The Show-Off Spirit Rise Up

v.1 “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, v.2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw v.3…..the time is near.  v.4 John to the seven churches…: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, v.5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth…..

v.17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.”…. v.20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” ()

Rev 1:1 - 5; Rev 22:17; Rev 22:20

Background

After reading this part of my report to our AGM; “To release the expression of the diversity of gifts that Jesus gives to his whole Body remains a challenge into the future (Rom 12; 1 Cor 12; Eph 4). Most churches will never mature because they are afraid to enter into the seeming randomness which must precede an outpouring of the power of the Spirit of God.”, Ros asked me to speak on the topic of spiritual gifts. This immediately triggered personal connections.

The first two spiritual books I ever read were the Bible and The Cross and the Switchblade and the first five years of my Christian life were spent in a Pentecostal Church where the sick were prayed for, deliverance from the demonic practiced and prophecy and tongues regularly exercised in public services.

When I joined that church my family thought I had joined a cult, the culture shock was so great they came along to protect me and were all converted! In the decades following that time the Charismatic Movement in the traditional churches became inward and collapsed whilst amongst Pentecostals “worship” = singing progressively marginalised spiritual gifts pushing them out of Sunday meetings. We must seek a deeper biblical foundation for the exercise of the gifts from the one our spiritual ancestors laid for their time. Here is my approach.

Testimony

When at the start of 1 Corinthians 12 Paul states, “no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.” he is making a Christ-centred statement which underlines the significance of all the gifts (12:3).

Charismatic gifts are important because they communicate something of the reign of Christ through and beyond the local congregation.

This is emphatically how Peter explains Jesus’ relationship to the Spirit in his sermon on the day of Pentecost; “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, (Jesus) he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.” (Acts 2:33).

As ascended to heaven Jesus is “Lord of all” and has sovereign authority to pour out the Spirit of God upon his Church (Acts 10:36).

The gift and gifts of the Spirit are signs of the Lordship of Christ.

Just as Jesus had explained it before returning to the Father, ““when the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth…he will bear witness/testify about me.” (John 15:26).

All the gifts are designed to testify to Jesus, and using the language of Revelation 19:10, since “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” all these manifestations are, in the broadest sense, prophetic of Christ.

If the Spirit brings a word of wisdom and knowledge it is a communication of Jesus’ wisdom and knowledge (1 Cor 12:8; Col 2:3), if there is a healing or miracle it is a share in the power which raised Jesus from the dead (1 Cor 12:9-10), if tongues are “mysteries in the Spirit” this must be an expression of God’s mystery which is Christ and so on (1 Cor 12:10; 14:2; Eph 3:4; Col 1:27; 2:2; 4:3).

If this way of understanding spiritual gifts is correct, then the collapse of the manifestation of spiritual gifts in the Church represents a collapse of Christ-centredness. A collapse of relating to Jesus in a spiritual mode of understanding which desperately needs to be restored today. Paul’s introduction to 1 Corinthians points us to what this sort of spirituality might be.

Apocalyptic Gifts and Popular Culture

in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Cor 1:4-8

Compare the framework of thought behind these words to parts of my introductory scripture, “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.” (Rev 1:1-2) and it becomes plain that Paul and the Corinthians shared what we would call an apocalyptic worldview.

This is an understanding of the world which expects supernatural revelation from heaven and an in breaking of the power of a new world order. From an apocalyptic perspective spiritual gifts are a sign of a new creation that has come in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). This new world order is centred on the heavenly Lordship of Jesus (Rev 5ff.).

When Paul says, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Cor 12:7 ESV), it is not just a case that someone is helped or healed, but that in this way there is a revelation of the exalted glory of Jesus Christ through the work of the Spirit who is the one bringing in the renewed cosmic order.

The gifts of the Spirit are evidences of the identity and character of Christ in a world where the powers of darkness seem to reign and the Church is a misunderstood and persecuted minority.

Every manifestation of the Spirit is a tangible assurance that the Holy Spirit in the Bride of Christ is joining with her in a joint witness to the testimony of Jesus, ““Surely I am coming soon.” (Rev 22:17, 20 cf. Rom 8:16).

An intense apocalyptic framework like this is the regular atmosphere of the Early Church, was prevalent in various dimensions at the time of the Reformation and was the case with the revival of spiritual gifts in Pentecostalism.

