Their Hour (Crazy with Jesus)

the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live

this is your hour, and the power of darkness.

Introduction

The current crisis confronting Western Christianity is far beyond its spiritual capacities. As the sun goes down on the Church’s long-favoured position many believers are in a state of shock. I felt this in my own heart as I graded articles the other week by under 31’s for Christian Today. Prose-wise they were fine, but their spirituality powerfully reflected two tendencies hindering the work of the Spirit.

The first was a reversion to moralism. Writers grieving at the recent late-term abortion laws in New York responded with principled moral arguments about the value of human life. Such arguments assume a sensitive conscience in the hearer.

This is exactly what is absent in our depraved post-Christian times (cf. Eph 4:18 ESV). As such, the ethical concern comes across as, “You’re saying I’m a bad person.” This route is a dead end. I was even more traumatised in reading articles dominated by the experiences of the writer.

Personal experience essentially constitutes the content of social media, but many Christian young people seem not to have been taught that it’s always about Christ, not about them. “it’s no longer I who live, but Christ(Gal 2:20 ESV). We’re in an altogether bad state.

Seriously Insane

Wave after wave of wickedness has broken in upon our culture in the last half-century. From “sex, drugs, rock and roll”, to legalised abortion and homosexuality, escalating in a same-sex marriage, various euthanasia laws, gender fluidity and so on. Anyone who speaks out against such things is a “bully” making victims. A cage comprised of sexism, racism, ageism, ableism and many other “isms” is closing in on us.

Accompanying this is “phobiaisation”, attributing an opponent’s views to an irrational fear/hatred. Speak out and you are labelled as Islamophobic, homophobic and so on.

This maneuver of categorising Christian concern as non-rational negates logical debate and moves dialogue outside the order and reason of God’s creation. Such “moral insanity” is fundamentally demonic (cf. 1 Cor 10:20 ESV); “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against…the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.(Eph 6:12 ESV).

The foundational space in which the Church engages hostile culture is not the public square, as if we were with Paul in Athens (Acts 17:16-34 ESV), but a transcendent plane of reality beyond the visible confines of this world. In this space Scott Morrison, Donald Trump, Jordan Peterson etc. cannot help the Church. Only Jesus can, and his Spirit has something to say which we will find very unpalatable (Rev 2:7 ESV etc.).

Their hour

There are times in the history of redemption when the Lord releases ravagement on the earth. This is the theme of Revelation 6, and it peaks with the elevation of the beast who “was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them(Rev 13:7 ESV).

Jesus said of his own life-end, “When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” ” (Luke 22:53 ESV). He prophesied the same for us, “ “you will be expelled from the synagogues…those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God. I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.” ” (John 16:2-4 ESV).

The apparent overwhelming triumph of God’s enemies is integral to a victory that comes through self-sacrifice. vs.27there were gathered together against… Jesus,… Herod…Pilate… the Gentiles and… Israel, vs.28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place(Acts 4:27-28 ESV)1)See Biblical References cf. 2:23 ESV.

With God presently “handing over(Rom 1:24,26, 28 ESV) our culture to greater and greater spiritual stubbornness normal methods of reasonable persuasion will fail. When immersed in the “hour of darkness” Jesus didn’t become moralistic, miraculous or political. He focussed on self-sacrifice through prayer in the power of the Spirit.

Self-Harm

The cross seemed like a form of madness to Christ’s closest confidantes, “Peter… began to rebuke him…“This shall never happen to you.” ” Jesus identified this spirit speaking through Peter as “Satan!” himself2)See Biblical References Matt 16:21-23 ESV cf. Mark 3:21 ESV.

The Lord pressed on to his Passion in “the eternal Spirit” and the revelation of “ “Abba! Father!” ”3)See Biblical References Heb 9:14 ESV; Mark 14:36 ESV. Jesus knew that only such supreme spiritual realities could shape his life as an intercession powerful enough to cast out the darkness controlling the world4)See Biblical References Isa 53:12 ESV; 1 John 5:19 ESV.

Likewise, the kind of crazy unclean spirit controlling our society will only “come out” (Mark 9:29 ESV) when a certain extreme quality of prayer is offered by the Church.

In his suffering and death, Christ appeared utterly foolish to the practical men of this world (1 Cor 1:18 ESV). Likewise, for a major move of God Christian discipleship will have to come across to the average Aussie as a slight form of madness.

Paul was so labelled (Acts 26:24 ESV), as were the early Christians and martyrs. Where Christians live free of selfish ambition about career, live by choice in economic modesty, and never “take care of number 1”, they are always thought of as “strange” (1 Pet 4:4 ESV).

The time must come when the sanity of believers will be seriously questioned as we are labelled deranged religious nuts engaging in various forms of self-harm. Deprived of physical persecution, how else can we share in the sufferings of Christ (1 Pet 4:13 ESV)

Only by sharing in the mockery of the cross (1 Cor 4:13 ESV) can we know how much the Lord has honoured us by his death5)See Biblical References Matt 27:31 ESV; Acts 20:28 ESV; 1 John 1:7 ESV.

CONCLUSION

If no-one has ever labelled you as somehow crazy for following Christ, you should re-examine your call. Persecution may be no recipe for revival, but my experience of Christians from around the globe who have been truly oppressed for Christ is that suffering for Jesus always breeds true discipleship.

Such discipleship is the need of the hour. Like it or not, because the Lord loves his Church and the lost so much, he has Australia on a trajectory when to be called “Christian” will mean to bear the label “fool” (1 Cor 4:10 ESV).

When this condition comes we will see the Spirit of glory rest on us (1 Pet 4:14 ESV).

The old KJV translation for 1 Peter 2:9 KJV has a lot to commend it, “ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light”. Hallelujah for such weird wisdom – the wisdom of Jesus and his cross!

MESSAGE, DELIVERED: Date 23rd February 2019 Location: Unknown

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

23rd Feb, 2019.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References cf. 2:23 ESV
2. See Biblical References Matt 16:21-23 ESV cf. Mark 3:21 ESV
3. See Biblical References Heb 9:14 ESV; Mark 14:36 ESV
4. See Biblical References Isa 53:12 ESV; 1 John 5:19 ESV
5. See Biblical References Matt 27:31 ESV; Acts 20:28 ESV; 1 John 1:7 ESV

Finishing Well Part 3 Finishing in the Spirit

Part 1:
Don’t Love the World
04 Feb 2019

Part 2:
Finishing with Jesus
11 Feb 2019

Part 3:
Finishing in the Spirit
18 Feb 2019

Part 4:
The Finish of Paul
06 March 2019


INTRODUCTION

In the first week of our series on “Finishing Well” I concentrated on the power of “the love of the Father” to overcome “the love of the world(1 John 2:15-17 ESV). Last week I emphasised that as “the author and finisher of faith(Heb 12:2 ESV), Jesus has perfectly completed the course set before him by the Father. His victory was achieved in the power of the Spirit, the subject of tonight’s sermon.

A simplistic approach to the role of the Holy Spirit might declare that every Spirit-filled person must finish well. When it is said of Barnabas that “he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith(Acts 11:24 ESV) it’s difficult for us to conceive that such a man could fail to finish well.

The existence of the early Christian writing called the “Epistle of Barnabas” (written before 132 A.D.) suggests he did, in fact, finish well.

But a fuller examination of the biblical evidence indicates things are not quite that simple.

The Spirit of God “rushed on” King Saul (1 Sam 11:6 ESV) but he later fell away. Judas knew the power of the kingdom of God in signs and wonders (e.g. Matt 10:5-8 ESV) but betrayed Jesus and killed himself.

Demas was a missionary companion of Paul familiar with, “the power of miraculous signs and wonders and… the power of God’s Spirit(Rom 15:19 ESV), but he deserted the apostle being “in love with this present world(2 Tim 4:10 ESV).

More generally, Hebrews speaks of those who vs.4have shared in the Holy Spirit,vs.5and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come(Heb 6:4-5 ESV) but who were in acute danger of falling away.

Some of us are familiar with men/women who have been tongues speakers, healers, prophesiers, gospel preaching church planters and are now atheists, lobbyists for the LGBT+ community and so on. Where is the Spirit in all this (cf. Matt 7:21-23 ESV)?

The Church today needs much deeper insight into the intimate workings of the life of the Spirit if by his power it is to finish well.

For finishing well involves the deep things of God. vs.9as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— vs.10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.(1 Cor 2:9-10 ESV).

THE SPIRIT OF GOD

The Holy Spirit has been called “the Go-Between God” because it is his essential nature to unite P/persons in love.

In scripture, the Spirit is called the Spirit of the Father (Matt 10:20 ESV) and of the Son (Gal 4:6 ESV). His blessedness is to eternally indwell the love that between the Father and the Son1)See Biblical References John 5:20 ESV; John 10:17 ESV.

