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

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

vs.21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.vs.22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

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

INTRODUCTION

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

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

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

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

A Transition of the Ages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus the End Man

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

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

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

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

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

The Church in the Spirit

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

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

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

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

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

What is Lacking

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

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

The outpouring of the Spirit to those who believe makes perfect sense when we remember the promise of Jesus. ““vs.37 If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. vs.38 Whoever believes in meOut of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” vs.39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”(John 7:37-39)

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jealous for what though?

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

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

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

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 27th  May, 2018

      

Related Link: 

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

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

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

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

Discerning a Wedding Word 24 MAY 2018

INTRODUCTION

As a republican I studiously avoided watching the recent royal wedding. Then however, just after praying for growth in discernment in my life, I found myself bombarded with comments about the sermon of Bishop Michael Curry.

An Adelaide newspaper said he’d “turned the Church of England into Hillsong”, the Archbishop of Canterbury was quoted on Sky News saying the sermon “blew the place open” and proved “preaching is not a past art”.

Then whilst I was watching “Talking Footy” the compere criticised the preacher for mentioning “love” 68 times, only to find one of his mates criticising him!

This will go down as one of the most famous sermons in modern times. But was it a genuine Christ-centred gospel related message fitted to the rare context, or just what you would expect from the head of the notoriously liberal Episcopal Church in America (ECUSA).

Phillips Brookes defined preaching as “the communication of truth through personality”. What was the truth-personality mix in the Bishop’s sermon? I worry that lacking mature discernment many Christians are left clueless about the spiritual dynamics of much preaching (Heb 5:13-14 ESV).

A Theology of Everyone

Theological liberalism evaluates the Bible as something less than the Word of God written.

In its place the values and beliefs of contemporary culture become the court of final appeal. A cutting summary of liberalism from the 1930’s remains essentially true today,

“A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

(H.R. Niebuhr)

Liberals speak loudly of the love of God for all his children, by which they mean everyone, but never tolerate the conviction that God has fiery wrath against sin1)Heb 12:29 ESV; Rev 14:10 ESV.

The latest evangelism slogan from ECUSA is, “Don’t feel bad, God loves you.”

Curry’s sermon spoke of love paired with fire, but liberal Anglicans refuse to consider divine love could be revealed through fiery punishment (2 Thess 1:7-8 ESV).

The bottom line is that liberal theology is fashioned by its response to human pain; hence the heavy emphasis on social justice. Michael Curry is a vigorous advocate of the rights of same-sex people in the Church, openly paralleling the exclusion and bigotry experienced by gays with that of blacks.

Describing his attempts to change the attitudes of the Anglican Evangelical bishops from African, Curry comments, “I wanted my brothers to know that our actions would bring them (L.G.B.T. folk) real pain. I said, anytime anybody is excluded, it hurts.”

The African brethren were not persuaded, after all development aid from ECUSA is tied to accepting their theological agenda on homosexuality. Hardly unconditional love! The common human experience of love and the pain of exclusion are the matrix through which liberal theology interprets the world.

So Curry’s “All you need is love.” message is not essentially different from the Beatles hit song of 1967. But the love of the cross is essentially different from a normal understanding of love.

Uniquely Painful

Liberals affirm that the cross reveals the sacrificial love of God, but vehemently deny that Christ’s pain on the cross has anything to do with a punishing God. This would be “divine child abuse”.

Liberals refuse to accept that pain suffered through racial prejudice, God made black people, is not just like the anguish experienced by gays whose sexual expression is rejected by the Church.

There is suffering to which blame is attached, and suffering which is blameless.

In a fallen world only Christ’s suffering is completely blameless.

The deepest relational agony of the cross is not something Jesus has in common with other humans. The death of Jesus is uniquely God as-a-human suffering, and suffering innocently but as if  he were a sinner deserving of divine wrath2)Rom 8:3 ESV; 2 Cor 5:21 ESV.

The final revelation of the love of God for his elect children is that the Father pours out his wrath on his Son in our place so that he cannot be named be named “Father” by Jesus (Mark 15:34 ESV).

Christ dies exclusively as one who takes into himself the fire of a holy love which must destroy every element of an old creation polluted and perverted through sin (2 Pet 3:10-12 ESV).