The traditional Pentecostals I knew had sustained an expectation of the cosmic conflict between Christ and Satan and the soon End of the world and deeply believed in the necessity of all the gifts of God for spiritual survival and the advancement of Christ’s kingdom.

Times have radically changed. Charismatics became a part of the church furniture and formed their own groups that threatened no one.

Pentecostalism enjoyed great numerical and financial growth and power and inevitably adjusted to the dominant culture around them.

The idolatrous drive for respectability and influence proved incompatible with God’s radical Spirit-given presence to the poor, weak and marginalised. This is the state the Western Church today. There is however a way forward.

The Show – Off Spirit

The title of a well known book on 1 Corinthians 12-14 is called, “Showing the Spirit”. I think the Holy Spirit is “The Show -Off Spirit”; but in a good sense. Let me illustrate.

I was listening to a conversation between Merle and (pastor) Dale the other day. When she asked him, ‘Can I do a show and tell’ in the Sunday service?” we all know what this means.

Every time we get together the Holy Spirit wants to do a “show and tell” and he wants to show and tell Jesus.

Or, to put the same point from a slightly different angle, the Spirit of the Father wants to show off his Son.

This sort of scenario should not surprise us; the whole universe is filled with evidences for God.

As I was out praying in the early morning the other day with a full moon against a clear sky and shining stars this was gloriously unmistakeable. There are signs of the reality of God in creation, powerful signs of the kingdom of God throughout biblical history and spiritual gifts are signs of the sheer grace which is in Christ.

In the wisdom of God the Holy Spirit has been poured out from heaven to show Jesus and he does this in the most unexpected ways.

The Spirit loves to show off the Lord Jesus by distributing gifts seemingly randomly across the Body.

Unpredictability however is not the same as randomness, whatever the manifestation of the Spirit it has as its goal to point to the glory of God in Christ.

The choreographed style of the dominant church culture of today (especially the influential megachurches) is completely incompatible with the Spirit who “blows where it wishes” (John 3:8).

At the point of intersection between this present evil age and “the powers of the age to come” we should not expect the sort of order that keeps things continuing as they always have been (Gal 1:4; Heb 6:5; 2 Pet 3:4). Perhaps the strangest or most offensive way in which the Spirit distributes his gifts is who he chooses to give them to (1 Cor 12:11; Heb 2:4).

The Corinthians were a rabble; divided, immoral, disorderly, subject to bad teaching, and prone to show off their own spirituality rather than Christ, but they are “not lacking in any spiritual gift” (1 Cor 1:7).

To explain how this is possible let me use an analogy.

Some of the most wretched people I have ever met have been Christians. One of the most charismatic people I ever worked with who was seeing good church growth decided without any discussion to dismiss me by dropping a note in my letter box, and was greatly offended when I had the audacity to ring him up over it.

There were lots of weird as well as wonderful things in that parish but it helped me greatly to conclude that if the Spirit of God and his gifts can live in me he can live and work in anyone who confesses Jesus as Lord.

Paul has a deep theological grounding for this.

If as he says in 1 Corinthians 1:30 Christ Jesus is our “righteousness” = justification, then the gifts must be freely distributed to all believers independent of their spiritual maturity. They are a sign of sheer grace and as such should be “earnestly desired” (1 Cor 12:30; 14:1, 39).

Rare however is that body of people that prays earnestly for these giftings. I can think of a number of reasons for this.

Blocked

It is easy to set the fruit against the gifts of the Spirit as if they were in competition and Jesus was somehow divided.

BOTH FRUIT AND GIFTS SHOULD BE SOUGHT.

Then some folk fear displays of spiritual gifts as the misuse of these can be dangerous and confrontational. I have been in some meetings that were disordered to the point of demonised (1 Cor 14:33).

Paul however didn’t dampen the Corinthians’ enthusiasm for manifestations of the Spirit, he simply taught them about good order and right conduct. The apostolic injunction remains true today; “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thess 5:19-22).

I do not however believe that any of the above reasons for the decline of the showing of the Spirit are adequate explanations.

Throughout the New Testament the outpouring of the Spirit and his gifts is connected to the coming of the gospel.

There are a number of examples in Acts to do with speaking in tongues and prophecy but Hebrews spells it out like this; “it (the message) was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” (Acts 10:34-46; 19:1-6; Heb 2:3-4).

It must be that the power of the gospel releases the presence of the gifts of the Spirit. Paul starts off 1 Corinthians by saying, “I…did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,”, and says towards the close of the book, “I delivered to you as of first importance …that Christ died for our sins…that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day” (2:1-4; 15:3-4).

