A few weeks ago, in our early morning Perth Prayer session several of us simultaneously sensed that the Lord was calling his people to go deeper in him. Even as it’s good to see a grid of prayer is expanding across the city, I sense that there’s a missing dimension.
Jesus commanded the disciples, ““Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”” (Luke 5:7 ESV) in preparation for a miraculous haul of fish, a prophetic type of their “catching men” (v.10). This “deeper water” will involve a greater desperation, brokenness and urgency in prayer, but it must be a movement of God’sown miraculous power.
If not our prayer networks and big meetings, like the Awakening in Melbourne, Jesus Loves Australia in Sydney and Franklin Graham gatherings in 2019, will finally prove disappointing.
It’s not that any of these initiatives are bad things, but none of them bear the quality of God’s kingdom action in sheer creative resurrection power.
I believe this 100% “God’s hand” (Acts 4:28, 30 ESV) is not yet amongst us because the quality of resurrection life only follows death, and the activist Church that I know refuses to acknowledge it’s deadness; ““‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.”” (Rev 3:1 ESV).
I’M A DEAD MAN
The afflicted in scripture give vent to a condition in extremis that we are all called to confess, vs.4 “The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me;vs.5 the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me.” (Ps 18:4-5 ESV), vs.5 “The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head vs.6 at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever;” (Jonah 2:5-6 ESV).
They describe an experience of being totally overwhelmed so that their entire being knows with absolute certitude that only a sovereign action of God can save them.
These traumatic experiences are prophetic of the cross. For Jesus prophesied of his death, “as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt 12:40 ESV).
The cross, with its physical and spiritual desolation (Mark 15:33-34 ESV), was a dark night of Christ’s soul far more dreadful than any horror undergone by any other person.
But all this was a part of God’s most wonderful plan. Because, “Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears… he was heard for his godly fear” and delivered into resurrection life and light1)Heb 5:7 ESV; 2 Tim 1:10 ESV.
My exposure to Church life is limited, but I am not seeing sustained levels of crying out before the Lord like these biblical examples (cf. Mal 1:6 ESV). Let me press a little further on this.
OVER OUR HEADS
The Church in Australia is surely sinking below the waves, where this is not true of quantity it is true of quality.
No clearer example of our submersion is the status of our own Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a devout Pentecostal.
When Scott was elected leader of the Liberal Party through much political undermining of the then leadership (though not by him) many Christians were excited.
But if anything since then the infighting, electoral defeats, jumping ship, self-sabotage, claims of bullying etc. in his own party have only accelerated.
Unable to get legislation through national parliament and outflanked by a left-wing coalition intent of diminishing religious rights in education Scott is manifestly in hot political water over his head.
Worse than this, he is enmeshed I believe in a spiritual climate, triumphalist Pentecostalism, and a political culture of success that will not allow him to come to a place of humility and to confess unqualifiedly, “Our party, we, have failed the nation.”
I can only see the disunity in the Liberal Party in Canberra and the general political climate in this nation as evidence of demonisation. Forget about political saviours, only Jesus can help us.
JUDGED TOGETHER RAISED TOGETHER
What very few of us want to accept is that the whole Church in Australia is suffering under the judgement of God. “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor 12:26 ESV).
If one part of the Body of Christ is groaning under the punishment of God2)Heb 12:6 ESV; Rev 3:19 ESV how can the rest of us carry on as though “she’ll be right mate”?
The Bible says, “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” (Rom 15:1 ESV); but this is hardly happening.
If you cry out for help to, say, Hillsong or C3 or Kingdom City they will help you, but only as franchisees do.
This is hardly family life!
More broadly, if we really understood Body-life (Rom 12:4-5 ESV) we would see, for example, the Baptists, as a block of Baptists, praying for the Uniting Church, the A.C.C interceding for the spiritual health of the Anglicans, and don’t we need it, and the radical house church/ emerging church believers petitioning the Lord for mercy on the Catholics.
If all this sounds bizarre then it must be because we have slipped so far down in our spiritual discernment that we are no longer grasped by the cruciform (cross-shaped) life of the Bride of Jesus. Let me end with a very personal example.
Just a few months after becoming a Christian I had an experience of close drowning in a rip off Kangaroo Island.
Having “gone under” twice and having swallowed copious amounts of sea water I knew that apart from divine intervention I was a goner. But on a deeper level my experience was what I can only call paradoxical.
Whilst I was physically trying very hard not to die deep inside my spirit was at rest and I found myself spontaneously praying over and over with Jesus, ““Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”” (Luke 23:46 ESV).
The Lord did save me, but I could not choose to voluntarily go through such agonies again. (Though I suppose if the Spirit told me to walk out into the scary depths I’d have to.) All of which reminds me of an ancient story, to which I will add a twist.
A hermit was meditating by a river when a young man interrupted him. “Master, I wish to become your disciple.” “Why?” replied the hermit. “Because I want to find God.”, said the young man.
The master jumped up, grabbed him, dragged him into the river, and plunged his head under water.
After holding him there for a minute, with him kicking and struggling to free himself, the master finally pulled him out coughing and gasping for breath.
Then the master spoke. “Tell me, what did you want most of all when you were under water.” “Air!” answered the man.
“Very well,” said the master. “Go home and come back when you want God as much as you wanted air.”
Surely it is Jesus who is pushing his beloved Bride beneath the waters, and he will keep doing so until we let go of human strengths and divine gifts and unconditionally submit to his Lordship.
When we hear a mass cry arising from across the Body, “How long O Lord”3)Pss 6:3 ESV; Pss 13:1 ESV; Pss 35:17 ESV; Isa 6:11 ESV; Jer 4:21 ESV; Hab 1:2 ESV; Zech 1:12 ESV; Rev 6:10 ESV etc., a great move of God is on the way.
The divine plan, agonising as it is, will not fail because it is a sharing in the good news of the death-and-resurrection of Jesus.
MESSAGE DELIVERED: 10. December, 2018 Location: Unknown
Author: Dr. John Yates
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References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Heb 5:7 ESV; 2 Tim 1:10 ESV|
|2.||↑||Heb 12:6 ESV; Rev 3:19 ESV|
|3.||↑||Pss 6:3 ESV; Pss 13:1 ESV; Pss 35:17 ESV; Isa 6:11 ESV; Jer 4:21 ESV; Hab 1:2 ESV; Zech 1:12 ESV; Rev 6:10 ESV etc.|