Everything the Father and Son have in common, love, joy, peace, power, mercy, judgement etc. (cf. Gal 5:22-53 ESV) is shared in the Spirit. The Spirit is the one through whom we can come to share in everything that the Son shares with the Father and the Father shares with the Son.

he centre point for this is the life of Jesus lived out on our behalf. Nothing happens in the life of Jesus apart from the work of the Spirit and it is in sharing in Christ’s Spirit-giftedness that we can finish well.

Jesus’ Finishing in the Spirit

It is only through a death expressing unlimited love that Jesus will receive unlimited dominion (Heb 2:8-9 ESV). These seemingly opposite realities of death and dominion are paired in Christ’s consciousness.  vs.1when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end/fully/to the point of death. vs.2… when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, vs.3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands…and was going back to God…(John 13:1-3 ESV).

These paradoxical dynamics of death and dominion are stated bluntly by Jesus, “ “The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again.(John 10.17 ESV).  In himself, God loves everyone equally and unconditionally, but his love cannot find full expression apart from obedience to his will. Such submission is the essence of S/sonship, and it is perfected only in Jesus’ sacrifice. The breadth of the rule of Christ flows directly from the depth of his sacrifice. To put this another way, the Spirit cannot transform fallen creation without the cross. (The Spirit can only fill what the cross cleanses.)

This order is exceptionally clear in Jesus’s words in John chapter 7, “ vs.37If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. vs.38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’vs.39Now, 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 ESV)

The glorification of Jesus comes through his death+resurrection+ascension2)See Biblical References John 12:23-33 ESV; John 13:31-32 ESV; John 17:1-5 ESV accomplished in the power of the Spirit. When the Spirit has completed the transformation of Jesus’ own humanity, he can be given to transform the lives of fallen human beings.

The writer to the Hebrews insists about Jesus that vs.8though he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.vs.9And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him(Heb 5:8-9 ESV)3)See Biblical References cf. Heb 2:10 ESV.

The author has Gethsemane in mind and understands the “perfection” of the Son through sacrifice to be a work of the Spirit. As it says in Hebrews chapter 9; “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience”. (Hebrews 9:14 ESV) It will help us to follow Jesus if have insight into what the Spirit was doing in Jesus in Gethsemane.

When he prays, “ “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” ” (Mark 14:36 ESV) something of the most profound significance is happening.

And the key to understanding it is to notice that this the only place where the expression “Abba, Father” appears on the lips of Jesus. The Spirit is simultaneous communicating to Jesus that his dreadful obedience in taking the cup of wrath4)See Biblical References Jer 25:15 ESV; Isa 57:17 ESV; Mark 14:34 ESV will mean both separation from the Father on the cross (Mark 15:34 ESV) and entering into the infinite pleasure of the Father in resurrection5)See Biblical References cf. Rom 8:14-16 ESV; Gal 4:4-6 ESV.

Without such a profound revelation Christ could not have, in the language of Hebrews, “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.(Heb 12:2 ESV).

The Spirit’s revelation of the tender-hearted intimate all compassionate Father empowered Jesus to triumph over the evil he would endure on the cross6)See Biblical References 2 Cor 5:21 ESV; 1 Pet 2:24 ESV.

It was the Spirit who inspired Christ’s great words of attainment, “ “It is finished” ” (John 19:30 ESV) and who “declared (him) to be the Son of God in power… by his resurrection from the dead,7)See Biblical References Rom 1:4 ESV; 8:11 ESV; 1 Pet 3:18 ESV.

The Son Gives the Spirit

It is the essential nature of the Spirit to complete in us what he has accomplished in Jesus and to empower us to finish well.

As James says, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? (James 4:5 ESV); the Spirit contends against the “friendship with the world” (James 4:4 ESV) which would sabotage our maturing in Christ.

Finishing well involves unfailing testimony to Jesus empowered by the Spirit, Jesus said, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” ” (Acts 1:8 ESV).

The Spirit does not pour himself out at Pentecost but is given by the exalted Jesus as a gift from the Father8)See Biblical References Luke 3:16 ESV; Acts 2:33 ESV cf. Luke 24:49 ESV; Acts 1:4 ESV.

This is an outpouring of the power of love perfected in the Father-Son relationship through the sacrifice of the cross. Being poured out through Jesus this love can form men and women into sons and daughters of God who will never fall away.

The Spirit has received through the love of the Father and the Son the power to make faithful sons of God whose unfailing testimony negates the false witness of rebellious angelic and human sons of God9)See Biblical References Gen 6:1-4 ESV; Job 1:6 ESV; 2:1 ESV; Matt 13:38 ESV; Eph 2:3 ESV.

The Spirit forms sons committed to radiating the likeness of the Son of God at whatever cost. This is the wisdom of God’s plan to restore his reputation, honour and glory in the universe. The revelation given through the Church (Eph 3:10 ESV) is that God is an all loving Father who has a Son who has loved him, and us, at the cost of complete self-sacrifice. Imaging this all-powerful love of Jesus through ordinary men and women is the ministry of the Spirit. This is why Geoff Bingham said, ““To bear testimony to Jesus means to have his testimony within us, and to have it as the primary consideration within our lives.  The propagation of this is the very purpose of our lives.” (Bingham). This matter if testimony is frequently misunderstood.

The Spirit does powerfully witness to the kingdom of God10)See Biblical References Rom 14:17 ESV; 15:13 ESV; 1 Cor 2:4 ESV in various signs, wonders and gifts11)See Biblical References 1 Cor 12:1 ESV ff; Heb 2:4 ESV.

But these are not the heart of the Spirit’s ministry in testifying to the consummation of all things in Christ (Eph 1:10 ESV). The pinnacle of his testimony is a sacrificial love willing to suffer all things as loss for the sake of Jesus as he suffered the loss of everything for the sake of his Father (Phil 3:8 ESV).

Only in such union with Christ can we comprehend that the Spirit is as lovingly committed to us finishing well as he was committed to bringing Jesus to the glorious end of his life and ministry12)See Biblical References Rom 8:29 ESV; 1 John 3:2 ESV; John 4:17 ESV. These things are commonly contradicted in the Church today. Let me use a very current example.

At the Franklin Graham event, last Saturday (09 FEB 2019) the Planet Shakers band led the crowd in, Nothing is Impossible. “Blind eyes are opened Strongholds are broken I believe, I believe I believe, I believe in you”.

This song is based on Philippians 4:13 ESV, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”; which in context includes things like being “brought low… hunger… need” (Phil 4:12 ESV).

In other words, the testimony of Paul images the earthly deprivations and struggles of Christ over which he triumphed by faith. Such triumphs are the opposite of upbeat escapist triumphalism because they combine suffering and joy.

Jesus, “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.(Heb 12:2 ESV). Peter speaks of “suffering in various trials” combined with “joy unspeakable and full of glory(2 Pet 1:6, 8 ESV) for this is the character of true sonship in this world.

The Spirit taught Jesus, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” ”13)See Biblical References Luke 24:26, 25 ESV; 1 Pet 1:10-11 ESV. And our consciences to need to be convinced in the Spirit that sonship is a mixture of pain and joy. If not, when the powers of this age contend against our faithfulness to Christ14)See Biblical References Rom 7:23 ESV; Rom 8:7 ESV; Gal 5:17 ESV; Eph 6:12 ESV we will fail to finish well.

CONCLUSION

Only those living “in the Spirit” can remain faithful to Jesus (Rev 1:10 ESV) because without his help you cannot understand the deep ways of God in this world.

The plain fact is until Christ’s return it will often look like the devil is winning, “the beastwas allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them…. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.(Rev 13:7, 10-11 ESV).

Things only make sense in the light of the Lamb (Rev 21:23 ESV).

Let me conclude with that puzzling text, “ “The Father loves me because  sacrifice my life so I may take it back again.” ” (John 10:17 ESV).

To natural sight, the cross meant to Christ’s enemies he was a failure, but the vision of death-and-resurrection Jesus carried in his heart meant he was flooded by the Spirit with the love of the Father (cf. Rom 5:5 ESV).

Willing self-sacrifice is the place where the Spirit’s victory in the Son of God is replicated in us.

As the sun goes down across the Western world on the age of Christendom the faith of Jesus will be increasingly ridiculed and oppressed.

Apart from an understanding of the ways of the Spirit in forming true sons many “fair weatherChristians will think God has abandoned them and will fall away just as Jesus predicted (Matt 24:10 ESV).  

Wise children of God who want to finish well should ask the Lord for power in the Spirit to offer themselves as living sacrifices for the sake of the gospel (Rom 12:1-2 ESV).

Then God, Father, Son and Spirit, immerse us unfailingly in his love.