If the proclamation of the gospel is the key to the activation of the gifts of the Spirit why do we not see them in many churches that are faithful in gospel preaching?

I think a foundational part of the answer is the neglect of the fact that the death and resurrection of Jesus is the mother of every apocalyptic reality.

The falling away of the disciples, the darkness which covered the land as Jesus hung on the cross and the cry of dereliction, “My God…why have you forsaken me?” witness to the reality that every element of sin’s curse, divine wrath, Satanic assault and human rebellion unveiled by the Lamb in the book of Revelation came upon the Son of God.

That in the hour of “the power of darkness” Jesus loses sight of himself as “the gift of God” and so of all the gifts of the Spirit to/in/through him (John 4:10).

The tearing of the curtain of the temple, the earthquake splitting the tombs and the resurrection of the saints with the angelic presence at the resurrection are the first signs of the manifestation of a new world (Luke 22:53; Matt 27:45-54; cf. 24:7, 12, 29; 28:1ff.).

Biblical apocalyptic is neither a source of fear about the loss of our current stable prosperous order of life nor is it an object of mere fascination.

The spiritual drama unveiled by a biblically grounded apocalyptic worldview is the vehicle for the revelation of Christ as the crucified and exalted Lord of glory (1 Cor 2:8). It is within this intensely revelatory framework that the gifts of the Spirit belong.

Conclusion

Since we are far removed from this sort of way of seeing and experiencing the world and the Church it might seem that any significant hope for the restoration of spiritual gifts as we see them in scripture is very slim.

Surely however, “the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7).

I am hopeful we will witness the rebirth of a genuine apocalyptic environment in the Church.

This can only arrive as we accept that whilst new advances for the light of the gospel are happening in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America a dark shadow is falling over the lands of Western Christianity.

In the wisdom of God those alert to the Spirit of God will find the clash between Christ and culture increasingly unbearable without a greater measure of the power of God.

It is time to seek Christ for the Spirit’s gifts, not for the sake of the reputation of the Church, which in our land is humanly irredeemable, but for the sake of testimony of Jesus of which these gifts are a part (Acts 2:33).

This is a testimony that assures us that despite all this earth’s sufferings, travails and terrors this world is not abandoned but under the Lordship of Christ in God.


MESSAGE DELIVERED: 21.8.16 | St Mark’s Anglican Perth 

Author: Dr. John Yates

The Greatest Terror

Introduction

Fear has become a part of our everyday life.

This time last year I was in a meeting with some older people in our area whose primary concern was street crime. One had recently been bashed by a young refugee outside the neighbourhood shops.

If you live in the bush you will have fears of fires, if you enjoy a swim you will be on the lookout for sharks.

Domestic violence is in all the news.

Parents won’t allow their kids to ride/walk to school for fear of sexual predators.

Many Christians are alarmed that the push for same-sex marriage will rob us of our religious freedoms.

Thousands marched in the last week to demand action at the UN Climate Change conference in Paris.

The fear of global warming touches people at all levels.

Here is a story told by a friend; “Hi John, The incident you mention was about 2007 when Alannah McTiernan was a Minister in the labour government. Whilst at a large pastoralist conference she walked up to the Department of Agriculture Climatologist and I and asked without any introduction “Are you afraid?” I assumed she had been reading a climate change book by Tim Flannery…. This reminded me of the words of Jesus that in the last days men’s hearts will fail them for fear of those things that are coming on the earth (Luke 21v26).”

Finally there is the terror of Islamic State.

The sheer ruthlessness of this group and its intense publicity machine seems to have left people feeling very uneasy.

Schools now have “lock down” drills to prepare for terrorist attacks. In the wake of the Paris attacks our own Prime Minister was exceptionally blunt; “protecting freedom….. is a global struggle …against those who seek…seek to assert some form of religious tyranny; a threat in the name of God but is truthfully the work of the devil”.

I expect most Christians responded to Malcolm Turnbull’s theological commentary positively because our thinking has not been sufficiently radicalised by the Holy Spirit in the way of the cross.

The word “radical” simply means “from the root”, a Christian who thinks things through from the roots recognises that “the devil is God’s devil” (Luther) and every theologian of the cross knows that it is the Lamb standing as slain who opens the scroll of heaven releasing the full range of physical and spiritual forces which terrify the inhabitants of the earth (Rev 5:6; 6; 13:7).