The meaning of “love” to God’s heart is tied comprehensively to the cross as a place of sin bearing3)Rom 3:25 ESV; 5:8 ESV; 1 Pet 2:24 ESV.

Liberal preachers elevate love, but in denying to Christ the unique pain of his sacrifice they blind themselves to the saving power of his atonement.

All who do this strip themselves of the ability to discern the messages of the Spirit4)Heb 9:14 ESV; Jude 1:19 ESV.

Listen Again

Should the great and glamorous circumstances of a royal wedding sharpen or dull our spiritual sensitivities5)Ps 45 ESV, Rev 19 ESV?

Since marriage as such points finally to the matrimony of Christ and the Church (Eph 5:32 ESVevery marriage should sharpen our spiritual hearing (Heb 5:11 ESV).

Most likely however the sweet atmosphere of a young couple in love blinded millions of Christians to a crucial element of the love of the Groom for his people revealed exclusively in scripture.

Psalm 45 ESV testifies that the betrothed Messiah wars against his enemies with sword and bow. This is more than metaphorical language because in the climactic wedding scene of scripture Jesus rides with his Bride against their foes clothed with a robe “dipped in blood” slaughtering with the sword of the Lord (Rev 19:13-16 ESV).

The blood is not Christ’s, but the blood of enemies shed on the Day of the LORD’s fury (Isa 63:1-6 ESV).

Having taken the wrath of God into himself on the cross the one true Husband shall destroy all those who would destroy his Bride (Rev 11:18 ESV).

The perfect union between Christ and Church is the ultimately purpose for which God loving created all things. Only through the lens of the true cross and Christ’s final husbandly triumph can we discern what is/is not a message from God.

CONCLUSION

Love is all we need.

This is not however the love of common experience but God’s love uniquely revealed in the fire of the cross. Worryingly, the enthusiasm of many sincere Christians for the royal wedding sermon points to an unconscious heart spring of sentimentality that places cultural convictions about “love” above Christ (cf. Prov 4:23 ESV).

A clandestine liberalism is spreading even through nominally Bible-believing churches. Many Christians are being assimilated to societal values without knowing it; our discernment is shot.

Jesus told a parable of a man who turned up at a royal wedding without the garment of invitation; challenged by the King he was rendered “speechless” and cast into hell (Matt 22:11-14 ESV).

In the End many will be unaware that only garments washed in the blood of the Lamb can gain them entry into the eternal nuptial feast (Rev 7:14 ESV).

From Hillsong to High Anglicanism millions of regular churchgoers will find themselves excluded, and it will hurt, forever.

They will be left outside, not because they are “bad people”, but immersed in a feel good culture that’s invaded Western Christianity they are not in union with the wrath bearing Groom who in the End will pour out dreadful judgement on all those who oppose his purposes for his Bride (Rev 6:16 ESV).

If the royal wedding sermon didn’t lead you closer to this Jesus it was merely part of a fantasy undermining our ability to see in the Spirit (Rev 1:10 ESV).

If preaching is “Truth through personality.” we’ve had plenty of dynamic personality in the sermons of our day.

But since Jesus, and especially his cross, is the Truth (John 14:6 ESV), I’m afraid we’ve had less and less of the truth that “saves to the uttermost(Heb 7:25 ESV).

Please pray for an intensification of discernment in your own life and in the churches. 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 24. May, 2018 Location: Unknown

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

Date. Month, 2018.

References   [ + ]

1. Heb 12:29 ESV; Rev 14:10 ESV
2. Rom 8:3 ESV; 2 Cor 5:21 ESV
3. Rom 3:25 ESV; 5:8 ESV; 1 Pet 2:24 ESV
4. Heb 9:14 ESV; Jude 1:19 ESV
5. Ps 45 ESV, Rev 19 ESV

Grooming Alert: Do Not Take Your Kids to the Show Dogs Movie

show dogs movieThe Show Dogs movie contains a dark theme that can send kids a very very harmful message about who is allowed to touch their private parts and when.

