Riot, revival and the Leadership Crisis in the Church

Ps 2:1-12 ESV | Acts 4:23-31 ESV

INTRODUCTION

Through a series of prayer meetings recently I believe the Lord has been sharing with me insights into his plan to revive the Church (cf. Am 3:7 ESV)This unveiling started when someone shared a story about God’s transforming work in Indonesia. In 1998-99 there were riots across the country which included the burning of churches.

Then during a large Christian gathering in Jakarta the Holy Spirit spoke prophetically about who should be set aside in an eldership team to oversee a national movement in prayer and unity (cf. Acts 13:1-3 ESV).

As Psalm 133 testifies agreement opens up a well of blessing, “how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity….For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.(vv.1, 4).

Jesus’ great prayer in John 17 connects unity with glory; “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.(vv. 22-23).

The Church in Indonesia is experiencing healing, miracles and conversions because through unity it radiates glory.

As long as the Church across Australia refuses to gather to pray and agree on God’s appointed leadership it cannot enjoy such continuous signs of divine favour.

THE DIVINE ORDER

Jesus instruction to pray “your kingdom come…on earth as it is in heaven(Matt 6:10 ESV) means that the pattern of Church leadership should image the order of heaven.

Having come, as Hebrews 12 puts it, “to… the heavenly Jerusalem… the church of the firstborn… and to Jesus(v. 22-24 cf. Gal 4:26 ESV) the ordering of the earthly assembly should mirror that of the heavenly world. 

In Revelation God is seen on his throne (Rev 7:17 ESV) circled by 24 elders (Rev 4:4 ESV), symbolising the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles, leaders of the whole community of God’s people.

As the heavenly elders are equidistant from God’s a similar non-hierarchical spiritual eldership should lead the Church.

When Christ alone is at the centre of his people and we hold fast only to him as Head (Col 2:19 ESV) he will build his Church (Matt 16:18 ESV).

A Church clogged up by programmes and contradictory visions will never witness the spontaneous expansion we read of in the New Testament and hear of in non-Western nations today.

God’s strategy to enforce uncompromising Christ-centredness is to release a “riot”.

RIOT

Psalm 2 is a prophetic lens through which can view the crises the Lord repeatedly releases to provoke repentance and revival among his people (cf. Acts 11:19-21 ESV; Rev 6). To see how heaven is moving earth we must understand Psalm 2 as an ongoing dialogue between Jesus and the Father.

The early Christians understood the crucifixion of Jesus by Jews and Romans (Acts 4:27-28 ESV) as a riot that fulfilled this Psalm, vs.1Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? vs.2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Christ, saying, vs.3Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”” (vv.1-3; Acts 4:25-26 ESV).

Expecting such violent rebellion the prayers petitioned God for power to fulfil the rest of the psalm, that the nations be converted to Christ as his promised inheritance (Ps 2:8 ESV). They believed and witnessed that by the proclamation of the gospel Jesus would subject the riotous nations to his rule (Ps 2:7-9 ESV; Acts 13:32-33 ESV).

Through such a prophetic lens we can discern God’s purposes in Australia today.

The moral revolution of abortion, the normalising of living together, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, unbridled greed, the heartless treatment of refugees, the looking down on aboriginal people and so on is appalling. And whilst there’s lots of energy at the political, intellectual and ethical level in response to such depravities e.g. ACL, Love Makes a Way. 

There a vast lack of seeing and speaking from heaven “in the Spirit(Rev 1:10 ESV) about such things. We are in the midst of a riot as real as the uproar that intimidated Pilate into killing Jesus, attacked the apostles and burned the churches of Indonesia (Matt 27:22-24 ESV; Acts 19:40 ESV; Acts 24:5 ESV; 2 Cor 6:5 ESV).

But find me a church that spiritually senses it’s surrounded by a bunch of hostile rebels that wants to bring it down. Why do we lack spiritual leaders with the insight and authority into the dynamics of national evil to mobile persistent prayer and fasting?

I was talking to a Christian from the Congo recently about the difference between the demons there and here. The demons there demand your body, your money or your goods by possessing armed rebels.

Our demons however are “civilised demons” manipulating politicians, entertainers and academics who in an age of political correctness are rarely named for what they are (cf. 2 Cor 4:4 ESV; 1 John 5:19 ESV; Rev 12:9 ESV; Rev 16:13-14 ESV).

This means the dark forces controlling our nation are largely invisible and effectively unopposed (Eph 6:12 ESV).

Behind the Church’s spiritual blindness is her idolatry. Whoever makes any “thing” more important than God is handed over in judgement to the senselessness of such “things(Ps 115:4-8 ESV; Isa 44:9 ESV; Ez 12:2 ESV etc.).

Since so many Christian leaders are in love with the present form of ministry and Church and the comfortable lifestyle it brings them (cf. Rom 12:1-2 ESV) they cannot see the depths of our need for reformation and revival. Like those “at ease in Zion(Am 6:1 ESV) they are insensible to the judgements of God. Let me use a very contemporary example.