Today’s climate of fear provides a unique opportunity for the Western Church to renew her witness to this Jesus; but this will require a radicalisation of our spirituality by death and resurrection far deeper than that which can be achieved by any human power (Rom 12:1-2).

The Origin of Terror

Generally people treat fear as a bad experience, but Man was meant to fear God from the beginning.

When the Lord warned Adam, ““In the day that you eat of (the tree of knowledge) it you shall surely die”” his tone indicated the punishment of death was inconceivably horrible (Gen 2:17).

So when after their sin Adam and Eve “heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden…the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD” (3:8) they subsequently reported to God, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”” (3:9-10).

God’s presence was no longer delightful but excruciatingly painful.

Every awareness of the lost glory of God fills sinners with a deep sense of shame (Rom 3:23).

We can best understand what was lost through sin by looking at some scriptures which speak of the recreation of Paradise.

One such prophecy is in Isaiah, “[2] In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious….[5] the LORD will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy. [6] There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.” (Isa 4:2, 5-6 cf. Rev 7:15-17).

At the End God’s own glorious presence will protect his people from all possible harm.

The restoration of insight into “the beauty of the Lord” fills the people of God with safety and security (Ps 27:4; 90:1). This is the exact opposite of what was lost in Eden.

When God sentenced Adam and Eve for their sin he proclaimed a future of hard work, extreme pain in childbirth, conflict with wild creatures and finally the futility of death; “dust you are and to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:15-19).

In our comfortable Western countries shielded by the benefits of the welfare state, with access to excellent health care and having lived in one of the most peaceful periods of world history we have forgotten our urgent need to be covered by God’s presence from the material and spiritual terrors of this world.

The radicalisation of my thinking about how God uses terror began with my conversion.

As a 20 year old I was suffering such severe paranoia that I could not walk down a public street so great was my fear of people.

Then the Lord sent a Bible into the house and I started to read it endlessly.

Soon I came under the most terrifying fear of hell; the words of Jesus became incredibly real to me; “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt 10:28).

Every day I would wake up thinking that if I was to die I would deservedly go to hell; it was terrible. But worse was to come. One day I was in such desperation I tried to enter a Christian meeting on the university campus, suddenly it was like there was a paralysing wall of terror between me and the meeting. I had to turn back.

The next week came around and the same demonically inspired wall of terror was there but the sheer terror of the Lord’s retribution and my need for urgent forgiveness got me through, and the rest is history.

There is a final/Apocalyptic terror from the Lord to end all finite terrors; it was the terror of not finding forgiveness that scared the hell out of me.

When Jesus prophesied of ““people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world.”” he meant the intensity of their fears would be so overwhelming that could see no purpose in the state of the world (Luke 21:26). This is the condition of our media and much of the Church today.

Evil’s Purpose

Secular commentators find radical Islam almost impossible to understand.

After the Sydney siege people rushed to redefine the terrorist as mentally ill.

After the Paris attacks media described the killers as members of an unintelligible insane death cult.

But scripture tells us, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12).

Only from our position seated in the heavenly places in Christ can we see that both militant Islam and aggressive Western atheism/secular humanism are in fact equally controlled by the same evil power which hates the glory and beauty God has destined for humanity in Christ (Ps 8; Eph 2:6, 9; Col 1:15; Heb 2:5-9).

To destroy the image of this glory and beauty is evil’s purpose.

When the Muslim armies conquered the Middle East and turned churches into mosques they first tore down the crosses then whitewashed all the images Jesus.

Islam most hates the notion that God the Word became a real flesh and blood human being and died on the cross (John 1:14).

This is the work of the spirit of antichrist (1 John 4:1-3).

In the spiritual realm the power behind Islam that veils the beauty of the face of a woman is not simply patriarchal/misogynistic but understands that since “the woman is the glory of man” her beauty as a sign of the Bride of Christ must be covered (1 Cor 11:7; Eph 5:32).

Understanding Islamic terrorism as a means to deface the image of divine beauty in the world is straightforward; but how does satanic power work to destroy God’s glory and beauty in our Western world?

Abortion in our nations is defended on the grounds of a woman’s right to choose, but in the spiritual realm it represents a satanic desire to end development of the glory of a human life in the likeness of God. (Lev 18:21; Deut 32:17; 1 Cor 10:21).

The most effective way to oppose terror is through the true revelation of beauty.