By Jenny Rapson

 

Grooming Alert: Do Not Take Your Kids to the Show Dogs Movie

RELATED:

• Does PG Film Show Dogs Promote Child Molestation? crosswalk.com

• Matt Chandler, Russell Moore Horrified by ‘Show Dogs’ Film Over ‘Child Grooming,’ Genital Touching christianpost.com

• Show Dogs under fire for scene which ‘grooms children for sexual abuse’ theguardian.com

 

 

Rainbow Submission. 09 MAY 2018

Introduction

Last Saturday1)5 May 2018 Donna and I were privileged to attend the Diversity Dinner2)“diversity dinner” organised by Wendy Yapp to celebrate the surprising fact that Perth was now the most multicultural city in the country. Roger Sutton from Movement Day was the keynote speaker at the event, which attracted 160 people from 66 nations. in Perth, reputedly Australia’s most multicultural city in Australia, to celebrate our diversity in Christ.

Folk were there from many nations in an open and friendly atmosphere sharing around the tables with people never met before and praising, listening and praying together.

It was all good.

Then I sensed the Spirit speak to me in an unusually intense manner.

Donna had begun to excitedly share with me a conversation she had with an Iranian couple, evangelists and church planters.

They described how the Lord was moving with great power delivering many Iranian refugees from Islam and how their gatherings were just like Acts; signs, wonders, visions, dreams and an intense divine presence.

I began to realise the Lord was calling us to a new application of Paul’s exhortation to his Church, vs.18be filled with the Spirit vs.19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, vs.20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, vs.21 submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.(Eph 5:18-21 ESV).

A Spirit-filled Church in a city will be a Church whose nationalities dynamically submit to one another. This is a submission that needs to be directed by God’s love for each another.

Rainbow Submission

It’s time we submitted to the work of the Spirit and Word in those not like us; in the immediate context this meant Caucasians, like Donna and me, to Persians.

Whilst their cultural and historical context isn’t like ours, we share the one Lord, faith, baptism and Father (Eph 4:4-6 ESV) and are members of the one Church of Christ.

Hallelujah!

Our submission isn’t to some natural element of Iranian ethnicity, like strong community values, nor a call to “learn lessons” from what God is doing amongst them, a very abstract Western way of seeing things.

We need to submit to the river of God’s Spirit pouring forth through their congregations3)Ps 46:4ESV; John 7:37-39ESV.

We need to submit to the momentum of kingdom growth that the sovereign wise Father has given to distinct parts of his family (Eph 3:14-16 ESV).

When the whole Church submits to the whole Church then the “wisdom of God in its rich variety” is manifest in way that the evil powers cannot resist and the “hope of glory” is revealed in a city4)Eph 3:10 ESV; Col 1:27 ESV.

Since the word for “rich variety” is connected to Joseph’s glorious multicoloured robe (Gen 37:3, 23 ESV) it is a “rainbow wisdom”.

We are called to submit to the powerful peace of this rainbow wisdom. But why do we still need to learn this?

Why aren’t we already in a multi-culturally diverse revival witnessing the many streams running together as one might River?

There are some powerful obstacles to such submission.

Hating to Submit

Aussies have a long history of rebellious insubordination dating back to the First Fleet (1788) populated by convicts and Irish political prisoners.

To this day, as cricket fans know; England is “the old enemy”.

This attitude is more than a joke.

A wise ‘American’ friend says, “In the U.S. if you live in the country you’re an American, but you have to be born in Australia to be considered an ‘Australian’”. (Charles Slack).

Sadly, there’s much truth in his observation.

Newcomers are welcome in Australia, but always on our terms, we jealousy guard our identity, prominence and prosperity.

This is hardly a unique Aussie problem.

Nationalities the world over resist submitting to one another.

Ask the Dutch about the Germans, the Greeks about the Turks, or the Vietnamese about the Chinese etc. 

Deep issues of pride and national identity run through this, particularly where there’ve been painful historical experiences of empire building at the hands of a dominant culture.

Empires naturally place limits on cultural and social expression in order to constrain by force a “unity” that suits their selfish purposes of power.

The current catastrophe of Rohingya Muslims at the hands of the Burmese Buddhist army springs to mind. It is not “natural” for diverse nationalities to submit to one another.

There is however a deeper blockage to this than history or sociology.

The Bible’s testimony contains the key to unlocking the dynamic of mutual submission across ethnicities.