MESSAGE, DELIVERED: Date 17th February 2019 Location: Alive@5

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

17th  Feburary, 2019.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References John 5:20 ESV; John 10:17 ESV
2. See Biblical References John 12:23-33 ESV; John 13:31-32 ESV; John 17:1-5 ESV
3. See Biblical References cf. Heb 2:10 ESV
4. See Biblical References Jer 25:15 ESV; Isa 57:17 ESV; Mark 14:34 ESV
5. See Biblical References cf. Rom 8:14-16 ESV; Gal 4:4-6 ESV
6. See Biblical References 2 Cor 5:21 ESV; 1 Pet 2:24 ESV
7. See Biblical References Rom 1:4 ESV; 8:11 ESV; 1 Pet 3:18 ESV
8. See Biblical References Luke 3:16 ESV; Acts 2:33 ESV cf. Luke 24:49 ESV; Acts 1:4 ESV
9. See Biblical References Gen 6:1-4 ESV; Job 1:6 ESV; 2:1 ESV; Matt 13:38 ESV; Eph 2:3 ESV
10. See Biblical References Rom 14:17 ESV; 15:13 ESV; 1 Cor 2:4 ESV
11. See Biblical References 1 Cor 12:1 ESV ff; Heb 2:4 ESV
12. See Biblical References Rom 8:29 ESV; 1 John 3:2 ESV; John 4:17 ESV
13. See Biblical References Luke 24:26, 25 ESV; 1 Pet 1:10-11 ESV
14. See Biblical References Rom 7:23 ESV; Rom 8:7 ESV; Gal 5:17 ESV; Eph 6:12 ESV

Finishing Well Part 2 Finishing with Jesus

Part 1:
Don’t Love the World
04 Feb 2019

Part 2:
Finishing with Jesus
11 Feb 2019

Part 3:
Finishing in the Spirit
18 Feb 2019

Part 4:
The Finish of Paul
06 March 2019


John 4:7-15 ESV Hebrews 11:32 – 12:3 ESV

INTRODUCTION

When we began our “Finishing Well” series last week I concentrated on “the love of the Father(1 John 2:15 ESV) as the only power greater than the “love of the world”. In the fullest sense, the Father’s love can only be his Son.

When the scripture says, “God is love(1 John 4:8 ESV), it isn’t making a statement about the whole Trinity, but about the Father.

The Father is love because he has always loved his Son in the power of the Holy Spirit. The ability to finish well against “the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the pride of life(1 John 2:16 ESV) can only be found in Jesus.

As Jesus knows he is fully loved by God he shares this intimate knowledge with us (John 17:3 ESV). Since God’s love for the world is real in what it does to save us it’s important to be grasped by Christ’s own consciousness1)See Biblical References 1 Cor 2:16 ESV; Phil 2:5 ESV of being giving by the Father as the Saviour of the world (John 3:16 ESV). This is not always well understood.

As a younger Christian, I remember teaching that says God calls you to ministry and give gifts so you might complete his task.

I accepted this teaching at the time, but now I believe significantly responsible for the failure of many believers in our time to finish well.

What some people have called the professionalisation of ministry has corrupted the spiritual culture of many contemporary churches. Where pastors are paid for a service according to a contract such ministry always has boundaries/limits.

Such contractual ministries cannot produce disciples whose fruit has no limits.

Loving relationships have no limits so that fulfilling a relationship is infinitely more glorious that finishing a “task”.

We can’t possibly imagine that Jesus thought of his relationship with the Father as a mere task or job to be completed.

There was something quite different from task orientation at the centre of Jesus’ understanding himself to be the Son of God.

THE GIFT OF GOD

Jesus was profoundly impacted by knowing he was the Gift of God to the world. The words of John 3:16 ESV, “ vs.16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.vs.17… in order that the world might be saved through him.” ” (John 3:16-17 ESV), reveal that Christ’s whole consciousness was filled with the knowledge of himself as a gift.

This is crucial to Christ’s identity. As such he can say to the woman at the well in John chapter 4, “ “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” ” (John 4:10 ESV).

The word translated “gift(dorea cf. Isa 9:6 ESV) here carries a sense of bounty and grace.

Jesus sensed himself to be in the fountain of God’s overflowing grace for the world2)See Biblical References cf. John 4:14 ESV; John 7:37-39 ESV.  

This is why Paul, overwhelmed by God’s giving Christ to us exclaims, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Cor 9:15 ESV).

Jesus is the Gift in which all God’s gifts are freely offered. Jesus knew he was the dearest thing in his Father’s heart so that his being given to the world impressed upon him that there were no limits to the Father’s love for the lost.

Taken up into the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit’s constant giving to the world through his words and works it was impossible for Christ’s walk with God to become dry, routine, boring or tiresome. Unlike us.

I remember being rather worn out and going to see a senior Christian brother for counsel. He wasn’t surprised at my emotional depletion because “You’re giving out all the time.”

There’s a truth in that diagnosis, but what he didn’t teach me was that Jesus knew he was a Gift to whom all was given before he gave out to others. He could say, “For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for God gives him the Spirit without limit.(John 3:34 ESV).

Jesus, “the only Son”, is given to so that he might give to others. This is particularly clear in relation to his baptism.

As Jesus is being baptised “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 3:22 ESV).

The Spirit-filled joy of being a son is the gift which will enable Jesus to keep on giving. This is a picture of unlimited relational intensity which is unconquerable.

In this joy, the Spirit led him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Luke 4:1-2 ESV). Some commentators interpret this story in terms of Jesus’ victory over the worldly powers we looked at last week.

The refusal to turn stones into bread overcomes “the lust of the flesh”, the refusal to spectacularly escape death through throwing himself off the temple, defeats “the lust of the eyes”, and denying the enticement to rule the nations, negates “the pride of life(Luke 4:3-12 ESV).

In never doubting he was “ “the Son of God…” ” (Luke 4:3 ESV) Jesus remained in the Father’s joy and the power of the Spirit.

Things crash whenever we move aside from our identity as children of God. This is why Eve and Adam didn’t finish well (cf. Luke 3:38 ESV).

I remember some discussions with a previous student of mine who proposed to write a thesis on the subject of Christian life in terms of our sharing in Christ as the Prophet, Priest and King.

My comment to him was to remember these ministries were founded on Jesus’ sonship (Heb 3:6 ESV). Failure to finish well follows elevating something other than sonship into the centre of our identity. If Jesus’ knowing he was the Father’s Gift to the world was central to his finishing well, how does this relate to his passion and death?

JESUS THE FINISHER

The language of finishing well is emphatically applied to Jesus by the writer to the Hebrews a the end of his long passage on the heroes of the faith in chapter Eleven.

vs.1Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, vs.2 looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. vs.3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.(Heb 12:1-3 ESV).

If the faith of the witnesses listed in Hebrews 11 enabled them to persevere through sufferings and finish well, Jesus himself is the perfection of such witnessing faith.

This long passage on faith concludes not with our faith in Jesus but with Jesus’ own human faith in God.

The text literally says, “Jesus the author and finisher of faith” not “our faith”, Jesus is the true believer from first to last. He did not put his faith in himself, this is the modern heresy of self-belief, but in the joy that the Father had revealed to him as Son from the very beginning. It was “for the joy that was set before him” he endured.

Beyond the ordeal of the cross, Jesus saw by faith (cf. Heb 11:1 ESV) the joy of returning to the glory of the Father’s presence with many sons and daughters3)See Biblical References John 17:5 ESV; Heb 2:10 ESV.

He saw the joy of sharing in the Father’s delight over every sinner repenting, every lost sheep returning, every lost son coming home from the far country into the embrace God’s heart4)See Biblical References Luke 15:6-7, 22-24 ESV. This conviction of unseen things (Heb 11:1 ESV) empowered his testimony.

On trial before Pilate, he testifies with quiet confidence, “For this purpose, I was born and for this purpose, I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.(John 18:37 ESV).

His final words from the cross, “It is finished(John 19:30 ESV) reflect the assurance (Heb 11:1 ESV) that the work which the Father had given him to do (John 17:4 ESV) had been completed.

He knew that his faithful witness as Son to the Father had been fully revealed on earth to the very end5)See Biblical References Rev 1:5 ESV; Rev 3:14 ESV)). This is what it meant for Jesus to “finish well” and this witness is the very substance of the Christian life.

Hold the Testimony of Jesus

Since his life is patterned on the life of Christ, Paul says, “ vs.22Behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, vs.23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. vs.24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” ” (Acts 20:22-24 ESV).

Nothing is more important than a completed testimony. As Jesus’ life shared in and imaged the life of the Father (John 14:8-10 ESV) our witness is a sharing in and imaging of the life of Jesus (Phil 3:10 ESV).

