Myanmar 2018 SEVEN Part series
Overcoming Obstacle to Revival
21 OCT 2018
The Word and Spirit of Love
29 OCT 2018
05 NOV 2018
Stephen and the Final Judgement
19 NOV 2018
The gospel, as we all know, came to Burma…India…China…to the cannibals of the South Pacific and so on through the great Protestant mission movement in the 18th-19th centuries. So spiritually sacrificial was this move that the early missionaries to West Africa typically packed their possessions in their own coffins. Today the fire of the gospel has largely gone out in the Western nations that sent out these men and women. The famous megachurches of Australia are known for their worship but never for their missions.
The key to the restoration of the great mission spirit of the West surely lies in the reputed (That Wiggles Worth Prophecy. PDF) words of Pentecostal pioneer Smith Wigglesworth that when the move of the Spirit and the move of the Word combine we shall see the greatest move of God the world has ever seen. Why do we today find strong “churches of the Word” noted for their Bible teaching but reserved about the work of the Spirit, and “churches of the Spirit” open to the charismatic gifts but weak in the scriptures.
I remember talking to the pastor of a very Pentecostal church offering my services in teaching; he replied that there was a need, as many of his people were dangerously flying on one wing, experience. If many Pentecostals soar on the wing of experience many Evangelicals balance on the wing of reason. To reduce the Person of the Spirit to experience and the Person of the Word/Logos to reason is to reduce theology to anthropology in a way which is unfaithful the life of Christ in whom the Word and Spirit are perfectly united.
To illustrate that the Word and Spirit are inwardly united take for example the equally legitimate translations of:
Roman 12:1 ESV: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
Roman 12:1 NKJV: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable/rational service.”.
In seeking the Lord for the secret of how the Word and Spirit can come together in the life of the Church I had a thought which had never come to me before. (Though I once prepared a whole unit of theology on this question.)
The key to the coming together of Word and Spirit in the body of Christ must be the love they share for one another and the Father. This would be to take Paul’s words in Colossians, “love…binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Col 3:14 ESV) as true for God himself.
The nature of God is the foundation for all the acts of God and his nature is love; “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16 ESV).
The immaturity of the Church to live in the fullness of Word and Spirit is a failure to be filled with the love of God.
PERFECTED IN LOVE
The “love which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col 3:14) finds its expression ultimately in God’s vs.9 “purpose, which he set forth in Christ vs.10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Eph 1:9-10 ESV).
Love is the final perfecting power of the cosmos (1 Cor 13:13 ESV). But for fallen human beings the nature of love is not self-explanatory. I remember going to a camp meeting of an Indian cult called The Divine Light Mission, what stunned me was that they all happily sung together Amazing Grace.
They could sing this because the song does not actually define grace by the gospel. Around the same time the so-called Children of God were on the streets of Adelaide.
They would walk straight up to people and say, “God loves you.” This was moving but not in terms of the blood of the cross which alone expounds what love is. Love is real only in its willingness to sacrifice for the good of others.
“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8 ESV); “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation/atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10 ESV); vs.19 “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, vs.20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Col 1:19-20 ESV).
The blood of the cross brings the whole universe into the unity of God through expressing the power of his boundless sacrificial love. The reality of John 3:16 always burned in the heart of Jesus, ““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
The Spirit was constantly testifying to Jesus of how much his Father loved lost men and women. If love unites all things then the union of the Word of God and the Spirit of God were most intense in the Passion of Christ.
Hebrews repeatedly tells us that only by suffering could the Sonship of Jesus be fully realised, Heb 2 vs.10 “For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering…. Heb 5 vs.8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. vs.9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Heb 2:10 ESV; Heb 5:8-9 ESV).
The stress of Hebrews on the anguish of the humanity of the Son of God directs us to Gethsemane and the cross.
THE CROSS INTEGRATES ALL THINGS IN LOVE
Without the depths of the struggle in Gethsemane Jesus cannot be made perfect in love for his Father and for us. Hebrews says, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.” (Heb 5:7 ESV).
That this struggle is happening in Christ’s unity with the Spirit comes out when Hebrews later tells us that his blood was “offered up” “through the eternal Spirit…to God” (Heb 9:14 ESV), but even more potently in the Lord’s personal prayer language in the Garden. ““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).
This is a unique sacred space where the Son first addresses the Father in the intimacy of “Abba”. Since, in Jesus own words, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt 12:34 ESV) these words are a window into Jesus heart. He had never felt as loved as this by the Father in the place of deepest unity with the Spirit of God.
The Holy Spirit is a flame of love in which Jesus must be immersed for the sake of our sin. John the Baptist prophesied of Messiah, “vs.11 “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. vs.12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”” (Matt 3:11-12 ESV).