In sponsoring TV ads showing the wonder of the emergence of the unborn child in the womb the Church in Toowoomba has had considerable success in bringing down the abortion rate in their city.

Light casts out darkness.

Same sex marriage activists portray Christians as “homophobic” terrorists opposed to the rights of gay people.

This campaign however is really about an attack on a deep spiritual mystery.

The author of Proverbs says, “[18] Three things are too wonderful for me; four I do not understand: [19] the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a serpent on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a virgin.” (30:18-19).

The mysterious sexual relationship between men and women implanted from the beginning of creation uniquely images something of the glory and beauty of the eternal marriage of Christ to the Church.

This is the spiritual beauty being attacked by the devilish forces promoting gay marriage.

The depth of spiritual crisis in Western culture first came across to me walking along the streets of Lausanne Switzerland some years ago.

The shops were full of such beautiful things but spiritually I felt as if I was surrounded by “beasthood” i.e. in the presence of the spirit of the antichrist (Rev 11:7; 13:1ff).

I was in great grief of heart as I could sense the destruction of souls all around me blinded by the material blessings of God apart from the saving knowledge of Christ the Blessed One (Mark 14:61; Acts 17:16; Rom 9:5).

Finally I saw something that nearly sent me out of my mind; I came across a fashion store called “Christ”.

I wrote in my prayer journal, “They have taken all that belongs to you, all your glory and beauty, even your name, FOR THEMSELVES. Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.

This is Jesus’ great prayer from the cross; and it is to the cross we must go if our minds are to be radicalised concerning God’s purposes for terror in this world and the next.

Terror of the Cross

Since “fear has to do with punishment” as a sinless person Jesus had no earthly fears (Heb 4:15; 1 John 4:18). He went about destroying the works of the devil that inspire terror (Acts 10:38; 1 John 3:8).

Sickness, demonic powers and death itself were abolished (Matt 4:24; Mark 5:10; Luke 8:50) in his glorious covering presence where the weakest found shelter (Matt 11:28; John 1:14; 11:4, 40).

When men tried to kill him he walked unperturbed through their midst for his hour had not yet come (Luke 4:29-30; John 8:59; 10:31, 39).

Everything however changes in the shadow of the cross.

The Lord’s prayer in the Garden, ““if possible take this cup from me”” and his terrible cry,““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 14:36; 15:34) have only one explanation, the cross is the terror of God (Gen 35:5; Ex 15:16; Deut 4:34; Ps 53:5; Jer 49:5; Ezek 32:32 cf. Gen 18:12).

The cross is the place where the gloom and darkness of the Day of the Lord, the great End time/Apocalyptic judgement of God on the wicked, descends upon Jesus dying in our place separated from the all-covering presence of his Father’s glory (Amos 5:20; Mark 15:33).

All the terrors of hell are concentrated in the sacrifice of the Son of God.

As Isaiah prophesied, “it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief” (Isa 53:10).

This is a grief beyond measure.

The terror of terror is not suffering, it is suffering without a good or noble purpose, the terror of hell is not suffering forever, but suffering forever without a purpose. Cut off from the presence of his Father’s good, pleasing and perfect will this is the terror Christ must endure for us (Rom 12:2; 2 Cor 5:21).

Jesus however was never passive, the deeper he entered into the terror’s humanity deserves at the hands of God the more powerfully he prays; ““Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”” (Luke 23:34 cf. Luke 6:28).

Before mortal eyes, citing Isaiah again, “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Isa 53:2); before mortal eyes the great satanic ambition of destroying the beauty and glory of God in his image in man seems finally accomplished.

But in the eyes of the Father this love so pure and beautiful that it is indestructible, immortal and triumphant. The death of Jesus issues in the beginning of the End of the world.

The soldiers who crucified Jesus were state terrorists commissioned to flog, mock, abuse and prolong the sufferings of their victims, but Jesus is no victim (Matt 27:26, 30-31).

When “Jesus…breathed his last… The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened, and many …who had died were raised… 54 Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’” (Matt 27:50 ff.).

The terrorists have become believers in Jesus (Matt 14:33; 1 John 4:15) as the one through whom God has commenced the beginning of the End of the world by raising the dead.

This fear from heaven comes with the discovery of Christ’s empty tomb; “And they (the women) went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them…” (Mark 16:8; cf. Matt 17:6; Luke 24:5; 37).

The resurrection of the crucified Christ induces an awesome holy fear whose dimensions leave no space for any earth inspired terror.