Many, me too, were heartened when Kenyan born Pentecostal Lucy Gichuhi entered the federal senate and became a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage.

Then last week I was watching the news and they showed a clip where Lucy says to an African interviewer about her salary, “Two hundred thousand Australian dollars — in a whole year that’s not a lot of money,

The story ended with a note that she’s in the process of paying the government back several thousand dollars for flying family members to her birthday party. Lucy’s testimony to this nation is finished.

The cynical public will never forgot and forgive her; she’s become just another compromised Christian leader. Only the blameless can stand and lead in this evil hour (1 Tim 3:7, 10 ESV). At a natural level these things are depressing, but by faith we can see them as signs of a great shaking preparing the Church for a great spiritual transformation.

SHAKING

Hebrews 12 (Hebrews 12:26-28 ESV citing Haggai 2:6 ESV) prophesies, vs.26… he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.vs.27 This phrase,Yet once more, indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. vs.28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken”.

In God’s order a shaking of the political, economic, social and religious order precedes a time of reformation and revival (cf. Heb 9:10 ESV). This is most pronounced in the New Testament. 

When Jesus came from heaven as the new temple, the great High Priest and the one true sacrifice and the new Israel (John 1:51 ESV; John 2:21 ESV; Heb 2:17 ESV; Heb 9:11-14 ESV) all the old covenant structures defining the identity of Israel were shaken out of their place.

Instead of repenting the old Israel raged against him had him crucified and persistently opposed the apostolic preaching of the gospel (e.g. Acts 4:3-22 ESV; Acts 5:17-42 ESV; Acts 6:8-8:1 ESV; Acts 8:3 ESV; Acts 9:2 ESV; Acts 12:1-5 ESV; Acts 14:19-20 ESV; Acts 17:1-15 ESV; Acts 18:12-17 ESV; 2 Cor 11:24 ESV; 1 Thess 2:14-16 ESV; Rev 2:9; 3:9 ESV).

In the midst of this a multitude, Jew and Gentile, turned to Jesus as Lord and Messiah (Acts 2 ESV).

If there needed to be, to quote from the time, a moral and religious collapse ‘to a degree that was never before known in any Christian country‘ (Bishop Berkeley) to spark the eighteenth century Evangelical revival in the UK (Wesley’s etc.); if there needed to be a turning away of youth from the churches before the 1857 prayer revival in America and the Welsh revival 1904-1905 to provoke genuine believers to unceasing intercession, if, and I have been there, Argentina needed to be defeated in the Falklands War so a punctured national pride would open the nation to the gospel, then we must see the moral insanities of our day, especially over sexuality, as signs, as Acts 4:28 ESV puts it, that the hand of God is shaking everything. The real condition of the human heart is being laid bare before our eyes (cf. Heb 4:12-13 ESV).

Sexual perversion in the churches exposed through The Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, inexcusable levels of greed exposed in respected financial institutions by the financial Royal Commission.

Rampant sexual abuse unveiled by the #Me Too campaign and I could go on and on about domestic violence, mental illness, child self-harming, youth suicide and the plight of Indigenous Australians. What’s the message from heaven when between 1991-2013

The Uniting Church in Australia saw a drop-in attendance between of 40%, and the financial death throes of many Anglican parishes in Perth.

There are numerically thriving “power churches” but they are so impotent in making disciples that together with us we are image this dreadful prophetic truth “in the last days there will be very difficult times. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly.(2 Tim 3:1, 5 ESV).

Blaming the forces of cultural Marxism, post modernism, secular humanism, the LGBT lobby, theological liberalism and so on won’t bring revival; it’s the Lord’s anointed who rules the nations with a rod of iron it’s the Lamb on the throne of heaven we have to deal with (Ps 2:9 ESV; Rev 2:27 ESV; 12:5 ESV; 19:15 ESV) he is shaking our world (cf. Hag 2:6 ESV ff.) and he responds only to…. prayer.

LAYING HOLD

During a clip about the 1840 revival in Parramatta at Perth Prayer recently (see left) I was struck by a reference to men “laying hold of God” in prayer.

Isaiah laments (Isa 64:7 ESV), “There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you”.

Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord for a blessing (Gen 32:22-32 ESV), Jesus wrestled to obey the Father’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-36 ESV; Col 2:15 ESV).

Paul describes “Epaphras… always wrestling on your behalf in his prayers(Col 4:12 ESV).

Ephesians 6 (Eph 6:12 KJV) tells us; “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against… spiritual wickedness in high places.

But until the people of God lay hold of his promises so that the evil powers taking lost minds captive to pinned down over this city there can be no great move of the Spirit (cf. 2 Cor 10:3-5 ESV).