Paul’s own survival in this world6)See Biblical References 2 Cor 4:7 – 5:10 ESV; 2 Cor 6:4-10 ESV; 2 Cor 12:9 ESV ff; Phil 1:19-26 ESV; Phil 2:17 ESV; Phil 3:8 ESV; Col 1:24 ESV is insignificant (Gal 6:14-15, 17 ESV). All that matters is “now as always Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.(Phil 1:20 ESV).

All that matters is the revelation of Jesus. Compared to the revelation of the triumph of Jesus through our suffering, the trials and temptations which impede us from finishing well are very small matters.

That to faithfully testify to Jesus is the most important dimension of life is central to the book of Revelation. In Revelation Jesus is “the faithful witness the firstborn from the dead”,7)See Biblical References Rev 1:5 ESV; Rev 3:14 ESV and his followers are those who hold to the “testimony of Jesus8)See Biblical References Rev 1:2, 9 ESV; Rev 12:17 ESV; Rev 19:10 ESV; Rev 20:4 ESV unto the End.

This is our glory. As an exceptional influence of my life once wrote, “To bear testimony to Jesus means to have his testimony within us, and to have it as the primary consideration within our lives.  The propagation of this is the very purpose of our lives.” (G.C. Bingham).

Those who fail to finish well are those who have turned in on themselves having lost sight of living out the testimony of Jesus (cf. 2 Pet 1:9 ESV).

I remember some years ago coming home from one of my prayer walks, and seriously saying to Donna, “I think I am having a breakdown.” To which she replied, “You won’t have a breakdown” i.e. God won’t allow you to have a breakdown.

Why do I believe this is true for my life but so many believers do not finish well?

I suspect we all know Christians who have chosen to commit suicide. There are many possible remedies to the current crisis in finishing well: prayer support, family solidarity, transparency, a healthy lifestyle, a strong devotional life etc. All these are helpful and have their place, but we must look much deeper.

Moses and Elijah were key prophets in the history of Israel but in the midst of their severe trials they both wanted to die, they both asked God to kill them9)See Biblical References Num 11:11-15 ESV; 1 Ki 19:1-14 ESV.

Given that these were frail men (James 5:17 ESV) how is it that we see them with Jesus in glory on the mount of transfiguration?  

The answer is simple, neither of them ever stopped confessing the LORD as the only God10)See Biblical References Deut 32:3 ESV; 1 Ki 18:24 ESV. There they were at the transfiguration looking to Jesus as the finisher of faith, speaking with him “of his exodus, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem(Luke 9:30-31 ESV).

In the glory cloud, they knew that Christ would complete his passage through this world by death and resurrection and his testimony would be complete.

In Christ, as those who hold the testimony of Jesus by faith, we also are in that glory cloud11)See Biblical References Eph 2:6 ESV; Col 3:1-3 ESV; Rev 19:10 ESV. And to finish in the finishing of Jesus must be our primary passion.

To quote from Hebrews, if we, “Think of what he went through… we won’t become weary and give up(Heb 12:3 ESV).

CONCLUSION

The Son of God triumphed because he gave out of what he was given to give. He gave his life for the world (John 6:51 ESV).

Jesus marked out this course for us, “ vs.25Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.vs.26If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.” ” (John 12:25-26 ESV).

The revelation of Jesus as Christ and Son of God (John 20:31 ESV) is the goal of all creation and to this great testimony, we are called. Seeing and sharing in the glory of such greatness will empower you to finish well with Christ((See Biblical References Rom 8:18 ESV; 2 Cor 4:17 ESV; Eph 3:13 ESV cf. Luke 24:26 ESV whatever you might have to endure for his sake.

Let me conclude on a slightly different angle.

Do you know that your own life in Christ is of infinitely more worth than all the treasures and pleasures of this world?

It is said of the witness of Moses in Hebrews chapter 11, vs.25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. vs.26 He considered disgrace for the sake of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.(Heb 11:25-26 ESV).

And of all those who suffered for their faith, “the world was not worthy of them(Heb 11:38 ESV).

The world does not deserve the gift of suffering Christians. But God keeps on giving to the world men and women who value Jesus far above all else so that the lost might see his glory and be saved.

As followers of Jesus, we are sent into the world as a gift in the Gift, Christ. Leaving behind us all the limits of “task-related” thinking let us recommit ourselves to this call, which is a call to be the children of God in the power of his Spirit.  then we shall never fail to “finish well”.

MESSAGE, DELIVERED: Date 10th Feb 2019 Location: Alive@5

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

10th. Feb, 2019.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References 1 Cor 2:16 ESV; Phil 2:5 ESV
2. See Biblical References cf. John 4:14 ESV; John 7:37-39 ESV
3. See Biblical References John 17:5 ESV; Heb 2:10 ESV
4. See Biblical References Luke 15:6-7, 22-24 ESV
5. See Biblical References Rev 1:5 ESV; Rev 3:14 ESV)). This is what it meant for Jesus to “finish well” and this witness is the very substance of the Christian life.

Hold the Testimony of Jesus

Since his life is patterned on the life of Christ, Paul says, “ vs.22Behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, vs.23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. vs.24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” ” (Acts 20:22-24 ESV).

Nothing is more important than a completed testimony. As Jesus’ life shared in and imaged the life of the Father (John 14:8-10 ESV) our witness is a sharing in and imaging of the life of Jesus (Phil 3:10 ESV).

Paul’s own survival in this world((See Biblical References 2 Cor 4:7 – 5:10 ESV; 2 Cor 6:4-10 ESV; 2 Cor 12:9 ESV ff; Phil 1:19-26 ESV; Phil 2:17 ESV; Phil 3:8 ESV; Col 1:24 ESV

6. See Biblical References 2 Cor 4:7 – 5:10 ESV; 2 Cor 6:4-10 ESV; 2 Cor 12:9 ESV ff; Phil 1:19-26 ESV; Phil 2:17 ESV; Phil 3:8 ESV; Col 1:24 ESV is insignificant (Gal 6:14-15, 17 ESV). All that matters is “now as always Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.(Phil 1:20 ESV).

All that matters is the revelation of Jesus. Compared to the revelation of the triumph of Jesus through our suffering, the trials and temptations which impede us from finishing well are very small matters.

That to faithfully testify to Jesus is the most important dimension of life is central to the book of Revelation. In Revelation Jesus is “the faithful witness the firstborn from the dead”,((See Biblical References Rev 1:5 ESV; Rev 3:14 ESV

7. See Biblical References Rev 1:5 ESV; Rev 3:14 ESV and his followers are those who hold to the “testimony of Jesus((See Biblical References Rev 1:2, 9 ESV; Rev 12:17 ESV; Rev 19:10 ESV; Rev 20:4 ESV
8. See Biblical References Rev 1:2, 9 ESV; Rev 12:17 ESV; Rev 19:10 ESV; Rev 20:4 ESV unto the End.

This is our glory. As an exceptional influence of my life once wrote, “To bear testimony to Jesus means to have his testimony within us, and to have it as the primary consideration within our lives.  The propagation of this is the very purpose of our lives.” (G.C. Bingham).

Those who fail to finish well are those who have turned in on themselves having lost sight of living out the testimony of Jesus (cf. 2 Pet 1:9 ESV).

I remember some years ago coming home from one of my prayer walks, and seriously saying to Donna, “I think I am having a breakdown.” To which she replied, “You won’t have a breakdown” i.e. God won’t allow you to have a breakdown.

Why do I believe this is true for my life but so many believers do not finish well?

I suspect we all know Christians who have chosen to commit suicide. There are many possible remedies to the current crisis in finishing well: prayer support, family solidarity, transparency, a healthy lifestyle, a strong devotional life etc. All these are helpful and have their place, but we must look much deeper.

Moses and Elijah were key prophets in the history of Israel but in the midst of their severe trials they both wanted to die, they both asked God to kill them((See Biblical References Num 11:11-15 ESV; 1 Ki 19:1-14 ESV

9. See Biblical References Num 11:11-15 ESV; 1 Ki 19:1-14 ESV.

Given that these were frail men (James 5:17 ESV) how is it that we see them with Jesus in glory on the mount of transfiguration?  

The answer is simple, neither of them ever stopped confessing the LORD as the only God((See Biblical References Deut 32:3 ESV; 1 Ki 18:24 ESV

10. See Biblical References Deut 32:3 ESV; 1 Ki 18:24 ESV. There they were at the transfiguration looking to Jesus as the finisher of faith, speaking with him “of his exodus, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem(Luke 9:30-31 ESV).

In the glory cloud, they knew that Christ would complete his passage through this world by death and resurrection and his testimony would be complete.

In Christ, as those who hold the testimony of Jesus by faith, we also are in that glory cloud((See Biblical References Eph 2:6 ESV; Col 3:1-3 ESV; Rev 19:10 ESV

11. See Biblical References Eph 2:6 ESV; Col 3:1-3 ESV; Rev 19:10 ESV. And to finish in the finishing of Jesus must be our primary passion.