Of this fiery baptism coming upon himself Jesus prophesied; “vs.49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! vs.50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!”” (Luke 12:49-50 ESV cf. Mark 10:38 ESV).
The Spirit’s flaming fire of Love must in the cross purify the world of all that hinders fellowship with a holy God (Hab 1:13 ESV; 2 Pet 3:7-13 ESV).
In his moment of anguish, ““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34 ESV), Jesus loses the love experience of the Father in the Spirit which has always held his life together. By taking into himself the fragmentation of the world the heart of the Son of God is broken in draining the cup of God’s wrath (Ps 75:8 ESV; Isa 51:17 ESV; Jer 25:15 ESV; Rev 14:10 ESV).
Stripped of the experience of being loved and with no reason presented by the Spirit for this absence Jesus is constrained to love the Father and the world without any emotional or rational basis.
In this terrible but wonderful way love is perfected in holiness (2 Cor 7:1 ESV cf. Joel 2:31 ESV; Mal 4:5 ESV). For Jesus, loving God with all his “heart, soul, mind and strength” (Luke 10:27 ESV) means giving sin control over his body unto death. He must “taste death for everyone” (Heb 2:9 ESV) the death of a sinner has “dominion over him” (Rom 6:9 ESV) as he “becomes sin” (1 Cor 5:21 ESV; cf. 1 Pet 2:24 ESV).
He who had control of all things (Heb 2:8 ESV) loses control of everything except his own soul. Unlike “wrath of God” (John 3:36 ESV; Rom 1:18 ESV; Eph 5:6 ESV; Rev 14:10 ESV) nowhere in scripture do we find “wrathful Father”. In dereliction on the cross the Word of God seems to have nothing in common with the Spirit. But love’s final purpose will be revealed in resurrection.
FILLED WITH WORD AND SPIRIT
Resurrection is the re-union of the humanity of Christ with the Spirit in the glory of God. Fatherhood is now defined by God’s raising the Son from the dead by the power of the Spirit; “declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Rom 1:4 ESV); “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father” (Rom 6:4 ESV).
This has brought the Word of God and the Spirit of God into an unsurpassable union in the knowledge of God as ““Abba! Father!”” (Rom 8:15 ESV; Gal 4:6 ESV). Christ the Word and the Spirit share a Lordship in inseparable love (1 Cor 12:3 ESV; 2 Cor 3:18 ESV). A crucial step in what this integration means for us is what happened within God on the Day of Pentecost.
Before ascending into heaven Jesus had described the giving of the Spirit to the Church as “the promise of the Father” (Luke 24:49 ESV; Acts 1:4 ESV).
Then when Peter explained the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost he explains that Jesus is the first recipient of the promised Spirit on our behalf. “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.” (Acts 2:33 ESV).
As a glorified human being perfected in love Christ receives the Spirit for his Bride the Church and pours him out without measure (cf. John 3:34 ESV).
At Pentecost the Church was baptised in the love of the Son and the Spirit for the Father and his plan to unify all things in Christ as Head (Eph 1:10 ESV). Pentecost transports the people of God into the Father’s sending of both Son and the Spirit. As the Father sent Jesus (John 5:23, 36 ESV etc.) now Jesus sends the Spirit (John 15:26 ESV; John 16:7 ESV) to send the Church into the world vs.21 “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” vs.22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. vs.23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”” (John 20:21-23 ESV).
In the Spirit by the Word we are called to communicate the gospel through love for the salvation of the world (cf. Eph 4:15 ESV).
Such a dynamic union between Jesus and the Spirit explains why Paul can set his exhortations to the Church in Ephesians and Colossians in parallel; vs.18 “be filled with the Spirit, vs.19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, vs.20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 5:18-20 ESV),
vs.16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. vs.17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col 3:16-17 ESV).
In their perfected loving unity the Spirit and the Word-made-flesh bring about the same edificatory activities in the Church for the glory of the Father. The early Church Father Irenaeus rightly spoke of the Son and the Holy Spirit as the “two hands of God” the Father.
Being “in Christ” the promise “whatever you ask in my name” (John 14:13 ESV; John 15:16 ESV; John 16:23 ESV) is assured of an affirmative answer.
The sons of God receive the Spirit in the Son so we cry, ““Abba! Father!”” (cf. Rom 8:15 ESV; Gal 4:5 ESV).
Christ taught, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”” (Luke 11:13 ESV).
The Father will give the Spirit to the Church when she asks as surely as gave the Spirit to Jesus for his outpouring at Pentecost (cf. 1 John 5:14-15 ESV). But we could ask for the Spirit wrongly (James 4:3 ESV).