I believe this explains the response of the crowd to Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost; “[23] this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. [24] God raised him up… [36] God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.[37] Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins,”” (Acts 2:23-24; 36-37).

When the covering presence of God in Christ crucified-and-risen becomes real to sinners their greatest terror is that they might fail to find forgiveness in him.

Every other thought in the minds of the crowd, whether they would be rejected by their countrymen, as Jesus was, persecuted by the Romans, as Jesus was, went out of their heads.

Their preview of the End (cf. Joel 2:31 = Acts 2:19-20), their experience of God’s Apocalyptic terror, scared the hell out of them. What a glorious day!

The Terror of the Coming King

Spoiled by centuries of occupying a privilege the Western Church has lost sight of how radically threatening to the powers that be the Kingship of Jesus truly is.

Psalm 2, says this about Christ; “[1] Why do the nations rage…. [2] and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, [4] …the Lord holds them in derision. [5] Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, [6]…I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill. [7] …The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. [8] Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, and the ends of the earth your possession….[12] Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 2:1-2, 4-8, 12 ESV).

Jesus ruling presence naturally terrifies the rulers of the earth (Matt 3:17; Acts 13:33; Rom 1:4; Heb 1:2 cf. Rev 11:18).

This is his presence in the gospel; when the apostles entered Thessalonica the city was in uproar, ““These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also…and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”” (Acts 17:6-7).

The readers of the New Testament understood that the spiritual and material worlds could not be separated.

They understood that the blind rage of Herod in slaughtering the little boys of Bethlehem was supernaturally inspired over who was king of the Jews (Matt 2:1-8; 16-18; cf. Acts 4:25-26).

The early Christians knew that by refusing to bow the knee to Caesar they would stir up the demonic powers behind Roman rule who would work to annihilate them (John 19:12, 15; Acts 17:7; Rev 12 – 13).

The demonic forces driving Islamic State have no fear of the secular forces running the nations of the West.

Their great ambition is to drive the Christian witness from the Middle East forever and move on from there. Likewise the persecution of Christians in Europe and America over gay rights issues has one goal, to diminish witness to the glory of God in Christ. Where however the Church is faithful persecution empowers the testimony of Jesus.

Unafraid

After Islamic State drove many Christians from their homes in northern Iraq a reporter asked 11-year-old refugee Maryam: “What are your feelings towards those who drove you out of your home and caused you hardships?” She replied: “I won’t do anything to them, I will only ask God to forgive them.” She said: “In the Bible Jesus said to us, ‘Don’t be afraid, I am with you.’ And also, He said forgive others no matter who they are hating you. You have to forgive them.” “Jesus is my father, and He is my creator. I have no one else better than him. When ISIS drove us out of our home, His hand was on us and He saved us.” “The Holy Spirit gave me these words to tell you.” “The only story in the Bible is the story of the resurrection of Christ Jesus the Lord because through that story, we can have hope.” “When I pray, I pray that God might help us to go back home. And also that the peace of God might come all over Iraq and also, may God forgive ISIS.

For the Church, times of terror should be times of great illumination.

Terror brings a message from heaven that only the beauties and glories of another world can last. When the city of Rome fell to the barbarians in 410 A.D. many Christians were traumatised. (“If Rome can perish, what can be safe?” (Jerome)).

But as St. Augustine aged, he increasingly thought of the world, its politics, culture, and institutions, as a tottering old man whose days were numbered: “You are surprised that the world is losing its grip? That the world is grown old? Don’t hold onto the old man, the world; don’t refuse to regain your youth in Christ, who says to you: ‘The world is passing away; the world is losing its grip; the world is short of breath. Don’t fear, your youth shall be renewed as an eagle.‘” (Sermon 81, 8. Citing Ps 103:5).

Let me pick up this scripture; “your youth shall be renewed as an eagle.”

The Western Church does not show the beauty of spiritual youthfulness.

Everyone thinks the traditional denominations are headed for the grave; but the more contemporary trendy churches are so tied to prosperity in this passing world (cf. Your Best Life Now) that they cannot reflect “the unfading/imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God” (1 Pet 3:4).

Whatever the chronological distribution, our churches lack the awe-filled apocalyptic presence of God that always threatens the status quo and cannot be intimidated by any earthly concern (Acts 5:11; 1 Cor 7:31; 14:25; 1 John 2:17).

Once no terror kept the Western Church from sending missionaries across the globe many who would never return.