To quote from Hebrews, if we, “Think of what he went through… we won’t become weary and give up(Heb 12:3 ESV).

CONCLUSION

The Son of God triumphed because he gave out of what he was given to give. He gave his life for the world (John 6:51 ESV).

Jesus marked out this course for us, “ vs.25Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.vs.26If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.” ” (John 12:25-26 ESV).

The revelation of Jesus as Christ and Son of God (John 20:31 ESV) is the goal of all creation and to this great testimony, we are called. Seeing and sharing in the glory of such greatness will empower you to finish well with Christ((See Biblical References Rom 8:18 ESV; 2 Cor 4:17 ESV; Eph 3:13 ESV cf. Luke 24:26 ESV

A timely reassurance for 2019

A timely reassurance for 2019 (written to a “prayer warrior” with 247 embedded in email).

Yes, I love your email address. Obviously, 247 must refer to Psalm 24:7 St George’s Edinburgh sung in the grand style

vs.7 Lift up your heads, O gates!
And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.

vs.8 Who is this King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle!

But then there’s also!


vs.7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.

.
WE ARE WARNED


vs.7 But they cried to the Lord for help, and he put darkness between you and the Egyptians;

Joshua 24:7 NIV

.
WE ARE DIVINELY PROTECTED


vs.7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.”

Exodus 24:7 NIV

.
RE-DEDICATION FOR NEW YEAR


vs.7 With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.

Samuel 24:7 NIV

.
HONOUR IN THE BATTLE


vs.7 The Lord, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’—he will send his angel before you

Genesis 24:7 NIV

.
VICTORY IS CERTAIN


vs.7 I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.

Jeremiah 24:7 NIV

THE LORD IS OUR GOD


vs.7 The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.

Luke 24:7 NIV

.
JESUS IS OUR SAVIOUR


And then – although it’s not 247:

vs.28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.


So:

vs.7 Lift up your heads, O gates!
And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
vs.8 Who is this King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle!

So, it’s a yes to 247 all day long! Pray, Praise, Celebrate!

Blessings to all, Lachlan. chooselifeaustralia.org.au

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

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

The King of Kings is born in Bethlehem.

Turning Barns into Baskets

INTRODUCTION

Over the years I have unashamedly taken building supplies, food, clothes, electronic goods etc, out of rubbish bins.

So, when the Lord started to speak about the baskets of left-overs from Jesus’ miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes, 12 baskets from the 5,000 and 7 baskets from the 4,0001)See Biblical References Matt 14:20 ESV; Matt 15:37 ESV, I thought I was safe.

Especially when I was led to the story of the rich man and his barns, someone I thought was totally different from me (Luke 12:13-21 ESV).

But as things matured, I was left with a dreadful sense of hypocrisy and deep evil in my heart. I was convicted of sin, even if uncondemned (Rom 5:1 ESV).

My personal testimony aside, the spiritual destiny of Australia hinges on whether a substantial portion of the Christian community can make the transition from being barn people to basket people.

If Dave Hodgson (Kingdom Investors) has a vision for seeing Australia transformed from a “goat nation” into a “sheep nation(Matt 25 ESV), and Christ can turn water into wine (John 2 ESV), then it must be supernaturally possible for a barn mindset to become a basket mentality.

BREAD BASKETS

The Feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle of Jesus to appear in all four Gospels. It is a clear sign that Jesus is the prophesied King (John 6:14 ESV) and symbolic of the banquet over which he will preside at the End of the age (Isa 25:6-8 ESV).

The “crowds” Jesus feeds (Matt 14:13 ESV) are poor people whose normal fare is fish and bread, vastly contrasted with the lavish feasting at the birthday party of Herod just earlier in the Gospels (Mark 6:21 ESV).

The Roman satirist Juvenal mocked the Jews’ baskets as signs of their poverty, but the scriptures emphasise such lowly baskets were “filled” after “all ate and were satisfied(Matt 14:20-21 ESV).

Where the manna in the wilderness had no leftovers, as the bread of life (John 6:35 ESV) Jesus provides more than enough for the needy hungering for his Word (Mark 6:34 ESV).

Each of the 12 disciples receives a basket full of food at the feeding of the 5,000, signifying that nothing will be lacking in God’s provision for his people. And the 7 baskets remaining at the feeding of the 4,000 symbolises the fulness of supply; 7 being the complete number.

Jesus is the perfect host in whose presence there can be no lack.

As a missionary speaker testified decades ago, “Jesus always worked on the principle of abundance.

This is Christ’s promise, “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap.(Luke 6:38 ESV).

Do you believe this?

Since the disciples knew these things why did Jesus later have to rebuke them for their anxiety about forgetting to bring bread in the boat? “O you of little faith…(Matt 16:8 ESV).

Why did he have to remind them of the baskets of left overs God supplied lovingly for their personal consumption?

Asking for bread from the Father with Jesus present they would never have received a stone (Matt 7:9 ESV).

The common mental plague of anxiety is a sure sign of forgetting God’s provision (Matt 6:25-34 ESV).

Why do we forget God’s faithfulness?

Peter, who heard Christ’s rebuke, tracks spiritual amnesia back to our “having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins(2 Pet 1:9 ESV).

This conversion-baptism language2)See Biblical References Acts 22:16 ESV; 1 Cor 6:9-11 ESV implies we can forget our initial coming to Christ was all of grace and nothing of our own power.

If baskets are all about selflessness, barns are all about self-fulness. 

BARNS

The “rich fool” in Jesus’ parable is the ideal retiree, the man who has “done well for himself” in life. 

His story is just that, his story with no room for God.

I…do/will” appears 6 times in 3 sentences.

His laying up for himself treasures on earth (Matt 6:19 ESV) is his condemnation.

In scripture the definition of a fool is the man who says in his heart, “‘There is no God’(Ps 53:1 ESV).

This isn’t our Western theoretical atheism, it simply means “Since God doesn’t do anything, I’ll have to do it for myself.

Such folk may “count themselves blessed(Ps 49:18 ESV), but in failing to serve the needy they will never hear, “‘Come…blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.(Matt 25:34 ESV).  

These foolish souls shall be taken in judgement because they are “Not rich towards God(Luke 12:20-21 ESV).

Those who are rich towards themselves and those who are rich towards God are as distinguishable to natural eyes as sheep and goats. If you adopt a “cruise lifestyle” or lives in gated security away from “the crowds” you cannot look like Jesus, or the apostles, who served the masses before themselves.

Pure religion…. rich towards God” mean living life towards the orphan and the widow3)See Biblical References James 1:27 ESV; Luke 12:21 ESV.

Even the spiritually dullest person can tell if believers are working towards a lifestyle here on earth or one in heaven.

If we lived like Jesus, there could be no Marie Kondo craze; but accumulating excess is the foundation of a society left largely unchallenged by a compromised Church.

CONCLUSION

Am I living a life “rich towards God”?

If God stopped providing for you tomorrow what would change for you? When the disciples left their workplace in following the call of Jesus, they entered a space in life where they possessed “no visible means of support” – no status, vocation, honour in the eyes of the world.

This was a space of serving the Lord through serving others that made room for baskets of divine supply.

A barn lifestyle radically robs the affluent Church of space for God’s supernatural action. The barn mentality lays up for the future without any need to radically trust the Lord will come through. Empty baskets are containers for the glory of God but the self-fullness of stocked up barns blocks revival.

Our part-time pastor, who teaches “generous giving” as the biblical standard (2 Cor 9:7 ESV), has calculated that even if our whole congregation were on the aged pension and just tithed, we could afford a full-time minister.

Why does he even need to think about such things?

Why is there a chronic felt need for compulsory tithing mini-sermons in Pentecostal churches?

A culture of barns instead of baskets is the answer.

Emptiness directed towards God is our great need, an emptiness that only Christ can fill.

Wasn’t this our aching disposition when we first came to Jesus?

Yet somehow, instead of strengthening our emptiness in the way of the cross the Church teaches us to live less risky lives than our first step of faith4)See Biblical References 1 Cor 1:17 ESV; Phil 2:7 ESV.

Appalling!

But I must not finish there as if this were the “church’s” problem.

Whilst away on holiday last week I felt compelled to confess something to Donna.

I emptied out before her my bathroom bag with its multiple little soaps, combs and shampoos, accumulated over the years from various motels.

All legal, but a sign of a mindset of spiritual poverty and deprivation that speaks of barns and denies living by faith on the edge of the kingdom’s ongoing supernatural supply.

The Spirit graced me with a deep sense of conviction of sin that I am eviller than I ever imagined.

It was embarrassing and humiliating, but it was Jesus!

Hallelujah.

Could such a move of the Spirit sweep through our churches?  

