open democracy are clearly futile in halting the advance of godlessness amongst us.

We must discern from the ongoing retreat of the influence of Christianity in the public sphere that as the LORD of Hosts handed Israel over to heathen nations for defeat and exile so he has handed our nation over to dark powers.

To function as “soldiers” of Christ (Phil 2:25; 2 Tim 2:3; Ph 2) it is crucial we understand that the conduct of the army in which we fight is totally determined by character of the Commander whom we serve.

LORD OF HOSTS

279 times in OT

Lord of Hosts” is a fairly literal translation of Hebrew Yahweh Sabaoth; a title used for God 279 x in the Old Testament with the connotation to go forth or carry on war.

The NIV unfortunately loses this meaning with the translation, “LORD Almighty”.

Much closer is the sense, “Lord of Heaven’s Armies!” (NLT) or, “God of the angel armies” (The Message).  

The true God is Lord of all powers, seen and unseen (Gen 32:2; Josh 5:14; Isa 40:26; Pss 103:21; 148:2) and he demonstrates this repeatedly by giving victory in earthly battles (Deut 20:4); sometimes even against Israel (Am 3:13).

This Old Testament teaching is not the expression of a primitive spirituality Christians have outgrown. God’s own declaration in Isaiah makes this abundantly clear, “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name(Isa 54:5).

The Warrior actions of the Lord are an expression spousal intimacy! Whilst the language of Lord of Hosts is rare the New Testament (cf. Rom 9:29; James 5:4) the conviction of divine almightiness to fight for his people remains (2 Cor 6:18; Rev 1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7, 14; 19:15; 21:22).

However the way God wars goes through a radical transformation in the person of Jesus.

JESUS IS THE LORD OF HOSTS

Lord of
HEAVEN and EARTH!

Christ recognised his Father as “Lord of heaven and earth” (Matt 11:25) and the Great Commission teaches “all authority” has now been given to Jesus (Matt 28:18). Has Christ’s disowning of political and militaristic conflict, “turn the other cheek”, consigned the notion of the warfare of the Lord of hosts to the dustbin of religious history (Isa 50:6; Matt 5:39; 10:35-45; John 18:36)? No!

For when John identifies the glory of Jesus with the God who appeared to Isaiah in the temple he identifies Jesus as “the LORD of hosts” himself (Isa 6:3; John 12:41).

Only when Jesus returns will it be manifest to the world that a human being is the divine Lord of Hosts waging the ultimate warfare to destroy all wickedness.

As part of the armies accompanying the Lamb his Bride combat is an essential part of her bridal character (Rev 19:8, 11-20). But I have so far omitted the crucial dimension that totally transfigures our perception and commitment to the wars of the Lord, the cross.

If Jesus is the Lord of Hosts then it is as the Lamb of God he wages the conclusive battle against evil.

He overcomes the enemies of sin, Satan and death by himself experiencing what it meant to be the enemy of God (Luke 10:19; Rom 5:10; 1 Cor 15:26; 1 Tim 5:14).

Christ conquers by suffering as God’s enemy cut off from his covenantal privileges as Son and Messiah and under a decree of utter destruction (Mark 15:34; Rom 3:25; Gal 3:13 cf. Deut 7:2; Isa 34:2).

Through his death and resurrection Jesus has won a total military triumph; ““When he ascended on high he took a host of captives…. he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.” (Eph 4:8; Col 2:15).

As the infinitely jealous Bridegroom who has borne in himself “the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.” (Rev 19:15) Jesus continues to wage the war of God on earth, through his saints (1 Tim 6:12).

WAR BRIDE

That under the Lordship of Jesus our warfare is spiritual rather than material only makes it more intense (Eph 6:12ff.). As the angel armies served the LORD of Hosts under the old covenant so the Church, raised up in union with them to the heavenly places, fights with a wisdom and passion which is divine (Eph 2:6; 3:10, 15 James 3:13, 17).

The massive cosmic shift in the character of this war is solely determined by the character of cross, because the context of this warfare is persecution.

Throughout the book of Revelation Satan and the beast are “allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them” (Rev 11:7; 12:17; 13:7). God’s majestic purpose in the outwardly successful advance of wickedness is that by blessing and not cursing his enemies we become increasingly worthy of being married forever to the all conquering Lamb (Luke 6:27-29; 23:34; 1 Pet 2:23; 3:9; Rev 19:7-8).

CONCLUSION

As Jesus himself was perfected only through the conflict of the cross (Heb 2:10; 5:9; 7:28) so the wisdom the Church needs to successfully advance Christ’s kingdom against evil powers comes only through sharing in the Lamb’s War (Eph 3:10).

New Testament Christians only ever make with divine power (2 Cor 10:3-5). Who wouldn’t agree with that?

But once we understand the prohibition against fleshly force this excludes not only the Crusades of yesteryear but every form of soft selling of the gospel that denies the crucified Lord.

Tragically however most of the Church is stuck in a Sunday School level of spirituality.

Instead of enlisting in the total War of the Lamb hordes of passive believers present indisputable evidence that we don’t understand what we are fighting for (Rev 19:11)!

On this matter however the prophetic testimony of both testaments is crystal clear.

Overwhelmed by his vision of the LORD of hosts in the Temple Isaiah knew the purpose of his conscription into divine service was to witness “the earth full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa 6:1ff; 11:9).

In like manner the apostle John, seeing the same glory centuries later (Isa 6:3=John 12:41), now understand this majestic glory was the manifestation of a personal name, the name of Jesus (John 1:14).

Whoever has a revelation of the name of Jesus as the crucified Lord of Hosts will fight on…to the very End (1 Cor 2:8).

However personally uncomfortable we may be with conflict, to share the cosmic revelation of the glory of the crucified Saviour is absolutely worth fighting for! Let’s fight on, whatever the cost.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”” (Rev 2:7). 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 31st January, 2018 |

Author: Dr. John Yates


MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: N/A |       |


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