But like the church in Ephesus we have lost our youthful spiritual passion for Jesus; “you have abandoned the love you had at first.” (Rev 2:4).

The fountain of eternal youth is the gospel; “v.2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, v.3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, v.4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, v.5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Ps 103:2-5).

A Church that walks in the continual cleansing of the forgiving word will always feel young and beautiful; “a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. (Eph 5:27). The beauty and glory of such a church is her refusal to compromise the cause of Christ.

Peter counsels the wives of unbelieving husband with words that fit the Church today; “Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” (1 Pet 3:6). “do not fear anything that is frightening.” alludes to be Proverbs 3:25 “Do not be afraid of sudden terror”.

If you are walking in forgiveness you have passed through the Apocalyptic terror of the great trial of divine judgement, free from the fallen fear that something will suddenly overtake you as a punishment by God, the promise is yours in Christ.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty…. will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day,6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at noonday.” (Ps 91:1, 5-6).

With lives “hid with Christ in God” what can we fear (Col 3:3 cf. Heb 13:6)?

As a believing wife was to refuse to be intimated by anything her husband might say or do to her on account of her faith in Christ so the Church who obeys the Lord at whatever cost radiates the hidden spiritual beauty of her crucified Lord.

Later Peter puts the point more broadly, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled…. 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 3:14; 4:14).

Conclusion

The world as we know it is changing and no natural power can deliver the post-Christian Western nations from the terrors that confront them; and this is God’s good purpose (cf. Rom 8:28; Eph 1:11).

The right to a world enjoying climatic stability is passing away, the right to live free from the threat of religious terrorism is over and for Christians the right to religious freedom is slipping away.

In such an atmosphere the Church may perhaps be shocked into realising that our idolatries have blinded us to the real spiritual wars around us (Pss 29:2; 96:9; 1 Chron 16:29); we may perhaps recognise that the great holy fear that should grip us is that men and women daily perish without experiencing that Apocalyptic terror that can scare the hell out of them.

The ways of the Lord are radical beyond measure because they are the ways of Christ crucified.


God has always had one purpose for evil and its terror; to bring forth a beautiful and glorious Bride for his Son walking in the power of the cross and living in the forgiveness of sin which keeps her forever young.

The Lamb conquers terror by the testimony of a Bride whose unfailing witness to his gospel is her beauty (Rev 12:1, 11).

It is such a Church continually renewed in spiritual beauty and fearlessness in her suffering for Christ that will really have something to offer to a world that has no answers to the threats that confront it.

The End of the World As We Know It

God’s Voice in the Financial Crisis 

v29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who … v30 who buy as though they had no goods, v31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.” (1 Cor 7: 29-31)

Introduction

Financial crisis headlinesby Dr. John Yates
In the last two days I have personally received invitations from churches about how to ensure my finances are sound. Whilst I believe that such principles exist in scripture, this is NOT God’s main message for this hour. He is speaking in a way that is totally counter – cultural to the world and to much of the church. He has had enough of therapeutic, comfort driven, sensuous, worldly, present –focussed and utopian popular preaching that has created a culture of compromise. What he has to say is far more serious than about money. It is, necessarily, about Christ.

The title of this piece, The End of the World as we Know It, is deliberately ambiguous. It certainly implies the current economic crisis centred on the United States signals the terminal decline of a situation we have all grown up with – the dominance of the West and America in particular. It more importantly states that the reason for this catastrophe is the failure of the church to impart to Western culture a sense of the coming End of all things with the imminent Return of Jesus.

Whilst this “shock and awe” on a global scale is encouraging some Christians to believe in world wide revival, it has never been the case that material impoverishment alone leads people to turn to God. One other factor is always needed, a recovery of the truth of the gospel. This is my centre point.

Some saw it Coming

In a presentation given on behalf of The Joseph Company in Kansas City last year, I heard Bob Fraser predict exactly what we have been recently witnessing in US and global markets. Bob entitled his talk, The Perfect Storm, arguing that a once in a lifetime confluence of economic factors would see his country lose its superpower status in the way Britain did in the century before. Bob’s numerous graphs include what we have all become familiar with, “sub prime mortgages” . Lots of other things were covered e.g. aging populations, oil prices, credit card debt, pension funds (superannuation) and much more than I could comprehend. The only thing that has kept the economic turning over in the United States (and so globally) has been foreign countries (China, Japan, Saudi Arabia) purchasing American companies and government bonds. In other words, the global economy is at the mercy of non – Western (and non – democratic) powers who have been buying back American debt. This entire scenario was unsustainable.