Let us lay hold of God petitioning him to break the hold of demonic powers controlling our nation in its rebellion against the Lord’s Christ (Deut 32:8 ESV; Ps 2:1-2 ESV; Acts 2:36 ESV).

Thankfully there are signs that the passive spirituality of our churches is coming to an end for things are stirring up in the spiritual realm.

Satan has become unusually visible in recent days. When my own wife is suddenly attacked via an evil apparition whilst I’m preaching something is certainly going on. And the disorder in some recent prayer meetings with some of my own physical lethargy goes beyond the merely natural.

On the positive side, as Mathew Henry truly said, ‘When God intends great mercy for his people, he first of all sets them praying.’ I have been encouraged to see an acceleration of intense prayer breaking out around us.

Prayer meetings are “spontaneously” springing up to intercede for the various spheres of society.

The Australian Prayer Network have been stunned by the thousands of people who have gone through their Watchmen School of Intercession courses over the last 5 years; 400 attended at Mt Pleasant Baptist recently.

So I see a move of God coming which is the exact opposite of the passive school room mentality dominating our churches.

When the Spirit is outpoured all the people of God, male, female, young, old are flowing in the gifts of God (Acts 2:17-18 ESV).

If a man as biblical as Spurgeon could pray, “Lord, send us a season of glorious disorder” so should our leaders.

CONCLUSION

To move into the conversation between Jesus and the Father recorded in Psalm 2 Christian leaders must let go of their comfortable visions and be overcome by the Father’s vision for his Son (2 Cor 5:14 ESV).

They must stop quoting the mistranslation of Proverbs 29:18 ESV; “Where there is no vision, the people perish”, as a pretext for driving the church by their vision and be humbled by what it really says “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint”.

The sinfulness inside their congregations is a sign to them they have not spoken from heaven there is a rebellion inside the Church against the Lord’s rule.

For a long time God has been handing us over to a “famine… of hearings the words of the LORD(Am 8:11 ESV cf. Rev 6:5-8 ESV)!

Until preachers, and congregations, want God’s Word at whatever cost such rioting against Jesus will continue whilst his Spirit stays withdrawn in grief (Eph 4:30 ESV).

The urgent need of the hour is to seek to see by faith through the lens of the shaking of the Jesus on the cross, and his resurrection to glory, that all shakings in heaven and earth are for our sharing in this glory (1 Cor 2:7-9 ESV). In Christ we can pray for a greater shaking that we might enjoy greater glory.

Paul’s, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling(Phil 2:12 ESV cf. Isa 66:2 ESV), Wesley’s “Enter every trembling heart” must be taken literally!

The only explanation for the terrible spiritual state outside and inside the Church is that God has withdrawn his protective hand over Australia (cf. Matt 23:37-38 ESV) and handed us over to a mighty shaking because only through such a shaking can he purify for himself a people centred solely on the kingdom of Christ (Ps 2 ESV; Tit 2:14 ESV; Heb 12:27 ESV).

This agonising shaking almost weekly brings me news of the grief of Christian households where children are “coming out” as gay or professing to have lost faith in God.

This is not yet however the shaking Jesus promised, when “a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.(Matt 10:36 ESV).

If in today’s tensions between the demands of Jesus and contemporary values many “Bible-believing” Christians are compromising it’s clear that when the Lord releases a more intense shaking there will be a great falling away (Matt 24:10 ESV ff.).

Only a revelation that the shakings of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that comes through the shaking of the cross and the resurrection can prevent this catastrophe (2 Cor 4:16 ESV).

Only the true power of the gospel can reveal that the foundations of this present order of creation are being shaken away for a new creation coming in Christ (1 Cor 7:31 ESV; Gal 6:15 ESV; 1 Thess 2:13 ESV).

Only the gospel can teach us that all earthly shakings were taken into Jesus on the cross and transformed in their purpose by his glorious resurrection (Matt 27:51-52 ESV cf. Ex 19:18 ESV; Ps 18:7-9 ESV).

Only a Christ-centred revelation of such things can sustain revival movements from burning out after a few short years.

Two emotions have come over me in preparing this sermon.

I have felt totally out of my depth for the spiritual shaking I am speaking of (cf. Neh 5:13 ESV; Jer 23:9 ESV; Am 9:9 ESV) reminded me of a shaking a missionary friend endured in China when she was caught in a 7.2 Richter scale earthquake that killed 192 people.

She is still recovering from the trauma.

Who is prepared to cope with such things?

But as I was out praying yesterday my spirit became unusually settled. I came across an orange tree which when gently shaken dropped a huge amount of fruit.

When in God’s time the Spirit moves a harvest of souls will come in without any frantic human exertion (Rom 9:16 ESV cf. Zech 4:6 ESV). And he will get all the glory. 

LET US PRAY.

MESSAGE DELIVERED:  24. June, 2018 | East Vic. Park. Baptist

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 24. June, 2018 

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