If goats can become sheep and water become wine, then it is supernaturally possible.

If Jesus is with us in the boat, then we have all we need 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: Date 1st  February, 2019 Location: Unknown

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

N/A.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References Matt 14:20 ESV; Matt 15:37 ESV
2. See Biblical References Acts 22:16 ESV; 1 Cor 6:9-11 ESV
3. See Biblical References James 1:27 ESV; Luke 12:21 ESV
4. See Biblical References 1 Cor 1:17 ESV; Phil 2:7 ESV

Finishing Well Part 1 Don’t Love the World

Part 1:
Don’t Love the World
04 Feb 2019

Part 2:
Finishing with Jesus
11 Feb 2019

Part 3:
Finishing in the Spirit
18 Feb 2019

Part 4:
The Finish of Paul
06 March 2019


INTRODUCTION

FINISHING “Well” “So-So” “Poorly”

One of the gurus on biblical leadership, Bobby Clinton, reckons we have enough information to interpret the start to finish ministry of about 50 people. Roughly 1/3rd finish well, 1/3rd finish “so-so”, 1/3rd finish poorly.

Those who finished well would include Abraham, Peter, Paul and John, for “so-so” I think of Samson, David and Elijah, poorly, Gideon, Saul, Solomon and Judas and Demas. 

None of those who failed to finish well lacked the call and gifting of God.

Solomon’s example always distresses and confounds me. Once the wisest man on earth (1 Ki 10:23 ESV), in old age he sponsored idol worship in Israel (1 Ki 11:4 ESV).

We can all probably think of people who started zealously for Christ but ended disastrously.

Clinton categorises failure in the areas of money, sex, power, pride, burn out, family issues and plateauing.

His counsel that leaders should remain learners, have consistent devotional lives, manifest the fruit of the Spirit, live out the truth of God’s promises and grow in a sense of godly destiny applies to all Christians.

I suspect we already know these things.

An alternative approach to “finishing well” start with recognising that this is the subject of the whole of the book of Revelation.

And perhaps the most confronting challenge in the book for people like us is Christ’s rebuke to the Ephesian church. “ vs.2‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not and found them to be false. vs.3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. vs.4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. vs.5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the works you did at first.(Rev 2:2-5 ESV).

The teaching the Ephesian Christians received from Paul (Acts 19:1-10; ESV), Timothy (1 Tim 1:3 ESV) and John (ancient tradition) must have been incredible. So, the only way they could have lost their first love was through finding another love. Perhaps they had become task focussed in guarding the deposit of faith and lost intimacy in their relationship with Christ (cf. Rom 12:11 ESV)? The battle to finish well is a battle for love in the Christian life. In the end everything comes down to love.

In Love with the World

Whilst the Greek word agape does have a focus on the unconditional love of God, ““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.(John 3:16 ESV), it can just as readily be used of loving the wrong things.

Just three verses after John 3:16 we read, “people loved the darkness rather than the light” and later in the Gospel, “they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God1)See Biblical References John 3:19 ESV; John 12:43 ESV.

And when John writes, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.(1 John 2:15-17 ESV), he is warning us not to agape the world. “World” in John’s writings often means something other than the “earth”.

The “world” is a sphere ruled by Satan2)See Biblical References John 12:31 ESV; John 14:30 ESV, an abode of darkness3)See Biblical References John 1:5, 9 ESV; John 3:19 ESV; John 8:12 ESV; John 9:5 ESV; John 12:46 ESV opposed to Christ and his mission4)See Biblical References John 8:23 ESV; John 15:18-19 ESV; John 16:20, 33 ESV; John 17:14 ESV where Jesus’ identity as Son cannot recognised5)See Biblical References John 1:10 ESV; John 14:17 ESV; John 17:25 ESV.

The destiny of the “world” is to be judged6)See Biblical References John 9:39 ESV; John 12:31 ESV; John 16:8, 11 ESV. James is characteristically blunt when he says, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.(John 4:4 ESV).

This is one reason why I have always found our second reading for tonight so tragic and shocking.

Near the end of his life Paul appeals to Timothy, vs.9Do your best to come to me soon. vs.10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. vs.11 Luke alone is with me.(2 Tim 4:9-11 ESV).

Demas appears in Paul’s earlier writings to the Christians in Colossae as one of his “fellow workers7)See Biblical References Col 4:14 ESV; Philemon 1:24 ESV.

He was so Demas a missionary who shared Paul’s vision to bring the gospel to the nations and since at the time of these writings Paul was imprisoned for the gospel (Col 4:18 ESV) Demas knew the cost of following Christ.

How could such a leader in the Lord fall so far?

Whatever Demas’ love affair with the world was, it fell into at least one of the areas of sin described in 1 John 2:16 ESV.

False Desire

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.(1 John 2:16 ESV)

The word translated “desire” is a neutral word, it just means to want something.

But the “desires of the flesh” are always rendered negatively in the New Testament, often having to do with inappropriate sexual longing8)See Biblical References Gal 5:16 ESV; Eph 2:3 ESV; 1 Pet 2:11 ESV; 2 Pet 2:10, 18 ESV but things like substance abuse and gluttony come to mind.

The lust of the flesh is about sensual gratification.

Once upon a time you used to see on cars a sticker which read, “If it feels good, do it.”.

You no longer see this sticker around because our society has wholly capitulated to it.

In John’s writings the ultimate origin of worldly lusts is the devil.

Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.(John 8:44 ESV).

That the power of worldly desires is driven by Satan is confirmed by John’s next expression, “the desires of the eyes”.

The desire of the eyes often involves coveting something we should never have.

It was when the serpent talked up the power of the prohibited tree to impart the knowledge of good and evil that Eve “saw that the tree was a delight to the eyes” and was moved to eat of it (Gen 3:6 ESV).

In the Old Testament longing looks are associated with sex9)See Biblical References Gen 39:7 ESV; Job 31:1 ESV, pride(Isa 5:15 ESV) and greed (Jer 22:17 ESV).

Pornography is obviously a lust of the eyes. “Eye candy” as a friend of mine might say.

I recall a young man saying how could he be in the image of God and lust so much after the cream cakes in the shop window!

Jesus said bluntly, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.(Matt 5:29 ESV)10)See Biblical References cf. Matt 18:9 ESV.

Does Jesus ever exaggerate?

Finally, we have “the pride of life”.

In James 4:16 ESV this word for “pride” is translated as “arrogant boasting” about worldly possessions which he calls “evil”.

And John uses a word for “life”, bios, a little later in (1 John 3:17 ESV) like this, “But if anyone has the world’s goods (bios) and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”.

Holding on to possessions expels God’s love from our hearts.

If the desires of the flesh and of the eyes relate to hedonism and consumerism the “pride of life” is materialism.

Jesus warning needs to be heard in our church’s day, ““Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” (Luke 12:15 NLT).

John is not a moralist nor a legalist.

He is not merely listing worldly categories of evil to make his readers feel bad about their sins.

Much more deeply, he is laying bare the structure of the world as an essentially self-centred, grasping construction that can only be overcome by love. By “the love of the Father

The Love of the Father

If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.(1 John 2:15 ESV).

The expression, “the love of the Father”, appears only here in the Bible.

It could mean our loving the Father, or the Father’s love for us. It probably it means both; after all, “We love because he first loved us.(1 John 4:19 ESV).

When we think of the love of the Father we shouldn’t think so much of his warm feelings towards the world, but of his actions for us in Jesus.

God so loved the world that he “gave his only Son” and “sent his Son into the world11)See Biblical References John 3:16,17 ESV; John 5:38 ESV; John 10:36 ESV etc..

Love for the world and the love of the Father cannot cohabit the same heart because they are in exact opposition.

This is a little difficult to explain.

But as evil is parasitic for its reality on good so the world only exists in its opposition to the kingdom of God. this means that the essential nature of the world is not revealed in the activities of bars, brothels, banks or injecting rooms, but in its rejection of the love of God revealed in Christ.

Love for the world and the love of the Father have nothing in common, one is all about getting precious things for oneself, the other is all about giving the highest of gifts to others.

The love of the world draws into itself selfishly, the love of the Father gives from himself selflessly.

When “the world” is understood this way it’s easy to see why religious institutions concentrations of worldliness can be.

The love of power has often dominated Christianity, I could tell you a few stories about archbishops and various other denominational heads and their lust for power, but the power of the Father’s love casts out all worldliness.

Or to put the same thing the other way.

If the power of God’s love (Rom 1:16 ESV) is not moving through the Church it’s because our congregations are like vs.18those who hear the word, vs.19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful(Mark 4:18-19 ESV).

Whilst “the world” only exists in its opposition to the love of God we shouldn’t imagine that “love for the world” and the “love of the Father” exist on the same scale.

God’s true love is infinitely greater than all false loves. 