We have been here Before

As the Roman Empire collapsed in the fifth century, many saw this as a punishment by the old Roman gods for abandoning their worship in favour of Jesus. The Church Father St Augustine wrote an apologetic work, The City of God , to rebut this thinking. He taught that history is made up of two cities or societies that are based on two incompatible loves. “Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord. ”” Augustine’s position is biblical, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” (Heb 13:14)

These two cities are incompatible, but “are confused and mingled amongst themselves in this world until the final judgment separates them.” Then the city of man will be destroyed and the city of God saved. God gave Rome lordship over the world so that through civil peace the gospel might be spread, once that historical mission was completed the empire fell as a result of its sin and idolatry. This will always be the destiny of all human empires until the End. In line with Augustine’s thesis we should not at all be surprised by what is happening around us.

Are the Current Events Apocalyptic?

Bob Fraser speaks of the 4 winds of the book of Revelation as economic, military, political and religious forces. Are we then to understand that the present crisis is apocalyptic, that it is pointing to the soon end of the world? The answer is “Yes”, but not as generally understood. Since Jesus is “the first and the last” (Rev 1:17; Rev 2:8; Rev 22:13), “the last days” began when Jesus, the “last one”, came . Since the Lord sent his Spirit into the world everything is incorporated into God’s apocalyptic plan.

This is why Peter uses such strong prophetic language on the day of Pentecost, “v18 in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. v19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; v20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. v21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”(Acts 2:18-21).

Since such language is typically used in the Old Testament of the collapse of (evil) empires once they have fulfilled God’s purposes, the current global shift from confidence to pessimism and from Western to Eastern power is definitely apocalyptic. Apocalyptic language always symbolizes that God is in the business of universal upheaval . This is the inner spiritual meaning of the present global economic chaos – it signals that every foundation of the present cosmos will be destroyed (2 Pet 3:10). The result of such an insight is inevitable, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness” (2 Pet 3:11).

It is impossible to truly believe that we are those “on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Cor 10:11) and to be motivated by the sort of greed and consumption that have become “normal” in much of the church. Only a revelation of the near return of Christ can free the church from mimicking society’s sensuousness. The Spirit is seeking to restore a core element of the preached gospel – Jesus is coming back soon to judge the living and the dead . He is seeking to relay the very foundation of much of Western Christianity – Christ (1 Cor 3:11).

The missing link – the presence of Jesus

I am not at all suggesting our central problem is a lack of a sound doctrine of the End. Nor am I advocating we whip up a frenzy about financial insecurity and present Jesus as the ultimate “security blanket”. The last thing people frightened people need today is what some have called “apocalyptic terrorism” . (They need the real Jesus.)

We need what the outpoured Spirit brought at Pentecost; he immersed the church in the presence of Christ so intensely that any commitment to anyone or anything other than Jesus became absolutely secondary. The real presence will actually conflict with the feel – good spirituality so popular today. It is a presence that communicates not only “a fragrance from life to life” but “a fragrance from death to death” (2 Cor 2:16). As such it will inevitably provoke persecution- from both outside and inside the church! Only such a manifest presence of the returning Christ can shatter the apathy to eternal realities that clouds the minds of average Australians .

What should we Do?

1. Recognise the present shaking comes from the hand of God as a merciful opportunity for a return to eternal things. Through prayer, God’s cross –shaped wisdom can be discerned at the heart of this turmoil.

2. Repent of any worldliness in our own lives as part of a deeply compromised church. “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God” (1 Pet 4:17).

3. Reorient ourselves to Jesus as our sole hope. It is time to stop singing lines like, “This is our nation, this is our land This is our future, this is our hope.” Australia is NOT our hope. It is time to move on from putting the church in a place Jesus alone occupies . To say “the local church is the hope of the world.” (Bill Hybels) is to replace Christ as the centre.

4. Throw ourselves on the mercy of God asking for cleansing and the outpouring of the Spirit.

Conclusion

If people as diverse as Bob Fraser and Warren Buffett (the world’s richest man) agree that this is a once in a lifetime phenomenon , then prophetically we can see it is a once in a lifetime opportunity for a global turning to Christ. Let us pray that God in sovereign grace will include our and the other Western nations in the roll call of genuine spiritual transformation.

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20)