Scripture promises us advance insights into God’s plans; “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets…. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.””” (Am 3:7 ESV; Rev 2:11 ESV etc.).
But what we think we are hearing from heaven depends on who we are listen to and whether we obey the command to “test everything that is said” (1 Thess 5:21 ESV). Few congregations are taught by their (insecure) leaders to test in this way. But let me start with a story.
In Argentina years ago I learnt of a mighty work of God that saw 10% of a city population turn to Christ; but after a year 90% of these had fallen away. The lead pastor in the city explained, “There were too many holes in the net.”
Under the weight of the miraculous catch of souls the relationships between Christian leaders frayed and broke. Many major moves of God, e.g. the Protestant Reformation, the Evangelical Revival, the Welsh Revival, the birth of Pentecostalism, follow this pattern of division.
But it can be prophetically true for us, “the net was not torn” (John 21:11 ESV). This will however require unprecedented teachability.
WHO CAN TEACH US?
Every successive generation seems to think it has something more to offer God than the one before. Perhaps it’s because young people haven’t had enough time for failures to strip them of natural youthful arrogance (Ps 25:7 ESV)?
But neither youth nor seniority hold in themselves keys to the longevity of a move of God.
The scripture describes the spiritual condition we need, “a little child shall lead them”, and as Jesus prayed, ““I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children”” (Isa 11:6 ESV; Luke 10:21 ESV).
Whatever their natural age the childlike of the kingdom are those open to be “taught by God” through others (John 6:45 ESV).
Here are two very recent examples as to whom the Church should be listening:
I was recently in a meeting to plan a conference with leaders of 4 ethnic churches, Egyptian, Iranian, Indonesian and African. They decided that with a lot of conference fatigue around the place we would be better off to create space and time to deepen relationships with each other rather than running an event.
I personally didn’t like this outcome but have submitted to the Lord’s wisdom though our non-Western brothers and sisters.
Then yesterday I was part of a gathering with a mob of Indigenous people.
Outwardly it might have seemed quite unordered, but inwardly it was very relational.
The dominant note was beyond the political aspects of reconciliation, real reconciliation depends on friendship.
Non-Indigenous and Indigenous Christians need to walk the road of justice as friends. These are the sorts of people logical hurried Westerners need to listen to.
There’s talk about today, and to my personal embarrassment not for the first time See Article : “City Reaching – Overview“ presented at (YWAM School of Evangelism 2001 + updates 2003, 2005), about strategies to reach our city.
Such strategising can only be biblical if subordinated to genuine kingdom relationships. Jesus’ word about an ex-centric gospel movement to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8 ESV) isn’t a strategy but a prophecy.
The sending out of the first apostolic missionaries to the Gentiles shows no sign of human strategising, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”” (Acts 13:2 ESV).
These apostles had been learning to love one another for years before the Lord reckoned them ready for mission. Paul’s ongoing travels show a sensitivity to which his strategies must bow; seeking to enter 3 major Roman provinces, “the Spirit of Jesus prevented them” (Acts 16:6-7 ESV).
This unique language points to a relational intimacy with the Godhead which guards against confidence in our own abilities to plot God’s ways for him. Such spirituality echoes sound practical theology.
PERSONS ARE RELATIONSHIPS
Ancient theologians stressed that the very essence of the Trinity is relationship by employing the expression, persona est relatio, “Person is relationship”.
This means the Father, Son and Holy Spirit first exist and then relate, they only exist in their relationships. Their mutual interdependency is absolute.
God does whatever “he” does because of whom he is in relationship within himself. So any prayer to God as “Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier”, rather than to “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”, is a sub-relational prayer. God cannot be reduced to what he does; any more than a human “being” can be reduced to a human “doing”.
The pure relational dependency of the three Persons of the Godhead on one another is the secret of why “God is Love” (1 John 4:8 ESV).
Where is such love amongst us?
NETS OF WISDOM
Only an immersion in the unconditional love of God for one another (1 John 4:20 ESV) can stop the net of relationships the Lord is building across our city from tangling itself.
Without this love self-strangulation will bring about the demise of any movement of God amongst us.
The ministry demands and intense spiritual warfare of revival conditions will always shatter untested relationships. As in a marriage testing is a prerequisite for strong Christian unity.
This is a Christ-centred truth. Jesus promised to share us the glory he’d received from the Father in order to make us one (John 17:22 ESV).
In John’s Gospel the essence of such glory involves deep relational suffering, including betrayal and misunderstanding by Christ’s closest friends (John 12:27-32 ESV; 16:32 ESV).
Tough as it sounds, this means that if Jesus needed a Judas to perfect him (Heb 2:10 ESV) no Christian can fully mature without suffering betrayal.
Struggle, illness, burn out, betrayal, misunderstanding, poverty etc. are used of God to strip from us all self-sufficiency (Prov 11:14 ESV; Heb 12:5-11 ESV) so that the imprint of Christ crucified becomes our sole strategy and security (1 Cor 2:1-5 ESV).
In an age marked by the commoditisation of Christianity only godly partnerships based on pure love will survive the testing of God. Any movement whose foundation is less than this will be undermined by selfish ambition (James 3:13-18 ESV). (In prophetic language a “sandgroper spirit” will eat away at the roots of a crop prepared for a great harvest. See Article: “Jealous ‘ME’” Posted on 26 May 2012 by John Yates
Vision and strategy have their place, but a place in submission to the new quality of human relationships for which Jesus died; ““By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”” (John 13:35 ESV).
The early Christians lived out such love. Amidst the oppressions of the Roman Empire the Church Father Tertullian boldly asserted that the pagans had to confess of believers, “Look . . . how they love one another… and how they are ready to die for each other …””.
Only a revival of such love can give us great confidence that any looming movement of God will survive the generations. “Lord please move us to love one another. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
MESSAGE DELIVERED: 12th. Aug, 2018
Author: Dr. John Yates