This is why “the world” has no future and in seeing this why we are exhorted by the Word of the Lord to have an end-time lifestyle; vs.29the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, vs.30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, vs.31 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 ESV)12)See Biblical References cf. 1 Tim 6:17-19 ESV; Tit 2:11-14 ESV.

When Paul says Demas was “in love with this present world”, we would better translate it, “this present age (aiona)” (2 Tim 4:10 ESV). Here was a man who’d incredibly foolishly become attached to something which cannot stand because Christ stands against it.

Since “the Lord Jesus Christ…. gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Gal 1:4 ESV) the world as we know it has no proper destiny.

This perishing world cannot inherit the imperishable new world coming (1 Cor 15:50 ESV).

Only sharing in the death-and-resurrection of Jesus ushers us into the new creation.

In Christ God has irrevocably declared the end of the age/world as we know it (cf. Acts 17:31 ESV). Only those who obey the gospel13)See Biblical References 2 Thess 1:7-8 ESV; 1 Pet 1:24-25 ESV; 1 Pet 4:17 ESV will inherit eternal life.

It is impossible to live for the present and for eternity.

Just as John says, “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.(1 John 2:17 ESV).

The world is “passing away”, because it “has not believed in the name of the only Son of God(John 3:18 ESV).

Which is to say, it has not believed in the love of God the Father.

God’s love in Christ has condemned the world and all its evils to extinction, vs.31Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. vs.32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.vs.33 Jesus said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.(John 12:31-33 ESV).

CONCLUSION

Human beings have an amazing capacity to neglect, ignore or corrupt the truth of God in Christ.

Demas was with Paul when he wrote in Colossians, vs.1If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. vs.2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. vs.3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. vs.4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. vs.5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. vs.6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming.(Col 3:1-6 ESV).

With a mind set on Christ above, there is no room for the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life”.

We live in a day of many Demas’s, a time of an increase of lawlessness when the love of many has grown cold and when Christ’s warning words, “vs.13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” ” (Matt 24:12-13 ESV), are commonly ignored.

On present trajectories, fewer and fewer Australian Christians, and churches, will not finish well.

And tragically, because of the “seeker-friendly” character of many teachings today many don’t have a mental framework to understand what this even means.

Praise the Lord he has a plan to deal with such dreadful confusion.

The key to our finishing well must be found in Christ’s finishing well.

He said, “vs.32Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. vs.33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’(Luke 13:32-33 ESV). Jesus will finish well because he will remain faithful to the Father’s giving and sending love through suffering (Heb 12:2-3 ESV).

Only real opposition to the love of God the Father can give to Jesus’ words the authority of revelation in our hearing. “vs.13Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. vs.14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.(Matt 7:13-14 ESV)

Demas chose the wide path but it was said of the early martyrs that they had not “run in vain” because they did not “love this present world14)See Biblical References Polycarp, Philippians 9:1, 2 ESV.

In what part of our lives are we running in vain, lacking the presence and power of the love of the Father because we are in love with the world?

If Jesus is as dissatisfied with us as he was with the Ephesian church, we must allow his Spirit to do a detailed audit of our lives exposing for the sake of confession, repentance and cleansing those places which are not inhabited by “the love of the Father”. Then we will all finish well, to the glory of God. 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 3rd. Feb, 2019 Location: Alive@5

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

3rd. Feb, 2019.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References John 3:19 ESV; John 12:43 ESV
2. See Biblical References John 12:31 ESV; John 14:30 ESV
3. See Biblical References John 1:5, 9 ESV; John 3:19 ESV; John 8:12 ESV; John 9:5 ESV; John 12:46 ESV
4. See Biblical References John 8:23 ESV; John 15:18-19 ESV; John 16:20, 33 ESV; John 17:14 ESV
5. See Biblical References John 1:10 ESV; John 14:17 ESV; John 17:25 ESV
6. See Biblical References John 9:39 ESV; John 12:31 ESV; John 16:8, 11 ESV
7. See Biblical References Col 4:14 ESV; Philemon 1:24 ESV
8. See Biblical References Gal 5:16 ESV; Eph 2:3 ESV; 1 Pet 2:11 ESV; 2 Pet 2:10, 18 ESV
9. See Biblical References Gen 39:7 ESV; Job 31:1 ESV
10. See Biblical References cf. Matt 18:9 ESV
11. See Biblical References John 3:16,17 ESV; John 5:38 ESV; John 10:36 ESV etc.
12. See Biblical References cf. 1 Tim 6:17-19 ESV; Tit 2:11-14 ESV
13. See Biblical References 2 Thess 1:7-8 ESV; 1 Pet 1:24-25 ESV; 1 Pet 4:17 ESV
14. See Biblical References Polycarp, Philippians 9:1, 2 ESV

Delighting in Lowliness

Text: Phil 2:1-13 (NKJV)                       

INTRODUCTION

Christians are often short-sightedness (2 Pet 1:9 ESV) about problems in their own spirituality which they can easily see in secular society.

I was reading a newspaper article recently about the feminist push to ban men-only clubs, and the word which kept coming up was “power”.

There’s something about power and influence that seems irresistible to those who can access it; the hunger for power is behind the chaos in federal politics in the last year.

This is plain, but when many Christian “Leadership” Colleges blatantly promote themselves as centres of excellence and influence we somehow miss out on seeing how this violates the S/spirit of him who said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.(Matt 11:29 ESV). Until the Church replaces its structures of achievement with lowliness of life it can never impact the foundations of our godless society.

This is the time when such things should be most transparent to us. Preaching last Sunday from John 1 about the Word becoming flesh I was reminded that God’s decision to become human (John 1:14 ESV) involved a permanent willingness to serve at the deepest level of his being.

The Son of God’s taking on of lowly humanity was infinitely more dynamic than the creation of the world because it was a transformation in God’s own life. Meekness is the medium through which the power of God’s kingdom flows (Matt 5:5 ESV) and the channel of our salvation.

In seeing the lowliness of God in Christ we are constrained to accept that humility is a property of God’s very being (cf. John 14:9 ESV), and quite frankly we struggle to accept this truth because its implications are so profound.

Let me use one very public example.

(Philippians 2:6-7 ESV) literally reads, “Christ Jesus, vs.6 who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be graspedvs.7 emptied himself”.

But many translations, e.g. ESV, NASAB, NLT, NRSV read, “Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, emptied himself implying that the humility of God expressed in Jesus was something in contrast to his divinity.

No – it’s precisely because he is God that Jesus considered life to be all about giving rather than getting. Sinners don’t associate lowliness of life with God’s essential nature because we are people, to quote Paul, with “lofty opinions” (2 Cor 10:5 ESV) and we subconsciously think the Lord must be high-minded like us (Ps 50:21 ESV).

And living in a society where people are obsessed with defending our own sense of self-worth most Christians cannot appreciate the glory of humility. All these gross spiritual confusions began when humanity submitted to the Satanic word in Eden.

THE RESISTANCE

When Adam and Eve reached out to take the fruit of the tree of knowledge in order to “be like God, knowing good and evil.”” they exercised “high mindedness” in the most idolatrous sense.

Gen 3:5 ESV

If they had actually to become more like God as he had revealed himself, they would have exercised a “lowliness of mind” serving the Lord as he had served them by providing for all their needs.

Instead, they proudly chose self-promotion, became “puffed up with conceit and fell into the condemnation of the devil.(1 Tim 3:6 ESV). You may not consider yourself a proud person but whenever you compare yourself to others your pride is showing itself.

Paul warns; “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.(2 Cor 10:12 ESV).

Every act of comparison, whether we place ourselves above or below others, is in fact an act of judgement and Jesus warned, ““with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged”” (Matt 7:2 ESV)

The human situation is dreadful because we are ensnared in our own lofty opinions about our capacity to judge God, ourselves and others1)See Biblical References cf. Rom 1:24, 26, 28 ESV.

We make comparisons which lead into competitions that bring wars, domestic strife, envy, jealousy, work rivalries and the like.

Only the Lord can deliver us from our dreadful self-afflicted condition. The Lord warned me years ago about the dangers of self-assertion in the Church.

A visitor from interstate gave a prophetic word about a “sandgroper” spirit threatening revival in WA. But she had no idea what a “sandgroper” is.

The sandgroper is a burrowing insect whose attacks on the root systems of healthy-looking plants can prevent them becoming ripe for harvest. In applying this I believe the Spirit led me to James 3:13-18 ESV; “Who is wise and understanding…?

By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast… This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” Selfish ambition is the opposite of lowliness of life and leads to conflict, division and the collapse of so many works of God.

THE PROMISE

From the time sin entered the world the Lord has been looking for (Isa. 66:2 ESV) for someone who understands that the way to share in his greatness is through lowliness. Flashes of this vision appear in the life of king David who testified, “your gentleness made me greatPs. 7:18 ESV2)See Biblical References 2 Sam 22:36 ESV cf..

But by adultery, murder and self-exaltation he failed to sustain this testimony (2 Sam 11; 24 ESV).

There is in the Old Testament, if we read it closely, a prophetic word of the coming of someone whose sheer lowliness will lead into unlimited greatness. In Isaiah, the Lord God and a man share the exalted status of being “high and lifted up”.  This expression is used three times in the book.

First in the vision of the glory of “the Lord sitting upon a throne,high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple(Isa. 6:1 ESV), the second time concerns the coming Servant of the Lord, “that shall be high and lifted up(Isa. 52:13 ESV) and finally a promise that God’s abiding glory will be shared with the lowly, “thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity…:I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.(Isa. 57:15 ESV).

What seems to have escaped the readers of the Old Testament was that Isaiah’s coming Servant of the Lord would become exalted like God through being pierced, crushed, rejected and put to death in our place (Isa. 52:14 ESV ff.).

It’s all there in the text but that humiliation is the route to exaltation was too much for the proud human spirit to accept.  Only after Jesus had died and been raised could sinners take it into their proud hearts that the lofty Lord on his eternal throne and the humble Jesus of Nazareth are one in glory3)See Biblical References John 12:39-41 ESV cf. Luke 1:51 ESV.

THE REALISATION: INCARNATION

Only Jesus could say, without fear of contradiction, vs.28Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. vs.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. vs.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”(Matt 11:28-30 ESV).

Only Jesus could say this for he alone is lowly in his deepest being. As God in the flesh Christ is all humility.

Let me use an example.

If you want to know what people think of themselves watch who they talk to.

I remember various occasions when it became painfully obvious that certain folk had no time to talk with me because they had “more important” folk to converse with.

Who did Jesus chat with?

Fishermen, tax collectors, sick and bereaved folk, Samaritans, prostitutes and commoners, as well as Pharisees, centurions and others (Mark 12:37 ESV).

When Adam and Eve compared themselves to God in Eden they fell, but when the devil provoked Christ to do a miracle, become ruler of the world, put himself on public display by throwing himself down from the pinnacle of the temple his efforts were fruitless (Luke 4:1-13 ESV) because the Son’s sole concern was that the manifestation of the glory of his Father4)See Biblical References John 7:18 ESV; John 8:50, 54 ESV.

Jesus’ lowly mindedness meant the whole space of his thought life was filled with no other greatness than that of the Father (John 14:28 ESV).

For this humble mindedness to be perfected in his humanity however5)See Biblical References Heb 2:10 ESV; Heb 5:9 ESV; Heb 7:28 ESV Jesus had to die.

he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross(Phil 2:8 ESV). To proud minds there is nothing honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent or worthy of praise (Phil 4:8 ESV) in the cross.

But the revelation of the mystery of the cross is not found in our minds but in what is going on in the mind of the crucified Christ.

His cry of dereliction, ““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(Mark 15:34 ESV) is a quote from the first verse Psalm 22, which goes on to describe the tormented thoughts of the afflicted person. “I am a worm and not a man(Ps 22:6 ESV).

The crucified Jesus entered into the condition of those stubborn unrepentant wretches, to quote both Old and New Testaments, “whose worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” under the everlasting wrath of God6)See Biblical References Isa 66:24 ESV; Mark 9:48 ESV cf. Ex 16:20 ESV; Job 25:6 ESV.

In his limitless humility as our sacrifice Jesus was plunged into the bottomless pit. Against the cynicism of natural human expectations there is no way that death could be the end for Jesus.

In God lowliness cannot be separated from elevation, vs.9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, vs.10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, vs.11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.(Phil 2:9-11 ESV).

It is the glory of the Father (Rom 6:4 ESV) to exalt the humanity of his Son into equal place with himself far above all other titles, positions and powers. The revelation of the wisdom of God in the humiliation and exaltation of Jesus should spell the end of all our comparisons and competitions.

APPLICATION AND CONCLUSION

Which is why leading into his great Christ-hymn of Philippians 2:5-11 ESV Paul exhorts us to have “lowliness of mind(Phil 2:3 KJV).  

To be genuinely low-minded is to share in the utter unselfishness of the cross.

It is therefore a scandal when you go to a pastors’ gathering and one of the first questions asked is, “how big is yours? (ie. Church)” Comparisons of the size of congregations, of theological knowledge, spiritual giftedness, the richness of worship and so on a denial that, “Christ is all, and in all(Col 3:11 ESV).

It’s understandable that the disciples were arguing over “which of them was the greatest7)See Biblical References Luke 9:46 ESV; Luke 22:24 ESV before the cross shocked them into repentance and brought down their lofty opinions (Luke 1:51 ESV); but why do we, this side of the death and resurrection of Jesus, “boast in men(1 Cor 3:21 ESV)?

Paul knew the way to stop such boasting was to lift up the limitless vision of our inheritance in Christ; vs.21For all things are yours, vs.22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, vs.23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.(1 Cor 3:21-23 ESV).

Are you ever troubled by feelings, as I used to be, that you should be more mature at this stage of your Christian life?

Or when you think of the achievements of other believers do you have a sense that you are missing out on something spiritually?

What really need is the lowliness of mind that will stop you making such comparisons because lowliness of mind cuts off spiritual depressions and arrogance’s at their root.

I am afraid that so much of current Christian thinking is all back to front.

The greater the vision the deeper the humility. Moses, to quote Scripture, “was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth(Num 12:3 ESV), because he had such a grand vision of God.

Because John the Baptist understood the stature of the Lord he pronounced, “He must increase, but I must decrease.””8)See Biblical References John 3:30 ESV cf. John 1:35 ESV ff.

In the minds of the genuinely lowly there is no room for any other greatness other than that of Jesus.  George Whitefield, who many consider the greatest ever preacher in English, cried out at the height of his fame, “Let the name of Whitefield perish, but Christ be glorified….

Let my name die everywhere, let even my friends forget me, if by that means the cause of the blessed Jesus may be promoted.”

This is not false humility on the part of so-called “God’s generals”; the power of the cross really can reorder the human mind 9)See Biblical References Rom 12:1-2 ESV; Phil 2:5 ESV.

Those who know this power never have to protect their own sense of self-worth by self-promotion.

Lowliness is the foundation for a vision of the glorious riches in Christ. Lowliness will always attract the delighting presence of the Father and the Spirit because in it they always see Jesus (cf. Isa 66:2 ESV).

Lowliness of mind will release huge material and human resources for God’s kingdom through the Church because no humble person can ever be covetous.

How then do we come to grow in and delight in lowliness?

Lowliness is not a virtue we try and cultivate; this would be a recipe for depression or pride, lowliness is a person whose life we are called to share, lowliness is Jesus.

As Jesus was crushed by God’s mercy for us, we must be crushed for the sake of others; for the Lord creates lowliness of mind (cf. 1 Cor 2:16 ESV) by a sense of failure, rejection, brokenness, sheer inability and being crushed10)See Biblical References Isa 53:5, 10 ESV; 2 Cor 1:8 ESV.

Only the power of the cross can destroy the arrogance that has been normalised in the life of the Church. I was visiting a website of some pastors I know the other day and was appalled at how they described themselves as passionate, visionary, remarkable and amazing.

But Paul says; “far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world(Gal 6:14 ESV cf.)11)See Biblical References Gal 2:20 ESV; Gal 5:24 ESV.

I have a sense that we need to respond to what the Lord is saying in two ways. Firstly, to ask his forgiveness wherever we have compared ourselves to others, in any way.

Secondly, that we confess on behalf of the Church that where she high-mindedly testifies, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing” in reality she is “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked(Rev 3:17 ESV)

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 30. Jan, 2018 Location: Zion Fellowship

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

Date. Month, 2018.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References cf. Rom 1:24, 26, 28 ESV
2. See Biblical References 2 Sam 22:36 ESV cf.
3. See Biblical References John 12:39-41 ESV cf. Luke 1:51 ESV
4. See Biblical References John 7:18 ESV; John 8:50, 54 ESV
5. See Biblical References Heb 2:10 ESV; Heb 5:9 ESV; Heb 7:28 ESV
6. See Biblical References Isa 66:24 ESV; Mark 9:48 ESV cf. Ex 16:20 ESV; Job 25:6 ESV
7. See Biblical References Luke 9:46 ESV; Luke 22:24 ESV
8. See Biblical References John 3:30 ESV cf. John 1:35 ESV ff
9. See Biblical References Rom 12:1-2 ESV; Phil 2:5 ESV
10. See Biblical References Isa 53:5, 10 ESV; 2 Cor 1:8 ESV
11. See Biblical References Gal 2:20 ESV; Gal 5:24 ESV