WEAPONS FOR THE BATTLE
If love fights evil (Ps 97:10 ESV; Amos 5:15 ESV; Rom 12:9 ESV) it is in making war in God’s love that the Spirit and Word come together as one.
Taking “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6:17 ESV) we wage war with divine strength for Christ’s sake (2 Cor 10:3-5 ESV) against the powers of evil to reclaim territory lost to the devil.
If disobedience to the Word of God and the grieving of the Spirit of God in Eden broke apart the human experience of the unity of the two hands of God, Jesus obedient victory in the Spirit over Satan wilderness (Matt 4:1 ESV; Matt 12:28 ESV) has reunited the Spirit with us in his humanity.
This means following Jesus into spiritual conflict is foundational for the expression of such unity in the Church.
The devil seeks to delay his own destiny in the “eternal fire” (Matt 25:41 ESV) by contesting the kingdom inheritance of the children of God (Matt 25:34 ESV). There is a certain pattern to this spiritual contest and it’s laid out in Revelation 12.
When the saints and martyrs “conquered him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Rev 12:11 ESV) the persecution of the Church intensified, “woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”” (Rev 12:12 ESV).
Spiritual warfare is like natural warfare as the end draws near the ferocity multiplies. In the last 9 months of WW II more people were killed in Europe than in the previous 5 years.
As the martyrs lovingly die for the kingdom of Jesus Satan knows that his doom is sure and with final wrath approaching he becomes increasingly enraged. Demonic powers inspire persecution (Rev 3:10 ESV) which presses the Church into an ever deeper identification with Jesus in his Passion, which means an intensification of the Spirit in the Word’s ministry in the Church. The dynamic of death-and-resurrection is constantly outworked in the power of the Spirit (2 Cor 4: 7-12 ESV; Phil 3:10 ESV etc.) so the righteousness of the saints is manifested, in what we might call revival (Matt 5:16 ESV; 1 Cor 1:30 ESV; Rev 19:8 ESV).
In such an atmosphere the saints possess a vision of God’s final righteousness which dissolves all spiritual passivity. vs.11 “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, vs.12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! vs.13 But according to his promise we are waiting for heavens and a new earth gin which righteousness dwells.” (2 Pet 3:11-13 ESV)
Possessed by a vision of a universe filled with the righteousness of Christ’ death and resurrection (Acts 17:31 ESV; 1 Tim 3:16 ESV) the Church “hastens” the Second Coming.
In other words the gospel is the power of the new creation (cf. 2 Cor 5:17 ESV). This final righteousness is a reality revealed through empowered preaching as the Spirit unveils “sin, righteousness and judgement” in an atmosphere partaking of the End (John 16:8-11 ESV; 1 Cor 7:31 ESV; Heb 6:5 ESV).
The Holy Spirit loves to reveal the righteousness of the Word of Christ in his defeat of the forces of evil. And he loves to reveal the Word by every possible means – the testimony of scripture, prayer, spiritual gifts, signs, wonders, suffering. In each and every means the Spirit proclaims “Jesus is Lord” (1 Cor 12:3 ESV) “to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11 ESV). As the Spirit loves to fill the Word, the Word loves to be filled by the Spirit in the telling of the gospel.
The Christian vision of the End is of a love manifested in Christ which will baptise all things in itself; the day will come when the glory of the love of the Father in the power of the Spirit will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea (Hab 2:14 ESV). Then we will live in love in the transparent city of God cleansed of all shadow and stain by the blood of the Lamb (Rev 21:22-27 ESV). For it is the love of God shed abroad in the world (Rom 5:5 ESV) which gives glory for unity of all things.
A mature people (Eph 4:13 ESV) look away from the exciting but temporary phenomena of revival to the depths of the love of God in himself that take us to places beyond our understanding and ability to control (Eph 3:20 ESV).
Thomas Torrance once said, “God loves us more than he loves himself.”
This makes sense because the love of God has embraced the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. How then can we not love God (1 John 4:19 ESV)?
However it has been said with gospel wisdom, “The greater the vision the greater the suffering.” (Dudley Foord).
During a week of prayer an old prophet came up to me and grasped my right hand, “This is the Word.” he said, then he gasped the left and held it to the right, “This is the Spirit.” He prophesied how God would bring the two hands together in my life; which sounded very exciting. Then he went on and on and….to emphasise how the Lord would discipline me very strongly to bring this about. The deep things of God never come easily and they’re deeper than any of us can imagine. And so only a remnant ever truly wants the unity of the Word and the Spirit in the Church. For many Christians revival can be what Bonhoeffer called a “wish-dream”, but for God himself it is all about a greater outworking of love.
MESSAGE DELIVERED: 29. October, 2018 Location: Unknown
Author: Dr. John Yates
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