Joseph is a type of Christ, and his brothers hated him because his rainbow covered life was a sign of the special love of his father (Gen 37:3 ESV).

Likewise, it was “out of envy” that the Jewish leaders had Jesus crucified (Mark 15:10 ESV); they could not bear how his mighty works, wise words and intense divine presence witnessed to the favour of the Father upon him rather than them

We resist submitting to Christians culturally unlike us, upon whom the favour of God so visibly rests, because deep in our hearts we feel the favour of the Father is somehow limited.

The more they have the less we can have.

Few are conscious of this heart unbelief but our lack of submission across the Body witnesses to its reality. Our existential insecurity is so deep that only the sacrifice of the cross can heal us.

The Submission of the Cross

The sacrifice of the cross caused a remarkable transformation in the history of humanity; a gulf much wider than anything created by our contemporary ethnic divisions had been bridged by the blood of Jesus.

When Jewish Christians saw mighty works and wondrous conversions done by the Spirit amongst unclean Gentiles they knew that the pagans had been brought into the one Family of God5)Acts 10:44-48 ESV; Acts 11:15-18 ESV.

The blood of the cross had nullified all separating judgements (Eph 2:12-13, 19 ESV).

PTL!

Jews and Gentiles who for centuries had been alienated from one another came together in congregations submitting to one another out of a reverent love for Christ their common Saviour (Eph 5:21 ESV).

In mutual humility they accepted that through Christ’s death the Father has taken into himself with unmerited favour and unconditional love those previously under wrath.

This is exactly the meaning for us of the work of God amongst the Iranians in Australia today.

We have a revival happening amongst us but few understand its spiritual significance for the kingdom of God in our multicultural cities! Thankfully there’s a clear path to break our ignorance.

APPLICATION AND CONCLUSION

The Diversity Dinner was great but necessarily incomplete because it’s really hard to call Church leaders to turn from the “empire spirit” that dominates the Christian landscape today.

Given that there’s so little mutual submission inside the congregational meetings of our churches, submission is pretty much unidirectional and top down i.e. from the pastor/priest to the people, how will we ever be able to submit to one another as a Body across a city with all our ethnic and cultural diversities?

The answer is “humility does it” (Roger Sutton).

Who rightly proceeded to point us to the mind of Christ in Philippians “in humility count others more significant than yourselves.(Phil 2:3 ESV cf. Phil 2:5 ESV). Until we repent of all of our arrogance’s, we are still too strident before the Lord, we will never be granted to share in the mighty acts of God amongst the Iranians which prophesy that Christ’s blood has taken away judgement between peoples.

The Father wants to pour out his unlimited favour upon us all!

If God grants us humble prayerful submission to each other then the one Bride of Christ truly submitted to her Lord will come forth in our cities and they will experience his gracious power to bring social, cultural and spiritual transformation. All to his glory. Amen. 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 9. May, 2018 Location: Unknown

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

Date. Month, 2018.

References   [ + ]

1. 5 May 2018
2. “diversity dinner” organised by Wendy Yapp to celebrate the surprising fact that Perth was now the most multicultural city in the country. Roger Sutton from Movement Day was the keynote speaker at the event, which attracted 160 people from 66 nations.
3. Ps 46:4ESV; John 7:37-39ESV
4. Eph 3:10 ESV; Col 1:27 ESV
5. Acts 10:44-48 ESV; Acts 11:15-18 ESV

Call and Gifts

Jeremiah 1 vs.4-10 (ESV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 3 vs.21-22 (ESV)
21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.

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

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

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

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

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

A Brief History of Calling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Call of Jesus

The Old Testament prophesied of the coming Servant of the LORD called from the womb of his mother to bring light to the nations (Isa 42:6; 49:1). Jesus’ calling may be from eternity but it is first manifested at his baptism. “vs.21 when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, vs.22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven,You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”” (Luke 3:21- 22).

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

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

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

The Call of the Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Call and Comfort/Suffering

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MESSAGE DELIVERED: Alive@5 06th May, 2018

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 06th May, 2018  

  

Related Link: Where has the Spirit Gone?

Part 1: Groaning is a Gift for Glory

Part 2: Call and Gifts

Part 3: In the Spirit

Part 4: